I’m dreaming of Farro salad..balsamic vinegar…Italy

“The whiter the bread the sooner your dead”..  why whole grains matter

White flour, white bread, white pasta,  white rice and white sugar , were the first foods to go in our house 8 years ago when we started thinking about what we were eating. Besides being nutritionally bankrupt foods, these whites have a high glycemic index which means they break down into sugar quickly causing spikes in blood sugar levels and they don’t fill you up so … you eat more or at least you are hungry soon after.  Think “chinese food”.  Foods with a low glycemic index, notably  whole grains , break down into sugar more slowly, leaving you full longer,  blood sugar levels more even and they are great sources of fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, folate and antioxidants. How you decide to make the changeover will be up to you, but go they must:) The white flour, white bread and white sugar were all easily replaced.  Make sure you are reading your bread  labels. “Whole grain wheat flour or better yet, sprouted grains should be the first ingredient,  use whole wheat flour or whole spelt flour for  baking, and try  honey or pure maple syrup or chopped dates to sweeten things up. The pasta and rice were trickier, a texture thing for most people. I started with replacing spagetti with whole wheat spagetinni, it is really thin and was more acceptable than say penne to start with. Slowly everyone in our family is used to the new texture and in no time thought regular pasta was mushy. I eased the changeover with rice by mixing it half and half for awhile and eventually made a complete switch.

There are lots of other whole grains out there to try with different nutrient densities. Here is a summary from a great article found in the March/April Nature’s Fare Newsletter:

Spelt(Farro): is a good source of plant-based protein, 1 cup of cooked spelt=10.7 gms of protein. (Quinoa =8.1) I use whole spelt flour in a alot of baking. I also make a really good salad using whole spelt. See recipe below.

Bulgur: Best source of insoluble fiber per cup at 8.3 gms. (Spelt =7.6) Barley, has both soluble and insoluble fiber for 6gms per cup, Quinoa 5.2. See recipe below for vegetarian shepherd’s pie that uses bulgur.

Quinoa: Top of the list for magnesium, a mineral that is important for cardiovascular health. 118mg per cup, spelt 95mg per cooked 1 cup serving.

Quinoa: Tops all other grains for folate=78mg per cooked 1 cup serving. Wild rice at 43mg.

Quinoa: the most vitamin E (antioxidant) =,1.17mg with spelt =0.5mg and wild rice 0.39 second and third.

Looks like Quinoa takes the overall prize for best grain. It can be replace rice in many recipes. It makes great salads and it is quick to cook. See below for two recipes using Quinoa.

Farro(Spelt) Salad with roasted Veg (could also use Bulgur,  Quinoa or pearly barley)

1 cup cooked whole spelt or farro (available at health food stores and Springfield Bulk Foods)

3 small yellow squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise chopped into half moons

1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges

2 red bell peppers, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks

2 eggplants, cut into chunks (optional)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

olive oil

fresh herbs; parsley, basil

squeeze of lemon juice

Balsamic vinegar

Fresh Arugula and cherry tomatoes (optional- seasonal best)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Soak spelt grain in cold water for 10 min or so, drain. Spread prepared vegetables and garlic  into large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Toss them with a splash of olive oil. Season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Roast for about 25-35 minutes, shaking them around now and then until vegetables are cooked through and crisp around the edges. Sprinkle a little balsamic vinegar over the vegetables as soon as they come out of the oven. Set aside to cool. Once cool chop into finer pieces.

Meanwhile, place the spelt or other grain into a large saucepan, cover with fresh cold water (about 1 cup spelt to 4 cups water) and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until just tender and drain well. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some ground pepper then toss with roasted vegetables, chopped fresh herbs and a drizzle more of balsamic vinegar.

While in Italy last May this was my most memorable salad. I bought balsamic vinegar from family farm where a wonderful Italian lady who couldn’t speak a word of english tried to explain how they made it.  The only addition to the salad they made was to serve it on a bed of arugula and topped it off  with fresh cherry tomato halves and more  torn fresh basil. It was amazing! You could substitute arugula with spinach or mixed greens.


Mixed greens  or Spinach or whatever greens you would like

1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks

1 mango or 1 orange or 1 cup fresh sliced strawberries (whichever is ripest and sweet)

Cook ½ cup quinoa in 1 cup water.  Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer for 12-15 min. Toss with fork.  Let cool.

Mix all above ingredients together and add dressing.


¼ cup Salada (sweet vinegar) or apple cider vinegar

½ cup grapeseed oil

2 tbsp agave syrup or honey

¼ tsp salt

½ small red onion chopped or 1 med-lrg shallot

1 tsp dry mustard

2 tbsp water

Put all ingredients into a food processor, blender or “magic bullet”.  Process till smooth. Makes lots for leftovers. Store in refridgerator.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie ( GI recipe book- modified)

 1 tsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup bulgur

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

1 ½ cups vegetable broth

1  can (14.5 oz) low sodium  diced tomatoes with juices

2 red skinned potatoes

2 yams or sweet potatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

½ can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen peas

1 ½ cup frozen corn

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp paprika

Heat oil in skillet over med. Heat. Add onion, garlic, bulgar, oregano and basil and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 min.  Add broth, tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until the bulgur is just tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, scrub red potatoes, and prepare in chunks for boiling. (skins on). Peel yams or sweet potatoe, cut into similar sized chunks and add to red potato. Put in pot and just cover with water.  Add garlic. Bring to boil and reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender and ready for mashing. (about 10 min)Set aside. Mash with soy or almond milk and 1 tsp olive oil.

Add chickpeas, peas and half each of salt and pepper to bulgur mixture and stir to combine.  Scrape into 8 inch casserole dish, smoothing top.  Spread kernel corn next.  Then scrape mashed potatoe/yam on top and smooth evenly. Sprinkle with remaining salt & pepper, paprika and parsley.

Cover and bake in oven at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

This is a filling meal served with another steamed vegetable on the side as well as some applesauce.

6 servings.

Spicy Brown Rice or Quinoa with Carrots and Cashews 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 small hot chili pepper seeded and minced or ¼ tsp dried chili flakes

1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 large carrot grated

2 scallion, minced

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

½ tsp raw sugar, honey or agave syrup

3 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa

½ cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews

1 cup frozen green peas

Heat peanut oil in large skillet over med-high heat.  Add onion and scallions and  stir-fry until soft, about 2 min.

Add the soy sauce, br. Sugar and rice and stir-fry until rice is heated through and ingredients are well blended,

about 10 minutes. Add frozen peas and steam another 5 minutes. To serve, top with chopped cashews and enjoy!