Tag Archives: banana

High Protein Buttermilk Pancakes

high protein pancake stack

It has been a whole week since I’ve given up drinking caffeine!!  I am sleeping a lot better.   My head is not exploding by afternoon any more, and I don’t wake up at night with a tightness in my chest.  I do miss the taste of coffee though. I might try decaf. But for now, I think it is a good thing to be caffeine free.

In keeping with a healthy lifestyle, I’ve been lifting free weights on non-consecutive days for quite some time.  In addition to the physical benefits (less overall jiggle and stronger bones), I find it meditative and soothing to my brain.  I don’t listen to music or talk to anyone (too early in the morning to talk!)

I usually like to have a satisfying breakfast afterwards that’s made up of fats, protein, and carbs.  This weekend I had a craving for pancakes.  I have a great pancake recipe that was inspired by Truck Stop’s  Dan:

Diligent Dan orders pancakes with syrup and sausages!

Diligent Dan orders pancakes with syrup and sausages!

But this time, I wanted a more protein rich batch.  There are a ton of variations on the web.  This is my version.  I use buttermilk (for more flavor), less egg whites, and I add vanilla protein powder.  Sometimes baked goods with protein powder have a spongy texture that takes some getting used to.  But these protein pancakes have a great feel — not weird at all.  Quite amazing, actually.  I attribute it to the buttermilk and ground oats.  Here’s a recipe for one serving with nutritional information.  I could only eat four of the five though, and should have stopped at three.  They are very filling!

high protein pancake with pb

Especially when eaten with peanut butter!



You can freeze these by wrapping in saran wrap and storing in a ziploc bag, so you can have them quickly and easily on a week day too.  Wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for about 55 seconds if frozen.

High Protein Buttermilk Pancakes

½ cup old fashioned oats

¼ of a banana, mashed

¼ cup butter milk

¼ teaspoon baking powder

dash of vanilla extract

3 egg whites (or 9 tablespoons of liquid whites)

½ scoop (18g) protein powder (I used French Vanilla Designer Whey Powder)

½ cup cottage cheese (I used my whipped version)

coconut oil, melted butter, or vegetable oil for greasing griddle

  1. Preheat griddle.
  2. Pulverize oats in blender.  Add remaining ingredients, except for oil.  Blend until completely smooth.
  3. Brush griddle with oil or melted butter.  Pour batter onto griddle to make 4-inch pancakes.  Flip when you see bubbles forming around edges.  Cook another minute or less until done.  Serve immediately.

Makes about five 4-inch pancakes.

Each pancake :                                              Full Recipe

Calories:           84.8                                        424

Fat:                  1.94  g                                        9.7 g

Sat. Fat:           1.06  g                                      5.3 g

Cholest:            10.1 mg                                  10.1mg

Protein:         10.48  g                                     52.4 g

Sodium:            143.5 mg                                717.7 mg

Carbs:              9.6 g                                         48.3 g

Fiber:               1 g                                              5.6 g

Sugars:          1.36   g                                        6.8 g


Filed under Breakfast, Vegetarian

Green as a Coconut, Spinach, Chocolate Smoothie

Topped with toasted coconut and sliced almonds

Topped with toasted coconut and sliced almonds

So this is only day 2 of my weaning myself off of caffeine, and I feel like this:

Copyright Melissa Iwai 2005

Copyright Melissa Iwai 2005

All I want to do is sleep.  Which probably means I am sleep deprived.  Which is why I decided to stop drinking coffee in the first place.  I have been struggling with insomnia and stress, and hopefully this will help with that.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do, and my daily coffee seemed to help make me so much more productive!  Have any of you dealt with this issue?  Any advice or tips you can give?

In the meantime, I’m still trying to keep a healthy lifestyle.  I’m still drinking my smoothies.  Jamie too.  Remember this one?  It’s his favorite Chocolate Banana Smoothie (with Secret Ingredient).

These days, I drink one daily and it’s a riff on Jamie’s Chocolate Banana Smoothie and my Strawberry Bliss Smoothie.

Strawberry Banana High Fiber Smoothie

Strawberry Banana High Fiber Smoothie

It has the frozen fruit, spinach (whoops! there goes the secret!), and pysllium husk that those have, but I’ve also added protein powder and coconut milk as well.  I often try to make it as thick as possible so I can eat it with a spoon.  I top it with a little toasted coconut and almonds, and it makes me feel like I’m eating a soft serve ice cream for breakfast.  This is especially nice in these hot summer months!

