Sunday, March 24, 2013

Healthy Pancakes

I’ve been noticing a lot of new recipes for waffle creations out there in the blog world lately. Sure, I like waffles, but my heart belongs to a good old-fashioned plate of pancakes.

My grandma used to serve up her homemade buttermilk pancakes for all the grandkids. They’d come sizzling off the grizzle and we’d pile them high on plates, slather them with butter, pour real maple syrup over the puffy clouds of doughy perfection and dig in.

This morning I woke up early and hauled a large bag of laundry to the laundromat. As I watched the washers and dryers spin around and around and listened to the heater kicking on and off, I suddenly had a craving for pancakes.

After my laundry was done, I was in pursuit of pancakes on this cold, Montana morning. It might be spring and sunshine in some parts of the country, but yesterday and today we were met with below zero temperatures in southwestern Montana. Pancakes seemed like the ideal breakfast choice to warm my soul and fill my stomach. It couldn’t be just any pancake though. I wanted to incorporate the fresh, colorful fruits in my refrigerator and give these pancakes a healthy makeover away from fatty butters, bacon grease and the eggs and dairy of my youth. And, I didn’t get around to having them until after lunchtime, so we can call these brunch/brinner treats because, well, pancakes are acceptable to have at any time of the day or night.

These Healthy Pancakes are filled with low-fat, high fiber ingredients that also add a hint of sweetness and spice. The bananas are high in potassium and stevia is naturally calorie-free and sugar-free. They’re low in sugar too!

A healthy take on the traditional hot cake
I switched it up a little bit by adding in cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips. The small amount, just two tablespoons, is hardly noticeable once the pancakes are cooked, but adds in a subtle chocolatey flavor and crunch. Cacao nibs are often raved about for their antioxidants. I’ve already commended chia seeds for being little wunderkinds packed full of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They act as the “egg” in this recipe. Almond milk also contains as much, if not more calcium as any dairy milk and adds a slight nutty note to these light, airy hot cakes. Like the almond milk, a small amount of extra virgin coconut oil adds to the fruitiness of the recipe, while keeping it light.

This recipe makes about 4 to 5 medium pancakes and serves two people. I stored my extra pancakes in the fridge for another meal this week. Like my other recipes, this one can easily be doubled to feed more people or make enough to store in the fridge to reheat throughout the week. Just store any extra pancakes or batter in an airtight container in the fridge. Use them up within two to three days.

These hot cakes are best enjoyed stacked high, topped with fresh slices of strawberry, banana and juicy mango and almonds, slathered with Earth Balance and drizzled with plenty of real maple syrup.

Healthy Pancakes
(Serves 2/ makes 4-5 medium-sized pancakes) (dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, vegetarian)

• 3/4 cup all purpose flour (I prefer Wheat Montana’s Natural White flour. It’s all natural, unbleached and also helps support a Montana company.)
• 1/2 – 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk
• 1-2 tablespoons stevia (Adjust the amount of stevia you use based on your sweet preferences.)
• dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (I also added in a dash of pumpkin pie spice.)
• 1 tablespoon baking powder (Use this much! It might sound like a lot of baking soda for this small of a recipe, but that’s what helps the pancakes achieve their puffy, airy outcome as they cook.)
• dash of salt
• 2 tablespoons cacao nibs

• 1 chia “egg” – In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and place the mixture in the fridge for a few minutes to gel.
• 2 tablespoons mashed banana (Set the rest of the banana aside to use for later.)
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil, melted
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

- the rest of the banana, sliced
- 2 or 3 strawberries, sliced
- *mango, sliced, optional
- a handful of almonds
- real maple syrup (I used up the last of my Trader Joe’s organic Grade B maple syrup.)
- Earth Balance, or vegan-friendly butter substitute of your choice
- a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg
- *a schmear of almond butter, optional (I added a schmear of Justins Maple Almond Butter to the top of my pancake stack. It is pure heaven in a jar!!!)

- Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix together. Stir in cacao nibs. Make a well in the center of the bowl and set aside.
- Heat up a large cast iron skillet or griddle.
- Mix together your chia egg ingredients in a small bowl and place in the fridge to gel for a few minutes.
- Melt the coconut oil and mash the banana and mix all of the wet ingredients, except the almond milk, and your prepared chia egg together in a smaller bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry in the well that you’ve made and then add in the almond milk, starting with 1/2 cup. Stir everything together until just combined. Add more almond milk a tablespoon at a time if your batter is too thick.
- Spray the heated skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup half way full with batter and pour it into the skillet. (This helps you achieve a circle-shaped pancake.)

- Cook the pancakes for about three to four minutes on medium/low heat until they start to puff up. Gently pick up the pancakes with a spatula one at a time, spray the skillet with more nonstick cooking spray and flip them over to cook the other side. Cook the pancakes for about two more minutes until they’re lightly browned.

