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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chocolate Banana Pancakes (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, & Refined Sugar-Free)

Ah, pancakes! Whether they help you start your day, help you motor on mid-day or help you end your day on a high note, pancakes will not let you down. If your friend, a parent, significant other, co-worker, or anyone else lets you down, (vegan gluten-free) pancakes will be there to lift you up in your darkest hour. I cannot say the same for non-vegan gluten-filled pancakes, though. They usually weigh us down, contribute to illness and cause mood swings. We don't need that. Though sweet potatoes are my ultimate food crush, you must know that pancakes are another food crush of mine... "I'm not a player, I just crush a lot" ...oookay. You knew that was coming.

Now, most commercial pancake mixes or pancakes at restaurants are made with health-depleting ingredients like refined flour, eggs, dairy, refined sugar, preservatives, additives, artificial flavorings and colorings, accompanied by junk syrup made with more crap than I can count, but I have good news... you do not have to miss out on the glorious-ness that are pancakes on a healthy vegan diet. I made sure of it! By the looks and taste of it, you'll think you're being naughty and ultra-unhealthy while eating these pancakes but looks are deceiving. I think they're the healthiest pancakes you'll ever come across - cruelty-free and super delicious, too! You won't miss the unhealthy version.

As you can probably imagine, the homemade chocolate sauce just takes it to another level. And it's super easy to whip up. You'll find yourself dipping your finger in one too many times before it ends up where it's supposed to. That's why I ensured that there would be leftover sauce so you could enjoy even after its intended use on the pancakes. ;-) I put a layer in between each pancake too. Yes, I went there. Why use syrup when you can have chocolate sauce?

It wasn't too long ago that I created another version of banana pancakes using oat flour. Check out what I wrote about the dangers of the ever-so-common sweetener alternative agave nectar on that post, too. Very important! Anyway, I thought those were the best vegan gluten-free pancakes I had tasted but it turns out these are even better! These chocolate banana pancakes are not as dense, though still more dense than pancakes made with refined flour. Rest assured, however, that taste isn't compromised. These are naturally sweeter, also, due to the addition of dates. Dates seem to be used everywhere in healthy dessert alternatives, especially in vegan recipes, so much so that all of the hype convinced me to try them. I used to be quite scared of eating dates because of their high sugar content.

My body didn't tolerate sugar well for a long time. It was the cause of my emotional highs and lows, recurrent infections, acne, and digestive troubles. Since I've begun to rebalance my body over the past few years and have cut out most all refined sugars and even went a period of time without other high-sugar containing fruits and sugar all together, along with restoring healthy bacteria in the gut with probiotics, I seem to handle sugar much better now. I still avoid refined sugar but I have slowly added in naturally sweet foods to my diet. I keep them to a minimum though. I certainly do not eat dates or coconut nectar everyday because my body is still quite sensitive to sugar but when necessary for a recipe, I go for it, and it makes all the difference. 

A little more about today's sweet ingredient...

Dates - Dates are a delicious and sweet fruit that contain a multitude of nutrients and health benefits. Those nutrients include minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, zinc, and phosphorus as well as vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, and vitamins A & K . High in soluble fiber, they have the ability to relieve indigestion and constipation by moving food comfortably through the intestinal tract. Did you know that dates are a staple food in the Middle East? Muslims often eat dates to break their fast during Ramadan to avoid overeating as they slowly introduce food and water back into their diet. They're ideal in this case because they keep you full and satisfied for a long period of time. Dates are also rich in a variety of minerals like selenium, magnesium, manganese, and copper which help to strengthen the bones. Even more, dates help to prevent and decrease night blindness, improve eye and heart health, prevent abdominal cancer, increase energy levels, decrease allergic reactions (due to the presence of sulfur), maintain healthy weight, and boost the nervous system (due to the presence of potassium).

What can't they do is the question? Someone once told me that if there was only 1 food you could live off of for a few months, dates would be the best choice because they would keep you well-nourished over that period of time. That doesn't surprise me considering it is loaded with various vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. Be sure to wash them before enjoying as their sticky surface can harbor impurities.

Chocolate Banana Pancakes

YIELD: 5-6 pancakes

For the pancakes:
• 3/4 cup brown rice flour (found mine in bulk at Whole Foods)
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp (a generous pinch) fine sea salt
• 1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and rinsed
• 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
• 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 banana, sliced, for topping
• 1/4 tsp unrefined coconut oil, for coating the pan

For the chocolate sauce:
• 2 Tbs unrefined coconut oil, melted
• 1 Tbs raw coconut nectar
• A pinch fine sea salt

For the pancakes:
1. Pre-heat a non-stick pan/skillet (highly recommend) over medium heat. Coat the pan with 1/4 tsp coconut oil.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown rice flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt and whisk well.
3. In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine the pitted dates, almond milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and blend until well-combined. 
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Scoop the batter into a 1/4 cup measuring cup and pour into the pan. Use a spoon to get all of the batter out of the measuring cup. Cook for 2 minutes and then flip it over with a spatula or wooden spoon and cook for another 2 minutes.

For the chocolate sauce:
1. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk well. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*The pancakes can be frozen.

Enjoy and be sure to let me know how you like them if you try them! :-)

"Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death." Unknown


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