Recipe: Toddler Muffins

All the whole-grain, none of the gluten OR the mess. Easy to make, easy to eat. We all need more easy in our lives!

Toddler Muffins

adapted from Oatmeal Banana Muffins at Eat Drink Pretty)muffins_edited
yields 48 mini muffins, which freeze and reheat beautifully

Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan with cooking spray or use liners.

In the bowl of a large food processor, grind 2.5 cups old-fashioned oats until fine.

Add the following dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a few times:

  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 0.5 cup sugar

Finally, add the following wet ingredients into the food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 0.5 cup plain Greek yogurt (regular yogurt works too, but I like the protein in Greek)
  • 0.25 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Use a small ladle or big spoon to fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full.
Bake 10-20* minutes, or until the tops turn a bit golden and spring back when touched.

*Point of contention: Original recipe recommended cooking them for “8-10 minutes.” But mine always take 20-22 minutes. I cook two 24-cup mini muffin pans at the same time. So if you’re baking in smaller or fewer pans, maybe it will take less time?

In any case, when your muffins are done, cool them for a few minutes in the pans, then remove and cool completely before freezing.. Store in airtight container on counter or in fridge.

Variations:

  • Use 0.5 cup less oatmeal (so only 2 cups) and add 0.5 cup fruit or vegetables (fresh, defrosted-frozen, or rehydrated-dried) such as blueberries, dates, raisins, or carrots.
  • You can substitute applesauce for the oil, but (1) kids need fat and (2) the bit of oil gives the muffins a better texture and easier release from the pan.
  • You can probably substitute most sweeteners for the sugar.

Backstory

About the time the boys turned a year old, they got really into self-feeding. Which is a nice way of saying that pretty much overnight, they began flatly, and loudly, refusing everything I offered them on a spoon.

And pretty much overnight, I got really REALLY sick of the mess created by their attempts to self-spoon their morning oatmeal.

https://instagram.com/p/t_CNLDB659/

Then, from somewhere in the foggy depths of my memory, I remembered the baked oatmeal that KK used to eat almost every day.

I could make something like that for the boys! No more oatmeal hairdos before 8am!

HALLELUJAH.

2014.09.15 Felix try muffins first time (1)

This is the recipe that has evolved over the last few mess-free months. We make a batch of muffins (48 minis) every week or so. They’ll each eat 3 or 4 muffins most mornings. The hardest part of making these is timing the ripening of the bananas, because the grocery stores seem to specialize in stocking only the greenest they can find.

I use two Kitchenaid 24-cup silicone mini muffin pans (thrifted), I can’t find the exact ones, but they look like this. The silicone makes it really easy to pop the muffins out, and there’s no need for paper liners. They’re also easy to clean, either by hand or in the dishwasher.

emerson eating muffins

 

Recipe: Super Baked Oatmeal

For starters, it’s not the most photogenic food.

baked oatmeal in a glass baking dish

But I’m not going to apologize, because this super baked oatmeal is KK’s new favorite breakfast.

She likes it because it’s healthful and keeps her full until lunch time.

I like it because:

  • I can make our breakfasts for the week in about 15 minutes.
  • It’s gluten free (when you use gf oats, etc)
  • It’s customizable enough that I can change the flavor profile and not feel like we’re eating the same thing week after week.
  • It’s forgiving enough that I only actually measure out the oats and the milk. Everything else gets eyeballed.
  • It’s got all the goodness of oatmeal, without the pot or bowls to sandblast clean every day.

Super Baked Oatmeal

Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light
Yields: 10 generous servings, enough for 2 people to enjoy every weekday

Ingredients

4 cups uncooked gluten-free oats (old-fashioned and quick cooking work equally well)
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup coconut flakes (sweetened or not)
2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups milk
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
optional: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, OR apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 375º. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes.

To serve warm: Top it with butter, margarine, heavy cream, cream cheese, greek yogurt, maple syrup, or honey.

To serve later: It’s easier to slice after it’s been in the refrigerator. Reheat individual servings in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds.