I toast unsweetened coconut and sliced almonds on foil in the toaster oven.

I toast unsweetened coconut and sliced almonds on foil in the toaster oven.

I keep frozen banana, various fruits, frozen spinach in a bag, and frozen coconut milk in the freezer at all times.

One can of Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk fills one ice cube tray. How convenient!

One can of Trader Joe’s Light Coconut Milk fills one ice cube tray. How convenient!

I freeze the coconut milk in an ice cube tray.  One cube equals 2 tablespoons, if you are curious.  When it hardens, I transfer the cubes to a ziploc freezer bag and store for future use –i.e. almost every morning.

This is what I put in the blender:


The fruit I used this time was nectarine, but that varies.

Frozen Coconut Milk, Banana, Nectarine, and Spinach

Frozen Coconut Milk, Banana, Nectarine, and Spinach–pretty!

I know it looks green and icky, but it is SOOO good!

I know it looks green and icky, but it is SOOO good!

Here's a more Martha Stewart photo for ya!

Here’s a more Martha Stewart photo for ya!

Coconut, Spinach, Chocolate Protein Smoothie

2-3 ice cubes

1/4 frozen banana (I slice them and freeze, so this is about 4 slices)

1 cube of frozen coconut milk (or 2 tablespoons)

a handful of other frozen fruit — I use nectarines and strawberries often

1 teaspoon psyllium husk (if you want more fiber — also it acts as a thickening agent.  You could also use Chia Seeds)

a little less than 1/4 cup milk (or almond milk if you want to keep it vegan), depending on how liquid you want the final to be

teaspoon of toasted coconut and almond for garnish (optional)

1.  Crush ice cubes in blender.

2.  Pour in remaining ingredients and blend. If you make it thick, like mine, you need a tamper to press everything down — I use a Vitamix.  If you don’t have a tamper, I would just keep stirring it every now and then by hand to remove clumps, and blend again.

3.  Pour into a wide rimmed glass or bowl and top with crunchy toasted coconut and almond topping if you desire!


Filed under Beverages, Breakfast, Vegetarian

Healthy Desserts for Kids

Chocolate, banana, spinach smoothie!

Awhile ago, during the summer (those days seem far away!), I had the opportunity to join Katherine Lee of about.com in her kitchen for a fun afternoon of cooking and filming!

Katherine has a wonderful parenting blog on about.com, and she invited me to contribute some healthy dessert ideas for kids.  We made everything in her kitchen and the lovely Meredith filmed us.  It was a blast and such a different experience from what I am usually doing during the day in my studio!  She treated us to a fabulous sushi lunch, and we munched on the desserts we made throughout the day.  🙂

My favorite Double Chocolate Zucchini, Banana Bread with Secret Ingredient is one of the recipes featured.

Can you guess what the secret ingredient is?

Check out the video on how to make it here.
Other super easy, practically-not-cooking recipes are:
Peanut Butter Truffles!  Remember this post?
Video is here.
Frozen Yogurt Grapes:
I never did a post about it, but the recipe is in the video.
Banana Soft Serve (minus the Magic Shell!):

All natural goodness — just bananas and a splash of milk!

Chocolate version seen here in the video.

And last, but not least:  Chocolate, Banana, Spinach Smoothie  

This the one video I never want Jamie to see, because he drinks this all the time!  It is a great after school snack.  The spinach has absolutely no flavor in the smoothie, and he has no idea I sneak it in. I sometimes use frozen spinach which adds to the creaminess of the smoothie along with the frozen banana!

Video and recipe are here.

Hope you enjoy these recipes — they are all really easy to make and are pretty healthy considering they are desserts!


Filed under Breakfast, Children, Desserts, Snack, Vegetarian

Monthly Lego Build and Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Secret Ingredient

Can you guess what the secret ingredient is?

*Quick note, I forgot to add earlier — after almost two years, I FINALLY figured out how to post my book, SOUP DAY, on the sidebar just days ago!  Yes, I’m kind of technically challenged (or intimidated, shall we say?)  Anyway, if you haven’t already, please check it out — I have almost reached my goal of selling enough copies for the sequel (another cooking related theme)– it’s a fun book for budding cooks! *

OK, back to the regular scheduled blog post:

Yesterday Jamie had a special play date with two friends.  I took the three of them into the city to visit the Lego store at Rockefeller Center where there is a monthly model build every first Tuesday.

