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!

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