A Few of My Favorite Things

When it comes to tasty baking combinations, these days it’s hard to beat buckwheat groats, tahini, and honey. And here we have a cookie with all three—plus a surprise crunch factor thrown in for entertainment value!

This idea comes from a gluten-free cookie re-engineered from Gluten Free Girl – an excellent site for all things gluten-free.  These soft, moist, fiber rich cookies are the perfect purveyor for any of your favorite additions: perhaps a handful of trail mix or a combo of dried fruit, seeds & nuts, and/or white or dark chocolate.

In this case, the star is roasted buckwheat groats, well known for its characteristically earthy, nutty taste. I’m partial to its toasty/tobacco flavor that’s reminiscent of cooler seasons. Buckwheat’s hard outer hull must be removed for it to become fully edible. Since it has no gluten, buckwheat flour is often used as a substitute for wheat flour.

Although it is frequently associated with grains, buckwheat is a seed related to sorrel and rhubarb. That’s welcome news since seeds are literally jam-packed with minerals and antioxidants. Once toasted the buckwheat groats are called kasha. If the roasted variety is too strong, try the milder, unroasted buckwheat as a delicious rice substitute.

Even though these cookies are effortless to whip up, they do require a little advance planning. Allow a 30-minute soak for the groats to achieve their iconic texture, and one-hour chill time to firm-up the dough before baking.

So fond am I of these cookies, I have taken to making two different sizes. In a 10”x10” pan I portion out nine large 3-tablespoon/scoops—large enough for on-the-run happy meals.  In an 11” round pan, I layout approximately ten rounded tablespoon-sized cookies—ideal for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.  Or, for a slightly more logical solution you could make about 20 cookies, but that’s just how I roll…

All-Occasion Buckwheat Cookies

Greatly reworked from a gluten free concept, 3:30PM Cookies at Gluten-free Girl.

Ingredients
¾ cup buckwheat groats
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg or ½ tsp ground ginger
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
¼ cup tahini
½ cup honey
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup spelt or whole wheat flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup favorite fruit/nut mix (or ¼ cup each nuts/seeds, dried cranberries, white chocolate)

Instructions

  1. To soak the buckwheat groats: melt the coconut oil in microwave for 30-40 seconds. Stir in the tahini to combine, then add the honey.  In a small mixing bowl, measure ¾ cup groats along with the cinnamon and nutmeg or ginger. Pour the warm coconut oil mixture over the groats. Stir well and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.  Pour the soaked buckwheat mixture over it. Add the egg and stir with a spatula to combine. Add the trail mix and blend.
  3. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
  5. Using 3 Tbsp scoop, place 9 on baking sheet. Shape into flat cylinders. Bake 17-18 minutes until golden brown and set on edges.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet, then move to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat making 1 pan of smaller rounded tablespoon cookies. Yield: @ 20 2-1/2 to 3” cookies.

Breakfast of Champions

muesli with oranges

I was a non-believer before this cereal.

For years the idea of consuming anything beyond coffee before 10AM was downright repulsive and I saw no reason to aimlessly stuff food down my gullet without seriously enjoying it.   On the weekends, brunch was a civilized concept that I could wrap my brain around:  a well presented tasty meal, designed for leisurely pleasure.  Now we’re talking.

When my schedule shifted and I needed high energy and all the smarts I could muster first thing in the morning― with little hope for food until late afternoon― I knew I had to adjust my eating habits.  For a while I relied on homemade breakfast bars.  Although that wasn’t enough to make it until 3PM or later, it did get my stomach programmed to tolerate early AM food.

I considered a lot of breakfast options and kept returning to a cereal of some sort―more out of convenience, but I wasn’t happy. Ready-made cereal was out of the question, and most cooked cereals were heavy and uninteresting.  I needed food with staying power.  I liked muesli, the European cereal with whole grains that are soaked, perhaps toasted, but not cooked. It’s probably the precursor to granola, but sadly most granola sinks into a disappointing sugar/fat saturated imitation of the real thing.

So this is the point where original muesli and I parted ways.  I opted for a similar ingredient profile, but headed toward a cooked version that would provide some of the enticing creaminess I yearned for. I love oats, so they would serve as my base.  I continued to tinker.  Over time, I hammered out what worked for me and developed a simple method to bring it all together.  My local market’s bulk food section became a regular hangout.

My standard grain combination is based on a good quality oat multi-grain blend―essentially 5 grains featuring rolled oats, flaxseed, rye, barley, triticale and whole wheat.  I beef that up further with my own five grains:  equal amounts of steel-cut oats to reinforce the oats, bulghur wheat, and buckwheat groats―for their nutty, musky, flavor. (I learned that buckwheat is unrelated to wheat, and even more nutritious; it is a great substitute for those who are gluten intolerant). Finally, millet is included for the creaminess component, I discovered mild-mannered millet has great binding qualities when thoroughly cooked.

Dried fruit is a regular in my muesli; golden raisins are a superb addition for their natural sweetness.  Other favorites:  dried cranberries, apricots, and even prunes (dried plums).   On occasion, I cut up an apple with skin on and add it with the dried fruit at the end of cooking.

hot cereal in pot
A variation including quinoa, dried apricots and cranberries

There’s no getting around it, cooking whole grains takes time, but I have learned I can make up a big pot once a week.  I have an electric kettle that I fire up with plenty of water.  In a 2-3 quart pot I heat 3-4 cups salted boiling water.  The grains are divided into 2 groups, the first batch cooks for about 20 minutes, with a couple more cups water added to thin.  The 5-grain oats are added and cooked for an additional 10-15 minutes.  Then, the dried fruit, perhaps an apple, plus a bit of cinnamon or other sweet spice are  stirred in, they continue to cook until the fruit is softened,  another minutes. As the cereal cooks I stir in more hot water to thin as needed since the cereal continues to thicken as it cools.  In all, I allow about 30 to 40 minutes total cooking time.

muesli and berries
Hot muesli with custard sauce and berries

A batch will store for up to a week in a sealed container in the fridge.  In the morning, I spoon the day’s portion into a microwaveable bowl.  When ready, I pop it into the microwave and heat until it is piping hot, about 2 minutes, and top it with a large dollop of plain yogurt and a spoonful of marmalade, jam, honey or agave. For a very special treat, it is delicious topped with homemade Custard Sauce and perhaps a few fresh berries.

I have to finally admit it, cereal really can be a great way to start the day.  I am no longer threatened by those extreme highs and lows, I can remain focused, my appetite stays in check, and I get the job done without becoming completely frazzled. It’s all built on a breakfast of champions.

CB’s Hot Muesli     

Named after the European cereal of soaked or toasted whole grains, my cooked version is still full of fiber and texture, but its creaminess adds another satisfying dimension.   Consider other grains like barley, triticale, quinoa, etc.  It can be stored well covered in the refrigerator for several days.

Ingredients

8 cups boiling water, divided
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
1/3 cup bulghur wheat
1/3 cup buckwheat groats
1/3 cup millet
1 cup 5- grain whole oats or any other oat-based blend
1/3 cup golden raisins, or dried apricots, currants or cranberries
1 apple, cut into large dice
½ tsp cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg or a combination

Directions

  1. In 2-3 qt pot, bring 3 cups salted water to a boil. Stir in the steel-cut oats, bughur wheat, buckwheat groats, and millet.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.  Add 1-2 cups hot water to thin as it thickens.
  2. Stir in the 5-grain oat blend and cook an additional 10-15 minutes; add hot water if it becomes too thick.
  3. Stir in the dried fruit, apple and spice and simmer another 5 minutes to soften the fruit.