Healthier Pancake Toppings and Options

With my series of overindulgent posts as of recent, I feel the need to balance out the calories and cholesterol with something a little bit healthier: Pancakes.

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That’s not a joke.  I totally think pancakes can be healthy.  You just have to know how to do them. As a kid, I hated pancakes.  I always thought they tasted funny.  Then something magical happened, I tried IHOP’s pancakes and I loved them.   That’s when I realized what I hated was Bisquick pancakes.  That’s all my mom ever made.  Sorry mom, but bisquick is just gross. When I discovered my love of pancakes, I wanted to eat them all the time.   While we all know pancakes aren’t always the healthiest breakfast, there are ways to lighted up your pancakes and especially the toppings so they’re still fun and delicious but won’t undo your workout. Here are a few ways to keep your pancakes a little on the healthier side so you can enjoy them guilt-free. peachpureepancakes2text

Choose a Better Pancake Base

Pancakes can basically be a carb fest (nothing wrong with that), but if you’re looking to balance your meal, adding protein powder is a great start.  I’m a big fan of protein pancakes because the extra protein helps keep you full.

Some of my favorites are:

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Vanilla Coconut Protein Pancakes
Pumpkin Protein Pancakes
Banana Protein Pancakes

The fun part of protein pancakes is you can play with different flours and protein powders and find a mix that you love.

If making your own pancakes from scratch isn’t your thing or you’re really not looking to add some extra protein, there are some pancake mixes that are pretty natural and overall healthy.  I love Kodiak Cakes, because they’re super easy to make (just add water) and the ingredients are all natural.

You could also go the Paleo Pancake route.  It’s not exactly a pancake but still pretty darn tasty.

Lighten Up Your Toppings

When I was younger, I ate the regular old pancake syrup you get at the grocery store.  Nowadays, I try to stick with toppings that don’t have any chemicals or artificial sweeteners.  Straight up maple syrup is a little too intense for me, so generally I like to mix it up to create different types of syrups and sauces and toppings.

My latest obsession is fruit purees mixed with maple syrup.

I like to puree some fresh peaches and mixed it with maple syrup… about 2 tbsp peach puree + 1 tbsp of maple syrup for one person.  You can also just puree the fruit and skip the maple syrup.  I tried that with banana (simmered them in water first, but raw works) and it was awesome:

pancakesbananasyrupMy other favorite combo is plain greek yogurt with maple syrup.

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But in general, fruit is a great topping.  It helps bulk up the volume without adding as many calories as eating extra pancakes.  Berries are always a great addition…

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But you can also get creative, like topping your pancakes with persimmon!

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 Portion Control

I love a big stack of pancakes.  Mostly because it looks pretty, but also because it’s fun to eat.  But eating 4 or 5 full sized pancakes is a lot.  So what I do is I made them smaller!  That way I feel like I’m eating a lot but really I’m not.

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I generally use a tbsp measurer to prepare my pancakes.  Each pancake is composed of 2 tbsp of batter, instead of about 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) which is normal.

In the photo above, the banana slices show how the pancakes are actually pretty small.  Despite the fact that the portion size is smaller, I still feel like I’m getting a good amount of pancakes.

 

I’m all for eating a full stack of pancakes with butter and maple syrup every once a while.  But on a normal day basis, I like to keep it a bit lighter.  Pancakes can still be enjoyed if you’re trying to stay healthy.  It’s just about making sure you make the right choices.

What’s your favorite way to slim down your pancakes?

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Tomato and Ricotta Salad

I’m currently having a love affair with full fat ricotta cheese.

It has to be a full fat thing, because I’ve had ricotta before, but none as delicious as this.  It’s just the regular whole milk ricotta from Trader Joe’s. Nothing fancy.  Usually, I buy part-skim, but this time all I could find was full fat.

That was the best thing that could have happened.

