The little miss loves to stand on a stool in the kitchen next to me and “help” me cook. At first this started as her snacking on whatever I was chopping on my cutting board. Over the past several months she’s started to actually help me. I’ve give her little jobs, like ripping kale off of the stalks. On occasion, we bake a sweet treat for a special occasion (we’ve had several of them lately – no complaints here) and I let the little miss top a small batch of cupcakes with sprinkles. I put the sprinkles in a cupcake liner on the counter and let her have creative license with the decorating. She loves the job (what’s not to like?) and takes pride in telling people that she made the cupcakes. I’m not going to lie – several sprinkles were consumed in the process – but I am usually able to get her to wait until she’s finished with the cupcake decorating to indulge in the remaining sprinkles.
I find that if I make anything in the form of a muffin my toddler goes nuts for them. She literally devoured these muffins which are packed with veggies and fiber and no added sugar. They look like a crappy carb (to her), so she was thrilled. In reality, these muffins are a nutritional powerhouse, at least as far as baked goods go. The recipe was inspired by “toddler muffins” I saw on Pinterest, which gave me the idea to use up a stray leftover jar of babyfood by making muffins. I added in leftover steamed veggies (carrots and a bit of chopped cauliflower), substituted flax seed meal and oat flour for the wheat flour that the original recipe called for and used bananas and apple sauce as the “sweeteners” and in place of butter in the recipe. The result is a muffin that is hearty and filling – reminiscent of a whole wheat banana bread with only a hint of sweetness. These are not the type of muffin you would consider a “treat” unless you are a real health nut (like me). But for a kid who doesn’t get much sugar these are a winning snack and very simple to make.
Be sure to either freeze half of the muffins or refrigerate them within a day (or both). Because of the high moisture content from the vegetables they will spoil quickly at room temperature. Also, you can use muffin liners to make these (saves on clean-up), but because they are so moist some of the muffin will stick to paper liners. The muffins take about 30 minutes to make, not include cooling time.
Healthy Toddler Snack Muffins
4 oz jar pureed squash baby food (such as Earth’s Best)
2 medium bananas (I used frozen bananas, defrosted in the microwave and used the resulting “juice” in the recipe)
1/3 cup shredded carrots (or a mixture of shredded steamed carrots and chopped cauliflower)
½ cup apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup oat flour*
½ cup flax seed meal
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Mix squash through vanilla in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Whisk together dry ingredients (oat flour through salt) in a medium bowl. Add mixed dry ingredients to squash mixture and stir just until full incorporated and no dry patches remain.
2. Divide batter among prepared muffin tins and bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. Store at room temperature for 1 day, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze.
*To make homemade oat flour grind old-fashioned oats in a food process until they resemble a coarse flour.
Yield: Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as an entree
Allow time to refrigerate the mixture before cooking to give the ingredients time to bind (it prevents the cakes from falling apart while cooking). These corn cakes are best served immediately, rather than reheating. Serve them as an appetizer, or pair with salad or braised greens for a complete meal.
- 4 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs.)
- 1 1/3 cup white corn meal
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 4 Tbs. vegetable oil (for frying)
- Cilantro sprigs for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 small clove garlic
- 6 oz. Greek yogurt (fat free, lowfat or regular)
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- juice of 1/2 lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce potatoes with knife several times and wrap each individually in tin foil. Bake potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil for 30-50 minutes, or until soft when pierced with a knife. Alternatively, cook sweet potatoes in the microwave by wrapped one potato in a damp paper towel and cooking on high for 4-5 minutes, or until soft. Repeat with remaining potatoes. When cool enough to handle, slice potatoes in half and scoop out flesh into a large bowl.
- Add corn meal, corn, egg, scallions, cilantro, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper to bowl. Stir until well combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce. Place garlic in bowl of food processor and pulse until minced. yogurt, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with tin foil; place in oven. Heat 2 Tbs. oil on large nonstick griddle (or in large skillet over medium-high heat). Shape sweet potato mixture into medium patties (about 1/3 cup each), and flatten until about no more than 1″ thick. Working in batches, cook in oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Keep cooked corn cakes warm in oven on prepared cookie sheet. Repeat cooking with remaining oil and patties. Serve warm with yogurt sauce. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.
