You know how when you’re a child and you get a notion in your head that something is a certain way…and it’s just that way…and that’s just the way it is? Well, that describes me and what I thought of bread. You see, from the time I could remember, my Mom always had bread for us. But it was very, very small. She called it rye bread. It was her favorite! It came in a very long but very slender package. I loved it too and I ate it often. It was my tiny toast, my tiny sandwich and my tiny snack. I had no idea what a “normal” slice of bread looked like until I discovered a piece at my Grandmother’s house. You can imagine my shock to learn there was more than one kind of bread and not all of it was tiny or rye! As I grew up I realized this tiny bread was a huge part of my life, setting the stage for my love of rye and my desire to learn more about it and other whole grains, and to eventually bake my own bread. Whole grains are super nutritious! Whole grains are the seeds or kernels of a growing plant, and they come in different shapes and sizes, from tiny seeds to larger kernels. They contain three key parts: the bran which is the tough, fibrous outer skin; the germ which is the embryo or the part that becomes a new plant; and the endosperm which is the starchier part that provides nourishment for the young plant. The bran provides fiber and valuable antioxidants. Eating whole grains provides us with wonderful health benefits. According to the USDA, people who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. That’s because they provide nutrients that are vital for the maintenance of a healthy body. Over the next month, I’ll be talking about many of my favorite whole grains and how you might add them to your own menu plan with some delicious, fun ways to prepare and enjoy them. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at my top picks: Oats – Oh! So delicious at breakfast and beyond, adding oats to your diet is a super plus! Now that the weather is colder, you’ll love these hot Oatmeal Apple Pancakes. Barley — Beautiful addition to salads, soups, stews and chili. Cook it up and keep it on hand to add to many favorite dishes. Here’s a good basic recipe for Simple Barley. Spelt – Super good and very ancient! Spelt can be used just like its modern cousin wheat. We’ve used only spelt flour in these delicious Blueberry Spelt Muffins. Rye – Really hearty and filling, rye bread is my all-time favorite! These Mini Brie and Arugula Sandwiches with Apple Mustard are outstanding on hearth rye bread. Quinoa – Quite a remarkable grain, quinoa has the highest protein content of any other grain! It’s a wonderful addition to soups, stews, casseroles, salads, and even breakfast. Try these delicious Quinoa Garden Cakes with Lemony Yogurt. Brown Rice — Among the best known of the whole grain family, brown rice comes in many varieties and can replace white rice in just about every dish from stuffing to sushi. But, if it’s new to you, a great place to start is with this recipe for Brown Rice Pilaf with Mushrooms and Apricots. Ready to go with whole grains? Great! Check out our Guide to Whole Grains and Flour and our super Guide to Grains. Got a favorite whole grain you can’t go without? Let me know what it is and your favorite way to enjoy it!