Category Archives: Whole Grains

Vibrant Collard Green Rice and Bean Rolls

I really like collard greens. I grew up in the South, well if you can count Florida as “the south”, as eclectically diverse as it is. My grandmother cooked them down until very soft, but only in water so they weren’t unhealthy. She had a jar of spicy jalapeno vinegar to splash on them and they were so filling and satisfying. You don’t need to cook them down so much to enjoy them as so many people are catching on to the delights of gently steamed or shredded raw collard greens. For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked Brown or Bhutanese Red rice (preferably organic when cooking with rice)
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (can use chicken stock or water)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (Chick peas), drained
  • ½ cup minced celery
  • ½ cup  prepared cole slaw (cabbage and carrots)
  • ¼ cup chopped pitted black olives (can substitute green if you prefer, I like Cerignola olives particularly)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup vegan soy mayonnaise (can substitute thick strained plain Greek style yogurt)
  • 1-2 teaspoons your favorite seasoning blend (Jane’s Crazy salt is always a winner)
  • 8 collard green leaves, washed and dried

To make the collard wraps:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice with the broth and sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then you want to reduce the heat  to a gentle simmer on low, covered, for approximately 40-50 minutes or until the rice is fluffy and soft.
  2. Transfer the cooked rice to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except the collard leaves. Mix well and set aside to cool.
  3. To prepare the collard leaves, you will need to trim off the stems. You can do this by laying each leaf out on a cutting board and running a small paring knife down the thick central stem in a V-shape towards the middle of the leaf. You do not want to cut the entire leaf in half, just remove the thick vein and stem.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and add 2 or 3 collard leaves. Boil for a minute or two, until dark green and tender. Remove with tongs and transfer to a colander to drain and cool. Repeat with remaining leaves.
  5. Take a cooled collard leaf and lay it stem side facing up. Place 1 cup of rice-bean mixture in the center and roll the collard leaf around the filling to make a wrap. Do this for the rest of the collard greens.

This serves 4 people with 2 wraps each. I recommend a bright and tangy Tahini dipping sauce with this.

Tahini Saice

  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste easily found in a grocery store)
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil (extra virgin preferred)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)

Combine the ingredients in a food processor or a blender and whiz together into a nice dressing consistency. Adjust the seasoning to your liking, and thickness by adding a little water if you want to thin it out.


Easy Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Crunchy Veggies

Spring rolls are a snap to make once you get the basics down. You may have eaten them at an Asian take-out restaurant before, or have seen them on a buffet somewhere. They are light and fresh and can be filled with almost anything you like.  I like to add whole grains like Bhutanese Red rice for an earthy, chewy texture which contrasts excellently against the succulent, salty-snap of fresh shrimp. I include powerfully nutritious green herbs in this recipe which will align well with your diet plans, and I hope you will make it and enjoy it.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil (toasted if you can find it)
  • 4 each 8-inch diameter rice paper rounds (you can use brown rice rounds if you can find them)
  • 1 cup cooked Bhutanese Red rice (cook per package directions)
  • 2 1/2 cups of cole slaw mix prepared (you can find it at the grocery store and it has shredded cabbage and carrots)
  • 1 small avocado halved and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh Thai basil (regular sweet basil will work if you cannot find Thai)
  • 6 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 8 each cooked and peeled (deveined) shrimp (medium or large) cut in half horizontally
  1. To begin have a bowl or shallow dish of warm water with a splash of the rice vinegar on hand, as well as a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels at the ready. You will soak the rice paper wrappers to soften them in the warmed water and lay them out on the paper or towel to drain off excess water.
  2.  Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together with a little sesame oil until the sugar dissolves. This will serve as your dipping sauce, which you can divide into four small portions.
  3. Soften a spring roll wrapper until it is soft and pliable enough to wave gently in the liquid. Remove it to the towel gently, and add several slices of avocado, then two halves of shrimp. Next add some of the cole slaw filling and the green herbs.
  4. Leave about an inch and a half at the top of your spring roll and at the sides. Make sure you place the filling toward the bottom edge of the wrapper.
  5. Now fold the sides up and roll your wrapper like a burrito up and around the filling, pressing gently at the seam. Set your spring roll aside and finish the others in the same manner.
  6. When you have finished, slice each spring roll at the center in a diagonal slice.