Trying to think of good toddler snacks can be a chore. Something portable, healthy, simple and tasty enough for the whole family. This pomegranate salsa is a winner all around. My daughter loves pomegranate seeds so substituting the seeds for tomato and making it into a salsa is a good introduction to more complex flavors. I like to serve this salsa at winter parties when seasonal produce is scarce – it’s a crowd-pleaser for both kids and adults. Go light on the jalapeno or omit it for the little ones if they’re sensitive to spice.
Make the salsa at least a few hours in advance so the flavors have a chance to come together. Serve this jewel-tone salsa with red tortilla chips for added color. Yellow or blue chips will taste great too.
¼ cup 100% pomegranate juice (such as POM Wonderful)
2 large pomegranates
½-1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (depending on how much heat you like)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
4 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
½ Tbs. agave nectar or 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1. Fill a large stain-resistant (i.e. metal or glass) bowl with water. On a cutting board lined with paper towel or another stain-resistant surface, cut pomegranates in quarters and put them in the water. With your hands submerged in the water, bend back the peel of one quarter of the pomegranate and carefully remove the seed sacs (called “arils”) from the white pith. The pith will float to the top of the water and the seeds will sink. Use your hand to skim the pith off the top of the water and throw it away. Continue doing the same thing with each quarter until you have removed all of the seeds from the fruit.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and seeds in a medium size bowl and gently mix until well combined. Refrigerate the salsa for up to 2 days.
Give brownie sundaes a seasonal twist by topping them with peppermint stick ice cream and chopped peppermint bark. Use your favorite brownies or make a batch of molten chocolate brownies (my favorite) to use for these delicious sundaes. I used Blue Marble Peppermint Stick ice cream (list of retailers in NYC area here), but I hear Eddy’s (slow churned) makes a great peppermint stick reduced-fat ice cream too. This is a casual and homey dessert that is sure to tickle everyone’s tastebuds this time of year.
Make the brownies up to a day in advance and warm in the microwave for about 20 seconds before topping with ice cream.
These muffins are the perfect snack or breakfast for a toddler (or mom on-the-go). They’re packed with fiber and contain no added sugar. They’re also satisfying without causing a blood sugar spike or craving for additional sweets. I found this recipe while searching on Pinterest for gluten-free muffins. I have a few almond flour-based muffins that I make (including the Gluten-Free Blueberry Almond Muffins that are in the regular rotation), but was out of blueberries and looking for a new recipe to try. A variation of this recipe was developed by Heidi Swanson over at 101 cookbooks (fruit-sweetened carrot cake), and was later made gluten-free by the skilled baker over at Elena’s Pantry.
These gluten-free muffins taste like a cross between a bran muffin and unfrosted carrot cake. They’re very moist, slightly sweet and definitely taste whole-grain (which I like). I make these in mini muffin tins (decrease the baking time) for my little lady but if you toddler has a big appetitie stick with the full size version.
Gluten-Free Banana, Carrot & Date Muffins
2 cup almond flour (such as Trader Jo’s almond meal)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup dates, pitted
3 medium ripe bananas
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 ½ cups shredded carrots
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients (dates, bananas, eggs, vinegar and oil) in bowl of food process until smooth. Transfer wet ingredients to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until well combined. Fold in carrots.
2. Spoon batter into muffin tins lined with paper liners, filling about 3/4 full. Bake about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack and store in air-tight container for up to 4 days.
Makes about 12 muffins
These gluten-free muffins are healthy enough to serve to kids and tasty enough to serve to a crowd. They have a great whole-grain flavor, which love, as does my 20-month-old. The texture is more dense than a standard blueberry muffin, but is still very moist and flavorful.
