Category Archives: Grains

Making Kale Sexy: Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut & Sesame Oil

Kale. You know kale, that thick, leafy green that all of the spandex-sporting hotties at Whole Foods frantically fill their shopping carts with as though it were the elixir of life. NEWSFLASH! It kinda is. Though its bulbous leaves and overall aggressive nature make it look like it belongs more in the Jurassic period than on your dinner plate, fear not! Kale’s bad rap has dissipated as modern chefs find sexy new ways to use it. Kale’s strong flavor is tempered in this truly fantastic recipe by the delightful and unexpected addition of toasted coconut and sesame oil. A big thanks to Heidi Swanson and her incredible new book, Super Natural Everyday, for being the bearer of such an awesome flavor combination.
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Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with Quinoa

These spicy chickpeas evoke visions of a languorous evening spent in Marrakesh, lounging about on hand-woven rugs in a smoky den of jeweled resplendence. If you own an actual tagine, gold star for you! Use that. Otherwise, a Dutch Oven or a large heavy-bottomed skillet will do the trick.

I’ve been on a bit of a quinoa kick lately. It’s just so easy. Not to mention that it is widely considered to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Older than Peru, the Incas called this gluten-free grain the “mother grain”. Unlike any other non-animal product, quinoa contains all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein. In addition to a sizable amount of protein, quinoa is also an excellent source of fiber, calcium, phosphorus, folate, and many B vitamins. Just rinse those little suckers off for a few minutes, throw em’ in a pot of water, and simmer until they all explode into little curly q’s. When approaching this recipe, instead of running out to buy couscous (this gal’s trying to develop a budget), I cooked up a big pot of quinoa not only as a side to this dish, but enough to last me for the week.
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How to Avoid Grazing & Other Gastric Disorders: A Hearty Lunch of Butternut Squash Fried Brown Rice

Enjoy a fiberful, nutrient-dense lunch to avoid the ghastly 4 o’clock munchies. Remember, those fistfuls of food you fitfully consume late-afternoon will, coincidentally, prevent you from fully enjoying a large dinner (admittedly, the highlight of my day.)

This little bowl is an amalgamation of my refrigerator this Friday afternoon, when I found myself ravenous and dismayed at the sight of a near-empty fridge. These sorts of predicaments are the only time when I relinquish my recipe addiction and cook without a recipe. Sometimes, being trapped in the apartment all day with work breeds culinary creativity!

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Thai Red Curry with Whole Grain Udon Noodles

Oh, Heidi. The 101 Cookbooks creator was instrumental in lighting my cooking fire a year and a half ago. Since stumbling across her blog I’ve come to see appreciate the beauty of seasonal cooking and off-the-beaten-path ingredients such as whole grain udon noodles, coconut oil, and shoyu sauce. All of which play a staring role in this delicious, slurp-tastic bowl of hearty, wholesome food. Part of the fun for me of cooking familiar dishes composed of unfamiliar ingredients is the the thrill of the hunt. Trolling the aisles of the MASSIVE Whole Foods here in Chicago and making a pilgrimage to the beloved Green Grocer for ingredients is all part of fun (NOTE: impatient boyfriends may not feel the same way.)

Thai Red Curry with Whole Grain Udon Noodles

3 tablespoons coconut oil
12 oz chicken breasts
fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz dried whole grain or whole wheat udon noodles
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 tablespoons shoyu sauce, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon cane sugar
14 oz can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock or water
Juice of 1 lime, plus more wedges for serving
1/3 cup slivered shallots
Large handful of peanuts
Large handful of cilantro, chopped

1.) Season chicken with salt and pepper. Grab your dutch oven and heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium-high heat until swirling and hot. Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes on one side without moving it until it is nicely browned and detaches from the bottom of the pan with minimal prodding. Flip and cook 1-2 minutes more. Set aside. When cooled, break apart chicken into chunks with a fork. Wipe out the dutch oven with a paper towel but do not wash.

2.) Heat a pot of water until boiling. Salt generously and cook noodles until cooked but still quite firm; according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3.) Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil over medium-high heat in your dutch oven. Add garlic, onion, and curry paste, using your wooden spoon to distribute the paste across the mixture. Cook for 2 minutes; until fragrant. Add chicken, turmeric, sugar, and shoyu sauce and and stir to coat. Add coconut milk and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer gently for 5 minutes.