-Remove the pancakes from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Cover them with foil to stay warm until the rest of the pancakes are done cooking.
- Divide the stack of pancakes onto two plates, top with fresh fruit, almonds, Earth Balance and a schmear of almond butter and pour on the maple syrup.

Pancake party- Dig in and enjoy the sweet, airy, fruity, buttery, mapley goodness!

Monday, March 18, 2013


For me, the dough can make or break a pizza.

This pizza dough recipe is for a crispy, yet heart pizza dough that can be stretched out to make one HUGE pizza pie. I used a circular metal baking pan and cut my pie into 10 generously sized pieces. It could easily feed a fleet of hungry vegans and everyone else too, if you’re willing to share.

pizza pie

I topped my dough with a red sauce made by my friend. She added in diced onions and peppers, salt & pepper and spices to make a simply, but very tasty sauce.

As for toppings, I went with sun dried tomato slices, banana pepper rings, broccoli and chopped organic baby spinach this time around. Everything was topped off with a home made smoky cheese sauce that I threw together in less than 10 minutes using nutritional yeast flakes, Earth Balance spread, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, salt & pepper, a few dashes of liquid smoke, garlic salt and garlic powder and some smoked paprika. It was a nutty, cheddar-like smoky twist that tasted great on the pizza.

Back to the dough - A touch of salt and sugar with the garlic and Italian spices add flavor to the dough and the olive oil keeps it moist. I like the subtle hint of yellow cornmeal mixed with regular, everyday all purpose flour too.

Pizza Dough
(enough for one HUGE pizza)
• one packet of Fleishmann's RapidRise yeast
• 1/2 heaping tsp. sea salt
• 1/4 heaping tsp. pure can sugar
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
• a sprinkle of garlic salt
• about 1 generous tsp. of Italian herbs and a few sprinkles of oregano
• 3/4 cup very hot water, about 110 to 120 degrees
• 1 generous tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

- Mix all of your dry ingredients including the yeast, yellow cornmeal, spices, salt, sugar and all purpose flour together in a large bowl.
- Add the hot water to the mixture and stir until slightly combined. Add in the olive oil and stir until your dough starts to form a ball in the bowl. Shape the dough to form a better ball and let your dough sit in the bowl for 10 minutes, covered with a clean dish towel or paper towel dampened with warm water.
- After the 10 minutes are up, knead the dough with your hands until it is flexible. Reshape into a ball and let it sit, covered, in the bowl until it doubles in size.

Make the pizza:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Spray a metal baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Take your dough ball and spread it out to fit your baking sheet, gently working the dough from the middle out to the edges. A rolling pin can help get your dough to the right size and fit. Once rolled out, pinch the edges of the dough with your fingers and thumb for your crust and poke the dough with a fork to assure even cooking.
- Top the dough with sauce, toppings of your choice and cheese sauce or a non-dairy cheese alternative.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust edges and bottom are slightly browned and crispy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Apple Pie Chia Seed Pudding

I have made a few batches of chia seed pudding over the past few months, trying to perfect the texture, taste and consistency. Since nothing’s ever perfect, this recipe comes pretty close in my book.

Like I said before, these tiny black chia seeds pack a powerful punch of omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.

I love apples. They are the (almost) perfect snack. The varieties are colorful, tasty and vast. Granny Smiths are bright green and shiny and taste great in pies. Pink Ladies have a slightly tart taste with a lingering sweetness under their pink skin.

Fuji apples are sweet and one of my favorites. They were first introduced in the United States in the 1960s and their sweetness and sugar does a great job as an afternoon pick-me-up. These apples, with their brilliant green and red speckled skin, are even better when combined with chia seeds.

What if I told you you could have apple pie for breakfast and that it would not only be nutritious, but tasty too.

Welcome Apple Pie Chia Seed Pudding! 

Plain unsweetened almond milk is mixed with all-natural unsweetened applesauce and spices to create the taste of apple pie without tons of added sugar or too much flaky crust in the morning. This pudding can easily be enjoyed as a healthy, quick and readymade lunch as well as a breakfast-for-dinner item too. Cinnamon and nutmeg are a winning combo in many of my meals and I even sprinkle the pair over banana slices in my peanut butter and banana sandwiches. The spices also compliment the nuttiness of the almond milk. A tiny dash of pumpkin pie spice adds a gentle kick of cloves and ginger. And, the vanilla extract and small amount of stevia combine to provide a balanced level of sweetness to the pudding without being overly sweet, like some actual pies can be.

Apple Pie Chia Seed Pudding topped with a slice of Fuji apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Once the pudding firms up in the fridge, the texture of the chia seeds and smoothness of the applesauce blend together in pudding bliss.

Apple Pie Chia Seed Pudding:
(makes 2 generous servings) (vegan, gluten-free, dairy free, egg free)
• 1 cup all-natural unsweetened applesauce
• 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
• 3 to 4 tablespoons chia seeds
• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• a dash of pumpkin pie spice (I use the Trader Joe’s brand and it’s delicious.)
• about 1 ½ tbsp. organic stevia (Try this amount first and add more if you prefer a sweeter pudding. Don’t add too much at once though, because sometimes stevia can have a slightly bitter taste if too much is added to a dish.)

