Dictionary.com defines “something” as “to some extent,” which depending on the reader, could be taken any number of ways.
How far is “some” extent? Is it more than a little? Is it less than a lot? What if your “some” is more than my “some?”
To me, “something” means “anything” and Dictionary.com similarly agrees. It defines “anything” as “in any degree, to any extent, in any way; at all.”
That last little bit is my favorite – in any way, at all. Given the broad undertaking of today’s mission, “anything” is much more appropriate.
Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to do something , anything, about grains.
I’m not going to beat a dead horse over the head here. Katie has written 28 posts on soaking and/or sprouting grains. This number doesn’t include the four posts dealing with experts on the topic, nor the testimonials that she shared back in summer 2010. You can find all these great, informative posts and testimonials here.
You won’t find any how-to’s or why’s or much of any reasoning at all in today’s post. Soaking grains is an intensely debated topic. There are people on both sides of the fence, and every single possible stance in between.
I’m not going there.
There’s just no need to. My grain steps were taken haphazardly, aiming (mostly) toward the general direction of “something.”
The Starting Place
Up until one year ago grains were very common in our meals, usually in some variation of bread and pasta. Breakfasts were usually oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, breakfast breads or muffins.
Lunches were usually sandwiches (on bread of course). They were quick, easy and portable so we could take them outside or to the park without any other planning needed. Plus both kids like sandwiches. Not having to argue over lunch is so nice!
The dinner menu would feature pasta & sauce meals on average twice a week. The remaining nights would have bread, rolls, rice or pasta as a side dish.
With the exception of oatmeal, everything mentioned above was made with processed and bleached white flour. No one in the family has grain allergies and while I cooked often, we weren’t on any sort of real food journey.
We ate white flour, often, because it was cheap. We never considered eating less or switching to a better grain.
The First Something – Try a New Grain
One of Katie’s “new” grains in the past few years: quinoa.
In early 2012 I did my first “something” without even knowing it. I made oat flour.
Sound impressive? It’s not. Dump a couple cups of old fashioned oats into your blender, hit “go” for a minute or so and congratulations! You’ve just made oat flour.
My original reasoning behind oat flour was to see if I could add more oats to our banana chocolate chip muffins without making them taste like oatmeal. We were low on flour and going to the store wasn’t an option – but we had plenty of oats!
There was a secondary reason lingering in the back of my mind too. My family was eating muffins nearly every day for breakfast and the high consumption of white flour was starting to eat at me a bit. Oats are a nutritional powerhouse, so oat flour was my attempt at making the muffins as healthy as I could (at the time).
Turns out oat flour worked well! I continued to substitute some of the white flour with oat flour in all of our favorite muffin and breakfast bread recipes, and little bother oat bread has become the go-to recipe when we need sandwich bread when there are a million other things going on in the house at the same time.
We started using oat flour whenever possible because it offered more nutrition than white flour.
The Second Something – Make It Yourself
In summer of 2012 my husband asked me to make bread.
Me? Use that fickle-unless-you-get-it-just-right baking staple that I had ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE how to use?!
Yeah right, THAT was a disaster waiting to happen (as the wife laughs to herself).
Turns out it didn’t wait long.
I gave in, put my big girl panties on and made a batch of potato buttermilk. Lo and behold, it was an absolute hit! The whole family LOVED it, eating both loaves in less than two days. My husband immediately requested another batch.
As more batches were made, I started to wonder about the cost of making bread – especially if I continued at the rate of two batches each week – but my research led me in a different direction. Yes, it was definitely less expensive to make my own bread (roughly $1 for one homemade loaf compared to over $3 for the same loaf at Target), but my eyes were fixed on the ingredient label.
My homemade bread used nine ingredients. Every single one was a “pure” ingredient (meaning the label of “buttermilk” said “buttermilk” and nothing else) and could be easily identified in my kitchen.
The store-bought bread had FIFTEEN ingredients and I only knew what six of them were. Not only could I not pronounce the other nine, but they downright scared me! Why in the world would all that stuff be needed in bread when I could make it with less?
That was the moment where we decided to no longer buy store-bought bread. No more buns, rolls, loaves… nada. My fear of yeast was conquered. We now do it all ourselves and thoroughly enjoy every butter-covered slice.
Now I know making bread at home is not for everyone. It’s time consuming, uses yeast (which some find intimidating like I did) and you must plan ahead in order to have it ready for meal time. I’m certainly not bashing anyone who buys it, but for my family, making our own was the best option. By the way, check out my beer bread, focaccia (with four variations), hamburger/hotdog buns, dinner rolls (also with four variations) and rosemary olive oil bread if you’ve got the itch to read your own bread labels too.
We made our own bread because we could control the ingredients.
The Third Something – Reducing Grain Intake
As that summer started to end, I read number 8 on the list of baby steps (do something about grains). Since we were already making our own bread, I felt confident that we had done “something.” But there were two lines in that post that struck me just so:
- You should definitely lose the white flour bread and crackers. If you don’t know what to replace them with, don’t. Just cut.
