As you probably know, I’ve been spreading the word about the goodness of grains for years. Writing, teaching, and cooking away, I do my part to nudge whole grains onto the plates of anyone that I can reach. But every now and then, I get a chance to work with a group or organization that shares my passion.
It has been with great excitement that I have joined forces with a group called the Grains For Health Foundation, and started work with them on Grain Up!, to promote whole grains. Our first initiative is a whole grain Dine-Around, in which 15 local restaurants are featuring a whole grain special on the menu, from September 19-29. Click here for a list of the restaurants.
I’ve been meeting with the group, a collection of nutrition experts, grain growers and manufacturers, food producers, and chefs, to figure out the most effective ways to make real change, and get those grains on plates in restaurants, and at home. I’ve also been promoting the dine around, doing some TV and radio.
Our hope is that once a diner tries a whole grain dish, made extra appealing by a talented chef, that diner will be inspired to eat more whole grains. The Buckwheat Croquette with Creamy Mushroom Sauce that I tried at Spoonriver, one of the participating restaurants, was so divine, that I can see this happening. Brenda Langotn’s croquettes are legendary, and she is a master at filling these toothsome little patties with grains, vegetables and herbs, then pan frying them to a crispy-crusted perfection. The earthy, mushroomy sauce complements the buckwheat perfectly. Once you get home, you might be inspired to make all your grains into croquettes. Or you might just want those flavors, buckwheat, herbs, and mushrooms, in a simple pilaf.
Either way, you are eating whole grains, and everybody wins.
When we are hoping to shape the eating habits of a giant, slow-moving mass like the whole US population, there are many, many factors to consider. One is that it takes time.
I’m impatient, I know, so when I got the news that US Whole grains consumption went up 23%, I felt a rush of excitement. I could hardly wait to tell you all about it. Then as I read on in the report, I discovered that even with that increase, the average American is still under a single serving per day, way below the five-a-day whole grain experts recommend. When you start at almost nothing, getting up to .79 of a serving per day is a 23% increase.
So, while it’s not all that explosive to report that something has inched incrementally in the right direction, but hey, it’s better than moving the other way.
The USDA officially changed their recommendations on whole grain consumption back in 2005, raising it from one to three. It was a big event for me, since it sparked interest in the whole grains that I already knew and loved, allowing me to write a cookbook, lots of articles, and teach cooking classes dedicated to whole grains.
It all seemed to be at the tipping point, where everyone was finally going to start eating delicious whole grain breads and cereals, and quinoa salads and buckwheat burgers would arrive in school lunch.
So we are taking that 23% and running with it, and redoubling our efforts to get the word out about whole grains. We would be a healthier, happier people if we all just made this little change.
So if you can’t make it to the dine-around, give this delicious recipe from Brenda Langton a try. Or one of these that I have posted on this blog.
Quinoa Corn Soup
This soup can be made with fresh or frozen sweet corn. When sweet corn is in season, use two large ears, cutting the kernels off the cob for the soup and reserving the cobs to make stock.
Serves 6 to 8
- 8 cups water or vegetable stock
- ½ cup quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen sweet corn or 2 ears fresh sweet corn
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram or ½ teaspoon dried
- Cilantro or ancho chili powder, for garnish
1. Combine the water, quinoa and frozen corn in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, parsley, and oregano and continue cooking for another 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Garnish with the fresh chopped cilantro or, for a smoky hot touch, add a pinch of ancho chili powder.