Carrot Cake

carrotcake

Today is my first-born’s 20th birthday! Sam is an exceptionally picky eater, which is a little frustrating because he wasn’t so fussy as a child. He used to eat many more vegetables than he ever would now, but he has always had an aversion to “wet” foods, as he would describe them. But one thing Sam has always loved is carrot cake. I found this healthier carrot cake recipe in a recent issue of Clean Eating magazine. After carefully reading through the ingredient list, I figured that this just might make it past Sam’s highly sensitive taste buds. He doesn’t always appreciate my attempts to make beloved recipes healthier, but I am hopeful that this one will be okay. Whether he likes it or not, I can tell already that I will love it! I will admit to licking the beaters after preparing the frosting, and it was delicious!

For the record, I substituted a gluten-free flour blend for the whole-wheat flour, because I do not have any wheat flour in the house at all. I also substituted sugar cane juice for the maple sugar, because I don’t have maple sugar either. Also, the recipe says to process the grated carrots in a food processor, but I skipped that step. Sam doesn’t seem to mind seeing the carrot in carrot cake. I don’t think those changes will make any major differences to taste or texture.

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Opposites

caprese nobake

These two items are completely opposite in nature, and that is okay with me!

First the caprese salad, which I am currently quite taken by. It is so simple and quick to make and tastes wonderful. Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh ground pepper and coarse sea salt. Yum!

The second photo shows the ‘best ever chocolate oatmeal no-bake bars’ which I found at mommysavingmom.com. Again, this recipe is quick and simple and delicious. I left out the nuts, raisins or dried cranberries, more for my kids’ sakes than my own, although I would never add raisins anyway. I think dried cranberries would be very good in this though. I did not have quite enough peanut butter, so I used half peanut butter and half almond butter. I have a child who detests peanut butter, so I am waiting with bated breath to see if he will like these bars. Of course, he also is not a big chocolate-lover, so it might not really matter. And these bars are quite chocolaty! I think that I might use even more oats and coconut in the future to cut down on some of that chocolate goodness.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

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This recipe comes from a site, The Healthy Chef, that I recently discovered via Facebook. Where various options were listed, I used avocado oil, 1% milk, and raw honey. The recipe makes 12 cupcakes, but I used a mini muffin pan (baked for only 20 minutes) and almost got 24.

Once the cupcakes were cool, I sampled one. I liked it. I think my kids might like them, although one is not a big chocolate fan and one is super picky. My daughter will like them, I’m sure. Mostly.

These cupcakes are not overly sweet on their own, but I can live with that. Even with the mini size, I found eating one to be quite satisfying. If the kids don’t like them, I can always throw them in the freezer and pull one out to enjoy from time to time.

Banana Bread

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I haven’t made banana bread for a long time. My favourite recipe makes delicious banana bread, but it uses a lot of white sugar, white flour, and vegetable oil…ingredients that I rarely, if ever, use anymore. In fact, I do not even have white sugar in my house, and, while I have all sorts of flours (quinoa, brown rice, coconut, garbanzo bean, etc.), I do not have any wheat flour. But I had some very ripe bananas sitting on my kitchen counter…

So, I took my recipe, made some adaptations, and hoped that the end result would be palatable. I think it worked!

Here is the original recipe and the changes:

2 cups flour (I used a store-bought gluten-free flour mix)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup raw honey)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted)

2 large eggs

3 medium ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

3 tbsp milk

3/4 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set it aside.

2. Beat the sugar and oil until light and fluffy. (It never really got fluffy using the honey and coconut oil.) Beat the eggs in one at a time. Add the bananas. Beat thoroughly.

3. Gently stir in flour mixture, stirring only enough to moisten the dry ingredients and blend them in. Gently stir in milk and vanilla. (You could add nuts or chocolate chips at this point, if desired. 3/4 cup) Pour batter into pan and bake for one hour. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan.

Menu Planning

I did something on Sunday that I have not done for a long time. I sat down with a list of what was in my freezer and a couple of cookbooks, and I planned out dinner for the entire week.