4.) Remove from heat and stir in noodles and limes juice. Ladle into bowls and serve garnished with a sprinkling of shallots, peanuts, cilantro, and wedges of lime.

This recipe was adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. Published by Celestial Arts, New York; 2007.

Strawberry Barley Scones

Barley’s natural affinity for fruit lends itself swimmingly to these strawberry jam scones. I used a jar of strawberry preserves from Seedling over at Chicago’s Green City Market. I imagine that any fruit jam or preserves would be equally as delectable in this recipe.

Strawberry Barley Scones
Makes 8

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
1 egg

1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar or turbinado sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flours, baking powder, and baking soda together into a large bowl. Whisk in sugars and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg.

2.) Place flour mixture in the bed of a food processor. Cut 1/2″ chunks of the butter into the flour mixture. Pulse until the size of peas. Dump flour and butter mixture into a large bowl. Using a spatula, mix in buttermilk and egg until just barely combined.

3.) Transfer dough to a well-floured surface with floured hands. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Pat each piece into a disk about 3/4″ thick.

4.) Generously spread jam over the entire surface of one disk. Take the other disk and press it down on top of the jam. Cut eight triangles out of the circle.

5.) Place on prepared baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 22-27 minutes; until golden on top and the jam has begun to caramelize. Quickly transfer to a cooling rack.

This recipe was very slightly adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. Published by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, New York; 2010.

Lentil, Chard and Roast Plum Tomato Gratin

Though my market only stocked green chard when I was shopping for the ingredients for this recipe, I imagine rainbow chard would be gorgeous – give it a try! Also feel free to experiment with amount of bread crumbs, flavor of bread crumbs, type of cheese, cheese amounts, etc.

Lentil, Chard and Roast Plum Tomato Gratin

3-4 Roma tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1 cup French green lentils
2 1/4 lb. chard, washed and leaves separated from stalks
4 garlic cloves, minced
generous pinch of dried thyme
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2-1 cup parmesan, pecorino romano, or other hard cheese, grated (add as much or as little cheese as you like, depending on your love of cheese)
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice tomatoes thickly, place on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast for 25 minutes; until tomatoes are lightly colored. Set aside.

2.) Bring a medium sized saucepan of salted water to a boil, add lentils, and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes; until tender. Drain and set aside.

3.) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add chard leaves, and boil for around 5 minutes. Drain and finely chop. Add chard to the lentils and season the mixture generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4.) Chop chard stalks into 1/2 chunks. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, thyme, and chard stalks and cook for 5 minutes. Add wine to skillet, partially cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally; until stalks are tender. If mixture gets too dry, pour in a bit more wine to loosen things up a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Add to lentil and chard mixture along with any juices.

5.) Oil a 9 x 12″ baking dish. Place tomatoes in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Spoon lentil mixture over tomatoes. Mix cheese and bread crumbs together in a bowl. Sprinkle cheese and bread crumb mixture over lentils. Bake for 40-50 minutes; until golden. Serve with a chunk off good bread.

This recipe was adapted from Denis Cotter’s Wild Garlic, Gooseberries… and Me. Copyright 2007. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Pear & Buckwheat Pancakes

In one word: incredible. Sometimes, the traditional buttermilk pancake just won’t do. I often find myself ravenous mere hours after eating them. These pancakes are significantly more substantial, and kept me full for a good 6 hours. Savory buckwheat is balanced by the sweetness of ripe pears, and doused in maple syrup and sprinkled with blackberries – a morning of pure bliss awaits.

This recipe was adapted from Kim Boyce’s wondrous Good to the Grain – my cookbook of the moment. Each one of her recipes is a delicious adventure into the world of whole-grain flours. Unlike other books focusing on whole-grain baking, Kim never forgoes flavor for nutrition. Rather, she utilizes alternative flours as a way to add depth of flavor to familiar preparations. After experimenting with teff flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour since purchasing this book, I am stunned that these flours aren’t more popular! Delicious!

