Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oatmeal Almond Banana Pancakes

I have been trying hard to eat a lot healthier, what with being pregnant and all. Lately, I've trying even harder to eat healthy in an attempt to keep this lovely swelling in my hands and feet down. It has been helping, but when you're a carboholic, it's hard. I just love me some baked goods and breads...and breakfast treats like pancakes.

Especially on a Saturday morning, I just crave a good pancake. I think this stems from growing up, when every Saturday morning my dad would make a huge breakfast of pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, etc. This recipe really took care of my pancake craving this morning, and I didn't have to feel guilty about eating it! But let me start this recipe with a little disclaimer, which is that these are not quite as tasty as good ol' white flour pancakes, but they are pretty dang good. They have more texture than a traditional pancake--they're nuttier, which I enjoyed. My husband actually liked them a lot, too, so that was a plus.

Another great thing about these pancakes is that they can be made completely gluten-free! If that's what you're going for, just be sure to buy gluten-free oats and baking powder.

There aren't any gluten sensitivities in my household, so the ingredients pictured here are not necessarily gluten-free.
***UPDATE: These can also be made nut-free. Simply use 2 C of oatmeal and omit the almonds.***

Now, without further ado, the recipe.

***Scroll to the bottom for an Apple Cinnamon variation***

Oatmeal Almond Banana Pancakes

1/2 C whole almonds
1 1/2 C old fashioned oats
3 ripe bananas
1 1/4 C milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat a skillet or griddle on medium heat. I put my electric griddle on 350 degrees.

Put almonds into a food processor.

Turn the processor on until the almonds resemble a flour.

Do not keep processing beyond this point, or you may end up with almond butter, which, while delicious, is not the goal here.

Add the oatmeal to the almonds.

Process until the whole mixture is a relatively fine flour. It will still have more texture than regular flour, which is fine.

Put the bananas in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Mash using a pastry blender or a fork.

Add the milk to the mashed bananas and stir.

Add the almond and oat flour to the banana mixture, along with the baking powder and salt.

Mix well. You should have a batter that is not too thick, not too thin. If you would prefer a thinner batter, add more milk a couple tablespoons at a time.

Spray some cooking spray on the griddle or use a small amount of oil. Pour batter on griddle about 1/2 C at a time.

These pancakes do not bubble up like regular pancakes do, so check them after a few minutes. They start to look a little brown around the edges when they are ready to flip.
When ready, flip the pancakes over and cook for a few more minutes.

When the second side is done, remove from the griddle.

Serve with pure maple syrup and enjoy your delicious (and healthy) pancakes!

***Apple Cinnamon Variation***
If you don't have any bananas that are ripe enough, here is another variation you can try. Instead of the banana, add 1/2 Cup unsweetened applesauce and 1/4 Cup Greek yogurt. Cut the milk down to 1 Cup. For this variation, I like to add a teaspoon of Cinnamon. Some chunks of apples would be good in this, as well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine Cake Balls

I love Valentine's Day goodies, I think mostly because my birthday is on Valentine's Day. As a kid, I always considered it "my" holiday. Every year on my birthday, I would have a heart-shaped cake in either strawberry or red velvet. These red velvet cake balls take me back there a little.

Cake balls and cake pops are becoming so popular right now that I almost didn't make this post. But then I heard someone talking about how difficult they thought it would be to make cake balls without the cake pop maker (basically a waffle-iron-type contraption). Cake balls are a super-simple treat that look fancy and can be changed up for any occasion. They don't take a lot of any special decorating skills, so I want to encourage people to try their hand at making them!

***Scroll to the bottom of post for several tips and variations on cake balls***

Valentine Cake Balls

You will need:

1 box red velvet cake mix (plus whatever eggs and oil are called for on the box)
1 container cream cheese icing
1 package vanilla almond bark (candy coating)
Valentine's sprinkles
Wax paper

Mix and bake the cake according to the package directions, and let cool completely.

Next--and I know this is heartbreaking--take your perfect cake and rake through it with a fork.

Really go to town on the thing, until you have nothing but a huge bowl of crumbs. The finer the crumbs are, the better. (This is a great step to involve kids in: "Hey kids, come destroy this cake for me!")

When your crumbs are all nice and fine, dump in the entire container of icing.

Mix thoroughly. It gets a little tiresome to stir, but keep at it. Using a big mixing spoon can help. You will be left with a thick dough.

Using your hands, grab chunks of the dough and roll into balls. The size isn't super important, as long as they are fairly consistent. Mine were about meatball size--probably a couple of tablespoons each. Place on a plate or tray.

At this point, I would recommend putting them in the fridge for an hour or two so they can chill and firm up a bit before you put the candy coating on them. If you are in more of a hurry, you can put them in the freezer for 15 minutes or so. I actually left mine in the fridge overnight, because I didn't have time to finish them all that evening, and they were fine.

Melt your candy coating either in the microwave or on the stove on low heat.

When the coating is nice and smooth, turn off the heat and toss in a cake ball. (You may have to return the coating to the heat for a few minutes after completing half the batch or so.)

Gently stir the cake ball into the coating, or use a spoon to pour the coating over the top. When the entire cake ball is covered with candy coating, lift out with a fork, letting excess coating drain off.

Place on wax paper to cool.

Immediately add a few sprinkles to the top. Don't wait and sprinkle several together, or your coating will have hardened enough that the sprinkles will not stick well.

Continue with the rest of the cake balls, or until you run out of coating. My cake make 45 cake balls, but I only had enough coating for 38 when using just one package.

Let the cake balls sit until the coating is completely hardened. Once this happens, the cake balls are very sturdy and will travel well. I packaged up a dozen for my secret pal in a Valentine's container.

I just love how festive and fancy these are!

***Tips and Variations***

Although I used icing here, as is traditional, my favorite way to make cake balls is by using softened cream cheese instead of icing. Talk about delicious! The only drawback is that they have to be refrigerated, which doesn't work as well for transporting and gifting.

Don't be afraid to try all different flavors of cake with either chocolate or vanilla coating!

Don't be afraid to try all different types of icing!

Be creative! I decided one Halloween that I wanted orange cake balls with dark chocolate coating. I started with a white cake and used cream cheese instead of icing. To get the orange color and flavor I wanted, I mixed a packet of orange Kool-Aid powder with an 8 oz block of cream cheese. (If I remember right, I also added a little sugar to cut down on the tartness of the straight powder). The result was delicious, a little reminiscent of a chocolate orange. So many awesome flavors could be made this way!

Cake balls don't have to be perfect. Part of their charm is that they are not completely uniform, because it shows they are handmade. If you smudge some of the coating off while transferring a cake ball from pan to waxed paper, don't worry about it. Take a small spoonful of coating and drizzle it over the messed-up part. It will dry with the rest and no one will be the wiser. If you realize later you missed a spot, it's no biggie. People will be too busy consuming your delicious creations to notice, anyway.

Linking up with Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday and Miz Helen's Country Cottage for Full Plate Thursday!