I like to put quinoa in salads to make it a meal, mix it into yogurt for breakfast, or use it as a side at dinner. I have been meaning to branch out into other grains like barley, farro, kasha, wheat berries, etc., but haven’t done much cooking so far this summer. When I returned from all of my summer traveling last week, my parents informed me they were starting a new eating plan: Vegan Before 6. This is more of a lifestyle change than a diet–eat vegan for breakfast and lunch, then allow yourself some meat at dinner, but think of the meat as a side, and the vegetables as your main. There are great health benefits to this plan that you can read about in Mark Bittman’s book, and it’s not that difficult to do. Rather than becoming a full time vegan, you can still have your meat, dairy, cheese, etc., but in moderation, and for one meal. And he says it’s okay to cheat once in a while, so what’s not to love? Especially if you’re a tried and true carnivore like me. Since I usually eat a few meals a week at my parents’, I thought I would give VB6 a try as well.
Back to the grains. Bittman emphasizes the use of whole grains in his meals, avoiding the processed ones: white rice, white flour, etc., hence my foray into wheat berries for breakfast. I got the idea from one of the recipes in his book and adapted it to what I had on hand. If I had been making this breakfast pre-VB6, I most likely would have stirred the wheat berries into plain yogurt with a bit of fruit. Since yogurt isn’t vegan, a mashed banana makes a great substitute to mix with the wheat berries. Wheat berries are really interesting–they smelled like pancakes while cooking, but don’t have a ton of flavor on their own. Once cooked to al dente, they have an unusual texture. Quite chewy and very satisfying. It will definitely fill you up and get you ready to start your day.
The recipe is simple and quick to make, as long as you have cooked your wheat berries in advance:
1/2 cup cooked wheat berries*
Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Agave nectar ( or honey, maple syrup, or other sweetener of choice)
Nectarine, cut into bite-sized pieces (or any other fruit, really)
Squeeze a little lemon juice on your peeled banana and mash it in a bowl with a fork or potato masher. Mix in the cooked wheat berries. Drizzle a little agave nectar over the berries, about a teaspoon. Top with pieces of nectarine, or other fruit of your choice. That’s all there is to it! You could add some nuts, or fresh mint, or whatever else comes to mind–the variation are endless.
*I followed the package directions for cooking the wheat berries. Put 1/2 cup wheat berries and 1 3/4 cup water into a pot (I doubled the recipe: 1 cup berries, 3.5 cups water) with a pinch of salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover and simmer for one hour. Taste the berries to see if they are done. You want them chewy, but not hard. Drain the liquid from the pan and the wheat berries are ready for use. One cup of dry wheat berries yielded 3 cups cooked. I divided it into one-cup portions and froze 2 portions for future use.