Healthier apricot carrot cake

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Cake with vegetables sounds healthy, but is usually far from it. This version lightens up the traditional recipe with dried apricots, applesauce, and coconut sugar; reduces the fat and swaps in coconut oil; and swaps out half of the white flour for whole wheat. Add in walnuts for Omega-3s (or leave them out to make this school safe) and you have a healthier option for your Easter table that’s equally delicious and showstopping.

Take me to the cake!

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I’m still struggling with the eternal question: Is it worth it to healthify desserts? If my kid factors into the equation, then yes. He’s often satisfied with a “healthy” sweet. I, on the other hand, really wanted a doughnut for breakfast and no amount of healthy treats was going to cut it.

However! If there’s a recipe ripe for healthifying, a dessert starring a vegetable is it.

I started recipe testing this cake by dumping everything into a bowl and calling it a day. The results were delicious, but dense, so I decided to do as others have done and whip the eggs and sugar at the start to make the crumb a bit lighter. Often, cake directions tell you to cream butter and sugar / butter and eggs / sugar and eggs (as in this case) until they’re “light and fluffy.” Unfortunately, the coconut sugar is so dark that you’ll never really achieve this. What you want instead is just to aerate the eggs, sugar, and other liquids. Don’t worry about it too much, just make sure that you see lots of bubbles once all of the liquid is combined.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Alone, this cake is delicious, but tastes like a muffin or a quick bread, not a cake. But slathered in cream cheese frosting, this is a CAKE.

Can I tell you a secret about making the frosting? I don’t measure the sugar. You heard that: I don’t measure the sugar. I mix in a couple of large spoonfuls and then add more to taste. I like a frosting that isn’t too sweet and the beauty of cream cheese frosting is the tang, which gets totally masked by too much sugar.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes

Apricot carrot cake

Adapted from Bake from Scratch and Natasha’s Kitchen

Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (about 45 minutes of active time, including frosting the cake)
Yield: 8 GIANT slices, 10-12 normal slices

1 cup apricots, chopped
1 Tbsp flour (AP or Whole Wheat)
4 eggs
1 cup coconut sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour (pastry or white whole wheat are also great)
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp fine sea salt
12 oz carrots; trimmed, peeled, and shredded (about 3 cups, lightly packed shredded carrots)
1 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans, or a 12-cup muffin tin liberally with melted coconut oil or cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, chop the apricots and toss with 1 Tbsp of flour (either AP or whole wheat). Set aside.

Toast your walnuts in the preheating oven, keeping an eye to ensure that they don’t burn while you continue prepping your other ingredients. Set aside.

Trim, peel, and shred your carrots. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 3 minutes on a medium high setting (or on high if your hand mixer isn’t very strong). The eggs won’t get lighter in color because the coconut sugar is quite dark, but you will see lots of little air bubbles formed and the volume of the liquid should increase.

Reduce the speed of your mixer to low (medium-low for a hand mixer) and slowly add the oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract.

Sift the dry ingredients together into the wet ingredients. Fold until just combined and no lumps remain.

Fold in the carrots, apricots, and toasted walnuts (if using).

Pour half of the mixture into each cake pan (or, fill each muffin cup until about 2/3 full).

Bake, rotating halfway through, for 20-23 minutes for the cakes or 15-18 minutes for the muffins. You want the cakes to be springy when touched and for a tester to come out with a few crumbs or clean.

Let the cake cool entirely before icing.


Cream cheese frosting
2 blocks cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more to taste

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer or your hand mixer, combine and whip the butter and cream cheese on high for 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and whip on medium to combine.

Add the powdered sugar a few Tbsp at a time and SLOWLY whip the sugar into the rest of the mixture on low (otherwise you’ll have powdered sugar all over your kitchen). Once the initial amount of powdered sugar is incorporated, add more, a few Tbsp at a time, to taste. When all of the sugar you want is incorporated, turn the mixer back to high and whip for 3-4 more minutes.

Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes
Healthier apricot carrot cake | Me & The Moose. This healthier carrot cake uses no refined sugar, reduces the fat, and increases the veggies to make a cake that is equally light and delicious. #meandthemoose #carrotcakerecipes #carrotcake #healthybaking #healthybakingrecipes #healthyrecipes #healthycake #cake #cakerecipes



Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

There ought to be a place on the internet where parents can go to brag about the common and mostly harmless, but also spectacularly sudden and disgusting illnesses of childhood. Without going into detail (this is a FOOD blog, after all), instead of sleeping, we spent Saturday night showering, taking baths, doing laundry, and scrubbing carpets. No bueno.

Anyhoo, does your sleep schedule affect your diet? I’ve learned in my old age that getting less sleep leads me to terrible food choices. So obviously, I ate horribly this weekend and am feeling it today. But this salad is getting me back on track.

Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes

Delicata squash is one of the stars of this show. It requires less prep since the peel is edible. Just split it in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice. After roasting, the squash is sweet and creamy and the peel gets slightly crunchy, so it’s also a nice textural balance if your littles aren’t into “slimy” foods.

The dressing is my favorite dairy-free Caesar that’s been lightened up by swapping out tahini for the oil. The garlic, anchovies, and lemon taste even brighter and the sesame adds a nutty note that complements the rest of the salad’s flavors.

We also have crispy crunchy gluten-free croutons that are made with a store-bought polenta log. I accidentally discovered that putting a pizza stone in the oven while roasting the polenta SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the cooking time. Huzzah!

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

The spiced, roasted nuts add even more crunch, which pairs nicely with the creaminess of the roasted squash. Toss on a few sweetened, dried cranberries and you have a harvest salad that hits all of the right salty and sweet notes. (A nutty cheese on top is entirely optional.)

I daresay this hearty pescatarian salad would be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table too.

A couple of notes:

  • I don’t salt the polenta before roasting. Most commercially made polenta has a fair amount of sodium in it already and you’ll be adding salt to the dressing and the squash.

  • While there are multiple steps to this salad, most of them can be completed simultaneously. You can also double the dressing recipe and it will keep well in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

  • Also, unlike dressed lettuce, which wilts quickly, kale only softens slightly and gets less bitter when left to sit with the dressing on, so make this salad ahead (or double the recipe) and eat it throughout the week.

  • A note about the size of this recipe: This recipe yields a main course for two adults and one child with either crusty bread or another protein on the side. If making this to last for the week or for a holiday meal, I would double or triple the recipe. All of its elements last on their own and are easy to toss into other meals.

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad


2 small bundles of Lacinto (Tuscan) kale (about 6 cups)
Tahini Caesar dressing (recipe below)
Roasted almonds (recipe below)
1 log pre-made polenta, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium Delicata squash, halved, seeds scooped out, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Dried cranberries, to taste
Nutty cheese, such as gruyere, gouda, or parmesan, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.

Tear or chop the kale into small bites.

Make your dressing (see recipe below). Add about 1/2 of the dressing to the torn kale and mix well. Add more to taste or reserve the rest for serving later. Set aside.

Make the roasted almonds (see recipe below). Set aside.

Chop the polenta and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Spread onto your roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Flip and toss the pieces with a spatula, return to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.

Clean and prepare the Delicata squash. Toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil. Spread on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

  • I like to add the squash to the same oven as the polenta for the polenta’s last 20 minutes or so.

Add the squash, polenta, almonds, and cranberries to the salad. Feel free to use all or just some of the salad add-ins and reserve the leftovers for something else. Top with a few shavings of nutty cheese, if desired.

Yield: about 2 adult main-course salads and 1 child main-course salad; 4 side salads

Roasted almonds
½ cup raw almonds
½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the almonds with olive oil. Mix the spices together and add to the almonds. Mix well. Spread on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 4-6 minutes, until you can smell the spices and the nuts are crunchy. Check often to avoid burning.

Tahini Caesar dressing
2 Tbsp Primal Kitchen avocado mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2-3 whole anchovy fillets
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup water (added 1 Tbsp at a time)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, anchovies, garlic, tahini, and 2 Tbsp of water in a food processor and blend well. Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Remember that the anchovies are salty, so taste before you add more!

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Kitchen clambake

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What says summer more than a clambake? NOTHING! Well, maybe BBQ chicken, ice cream, popsicles, hamburgers, hotdogs, corndogs, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, s'mores...you get the picture. But, clambakes are pretty darn summery. And did you know how easy they are? Super easy.

We've been using Martha Stewart's method for years and it's a pretty no-fail recipe as long as you cook things in the right order. However, Martha's recipe is HUGE and requires an extra large pot, which we don't have. Also, there are only three of us. So, I've scaled this one back and added some more tips to make sure you aren't overcooking any of the seafood.

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Also, this meal is so so quick to prepare and easy to clean up, leaving more time for all things summer.

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A couple of notes:
- Feel free to sub in water or stock instead if you want to avoid alcohol. But rest assured that the booze cooks out with the heat AND, the beer is only there for flavoring in the steam; You aren't actually eating it.
- Use the smallest potatoes you can find. If you have even golf ball sized potatoes, I would halve or quarter them to ensure that they cook enough.
- Clean the clams or mussels well. I like to put them all in a large pot of cool water a few hours before we cook them to let the shells open to release the sand.
- Swap in mussels for the clams or use a combination of both, but only use 1 lb. You can also use scallops, squid, or octopus in place of, or in combination with, the shrimp. I don't always love steaming those three because there's a thin margin of error for overcooking and turning them really tough, but if you like their flavor, go for it! But also use a total of 1 lb with those or a combination. 
- Don't skip the garlic butter for serving. This recipe is great without it, but the garlic butter takes it right over the top.
- For a dairy-free option, use clarified butter instead of regular butter. 

