5 Healthy Grain Dishes That Are (Almost) Better Than Pasta

Rice Congee with Pork Meaballs

© Con Poulos

By Julia Heffelfinger Posted January 13, 2016

Here are 5 of our favorite hearty and craveable whole grain dishes that can almost stand in for that bowl of mac and cheese.

We’re a few weeks into the New Year now and, let’s be honest, those healthy eating resolutions are probably not going as well as you’d hoped. (We agree, those bagels in the break room were definitely taunting you.) However, we here at F&W are here to say that we believe in you! Eating healthy does not need to be painful and it also doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing approach. Spending every day in and out of the F&W test kitchen, forgoing even a taste of that Papardelle with Duck Ragú feels like pure sacrilege. Since we’ve never believed in deprivation as a long-term solution to good eating, here are five of our favorite hearty and craveable whole grain dishes that can almost stand in for that bowl of mac and cheese. Here’s hoping this will help those resolutions stay on track—at least for most of the week.

Sweet Brown Rice Risotto with Kale and Cremini
Chef Marco Canora treats short-grain brown rice like Arborio and slow-cooks it to make this decadent vegetarian risotto. Sautéed kale is added for extra fiber-oomph and it’s all finished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, because you’ve been good.

Food & Wine:

Vegetable Farro Stew with Figs and Pine Nuts
No one will believe that this complex, tangy-sweet vegetable stew came out of a slow cooker. The hands-off dish involves slow-cooking farro with a variety of vegetables, including sweet peppers, fresh herbs, fennel, tomatoes, zucchini and kale. Finish with toasted pine nuts for extra crunch and a drizzle of sherry vinegar to balance the sweetness of the dried figs and golden raisins. Crusty bread highly recommended for serving.

Food & Wine:

Quinoa Pilaf with Dates, Olives and Arugula
This two-step, six-ingredient pilaf will quickly become a weeknight staple. Quinoa is tossed with briny Castelvetrano olives, sweet dates and lemon juice while it’s still warm to help the grain better absorb the flavors. Any leftovers are also a great next-day lunch.

Food & Wine: Quinoa Pilaf

© Eva Kolenko

Rice Congee with Pork Meatballs
Congee, a slow-cooked porridge that’s eaten in many Asian countries, is the ultimate simple, belly-warming dish. Here, chef James Syhabout cooks jasmine rice with chicken stock and lemongrass until it’s creamy and tender. A three-ingredient meatball mixture of ground pork, fish sauce and white pepper is dropped into the porridge and simmered until cooked through. The toppings are what really make this humble dish addictive: a quick DIY chile vinegar, garlic oil and sprigs of fresh cilantro. Oh, and the whole things comes together in 40 minutes (take that, lasagna).

Food & Wine: Rice Congee with Pork Meatballs

© Con Poulos

Warm Barley and Caramelized Mushroom Salad
Mixed mushrooms are cooked until golden brown and caramelized to give this filling vegetarian dish a hearty meaty quality. Enjoy the salad on its own, alongside a seared pork chop and sautéed greens or topped with a runny poached egg.

Food & Wine: Mushroom-Barley Salad

© Christina Holmes

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