Premium Podcast Help Contact Dr. Laura Dr. Laura Designs Return to
Join Family Premium Login Family

Simple Savings

10-Second Recipes: Count on Kasha to Kick Up Nutrition

(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)

By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate

Kishka or kasha? Let my confusion lead you to a possibly new-found, yet old-fashioned, delicious family meal. I was trying to remember the difference between the two. I hadn't heard either of those words in a while, not since my Hungarian grandmother used to whip up some Eastern European specialties decades ago.

I misremembered "kasha" being the greasy innards of a sausage casing, seasoned to the hilt. When I saw a "kasha knish" advertised at my local deli counter, I was in a devilish mood and very hungry and, therefore, wanted that childhood oil-fueled memory inside the pastry of the knish. I definitely wanted it more than my usual plain potato knish and even more than the slightly greasy meat in knishes that virtually every deli sells.

When I got home and heated up the kasha knish as an appetizer to my solo meal while my husband worked, I was not quite disappointed in its flavor, but knew there was something off about my memory. Where was that lovely grease? Why did this look like ground beef, but not quite taste like it? Why was it so mild? Suddenly, the word "kishka" popped into my mind.

I then remembered there are two words: "kasha" and "kishka." I quizzed myself, vaguely remembering both from years ago. I zoomed to my computer to look them up. Buckwheat? Kasha is buckwheat?

That's the elusive grain (well technically an Asian plant that many refer to as a grain) I've been reading about that is a health powerhouse and wanting to find in the health food store to include in my usual "superfoods/whole foods" diet. I was all set to cheat with the innards of a sausage casing (that is indeed part of the definition of kishka, a beef casing stuffed with matzo meal, onions and other ingredients, and, which translated from Russian, stems from the word "intestine"), but somehow ended up chowing down on a whole grain within my otherwise rich deli meal. 

Suddenly, I was double-plastic bagging the leftover mound of kasha like the remains of a science experiment. I'd save it and add a bit in the next day or so to some of my other "superfoods." I even improved the wildly less-than-superfood deli cold macaroni salad (made with just about the hugest elbows I'd ever seen) by immediately sprinkling some of the now room temperature kasha on top of it.

It turns out kasha, which I'd had as a kid but never knew was buckwheat, is generally defined in the United States as buckwheat groats, however can be made from any grain, and in Slavic countries loosely means any porridge. In the United States, it's mainly, once seasoned or buttered, a tasty side dish or vegetarian entree that's also as easy to prepare as rice and other more common grains. And its stats, as the health food nuts have been long raving over buckwheat, are quite impressive:

Roasted and cooked, a cup of kasha buckwheat has about: 150 calories; 30 grams of carbohydrates, just 2 grams of sugar and 7 milligrams of sodium, and, like most grains, virtually no fat and cholesterol. The big story, though (in addition to having less calories and carbs than rice) is the cup of buckwheat kasha has about 6 grams protein, putting it in the league of super-hyped "super-grain" quinoa, which at more calories, carbs and fat per cup, has about 8 grams of protein and is known as the one grain that's got all the amino acids of complete proteins like meat. Kasha also has 5 grams of fiber slamming rice and in an equal amount to quinoa. The buckwheat also has 148 milligrams of potassium, compared to zero in quinoa or the 450 milligrams found in a high-potassium food like a banana.

All that good news, as well as the tasty slightly nutty flavor and meat-like texture and appearance (especially when combined with beef or vegetable broth), has had me whipping up old-fashioned easy specialties like the ones below and putting --- on purpose this time --- the kasha knish at the top of my next deli shopping list.

If you feel like tasting kasha without cooking it yourself or going to a delicatessen, there are supermarket products, like Manischewitz brand frozen kasha with bowtie noodle product.

Interesting fare like that below proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!

Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.


8 ounces uncooked buckwheat 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
Sauteed or fried onions and/or mushrooms, to taste (optional)
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pound cooked roast beef, cut into chunks
Yields 2 servings.

Place cookware with buckwheat over medium heat. Stir for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add salt and boiling water, cover tightly, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes or until buckwheat is ready (grains are tender). Carefully drain the excess water (if not all absorbed).

Add sauteed or fried onions and/or mushrooms. Add cream of mushroom soup; stir. Add chunked roast beef, cover, and let to cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil      
2 medium onions, chopped      
1 cup bowties, cooked (farfalle)      
Reserve 1 cup pasta water, for tossing      
Cooked buckwheat kasha (instructions follow)      
Salt, to taste     
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste     
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish      
Yields 4 to 6 servings.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat and cook onions until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Toss with bowties, reserved pasta water, the cooked kasha and salt and pepper. Toss in parsley.

To prepare kasha: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup uncooked buckwheat kasha and 2 cups water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:  David B. Agus, M.D., who also wrote the bestseller The End of Illness, gives lots of important, yet easy to follow, tips in A Short Guide to a Long Life. The entries are brief. In the introduction to his essay Maintain a Dietary Protocol That Works for You, Agus writes: "Should you eat gluten free? Low carb? Vegan? Raw? Low fat? Follow Weight Watchers? In truth, it doesn't really matter as long as you enjoy what you're eating, your body seems to love it, and you're not forcing yourself to adhere to an impossibly strict protocol that probably lacks certain nutrients by virtue of its restrictions.

"I love how Michael Pollan put it... "Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks." Any traditional diet will beat out our processed food culture, and traditional eating habits have worked for centuries among different peoples (with vastly different diets) around the world. These habits include moderating portions, sharing food at a communal table, not going back for seconds and letting hunger build up in between meals (no snacking)." 

Lisa Messinger 
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on
Tags: Budget, Recipes, Simple Savings, Stay-at-Home Mom, Tips
< Back to Simple Savings Archives