Monthly Archives: April, 2013

Savory Whole Wheat Crèpe with Cheese and Avocado

I know I keep harping on our trip to Las Vegas, but I can’t help it. That vacation was the most fun and interesting thing I’ve done in a long time, and I often miss walking up and down the strip in the unbearable heat, gawking at all the huge themed casinos and flashing electronic advertisements, not to mention the gorgeous desert landscape just beyond. Everything in Vegas is big and outrageous… I guess I wouldn’t want to live there, but it sure was a memorable visit. I still have dreams sometimes where I’m in Las Vegas again.

whole wheat savory crèpe with cheddar and avocado

Why am I rambling on again about Las Vegas? “La Crèperie” at our hotel served a variety of crèpes, some sweet, some savory, and all extremely indulgent-looking. I tried a blueberry lemon one that was quite good, but I never tried any of the savory crèpes. My parents did, and they looked interesting so today I decided to try making a savory crèpe for myself. I’ve made crèpes a few times before, but never with whole wheat flour. This time I did use whole wheat flour, and it turned out just fine. I might suggest adding salt to the batter, however – I didn’t use any but I think it might improve the taste.

Click here for the full recipe.

Please note: I folded this crèpe over the simple way, but I am aware that traditional French crèpes are folded differently depending on whether they are sweet or savory. I’m just not that experienced yet!

savory whole wheat crèpe with avocado and cheese

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Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Friday: Medit-American Breakfast Pita

To be honest, I had no idea what I was going to make today for the finale of my series of weekday breakfast posts. I spent some time last night deliberating what to make, what to make: it had to be somewhat unusual to make it blog-worthy, but I didn’t have any unusual ideas. I really felt like making a crèpe, but I knew I wouldn’t have time. Finally I had to retire to bed, still worried that I wouldn’t think of anything creative and would ruin the series on the last day.

In the morning, I really felt like something savory, not sweet, which is unusual for me. I decided to try a random combination of savory ingredients and just hoped they would taste okay together. The verdict: actually, they tasted brilliant. A combination of hummus, Muenster cheese, and vegetarian bacon strips may sound weird, but the flavors mingled wonderfully inside crispy toasted pita pockets to create a fun breakfast dish with absolutely NO PREP WORK REQUIRED.

Weekday breakfasts, updated! Friday: Medit-American Breakfast pita with hummus, veggie bacon, and cheese

I’m calling this a “Medit-American” pita because it’s composed of half Mediterranean cuisine and half traditional American breakfast foods. (Well, I guess fake bacon is less traditional than real bacon, but no recipe made out of pigs will ever be found on this site.) I thought the hummus and pita married perfectly with the Muenster cheese and veggie bacon. The cheese started to melt inside the warm pita pockets, resulting in even more awesomeness!

I think this is a good breakfast meal because it is fast and convenient like a sandwich. Also like a good sandwich, it contains nutrients from different food groups: the pita provides carbs, the cheese and fake bacon provide protein, and the hummus provides a bit more protein and some healthy fats.

Medit-American Breakfast Pita

Makes 2 pockets

IMG_0648

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole wheat pita pockets (one round “loaf” of pita bread)
  • 2 tbls hummus (I used Sabra Tuscan Herb Garden Hummus)
  • 1 slice Muenster cheese
  • 2 Morning Star brand vegetarian bacon strips (found in the frozen aisle)

Directions:

Assemble all ingredients. Place the fake bacon strips on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for about a minute and a half to a minute and 45 seconds. While they are microwaving, separate your pita loaf into two pockets and toast it. When done toasting, spread the hummus inside each of the pockets. Break fake bacon strips into a couple pieces and rip the slice of cheese in half. Stuff the fake bacon and cheese into the pitas.

Now all you have to do is savor the flavor of gourmet Medit-American cuisine!

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Friday: Medit-American breakfast pita

To see Thursday’s Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! post, click here!

