Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

Though I’m fighting a battle with flab, I’m not into diets. Never have been. Probably never will be. I’m much more interested in overall healthier living, rather than sporadic dieting. Why deprive myself? There are plenty of ways to eat healthy and yet enjoy really good food.

That’s why I’m glad Ellie Krieger feels the same way. I’ve spoken about her in the past — she’s the nutritionist and cook from Food Network’s “Healthy Appetite” and released a cookbook just last year called The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life.

Her philosophy of food is that a person really shouldn’t have to sacrifice the things they like to eat, because there are ways to make them healthy. Case in point: Pancakes.

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

I love pancakes. Fluffy, delicious, swimming in sweet syrup pancakes — but without the fat? Seems like a tall order. Well, I happened to have a small carton of strawberries in my fridge that I didn’t want to go to waste, so when I saw this as the very first recipe in the book, I stopped right there and made them for dinner. That’s right, dinner. Because I’m just that bad ass.

Come on, I know I’m not the only one out there who would eat breakfast any time of the day.

Our dear web admin was not as enthused. He was worried that it was a lot of sugar for dinner. “Nope,” I said, “there’s no sugar except for the two tablespoons of pure maple syrup and sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.” Once he was on board, I set up the kitchen and started making breakfast.

Ellie includes nutritional information with each recipe. Here’s how this stacked up:

Serving Size: 3 pancakes and 1/3 cup strawberry sauce
Calories: 310
Total fat: 3.5g (1 sat.)
Protein: 13g
Carb: 59g
Chol: 110mg
Sodium 420mg

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce
Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Healthy Appetite & The Food You Crave

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
3/4 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking Spray
Confectioner’s Sugar (optional)
Strawberry Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, nonfat milk, honey, and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. The batter will be somewhat lumpy.

Whole Wheat Pancake Batter

Coat a large nonstick griddle or skillet with cooking spray and preheat over medium-low heat. Use a 1/4 measure to ladle the batter onto the griddle or skillet. Flip the pancakes when they are golden brown on the bottom and bubbles are floating on top, about 1 1/2 minutes.

These fluff up really nicely in the pan. I was elated to see that they became these puffy clouds — I hate flat pancakes. At the time, I was worried about cooking them on medium-low, but they did quite well and cooked pretty quickly on that setting. I played with the heat a bit to see what might work better, but in the end I thought medium-low worked better, as they cooked just as quickly and the ends didn’t darken as much as when I had it up higher.

Whole Wheat Awesomeness 1

Cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.

I know it looks delicious, but please stop licking the screen.

Keep the pancakes warm in a 200-degree F oven as you finish cooking the remaining ones.

A trick my mom used to do is she would cover the pancakes with a damp towel and put them in the oven. The steam from the towel would keep the pancakes from drying out. That method works well for me.

Strawberry Sauce
2 pints (16 ounces) fresh strawberries, hulled, or 4 cups frozen unsweetened strawberries, thawed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Place the strawberries in a food processor and process them into a chunky puree.

Strawberry Puree

Stir in the lemon juice and maple syrup.

Plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar, eat, enjoy. Lick plate clean.

I suggest the powdered sugar for anyone who is used to high sugar content. If you are a person who is trying to change your palette into something a little more healthy and needs something that’s got a hint of sweetness in it, put a shake or two of powdered sugar on top. I put a few spoonfuls into a sifter and just shook it over the pancakes. What you’re seeing in the picture is a bit much — I’d cut that down to half for the right amount of sweetness without making the healthier pancake a moot point. It’s like going to McDonald’s and ordering a diet coke with your burger and fries.

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

I really enjoyed the pancakes and strawberry puree together. Let me explain — I didn’t like them separately. I tried the pancake alone. It was okay, but some of the ingredients were a little odd just plain. The strawberry puree alone was also a little funky. Somehow the syrup in the puree really threw me off because, although there wasn’t much in there, I could taste a lot of it.

Together, it all worked. I spread some of the puree on the pancake, and really liked how the fruit and hint of sweetness in the strawberries brought out the different flavors inside the pancake. It was a light meal, and I was happy to know that I was eating something nutritious. Next time I probably won’t put as much confectioners’ sugar on it, but I do believe it required a tiny bit for additional sweetness. These pancakes were a fun and healthier option of the regular smothered in sugary syrup breakfast — or dinner, whatever your poison.

Lots of dishes involved in this one, because there’s mixing and pouring and pureeing. The taste was delicious and it’s something I will make again as a fun and tasty treat, and is even something I would serve to guests. It’s not what I’d consider five-star, so I do have to knock it down for that, but the healthy component and the fact that it’s tasty enough to be served at a quaint, country bed and breakfast support a positive rating.

Weeknight Cooking: B+
Overall Dish: B+

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Weeknight Cooking: Thai Chicken, Zucchini and Tomato Curry

Since I’m in a heated battle with my love handles, I’m returning to stir fry in a major way. Or maybe I just love the simplicity and ease of the one-pot-meal and I love rice. Whatever. There are vegetables in it and it’s good for you.

In the latest Food & Wine Magazine, they’ve published a few stir fry meals. I wasn’t too sure about this one because it calls for a store bought red curry paste, and for some reason I just feel like I’m cheating if I’m not making the paste. I suppose I could, since the Keo’s book I talked about has a recipe for a red curry paste, but I was in a hurry. I already owned red curry paste for the Peanut Chicken, so I may as well give it another reason to exist in my fridge.

Originally, I had intended to take more pictures for this, but I had problems with my rice. I didn’t want to face the Judges’ table explaining why my dish went down for undercooked rice, so I remade it. By the time that was done, I was starving and had completely forgotten to take a finished picture, so here’s the one from the Food & Wine website.

