Since I was a little girl, I have always observed the Lenten season. I grew up in a traditional Protestant church, although most of my Protestant friends from other denominations didn’t recognize the church holiday. The ritual of attending an Ash Wednesday service, meditating on the Scripture and prayers, and walking to the front of the sanctuary for the imposition of ashes became something I looked forward to as much as Christmas or Easter. Lent always symbolized a period of discipline. It was a season of growth, of a sacrifice for something greater.
I remember one year I gave up drinking soda, and went the entire forty days without a single drop of Dr. Pepper. I was in high school or middle school, and this was a pretty big deal because I’d gotten into the [VERY BAD] habit of drinking a bottle during my after-lunch math class. For Easter lunch I cracked open a can of soda and was repulsed by the first sip — as it turns out, I hadn’t really missed what I’d given up in the first place.
Many Lenten seasons have been fraught with disappointment, with broken fasts and “cheating.” Many have been satisfying in a way that only come from giving up something valuable and learning from the pain of that separation.
But all have involved pancakes.
The day before the beginning of Lent, known to many as Mardi Gras, is called Shrove Tuesday in the church calendar. Traditionally, church-goers would clear their pantries of all sugar and yeast before Lent – a part of the traditional Lenten fast in the Catholic church – and to use up those resources they would make pancakes.
I love pancakes, so any excuse to eat them is just fine with me.
Here are two recipes developed from a hodge-podge of other paleo, grain-free recipes, all made to be fluffy with a tender crumb, a gentle sweetness, and to pack a high-protein punch with fiber-rich coconut flour and eggs. The toppings are what make these cakes special — add applesauce, sliced or mashed banana, coconut cream, shredded coconut and chia seeds, cacao nibs, warm maple syrup or almond butter! I think these would also be delicious with a bit of melted ghee on top. Simple and pared down, but nourishing, kind of like Lent.
3 Tbsp. coconut flour
2 egg whites, beaten
1 egg, whisked
1/4 c. coconut milk (or more if texture dictates)
1 ripe banana, mashed (or 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce, although I prefer the custard-y texture of the banana)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt + cinnamon
butter/oil for griddle
In a bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy and forming stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk the whole egg and combine with mashed banana, coconut milk, vanilla, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flour. Mix well to combine. Gently fold in beaten egg whites. Head a griddle or skillet on high and grease with a dab of coconut oil or butter, and fry pancakes on both sides until fluffy and golden.
If desired, add a half scoop of vanilla protein powder and drizzle in a bit more coconut milk to maintain moisture. Although this changes the texture of the pancakes quite a bit, if you’re hoping for extra satiety in the morning this is one way to find it. Or, simply serve your pancakes with a fried egg on top, a side of bacon, and a drizzle of maple syrup.
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Grain-Free Banana Pancakes adapted from Against All Grain
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 c. coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla + honey
2 Tbsp. coconut flour
1/3 c. almond flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 ripe banana
butter/oil for griddle
In a bowl, whisk eggs and combine with wet ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients and add to wet mixture, omitting the banana. Heat a griddle and grease with fat of choice, then dollop on batter to cook until golden. Before flipping, arrange a few slices of banana on the raw batter side, then flip to cook all the way through. Serve with plenty of butter and a little maple syrup.
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Are you observing the Lenten season this year? Are you giving anything up? I’m going to give up sugar — it’s too much of a physical temptation and an emotional crutch — and to compound my efforts I’m also going to adopt a new habit along with what I’m giving up. I like to add some positive reinforcement, and this year I think I’ll start by going through a new Bible study (one of my goals for the month) or finding somewhere to volunteer. Let me know how you’re celebrating Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, if you observe Ash Wednesday, and if you’re practicing sacrifice for Lent this year — I’m always curious!