Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cooking Wheat Berries or Kernals

Cooked wheat is a great way to add the benefits of whole grain to your diet. You can add a little sugar and milk and enjoy it as a hot cereal for breakfast. There are also plenty of other ways to use the cooked wheat. I've been getting a little creative around her adding it to many dishes - the kids are used to my experimenting by now so it doesn't surprise them at all. They also haven't complained so I guess I've picked some good things to add it to so it "hides" well. I've added it to taco filling, chili, salads, and vegetable soups. They've all been really good. I'll get some recipes posted soon that it has worked well in.

Cooking wheat is easy. I store hard, white wheat so it is what I have been cooking. It is nutritionally equal to hard, red wheat but has a milder flavor. I've cooked it in quite a few ways.

Cooking Wheat Berries

On the Stovetop – Combine 1 c. wheat berries and 2 ½ c. water in a saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer on lowest setting. (Just as you would for cooking rice.) Cook until grains are soft—about 1 to 1 ½ hours. You might have to add water to prevent scorching. Just check on it periodically. Cooked wheat berries freeze very well so don't be afraid to cook a large batch.

Crockpot Instructions – Combine 5 cups wheat berries and 10 cups water. Turn on low and leave overnight. My friend's family would eat this for breakfast with a little sugar and milk added. They called them footballs. You can freeze any extra to use in recipes another time.

Thermos Instructions – Put 5 cups wheat berries in a thermos with 10 cups boiling water and leave on the counter overnight. In the morning, you’ll have 15 cups of wheat berries. Freeze any you don’t use. Sometimes, they aren't quite done cooking and the water has cooled down too much. I just pour them out into a pan and heat it back up. They are done in about 10 minutes. This way significantly reduces my "hands-on" time.

How to Test Wheat Berries for DonenessTest for doneness by removing a grain and tasting. It will be chewy with a soft center. Whole wheat berries stay chewier than rice. You can substitute them for almost all the recipes that require rice. Try to remember that wheat berries take longer to cook and need a little more liquid than rice. For more flavor, try cooking the berries in chicken broth or vegetable juices.

Freezing Wheat Berries – Wheat berries freeze very well once they are cooked. Be sure to cook up a large batch and freeze for later use. I just put the cooked wheat berries in freezer ziplock bags marked with the date. They last for 1 year in the freezer.

 Stretching Your Hamburger with Wheat Berries – Cook wheat berries and allow to cool. If desired, grind with a meat grinder. This will give them the appearance and texture of ground beef. Combine equal parts ground wheat berries and hamburger in your frying pan. The hamburger with the highest fat content will give the wheat berries more of a meaty flavor. Cook together to season your wheat and use in recipes calling for hamburger. You can do this same thing with ground turkey or sausage. Ground wheat berries store very well in the freezer. I keep some on hand and add them to meat whenever I am cooking up a big batch. Once the meat is cooked, I freeze the wheat/meat combination to make dinner prep go quickly another night. It makes a healthier meal and stretches our food budget as well. You could use other whole grains in the same way. I think I would try quinoa or brown rice. 
A Word of Caution – Whole wheat is very high in fiber compared to what most people are used to. Switching to whole wheat all at once can upset your digestive tract and make you uncomfortable. As with any major food change, add it to your diet gradually over time and you will adjust just fine. 

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