Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not Your Average Cornflakes: Healthy, Filling Homemade Cereal

While it may be easier to grab that box of sugar cereal on sale for $1.99 at the local grocery store, making your own cereal can be rewardingly fun and nutritious. Carla Emery gives us recipes that will help keep you full all day long.

Basic Cooking Procedure: The general rule is the larger your particles, the longer they will take to soften and the more water they will absorb. For cereals ground as fine as cornmeal (or finer), you add the cereal slowly to rapidly boiling water, stirring at the same time. In the case of fineparticled cereal, stir continuously until it has set and not at all afterward if possible. Cook until done. Watch carefully so it doesn’t scorch, or cook in a double boiler. Particularly fine-grained, flour-type cereals should be first mixed with cold liquid to keep them from lumping, or made gravy-style.

Cooking Whole Grains: Cooking in a double boiler is the safest method. Cooking in a pressure cooker is the shortest. Cooking whole brown rice, barley, or other medium- hard grains takes 40–45 minutes in a regular pan or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Cooking cracked wheat or precooked or soft grains takes only 20–30 minutes regular, 5–10 pressure. Whole wheat berries, whole rye, whole oats, and other very hard grains take 1 hour or more regular, 35 minutes in the pressure cooker. When pressure cooking grains, be sure to use enough water, especially for the hard grains. They soak up a lot!

Homemade Quick-Cooking Cereal

Coarse grains like whole or cracked grains take a while to cook. You can speed that up by precooking them for 2 or 3 minutes in boiling water and then letting them soak in that liquid for several hours, or better yet overnight. Then they will cook up faster than they would have otherwise.

Cooking Ground Grains: You can thicken the cereal in any recipe by adding more grain, or thin it by using less. You can cook it in milk instead of water, in part milk and part water, in all water, or in a fruit sauce. You can add raisins, dried, fresh, or canned fruit, nuts, any sweetening, or yogurt at any stage. Salt isn’t necessary. In general, about 4 parts liquid to 1 part cereal is appropriate for coarsely ground cereals from the whole grain. Rolled cereals take 2 parts liquid to 1 part cereal. A “gruel” means a very thin cereal. A “mush” is a medium one, and a “porridge” means a very thick one.

Precooked Cereal

This is how you can have homemade cereal for breakfast without getting up earlier than you want to. Cook it the day before and refrigerate overnight. If you cooked it in a double boiler, it can be warmed up in the same container. Or start it very late in the evening and let cook all night at a low temperature. If you plan to warm up cracked wheat, oatmeal, or another coarse grain preparation, use an extra 1⁄2 c. water when you make it the night before. It also helps if you heat the milk or cream to be used on warmed-up cereal. I like cereal for lunch with the children, too. And, ah, yes, it is modern times, and cereal reheats nicely in a microwave.

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