Toddler-Friendly Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

Eureka! I have stumbled upon a vegan pumpkin muffin recipe that’s crumb-resistant, dairy-free, low-sugar and toddler-approved. It’s the unicorn that will make serving up healthy breakfast on weekday mornings that much easier.

I say resistant because just like sunscreen, there’s no truly crumb-proof muffin; however, even my spirited toddler couldn’t take these down in a crumbly blaze of glory. I attribute the “glue” that binds these together to my food processor. I’d imagine a blender would produce the same result.

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Combine the following in a food processor or blender:

  • 2 1/4 cups oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (equals about 8g coconut sugar per muffin, so I might half this next time around)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice

While blending, add the following:

Bake at 350 degrees until a fork comes out clean from the middle of each muffin.

Makes 12 muffins.

Note: I started with the foundational elements of Healthy Helper’s Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (who adapted the original recipe from the Oh She Glows Every Day cookbook – as featured on Blissful Basil) and subbed out or modified some of the ingredients to make low-sugar muffins for breakfast.

Breakfast bars of champions

In search of a toddler-friendly breakfast option for busy mornings that’s not too crumbly or sugary, I went to good old Pinterest for inspiration. 

Unfortunately a lot of the easy recipe options called for honey or other sweeteners. So I took a cue from the deliciously simple, classic combo of oats and smashed bananas. 

(Plus peanut butter, but any nut or seed butter will work just fine.)

I hand mixed the following ingredients and then baked it in a muffin tin at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

You can also cut down on dishes by folding the ingredients together over parchment paper in a baking dish and then cut it into bars afterwards.

1 cup oatmeal

1 banana

1/2 cup peanut butter


BRAT Diet for Babies

The stomach bug cast a plague on our house Tuesday night. It was the first time I had to watch my toddler battle through it, while we huddled together in a bath tub quarantine. As his appetite returned, I found ways to modify my own BRAT menu for his palate.

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Here are some of the things that worked well for breakfast, lunch and dinner:

The good news is he recovered quickly, and knock on wood, mom and dad didn’t get it!

Thyme-Saving Turkey Meatballs

With a limited window of time to make dinner and workout, I whipped together this super quick meal: oven-roasted squash and zucchini paired with homemade turkey meatballs.

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Preheat oven to about 400 degrees and then prep the veggies:

Toss two sliced summer squash and two zucchini with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme in an oven-safe casserole dish.

Next, prep the meatballs:

Mix 1 lb ground turkey with a generous scoop of almond meal, a scoop of unsweetened and shredded coconut, 1 egg, salt, pepper, olive oil and thyme. Scoop 1/4-cup or smaller spoonfuls into a buttered casserole dish.

Bake both dishes for about 30 minutes, or until veggies are tender and meatballs are cooked through.

More thyme for you!

Almond Flour Waffles

In my quest to eat less processed or refined foods, and more nutrient-rich foods in their original forms (or close to it), I’ve stumbled my way through some baking disasters. Fortunately, this morning I made my first successful batch of almond flour waffles.

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Thanks to The Daily Dietribe for testing out the right ratios of flour to starch – a key make-or-break factor in baking with nut flours and root starches. I found that adding one egg was necessary to keep the waffles from splitting in half when opening the waffle iron.

Almond Flour Waffles (Adapted from The Daily Dietribe)

1 – 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp coconut palm sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup almond milk

1 egg

Mix dry ingredients separately from wet ingredients. Combine and whisk in egg. Make sure your waffle iron is greased. You may need to play around with settings and open the iron slowly to make sure waffle is thoroughly cooked.

Broth-Braised Crock Pot Pork and Noodles

New year, new kitchen quandaries! Rather than freezing four separate containers of homemade crab stock, I used it to make a healthy Ramen/Pho-like pulled pork and soba noodles dish. We even had leftover pulled pork at the end of it.

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Pulled Pork: place all ingredients in a crock pot on low for 6 hours.

3 cups broth or stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pork tenderloin

Noodles: once pork is ready, cook noodles of choice separately in their own pot using additional broth. Add kale or other greens once noodles are near al dente.

Serve pork on top of noodles and add condiments of choice. David had his with a little Sriracha sauce.

Short Ribs that Forgive

Forgot to pull out the crock pot? Even without a grill, these ribs won’t rub you the wrong way. In fact, the rub is what makes these speedy, BBQ-like short ribs meat-and-potatoes-guy approved.

The technique and an expanded ingredient list comes from Better Homes & Gardens, but I took many shortcuts for the sake of getting dinner ready in less than two hours, which is the minimum for most short rib recipes. Who has time for wood chips? Here’s my Cliff Notes version:

In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Place short ribs (optional but recommended: trim fat first) in a casserole dish and rub with the mixture.

Bake covered in foil at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, then brown on both sides on a grill pan before serving.

Final Fling: End of Summer Bites

There’s still time to enjoy the best of summer, without resorting to “it’s complicated.” With flavors at their peak, keeping things simple is the best way to go.

For starters, heirloom tomatoes are worth every penny. So splurge one last time! Simply season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Or slice and serve with fresh avocado (a winter crop in summer’s clothing) or goat milk yogurt and basil.

Peaches are best undressed. While I love a good cobbler or pie, the best way to enjoy them for dessert on warm summer nights is au naturel.

For a refreshing hors d’oeuvre that takes no time, slice a cucumber and top with smoked salmon. Party bonus: The colors will pop on a buffet table.

Mixed company? The options above will make it easy for all dietary persuasions to partake!

Put an Egg on It: Frozen Fan

You can have your hash, and eat it too – without messing up the kitchen. Simply microwave a frozen meal compromised of veggies, grains and/or beans in a bowl, and then top it with a fried egg or two. I used Amy’s Organic Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard.

In no time you’ll be singing “Let it go!” to anyone who bad mouths TV dinners. (Just make sure to find one that uses all natural, wholesome ingredients.)

Thai Peanut Crock-Pot Pork and Coconut Milk-Steamed Potatoes

Tonight’s dinner was a Thai spin on slow cooked meat and potatoes, minus the caloric unknowns of takeout. Even with my simplified and somewhat clumsy hybrid of Domestic Superhero’s Crock Pot Thai Peanut Pork and Eats Well with Others’ Coconut Potato Curry, the crock pot generated heavenly smells all afternoon, and the potatoes turned out oh so tender.

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Here’s what to do:

In the crock pot, place a pork tenderloin followed by a jar or so (drained) of roasted red (bell) peppers, 1/2 cup of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Sprinkle 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 cup of peanut butter around the liquid. Set the crock pot on low for 6-7 hours.

Midway through, turn loins over and distribute peppers over the top to keep meat moist.

Towards the end of the cooking time, shred meat in the pot and let it cook in its own juices until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, drizzle about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium to low heat. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cumin, followed by 1/2 cup soaked and chopped cashews, and stir to coat. (Keep heat low so cashews don’t burn.) Add about 1 pound red potatoes and toss to coat. Next, add a mixture of 1/2 cup water and 2 tbsp tomato paste, followed by a can of lite coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/2 bag of frozen peas.

Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender; turn potatoes from time to time. (If needed, add almond milk to bring the liquid level to the mid point of the potatoes.)

Serve shredded pork in a bowl with the potatoes, peas and coconut milk broth. Enjoy the clearing of your sinuses!