Mini Lentil-Banana Pancakes

Want an easy way to make pancakes for your children without the fuss of frying them on the stove? Try these protein packed Mini Lentil-Banana Pancakes. Great for breakfast or as a snack on the go!

Recipe by: DietitianMom

Makes 36 mini pancakes (2 inches in diameter each)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup mashed or pureed cooked red lentils (drained well)
  • 3 small ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon fortified plant-based milk
  • 1/2 cup sifted all purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (can substitute with honey, maple syrup or agave nectar)

Supplies: silicon muffin cups, small pot, mixing bowl, baking tray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Rinse a half cup of dry red lentils with water in a small pot. Drain the excess water, then refill the pot with about 2 cups of water. Heat on a medium stove fire setting until pot contents are on a gentle boil. Turn down the fire and let contents cook with a gentle bubbling boil for about 10-15 minutes. You can taste a spoonful of the lentils at the end to check if they are cooked soft. Once the lentils are cooked through, turn off the fire. Remove the cooked lentils from the pot using a slotted spoon into a separate bowl. Measure out ½ a cup of cooked lentils into a separate mixing bowl. Make sure the lentils are drained really well first of any excess cooking liquid.
  3. Into this same mixing bowl with the lentils, mash the bananas, plant-based milk, sifted flour, baking powder, oil and brown sugar. You may add a little bit more plant-based milk if needed. The goal is to create a pancake batter thickness.
  4. Place all the silicon muffin cups onto a baking tray, then spoon a tablespoon of the batter into each silicon muffin cup.
  5. Bake the silicon cups in the oven for about 10-12 minutes (or until your desired level of crispness). Take out the baking tray and then remove the cooked mini-pancakes from the muffin cups onto a plate to further cool (and harden) for about 10 minutes or so. Ready to serve!
  6. Replace the silicon muffin cups onto the baking tray and repeat the process until all the batter has been cooked.

Tips: You could try substituting some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. You could also substitute the sugar with honey, maple syrup or agave nectar and adjust the amount added to your desired level of sweetness. The key is to put no more than a tablespoon at the bottom of each silicon muffin cup.

These Mini Lentil-Banana Pancakes taste great as leftovers cold or heated, or thawed and warmed up from the freezer. If you don’t have silicon muffin cups, you could use regular muffin cups, but the pancakes may stick slightly to the paper muffin cups. Another option is just to grease a tin muffin tray and put the batter directly into each muffin mold.

Alternatively, if you have a big silicon cake mold, you could use that to put a thin layer of the batter and then bake it, to make bigger pancake size pieces, or slice it into smaller pieces. Share your comments if you make this recipe! Bon appétit!

 

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Qn of the Month: Besides Calcium, Are There Other Nutrients Important for Bones?

A: Absolutely!! Calcium and (to a lesser extent) vitamin D, have both long been in the media spotlight in years past for their role in bone health. However, your body needs MUCH more than just calcium and vitamin D to make and maintain healthy bones. Bone modeling and mineralization is a complex metabolically active process – one that extends throughout your life, and requires a good adequate supply of key nutrients.

Besides calcium and vitamin D, other key nutrients include protein, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Research is also now uncovering other nutrients potentially important in bones such boron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, zinc, flavonoids and soy isoflavones. Except vitamin B-12 (now found in quite a few fortified foods such as fortified plant based milks, fortified breakfast cereals and certain brands of nutritional yeast), most naturally occurring plant foods provide many of these bone nutrients, many of which can be found all within the same plant food!  Not surprisingly, there is now the view that instead of individual nutrients or supplements, a whole foods or ‘whole diet’ approach is needed to combat preventable diseases such as osteoporosis.

This in a sense is why a plant-based diet is so beneficial to the body, because the array of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and other whole foods eaten daily provide a rich substrate for bone by giving key nutrients to the body. It is possible that there are still many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in plant foods (which are not discovered scientifically yet) that work synergistically to improve or maintain bone health. Recent research also suggests that when planned well, a vegan/plant-based diet can provide adequate nutrients for good bone health. So eat an array of plant based foods regularly everyday! However, don’t forget physical activity! For to make and keep strong bones, regular weight bearing physical activity is important!

[Sources:
1. Higgs J, Derbyshire E, Styles K. Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention for the orthopaedic surgeon: A wholefoods approach. EFORT Open Rev. 2017 Jun 23;2(6):300-308. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5508855/pdf/eor-2-300.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2017.

2. Knurick JR, Johnston CS, Wherry SJ, Aguayo I. Comparison of correlates of bone mineral density in individuals adhering to lacto-ovo, vegan, or omnivore diets: a cross-sectional investigation. Nutrients. 2015 May 11;7(5):3416-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446759/. Accessed November 30, 2017.