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Stovetop clambake

1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup beer
1 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
1 lb small potatoes (if slightly bigger, like the size of a golf ball, quarter the potatoes before cooking) 
8 oz sausage, cut into chunks (whatever your favorites are: I like chorizo or andouille. Just make sure it’s in a casing)
2 lobster tales (about 8-10 oz total)
1 lb clams or mussels (or a combination)
2-3 ears of corn cut in half or thirds
1 lb shrimp, in or out of the shell

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
Fresh parsley (optional; I left it out because I generally dislike parsley)
1 large lemon
Old bay seasoning

Chop the onions and smash the garlic. Add to a large pot with beer, water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. (You still want some vigorous bubbling, but you don’t want too much of the liquid to evaporate.) Cover with a steamer basket (or, as we did, a small pizza sheet because we couldn't find the steamer basket. Whoops.)

Add the potatoes, sausage, and lobster tails to the steamer. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the shells start to turn orangey red.

Add the clams (or other hard-shelled seafood like mussels) and the corn. Steam for another 6-8 minutes until the shells open. Discard any shells that remain closed.

Add the shrimp (or other soft shelled or de-shelled seafood) and cook for about 4 more minutes until the shrimp is pink all over.  

While making the seafood, melt the butter in a ramekin and add the chopped garlic and parsley (if using). Stir to combine and set aside.

Dump out the seafood, veggies, and sausage onto a large, parchment-covered sheet pan. Sprinkle with old bay seasoning to taste. Serve with lemon wedges, extra old bay, and garlic butter.

Yield: A lot. This recipe comfortably feeds 2 adults and 2 kids, likely with leftovers.

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Mujadara soup

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Well, we closed out 2017 with a bang. And by "bang," I mean, trip to the emergency room. Someone had horrible stomach pains that looked like appendicitis or a hernia because someone has been holding it rather than going in the potty. I was like, "Ethan, come on. You're an adult. just poop in the damned potty." So, I was more than glad to welcome 2018 this morning. (Did we think for one second I was making it to midnight last night? That's hilarious.)  

In honor of a more auspicious start to this year, I'm posting a lentil soup recipe that combines two of my favorite mujadara recipes from Deborah Madison and Madhur Jaffrey. (I've also seen it spelled moudjendra or muhjadarrah.) My dad and I ate this dish a lot when I was a teen. I went through a vegetarian phase and he went through an only-eating-lentils-because-heart-disease phase.

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There is something so warm and comforting to me about this Middle Eastern dish. While it's usually eaten as a side, it's hearty enough to eat as a main course or, as I've done here, to turn into a one-pot soup that makes a great lunch with a piece of crusty bread or toasted pita.

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And, of course, eating lentils (or any round bean, really) is supposed to be good luck for the new year and eating anything green (the color of money) ushers in a prosperous new year.

You know what else this soup has? Lots and lots of fiber. So if your New Year's resolution has anything to do with gut health, potty training, weight loss, overall health, or home cooking, here's a soup for you. If you didn't make any resolutions and this is just another day, then make it "just another day" featuring delicious soup. If this straightforward, but somewhat time consuming dish isn't your bag, check out last year's lentil recipe.

 

Mujadara soup

2-3 large onions (4-5 small ones), sliced into 1/4 inch rounds or half-moons
1 Tbsp salted butter, olive oil, or ghee
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 large cloves garlic
1 1/4 cup green lentils
3/4 cup long grain brown rice (basmati is great)
10 cups chicken or veggie stock (homemade if possible)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 bunch lacinto kale (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale)

Heat the butter and oil over a medium flame. Slice your onions and chop your garlic. Set garlic aside. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions and salt. Saute the onions until they are a rich brown color, about 20-30 minutes.

While your onions are caramelizing, measure and rinse your lentils and rice and set aside. Check the onions every few minutes and adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning them.

Once the onions are browned, add the garlic and saute for one minute, or until fragrant.

Add the lentils and the stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add the rice, cover, and continue simmering on medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

While the soup simmers, wash and chop your kale.

After 30 minutes, check the rice for doneness. I, personally, like a bit of bite left in the rice, but if you like it done more, cook for another 5-10 minutes, or to your liking. (Bear in mind that the rice will cook more upon reheating the soup as well.)

Add the kale and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir. Taste for seasoning and thickness and add more salt or stock as needed.

Yield: 64 oz or about 8 cups of soup

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