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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Banana Pancakes & Whipped Coconut Cream (Vegan, Gluten-Free) + Dangers of Agave Nectar

If you have a hankering for a sweet and filling but nutritious breakfast, super pancake-fanatic-lady is here to save the day! Though it's important to stick to a mainly plant-based diet full of whole, fresh, organic, disease-fighting, energy and mood-lifting foods, the occasional dessert or pancake, in today's case, won't kill you. In fact, it will help to keep you on track so you're less likely to revert back to your old ways. Even better, have a green smoothie beforehand to aid digestion. Okay, did I just kill the mood? Eek. Sorry!

You see, pancakes are one of my favorite foods in the history of ever and I've been searching high and low for the best vegan, gluten-free, most nutritious pancake recipe out there. Since I no longer participate in IHOP's unlimited pancake breakfasts, I decided I would stop at nothing to find a healthier alternative, which is what my journey has really been all about - finding/creating healthy recipes that are as tasty (and more often than not they're more tasty) as the energy draining, blood sugar spiking, illness-causing version. I feel light and energized after eating these pancakes, not weighed down and bloated like the other variety. I've experimented with a few recipes and I'm happy to say I've found a winner! I'm so stoked to share it with you.

Now, gluten-free, vegan baking is a bit different than what you may be used to. Because there's no gluten or eggs to bind all of the ingredients together and give it that light and fluffy texture, these pancakes are more dense. All that means is that you'll get fuller faster and your energy level will be stable throughout the day. Say adios to blood sugar spikes that cause you to feel high and mighty and then hungry and down soon after.

I am also beyond elated to share a delicious whipped cream alternative. Whipped coconut cream is the new whipped cream, didn't you know? If you like the taste of coconuts, you'll never go back to the clogging, chemical-filled dairy whipped cream. I show you how to whip this baby up in a snap here.

The ingredient spotlight for today's recipe goes to...

Raw Coconut Nectar - Unless you're living under a rock, and I don't blame you if you're hiding from the disaster of a food/pharmaceutical industry, products derived from coconuts are in high demand these days and for very good reason. It happens to be a perfect replacement for those who don't consume dairy products due to coconut's creamy texture and rich nutritive value. We've got coconut oil, coconut sugar, coconut yogurt, coconut milk, coconut water, coconut flour, coconut shreds, coconut crystals, and coconut nectar. Take your pick!

Raw coconut nectar is made from the sap that is tapped from the coconut tree. It has a low glycemic index (GI of only 35), meaning that the glucose enters your bloodstream slowly and thus will not spike blood sugar levels, cause energy fluctuations or hunger. It is comprised of only 10% fructose and is abundant in minerals, amino acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Unlike other highly processed sweeteners, raw coconut nectar is minimally evaporated at low temperatures. It has a mild, sweet flavor and can be used as a 1:1 substitute for any other liquid sweeteners.

On the contrary... And this is *muy importante*... Many people consider agave to be a health food thanks to deceptive marketing. I see agave everywhere now, even used at raw and "healthy" restaurants. It does have a low glycemic index, which is likely the reason why people assume it's healthy, but GI should not be the only factor in determining what's healthy and what's not.

Agave nectar is highly processed and consists of 70-90%+ fructose. Even high fructose corn syrup has less fructose than agave, about 55%. It exists in most processed foods found at the grocery store and in restaurants. When consumed, fructose passes the gastrointestinal tract and is directly transported to the liver. This process causes a lot of strain on the liver and can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver scarring, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. High fructose intake has been linked to weight gain, obesity and high triglycerides (associated with increased risk of heart disease), according to a study conducted by Princeton researchers. Excessive fructose consumption has also been linked to type 2 diabetes as it has been shown to cause insulin resistance.

Fruit (and honey) is also made up of fructose but it contains small amounts that the body can handle. Fruit also contains fiber and an abundance of other health-promoting nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that agave, crystalline fructose and high fructose corn syrup do not. Avoid agave and tell everyone you know about its dangerous effects! Kimberly Snyder, celebrity nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author, has a really great blog post on the difference in how fructose and glucose affect your body.

Banana Pancakes
Adapted pancake recipe from Love and Lemons

YIELD: 4-6 pancakes

INGREDIENTS
For pancake batter:
• 1 ripe banana
• 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp (a pinch) high-quality sea salt
• 2-3 tsp unrefined coconut oil, to cook

DIRECTIONS
For pancake batter:






































1. In a food processor, mix together the banana, almond milk and vanilla extract until well combined and liquified.



2. In a medium or large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt) and mix well.





































3. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.



4. In a large skillet, heat a few teaspoons of coconut oil over medium heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the pancake batter into the pan. Flip the pancake after a minute or so. Heat the other side for 30-60 seconds and remove pan from heat.
5. Serve your pancakes with homemade vegan & refined sugar-free whipped coconut cream, raw coconut nectar (my personal favorite), pure maple syrup, or chocolate sauce and top with a dollop of whipped coconut cream. Enjoy!

NOTES
All ingredients can be found at Whole Foods if you don't want to purchase them online.

If you try these pancakes or any of the yummy toppings, send me a picture or leave me a comment! You can find me on TwitterInstagram and Pinterest. Can't wait to hear from you. :-)

Sending you love and light,
Claire

"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow'." Unknown

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