You should have 4 servings of an appetizer portion of these delicious spring rolls. Now that you have the technique figured out the sky is the limit for what you can add. Steamed or grilled chicken slices and a creamy, citrus peanut sauce would be a filling treat, as would a spring roll chock full of crunchy veggies alone! If you cannot find fish sauce, or do not particularly enjoy it, feel free to omit it and instead substitute 1/8 cup tamari sauce with 1/8 cup of citrus juice; such as lemon, lime or orange, or even some stock if you have it handy.


Kale and Lentil Salad

Red Lentils are quick to cook, and very filling. This salad can be served warm as a side dish, or chilled until cool and eaten as a cold salad. You will need:

  • 2 cups red lentils, cooked and drained
  • 1 Tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons good vinegar such as balsamic or sherry
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • wedge of lemon
  • 1/4 cup Dinosaur kale, chiffonade
  • 1/4 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • fresh basil, minced or chiffonade
  • 3 Tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts or other nuts like hazelnut
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To prepare the salad have your ingredients ready and warm a skillet or sauté pan gently over medium heat and warm the oil and garlic until it softens, about 3 minutes. Stirring occasionally to ensure no sticking or burning. Add your vinegar and kale and wilt the kale, stirring to coat the greens with the warm garlic dressing. Once wilted remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix this with the basil and nuts and tomatoes while still warm but not hot. Squeeze a little lemon over the salad and toss gently ensuring an even coating. You may serve this chilled or warm as it is and it is a lovely summer dish. This is excellent with a grilled fish as an entrée.   Serves-4

Cranberry Quinoa Pilaf

This colorful pilaf will be a hit on your dinner table. Quinoa is packed with essential amino acids and is high in protein to keep you feeling full.

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked red quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cups low-sugar, dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cups sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 Tablespoon minced, fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • pinch cayenne

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium high heat. Add onions and spices, stirring often, until just softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add quinoa and toast, stirring constantly, for 1 minute so as not to scorch the quinoa or spices. Stir in the broth and salt and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in cranberries, cover again and continue to cook until liquid is completely absorbed and quinoa is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Toss with almonds and parsley.


Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds
High in Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You may have noticed a new fad in the world of healthy living: chia seeds. Yes, those chia seeds of Chia Pet lore. They’re in puddings, in drinks, sold as is in packages and people are adding them to their baked goods and sprinkling on salads and oatmeal.

Chia seeds taste slightly nutty when eaten out of hand, and absorb about 9-12 times the amount of liquid they are put in making them ideal for using as an alternative thickening or gelling agent. This also means they help keep you feeling fuller, longer, as well as hydrated. When used in liquid they take on the flavor of the liquid. Adding them to a glass of coconut water is a great post workout treat.

They also are high in Omega-3’s and Omega-6 fatty acids, as well as being a complete protein. Per 1-ounce serving (about 2 Tablespoons a day) they offer up 11 grams of fiber, 4.4 grams of protein, and 18% of your daily value of calcium. They can help regulate blood sugar, reduce cravings, are anti-inflammatory and help keep you regular.

You can simply add them to a cup of water with some lemon or fruit juice, let them sit 10 minutes until they gel (absorb the water) and drink it that way. Or you can make smoothies with them, or add them to oatmeal or your almond or soy milk.

To make a simple, fast chocolate chia pudding you will need:

  • 1 cup plain almond (or other non-dairy) milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 small, ripe avocado (or 1/2 a larger one)
  • 2 tablespoons real Maple syrup or Raw organic honey

If you’d like a spicier Mexican chocolate pudding you could add some cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne.

