BRUNCH! Amaranth shortstack and 'I can't believe it's not Maple syrup!'

BRUNCH!   Who doesn't love a good weekend brunch? Well, I definitely do. Growing up, brunch was largely reserved for Sunday morning...

BRUNCH!  Who doesn't love a good weekend brunch? Well, I definitely do. Growing up, brunch was largely reserved for Sunday mornings. My dad would whip up a batch of his amazing pancakes or waffles and we would all get together and wolf them down at the kitchen table. There were never enough! Sometimes, if we had sleepovers the night before, our friends would join in on Sunday, drooling over my dad's pancakes and waffles.

I still love pancakes and waffles. I don't eat them often but I like to make pancakes once in awhile on weekends for my husband. If you look through my blog pages you will find a few recipes for some theme-pancakes, like my vegan Pear Pie Pancakes.

Today's pancake recipe is for my favorite kind of pancake -- straight up plain pancakes -- why mess with a good thing? 

Sometimes I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to food. There are many foods in life that are simply unforgettable but also utterly simple. A few of my favorites include: freshly baked baguettes, plain chocolate cake, banana bread, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes with basil and olive oil, chocolate...I could go on for a really long time here. Many of my favorite simple foods are breakfast favorites like toast with butter, and porridge with milk and brown sugar.

Today's post is all about the simple pleasure of plain pancakes and maple syrup. MADE HEALTHIER.

My dad's classic pancake recipe will always be near and dear to my heart, but it is made with white flour, milk, eggs and canola oil -- 4 foods I avoid these days. Today's recipe is my own healthier version of my dad's recipe and is filled with great ingredients to transform his recipe from a once a week treat into something you can eat any day you want.

Amaranth flour is one of my favorite ingredients. It is amazingly good for you, loaded with protein, fiber and essential amino acids. Amaranth is a complete vegan protein source and a superfood. It has a lovely soft and finely ground texture and slight sweetness. Amaranth is a pseudo-grain (a seed that behaves like a grain), gluten free, similar to, and possibly better for you than, quinoa (though not as high in protein it is richer in certain vitamins and minerals) and works very well in baked goods.

Chia is just amazing (a superfood!) and when mixed with water or other liquids it makes a great vegan egg-replacer. It is also a complete vegan protein source and one of the best vegan sources of EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids). For more info about chia, see this post.

These pancakes are a healthy addition to the breakfast table but what about the syrup? Why make a healthy mop for a cup of liquid sugar? 

Don't get me wrong, I still love real Maple Syrup and like to use it in both savory and sweet recipes, and I know that Maple Syrup is NOT JUST sugar. It has lots of health benefits, vitamins and minerals, but it also packs a big hit of sugar and calories. Not to mention some people are totally allergic to it! My husband's best friend is married to one such person so I often don't use maple syrup in my recipes if our friends are coming over.

How does one replace maple syrup? 

This is a question I asked myself recently. Remarkably I stumbled on the answer. As those of you familiar with this blog may already know, I love baking and cooking with dates. They are so much healthier than refined sugar. Besides providing a brown-sugar-esque flavor and texture, they are anti-inflammatory, anti-infective and loaded with vitamins and minerals. The best part about dates to me is that they don't spike my blood sugar in a noticeable way which for me means a lot (refined sugar makes me sweat, gives me nightmares and mood swings). Dates, on the other hand, give me energy. I love that dates add both sweetness and texture, not to mention fiber, potassium, magnesium and many other essential vitamins and minerals. They are so versatile that they can be used in sweet and savory recipes and they are a prized ingredient around the world.

Though they taste very sweet, dates contain less fruit sugar than you may suspect and a little goes a very long way. They are pretty fantastic, especially when made into a healthier version of caramel sauce. My vegan date caramel sauce is a little thicker than maple syrup and really has it's own flavor but it is reminiscent for sure. I assumed that if I thinned the sauce out and found some way to impart maple flavor without adding maple then I had a real contender for best imitation maple syrup.

But what tastes like maple without involving maple?...Fenugreek! 

