Sweet potato muffins

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Thanksgiving is here! I love this holiday and the season that follows, but there are definite downsides. I’ve talked about keeping expectations in check with kids and holidays. And while it’s exciting and fun that there’s always something going on: Making cookies, making gifts, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, listening to music, decorating, holiday events, holiday parties, holiday-themed school things, concerts, visiting relatives, etc, it can be…a lot. And for a little one like mine who’s always searching for his equilibrium, it can be.. A WHOLE LOT.

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

So, let’s not add even more by completely abandoning our commitment to balanced eating, mkay?

These sweet potato muffins are a fantastic “sweet” to have around. They feel festive and would certainly make a fitting Thanksgiving breakfast to watch in front of the parade or DOG SHOW (!!!!!!!), but are just sweet enough thanks to the applesauce, a few Tbsp of brown sugar divided between the batter and the muffin tops, a handful of golden raisins, and sweet potatoes.

And did I mention that they only require one bowl? You’ll have enough dishes this week.

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A couple of notes:
- Chop the sweet potatoes into 1/3-1/2 inch chunks. Any bigger and they may not soften enough during baking, but if you shred them, they disappear and make the batter a bit too wet.
- This is a thick batter, almost dough-like in consistency. Don’t worry. It always puffs up well in the oven and results in an airy, light muffin.

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Sweet potato muffins

4 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, partially melted
½ cup applesauce
1 egg 
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided  
3/4 cup yogurt 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup wheat flour 
1 cup white flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt 
1 medium sweet potato, cut into tiny squares (about 1.5 cups)
¼ cup golden raisins

Move your oven rack to the bottom or lower middle portion of the oven. Preheat to 375.

In a large bowl, partially melt the butter or coconut oil. Microwave it for a few seconds until it just begins to liquify, but is still partially solid.

Mix in the applesauce, egg, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined and no streaks of flour remain.

Add the chopped sweet potatoes and raisins and stir again to combine.

Spoon the batter into the cups of a muffin tin, filling about 3/4 of the way. Top each muffin with a large pinch or two of brown sugar.

Bake for 18-22 minutes until firm to the touch and a tester in the middle comes out clean. Check after 12-15 minutes and cover if the sugar browns too fast.

Sweet potato muffins | Me & The Moose. These one-bowl, whole grain muffins sneak in some vegetables at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. #sweetpotatomuffins #meandthemoose #sweet potatorecipes #thanksgiving #healthybaking

Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes

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I waited until December to officially post anything holiday-related! You're welcome! (Though I couldn't resist Instagramming this last week.) While I love any excuse for an elaborate, calories-be-damned baking project, this month we'll be focusing on nourishing rather than indulging (though I'm sure I'll cave and post SOMETHING rich this season). And here's why:

There are SO MANY BLOGS that have cornered the market on fancy and indulgent holiday treats. And let's face it: Toddlers who are off schedule and also on a sugar crash are not fun to be around. So we're limiting the sweeteners and focusing on the natural variety while also adding in veggies and proteins wherever possible.

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I love this recipe so much, mostly because I love any form of gingerbread and nothing says "Welcome to the holiday season" as much as this warm, spicy combination of molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. We've boosted the nutrition by using a combination of spelt flour and whole wheat flour. The spelt flour has more protein and fiber than regular flour, but mimics white flour in flavor and texture. And whole wheat flour is great because, whole wheat.

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The molasses and spice flavor is also strong, but not overwhelming, so both adults and toddlers can enjoy these bad boys. The maple syrup, carrots, and whole cranberries also add more sweetness and moisture while keeping these vegan. And while the ingredient list isn't exactly short, this recipe is less fussy than some vegan ones because it doesn't require a flax egg or anything exotic. An added bonus to this treat is that it checks a lot of allergy boxes: There are no nuts, dairy, or eggs. And while I haven't tried this with any gluten-free flours, I would assume that any tried-and-true gluten-free mix would work here.

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This recipe baked up perfectly in two 5' x 2' cake pans as well as small bundt pans.

And did I mention that you only need one bowl?

For the topping: I think these are fantastic plain or with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Depending on your needs, I also topped these with a maple cream cheese frosting that was amazing with the cake, but slightly overpowered the gingerbread flavor. I would recommend doing this if you want to bring these to a party and dairy isn't an issue. I haven't personally tried these with the cake, but there are some great coconut whipped toppings on the market and coconut cream whips up into an easy easy dairy-free whipped cream for a vegan option. 

For the decorations here, I made these super easy candied cranberries and used this technique for brushstroke ivy. I've tried making these brushstrokes with chocolate and carob, but I haven't found anything that works as well as regular old candy melts, which unfortunately aren't vegan. Let me know if you find anything else!

Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes

½ cup olive oil
½ cup + 2 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup molasses
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½ cups whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup + ¼ cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add the shredded carrots and cranberries and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Let sit while you grease your baking tins with olive oil.

If using mini bundt pans, fill all the way to the top. These don’t get a huge amount of rise, so the bundts will stay pretty flat. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

If making mini cakes, fill about ¾ of the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Yield: 12 mini bundt cakes or 5’ x 2’ cakes

 

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Banana bread doughnuts

I've been thinking a lot about feelings lately as M, in typical toddler fashion, has all of the feelings, all of the time. Well, not all of the time. But while it makes life harder for me when he has A DAY, I want him to know that feelings are fine and that "managing" them doesn't mean suppressing them. That reminder is for me more than him because he wants to fly his feelings flag high. Unfortunately, my first instinct is to talk him out of it in an effort to make him "feel better," but which is probably more like "feel nothing negative."

