Give guilt a break: Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn...) pancakes


Several weeks ago, I was sick. Zero energy, shaky, achy muscles, heavy fatigue and sticky, icky congestion. A week or so later, I was on the mend, but a little bit sick, and even more, sick of being sick. Lately, the body has rebounded, and I've been starting to feel back in the groove...just sick and tired of guilt. If there were a recipe for guilt, it would be exceedingly free form. "Pick one ingredient" from a list a mile long, and (don't) enjoy. Sometimes I think guilt validates our good intentions even when we fall short of outstanding behavior. Those who never, ever feel its sting are rarely people I admire. But that's no reason to get consumed by it. It's really pointless, vile stuff, though, most of the time.

This being a food blog, it makes sense to focus foremost on guilt that latches itself to food. It doesn't matter what's been branded as the "bad guy" of the day--whether fats, carbs, sugars, snacks, or even rice for goodness sake. (Have I told you how fixated I've been about arsenic in rice? Double rinsing does a good trick for washing the stuff away, apparently--cook your rice in lots of water, like pasta, and rinse pre and post cooking). In any case, attaching a ladle-ful of guilt to every teaspoonful of culinary villain has got to make the impact on your health infinitely worse.

The reason I'm waxing on about this is, last Friday Dave advised me to "stuff my face" with whatever I wanted, all day. I was starting to fall back into a slump, feeling stuffy and tired; and we had a 22-mile run planned for the next morning, which included a hefty marathon-paced portion towards the end. From Dave's point of view, erring on the side of glutton for a day couldn't hurt.

I didn't "stuff my face" after all, but I did manage to let go of scrutiny and listen to my body. I drank a lot more orange juice than usual, and I did eat a heaping, large portion of dinner, which was a hearty chili. Coincidentally (or not), the run went smoothly the next day, and I felt back in "the zone" for the first time in weeks. After, still keeping lurking, lonely guilt at bay, we ate these scrumptious, golden pancakes. Coincidentally (or not, again), recovery took less time than expected, too.

This week, I enjoyed these pancakes again when Melissa and I held a short after-school class incorporating basic cooking and nutrition concepts around the theme of pumpkins and winter squash. We called it "Patch to Plate", giving a nod to "Plot to Plate", and now I'm somewhat wishing that's what we'd named the book in the first place (next time!). It was so much fun introducing varieties of roasted squash to the kids. The massive, bumpy blue hubbard squash Melissa brought in astounded them, and they were duly impressed how much the insides of all varieties matched. We incorporated talk of healthy fats and the importance of being sparing with sugars into our cooking activities; the kids created silly, happy pancake faces with raisins, cranberries, apple and banana slices.

You know I'd never really suggest we  "stuff  our faces", nor fuel up on pancakes everyday. But I'm making a mini pact with myself to remember,  stress has not earned a place at the table, and a short stack of pancakes deserves to be enjoyed.  Especially when you fold in a delicious serving of carotenoid-rich vegetables in at the same time. (I had to throw "carotenoid in there...because I like the imagery of a carrot-droid doing all kinds of good things for your body.) So good.

Squash pancakes

  • 1 ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 2 ½  teaspoon baking powder
  • 2+ teaspoons  pumpkin pie spice (I go pretty liberal here, as in a tablespoon)
  • dash salt
  • 1 large egg, I egg white
  • 1  cup milk  (used nonfat)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin/squash puree
  • 1  tablespoon olive oil
  1. In a bowl, mix together the milk, squash, egg, egg white, molasses and oil. Combine the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
  2. Heat a prepared griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.