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maple veggie bacon peanut butter 'wich

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Thursday: Microwave “Baked” Pear

microwave "baked" pear weekday breakfasts, updated! Thursday

The pear is the sexiest fruit available in this part of the world. I’m serious, it’s actually been certified by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (whoever that is) who said, “it is the pear – voluptuously shaped, scented and floral, dripping with ambrosial juices – that seems most completely to encapsulate the idea of fruity temptation.” Yes, I read this in a dictionary entry on Merriam-Webster Online because I’m a word-nerd. But the point is, I couldn’t have said it better – the pear truly is the most tempting, the most luscious, of the fruit family. Every time we buy pears they only last a few days in our fruit basket, seducing us all with their smooth curvy forms, until someone succumbs to their teasing flirtation and eats one. Just which someone gets the pleasure of letting their tastebuds revel in the juices of a sweet ripe pear is a constant contest. My dad and I are the big fruit-eaters of the family, so we are the top competitors. He has been known to wash and cut up a pear I was planning to eat while I am distracted. I know I have to act fast when pears are present in the fruit basket, if I want a chance at one before my dad snags them all.

This week my dad spontaneously picked up two pears at the grocery store. They were magnificent specimens, “voluptuous” as a pear can be, and I knew I would have to try one – if my dad didn’t get to them both first! I quickly concocted a plan to use one this morning in the updated breakfast idea of the day.

Weekday Breakfasts Updated! Thursday microwaved baked pear

I have never made baked pears; it seems like a lot of work and furthermore most recipes are so full of sugar it was just never worth it. But the concept seemed delicious, so I tried making my own unbaked “baked” pear. This recipe is so easy; literally all I had to do was toss the pear pieces with a little bit of sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup, warm it in the microwave, and add the toppings. I know baked pears usually involve some kind of crunchy cinnamon-y topping, so I incorporated this idea into my “shortcut baked pear” as well. Want to know what I used for the crunch topping? I’ll tell you if you promise to keep it a secret: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. A.K.A. junk. But is it really junk food? Well, it is made with highly processed ingredients and it’s pretty high in sugars, but hey! The amount I used contains 12 grams of whole grains. Two out of three’s not too bad… right? The way I see it, it’s good to every once in a while have something that’s not so healthy, just to switch things up. Besides, I say all the fiber from the dried fruit and pears kind of balances out the bad stuff in the cereal.

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Thursday: microwave "baked" pears

This recipe turned out great, quite sweet and a great breakfast indulgence that was still relatively healthy. I was really turned on by the texture combination of soft pear,chewy dried fruit, and crunchy cereal. I may have to start making this every morning! And this is my first recipe of the week that you could truly make the very moment you want to have it, with no prep work the night before. I did crunch up my cereal and get the raisins and cranberries ready the night before to save time, but I think it would also be possible to do everything the morning you want to have this. Overall the total time it took me to prepare this glorious microwave delight was at most five minutes.

Microwave “Baked” Pear

Serves 1

microwaved baked pear Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Thursday

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole medium-large pear
  • 2 tsp muscovado sugar
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tbl dried cranberries
  • 1 tbl golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal

Directions:

Wrap the cereal in a paper towel and apply pressure to crush it into little crumbs. (You may want to do this the night before to save time the next morning.)

Wash the pear and use a sharp knife to cut it up into bite sized chunks. Place chunks into small or medium microwave-safe bowl. Add the muscovado sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Use a spoon to toss the ingredients.

Microwave for about 25 seconds or until warm. Remove from microwave and add the cranberries, raisins, and crushed cereal. Microwave for an additional 5 seconds and serve immediately!

To see Wednesday’s Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! post, click here!

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Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Wednesday: Make-Ahead Egg and Cheese Quesadilla

egg and cheese make-ahead quesadilla (weekday breakfasts, updated wednesday)

STRESS – I finally know what the word means. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as stressed in my life as I was today at the end of school. I had begun the day in my chemistry classroom, taking a CST, California Standard Test, on chemistry and I know I bombed several of the questions. Many of them were about some concept we hadn’t even gone over yet in class. Then, since everyone was done with the test our teacher went ahead and taught us the next lesson – it was the exact topic I hadn’t known how to do on the test! And the worst part is I still don’t get it!!!

