Skip to content

Simple Sides: Pixie Pancakes!

By Dennis Linden

Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks that will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.

Cookin' with the Kids

Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic, and this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills, and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

Let’s make pancakes! Like riding a bike for the first time, making pancakes must be learned and is a great food to use to introduce a child to the stovetop. Standing on a chair, spatula in hand, flipping my first pancake is a Sunday morning childhood memory that still brings a smile to my face. There are many pre-mixed pancake batters on the market – just add milk or water and eggs. Firstly, what’s the fun or cooking lessons to be learned in that? Plus, many pancake brands contain added sugars and what’s deceptively called partially hydrogenated oil, which is a manufactured form of trans fat. Instead, here’s a much healthier, made-from-scratch alternative to store-bought mixes that use this month’s Pixie Tangerine harvest to both flavor the pancakes as well as provide a sugar-free syrup topping!

What child does not go a little overboard if allowed to pour his or her own sugary syrup over a short stack? Poaching tangerine segments in a mix of Melissa’s agave, ground cinnamon and water will produce that same scrumptiously thick sauce without the accompanying sugar carbs or rush. A child of any age can be tasked with the job of peeling and separating the Pixie segments. The white vein-like pith should also be removed as much as possible without it becoming tedious for your young helpers. Sous chef perfection is not required as long as the idea of paying some attention to eye appeal is conveyed as the reason to clean off the fruit a bit i.e. food should look as good as it tastes. This syrup can be stored for a few weeks in the refrigerator. For this recipe, use the syrup immediately while still warm and for future batches of cakes warm it back up before serving. The Pixie segments will absorb more of the cinnamon mixture with time.

For the batter, I use almond milk because of the flavor it adds and it seems like a natural pairing with the oats. However, one could also use regular milk – both have loads of nutritional value. The batter itself is quite thick, so consider ½ cup of milk a starting point. For a thinner pancake, increase this measure to taste. Be mindful that the Pixie juice is also a thinner as well as quite a flavor enhancement! While any seedless tangerine or mandarin variety will work for this recipe throughout the year, the unique flavor of the Ojai Pixie takes “tangerine-ness” to a different level. The season for this fruit is short, March to May, making the variety a very special treat.

Chia seeds are one the most nutritionally powerful breakfast ingredients to start one’s day. When consumed each seed forms a fibrous gel of carbohydrates that the metabolism breaks down into sugar at a very slow rate. This provides the body with an extended energy source that does not spike blood sugar. Further, chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease. The Aztec culture used chia as an energy producer. Sidebar: In the last few months I have used chia in a few recipes for this site and was surprised to actually experience this energy boosting characteristic. That is, I noticed a subtle but definite increase in what I can only describe as my rate of activity level on the days that I ate the seeds during a taste-test of a recipe. Nothing that could be described as a “rush,” mind you, just an ability to both play and work longer without fatigue as the day progressed that was very noticeable. Antidotal, but amazing nevertheless!

Besides, starting the family’s day with a tangerine-based dish is scientifically guaranteed to put everyone is a good mood. Tangerines have been proven to help deter negative feelings of stress and anxiety by producing neurotransmitters in the metabolism that calm the nerves and contribute to a continuous good mood. I can think of no better tasty vehicle to produce a smiling good mood of your young helpers than tangerine-flavored pancakes, slathered in tangerine-cinnamon syrup. Enjoy!

Pixie Tangerine Pancakes
Makes 5 pancakes

Ingredients for Pixie Tangerine Pancakes

For the Pixie Syrup

5 Pixie Tangerines, segmented and cleaned of pith, set aside
1 ¼ cups Water
¾ cup Melissa’s Blue Agave
1 teaspoon Cinnamon

For the Batter

½ cup Almond Milk
¼ cup Pixie Tangerine, juice (approx. 2 tangerines)
2 Whole Eggs
1 Egg White
1½ cups Rolled Oats
4 tablespoons Melissa’s Chia Seeds
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Salt

What the kids can do:

Peel the tangerines, then separate the segments and remove most of the white pith from each segment.

Peel the tangerines, then separate the segments and remove most of the white pith from each segment.

Bring water, agave and cinnamon to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Bring water, agave and cinnamon to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the tangerine segments, simmer for another 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, transfer to a small carafe.

Measure out and place all batter ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth batter is formed.

Measure out and place all batter ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth batter is formed.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Once warmed, spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Once warmed, spray with non-stick cooking spray. Carefully ladle pancake batter into skillet in round circles. Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Keep warm in oven while making more.

What the supervising adults should do:

Closely oversee the operation of the blender as well as both the stovetop tasks of making the syrup and cooking the pancake.


Drizzle warm Pixie syrup and segments generously over a short stack of cakes.
Previous article Simple Sides: Sapūrana™ Mango Bean Salad
Next article Simple Sides: Eat Your Broccoli!