My wife and I were determined to begin our children’s lives with all the safety and healthy things we could afford and tolerate ourselves. Thus we decided early on that our kids would have a taste for vegetables right from the start so they each went from breast milk to breast milk with rice cereal to the same with vegetable puree stirred in. We hoped that this path would assure our kids would acclimate to veggies well before sugar and meat.
After that, we looked for any opportunity to add vegetable entrees or add vegetable matter into whatever we were having. Thus began this story.
Before the kids were born, we had purchased a nice electric griddle. It was as large as we could find pre-internet.
One morning when our oldest son Connor was about 5, Tori was something around 3 and Coleton was approaching 12 months, I was up early and really wanted pancakes, which for the kids was still going to be a clear food promotion. Because this idea of adding veggies was omnipresent, I wondered what I could add to pancakes to progress the veggie agenda and found a bag of carrots in the fridge. Hey, they work in carrot cake so why not pancakes? I could cut up and puree a handful of carrots and just add it to the batter. If the carrots were fresh, they would have a sweetness all their own and the orange tint might not ever be noticed by the kids who were starting to get wise to our subversive practice of sneaking veggies into everything.
I glanced at the clock and decided that I just had enough time to get it going without Connor catching me in the act. Number 1 son was often up before everyone but me. If I could get the form of the carrots altered into an orange slurry before he walked in, the test could go forward unchallenged.
But, of course, that didn’t happen, but what did happen was fun, so here it is: I had the blender and other normal pancake tools and ingredients spread out on the counter when our little guy in his PJs wandered in, mostly awake.
I was busted! Thinking quickly, I realized that I might yet salvage the effort with a small distraction.
“Connor! Hey, I’m glad you’re up.” I reached into the knife rack and pulled out the largest blade in the set and handed it to him (handle first – of course). “I need to get the pancake batter ready, but need someone to take this HUGE SHARP KNIFE and cut up the carrots. Want to help?”
His eyes got huge as he took the knife in hand. Of course, we never let the kids play with knives so this was, in his mind, a rare and coveted opportunity. He took the handle in both his small hands and, as instructed, held it carefully still as I dug out the cutting board. I smiled as I realized I could have told him that we needed to cut up bars of soap for the pancakes and he would have paid no attention because he cared only about this blade that was almost as long as his arm.
I told him not to worry about the exact size or shape of each piece because they needed only be small enough to go into the blender. “Make them look like thick coins,” I said. He was more than happy to carefully chop away without questioning why we were adding carrots to the pancakes.
Of course when mom, carrying baby Coleton and Tori arrived, Connor was done and scampered over to tell mom how he had cut up the carrots for the pancakes. That got something of a cautious response from mom, but she quickly inventoried his fingers and determined that all was well so let the moment pass without comment. If each kid ate one pancake, this was going to be worth the effort to her.
Tori only cared about breakfast being pancakes and Coleton was still in rice-cereal mode. So I watched carefully how all our solid food eaters reacted when they first tasted these only slightly extra orange pancakes and was rewarded with glowing remarks of how great they tasted. Whew! I had gotten away with the test and this breakfast entrée was well enough received to be repeated – often.
Well, the years went by and the recipe changed some. Connor became something of a carrot chopping instructor for the younger two. I began adding a bit of corn meal, micro-zapped with milk and butter and stirred into a thick cereal mash along with vanilla extract and that carrot puree and began using this recipe for scout outings, family campouts or Saturday pancake celebrations and was quietly making fans with the pancake consumption community. My kids loved carrot-corn pancake breakfast mornings (in fact, they still do) and peace reigned with this experiment.
More years went by and we moved back to California to be near our extended families, and of course continued the tradition of carrot-corn pancakes, because, well, why not? My kids loved them so ate more carrots than your kids most likely. This also helped unwind some of the food guilt we might have otherwise suffered for having pancakes so often.
Then one day, all my kids were teenagers and we were at a local IHOP restaurant for breakfast. Most of us had some form of their pancakes before us when daughter Tori, made a face and mentioned, “IHOPs pancakes taste okay Dad, but not as good as yours.”
Without thinking it was particularly significant, I answered, “they most likely didn’t add the carrots. It’s pretty common for restaurants not to.”
She and Connor were instantly indignant. Coleton was too disinterested in food in general to care much, but Connor and Tori could not understand, “why would they do that? This is how pancakes are supposed to be made!”
Mom and I looked at each other and had to laugh. Without really meaning to, we’d allowed the kids to believe this was how everyone made pancakes and leaving out the carrots was some kind of food apostasy.
Our kids were used to us experimenting on them, but this experiment had laid there in plain sight for many years without them knowing it. So I fessed-up. I told them the full story of how I snuck in the carrot puree into their pancake batter so many years ago and how I even managed to trick Connor into helping my pull it off.
Connor was not pleased, but the result was great pancakes, so grace was freely given. After his guitar, he loved those pancakes more than almost anything else.
We still have that old griddle. Pancakes don’t play as big a part of our weekly menu, but when we do, we always make enough to freeze for use during the following week. They never last long.
Rarely, if we want something different, I separate out the egg whites, whip them and fold them into a slightly thinner batter for waffles. But, without that big griddle, they take longer to make and, in our home, puts us at risk of a food riot.
Okay – I know a few of you are wondering if I’m going to share my recipe. The answer is yes, but I make these more by feel that by measurement, so be ready to adjust to taste. To serve five persons, you’ll need:
- Approximately 1 qt. milk
- In your blender, puree 1 cup of milk with 8-15 (maybe more) fresh baby (or 1-2 medium size normal) sliced carrots; depending on taste or degree of deception desired. Leave no chunks of carrots in the mix.
- In a med size microwave safe bowl, zap up another cup of milk with 1/2 cup corn meal stirred thoroughly so nothing is dry. Microwave at half power for 1 minute then stir to remove any dry clumps and repeat until it becomes mushy. When you think your mash needs only one final minute, add up to 3 Tbsp of butter to melt it in. Avoid getting it “hot”. You need it warm enough to melt the butter.
- Into your big batter bowl now goes the carrot puree, the corn meal and butter mash and the rest called out below.
- approximately 4 cups of Bisquick (but Krusteze works fine too, just substitute water for milk everywhere)
- Approximately 2 cups of milk (for 4 total now)
- 4-5 eggs
- 1-2 Tbsp of vanilla extract
Use your beater to mix everything together. The batter should look slightly orange. Add more milk or Bisquick to thicken or thin the batter to taste.
Have your griddle hot and lightly oiled. Have your oven set to warm if you don’t already have kids lining up with their plates in hand. The final pancakes are almost indistinguishable from normal ones in looks. They taste great with traditional syrup, or jam. They work great with berries stirred in or just margarine and powdered sugar. But as the owner of this recipe, I forbid adding chocolate chips – which is just wrong and make a huge mess of your griddle.
If you chose not to tell anyone what you’ve done, you have my blessing. I’ve certainly done it – several times.
The amount of carrots you use is not delicate. Use more if you want to sneak more veggies into the kids and reduce the food guilt. A good friend mistakenly used several full sized carrots and the pancakes came out looking kind of pumpkin-colored which freaked out a bunch of young boy scouts, but they tasted fabulous. If we got them to take one bite, they were hooked and were soon fighting over the next ones off the griddle.
I promise, you and your kids will love them. Enjoy!
And if you’re reading this after having just toast and runny eggs for breakfast – my apologies.