Then, I went to English class and had to watch the school psychologist give a presentation on stress as if I didn’t already know what stress was. I was seeing the presentation today for the second time, since this lady already did her little talk in my yoga class. And it was just as bad this time as the last time. Most of the presentation was devoted to talking about how stressful our lives are, and how we have a reason to be stressed. Then at the end the school psychologist attempted and failed to give us anti-anxiety techniques by showing us a video of the dorkiest looking kid on earth talking about coping mechanisms and how unrealistic they are for most people. He said, “I get a good ten hours of sleep – a week.” Is this supposed to help us get enough sleep? Then she showed a Planet Earth video clip of amazing phenomena in nature, and asked us afterward if we were able to focus on the video clip, and not start worrying about the future or the past. One boy raised his hand and pointed out that at first he was enjoying watching the video clips, but then he realized if he never made enough money to travel he would never get to see any of the wonders of the world in person. This is something I worry about as well, never being able to travel to other places in the world. I did not need to be reminded of my worries by this guy.

By the time the bell finally rang at 1:01 (we were released early today), I was so anxious my heart was beating a mile a minute. I could literally feel it fluttering in my chest like when I hold my cat and I feel her little heart racing. I also felt irritable, with a vague cloud of dread hanging over me. I stopped and asked myself, dread of what? Why am I so anxious right now? I couldn’t even figure out what got me so worked up; maybe it was a combination of little things.

Luckily I have strategies to relieve stress. And they do not involve watching any pointless video clips. Let me list some things I did today to calm down and release stress:

  • I ate a healthy lunch with delicious and good foods. I think low blood sugar was a major contributor to my stress since I hadn’t eaten in a while. Once I took the time to sit down to a balanced meal, my mood and ability to think reasonably improved.
  • I told my mom about the things that were stressing me out. Talking to a trusted person who will listen and relate to you is often a good idea. Speaking about my problems aloud helped make them seem smaller.
  • I took a walk. Luckily I had time to do this since we were released early from school. Exercise helps with stress because I physically feel like I’m going somewhere, doing something, moving forward and leaving my problems in the dust.

What do you do to relieve stress?

Now, on to the recipe. This is a make-ahead quesadilla that can easily be assembled the night before, if you have five or ten minutes in the evening. Colby-Pepper Jack cheese and egg is always a winning combination for me. I added peppers to try and make this quesadilla a little more interesting, and I thought they added a nice crunch and flavor. If you want to get gourmet about it and cook the peppers before adding them to the quesadilla go for it; I didn’t cook them but I think they would taste fine either way.

Make-Ahead Egg and Cheese Quesadilla

serves 1

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Wednesday: Make Ahead Egg and Cheese Quesadilla

Ingredients:

  • 2 personal-size corn tortillas
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 mini sweet peppers, diced
  • 1 slice Colby-Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/8 of an avocado, sliced

Directions:

Spray a pan with cooking spray. Scramble the egg, adding the peppers and cheese when it is almost done cooking.

When egg mixture is done cooking, remove from heat and place it on one corn tortilla. Add avocado slices and top with the remaining tortilla.

Refrigerate overnight. (I wrapped mine in a paper towel and put it in a ziplock.)

In the morning, when you are ready to eat the quesadilla, place it on a microwave-safe plate and cut in half. heat in the microwave until it is as warm as desired. (I warmed it for a little more than 30 seconds total.)

Enjoy! (And don’t be late to school, and remember all your deadlines, etcetera… ugh! 😦 )

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Wednesday: egg and cheese make-ahead quesadillaI thought for some reason it was a good idea to put the avocado on top of the quesadilla instead of inside. I ended up slipping it inside after the pictures… at least it looks good in the photos!

To see Tuesday’s Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! post, click here!

