Monthly Archives: October 2010

Breakfast Blitz Part One: Multigrain Pancakes


Saturday morning is pancake day. It’s a leftover from my childhood. As kids, we would wake up before our parents and have a bowl of cheerios, but when Dad eventually made it out of bed, he’d be cooking up his whole-wheat pancakes (long before anyone else in the world was crazy about whole wheat) and we’d be begging him to put chocolate chips in the last batch. Now that I am all “growed-up”, the tradition continues, only I have taken Dad’s place in the kitchen…and I don’t need a handful of chocolate chips to appreciate a good healthy pancake. Each week I like to vary the pancake recipes, although we do have a couple of real favourites: oatmeal yoghurt pancakes from the McCann’s Oatmeal website, cornmeal pancakes from the Heart Smart Cookbook, and my own invention: multigrain pancakes.

These pancakes are hearty and filling. They contain flax seed, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, cornmeal and oats – all of them high in fibre. Oatmeal especially is a favourite of mine. While I rarely eat just “oatmeal” (as in porridge) I slip it into my cooking wherever I can. Maybe it’s the Scot in me, but I believe oatmeal to be one of the wonder foods of this planet. Oatmeal and cornmeal are rich in soluble fibre – a cholesterol fighing agent – and are known to be  blood sugar stabilizers. Oatmeal does not loose its nutritional benefits in cooking, which means you can use it and abuse it (if that’s even possible!)

In this recipe, I added flax seed for extra fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B. Flax seed is a power food, too, but needs to be ground. Wheat germ is the nutrient-rich “germ” of the wheat kernal – in other words, it’s the part of the wheat kernal that germinates into a plant. Thus, the bulk of the wheat’s vitamins, minerals and fat are found in the germ. It only takes a few tablespoons of wheat germ to gain some of its nutritional content.

Finally, I add a cup of berries. When picked ripe, berries are packed with sweetness yet low in calories. In this recipe, I use frozen mixed berries (unsweetened) that I thaw and drain for about an hour before cooking (alternatively, I place them in a bowl in the fridge the night before breakfast, and drain before using). Use a good quality frozen berry mix, and if there are strawberries in the mixture, you will want to cut them in quarters before adding them to your pancake mixture.

The recipe:

(Makes 8-9 medium sized pancakes)

¼ cup white flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup cornmeal

¼ cup oats

2 tbsp ground flax seed

2 tbsp wheat germ

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsp honey or sugar

¼ cup low fat milk

3 tbsp low fat yoghurt

2 eggs (or egg whites)

1 cup frozen or fresh mixed berries

Mix dry and wet ingredients (except berries) separately and then combine. After mixing the pancakes well, you may need to add additional milk until the mixture is wet enough to ladle into a pan. At this point, when satisfied with the consistency, add your berries and only stir once or twice – otherwise your pancakes will take on a greyish-blue tinge (which does not affect the taste, but picky eaters may be turned off by the colour). If you don’t want to mix your berries into the pancakes, try heating the mixed berries in a small pot, using a tiny amount of corn starch (made into a paste with 1 tsp water) and adding 1-2 tbsp maple syrup for a sauce to top the pancakes. Ladle the pancakes into a pan (I use a titanium non-stick pan and I do not need to use any oil or butter at all – but if you do need to grease your pan, use a baking spray rather than oil or butter, to cut unnecessary fat).  Douse your pancakes with real maple syrup and enjoy!



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Two healthy muffin variations

Fresh out-of-the-oven Banana-Spelt-Oatbran muffins

I love muffins but I don’t love the calories that accompany them. When I first went on Weight Watchers, I all but said farewell to muffins. Most muffin recipes you will find (and indeed most store-bought muffins) are little more than cupcakes with some bran or dried fruit thrown in for good measure. I remember looking up Tim Horton’s low fat berry explosion muffin on Weight Watchers and finding out it was 8 points – that was a third of my daily quota when I was losing weight, and definitely not worth the cost! So, I am constantly on the lookout for moist muffin recipes that are low in calories and fat. I have not been able to find many, so instead, I have resorted to experimentation.

I was thrilled with these oat bran muffins that I made. It started with four organic bananas in my freezer that I needed to use up, and a big box of oat bran calling out to me from the pantry shelf. I have made oat bran recipes before and found them filling but dry. I thought that maybe the addition of banana and yogurt would lend a moistness to the recipe, and I was right. Most oat bran recipes do not use flour at all; I decided to add a small portion of whole spelt flour in order to give the muffins some “fluff.” (You could just as easily use whole wheat flour if you don’t have spelt on hand). When using whole spelt flour for “fluff”  (and the same goes for whole wheat) you have to treat it well – you must coax it to be fluffy by running it through a sieve at least three times before adding it to your recipe. If you have a good quality whole flour, you should have remaining in your sieve a fair amount of bran and maybe even some random husks from the kernal (when baked, these are fine to eat, although they appear to be rather rough to start). You absolutely should add the wheat bran in on top; to discard it would be to throw out the best part of the flour!

