Cooking with Sorghum

Types of Sorghum Ingredients

NuLife Market Whole Grain Sorghum in plastic package

NuLife Market Whole Grain Sorghum

Whole grain sorghum – Use sorghum in its whole grain form for great tasting and healthful dishes just like you would use rice. Whole grain sorghum can be used as an addition to vegetable salads or in cooked dishes like tabbouleh. It resembles bulgar or wheat berries and is a hearty, chewy solution to meeting the daily goal of 2 to 3 servings of whole grain.

Bob's Red Mill Sorghum Flour

White sorghum flourWhite sorghum flour is made from white food grade sorghum that has the hull removed and milled like traditional flours. This flour can be used in a variety of baking applications in conjunction with other flours.

Package photo of whole grain sorghum flour from NuLife Market

Whole grain sorghum flour from NuLife Market

Whole grain sorghum flourWhole grain flour is milled with the entire grain without the hull removed. Whole grain flours contain all of the nutrition found in the outer casing of the grain.

Jar of Golden Barrel Sorghum Syrup

Sorghum syrup from Golden Barrel

Sorghum syrupSorghum syrup is a natural sweetener that comes from juice squeezed from the stalks of certain sorghum varieties. It has a rich, dark color and consistency similar to molasses but with a milder taste.

Using Sorghum Flour

MuffinsMadeWithSorghum

Whole grain sorghum flour is a wholesome, hearty grain that possesses a mild flavor that won’t compete with the delicate flavors in other food ingredients. Sorghum improves the texture of recipes and digests more slowly with a lower glycemic index, so it sticks with you a bit longer than other flour or flour substitutes. This makes it a great healthy substitution for more traditional flours. Check out these great recipes for sorghum flour mixes.

Binders and Sorghum

Package of Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum from Bob’s Red Mill

Because sorghum does not contain gluten, a “binder” such as xanthan gum, must be added when gluten is used to create a successful product. Add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of sorghum flour for cookies and cakes or 1 teaspoon per cup of flour for breads. Other ingredients used as binders in some recipes include egg whites, unflavored gelatin, cornstarch and guar gum.

Getting Started with Sorghum

For baking – if you are ready to try some recipes, start with recipes that use relatively small amounts of wheat flour like brownies or pancakes. Substituting sorghum takes some experimenting and patience, but the results can be very delicious.

For snacking – purchase whole grain sorghum that you can pop as a nutritious, whole grain snack. A little oil in a heavy pan along with whole grain sorghum makes a healthy popped snack.

For entrees – sorghum can also be used as a grain (like rice or barley) and boiled or toasted as a crunchy addition to a tossed salad.

Storing Sorghum Flour

Store sorghum flour in moisture- and vapor-proof, air-tight glass or metal containers or plastic freezer bags. Keep in a cool, dry, dark place if it will be used within a few months; keep in a refrigerator or freezer for longer storage.

All information provided courtesy of the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board.

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

I just found out cats have NINE LIVES. I’m not jealous, though, because cats have nine CRUMMY lives; DOGS have one BIG life full of AWESOMENESS!

A serving of whole grain sorghum salad in a small white bowl.

Lime & Cumin Sorghum Salad

It’s summer and cold foods are sounding really good to me. Here’s a healthy recipe I adapted from this quinoa recipe.

Whole grain sorghum cooks up larger than quinoa, so I had to increase all of the ingredients a little bit. I like to cook whole grain sorghum with a little bit of vegetable broth to give it some extra flavor, but you don’t have to do that if you are trying to reduce salt.

I took this to a potluck lunch and everyone said it was good with the brisket. This salad also makes a really good lunch all by itself on a hot day.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole grain sorghum
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup corn, frozen, canned or fresh, cooked
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped

Vinaigrette:

  • Juice of 2-3 medium limes (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Soak the whole grain sorghum in water for about 3 hours. Drain and rinse. Cook the whole grain sorghum in 2 cups of water plus ½ cup vegetable broth until tender and liquid is absorbed – about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Drain off any excess liquid.

