Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins and other healthy snacks

This afternoon for snack time, we will have fresh cranberry pumpkin muffins, made with whole wheat flour and honey. I even put them in Halloween muffin cups to make them more festive.

In my "protecting ourselves from the sickies" blog post, I promised some healthy snack ideas and recipes. I have the recipes for these muffins and other wholesome baked goods at the end of this blog. Aside from fresh baked goods, here are some other snacks we like:

* A handful of raw nuts, particularly walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, and brazil nuts.
* Raw veggies. Our favorites are chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, and sugar snap peas. We dip them in hummus or dill dip. Some of us even like avocado slices.
* Raw fruits. We love bananas, apples, those sweet little cleminine oranges, grapes, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, pineapple, berries, melons...I don't think we've met a fruit we didn't like.
We like to stock up on local berries when they are in season and freeze them for use in our oatmeal, muffins, and smoothies during the winter.
* In the summertime or when we are sick, we freeze juice for popcicles.
* Hummus, good for dipping veggies, or spreading on whole wheat toast or pita wedges.
* Polenta sticks with salsa or fresh guacamole
* Homemade granola bars
* Air-popped popcorn, sprayed with olive oil, seasoned with...anything! Be creative! We like chili powder, basil, sage, curry...
* Yogurt or kefir
Use plain yogurt, and flavor it yourself with fruit and raw honey, stevia, maple syrup or molasses (raw honey is not recommended for children under a year old, because of the risk of infant botulism.)
Make smoothies by putting a couple cups of kefir in your blender with bananas, berries, and honey.
* Cheese. Not processed cheese slices, but REAL swiss, cheddar, mozarella, etc.
However, when we are fighting off colds, we try to avoid dairy products. They increase mucus production.

OK, here are a few recipes. The good thing about making muffins yourself is that you can tweak them to the way you like them. We generally don't like ours as sweet; if you do, you can add more honey. Or you can add more/less spices, raisins, nuts, different fruits, whatever. These recipes will make 24 muffins, which don't last very long in a family of seven. If you don't need as many, you can cut the recipe in half, or they freeze well for a quick breakfast when you're on the run.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins
4 eggs
2 cups honey
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup olive or canola oil
1/2 cups water
3 ½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
dried cranberries (optional)
walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Beat the eggs and add honey, pumpkin, oil, and water. Blend well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and spices. Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and blend thoroughly. Pour all into two greased muffin pans and bake for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into muffins comes out clean.

Lentil-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup PUREED lentils
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 cups of quick oats
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips
3/4 cups chopped pecans

Mix and bake at 375 F for 12-15 minutes- don't over bake!!!

Polenta Sticks (serve with salsa or fresh guacamole)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup uncooked yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Bring water, salt, and garlic to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gradually sprinkle in cornmeal, whisking constantly; whisk until mixture is blended and smooth.
Cover saucepan, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until polenta is thick but still pourable, about 6-8 minutes.
Rinse an 8 inch square pan with cold water; do not dry. Pour polenta into pan; spread in a smooth layer with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm (can store in fridge for up to 3 days until ready to use.)
Cut into 24 sticks.
Add 1 1/2 tsp oil to skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add half of polenta sticks in a single layer. Cooke without turning until bottoms are slightly crispy, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook other side until crispy.

Fresh Guacamole
Mash a couple avocados, and add as much or as little as you like of the following:
lemon or lime juice
a clove of garlic
chopped onion
fresh chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste

(This is a good way to get your raw garlic in for the flu/cold season!)
2 cups chickpeas/garbanzos
1 TBSP lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
2-3 TBSP tahini (we prefer to use peanut butter instead)
1 TBSP parsley
2 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Drain liquid from chickpeas, reserve some. Blend ingredients in food processor until smooth, adding more liquid if needed for desired consistency.

I always welcome suggestions for healthy snacks; if you have something that your kids love, please share!