[Stacked high, topped with homemade apricot jam and plumberry sauce]
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? When she was a puppy, I would have sworn that Elsie had no vocal chords. She never made a peep until she was about six months old. No barking, no whining, no howling, no growling–nothing. (In retrospect, I’m guessing that her inauspicious beginnings, raised as a stray in a shelter cage with at least 20 other bigger and more aggressive pups, taught her to be quiet in the same way that babies become silent if they’re never picked up or soothed when they cry. I know: heartbreaking. Excuse me for a sec, I just need to grab this tissue. . . .).
Even once she learned to bark, Elsie remained an exceptionally quiet dog–that is, until Chaser entered the picture. The complete antithesis of Elsie in every way, Chaser came into the world wailing, and pretty much hasn’t stopped since.
Chaser barks at car headlights as they flit by on the street outside our house; she bays at other dogs being walked by their owners, even if we happen to be driving in the car when she spies them; she howls when she wants me to throw her ball; she yaps when she’s hungry; she growls at the fly that’s buzzing in the windowpane. Whining comes in a close second: she whines when she needs to go “do her business” outside; she whimpers when I don’t respond to the request to throw her ball; she shrieks when she sees a squirrel at the end of the street. And in recent months, Elsie has begun to imitate her vociferous sister.
These days, it’s a fairly noisy trek to the local trail where The Girls enjoy their best romps. I’m treated to Canine Cacophony–in stereo–as we make our way to the parking lot just beside the field. And while I’m glad to see my Girls so excited, I think I’d rather preserve my hearing into old age, thank you very much. So here’s what I do: just as my friends are wont to do with their young children, I distract the Girls into silence with a question. As soon as Chaser launches into her trademark keening, I glance to my left and remark, “Oh, Chaser, is that a bird I see over there?” [silence.]. Then I just keep talking, pointing out various landmarks, until we arrive at our destination. Works every time!
This little sleight-of-focus came in quite handy last weekend with the HH (because, let’s face it, underneath it all, he’s really just a big kid). I was jonesing for pancakes, but didn’t want to repeat any of the recipes I’d already made before (I’m a food blogger, after all). In recent weeks, I’ve also decided to reduce the amount of grains I eat in a day in an attempt to stave off even more unwanted poundage that seems to be mysteriously accumulating on my belly and hips. (Please note: I am not among the crowd who believes that white potatoes are the edible spawn of Satan, even though I do eat grain-free a good deal of the time. Potatoes don’t seem to elicit the same frenetic, “gotta-have-it-now” reaction from me that other white stuff does–to wit, white flour, white sugar, white rice, white wedding dresses during my twenties. . . so glad I’ve put all of those behind me now).
[Brunch plate: pancakes alongside the Best Home Fries Ever]
After being so enamored of Ashley’s Carob and Buckwheat Breakfast Bake recently, I decided to combine those two flavors once more, this time in a pancake recipe of my own. Once the cakes were ready, I noticed the HH eyeing the platter with some suspicion.
“So, what are those made of?” he asked.
Should I tell him, and have him refuse to even try them? Should I lie? Ultimately, I decided to go for the same “redirection-of-attention” technique that worked so well with the dogs:
Ricki: Um, they’ve got carob. And almonds. Oh, and carob chips.
HH: That’s it? But what kind of flour do they have?
Ricki [stalling]: Um. . . . I’d rather not tell you.
The HH grimaces, staring wryly with eyebrows raised.
Ricki: I told you, I’m not happy with my weight these days. So I have to eat grain-free.
HH: Which part is grain-free?
Ricki: [almost inaudible] Buckwheat. . .
HH: But I hate buckwheat!!! [pause]. You mean buckwheat’s not a grain?
Ricki [seizing the opportunity]: No, it’s a seed. [Glancing toward the stovetop]: Oh, sweetheart, are those potatoes getting too browned? Would would you mind giving them a stir?
HH [stirring]: No, they seem fine. They look good. Mmmmm, I love homefries. . .
See how easy?
These pancakes combine the beauty of buckwheat flour (ie, technically not a grain) with unsweetened carob chips and optional chopped almonds for textural interest. They offer up a light, moist (but not wet) and subtly flavored result with an alluring, yet somehow mysterious, blend of buckwheat and carob, the latter neutralizing the brashness of the former. I loved these with some of my recent plumberry jam dolloped on top. For those of you who can tolerate it, maple syrup would produce a spectacular flavor combination here, and I can attest (having watched the HH wolf down 3 of these ‘cakes), they won’t become saturated and then disintegrate the way many gluten free baked goods do when moistened. And no xanthan!
In the end, the HH loved these. At first, he guessed that they contained chocolate, then decided they didn’t. At the end of our brunch, he pronounced this recipe “at the top of the list” and remarked, “It’s not often that you find a new flavor that works this well.” Just exactly what “that flavor” was, however, he’d forgotten by the time we sat down to eat our meal. And that, my friends, is the beauty of distraction.
To all who are celebrating this week, Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Carob Pancakes with Chips and Chopped Almonds
Suitable for ACD Stage 2 and beyond
Although the ingredient list appears long, these pancakes actually come together very quickly. The only real “work” aside from measuring is to chop up the almonds if you toast them yourself (and slivered would work well, too). If the batter seems too thin at first, don’t worry; just cook the cakes thoroughly and they’ll rise high and won’t remain wet in the middle.
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (150 g) buckwheat flour*
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut flour
3 Tbsp (45 ml) carob flour or powder
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
1/2 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp (40 ml) finely ground chia seeds
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely chopped toasted almonds (not ground–I chopped by hand), or slivered almonds, optional
2 tsp (10 ml) apple cider vinegar
enough unsweetened plain or vanilla almond, soy, hemp or coconut milk (the kind in a carton) to equal 1-2/3 cups (400 ml) with the vinegar (see directions)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other mildly-flavored oil, preferably organic (I used macadamia)
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
10-20 drops plain or vanilla liquid stevia, to your taste
In a medium bowl, sift together the buckwheat flour, coconut flour, carob powder, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the ground flax, ground chia, almonds and carob chips and whisk to combine.
Place the apple cider vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add milk to reach 1-2/3 cups (400 ml). Add the oil, vanilla and stevia to the cup and whisk briefly to combine. Begin to heat a nonstick frypan over medium heat.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix just to blend; do not overmix.
Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop batter and pour it in the pan; spread out slightly if necessary to create a circle shape. Allow to cook until the pancakes are totally dry on the edges and begin to puff in the middle, 4-6 minutes. Flip and cook the other side another 3-4 minutes, until light golden. Keep pancakes warm as you continue to use all the batter in this manner. Makes 9-10 medium pancakes. May be frozen.
*Note: I also tried these with light buckwheat flour for a milder flavor, but I know that it can be difficult to find light buckwheat in some areas. They’re still great with regular buckwheat as well, though the buckwheat flavor is a bit more prominent. If you use light buckwheat, reduce the flour to just one cup (150 g).
“Hey, Elsie, is that a bird I see over there? Better drop that ball. . . “
“Good try, kid. Unless you can get me one of those pancakes Mum made, this ball is mine.”
© Ricki Heller, Diet, Dessert and Dogs