3. Mangels AR. Bone nutrients for vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:469S-75S. Epub 2014 Jun 4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/469S.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.

4. Tucker, KL. Vegetarian diets and bone status. Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 100 (suppl): 329S – 35S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/329S.full.pdf+html. Accessed November 27, 2017.

5. Anderson JJ. Plant-based diets and bone health: nutritional implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):539S-542S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/539s.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.]

 

 

Morning Baked Oatmeal

About a year and half ago, I tasted a baked oatmeal dish made by a friend. It was the first time I had ever had a baked oatmeal breakfast, and it was so good I knew I had to try to make it myself! From the original recipe (which called for about ¾ cup of sugar, 2 eggs and cup of cow’s milk), I’ve since experimented and made some changes to reduce its sugar content and make it fully plant-based, while keeping it delicious, super-satisfying and filling. I’ve even added in some cooked red lentils to make it more nutrient dense, but you can leave this out if you don’t have it readily available in your home. This is now a recipe that is a family favorite which we make frequently in our household. As you can see, it is very versatile and you can really customize it to make it special for your family!

Morning Baked Oatmeal  

Recipe by: DietitianMom
Prep Time: 20 min
Bake Time: 30 min

Base Ingredients:

  • ½ cup vegetable oil (any kind!)
  • 1 flax egg
  • 3 cups rolled or quick oats
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 cup fortified plant-based milk
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar (adjust as desired)
  • ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup of raisins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup of cooked lentils (drained well of liquid)

Then choose your additions (whatever you fancy!):

  • ¼ -1/2 cup of fresh/frozen berries
  • Other fresh fruit like mashed banana, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, diced pears or apricots
  • ¼ cup of other dried fruit like chopped dates, apricots, currants, chopped dates, figs, cranberries or prunes
  • ½ cup of chopped walnuts/pecans or other nuts like cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, almonds or hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 C
  2. Rinse a half cup of red lentils with water in a small pot. Drain the excess water, then refill the pot with about 2 cups of water. Heat on medium stove fire setting until pot contents are on a gentle boil. Turn down the fire and let cook with a gentle bubbling boil for about 10-15 minutes. Drain the cooked lentils well and set aside in a small bowl.
  3. Prepare the flax egg: mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water in a cup. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before whisking the mixture quickly for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Mix all the base ingredients together (either the night before or the day of – see below) and then add in at least 3-4 additional optional ingredients from the list!
  5. Bake in an 8 x 8 pan for 30 minutes. Remove immediately and let cool slightly before serving.
  6. Portion into serving bowls. Eat the baked oatmeal by itself, or with a ½ cup of fortified plant-based milk poured over it, like a cold cereal!

Add a little bit more fortified plant-based milk if you need to before baking, if it is looking very dry. I usually combine all the ingredients together the night before and let it sit in the fridge (this helps to soften the oats and also makes breakfast the next morning easier!). Then in the morning, when I’m preheating the oven, I just add in fresh chopped fruit to the mixture before baking it. That way, breakfast is ready in just about 30-40 minutes in the morning! The extras (if there is any left!) freeze really well too in a covered container, so you could double the recipe and make more to freeze some for later. My kids absolutely love this dish!

Additional Notes:

Timing – Don’t let the baked oatmeal overcook. Take it out exactly after 30 minutes, so the mixture won’t get too dry!

Sweetness factor – You can adjust the sweetness level according to your taste, and experiment using honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or chopped dates instead of the brown sugar. In general though, the more fresh, frozen or dried fruit you throw into the mixture, the more the natural sweetness of the dish will pop out and the less sugar you will need to add.

What I actually usually do is just put in 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in the mixture, add lots of dried and fresh fruit, then after it has come out of the oven I sprinkle over the top a teaspoon of brown sugar to make a very thin ‘fairy dust’ coating. The sweetness factor is just right for our family then! You could also drizzle a small amount of maple syrup over the top if you like instead before serving.

This recipe is egg-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, so it’s suitable for those with allergies. I love the fact that I can just literally throw whatever I have available in the kitchen (within reason) into the recipe and it will still taste delicious. So go ahead and throw in those bananas slices, fresh or frozen or dried fruit, berries, nuts, chia seeds and ground flaxmeal. It’s really hard to go wrong!

(Source: Inspired by a recipe from Shauna Lammiman. I am grateful to her and my friend Anne for sharing the original recipe with me!)

 

Toasted Corn & Spaghetti Squash Recipe

 

IMG_0780

Some time ago when my eldest child was still a preschooler, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Another couple brought in the vegetable dish they had made to contribute to the dinner. It was the first time I had tasted spaghetti squash and I was instantly hooked to its delicious taste and noodle-like texture. I decided to come home and try my hand at this dish. I found it extremely easy to whip up at dinnertime, so wanted to share it!

