Gluten-free, whole-grain delights at Canyon Ranch


Most people go to Canyon Ranch for the restorative programs, meditative environment and rejuvenation. I went to Canyon Ranch for the buckwheat.

This highly acclaimed spa and retreat at the majestic Bellefontaine Mansion in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts has been drawing people from all over the country for many decades. Touting customized programs for an integrative, healthy lifestyle, Canyon Ranch offers the gamut of body-mind-spirit classes in a space that is calm and tranquil—from spa treatments and a well-appointed gym, whirlpool and steam room (think eucalyptus vapors) to energizing morning yoga and evening stretching and cool-downs. Top that with wholesome gourmet cuisine and this spiritual oasis invigorates guests from head to toe.

I haven’t always been drawn to this kind of retreat. My gluten-free diet left me hesitant to visit any place that boasted a menu of whole-grain goodness. In my mind, this equated to wheat germ and bulgur. But after two days at Canyon Ranch, my concerns evaporated like the morning mist in the Berkshires as I happily dined on quinoa, amaranth, brown rice—and wonderful buckwheat.

Buckwheat has found an appreciative home at Canyon Ranch. Corporate chef Scott Uehlein developed items like buckwheat bread, chocolate chip cookies, pizza and flat bread, which are now served regularly at Canyon Ranch properties in Lenox, Miami and Tucson. At first, Uehlein’s staff milled the buckwheat themselves. Now a propriety blend is prepared for them by The Birkett Mills, the world’s largest producer of buckwheat.



As I headed out to Canyon Ranch, I imagined not only yoga, meditation and massage but also breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sought out a moderate yoga class, a seminar on Ayurvedic medicine that stresses a balance of three elemental energies and a meeting with nutritionist Chrissy Wellington, who is knowledgeable about the gluten-free diet.

Wellington reviewed the diet with me and told me about Canyon Ranch’s Personal Dietary Needs Hotline and that I should call it anytime I had questions during my stay. We made a detour to a mini-grocery store adjacent to her office where there was a display of gluten-free products and mainstream items to help guests learn to read labels and understand which products are safe.


I stopped at one of the several alcoves where herbal tea and coffee are always set out, poured myself a cup of tea and sat in a comfortable chair to browse through 23 pages of program descriptions (more than 40 individual programs). But with all the talk about food, I couldn’t take my mind off the menus and the gluten-free choices. I made my way through the halls that join the several buildings, thankful I didn’t have to venture outside in the raw spring weather to get to the dining room.

I joined my husband and we were escorted to a table for two. Other guests sat alone and wrote in their journals or gathered in large groups at one of the round tables in an adjacent room. All around us, people were comfortably dressed in yoga attire or sweats.

I grabbed a slice of buckwheat bread that was delivered the moment we sat down. It was dense, chewy—delicious! We shared a bowl of Spicy Chicken Chipotle Soup and I selected Chicken with Mongolian barbecue sauce, gluten-free pasta and steamed vegetables. I filled a second plate with offerings from a well-appointed salad bar and finished with sorbet topped with non-fat fudge sauce and a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie on the side. Then I ate my husband’s portion of fudge sauce and pocketed the cookie to enjoy with tea the next day.

I blamed the over-indulgence on journalistic curiosity and totaled up the calorie count to assess the damage. Surprisingly, it wasn’t outrageous. The easy-to-navigate menus are portion-controlled, as many come to Canyon Ranch to lose weight. Each meal includes suggested dishes that help guests meet their targeted calorie intake. Those who wish to “pig out” can select additional foods, as I did.

The Canyon Ranch philosophy is to serve clean, pure foods throughout the resort—no preservatives, stabilizers, corn syrup, alcohol or artificial sweeteners. Each menu identifies items that are vegan, gluten-free and low sodium. Although the kitchens are not dedicated gluten-free facilities, staff take extra care when guests let them know they have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive.

Canyon Ranch has been offering gluten-free options for more than ten years, according to Uehlein who’s been the corporate chef for 14 years. During his watch, Canyon Ranch has received numerous accolades, including one in Gourmet noting that Uehlein and his staff “have brought Canyon cuisine into a new dimension.”

