Eat Well: Wendy with a Chance of Grain

GGC note: the following post was written by my mother
Several Novembers ago, Larry and I took a wonderful trip up the Northern California Coast and ended in Oregon to visit my aunt and uncle. (As we wended our way through Sonoma vineyards, we realized we had chosen, by accident, the perfect time to take this trip. Seeing fields of grapevines in late autumn is like viewing fall colors on miniature trees in Munchkin land!
Plus, not many people travel the week before Thanksgiving so we had the wine country, redwoods, elk herds, and the Mendocino coast all to ourselves.I know this isn’t a travel post, but I had to mention this in case any of you are planning on exploring the California coast any time soon!).

Anyway, we stayed several days with my lovely Uncle John (Nana's brother) and Aunt Dot in Ashland, Oregon. I have been thinking long and hard about a way to best describe them and after a lot of thought, have come up with the term “Bohemian Naturalists.”
Aunt Dot protesting the slaying of redwoods. Hell to the yes.*

Now in their eighties, they have been organic gardeners and active environmentalists since before I was born, and cooking with them for several days had a huge impact on my decision to chose an alternative way to eat. We devoured delicious soups and huge chopped salads, all created from their garden bounty and co-op farm, but my favorite meal of the day was the very simple breakfast Uncle John made for us using whole grain.

At the time of this trip, I had recently had an emergency hysterectomy, which afterwards affected my digestive system, so I had been experimenting with a high fiber diet, adding oat bran (which basically tastes like shredded cardboard) to everything, including my morning granola or muesli. I LOVE both granola and muesli, but they are expensive to buy and time intensive to make. And I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal… something about the consistency of the stuff has turned me off since I ate some paste in kindergarten. So when Uncle John served us his morning grain, or “kasha,” I thought I had gone to heaven.

Kasha in this country is often defined as cooked whole buckwheat, but in Slavic countries, Kasha (translated as porridge) is a mixed grain meal made up of any of the following whole grains: oat groats, rye, barley, winter wheat, or whole buckwheat groats. Along with cabbage, kasha is a staple in the Russian and Eastern European diet and is eaten both sweet and savory. It is easy to make, DELICIOUS to eat—not pasty but chewy and flavorful—and is very inexpensive when you buy the grains in bulk…one pound of these grains is about a dollar and feeds a family of four for about 5 days. That means each serving is about 5 cents!!! The grains are high in fiber since they are unprocessed (no more oat bran for me!) and contain tons of iron and protein. Plus, a breakfast of kasha stays with you all morning. Using several grains increases your nutrition, for just as it is important to eat lots of different types of vegetables, it’s equally important to eat from the rainbow when it comes to grain.
from left: oat groats, rye, hulled barley and hard winter wheat

Always use WHOLE grain or groats. You can combine any whole grain (except millet…it is too mushy) in any combination. Make sure if you use barley you use the hulled barley, not pearled, since pearled barley, too, gets mushy. You can use the ancient grains, spelt or kamut, if desired. Or, you can use whole oat groats by themselves, which is great if you are gluten intolerant. (Oats are gluten free, but can be contaminated with other grains, so if you are on a STRICT gluten free diet, buy one of the gluten free oat groats available online or at your natural food store).
raw oat groats

Kashi makes a 7 whole grain Pilaf which is already combined for you and put in packets, but it’s three times the cost and honestly, it takes no time to mix the grains yourself (plus the Kashi pilaf doesn’t have oats in it which is my favorite part of the mix!)

You can buy bulk grain at any Whole Foods, natural foods market, food co-op, or at many specialty food stores. If you can’t find a market that sells in bulk in your town, all of the grains can be ordered online (or you can use the Kashi pilaf). I buy a bag of each of the grains and then combine them together and store in an airtight container until I’m ready to cook them. My uncle’s Kasha is made with about ¼ hard winter wheat, ¼ rye, ¼ oat groats, and ¼ hulled barley, but now that I am eating a gluten free diet, I use only oat groats and it is also delicious and has a great consistency. It takes almost an hour to cook these properly, so I make up a huge batch of grain and keep them in the refrigerator, warming them up every morning for my breakfast. My uncle cooks them the night before for 45 minutes and then turns off the stove, letting the pot sit all night. This works great. My sister-in-law makes them in a crock-pot (on low) overnight and says the grains are perfect in the morning.

