20-Minute Whole Grains

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I talk a lot about whole grains. And when I do, people often scrunch up their noses and ask, “But don’t whole grains take a lot of time to cook?” The answer is: yes … some do. But others like quinoa, bulgur, rolled oats– even popcorn–take about the same time to cook as white rice. Here are five whole grains you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less.

20-minut-whole-grainsBulgur — Bulgur is made from wheat berries that have been steamed, dried and crushed to result in rough little nuggets that look a lot like steel-cut oats. Bulgur is one of my favorite whole grains, for its fluffy-yet-chewy texture, its versatility and its convenience. Fine- or medium-grind bulgur (it ranges from fine to coarse) cooks in just 10 minutes and makes a great addition to breakfast, salads, main courses … even dessert.

Quinoa – Quinoa is considered a super grain in that it contains all the amino acids necessary to build protein (which is why it’s called a complete protein). Outside of the animal world, that’s an anomaly. Raw quinoa looks like beautiful little beads. But they puff up considerably when cooked (about 15 minutes), into a texture a bit like fluffy oatmeal. I like to have a batch of quinoa on hand in the fridge for mixing into salads, shaping into skillet cakes, or even folding into eggs (Noe loves them that way).

Rolled Oats – Rolled oats (sometimes called “old-fashioned” rolled oats) have all the same nutritional benefits as their more toothsome cousins, steel-cut oats; they’ve just been steamed and rolled flat. Depending on the size, rolled oats will cook in 5 to 15 minutes and can be used interchangeably (adjusting cooking time) with steel-cut oats. They’re also terrific in homemade granola, cookies and breads.

Whole Grain Pastas – Aha! I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see pasta here. But whole grain pastas—whether made from whole wheat, brown rice, or a combination of grains and legumes—have all the nutritional benefits of a whole grain, and they cook as quickly as “white” pasta. Our Brussels Sprouts Carbonara with Whole Wheat Fusilli transformed Alison’s opinion of whole wheat pasta; now it’s a weekly go-to favorite in her household.

Popcorn – Don’t discount popcorn as a whole grain! But do stay away from the microwave variety (or the pre-popped kind already in bags); they tend to be loaded with artificial ingredients and high in sodium. The old-fashioned way of popping popcorn is decidedly easy, though, and takes just under 10 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add ¼ cup popcorn kernels. Swirl around to coat and then put the lid on the pot. In a few minutes you’ll start hearing the ping of the pops. Give the pot a few good shakes (hold the lid so it doesn’t slip off) and take it off the heat when the popping stops. Then top it with whatever you choose (Alison and I discovered we both love truffle oil and sea salt) for a snack, or turn it into a fun dessert.

There you are; five whole grains that cook fast enough you can build them into a weeknight. See … no need to let time keep you from trying whole grains.

5 Recipes to Try:

Brussels Sprouts Carbonara with Whole Wheat Fusilli

Maple Caramel Popcorn

Dark Molasses Cranberry Granola

Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon, Dates and Bulgur

Curry Quinoa Cakes

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