Wrapping up Whole Grains Month

I’m wrapping up whole grains month with a recipe for Injera, a yeasted, fermented, Ethiopian flat bread made with teff flour. Injera is a plate, utensil and food all rolled up into one; everything from stews to salads are put onto and eaten with the Injera which allows it to soak up all of the flavors of the meal.

This recipe came to me from the Vegetarian Times website, and is interesting because the batter sits overnight rather than for several days (as is typical) but still develops tangy flavor. Since I can never leave well enough alone I did alter it somewhat; instead of adding cumin and fenugreek I kept it plain with just the salt, and instead of a gluten free flour mix I used whole wheat flour. The other thing that I did was to grind my own teff flour. I had read somewhere that it wasn’t possible because the teff grains are so tiny, but I tried it anyway and it worked!

The batter mixed up into a loose consistency like a sponge made for a yeasted bread; I covered it with plastic wrap and then put it aside on the kitchen counter. In the morning I simply mixed in a little honey and poured the batter onto a hot pan. I kept thinking of these as pancakes, which as you can see from the photo below is an easy mistake. They certainly could be eaten in the same way, but they are much more substantial and there are many more uses to this flatbread than just that.

The flavor of this flatbread is tangy and yeasty – in a good way. For those who are wheat and or gluten free and miss the flavor of a yeasty bread, Injera is for you! Just follow the recipe as written and use a gluten free flour mix along with the teff flour. Because of this yeasty, bread-y flavor, I think they are well suited to be paired with savory options (like stews as is traditional) or used to make a sandwich. I could picture this with caramelized onion mixed into the batter for an amazing savory dish topped with sour cream or used as a wrap.

Since the recipe made several, I simply wrapped the extras and popped them into the fridge; I was able to try them in numerous ways over the course of a few days and they reheated well in the toaster oven or were great cold too. The ways I used up my flatbread were:

  1. Wrapped around a banana and some peanut butter for a post workout snack.
  2. With pizza sauce and cheese in the toaster oven for a pizza.
  3. With a couple of chocolate chips in the toaster (just until melted) then spread around along with a scoop of peanut butter.
  4. As a wrap with some turkey, cheese and lots of greens.

One last thing about teff that helps to make it an even better nutrient powerhouse, is that it’s also a great source of Iron. Increasing Iron intake for those who are deficient can be very difficult because supplements can cause GI problems for some people. Having more easy food options for optimizing Iron intake is priceless. Per serving teff contains 160 calories, 6g fiber, 5g protein and 20% of the Daily Value of Iron; not too bad for a tiny seed!

Whole Grains Month: Trying New Grains

Whole grains month is in full swing here at my house. Over the past 3 weeks we’ve tried a few grains that are new to us, which was my goal. Amaranth, Teff and Millet are all grains that have been around for a long time but for some reason are not currently part of the mainstream diet in the US. When it comes to whole grains, the majority of people probably think of whole wheat first, which is why it was so easy to find wheat berries in my local market. This is part of what makes whole grain eating so hard for those of us who must go wheat or gluten free due to allergies, intolerance or Celiac disease.

After checking out my local grocery stores and coming up empty, I headed over to the health food store where they had plenty of different grains. Because these grains are not mainstream and the demand just isn’t there, they can be hard to find and expensive! The Amaranth was $9.69 for a 24 ounce bag – ouch! This is definitely part of what keeps people from trying it out I’m sure. The Teff was $6.99 for 15 ounces (even more expensive!) but the Millet was a bargain at only $4.99 for 30 ounces! I got them home and started playing around with them. I’m not going to go too in-depth on these because it’s very easy to find information via google, but here’s a breakdown of my impressions and what I tried.

Although amaranth is a tiny grain (as you can see) it can be used in a variety of ways. I found recipes for everything from popped amaranth to amaranth clusters to amaranth corn bread and we tried them all! The popped amaranth was good (and fun to do!) although not every gain popped and it is still tiny so kind of hard to eat! I can see that this would probably be good if it was incorporated into a granola bar or something similar. The clusters were good although the tiny amaranth grains were a little too crunchy for some people in my house and the same goes for the cornbread. One thing that I found quite by accident was that amaranth acts quite similarly to polenta. I had cooked up a batch one night in order to reheat in the morning and I found that it was just one big mass. I sliced it up and sauteed the pieces with a little salt – delicious! This would be a great side for those who prefer a savory breakfast.

Just as tiny as amaranth was teff! Once again, this tiny grain behaved in a similar way to polenta. I used it in a breakfast porridge and it was very good; with diced apples, cinnamon, vanilla and a little milk over the top when it was done. I was also able to cook it the night before and then saute slices in the morning. I found some recipes that I haven’t tried yet but I’m planning to, like these powerhouse energy bars. I think there is still some great potential for this grain in my pantry!

Last but not least is millet. I found that this cooked up to be very similar to cous cous. It looks, tastes and chews just like it. If you are a fan of cous cous but have been eating the zero fiber, white flour kind or if you miss the taste of cous cous and can’t eat it anymore because you need to do gluten free, I think millet just may be the answer! It was definitely the starchiest tasting of the three, but sometimes that’s a good thing.

As you can see from the chart there is a lot packed into the tiny amaranth package! I encourage you all to break out of your grain rut at least once and try one of these grains if you haven’t before, then let me know what you think!

Whole Grains Month; What I’m Eating to Celebrate

As part of whole grains month, I set out to try some grains that I have wondered about in the past but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to try. One of the problems with trying new whole grains is that they are not always available at your local grocery store. Depending upon where you shop, grains like Teff, Millet, and Amaranth may or may not be available however you can usually find multiple wheat varieties. Because of this, I started out whole grains month by cooking up some wheat berries.

The picture above shows wheat berries before (left) and after (right) cooking. As you can see, they start out looking quite similar to brown rice in size and shape, but plump up quite a bit in cooking. They have a very pleasant nutty flavor and chewy texture, making them a great base for side dishes and salads (they can be used in place of cracked wheat for Tabbouleh too). Since I usually eat wheat berries in savory dishes, I decided to try them in place of quinoa or oatmeal for a hot breakfast cereal. As I have been doing with the quinoa, I was able to cook up a batch of wheat berries at night, portion it out and have speedy breakfasts the rest of the week. I have to say that I really liked this as a change of pace. The texture is chewy and made me really slow down and take time to throughly chew each bite and the flavor is reminiscent of fresh baked bread. Additionally, each serving has 6g of protein and 6g of fiber which, along with the soy milk and fruit I add make for a very filling and satisfying breakfast.

Next up for whole grains month; Teff and Millet and Amaranth – oh my!