Whiz this mixture up in a blender on high until smooth and transfer to a bowl or serving cups and chill in the refrigerator until set.

You may omit the avocado as well and use 1/3 cup of chia seeds instead.

Farro Pilaf With Pine Nuts and Kale

Farro is an Italian strain of wheat. The berry to be exact, or the grain itself. Also known as Emmer or Spelt it is similar to Barley but has a milder flavor. It was a common staple to the ancient Egyptians.  Farro (Emmer) is more commonly grown in Italy and is making more of an everyday appearance in Markets these days.  It originated 7,000 years ago. It is a non-genetically-modified ancient grain, and is higher in fiber than common wheat and lower in gluten. To prepare it soaking is recommended, though  not necessary. Washing it is important to ensure no pebbles still live in the bottom of the bag. The texture when cooked is hearty and chewy. Very satisfying. It is as versatile as rice. Here we will use it in a pilaf style, though you can cook it as you would a risotto (taking longer than Arborio rice would), or using cracked Farro as a soup or porridge. It’s good to remember a ratio of 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of grain. Farro can be cooked ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or frozen to be used in a variety of meal preparations. Such as the pilaf here, or a salad, or tossed into pancakes, or soups.

For this recipe you will need:

4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium preferable)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1/2 small onion (cut in half with the paper removed)

1 1/4 cups pearled Farro


In a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the Farro and onion halves. Stir to coat the grains and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring until the onion begins to smell fragrant. Add the broth. Cover tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until the grain is tender.

Next while that is cooking you need:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 pound Kale, center rib removed and chopped. (About 4 packed cups)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Optional: (If you would like to add dried fruits some good additions would be dried cranberries, or chopped figs. About 1/2 cup will do.)

When the Farro is done, drain it and set it aside removing the onion you cooked with it.

Next make the pilaf. In a Large saute pan\skillet heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and add the onion, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Then add the chopped Kale cooking another 5-7 minutes or until wilted. Turn heat down to medium and stir in the garlic. Cook about 1 minute and add the drained Farro.  Stir and cook another 5 minutes and add the toasted pine nuts and dried fruit if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can enjoy this warm in a bowl with some grated cheese or cool as a salad.

This recipe makes about 6 servings.

Tabouleh, Feta stuffed Acorn Squash

This is really easy and other grains like wheat berries, or quinoa can be substituted. Select your squash from the market, they are better if they’re a little on the small side, because they’re easier to handle, cook faster, and are so filling anyway. Acorn squash are the green ones, with ridges, kind of shaped like an acorn. What I like to do is pre-heat my oven to about 350 to 400 degrees. Spray some heart healthy olive oil on a baking sheet, one that will fit two acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise. Then you rinse your squash, and scrub any dirt or spots that might not look right. The skin is great to eat once cooked so you want them clean. Then with a sharp and heavy knife that you are comfortable with, cut the squash in half lengthwise. You can either cup the tops off before or after. Scoop out the seeds and toss them, or save them and roast them as a garnish.

Once halved, rub olive oil lightly over the surface and interior of the scooped out squash. Season with some Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, some  ground fennel powder is nice, about a teaspoon total, and maybe a little oregano if you have it.

Then you place the cut side down of the squash onto the oiled baking tray and then into the oven it goes. For about 30 minutes depending o n the size of squash you chose. To test, stick a cake tester into one and if it slides in to the middle with very little resistance, it’s done.

So while that is cooking, you can whip up some stuffing for the squash. For that you will need:

2 cups cooked tabouleh. If you buy it great, easy, just dice up a little feta cheese and toss and then stuff into the squash. If you would like to make it, it goes a little something like this:

    2/3 cup  bulgur wheat
    1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
    1-1/2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
    1 large tomato, diced
    1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
    2/3 cup scallions, sliced thinly
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    pinch of salt

Soak bulgur wheat in cold water for 2 hours (or as directed
on package). Drain well, squeezing out any excess water.
Mix all ingredients together in large bowl.

