Note to Self

Dear Jenny,

You know that feeling you carried around with you all day yesterday? As you shepherded one kid back and forth to the doctor, the other to camp, then back to the library to accomplish ten hours of work in a very crunched three, then back to camp? You know how all day long you felt like you had things together even though you were up the whole night before ruminating over the latest worries playing on your insomnia plex? It was like your brain had just done that 30-minute Metamorphasis workout from Tracy Anderson — its core strong and capable. And this was why? Because you finally did what you’ve been wanting to do for months now — you took a few minutes over the weekend to boil some whole grains so they’d be pret-a-manger for dinner all week long.  If I may be so bold, I think you might call the feeling…euphoria. (Or…psychosis? Two sides of the same coin?) Don’t you know yourself by now? Don’t you know how irrationally happy you feel when you are in control of some corner of your life? Even if it’s just one small corner of your plate? Because when you have a tupperware filled with wheat berries and barley (as you do right now, Praise Be!!) you can do anything! You can even somehow resist the decidedly not whole grain dinner rolls from Trader Joe’s that the kids pick out and that lately Andy has been baking on the grill so they are all smoky and irresistible, especially when smeared with a nice pat of creamy butter. With a stash of cooked whole grains in the fridge, you may not be able to cross off those tasks that always make their way back on the to-do list (just call your d@#% accountant) but you sure can check off tonight’s starch! Which might even look like this:

And true, the kids will probably just try a bite or two, but who cares — they have the simple tomato-corn-red onion salad you made before mixing in the wheat berries and the feta. All you have to do is grill a piece of fish or pan-fry some chicken and you have the makings of the perfect summer dinner: fast, easy, fresh, and enough left over for tomorrow. When you can feel good about yourself all over again.


Big Feel-Good Batch of Barley

Rinse 1 cup of barley under cold water. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil and add barley. Bring to a low boil (not quite as roiling as you would for potatoes), then cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Check after about 40. The grains should be slightly al dente because they’ll cook a little more when they sit in a bowl. Yields about 4 cups cooked barley.

Big Feel-Good Batch of Wheat Berries

Combine 3 cups wheat berries, 4 1/2 cups water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy about 45 minutes to an hour. The berries should be slightly firm. Drain and set aside. Yields about 4 cups cooked wheat berries.

Big Feel-Good Batch of Quinoa

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of quinoa and simmer, covered, until tender, fluffy, and water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, off the heat for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Yields about 4 cups cooked quinoa.

Suggested Mix-ins

-Chopped tomatoes, red onion, fresh corn, feta (or smoked mozzarella), vinaigrette
-Dried cherries, scallions, walnuts, mint, a little blue cheese, plus a mild vinaigrette.
-Chives, mint, parsley, cilantro, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper
-Arugula, pesto, a squeeze of lemon
Charred kale and onions (for wheat berries)
Black beans and cilantro (for quinoa)

Who needs yoga when I can just look at my cooked, tupperware’d, stored, refrigerated wheat berries and feel at peace?

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I love wheat berries! They’re great with sweet things, too. My Lebanese grandmother makes a delicious breakfast of warm wheat berries tossed with sultanas and honey. So good.

6512 and growing

I just found your book at our library. It is absolutely charming. It’s the first cook book I’ve ever considered reading cover to cover. Congratulations.


I’m sitting here completely in awe of how stupid I have been — I do my steel cut oats this way for weekday b’fast, I cook up extra chicken, prep lettuce/veggies, etc. on Sundays. YET, I am constantly irritated making weeknight dinners because “we have to wait for the rice/barley/wheatberries to finish cooking”!!! You, Jenny, are a genius and my hero!!!! And the book is a MUST for all families – I don’t even see how families can properly function without it/this blog!


I highly recommend doubling the grain amount and freezing half. It leads to feeling in control on a night when you don’t know you need it yet! 🙂


Oh, how I love this post. I, too, get so very excited by finally (finally!) following through on an idea that will help me reach a goal of some sort; eat more whole grains, use computer time more wisely, connect & engage with my kid, etc. Alas, I also struggle mightily with the insomnia/ruminating duo.(the illustration is genius) Was up for 3hrs. just last night. Or this morning. Or whatever.
I just love that you wrote yourself a note, and I’m thrilled for your euphoria! And this recipe. Just last week I made two of your summer salads and loved them both. Thanks!


Yes! The massive batch of grain in the fridge is a lifesaver for fast lunches. I like to make a big whack of grain salad with chickpeas and lots of chopped sturdy veg, and then eat it for lunch all week. 🙂


This is a great idea! If I do this Sunday night, how long will this last in the fridge? ‘Til Wednesday? Friday? At what point will I open the lid and make that hrrm noise that means I’m getting dubious about the contents?


Thanks for this post! I just bought barley even though I wasn’t sure how to cook it. I will be adding it to my salads.


Can anyone tell me how long is this will be good in the fridge? I struggle between planning ahead and worrying food has gone bad!


Ditto what Greer said — how long will these last in the fridge? I want to do this but will be so sad if I wind up tossing out food — heartbreaking!

Deb M

Hi, If you have the recipe for the pictured dish, I would really like to make that salad. It is the one with what looks like butternut squash, feta, cilantro and corn in with the wheat berries. Thanks for all of the good ideas!