Approaching Radio City Music Hall near Times Square. Such city kids.

Each month is a different theme, and each child gets to build the model and keep the original kit (while supplies last).  For the month of May, it was a tulip.

The staff there is incredibly nice and actually let the boys build their own construction using pieces in the bins for sale while waiting for the model build to begin!

Plants v.s. Zombies Zen Garden

If you are ever in the area, the Lego store is a fun visit. There are giant structures as well as fun miniature city scenes all built out of Lego, including Rockefeller Center.  I didn’t take any photos because I had to save our spot in the line.

I wanted to bring a portable snack for the boys to eat on the subway on route, so I made a Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread loaf beforehand.  I cut each slice into cubes and brought it in containers.

This bread is SO moist and full of chocolate flavor, you would never guess it is actually full of nutrients.  It’s also lower in sugar and fat than traditional zucchini bread, because I use applesauce in place of a lot of oil.

Can you guess the secret ingredient yet?  Yep, spinach.  The chocolate masks the flavor completely.  I’ve actually seen chocolate baked goods made with cooked kale, but I haven’t attempted this yet… Kale has a much stronger flavor than spinach, so I am a bit hesitant to try it out.  The spinach, however, works perfectly, I promise.

This bread is an excellent after school snack.  It’s actually good enough in my book to serve for breakfast. 🙂

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread (with special ingredient!)

Non-stick spray

1 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½  teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (23 g)

1 cup frozen spinach, or ½ cup cooked spinach

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 small zucchini or ½ medium one)

1 ripe banana, mashed

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a loaf pan with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder until evenly mixed.
  3. Microwave frozen spinach for about 1 minute on high.  Squeeze out extra water and drain.  Process in a food processor with oil until finely pureed.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Into spinach mixture, add zucchini, banana, applesauce, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Then add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.  Then stir in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into lined loaf pan and dot the top with remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 1 hour. Test with a toothpick or skewer to see if done.  Let cool in pan on a rack for about 30 minutes.  Cut around edges with a knife and carefully lift out onto cooling rack (don’t invert or the chocolate chips will get smashed).
  7. Let cool, cut and serve.


Filed under Children, Desserts, Snack, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting

I love American layer cakes.  The combination of a moist cake crumb with creamy frosting makes me swoon.  They way the layers are thick and stacked tall, slathered with rich frosting is typically American.  Unlike their European counterparts,  American cakes are huge, sweet, and filling.  To me, they evoke images of diners, films from the 50s, and general Americana.  I missed them when I lived abroad.

Another very “American” food is peanut butter.  My friends from Europe and Japan just don’t have the same relationship with peanut butter as my American ones.  They tend to not like it — or at least are not passionate about it!  For me, if there’s anything I am addicted to, as in:  I eat it every day and usually multiple times a day, I would have to say it’s peanut butter.  I really can eat it on just about anything, as it goes with savory (eg. peanut noodles)  and sweet flavors.

Since I eat it so often I try to be careful about portion size because it’s so easy to eat tablespoon after tablespoon of it!  I’ve also experimented with combining it with peanut flour with great results (nutty flavor with fiber, protein and less fat).

Trader Joe's no longer carries it, but you can get it at southerngracefarms.com

So when I came across this recipe for Banana Cake with Chocolate Glaze, I knew I just had to make it.  The combination of bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate are just too good to resist — the perfect trifecta!

There are a few changes I made to the recipe to lighten it up a bit.  The first was that I halved the cake recipe and baked it in a cute 6-inch pan.  Un-American?  Perhaps.  But a small layer cake is just SO cute, and I figured with the richness of this cake, the smaller portions would be healthier.

See the difference between a cute 6-inch pan and a 9-inch pan?

I didn’t have buttermilk so I substituted some yogurt and milk mixed together.  Also, I made less peanut butter filling since it was a smaller cake and lightened it by using peanut flour along with the peanut butter, less sugar, and I omitted the heavy cream.  In place of the butter based glaze, I made my favorite Chocolate Ganache Frosting — which is pretty much like a chocolate truffle, but I couldn’t help myself.

With the peanut butter frosting before the chocolate ganache entered the picture.

