Oh, it was a lazy weekend. The kind where you sleep for the better half of the morning, and the major event of the day is boiling the kettle to make tea. Read a paragraph of some book, then pass out again. Stare out the window. Consider going for a walk; have a nap instead.
So far, 2012 has been ram-jammed with all sorts of excitement, and I guess I just need to catch my breath. I seldom slow down enough to let two days pass without doing anything of real "consequence", but boy when I do, I become the queen of Sloth Ville. Luckily for you, the lazy sometimes leads to crazy-yum kitchen creations.
The one thing the sloth queen did accomplish this weekend, was making pancakes. And not just any pancakes, but Banana Bread Pancakes. Hilariously, they started off as a desire to make the Coziest Banana Bread (since it was the coziest of weekends), but I was totally too lazy for that. Having to get out a cutting board and knife? Daunting. I let the food processor do the chopping and mixing.
My lethargy led me to making walnut flour, instead of chopping the nuts by hand and leaving them chunky – turns out that was the best idea ever. I have never worked with walnut flour before, but it lends the most delectable nutty taste to the final product, like a walnut whisper wrapped in a warm oat-y hug. And as walnuts are best friends with banana, their complimentary flavours give high-fives all the way from your tongue to your tummy. There’s a lot of love going on in one lazy little pancake.
The bonus is, these babies are gluten-free, which can be a nice change from the typical, wheat-centric breakfasts we all gravitate towards. Yes, they contain oats, but if you purchase gluten-free oats you’ll be guaranteed that you are getting a product that is safe even if you are Celiac.
Gluten-free diets have become uber-trendy in the past couple years as celebrities have plugged the lifestyle as a savior for their overall health and wellness. But why would someone go gluten free if they didn’t have to? Good question. Does it seem like cool-kid train has left the station heading towards the Promised Land, while you’re still standing on the platform? It’s okay; I think you’re cool. But here’s the low-down on gluten-free eating in case you want to buy a ticket for later.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the natural protein found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Despite recent uproar and confusion, gluten is not bad for you. Some people however, have an autoimmune form of gluten intolerance known as Celiac disease and cannot digest it. Celiac disease affects nearly 3 million Americans, and those affected must avoid all foods and food products that even come into contact with gluten-containing grains.
Are oats gluten-free?
Short answer, yes. Oats are inherently gluten-free, but are very often grown with or processed in facilities that also handle wheat and/or other gluten-containing grains. Because oats become contaminated with gluten in this way, they are often not safe for Celiacs. However, some companies have developed dedicated processing facilities for oats only, making them safe for those who cannot tolerate any gluten whatsoever. These companies include: Bob's Red Mill , Cream Hill Estates , GF Harvest , Avena Foods , Legacy Valley (Montana Monster Munchies) , and Gifts of Nature .
Click here for a discussion on oats in the gluten-free diet or visit Health Canada's website for an extensive technical review on the safety of oats in the GF diet.
Should you go gluten-free?
Many people who are not affected by Celiac disease are making the switch to a gluten-free diet, claiming that it helps them lose weight, gain energy, improve concentration etc. Of course there can be something to that as we are all very different and react to foods in very different ways - some people find that eliminating gluten, or even just wheat makes them feel dramatically better than they did before. Great! But as we all search in vain for the "miracle diet" that will make us feel amazing, look our best, and allow us to take over the world, we must remember that there isn't one right answer. We have to take time to listen to ourselves, and give our own bodies a real chance to tell us what is best for us. Even if your best friend gives up gluten and feels incredible, it may not necessarily be the right choice for you.
Often the reason many people do shed a few pounds and generally ‘feel better’ eating foods without gluten, is not the avoidance of gluten itself, but the fact that they are making healthier food choices. We all know what happens when we polish off the breadbasket at lunch; we feel sluggish, foggy, tired and often bloated. It’s not a coincidence – what do you think will happen when you down a loaf of white flour?