Toasted Corn & Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • A few garlic cloves (peeled & chopped)
  • 1-2 cups frozen (or fresh kernels) corn
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons unsalted vegan margarine and/or olive oil as desired
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
  • Shredded dairy-free cheese (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

IMG_0778

Directions:

  1. Boil the spaghetti squash (see how to do this from the post: Kitchen Spotlight: Tips on Using Spaghetti Squash)
  2. While the squash is being cooked in the pot of water, use a separate saucepan to cook the garlic. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a separate large saucepan. Once hot, throw in the chopped garlic to fry. When the garlic pieces are browned, remove the toasted chopped garlic to set aside in a bowl.
  3. Using the same saucepan, add the remainder of the olive oil into the pan. Then put the frozen corn to cook on a low-medium fire stove setting. Cook the corn until it is toasted (takes approximately 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Then season if desired with a bit of salt and pepper, and remove the toasted corn into a separate bowl.
  4. Next, put the shredded cooked spaghetti squash into the saucepan and then add back in the toasted corn and garlic. Mix well together.
  5. Add additional salt and pepper if desired and raw or toasted pine nuts. Serve warm with some shredded dairy-free cheese on top (optional)!

If you like, you can use garlic salt or garlic powder instead to season the dish, and a bit of vegan margarine instead of olive oil, or in addition to the olive oil for a more buttery taste. An alternative is to add in a tablespoon of coconut oil at the end instead of vegan margarine for the same buttery feel and texture. Feel free to also add in some other protein sources like sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, and/or sautéed black beans. You could also add some tomato pasta sauce with minced tomatoes and minced meat to form a gluten-free version of a pasta dish without noodles.

Serves 4-6 people as a side vegetable dish. It is surprisingly how filling this can be as a side to a meatless dinner! My eldest child loved this paired with mashed potatoes. I’m sure you could also just combine the strands of spaghetti squash into mashed potatoes as you are mixing it. However, it also works great separately as you can come up with all sorts of fun creations which are sure to appeal to little ones. My then nearly 4 year old loved having a monkey face on her plate using yellow spaghetti squash ‘hair’ and a white mashed potato ‘face’. If you don’t know what I mean, check out the image on my Instagram account dietitian_mom!

(Source: Mooth B. Spaghetti Squash with Corn and Roasted Garlic. Writes4food.com. http://writes4food.com/2012/09/24/spaghetti-squash-with-corn-and-toasted-garlic/. September 24, 2012. Accessed November 15, 2017.)

 

Qn of the Month: Is there a Difference Between a Vegan Diet and a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet?

 

A Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet (image credit: forksoverknives.com)

A: I think there is! Others may disagree. Let me tell you why I think there could be potential differences, depending on the actual dietary practices of the individual. A person on a vegan diet subsists on plant-based foods and excludes all animal protein foods and products from the diet. However, it is entirely possible to be on a vegan diet and still not have a very nutritious overall diet. For example, such a person could eat no animal products but still have a substantial portion of his or her daily intake from processed commercial ‘animal product-free’ and refined ready-to-eat foods, filling up on foods such as biscuits, crackers, sugary cookies, chips, cakes, and different vegetarian alternative or dairy-free alternatives that provide many calories but are not nutrient dense. The same could apply to a vegetarian who excludes most animal-based products (but still include dairy, eggs, fish or a combination of these categories). Such a person could also still eat many commercially processed and refined foods that are not ‘animal-based products’ but essentially be on a ‘junk food’ vegetarian diet. I’m not saying that one should never eat such foods (I do at times!), but the real question is what proportion these foods make up in one’s diet.

What about a whole foods plant-based diet? There is a great infographic (see above) and definition given in a Forks Over Knives post written by Naomi Imatame-Yun (see source). The definition she gives is this: “A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”

Hence, a person who is on a whole foods plant-based diet would tend to completely omit or minimize animal–based foods from the diet, while focusing on eating foods that are unprocessed and unrefined (in its natural form) that can be eaten raw or consumed after cooking. Such a dietary pattern would yield a more nutritionally rich overall diet, with many of the vitamin, mineral and nutrient benefits from eating whole foods.

