My son loves pancakes. On lazy Saturday mornings, we’ll sometimes whip up a batch using Trader Joe’s multi-grain pancake mix, and he’ll eat more than my husband. On the rare occasion that we go out to breakfast, he’ll devour the Mickey Mouse pancake off the kids’ menu and then start in on mine. His grandmother gave him the book Curious George Makes Pancakes, and he adores it. Of course, even though I avoid the just-add-water mixes (which are often full of trans fats and who knows what else), traditional pancakes are still a carb-heavy, imbalanced meal. So, as much as we love them, they are a rare treat around here.
However, I recently discovered that BB loves pancakes even if they aren’t cakes, per se. If they are round and flat and cooked in a frying pan, he is a fan. And that’s how I developed my formula for “lunch pancakes” — made with eggs and little more than leftovers! The eggs bind everything together, providing protein while serving as a vehicle for healthy ingredients like sweet potato, whole-wheat pasta, and even spinach. They are quick to make and easy to customize for what you have on hand and what your kid likes. (And I personally think they are quite tasty; I’ve even made them for dinner for adults!)
Lunch Pancakes: the basic formula (amounts are estimated)
1/2-3/4 cup pre-cooked starch such as potato, sweet potato, or spaghetti
1/4 cup chopped vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach), pre-cooked fresh or thawed-out frozen, optional
2 tablespoons cheese, optional
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients and mix well; batter should be thick. Heat a frying pan to medium-high and coat lightly with cooking spray or melted butter. Pour dollops of batter onto hot pan, spreading with the back of a spoon to desired size and thickness. When bottoms are golden and tops are partially cooked, flip and finish cooking as you would pancakes.
Sweet Potato Pancakes
1 small or 1/2 large cooked sweet potato, mashed
Savory variation: grated parmesan cheese, ground sage
Sweet variation: ground cinnamon/nutmeg, dash of real maple syrup, sprinkle of mini chocolate chips
Dipping sauce: applesauce or real maple syrup
Baked Potato Pancakes
1/2 large baked potato, mashed
chopped cooked broccoli and/or cauliflower
Dipping sauce: ketchup, sour cream, or even applesauce
1/2 cup cooked whole-wheat spaghetti, chopped in varying lengths
frozen chopped spinach, thawed
grated parmesan cheese
basil or other herbs, optional
Dipping sauce: marinara
For dinner the other day we had whole-wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce (which contained spinach and crumbled garlic-herb chicken sausage). The next day I chopped up the leftovers and added eggs and some grated parm, and cooked it as pancakes. It totally worked, even with the sauce. BB ate every bit from his preschool lunchbox.
And speaking of lunchboxes… with back-to-school season upon us, everyone* seems to be writing about healthy school lunches that kids will actually eat. Turns out these egg-based lunch pancakes are delicious cold, and there are easy ways to make them even more fun:
- Cut circles into “pancake sticks” and provide dipping sauces
- Use pancake molds for fun shapes; I use egg rings to get a perfectly circular, slightly thicker pancake
- Allow kids to sprinkle toppings onto the batter in the pan: chocolate chips, tomatoes, shredded cheese…
Give it a try and let me know what you think. Can you come up with other winning variations?
*Just a few I’ve come across recently:
alphamom.com: Bento Box Basics for Back-to-School
hip2save.com: How Do YOU Pack a “Hip” Lunch?
rookiemoms.com: How to pack a kickass preschool lunchbox
empoweringmommy.com: What to pack in your child’s lunchbox?