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Guilt Free Chocolate-Quinoa-Coconut Pancakes

Sarica Cernohous

Growing up, pancakes were a mainstay in my diet. In fact, until I discovered sushi when I was 15, pancakes reigned supreme as my go-to favorite food. Some of my most distinct, sweetest memories are of enjoying—no, absolutely loving—my Grandma’s ‘silver dollar’ pancakes, little golden discs, bigger than actual silver dollars, but smaller than a saucer—just right for little appetites, though, when it came to pancakes, my skinny frame held an appetite that could have easily suited a 230-pound linebacker. Served with drawn butter—that we poured!–and molasses, I ate those little goodies until the batter-bowl ran dry.

I also loved my Mom’s pancakes, the monster gorilla to my Grandma’s diminutive offerings. Mom’s pancakes were Bisquick-behemoths, the size of Frisbees, the edges crispy-caramel, and nearly an inch thick in the middle—to this day, I don’t know how she managed to get them to rise so thickly, and not have a spot of raw batter somewhere. We slathered them in butter, and either paired them with Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, or sprinkled them with white sugar.

Had I had issue with my weight, I might have curbed this love affair early on, but my genetic leanings are to the thinner-end of the body-type spectrum, so I just took for granted that I would load up on pancakes, and then bask in the thick-headed afterglow of physical and mental fatigue that made up the rest of my day. It took me years to piece together that the carbohydrate-blast of pancakes was incredibly rough on my blood sugar and subsequent energy level for the remainder of the day—our bodies have not evolved on a diet so rich in refined carbohydrates as what makes up the bulk of most of the modern fare. However, once I sorted that out, my life-long love of the pancake came to a screeching halt. The ‘pancake hangover’ wasn’t worth the 20 minutes of gustatory enjoyment.

Fast-forward 24 years…after working in the health food industry, earning my master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, studying nutrition and its tie to health, practicing acupuncture and now raising a family of my own, I’ve come to understand very clearly how some of my old standby items—pancakes, ice cream, and, yes, even sushi—can have some pretty deleterious effects on health. But, like most others, I love to eat, and thanks to my southern grandparents, I want my food to taste good!

After a lot of study and trial-and-error, I am a big believer of eating foods that are fresh, local whenever possible, organic, and as close to their original form as they can be (i.e., not eating from a box with an ingredient list that is 18-lines long.) So, this recipe for pancakes meets my taste buds in a happy place, while leaving the rest of me feeling well in its wake. An added bonus, this recipe is gluten-free. Even if one doesn’t have a diagnosed issue with gluten or wheat, both are so ubiquitous in the western diet, it doesn’t hurt to use other flours in their place when the opportunity arises. I really like to prepare this recipe on the weekend, as it makes enough pancakes to store in the refrigerator and re-heat for the kids (and my husband!) throughout the busy week ahead.

This recipe gives a delicious, very nutritious pancake, though it will taste different than something made with wheat. However, their texture is wonderful, and they are sweet and leave one satisfied, not ‘hung-over’ from a carbohydrate blast. I love to serve these to my little ones, with fresh raspberries, butter, and maybe a drizzle of honey, maple syrup or blackstrap molasses, though the sweetness of the pancakes might be enough for your needs. They’re also wonderful with a dollop of plain European-style yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, or sliced bananas, and sprinkled with chopped raw walnuts. Bon appetit!

Chocolate-Quinoa-Coconut Pancakes

1 1/3 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cup coconut flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon stevia concentrate powder (or omit and add another 1 teaspoons sugar)
3 teaspoons raw sugar
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups whole fat goat’s milk or organic cow’s milk, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, room temperature (liquid)
Unrefined coconut oil or clarified butter for the pan/griddle

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and mix well. Combine all the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl, mixing well. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, blending until smooth and bubbly. Bring your pan/griddle to low-medium heat, then coat with oil. Pour out the batter into 4′ cakes, and allow them to begin bubbling before turning them over. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, then remove from the pan. Re-grease the pan and repeat. This recipe makes approximately 24-4′ pancakes. Using a bigger pan or griddle allows you to make more pancakes at each interval. To save uneaten pancakes for re-heating at a later time, allow each to cool on a cookie sheet. Once cool, the pancakes can be arranged in a container, side-by-side, and stacked on top of one another with a layer of parchment paper in between. These re-heat beautifully in a toaster oven.