Warm up what you need in the morning and then add fruit and berries, seeds and nuts (I love sunflower seeds and walnuts), kefir, yogurt, almond or rice milk, dried fruits, coconut, or whatever else you like on hot cereal (real maple syrup or brown sugar for a special treat!!).
with blueberries and walnuts

You can also serve this grain as a side dish with dinner and add stir-fried vegetables, tamari or Braggs amino acids. Or…use in a savory salad instead of rice.

Here is the basic Kasha recipe. I double this recipe, making enough for about 5-7 days, depending on how many people you are feeding. This is a tasty and wholesome substitute for all of the sugary and over-priced processed boxed cereals bulging from the cereal aisle at the grocery store.


(1) cup of any combination of the following WHOLE unprocessed grains:
-oat groats
-winter wheat
-UN-PEARLED barley
(3) cups water

1.Combine grain and water in a saucepan. Bring to boil and turn down to low.
2. Cook for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until the consistency you like:
3.Let grain sit, covered, until cool and then refrigerate.
4. Warm up as needed. Serve with any combination of fruits and nuts you desire:
grains with kefir, raspberries and figs, topped with brown sugar = heaven

If you use the “Kashi Pilaf,” use 3 cups of water instead of 2 and cook as above. The package instruction says 2 cups of water and to cook for 25 minutes, but the grains are too hard that way and I don’t think as tasty.

I hope you enjoy these grains as much as I do. I look forward to this breakfast every morning. (I have been known to travel with a bag of grain and a small electric pot!!) And kids love them, especially mixed with yogurt or kefir and fresh berries!!


*Rebecca, here. That photo of Aunt Dot was on the cover of "Earth First" magazine several years ago. Great aunt Dot is currently backpacking ON HER OWN in the Sierras at eighty-two years old. My favorite Dot story = the time she went skinny dipping with Anais Nin. The women in my family were/are feisty forces to be reckoned with. Here's to age keeping all of us young.


GUGAW | 12:27 AM

Oh my gosh this sounds and looks absolutely stunning, I will definately be trying this! Thanks for sharing! Xx

Anonymous | 3:11 AM

GREAT information! Thanks so much - you've made me so hungry for this. Wish I could eat at your houses : )

And Aunt Dot ROCKS!


Mo | 5:42 AM say Aunt Dot eats these hippie foods? And then goes on naked tree-saving backpacking jaunts?

I'm in.

Danielle | 6:07 AM

I love your mother's posts. She's got me hooked.

Funnelcloud Rachel | 6:38 AM

My favorite thing about this post - Aunt Dot! What an awesome lady to have in your family. Dang, I wish I had some Bohemian Naturalists in MY family!

Marie-Ève | 6:54 AM

Thanks for this, it looks really yummy and wholesome indeed. You have such a lovely unconventional family!

Abigail | 7:15 AM

Yay! I am so excited to try this recipe. I've been experimenting with reducing my gluten intake (I'm not quite ready to go 100% gluten free) to help with some digestive issues and so far it is working. But I haven't yet found a good breakfast solution. Could this be it?

Liz C | 7:30 AM

Your Aunt Dot is my new role model for aging.

Denise | 7:56 AM

I live in Medford, Oregon, which is about twenty miles from Ashland. In fact, we're thinking of moving there simply because a hefty majority of the restaurants serve organic, healthful foods instead of the processed garbage that's served almost everywhere else. Many of the residents, like Dot, know the value of better living through growing your own food. Very fantastic.

Also downtown Ashland is awesome.

To call them "Bohemian Naturalists" is very fitting.


I want to be Aunt Dot when I grow up.

Also, that last picture is to die for. If you mess with Fable's breakfast, she is going to break you.


Right? She is SERIOUS about grain.

LL | 8:59 AM

I LOVE your Aunt Dot. What a hero! And to swim with one of my fave authors. Divine!

Amanda | 9:19 AM

Oh wow! I'm literally salivating, especially over the dish with the raspberries, figs and brown sugar! For now it is Panda Puffs in the morning but I think when it starts cooling down (I loathe cooking when there's already 100+ degree weather outside) I'll be making these.

We have a some family out in Idaho like your Aunt Dot, Bohemian Naturalists for sure. It's too bad they're so far.

Viva Bohemian Naturalism!

Rebekah | 9:59 AM

Your blog is lovely!
And so is Aunt Dot!!
Love her spunk!

Anonymous | 11:55 AM

now correct me if i'm wrong. but i'm PRETTY sure i've heard Dot speak at enviro. conferences in ashland and possibly eugene? i KNOW i've heard people speak fondly of her activism....what a woman!

Anonymous | 11:56 AM

now correct me if i'm wrong. but i'm PRETTY sure i've heard Dot speak at enviro. conferences in ashland and possibly eugene? i KNOW i've heard people speak fondly of her activism....what a woman!

