Almond Flour Pancakes

One dish that I miss more than any other since going paleo is a fluffy, warm stack of pancakes. We used to have a weekly tradition every Sunday morning of meeting our friend Bre for breakfast. More often than I’d care to admit, we’d end up at The Original Pancake House. They don’t have ordinary pancakes, they have the queen of gluten-filled pillows: sourdough pancakes. You can smell them outside the front door, their sweet and sharp aroma is irresistible.

Recently I’ve spent many Sunday mornings attempting to make a suitable paleo replacement for pancakes. The sweet potato version that I came up with are good, but not always what I’m looking for, especially on a warm weekend. I’ve scoured the web in search of the perfect recipe. Most of them are dry, dense, and taste like you took a bite out of a coconut – not at all what I was hoping to achieve. Finally, the culmination of many failed attempts has resulted in what I think is the best replacement I’ll ever get for those sourdough beauties, without devouring the real thing. Keep in mind, these pancakes don’t have the delicious pungent flavor as the original, but they do have the taste and texture of a standard breakfast pancake.

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Almond Flour Pancakes
3 ea. eggs, separated
.5 oz. high quality butter, melted, cooled to room temperature
2 oz. coconut milk
.5 oz. raw honey
1 t. vanilla extract
6 oz. blanched almond flour, sifted
.5 t. baking soda
.25 t. baking powder
.25 t. kosher salt
1 t. ground cinnamon

Method:
1. Separate the eggs, combining the yolks in a large bowl and the whites in a medium bowl. Set the whites aside.
2. Add the melted butter, milk, honey, and vanilla to the yolks, whisking thoroughly.
3. Combine the flour, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.
4. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, whisking completely to combine.
5. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks (about 2 minutes on medium speed).
6. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter – this will help to soften it’s texture in preparation for folding in the rest of the whites.
7. Add another 1/3 of the whites into the batter, gently folding them in so as to retain their aeration.
8. Fold the remaining whites into the batter, ensuring that they are completely incorporated without over-mixing.
9. Preheat a non-stick skillet with coconut oil or pan spray over medium-low heat.
10. Scoop with a 2 oz. portion scoop for a 4″ pancake (you can prepare whatever size you prefer) onto the greased pan.
11. Cook over medium-low heat on the first side until the edges begin to set and you see bubbles forming in the middle, 2-3 minutes.
12. Gently flip the pancake and continue cooking on the second side until the pancake is set in the middle (you can check by gently pressing on the center of the pancake).
13. Hold warm until you’ve cooked all pancakes, serve with maple syrup, preserves, honey, or a dash of cinnamon.

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Our recent switch to a Paleo lifestyle has been admittedly easier than I thought it would be. I have had a few cravings, but nothing that couldn’t be curbed with a hard boiled egg or a piece of fruit. However, it recently hit me that my beloved, delicious, spicy pumpkin pie was no longer on my list of “acceptable” foods for Thanksgiving! My heart started beating faster, my leg started to twitch, and for the first time since we embarked on this journey, I seriously considered sneaking something into the house that I knew we shouldn’t be eating.

Luckily for us (and our waistlines, triglycerides, and blood sugars), I have a knack for baking and I was pretty sure that I could come up with a delicious version of a pumpkin pie that would fit the bill for our Paleo diet. Initially, I thought it would be pretty easy. Obviously the crust would be the most challenging aspect due to the wheat flour it needed, but the custard itself shouldn’t be too tricky. After 5 attempts, I hit the jackpot and created what I think is a pretty stellar substitute for the pumpkin pie I grew up loving.

The recipe below includes teff flour. I have done a lot of research trying to find out if it is acceptable on a Paleo diet. As of today, I have found no definitive answer. Some say it isn’t, because it is technically a grass. Others say it is, because it is essentially gluten free, doesn’t have as much phytic acid (which makes minerals nearly useless when eaten), and it is loaded with nutrients. It is a staple in the Ethiopian community and is often eaten fermented into flatbreads (which makes it even better for you). With that said, it was the best option for a pie crust that gives good flavor, great mouthfeel, and stood up to the pumpkin custard. While I wouldn’t suggest inhaling pounds of teff every day, I would also say that everything can be eaten in moderation. Even though you’ll probably want to devour this entire pie…

The crust bakes up beautifully and has a great texture that you don't get with almond flour.
The crust bakes up beautifully and has a great texture that you don’t get with almond flour – it resembles the texture of a graham cracker crust.
The secret to a great pumpkin pie is baking it as a custard - low and slow.
The secret to a great pumpkin pie is baking it as a custard – low and slow.

The Crust

Ingredients:

2 cups teff flour
1/2 cup macadamia oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 t. salt

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly to combine.
2. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie plate, making sure to press all the way to the top of the sides. It is important to get an even thickness throughout.
3. Freeze completely.
4. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Bake the crust for approximately 35 minutes. Start checking it early to prevent over-baking. It should be firm to the touch, and will have lightened in color.
5. Chill the crust until your custard mixture is ready.

