getting back to the grain

Well. This is certainly the blog post that didn't want to get written.

I have sat down in front of the computer no less than three times already, trying to fill in these gaps between photos. I have filled them in. I have then deleted the filling. I have been interrupted by children and siblings and my lovely husband, waylaid by much-needed sleep and impromptu dinner parties and evenings playing on the beach. I have thought about what I want to say during long car trips, and fretted over this unfinished post even as I scheme up and craft new recipes. In short, I have been gratefully living a busy summer life, which just so happens to include infrequent moments in this chair, in front of this screen.

I think this is a good thing. But it's also ironic, since the post I had mentally written and rewritten (and typed out a fair amount of) for well over a week was all about the other kind of busy, the kind that fills your time when you're not running around doing things, the kind that's more cerebral than physical, more introspective than outgoing. The kind that, until this afternoon, I had mistakenly believed described my life recently.

Hahaha, the joke's on me, obviously. When I actually took a moment to wonder why I was having such a hard time getting this post done, I realized that I've been running all around the state recently! Imagine that! How did I not notice? This fragment from the now long gone former post was my first hint:

And after all this? That's not even what I'm here to tell you about today. I sat down at the computer to talk about breakfast, and incorporating more whole grains and less refined sugars into the beginnings of your day, and using the cool morning hours to play in front of the stove, since you know that by 10am you'll want nothing more to do with flames and heat for the rest of the day.

Hmm. It seems that even my writing was scattered and confused and off-topic. Surely the sign of a busy mind that can't quiet itself enough to get into the zone. I was so busy and frazzled that I didn't have time to realize I was busy and frazzled! No wonder the writing didn't feel right to me - it was a completely inaccurate description of my life at the time. Off-topic indeed.

So, let's get back on topic, shall we? Back to wholegrain breakfasts and other such goodness. Because I really want to share this recipe with you, and also because {ahem} I have some not-so-healthy treats coming down the pike that I'm anxious to get to.

It should be well-known by now that we're a pancake-loving family. And that's probably not going to change. But I must admit I've been impatiently brushing aside a small nagging voice in the back of my head who calls out to me every time I make our favorite pancake recipe: Really? You're starting your kids' day with white sugar AND corn syrup? And all those refined starches? Not to mention whatever they're going to pour all over it? That voice has finally gotten too loud to ignore.

I decided we needed a new pancake recipe, not to replace our old favorite, but to supplement it, to alternate with. Something I can feel better about feeding to my family on a regular basis. This, plus some inspiration from a recent Martha Stewart Living article rhapsodizing about corn in all its various forms, resulted in pancakes that are reminiscent of sweet cornbread, made entirely from whole grains and without any refined sugar.

They're good. They're also a bit thicker than the ones you see here - the photo shoot happened with an earlier batch, whereas the batch from the final recipe was eaten quickly, as we were preparing to go away for several days. There was no time for cameras and scrims and props.

I don't think these pancakes will ever replace our standard ones - they're too different. For one, all that cornmeal makes them taste unlike any pancake we're used to, hence the name 'corn cake.' Also, I don't think I want to stud them with blueberries like regular pancakes, although a lovely blueberry compote alongside would be much welcomed.

But the ways in which these corn cakes differ from pancakes are actually the aspects that most endear them to me. I love the floral sweetness of the honey and vanilla against a backdrop of earthy corn. I love the hearty, somewhat chewy texture, that in no way is going to be confused for a pastry. I love using buckwheat and millet flours, two grains which don't normally get star treatment in my kitchen. And, truth be told, I love the way Steen's cane syrup is the perfect topper, giving me another excuse to use this much-hoarded liquid sweetener.

So here we are. I finally finished writing this (see Tara? It wasn't that hard!), and you get a recipe for a quick, easy, and - most importantly - healthy breakfast. Or dinner. Because breakfast-for-dinner is a wonderful thing, made even more wonderful when it's composed of whole grains and good protein. And as a parent who has lived through it far too many times for comfort, I can say that children high on refined sugar at bedtime is not a good thing. These corn cakes are a delicious solution.

Buckwheat Corn Cakes
yields approximately 1 dozen corn cakes

3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp guar gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup buttermilk 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

August 10, 2010 edit: when we made these on our camping trip, we added some melted butter to the batter - about 2 Tbsp. They were even more perfect than before. You may want to follow suit.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Add the milk, buttermilk, eggs, honey, and vanilla and stir to combine. (There can be some small lumps in the batter, but try to stir out any large clumps.)

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and brush with your favorite fat (I usually use butter, but canola or coconut oil works in a pinch, and I've also been known to use bacon drippings. I realize there are people who will prefer to use a non-stick cooking spray, and that's fine too.) Ladle the batter by the quarter-cup into the pan and cook the corn cakes until the edges are dry and bubbles burst at the surface, and the bottoms are golden brown. (If they're cooking too quickly, turn down the heat; I find every batch of pancakes, regardless of the recipe, seems to cook at its own rate.) Flip, and cook until the other side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter, adding additional fat/spray to the pan as needed.

If they aren't being eaten immediately, put the corn cakes on a plate, cover with foil, and keep warm in a 200° oven. Corn cakes should be served warm, with good butter and your favorite syrup. Fruit and/or bacon also make great accompaniments.


  1. I recently made my first batch of Buckwheat pancakes and everyone loved them. They look great so I will surely give this recipee a go next time (minus the eggs, vego ; ) = krsta

  2. One Pair Two Pear - buckwheat is a really under-appreciated grain, isn't it? I love it though! I think these corn cakes would work fine without eggs, and I'm sure you're used to adapting recipes. Do you use egg replacer? I've also heard that ground flax is a good stand-in for eggs, and it would also up the nutritional value even more! Good luck!


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