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Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Tuesday: Oatmeal Cookie Oatmeal

Yes, you read that right. No, I did not make a typo and write the same word twice twice. (It drives me crazy when people use rotten grammar and speling b/c it’s just the internet and shorthand = acceptable.) This is not a recipe for oatmeal cookies, but for cookie oatmeal. Oatmeal cookie oatmeal, to be exact. I’ve been seeing lots of bloggers lately posting about breakfast oatmeal cookies, and I figured, why not flip the idea around and make steel-cut oatmeal with cookie dough in it?

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Tuesday: oatmeal cookie oatmeal

Whipping up this steel-cut oatmeal is much less time-consuming than putting together a batch of cookies on a busy weekday. The “cookie” theme with just a little bit of chocolate is a nice healthy option that may help prevent unintentional cookie/junk food snagging later on in the stressful day. Many people tend to eat less healthy when they are stressed. Instead of depriving myself entirely of unhealthy foods, I try to make healthier versions of these “stress-relieving” treats and eat them instead. That way I don’t have to feel like I’m missing the real thing – in this case, a cookie full of butter and sugar. So start off your day right with this warm and hearty steel-cut “cookie” oatmeal.

Oatmeal Cookie Steel-Cut Oatmeal

serves 1

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Tuesday: oatmeal cookie steel-cut oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup quick-cook steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 tbl dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup vanilla almondmilk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbl walnuts
  • 1-2 tbls Eat Pastry brand vegan gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough (I only used a tablespoon, but if you want to make this a little more indulgent I recommend using two for a little extra cookie-ness.)

Directions:

The night before you want to have the oatmeal, I recommend measuring your dry oats and cranberries into a ziplock for a quicker assembly the next morning.

In the morning, cook your oatmeal. First, place 1/2 cup hot water and 1/4 cup vanilla almondmilk in a small or medium pot and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to lowish-medium. Add your oats and cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally. At some point while cooking add the vanilla extract, and mix in the dollop of cookie dough. Cook for about five minutes total.

When oatmeal is done cooking, remove from heat. Pour into a medium bowl and top with the walnuts. Let cool a minute or so before digging in!

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Tuesday: breakfast cookie oatmeal

I do love how chocolate chips melt into oatmeal, don’t you? Maybe some more chocolate could be added… after all it is testing season and we all need our dessert for breakfast!

To see Monday’s Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! post, click here!

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Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Monday: Whole Wheat Blueberry Lemon Coconut Muffins

Remember my Lunch Liberation Posts? I felt like my weekday brown-bag lunches were getting unbearably boring, so I challenged myself to a week of creating (somewhat) innovative new lunch ideas and posting them for you to try. That week was really helpful for me as I figured out how to make school lunches I can look forward to eating. This week, I aim to jazz up my breakfast routine. I will try to make a breakfast every day that is healthy, delicious, and quick enough to be assembled on a busy weekday morning. I am a preparatory sort of person (no I am NOT “preppy”, but I like to be prepared) so I anticipate some or all the recipes I post this week will involve some brief prep work the night before, and in the morning will be ready or practically ready to eat.

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Monday: blueberry lemon coconut 100% whole wheat muffin

Since this is a health blog, I think I should include a little tidbit on the importance of breakfast. We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many people skip breakfast or just grab some caffeine before running out the door to school or work. It’s true weekday mornings can be a big stressful rush, but if that’s the case for you just prepare something the night before, and when you wake up you can just eat and run. If you have something good to eat waiting for you in the kitchen, it’ll be that much easier to drag yourself out of bed on a weekday morning! 🙂

Weekday Breakfasts Updated! Monday: whole wheat muffins blueberry coconut and lemon

Some people skip breakfast not because of time constraints, but in order to lose weight. They think they are eating fewer calories by skipping breakfast. But in reality, the reverse is true: if you don’t eat in the morning, chances are you will be hungrier during the whole day and end up eating a lot of snacks and a bigger lunch and dinner. Overall, you will consume more calories. Having a tiny little breakfast is not much better, because it will still leave that incessant grumble in your stomach, bothering you all day until you give in and buy that package of Pop Tarts from the vending machine, or order that greasy cheeseburger for lunch. The best option is to make breakfast the largest meal of the day, and have smaller meals for lunch and dinner with small snacks in between if needed.