Coconut flour, made from the ground meat of the coconut, is an incredibly versatile and nutritious flour—it has the highest content of dietary fiber of any flours, making it a boon to the digestive tract, the cardiovascular system and the immune system—I especially like coconut flour from Tropical Traditions, In Chinese medicine, this flour is recognized as being warming and sweet, and strengthening to the body.

Quinoa flour is rich in protein and minerals, as it is actually a seed, not a grain, though it is often categorized as a grain. It has the highest protein content of all grains and has more calcium than milk. It is classified as warming, sweet and sour in Chinese medicine, and strengthening to the entire body, but specifically the kidneys and pericardium.

Interestingly, cocoa powder delivers more total antioxidant capacity than any other chocolate product, and when paired with coconut flour and oil gives a rich depth of flavor to this recipe. It is a rich source of magnesium and copper. A great source for raw, organic cocoa powder is Raw Guru,

Using stevia in this recipe adds a sweet component without increasing the sugar content—it is an incredible product. Categorized in the sunflower family, the leaf of the stevia plant has a sweet flavor, and its extracts have about 300 times the sweetness of table sugar, with a minute effect on blood sugar. It can become bitter-tasting in high concentration, so be mindful of the amount included in the recipe.

The raw sugar used here is sun-dried, processed with herbs, and is incredibly full of minerals, with a very rich flavor—I order it from Tropical Traditions, Using something a little more refined, such as turbinado, rapidura or sucanat sugar, will maintain some of the naturally-occurring minerals as well, so these are a fair substitute. The sugar in the recipe helps to round out the flavor of stevia.

I use raw goat’s milk in this recipe, which is usually much more well-digested than pasteurized, homogenized cow’s milk (the standard type of milk found at the grocery store.) In addition to the nutritional benefits to using raw goat’s milk—and they are numerous—I like the flavor, which is incredibly mild and fresh, compared to a pasteurized goat or cow’s milk. One interesting fact about raw goat milk nutrition is its high fluorine content, which is a boon to immunity, dental health and bone integrity—and this wonderful component is lost to the high-heat treatment of pasteurization. The Weston A. Price foundation website,, is a great resource on finding local farmers in your area from whom you can learn more about raw milk.

In Chinese medicine, chicken eggs are considered to have a neutral temperature with an ascending action, and are a tonic for the blood and fluids of the body. They are a good source of protein, which will work with the fats and other proteins in the recipe to moderate the carbohydrate digestion, keeping the blood sugar from spiking.

Finally, unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil is a great source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are fats that are a good source of energy, because they are digested differently than long-chain triglycerides (LCT.) MCT are a smaller molecule than LCT, and require fewer enzymes and energy to digest, making them more readily available for use as a fuel source. In fact, they are quickly broken down by the enzyme found in saliva and by gastric juices, rather than requiring pancreatic enzymes for their use, as is the case with most other fats. They are also digested differently than other fats in that they are absorbed by the intestines and shunted to the liver by way of the portal vein, where they are metabolized and used much like a carbohydrate.

In cooking, coconut oil has a high-smoke point, making it a great, stable choice for baking and for medium/high-temperature frying. Chinese medicine classifies coconut oil as having a warming temperature and sweet flavor, and is a strengthening to the body and tonifying to the heart. Tropical Traditions is my favorite source for coconut oil—I use their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil,

Sarica Cernohous, L.Ac., MSTOM, is a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, living and practicing Japanese Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Counseling in Peoria, AZ.
The information listed above is not intended to treat, cure or prevent illness or disease.


Sarica Cernohous

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