Cooked whole grain sorghum, drained and rinsed in a wire stainer

Cooked whole grain sorghum, drained and rinsed.

While the sorghum is cooking, whisk Vinaigrette ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Lime Cumin Vinaigrette in a bowl

I mixed up the Lime Cumin Vinaigrette in a bowl while the whole grain sorghum was cooking.

Add all other ingredients to cooked sorghum along with vinaigrette and stir until combined.

Vegatables, beans and whole grain sorghum mixed with vinaigrette in a big bowl.

Everything combined for the finished salad.

Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to absorb. Serve hot or cold.

Whole grain sorghum salad filling up a 2-quart Tupperware container.

This recipe made enough salad to fill up this Tupperware bowl (2 quarts).

 

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

Maizy FORGOT to put in my comment on the last post. I think her BRAIN is still on vacation! But I don’t care as long her hands are here PETTING ME!

Old etching of a man coming to shore from a sailing ship

Sorghum Comes to America

Sorghum has been in the United States for a long time. The grain types commonly called “guinea corn” and “chicken corn” were introduced from West Africa at least two centuries ago. Both were probably packed as provisions on slave ships and reached the New World only inadvertently. Americans first grew these grains along the Atlantic coast but later took the crop westward where it found a better home in the drier regions. Later-arriving grain types include some that were deliberately introduced by seedsmen and scientists towards the end of the 1800s. By 1900, sorghum grain was well established in the southern Great Plains and in California; indeed, it had become an important resource in areas too hot and dry for maize.

Old illustration of some sorghum stalks.

The sorghum known as “broomcorn” was supposedly first cultivated in the United States by Benjamin Franklin. He is said to have started the industry in 1797 with seeds he picked off an imported broom. The stiff bristles that rise from the plant’s flower head have produced many of America’s brooms and brushes ever since. By the 1930s, for example, American farmers were cultivating 160,000 hectares (over 395,000 acres) of broomcorn.

The so-called “sweet” sorghum, with its sugar-filled stems, reached these shores in about the mid-1800s. It landed first in the Southern states—supposedly introduced as a cheap treat for slaves. Within 50 years, however, it had spread so widely and become so popular that sorghum was known as ”the sugar of the South.” Each locality in the Southern farm belt had a mill to crush sorghum stalks. The resulting syrup, a little thinner than molasses, became the sweetener of the region: poured over pancakes, added to cakes, and everywhere employed in candies and preserves. Today, this golden liquid is not so well known, but many rural communities still hold annual sorghum festivals and crude old mills squeeze out an estimated 120 million liters of syrup each year.

Old photo of men processing sorghum stalks into sorghum syrup.

This scene is in the back hills of North Carolina. Sugar sorghum has all but disappeared from commercial cultivation in the United States, but it is still grown on a small scale, mostly for home use. The thin greenish liquid squeezed out of the stalks is boiled down into sorghum molasses, thinner in consistency than sugarcane molasses, but lighter in color —an almost transparent golden shade.

Sudangrass was introduced in 1909. This form of “grass sorghum” is now used for animal feed throughout the nation’s warmer regions.

Source: National Research Council. Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1996.

Sun Flour Mills Pumpkin Muffins on a plate

On the Road Gluten-free!

Sunflower Mills Pumpkin Muffins

Before I went on my trip to Seattle, I baked these pumpkin muffins to take with me. I made them from Sun Flour Mills Pumpkin Cake mix. I wanted to try this mix because it contains sorghum flour and because I LOVE pumpkin cake! I added walnuts to the mix to make them more wholesome. I used a whole can of pureed pumpkin, which may have been a tad too much. The mix made about two dozen regular sized muffins.

Sunflower Mills Pumpkin Cake Mix front of boxSunflower Mills Pumpkin Cake Mix side of box showing ingredient list

The muffins turned out very moist and soft – very light. I decided to take about a dozen on my trip with me and put the rest in the freezer. I thought they would be ok to carry in the car in a plastic food storage bag. Big mistake! I should have used a sturdier container because the muffins fell apart the second day and I had a bag full of mushy crumbles. It’s not easy to eat those while you’re driving . . . kind of sticky.

