It’s October, which means pumpkin season is in full swing, with a flood of pumpkin-flavored treats: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pastries and pumpkin beers. There is even such a thing as pumpkin pie vodka. What’s missing from these festive seasonal delights? Pumpkin! This fall, I challenge you to go beyond the pumpkin pie spice and sugar. Incorporate this nutritious squash into your recipes.

Pumpkin is a favorite food of fall. But did you know it is also packed with disease-fighting nutrients? Pumpkin has been deemed a “superfood,” and for good reason. It contains powerful antioxidants known as carotenoids that can protect cells from free radical damage. It also offers fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, folate, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Canned pumpkin is packed with these nutrients, too.

Baked Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

“Healthful” and “pancakes” don’t usually belong in the same sentence. Traditional pancakes contain buttermilk, butter, oil, sugar and refined flour drowning in syrup (and sometimes topped with confectioner’s sugar, too).

The Harvest Grain ‘N Nut pancakes from IHOP sound like a healthful option, but four pancakes (with butter) will run you 680 calories, 37 grams of fat and 19 grams of sugar.

At Bob Evans, a stack of four Apple Cinnamon Supreme Sweet and Stacked Hotcakes has a whopping 1,180 calories, 33 grams of fat and 89 grams of sugar.

And packaged pancake mixes are hardly packed with nutrient-dense foods: Ingredient lists contain bleached flours, hydrogenated oils, buttermilk, sugar and/or corn syrup, many unrecognizable ingredients and artificial flavorings.

You can see the benefit of homemade pancakes with real, whole-food, natural ingredients: You control not only the ingredients, but also the preparation and serving size.

This Baked Pumpkin Oat Pancake recipe is a healthful spin on pumpkin pancakes. It features a preferable cooking method: baking instead of pan-frying. So you don’t even need oil. Just grab some parchment paper so the cakes don’t stick to your baking sheet. It makes for an easy cleanup, too. And, of course, it contains actual pumpkin puree, as opposed to just spices or flavorings.

One serving (five cakes) contains only 200 calories, 4 grams of fat and no cholesterol. The recipe uses whole grains (brown rice flour and oat flour) and ingredients such as flaxseed and almond milk, and it contains no butter or oil. One serving offers more than twice your recommended vitamin A intake.

Top the pancakes with your favorite nut butter for added protein; they’re also great with a drizzle of pure maple syrup or a dab of pumpkin butter.

My 18-month-old toddler gobbles up the pancakes without any toppings. They are portable and make for an easy on-the-go breakfast for all ages.

No time to make pancakes in the morning? You can make them ahead and store them in the refrigerator for three to five days. Or store them in the freezer, putting parchment paper in between each pancake to prevent them from sticking. In either case, use a microwave or toaster to reheat them.

Baked Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

4 to 5 servings (makes 18 to 20 small cakes)

MAKE AHEAD: The pancakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or individually wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month. Reheat in the microwave on LOW or in the toaster before serving.

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or flaxseed meal
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought gluten-free oat flour (see NOTE)
1/2 cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup organic pumpkin puree (may substitute sweet potato or butternut squash puree)
2 tablespoons good-quality maple syrup (may substitute agave nectar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of the almond milk in a small bowl. Let it sit while you assemble the batter.

Whisk together the oat flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice and sea salt in a mixing bowl.

Add the following ingredients in order, stirring to incorporate after each addition: the pumpkin, the remaining 1/2 cup almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar. The batter will be quite thick.

Drop 18 to 20 2-tablespoon dollops on the baking sheets, spaced well apart. Use your clean fingers or an offset spatula to spread/form the dollops into evenly flat, round pancakes. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 12 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown and slightly firm when gently pressed with a finger. Let them rest on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.

Divide among individual plates; serve warm, or cool completely before refrigerating or freezing.

NOTE: To make your own oat flour, place 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats in a mini food processor. Grind them to a powder. Use right away or store in an airtight container for up to six months.

Nutrition per serving (based on five): 200 calories, 7 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 560 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar


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