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In the Kitchen With: Sue Hallett, wheat berries for breakfast

Sue Hallett, of Colfax, makes this hearty wheat berry breakfast cereal every day using soft white wheat from nearby, family-run Joseph’s Grainery. (photos by adriana janovich)

Sue Hallett discovered wheat berries during a workshop at the public library.

She had lived in Colfax – in the heart of Washington’s wheat country – since 1979 and saw the surrounding golden fields of grain. But she didn’t start cooking with the fiber- and protein-rich kernels until taking the class, which included a couple of recipes.

Inspired, Hallett came up with her own wheat berry breakfast cereal.

“Now I make it every day,” she said.

Her hot cereal – a combination of locally grown whole wheat kernels and oats – has been her go-to breakfast for two years running. Sweetened with cinnamon and apples, it’s especially warm and comforting as the weather begins to turn cool and crisp and the season changes from summer to fall.

Her cereal highlights autumn’s bounty of wheat and apples. And, since it can be made the night before and reheated in the morning, it makes for a quick and hearty back-to-school breakfast that will stick to your ribs to get you through class – or a long work day.

“It’s really filling,” Hallett said. “You’re getting a ton of fiber.”

Wheat berries – entire wheat kernels except for the hulls – add texture to breads, soups, salads, chilies, pilafs – even pesto. They’re low in fat and calories, and are good in granola, yogurt, stir-fry or as a substitute in “anything that you would use rice in,” Hallett said.

Milled wheat berries yield whole-wheat flour. Cooking them isn’t difficult.

“This is basically like cooking noodles or orzo,” Hallett said. “You have a hard dry thing that you rehydrate.”

Cooked wheat berries plump up and deepen in color. But, to Hallett, wheat berries by themselves are a bit bland.

“I think they taste a little, tiny bit nutty,” she said, adding – “in a good way. But other than that, they don’t have a lot of flavor.”

Hallett has a sweet tooth, so she jazzes up her favorite morning mixture with vanilla and fresh fruit. She prefers Fuji apples.

“In the fall, all those great big Fujis come out and they’re so good,” she said.

Hallett uses soft white wheat from family-run Joseph’s Grainery, located just outside town. Its suggested retail price is $3.75 for a 3-pound bag.

Hallett buys her wheat berries at the Rosauers in Colfax. They’re also available at Events on Main, a coffee and sandwich shop in downtown Colfax. In Spokane, they can be found at Huckleberry’s, Main Market and Yoke’s; in Coeur d’Alene they’re at Pilgrim’s Market. They also can be purchased at the granary and on its website – www.josephs

In her submission to “In the Kitchen With,” Hallett wrote: “Every morning I fix myself a wonderful breakfast and settle at the kitchen table with the newspaper. It’s one of the best moments of my day.”

She lives on a hillside overlooking downtown Colfax with her husband, Scott. Retired and in their 60s, the couple are parents of two – a daughter in Coeur d’Alene and a son in Olympia – and grandparents of five.

“It’s weird when you get older,” said Hallett, 63. “We try and eat healthy. I cook my own stuff. He cooks his own stuff.”

Her husband doesn’t eat her wheat berry breakfast. He opts for Frosted Mini Wheats with sliced banana.

“It’s not that I don’t like (the cereal),” said Scott, 65. “I don’t like change.”

They’ve been married 42 years.

Sue Hallett’s Wheat Berry Breakfast Cereal

Adapted from Judi Dunn-Gray’s Whitman County Recycling Department workshop, held at the Colfax Public Library

1/2 cup cooked wheat berries

1/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1/3 cup skim milk (Sue Hallett uses powdered)

1 tablespoon genuine vanilla

1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste

1 whole apple, cored, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces

1/3 to 1/2 cup water, depending on how large the apple is

Sugar or sugar substitute, to taste

1 tablespoon butter or margarine (Sue Hallett uses Smart Balance light margarine)

Prepare the wheat berries: place 2 cups wheat berries into a medium saucepan. Cover with water until 1 1/2 inches from top of saucepan. Let sit 30 minutes. Bring to boil over medium heat, then simmer for about 40 minutes. When done, wheat berries should be tender, but not falling to pieces. Drain. Cool. Measure out 1/2 cup of cooked wheat and store the extra in a zip-top plastic bag in freezer. Wheat berries don’t need to be defrosted before using in this recipe.

Prepare the cereal: Mix all ingredients, except sweetener and butter or margarine, in a microwave-safe dish. Cook in microwave for 3 minutes on high, keeping an eye on the mixture so the cereal doesn’t bubble over. Stir. Cook about 1 minute more. Mixture should have the consistency of chunky applesauce. Remove from microwave, pour into a serving bowl, and top with sweetener and butter or margarine.

Sue Hallett’s Wheat Berry Salad

Adapted from Judi Dunn-Gray’s Whitman County Recycling Department workshop, held at the Colfax Public Library

Wheat berries form the foundation of this salad. Sue Hallett believes the original called for parsley, red pepper, salad onions, garlic and apple. But she encourages home cooks to use wheat berries as a base and experiment with their favorite vegetables and other salad ingredients – like she did.

She doesn’t use garlic in her version, which she continues to refine. She thinks wheat berries would be good with onion, chicken and “any kind of greens” – particularly spinach. She also wants to try a Mexican variation.

“I think you could try taco meat. You could expand it out however you like it,” said Hallett, who actually pared down the original recipe to suit her personal taste. Here’s how she makes wheat berry salad.

For the dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pepper to taste

For the salad:

2 cups cooked wheat berries (See instructions in breakfast cereal recipe)

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can drained whole kernel corn

1 (5-ounce) package dried cranberries

For the dressing: Whisk all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

For the salad: Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss with dressing, and serve.