Yes, strange as it may sound, Fenugreek seeds taste and smell like maple syrup. So much so that New Yorkers complained to the city on mass that there was a mysterious maple smell wafting around downtown a few years ago. It turned out the smell was coming from a factory that processed Fenugreek seeds!

I don't use a lot of Fenugreek in my cooking but lots of different cultures use it often -- particularly Middle Eastern communities and East Indians. Fenugreek is not a grain or seed, it is a legume and gluten free to boot! Fenugreek is used in tea and in both sweet and savory foods and is also used medicinally. According to several online sources, Fenugreek has estrogen-like properties, has been found to help increase libido and lessen the effect of hot flashes and mood fluctuations that are common symptoms of menopause and PMS. In India and China it has also been used to treat arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, improve digestion, maintain a healthy metabolism, increase libido and male potency, cure skin problems (wounds, rashes and boils), treat sore throat, and cure acid reflux. It has a long history of use for the treatment of reproductive disorders, to induce labor, to treat hormonal disorders, to help with breast enlargement, and to reduce menstrual pain. Pregnant women are advised not to consume Fenugreek close to their due dates as it may bring on premature labor. Recent studies have shown that Fenugreek helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and may be an effective treatment for both type 1 and 2 diabetes.

Did you catch that? Fenugreek helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol and is effective in treating diabetes!

After learning all that, I knew that I had to incorporate the maple-syrup-like miracle seeds into my imitation maple syrup recipe. Imagine a fruit sweetened syrup that may lower your blood sugar! Well, friends, I imagined just that and came up with a very convincing maple syrup substitute loaded with health benefits!

So what is in my new "maple" syrup:

I mean what's not to love about these ingredients?

I made a batch and tested the syrup out as a topping for some of these awesome amaranth pancakes. It was great! It was a very convincing maple topping and even made our house smell like maple! Best of all, the syrup comes together easily with no cooking at all in a food processor or blender in mere minutes. 


Below you will find recipes for my healthy pancakes, and my date-sweetened "It's Not Maple" syrup.
I am aware that many diabetics cannot eat dates and though Fenugreek has been shown to help lower blood sugar, I am not certain that it will do so when paired with dates. Because I am unable to verify if this is the case for sure, and for those who don't eat dates, I have created another (and totally delicious) version of my imitation maple syrup. That version is date-free and sweetened with low-GI sweeteners suitable for diabetics. I shared that recipe in my last post, so be sure to take a look at it here.

I can't believe it's not Maple Syrup!
(paleo, date-sweetened, maple-free, vegan)
Part I:
  • 1.5 tbsp of fenugreek seeds
  • 1.5 cups boiling water

Steep the Fenugreek seeds in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the water.

Part II:
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • dash coarse sea salt
  • 1.5 tbsp chia seeds

Blend all Part II ingredients in a food processor.

Part III:
  • Date mixture
  • 1 cup strained fenugreek tea
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Once the tea is brewed and strained, add 1 cup of the fenugreek tea, baking soda and powder to the date mixture and pulse. After pulsing a few times, blend until very smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the food processor.

Part IV:
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 2/3 cup fenugreek tea

Add Part IV ingredients to the food processor. Pulse then blend till smooth.Use as maple syrup substitute either immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in fridge until ready to use. Keeps in fridge for about 2 weeks.

Amaranth Pancakes
(gluten-free, vegan, low fat)
  • 1 cup amaranth flour
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • dash coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp pear sauce
  • 2.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp veganaise
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cup water
Pulse then blend all ingredients until smooth and thick, stopping to scrape down sides.
  • 1 tsp vegan butter (try Danielle's Vegan Butter 2.0)
Heat butter in large non-stick pan over medium heat. Once it sizzles, pour in first 2 small pancakes and cook, flipping when it becomes easy to. Ensure pancakes cook over medium heat for several minutes as they need a bit more time to cook through. Serve with Danielle's Vegan Butter 2.0 and I Can't Believe It's Not Maple Syrup! on top.

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