- Mix the applesauce, spices and stevia together. Next mix in the almond milk until everything is well combined.
- Add in the chia seeds and mix everything very well. If you want a slightly firmer pudding, I’d suggest using 4 tablespoons of chia seeds up from 3 tablespoons.
- Refrigerate the pudding mixture for at least 2 hours. This will allow it to firm up in the fridge.
- Give everything a good stir when you’re ready to eat and top with thinly sliced Fuji apples, or apples of your choice.

I topped my Apple Pie Chia Seed Pudding with organic fruit & nut granola, another sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg and banana slices. Raw cacao nibs also taste great with the sweet and spicy apple pie pudding!

topped with more goodies

 Happy belated Pi Day! Enjoy this updated version of an All-American classic, the apple pie!

On a side note, today was a great day for a few reasons. I've started to run again these past few weeks and I took a spontaneous mini road trip with a running buddy and good friend to pick up our race packets for the Run to the Pub in Bozeman tomorrow morning. There are supposed to be more than 2,000 people decked out and dressed up in their St. Patty’s Day finery. I’m signed up for the 10K race and have my green attire ready for tomorrow morning’s race.

I received a letter from another good friend who is off sailing somewhere warm and tropical, far away from Montana winter. I love snail mail and handwritten letters. They are tiny treasures, always.

Dodger's always ready to run!
 And while we’re on the topic of pie… The icing on the cake, cherry on the sundae, yippee moment of my day, however, was finding out that I was selected as one of 10 finalists in the VegNews Dessert Contest with vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli for my dream dessert submission of Meyer Lemon & Pear Meringue Pie! Better yet, finalists get a signed copy of her new cookbook, "Chloe's Vegan Desserts!” Thanks VegNews and Chef Chloe. Check out the complete list of finalists and grand prize winner here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vegan Quiche

I have a few leeks that have been in the fridge for three-plus weeks now and I give them a once over every time I open the bottom vegetable drawer.

“What am I going to do with you?” I say, as I am in the midst of making a sandwich for lunch or grabbing an apple for a snack.

There were a few approaches I could take to solve my leek dilemma, with the most popular being leek and potato soup or braised leeks. Neither of those sounded very appealing to me. So, it was time for a Google search.

Leeks are similar to onions and garlic and the long vegetable fades from a bright green stalk to a pale green middle and then to a white top with tiny sprouts sticking out, like you’d find on the top of green onions.

Along with my trio of leeks, there is a stray bag of whole wheat pastry flour in my pantry and a few sun dried tomatoes left in a bag on the shelf. And then, there are the breadcrumbs leftover from a holiday food project hiding in the cabinet above the stove.

Leeks are easy to dice and saut̩ Рtheir flavor really comes out.

Shades of green...

That’s when I decided that a vegan quiche was the way to go.

Ready to go in the oven.

I made my quiche adapted from this recipe, subbing the olive oil in the recipe out for extra virgin coconut oil. Try adding a few drops of red wine vinegar to the filling to kick up the acidity. I also threw in some nutritional yeast flakes, Italian herbs, pepper, more salt and garlic and herb seasoning. Garlic and herb seasoning make almost everything and anything taste better, at least in my opinion.
I sautéed the leeks with garlic & coconut oil and threw in some chopped kale to add another element to the quiche.

The crust comes together pretty fast by pulsing together whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and pine nuts in the food processor and mixing it with a dash of salt, unsweetened almond milk and melted coconut oil. The original recipe calls for soy milk, but lately I’ve been using unsweetened plain almond milk for baking, cooking and enjoying with a bowl of fruit and nut granola. Plus, the light nutty taste of the almond milk pairs well with the pine nuts.

The tasty crust made with whole wheat pastry flour, pine nuts, extra virgin coconut oil, baking powder and a dash of salt awaits the filling.
I pressed the crust mixture into a glass pie dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and baked it in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for five minutes, according to the recipe directions and then got to making my filling.

So there you have it, you can have your French eggy, cheesy cake and eat it too, all without the eggs or the cheese. The firm tofu, mixed with a little coconut oil and nutritional yeast flakes and the other ingredients creates it’s own unique flavor that won’t have you missing the traditional dish. This vegan version even had some of the fluffy consistency that is found in traditional quiches.

Have your vegan quiche and eat it too!
This vegan quiche will probably serve four to six hungry people for dinner, or a single person like me for the rest of the week.

The sun dried tomatoes, miso, kale, leeks and garlic lend wonderful flavors to the dish, all topped off with the whole wheat crust and light breadcrumb mixture in the filling.

On a side note, I only used two of the leeks, as the recipe called for. Now I just need to find something to do with the last one that's still sitting in my bottom vegetable drawer at the bottom of the fridge...