Our family’s switch to organic food was not difficult, at least when it came to access to organic food. We live in the opposite of a food desert: There are two Whole Foods, a Trader Joe’s, a Balducci’s, and a Mom’s Organic Market, all within a super-short drive. There’s a Giant, a Safeway and two Harris Teeter’s, all with substantial organic/natural offerings. I can get organic milk and other staples at our Target. And don’t even get me started on our farmer’s market options. We are the luckiest dirty hippies on earth, I swear.
Cost, on the other hand, is something we’re still working on. When Whole Foods is your neighborhood’s default corner grocery store, it’s easy to start losing your grip on how much things cost. Or how much they should cost. And there’s no greater wallet-suck than the frozen/packaged/prepared convenience foods.
Take waffles, for example. My oldest son has eaten a frozen toaster waffle for breakfast every day, for as long as I can remember. And once I started getting super-picky about ingredients, a big giant box of Eggos wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted organic whole grains, fiber, low sugar. So I started buying crazier and crazier waffles: Organic Wildberry Buckwheat Bran! Natural Hemp Flax Whole Grain Honey with Added Omega-3s!
It was bad enough when we were going through one box a week. But now? With three kids who are ALL on the morning waffle train? It was time to cry uncle and figure out how to make them ourselves.
We bought a basic waffle maker and got to work trying out different as-healthy-as-possible recipes, but never really hit on a winner. Too much sugar in one, weird texture in another, this batch tasted great on Sunday but didn’t freeze well, etc.
Then one weekend my husband skipped the waffle iron and made some seriously dubious-sounding pancakes: Whole-wheat oatmeal pancakes, sweetened only with a little maple syrup. To say I was skeptical and under-enthused about these pancakes is an understatement. My exact thoughts were: Gross, dude. You just killed the entire point of pancakes.
But then my kids started eating them. And eating them. One right after another. Then asking for more. I have NEVER seen them both so simultaneously excited about a homemade food offering in my life. Jason whipped up a second batch and I finally got curious enough to taste one.
Oh my God, so good. SO GOOD. These pancakes have no business being as delicious as they are. Oats? Whole-wheat flour? No sugar? Just a little cinnamon and nutmeg and NOM NOM NOM NOM OKAY I GET IT NOW.
Ever since, we make two (sometimes three) batches of these pancakes on Sunday morning. The kids pig out to their hearts’ content and then we freeze the leftovers in parchment paper and freezer bags. So every school morning, everybody gets a warm, lightly toasted pancake in addition to their cereal and fruit and milk. (Toasting them does change the texture a bit — Noah says they’re more “waffle-ly” during the week, but in a good way.)
Satisfying, healthy and seriously CHEAP. Spring for all-organic baking ingredients and you’ll still wind up way ahead on the cost.
(Baby Ike loves them too, though note that there’s egg, wheat and milk in this recipe. We had our pediatrician’s blessing to introduce eggs and wheat in baked goods at eight months, since we have no history of food allergies in the family. Ike is thankfully not allergic or sensitive to milk, eggs or gluten, but we knew that before we handed him something with all three ingredients at the same time. Your doctor’s advice may vary so OH LORD PLEASE LISTEN TO THAT AND NOT ME OKAY?)
This is also an INCREDIBLY adaptable recipe, as you can see in the user reviews over at Epicurious. (The original calls for brown sugar instead of maple syrup. I’m not anti-sugar or anything, but if a natural sweetener works just a well [and indeed it does in this case], why not use that instead?) You can also add applesauce, bananas, blueberries, vanilla…pretty much whatever you want and they will likely come out awesome.
Whole-Wheat Weekend/Weekday Toaster Pancakes
(slightly adapted from this recipe by Andrea Albin via Epicurious)
(note that these measurements are for a single batch — obviously try them and see if you LIKE them before doubling or tripling the recipe, and stuff.)
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1-1/2 cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk*
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutneg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup**
*Regular milk works just fine too — just add a tablespoon of vinegar and let it sit for a minute.
**You can absolutely use more syrup if you like them sweeter, just eyeball the mixed batter and add more flour if it seems too wet.
Combine oats and 3/4 cup buttermilk to soak.
Whisk together flour, baking power, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Stir egg, butter, maple syrup, oat mixture and all remaining buttermilk (3/4 cup plus the two tablespoons) into dry ingredients until JUST COMBINED. It’ll be lumpy, but don’t overmix. (Sometimes I think it could use slightly more buttermilk than the recipe calls for, so don’t be afraid to futz with the proportions at the end — it’s super-forgiving batter, and I’m a complete baking idiot, usually.)
Heat a lightly-oiled griddle over medium heat, then pour your pancakes. Make ’em about the size of your average boxed toaster waffle (or a tad smaller) for best results — you want something that will fit easily in your toaster and not too thick, so a medium toasting will still defrost the center. Heat until bubbles appear and the bottoms are brown, then flip — just a minute or two per side, really.
(Epicurious claims the yield on a single batch is four pancakes but…uh, that’s wrong, unless you’re making ginormously huge pancakes. One batch is plenty to make a nice breakfast for three or four people, I think.)
Freeze whatever doesn’t get eaten between sheets of parchment/wax paper inside a zippered plastic bag. DONE.
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