The best kind of breakfast is one that is balanced, with enough protein and carbohydrates to get you through your day. The amount of protein and carbs to consume depends on the individual, but keep in mind that this is supposed to be your highest-calorie meal of the day, so it should have significant nutritional value. I try to incorporate at least one serving of fruit into my breakfasts, and sometimes more, for fiber as well as other vitamins found in the fruit. Right now I’m into apples with peanut butter (or chocolate peanut butter as the case may be. Not as healthy as regular peanut butter, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice to prevent getting into a rut of the same boring breakfasts every day.) So to stop you from getting into a rut as well, here is the first of this week’s updated breakfast ideas: whole wheat muffins.

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Monday: Whole Wheat Blueberry Lemon coconut muffins

I made these muffins late Sunday afternoon, to have throughout the week. I haven’t tried freezing them for the long-term, but it may be a good thing to try. These are the first muffins I have ever made that are 100% whole wheat, and I love them! I think I’ll make them this way from now on. For these muffins, I adapted a recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. I wanted to make blueberry lemon coconut muffins, but I don’t think I added quite enough lemon flavor because it doesn’t really come out quite as much as I’d hoped in the baked muffin. So maybe I would try adding lemon juice, lemon zest, anything to increase the tanginess of the muffin batter.

But that’s really a small detail – the muffins are good overall. Great texture, and the lemon coconut filling I added makes for a splash of tangy flavor! Plus the muffins are healthy: they are whole wheat, contain blueberries, Earth Balance instead of butter, and Greek yogurt for a tad more protein. They also have less sugar than most muffin recipes: there is no granulated sugar in the recipe at all; the only sugars in the muffins come from the sugars in the maple, etcetera. So go ahead and take the time to make these muffins over the weekend and eat during the week – they are so much healthier than sugary store-bought junk. Plus you can customize them any way you like, maybe change out the lemon flavor for something else. Feel free to mix in different fruits, nuts, maybe even chocolate! (Shh…)

Whole Wheat Blueberry Lemon Coconut Muffins

makes 12 regular sized muffins

based on a recipe from 100 Days of Real Food

Weekday Breakfasts, updated! Monday: 100% whole wheat muffins with blueberry, lemon, and coconut

Ingredients:

for muffin batter

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs (I used 6 tbls Egg Beaters egg substitute)
  • 1 Greek lemon yogurt (I used Yoplait brand)
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread (I did not soften this at all, but I recommend doing so)
  • 2 tbls pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (I used Odwalla brand)

for lemon coconut filling

  • 1/4 cup lemon curd
  • 3 tbls sweetened flaked coconut

Directions:

For lemon coconut filling: In a large bowl, combine the lemon curd and coconut flakes. Stir with a spoon just until combined. Set this aside while you prepare the muffin batter.

For muffin batter: Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cups. (I recommend also spraying the paper cups with cooking spray, as my muffins sort of stuck to the paper once baked. But it’s not too big of a deal if they stick; I just use a butter knife to loosen the edges of the muffin until the paper peels off easily.)

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir with a spoon until combined. Add the eggs/egg substitute, lemon yogurt, Earth Balance, maple syrup, vanilla, and OJ. Blend well with the spoon until just combined, but do not overmix. Gently stir in your blueberries.

Put it all together: Spoon some muffin batter into all muffin cups, filling each about halfway or a little less. Now, place a little dollop of filling onto each unbaked muffin, trying to keep it mainly in the center. Finally, cover the filling with more of the remaining muffin batter.

