Spotlight Recipes: Healthy & Delicious Grain Salads

by in Healthy Recipes, June 26, 2009

I’m not just talking about brown rice. Many lesser-known grains have been around for centuries (even millennia!) and are finding their way back into our kitchens. Quinoa, bulgur and barley are just a few I keep on hand. Here are some recipes featuring these nutritious, versatile and inexpensive grains.

The Goodness of Grains
Grains are packed with B-vitamins, minerals and, of course, carbohydrates, which provide your brain the energy it needs. When you opt for whole grains, you bring fiber and antioxidants like vitamin E into your dishes. The USDA recommends that at least 50% of your grains should be whole.

On average, cooked grains provide around 100 calories for every half cup. Cooking times vary from grain to grain, but all you need is some liquid to cook them up — no oil or other fats needed. This keeps them low in fat and cholesterol-free.

Brown Rice
Brown rice is minimally processed (unlike white rice) and contains a good amount of fiber. I prefer brown basmati for my salads, but you can also find short-, medium- and long-grain brown rice at the market.
Cook Time: 40-50 minutes for regular brown rice; 5-10 minutes for quick cooking or instant

Types of barley include pearl, black and “quick cooking.” I keep pearl barley in my pantry, but it’s actually processed by having the bran removed (meaning less fiber). Nonetheless, it still counts towards your daily whole grains since it contains a good amount of fiber (3 grams per 1/2 cup).
Cook Time: 40-50 minutes for regular; 10-12 minutes for quick cooking

Once favored by the Incas, this ancient grain is also highest in protein. Quinoa naturally contains saponin, bitter covering that you can remove by rinsing or toasting the grain before cooking and serving.
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

You can find this Mediterranean favorite in fine, medium or course textures — all of which have a tender, chewy bite. Bulgur is sometimes confused with cracked-wheat, but they’re not the same. Bulgur is a bit lower in calories than the average grain, with only 76 calories per a half-cup serving.
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

Salad Eaters Beware!
As I said, a half-cup of grains has about 100 calories so you want to keep side-portions reasonable: 1/2 to 3/4 cup per person. If you add higher-fat ingredients like nuts and cheese, stick with a half-cup portion. If you’re making a grain salad as a meal, up that to a full cup.

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