The Rice Cooker: SooFoo® Whole Grain Mix

Saturday June 25, 2016

Some times during editing a book, our favorite recipes get cut by the ol’ editor. We live with the decision for the betterment of the book, but often not happily. One such cut was the grain mixture SooFoo®, a grain mixture we adore.

SooFoo® (not related to the Foo Fighters heavy metal rock n’ roll band) is a product of the creative mind of San Francisco inventor Maurice Kanbar. Maurice Kanbar is an inventor of many things – from SKYY vodka to the D-Fuzz-It sweater comb. An engineer by training, he holds 36 patents for medical and consumer products. SooFoo® is a blend of nine whole grains and legumes, may be his simplest creation to date, with no electronics and  no precision engineering.

Kanbar got the idea for SooFoo® after his cousin served him the Middle Eastern staple mujadarrah, a homey and savory blend of lentils and white rice. Maurice wondered why it couldn’t be made more healthful with brown rice. Not satisfied, he spent more than a year tinkering, giving the results away and soliciting the opinions of his friends. The formula he settled on includes long grain brown rice; brown, black and green lentils; wheat and rye berries; oats, barley, and buckwheat. When friends asked him what it was he answered, “It’s a super food.” He eventually condensed it to SooFoo®.

Maurice is also a true rice cooker fan, like Julie and myself, believing that the rice cooker is by far the best way to prepare SooFoo®. What can we say except that we agree. SooFoo® is not gluten free.

SooFoo® Original Ingredients

SooFoo® is a blend of nine whole grains and legumes. If you can’t find it at your gourmet or natural foods store, you can purchase it from the website.

Since barley is an ingredient commonly found in beer, there were lots of options to choose from. We picked some farmers from Washington and Idaho.

Black Beluga Lentils
We picked the highest quality lentils we could find, from farms in North Dakota. They are named after an exquisite genre of caviar, because of their small size, color and pedigree.

Brown Lentils
Come from the high plains of Montana and North Dakota, which boast an arid climate for optimal growing.

We went back to North Dakota for our buckwheat, finding some in South Dakota as well.

Green Lentils
It was hard to find the perfect farm from which to get our lentils. Ours come from Washington State.

Long Grain Brown Rice
Sourced from the floodplains of the Sacramento Valley Delta in California.

Steel Cut Oats
Our oats come from some amazing farmers in Utah and Idaho. Steel cut oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) which have been cut into only two or three pieces by steel and contain more bran than regular oats.

Rye Berries
Just our luck that we also found our Rye Berries in North Dakota.

Yera Cora Rojo Wheat Berries

Also known as whole grain wheat, we found these on farms in the San Joaquin Valley in California and the San Luis Valley in Colorado. Wheat berries are a hard little kernel of wheat with the germ and bran and endosperm intact.

Julie created this recipe after a delightful interview with Maurice. He said his interest in healthful food came from his mother, who offered dried fruit as a treat instead of sweets. She also cooked with tofu when he was a boy in New York in the 1930s and ‘40s, long before it entered the American mainstream pantry. This naturally sweet pilaf is a tribute to a woman who was ahead of her time!

SooFoo® can be the basis for innumerable hearty pilafs. This one is slightly sweet because of the apricots and currants. Add the fruit when the grains are about halfway cooked. If you forget, just sauté the fruit in a small skillet on the stove in a couple of teaspoons of butter or oil until the currants are puffed and warm, and stir gently into the completed pilaf before serving. This is a great side dish for Thanksgiving.

Our only suggestion in cooking SooFoo® is to leave it to steam for an extra 10 to 15 minutes. The barley especially seems to benefit from the extra time.

Julie’s SooFoo® Rice Cooker Pilaf

Machine:  Medium (6-cup) or Large (10-cup) rice cooker

Cycle: Regular/Brown Rice

Serves 4


1 tablespoon light olive oil

1 /2 cup chopped white onion

1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic

1 cup raw SooFoo®

1 3 /4 cups chicken stock or water

1 /2 teaspoon salt, if using water or unsalted stock

1  (3-inch) cinnamon stick

1 /4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 /4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 /4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 /4 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons dried currants

3 tablespoons chopped dried apricots


1.Set the rice cooker for the Regular (White Rice) cycle. Place the oil in the rice bowl and close the lid. When oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and replace the lid. Cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the SooFoo® and cook, stirring a few times, until all the grains are evenly coated, hot and fragrant, about 7 minutes.

2.Add the stock (or water and salt), cinnamon stick, coriander, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, and cayenne pepper; stir just to combine. Close the cover and reset for the Regular cycle or let the Regular cycle complete.

3.Set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer buzzes, open the cover, sprinkle the currants and apricots on top of the SooFoo® and quickly close the cover. Do not stir.

4. When the machine switches to the Keep Warm cycle, let the pilaf steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard. Fluff the SooFoo® with a wooden or plastic rice paddle, or wooden spoon, gently incorporating the fruit. This pilaf will hold on Keep Warm for up to 1 hour. Serve hot.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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