I've read a few articles lately about parenting boys like this one, which was a good reminder of things I already think about and do (and wrote about here). Most writings about raising feminist sons (or just sons who aren't jerks) mention encouraging their emotional vocabulary, but don't give a lot of specific data or instructions. However, this article gives both and made me think about how I talk with M about everything, not just his feelings.

Tiny tooth marks in the doughnut on the bottom right corner.

Tiny tooth marks in the doughnut on the bottom right corner.

Since reading this article, I've tried to be more curious with M, particularly when we're cooking together. He takes his little step stool and stands next to me at our (tiny) counter. I give him jobs and we make a huge mess and in the mean time, I have the opportunity to ask him a million questions about what he's doing, choices he's making, and what he feels while we work on this whole project. Baking is also a great way to teach patience because we can't eat the finished product right away.

M made (and tasted) every batch of these banana bread donuts with me. He loved them all, but I liked my final batch with a little more coconut sugar and a second egg, the best. This is truly a one bowl recipe: We mixed the wet ingredients first and added the dry ingredients directly to the wet batter and they've turned out really well each time (with minimal dish doing at the end). This recipe could easily be made as mini muffins, regular muffins, or a loaf of banana bread. But I quite like them as doughnuts because they bake very evenly and very quickly.

Banana bread donuts

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

3 medium bananas, smashed
¾ cup coconut sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup full fat plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats
2 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400. Smash the bananas in a large bowl and thoroughly mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the same bowl containing the wet mixture and mix until just combined and no dry flour can be seen. Spoon the batter into greased dougnut pan and bake for 12-13 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pushed. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to let cool completely.

Yield: 14-16 doughnuts

Strawberry rhubarb gummies

Man, oh man. It's been a while since I blogged...AGAIN. My excuse this time is that M needed some stitches in his face last week and it was horrible. When he got hurt, I immediately felt afraid and guilty about how vulnerable he is and how I can't protect him from danger. I think it's human nature to do whatever helps us pretend that we have control: No one would get out of bed if they thought too hard about the horrible accidents that could befall them at any minute. In our case, we try to be proactive parents by reading books and tuning into our kid and then making choices based on the information we glean. Do we always make the right choices? Absolutely not. But it's the act of TRYING that feels the most valuable to me. But that's the rub: Trying to be "proactive" is what I do to strengthen the illusion of control. And when injury happens, I'm reminded that my control is, in fact, just an illusion and that much of parenting--hell, much of life--is about reacting to the unforeseen. It's terrifying.

But in addition to feeling shocked, I also felt a little bit of awe. They had to strap M down so that he didn't move or grab the instruments and he was so scared and sweaty and confused. But just a few minutes later, he was sitting up in his stroller extolling the virtues of his blue lollipop. He also told us the next day, unprompted, that he had felt "scared" in the doctor's office. I was pretty floored by this tidbit of emotional maturity in my two-year-old.

Obviously, I've cried a couple of times this week. But what really puts me over the edge is thinking about his courage and sweetness despite all the other stuff. He is showing us that it's possible to feel fear and pain without turning it against others or being ashamed. He isn't trying to blame anyone for what happened. He just wants a blue lolly. Never change, kiddo. 

Also obvious: ALL I WANT TO DO IS GIVE HIM BLUE LOLLIES AND KISSES AND MY PHONE AND ANYTHING ELSE HIS LITTLE HEART WANTS. But that's a bit dramatic. Instead, we're going back to normal and trying to eat some healthy things. These strawberry rhubarb gummies are delicious and portable and sweet without being sugary. I use this brand of gelatin that feels a little more wholesome than other types, but it's expensive, so use what feels good for you. If working with this gelatin or something similar, try to keep these gummies cold-ish as the gelatin un-gels when warm.

A note on making a puree instead of the gummies: Without any sweetener, this puree is TART. I love it, but I'm sure a developing palette would be a bit shocked. If trying this out with a kiddo under 1, add 1 Tbsp of maple syrup at a time to taste. Or, throw in a roasted banana or 1 cup of mango cubes to cut the tartness with fruit rather than added sugar. You can also reduce the rhubarb to 1 cup chopped. It's also a watery puree, so add it to some greek yogurt or coconut cream to thicken it up.

 

Strawberry rhubarb puree and gummies

4 large pieces of rhubarb, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 pint strawberries (about 3 cups of whole berries with stems removed)
¼ cup water
4 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
5 Tbsp gelatin

Grease a baking pan with coconut oil or your oil of choice. Set aside.

Chop rhubarb into 1-inch pieces after removing the leaves and the root ends. Place in a sauce pan with ¼ cup of water and turn heat to medium/medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb starts to get mushy, about 6-8 minutes. Add the whole strawberries and continue cooking until the berries begin to soften and all of the rhubarb has lost its shape, about 10 minutes more. Puree in a blender or food processor.

This will yield about 3 cups of puree. This mixture is fairly watery, so if you don’t plan to turn it into gummies, I would mix it with greek yogurt or coconut cream. It’s also fairly tart, so I recommend adding some honey (for kids older than 1), maple syrup, or another fruit such as 1 large roasted banana or 1 cup of chopped mango.  

For the gummies: Return the puree to the pot and turn the heat to low. Let the mixture heat up slightly, but don’t let it boil. Add the sweetener and mix well. Sprinkle the gelatin into the mixture very very slowly in 1 tsp increments and whisk continually to avoid lumps. Once the powder has dissolved, turn off heat. Pour into your greased pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

Yield: 64 1” by 1” squares