Meet this grain...Bulgur the better wheat for your belly

What is Bulgur? Bulgur (pronounced BUHL-guhr) is quick-cooking form of whole wheat that’s produced by cleaning, steaming, drying and crushing whole-wheat kernels. This is truly an ancient grain — the process of turning wheat into bulgur has been around for thousands of years and originated in the Mediterranean region. With a nutty flavor and chewy texture, bulgur cooks up like rice; you only need some hot water or stock. You’ll find it in coarse, medium or fine grinds — all with different purposes: Coarse grind: For stuffing, casseroles, soups and salads. Medium grind: An all-purpose grind great for salads, stews, soups, chili, burgers and anywhere you’d use rice. Fine grind: For breakfast cereals and tabbouleh salad; also a good rice substitute. Some folks confuse bulgur with the term “cracked wheat,” but they aren’t the same thing. Bulgur is pre-cooked and ready to eat after minimal cooking; cracked wheat hasn’t been cooked and therefore takes a lot longer to prepare. Why Is Bulgur a “Healthy Eat”? This healthy whole grain is full of energy-boosting B-vitamins — thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin and folate — and a serving covers 10% of your daily need of iron. Although it’s a nutritional powerhouse, stick to half-cup portions to keep calories under control. A cup of cooked, plain bulgur has 151 calories — plus, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and is fat- and cholesterol-free. What to Do With Bulgur? Cooking dry bulgur is simple: Place some in a bowl, pour hot water over the grains and cover. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes until the bulgur is tender and then drain. Your water-to-grain ratio depends on the type of bulgur you have. Check the package directions or this website, which is full of bulgur tidbits. The most popular bulgur dish in my house is tabbouleh salad, a cold side that combines tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and onions. I typically serve it up with grilled Mediterranean-style chicken skewers and hummus and baba ganoush (pureed eggplant salad) for dipping. Tabbouleh also compliments fish very well. You can also toss bulgur into a stock with beans and veggies for a quick and hearty soup or combine it with onions, chopped tomatoes, parsley and pine nuts for a killer stuffing.

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