Pros: Delicious, simple, and reliable results; lovely photos
Cons: Jumps on the whole grain bandwagon without an entirely holistic view of ‘healthy’
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of Wiley.
In the effort to eat healthy I’m always looking for more and delicious ways to eat good foods. Whole grains are a fun way to do this, as they come in such fantastic variety and can be used in a myriad of ways. While there are many ‘whole foods’ books out there that either focus on baking with whole grains (Whole Grain Baking) or focus on whole foods in general (Super Natural Cooking), I was curious to see what a cookbook aimed at everyday cooking with grains by normal folks who don’t necessarily think of themselves as cooks would provide. Betty Crocker seemed like a great place to start.
There’s some opening information on whole grains, primarily focusing on their nutritional benefits and a few cooking tips. After that you’ll find plenty of recipes.
The pages are glossy, with reasonably-sized type, and ingredients, directions, tips, and nutritional data are all broken down into easy-to-parse steps. Many recipes come with mouth-watering photographs to help convince you that whole grains really can produce lovely food. The book itself is hard-bound, but the pages are ring-bound inside of that, allowing recipes to lie flat.
Chapters include breakfasts (buckwheat pancakes with butter-pecan syrup, or perhaps triple-berry oatmeal meusli), breads (five grain quick bread, cornmeal-berry scones), ‘grains on the go’ (chewy peanut bars, trail mix bars), 30-minute dinners (broiled Dijon burgers), easy mains (three-grain salad), slow cooker dishes (savory slow-cooked grains), salads soups sides (creamy rice-fruit salad), and desserts (giant oat cookies). Many recipes use convenience products to make things easy on the cook who doesn’t know whole wheat from cracked wheat; for example, the ‘nutty silver dollar pancakes’ use Wheaties cereal and Bisquick. However, other recipes do give you the chance to try out those whole grains you do manage to find in your travels through the grocery store aisles, from quinoa to wild rice.
My one reservation here, however, is how the book’s authors choose to define ‘healthy.’ For example, one of the reasons whole grains are better for us than processed grains is that they break down into sugars more slowly, resulting in more even blood sugar levels. So adding an entire jar of marshmallow creme to some popcorn and Chex cereal to make a snack would seem to obviate that healthful aspect of whole grains—yet the tip below the recipe lauds this snack recipe specifically for its healthful nature. That seems a tad contradictory, and there are quite a few other recipes in this book that rely on relatively high sugar content to add flavor. On the other hand, at least they have moderated the saturated fat content.
I do have to hand it to them, though—the flavors of these recipes are consistently delightful. There’s a gingered chicken over rice recipe that’s just wonderful, and I’m not a big chicken fan. I’ve really enjoyed a sausage and vegetable skillet dish from here, and a slow cooker rice-and-veggies dish. So while some of these recipes do compromise a little on the sugar content, they definitely deliver on the flavor end of things. If you’re having trouble convincing yourself to make the switch to whole grains, that might be a worthwhile tradeoff for you.