“At least half the grains you eat should come from whole grain sources.” I’ve heard this mantra so many times it’s beginning to play in my head like a broken record.
I find it hard enough to abide by that myself all the time but convincing a toddler that chewy whole-wheat bread with grainy bits is tastier than pillow-soft white bread is an even harder sell.
True, it’s best to introduce your kids to whole grains sooner rather than later. Then they’ll think it’s just, well, normal, and grow up assuming that whole-wheat bread is yummy, and white bread is yucky (yeah, right!).
First things first, don’t assume your kids won’t like whole grains. I just leaped right into it, and I was lucky to get tipped off with some great ideas for one of the world’s most popular staple food, rice.
My most serendipitous discovery so far has been Korean jabgok-bap (mixed grain rice). The bag I found at an Asian market comprised barley, millet, sweet brown rice, brown rice, black rice (which gives the rice a pretty purple color when cooked), and white rice.
The ingredients in jabgok-bap can vary from five to 20 different grains to include legumes like kidney beans, black-eyed peas, soy beans, mung beans, split peas, etc., and even oats, amaranth, and sorghum. Rice is not indigenous to Korea and was very expensive when it first arrived. Hence, it was mixed with other grains to “stretch” the rice.
Don’t you just love how this frugal necessity can stealthily add vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and flavor to your diet?
I was talking to a Korean friend the other day and she told me that she makes her own rice “mix,” ensuring she adds plenty of whole grains like brown rice and millet to the combination. She says her three children love it!
Like any concerned parent, I want my son to eat–and enjoy–whole grains so I decided to try it out on him.
I went to the bulk section of my grocery store and picked out an assortment of grains for my custom-blend. I chose white jasmine rice (which my son already loves), brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, red rice, pearl barley, steel cut oats, millet, and black rice.
I’ve been mixing and matching the grains and so far so good. My son gobbles it up without any fuss, not realizing he is now the poster boy for the USDA dietary guidelines!
Depending on your family’s tastes, feel free to use whatever grains you desire and mix them in any proportion. This is a great way to introduce your kids to brown rice and the very en vogue farro, buckwheat, and quinoa. Whole grains have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor that may not be as pleasing to them, so start off with less and use a greater proportion of the more palatable white rice or even orzo pasta. As time goes by, adjust the proportions. Keep experimenting until you find the right mix that your family loves.
1/4 cup (or more) of any of the following grains and legumes (Culinate.com has a fabulous guide):
Sweet brown rice
Steel cut oats
This is not really a recipe. Rather, it’s more a set of guidelines.
Mix all the grains in an airtight canister. Scoop out however much mixed-grain rice you’d like to cook. Wash and drain. If you have time, soak the grains for 30 minutes so they will cook faster. If not, just proceed to add the grains to your pot and add the required amount of water.
Since different grains require different amounts of water and varying lengths of time to cook, you’ll have to experiment to get mixed-grain rice done to your taste. I suggest starting with the ratio and time recommended for the longest cooking grain in your mix using your choice of method. For example, I cook my mixed-grain rice in the rice cooker with the 1:2 grain-to-water ratio recommend for brown rice. My appliance magically flips the switch when the rice is done.
However, you can cook the grains in a pressure cooker (30 minutes for brown rice) and on the stove top (45 minutes for brown rice) as well.
Or follow the guidelines here.
You may want to cook the grains in large quantities and freeze the leftovers in zip-top bags. Just microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on high to thaw. It tastes as good as freshly-cooked.
Use the mixed-grain rice to make rice salads, pilafs or just serve it with any dish you’d eat with white rice.