Savory Pear & Buckwheat Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 egg
2 ripe but firm pears, peeled

butter for the pan

1.) Preheat oven to 200 degrees (to keep finished pancakes warm while you cook the rest.) Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt together in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk together butter, milk, and egg in a separate bowl. Grate pears on the large holes of a grater into the milk mixture. Make sure you get all of the yummy pear juice to drip into the bowl!

2.) Using a spatula, add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir briskly and gently, leaving plenty of big clumps in the batter. Overmixing makes for a flat, dull pancake.

3.) Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add plenty of butter and swirl to help it melt quickly. Working in batches, add pancakes by the 1/4 cup to the skillet, careful not to overcrowd the pan. When bubbles rise to the top, flip and finish cooking the other side. 5-8 minutes total. Place finished pancakes on a plate and place in the oven while you make the rest. No one likes a cold pancake! Serve with maple syrup and blackberries, if desired.

This recipe was adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. Published by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, New York; 2010.

Barley Risotto with Cannellini Beans, Arugula, Kale, and Lemon Zest


Have you ever tried a barley risotto? If not, you are in for a treat. As an eternal devotee to the wonders of Italian cuisine, I don’t think it gets much better than this. This is a wondrous dish – hearty, healthy, vibrant, refreshing, green, and amazingly delicious. Easily one of my favorite things that I’ve made so far this year. Trust me, this is a dish that you will come to crave.

You will also love that you can go for seconds (and thirds!) without feeling too much guilt – barley is packed full of fiber (both soluble and insoluble), protein, copper, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. Whew! But most importantly, it tastes SO GOOD. As in, I don’t at all prefer regular Arborio rice-style risotto over barley risotto.

If you haven’t cooked with barley before, be forewarned that it is a very thirsty grain, and the copious amounts of liquid and stirring in this recipe are quite necessary for the perfect end result. Do feel free to change up the beans, greens, and herb combination – the possibilities are endless.

Barley Risotto with Cannellini Beans, Arugula, Kale, and Lemon Zest

The Risotto
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut to a 1/4″ dice
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
14 oz can cannellini beans
3 packed cups of arugula and kale mix, the argula chopped and the kale cut into 1/4-1/2″ ribbons
1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
juice of half a lemon, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

The Garnishes
zest of 1-2 lemons
handful of chopped arugula
freshly grated cheese

1.) In your widest heavy-bottomed skillet (not nonstick), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, marjoram, and a few pinches of salt, and cook for about 10 minutes; or until onion begins to take on some color and the bottom of the pan is beginning to collect some delicious browned bits. Meanwhile, gently heat your stock in a small saucepan so that it is nice and warm, but not simmering or boiling.

2.) Once the onions are nicely colored, add barley and cook for several minutes more.

2.) Add white wine to deglaze the plan, and scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon.

3.) Now we begin the long (yet immensely satisfying) process of adding the liquid. Add 1 cup of stock and stir until fully incorporated.

4.) Continue adding stock and stirring frequently by 1/2 cup at a time, making sure to let the barley absorb each 1/2 cup before you add the next. If you add too much liquid at a time, the risotto will not come out as intended. You will have between 6 to 8 additions. I used 3 1/2 cups of stock, but you may wish to use more if you prefer a “looser” risotto.

5.) Once all of your stock is absorbed and the barley is pleasant to the bite, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese and butter. Then stir in the beans and greens. Cook until greens are wilted; just a few minutes.

6.) Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice. To serve, divide between 4 plates (or 2 if you are habitually hungry). Sprinkle each serving with a bit of chopped arugula, and loads of lemon zest and cheese.

Whole Wheat Bread of Millet & Flax Seed

There’s something unequivocally comforting about spending your entire day tending to the well-being of a couple of loaves of bread. I love the initial excitement of seeing that your yeasted batter has, indeed, risen as it should. I love punching the dough down after it’s risen a few times over. I love kneading the dough until my arms ache and my fingers are so entwined in the dough that it takes a good few minutes to untangle myself. Most of all, I love the smell of baking bread creeping throughout the apartment as the cowboy plays his guitar. The ultimate reward that comes from this fragrant loaf is sitting down to a hearty chunk of it slathered with strawberry-raspberry preserves from my favorite Chicago grocer – The Green Grocer. On bread-baking days I feel a sense of accomplishment that only comes from honest, wholesome productivity.

