Pumpkin-Banana Pancakes with a Nutella Swirl

When I first moved to LA, I briefly dated an actor who was all into healthy, California-type things like hiking and protein scrambles.

I was, to say the least, not.

But our favorite place to go for brunch, The Griddle, presented an excellent compromise: he would order egg whites with cubed chicken breast and broccoli and an iced green tea, and I would order pumpkin pancakes with whipped cream and a mimosa.

Guess who was the big winner at brunch, every single time?

That’s right.

Anyway, these pancakes are inspired by the ones they served at The Griddle…except they’re about a quarter of the size - those things were huge - and happily served up minus the hour-and-a-half wait on the sidewalk next to some dude in an Ed Hardy shirt and his blonde, be-extensioned, script-wielding girlfriend. And they involve bananas and Nutella (the original version does not), so that’s obviously a major plus.

What you need:

1 cup pancake mix

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1 tbsp oil

1/4 cup pureed pumpkin

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp Nutella, gently melted in the microwave (careful not to let it burn - 20 seconds should do it)

1 banana, sliced into rounds

What you do:

1. Heat your griddle over medium-low and lightly oil. The griddle is ready when you throw some drops of water on it and they sizzle.

2. In a large bowl, combine pancake mix, egg, milk, oil, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Whisk until just smooth (don’t over-whisk, or the pancakes will be tough).

3. Swirl in the melted Nutella (just a quick swirl; the point is to create a Nutella ribbon, not to blend it in).

4. Cook on griddle (my trick for knowing when to flip: wait for the moment when a ton of bubbles suddenly rise to the surface - not a second longer) and serve topped with bananas and maple syrup (Kendrick also added some peanut butter to his).

5. If you want to really go for the full Griddle experience, top each stack with a small spoonful of spiced pumpkin puree, a bit of whipped cream, and a sprinkling of cinnamon. And if you’re serving them to company, a cinnamon stick placed on an angle atop each stack makes a pretty presentation.

Perfect Pumpkin-Carving Weekend Heading This Way!

This coming weekend is a good one to get carving, no?

I mean…I’m not doing it.

Not this year (these photos are from two Halloweens ago).

My favorite part of the whole tradition is heading out to a pumpkin patch in the country and strolling through fields in search of a perfect specimen, and that’s not happening…and spending an hour or so sitting on the floor bent over a pumpkin and a knife is not happening, either.

Besides, I already made my nod to Halloween by picking up a miniature Superman costume (and halfheartedly looking around for those damn cat ears). I may make my way in the direction of a Pumpkin Ale or six in a couple of weeks.

But that’s it for me.

You, though…

You should totally do it!

And if you come up with a really spectacular design, send me a photo: I’d love to see it/post it as inspiration for others.

Some pumpkin-carving tips:

- Put down a big plastic drop-cloth for easy clean-up.

- Don’t forget to reserve the pumpkin seeds for roasting (just clean them well, season them with whatever you like, and roast them in a single layer on a baking sheet at 300F for about 40 minutes).

- I always use a pattern book, and actually go through the tedious process of punching out the outline (per the book’s instructions) first.

- The more detailed designs will rot quicker; thicker, less-complicated designs are what you should lean towards if you want something long-lasting.

- When selecting a pumpkin, look for one with a sturdy stem (but don’t pick it up by the stem!).

- Cut a little “tooth” into the top of the pumpkin (on the least attractive side) so it’s easier to get the top back on in the right position.

- After you poke holes along the pattern’s design lines, rub the front of the pumpkin with flour to make the holes stand out.

- If you decide to use a Sharpie to draw out your pattern and then change your mind, a little nail polish remover should take it right off.

- Rub Vaseline all over the exposed areas of the pumpkin to make it last longer sans fur.

- Whatever you do, do not follow my instructions for making pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal with Bananas, Walnuts & Maple Syrup

This is an October morning in a bowl.

It is amazing.

You have to make it.

PUMPKIN PIE OATMEAL (serves 1)

What you need:

1/2 cup quick-cook rolled oats

1 cup milk (or more or less, depending on how thick you like your oatmeal)

1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 banana

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tbsp maple syrup

Whipped cream (optional)

What you do:

1. Bring milk to a boil.

2. Add oatmeal, then stir in pumpkin, spices, and salt.

3. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes (or as indicated by package directions on rolled oats).

4. Pour oatmeal into bowl and add sliced banana, walnuts, maple syrup, and whipped cream (if desired).