Moist Carrot Cake

Here is a new recipe for you, adapted from one I found I know not where. The original called for a full cup of oil and 2 cups of sugar, and while is was good, it was also oily and too sweet. I wanted something healthier since in our house we are striving to eat as clean and healthy as possible, so I experimented and changed the recipe around a bit. I reduced the sugar to one cup, and the oil to 1/3 of a cup. The remaining liquid comes from yogurt. I also use brown sugar (when I can get it) and whole wheat flour.

Because it is so healthy, I often serve it for breakfast or lunch once a week. It goes great with coffee, or served with yogurt and fresh fruit. My kids love it like that.

I’ve learned from cooking shows that one of the secrets to light moist cakes is to not over-beat the eggs or the batter, to sift the flour to add air, and to gently stir in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Try this and you will find your cakes will be lighter. This particular one comes out very light and airy when these tips are followed.

So here is the recipe.

Just out of the oven.

Just out of the oven.

Begin by finely grating 3 cups of carrots. Do a little extra so you can pack the cups, about 4 medium-sized carrots. Set aside.

Then mix together:

4 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup plain yogurt

1 cup brown sugar

Mix together (don’t beat) until all ingredients are just combined. Add the carrots and stir.

(Optional: You could substitute half the carrots for gratedĀ zucchini. Raisins make a nice addition too.)

Next, sift together on top of the wet ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix gently with the wet ingredients until the flour is just mixed.

Pour into a pre-greased and floured 8×8″ pan and bake in a 350F oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

This recipe also makes great muffins. Just reduce the baking time to about 10 – 15 minutes.

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Yummy! Especially with my morning coffee.

 

This post is being linked with Spatulas on Parade‘s Foodie Friends Friday linkup.

SpatulasOnParade

Making Watermellon Popsicles

As a follow up to last Monday’s post, here is how we made our watermellon popsicles. Lila and Scarlett wanted to help out; Lila added the sticks at the end and lots of questions throughout, and Scarlett stepped on my feet the whole time. Some help she was. šŸ™‚
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Mommy’s little helpers.

Ā First I cut the watermellon into chunks that the blender could manage, removing as many seeds as I could while cutting but not getting them all out. I blended it on high for about 15 – 20 seconds, enough to make it liquid but not grind the seeds that were left. I didn’t add any water; no need. I didn’t sweeten it either.
Then I strained it into a measuring cup that had a spout to make it easier to pour into the molds.Ā I had to use a spoon to stir the mixture in the strainer to get the juice through. (If you have the patience to pick out all the seeds first, you can skip this step; plus, the popsicles will be thicker.)

We had just enough juice to fill each mold about 85% full, then we added tiny pieces of chopped watermellon to it.

Lila adds the sticks.

Ā And here they are, ready to go into the freezer.

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Summer Fun – Popsicles

Where I live, summer is upon us already. With temperatures hitting 34 deg.C and rising, it is time to find ways to cool off. This is the first in a series of summer fun posts, with tips and ideas for ways to cool down on those hot days, and what better way to cool off than to eat a homemade popsicle?

Scarlett eating a homemade popsicle – first time she held it alone.

The other day I picked up a popsicle mold set so that I could make some for the kids. Like most kids, they enjoy popsicles, but having store bought ones on hand as often as they would like to eat them is not always possible, nor would I want them to eat those so frequently as they are full of preservatives, food coloring, and too much sugar.
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ļ»æ Popsicles are easy to make. First, get some molds. Any shop that sells plastic kitchenware should have them. But you don’t have to use molds – you can use disposable cups, or plastic cups, or ice cube trays. For the cups you can use a spoon if you don’t have sticks, and for the ice cube trays, use toothpicks.

Next, pick your juice. Any juice you have on hand will work – powder mixes, canned, boxed, or frozen – so long as you don’t care if it is healthy or not. All you do is pour it into your molds, add the sticks, and freeze. You could even add some chopped or blended fruit to the juice for extra flavor.