I like to use frozen wild blueberries, which are smaller and more nutritious than regular frozen blueberries (and very easy to find). If you’d like, add some lemon zest to the batter – I’ve made them with that variation during the summer, but reduced the almond extract to 1/2 tsp. so the flavors didn’t compete. If you don’t have almond extract it’s worth buying a small bottle. It adds an amazingly deep almond flavor to baked goods. However, you can substitute vanilla extract in this recipe: Just be sure to use gluten-free vanilla extract if you are making these for someone who can’t tolerate gluten. These muffins freeze beautifully when wrapped individually in plastic wrap to seal in the moisture.
This recipe is inspired by a recipe that originally appeared in Vegetarian Times.
Gluten-Free Blueberry Almond Muffins
1 cup almond flour
1 cup brown rice flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ baking soda
¾ cup sugar
6oz plain yogurt (fat free or low-fat)
½ cup olive oil or canola oil
1 tsp. almond extract
1 ½ cup frozen blueberries (preferably wild, still frozen)
2 Tbs. turbinado sugar, such as Sugar In The Raw
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Whisk together almond flour through salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar through almond extract. Fold yogurt mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
3. Divide batter evenly between muffin tins. Top with a sprinkling of sugar in the raw. Bake in center of preheated oven for 18-22 minutes, until slightly golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in tin, then move to wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 12 muffins
Serving pureed soup is the simplest way for me to feed the whole family: I make a large batch, freeze some in individual portions for baby and have leftovers for lunch. This soup is a great late-summer recipe, when corn is still tasty but not quiet as tender as early summer corn. This recipe can easily be made vegan by substituting a “buttery” spread for the butter in equal proportions. Continue reading
I love a recipe that is simple, uses a lot of vegetables, and makes a meal for the entire family – including baby. This creamy, filling chilled soup is mild enough for the little ones to enjoy, yet flavorful and filling enough for an adult palate. The soup can be made on the weekend and eaten during the week. It also freezes well so you can double the recipe and freeze several small portions for your little one to enjoy later on. It’s a great way to use those late-summer zucchinis that tend to be a bit tougher.
Zucchini Basil Soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
8 large cloves garlic, chopped
4 medium zucchini (about 1 ½ lbs.)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup baby spinach
½ cup fresh basil (or more)
½ tsp. salt
fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
basil springs, as garnish (optional)
1. Melt butter in heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic after butter begins to foam. Sweat onions and garlic over medium-law heat until onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes (keep heat low enough to prevent garlic from browning).
2. Add zucchini and cook until soft. Add broth and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, add spinach and basil, and cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, puree until creamy, or use puree in blender in small batches. Serve soup chilled or reheat over medium heat until warm. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with basil, if using.
Serves 4 (about 1 ½ quarts total)
- If the soup is still hot when transferring it to the blender, open the center of the lid for the blender slightly, while holding it over the hole as the mixture is pureeing. This will allow the steam to escape.
- This soup can be made 1-2 days in advance, as the flavor actually improves after a day or two in the fridge.
It’s the time of year when over-size zucchinis begin to pile up and you start to look for ways to use up the green giants. I love to bake a double batch of my whole wheat zucchini bread. I use half oil and half applesauce and it comes out tasting rich and moist. Everyone is always pleasantly surprised by my healthier version of zucchini bread.
This zucchini bread freezes incredibly well. Wrap it in plastic wrap after cooling it for a few minutes in the pan. The plastic wrap will basically act as shrink wrap, sealing in the moisture. Keep it in your freezer for up to 4 months.
Serve it for brunch, dessert or an afternoon snack. My daughter loves when I make mini muffins and they are nice and portable for an on-the-go snack. It’s the best way to turn those huge zucchinis into a huge hit.
Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread
2 ½ C. whole wheat flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ C. vegetable oil
½ C. unsweetened applesauce
2 C. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 C. grated zucchini
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together first 5 ingredients (flour through cinnamon). Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Beat well with an electric mixer. Stir in zucchini. Add flour mixture in batches and stir until just combined (do not over mix).
3. Spray 2 regular size loaf pans or 4 mini loaf pans with nonstick spray (bottom and sides). Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 50 minutes for 4 mini loafs or 65-75 minutes for 2 regular loaves. Cool slightly, run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the bread from the sides, and remove from pan. Cool on wire rack or seal in plastic wrap to lock in moisture.