Have you read about the benefits of whole grains? A whole grain product contains the germ, bran and endosperm – or all the original parts as it comes off the farmer’s field. A whole grain food is a much better choice than one made with the white processed flour used to make most baked goods. This is because whole grain products contain more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (beneficial plant compounds) than their white processed counterparts. Eating more whole grains will help you lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
For the most part, switching from refined, white grain products to whole grain products is easy. Here are a few suggestions:
• Use brown rice instead of white rice.
• Look for 100% whole wheat bread.
• Eat oatmeal or whole grain cereals instead of sugared ones made with white flour or white rice.
• Use whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta made with white flour. Whole wheat pasta is made from 100% durum whole wheat flour.
Working with whole wheat pasta is easy if you follow our success tips. While whole wheat pasta offers more fiber, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, B-vitamins and zinc, it is difficult to make palatable, especially for people who are used to “the white stuff.”
Here are some tips to help you make those plates of whole wheat pasta disappear:
• Make sure the water is at a full boil before adding the whole wheat pasta. This will keep it from getting mushy.
• Undercook the whole wheat pasta slightly. Most package directions use cooking times from the regular white pasta and this is too lengthy. For example, one bag of whole wheat spaghetti we purchased calls for 10-12 minutes in boiling water. Our test kitchen finds that 7-8 minutes is adequate for whole wheat spaghetti.
• Finish cooking the whole wheat pasta in the sauce. The best results come from undercooking the pasta in the water, mixing it with the sauce and microwaving with the sauce for around 3-6 minutes to finish it. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce and have a nice flavor and texture, very similar to the “white stuff.”
• Add vegetables or beans to your pasta sauce. These add nutrients and fiber to the pasta dish; they also add a nice color contrast to the appealing, natural look of whole wheat pasta.
• Use a thick pasta sauce. Using a thick sauce will help hide the darker color of the pasta. To make the pasta sauce thicker, add a little tomato paste.
• Use a generous amount of pasta sauce. Whenever possible, you should choose a low-sodium version such as Enrico’s No Salt Added, Mother’s Finest, Manischewitz No Salt Pasta Sauce, or Healthy Choice. Try to find one with less than 300 mg of sodium per half-cup serving or make your own by adding Italian seasoning to no-salt-added tomato sauce.
• Use a small amount of grated parmesan cheese on the top of the whole wheat pasta. Herbs such as marjoram, basil and oregano taste really good too.
• Experiment with different brands of whole wheat pasta to find one you like. Don’t give up just because you don’t like the first one you try.
Here is our recipe for Black Bean Rotini, made with whole wheat rotini. You can also find more whole wheat pasta recipes at www.hodgsonmill.com.
Black Bean Rotini
8 ounces whole wheat rotini or other small-shaped pasta
3-1/2 cups pasta sauce (low-sodium)
1 cup boiled black beans, drained
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
Bring 1-2 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat in a large (3 quart) pan. Add the pasta and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pasta is al dente or slightly tender with a bite in the center, about 8 minutes.
Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse lightly with water. Place the pasta in a large microwave container and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Microwave on full power for 6 minutes or until hot and the pasta is tender. Serve hot.
Serves 4. Each 1 cup serving: 340 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 520 mg sodium, 69 g carbohydrate, 11 g fiber, 16 g protein.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.