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Prairie Fare: Apply Some New Items to Your Menu

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Our grain choices can be divided into two groups based on the processing method: whole grains and refined grains.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, let’s see what we get when we pick fish, beverage and slow cooker,” my 7-year-old daughter exclaimed as she tried out a new application on my cell phone.

She giggled and touched “submit.” Thankfully, there were no matches.

Then she tried fish and bread as her categories and actually turned up a bread recipe containing anchovies.

She wrinkled her nose. I did, too. I didn’t make that bread for dinner.

Frankly, I’m not even sure how this recipe “app” arrived on my phone, but I have a hunch my older kids had something to do with it. I’m still trying to figure out all the basic features on my phone.

With my daughter’s help, I tried out combinations of ingredients and preparation methods. However, none of my combinations were as creative as those she picked.

I searched through some of the grain recipes because I was interested in trying something new with my family. I found some recipes with unusual types of grains.

Our grain choices can be divided into two groups based on the processing method: whole grains and refined grains. Grains provide us with carbohydrates for energy and several vitamins and minerals.

Whole grains contain all parts of the kernel. Brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, oatmeal and popcorn are well-known whole grains. Amaranth, millet, quinoa and triticale are less well-known whole grains.

Refined grains have undergone a grinding and separation process, so the resulting product has a fine texture. Milling removes the outer covering (or bran) and the oil-containing germ from the kernel. Refined grains are enriched with B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, plus the mineral iron.

Have you ever tried the refined grain product known as couscous? Couscous means “well-rolled” or “rounded.” Couscous is made from semolina, a granular durum wheat product. In some parts of the world, couscous is made from other grains such as barley or cornmeal.

I learned about couscous many years ago from a graduate student who was a native of the North African country Algeria. Couscous commonly is eaten around the world but is a staple in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.

When traditionally made, water is added to semolina and the dough is rolled by hand to form tiny pellets. The granules are put through a sieve and then the particles are sprinkled with dry semolina to form granules. Finally, the rounded granules are dried and look somewhat like rice.

Usually, couscous is steamed in a tall pot over a container of stew or soup, so the couscous absorbs some of the flavor of the cooking food. The couscous available in many supermarkets has been presteamed and dried. We simply add boiling water or stock and allow it to stand. Couscous takes less time to prepare than rice or most types of pasta.

Usually couscous is used like rice on a menu, serving as the “base” over which you would add broth, meat and vegetables. Couscous also can be used in salads or in a dish similar to rice pudding with the addition of sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit.

You may have to peruse the specialty section of the grocery store if you do not find it with the rice and other grains. Trying some new grains now and then adds variety to your menu and can give you a taste of world cuisine right in your own home.

Here’s a refreshing salad perfect to accompany a chicken breast hot off the grill.

Garden Couscous Salad

2 c. couscous, cooked (follow instructions on package)

2 c. diced cucumber

1 c. seeded and diced tomato

1/4 c. chopped sweet onion

2 tsp. dried dill weed

1/2 c. Italian low-fat salad dressing

Prepare couscous and let it chill. Rinse vegetables thoroughly with water. Chop or dice vegetables as indicated. Toss together ingredients in a large bowl, adding the salad dressing last. Chill for at least one hour and serve.

Makes about 10 servings (1/2 cup each). Each serving has 70 calories, 2 grams (g) of fat, 2 g of protein, 11 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fiber and 135 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – April 21, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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