Buckwheat recipes, and how I learned what these groats can do

  Have-It-Your-Way Smoothie  with buckwheat groats

Have-It-Your-Way Smoothie with buckwheat groats

When I was asked to do a cooking demo on buckwheat dishes last year, I lied. “I adore cooking with buckwheat,” I said. “I’d love to do the demo.” Actually I’d almost never cooked with buckwheat. In four weeks I had to become a buckwheat ninja, an encyclopedia of buckwheat facts, the Emeril Lagasse of buckwheat “Bam!”

Buckwheat's not a grain

Luckily I learn fast, because I was way off when I started. I thought buckwheat was a grain. It’s actually a seed. Okay, I could deal with that, and it’s a good factoid to have on hand. My second mistake was thinking buckwheat came in only two forms. Actually it comes three ways: flour, raw groats, and roasted groats. Um, what’s a groat?, someone might ask in class. Merriam-Webster’s says a groat is a “hulled grain [ha! could also be a seed, guys] broken into fragments larger than grits.” A groat is a big grit? Well, I know corn grits from the South are one step coarser than cornmeal, and cornmeal comes in fine, medium, and coarse. Jeez, do I need to memorize all the gradations of meal, grits, and groats? If asked, I decided, I’ll keep it vague.

Exploring raw groats

I found the raw and roasted buckwheat groats in the bulk section of my supermarket—meaning a lot of people must be cooking with buckwheat. They were sure keeping quiet about it. And I hoped none of them would come to my class. 

What do you do with a raw groat? A lot of people make breakfast porridge or they cook and serve it like rice. Those are okay, but a tiny bit boring. I wanted something out of the ordinary. I found an amazing way to use raw groats in a smoothie! You soak the groats and some nuts in water for several hours before putting them together with frozen bananas, frozen berries, dates, and water. Once you liquefy for a minute or so, the groats and nuts are completely dissolved, and you have a healthy smoothie with a luxuriously creamy texture. No yogurt, no milk, no sugar. I felt like I’d cracked open a secret cabinet of miracle ingredients. 

On to roasted groats

Now that the raw buckwheat groats were a slam dunk, I moved on to the roasted groats. I knew that these roasted groats were also called kasha, because I’d had some leftover kasha in my pantry for years before I threw them out. I’d made a vegetarian version of “Kasha Varnishkes” before I went vegan. It’s an old Eastern European Jewish dish with bowtie pasta and roasted buckwheat, usually flavored with goose, duck, or chicken fat. In the vegetarian version, the dry groats were stirred up with a raw egg and toasted in a pan before adding vegetable broth to cook them. So now, no egg. Could I recreate this dish without it? I remember liking it a lot. I dug around and found a wonderful vegan version that introduces dill and mushrooms for flavoring. There’s actually no added oil, and the dish still bursts with flavor. Two for two!

Buckwheat flour

It was easy to find buckwheat flour recipes (pancakes and cookies lead the pack) and dishes made with soba noodles, i.e., buckwheat noodles originally hailing from Japan. I chose a pancake recipe with no added oil and just a few mini chocolate chips for sweetness. My cabbage-soba noodle slaw, with a peanut-sesame dressing, rocked. The cookies with cocoa nibs came out sandy and delicious. 

I was ready. I made the samples, packed up the demo ingredients, and drove off to my date with buckwheat destiny. 

The recipes

Breakfast

Chocolate Chip Coconut Pancakes – The coconut flakes and buckwheat flour give these pancakes a fantastic texture and flavor. The chocolate chips mean you can skip the syrup, a nice change of pace. 

Have-It-Your-Way Smoothie - Soaked raw buckwheat groats and almonds form the basis of this dreamy, creamy berry smoothie. This is so worth a try.  

Dessert

Nibby Butter Buckwheat Cookies– Studded with cocoa nibs, these cookies have a wonderful sandy texture. They aren’t sweet, but the subtle pleasure they bring will have you reaching for them over and over.

Entree

Kasha Varnishkes – One of the attendees at my demo recalled Kasha Varnishkes as a staple at her grandmother’s house. She tried this no-added-fat, vegan version, and said, “This is exactly how it’s supposed to taste.” Woo hoo! The layers of flavors and texture in this dish work incredibly well.                                                                                                                 

Salads

Noodle-Vegetable Salad with Peanut-Sesame Dressing - The cabbage slaw and buckwheat noodles provide a super accompaniment to the peanut-sesame dressing's zing. You can taste all the subtle notes that make this a great alternative to coleslaw—fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. 

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Six Amazing Oil-Free Salad Dressings

For a long time I was skeptical about oil-free salad dressings. How could you possibly get that creamy texture and the perfect coating of lettuce leaves without oil? Well, I have been proven wrong, but it took a lot of experimentation. I tried out dozens of recipes that ended up in nasty stuff going into the garbage. But I found few gems, and some I shaped and polished further. Oh, and gems they are! There are only five of them so far, but each one is delicious (to me at least, and to the people I shared them with at a recent cooking workshop). 

You'll notice a gaping hole here, though. There's no vinaigrette. I haven't succeeded at creating a good enough oil-free vinaigrette recipe. Please post one if you have it. The emulsion of oil into vinegar, lemon juice, or other liquid is very tough to imitate. I've tried recipes with ground up chia seeds, flaxseed meal, and some that just leave the oil out. Nothing has worked for me yet. Any ideas? 

