Farina is a milled cereal grain, usually made from wheat germ and the inner parts of wheat kernels called the endosperm. Sometimes, rice or potatoes can be milled and given this name too, but typically it’s considered wheat cereal. It has a very bland taste, which makes it adaptable to numerous toppings when it is prepared as a hot cereal, the typical preparation. Since it is so finely ground, it cooks quickly, and remains one of the more popular hot cereal choices.
Many people may be familiar with farina when sold as Cream of Wheat® or Malt-o-Meal®, which comes in quick cook and even instant varieties. A small amount of the grain is added to boiling water, and in a short amount of time, it quickly absorbs the water, producing hot cereal. Shoppers can even find some individual sized microwaveable packets. Some people vary the recipe by cooking it in milk instead of water, making it creamier and higher in protein.
Farina has a fairly high protein content, even when cooked in water. A serving of 1 cup (251 g) of the prepared cereal has only about 120 calories and contains close to 4 grams of protein. The grain is often sold in enriched form and may contain iron and calcium, and depending upon brand, it may be enriched with folate. Enriching with iron and calcium at the same time doesn’t make a lot of sense, since calcium absorption is inhibited by iron.
Toppings can range from a bit of white or brown sugar and butter, to slices of fruit, honey, syrup or jam. Since the cereal is often thought to be easily digestible, it might be a good idea to keep these toppings to a minimum at first. When it's introduced into a baby’s diet, parents should not sweeten it much. Infants eating solid foods for the first time are particularly good about eating fairly plain foods without complaint. If they do want a little sweetening, try mixing the cereal with plain unsweetened applesauce, or mashed banana.
Farina can also be used as a thickening agent for puddings, and may occasionally substitute for part of the wheat flour in baked goods. Since the protein value of this grain is fairly good, using it in this manner can be a nice means of enhancing the nutritional quality of certain foods. It’s unlikely to be noticed in these foods because it has such a mild taste.