We all agree that whole grains are good for us, right? Right. Great, glad that’s out of the way. You’ve switched to whole wheat bread and pasta, you sometimes make brown rice instead of white, you eat oatmeal from time to time… now what?
Think about when and how you’re eating those grains. Do you inhale a piece of toast on your way out the door or slurp down whole wheat pasta because you’re starving when you get home? You are probably aware that one of the benefits to whole grains is the fiber content (which is lacking in refined grains) which aids in digestion and can reduce cholesterol. However, gulping down whole grains can actually cause indigestion for the same reasons.
Next time you eat something starchy, make sure you chew thoroughly. The enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into more basic sugars is located in saliva, so grains that aren’t chewed well aren’t as nutritionally available during digestion. It also gives you a chance to really taste your food instead of just getting a brief hit of flavor and temperature. An easy method to help you chew more is to set down your fork between bites of food and refrain from taking another bite until you have finished with the previous one.
Give it a try!
Recently I decided to try out some new whole grain options in my cooking. Say hello to millet! Where brown rice can take an hour to cook, millet is a whole grain which cooks in about 25 minutes and can be used as a base for sauteed vegetables, porridge, or can be added to granola. It’s also gluten-free!
The basic preparation is simple: rinse and drain millet, toast in olive oil over medium heat, add water or broth, cover and simmer about 25 minutes. I made a large batch and these were my leftovers. My plan was to make millet cakes from the extras, but I didn’t add enough liquid and had some structural integrity issues.
However, I persevered and ended up with a tasty lunch anyway, albeit not in the shape I had planned. Even though the patties didn’t stay together I still had some nice crispy, crunchy bites, so I declared it “millet hash,” smooshed the whole mess into a small bowl and turned it out onto some cucumber slices I was trying to use up. It tasted good! The nutty, chewy millet was offset nicely by crisp bits of onion and garlic, tender shreds of summer squash, and a cool garnish of sour cream and cucumber.
Are you trying to incorporate more whole grains in your diet?
Spring Veggie and Millet Hash
For the fresh herbs I used a combination of flat-leaf parsley and basil because I only had small amounts of each. If you don’t have fresh herbs add a 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs to the pan with the garlic. Leave off sour cream to make it dairy-free and vegan.
- 1 cup cooked millet
- 1/2 pound summer squash or zucchini
- 1 small onion or shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh minced herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, etc.)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ground black pepper
- optional: sour cream or Greek yogurt and cucumber for garnish
- Grate the squash into a colander. Press out excess moisture — it doesn’t need to be dry, but shouldn’t be dripping.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When pan is hot, add onion and stir, cooking about 2 minutes until softened. Add squash, stirring well. After a few more minutes, stir in garlic. Cook until the squash isn’t releasing moisture and has golden edges.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together millet, cooked vegetables, herbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt. Add a tablespoon of water at a time if the mixture seems too dry.
- In the same pan, heat the last tablespoon of olive oil. Add millet mixture to the pan and press down with a spatula. Let cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes until browned. Flip over and cook another 3 minutes or so until crisp bits are formed.
- Serve warm topped with sour cream or Greek yogurt and cucumber.
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