Carrot Cake

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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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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.

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)

Brownie Cupcakes

 

Here is another recipe from Damy Health. I used almond butter instead of the cashew butter, but I don’t think it really made a difference.

My non-chocolate loving son tried one before I got around to making the frosting. He did not like it, which isn’t so surprising since he doesn’t really like chocolate. He said they tasted too healthy. If he only knew!

My daughter tried one without frosting and couldn’t wait for one with frosting.

These brownies are small and rich without being overly sweet. I didn’t pile on the frosting, so there was a fair bit leftover.

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!

Wheat-free Pizza

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After Christmas I picked up the new Wheat Belly Cookbook by William Davis. Several of the recipes looked intriguing, and today I made individual wheat-free pizza crusts.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup warm water and 1-1/4 tsp yeast. Let stand 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup almond flour, 1 cup chickpea flour, 1/2 cup ground golden flaxseeds (I used brown ground flaxseeds), and 1 tsp sea salt. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and the yeast mixture, stir 5 minutes until a loose ball of dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour.

You can now make one large crust or divide it into individual crusts. The recipe says it makes 6, but I made 4.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F. Flatten the dough between parchment paper using your hands or a rolling pin. Remove top layer of parchment paper. Bake for 20 miniutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and top as desired. Bake for 10 minutes or until heated through.

This crust is high in protein and fibre.

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My kids, predictably, did not eat this crust, but that’s okay. Kane and I both enjoyed our pizzas and found them quite filling. One individual pizza was more than enough! This is definitely something I will be making again.

Double Chocolate Brownies

 

This is another wheat-free brownie recipe from Elana’s Pantry. I really enjoyed her brownie recipe that I blogged about last month, but that recipe requires an entire jar of almond butter and I am not prepared to go through that much almond butter on a regular basis.

I followed this recipe as it is written, although I would likely try substituting honey for the agave syrup and coconut oil for the grapeseed oil if I were to make it again. The only change I did make this time was to completely ignore the walnuts, because my kids tend to not like nuts in their brownies. I don’t mind nuts in my brownies, so that might be something else I would change-up in the future.

These brownies are very rich and gooey, kind of cake-like. While they are indeed delicious, I think I actually prefer the recipe with the almond butter.