To customize:

  • Make a 4 or 5 serving size by halving all the ingredients and cook it in an 8×8 pan (or an 8- or 9-inch cake pan — like I said, it’s forgiving) for about 35 minutes
  • Instead of raisins, try any dried fruits, like cranberries, dates, currants, or berries.
  • Instead of dried fruits, try fresh blueberries or chopped bananas.
  • And while I personally don’t like chocolate chips with oats, I won’t tell the breakfast police if you throw some in there.
  • Instead of walnuts, try pecans, cashews, or mixed nuts. Or go no-nuts, and just add extra fruit or your favorite seeds.
  • Instead of milk, try substituting your favorite milk-alternative — I bet it would work fine.

You can probably also sub out the sugar, oil, and eggs, too. Let us know in the comments if you try something else that works!

Recipe: No-pickle Potato Salad

Growing up, I was never passionate about potato salad.

But a few years ago, I ate this superior version, and I suddenly knew why all the others were undesireable: pickle relish.

I love pickles and anything pickled.

Did I bring a laughably large bowl of giardiniera to a friend’s baby shower? Yep.

Do I periodically make wurstsalat and eat it until it’s gone?  Ja.

But apparently, I just don’t like pickles in potato salad, and I was 30 years old before I had a version without them.

This potato salad, from a dear friend’s collection, is just about perfection, and there’s not a pickle in sight. The secret is red potatoes — they’re creamier than russets and not mealy, either. The radishes are an unusual touch, but they fit right in and don’t upstage anything else.

Can you guess what I’m bringing on Thanksgiving? I will take a picture then and add it here.

No-pickle Potato Salad

For the dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon mustard (may double to suit taste)
0.5 teaspoon celery seed
dash pepper

For the salad:
4 cups (about 2 pounds) diced cooked red potatoes
4 eggs, boiled and chopped
1.5 cups diced celery
0.5 cup sliced green onions
0.5 cup radishes, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

In a large bowl, stir together dressing ingredients (mayonnaise through pepper). Add the remaining salad ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve. Yields 8-10 side servings or 4 main dish servings. Don’t judge — it’s that good.

Some things I bookmarked this week #3

  • 27 Gluten-Free Recipe Substitutions | Greatist – This list included several subs I haven’t considered before. Onward!
  • New Taste Journal – Lots of whole foods dish ideas.
  • Walnut-Raisin Baked Apples – Love the idea of mixing a bit of orange marmalade into the filling.
  • Cabbage and Raisin Slaw – I am always looking for good slaw recipes. We’re big cabbage eaters.
  • Creamy Potato Salad – Very much like my friend’s a-may-zing potato salad recipe, which she printed out for me and I lost and am too embarrassed to re-request. I do remember that you’d want to double this recipe for a potluck-sized bowl. omit the dairy products. and add 1/2t of celery seed and a handful of chopped parsley.
  • Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale – I’m thinking this bad boy’s going to make an appearance at our Thanksgiving table: one pan as written for the dairy eaters, and maybe one pan, with sourdough breadcrumbs instead of parmesan, for the non-dairy folks?
  • Orange Kissed Almond Cookies (Gluten and Dairy Free) – I always want to buy the almond paste when it goes on sale after the holidays, but I don’t have a good reason to…until now!
  • Brussels Sprouts with Pecans – This recipe introduced me the possibility of slicing and sautéing brussels sprouts, instead of just steaming them. The extra slicing gives them the loveliest frilly texture. It takes longer to prepare but is totally worth it when you have good fresh sprouts.
  • Eggnog Mousse
  • Baby Cardigan Onesie Tutorial – I want to make some for our friends’ with the baby, but I’m having the damnedest time finding onesies that are cheap, long-sleeved, not pink, not zippered, and don’t have a giant applique across 3/4 of the front.
  • Magic Cupboard | Helen Musselwhite – I want to make one of these and change it every season BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PROJECTS.

To whit: a picture of my dining room craftermath taken the weekend before Halloween, annotated with (most of) the visible projects and the “Percent Complete” indicated in parentheses.

 

Not labeled: salt shaker, because we used to eat here.

The rest of my favorite links are here.

Recipe: Fast and Slow Chicken Soup

I’m tempted to call this Chicken Stoup instead, a la Rachel Ray. She’s not my favorite, but I DO love a good portmonteau.

Damp and cool, this rainy fall day. The rain overnight left the sky completely drained of color when we woke up this morning. I felt exsanguinated and uninspired to match. This demanded a soup infusion STAT, before I just caved and went back to bed.

