As 2018 winds down, Ardent Mills, a North American flour supplier and grain innovator, looks back at some grain-based culinary trends that emerged this year. “We had an exciting year with the launch of our new business unit, The Annex by Ardent Mills (The Annex). Introducing The Annex at the year’s industry events provided great opportunities to showcase new ideas for using specialty grains and innovative formats, like crisps or puffed grains and individually quick frozen (IQF) grains,” says Shrene White, general manager of The Annex.


The culinary team at Ardent Mills created on-trend menus and CPG-ready manufacturing ideas, inspiring industry leaders to consider plant-based, grain foods in new and convenient ways. Here are five ideas:


1. IQF grains for dipping

At the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 2018 tradeshow in May, Ardent Mills showcased on-trend menu ideas for bringing whole grains, crisped grains and individually quick frozen (IQF) grains to restaurant tables in innovative ways.

“IQF grains have a nice chewy texture, which makes them work in unexpected places,” notes Chef Jason Gronlund, technical sales manager, foodservice, The Annex. He created a Boulder County “Caviar” using ancient and heirloom grains inspired by the classic bean-based Cowboy “Caviar.” The Annex by Ardent Mills is proud to offer these unique grains, which he featured in IQF form in a verde tomato salsa “caviar” with Nature’s Color™ IQF Pure-Purple Barley, White Sonora Wheat Berries, Spelt and Sustagrain Barley. “IQF grains are easy to incorporate in menu development and eliminate any guess work in cooking to optimal doneness,” notes Gronlund.


2. Fried snacks

Also at the NRA Show, Chef Joel Thompson, Ardent Mills corporate R&D chef, and the culinary team created a Great Grains Falafel featuring Ardent Mills Great Plains Quinoa, Red Quinoa, Nature’s Color IQF Pure-Purple Barley, White Sonora Wheat Berries, Spelt and Sustagrain Barley paired with the traditional flavors of coriander, toasted cumin, mustard seed, curry and lemon. “The grains create a crisp exterior and moist center for fried snacks,” says Thompson.


3. Quick and convenient grain bowls

At the annual Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Meeting & Food Expo Show in June, Chef Thompson and the culinary team showed manufacturing industry professionals how North American grown quinoa, IQF grains, crisps and other grain innovations can meet the demand for delicious and wholesome packaged foods. Multigrain bowls with chewy, hearty IQF White Sonora, IQF Purple Barley, IQF Sustagrain and IQF Red Quinoa can be topped with dried fruit and nuts for breakfast or fajita-style chicken, Korean BBQ or curries for lunch and dinner.


4. Authenticity and regionality

For a group of foodservice editors at the annual International Foodservice Editors Conference (IFEC) in late October, Chef Gronlund created Pozole de Trigo, a traditional dish from the Sonora region of Mexico. Pozole usually features hominy corn, but in rural Sonora, wheat Pozole, or Pozole de Trigo is the local version and features regional Sonora wheat. Chef Gronlund’s Pozole de Trigo showcased Ardent Mills’ White Sonora Wheat, which was a staple wheat in the U.S. during the 1700s and 1800s, and today is enjoying a rediscovery. Ardent Mills featured White Sonora Wheat flour tortillas in a dish of Multigrain Chilaquiles with IQF Red Quinoa and IQF Great Plains Quinoa at the IFT Show.


5. Fiber-packed smoothies

Chef Gronlund also showed the IFEC crowd how Sustagrain, Ardent Mills’ proprietary and identity-preserved high-fiber barley, can transform a smoothie from a treat to a delicious, fiber-packed snack or meal replacement. Soluble and insoluble fiber, when part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, help maintain digestive health and increased satiety. This recipe combines the fiber and protein content of IQF Sustagrain, Great Plains Quinoa and Spelt with pumpkin pie puree, pumpkin pie spices, agave and Skyr, a cultured high-protein yogurt popular in Iceland.