Perfect Fall Pancakes

By Joy Howard | Photography by Elaine Papa

I’m not a big fan of breakfast food. If I was given the choice between a bowl of cereal or salad greens to start my day, I’d almost always choose the latter. Most mornings I find myself craving last night’s dinner leftovers more than muffins, oatmeal, or a plate of scrambled eggs. 

My kids, on the other hand, could eat breakfast all day long. And sometimes—particularly on weekends—they do. It’s not quite a weekly ritual, but countless Saturdays at my house have unfolded thusly: 

1. Friday night: My daughters begin an aggressive campaign for pancakes the next morning. I reluctantly agree to wake up early to make them.

2. Bright and early Saturday: The girls nudge me awake to remind me of my promise. 

3. We all get in the kitchen. One kid preps dry ingredients, the other whisks together the rest, and I oversee the big happy mess of it all. 

4. Batter is done and the girls take turns scooping and shaping each pancake in the pan. I do the flipping—and stacking. 

5. We all sit down for a plateful of pancakes.

6. The kids spend the rest of the morning—and afternoon—swiping seconds and thirds (or “snacks” as they like to call them) from a big pan of leftovers.

Although we have a basic recipe committed to memory, I’ll sometimes sneak in a few extra ingredients based on what we have on hand. Last-minute additions like fresh mango and coconut, cinnamon and chocolate chips, blueberries and flax seeds—even a few veggies—have each been delicious and flavorful detours from our usual no-frills routine. 

Now that fall is here, I’ll likely be turning to this tasty version featuring butternut squash. It might seem like an unlikely pairing, but the squash, along with cinnamon and nutmeg, adds subtle sweetness and the type of warm, homey flavor I find myself craving once the weather starts to cool. The recipe also yields a much heartier result than a traditional diner-style cake, which gives it even more comforting appeal. (And did I mention it’s a good way to use up leftovers? As long as the squash hasn’t been heavily spiced, you’re good to go!)

If your kids want to help, cover your countertop with a small sheet of parchment paper and let them do the measuring. Extra flour or other dry ingredients can be funneled with the paper back into its container after each addition. An ice cream scoop with a release will come in handy, too—it’s the perfect tool for little (and big) hands to dip and place batter in the pan.

Recipe for Joy's Butternut squash-maple pancakes with pecans

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Joy Howard

Joy Howard is a freelance food writer, editor, and stylist, and the former food editor of Family Fun magazine. When not working on her own recipes, she helps her two youngest daughters practice their chopping skills and her college-aged daughter brainstorm ideas for transforming ramen noodles into a balanced meal. Find out what her family is eating for dinner and snapshots of her latest projects on Instagram @littlefoodwonders.