One of my favorite teachers of all time was my eighth grade American history teacher. He enlightened me about many things, but one of his most memorable lectures was one about chocolate. Well, it wasn’t really about chocolate, it was about the time when British colonists first came to the new world. They brought sugar with them, no doubt to use for their incessant tea brewing. But the British did not yet know of chocolate, because the cocoa plant didn’t grow back home. However, it was native to America. But the Native Americans did not have the privilege of chocolate as we know it today, because they had no sugar to sweeten it with. If they did eat chocolate from the cocoa plant, it was bitter as black coffee. I remember my eighth grade teacher telling us, “it must have been a great day when a colonist carrying a sack of sugar crashed into a Native American carrying a bushel of cocoa beans, and all the sugar and all the chocolate spilled on the ground and mixed together, and that’s when they discovered chocolate as we know it today.” I’m not sure this anecdote was certifiably historically accurate, but it stuck in my brain and to this day, that’s how I imagine the colonists and the Native Americans discovered the awesomeness of sweetened cocoa. With such a monumental discovery made together, it’s a wonder they didn’t stay peaceful forever. They could have never fought and instead formed a lasting friendship, all based on sweet chocolate. Right?
My point is, chocolate without sugar = too bitter. And sugar without chocolate = too sweet. One without the other is a fraction of the value of what you get when you put sugar and chocolate together. So, when we say “I love chocolate,” what we’re really saying is “I love the combination of chocolate and sugar.” The ratio of chocolate to sugar depends on the type and quality of the chocolate, but pure chocolate all by itself is not at all sweet, and kind of has a bitter flavor. We add sugar to balance out the bitterness, and are left with the most delicious thing on earth.
This morning, I tried to make a flourless chocolate pancake based on the flourless cupcakes I made earlier this week. I replaced all the flour/matzah meal I would have used with pure cocoa powder. Unfortunately, I did not think to add any sugar to the pancake so I was left with this mass of bitterness:
I imagine this pancake tastes just like the spill from that fateful collision between the Native American and the British colonist so many centuries ago.
So here is the recipe for this pancake, just as I made it. I recommend adding some sugar to the pancake batter as well if you are into sweeter chocolate treats. But with the sweet topping, it’s actually okay without sugar in the batter as well.
Flourless Chocolate Pancake with Cinnamon and Sugar Topping
based on this recipe
makes one pancake and one serving of topping
- 2 tbls pure cocoa powder
- 1 tbl skim milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tbl olive oil
- sprinkle of cinnamon
- 2 tsps Earth Balance original buttery spread
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- generous sprinkle of cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
For pancake batter: combine all ingredients in a small bowl, beating the egg into the other ingredients and stirring until well combined. Let the batter rest for five minutes while you whip up the topping!
For topping: Melt your 2 tsps Earth Balance in the microwave. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until combined.
Now, to put it all together: Spray a pan with nonstick spray. Cook the pancake batter over medium heat. When both sides have been cooked, remove from heat. Place pancake on a plate and smear the glaze/topping all over it. Yum!
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I tried making a rice flour pancake a few days ago, and it turned out horrible. But I still wanted a pancake! So I finally decided to give Passover-friendly pancakes another go, this time using a recipe for matzah meal pancakes from Food.com. I scaled the recipe down to one serving since I was just cooking for myself.
This pancake was totally awesome! It blew the bitter taste of the rice flour pancake fail out of my memory. (Okay, I still remember the failure, and it’ll probably scar my memory forever. But at least now I have a more recent success to balance it out!)
I think part of the reason I liked this pancake so much is because the taste of the matzah meal along with the strawberry jam is very reminiscent of the Passover rolls my family has always made using matzah meal. As a kid with no health worries, I used to gobble those guys down by the bucketful, often spread with jam. Childhood memories often evoke good feelings, and this matzah meal pancake was no exception.
Okay, enough rambling! On to the recipe.
Single-Serve Matzah Meal Pancake
- 2 tbls matzah meal
- 1 tbl skim milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tbl Peanut Butter & Co. brand White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter, softened
- strawberry jam
- about 3 fresh strawberries, sliced
Place all batter ingredients in a small bowl. Beat the egg into the other ingredients and mix it all up. Let it rest for five minutes. (I actually mixed some strawberry slices into the batter, and used the rest for topping.)
Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray. Over medium heat, drop batter onto pan and cook just as you would a regular pancake until golden brown.
Smother with jam and top with strawberries. Bon appetit!
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Two things about Passover REALLY get on my nerves:
1) Why does everybody think you’re supposed to spell “matzah” with an o? It isn’t pronounced like “MAH- tzoh”, is it? It’s actually a Hebrew word so there is no correct English spelling, but I don’t think it’s correct to put an o there. Still, even my computer is against me and puts that red underline under all my “matzah”s but none of my “matzo”s.
2) This annoyance is more serious – during Passover, it’s hard to find healthy choices to eat for breakfast. They sell kosher-for-Passover cereal, but it tastes like styrofoam. My mom makes cake mixes, but I wouldn’t exactly consider cake for breakfast healthy. Some people try to make kosher-for-Passover versions of foods they would normally eat, such as pancakes, but I learned from experience yesterday that this simply doesn’t work.
Above is my rice flour pancake. It tasted worse than it looks, which is saying a lot since it’s no top model. And later on that day, I tried out a recipe for kosher-for-Passover donuts. They turned out to be unappetizing little rolls that look nothing like donuts. My mom said they tasted okay, but I was too prejudiced about them based on their looks and did not risk trying one.
I have learned my lesson: trying to convert non-kosher-for-Passover food into Passover food is just a waste of time. You just can’t have pancakes and donuts during these eight days.
But this problem has a positive flip-side: since you can’t eat many of the traditional, everyday breakfast foods, you have a chance to discover (or rediscover) unusual dishes. For example, this morning was the first time I tried to make matzah brei, and it was delicious! Not just less bad than my alternatives, but actually so good I might want to make it again even after Passover is over. I recommend this to anyone who wants a different type of breakfast, even if you aren’t celebrating Passover.
I’ve heard of people making savory matzah brei, but mine was made with honey and vanilla to give it a homey sweetness. I topped it with raspberries for extra fiber and flavor! Here is the super-easy recipe:
Sweet Matzah Brei
based on this recipe
Makes one serving
- 1 1/4 sheets regular matzah (I would have used whole wheat to be even healthier but we didn’t have any 😦 )
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- dash of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 tbls honey
- optional: raspberries for topping
In a smallish medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and honey. Break up the matzah into bite-sized pieces and place it in the bowl with the wet ingredients. Let it soak for five minutes.
Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray. Place the matzah-egg mixture on the pan (I actually tried to avoid getting too much egg on there for fear of ending up with a honey-flavored omelette, so maybe my dish was more like matzah farfel, a less wet but similar Passover dish. Oh, well.) Cook until egg is cooked through and matzah is lightly golden.
If desired, top with a sprinkle of additional cinnamon and some raspberries. Serve warm.
I spent much of yesterday morning cleaning our kitchen for Passover with my mom, while my dad and brother lay in bed on their computers, looking like internet-enabled sloths. Too bad everyone male in the family seems to magically turn deaf whenever the words, “can you help me with the housework” are spoken.
Anyway, Passover begins tonight. It’s a Jewish holiday celebrating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, and it is observed through a seder, or discussion of the story, and 8 days of not eating anything leavened such as bread. If you are an Ashkenazi Jew you also don’t eat legumes, corn, etcetera. My family used to observe Ashkenazi Passover customs, but we recently switched to the Sephardic customs which allow you to eat many more things. Still, bread or anything made with flour is off-limits.
Here’s the bowl of chametz, not kosher for Passover stuff we had on our table for two days to try to entice people to actually eat some of it before we just threw it out. Most of the stuff had been in the freezer for a while… it felt so good to throw some stuff out yesterday!
I’ve noticed that many Jewish holidays involve specific food traditions. Some holidays impose restrictions on certain foods, others demand that a particular food be eaten. Come to think of it, the Jewish holiday calendar is quite analogous to the progression of some (theoretical) girl’s fad dieting as she goes through the body image and eating issues teenagers in America unfortunately face. Take a look at these Jewish holidays, in order starting from the beginning of the Jewish calendar, and you’ll know what I mean.
1. Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) – the custom is to eat apples dipped in honey to represent a “sweet” new year.1. New Year’s Resolution: “This year, I’m only going to eat healthy things like apples. Wait, there’s HONEY CAKE here? Gimme a piece!”
2. Yom Kippur – traditionally people fast (thankfully we don’t) all day on this holiday, not even drinking water, I guess as a sign that they are repenting for all the bad things they said/did that year. The night of Yom Kippur, though, the custom is to have a big giant fast-breaking feast.
2. Starving and Bingeing: “I’m having a fast day to lose weight.” (12 hours later) “yes I ate all the potato chips don’t judge! I don’t want to talk about it! Oh, and we’ll be needing more ice cream too.”
3. Sukkot (celebration of the harvest) – for 8 days, people are supposed to eat their meals in a rustic homemade shack outside their house.
3. Secretive Eating Behaviors: “I’ve got to go do something in my room. No, it has nothing to do with any secret stash of granola bars! And who told you about my secret stash anyway?”
4. Hannukah (festival of lights, when kids get presents and we light a menorah for 8 nights.) – for this winter holiday it is traditional to eat latkes, which are fried potato pancakes, often paired with sour cream. For dessert are jelly donuts, because the latkes weren’t enough fried food for some people.
4. Unhealthy Eating: “I am so sick of dieting. My new plan is to eat whatever I feel like – especially since it’s winter and I don’t have to wear a bathing suit or anything.”
5. Purim – some Jews put together gift baskets called mishloach manot, filled with edible goodies such as the three-cornered cookies called hamentashen, which are made for Purim. The gift baskets are given to the poor, or sometimes just to friends and neighbors.
5. Giving Away Food: “I want to be thin, so I have to stop myself from eating these sugary, fattening, malicious cookies. Hey, you there, here are some cookies for you to take home, because I’m just such a good friend.”
6. Passover (celebration of the Exodus) – for 8 days we eat matzah and other kosher for Passover junk, and can’t eat anything leavened or made with flour. We replace flour with ground matzah. (except matzah is made out of flour, but the flour was supervised by a rabbi so that makes it okay.)
6. Gluten Free Diet: “I’m going to try eating gluten-free for a while, just to see if it helps me lose weight.” 8 days later: “Screw this, all these gluten-free crackers taste terrible! Maybe I should try going vegan instead…”
7. Shabbat (the weekly sabbath) – we take a break from work on Friday evening, and have a family meal and try to be restful and not worry about our tasks to be accomplished in the future, just focus on being with our family and resting. In fact, there are lots of restrictions to ensure people won’t work, including no turning on lights or writing or even touching a pencil. But most people don’t observe these rules (thankfully!)
7. Cheat Day: “Today I have no restrictions on my eating whatsoever. I’ll have restrictions tomorrow, but I’m trying not to think about that right now. Now I have one full day of amazing, blissful rest… so, what to do? I’m bored already!”
Don’t get me wrong – I love the Jewish holidays and the unique personalities of each one. But you can’t tell me it’s not intriguing, the way the yearly calendar parallels the idiosyncratic behaviors of a girl/woman with eating issues. My hypothesis: the food-related traditions for all these holidays were developed by some rabbi who had a yo-yo dieting wife!
Now, if you ask me, fad diets are one of the stupidest ideas ever conceived. Whenever I hear someone saying, “I’m trying the (insert name of popular new diet here) diet. I saw it on the internet” or “Seventeen magazine says this diet plan will give me flat abs and a hot butt by New Years Eve!” it really bothers me. Fad diets NEVER work, especially the ones in magazines which come out with a new “ultimate diet and exercise plan” every single issue which is supposedly “the last diet you’ll ever need.” Yeah, then why do you need to buy the next issue of the magazine? Well, to see the NEW “last diet you’ll ever need.” My advice will always be to see a dietician or a doctor.
Happy Passover, I guess. Look out for some kosher for Passover recipes coming up (hopefully!)
Photo credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Purple_arrow_down.svg, http://www.brooklynyid.com/2009/08/21/hachnasat-orchim-meal-hosts-needed/, http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml, http://www.life123.com/holidays/jewish-holidays/purim/purim-baskets.shtml, http://www.dealtrackersf.com/tag/oakland-menorah-lighting/, http://bustedhalo.com/features/sukkot, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gottlieb-Jews_Praying_in_the_Synagogue_on_Yom_Kippur.jpg
I know what you’re thinking: yet another sandwich recipe? I have posted quite a few sandwich ideas recently, as alternatives to the boring pb &j or cheese sandwiches many people slap together for a quick brown bag lunch. The truth is, I would love to make pastas, salads, pasta salads, etc. for lunch, but I just haven’t had the time to put together all those ingredients. Of course, I used to think I didn’t have time to create a more interesting sandwich, and I proved myself wrong through the “Lunch Liberation!” posts. So maybe someday I’ll be able to make a salad to bring to school with tons of special, fresh ingredients. But for now I tend to stick to sandwiches. Still, I try to have something different every day as much as possible.
This sandwich was very good, and sort of reminds me of breakfast-y foods, which I love because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Who could debate the fact that breakfast foods simply taste better than foods for any other meal? I’d like to eat breakfast all day long. I used to eat Post brand banana nut crunch cereal (before my grocery store stopped selling it 😦 ), so the bananas and walnuts together is a winner in my book. And the sandwich is on toasted bread, to enhance the texture and make it even more breakfast-esque.
The concept for the honey-walnut-butter combo is inspired by Feed Me, Seymour’s honey walnut butter. I saw this recipe one day, and it looked delicious. I didn’t use the original recipe for the spread I made, but I incorporated the flavor combo into a wholesome, relatively quick to make lunch.
Honey Walnut Butter and Banana Sandwich
makes one sandwich
- two slices whole wheat bread, toasted
- about 1 tbl Earth Balance original buttery spread
- 1 tsp honey
- walnuts, 1 tbl or to taste
- 1/2 banana, sliced
Directions: Microwave the butter just a little to soften it, but do not melt it. Using a spoon, blend the honey into the butter. Spread this blend on one piece of the toasted bread. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Place banana slices on top of the walnuts. Top with the remaining slice of toast.
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Tomorrow is the lovely and very meaningful holiday of St. Patrick’s Day, when green shamrock-printed gift bags go on clearance at craft stores, kids wear green to avoid getting pinched by big bullies, and bloggers blog about making cocktails and booze-infused shamrock sugar cookies for their St. Patrick’s Day festivities. I’m all for holidays, but I don’t have any real connection with Saint Patrick’s day and have never celebrated it beyond wearing a green sticker on my hand at elementary school out of necessity.
Still, I’d be shunned from the food blog world if I did not come up with something to make for Saint Patrick’s day. But what to make? Since this is also a health blog, there was no chance I’d be baking sugary, refined-carb sweets with green food coloring and green candy sprinkles that don’t tell you the ingredients on the package because there are two many to fit on the label on the container. And I’m a little young to be whipping up green beer or fancy cocktails for a drinking party (I’m only fifteen!) So I decided to make a drink – but not that kind of drink. The kind that, instead of alcohol, is infused with fresh, nutritious goodness.
I’m going to share this recipe with you, even though just thinking about the whole fiasco makes me sad. Honestly, my entire day was tragic, starting with this morning when I was making this smoothie. Though it is Saturday, I had to get up relatively early to show up for a practice ACT test. And waking up early on a Saturday is just a tragedy in itself. But the horror gets worse from there…
So I was up and about, thinking, this is okay. Even though I have to go take this test at 9:00 I still have time to make a smoothie. I took my time lovingly slicing the avocado and banana into the blender, dripping the sticky honey, slow as, well, sticky honey. I blended thoroughly to try and crush all that pesky ice, added my oatmeal for extra fiber to feed my brain before the test, blended it some more, gingerly popped the smoothie in the fridge – and then found out I had two minutes to drink it and get ready to leave. Turns out, when my Mom said I would be there at 8:45, she was implying that at 8:30 I ought to be ready to go. I guess that should have been common sense.
So I just dumped it down the sink. Yeah, wasteful, I know, but I was panicking and at the time it seemed like the easiest solution. My dad rushed me off to school to take the practice test. It took me about one minute to realize this is not the test for me. The way it was presented and the focus on math and science just didn’t work for me, so I’ll stick with the SAT when it comes to the real thing. Not that either are fun, but it’s the lesser of two evils. Too bad I had to waste half of my Saturday, up until 12:50, at school taking a pointless test just to find out that the test was pointless. (Here’s a shot of the smoothie I never got to devour. It just wasn’t meant to be.)
When I got home I wanted to try again with the smoothie, but we didn’t have any bananas so I settled for a cheddar Swiss and apple quesadilla. I finally got to the grocery store and bought some things for the smoothie I wanted to make, as well as Navel oranges because they’re the one fruit my brother will currently eat. I waited in a big long line, got out of the cold, cramped store, walked halfway home, and realized I had not bought the bananas! At least I had plenty of money left over, so I schlepped back over there, grabbed some bananas, and waited in line again. The population of customers in that store had literally multiplied like a bacterial colony during the three minutes I was gone, so I spent about ten minutes or so in line behind a lady buying two cases of wine or liquor or something, trying not to stare at what she was buying but at the same time avoid having to look at the tabloids with grossly exaggerated images of “Best and Worst Beach Bodies: Guess Who?” Honestly, why do these magazines do beach issues all year round? It gets old.
I got home from the store and set about making my smoothie, at last, though it was 4:00 PM already. I was not about to let the entire day be a tragedy. So I blended it up and took a sip – oops! Forgot the honey! That might have helped since this smoothie was quite tart. Still, it tasted pretty good, and it’s marginally “green”, so I’m posting it as my official “Saint Patrick’s Day recipe.” Deal with it.
Avocado Smoothie with Lime and Oatmeal
- 1/2 banana
- 1/4 avocado
- 1/2 nectarine
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 Greek lime yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbls honey (if you’re smart unlike me and not tragedy-prone)
- 5 ice cubes
- 1 Quaker brand raisin date and walnut instant oatmeal packet
Place all ingredients in blender except oatmeal. Blend until ice is crushed. Add oatmeal and blend for about 20-30 seconds. Pour smoothie in glass and drink a toast to a healthy holiday!
A couple weeks ago, I had a dream that haunted me ever since. In it, my mom effusively praised my baking skills after I baked a cake. She told me, “you inherited your baking talent from your father.” (FYI: my father is rarely noted to have baked even a potato. But in the dream, strangely, this was a great compliment.) Then, my mom in the dream immediately gave me a baking suggestion: she wanted me to bake chocolate muffins with peanut butter and honey.
Once I woke up, I couldn’t forget that assignment from my mom – even though it wasn’t really my mom. I did tell my mom (in the real world) what she’d told me to bake in the dream and she said it sounded yummy. So I set my mind to baking these muffins, following the dream’s instructions almost to the letter: they are just as seen in my dream. The only change I made is the addition of banana. I had to make them a little healthy – after all, this is a health blog! So they aren’t your typical fattening chocolate muffin from a coffee shop… they’re all-around better. I also used Truvia baking blend instead of sugar, and replaced some of the butter called for in the recipe with pumpkin butter (no it does not taste like pumpkin.) Half the flour in this recipe is whole wheat. But prepare to be shocked: there is no oatmeal this time around! 🙂
When my mom tried one, she said this recipe was “a keeper.” I was actually having trouble believing they’d turn out, since my past few attempts at baking have been fails. But I tried one and it was spectacular! Moist, chocolatey, with chocolate chips in the batter and melty chocolate chunks on top. Filled with a smooth homemade blend of peanut butter and honey. Delish! The only complaint I had is that there could have been more peanut butter, so maybe next time I would use that instead of the Earth Balance butter, or just make twice as much peanut butter honey filling.
Chocolate Banana Muffins with Peanut Butter Honey Filling
Makes 12 regular sized muffins
for muffin batter
- 3 tbl Egg Beaters (or one egg)
- 3 tbl Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
- 2 tbls + 1 tsp pumpkin butter
- 3 large bananas
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 6 tbls Truvia baking blend
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Yoplait brand chocolate mousse style yogurt
- 2 tbl Hershey’s cocoa
- 2 tbl semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 bar Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate, chopped into chunks
for peanut butter honey filling
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 tsps honey
First, make the filling by combining the peanut butter and honey in a small bowl. Mix just until blended. Set this aside.
Now, preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit and line a muffin tin with twelve paper liners (or spray with nonstick cooking spray.)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir this mixture.
In another large bowl, combine the bananas, Truvia baking blend, Egg Beaters, and chocolate yogurt. Use an electric mixer to blend this mixture. Then, add it to the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined but be careful not to overmix. This is the determining factor between good and bad muffins. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
Pour muffin batter into muffin cups, reserving some of the batter and filling each only about 1/3 to 1/2 full. Now fill each muffin with a portion of the peanut butter honey filling. Try to distribute it evenly. Cover the filling with the rest of the muffin batter.
Bake muffins in the 350 Fahrenheit oven for about ten minutes, or until it looks like they are 2-5 minutes away from being done. Then, remove from oven but leave the oven on. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks from the Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar on top of each muffin. Return to oven to bake for another 2-5 minutes. (If you don’t want chocolate chunks on top you could just mix them into the batter and skip this step, but I thought it was cool and added texture. I’m all about texture in food and smoothies!)
Serve warm or room temperature – both are great!
By the way: I vowed in my post To Each His Own that I would eventually succeed at making no-yeast cinnamon rolls, and post the recipe. I have not forgotten that goal. In fact, I tried to make some cinnamon rolls last week but the dough was so unworkable I just had to throw it out. This is a frustrating challenge, but that will make success even sweeter! And I will not give up on this hope for success…though it might not happen for a while. Keep rooting for me!
Recipe credits: I got the main recipe from Allrecipes.com. The concept of adding chocolate on top of the muffins was inspired by Dashing Dish. And the all-important homemade peanut butter honey blend recipe was provided by Herbsspices.about.com. Thank you all. I couldn’t have fulfilled my dreams without you guys – literally!
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