So, although the muffins were quite yummy, they probably weren’t the best choice to take on the road. I would definitely make these again if I needed something quick to take to a party. Hmmm, maybe a Fourth of July picnic?

Celiac-Friendly Restaurants

On my vacation I visited two restaurants where the staff seemed very knowledgeable about preparing gluten free meals.

Front of Fisherman's Market and Grill in Coure d'Alene, ID

The first one was in Coure d’Alene, Idaho, a very pretty little mountain town on Interstate 90. The restaurant was called Fisherman’s Market and Grill. They make fish and chips with all kinds of fish, which didn’t really sound very safe for me, but I decided to just go in and ask if they made any meals that were grilled and explained why. The woman at the counter knew all about gluten-free and assured me that the fish could be safely grilled and that the French fries were cooked in their own oil. They had eight kinds of homemade tarter sauce and she made sure I knew which one was not gluten free. I had grilled salmon with my chips and it was heavenly!

Basket of fish and chips

Grilled Salmon and chips with homemade tartar sauce

 

Island Soul logo

My son took me to this Caribbean restaurant called Island Soul, located in the Columbia City section of Seattle. We found it by searching online for gluten-free restaurants in the area. Their gluten-free dishes are marked with an asterisk on the menu and the staff was very friendly and helpful. I tried the Jamaican Rundown with snapper and prawns, and my sides were collard greens and yams (yeah, I’m from the south kinda.) It was an amazing meal, which I couldn’t finish, and the atmosphere was very nice, as well.

Photo of the food I ordered at Island Soul restaurant

Jamaican Rundown has snapper and prawns cooked with vegetables, garlic and coconut milk; sides of yams and collard greens.

I ate out at other restaurants while I was traveling, but these two were outstanding in their assistance with choosing safe, gluten-free meals and were great dining experiences, as well.

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

Maizy took me for a walk and I sniffed EVERYTHING! It was the BEST walk ever! Then Maizy gave me a new BONE! Life is good when Maizy is here.

More Fun Information About Sorghum

Today I’m sharing some more information about sorghum from the book Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains.

  • Like other cereal grains, sorghum is composed of three main parts: seed coat (pericarp), germ (embryo), and endosperm (storage tissue). The relative proportions vary, but most sorghum kernels are made up of 6 percent seed coat, 10 percent germ, and 84 percent endosperm.
  • In its chemical composition, the kernel (in its whole-grain form) is about 70 percent carbohydrate, 12 percent protein, 3 percent fat, 2 percent fiber, and 1.5 percent ash. In other words, it hardly differs from whole-grain maize or wheat. When the seed coat and germ are separated to leave a stable flour (from the starchy endosperm), the chemical composition is about 83 percent carbohydrate, 12 percent protein, 0.6 percent fat, 1 percent fiber, and 0.4 percent ash.
  • For a plant with such a modest leaf area, sorghum’s roots are huge. This underground “survival tool” seeks out moisture deep in the soil, equipping the crop for good growth in semiarid climates. The resulting ability to yield grain under dry conditions makes sorghum a crucial tool in the fight against world hunger. (A.B. Maunder, courtesy DeKalb Plant Genetics)
  • Common Names For Sorghum:
    China: kaoliang
    Burma: shallu
    East Africa: mtama, shallu, feterita
    Egypt: durra
    England: chicken corn, guinea corn
    India: jola, jowar, jawa, cholam, durra, shallu, bisinga
    South Africa: Kafir corn
    Sudan: durra, feterita
    United States: sorghum, milo, sorgo, sudangrass
    West Africa: great millet, guinea corn, feterita
    Middle East: milo

And from the Sorghum Checkoff website:

  • In the United States, sorghum is grown primarily on dryland acres, with the Sorghum Belt stretching from South Dakota to Southern Texas. Sorghum is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water. Approximately 7.7 million acres of sorghum were planted in 2007 in 21 states throughout the United States, making the United States the largest producer of sorghum.

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

Maizy came back! I was SO excited I squeaked and wagged and wiggled and jumped! I just couldn’t help it because I didn’t think she would EVER come home. Now I’m going to sit in her lap forever so she can’t ever leave again! HAPPY! JOY!

