Whole grains are the backbone of the vegan or vegetarian diet. Every culture and cuisine adds to the diverse flavors and textures of whole grains we have to choose from. Choices range from ancient indigenous super food grains like quinoa and amaranth to the standard oats, whole wheat, brown rice, millet, barley, and more. Consuming a wide variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds ensures balanced nutritional intake.
“Whole grain” means the entire seed grain is intact including the bran, germ, and endosperm, delivering a unique, complete nutritional package. Whole grains are rich in B vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber, which is associated with reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and helping to maintain healthy weight. Whole grains help stabilize blood sugar and insulin and have a lower glycemic index that refined grains. They contain disease fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals, some of which are not available in fruits and vegetables, plus complex carbohydrates not available in refined grains.
Freshly ground flours from whole grains contain optimum nutrition. Once the grain is broken open, the oils in the germ will start to oxidize and go rancid. A home grain grinder to freshly grind flour as needed is a great tool to have. One-third cup of whole grain yields one-half cup of flour. If you don’t have a home grain grinder, small portions of most grain can be ground in a coffee grinder. If you buy flour already ground, keep it in the freezer to maintain its nutritional value.
Flaxseed, classified as a seed, not a grain, has an impressive nutritional profile including being rich in potassium, magnesium, and boron. It has the highest LNA (alpha-linoleic acid) content of any known food, the lowest omega-6:omega-3 ratio, and richest known source of lignans, a potent anticarcinogen. Studies have shown flaxseed to lower cholesterol and reduce triglyceride levels, and lower blood pressure.
Having a hard shell gives flaxseed a long shelf life, but it must be ground for the body to be able to fully utilize its’ potential benefits. For the chemistry of cooking, ground flaxseed mixed in soymilk or other dairy-free milks (or even water) makes a great egg replacer for baking. The mixture will thicken into a consistency very similar to egg white. Warming the liquid speeds up the thickening process.
The vegan Whole Grain Pancakes recipe that follows combines whole grain flours and flaxseed with soymilk and tofu for a power-packed breakfast. The whole grains can be varied for diversity and any leftover pancakes can be frozen and then popped in the toaster later for a quick pick up treat.
Whole Grain Pancakes (adapted from Tofu Quick & Easy)
Makes 12 (3 inch) pancakes
The “Cottage Cheese Pancakes” that my mother used to make on Sunday mornings inspired this moist pancake recipe. Mashed or crumbled tofu replaces the cottage cheese for these vegan pancakes. Flax seed mixed in soymilk serves as an egg replacer. Use whatever combination of whole grain flours that you like– below is one example of the possibilities. These pancakes can be made gluten-free by combining quinoa, corn, amaranth, and gluten-free rice flours. You may have to add a bit more soymilk depending on how much liquid is absorbed by the grains. Grains absorb liquid differently depending on the type and age of the grain. This is an easy dry pancake mix to make in bulk at home. Store it in a sealed container in the freezer. Serve the pancakes with maple or agave syrup and Soysage or Tempeh Sticks.
Mix together and let stand until thickened (about ½ hour):
- 2 ½ cups soymilk
- ¼ cup ground flax seed
- Mix together:
- ½ cup cornmeal
- ½ cup barley flour
- ½ cup oat flour
- ½ cup unbleached or whole-wheat flour
- ½ tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
Pour in the soymilk-flax mixture and stir with a whip just until blended, and then stir in:
- ½ pound regular tofu, mashed or crumbled
- Pour onto a hot oiled griddle using 1/3 cup per pancake, and cook until browned on both sides.
- Blueberry Whole Grain Pancakes: Stir in 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries with tofu.
- Apple Whole Grain Pancakes: Stir in 1 cup grated apple with the tofu.