In most countries of the world, grains and grain products—flour, bread, cereal, and pasta—are the chief forms of sustenance. They provide about 50 percent of the world’s calories and indirectly contribute much of the other half, since grains are also fed to the animals from which we get meat, eggs, and dairy products.

Between 65 and 90 percent of the calories in grains come from carbohydrates (mostly complex). Grains are also rich in both soluble fiber (the kind that lowers blood-cholesterol levels) and insoluble (the kind that helps to prevent constipation and help protect against some forms of cancer).

Moreover, grains—especially whole grains—and grain products offer significant amounts of B vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin), vitamin E, iron, zinc, calcium, selenium, and magnesium.

All grains need to be cooked in a liquid to make them edible. Unlike pasta, which is cooked in large quantities of water, grains are cooked in just the amount of liquid necessary to soften and plump them. This also preserves the grains’ considerable B vitamin content, which would be lost to any excess cooking liquid.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

Green & Gold Risotto

Makes 6 servings
Arborio, a high-starch white rice with an almost round grain, is traditionally used to make the Italian rice dish risotto. Arborio absorbs up to five times its weight in liquid as it cooks, resulting in an extremely creamy dish. This risotto gets its gold color from the carrot juice used in the cooking liquid, a nice backdrop for the bright green peas.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into G-inch dice
1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups carrot juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes. Add the rice, stirring to coat. Reduce the heat to low.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the broth and carrot juice, and bring to a simmer over low heat.
  3. Add the wine to the rice, and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated by half, about 2 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups of the broth mixture and the salt, and cook, stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup of the warm broth mixture and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 10 minutes. Then add the remaining 1 cup broth mixture and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook about 2 minutes to heat through.
  5. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, butter, and pepper.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per serving: 260 calories, 4.3g total fat (1.8g saturated), 7mg cholesterol, 3g dietary fiber, 43g carbohydrate, 7g protein, 438mg sodium.
good source of: beta carotene.

Barley with Cilantro & Garlic

Makes 4 servings
A puree of scallions, cilantro, garlic, and fresh ginger gives this creamy barley dish its exotic flavor. If you’d like to make this dish vegetarian, substitute carrot juice for the chicken broth.

4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the scallions, cilantro, garlic, ginger, and G cup of the water. Process to a smooth puree.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the scallion puree and cook, stirring, until the liquid in the puree has evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the barley, stirring to coat. Add the remaining 1 cup water, the broth, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the barley is tender, about 55 minutes.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per serving: 189 calories, 4g total fat (0.6g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 7g dietary fiber, 34g carbohydrate, 6g protein, 496mg sodium.
good source of: beta glucan, fiber, selenium, vitamin C.

Basmati Rice, Chick-Peas & Toasted Almonds

Makes 6 servings
The age-old combination of rice and beans takes on a bit of an Indian flavor here with the use of basmati rice (an aromatic rice grown primarily in India) and chick-peas, another ingredient common to Indian cuisine. If you can’t find basmati rice, substitute Texmati, jasmine, or any long-grain rice.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into H-inch pieces
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (19 ounces) chick-peas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

  1. In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add the bell pepper and rice, stirring to coat. Stir in the water, lemon zest, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chick-peas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and toasted almonds at serving time.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per serving: 242 calories, 5g total fat (0.6g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 5g dietary fiber, 42g carbohydrate, 8g protein, 395mg sodium.
good source of: fiber, folate, thiamin, vitamin C.

Kasha Varnishkes

Makes 6 servings
Kasha varnishkes is a Middle European dish of roasted buckwheat groats (kasha) and bow-tie noodles (varnishkes). Traditionally, a whole egg (in this recipe, just an egg white) is stirred into the kasha to coat the grains so they remain separate instead of cooking into a mush. Our version ups the flavor ante with lots of caramelized onions.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat groats)
1 large egg white
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 teaspoon rosemary, minced
10 ounces bow-tie pasta

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Transfer the onions to a plate.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the kasha and egg white until the kasha is well coated. Add the kasha to the same skillet the onions were cooked in, and stir over medium-high heat until the grains look dry and separate, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the broth to the kasha along with the salt, pepper, and rosemary, and bring to a boil. Stir in the onions. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir the kasha. Cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the kasha is tender but not mushy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl, add the kasha and toss to combine.

From The Wellness Kitchen, by the editors of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter and the staff of the Wellness Kitchen

per serving: 224 calories, 3.2g total fat (0.5g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 3g dietary fiber, 40g carbohydrate, 8g protein, 356mg sodium.
good source of: folate, selenium, thiamin.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 18 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 12 Jan 2015