This is not to say that a person on a vegetarian or vegan diet may not have the same focus on whole foods, but I think the emphasize on unprocessed and refined foods (in my mind) is stronger on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Why do I say that? Because in my experience transitioning over to a plant-based diet, I have found it relatively straightforward to gradually reduce the amount and kinds of animal-based foods from our family’s diet, while adding in more vegetables and pulses and finding commercially processed vegetarian alternatives to some of the products we have been used to having (like dairy-free cheeses and vegan margarine instead of butter). But now I see the real challenge is to incorporate more whole foods into our family’s diet, and not be simply substituting or depending heavily on the myriad of commercially processed foods out in the market that are not ‘animal-based’. These could include grain commercial products like vegetarian cookies, crackers and biscuits, as well as commercially processed vegetarian versions of familiar animal-based products, that provide calories but may not be very nutrient dense. In our modern day society though, it may be more challenging to achieve a whole foods plant-based diet because of the abundance and ease of using these ready prepared processed foods. I think there is a place for using these products, but it should not take our eyes and focus off of intentionally building a healthy eating pattern around primarily whole foods and plant-based foods.

 

(Source:

  1. Imatome-Yun, N. forksoverknives.com. Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Plant-Based Diet. https://www.forksoverknives.com/plant-based-primer-beginners-guide-starting-plant-based-diet/. January 3, 2017. Accessed October 30, 2017.)

Kitchen Spotlight: Tips on Cooking Spaghetti Squash

Based on personal experience, here are some tips for cooking and using spaghetti squash. While you can microwave or bake the spaghetti squash, I’ve found that it is easiest to boil it before removing its strand-like interior. Here is how I would recommend boiling spaghetti squash:

  1. Use a knife to make a few small holes or cut marks through the skin of the spaghetti squash.
  2. Fill a large pot with water and heat the water until boiling. Once boiling, put the squash in to cook (ease it slowly into the water to prevent burns!), turning it occasionally with a wooden spoon. The squash will likely float in the water but that is fine. After about 15-20 minutes (about 20-30 minutes for a large sized spaghetti squash), use a knife to insert into the spaghetti squash. If it goes through easily, then it is cooked through. Take out the spaghetti squash immediately and let it cool in a colander (excess water from within may also drain out).
  3. Don’t worry if the squash skin cracks open slightly. When cooled cut the squash in half and then remove the seeds with a spoon. Then use a fork to scrape out the noodle like strands into a bowl.

That’s it! If you would like to see a variety of ways to cook this delectable vegetable, check out this post I found listing 50 ways to cook spaghetti squash: http://aggieskitchen.com/50-ways-to-cook-spaghetti-squash/. Like other hard shelled squashes, you can bake it, grill it, roast it, stuff it, and even throw it in the slow cooker. Have fun experimenting!

(Source: Aggies Kitchen. 50 Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash. http://aggieskitchen.com/50-ways-to-cook-spaghetti-squash/. October 8, 2014. Accessed October 16, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: Just How Does a Citrus Peeler Work?

Can this be true? – Dietitianmom.com

A: When I recently attended an educational presentation, we were given each a citrus peeler as a ‘take-home’ gift. It looked like a strange green plastic contraption to me and I wasn’t sure how to use it. The presentation facilitator stressed that it was not a toy. Up to now, I had been simply using a knife to score 4-5 incision lines into the orange skin (rather like a basketball’s design) from top to bottom around the orange, and then peeling the skin off that way. This method worked pretty well, especially if the skin of the orange is already thick. So honestly, I didn’t feel an urge to use this new citrus peeler I received, and wasn’t planning to, if it wasn’t for the slogan etched into the utensil, “World’s Best Citrus PeelerTM”. Could this really be the world’s BEST citrus peeler? I had to find out.

But how do I use this gadget? Funnily enough, there are plenty of videos on YouTube showing one how to use a citrus peeler, but none looked like the one I had. So I had to figure it out myself. As it turned out, it is a simple process involving only 2 main steps. First, holding a washed orange firmly with your left hand, and the citrus peeler in your right hand (with your thumb and index finger in the grooves of the gadget):

  • Press the citrus peeler firmly into the orange skin to score at least 4-5 lines into the orange skin (from top to bottom) all the way around the orange.

Step 1 – Dietitianmom.com

  • Use the top sharper pointed edge of the citrus peeler to then an indentation into the top of the orange and then pull each section of skin away from the orange flesh.
  • Repeat on all sides until the orange
    skin has been removed.

Step 2 – Dietitianmom.com

That’s it! The instructions above are given assuming the right hand is the dominant hand, so feel free to switch hands if you are left-handed.  I’m sure you can try using the citrus peeler on other citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemons or limes.

When would a citrus peeler be most useful? I guess this would be places where it isn’t convenient to take a knife… Examples might be when you are planning to go on a picnic or onto the airplane (if you want fresh fruit for yourself or your kids!). Children could also learn how to use the citrus peeler and then be able to help more in the kitchen.

What other uses do you have for your citrus peeler?