F&W Thai Chicken, Zucchini & Tomato Curry

This one cooks up fast. Not as fast as yesterday’s Vietnamese Stir-Fry with Lemongrass, but almost.

Thai Chicken, Zucchini & Tomato Curry
Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced crosswise 1/3 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 zucchini (1 pound), cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons water
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Rice, for serving

I cut the ingredients in half since I was only serving two, and had just enough for the both of us.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until just white throughout, 2 minutes.

For the chicken, I only used 1 breast. I cut it horizontally, then made short strips. I also didn’t take pictures of this, because I figure that by now, everyone knows what chicken looks like when you put it into the frying pan. Because I typically put my stir-fry into a bowl, I don’t like to wrestle with a knife while I eat, so I made sure the chicken was in bite sized pieces.

Plate the chicken and add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the onion and stir-fry over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes. The directions say moderately high heat, but I always do everything on medium. If I crank anything up over medium, I burn everything because my back is turned while I’m trying to cut up the rest of the vegetables.

Add the zucchini and cherry tomatoes and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Thai Chicken - Steaming Veggies

I’m a sucker for zucchini. Did I tell you that?

Anyway, when the 2 minutes are up (sometimes I use a timer if my attention goes elsewhere, otherwise I burn things) stir in the curry paste, coconut milk, water, lime zest and lime juice and bring to a simmer.

The lime is important and gives the sauce some much needed acid and zip. I’m not a big fan of lime so I was a little skeptical, but after I did it and tasted the sauce, I understood fully why it was in there. Don’t omit the lime.

Thai Chicken - Added Sauce

Add the chicken and stir for 20 seconds, to coat with the sauce. Stir in the cilantro. Transfer to bowls and serve with (properly cooked) rice.

F&W Thai Chicken, Zucchini & Tomato Curry

Overall, the dish was delicious, healthy and pretty damn fast. This one is, without a doubt, going into my weeknight repertoire. One thing to note for those who don’t do well with spice — the amount of red curry paste the dish calls for, depending on what brand you use — leaves a bit of heat in this. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about it on first bite, but I warmed up to it and, on the subsequent mouthfuls that followed, was fine with it. Absolutely delicious and tasted like something I would get if I had ordered it from a Thai restaurant. Aroi maak, maak! (Very delicious!)

Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: A

Weeknight Cooking: Stir Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass

I’ve come down with a case of love handles. They need to go. Citizen Chef has been feeling some of the same symptoms, and we’ve been discussing healthier cooking. As much as I love what we’ve been doing lately, let’s face it: Baked Ziti isn’t going to do anything to my love handles except expand their territory. For the next couple of months, we’re going to start cooking healthier. There are a few desserts I’d like to do, but let’s see if we can’t get our main track set back to a healthier fare.

So, last night, I dove back into my Food and Wine magazine. I was craving vegetables in a big way, and landed on a Vietnamese stir fry of vegetables with lemongrass.

F&W Stir Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass

I’m not normally a fan of vegetarian fare, but this had cauliflower. I love cauliflower.

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Serves 3

1 large stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 pound cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (2 cups)
6 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup shredded carrots (about 1 medium)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil
Rice, for serving

The original instructions call for the addition of mung bean sprouts, but I didn’t pick any up at the store. In fact, I totally forgot to even look and see if my grocer had them. As it was, the dish turned out great. The original dish made very little sauce and, since my family likes a lot of sauce, we doubled it. This is all reflected in the ingredients above.

Lemongrass

This was my first time ever working with just dry lemongrass; usually I mix it in with something to make a paste, like I do when I make Keo’s yellow curry paste. I didn’t realize the innards of the lemongrass was going to end up so stick-like, so I only cut them into 1-inch pieces rather than slice them thinly as the instructions suggest. In the frying pan the lemongrass doesn’t break down, and my spouse was scared of eating the weird hay-like things that he saw. I won’t make that mistake again. Next time, I’ll slice them thinly.

One other thing that almost threw me was that I wasn’t sure how far to go inside of the lemongrass. I kept peeling strips off until I got to this pale center. You’ll know when you get there, because it omits the strongest lemon odor. As soon as I peeled off the top, the scent hit me.

Lemongrass - Inner Bulb

Put the lemongrass into the food processor and chop them up until they are small.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the lemongrass and shallots and stir-fry over high heat until the shallots are golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Now what happens next happens fast, so it’s a great idea to have the vegetables ready to go by the time the shallots were done. My vegetables weren’t ready to go in, so I had to remove the pan from the heat while I finished.

Add the cauliflower, asparagus, carrots and red bell pepper along with 1/4 cup of the water; cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Steaming Vegetables

As you can see in the photo above, I cheated with the carrots. Rather than shredding them, I just tossed them into the food processor.

Stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer.

I pushed some of the vegetables aside so you could see the sauce. There’s not a lot with the original recipe, which is why we doubled it.

Steamed Vegetables with Sauce

As soon as the coconut milk hits the pan, the super sweet aroma of coconut hits you. This surprised me, because I’ve cooked with coconut milk a lot and I’ve not had the scent come out quite like that before. After you stir everything together, the soy balances out any sweetness and the sauce is quite mild, and very delicious.

Remove from the heat and season with pepper. Stir in the fresh basil. Transfer the stir-fried vegetables to bowls and serve with rice.

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass

Overall, this was a fast dish and incredibly tasty. It’s also fairly healthy… okay, it’s got coconut milk in it, but it satisfied my cravings for vegetables. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’d eat this any day of the week. I may even consider putting this one into my weekly rotation. It didn’t completely knock my socks off as a new and innovative dish, which is why I will need to knock the rating down a little bit on the overall scale, but it was simple and delicious. Sometimes less is more and in this case, that theology definitely pays off.

Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: A-