It is so rare to have a morning that we have no reason to dash off anywhere. Those days will be fewer and farther between when school starts in less than two weeks! This morning I relaxed it a bit and enjoyed the quiet with the kids. Granted, the peace was due largely to the fact that the girl holed up in her bedroom reading books. That left the boy’s attention firmly planted on me, and totally jazzed to be my little chef for some muffin making.
He takes this role very seriously, mind you, so I even had a Star Wars apron personalized for him at Christmas. Both kids have also amassed quite the collection of Head Chefs cooking utensils. I first found them at HomeGoods and then picked up a few more on Amazon. I think it really helps to get your kids actively engaged in the kitchen if you equip yourself with props that will get them enthused. The one down side is that the Head Chefs’ “feet” are suction cups, and periodically they camp out on various surfaces in my kitchen…
When I wrote about GoGoSqueez Applesauces earlier this week I had promised a muffin recipe using natural applesauce. Baking with applesauce is a great way to cut down on fat content and add moisture to your baked goods. I don’t really recommend it for cookies as it keeps them from crisping well, but in a muffin applesauce is perfect.
I was also inspired this week by the opportunity to be a guest poster on a Healthy Lunchbox blog series. My comrade Sunny’s And Love it Too! site is an amazing resource for healthy family recipes (they are also gluten-free due to allergies within her family). I’ll be sharing today’s muffins along with my kids’ favorite homemade protein bar recipe for the series… I figured I should load them with as much good stuff as possible!
I’m a big fan of incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables into baked goods, but I’ve learned with my brood it requires a bit of finesse. While they love to munch them raw, for example, they wrinkles their noses at anything strictly carrot-based. The girl will only eat banana bread if it contains a disproportional amount of chocolate chips.
Their issue with carrot cake is more likely because of the high nut and spice content, not necessarily the carrots themselves. I decided to experiment with carrots and a locally-grown zucchini just crying out to be eaten.
Thanks to the applesauce I was able to prepare these with no added fat from eggs or oil, and use 100% whole wheat flour (the moisture from the apple and vegetables helped the muffins from being too dry). I do think these would taste lovely with some walnuts stirred in, but as my kids’ school is a nut-free zone I omitted them. My little chef and I did stir mini chocolate chips into a few, and raisins into a few more. He liked the ones with raisins the best, the girl (surprisingly!) opted for plain.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (other flours would work here too)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raw agave nectar or raw honey
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup total of grated carrot and zucchini
1/4 cup rice milk (or milk of choice)
juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
**raisins, walnuts or chocolate chips, if desired
Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, blend liquid in a separate bowl. Add liquids to dry and stir until completely combined. Pour into prepared muffin tin or cups and bake for 20-25 minutes.
While these were baking they filled our sleepy kitchen with the most delicious aroma. The kids asked more than once when the muffins would be ready to eat because they smelled so good. Once the girl saw the muffin on her plate, she expressed immediate perturbance at the orange and green flecks throughout. I told her she had to try them before complaining, and after one bite she was sold.
Since my kids are spending this weekend at their father’s, I promptly popped the rest of the batch into the freezer. I always individually wrap baked goods in foil, then put them in a larger freezer-safe Ziploc. I’ve learned to label the bags with permanent marker, as otherwise we have had more than one “surprise” at breakfast time.
Most busy parents don’t have the time to bake every day, but when you do get the time and the urge, think about doubling recipes and freezing some for busy mornings and school lunches. More on that last subject tomorrow…