Wow! I’m already 5 weeks into the New American Plate Challenge, so it’s time for another update. The past two weeks have had me focused on eating more whole grains, and making each of my plates as colorful as possible.
The goal for week 3 was to replace any refined (white) grains with whole grains like whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa. Week 4 had me working on making rainbows– on my plate, that is. The goal was to eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal, and try to hit all of the colors in a rainbow.Remember ROY G BIV? I forgot about it too. It stands for Red- Orange- Yellow- Green- Blue- Indigo- Violet.
I’m happy to report so far, so good. I hope you’re working on this New American Plate Challenge too, because it’s a great way to keep building on small but important changes in your diet, which will keep you healthier in the long run. Switching to whole grains and adding more fruits and vegetables adds B vitamins for energy, C and beta carotene for the immune system, antioxidants for fighting off diseases and inflammation, and LOTS of fiber. Most people are aware that fiber is important for the GI tract (keeps things “moving”), but did you know that it also helps reduce your cholesterol and blood sugar, and it helps with weight loss by filling you up faster? Everyone should aim to eat about 30 grams of fiber each day, but the average American only eats about 10-15 grams :(.
You already know how I feel about oats, and as usual, I’ve been eating lots of whole grain oatmeal for breakfast. I've been trying to vary it between fresh berries, for some red and blue color, and my new favorite Carrot Cake oatmeal, for some orange. Happily, fresh berries have been on buy one-get one sales the past few weeks, and melons are out in full force, so I’ve been snacking on lots of fresh fruit. I’m also loving those bags of mini peppers that I see everywhere. They are so tender and sweet, with no need to cut or seed. Just bite off the stem! They’re great for dipping in a white bean dip for lunch (white is a color, right?).
There are so many interesting and unusual whole grains in the supermarket today so I thought I’d try a new recipe with Wheat Berries, (which I found in the Bob’s Red Mill section of my grocery store), and some grilled summer vegetables. This recipe hits the mark on both color, and whole grain. The wheat berries are nutty, chewy, and kind of pop in your mouth!
You can’t get much more “whole grain” than wheat berries, which are whole kernels of wheat, and high in B vitamins, fiber and protein. Refined wheat is usually just the inner, endosperm part of the wheat kernel, but most of the good stuff is in the outer bran and inner germ of the wheat kernel.
Wheat berries take about an hour to cook, so plan ahead and make a large batch so you can use them for several meals.
Grilled Vegetable Salad With Wheat Berries
- 1 cup wheat berries rinsed, drained, and patted dry
- 3 ½ cups cold water
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt divided
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin olive oil + extral for brushing vegetables
- ¼ cup minced fresh herbs parsley, oregano, basil, and/or mint
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 small summer squash
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 medium sweet red pepper
- ¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese optional
- Place wheat berries in a saucepan on medium-high heat, and toast for about 3 minutes or until they start to turn golden, stirring frequently.
- Add water and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a rolling boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer wheat berries for about an hour or until tender.
- While wheat berries are cooking, mix together lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper for dressing. Set aside.
- Drain wheat berries when tender, and toss with dressing while warm.
- Cut the zucchini and summer squash into long slices, approximately ¼ inch thick.
- Slice the onion into ¼ inch thick rounds. Cut the sweet pepper quarters lengthwise and remove the core and any thick inner membranes and seeds.
- Brush all vegetables with olive oil, and grill until onions, zucchini and summer squash are tender, and outside of peppers are charred. About 3-6 minutes on each side.
- Let vegetables cool a bit until they are easy to handle Cut all vegetables into 1-2 inch pieces and toss with wheat berry/lemon dressing mixture.
- Sprinkle Feta cheese if desired, and toss lightly.
- Serve at room temperature.
What’s your favorite whole grain?