Amazing Oil-Free Salad Dressings

Jill's Oil-Free Creamy Sunflower Seed Dressing (or Sauce)

Peanut Dressing

No-Oil Carrot Ginger Dressing

Sanctuary Dip (Ranch Dressing)

Green Goddess Garlic Dressing

Gracious Vegan Oil-Free Tahini Dressing

 

 

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A Dozen Plant-Based Recipes Using Greens

Greens are healthy, versatile, gorgeous, and readily available. I recently found out some things about greens’ amazing nutritional benefits:

 See Basic Green Soup

See Basic Green Soup

  • Greens are the best source of lutein and zeaxanthin, the antioxidants that may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

  • Greens are the best source of plant-based nitrates, which may play a role in the prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure.

  • Consumption of greens and cruciferous vegetables appears be linked to lower rates of cognitive decline.

  • Greens provide antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

  • As an added bonus, intake of greens is associated with reduced facial wrinkling. For more information on this discovery, see a summary of the study.

Here are some of my favorite recipes featuring greens.

Appetizers

Entrees

Salads

Sides

Soups

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Two Meatless Dinner Party Menus

Sometimes it’s hard to think of complementary dishes for a satisfying meal, especially if you’re new to meatless cooking. Here are two ideas for your consideration. They work at our house.

Saucy Plates

If you have 4 or more people (and this is good for a crowd), consider serving this meal buffet-style. Set up the dishes on a counter, and everyone can walk by and take as much or as little as they want, constructing their own unique combination of ingredients.

Thai One On

Here’s the way we eat Thai curry--a bit of fusion going on with Chinese-inspired spring rolls, but it works.

 

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Healthy Broccoli and Cauliflower Recipes

These two cruciferous vegetables are packed with nutrients and definitely worth the trouble to work into your daily, or at least weekly, diet. For more on the specifics of their potential to help your immune system, liver function, cholesterol levels, and cancer risk, start with this short summary and follow links from there.

The great thing about these vegetables is their texture—they stand up to many different kinds of cooking (roasting, boiling, etc.) as well as freezing (raw or cooked). While they have a strong flavor, the right spicing and complementary ingredients make for dishes with a lot of taste impact. 

Entrees

Sides

Soups

Breakfast

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Menu Ideas for a Plant-Based Christmas

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Plant-based holiday recipes are awesome! Here are some ideas for various occasions that may take place around Christmas.

WFPBNO = whole-food plant-based, no oil

For a Soup-Centered Christmas Eve Dinner

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Gracious Vegan Corn Chowder (WFPBNO) is a creamy, indulgent soup that is filling enough to be an entree in itself.

Spinach Salad with Curry Dressing (WFPBNO) has a unique dressing that surprises and pleases.

Bread or other accompaniments

For an Open House or Cocktail Party

Olive Tapenade (WFPBNO) is an intense olive spread that you either love or hate…. needless to say, I love it.

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Whole Wheat Flour Tortilla Crisps are a great, tasty way to use leftover tortillas, and baking them makes them much healthier than tortilla chips.

Gracious Vegan Potato and Pea Samosas — these baked (not deep-fried) samosas are great as hors d’oeuvres — easy to pop into your mouth in two bites.

Almond Feta Cheese  (WFPBNO) is wonderful on crackers.

Indian-Spiced Cashews are addictive and perfect for an open house—be sure to make a couple of batches and hide some for yourself for later.

Holiday Entrees

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Hearty Vegan Vegetable Lasagna (WFPBNO) is perfect for the a festive sit-down or buffet meal.

Spinach-Mushroom No-Bake Enchiladas (WFPBNO) are great for the holidays if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

Pesto Stuffed Shells with Pan Sauce are lovely on the plate and feature the delicious taste of pesto in every bite.

Gracious Vegan Vegetable Pot Pie is comfort food at its finest; no one will miss meat with this one.

Desserts

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Gracious Vegan Fruitcake has no eggs and uses dried, not candied, fruit; this recipe has been an annual tradition in our family for years!

Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake (WFPBNO) proves the indispensability of almond flour! This moist cake taste amazing!

Rich and Creamy Vegan Tiramisu features a cashew-based vegan mascarpone that will knock your socks off.



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Gracious Vegan's Favorite Plant-Based Thanksgiving Recipes

I love Thanksgiving!

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Aside from all the other cool things about the day, it’s a chance to make all your favorite traditional dishes, whether they go back to your childhood or only a few years. I now have so many “special” dishes that I can’t fit them all into one day—and that doesn’t count new recipes I still want to try. I’ll probably spill them into Christmas meal planning or wait until next year.

I hope you find a few great plant-based Thanksgiving recipes here to try. All of the recipes I recommend have been tested with picky omnivores, meaning for each vegan dish you make, you should be able to replace another dish rather than increase the total number. 

Here is the line-up of my favorite Thanksgiving-worthy recipes. I hope you try a few of them. Enjoy!

(WFPBNO = whole-food plant-based no-oil recipes)

Entrees

Sides

Gravy and Dressing

Potatoes

Other vegetables

Cranberries

Desserts

Apple

Pecan

Sweet Potato and Pumpkin

Chocolate

Other

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