- If whole wheat bread seems to be heavy or uncomfortable for you to eat, I encourage you to try going grain-free for a couple days.
I had mixed feelings about grain-free, but it was clear we needed to cut back our intake. Too many meals were centered on grains and the accidental byproduct was not eating enough fruits and vegetables. My daughter chose crackers over fruit as a snack, every single time, and finding crackers without HFCS or trans fat was difficult (and expensive). Something had to be done!
I followed Katie’s advice again – once the crackers were gone, they were gone. I stopped buying them and never looked back.
The only snack-type item I continued to buy were pretzels, but even those have dwindled over time. Snacks are now a choice of fruit, vegetable sticks or cheese. (My daughter chooses cheese, every time, in case you were wondering.)
My husband and myself have smoothies every morning, filled to the brim with fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade yogurt (in his) and kefir (in mine). Need smoothie ideas? Check out my recent 5-day smoothie fast, 7 days of green monster smoothies and how to increase the protein in your smoothies without adding protein powder.
The kids still have oatmeal and pancakes, but there’s a goal to have each filled with as much fruit as possible, or even pureed vegetables (like pumpkin in these apple pumpkin pancakes).
If we have sandwiches for lunch, the kids get a half sandwich instead of a full one. The other half of their plate is filled with cut up fruits, vegetables and nuts. We also rotate between sandwiches and what we call snacky lunch, where the kids dip their carrot, celery and apple slices in peanut butter and top them with a variety of dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Oddly enough, snacky lunch is much more portable and travel-friendly than sandwiches!
My husband and I also made it a goal to serve at least two vegetables at dinner and serve a grain-centered meal no more than once a week. We still had grains at meals, but they became a side-show instead of the main attraction.
We ate fewer grains to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The Fourth Something – Try a New Grain, Again
When we started making our own bread, I began buying flour in bulk. Costco had been my go-to source for inexpensive all-purpose and bread flour, satisfying all of our baking needs while keeping my grocery budget in check. And then a Crumbs reader asked me a question about the flour I had been buying:
“Does your Costco sell unbleached flour? I’m curious because I can only find bleached AP and bread flour at mine.”
AGAIN in the journey of grains I had felt stumped. I unrolled the massive 25lb and 50lb bags of flour that were halfway gone and sure enough, “bleached” was written clear across the front.
All this time I had been feeding my family bleach?! (Note: I’m not fully versed on the bleached vs. unbleached issue. Wikipedia has a simple explanation here, but my gut instincts say that adding chemicals for aesthetic purposes seems silly.)
My next step was easy – stop using bleached flour Tiff! Once those two big bags were gone, my flours had to change. It was just that simple.
But why not take it a step further? If I had to find a completely different type of flour anyway (meaning re-reading ALL the labels because they ALL seemed to be bleached), why not upgrade and try whole wheat?
So I did. Just as I was fearful of yeast in the beginning, I was fearful of wheat flour. My recipes WORKED and tasted GOOD! I was afraid my bread would become grainy, dense and hated by the family. Dealing with finicky wheat wasn’t high on my priority list.
But feeding my family nutritional food is, so the wheat flour stayed.
Since the start of this year, I’ve incorporated wheat flour into nearly all of my recipes – substituting half of the white flour with white whole wheat – without much notice from the family. I even tried it on my husband’s favorite rosemary olive oil bread.
He called me out on my “sneaky” efforts and asked if I used wheat. I answered honestly and thought he would fight me on it, but he’s surprisingly happy with the decision. He doesn’t think my breads taste as good as with all white flour, but I’m always up for a good challenge. 😉
We added wheat flour because it is has more nutrition than white flour.
The Fifth Something – Soak Something
Baked Oatmeal (soaked version)
This something has been a long time coming, but has been difficult for me to execute. Every time I want to soak something I realize that I should have started it yesterday!
Again I took Katie’s advice and soaked oatmeal this past weekend! It was SO easy and the kids had no clue it was any different than their regular oatmeal. It even made enough to cover two days worth of breakfast. High-fives for a two-fer meal!
The only hang-up I’ll run into on soaking grains is ME – by failing to plan ahead. My goal is to write “soak” on my to-do list, leaving me only to follow the list and cross it off. Wish me luck!
Note from Katie: I sound like a broken record sometimes, but you see how important meal planning is when you’re trying to eat real food, especially traditionally prepared. There are many things to do a day or more in advance of a meal, like soak beans, thaw meat, make bread perhaps, and the ubiquitous soaking grains.
What “something” are you going to do about grains?
Check this out: Follow the Baby Steps board on Pinterest by clicking HERE.
Tiffany is a newbie real food eater who is trying to master and incorporate nourishing foods into her kitchen without breaking the bank. She documents her baby-sized strides at DontWastetheCrumbs.
Plan to Eat is a February sponsor receiving their mention in a post. See my full disclosure statement here.