Finished cake on a plate - lemon slices clearly visible.

Gluten Free Lemon Upside Down Cake

When I found this recipe, I was really intrigued by using lemon slices with the peel still on them. How would they taste after baking? I had to find out!

The original recipe called for two cups of almond meal, so I was able to easily substitute one of those cups for sorghum flour.

The baked lemons turned out sweet and the cake was really tasty, but a tad heavy and crumbly. If I make this again I think I will use a little tapioca starch to lighten it up a bit.

I’m still not completely sold on using coconut oil instead of butter – I just like the flavor of butter more. But I will endeavor to persevere in giving up dairy as much as I can. I know my tummy will thank me for it.

Ingredients:

(Makes one 9-inch round cake.)

  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the coconut oil and coat a 9-inch round cake pan using about half of the coconut oil. Set the rest aside. Cover the bottom of the pan with the sugar.

Cut two lemons into 1/8 inch slices and lay out in rings on the bottom of the cake pan. It’s ok if they overlap in spots. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this.)

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, remaining coconut oil and vanilla together. In a separate medium bowl, combine the almond meal, baking soda and salt. Mix the wet into the dry and add the zest of one lemon. Pour into the cake pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cake in pan - you can't see the lemon slices.

Lemon Upside Down Cake right out of oven.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then flip the cake out of the pan.

Finished cake on a plate photographed from above - lemon slices clearly visible.

Finished cake from above.

Ready to eat!

Slice of lemon cake on plate.

Slice of Lemon Upside Down Cake.

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

Maizy? Where are you? Please come home RIGHT NOW! I miss your smell and I need to sit in your lap.

Sign that says Road Trip

Tips for Gluten-free Road Trips

By the time you get this post I’ll be on my way to Seattle for a two-week vacation. I really love WordPress scheduled posts, don’t you?

I’ve been planning this road trip for a few months and have been working on ways to make sure I eat safely. Traveling by car will allow me to bring along a lot of my own food, so that will make things easier. Here are some tips I found for traveling gluten-free:

Plan gluten-free meals and snacks before you leave home.
I’m planning on having simple meals while I’m on the road. Things like tuna, crackers and peanut butter will travel pretty well. I’m going to make some gluten-free muffins to take, too.

Shop for your favorite gluten-free items before you leave.
I’ve stocked up on my favorite crackers and cereals, as well as some fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts. Individual-sized packages of gluten-free snacks will come in handy for hiking and site seeing excursions.

Prepare to chill foods on the road.
I’m taking a cooler so I can keep my almond milk cold. I’m also thinking about taking some hard-boiled eggs for breakfasts. They should keep for several days in a cooler.

Try to stay in places where you’ll have a kitchenette, or access to kitchen facilities.
I’ll be staying in motels part of the time and with my son in Seattle part of the time. I’m not sure if the motels have microwaves, so I’m not bringing anything that will have to be cooked. My son and his roommates understand my condition and will let me cook whatever I need while I’m there. I’ll have to be extra careful in their kitchen about clean utensils and work areas, though.

Ship ahead.
I’m not going to be doing this, but it’s not a bad idea. Items can be ordered online and delivered to a destination. This would be especially helpful if I were flying and couldn’t carry a lot of stuff with me.

Investigate the gluten-free dining opportunities at your destination.
Here is one resource I found that lists chain restaurants with gluten-free menus. Here’s another one specifically for the Seattle area. I don’t plan to eat out a whole lot, but it’s good to have resources if I want to. I’m pretty sure I’ll be heading down to Pike Place Chowder at least once!

Be flexible, and bring your sense of humor.
I’m looking forward to this adventure, but I know things don’t always go as planned. I will have to stay on the alert for gluten, and be careful to not sacrifice my health for convenience or temptation’s sake.

Seattle skyline with Mount Rainer in the background

Gluten-free in Seattle!

