So here’s my deep dark secret.
I’m a Pancake Idiot.
Seriously. Major MAJOR pancake idiot. If there’s a pancake out there, I will idiot the hell out of it. I will find a way to make the thing spray all over my freaking stove top while I flip it, until it is a hollowed-out shell of buttermilk and flour, vomiting sad, leaky buttermilk-flour entrails all over my pan. I’ve made my kids cry, watching me flail.
As a matter of fact, I recently posted a thread on a Facebook Group of mine (hello again, PMG!) regarding this very issue. Anyhow, a multitude of brilliant women pointed me toward some awesome pancake flippers, and yet I still failed. I can intubate a 300-gram baby (I apologize to my non-medical readers, but you’re going to have to trust me on this, it ain’t easy!), but I can’t flip a damn pancake. My phone’s spellcheck has been known to communicate to my (Pancake-Genius) husband during the worst of my attempts: “Help! Mother Ducking mess!”
But these pancakes! They’re so hearty, and full’o’goodness, they’re truly a carrot cake. And, though some of you may not know this yet, I’ll tell you now: Cake, I can do.
And that’s all these are: mini carrot cakes, with a fraction of the sugar, and tons more protein. You can substitute nuts for the pumpkin seeds, or add shredded coconut, or more raisins, or fewer raisins, totally up to you. Plus, gluten-free for our allergic folk. By the way, the easiest way to make oatmeal flour is to simply take your regular rolled oats and process them (oh! Have I mentioned I freaking LOVE my food processor? Not in the last three minutes, you say? Fine, be that way.)
And kids recognize pancakes, and they recognize carrot cake, so these are generally well accepted. Plus, there’s only half a cup of brown sugar for the entire thing – raisins and carrots themselves add a little sweetness – so you can feel pretty good about sending a little honey or maple syrup in your Mini Dipper for your munchkin to chow down on.
I used my food processor to make oat flour from those rolled oats.
Thick, and fluffy, and moist, and impressive, and super easy to flip. No Mother Ducking mess, guaranteed.
- 4 cups oatmeal flour - easiest way to do this is throw 4 cups of regular rolled oats in a food processor
- 4 cups quinoa flour - (you can substitute whole wheat flour if you prefer)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 Tb baking powder
- 4 tsp cinnamon
- 4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp cloves
- 2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 8 eggs
- 1/2 cup (one stick) melted butter (use melted coconut oil if dairy-free)
- 4 cups milk (use almond milk if dairy-free)
- 2 1/2 Tb vanilla bean paste (extract is fine)
- 2 lbb carrots
- 2 cups raisins
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 2 Tb butter for cooking
- Shred carrots - you're welcome to do this by hand, if you want to make a strong soulful connection to each shred of carrot. Or, throw'em in the food processor with the grating attachment, like the good lord intended.
- Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
- Mix eggs, milk, and melted butter in standing mixer bowl, with wire whisk attachment.
- Switch to paddle attachment, and add dry ingredients to wet, mixing only until incorporated.
- Add shredded carrots, raisins, and pumpkin seeds or nuts, folding in slowly.
- Heat griddle over medium heat, and wipe surface down with small amount of butter. When hot, ladle batter into griddle by 1/2-cupfuls onto griddle. Flip when edges appear dry and set, and cooked side appears golden brown -about three minutes. Cook until set.
- Cook to room temp on wire rack, then Flash Freeze in a single layer on parchment-paper-lines jelly roll pan, for 1-2 hours.
- Pack in heavy duty freezer bags, sucking the air out of bags entirely, or vacuum seal.
- Fall-Flavored Carrot Cake Pancakes
- Banana French Toast Casserole
- Crustless Spinach Mini Quiches
- BONUS snack: I-Swear-It’s-A-Cookie-And-Bad-For-You Breakfast Cookies
- BONUS snack: Take-Your-Damn-Hands-Off-My-Mushroom Chips
Here’s the list of equipment you’ll need, and a list of equipment that makes life easier.
- Large griddle OR several pans OR one pan and way more patience than I.
- Parchment paper
- 9×13 baking dishes – should have at least two to be efficient, could use up to four, so beg borrow or steal if you have to! Here are some great and versatile options: a Nordic Ware covered option, a Pyrex basic dish, a Fat Daddio’s aluminum option and my favorite option, a Calphalon pan.
- Muffin tins, size of your choosing – popover tins for big kids/adults (remember there are only six cups per tin, so get at least two! You’ll use them for other lunch recipes!), regular muffin tins for smaller kiddos, mini muffin tins for toddlers.
- Paper muffin liners (don’t get the foil wrappers for these! Foil muffin liners + Microwave = bad words in comments on my blog) – Popover “Tulip Cup” liners, Regular Liners, mini baking cups
- Big Tupperware Bowl
- Gallon Freezer Ziplocks
Strongly suggested, but not absolutely needed:
- Stand-up mixer (it was mentioned in a comment thread earlier this week that some of these lunch batches really won’t fit in a standard 5QT mixing bowl – if you don’t have one already, but are thinking of taking the plunge, consider purchasing a 7QT mixer like mine; I can throw an entire birthday party in there, and everything fits.)
- Food Processor – can’t emphasize this one enough (see? I wasn’t lying in Round 1 when I said we’d be using it!)
A WORD ON FREEZER SPACE
I admit, I have a lot of freezer space. I live with four adult-sized appetites, and one healthy child-sized one, and I tend to freeze and pack 20 weeks’ worth of food for all the kids at a time. Plus, once upon a time, I used to do this regularly for dinners as well as lunches.
So, I have a freezer upstairs for regularly-used items, then a downstairs freezer for frozen lunches, and a separate chest freezer for when I’m feeling particularly go-getter-y (or for when I make Thanksgiving meals ahead of time because I have the stupid schedule). I call the chest freezer my Sexy Beast, and I make my hubby apologize to it if he doesn’t treat it with an appropriate level of tenderness.
The FDA does specifically say that a closed, full freezer will maintain its temperature for 48 hrs without power (a half-full one will maintain it for 24 hrs), so food does not need to be thawed or refrigerate or transferred anywhere, as long as you kee the doors closed. So even if your power goes out Saturday, your lovingly-prepared lunches should be safe till Monday when the repair guy comes! Just sayin’ …
Now, you certainly don’t have to have this. We’re going to work on how to maximize your packing strategies in order to best use your space, and we’re going to use flash freezing and labeling techniques that make my heart skip more than Ryan Gosling (who, for the record, has NOTHING on vacuum sealing). But you should plan on being able to fit two jelly roll pans or large cookie sheets into your freezer at once at any given time during your prepping. If you can’t do that, it may be worth it for you to take a look at getting yourself a separate freezer – not necessarily your own Sexy Beast, but maybe something a bit smaller and inconspicuous, that can still guard your hard work (and only cost you an extra $0.75 or so per lunch if you hold 4 months’ worth of meals for one person in it, right?).
Sometimes, I come across good deals and want to share them, but I don’t want to send you unwanted emails. If you’d like me to email you when I find something really good (like the Instant Pot that went on sale last week for $69.99) you can sign up for those emails here. These would probably be once or twice a month.
I’M ON INSTAGRAM & TWITTER:
I succumbed to Social Peer Pressure (I’m so weak – it’s Aubrey’s fault) and signed up for an Instagram Account. So you can follow me on Instagram @emiponcedesouza. You can also follow me on Twitter @poncedesouza. If you share your photos, use the hashtag #EmisLunches, and please tag me!