Nolan’s Birthday Cupcakes

Yesterday, my first-born son turned three years old! I cannot believe how fast the time has flown.

 

268581_10107873905936204_2791176742070351537_n

Two days ago, I posted a picture of the cupcakes I made him in the cooling process and received many inquiries for the recipe, so here it is!

These cupcakes are just sweet enough and super fluffy. They are delicious on their own or topped with your frosting or icing of choice. My cake formula is also easily adaptable, should the recipient have special dietary needs or preferences, as was the case at Nolan’s daycare (one little one couldn’t have peanuts). Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CAKE

Makes 12 cupcakes or one 8 x 8 square or round cake

  • 1 cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1-1 ½ cups (depending on the flour) unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using 1 cup cashew.
  • ¾ cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup oil –> I’m using melted coconut.
  • 1 vegan “egg” substitute (i.e. mashed banana, applesauce, etc.) –> I’m using 1 small banana.
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (a binding agent, if using gluten-free flour) –> I’m not using it.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • ¼ tsp salt –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, citrus juice/zest, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using nearly ½ cup chopped raw walnuts and ½ tsp ground cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your “egg,” whether that involves scooping, mashing, combining, etc. in a large mixing bowl.   Mix together all of your wet ingredients in the same bowl. Separately mix all dry ingredients. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly incorporate the dry into the wet until a smooth, pourable batter forms. Stir in any specialty ingredients, if using.

Pour the cake batter into a greased square 8 x 8 baking dish or round baking dish, or evenly into 12 lined muffin cups. Place the cake/cupcakes in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom always told me that it’s better to over bake a cake (and under bake a brownie); nothing worse than goopy batter in the middle!

 

DSC_2742

Set your cake on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Speed the process by placing it uncovered in the fridge. When your cake (or cupcakes) is cool, frost and decorate (if you want), and dig in!

DSC_2750

 

 

 

Advertisements

Apples, Pumpkins, and Spices, Oh My!

That’s right:  It’s fall, one of my favorite times of the year.  I love that apples, cider, pumpkins, and doughnuts are everywhere, even in Phoenix, where “fall” is still 100 degrees.  Ugh!

I’m now thirty-four weeks and two days pregnant and in addition to being done with the intense heat, I’m also not always feeling fresh fruits and vegetables to the extent that I normally do.  I recently read an article about different pregnancy symptoms and the author noted that many moms-to-be develop an aversion to fresh produce.

I wouldn’t say I’m averted—most of my diet consists of fresh produce, after all—I’m just less keen on snacking on carrot sticks when I could have one of my most prevalent pregnancy cravings fulfilled in a sweet, creamy, comforting peanut butter sandwich.  The next second, I might want the world’s biggest salad, but despite my usual eating habits, in general, I’m just not as in to the foods that I normally crave.

The aforementioned article suggested a solution that is already a staple in my house:  smoothies!  If you regularly follow this blog, you know that I’m experimenting with new smoothie combinations all the time.  Especially during this pregnancy, smoothies are one of the primary ways that I’m getting all of my nutritional needs met, even when disguised as “dessert.”

Today’s dessert smoothie is, as always, packed with nutrients, contains no added salt, oil, or sugar, and capitalizes on the flavors of fall.  Introducing the apple pie smoothie, no cooking required.  🙂

As you know, finally splurging for a Vitamix has changed my life because I don’t need to cook any of the produce that go into my smoothies.  With previous blenders, I would have needed to steam a fruit like apples just to ensure a smooth puree; with the Vitamix, the apples go in totally raw with their skins intact and a silky smoothie ensues.

My pumpkin pie smoothie features ground cinnamon and Honeycrisp apples.  In Arizona, at least, I don’t see Honeycrisps all throughout the year and when I do, they are expensive.  Fall has made them plentiful and affordable, even in the desert.  Thank goodness because the Honeycrisp is low in calories (if you’re counting), high in fiber, and exquisitely juicy.  They also have a lengthy refrigerator shelf life—minimum seven months—so stock up while they’re cheap.

DSC_2444

The addition of medjool dates—which I use in nearly all of my dessert smoothies—adds a touch more sweetness and the caramel-like notes that are indicative of a freshly baked apple pie.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  DESSERT SMOOTHIE

Serves 2

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients  –>  I’m using 1 medium, quartered Honeycrisp apple and ½ tsp cinnamon.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity)  –>  I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness  –>  I’m using 3.
  • 100% freshly squeezed juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz)  –>  I’m using almond.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.

DSC_2446

Eat Your Vegetables!

If you have a picky child, or are not a huge fan of vegetables yourself, today’s recipe will allow you to hide your veggies among whole grains and a little bit of sweetness so that they go down easily and you don’t miss out on their nutritional benefits.

While I’m proud that my two-and-a-half-year-old consumes nutritious, plant-based eats all day long, I’ve found that he’s definitely not immune to some of the typical behaviors of the picky toddler. As of the last few months, if he sees something he’s never eaten, he’s unlikely to try it. If that something is a vegetable (or at least looks like one), we’re in even worse shape.

Thankfully, my boy has never met a smoothie he doesn’t like, so I’m able to hide a variety of raw vegetables in that component of his daily breakfast. (That’s right – his morning smoothie is just part of his breakfast. He has an insatiable appetite in the morning, eating less and less as the day progresses.) I’ve managed to sneak raw celery, carrots, cucumbers, beets, fresh herbs, and a variety of greens right by him for many a morning now.