But if you want these to be healthy and nutritious, then you will have to make your own juice, which isn’t too hard if you have a juicer or blender. Many fruits can be peeled and cut into chunks, then blended (obviously with seeds removed). Then all you have to do is fill the molds, or if you want, you can strain it. But I think thicker is better for popsicles. Some may need sugar; others won’t, so sweeten to taste if you want to.

Orange and mango flavor Tang. That is my cold coffee on the side.

So far I have made mine from orange and mango Tang, a grape concentrate, and banana and milk. While I like my kids to eat healthy, I am not so picky about it always being 100% pure health food, so I do buy Tang and the occasional concentrate since they are cheaper than the pure fruit juice. Also, my kids are fruit lovers, so I know they will eat any fresh fruit I give them and they have them daily. Since it is watermellon season for us, watermellon popsicles are next on my list of flavors to try. I just don’t look forward to picking out the seeds before blending.

Flavor ideas:
– Whatever fruit you have in season. Citrus fruits, especially those with a bit of a sour tang to them are nice. Lemon, orange and tangerine, individually or mixed, are delicious.
-Berries: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, etc.
-Banana and milk – I added a little cinnamon and a tiny bit of sugar. These should be roughly 3/4 banana for the taste to come through well.

Banana and milk popsicles.

Making tips:
-A bit of lemon juice can bring out the flavor of other fruits when mixed together, ie. with papaya.
-If you just want the juice, squeeze or blend the fruit and strain before filling the molds, otherwise, leave the pulp in.
-For sweetening you could opt for honey instead of sugar, if you prefer.
-Try adding yoghurt to your fruit for a frozen yoghurt option. I plan on doing yoghurt and mango as soon as mangos are in season as the combo is heavenly. Other fruits that go well with yogurt are bananas, papayas and berries.
-Remember that liquid expands when frozen, so don’t fill your molds to the brim.

Grape juice from concentrate popsicles.

Popsicles are a great way to get in some liquid on those hot summer days, and even if you child normally won’t eat fruit or have milk or yoghurt, what child will refuse a popsicle? Making your own ensures that the ingredients are healthy – you know there are no added chemicals or coloring or extra sugar (unless, of course, you are using the concentrates, but hey, no one can eat healthy all the time) – and your child gets a fun treat.

And mommies, while you are at it, make a few extra for yourself, cause you are sure to find it more fun to join your child outside eating popsicles than sweating inside doing housework. Try freezing your favorite coffee blend. You may need to make it a little stronger and sweeter than usual since freezing can mute the flavor. You could also add rum or brandy flavorings if you like, or make a mocktail with the flavorings. I’d say freeze your favorite drink, but alcohol doesn’t freeze so you wouldn’t get a popsicle out of that. Ha.
Above all, get creative and have fun with the flavors. And make sure you have enough molds cause your kids are sure to ask for them daily.

Enjoy!

Snacks Preschoolers Will Love – Frozen Grapes

Ok, I know this is more of a hot weather treat, but for us it is already warming up and we feel like having something cold. I actually made some today for myself, but I was thinking about how my kids would enjoy them too. This is a snack that kids can help you make, too.

So you will need:
-Seedless grapes
-A bag or bowl to freeze them in.

First wash your grapes and take them off the stem. Make sure to pick out any bad ones. If you want to serve these to older babies or toddlers, you will want to slice them in halves or quarters first.

Then you just put them in your bag or bowl and pop them into the freezer until they are frozen. If you are only doing a small amount to eat in a few hours, then use the bowl. A bag is good for larger amounts and longer freezing times and it will keep them from tasting of the freezer.

These thaw quickly, so only take them out when you are ready to eat them, and only the amount you want to eat. And mommies, these are a low-calorie treat that are great for cooling down with when you are tempted with ice cream but are trying to watch your weight.

Yummy!

