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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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

 

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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

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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.)

 

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.)

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3

Getting hungry? -Dietitianmom.com


Hello there! Previously, I had provided an overview of a whole foods plant-based diet and discussed the first 2 steps of transitioning to such a diet. These were “Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies” and “Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options” (see posts Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction, Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1, and Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2). In this post, I would like to touch on Step 3: Choosing Smart Snacks.

Tahini Raisin & Flaxmeal Crackers – Dietitianmom.com

STEP #3: CHOOSE SMART SNACKS
Need something to tide you over until lunch or dinner? Children tend to need to eat more frequently than adults, so would often benefit from snacks between meals. There are a few key reasons why. Children, especially younger children, tend to have high energy levels and smaller stomach capacities. In general, a whole foods plant-based diet tends to consist of foods that have a higher fiber but lower caloric content. Hence, due to the higher fiber content of these foods consumed, it is possible that in some cases a child could feel full easily at meals with their smaller stomachs, but receive inadequate calories for overall optimal growth.

 

 

Fruit Wedges with Seed Butter & Walnut Dotted Banana Coins – Dietitianmom.com

For adults, you may also feel the need to have snacks in between meals, especially if you find you are becoming more active, and if your metabolism revs up with the switch to a whole foods plant-based diet. That’s the best part of a whole foods plant-based diet – on such a ‘diet’, you actually don’t need to watch your caloric intake or restrict yourself unnecessarily in terms of how many times a day you eat, AS LONG as the foods you choose to consume are ALL whole foods plant-based foods. So this does not mean you can snack endlessly on cookies, candies, cakes, biscuits and other processed high refined sugar and high fat commercial foods since they are ‘vegetarian’. As mentioned before, being a ‘junk food vegetarian’ will negatively impact your health and reduce your intake of phytochemical nutrient-rich health boosting foods which you could be eating instead.

So it’s alright to have snacks frequently on a whole foods plant-based diet, but choose your snacks wisely! Try these tasty more nutrient dense options:

*A handful of nuts and/or seeds (e.g., pumpkin seeds, sunflower, pine nuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts)
* A piece of whole fresh fruit (kiwi, apples, grapes, melon slices, oranges, grapefruit, pears…you name it! These also work great as dessert after meals!)
* Dried fruit (e.g., dried apricots, figs, dates, raisins)
* Vegetable or fresh fruit slices with spreads or dips (e.g., bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, celery sticks)
* Soy spreads, seed butters  (such as tahini, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed butters) and nut butters (examples include almond,  cashew nut, and peanut butters)
*Vegetable and/or bean based dips such as hummus and guacamole
*Fruit/vegetable combination smoothies
*Fruit salads
*Vegetable salads
*Whole-wheat bread/pitas/tortillas for dipping into hummus or spread with nut butters for quick easy sandwiches or burritos
*High calcium and/or high iron cereal
*Bean-based or vegetable soups with whole-wheat pasta
*Soy-based or other vegan cheese slices and whole wheat crackers

 

Banana Sunflower Seed Butter Sandwiches – Yum! Dietitianmom.com

You can mix and match the above to create lots of tasty combinations! My current favorite is a sunflower seed butter sandwich with sliced banana wedges! Other ideas are a bowl of a bean-based vegetable soup with whole-wheat pasta, or some soy-based/vegan cheese slices with whole wheat crackers. Or you could have a quick bowl of calcium and iron fortified cereal with fortified almond/soy/coconut milk (and sprinkled with nuts or dried/fresh fruit on top!). Don’t forget about home-made vegetarian baked and no-bake treats which also make great snack options! Many such easy recipe ideas can be found on the internet, which don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of time. The possibilities are really endless!

 

Qn of the Month: Are Legumes & Pulses Just Different Terms for the Same Thing?

 

A: What exactly are legumes and are they the same as pulses? The terms ‘legumes’, ‘pulses’ and ‘beans’ can certainly all be very confusing. A helpful way to keep these straight is to remember that ‘legumes’ is the overall umbrella name, just like ‘fruits’ is the umbrella name for a huge category of different types and varieties of fruits. Legumes simply refer to all plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. However, pulses only refer to the dried seed itself. So under legumes are 3 main subcategories: soybeans and peanuts, pulses and fresh beans/peas. I like this graphic from Pulse Canada which illustrates these categories aptly (see source citation for more details):

 

Pulses include dried beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. Pulses are cheap, nutrient dense, low in fat, available throughout the year, and are high in protein and fiber. Soybeans and peanuts are separated out into their own separate subcategory due to their higher fat content. Legumes are also super versatile, as they can be cooked to the age appropriate texture in a variety of forms (e.g., pureed, mashed, or whole/halved but in soft cooked forms) for infants, toddlers and children of varying ages depending on their stage of oral motor development.

 

(Source: Pulse Canada. http://www.pulsecanada.com/about-us/what-is-a-pulse. Accessed March 15, 2017.)

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

A New Year marks a new beginning, and the chance to try new things or make changes that had previously seemed daunting. Last Fall, I read the book ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and it changed my whole perspective on health and disease. I wasn’t aware that there was so much research already done supporting a whole foods plant-based diet in reducing one’s risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and in some cases even improving the health outcomes even if a person already has these medical conditions. Apparently, the lower one’s intake of animal proteins is, the lower the risk of these negative health outcomes. Our family of four has since decided to transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. This poses some challenges when you have a 4 year old, a nearly 11 month old, and a freezer packed with meat! But we have already made some (successful) changes to our way of eating and I hope to share what we’ve learned along the way and the experiences of our journey to help those who are also thinking about making similar changes but don’t know where to start.

The main tenet of a whole foods plant-based diet is to consume primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, while minimizing as much as possible animal-based proteins, excess oils as well as refined and processed foods high in fat and sugar. If you can remove all sources of animal proteins from your diet, even better! One reason behind reducing refined and processed high sugar/high fat foods from one’s diet is the tendency for these foods to take the place of more healthful nutrient dense foods that you would otherwise be consuming, so reducing your body’s intake of important nutrients, phytochemicals and minerals necessary for optimal health. A key reason for reducing excess oils in one’s diet, including vegetable oils, is so that a more desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids intake can be achieved for optimal health.

It is best to go slow and make gradual changes to one’s diet. Of course you could go off meat and other animal protein products immediately cold turkey, but our family has found it more successful to make the changes gradually, as small successes empowered us to make further changes. You may find that this approach also helps your family transition more successfully to such a diet, especially if you are a busy household and don’t have much time right away to try or create completely new recipes. This method also helps you use up all that meat in the freezer anyway!

So where should you start? Successful transitioning to a plant-based diet involves five basic steps:

Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!

In upcoming blog posts, I plan to touch on each of these steps in a bit more detail, and hope to also discuss a few tips for feeding children plant-based whole food diets. Stay tuned!