Basics Continued: Brown Rice and Wheat

So, I promised more information on the staples we have on hand at our house. So far we’ve looked at beans and healthy fats and oils. Two other staples we always have in our cupboards are whole wheat flour and brown rice. Both of which are much healthier than their white counterparts.

We’d love to buy a grinder and grind our own wheat berries (the more freshly ground the wheat, the healthier it is), but we do not have the money for one just yet. We also do not have a local source for wheat berries and buying the berries online can get pricey because of shipping costs. So for now, we buy our wheat flour from a local grocery store.

Both brown rice and wheat flour should be soaked to neutralize the phytic acid in each. Essentially phytic acid prevents key nutrients (calcium, iron, zinc, etc.) in rice and flour from being absorbed. Soaking rice and flour breaks down phytic acid thus making nutrients readily available for absorption.

Brown rice should be soaked for a minimum of 8 hours in warm water and whey, yogurt, kefir or buttermilk (a good rule of thumb is 4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of whey, yogurt, kefir or buttermilk to 2 cups of brown rice). After at least 8 hours have passed, the bacteria and enzymes present in whey, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk will have neutralized the phytic acid. Cook as usual.

Wheat flour should be soaked in either yogurt, kefir or buttermilk for at least 12 hours (24 hours being ideal). In addition to breaking down phytic acid, soaking grains helps with digestion. Grain is a starch and, as such, is complex, making it difficult for your body to digest. Over time some people develop allergies, such as gluten intolerance and/or digestive problems, which could lead to other more serious problems. This because of the significant effort a person’s digestive system has to make to digest unsoaked or unfermented grains. Grains that have been soaked or are fermented, as in the case of sourdough, are much easier for our bodies to digest.

The amount of yogurt, kefir or buttermilk used depends on the amount of wheat flour desired. It should be close to a one-to-one ratio (1 cup of wheat to 1 cup of yogurt, etc.). If you are unsure about how much yogurt, kefir or buttermilk to use or how to successfully convert recipes to incorporate soaking grains, I highly recommend buying a cookbook with recipes that involve soaking/fermenting grains. It makes the process so much easier! I recommend Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon or Wholesome Home Cooking: Preparing Nutrient Dense Foods compiled by Katie Stoltzfus.

Another alternative to soaking grains in yogurt, kefir or buttermilk is using sourdough. Get a sourdough starter. Feed it (add equal parts water and flour) once or twice a day until you get the amount needed for your recipe and you’re all set. Store your sourdough starter in the fridge until it’s needed again. Sourdough starters can be found online, but you should also ask around. If you have a friend, family member or co-worker who has a starter, you can take a bit of his or hers. Sourdough recipes are also easily found online for all sorts of yummy goodies like muffins, pancakes, waffles, and such.

Soaking our grains and rice has been quite an adjustment for us, mainly because of the prep time. If we want rice for dinner, we have to remember to soak it the night before or the morning of the day we want to make the rice. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times we’ve gone to start dinner and realized that we forgot to soak our rice! Thankfully, we do not do that quite as often anymore. Like most things in the wonderful world of cooking, once you get in the habit of doing it, it becomes like second nature. It does help that we plan out our meals a month at a time (including side dishes) so we can look at the calendar during the day and check to see if there is anything we need to prep for the next day (or next few days).

So, there you have our thoughts and recommendations for brown rice and wheat. Happy cooking!

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