Peanut Butter Candy

My mom was always a stickler for getting us to eat healthy when we were small. At the same time though, she had (ok, still has) quite the sweet tooth and had to have something sweet, so this led to her experimenting with using honey instead of sugar as a sweetner.
One thing she used to make that I still love and make from time to time is peanut butter candy. As far as I know, this is her own creation, and it is so good.

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You’ll need:
Peanut butter
Honey
Powdered milk
Vanilla or other flavoring
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In a bowl, mix together a cup of peanut butter, enough honey to sweeten, a little vanilla, and then enough milk powder to hold it all together. You want it to be solid enough to hold on to without it being sticky. Mix together, then press onto a buttered plate, making it about a 1/2 inch thick. Chill until set and cut into small cubes.
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Sometimes mom would add rasins to this, and you could also add chopped nuts or other dried fruit cut small. For the one I just made, I added tiny pieces of tuttie fruttie and crushed candy cane to give it a Christmassy feel and flavor.

Let me know if you try this and like it. I think mom would be happy to know her recipe is being passed on.

Preschool Snack Ideas

Logan started preschool this year, and along with that came a whole new world for me – homework, packing snacks, washing and filling his water bottle, notes to and from his teachers, washing uniforms, making sure he keeps his uniform clean, remembering that he has to wear his ID card, making sure his backpack has all the items his school requires for the day, and so on.
Most of it is pretty straight forward and just requires that I make the effort to remember things that he isn’t ready to handle himself yet. And then there is the snack …. His school is very strict about only sending healthy snacks. In the handbook they only mention sending fruits and veggies, and at first I felt limited by that. But there are so many other healthy snack ideas out there, and it doesĀ get boring packing the same thing daily – and for him to eat the same thing. (Since this is preschool and he only attends for the morning, he only has snack there.)
Unless you have a child who absolutely wants the same snack daily, it is good to have some variety. Here is a list of ideas of things you could pack for a snack.

Fruits – go for the non-messy ones and cut into bite-size pieces, or if your child eats neatly already, you could add some that might be considered messier. I have used grapes (picked off the stem), bananas (cut in half with the peel left on), guavas (left whole or quartered), apples (quartered), oranges and tangerines (peeled and separated). A fruit salad could be nice, but Logan still doesn’t like to use utensils so I consider that too messy to send. Other fruits that you could try would be berries, pears, peaches – really anything you can leave whole or that is not too runny and juicy when cut would work.

Vegetables – veggieĀ sticks are great, and many snack boxes provide a space for a dip if your child likes that. Logan’s favorites are carrot sticks, so that is usually all I send since it is all he will eat, but your options are really only limited by what your child likes and will eat. Cucumber, brocolli, and celery are great.

(One thing that was mentioned at his orentation was that even if a child normally won’t eat fruits or veggies, they will pick up on it quickly if they see the other children eating them, and hunger will sometimes make them try something they normally don’t like.)

Nuts and seedsĀ – highly nutritious and packed with energy. Logan loves peanuts and eats them almost daily. Most any kind of nut is ok to send as long as they are shelled. (Don’t send nuts if your child has a hard time chewing them or tends to swallow food without chewing.)

Dried fruit – raisins and dates are favorites here. Other ideas are figs, apricots, apples, prunesĀ – whatever you like.

Chickpeas – Logan loves these plain; he will eat them by the bowlful if I let him. Cooked with salt and drained, these will keep a few days in the fridge. I get all my beans dry and have to soak and pressure cook them, but you can find many varieties of canned beans that you can use instead. Just drain and add some seasoning if you like.

Pancakes – yes, I have sometimes sent my baby pancakes with him cause he likes them. And the other day I make him a snackbox full of pancake dots – I just dropped small dots of batter on the pan, about the size of a small coin or smaller.

Cookies – cookies can be either healthy or not, depending on the kind you get. I sometimes give him Horlicks cookies, or others that are made extra-healthy with whole wheat, bran, or oats. I avoid any with fillings or chocolate (though I do sometimes give those at home). You can also make cookies with oats, wheat germ, nuts and rasins, and you have the satisfaction of knowing they are healthy because you know what you put into them.