I’d made an overnight slow cooker stock Sunday using a gifted turkey breast carcass from a dear friend’s birthday dinner (genius theme: Early Thanksgiving). And this time, I remembered to leave on the yellow onion skins and was rewarded with 2+ quarts of pretty, golden broth. Fragrant, too, thanks to the parsley stems.

That was the Slow part.

I’d bought bone-in chicken breasts this week, since they were on sale, but I knew the white meat wouldn’t hold up to a poaching and a souping without getting stringy and tough. So I pulled out the pressure cooker, checked Lorna Sass‘ recommendation for timing, and fired it up. A mere 7 minutes of cooking, I had two perfectly moist and tender breasts ready to be boned, chopped, and added to the soup.

That was the Fast part.

The rest of the soup involved cleaning out the crisper and using up odds and ends. That was the Soup part. (Soup art?)

 

Fast and Slow Chicken Soup

Yields enough for 6-8 servings

In a large stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and add

  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 1/2 each of a yellow and green bell pepper that you found sliced and frozen in the fridge from the last time you made hummus (when WAS that?!)
  • 8oz package of sliced mushrooms

While those begin to soften, clean, stem, and chop a bunch of kale into postage stamp-sized pieces. Peel and dice a sweet potato. Dice a medium tomato. Add them all to the stock pot and give it a stir.

Season with any or all of the following:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • Italian seasoning (I like the McCormick’s grinder one the best, and they go on sale all the time)
  • Slap Ya Mama seasoning (my Electra-complex season salt of the year)
  • spoon of chopped garlic from a jar, or 2 fresh cloves, pressed

Stir it all again and add 2 quarts of stock. Slap a lid on and bring it to a boil.

Once it’s boiling, add 1/2 cup of rice and 2 cups of cooked chopped chicken breast. Turn the heat down to simmer for 15 minutes, then turn it off and wait for someone to say they’re hungry.

Recipe: Chopped Confetti Asian Slaw

I decided at the last minute last night that we needed a side to go with the chili. My original plan of “handfuls of store-brand Fritos” had grown to feel insufficient. I would need to come up with something fast, using only what I had on hand.

Why am I such a glutton for punishment?

I opened the fridge and found the quarter of a purple cabbage I’d saved back from making cabbage and apples to go with the schnitzel Sunday night. The die was cast — slaw it was.

This improvised asian-inspired slaw came together quickly and got high marks from KK. I liked the way I cut the veggies, which kept them crunchy through the next day. This made about 6 normal person side servings, or 4 for big cabbage fans like us.

Chopped Confetti Asian Slaw

INGREDIENTS

Salad
1/4 purple cabbage
2 carrots
2 celery ribs
handful of snow peas (you could also use raw sugar snap peas if the snow peas were old or flaccid)
4 green onions
handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped (or, ahem, just squeezed in your fist,  if you’re feeling Hulkish)

Dressing
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (restrain yourself from chugging the bottle when you get a whiff)
1/4 to 1/3 cup light mayonnaise

1. Chop the cabbage, carrots, celery, snow peas, green onions, and cilantro into small pieces about the size of your fingernails. Place them in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

2. In a separate small bowl, stir together the rice vinegar through toasted sesame oil until well combined. (You could also put all the ingredients in a small jar and shake.) Add the lesser amount of mayonnaise and taste, adding more mayo or soy sauce to balance it out.

3. Pour the dressing into the veggies and stir until well covered. Top with the cashews and enjoy.

Did you know cashews are actually seeds (not nuts), are related to poison ivy, and they grow on apples? Now you do.

 

Manic Menu Week in Review

The best things I made this week

Smoky chipotle baba ganoush and blue cheese hummus. What should have been the most autopilot meal turned into my most inspired cooking of the week. I set out to make regular baba ganoush with (all together now) my new grill using a combination of David Liebowitz and The Pioneer Woman’s recipes. But when DL said to sprinkle chili powder on top for a pop of color, I seized the opportunity to dust it up with chipotle chili powder, a great complement to the richness of the smoky grilled eggplants.

But then the plain, boring, can-of-chickpeas-and-seasonings-in-the-food-processor hummus was too plain and too boring. I was out of feta but found the end of a Maytag blue cheese wedge in the cheese drawer. For the first taste, I put a teensy crumble of cheese on my hummus on my celery. For the second taste, I was mashing the rest of the cheese into my hummus and pushing a spoonful toward KK. No longer plain or boring — pretty tasty, really, and a great pair with the chipotle baba ganoush.

