Pumpkin Pancakes (aka Lessons Learned from Cooking with my Toddler)

My husband hates breakfast for dinner (it's one of his biggest failings, truth be told). So, when he is working late and won't be home at dinnertime, I often make one of my son's favorite meals: pancakes.

Now, I'm not really into cutesy, kiddie food but using chocolate chips to make Jack-o-lantern pancakes seemed fun without being too precious. And we love pairing pumpkin and chocolate in these muffins, so what could go wrong? Right?

Not only does my three-year-old love to eat pancakes, he loves to cook them. Mostly, this is a great experience. But doing anything with a three-year-old can be trying; I know this was. At least I learned some lessons. And made some yummy pancakes.

My pancake recipe is adapted from this one.

yields 15-20 pancakes
  • 1 1/2c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1t baking soda
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/4t salt
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 1 1/3c kefir
  • 1c pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2T vanilla
  • 2T real maple syrup 
  • about 1/2c chocolate chips (more, if necessary)
  • 1/2c chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. (Lesson #1: kids love whisking!)
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the kefir, pumpkin, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and maple syrup. (Lesson #2: Adapt, even if it's not in your nature. If your kid wants to add more cinnamon, let him. C'mon, it won't kill ya.)

Add wet mixture to dry and stir just until a batter forms; it's okay if it's a bit lumpy. Fold in nuts, if using. (Lesson #3: Let your child continue to mix the batter, even though you know that if it gets overmixed the pancakes won't rise much. Hope your kid gets bored of mixing sooner rather than later.

Cook pancakes on a greased and pre-heated skillet. Ladle batter onto pan, spreading it out slightly into the shape of a pumpkin with a stem. Decorate with chocolate chips in the shape of a jack-o'-lantern face. As with any pancakes, you'll know they're ready to flip when you see some bubbles rise to the top. 
Flip them for another minute or two. Remove to a plate and feel kind of bummed: the browning that normally makes pancakes look so appealing now makes your jack-o-lanterns just look jacked up. Show your child proudly, anyway. Hear, "Mama, I didn't want a pumpkin. I wanted a ghost!" (Lesson #4: Expect the unexpected. Do not scream. Take a deep breath and try again.)
Make a ghost. At least it doesn't require as many chocolate chips for the face. "But, Mama, ghosts don't have arms!" Argue that "some ghosts do!" (Lesson #5: Ghosts are not real.)

Make an armless ghost. Even though it looks more like a spermatozoid, your child will be thrilled. (Lesson #6: Kids can be difficult to please and easily pleased, all at once.)
Now that your child is happily gobbling his food, start experimenting with making the pancakes look halfway acceptable for a blogpost. Attempt cookie-sized pancakes (about a teaspoon of batter) over lower heat, decorate with chips, and then cover the pan to cook through without having to flip. Eureka!
Now try another jack-o-lantern, using the covered pan technique. It works, too!

"Mommy, that pancake looks just like a jack-o-lantern! That is cool!" (Lesson #7: Be tenacious. You will figure out how to make something your child truly appreciates.)

(Lesson #8: Pancakes are good anytime, anywhere. Especially after running around the playground and working up an appetite.)

What lessons have you learned from cooking with your kids?


  1. Not weird at all! Let's put it this way: my husband ate just as many as my son...

    Oy, the ghost! It's so ugly it's cute. Kind of like this: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/10/pictures/111013-shark-albino-one-eyed-fetus/#/one-eyed-cyclops-shark-pup-haul-out_41774_600x450.jpg

  2. I don't have any kids...would it be weird to make these for just myself? Cause that ghost makes me giggle and I love a good laugh in the morning:)

  3. So glad you guys liked them! And thanks for coming back to give us a review :-)

  4. Just made these--huge hit and fun to make!

  5. let us know what you think when you make them!

  6. I can't wait to  make these!!!

  7. That looks delicious and that is hysterical. You two are like a comedy team. I'm still laughing. Thanks for that!

  8. You can just use the same amount of buttermilk; I just always have kefir in the house and rarely have buttermilk! If you want to use regular milk, I might cut the amount a little and then increase the amount of yogurt a bit. But the kefir or buttermilk will really help them get light and fluffy.

  9. That's hilarious and familiar!! Great post. Can I ask if I can substitute kefir with something else? would it change the amount?

  10. These are so cute! I bet they were yummy! 

    I would love for you to link this to my Halloween Traditions Link Up!

  11. Thanks! Would love to do your link up - just let me know where to go :-)

  12. Hi! I want to make these but need to omit the dairy. I can easily use soymilk in place of the kefir, but do you have any thoughts about how to substitute for yogurt? (It's rare to find anything but flavored soy/coconut milk yogurt, so can't just find some plain soy yogurt.) Reading your other comments about the kefir if I use soymilk do you think maybe just leave out the yogurt?

  13. Yeah, I'd say omit the yogurt and just use your soymilk; you probably need to play with the amount a little bit, since the yogurt is thicker. Or you could try using the sweetened soy/coconut yogurt and just cut or omit the maple syrup in the batter. Let me know what you try and how it works!


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