Yoghurt – a small tub or as a drink. I don’t send it to school as I make my own and don’t buy it in tubs, but my kids eat it plain daily. Avoid presweetened yoghurts and instead add some fruit or honey if your child won’t eat it plain.

What healthy snacks do you send with your child to preschool? And for those of you who send lunches, what healthy lunch ideas do you have to share with us?

Toddler Foods – Home Made Ice Cream

Something that is both delicious and healthy. I call it ice cream but it is really frozen yoghurt.

400 ml. plain yoghurt
1 cup of fruit – banana, mango, papaya; anything that blends smooth and doesn’t have seeds.
sugar to taste
for banana ice cream I’ve also added a little vanilla and cinnamon

– Blend all ingredients together. You could omit the sugar if you want, or substitute it with honey, though I’ve never tried it so I don’t know if it would change the consistency.
– Freeze in a shallow pan, plastic container, or ice cube tray.
– When frozen, break into small chunks or dump ice cubes and put in blender. Add a bit of milk and blend until smooth.
– The finished consistency is that of a milkshake. If you want it more solid just return it to the freezer until set.
– Another idea I had was, after reblending it, to pour it into popsicle molds and freeze. It would probably work too.

And a warning, kids. Mommies like this too and may eat it all before you get a chance. I know I did. šŸ˜‰

Got some tips for making this better? Tell me about them in the comments.

Toddler Foods – Baby Pancakes

Toddlers can be picky eaters, and as concerned mommies we try everything to get even just a bite into them. Thankfully my kids have been good eaters from the beginning and enjoy foods that many small kids won’t eat, simply because I gave it to them from a young age, but there are still times when even my good eaters get picky.

One of the most common times for them to get picky is when they are tired, like at lunch time right before their nap. The solution for me has been to serve them foods I know they like and will polish off. Unless they are sick, it is rare for a child to reject a favorite food. (I’m only referring to healthy food here, not junk food or candy.)

Logan and Lila both love fruit of any kind, yoghurt, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks or slices, dried fruits and nuts, and chickpeas. Those are foods that I can fall back on if they are tired and fussy and don’t want what I am serving.

Another special food that almost never fails is pancakes. Not packaged mixes, but home made healthy ones. I find it easy to whip up a batch of these at a moments notice. They keep well in the fridge for a few days (if they aren’t eaten before that). The secret is to make them small, and I mean not bigger than 1 1/2 in. in diameter. You could even make them smaller too. Kids love small things for some reason. Mine call these baby pancakes and will eat several this size in one sitting. If I make them regular size and cut them up, they just don’t have the same appeal.

Small, like this.

Wanna know how to make them? Ok, I never measure my ingredients, so the following is just a rough idea based on years of baking experience.

Baby Banana Pancakes

In a bowl mix together:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon (less if you don’t like it so much)
1/4 tsp. each of nutmeg, cloves, and ginger
1/2 cup sugar

Give the dry ingredients a stir, then add:
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 lg. mashed banana
1/4 cup oil
enough milk to make it a pancake batter consistency

Mix together, adding more milk or water until you have a good pancake consistency. Cook over low heat until bubbles form on top, then flip. To get the small size you can drop tablespoonfulls onto the pan. I usually get 4 at a time on the pan.

You can add anything you want to this basic recipe: rasins, nuts (chopped small or ground for safety), shreadded coconut, milk powder, wheat germ, chopped dry fruit, instant oats, etc. basically anything healthy or nutricious.

I’ve also made a chocolate version by adding a 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and eliminating the banana and spices. You may need to add some more sugar and increase the liquid a little. I’ve tried this one with a tablespoon of peanut butter added for chocolate peanut butter pancakes. It’s great too.

The main idea with pancakes is you can add things that are nutricious so that your child is getting something healthy in an enjoyable format that they are likely to eat.

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