Great Grains: Making Millet.

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Welcome to the first post in my “Great Grains” series!  I’m hoping to spend a little time on each of my favorites – some mainstream, as well as some of the lesser known.  If there is any grain in particular that you would like me to feature, please let me know!

There’s a lot of talk about eating whole grains these days.  With obesity rates on the rise and concerns about healthcare increasing, there is a general movement towards encouraging Americans to clean up their diets.  In every top ten list and advice column I read, one theme is constant – eat more whole grains.  If gambling on grains was an option, I’d be the first one in line to buy my share of stock.

But when someone tells you start eating whole grains, what immediately comes to mind?  Whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal?  While those are all great choices – and some of my favorites – I think it’s time we get a little more creative.  A quick trip to any bulk food store will show that there is an unbelievable amount of grain options just waiting to be discovered…

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While I have tried my fair share of these, there are still many more to explore, and I plan to share all my grainy wisdom with you guys as I eat my way down this aisle.  Recently I took my first show at something new – millet!  Although millet is not new at all – it’s actually really, really old!  As detailed here

Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was used during those times to make bread. Millet has been used in Africa and India as a staple food for thousands of years and it was grown as early as 2700 BC in China where it was the prevalent grain before rice became the dominant staple. It is documented that the plant was also grown by the lake dwellers of Switzerland during the Stone Age.

Today millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world, sustains 1/3 of the world’s population and is a significant part of the diet in northern China, Japan, Manchuria and various areas of the former Soviet Union, Africa, India, and Egypt.

Wow – sustains 1/3 of the world’s population?  No one over here is even eating it!  Let’s do something about that, shall we?  Meet your new friend millet – nutty, toasty, and just a little bit chewy. 

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I picked up somewhere around 2 dry cups in the bulk food aisle this weekend, and in hindsight I wish I had gotten more.  I eat a pretty adventurous diet, and I had no idea that something so delicious was still out there waiting to be discovered.  I can’t wait to see what else looms in the unknown!

Why Millet?  A Look at Nutrition.

You probably aren’t going to just take my word that millet is delicious and life-changing, so let me give you a few other reasons to gamble on this grain.  Millet is billed as being extremely heart healthy because it is a great source of magnesium.  In fact, one cup of cooked millet provides over 25 % of your recommended daily value for magnesium.  Like all grains, millet contains that all important dietary fiber we all strive to get.  Millet is also higher in protein than most other grains, clocking it at just over 6g per one (cooked) cup, and making it a good alternative protein source for vegetarians.  And speaking of alternatives, millet is GLUTEN FREE, which makes it a great option for those who are sensitive to gluten. 

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Making Millet: Time to Get Cookin’

Whenever you buy something new and unfamiliar, the first thing you have to figure out is – what do I do with it?  A little research in Google and a few of my vegetarian cookbooks, I discovered that millet is best when toasted.  I added it to a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat, and toasted it for about 5 minutes.

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To prepare millet on the stovetop:

  1. Toast grains (or rinse if you prefer not to toast, but I assure you toasting is better!)
  2. Add 1 cup dry millet to 2.5 cups boiling water or stock.
  3. Bring back up to a boil, turn down heat to a simmer, cover and wait about 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  4. When ready, fluff with a fork, add any additional seasonings, and serve!

You guys know me though – I cheated and used my beloved Zojirushi rice cooker!

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The final product is nutty and tastes a little bit like corn.  But in a good way – I promise.  This grain is like no other, and it’s hard to make any accurate comparisons.  This time we had ours with a tofu, cabbage, and carro
t stir fry, and I plan to try it with many other things in the future.

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Need another idea?  Don’t miss my Black Bean and Millet Stuffed Peppers recipe!

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The next time you’re in a bulk food store or stumble across millet at your local grocery, pick it up and give it a chance.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.