I’ve been asked recently by a few people if corn is a whole grain. According to the Whole Grains Council, fresh corn is usually classified as a vegetable and dried corn (including popcorn) as a grain.
Corn is a whole grain if the bran, germ, and endosperm are all left intact, just like whole wheat. If the corn is milled or degermed to remove the bran and germ, then it is a refined grain.
When buying products made with corn, such as corn tortillas, taco shells, or cornmeal, be sure to look for words in the ingredient list like ‘whole corn’ or ‘whole grain corn’ to identify that it is a whole grain. Another way to identify whole grains is to look for the whole grain stamp that was created by the Whole Grains Council and is found on many whole grain products. Some products may also have their own symbol identifying the product is made from a whole grain. However, it is always best to look at the ingredient list to be sure the product is made from a whole grain and that it is the first or one of the first couple ingredients in the product.
Some products might say ‘limed whole grain corn’ or ‘limed corn’ in the ingredient list. Limed corn is corn that has been soaked in limewater as part of the process in preparing it to be used for food preparation. Some benefits of limed corn are that it is more easily ground, the flavor and aroma are improved, and the food safety of the corn is improved. Limed corn can be a whole grain or refined grain so it is still important to look for products made from whole grain corn.
Popcorn is also a whole grain and is a healthy snack, as long as it isn’t covered in butter and salt!
There are many signs that summer is here including hot weather, full swimming pools, and sunlight until after 9 pm! Another sign is that sweet corn is starting to show up at the grocery stores, Farmers’ Markets, and street corners. We planted sweet corn on the farm I grew up on so seeing the sweet corn reminds me of my childhood. I’d spend a day or two in the kitchen with my mom, sister, and grandmas freezing sweet corn so we could enjoy eating it throughout the winter.
Currently, the price of a dozen ears of sweet corn at three different grocery stores in Central Iowa is $6/dozen. Local sweet corn is expected to be in the stores around July 15, later than normal because of the cold, wet spring in the Midwest. The local sweet corn will be a bit cheaper.
When selecting sweet corn, look for the following signs of quality:
- Kernels that are plump. Do not choose ears with kernels that have begun to shrivel or ‘dent’.
- Kernels that are ‘milky’ inside so that when pressed with the fingernail the juice pops out.
- Depending on the variety, yellow corn should have a bright yellow color. White corn should be really white.
- Husks which fit snugly around the ear, look fresh, and have good green color. Do not select ears with husks that are dried, yellowed, or straw-colored which are indications of age or damage.
- Shiny dark brown silk is a sign of well-filled kernels. Silk ends should be free from decay or worm injury.
To get the best flavor from sweet corn, it should be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting because the sugars start converting to starches as soon as the corn is picked. If you need to store the sweet corn, leave the corn in the husk and refrigerate as soon as possible. If the corn has been husked, place it in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Corn that has been blanched and cut off the cob can be frozen for 6 months to a year.
Here are some tips for cooking with fresh sweet corn:
- Don’t add salt to the water when cooking sweet corn because it will toughen the corn.
- Good, fresh sweet corn does not need to be cooked for long. Try cooking it for just 3 minutes, and see how delicious it can be.
- Two to three medium ears of corn are equivalent to approximately 1 pound, depending on ear size. Two medium ears equal approximately 1 to 1 ½ cups of kernels.
For more tips and directions for microwaving, grilling, or boiling sweet corn, check out the Sunshine Sweet website.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about meatless meals on our Facebook page. Choosing to go meatless for a meal or for an entire day is one way to save a little money on your grocery bill. This can be easy at breakfast and lunch, but tends to be a little more difficult at supper time. Even with a husband and a son who like to have meat with their meals, our family enjoys a meatless supper together once or twice each week.
Unfortunately, my post focused only on eggs and nuts as a good source of protein when choosing to go meatless. My family and I love beans as a meatless meal. There are some great bean recipes on the Spend Smart Eat Smart website; each recipe has helpful tips on preparing beans. One of our favorites is Cowboy Caviar. My son likes to eat it plain, but my husband and I spoon it into whole wheat tortillas and top it with some shredded cheese. It also makes a good topping for lettuce salad or a dip for vegetables or tortilla chips.
Besides saving some money on food, meatless meals do have another benefit. They help add variety into a weekly menu. Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and grains) helps us make sure that we are getting all the nutrients we need primarily from food.
We also use soy to add protein to meals when we choose to go meatless, but that is a topic for another post…
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
- 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, cooked
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 3 green onions, sliced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- Stir together kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies, and onions in a large bowl.
- Add lime juice, oil, salt, and pepper; toss gently to combine.
Justine Hoover, MS, RD, LD
Soup is a great comfort food for winter meals, and so good for you too. Our featured recipe for January is Mexican Chicken Soup. Making this soup takes less time than getting in the car and driving through your favorite takeout place. You don’t have to cook the chicken ahead of time. Just place raw boneless chicken in the pot with the other ingredients. After cooking for about 20 minutes, take the chicken out and shred it into bite-size pieces. Serve it with tortilla chips or bread, apple/orange slices and you have a meal with something from each food group plus plenty of fiber. For extra instruction, check out the preparation video under the recipe instructions.
This recipe would be super economical if you made your own chicken broth and cooked dry beans instead of buying them canned; click on the hot links above to see the directions. Another advantage of doing it yourself is that you can control the amount of sodium.
If this soup scores points with your family, check out the other soup recipes in the Cook section of the SpendSmart.EatSmart web page. All our recipes are healthy, low-cost and easy.
Mexican Chicken Soup
- 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (Mexican-style)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups frozen corn or 1 15-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can sodium-reduced chicken broth or 2 cups Homemade Chicken Broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
- Add tomatoes, beans, corn, broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin (if desired), and pepper in large saucepan.
- Remove and discard any visible fat from chicken. Cut chicken into large chunks and add to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
- Remove the chicken and place on a plate; use forks to shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to soup.
- Serve with choice of garnishes, such as baked tortilla chips.
-pointers from Peggy