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Here on the west coast this weekend we lost a lot of the sunshine that had been blazing for the last couple of weeks. It’s known to rain a lot in Vancouver, sometimes even in June, so turning on my air conditioning for the first time this year was exciting. After the winter we’ve had, it’s been a long time coming.
But sun or no sun, it was a lovely weekend, spent with family and friends, and partaking in a few of my favorite pastimes–mainly reading, writing, and of course, cooking. I started Saturday morning off with these blueberry buttermilk pancakes. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t have cereal for breakfast. On the weekend I may treat myself to bacon and eggs, eaten with toasted homemade bread and a couple of vine-ripened tomatoes. I’m all for self-indulgence, but pancakes for one seems silly when I only eat one or two.
If I’m going to eat pancakes, it’s going to be with my niece. Nikka is three and loves blueberry pancakes. When I visit her house, I like to make us some for breakfast. We get some alone time while her parents catch up on much-needed sleep.
This weekend was a really special one for Nikka. She participated in the Children’s Miracle weekend to raise money for BC’s Children Hospital. She also won the t-shirt design contest; her design was printed on 5,000 t-shirts that were worn by children at the event! All in all, over 15 million dollars were raised to help children with cancer.
Here is that fabulous t-shirt!
Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t she brilliant? A Picasso in the making! She’s three!
Here we are on my birthday when she was a wee bit younger. Isn’t she unbelievably cute?
I was thinking about Nikka when I made these pancakes on Saturday. I did only eat a couple and froze the rest. Maybe she’ll come to her aunt’s house one day soon and we can have blueberry pancakes for breakfast together again.
Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”. Makes 4-6 servings.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 cup frozen blueberries
1) Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat while making the batter.
2) Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Coat the blueberries with some of the flour mixture so they don’t turn the batter blue when you add them. Beat the eggs into the milk and then stir in the melted butter.
3) Gently stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. The flour should be moistened but not over mixed and you may have some lumps. If the batter is too thick, add a bit of milk. Fold in the blueberries.
4) For cooking, use a bit more butter or a neutral oil to prevent the pancakes from sticking. Ladle batter onto the griddle or skillet to form the size of pancakes desired. Adjust the heat if necessary.
5) Brown the bottom of the pancakes for 2-4 minutes. Flip when bubbles appear in the center of the pancake and the bottoms are golden. Cook the second side until also well-browned, a couple of more minutes. Pancakes should be served immediately but can be kept warming in a 200F oven until you finish making the whole batch.
I am a creature of habit. This seems like a strange admission to be making because until lately, I’ve never considered myself one. I like my fair share of excitement. I like discovering new things and going to new places. I’m not afraid of change. To admit that I’m a creature of habit makes me sound like a dullard, I fear. Someone who is so set in their ways that the prospect of change seems like a frightening proposition.
The fact is, sometimes we don’t avoid change things because we fear it. Sometimes we simply like things just the way they are. Take breakfast. The odd restaurant brunch non withstanding, I’d be hard pressed to remember the last time I had anything but cereal for breakfast. To me, cereal is perfect breakfast food. I’m not talking about your average box of Cheerios, or any of the hundreds of sugar laden cereals lining the grocery store shelves these days (Mark Bittman calls most cereals “miniature cookies in a box”). I like some of the cereals put out by Lifestream and Kashi, which are made from whole grains and have a high fiber content. But my favourite cereal, hands down, has to be granola. A good granola is light and crispy yet filling, delicious with milk or yogurt, topped with any fruit, or even eaten plain, as a snack. Unfortunately, most of the brands available in the supermarket fall short. They’re loaded with refined sugar, loaded with bad fats, and not at all tasty. You could buy artisan granola at stores such as Whole Foods, but they’re woefully expensive. I have found it’s easier to make your own. That way you can save a few bucks, tailor it to your tastes, and always have a fresh batch around. It’s so easy to make and much better than any granola you can buy in the store, in my opinion.
I make my granola low-fat. Okay, it’s not super low-fat because I add quite a lot of nuts. But nuts are healthy, as are the ground flax seeds I use in addition. I find they give the granola an extra nutty flavour, though you might want to halve the amount I use in my recipe, or skip them altogether if you don’t like the taste of them. Instead of using oil, I add egg white to the recipe for binding.
My recipe here is a guideline. You can mix up the variety in the nuts and dried fruit, add more fruit…whatever you like. This is just a starting point.
Homemade Low-Fat Granola
5 cups (450g) rolled oats (not quick)
1 cup (100g) slivered almonds
1 cup (100g) pecan pieces
1 cup (100g) dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins (50g)
1/2 cup (125ml) ground flax seeds
1 cup (100g) flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 egg whites
1/2 cup (125ml) honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1) Preheat oven to 400F. Toss the oats, nuts, cranberries, and raisins in a large bowl with the flax seeds, coconut and cinnamon.
2) Beat egg whites together with the oil and pour into granola. Add the honey. Mix until very well combined.
3) Spread granola out on a pan lined with parchment paper. You might need 2 pans to ensure the granola has enough space to cook evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, mixing up the granola with a spatula after 15 minutes. Cool.
Store the granola in the fridge in an airtight container, otherwise the flax seeds–and eventually the nuts–will go rancid.