2020 Reset: Great Grains

I forget about grains. I have a few in my pantry, labeled in mason jars. But they don’t stay on my radar, perhaps because I was not raised on any kind of grain but white rice. In addition, I forget that some things that I eat on a regular basis are actually grains, like popcorn and oatmeal. Similarly to the hummus bowls featured last week, grains are a healthy, blank canvas. 

But make sure you are eating WHOLE GRAINS, as opposed to refined grains. Whole grains retain all three parts: the bran (hard outer shell/fiber), endosperm (middle layer/carbs), and germ (inner layer/vitamins, minerals protein. White rice is refined, meaning the bran and germ have been stripped, leaving only the carbs. So white rice is not as healthy as brown rice since there are no fiber or vitamins. 

Benefits of whole grains abound. They are high in nutrients and fiber, and can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, and even cancer. Grains aren’t for everyone, though. Wheat, barley, and rye contain gluten, a protein that some are allergic or sensitive to. Grains promote healthy digestion, but may contribute to irritable bowels in some people.

Grains, like hummus, don’t taste like much by themselves, but are sponges for added flavor. Cook them in vegetable or chicken broth with a bit of salt. Whole grains will take anywhere from 15-45 minutes to cook. Simply follow the package directions. Below are recipes for three different grains. Feel free to mix and match ingredients to your liking. In addition, enjoy the recipe for lemon tahini dressing. I adore this stuff. Find a recipe for a dressing or vinaigrette you love, and use it on everything! 

Don’t forget to snap a photo and send it to me at josie.josiemai@gmail.com and I will post it on my Josie Mai Personal Chef page and on my website. Happy, healthy eating in 2020! Let’s do this.

Farro, mandarin and feta

Serves 4


2 cups cooked farro (follow package directions)

1 can white beans, rinsed and drained

Slices from 2 mandarin oranges

4 ounces crumbled feta

1 scallion, chopped (white and green parts)

1/4 cup toasted pecans


Combine all ingredients but green parts of scallion and toasted pecans. Toss with favorite dressing. Sprinkle with green parts of scallion and toasted pecans and serve.


Wheat berry, squash and pepper

Serves 4


2 cups cooked wheat berries (follow package directions)

1 1/2 cups cooked, chopped butternut squash

3/4 cup chopped fresh or roasted red bell pepper

1/2 cup red onion, chopped and sautéed 

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds

Handful of fresh basil 


Combine all ingredients but almonds and basil. Toss with favorite dressing. Sprinkle with almonds and basil and serve.

Mediterranean quinoa chickpea

Serves 4


2 cups cooked quinoa (follow package directions)

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup feta

1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

1/4 cup finely chopped red onions

Handful chopped parsley


Combine all ingredients but parsley. Toss with favorite dressing. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Lemon tahini dressing


4 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons water 
Salt and pepper to taste

Give the tahini a stir in its jar if it looks separated. Add the 4 tablespoons tahini to a medium bowl, along with the lemon juice, honey, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the water. Whisk together. Then whisk in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dressing reaches your desired consistency. Add optional chopped chives or smoked paprika.