in the kitchen

Three Easy Grains to Cook

Three easy grains to cook

When it comes to keeping a stocked pantry, I try to always have certain items on hand so that when I check my meal plan to see what’s cooking for dinner, I know there will be enough of something when it comes time to prepare it.  These are three easy grains that I like to keep on hand.  These can easily be interchanged in a meal, in case you do run out 0f one and need a substitute.  Yes, even with weekly meal planning and regular grocery shopping, there’s regularly a break down in my system but I’ve just learned to roll with it and you can, too!  Grains are a staple in any pantry and these are as easy as 1-2-3 as you shall see.

Three easy grains to cook

Couscous salad

1.  Couscous 1 to 1

Cook 1 cup couscous with 1 cup water or broth.

Couscous is a grain that is super easy to make.  It’s basically little bitty pasta balls so it requires the least amount of water/broth to cook.  It’s good warm with a little olive oil and spices sprinkled on top or let it cool and stir in chopped vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes and onions and toss with a light dressing.  In no time, you’ve got a quick, hearty salad.  Couscous is a good after school snack served with carrot sticks and hummus.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a sauce pan.  Once boiling, add 1 cup couscous and remove from heat.  Set the sauce pan aside with the lid on and set a timer for 5 minutes.  In 5 minutes, fluff your couscous with a fork and it’s done.

I buy my couscous from the bulk bins at WinCo and Trader Joes’s has a whole wheat couscous that’s very good.

Quinoa with chicken and salad

2.  Quinoa 1 to 2

Cook 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water or broth.

Quinoa has been around for ages but is enjoying a new popularity these days.  It’s gluten-free, loaded with protein, and a whole grain.   Quinoa is slightly firmer than couscous but not as firm as brown rice, so its rice to liquid ratio is higher than couscous.  Quinoa is like tofu because it takes on whatever flavoring you add to it.  Melt a tablespoon of butter or canola oil in a sauce pan and add 1 cup of quinoa and brown it a little before you add your water or broth.  It’s good warm served with chicken and a green salad.  It’s also good room temperature with chopped veggies and dressing.  Curry or turmeric added to the water or broth makes it a nice side to lentils or garbanzo beans.

Once you bring water/broth and quinoa to a boil, turn heat to low and cover with lid.  Cook for 15 minutes on low.  Remove from heat.  You’re supposed to let it rest for 5 minutes but I never do.  My family is not patient when they’re hungry.

I like TruRoots organic quinoa and when my Costco store has it, it’s usually the best price in town.  It’s also available in the bulk bin section of WinCo.

Brown rice and pinto beans

3.  Brown Rice 1 to 3

Cook 1 cup brown rice with 3 cups water or broth.

Brown rice is gluten-free and is a whole-grain.  Brown rice is the firmest of these three so it requires the most liquid to rice.  Brown rice is part of our weekly fish, rice, salad dinner (said quickly, slurred together, fish-rice-salad) but we also enjoy it with beans and fresh salsa and cheese as a burrito bowl. Brown rice usually takes 45 minutes to cook unless you have a pressure cooker, which is a huge time saver.  My pressure cooker cooks rice in less than half that amount of time which is a great when I’m “Soccer Mom” or have a nighttime meeting.  I purchased my pressure cooker at an estate sale.

Directions for brown rice vary anywhere from 1 cup water to 4 cups water.  Try a batch and see how it goes for you.

I like Lundberg Family Farms organic brown rice or Himalayan Pride organic brown basmati rice.

Storing grains

I store all of these grains in glass containers in my pantry or in my refrigerator, if there’s room.  You can also freeze grains, if you need to do so.  Remember, you don’t have to buy new glass containers.  Hold on to your glass jars from purchasing peanut butter or pickles, wash and dry them thoroughly and store your grains in those containers.

What’s your favorite grain to cook with?  What grain would you add to my list?

Go Gingham related links:
Want to learn more about whole grains?  Check out The Whole Grain Council website
Spices I like to cook with can be found here
More after school snack ideas are here
Looking for what else I keep in my pantry?  You’ll find a list here
Need tips on cleaning glass jars for storage?  Check here
More grocery shopping and food storage tips are here
Shrimp and quinoa salad recipe is here

Here’s a video I did with Fusion NW TV Show about these grains.  All of my TV appearances can be found here.

6 thoughts on “Three Easy Grains to Cook

  1. I love your beautiful images. I too love cous cous, we make a Moroccan Tajine type sauce to go with it using tomato, aubergine, courgette, apricot and chickpeas with Harissa paste. How did you set up your great email notification complete with your lovely image- is it a wordpress plugin? It’s certainly better than my Mailchimp weekly RSS feed which I fear is a bit dull!!


    1. Thanks Rebecca! Your dish sounds great! That is WordPress’s basic e-mail notification that should be standard in your widget section. E-mail me if you have any questions about how to use it!! Add the photo first in your post is my trick 🙂


  2. Yum – you make me want to eat grains, Sara!!!! I love the idea of keepng the pantry stocked with these things – but I have to remember to use them!!!


    1. Annie!! That’s where the meal planning helps…I meal plan and check my pantry before heading to the grocery store. It keeps me from buying duplicates except when it comes to chocolate. There’s nothing wrong with having extra chocolate in the pantry!! 😉


  3. I’m new to the land of gluten-free and have recently discovered the joys of quinoa and rice. Never used to like rice much, but I do now! I also like quinoa pasta the best of the pasta substitutes I’ve tried so far. It doesn’t keep well, but it tastes good when it’s freshly cooked.


  4. I love quinoa. I have also turned it into a great savory sugar-free breakfast by adding some sauteed mushrooms and shallots. And it is quicker than brown rice.

    My best solution for brown rice is to make a big batch and freeze it in family-sized portions (for 2, in my case). Then, when I’m making my Thai curry, I just pop it out of the freezer (or fridge, if I’ve remembered to take it out in the morning) and heat it up. I got the idea by trying Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice to confirm it could actually be done, and then went frugal by doing it myself!


Comments are closed.