Conversely, when you choose a gluten-free diet, your horizons are forced to expand just a little, and suddenly quinoa, amaranth, and millet make their way into your dinner. You choose fruits and veggie snacks instead of cookies and crackers. Breakfast becomes smoothies instead of cereal. Variety comes into play, and that is what makes the difference! More freshness! More produce! Less dead, nutrition-less, life-sucking white bread. Just sayin’.
But let me be clear about another thing: wheat is not the enemy! Whole wheat is good for you. So are rye, and barley, and spelt and kamut. These grains contain gluten, yes, and are also full of protein, fiber, phytochemicals, B vitamins, folate, calcium, selenium, iron, and zinc. When prepared properly and eaten in their whole, unprocessed forms, they have many benefits.
The problem is many of us eat wheat three times a day, often in its over-processed forms (boxed cereal, sandwich bread, pasta…), which has been stripped of most of its valuable nutrition. It’s not necessarily the wheat, it’s the way we process and consume it.
If you want to give gluten-free eating a shot, go ahead. Perhaps you do have an insensitivity lurking around, and eliminating gluten will certainly shed some light on it. Or, perhaps you want to cut back on the wheat and introduce new and exciting foods to your diet; experiment with the amazingly diverse seeds, nuts, and grains that are on the market for you to explore. Sometimes imposing a few limitations on oneself forces creativity, which can be a very good thing when it comes to what we eat. PB&J sandwich again? We can do better than that!
Why do I create gluten-free recipes on My New Roots?
For the same reason I try to make as many of the dishes vegan, sugar-free, soy-free etc. - so that everyone can make them. I want to create all-inclusive meals that all people can enjoy, even if they’ve chosen a particular diet or they have some kind of allergy or insensitivity. And I feel it’s important for others to know that eating with ‘restrictions’ is not all that restrictive.
Besides, you have that raw lacto-vegetarian coming over for dinner next week and you need something yummy to serve them, right? I shall deliver.
Gluten-free Banana Bread Pancakes
1/3 cup walnuts
2/3 cup rolled oats (certified gluten-free oats if you have a sensitivity)
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch sea salt
1 very ripe banana
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. olive oil
2/3 cup nut milk
2 tsp. maple syrup
1 banana, sliced
a handful of walnuts, chopped
extra-dark chocolate, grated (for a special treat!)
1. In a food processor, pulse walnuts until they resemble a sand-textured powder (do not over process – you’ll end up with walnut butter!). Remove walnut ‘flour’, add oats and pulse until you get a shaggy flour. Place walnut and oats flours in a large bowl. Add baking soda, sea salt and stir to combine.
2. Add all wet ingredients to the food processor and blend to combine.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until the two come together. Let batter sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
4. Heat a little coconut oil (or ghee) in a skillet and drop in 3 large spoonfuls of batter (you are after three, 8 cm / 3 inch sized pancakes). Spread slightly with the back of the spoon to even out the batter. Turn heat down to low. Let cook on the underside until the topside is opaque, which will take more time than a regular pancake. Check to see if the bottom has browned, and if so, flip over to cook the other side. Cook until the underside is crispy and brown (although the middle is a little moist, this is okay).
5. Put pancake on a baking sheet in a warm oven, and cover with some foil while you make more (this will also give them time to firm up a little in the middle). Serve with pure maple syrup, fresh banana slices, chopped walnuts, and grated dark chocolate for a special treat - they are banana bread pancakes after all.
I really liked these pancakes, and I am not ashamed to admit I ate the whole plate you see in the photo (what? – they’re little!) I will mention however, that these are not your diner-style fluffy white pillow pancakes. They are rich, nutty, and quite moist due to the banana holding everything together. The middle is not going to be a sponge, but almost like a just under-done cookie. Once the syrup goes on, who cares anyway? And, I did discover that these pancakes make really great snacks later on in the day. Once they cool down, they firm up substantially and are kind of nice to eat with your hands (hey, can we please remember how lazy I was? I didn’t want to wash another plate.)
If anyone wants to get lazy next weekend and make up a batch, feel free to experiment and get back to me with results. I love hearing what you do to change up and even improve my recipes!