Now I’m obsessed with ricotta.  I want to put it on everything.  In fact, I have been putting it on everything lately, but this is my favorite combination:

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  It makes for the perfect appetizer or light meal.  It goes great with wine and doesn’t weigh you down.  You can probably go dancing after eating this and feel great. TomatoRicottaSalad1

Tomato and Ricotta Salad

2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp (or more) ricotta cheese
2 tsp Chipotle Olive Oil*
1 wedge lemon
salt/pepper to taste

Slice tomatoes, top with ricotta, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with chipotle olive oil and finish with a squirt of lemon juice.

Serve and enjoy!

*I got my olive oil from Antica Olive Oil.  If you don’t have Chipotle Olive oil on hand, I would recommend extra virgin olive oil with some crushed red pepper flakes or chipotle powder.  If you’re not a fan of heat, your favorite olive oil will work.

I loved everything about this.  I had it for dinner this past Friday (before a fun flamenco show), then again on Saturday night and then for lunch on Sunday.  What can I say? I know what I like!

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I’m definitely making this for my next gathering.  It’s easy, fresh, delicious and super easy to scale up or down depending on how many guests you have. It also goes great on bread if you’re looking for finger foods!

 

What’s your favorite way to eat ricotta?  After this Lemon Ricotta Cake, this tomato/ricotta combo might my favorite!

Vegan Fusion Tacos

I don’t know about you, but I love fusion food.  My favorite is some sort of Asian cuisine combined with Latin. Food trucks are particularly good at this.   Kogi is the perfect example.  Their short rib taco is nothing short of amazing.  There’s another food truck around Orange County that has a banh mi taco.  Amazing.

I’m also a big fan of Taco Tuesday.  I wish I took advantage of it more often.  I really wanted to hit up my favorite taco spot today, but then I remembered I should probably save money (and calories).  Instead I made tacos at home with ingredients I already had, and thus this italian-mexican fusion vegan creation was born:

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Vegan Fusion Tacos

1 corn or flour tortilla
2 tbsp avocado pesto hummus
2 artichoke hearts, halved
a few sliced thinly sliced zucchini
1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)

Heat tortilla.  Spread tortilla with Avocado Pesto Hummus.  Top with artichoke hearts, zucchini slices, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast.  If you want to go crazy, squeeze some extra lemon on top.  You won’t be sorry.  Then devour.

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Note: If you make a full avocado pesto hummus recipe, you should be able to make about 6-8 tacos.

Do you see the fusion in here?  Italian ingredients: Garbanzo beans, Artichoke Hearts, Zucchini, Basil.  Latin/Mexican: Lemon, Avocado, Tortilla.

I think that’s pretty good.

So there you have it.  Tasty vegan dinner, ready in about 10 minutes.  Get your Taco Tuesday on.

Avocado Pesto Hummus

I’m loving the fact that it’s now light out until about 7pm.  What I’m NOT loving is that it’s still dark out when I go to the gym.  There’s nothing less motivating than waking up when it’s still dark out.

So while it’s still light out, I had all these hopes and dreams for magical creations I was going to make after work, photograph, enjoy and blog about.  Then I remembered that more cooking means more washing dishes and that suddenly sounded unappealing.  As much as I wanted to hit up Trader Joe’s for a box of Puffins for dinner, I decided to make something quick and easy.

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And seriously guys, this was all sorts of amazing.  You really need to make this, spread it on toast and stuff your face off.  That’s what I did.  Why should you?

Top 5 Reasons You Need to Make This:

    1. It’s healthy!  Lots of good fats from avocado
    2. It’s vegan! Let’s love the Earth a little bit more and eat less meat (especially if you’re in California.  There’s a drought folks!).  This spread still packs in the protein.  This whole recipe (which serves 4) has about 29g of protein!
    3. It’s crazy delicious.  Seriously.  So good.
    4. Avocado. Enough said.
    5. It’s ready in about 3 minutes, and you’re hungry so what are you waiting for?

BONUS REASON: It’s a great excuse to eat bread, not that you need one. Avocado Pesto Hummus 3

Avocado Pesto Hummus

1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp nutritional yeast, heaping
1 small handful of fresh basil leaves (I used about 7 large leaves)
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix (which is what I used).  Pulse until combined.  I wanted mine a little bit chunky so I didn’t pulse it too long, but if you want it smooth you can do that too.

