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



Sloppy Joe baked potatoes

Sloppy Joe baked potatoes | Me & The Moose. This lightened up version of sloppy Joes uses turkey meat and the bare minimum of sweetener in the filling and forgoes a carby bun for a crispy, salt, malt-vinegary baked potato. #meandthemoose #dinner #sloppyjoes #sloppyjoerecipes #healthysloppyjoes #healthyrecipes #healthydinnerrecipes #healthydinner #bakedpotato #glutenfree #dairyfree #kidfriendlydinner #familyfriendlydinner

These baked potatoes are dressed up with healthier turkey sloppy Joe filling for a tasty, healthy, and easy version of this kid-friendly sandwich.

Take me to the recipe!

Sloppy Joe baked potatoes | Me & The Moose. This lightened up version of sloppy Joes uses turkey meat and the bare minimum of sweetener in the filling and forgoes a carby bun for a crispy, salt, malt-vinegary baked potato. #meandthemoose #dinner #sloppyjoes #sloppyjoerecipes #healthysloppyjoes #healthyrecipes #healthydinnerrecipes #healthydinner #bakedpotato #glutenfree #dairyfree #kidfriendlydinner #familyfriendlydinner
Sloppy Joe baked potatoes | Me & The Moose. This lightened up version of sloppy Joes uses turkey meat and the bare minimum of sweetener in the filling and forgoes a carby bun for a crispy, salt, malt-vinegary baked potato. #meandthemoose #dinner #sloppyjoes #sloppyjoerecipes #healthysloppyjoes #healthyrecipes #healthydinnerrecipes #healthydinner #bakedpotato #glutenfree #dairyfree #kidfriendlydinner #familyfriendlydinner

M used to love sloppy Joes. LOVE THEM. However, when offered these, he declined saying, “I didn’t order that.” SOMEONE GAVE HIM THE GIFT OF SASS FOR HIS FOURTH BIRTHDAY AND I AM NOT HERE FOR IT.

After calmly explaining that I am, in fact, not his waitress, he proceeded to eat a dinner of pickles, cheese, and guacamole, all of which were the toppings and “safe” options I’d put out with the sloppy Joes. You win some, you lose some.

I’ve explained before how we started serving one family meal and adding lots of “safe” options as alternatives for M so that he can self-direct at dinner. Sometimes that means an apple and almond butter on the table or lots of condiments like pickles, olives, and cheese. Guacamole is usually reliable. But sometimes that means he doesn’t eat a ton for dinner and I’m slowly learning to be okay with that.

So, sloppy Joes, while traditionally a very kid-friendly option, were for the grownups in our house. But I have hope for the future.

Sloppy Joe baked potatoes | Me & The Moose. This lightened up version of sloppy Joes uses turkey meat and the bare minimum of sweetener in the filling and forgoes a carby bun for a crispy, salt, malt-vinegary baked potato. #meandthemoose #dinner #sloppyjoes #sloppyjoerecipes #healthysloppyjoes #healthyrecipes #healthydinnerrecipes #healthydinner #bakedpotato #glutenfree #dairyfree #kidfriendlydinner #familyfriendlydinner

What tends to appeal about Sloppy Joes is their sweetness, but I find that when the filling gets too sweet (like, when a recipe calls for a cup of ketchup), it can become cloyingly sweet. Also, who needs to eat all of that sugar for dinner?

However, the signature sloppy Joe flavor gets lost when you omit sweetener entirely, so I’ve included the bare minimum of brown sugar (2 tsp!) in this recipe. You can also wait to add it until the very end to decide for yourself if you really need it!

Sloppy Joe baked potatoes

Yield: 3 cups or 23 oz
Time: between 60-75 minutes (35 minutes active time)

4 large Russet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
Flaky sea salt


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
½ medium white onion, minced (about ¾ cup)
1 medium stalk celery, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 small carrot, peeled and minced (a scant ½ cup)
2 large cloves garlic, minced 
½ cup water, divided
6 oz tomato paste (one small can, about 10 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp malt vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have on hand), plus more for the potatoes
2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
2 tsp flaky sea salt, divided

Optional garnishes: cheese, pickles, pickles jalapenos, guacamole, sour cream, yogurt, coleslaw


  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Scrub 4 potatoes thoroughly and prick all over with a fork or small paring knife. I usually do 10-12 stabs per potato.