Muffin batter topped with filling:

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Monday: blueberry lemon whole wheat muffins batter topped with lemon coconut filling

Filling covered with muffin batter:

batter for blueberry muffins Weekday Breakfasts Updated! Monday

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Your house will be filled with the delightful scent of warm lemony goodness – mmm…

Weekday Breakfasts, Updated! Monday: blueberry lemon coconut muffins

Please Note: one of these little muffins is not intended to be a full breakfast. It is just a little treat to have along with some more healthy options to create a balanced meal.

Also Note: I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a bossy nutritionist. I’m not a nutritionist, and I certainly hope I’m not bossy! I just want to convey all the information I know about health.

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Pita Pizza with Cheese, Avocado and Mango

pita pizza with cheddar, avocado, and mango

Every Saturday, my brother has a tradition of ordering pizza from Domino’s. I’m not much of a pizza person, and it’s not very healthy, so I never snag a slice. But I am interested in experimenting with different kinds of foods, and trying to make healthy versions of things like pizza. So for lunch today, I decided to make my own personal-sized “pizza.” Instead of going through the trouble of making a crust, I used a whole wheat pita round. Call me a health nut, but I actually thought it tasted better than the puffy pizza crust usually found on take-out pizza like Domino’s.

I’ve heard of people topping pizza with pineapple before, so I thought I’d do that. But there was no pineapple at my grocery store today, so I settled for mango. It tasted good, not in a usual way, but kind of in a weird way. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t taste weird, just good in a weird way. The crunchy mango contrasted with soft avocado and melted cheese in an interesting blend of flavors.

Pita Pizza with Cheese, Avocado, and Mango

Makes one serving

pita pizza with avocado and mango and 4-state cheddar cheese

Ingredients:

  • one whole wheat pita round
  • 1/4 cup Sargento brand 4-state cheddar shredded cheese
  • 1/4 of an avocado, cut into slices or chunks or whatever – I cut mine free-form style!
  • 4 small slices mango, chopped into smaller chunks

Directions:

Spread cheese over pita as evenly as possible. Microwave pita with cheese on until cheese is melted. (This took 33 seconds in my microwave – just keep checking until it is done.)

Distribute avocado pieces and mango on top of the cheese and microwave for another ten seconds or so.

Before…

spread cheese on top of pita

After…

melt cheese/add avocado and mango

Now your pizza is ready to devour – enjoy!

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Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pancakes

pancakes made with steel-cut oats, banana, chocolate, peanut butter

At school a few days ago, my teacher mentioned that he wanted to teach us kids how to make healthy foods. He asked for suggestions of easy recipes we might want to make in class one day. One person called out, “chocolate chip pancakes!” But the teacher nixed that suggestion, saying we all know how to put bad foods into our bodies, and that what we would benefit from is learning how to put good food into our bodies. I’m always a little miffed when teachers at school assume EVERYONE in the class lives on solely fast food and candy, since I personally try to eat as healthy as possible. I like to transform guilty, “off-limits” type treats into healthy foods that are actually beneficial to one’s body to consume. So as soon as I heard my teacher claim that chocolate chip pancakes were unhealthy, I took them on as my next guilty-to-healthy conversion project. I felt like the teacher had challenged me personally to prove him wrong, to prove that chocolate chip pancakes can be enjoyed by the health-conscious. And I rose to the challenge this morning, creating yummy pancakes free of flour and high in protein. Anyone who wants to incorporate delicious food into a healthy lifestyle can enjoy these pancakes.

The pancakes tasted mainly like peanut butter and banana, with a generous portion of lovely melty chocolate chips. The texture was soft and the oats I used instead of flour added a lovely, well, oatiness. I topped mine with maple syrup and roasted, salted peanuts… divine!

healthy chocolate chip banana peanut butter pancakes with steel-cut oats

This recipe makes two servings. The number of pancakes per serving depends on how big you make them; I made 8 small to medium pancakes in total.

