Monday, February 20, 2012

Meatless Monday: Healthier Options for Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras is tomorrow, and for many that means a day of celebrations which include rich foods such as paczki, beignets, and pancakes. Mardi Gras provides an opportunity for a final day of fat and carb binging before the penitential season of Lent begins.

I have never eaten an authentic beignet, and I bet not all have you have tasted a paczki, but everyone knows pancakes. They have been around for centuries. Olney, England has held pancake races since 1445, and residents there will continue the tradition tomorrow. Last year I recounted a brief history of the Mardi Gras custom of eating pancakes, speculated on how the Olney races came to be, and sent everyone to IHOP for free pancakes. I also included a recipe for a healthy-ish pancake with historical roots of its own — cornmeal pancakes as prepared at the Boothe Memorial Park and Museum in Stratford, CT. The pancakes are easy to make; the biggest challenge  will be finding cornmeal that is non-GMO. 

A few days later, after learning just what was in those restaurant pancakes, I apologized and advised everyone they would be better off staying home and making their own. The nutritional information showed that chain pancakes were loaded with fat and salt and low in food value. The key to a better pancake is to reduce the white ingredients, increase the whole grains, and to cut the salt and fat.  As an alternative, I  included  a recipe for vegan banana pancakes  (from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz via my friend Cher).

This year I offer up a family favorite. I could doubtless tweak it to make it even healthier, but I leave that experimenting to you. This recipe has been around since my days of feeding a young, picky eater. Even left alone, this recipe is far better for you than most pancakes eaten out.

Oatmeal Pancakes 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup of quick-cooking oats
1-1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

  • Whisk all ingredients in your sturdy mixing bowl until smooth. (You can thin the batter with some extra milk if it is too thick).
  • Heat and grease your griddle. (To see if the griddle is hot enough, splash with a few drops of water. If the bubbles bounce around, the temperature is perfect.)
  • For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle.
  • Cook until pancakes are puffed and dry around the edges. Turn over and cook until the other side is delicately browned.
  • Serve with maple syrup.
  • You can refrigerate leftovers [This recipe makes lots of pancakes.] and microwave for later use.

Breakfast for supper can be a fun, healthy, and inexpensive tradition, particularly during a school vacation week when your kids might stay in their pajamas all day. Google “healthy pancake recipes” and see what turns up. Look for options where whole grains outweigh white ingredients, where fruit replaces some of the sugar, and where fat and salt are low.

Happy eating!

Have a great week. “See” you next Monday.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”


  1. I learned recently at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT that buttermilk can be frozen! Often I have bought a quart when I only needed a cup for a recipe, then kept the rest until it went bad and threw it out. Apparently, one can freeze buttermilk in small batches in ziplock freezer bags and thaw and use when needed. It was good news to me.
    Thanks for the oatmeal pancake recipe, Elaine!