  3. Brush the outside skin with a very thin coating of olive oil. You should have some of the 2 Tbsp left over. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

  4. Place the potatoes on a sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the skin is crisp and the potato is fork tender.

  5. While the potatoes cook, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground turkey and chop the meat into small pieces with the end of your spatula or spoon. Stir a few times and reduce the heat to medium low.

  6. Chop the onions and add to the pan, stirring a few times.

  7. Repeat with the celery, carrots, and garlic, letting each vegetable cook while you prep the next one.

  8. Cook and stir until the turkey is fully cooked and no pink remains. The whole process of cooking the turkey and veggies should take about 13-15 minutes.

  9. Turn the flame back up to medium and let the turkey and veggies brown slightly. When they begin sticking to the pan a bit (about 3-4 minutes), pour in ¼ cup of water and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

  10. Add the tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp salt, and brown sugar (if using), and mix well. If the mixture seems too dry, add the other ¼ cup of water. If you’ve added all of the water and it seems too wet, let the mixture bubble for a few minutes until your sauce has thickened.

  11. When the potatoes are done, carefully remove the pan from the oven and, using an oven mitt on one hand to steady the potato, cut it open with a sharp knife, being careful of the steam that escapes.

  12. Pour a few drops of malt vinegar and a large pinch of sea salt into each opened potato. Top with 1/2 -3/4 cup of the turkey mixture.

Sloppy Joe baked potatoes | Me & The Moose. This lightened up version of sloppy Joes uses turkey meat and the bare minimum of sweetener in the filling and forgoes a carby bun for a crispy, salt, malt-vinegary baked potato. #meandthemoose #dinner #sloppyjoes #sloppyjoerecipes #healthysloppyjoes #healthyrecipes #healthydinnerrecipes #healthydinner #bakedpotato #glutenfree #dairyfree #kidfriendlydinner #familyfriendlydinner

Pasta con ceci (and white beans)

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

A one-pot, healthy, vegan optional pasta dinner full of beans and veggies that comes together in less than 30 minutes? Oh, and it’s made with things you likely have in your pantry right now (or could easily get on the cheap)? Yes and yes.

Take me to the recipe!

This dish started with Victoria Granoff’s wonderful Pasta con ceci from Food52. It’s easy, fast, inexpensive, and shockingly complex considering the petite ingredient list and short cooking time.

However, that quick cook left the chickpeas a little too raw, in my opinion. And while I love a healthy fat, the original recipe calls for lots of olive oil and I wanted to lighten it up a bit. I suspect that the larger amount of oil masks the chickpea taste a bit, but I like the idea of replacing fat with fiber and not the other way around.

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

I tried to swap in white beans for the chickpeas entirely, but they cooked down too much. Half and half white beans and chickpeas, though, proved the winning combination: Some bite from the chickpeas and some creaminess from the white beans marries perfectly.

Use whole wheat pasta and throw in some julienned kale at the end and you have a rounded, healthy dish full of fiber and protein.

Even M, who’s been in an extended picky phase, gobbled this up and we didn’t even need to put other “safe’ foods on the table.

All that to say, MAKE THIS FOR DINNER TONIGHT!

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes


Pasta con Ceci (and white beans)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed  
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1½ cup uncooked orecchiete pasta (or another small shape)
3½ cups stock or water
1 parmesan rind (optional)
½ bushel Tuscan (also called Lacinto or Dinosaur) kale, julienned (about 1½-2 cups) 

For serving: red pepper flakes, more parmesan,

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium-low flame, until hot, but not crackling.

Add the smashed garlic (it should sizzle in the pan right away) and cook until it’s deeply tanned, but not dark brown. Adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning.

Add the tomato paste. It should also sizzle when it hits the pan. If not, increase the temperature. Cook, stirring and hearing the sizzle, for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the white beans, pasta, water or stock, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese rind, if using. Let simmer uncovered (you should have a decent simmer going and see bubbles popping throughout the cooking. If not, increase the temperature) for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking and the pasta is cooked.

Turn off the heat and toss in your kale. Stir a few times to let the residual heat wilt the greens.

Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes