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Millet: Not Just for the Birds!

Judy E. Buss

If you are tired of eating brown rice too often when wanting to include whole grains in your diet, millet comes to the rescue, just in time before you begin to dream about a twelve-cheese pizza… Delicious and inexpensive, millet has a lovely delicate sweet flavor and like all whole grains, is a nutrition-dense seed that provides multiple health benefits. Its nutrients are delivered in a slow and sustained release for hours after a meal.

The tiny, gluten-free, round yellow seeds originated in North Africa in prehistoric times and eventually spread to all other parts of the world. The people of Eastern Europe also enjoy this grain in the form of a fermented alcoholic beverage. In the U.S. millet is most familiar as bird and livestock feed of mixed seeds, however, the rapidly growing interest in healthy eating, has lead to its rediscovery as an excellent food for humans as well.

Millet can be bought mainly at health food stores. If you don’t have convenient access to such a store where you live, you can stock up on the grain when you visit this type of store in another town and then refrigerate it for long-term storage and use.

Millet requires 30 minutes of cooking time. Cook a double batch and you will have enough for breakfast and a different meal a couple of days later. Be sure to refrigerate leftover cooked millet in an airtight container. For a nuttier flavor, millet can be toasted in an ungreased skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes, (stirred frequently), before cooking it in water. The grain is also sold in a flour form for use in baking.

Cooked millet may be consumed hot or cold, for breakfast with low-fat “cow juice” or soy milk, nuts and/or chopped fresh or dried fruit; or in a variety of pilafs for lunch or dinner. Any rice or other whole grain recipe can morph into a millet dish. If you haven’t tried millet, it’s time you think outside the bird feeder and enjoy this delicious and health-boosting whole grain. Double or halve any of the following recipes to suite your needs.

4 servings

1-1/2 cups uncooked millet

5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt to taste

  1. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse the millet, drain, and place it in a medium saucepan with 4-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly, about 30 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed.
  1. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. When the millet is done, fluff it with a fork and then thoroughly mix with the dressing.

2 servings

3/4 cup uncooked millet
2-1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup low-fat milk or unsweetened soy milk
1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
1 cup blueberries, or chopped strawberries, or peaches, thawed if frozen

  1. In a fine-mesh strainer rinse the millet. Drain. Place the millet, water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and cook slowly 30 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.
  1. Remove from stove, stir in the honey, if using, and lemon zest. Mix in milk then fruit and serve.
  1. VARIATION: Instead of fresh fruit use 1/2 cup dried fruit.

“Mission Nutrition” Tips and Recipe from Judy E. Buss, Health Columnist, Nutritional Cooking Instructor.

Excerpted from Judy E. Buss’ article, first published in the “Feeling Fit” Magazine, Sun Coast Media Group newspapers, Florida.

Stay tuned for more Judy E. Buss’ “Mission Nutrition” words of wisdom and recipes.

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