Here’s the nice part – these muffins are virtually sugar free. I thought about adding no sugar at all, and taking the sweetness only from the bananas, but I changed my mind at the last minute and added a mere 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. I love maple syrup because it is a source of sugar that supports Canadian enterprise, is usually pesticide free (most sucreries in Quebec let their trees grow au naturel), is lower in calories than cane sugar, and does not buy in to the global sugar industry that has fueled poverty and exploitation in the developing world since the age of exploration. In short, maple syrup is healthy (in moderation), Canadian and naturally fair-trade! Be warned that the end result of this recipe is a moist and fibre-rich muffin, but with only a hint of sweetness. I love it because I can taste the goodness of banana and oats on their own. But if you need sugar in your muffin, I would recommend spreading honey or maple syrup on the end product. Now…if you’ve got pumpkin fever this fall, you’ll be please to know that I successfully created a pumpkin variation that smacks of pumpkin pie, and they are just as healthy! The variations are both given below – and both work out to just one Weight Watcher’s point! In your face, Tim Horton’s (and while I’m at it, your unethically harvested coffee sucks)!

Banana Muffins

2 ¼ cup oat bran

¼ cup whole spelt flour, sifted a few times

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cardamom (optional)

½ cup low fat milk or heat-stable soy milk

2 tbsp low fat yogurt

1 egg

2 tbsp maple syrup

2-3 bananas

(optional) – 4 medjool dates or 8 walnut halves

It’s as simple as mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately, then combining the two, stirring for a minute or so, and adding to muffin cups. If your batter is dry, just add a bit more milk or yoghurt. If you are using dates or walnuts, press one or the other gently into the top of the muffin batter. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until the muffins are golden and you hear a hollow sound on tapping the bottom of the muffin pan.

Pumpkin Variation:

Same as above, only replace the cinnamon and cardamom with the following spices: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice, and the bananas with 1 cup of unsweetened, unflavoured pure pumpkin puree. Pumpkin is also less sweet than banana, so you will have to compensate by using 4 tbsp of maple syrup, instead of 2 in the banana version. You can also add the walnuts or dates to this one, but I like to mix in a small handful of golden raisins, or a few tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (pepitas).

Both recipes make 8 large muffins. Because there is no oil in this recipe, the muffins do not have a long shelf life. After a day, they should be refrigerated, and if you are not going to eat them within 48 hours, you should freeze them.

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A Medley of Silk Road Salads Part Three

My love of Moroccan food is boundless, and this salad is one of my favourite dishes. Okay, so I guess it’s a bit of a stretch to call Moroccan carrot salad a “Silk Road” inspired salad, but it just tastes so good, and accompanies the other salads so well, I can’t resist. Not to mention the fact that throughout Central Asia, along the far reaches of the Silk Road, one can find a similar salad called “Korean Carrot Salad” which is not actually Korean, but a Russian version of something probably made by ethnic Koreans living in the former Soviet block. The recipe that follows is definitely the Moroccan version, but you could easily create the “Korean” version by making a few simple substitutions. In fact, my version of this Moroccan salad actually makes use of a mandoline to shred the carrots, which one would use when making Korean Carrot Salad – when normally the Moroccan version uses diced carrots. I love how the shredded carrots absorb the flavours.

Allow this salad to marinade a few hours, and serve it cold to accompany any Moroccan feast – it has always been a pleaser when we serve it to guests. I’ve kept the traditional spices, but reduced the oil to make it healthy and low fat.


6 large carrots, match-stick sized (use a mandoline)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

juice of one lemon

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped mint


Steam the carrots on low in a steaming basket. You want them to maintain some crunch, so watch them carefully and be sure not to over cook. Meanwhile, heat a pan (dry) and sprinkle cumin seeds over the hot surface. Allow the seeds to cook, tossing frequently, until they become toasted and aromatic. Remove to cool. Whisk lemon, salt, paprika, garlic  and olive oil in a bowl. When cumin is cooled, crush partially with a pestle and mortar – just enough to open the flavour further. Add to the dressing. Once carrots have cooked, drain and cool them in a colander – I recommend running them under cold water for a minute. When they are at room temperature, mix in the dressing, and the mint and parsley. Allow the salad to marinade, and enjoy.

Variation (Central Asian): Heat the oil in a pan and fry a finely chopped onion in it. Instead of using cumin, use one tablespoon of caraway seeds. When making the dressing, substitute half of the paprika with 1/2 tsp of ground coriander, and lemon with 2 tbsp of white vinegar or wine vinegar. Add this to the onion and olive oil mixture. Substitute the parsley and mint with dill.

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