Back to Basics Baby Step Monday Mission no. 8: Do Something With Grains

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This is a {guest post} series from Tiffany of Don’t Waste the Crumbs. Catch all the previous baby steps HERE. 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 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

quinoa (2) (500x375)

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

Very Litte Bother Oat Bread 2

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. Winking smile

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

summer sprouted lentil salad (19) (475x356)

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:

  1. You should definitely lose the white flour bread and crackers. If you don’t know what to replace them with, don’t. Just cut.
  2. 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.

Note from Katie: We go grain-free occasionally and gluten-free more often. I wrote a post exploring another facet of the question a few weeks back: Does Satan Hate Bread?

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 (24) (475x356)

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.

Many in the KS community are finding that Plan to Eat helps keep them going, and the KS group lends itself to lots of new ideas, even soaked grain recipes.

I’m soaking my grains to see for potential digestion benefits.

What “something” are you going to do about grains?

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Meet TiffanyTiffany 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.


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13 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. pdw says

    Just a quick clarification – quinoa is not a grain, even though it is often referred to in media as an “ancient grain”. Grains are cereals, members of the grass family (Poaceae). Quinoa is a member of the amaranth or goosefoot family.

  2. says

    Great post! I think it’s much more helpful for most people to hear the journey of a “real” person than to read all the confusing and conflicting research based stuff (not that I don’t love research).

    The soaking thing is a fun (insert sarcasm) one. I’m really not terribly pro or anti soaking (and really I think arguing about it is silly, because you either do it or you don’t, I don’t see the point of debating it), instead I think it’s something that has a time and place. My kids had some serious food allergies, and while they were recovering we excluded wheat altogether and soaked everything else. When they recovered, though, I couldn’t sustain it. It’s not hard, no, but as you’ve discovered it takes constant planning and thinking ahead. So I still soak some things, some I don’t. I think eating a variety of foods and not eating many grain focused meals (and eating a variety of whole grains when you do) is the best focus. As such, we’ve been on a rotation diet that kind of forces me to use a variety of grains instead of using the same ones every day. One of my favorite recipes is blender waffles/pancakes, since you can use a huge variety of grains and it is super easy- check out the recipe on my blog Easy soaked pancakes/waffles

    • says


      I’m glad you enjoyed the newbie point of view!

      I agree with the constant planning and thinking ahead. I wonder if I made the commitment to soak all grains, if we’d end up eating them even less than we do now!

      LOVE the variety of grains you have in those pancakes too! ~Tiffany

  3. Sharon says

    Excellent post! Just want to call you out on one thing: using “wheat” as a synonym for “whole wheat.” That’s one of the things the marketers do to trick folks into buying something they think is whole grain but isn’t. Bleached AP flour, unbleached AP flour, self-rising flour, cake flour, pastry flour, whole wheat flour all have something in common: they are wheat. Calling it “wheat” flour only means that it isn’t oat or rye or corn or something else. “Wheat” flour and “whole wheat” flour are not the same thing.

  4. Ros says

    Hello. I’m quite new to this and I appreciate your website and the “baby-steps” approach. However, I’m more overwhelmed now than I was before I started searching online for the answers to these basic questions:
    1. Is simply soaking grains in water worth doing (ie. beneficial)? Until my next grocery shop I don’t have whey or limewater on hand, or the supplies to make them. I do have a few kinds of vinegar on hand — would water with vinegar be good enough to get some benefit?
    2. When saving my soaking water (presumably once I have the right kind) can I mix the water from different kinds of soaked grains and/or use soaking-water from one grain on another?

    • says


      I’ll let Katie answer the bulk of your questions, but I’d like to add my 2 cents on #1 – that’s mostly what everyone debates about. Some families find it TREMENDOUSLY helpful on how their body handles grains to soak first. Other families don’t notice a difference at all. A mild vinegar such as apple cider vinegar can be used, but it may impart the flavor of the grain. ~Tiffany

      • Ros says

        Thanks for your response Tiffany. I thought the purpose of soaking grains was to make it more nutritious — to make the nutrients more “bio-available” –so that’s what I hope to accomplish by soaking. (I’m not aware that anyone in my family has trouble digesting grains.)

    • Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      Sorry I’m so late chiming in!

      Everything I know about soaking grains, more or less, is here:

      You and Tiffany are both right- soaking should make minerals more bioavailable but ALSO tends to help many people be able to handle grains more. It can take away that “heavy” feeling after eating grains, because they’re sort of fermented.

      As for your specific Qs:
      1. Some say soaking in water is all you need, period! Any vinegar counts as the “acidic medium,” so either way, it’s worth a try.
      2. For most grains, you won’t save the soak water. Oats soak it all up, and so does anything with flour. I only save from batch to batch with rice, like so:

      Good luck on this step of your journey!
      :) Katie

  5. Rebecca via Facebook says

    Love this post! It’s like you read my mind I have been trying to cut the store bought bread out (a move and new baby led to us eatting a lot) and we have been trying out some new grains lately but I love the idea of oat flour.

  6. says

    Love this post for many reasons, & not just because my name is Tiffany too :). Because switching to real & traditional foods is such a journey, & can be overwhelming. As soon as I began learning, I began reading A LOT, & still do. But my mind cannot always absorb,& I definitely cannot implement everything I learn right away. It has been almost 10 months & we have made great strides, but the soaking issue has yet to be conquered, & I know I’m making it harder than it needs to be. The idea of going grain free just plain scares me – ha. Although we have been whole wheat & grains for awhile, I know we need to decrease the amount. I struggle w/ not feeling guilt that I’m feeding my family insisted grains, sigh.

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