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Is there any better excuse to force-feed your child get your child excited about green food than St. Patrick's day? I swear by baby spinach as my favorite healthy way to turn favorite foods green. It has a neutral flavor that blends seamlessly into whatever you're making: breads, muffins, smoothies, and pancakes! (Take a look at our yummy spinach muffins, here!) It gives these foods a vibrant green color--and not to mention a healthy dose of nutrients--without having to use food dyes. I've been known to blend it into pesto and even into my kids mac and cheese. Here, I added spinach to the blender with the wet ingredients of the pancakes so no evidence remains that there is spinach in these pancakes if you think your kids would be wary. But my kids are used to seeing the little green leaves go right into the blender, so they were happy to press the button and watch the milk turn green. I sweeten these naturally with banana, and you could easily replace that with 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce if you have that on hand. I also use white whole wheat flour so the color pops, but you could easily sub all-purpose flour or regular whole wheat flour, though the color might not be as vibrant with the latter.
Whatever you decide, this is the perfect HEALTHY green breakfast for St. Paddy's Day, don't you think?
GREEN PANCAKES makes 8 pancakes Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups packed fresh spinach
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1 medium banana
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions: In a blender, combine the spinach, milk, banana, and egg and blend until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Heat a large griddle over medium heat and grease with butter. Pour 2 tablespoons of the pancake mixture for each pancake and cook until the top begins to bubble, around 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook for one minute longer and serve.
When parents tell me that their child is ahead in reading or sports, I like to brag that mine are at least 15 years past their age when it comes to food. By that, I mean that they've channeled their future frat boy diet and could live off of cereal at every meal.
In fact the single food truth I swear by, is that if you pour it out of a cereal box, they will eat it. There are a whole bunch of good-for-you cereals out there (more on that HERE), but cereals for breakfast can fall short on the protein they need to sustain them until snack time.
In fact, the best breakfasts for kids (and adults too!) have 3 components to keep you full and energized:
Protein (found in eggs, yogurt, lean deli cuts, cheese, and nut butters)
Whole grains (found in oatmeal, whole grain breads, multigrain waffles, and cereals)
Most kids don't have trouble eating the latter two as their morning meal, but protein at breakfast can be harder for them to swallow--especially since the morning rush leaves little time for frying up a few eggs. Enter your child's (and your!) next best option: homemade granola. This version is made with protein-packed oats, grains, and seeds. And unlike store versions, it's not full of crazy amounts of added sugar. It's also crunchy (a win with kids!), full of filling fiber, and made with and nuts and seeds for healthy fats to give the brain a big boost. But best of all, it is delicious.
Think of this recipe as a blank slate: If you don´t have all the ingredients, feel free to skip some or replace other nuts, dried fruits, or seeds. Best of all, this keeps well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch and always have it on hand.
My kids and I eat it with wild blueberries, ½ banana and low fat yogurt. You could also pour it into an old cereal box (shhh!) if you really want them to love it.
Makes 4 cups (I usually double it since it goes fast in our house)
1 cup rolled oats ¼ cup wheat germ ¼ cup flax seed ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds ¼ cup chopped raw almonds ¼ cup chopped raw walnuts ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds ¼ cup dried unsweetened grated coconut 2-3 Tbsp. canola or olive oil 2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey ¼ cup water ½ cup of mixed dried berries like raisins, apricots or cranberries
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, flax seed, coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, honey or maple syrup, and water in a small bowl. Pour the liquid into the oat mixture and stir until it is well incorporated.
Spread the mixture the mixture on the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 30 minutes, mixing occasionally so everything cooks evenly.
Let the mixture cool completely on the baking sheet, then return the mixture to the large bowl and stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (it'll last for at least a few weeks) or transfer to the freezer.