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!

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