The Custard

Ingredients:

6 ea. large eggs
15 oz. pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
2/3 cup almond milk, unsweetened
2/3 cup heavy cream
5 oz. coconut palm sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1.5 t. ground cinnamon
1.5 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 t. salt

Method:

1. Pre-heat your oven to 300°F.
2. Combine the eggs and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly to combine.
3. Add the almond milk, cream and coconut palm sugar. Continue whisking to completely incorporate the milks.
4. Finally, add the vanilla, all the spices and the salt. Combine.
5. Pour into your pre-baked crust and set into a baking dish (big enough to hold some water).
6. Place the baking dish into your pre-heated oven and fill half-way with hot water.
7. Bake until the custard is set in the middle, about 2 hours. If it still jiggles in the middle, it may need longer. Start checking it after an hour and a half. If it over-bakes, there will be a noticeable crack in the center after it cools.
8. Let cool to room temperature, then finish chilling in the refrigerator to ensure a complete set.

A Few Notes:

– You can use any lightly flavored oil in the crust, including melted butter or ghee.
– Honey can be substituted for the coconut palm sugar, but it will be significantly sweeter. Reduce the measurement to 4 oz.
– It is always best to freshly grate your nutmeg for the best flavor. If you are using pre-ground nutmeg, increase the measurement to 1.5 t. per 9″ pie.

Paleo Sweet Potato Pancakes

Arguably, the best part of the weekend is brunch. Enjoying a cup of coffee, catching up with friends, and gobbling up tasty syrup-covered pancakes can’t really be beat. Unfortunately, those gluten-filled babies weren’t enjoyed by our caveman ancestors. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get creative and throw down some equally delicious pillows of goodness that actually pack a healthful punch. Enter, sweet potato pancakes…

A healthy dose of cinnamon awakens your taste buds and makes these pancakes even more delicious.
A healthy dose of cinnamon awakens your taste buds and makes these pancakes even more delicious.

These paleo pancakes are fantastic. I’m a true cinnamon connoisseur and these are the perfect vehicle to deliver a variety of spices to your palate. The spices themselves can definitely be adjusted to your taste-buds, but they do more than the job that refined sugars would do in your typical pancake recipe – add a ton of flavor. I also like to use freshly ground nutmeg for an extra punch. We do our best not to add salt to any dish unless it absolutely needs it. I use the spices to give these flavor, but feel free to add a pinch of salt. I’ve posted the recipe at SparkPeople.com, which includes the nutritional information for a single batch.

Paleo Sweet Potato Pancakes

1.5 T. coconut flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
.5 t. ground ginger
.5 t. ground nutmeg
.5 c. mashed sweet potatoes
3 ea. large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. honey (for garnish)

Method

1. Combine coconut flour, soda, and all spices.
2. Combine sweet potatoes, eggs, and vanilla – whisk thoroughly.
3. Add coconut flour mixture to the sweet potatoes and stir to combine.
4. Spray a non-stick skillet with pan spray, and heat under medium-low heat.
5. Scoop batter with a #24 scoop (for 1.3 oz. scoop) into the heated skillet.
6. Allow to cook until you see bubbles in the center and the sides are set.
7. Flip and continue cooking on the second side.
8. Remove from pan and garnish with a drizzle of honey.

Unmeasurable

It was a blistery Tuesday morning. My husband and I had scheduled an appointment in his office at Microsoft for our annual “Know Your Numbers” exam – a free service that checks your weight, BMI, body fat %, as well as cholesterol, glucose levels, and triglycerides. Basically a time for Microsoft to find out how healthy their employees are and adjust insurance coverage under the guise of offering a great service to their employees. We’ll take it.

Nerves were getting the best of me, as I knew that my diet and lack of exercise wasn’t going to do me any favors in terms of the results they would record for me. I was sure my husband would give me the standard lecture, “We need to change our diet, go vegan, get rid of carbs and dairy. When you are gone, I never eat sweets.” I wasn’t in the mood to hear any of it.

After a painless flu shot (and apparently a somewhat painful one for him), we were poked, prodded, measured and weighed. Our respective “consultants” quickly wrote down our numbers and sent us on our way to coaching. We joined one another with none other than a 110-lb (soaking wet) woman who was the picture of good health. I was ready for the lecture, ready for my husband to give me “the look”. Then I saw his results.

I was shocked. His cholesterol was so high it couldn’t be measured. His triglycerides were somewhere above 650 – that was the highest number they could report. A healthy result would have been somewhere below 150.

My numbers weren’t much better, but at this point, I had just been hit with a ton of bricks. I had no idea my husband’s health was this serious – or at least I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact. I’m a chef, I like to prepare delicious, flavorful, comforting foods for my friends and family, regardless of the impact they might have on one’s health.

As a chef, I am an artist. Food is my medium. Unfortunately, it doesn't always equate to something that nourishes my body.
As a chef, I am an artist. Food is my medium. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always equate to something that nourishes my body.

In the middle of that drab conference room, I knew immediately that we had to make some serious changes. Our NUCCA chiropractor, Dr. Sean Fryer, had consistently attempted to get us to jump on the Paleo boat. I thought he was nuts (pun intended). He once told a friend of mine that eating bread was as bad for her health as smoking cigarettes – she’s a pastry chef. That didn’t go over well.

On that rainy Seattle morning, as a couple we decided that our health, our happiness, and the future of our family was more important than any pan dulce, pasta primavera, or slice of pumpkin pie. Our eyes had been opened and we couldn’t deny it any longer – we were actively killing ourselves with food. As a chef, I was embarrassed. I have devoted my life to nourishing people through food, and I wasn’t even taking care of my own family.

This blog will follow our journey through adopting a Paleo lifestyle. We will slip-up, we will make mistakes, and we will fall off the wagon – but we will get back on. I hope that we can help just one person make better choices, live longer, and be healthier.