Served with: raw veggies for dipping, pita chips for KK, olives, and smug satisfaction.

The best part? Half an eggplant and several peppers in the freezer for later.

Grilled veggie lasagna. The ricotta from Aldi was surprisingly thick and flavorful, and grilling the veggies concentrated their flavors tons better than sauteeing them ever has. Made a quick sauce with a big can of crushed tomatoes, then decided to dice and add a few fresh tomatoes that were getting old, which made for a good texture. I also used about half as many lasagna noodles, and that sat well with our evolved less-bready tastes.
Served with: generous compliments.

Sausage lentil stew (aka failed mujadarra). The sausage was a last minute addition suggested by KK that redeemed this from being one-meatless-meal-in-a-row too many. The sausage was also a pleasant surprise, because it was a brand I don’t usually buy AND 50% lower fat than usual. I added a can of diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.
Served over: basmati rice (the house favorite) with caramelized onions and a dollop of plain greek yogurt.

I’m not even going to pretend this is a good picture. iPhone + poor kitchen lighting = learning to eat it before you see it.

Pumpkin spice syrup. The syrup was a little more viscous and much darker than the inspiration pic, but the 8oz jar disappeared in about four days because we found so many ways to use it. KK, ever one to gild a lily, added it to her chai tea, and I added it to our oatmeal in the mornings. I even put it in a vanilla protein shake before heading to the gym on Wednesday, and it was delicious.
The lazy version: 1/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1.5 cups sugar, 1.5 cups water, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice. Mix, simmer, cool. Makes enough for four 8-ounce jars (giving size).
Served with: everything!

Baked eggs with tomato sauce and goat cheese. This is a recipe I bookmarked over a year and a half ago and never got around to making. I’m glad we finally did! I saved a cup of tomato sauce back from the lasagna, so it came together in a snap. A welcome change from scrambled, scrambled, and more scrambled. If we ever entertained, this would also be great for a crowd, because nearly all of it can be done ahead AND they’ll all finish baking at the same time!
Served with: gluten-free orange ricotta pancakes and sliced orange.

And the worst things?

Unfortunately, both Worst Things this week coincided at the same meal.

Beer can chicken on the new grill.  We walked the dog with about 20 minutes left on the timer, but ended up talking with neighbor for about 15 extra minutes. Chicken shards! I felt like Clark carving the turkey in the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation movie.
Verdict: Will repeat, but with a different beer — Stella wasn’t stellar — and with increased supervision.

Broccoli rice casserole. Dullsville. Maybe it needed more cheese, but I’m not convinced even that would have helped. The gluten-free cheese crackers I found at Big Lots and crushed on top, while not terrible, were not as good as the store-brand Cheez-its I remembered.
Verdict: Will not repeat. Back to basic broccoli casserole — no rice, no crackers, more cheese.

I’m about to make the menu for the week ahead and need ideas. What’s the best thing you made, or ate, this week?

Strawberry Soup



Our tomatoes are done for the summer. When Kris and I took our mini-vacations last month (Denver and the Lake, respectively), the deer had a field day and ate every green bean (and leaf!) and cherry tomato (and bloom and most leaves). Those have not recovered from the trauma. At the same time, the big tomatoes (a Celebrity plant and a Juliet something-something Roma) became overrun with weeds and stopped fruiting. For the last few weeks, we’ve had to look elsewhere for our daily fruit fix. Strawberries keep being on sale at Publix, but they’re not usually awesome enough to eat by themselves the way they are in March/April, so I was pushed into trying a cold fruit soup.


I put it off as long as possible. As much as I like cool foods in summer, the thought of cold soup was – eww. The thought of fruit soup was – why waste good fruit by pureeing it? We’re more of the slice-and-eat or slice-and-bake-and-eat school of fruit eaters. But this week, I needed something to go with a quiche, and strawberry soup sounded more intriguing than threatening.


I rifled through my recipes and came up with one. With some changes, it proved very tasty. As in, I had to have a cup before I could get it into the fridge for the mandatory chill period (and that rarely happens).


Summer Strawberry Soup
adapted from this Taste of Home recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used Cabot’s 10% milkfat)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (I didn’t use fresh but would next time, for jollies)
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I think if you used vanilla yogurt, you could leave this out if your strawberries are even the least bit ripe.)
  • half a vanilla bean, scraped
  • Save for garnish: additional yogurt dobs, sliced strawberries, and/or fresh mint leaves (I forgot but won’t next time. Whipped cream would also be good.)