Until he’s willing to look at a heap of broccoli and get excited about eating it, I have to get creative. In addition to smoothies, I’ve found that my super food muffin formula lends itself just as nicely to shredded vegetables as it does fruits. Today’s rendition features zucchini, which I find a bit too earthy in flavor to compliment most smoothie combinations. Zucchini, or Italian squash (pictured below, shredded in the food processor), is a solid source of vitamin C and manganese and promotes healthy eyesight, so I definitely want Nolan to have it in his diet.

DSC_2404

My zucchini muffins also include a yummy spice blend that features the following:

CINNAMON: A popular spice that you can purchase as sticks or ground, cinnamon is high in antioxidants.

NUTMEG: Nutmeg, which you can find as a seed or ground, is a great source of fiber, copper, and like zucchini, manganese. The two are often paired together in cooking.

CARDAMOM: Cardamom, available as pods or ground, is also a rich source of fiber and manganese and boasts a notable serving of iron, too.

CLOVES: Use cloves sparingly as their flavor is the strongest of this group of particularly flavorful spices. You can find the cloves whole or ground, and like cinnamon, expect a healthy dose of antioxidants.

When talking recently with a fellow mom, she shared with me that her pediatrician said that if her toddler ate one balanced, nutritious meal per day, that that was success. Obviously, we aim to feed our kids of all ages (and ourselves!) healthful foods all day long, but when it comes to the pickiest of the picky, one well-rounded meal may be the best we can hope for some days.

Thus, one of these muffins in and of themselves contain more super foods than the average toddler may be willing to consume in an entire day, so it’s a small “meal” that parents (and whoever!) can feel good about. (I usually pair Nolan’s with fresh fruit, togurt, and a smoothie.) Small victories, parents, small victories. 🙂

DSC_2408

FORMULA BASE: SUPER FOOD MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1  cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup cooked small grains (e.g. quinoa, kaniwa, millet, etc.)–> I’m using kaniwa (see my veggie burger post).
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1/8 cup oil –> I’m using coconut.
  • 1 cup raw (fresh or frozen) fruit or veggie –> I’m using shredded zucchini*, skin on.
  • 1-1 ¼ cups unsweetened plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 3 tbsps seeds (e.g. chia, hemp, poppy, flax, etc.)
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount will depend on flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla.
  • ½-1 tsp spices –> I’m using ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp each cardamom and cloves. All spices are ground.
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (optional) –> I’m using it.

*Shredded carrots, parsnips, beets, or sweet potatoes would also be delicious!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Shred your zucchini (or other vegetable) in a food processor. Separately combine all of the dry ingredients and all of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick and lumpy, but you can always add more plant milk if it seems too dry or dough-like. Spoon the batter into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 25 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

DSC_2410

Plant-Based Entertaining for Everyone

I have many times had friends or family over for dinner and prepared an entirely vegan meal with great success. This was only my second time, however, throwing a large party with an extensive plant-based menu that needed to please guests all of all ages and diets. In attendance, I had several vegetarians, one gluten-free eater, and a whole bunch of standard omnivores.

I tried first, to think of foods that it seems everyone likes to eat: fruit, chips, and sweets. Then I thought about how I could make all of those items vegan (and some gluten-free, too), but tasty enough that my guests would never know it…or at least never miss the animal product varieties.

DSC_2354

Here’s what I served:

Chocolate peanut butter truffles: A play on my power ball formula, I used extra cocoa powder and rolled them in unsweetened shredded coconut. Guests said that they were delicious and rich: exactly what I was going for with a truffle!

Mini-fruit kabobs with cinnamon coconut whipped cream: As you know, I’ve been recently delighted to make and try coconut whipped cream in conjunction with my nice cream formula. I added ground cinnamon to this batch – yum!

Mini-chocolate chip cookies: A variation of my chip cookie formula, these were tasty, but a bit crumbly. I was surprised since I’ve made them many times before. Maybe my preggo brain forgot an ingredient?! Very possible. 🙂

Tahini dip: My creamy dressing formula kept extra thick for dipping. It was a crowd favorite.

Roasted fennel hummus: My hummus formula with fennel as the star vegetable was a gamble…and I won (or, I should say, my guests won)!

Lemon raspberry cashew mousse: Remember that failed attempt at vegan cheesecake turned mousse? I served these delightful little cups at my party and several people asked me for the recipe. I’d say they worked out ok after all.

DSC_2355

In addition to fresh fruit, I also served raw veggies, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and two different types of pretzels for dipping. I adorned the tables with small bowls of trail mix for extra munching and had beer and white sangria flowing. Guests seemed happy and full.

DSC_2343

As I mentioned when I threw Nolan’s second birthday party, I’m done serving food that I no longer regularly eat. I hate the idea of potential meat and dairy-based leftovers that threaten to throw me off the wagon (I don’t waste food, ya’ll). Stick to your guns in designing the menu for a party. Remember, guests don’t have to eat your food, but they would definitely be missing out if they didn’t!

DSC_2344

In case you were wondering, the party was a diaper party for Baby #2. Since it isn’t customary to throw a second shower, I wanted to have a more laidback celebration for our family’s final installment. Offering food, booze, and a good time in exchange for diapers was a win-win for all involved…and baby is stocked up for the first year or more of his/her life. Just an idea if you’re looking for a fun and easy way to celebrate a second baby or beyond. 🙂

11892050_10107174549417274_4888233493306564042_n