Saturday, June 14, 2008
PEANUT BUTTER PANCAKES
Today, I'd like to talk to you about kids, childhood, and the power that our memories have to affect our lives today. Ahhh, memories! I'm sure you can recall many moments of your childhood that are as vivid and clear as if they happened this morning. That's because kids are observant little devils and their minds soak up details like a Brawny towel. Trust me, this is an important fact that should never be overlooked. Also remember that you shouldn't bother to bribe a child who's witnessed you doing something you shouldn't have because it won't work. Not only will your bribe money be wasted, but also little Emily will in fact tell her parents that it was in fact the bumper of your car that knocked over the mailbox last Thursday.
As kids, we develop many routines that are carried on into adulthood. Childhood offers a wealth of habit-forming opportunities including simple manners, hygiene, and the ability to suppress gas at the library or during funerals. Arguably, some of the most important and deeply ingrained habits we form as kids are dietary.
Comfort food. What does it mean to you? Most likely, the term doesn't conjure up images of steamed asparagus or a bulgar wheat salad with yogurt dressing. If these are the images that do come to mind, you probably had a mother who was arrested during the sixties for smoking pot and aspired to sing backup for Joan Baez. For many of us, comfort foods equate homey, rich and satisfying foods quite often plucked from our childhood memories. Some of mine include my mother's meatloaf, complete with caramelized crispy bits that I'd pry from the cast iron pan when it was removed from the oven. Macaroni and cheese ranks high on the list, along with butterscotch pudding,
Comfort foods have a definite place in my life. Whenever I lose a game of strip poker, I try to erase the shame with a big slice of German chocolate cake. And whenever I'm banned from a new Sizzler location for testing the limits of their "bottomless" order of fried shrimp, well, actually Peptol Bismol and sleep shades tend to work best for that.
I am not a member of the food police. I firmly believe that food should be relished, savored and appreciated for what it is (just ask that rude night manager at Sizzler). But I also understand that balance and moderation are easily skewed in our modern age of convenience food. We tend to forget that our bodies need "real" and unprocessed food in order to be healthy. Our stress levels, cunningly masquerading as time restraints, have pushed good nutrition and healthy portions into some nether region of our daily lives.
As a result, we have a generation of kids who:
1. Don't know how to cook anything that doesn't need to have its protective plastic pouch pierced with a fork prior to being microwaved.
2. Invite the teenager who takes their money at the first window to the prom.
3. Announce their girlfriend's teen pregnancy to you by bemoaning their friend's advice to use Twinkie wrappers as makeshift condoms.
The point I'm trying to make is not to deprive your kids (or your grandkids, or neighbors kids, or lesbian lover's kids) of anything remotely unhealthy. The trick is to also instill an appreciation for the flavor of wholesome, healthy foods that they will also embrace. These don't have to be such drastic changes. Some simple shifts in your thinking and what you line your pantry shelves with, can bring about positive eating habits.
Take pancakes for example. I love them. They are a very common comfort food from childhood. And like most comfort foods, they aren't necessarily the most nutritious. They are tasty disks of bleached white flour and oil, topped with butter and sugary syrup. Mmmmmmmm! But you don't need to excommunicate them from your breakfast table if you are trying to eat healthier. You just need to get creative.
Here is a pancake recipe that you could even sneak on the plate of an unsuspecting kid. They masquerade as lunchbox fare, but are even suitable for a more sophisticated breakfast table. These Peanut Butter Pancakes are made from whole-wheat flour, applesauce, and a small amount of olive oil. Peanut butter lends a welcome homey flavor. I topped them with fruit preserves and the result is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich served up breakfast style. Share some with a kid today (just please don't share them Emily unless you get my $20 back first.)
PEANUT BUTTER PANCAKES
1 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 TBS sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used old-fashioned chunky*)
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl. Mix remaining ingredients together separately until well combined. Pour mixture into dry ingredients and mix just until evenly moistened. Cook pancakes on lightly greased griddle in 1/4 cup measures. Cook until golden browned on both sides.
* Read your peanut butter labels carefully before purchasing. Various brands incorporate surprising amounts of sugar, corn syrup, and unhealthy tropical oils. I'm a fan of "old-fashioned" type peanut butter that usually contains nothing more than peanuts and salt.