In between waiting for the dough to rise and then rise again (like a Phoenix!), we spent the good chunk of Saturday gathering our food for the week. A trip to the wondrous Chicago French Market made both of our days. Of particular enjoyment was chatting with the local butcher, Dick McCracken of Fumare Meats, from whom we bought some delicious prosciutto from for Saveur’s “Piselli Al Prosciutto” (Sweet Peas and Prosciutto) from their latest issue – “Classic Roman Food.” The most fascinating piece of take-away knowledge from this indelible resource – did you know that the changing colors of the leaves in the fall in the United States is a result of the acidity of our soil? Sure is pretty… Or that everything from lettuce to turnips tastes ever-so-slightly different from country to country as a result of this? Or that the only place to get a chicken that actually tastes like chicken used to (read The Omnivore’s Dilemna, anyone?) is a place down on Fulton Market that steadfastly refuses to sell to the public?

This bread is SO GOOD… and so good for you! The millet is the star here as it contributes a surprisingly sweet flavor and pleasantly crunchy texture… but lets not forget the flax seed and its nutty aroma! The combination of white, whole wheat, and white whole wheat flours makes for a miraculously light, tender loaf. Can we call this “super bread?!”

Whole Wheat Bread of Millet & Flax Seed

1 3/4 cups millet
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 cup hot water from your tap, for soaking millet
3 packages dry active yeast
2 cups warm water, for dissolving yeast
2 tablespoons raw honey (from your farmer’s market!)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 to 5 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
oil, for coating a bowl and baking tins
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk (whichever kind suits you)

1.) Begin by soaking your millet in the cup of hot water. Set aside, and dissolve yeast in a large bowl with the warm water. Add honey, white flour, and whole wheat flour. Stir with a spatula until smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size; 40-50 minutes. I’ve found that the interior of my oven with the light on is a reliable source of warmth.

2.) Stir in the oil, salt, millet (and any remaining water), and flaxseed until everything is evenly dispersed. Then, gently stir in the white whole wheat flour gradually (about 1/2-1/3 cup at a time) with your spatula until the dough won’t take anymore flour.

3.) Turn dough out onto a well-floured flat surface, coat your hands in a bit of flour to help prevent “concrete hands,” and knead dough for 5-10 minutes; until smooth and supple.

4.) Oil a large, clean bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn over a few times to coat with oil. Cover tightly, place in a warm place, and let rise until doubled in size; 40-55 minutes. Punch that dough down with your fists, cover, place in a warm place, and let rise until doubled in size; 30-40 minutes.

5.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two standard-size baking tins. Break apart the dough in the bowl into two loaves. Place in tins, put in a warm place (without a cover this time), and let rise one last time until doubled in size; 20-25 minutes. While the dough is rising, make a glaze by beating the egg and the milk together. When dough is doubled in size, slash the top a bit with a knife, brush with glaze, and bake until beautifully golden and crisp on the outside; 50-60 minutes.

End of Season: Jeweled Pumpkin Muffins

Spring is almost here. And I have several cans of leftover (and much loved) pumpkin puree in my cabinets. Pumpkin puree has been my standby this past winter – a guarantee of a pleasant evening. No need to worry about chopping your finger off wrangling a pumpkin into submission on the cutting board. Pumpkin Bread and Turkey Pumpkin Chili in the depths of a Chicago winter were truly life-saving.

My newest cookbook addition, Good to the Grain, listed an intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato Muffins made with whole-wheat flower and dates. This is my pantry-clearing adaptation.

Jeweled Pumpkin Muffins

one 14 oz can pumpkin puree
butter, for muffin tin
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon Saigon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup organic granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1/2 plain low fat yogurt
1/2 cup cranberries

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10 spaces of a muffin tin with butter. Whisk buttermilk and yogurt together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

2.) In another large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add egg and half of the pumpkin, and continue to beat until thoroughly combined.

3.) Add flour mixture and beat until partially combined, then add buttermilk mixture, and mix until combined. Add cranberries and the rest of the pumpkin, and mix until just combined.

4.) Spoon batter into greased muffin tin and bake for 35-40 minutes; until golden.

This recipe was adapted from Good to the Grainby Kim Boyce. Published by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, New York; 2010.