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.

The Working Mother’s Dilemma: What to Feed Baby

It starts when you return to work after maternity leave. How often do you pump during the workday? What do you do about business trips? How long can you keep it up?

The dilemma continues into the world of baby food jars and pouches. Which ones are the most nutritious? Which ones will my baby actually eat? Lead and BPA free? Least amount of sugar?

Pumping as a Working Mama

I made it through one month of full-time pumping and part-time work, which I was fortunate to have as a transition period, followed by full-time work and part-time pumping. That first month back started with an awkward series of pumping sessions amidst an overnight business trip that involved:

  • enough clean, spare pump parts and a portable battery pack for rushed airport mother’s lounge stops (and the sweetest Alaska Airlines lounge attendant ever)
  • runs back to my hotel room in between meetings and networking events which made me arrive late to everything
  • an incognito cooler to carry that precious cargo through TSA and all the way home
  • a poncho, the pumping mama’s wardrobe hack!

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The Long, Slow Wean

My first month back to work full-time was less motivating. I started looking out at the horizon to a 3-night business trip, which coincided with the 6-month mark, and it felt like the right time for me to start a long, slow wean. It was hard to find resources on weaning over a 4-week period, but fortunately I found a post that showed me the ropes.

I dropped one feeding at a time every few days (starting with workday pumping) until I was nursing every 12 hours (first thing in the morning; right before bed), then every 18 hours, then once a day, every other day and so on. The grand finale was one last nursing session after I returned from my work trip where I had made it three days without pumping. It was also the night before my son turned 6 months old.

I think the decision to wean is entirely personal and I admire the working mamas who keep it up through the first year and beyond. You are true warriors!

Formula for On-the-Go

Sometimes formula is the only option and I found early on that my hungry little guy needed to supplement the real thing. I did a lot of research and found Baby’s Only to be the closest to mom, with the cleanest ingredients:

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy with DHA & ARA Formula, 12.7 Ounce

However, when I figured out that there was a room temperature option, that was also portable, organic, and didn’t create a powdery mess, I made the switch to these handy pre-mixed 2-oz containers:

Similac Advance Organic Infant Baby Formula, 48 Bottles, 2-Fl Oz, Ready to Feed

I eventually discovered auto-shipments directly from the manufacturer were the most cost-effective and mom-brain proof. They were perfect for the first few months at daycare, trips to the gym, and traveling.

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The Best Baby Food Jars & Pouches

I left behind any notions of making my own baby food, despite how much I like to cook, when time became precious as a working mom. Our weekends were for rest and play; I didn’t envision myself in a baby-food making frenzy. So I searched for the closest thing I could find: jars with the purest organic ingredients.

Stage 1 favorites included:

Earth’s Best First Apples, Og, 2.50-Ounce (Pack of 12) ( Value Bulk Multi-pack)

Earths Best Organic First Beginner Food – Pear, 2.5 Ounce — 12 per case.

Stage 2 favorites included:

Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food Stage 2 Apples and Apricots — 4 oz

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 2, Corn & Butternut Squash, 4 Ounce Jar (Pack of 12)

Earth’s Best Harvest Squash Turkey Dinner (12×4 Oz)

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Then we graduated to pouches, which were even easier to feed on-the-go. Favorite pouches for stage 3, 6 months and up:

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 3, Pumpkin, Cranberry & Apple, 4.2 Ounce Pouch (Pack of 12) (Packaging May Vary)

Plum Organics Baby Food – Organic – Quinoa and Leeks with Chicken and Tarragon – Stage 3 – 6 Months and Up – 4 oz – Case of 6-95%+ Organic – Wheat Free-

Favorite toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples & Butternut Squash + Super Chia, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples, Spinach, Peas & Broccoli + Super Chia, 4.22 oz (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Toddler Food Plus, Kale Apple & Mango, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

I’ll admit when I first started feeding solids, I was focused on ingredients and wasn’t yet thinking about sugar. Later in the toddler stage, I searched high and low for the least amount of sugar and it came down to these two.

Lowest sugar toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Baby Food, Love My Veggies, Zucchini/Pear/Chickpeas & Kale, 4.2 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Once Upon a Farm Cold-Pressured Wild Rumpus Avocado

Safeguarding Against Contaminants (and Mom Guilt)

And then this morning, while I’m trying to enjoy a few sips of coffee in between chasing my toddler around, I hear that lead and other contaminants were detected in 20 percent of baby food. Lovely. Just what this paranoid mama bear needs to hear.

I double checked that all of the formula, jars and pouches mentioned above made a list of “clean” baby food in an independent study conducted by the Clean Label Project, and/or were verified directly with the brand (in the case of Happy Baby and Once Upon a Farm).

Avoiding overly processed, packaged foods is always a good idea for babies and adults. Also, the reality is that soil contains lead and other contaminants, so when in doubt, check to with the baby brands directly to see if they conduct testing.

