We established earlier in the week that whole grains in moderation are part of a healthy diet.  Today we’ll cover which grains are good to keep on hand, and how to store them.

Just like oils, it’s a good idea to keep a few different textures and tastes of grain in your pantry.  Here are some examples of grains you could keep in your kitchen, going in order of soft to crunchy.

Teff:  This African grain is very tiny, so it cooks quickly and results in a creamy porridge texture.  There’s a nice recipe for teff breakfast porridge from Lorna Sass here.

Polenta:  This is coarsely ground cornmeal.  It does take some care and attention to cook polenta without burning it, but it my opinion it’s worth the time!  Polenta also results in a creamy texture, which will firm up when cool.  I like to portion it out in muffin tins so I have servings of polenta pucks ready to go.  Top a puck with some cooked veggies and a protein and you’ve got a nice little meal!

Steel cut oats:  We talked about this whole grain in our breakfast article yesterday.  Keep some handy in your pantry for a warm meal option in the morning.

Millet:  The texture of this small round grain will vary based on whether you toast it before cooking or not.  It has a pleasant nutty flavor, which is also more pronounced post-toasting.  There’s a good article on toasting and preparing millet here.

Brown rice:  This whole grain can be used in so many dishes, will last in a dry pantry for months, and is inexpensive.  What more is there to say?

Quinoa:  This complete vegan protein has a sturdy texture that will hold up in soups and chili.  Quinoa has a nice subtle flavor, rinse it before cooking to avoid any bitter aftertaste.

Wild rice:  This grain is chewier than brown rice, and will also hold up well in soup.  I like to use it for grain salads because it won’t get mushy in the fridge.

Popping corn:  Always good to keep in your kitchen for a fast snack!  It’s cheap and will store for months in your pantry.

There are so many different whole grains out there; these are just a few viable options.  These are all grains intended to cook whole; we’ll cover flours another time.  The use and storage of flour is a little different.

Here are some tips for storing grains:
  • Keep your grains in a dry, cool, dark, cupboard.
  • Store grains in an airtight container- I reuse jars and yogurt tubs and whatnot.
  • Label everything, and write the water/grain ratio right on the label for easy reference.

If you’d like a cookbook that has many different whole grain recipes, check out Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass.
This entry is part one of a series on creating your whole foods pantry.  In this series we’ll talk about which cooking oils are best to keep on hand for different tasks.

Different oils work best for different tasks based on their composition, and how they’ve been processed.  It’s a good idea to keep at least three types of oil on hand:  one for high heat, one for medium heat, and one to use raw.

If you use low-heat oil for a high-heat project, your oil could smoke or even catch fire.  If your oil does start smoking, carefully dispose of it in the sink immediately.  The oil has spoiled and has carcinogens in it at that point.  Not something you want to eat!  Spectrum Organics oils have a handy graphic on the label that illustrate the smoke point of each oil.
Here are some examples of suitable oils for different projects.  For a more extensive list, check out this awesome one from my local co-op.

High heat cooking:
Refined Sunflower Oil
Refined Safflower Oil
Refined Walnut Oil

Medium heat cooking:
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Peanut Oil

Oils best used raw:
Unrefined nut oils like macadamia or hazelnut
Toasted Sesame Oil

Quality cooking oils can be pricey.  However good oils have good flavor, so you shouldn’t have to use much for each cooking project.  Stores with a well-stocked bulk department will have oil tanks available with refillable bottles for a lower price.

Here are some general tips for storing oils to keep your investment safe:
  • Keep oils out of direct sunlight
  • Store oils in a dark-colored glass container
  • Keep oils away from heat (until you’re using them), don’t store your bottles too close to the stovetop!
  • Close your oil container after you’ve poured to minimize exposure to oxygen