No Guilt Oatmeal Pancakes

One thing my family can’t get enough of are pancakes. And while I never object to pancakes, they are not something I can eat a lot of. Traditional pancakes are full of butter and flour and leave me feeling heavy and tired after the indulgence. As an alternative, I’ve started making these oatmeal pancakes which use oatmeal flour and very little oil (only to grease the grill), so they are a guilt-free version that I can enjoy long after the last bite. But being guilt-free does not mean they are taste-free! Quite the opposite–they are tasty, sweet, and hearty. Perfect to be topped with fresh strawberries and maple syrup as part of a special Sunday brunch or any regular Tuesday!

Ingredients, makes about 8 medium pancakes

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Coconut oil, butter, or fat of your choice to cook

Instructions

  • Grind the oats in a food processor until they are smooth and flour-like
  • Transfer the oats into a medium bowl and add the other dry ingredients
  • In a separate bowl, mash the bananas and then combine with the wet ingredients
  • Then slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, being careful to not over mix. Even though there is no gluten in these pancakes, I find they are the fluffiest when I do just the minimal amount of mixing.
  • If you want to make these the easy peasy way, just combine everything in your food processor. They are less fluffy but still delicious!
  • If you have a griddle, heat it on the stove with a generous amount of coconut oil or fat of choice. If you don’t have a griddle, a large skillet or pan works as well
  • Once the griddle / pan is hot, scoop 1/4 cup of batter onto your cooking surface. Flip after 2-3 minutes and cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side
  • Continue until your batter is done, adding more coconut oil or butter as needed.
  • Top with your favorite toppings!

This recipe is gluten-free (if using certified gluten-free oats), and can also easily be made vegan by substituting the eggs for your favorite egg substitute (applesauce, aquafaba, additional bananas).

Everyday Green Smoothie aka Endless Possibility Smoothie

For the past year or more, I have started my day with this green smoothie. It is easy to eat on a just-woken-up stomach, nutritious, filling, and very tasty. It sets me up to have a strong and productive day, free from the distraction of a growling belly. On the days I don’t have this smoothie, I end up ravenously snacking by mid-morning, feeling out of sorts and not very satiated. Turns out there is a bit of science behind why I find this such a satisfying breakfast: there is research that indicates that the thickness of a beverage impacts how full someone feels, more so than calorie content. So make your smoothie thick and you’ll feel full longer!

If you are new to the smoothie scene, the wonderful thing about them are the endless possibilities. I happen to be a creature of habit, and since I found one that really works for me, I stick to my one favorite recipe. By using a simple, basic structure, you can experiment with different ingredients to find your favorite mix. The basic ingredients of the endless possibility smoothie are:

– Green vegetable, ~1 cup loosely packed
– Fruit, ~1.5 cups
– Protein, 4-5 heaping tablespoons
– Liquid to mix, ~1 cup

For the green veggie, spinach, kale, and watercress are my staples, but there are other options as well (beet greens, chard, collards as examples). Spinach has a pretty mild flavor in smoothies and is probably the best one to start with, while kale and watercress have very distinct flavors that shine through. I would imagine beet greens would also have a distinct flavor, whereas chard might be more subtle.

The trick, I think, to this smoothie is the balance between fruit and protein. The fruit adds fiber, an essential part of what makes this smoothie so long-lasting, as well as the sweetness. My preferred fruits are apple and banana—to me these fruits have a mild sweetness that adds just the right level of sweet. I am trying to consume less sugar after all. Some people might not find it quite sweet enough. Frozen mango, peach, or pineapple chunks would be alternatives that pack a little more sweetness in their punch. Strawberries, blueberries, or cherries might be somewhere in between. I personally think banana is an essential component of any smoothie—it adds texture as well as sweetness—so we stock up on a ridiculous number of bananas every week.

The protein is the other essential part of this smoothie. I like to put real protein in my smoothie in the form of greek yogurt and/or nut butter. I also like these proteins because they happen to have fat in them too. I like fat—fat, in the right forms and quantities, is essential for our bodies to function. I also find that the full-fat yogurt and almond or peanut butter I put in these smoothies make this a meal that sustains by body well into lunch – after the fiber has been digested my body still has the fat to keep it going.

Your blender will need a little bit of liquid to put all these ingredients together. I use straight up water, sometimes with some ice if it’s a hot day. You could also use milk to create a creamier smoothie (cow, almond, soy, etc depending on your diet and preference – or experiment to find the one you like best in smoothies). I find the yogurt adds all the creaminess I need but there was a good stretch when I put a little vanilla almond milk in my smoothies. My husband likes to put orange juice in his smoothies. This adds more sugar which some people may enjoy :). Again, there are a lot of options depending on your flavor preferences.