When mom guilt rears its ugly head, we have to remember we do our best for each moment. Hopefully my research can give busy mamas back some time and peace of mind.

How Sun Basket & Postmates Saved Weeknights

Commuting, daycare pick up, dinner and bedtime for a squirmy toddler was making it hard to feed ourselves before 9 p.m. on weeknights. So we did what every parent quickly learns to do – bring in reinforcements!

After trying Blue Apron and Sun Basket this spring, I ended up going with Sun Basket because they focus on regionally sourced, seasonal ingredients and have a Paleo option.

It worked out well for several months; Emmett would go to bed and I would unwind in the kitchen. It was a win-win to fuel my joy of cooking and our desire to eat healthy, while preserving some of the energy that goes into finding recipes and getting groceries accordingly.

The only challenge was that as Emmett’s bedtime crept later this summer, we found it harder to get dinner on the “table” (aka our couch, in front of Netflix or HBO’s latest) and get ourselves to bed at a reasonable hour – a necessity when your toddler wakes up anywhere between 5:30-6:30 a.m.

It was David’s idea to start ordering Postmates deliveries using some healthy dishes he stumbled upon during the workweek in our neighborhood. Enter Tri-tip with broccoli, Greek souvlaki, and other meat & veggie combos from local restaurants.

Now, we’re typically able to conjure one home-cooked meal per week (our go-to taco salad or burritos). The other nights, we lean heavily on Postmates to keep our sanity, make the most of our evenings with Emmett, and get a little couch-time after he goes to bed.

I’ve temporarily paused Sunbasket because the three recipes per week option was a little too much for us to handle. But, I hear they’re coming out with a two recipe plan, which I can get on board with!

What do you do to make it through the week?

P.S. If you want to try Postmates, use code 44MG to get free delivery. And here’s my 3 free meal discount on Sun Basket: http://sunbasket.com/3free/Amy57124.

 

 

It Takes a Village to Make Dinner

I finally caved. For some silly reason, I’ve been resisting food delivery services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket. But taking care of a baby and working full time makes trying to get healthy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes really taxing on my already tapped out brain. 

Hearing friends who had tried it and loved it convinced me to give it a try. Once I surrendered, I finally realized that someone else’s recipe with the ingredients ready to go was not something to be ashamed of. (I think maybe I thought it was like cheating or not being original enough to come up with my own recipe. But the reality was, I was already using Pinterest for recipe ideas.)

As I prepared my first Blue Apron recipe, I quickly learned that the meditative experience of cutting and mixing ingredients is still very much intact. I felt relaxed knowing that the recipe was full proof — I used to love experimenting, but ain’t no one got time for that during the week. 

 

Sun Basket offers a Paleo option and our first delivery arrived with Niman Ranch steaks and seasonal organic produce. Convenient, yet farm fresh.

The bottom line is that we should seek out help wherever we can. Friends, family, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram… Whatever it takes to get something easy and healthy on the table.

Leftover Taco Meat Scramble

To mix up the monotony of scrambled eggs (over-easy, oh how I miss thee), we seasoned the pan by first adding leftover seasoned ground turkey from Thursday night’s taco salad.

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Scramble eggs as usual, and top with your choice of taco-friendly ingredients. In my case, that was avocado, tomatoes and goat milk yogurt.

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!

Enchilada Chili

Tortillas got you down? No matter the reason, here’s a way to enjoy the flavors of enchiladas without them.

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I used my favorite Sunday night enchilada recipe with a couple of guest stars to add texture in this layered version. 

 To make the enchilada sauce, combine the following ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes:

  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 regular can tomato sauce
  • 1 can of tomato soup (V8 works too)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp each of salt, sugar (palm sugar works well) and chili powder
  • Optional: 1/2 cup onions

Meanwhile, prepare the meat filling by browning it and then stirring in the ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground turkey

Ground Turkey Shepherds Pie in the Crock Pot

Ever since I made my first corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot 10+ years ago, I’ve been hooked on slow cooked St. Patty’s fare.

With limited staples on hand, I decided to try my hand at this Shepherds pie recipe using ground turkey, baby Yukon Gold potatoes, carrots and broccoli. It turned out well! Luck of the Irish perhaps?

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First, prepare mashed potatoes using your preferred technique and scoop into a bowl so you can use the same pot for the meat to cut back on dishes. 

Brown ground turkey and 2 cloves of garlic, and then add the following:

  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 generous handfuls of sliced baby carrots (or 2 regular chopped carrots)
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli (or peas)
  • 1 cup broth (I used chicken)
  • 1/4 cup wine (I used white)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Generous sprinkling dried thyme

Stir and simmer until liquid is almost fully absorbed. Add to a greased crock pot in an even layer and then spread the mashed potatoes over the top. Season with salt and pepper.

After cooking on low for about 3-4 hours, grate cheddar cheese over the top. Slainte!

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.

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!