  • Wash, hull*, and halve the strawberries.
  • In an 11-cup+ food processor, combine the yogurt, orange juice, strawberries and sugar. Process until blended.
  • The original recipe said to “Refrigerate for at least 2 hours,” but I liked the flavor and texture right away just as much as the aged version – maybe because I used Greek yogurt?
  • Garnish and serve.Yield: 6 extra-large servings, or 4 1-cup servings plus a few cups to throw into the ice cream churn.

*I used my awesome birthday present, the Chef’n Stem Gem, to make short work of all that hulling. For someone who doesn’t cook, Kris has a record of picking some really excellent implements.

A hand model, I am not.

By my standard definition, it’s an ideal cooking tool: low-tech, ergonomic, and compact. (Compactness is important when your tool box looks like this:



It might be three inches deep – maybe – and less than 2 feet wide. I’m hobbled!) Bottom line, the thing just works. Doesn’t matter if the strawberry is one of those big green ones or a tiny overripe one – the Stem Gem’s claw of power makes short work of the less edible parts (leaves and hull) while leaving the meat intact.


As previously alluded to, I threw the leftovers into the ice cream churn last night. I like that the soup retained the yogurt’s creamy tartness, and I think it will make exemplary fro-yo.


My new favorite cornbread

Is based on a recipe in from _Heavenly Feasts_ by Marcia M. Kelly. This particular recipe comes from the monks at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. I like that it was naturally gluten-free, but I left out the cheddar cheese (I find that it always makes cornbread greasy and heavy)and I add a little onion.

Corn bread casserole

1c yellow corn meal
1.5t baking powder (I prefer to make my own fresh each time out of baking soda and cream of tartar)
.25t (kosher) salt
2 eggs
1/4c sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
.5c canola oil, plus more for the pan
1 can mexicorn niblets
1 small onion (or a shallot, or a few green onions), diced fine
1 small can of diced green chilis (The original recipe calls for jalepenos, and I’m not afraid of a little heat. But I insist on using green chilis instead — they were 100% made to go with corn.)

Preheat oven to 425F. Pour enough oil in your iron skillet so it will just cover the bottom. Put the oily skillet in the oven to heat while you make the cornbread batter. This is my mom’s method for making an awesome crunchy crust on cornbread. You want it hot enough so the batter sizzles when you finally pour it in. With my oven, it needs the entire preheat time plus a fee more minute to get hot enough.

In a big bowl, combine everything except the chilis. Knock out the big lumps but don’t beat it to death.

When the skillet is hot enough, pour half the batter in. Spoon the chilis over that, then top with the rest of the batter.

Bake. Check after about 18 minutes if you like a light top. I usually leave mine in for 21-22 minutes to get more color.

The original yield on this says it serves 6 to 8, but Kris and I only ever get 4 big pieces from it. Usually served with a pot of pinto beans and a raw veggie salad or sliced tomatoes.

Recipe: Mama Jacque’s Lime Salad

LIME SALAD

Melt 10 large marshmallows
in 1 cup Fresca (or Seven-Up) – or Sprite
Remove from heat.
Add 1 package Lime Jello
1 envelope plain gelatin
1 large pakage of Phil. Cream cheese or
(1/2 package Calorie-Wise cheese)
1 can crushed pineapple and juice
1 large Cool-Whip
a dash of salt
Congeal in large pan.

Mama Jacque was my paternal grandmother. Every holiday that we ate at her house, she always set out little squares of congealed salad on lettuce leaves, on proper little salad plates with proper salad forks. Christmas was often a cranberry salad (I also have that recipe, but you can imagine it based on the one above) and Easter was often lime.

Thanksgiving was lunch out at the White Columns restaurant at the holiday inn (?) down on Riverside. Their salad wasn’t as good, but they did always have little relish plates, with pickles and non-exotic crudités nestled on chipped ice, with the radishes cut into little roses and the celery clipped into frills.

The lime salad was always my favorite, and I’m making it for Xmas day with the family tomorrow. My twist will be to congeal it in individual little aluminum molds, so I can do 2 nondairy ones for Lana and they’ll plate better.

 

UPDATE: The nondairy version was just as good as the original! I just used more cool-whip in it. Easy as salad.