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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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Eggplant As You’ve Never Seen It Before

Oh, eggplant. I’m sure I’m not alone in stating that it isn’t my favorite vegetable. Up until recently, I’ve only been able to think of a handful of ways to make it truly delicious and appetizing. One of those methods includes breading and frying it in classic eggplant parmesan. Totally scrumptious, yes, but this popular Italian vegetarian dish contains so many unhealthy components that the benefits of the eggplant practically become negated.

When Nolan was just beyond eating only pureed fruits and veggies and on to soft whole foods, I thought that eggplant would make for a unique sauce. Since I was so used to pureeing it for him anyway, I imagined that flavoring it up and pouring it over pasta would make it more appetizing for me, too.

I’m happy to report that that early kitchen experiment was a success. When I had leftover cashew cream from last week’s potato salad, I got creative in taking my original eggplant pasta sauce up a notch. The addition of the cashew cream provided for a dairy-like richness that reminds me of an alfredo, sans all of those animal products.

If you, too, are struggling to make the best of the mysterious purple vegetable that, in fact, is nothing like an egg at all, today, you are in luck! While an appealing flavor and texture transformation might be reason enough to make this pasta sauce, the eggplant contains a whole host of health benefits. First, it contains cholorogenic acid, known to prevent healthy cells from mutating into cancer cells and also a key player in lowering bad cholesterol. Secondly, it is low calories, but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Its blandness—like the russet potato—is an ideal blank slate for something like a pasta sauce.

DSC_2323In other news, you’ll see that this formula calls for some type of acid. I have found that just a touch of something acidic really brightens the sauce, resulting in a creamy pasta experience that won’t leave you feeling heavy and bloated. Today, I’m using white balsamic vinegar; white, simply to maintain that alfredo-like, off-white color. Check out my multi-grain salad formula for more info on the health benefits of vinegar and this brand, which is my go-to:

DSC_2325Truthfully, this formula is in its newborn stages and I’m not sure how it would hold up to substituting different vegetables, but I imagine that it’s the cashew cream that brings it together. Point is, if you pureed nearly any cooked vegetable with the cashew cream, I think that you would achieve a similar sauce (in consistency, at least). Try this out with eggplant first and see how it goes with another of your favorites that you have been fruitless in repurposing. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Yields sauce for one box of pasta

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped raw vegetables –> I’m using eggplant.
  • ½ cup cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight, drain, and blend with just enough water to form a thick cream)
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp acid (i.e. vinegar, mustard, citrus juice, etc.) –> I’m using white balsamic vinegar.
  • ¼-1 tsp seasoning (i.e. fresh/dried herbs, spices, etc.) –> I’m using ¼ tsp ground nutmeg.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste –> I’m using approximately ½ tsp salt and several turns of pepper.

Peel (if necessary) and chop your vegetables. Steam, roast, or boil (I’m steaming) to cook. The Baby Bullet Steamer: not just for baby food! 🙂

DSC_2324While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare your pasta of choice. When the vegetables are finished, combine with all other ingredients (except the pasta, of course!) in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

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Pour atop your pasta (or use in another application) and enjoy immediately for most desirable consistency. It will keep just fine in the fridge, but will dry out a bit.

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