So when the squash are ready, the edges should have turned a lovely golden brown, having caramelized the natural sugars within. That is why you cook them face down.

Now you choose. To stuff the hot squash with the tabouleh and serve. Ir to stuff it and heat it through in a microwave or in the oven. If cold, leave in the cucumber, if hot leave it out and add it as a garnish on top with some toasted walnut pieces.

A really great sauce to drizzle over this is a lemony yogurt sauce that is so easy. Just take a package of Greek style yogurt, not too big, a single serve one will do. Put that into a mixing bowl, you can do this by hand, squeeze a little lemon juice, mind the seeds, add salt and pepper (optional) to taste, and thin with either buttermilk (my favorite way to do it), or other milk. Until a sauce like consistency is reached. You can serve that sauce over the dish and even sprinkle fresh chopped mint and a lemon wedge.

I hope you enjoy my Mediterranean twist on a winter classic!

Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important component of your diet. Especially good for keeping you satiated and feeling full for longer periods of time without spiking your blood sugar. High in fiber and also just tasty when prepared with love.
One of my favorite women that I’ve had the pleasure of working with is Robin Asbell author of The New Whole Grains Cookbook. Chef, cooking instructor, freelance writer, and recipe developer, Robin has worked with me at Cooks of Crocus Hill in Minneapolis, MN. I purchased her cookbook and have the fortune to have it autographed as well. She details grains in her book and explains all about their origin and nutrition and ease of preparation, then goes into possible cooking techniques from there, such as steaming, baking, pressure cooking, or pasta-style cooking. Some examples of grains she includes are: Bulgur, Quinoa, Amaranth, Teff, Millet, Buckwheat, Barley, and Rices.
Here is her recipe for “Power Buns with Flax, Soy, and Blueberries:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
3 1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Bread flour, divided
1/2 Cup soy flour
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 tablespoon quick-rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dried blueberries

  1. In a stand mixer or large bowl mix 3 cups of the whole wheat flour with the soy flour, flax seeds, yeast and salt.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir together the hot water, oil and honey.
  3. Take the temperature of the mixture, and heat the mixture if necessary to adjust the temperature according to the yeast package directions.
  4. Using the dough hook, or by hand, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.
  5. Knead until the dough is well mixed, then knead for 10 minutes more.
  6. The dough can be a little sticky; add some more flour to make a supple dough if needed, but don’t add too much more or the buns will be tough.
  7. Knead in the blueberries.
  8. After kneading scrape the dough into a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 1 hour to at least double in bulk.
  9. Oil a sheet pan when the dough has risen.
  10. Punch down the dough then tear off pieces, each about 1/2 cup in volume.
  11. Shape into rolls and place on the prepared pan.
  12. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and put somewhere warm to rise for 30 minutes.
  13. When they have almost doubled, bake them for 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.
  14. They should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.
  15. Transfer to a rack to cool.

These take a little time but are well worth it and freeze well. They’re great as a snack or for breakfast with some Greek style yogurt and some fresh fruit. They take about 2 hours from start to finish to make but if you have a helper it can be a fun thing to make once a week and store in the freezer either unbaked or baked until needed! If you choose to freeze the dough do so after mixing it. Then follow the steps as it comes to room temperature for proofing it (i.e. letting it rise in a warm place and punching it down, forming it and rising again) before baking!

Although a fantastic recipe, I would suggest substituting the 1/4 cup canola oil in this recipe with 1/4 cup good olive oil to fit more with the Pain Free Diet. You may also use dried cranberries, or other dried fruits which you prefer! Try experimenting with Pumpkin puree as well. Enjoy, and I recommend purchasing Robin’s book so that you understand the world of whole grains isn’t a bland one, and that it can be very unique, approachable, and above all TASTY.

