Friday, May 8, 2009

Bonzo for Buckwheat

M is for Marathons and the month of May is your time to shine! On your mark. Get set….Eat. Eat your buckwheat! Scarf down a few of these Marathon Buckwheat Energy Bars and you’ll be sailing over the finish line, celebrating the time of your life.

Buckwheat is a good source of dietary fibre, high in minerals and nutrients like iron, B vitamins, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorous and loaded with potassium. Potassium, also found in bananas, helps to regulate blood pressure and plays a key role in good muscle function. If you dare to invite buckwheat to your next pre-marathon brunch, lunch or dinner beware of his defensive alter-ego personality. Make no mistake, he is not a wheat and, he will emphatically correct anyone who dares to even remotely connect him to the wheat family. He is gluten-free and proud of it! Just so you know—and don’t offend his lineage—buckwheat grains are triangular shaped seeds from a grass-like herb. The name is from the German word for “triangular seed”. The hulled, raw seed is known as a “groat” and the dried, toasted groat is called Kasha. Buckwheat flour is made from groats and can be used for pancakes, bread, muffins and yes, pre-marathon energy bars. Mr. Buckwheat flexes a high-quality protein and boasts lysine and several essential amino acids not found in most grains. Lysine helps the body absorb and conserve calcium, lower cholesterol and improve the formation of collagen, necessary for healthy bone, skin, tendon and cartilage growth. Aside from being a fountain of youth, Buckwheat’s got a sweet spot too and doubles as an allergy-free puff-daddy by night. His nectar is used to make Buckwheat honey and pillows stuffed with his aspirated buckwheat hulls guarantee sneeze-free slumbers for folks allergic to feathers, dust and pollen. Just recently, Canadian researchers found new evidence that extracts from the buckwheat seed could help in the management of diabetes. Diabetic rats that dined on buckwheat seed extracts managed to lower their blood glucose levels by 12 to 19 percent. Yet another reason to celebrate with another round of buckwheat pancakes!

Aside from being an all-around healthy choice, Buckwheat’s a home-grown, Canadian boy too, well-established as a special crop, grown and raised on Canada’s eastern prairies since the late 1960’s. Today, about 70% of Canada’s total buckwheat is produced in Manitoba, with Ontario and Quebec growing the rest.

Interested in cruising for Buckwheat? You’ll find him in bulk and health food stores and some grocery stores. I found him (Buckwheat Flour) in a Bulk Barn bin in Ottawa, brought him home and adapted this recipe from the Canadian Special Crops Association website at: http://www.specialcrops.mb.ca/crops/CSCABuckwheatBrochure.pdf where you’ll find even more amazing all-Canadian Buckwheat recipes.

Marathon Buckwheat Energy Bars
1/3 c Buckwheat flour
1 ½ cups very finely chopped nuts [I used this combo: ½ c peanuts, ½ c almonds, ¼ c walnuts, ¼ c pecans]
¼ c coconut
1/3 c sesame seeds
1 cup chopped raisins or dried apricots [I also tried ½ c raisins and ½ c chopped mixed Christmas fruit]
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c butter
1/3 c Buckwheat honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together Buckwheat flour, nuts, coconut, sesame seeds, raisins and cinnamon. Melt butter and Buckwheat honey together in the microwave on high for about one minute. Stir well, then stir in vanilla. Mix flour mixture and honey mixture together. Stir until well blended. Lightly spray grease an 8”x 8” cake pan. Pour mixture into pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Turn pan around at halftime and lower temperature to 325 F if edges brown too quickly. Allow bars to cool in pan after baking. When cooled, cut into squares/bars. Makes 16 bars if cut into four rows and four columns.