Per serving, the pancakes contain almost 12 grams of protein, and a little under 5 grams of fiber. (This is before adding the peanut topping which adds a smidgeon more protein and fiber.) I also made them using all natural ingredients. These pancakes are a weekend breakfast you can feel good about.

healthy banana chocolate chip pancakes with steel-cut oats, peanut butter

My brother was a little afraid of the banana, but since he normally likes chocolate chip pancakes he decided to try one. He said, “mmm, dark chocolate. I’ve never had dark chocolate in pancakes before.” Actually, I just used the same chocolate chips my dad usually adds to his typical chocolate chip pancakes, so there wasn’t anything unusual about the chocolate. But I was glad to get any positive reception from him at all, so I zipped my lips regarding the truth about the chocolate chips.

My mom tried the pancakes as well, and said she liked them though they were very banana-y. I expected my mom to like them, since there is peanut butter involved. One of the unwritten rules of cuisine in my family is: if you want my mom to like it, just add peanut butter!

Are you ready to fuel up with this healthy weekend breakfast yourself? Then here is the recipe you have been waiting for:

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

makes 2 servings

adapted from this recipe on EatGameLive

banana peanut butter chocolate steel-cut oats pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbl Laura Scudder’s peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
  • scant 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • optional toppings: pure maple syrup and roasted, salted peanuts

Directions:

Spray a nonstick pan generously with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork.

In another small bowl, combine the vanilla extract, peanut butter, and eggs. Beat eggs thoroughly into the mixture. Add oats and mashed banana and let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes. (I just did this to try and let the oats absorb some of the liquid.) Add chocolate chips and mix.

Pour pancake batter onto greased pan and cook over medium to high heat for 45 seconds to one minute, then flip and cook the other side about 15 to 30 seconds. (The amount of time to cook each side depends on how big you make the pancakes.) Between batches, remove pan from heat and spray with more cooking spray if necessary.

Serve ’em up with maple syrup, peanuts, and a great big smile as you get ready to start your day the delicious way!

steel-cut oats, banana, peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes

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Better Than Banana Bread Steel-Cut Oats

better than banana bread steel-cut oatmeal

All my life I have been an instant oatmeal kind of gal. As you may have noticed, many of my past recipes contain the stuff. When I was really little I ate “Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal” for breakfast – it had these cute little dinosaur eggs made of sugary chemicals, and you had to guess what kind of dino (also made of sugar) was inside. I got a little older and graduated to the “healthier” instant oatmeal packets with dehydrated apple bits and about a bucketload of sugar. At one point I started using “lower sugar” oatmeal to cut calories, but even that was still made with lots of highly processed ingredients and was barely fewer calories per packet than the regular packets, so eventually I returned to regular, full-sugar instant oatmeal. I tried “healthier” brands, such as Three Sisters instant oatmeal. While this oatmeal is yummy, all-natural and has fewer unpronounceable ingredients listed on the box, it still contains 9 grams of sugars per serving. Furthermore, organic foods can be expensive, and one box of that oatmeal costs more than a box of not-organic packets of instant oatmeal, so usually I would just buy the cheap stuff and pretend it wasn’t full of artificial flavors, preservatives, and sugar.

Until now. I’ve been seeing steel-cut oats around quite a lot lately on the internet. I tried some myself at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf during spring vacation, and I found them pretty good. But they weren’t as sweet as the instant oatmeal I was used to. Still, I discovered that steel-cut oats are healthier than store-bought instant oatmeal packets: for one thing, they only contain ONE ingredient: 100% whole grain steel cut oats. I find it so refreshing to look at the ingredient list on a product and find it nearly empty. For another, the amount of sugar involved in a bowl of steel-cut oats you cook yourself is entirely under your control. You can choose to use alternatives such as muscovado sugar, Truvia, pure maple syrup, honey… the options are endless and there is a choice for every taste and health philosophy out there.