“We have a large and growing component of gluten-free guests,” Uehlein says.

Between the gluten-free menu choices and the knowledgeable, helpful servers, I never required more assistance during my stay. It is comforting to know that you won’t get lost or go hungry at Canyon Ranch.

The original buckwheat recipes at Canyon Ranch are proprietary. These recipes were inspired by those that were served while I was there.


Buckwheat Yeast Bread

Photo by Oksana Charla



Buckwheat Yeast Bread


This wholesome, hearty bread stands up well on the counter for three days. After the first day, warm slices in your toaster before eating. Slice the bread before freezing; there’s no gum in it so it’s more crumbly if sliced after being in the freezer. For best results, do not replace the eggs in this recipe.

2 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sorghum flour
3 tablespoons flax meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1½teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ tablespoons dry yeast
2 large eggs
17/8 cups warm water

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly oil a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Coat a sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable spray (to cover dough in loaf pan).

2. In a large bowl, combine buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, flax meal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Whisk together. Add yeast and whisk again.

3. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix with water. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Place dough into prepared pan. Cover with oiled foil, making sure the oiled surface is centered and face down over the dough.

5. Place in preheated oven and bake 55 to 60 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

6. Cool 5 minutes before unwrapping loaf and removing it from pan.

Each slice (16 per loaf) contains 109 calories, 2g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 26mg cholesterol, 251mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 4g protein, 11Est GL.

Inspired by a recipe from Scott Uehlein, corporate chef at Canyon Ranch.



Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies


These moist cookies are filled with flavor and chocolate chips. They hold up well when stored in an airtight container on the counter for three days. Remaining cookies can be frozen for later use. This recipe can be made egg-free with excellent results; see instructions below.

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter or dairy-free alternative, softened
⅓ cup low-fat cream cheese or dairy-free cream cheese, softened
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup buckwheat flour
¼ cup sorghum flour
2 tablespoons flax meal
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½teaspoon salt
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. With an electric mixer on high speed, combine butter, cream cheese and brown sugar. Turn mixer to low and add egg yolk and vanilla and mix until just combined.

3. In a medium bowl, combine buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, flax meal, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add to butter mixture and combine on low speed or by hand.

4. Drop batter by rounded heaping teaspoonfuls (or use a ¾-ounce scoop) onto prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Press to flatten slightly.

5. Place in preheated oven and bake 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Cool on baking sheet until cookies are set. Transfer to cooling rack until completely cooled.

Each cookie contains 74 calories, 4g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 12mg cholesterol, 84mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 4g sugars, 1g protein, 6Est GL.

For Egg-Free Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, omit the egg yolk and increase the baking soda by ¼ teaspoon (a total of 1 teaspoon).

Inspired by a recipe from Scott Uehlein, corporate chef at Canyon Ranch.


Photo © Elena Eliseeva/Shutterstock


Banana Buckwheat Pancakes


Here’s a dreamy breakfast. Serve these pancakes warm, topped with thin banana slices and drizzled with real maple syrup. They reheat well. This recipe can be made egg-free with excellent results; see instructions below.

1½ cups buckwheat flour
½ cup sorghum flour
2 tablespoons flax meal
1½teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
2 cups unflavored milk of choice + 2 tablespoons, as needed
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 large banana, sliced thinly, more for topping

1. Lightly oil an electric griddle and heat it to 350°F.

2. Combine flours, flax meal, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together egg yolks, 2 cups milk and melted oil. Add to dry ingredients and beat well.

4. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold into pancake batter until just specks of egg white remain. If batter is too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional milk.

5. Pour ¼ cup batter onto heated griddle to form each pancake. Top each with 3 or 4 banana slices. Cook until edges are dry and bubbles break on the tops. Flip pancakes and cook an additional 2 minutes. Serve warm.

Each pancake contains 116 calories, 4g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 26mg cholesterol, 91mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 3g protein, 9Est GL.

For Egg-Free Banana Buckwheat Pancakes, omit 2 eggs. Add 3 teaspoons egg replacer powder to dry ingredients. After all ingredients are combined, add 4 to 6 tablespoons water to the batter, as needed for desired thickness.