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Sprouting Gluten-Free Whole Grains and Seeds

I have always been fascinated by the idea of sprouting and vowed to try it—someday. Recently, I got serious about sprouting because I kept reading about its benefits, according to the Whole Grains Council.

Sprouted Wild Rice Salad

Sprouted Wild Rice Salad

Here is a brief list of those benefits from the Whole Grains Council’s website. I realize that these benefits may vary by the grain or seed you use, but here is the research:

[1] Sprouting increases many of the grains’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine—and makes them more bio-available so your body can absorb them better.
[2] Sprouted brown rice fights diabetes.
[3] Sprouted buckwheat protects against fatty liver disease.
[4] Sprouted brown rice reduces cardiovascular risk.
[5] Sprouted brown rice decreases depression and fatigue in nursing mothers.
[6] Decreased blood pressure linked to sprouted barley (obviously, off-limits to GF folks, but interesting).
(The science behind these claims is here.) Again, not every claim may apply to every grain but I’m most interested in making any grains’ ingredients more easily absorbed by my body.

I will add another benefit, although non-nutritional:
It is a great way to fix a meal during the hot days of summer because you don’t have to turn on any appliance.

Armed with these reasons I set out to conquer sprouting. But first, what is “sprouting?”

Here is my lay person’s definition: soaking a whole grain or seed (one that is “intact” because it contains the germ, endosperm, and bran) in water until it “sprouts” by opening up or growing little tendrils. You can “sprout” just about any grain or seed, but I will focus on those that are gluten-free and use the word “grain” for the rest of this post.

What does a sprouted grain look like? The answer is it varies by each grain. I decided to start with wild rice since I love its crunchiness, heartiness, and color. So, my recipe today uses wild rice. After sprouting, wild rice is soft enough to eat without cooking and some of the grains may open up like little flowers. If you prefer to cook your wild rice so it is softer and not so chewy, see my recipe from earlier this year. 

My first attempt was “Low-Tech” to say the least. I simply put the wild rice and water in a measuring cup and let it stand on the countertop, draining it through a sieve and changing the water twice a day, until it sprouted—which took about 4 days. It may take fewer days for softer grains.

Further research shows I could use something called a “sprouting jar” which is really like a glass Mason jar with a lid that has a built-in sieve and allows you to keep the grains in the jar while draining it upside-down. If you want to make this investment, (they are not expensive) you can find them at natural food stores or online. Or, you can just buy the lid with the built-in sieve and screw it onto your own Mason jar. Remember, if your grain is quite tiny (such as quinoa) the holes in the sieve must be very close together or they will fall through. Once you try it, you will discover what works best for you and your budget and patience.

Some bakers use sprouted grains for bread, but I’m not experienced in that yet, so I am focusing on eating the sprouted grains in a salad which can be served cold or at room temperature, perfect for hot weather dining. This means you don’t have to heat up the kitchen by cooking the wild rice.

Grain salads are really just a base of grains tossed with chopped fruits or vegetables and a salad dressing—much like making a regular mixed green salad. Sometimes these salads are called “grain bowls” in restaurants and could be topped with grilled meats or perhaps fried eggs. The recipe below is for a grain salad using wild rice, but for a heavier meal I would top it with grilled salmon or chicken.

Sprouted grains can also be eaten as a hot or cold breakfast cereal. With summer’s hot weather almost here, they make a healthy cold breakfast cereal and can be topped with fruit, nuts, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey… or whatever you like on your cereal.

By Carol Fenster
This recipe is my first try at “sprouting” so use it as a base for your own version. I make my own salad dressing, but you could use your favorite store-bought version to save a little time. I pair the wild rice with chickpeas because they provide a pretty color/shape contrast to the wild rice but you could also use white kidney or Great Northern beans. For a light supper, top this salad with grilled salmon or chicken.

1 cup wild rice
Water for soaking
½ cup shredded carrots (I use store-bought because I like their shape or shred your own)
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper or grape tomatoes
½ cup chopped nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios)
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked chickpeas (cook your own or use canned and rinse thoroughly)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 cup greens (such as baby arugula, or cooked edamame, or frozen green peas)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

[1] In a sprouting jar or medium bowl, combine the wild rice with enough rice to cover. Let soak at room temperature for 24 hours. Drain, rinse, cover with fresh water, and let soak for another 24 hours. Drain and rinse, then cover with water twice a day for the next two days or until the wild rice is tender enough to eat. Drain thoroughly. (If you are not ready to eat it, keep refrigerated for up to two days.)

[2] In a large bowl, toss together the wild rice, carrots, bell pepper, nuts, green onions, salt, chickpeas, basil, and greens until blended.

[3] Make the Basil-Lemon Vinaigrette: In a screw-top glass jar, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, lemon peel, salt, and pepper and shake until well blended. Add the oil and shake vigorously until the vinaigrette thickens. Or, puree all of the ingredients in a mini-blender or food processor until emulsified. Toss the salad with as much of the vinaigrette as you like. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6.

Per serving: 310 calories; 19g protein; 17g total fat; 4g fiber; 34g carbohydrates; 0mg cholesterol; 220 mgs sodium