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

Maizy is GONE! I’ve been waiting by the door but she hasn’t come home for days and days. Gregg is here and he plays Frisbee with me and puts food in my bowl, but it’s just not the SAME without Maizy here! Gregg says she will be back soon, but WHEN? Maybe she will come back if I wait by the door some more.

 

 

 

Sweet potato flatbread broken in half on plate.

Gluten-free Sweet Potato Flatbread

I found this recipe for gluten-free potato flatbread and thought it might be really good with sweet potatoes. So I used 2 cups of mashed up sweet potatoes and substituted sorghum flour for the rice flour. They turned out really good, especially with melted butter brushed on the top. I know, I’ve been trying to avoid dairy, but butter doesn’t seem to bother me.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 Cup Melted Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Cup Sorghum Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Corn Starch
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt

Directions

Cook, then mash the sweet potatoes, then set aside to cool.

Stir in the melted butter and the egg. Mix until smooth. Then add the rice flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. Mix until smooth dough forms. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour. I skipped putting it in the refrigerator and they turned out fine, but the dough might be easier to handle if you do this.

Bright orange weet potato flatbread batter in bowl.

Sweet potato batter ready to cook.

Pre heat oven to 450 F.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll into balls and flatten with lightly (rice) floured fingers. Place onto a greased baking sheet and poke each one with a fork several times. Mine were about 5 inches wide. You could make them larger or smaller. They were about 1/4 inch thick. They didn’t grow very much after they were cooked. Brush with melted butter then sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.

Six flatbreads on baking sheet ready to put in the oven.

Flat breads patted out and ready to put in the oven.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the oven then brush with melted butter once more.

Cooked flatbread on plate.

Cooked and ready to eat.

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

I sat under the tree with my bone and IGNORED the grackle today. Take THAT devil-bird! You aren’t nearly as interesting as my bone!

 

 

 

Jowar

Sorghum is an ancient grain with a colorful history. Today I’d like to share some interesting information about the sorghum eaten in India, known as jowar. The information below comes from a publication by the National Research Council called Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains.

For perhaps 20 centuries, sorghum has been a staple of South Asia. Today, for example, it occupies at least 20 million hectares in India, more area than any other food crop except rice. In monetary terms “jowar,” as it is locally called, is perhaps India’s third most valuable food plant, exceeded only by rice and wheat.

Outsiders have often dubbed this African grain “the great millet of India.” And no wonder. Jowar is an important food over much of the country, and especially in the dry areas of the central and southern states. Millions of Indians eat it. Some use it like rice, but most jowar is milled into flour. More or less white in color, this flour is used especially for making traditional unleavened breads (chapatis). Usually the whole-grain flour is employed, but some jowar is also polished to remove the germ and create a flour with a long shelf life. You can find the recipe for chapati and an instructional video here.

Jowar grain is also malted (germinated), and in this form it finds its way into various processed products, including beer and baby foods. The grains of certain varieties pop like popcorn when heated. Indians eat the light and tasty product directly or as a flavoring in baked goods.

And sorghum feeds more than just India’s people: its stalks are a major source of fodder. According to some reports, nothing can match its combination of high yield and nutritional quality. Varieties with juicy, sweet stalks have been developed. Cattle find those particularly delicious.

Perhaps 80 percent of India’s cultivated sorghums are those (known as “durras”) that are the dominant type in Ethiopia, North Africa, and along the Sahara’s southern fringes. Many improved strains have been developed. They are grown mainly in the plains and rely on the summer rains, although some are grown under irrigation.

Jowar is notably important on the black-cotton soils, which are notoriously difficult to farm. It is one of the few crops that withstands the wildly fluctuating water tables that produce bottomless mud in the wet season and something resembling cracked concrete in the dry. An ability to extract moisture from deep in the heavy vertisol clay is among the crop’s greatest qualities for India.

National Research Council. Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1996.

Here are some Indian recipes using jowar that you might like. I think I might be trying some of these in the future for fun.

Sorghum chapati cooking on griddle.

Here is a chapati I made from sorghum flour.

 

 

Milo graphic

Milo says….

Snoopy quote: “People go through periods in their lives. I’d rather go through EXCLAMATION POINTS!” Snoopy is my hero.