I first seriously started weekly meal planning in January 2012. It was great while it lasted, which was several months. Baseball season was the beginning of the end of my planning sessions, because our household lives in chaos from mid-April until mid-summer. Having time to actually prepare dinner is difficult enough during baseball season, let alone having enough time to plan ahead. I know that is a cop-out. Planning ahead would make life simpler, I know, but living at the ball park for three months wears me down. So, my meal planning fell apart, and I never got around to picking up the pieces until now.

Meal planning is always a challenge. There are varying degrees of picky children and conflicting schedules in this house. It isn’t easy to find meals that will be healthy and enjoyed by every member of the family, and I really do not want to eat those few meals several days a week! My oldest, most picky child believes in four major food groups: Subway, pizza, tacos, and spaghetti! While I do enjoy each of those meals, I want more variety than that.

Making healthy meals is another challenge. I strive to eat clean, but it is often a struggle. I am currently avoiding wheat, which may not be a forever choice for me, but I do think that I will generally consume very little. Sometimes a recipe can be easily adapted to be made without wheat without compromising the taste that my kids expect and enjoy; however, there are just as many instances where the end result really is not all I would like it to be. For example, shirataki noodles are a wonderful wheat-free option in lieu of regular pasta. I’ve used the spaghetti-style shirataki noodles with stir-fry and with spaghetti sauce, and both were great. Even the kids ate those noodles without batting an eye! Then I tried the fettucini-style shirataki noodles and they completely bombed. Honestly, it was like trying to eat rubber!

So, planning a week’s worth of meals often feels like a daunting task. I want to try new recipes but know they won’t likely be appreciated. I want to make healthier choices, but I don’t want to be throwing out leftovers. I want the benefit of having a plan, but I struggle with the interruptions to routine that throw wrenches into my plans. I might plan a more elaborate meal for a particular day, only to wind up driving a child somewhere right before dinner that night, and there goes my plan! And then, sometimes I just like being spontaneous. There are a lot of dishes that I have to be in the right mood for, and you cannot plan for moods.

Despite all that, I did sit down and I did plan out a week of meals. Let me tell you! Yesterday was the first day of the week, but my plan already saved me. Mondays are always long days, because I work a full day and usually have somewhere to be in the evening. Yesterday was no exception, but I also had to pick up two children from two different locations, and I did not have a solid time frame for the one. While I had hoped to pick up both kids by 3:30, we were not finally home until 4:30. It was so tempting to stop somewhere and pick up something that would be ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ instead of sticking to my plan, but having a plan made such a difference. When I made the plan, I knew that Monday would be crunched for time, so I planned the meal appropriately. The ‘pick up something quick and easy’ option would not truly have been as quick! By the time we would have picked up something up and got home, it would have been at least 5:00 pm. Instead, we were eating brown rice pasta with Italian sausage meat sauce and Caesar salad shortly after 5:00.

So, here is the rest of my meal plan for the week:

Tuesday: Chinese chicken and rice, raw vegetables (leftovers for picky kids)

Wednesday: Shepherd’s pie, a green salad and raw veggies

Thursday: roasted pork tenderloin, quinoa, corn

Friday: roasted salmon fillets, roasted asparagus, green salad

Saturday: I seldom cook on Saturdays, because I start work so early that I am basically in zombie mode by late afternoon.

Sunday: black bean soup (sandwiches for the picky kids)

Strawberry Kiwi Cheesecake

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I saw this recipe at Damy Health the other day and thought it would make a lovely dessert to celebrate my husband’s birthday today. Even though I did read through the recipe at least twice before I started, I still wound up making a mistake. I added the strawberry puree to the cheesecake ingredients instead of drizzling the puree on top, but I don’t think that was too terrible a mistake! The recipe says to freeze it overnight, which is what I did, however, I think you could just as easily cut the freeze time down to a couple of hours. Either way, this is delicious and tastes so fresh!

Cranberry Almond Loaf

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Here is another recipe from Elana’s Pantry. I did not have any dried apricots on hand, so I omitted them from my version. My sesame seeds were a mixture of white and black, but I don’t think that made a difference. The recipe was simple to make, and I am pleased with the overall texture and durability of the bread. I thought I had pressed the almonds into the top of the loaf, but most of them fell off in the process of removing the loaf from the pan.

The first slice was good, though a bit bland. I can imagine it being quite delicious with a bit of jam. The bread is dense and satisfying despite its small size.