“Focus on what matters and stay positive. Good things will happen.” — Unknown

This is a time of great uncertainty and overwhelming apprehension. Staying focused is so difficult when every day seems to be full of the unknown.

These are the days to feed our bodies calming, centering and cleansing foods. Eating whole grains can play a significant role in attaining some level of peacefulness. When our bodies are calmly fed, then our minds may achieve some sense of focus and direction.

Nutritious and delicious, grains are quite easy to prepare and incredibly versatile. Inexpensive and readily available, grains can be prepared for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Amaranth, barley, bulgur, cornmeal, couscous, oats, brown rice, quinoa and wild rice all belong in a conscious cook’s kitchen.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has the highest nutritional profile of all the grains. High in B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and protein. Quinoa is a sublime endurance food. Athletes may particularly enjoy incorporating more quinoa into their training diets. For those who need gluten-free options, quinoa is a perfect choice. Keep your quinoa sealed up tightly and store it in a cool, dry, dark place where it will last for up to one year.

Brown rice is also a marvelous pantry staple that can help promote excellent digestion, assist with weight management, help quench thirst and alleviate depression and stomach distress. With all the stressors facing us during this unusual time in history, brown rice is a superb choice for calming and focusing food. Enjoying brown rice may also help reduce the severity of asthma and lower the frequency of migraines.

Brown rice contains more B vitamins than all the other grains and also provides iron and vitamin E, as well as being high in fiber and low in sodium. Brown rice digests more slowly than white rice, which helps to maintain energy levels throughout the day.

Be sure to check the expiration date when purchasing brown rice, as the natural oils can cause the rice to go rancid. Store your rice in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer, where it will last for up to a year.

When cooking rice, always rinse it first. Be sure to measure rice and cooking liquid accurately. Set a kitchen timer to prevent under or overcooking. I often saute onion and seasonings in a large skillet first, then add the rice and stir a few times before adding cooking liquid such as chicken or vegetable stock. Keep the pan covered while cooking to prevent steam from escaping and do not stir.

Enjoy the distinct, slightly nutty flavor of calming brown rice as you focus on preparing a delicious life.

Basic Brown Rice

Yields 3 cups

1 cup brown rice

2 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth

Salt to taste

Rinse rice in a bowl of cool water, then strain. Place ingredients in a pan or pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and let simmer for 40-50 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

While rice is still in the pan or pot, try combining with additions such as:

Chopped mango, minced red onion, black beans, lime juice and olive oil.

Sautéed mushrooms, green peas and sesame oil.

Sauteed asparagus, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and olive oil

Stir fried broccoli, carrots, snow peas, soy sauce, and chopped peanuts.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.