We have heard a lot lately about the
importance of whole grains in our diet—even the U.S.
Department of Agriculture has come to this conclusion. Of
course, many of us already knew this.
My wife, Mitzie, and I raised our four children on a small,
self-sufficient homestead in Massachusetts. We discovered
that breakfast was the best time to get whole grains into
our diet. We love old-fashioned rolled oats, but not every
day; so we have come up with a concept that organizes and
simplifies preparing breakfast, and gives us a large
variety from which to choose.
We have a dozen or more kinds of whole grains in tightly
sealed wide-mouth jars arranged on our kitchen shelves,
placed out of the sun to keep the grains fresher. From
these jars we concoct new combinations to our hearts’
We always purchase quality whole grains, avoiding processed
products that have lost their goodness. We think certified
organic is the way to go. Cracked and toasted wheat, rye
and barley berries are flavor enhancers when mixed with
other grains. Corn is another favorite of ours, both whole
and ground into meal. The two corns mixed together create a
thick, creamy cereal.
Other jars on our shelves contain dried fruits such as
raisins, apples, pears and strawberries. Dried Jerusalem
artichokes are a great sweetener; we shred and dry them for
this purpose. Sunflower seeds or nuts can be added to any
cereal. We also sprinkle brewer’s yeast onto the
cereal at serving time.
Toasted grains are a bit time consuming to prepare, but our
method is fairly simple and worth the time. First, the
whole grains are run through a grain mill to crack the
outer shell. We use our 30-year-old Corona hand-crank mill,
setting the adjustment as coarse as possible. Two quarts is
a good amount to mill at one time—so it can be used
before losing its freshness. Toast the cracked grain in a
hot and dry cast-iron skillet, stirring constantly to keep
the grain from burning. You want it to be slightly
toasted—the grain will start popping and give off a
nutty aroma. Remove the skillet to a rack to cool, and stir
a bit longer to make sure the grain does not burn, because
cast iron stays hot for a long time. After the grain cools
completely, store it in a jar with a tight lid and a label.
Parched corn also is easy to make. Harvest mature, fresh
corn right from the garden and blanch it in boiling water.
While still hot, cut the kernels off the cob, spread them
on a cookie sheet and place in a 110- to 120-degree oven
for 12 to 16 hours; stir the kernels and rotate the pans
occasionally. The parched corn, when cooled and stored in
tight jars, will keep a long time; and when reconstituted
into cornmeal porridge, it tastes out of this world.
Most of our cereals are cooked in a ratio of 2-to-1; so a
batch for two people would be 1 cup of water to one-half
cup of grain mixture. Here are four of our favorite
- 1/4 cup cracked barley and 1/4 cup toasted cracked
- 1/4 cup rice, 1/4 cup toasted cracked whole wheat
and 1 teaspoon shredded/dried Jerusalem artichokes
- 1/4 cup millet, 1/4 cup toasted cracked rye and 1
- 1/4 cup quinoa, 1/4 cup toasted cracked rye and 1
teaspoon brewer’s yeast
Corn porridge is our favorite; the measurements are a
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup corn meal
- 2 tablespoons parched corn
- 1 teaspoon pastry flour
Don’t forget good old-fashioned rolled oats with lots
of raisins, or maybe applesauce stirred in at serving
Bob Langevin and his wife, Mitzie, live in Chesterville,
Maine. They live in a log house built from hemlock trees
harvested from their 100-acre woodlot.