Chelsea | 1:27 PM

yummy! Thanks!

Erin | 4:31 PM

Not even kidding when I tell you that I grew up with a mother who thought Fruit Loops had real fruit in them. I love the woman, she has so many strengths...but food was not one of them. And now my son doesn't want to eat ANYTHING (He's about the same age as Fable). I'm going to try this though, he likes oatmeal. So who knows? :)

Jaime | 5:45 PM

I do something similar with your beloved quinoa. I cook some in water with a little salt and occasionally honey and cinnamon, add fruit (fresh or dried both work), and put it in the fridge. I eat it cold for breakfast with soymilk.

maresi | 7:21 PM

I've got this cooked and cooling on the stove overnight. Thanks for these recipes and the inspiration!

Cydney | 8:18 PM

Holy poop, can I borrow ALL of the women in your family please? And I am definitely making this mixed-grain cereal ASAP- I'm a steel cut oats girl, but your Mom stole my heart with this one.

jkaye | 11:07 PM

more about aunt dot, please!!

(will be trying the grains.. sounds perfect for my student budget)

My Bottle's Up! | 6:57 AM

ohhhh, your aunt dot sounds like a force!!!

Angela | 7:11 AM

We have a mini-crockpot just for this only suggestion is that there tends to be a lot of evaporation, so extra liquid is necessary to prevent a giant lump in the morning. Ask me how I know....

Jennifer June | 8:32 AM

Might ave to put Aunt Dot's photo up somewhere as a reminder of awesomeness to myself.
Great photos and the food looks fantastic!

Jennie @ Modern Mamaz | 12:57 PM

I think aunt Dot just became a celebrity overnight!

Raven's Perch | 6:20 PM

Here are a couple of tidbits from Uncle John.
Well first, I call myself an Urban Peasant, not a hippie, though hippies are great.
Second, we use a three quart 'waterless' pot; with rye, oats and barley, plenty of water, bring to a roaring boil and then turn to simmer for 20 minutes, turn the fire off and leave overnight to cool slowly.
Nowadays we mostly omit the wheat 'cause it takes longer to cook; besides I use wheat and rye 50/50 in the sour dough Pain Meteuil bread I bake.
Third I use a large rectangular glass container with glass lid for storing my porridge in the fridge and only re-heat the portion(s) I need — glass is food safe and made from sand not oil.
Fourth, there is nothing wrong with cereal that is beginning to sour. Dot taught me to make what we call "Middle Eastern Cereal" by adding Cumin, curry powder, cayenne etc to make an enticing tasty brunch.
A little secret, truth be told, Dot generally cooks ours late at night while she is reading, I just store it and eat it — then tell her when I'm ready for another batch.
Wendy's Uncle John
Coming attraction? An independent documentary movie about Dot, filmed here by Pat Somers and Willow Denker, will be previewed in Ashland October 16th at Havurah on Mountain Avenue.

Desiree | 6:27 PM

Oh mah gawsh. Your Aunt Dot sounds like one rad lady!!

Anonymous | 8:55 PM

mmmmmm looks good
I must try it

Sydney | 3:31 AM

I live for your mother's posts these days. Each one is better than the next, can't wait to try some of these out.

Can I request a WWW post? I need to start bringing my own lunches into work to save the pennies so can finally afford to move out of home. I bet your mother has some cracking ideas for cheap, easy and nutritious packed lunches. Thanks!

jill (smyth) | 7:47 AM

Anais Nin!? ANAIS NIN?!

I was had at naked and whole grains. 'Wendy with a Chance of Grain' - the cleverest/cutest.

I loves me a charming family. With stories and vegetarian recipes and SKINNY DIPPING WITH ANAIS NIN! I swoon.

Wendy Woolf | 8:57 AM

Sydney...Great idea about the lunch post! I'll do that, soon!

Marcela | 12:40 PM

Figs! Yummy!

My figs are falling of the tree! Thanks for this lovely recipe!

Anonymous | 3:22 PM

Share more about your Aunt Dot? I'm intrigued!

Mari | 3:49 PM

I would love to hear how to make this in a crockpot (i.e., proportions of grains to liquids).


Sydney Huggins | 1:24 PM

Thanks Wendy, can't wait!

Also, forgot to mention in my first post how much the title "Wendy with a Chance of Grain" made me smile (A LOT).

WasStephHere | 7:00 AM

I have an Aunt Dot too!! :-) She is 93 and living in northern California with her amazing brother.