The final product was a very moist, dense cake full of banana flavor coupled with creamy peanut butter and luscious chocolate.  I loved that the cake wasn’t HUGE.  It still would easily serve eight to ten people, but the portions aren’t Cadillac sized.  Because the cake has all the other qualities of a rich, decadent American cake (even with the few lightened tweaks),  the un-American portion sizes definitely don’t leave you feeling unsatisfied!

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Adapted from: http://www.takingonmagazines.com/

Note:  If you want to make a true American sized cake, double the cake, filling and frosting recipes and bake in 2 8-inch pans for 35-40 minutes.

Banana Cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½  teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large eggs
1 1/2 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk or ¼ nonfat plain yogurt plus ¼ cup milk

Peanut Butter Filling

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

½ cup peanut butter (or ¼ cup peanut butter plus 40 grams of peanut flour and 2 oz. almond milk)

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

extra milk if needed

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

4 oz. chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, or a mix

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 1 6-inch by 2-inch cake pan. Line bottom with parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy for about two minutes. Add the egg one at a time, beating well after addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Mix in the bananas and vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly add in flour mixture and alternate with buttermilk (or yogurt) mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture – about 3 times.
  5. Pour batter into cake pan.  Tap on counter to get rid of air bubbles.  Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour until skewer poked in center comes out clean.  I would start checking at 45 minutes because ovens vary.
  6. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before removing from cake pans. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Peanut Butter Filling

    1.  Cream the butter and peanut butter (or peanut butter plus peanut flour almond milk mixture) together in a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar and milk if needed. Mix well.
    2.  Add either more milk or sugar to reach the desired consistency.

For the Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  1. Chop chocolate and place in a medium sized bowl.  Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour cream over chopped chocolate in bowl.  Add corn syrup.  Let sit for 3 minutes.  Whisk to incorporate until chocolate is silky smooth with no streaks.  Add vanilla and stir with a spoon.
  2. Place in refrigerator for about  30 minutes stirring once halfway and again after 30 minutes.

To assemble cake

  1. Cut cooled banana cake in half with a serrated knife.
  2. Place four strips of parchment on cake dish and place first layer on top (this will keep your plate clean).  Cover with peanut butter filling.  Place second layer on top.  Frost cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting.  Remove parchment paper.


Filed under Desserts

Homemade Softserve Ice Cream and Chocolate Shell

This is my new summer treat.  Years ago, we were soft serve addicts.  My husband used to volunteer to walk the baby (our son would only nap in his stroller at the time) so he could just happen to pass by the Tasti D-lite in our neighborhood.  We had the cards which had little icons of soft serve ice cream dishes which could be punched out and marked how many you had bought.  After a certain number, you would be rewarded with a free ice cream.  That’s how bad it was.

Luckily that store went out of business (we are pretty sure it was due to the surliness of the guy who ran it — how can you always be in a bad mood when you work in an ice cream store!?)  and our addiction came to an end.

Then I discovered this recipe.  I had seen it in various incarnations all over the web — I’m not sure who posted it first.  And I also came across it in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home Cookbook (called Creamy Banana Ice), which was published in 1994, so maybe it is originally from that.  At any rate, it is a super simple recipe.  You freeze slices of banana and puree it in a food processor when frozen.  That is all!  I like to add a splash of lactose free milk.  I have also tried it with light coconut milk for a vegan version.  You could also use almond or rice milk.

All natural goodness -- just bananas and a splash of milk!

Since I had frozen some ripe mango chunks a week or so ago (they are a great snack/dessert, as is!), and I always have frozen banana slices on hand, I thought they would go great together.  I added light coconut milk.    My son loved this.  You would never believe there is no added sugar!


Awhile back , I was given a  complimentary jar of coconut oil from Tropic Traditions, a company that offers a myriad of coconut products, including virgin coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut flakes, as well as other organic foods, skin care products and household goods.  I’ve been experimenting with it and hope to post more recipes in the future.

One of the most easy recipes and one that we have been enjoying since our heatwave in the east coast is “Magic Shell” made with coconut oil.  It tastes just like the store bought version but doesn’t have any of the extra ingredients or additives!  It’s just melted chocolate and coconut oil.   You drizzle it on something frozen, and it hardens immediately.  Here is the recipe for it on the Tropical Traditions site.

Pair the soft serve with the chocolate shell and you have a perfect healthy summer treat!

Banana Soft Serve

Frozen banana slices

Splash of liquid in the form of milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc.

1.  Puree in food processor until creamy

2. Serve immediately and eat!


Filed under Desserts