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Spread on your favorite bread or serve with pita chips or raw veggies and enjoy!

Do you need any more convincing?  I’m not sure how else to tell you this is basically delicious and awesome for you.  Eat it up!

Are you an avocado lover? Please tell me you are!

Moroccan Spice Blend

As we’ve previously discussed, dinner is a struggle for me.  Waking up at 5:15am to workout, then going to work all day leaves me little motivation to make a meal when 5:30pm rolls around, especially if it’s just for me.  I’m one of those people that prefers to cook for others.  Cooking for myself is extremely unappealing.

When Jesse has dinner with me, it’s awesome.  I tend to make an actual meal, but most days, on my own, I tend to snack.  So I’m trying to come up with better solutions.  My number one solution right now is to keep it simple.

So in my quest to keep things simple, yet flavorful, I discovered a Moroccan Spice Blend that is so versatile you can basically kick up any plain dish without adding fat.  The best part is you can control how much salt goes in it.

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Moroccan Spice Blend

Adapted from Epicurious

1 tsp  cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt (or less if you’d like)*
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp  cinnamon
1/2 tsp  coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp mace

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Combine all ingredients until well blended.  Store in an air tight container until ready to use.

*Feel free to adjust the amount of salt.  You can completely omit it, if you’re trying to go low sodium.  You can also add more if you like things salty (the original recipe calls for 1 tsp of salt, but I tried that and thought it was too much.  1/2 tsp was more to my liking).

I mixed up a bunch to keep on hand for easy meals.  So far using this blend I’ve made: Moroccan Spiced Chicken Thighs and Moroccan Spice Tilapia.

Super easy! In both cases, I sprinkled the chicken (bone-in thighs, skin and excess fat removed) or fish generously with the spice blend and baked.  Both times it turned out awesome! I can’t wait to keep making this. If you’re interested, I can do a full recipe post on either of these.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Tonight, the ultimate quick dinner for 1:  I took a piece of tilapia, covered it in moroccan spice blend, then roasted it along side some asparagus for 17 minutes at 400F.  Done in less than 20 minutes, and easy clean up.  I like it.

Give this Moroccan Spice Blend a try! It’s a great way to add a ton of flavor while still keeping things healthy.

What’s your favorite quick and easy weeknight meal?

Healthy Baked Turkey Meatballs

This past weekend was a very Italian weekend for me.  I went to the Getty Villa.

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If you’re in Southern California and haven’t been to the Getty Villa, you should go.  I grew up here and had never been.  It’s a beautiful museum built to look like a villa you would around Pompeii or Herculanum around 30 AD.  It’s seriously beautiful, not to mention the exhibits are awesome.

To add to the Southern Italian-ness of the weekend, Jesse and I also saw Pompeii.  While I question the historical accuracy, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s as if Titanic and Gladiator came together to make one ridiculous film.

If there’s one thing Pompeii taught me, it’s that Jon Snow is hot in a skirt.  After leaving the theatre, the one thing both Jesse and I had to comment on was Jon Snow‘s abs (because Kit Harington will forever be known as Jon Snow to me).

Image source: Torontosun.com

First we thought, those have to be digitally enhanced or airbrushed.  No one can have abs like that.  Of course then the conversation transitioned to: how does one get those abs?

I did some research.  Basically, if you want abs you have to lose fat and build muscle (no surprises here). Vanity Fair confirmed with an interview by the actors of the movie:

The four-hour workout: two hours of fight training with weapons, an hour of weight lifting, an hour of cardio, and an 1,800-calorie diet “designed specifically for our bodies to be attuned to lose fat and pop out muscles,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje told us.

Great.

So for the rest of us that aren’t working out for four hours a day or consuming a diet “designed specifically for our bodies to be attuned to lose fat and pop out muscles,” we should probably just stick to eating clean and maybe increasing our protein.

I’m not really in the market for Jon Snow abs (yep, that’s what I’m calling them now), but getting fit is always a good idea.  So to help you in that direction, I made you dinner:

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Healthy Baked Turkey Meatballs

1 lb lean ground turkey (from 1 package in the meat section)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Using your hands work together all ingredients and form into golf-ball sized meat balls.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through (note: this might vary depending of the size of your meatballs and your oven). healthyturkeymeatballs2

Serve over cauliflower puree, on spaghetti squash or with your vegetable of choice and enjoy!  This recipe will make about 20 meatballs.

