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As the school year approaches (yes, I said it, even though the reality of it makes me sad), I start gathering ideas for quick breakfasts, lunch boxes, and snacks. I’m a big muffin fan, and I do believe you can’t have too many muffin recipes. When I find a good muffin recipe, I bake two dozen, and freeze most of them in Ziploc bags. I’ll often make some as mini-muffins, which are also great to freeze and pop into a lunch box for a snack.
Banana chocolate chip muffins
I don’t put chocolate chips into breakfast items too often, as I’d rather rely on fruit to jazz up a baked good. Banana and chocolate, however, are worth the exception. This recipe comes from weelicious, and was enjoyed by both my family and a friend’s family. I followed the recipe closely, making only a few changes. I used whole wheat pastry flour for half of the flour, and I decreased the chocolate chips to 1/2 a cup, and still found that to be plenty. I used half agave nectar and half honey for the sweetener. Often I use applesauce in place of oil, but since it was a fairly small quantity and this was the first time I was making it, I left it as is. Next time, I’ll use half applesauce, half oil. The muffins were filling and chocolaty, and will definitely join my fall muffin rotation.
We do lots of hiking and picnics during the summer, and sometimes it’s nice to stray away from the cooler full of sandwiches. Recently, I made a quick pasta salad before we headed out on a hike for the day, and by mid-afternoon it was a welcomed meal. As with so many other things I love to make, it is easy customizable to what’s in the fridge, what your family does and doesn’t like, and what strikes your fancy.
A portable pasta salad
To make, start by poaching two trimmed chicken breasts in chicken broth. When cooked through, remove, cool, and shred. While the chicken is cooking, boil half a pound of pasta- any whole grain variety of shells, elbows, fusilli, or rotini would do. Combine cooked pasta and chicken, and mix in two cups of lightly-steamed veggies. Here I used baby spinach and corn, but broccoli and red peppers, or carrots and green beans would be nice too. Finally, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Whip out your cooler, and your picnic lunch is ready to go. We brought along grapes and cheese sticks, and this kept us satisfied for the day.
I haven’t made this recipe in a while, but it’s part of one of my favorite fun family dinners. One of the most creative chefs I’ve found, Annabel Karmel, has myriad of cookbooks, ranging from baby foods to kids’ cooking to family meals. This dinner is so cute, it’s impossible not to love it.
This teddy bear burger begins with ground chicken breast, and has chunks of apple blended within. The recipe instructs you to grind your own chicken, but you can purchase it ground and skip that step if you’d like. Accompanying the Sneaky Chef’s whole grain mac and cheese (with pureed cauliflower), and served alongside steamed veggies and fresh fruit, somewhere on this plate is bound to be something healthy your family will eat.
It can be tricky to use produce before it becomes past its prime, and heaven knows most children (and plenty of adults) won’t eat a bruised piece of fruit, or less-than-crisp vegetable. What’s a girl to do?
Less than desirable produce has a few options in our kitchen. Vegetables get pureed or shredded, and blended into another dish, such as meatballs, pasta sauce, or meatloaf; or tossed into soup. Fruit can go in the blender with some yogurt and become a smoothie, get diced and stirred into oatmeal, or become the star of the show. If I’m ready to bake, I’ll take those slightly aged apples, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, peaches, pears, or really any fruit, and chop it up. It spices up pancakes, waffles, muffins, or a quick bread. If I’m not ready to bake, it’ll go into the freezer. When I’m ready to use it, I’ll thaw it on the counter, or in the microwave.
A recent fruit revival
The banana bread is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to browned bananas, but there’s no reason to stop there. On this day, I had a carton of strawberries getting mushy, so I used those as well. It gave the bread even more moisture, and I had enough fruit to make two loaves, so one went into the freezer.
In a large bowl, combine ½ cup of applesauce and ¾ cup of sugar. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Blend in 1 cup (about 3 medium) mashed bananas and 1 tsp. vanilla. Add in any other fruit you’d like, such as blueberries or strawberries; even a handful of chocolate chips. In a second bowl, combine 2 cups of flour (use at least half whole-wheat pastry flour, no one will ever know!), 1 tsp. baking soda, and ½ tsp each baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients into the banana mixture, mix only until moistened, and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake 50-60 mins at 350, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Fresh fruit really jazzes up pancakes or waffles, so try mixing it into the batter the next time you’re making a weekend breakfast. To find out what we’re doing with mature fruit at our house, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Happy cooking!
Cooking for a weekend breakfast is one of my favorite things about a Saturday or Sunday morning. Over time, I’ve collected a number of breakfast recipes that are delicious but sure to get the day started off right, and this waffle recipe always brings rave reviews. It has a number of ingredients, but don’t be deterred– they’re all found in your local grocery store, and the few minutes it takes to assemble them are worth the effort. Recently when making these, I tripled the recipe and was able to make two packages for the freezer in addition to breakfast. We enjoyed these a second and third time around, by popping them right into the toaster to be crisped, and it was nice to have fresh waffles with no mess.
On this particular morning, I added pumpkin puree to the batter, and paired the waffles with spinach and cheese omelets (with egg whites), and fruit salad. However, this recipe stands alone without pumpkin, or it could be made with banana, or another favorite fruit. On other occasions, we’ve added blueberries, chopped strawberries, or even chocolate chips to the batter.
Whole grain (pumpkin) waffles
1 3/4 cups skim milk (low-fat buttermilk can be used instead for a tangy waffle)
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin or other fruit (optional)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup wheat germ, OR wheat bran, OR oat bran
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, applesauce, pumpkin, and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flours, flax seed meal, wheat germ, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Pour dry ingredients into wet, and mix until batter is smooth.
Preheat a waffle iron, and coat with cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle iron in batches, and cook until crisp and golden brown. Yield: Five to six large, round waffles.