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  • Writer's pictureGuest Blogger

3 Easy-to-Cook Whole Grains for the Winter Season


In this week's guest post, Carissa shares three ideas for cooking whole grains during the winter season. For more tips, try taking our free Go For Whole Grains lesson! You can find this free lesson under the Healthy Families category on


No matter how much I want my child to eat broccoli, spinach, kale and other leafy greens, it just doesn’t happen all that often. Sigh. I choose not to beat myself up but to try and focus on the healthy food I can get her to eat such as whole grains. I can then sneak some vegetables into the grains to increase the nutrient level on the sly.

We've all heard of the importance of whole grains but to sum it up they provide a great source of fiber, and they have a wide variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Whole grains can be made as a side dish, in soups, salads or in a frittata, to name a few.

I feel very lucky to have a husband who loves to experiment with food. Before meeting him, I could probably name a total of 3 grains. Over the past 15 years of marriage, I’ve been able to try more than most people will in their lifetimes. Almost all of them are easy to cook (similar to rice), easy to flavor and kids will generally eat them right up!

Here’s a brief description of 3 fun grains to try this fall...


My absolute favorite. This grain is easy to cook with a delicious flavor. Cooking barley is very similar to rice: Cover 1 cup of pearl barley with 2 cups of water or vegetable broth and simmer for 30-40 minutes before fluffing with a fork. I like to cook my barley (or any grain really) in beef or chicken broth which adds more depth to the flavor, perfect for the winter season.


Most people have at least heard of this grain and many have had this at some point in their lives. This is the ancient grain of the Incas, and it’s been trendy for some time now in this country due to its nutty flavor and health benefits. Quinoa is high in fiber, protein and minerals. This grain is great warm or cold. It cooks like rice in 15-20 minutes. Quinoa is also gluten-free for those with gluten intolerance.


This ancient grain was the staple of Mayan culture. It is technically a seed (like quinoa) and packs a high protein content. It is gluten-free and rich in fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants. You can make a savory porridge with this, but my favorite is a hot breakfast cereal. At the end of this blog post you will find a recipe for my husband's favorite cereal!

I know that most of us are trying our best to get good nutrients into our kid’s bodies (successful or not) but it can feel overwhelming to try something new. To be honest, I’m not the best cook and find it challenging to figure out what to make my daughter for dinner everyday. These grains are fairly straightforward to cook, again, similar to rice. Cooking them on the stove works, as well as using a crock pot, rice cooker or Instant Pot.

To make them taste good, add salt, acid (lemon juice works), spices and oil or butter. Cauliflower added when cooking a grain tends to disappear into the dish, so I use this to get my daughter to eat more vegetables! Other fun and tasty things to add are caramelized onion, homemade bone stock or coconut milk. So go crazy and experiment on these healthy grains that are affordable and nutritious. Who knows, your kid may fall in love with them and so might you.

* Remember that some gluten-free grains may be grown or harvested with wheat. If you have a gluten intolerance make sure the package reads “gluten-free”.

Hot Amaranth Cereal Recipe

  • Select a mix of ½ cup raw nuts and seeds.

  • Toast in an oven at 350 degrees; stir every 5 minutes for a total of about 10 minutes, the nuts should be lightly browned and aromatic.

  • For dried fruits, soak in water for 10 minutes; in total have ready ½ cup dried fruit (such as raisins) or 1 cup of fresh fruit.

  • Bring 2½ cups of water to boil with one cup amaranth.

  • Cook stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.

  • Add fruit and nuts, 1-2 Tbsp nut butter, ½ cup milk, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ginger powder and ¼ tsp salt.

  • Continue cooking for another 5 minutes and test if done (amaranth become larger, translucent and should not be crunchy).

  • Optionally, finish with stevia, honey, maple syrup or sugar to taste depending how sweet the fruit is that you used, and your preference.


This blog was written by one of our guest WIC mom bloggers, Carissa.


About Carissa

I am a mom of a fun and loving three-year-old daughter. I’ve been happily married for fifteen years and live in Ojai, California. I have a strong passion for healthy living, exercise and travel. After becoming a mother at 39 I found a passion for helping other moms (and dads!) enjoy their parenting journey.


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