Some people like to include other ingredients to their smoothie. Some things to consider as you become a smoothie master: chia, dates, oats, lemon juice, cinnamon.

Everyday Green Smoothie

1 cup water or other liquid
½ cup ice
1 cup kale
1 medium apple
2 heaping tbs full-fat greek yogurt
2 heaping tbs peanut or almond butter
1 medium ripe banana

Place ingredients in blender – I add one ingredient at a time with the blender running to ensure a smooth mix. Adjust as needed depending on your blender. Pour and enjoy!

Best Ever Banana Bread

I have such fond memories of growing up eating delicious homemade banana bread that it was one of the first recipes I sough to perfect so my children could also experience this essential simple pleasure. Plus, there is nothing quite like the smell of fresh banana bread wafting through the house.  This recipe captures everything I love about banana bread, a not overly sweet treat that accentuates the natural sweetness of the bananas, soft bread that holds up just well enough to hold a bit more butter, and a bread that won’t leave your fingers slippery with grease.

Banana bread is also very flexible and can be made into banana muffins, or can be the foundation for a sweeter treat if you add chocolate morsels to it. But there is little need to get fancy with this bread because it is absolutely satisfying just as it is.

Ingredients, makes one loaf

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mash the bananas in a large bowl
  • With a wooden spoon, stir in the melted butter and mix
  • Mix in beaten egg, sugar, and vanilla. Stir gently.
  • Sprinkle in baking soda and salt
  • Add flour in batches until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed
  • Pour batter into buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan
  • Bake for 1 hour

Variations

  • Muffins: bake for 23 minutes
  • Chocolate bread or muffins: add 2 tablespoons chocolate morsels
  • Egg free: substitute with 1/3 cup of applesauce

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Nothing brings my family more joy than to learn we are having spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner. It is comfort food to the extreme: warm, filling, and each bite tastier than the last. But this is no gratuitous plate of comfort food. This is a recipe made with complex flavors that will please children and adults alike and remind you just how good good food can be.

I first got the inspiration to craft a meat sauce in the middle of winter when I was craving something hearty and warm. And while it generally makes sense during the colder months, I have since made this dish in the middle of summer and enjoyed it just as much. I have also crafted a vegan version with white beans that is equally hearty and comforting, albeit slightly lighter.

I like to use the best quality ground beef I can find since I don’t eat it very often. In my spirit of moderation, red meat gets the fewest allotments, so I like to make it count. For me that means purchasing grass-fed beef from a local rancher at my farmers market, but there continue to be increasing options to find high-quality meat in more parts of the country and world. But, this is a no judgment blog so as long as you are happy with your ingredients, that’s all that matters.

Ingredients, serves 4-6

For the meat sauce

  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, oil, or coconut oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (or some combination of shallot and onion that produces 1 1/2 cups of onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (if serving to children you can omit or be very sparing depending heat preference)
  • 3/4 cups red wine, split (I use Bogle Petit Syrah)
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt to taste

For the pasta

  • 1-2 lbs pasta depending on audience. Pasta shape is all about your preference. My family likes spaghetti, but linguine, shells, or any other shape works too. The meat sauce will go a long way and could be spread out over more pasta to serve more people. Cook the amount of pasta that is right for the number of people. If you are serving more than eight people, I suggest doubling the meat sauce
  • Grated parmesan, reggiano, or pecorino to sprinkle generously on top

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil / butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 – 7 minutes. I like to add a little of my salt to the onions.
  2. When the onions are soft, add the garlic. But have the ground beef ready as you’ll only simmer the garlic for 1 minute
  3. Add the ground beef and salt generously with kosher salt. Sear a little on each side, then break up with your spoon or spatula. Cook the ground beef for 5-7 minutes, stirring and turning the meat so most of it has started to brown and there are minimal spots of pink meat.
  4. Once the meat has mostly started to brown, sprinkle in the oregano and red pepper flakes, if using.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the red wine and stir gently. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, again stirring gently to combine. Bring everything to a boil then reduce the heat slightly and let simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  7. After 15 or so minutes, add the remaining 1/4 cup of red wine and the nutmeg. Taste and add salt as needed. Let it simmer again while you prepare the pasta.
  8. Cook and drain the pasta, returning it to the pot you cooked it in or another large pot.
  9. At this point, the sauce should have thickened and be ready to serve. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to spread the sauce around. Transfer to a serving bow or serve directly from the pot.
  10. Sprinkle each bowl of spaghetti with the grated cheese, and enjoy!