This low carb (paleo, gluten-free) meal will get you in the right direction to getting those Jon Snow abs.  Or if you’re like me and you just want to be a little bit healthy, to balance out an enormous piece of cake, this meal is great for that too.

Anyone else see Jon Snow’s abs in Pompeii and have their jaw drop?

German Nachos (ish): Baked Fries with Sauerkraut, Sausage and Muenster Cheese Sauce

I love mustard.  No really.  Like a lot.  For as long as I can remember, mustard has been one of my favorite condiments.  Even the cheap yellow mustard you get on Subway sandwiches (no mayo, extra mustard please).  I love it.  It adds such a nice flavor profile to most foods.

But fancy mustard, that’s a whole different ball game.

Recently, I got in touch with the guys at Green Mountain Mustard.  They make fancy pants mustard, but in the least pretentious way possible.

But anyway, these guys know mustard.  They sent me two jars of their mustard so I could make an EPIC grilled cheese sandwich.  While the grilled cheese sandwich is still  in the works, I had this idea and had to make it asap.  It involved one of the mustard flavors they sent me: Deli Dirt.  Their Deli Dirt tastes like all the goodness of a deli put into one little jar, and this mustard is THICK.  It’s basically the consistency of hummus, which is awesome.

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I’m in love.  And thus, this creation was born:

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One of the things that I love about mustard is that it adds a ton of flavor to food without a ton of fat (or calories).  You know I like to make things as light as I can.  So while this looks fatty and decadent, it’s a little bit lighter than you would think (please note, I’m not actually saying this is healthy, but it’s better than eating something deep fried). mustardfries3

Oh and I should probably mention that I had no idea what to call this.  I couldn’t really call it a “Pile of Deliciousness,” which is what it is.  So instead I thought of a more Pinterest-friendly name: German Nachos (ish).  Ish is a really important qualifier here.  Enjoy.

German Nachos (ish): Baked Fries with Sauerkraut, Sausage and Muenster Cheese Sauce

3 large potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Deli Dirt mustard
1 sausage (bratwurst are tasty. true story.), sliced
1/2-1 cup sauerkraut
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp Deli Dirt Mustard
1 cup milk (I used non-fat)
3 oz Muenster cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 425F.  Slice potatoes into fry shape.

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Toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of Deli Dirt.  Sprinkle with salt and lay on a cooling rack that is placed over a baking sheet.

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This will help your fries get crisp all around and keep the bottoms from burning.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until fries are golden and crispy (start checking them after about 30 minutes, since everyone’s oven is different and you might have cut yours thinner than mine).  While your fries bake up, have a dance party.  This is not optional.

10 minutes before your fries are ready to go (aka 20 or so minutes after you put them in the oven), brown your sausage in a pan and set aside.  Then make your cheese sauce.

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Melt butter in a sauce pan, add flour and stir together.  Cook for 2 minutes or until golden.  Stream in milk very slowly while whisking to break up any clumps that form.  Once you’ve added all the milk and whisked smooth.  Whisk in the mustard and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now assemble.  Lay some fries on a plate.  Top with sauerkraut (you’ll note in the recipe I said 1/2-1 cup, because I love sauerkraut and ended up adding a ton more after I photographed, but if you don’t care for it as much, add less) and sausage, then drizzle with cheese sauce.  Serve immediately.

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This recipe will serve 2-4 people.  Confession: Jesse and I devoured the entire thing.  I don’t feel guilty.

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The perfect bite will include a bit of potato, sauerkraut and sausage.  I promise it’s delicious.  If you wanted to keep this low carb, I bet this would be delicious if you replaced the potatoes with spaghetti squash.  Ok, I might have to try that ASAP.

I can’t wait to try more recipes with this awesome mustard.  Don’t worry, grilled cheese is coming soon!

Do you love mustard? What’s your condiment of choice?