Today I cooked my first successful serving of steel-cut oats. The first time I tried this, I was making it ahead of time to have ready for the next morning. I thought it would be so much easier to make the oatmeal in the microwave rather than cooking it in a pot with hot water. So I used the directions on the container for microwave cooking, but I didn’t have the recommended “deep bowl” so I used a sort of shallow one.  The result was an explosion of half-cooked oats all over the microwave. So I cleaned it up and thought, maybe if I cover the dish the oats are in while microwaving, they can’t explode like that. So for microwaved oatmeal, take two, I put the oats and water in a pasta dish and sealed the lid on tight. Clever idea, right? WRONG. A few moments after popping that batch of oats in the microwave: BANG! I nearly jumped out of my skin in terror, (it was late at night, okay?) then opened the microwave to find an oatmeal mess of even greater magnitude than the mess from take one. After cleaning that up, I was all done with the microwave method and made my oatmeal the old-fashioned way: in a pot on the stove. I put it in a bowl and covered it to be refrigerated overnight. The next morning, it had congealed into an unappetizing, hard ball. I had to add hot water , chop at the mass with a spoon, and even (apprehensively) microwave it before it became edible. And even then it was not very good.

The second time I tried making steel-cut oats (or 4th time if you count the microwave fails) I cooked it in the morning right before eating it, so the overnight congelation wasn’t a problem. But I didn’t add enough sweetener, so it wasn’t really to my taste. I’m used to my oatmeal being pretty sweet, so for this banana bread oatmeal I used several different types of sweeteners. But all of the sweeteners I used are organic and more healthy than the refined sugars you’d find in most instant oatmeal packets.

better than banana bread steel-cut oats

So I’d call this oatmeal a successful, healthy alternative to the instant kind! It does take a little bit more time to cook, about five minutes total. I measured out most of the ingredients and mashed the banana the night before so it didn’t take as long in the morning.

I call this oatmeal “better than banana bread” because it has the delicious, sweet taste found in a banana nut bread, as well as the hearty, filling texture of steel-cut oatmeal. It is also much healthier than most banana breads which are usually made with white flour and choc-full of sugar and butter. It is full of fiber and other nutrients such as potassium from the banana. The taste is very delicious and comforting as well as filling. Enjoy!

Better Than Banana Bread Steel-Cut Oats

makes one serving

banana bread steel-cut oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup vanilla almondmilk
  • 1/2 of a small or medium banana, mashed
  • 1 tbl pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbl walnuts (for topping)

Directions:

Place the water and almondmilk in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and add the steel-cut oats. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the banana and maple syrup and cook for another couple minutes, or until the oats start to bubble quite a bit.

Remove from heat and carefully pour oatmeal into medium bowl. Top with walnuts if desired. Let cool a couple of minutes before digging in.

Bon appetit, and may this oatmeal be a great start to a super morning!

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Tropical Strawberry Mango Cookie Smoothie

Imagine lying in a bamboo hammock on a lush tropical beach, bathing in the sun and watching dolphins play in the crystal-clear waves as you hear exotic birds singing and monkeys screeching in the jungle behind you. That island sun is relentless. Your refreshment of choice: a strawberry mango smoothie of course! What could be more appropriate for a tropical getaway than a strawberry mango smoothie, with some – wait a second… how did chocolate chip cookies get in this picture?

Yes, it seems random and out of place, but just trust me on this: crispy chocolate chip cookies and the luscious, flavorful blend of strawberry and mango go together beautifully. This smoothie was so good, I just can’t describe it well enough to do it justice. You’ll have to try it and see for yourself!

Tropical Strawberry Mango Cookie Smoothie

tropical strawberry mango chocolate chip cookie smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 6 fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almondmilk
  • 1 365 brand mango flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbl honey
  • 2-4 ice cubes
  • 5 Hannahmax Baking brand chocolate chip cookie chips

Directions:

Place banana, 4 of the strawberries, the almondmilk, yogurt, honey, and ice into the blender. Blend for a minute or two, until all ingredients are well combined. Add the cookie chips and blend an extra 4-8 seconds. Top with the remaining strawberries and serve chilled.

strawberry mango cookie smoothie

strawberry mango smoothie with chocolate chip cookie chips

Cookies and fruit… it totally works!

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