The Process of Eating Less Processed

Weaning My Family Off of Processed Foods – While Sneaking in Some Hidden Fruits and Veggies


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40,000 Pancakes an Hour – Fascinating to Watch – But Not Really Something I Want to Feed My Family

My six year old loves the show How It’s Made on the Science Channel. It’s this show where they play elevator type music while a narrator talks over images of factory workers and machinery making all sort of stuff. It’s actually a pretty interesting, and mesmerizing show. What does this have to do with eating less processed food, or pancakes?

I’ve seen several of these shows that feature various food products. One that was on recently was for Aunt Jemima frozen pancakes. After watching as the batter was made in a humongous vat with a variety of processed ingredients (like partially hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fat and GMO all in one), it was totally fascinating watching as a machine dropped perfect little dollops of pancake batter onto a conveyor belt/griddle. Plopped out in rows of 8 pancakes at break neck speed, the little circles cook for a couple of minutes and are then flipped by this totally cool multi head spatula thingy that perfectly flips all of them at the same time. The pancakes make their way along the conveyor into a blast freezer and are then packaged up and sent on their way to our freezers – at 40,000 pancakes an hour. While this was totally fascinating to watch, it didn’t really make me hungry for pancakes and served to remind me of how something so seemingly benign could be so completely unnatural and processed.

Even before our new less processed life, I very rarely bought the frozen pancakes (frozen waffles are a completely different story). But I did use the ready-made pancake mix. You know… the just add water stuff. I admit, the Aldi brand pancake mix makes some very yummy pancakes. But of course just like the factory made pancakes, the mix is full of artificial and processed ingredients. So I decided to make from scratch pancakes. My first try was made with 100% whole wheat, which was a hit with the youngest 2 boys, but the oldest didn’t like them at all. So I’ve compromised and am now using half whole wheat, half white flour.

Here is the recipe I’ve used that has been a hit. I make a big batch and then freeze the extras. If you do freeze them, it works best to freeze them laid out on a cookie sheet for an hour or so before putting them into bags so they don’t stick together. To heat them up, you can either microwave them for about 30 seconds a pancake or put them in the toaster. If you do use the toaster, there will be a crunchy crust on the outside.

Pancakes with Whole Wheat
1 cup white whole wheat flour (if your family is cool with all whole wheat, feel free to use 2 cups whole wheat flour and omit unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2TB sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup buttermilk (I use 2 1/8 cup 2% milk mixed with 1/8 cup white vinegar)
2 eggs
3 TB vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients (fluff with a fork to add some air). In separate bowl mix wet ingredients, then add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined (small lumps are okay). Drop by spoonful (about 1/8 cup per pancake) onto hot (375 degrees) griddle or frying pan (you can tell it’s hot enough when you drop a couple drops of water on the heated surface and it sizzles). Once you see little bubbles popping on the pancakes, flip them and cook until browned. Don’t flip them more than once as it will make them tough.

Personally, I love to use my electric griddle for pancakes. It’s a nice flat surface and keeps a nice even 375 degree. Plus the one I have has removable cooking surfaces so it’s easy to clean.

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Yummy Whole Wheat and Flax Banana Muffins – Buttery, Caramelly Goodness…

I love banana bread. My mom made it when I was growing up and I’ve been making it since I was a teenager. When I was a sophomore in college I lived in a rental house with 5 other people. Come finals time, it seemed we all procrastinated studying and the house ended up extra clean, and filled with banana bread. At one point I think there were nearly a dozen pans of varying sizes and shapes (picture the typical college house’s hodgepodge kitchen fare) filled with banana bread.

So, since even college kids can manage it, there obviously isn’t anything particularly revolutionary about turning your overripe bananas into muffins. But since I’m doing things a little differently now that we’re being less processed, I decided to make my already very good banana bread recipe into something a little healthier. The result was actually very yummy and doesn’t scream “healthy” or “whole grain”. The recipe uses brown sugar and butter, so you get a caramelly (probably not a real word, but it totally works) salty sweet banana bread that is just as yummy cold as is straight from the oven or warmed up. In fact, my youngest boys scarfed down 3 mini muffins for breakfast and would have had more had I let them.

So here it is… the recipe for my Whole Wheat and Flax Banana Muffins

Whole Wheat Banana Flax Muffins

4 TB butter, softened (I used regular salted butter)
1/4 cup applesauce
2 TB ground flax seed mixed with 6 TB water (or 2 eggs)
2 TB milk (I use 2%)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup mashed overripe bananas
1 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (I use the Trader Joe’s brand)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Beat the butter, applesauce, flax and water (or eggs), milk and brown sugar with your mixer until it’s smooth, then add bananas and beat on high for 1-2 minutes. (I’ve found that beating it longer leads to less dense banana bread as it adds air into the mixture – since you’re using whole grain flour, this air really helps).

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Use a fork to fluff these up a bit (again to add some more air). Then combine the dry ingredients into the wet and stir well. This batter works equally well for banana bread, muffins or mini muffins – all baked at 350. For muffins, use the little paper wrappers or grease your pan. Bread (in a bread pan) bakes for 55-60 minutes. In a cake pan, it would be more like 25 minutes. Regular size muffins are 15-20 minutes and mini muffins bake for 12-15. whatever you turn the batter into, you can tell it’s done when a toothpick comes out clean and you can see it starting to brown just a little bit around the edges.