Barley Fruit Salad

pearl barleyBarley is really versatile, but so many people tend to overlook this grain as boring. In fact it is high in beta-glucan, a fiber that can help reduce diabetes risk. It has a rich, nutty flavor,a fantastic, chewy texture, and is a great substitute for rice. It has three times the fiber of one serving of rice. It is also manufactured as rolled grains, like rolled oats-so that it can double as a breakfast cereal, or in baked goods, or to dredge fish in before sauteing. It contains many vitamins and minerals such as: niacin (Vitamin B3), thiamine ( Vitamin B1), selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and copper. Barley is also high in anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and heart disease.

Fruit Salad:
3 cups cooled, cooked, pearl barley, (cooking directions below)
3/4 cup sliced strawberries
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cup blueberries
1/2 cup diced apple
1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese (or crumbled goat cheese if you prefer)
1/3 cup toasted, slivered almonds

Raspberry Orange Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon sugar-free orange marmalade (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced or mashed with the flat side of a knife
1/2 teaspoon Coleman’s dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large salad bowl pour the vinegar, the dry mustard, garlic, salt, pepper. orange zest and marmalade. Gently whisk in the olive oil to mix well.
To cook pearl barley:
In medium saucepan with lid, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup pearl barley and return to boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Place any extra cooked barley in an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze. Add to soups, stews, casseroles and salads for extra flavor, texture and fiber. For best results, bring frozen or refrigerated cooked barley to room temperature before using.
Mix the cooked, cooled barley with the dressing and fruits and almonds and crumble cheese on top if desired. This makes such a filling lunch or side dish at dinner. You could interchange the fruits with steamed veggies, fresh chopped herbs, and Dijon mustard instead of a sweet approach. Once you have cooked barley on hand, the choice is yours how you will use it.

Oatmeal Bars

Oatmeal is a favorite of mine. I’ll add diced apples and cinnamon with honey or Splenda. What I really love though are heavy, tummy filling, oat bars that are so common in Scotland. When I was there hiking in the Highlands so many summers ago, the group I was with brought them along with us on our daily excursions. Scottish oat cakes are something I craved when I got back on U.S. soil and they’re bang easy to make and with a tweak of a few key ingredients they fit right into your eating plan.
You will need:
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar Splenda
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups soy or oat flour (save a little for dusting work surface)
1/4 cup chilled vegan margarine, cut into pea sized pieces (give or take)
3/4 cup soy milk or nonfat buttermilk

As you can see this is basically a biscuit recipe. At this point gathering your ingredients you can decide if you would like to add any dried fruits such as cherries, blueberries or cranberries. Or nuts, such as almonds, or pecan pieces. Or spices like ginger and cinnamon. They are good just as they are with a bit of jam on top.
To bake:
Pre-heat your oven to 325°F. Make sure the racks are set a few inches apart near the center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar Splenda, baking soda, and salt (also if adding spices or dried fruits, or nuts, now would be a good time to toss them in). Place the oat flour in a separate bowl. Add the small pieces of shortening, and rub it into the oat flour with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly just like making biscuit dough. Then add the two together, mixing by hand until incorporated. Then add the soy milk or non buttermilk, stirring well to combine.
Dust a clean work surface with some extra oat flour, then pat the dough to roughly 10×8-inch rectangle 1/4-inch thick. The dough will be sticky and you can work it a bit to get it to form. Dust additional flour on top of the dough as needed to form a rectangle. Use a knife or a 1″ biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles or triangles. With a spatula, gently transfer the oat cakes to the lined baking sheet. Pat out the remaining scraps into another 1/4″ thick rectangle, and repeat the process until all of the dough is cut. Bake the oat cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are a light brown. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. This makes about 24 oat cakes. If you like you can freeze half of the dough until you want to make more. Just thaw to room temperature before baking. Another thing you could do instead of hand forming the dough like a scone or biscuit, is to spray some olive oil into a baking pan, an 8×10 for example and spread out the dough with a spatula and bake that way. Cutting before or after.
These are great in the morning, or pop into a zip-lock for a snack, or as a dessert with a scoop of granita and fresh berries.