Afternoon Snack Pumpkin Muffins

fullsizeoutput_3da4Sometimes when life feels bumpy and what worked smoothly last month doesn’t feel smooth anymore, I want to take a hammer to it all and start over. I start making chore charts, sticker charts, afternoon schedules – anything to make the family run the way I want or expect. In reality, usually just a minor change can make a difference. Lately, the afternoon snack seems to be the problem area. I decided to get my chisel and set to work.

Our schedule is pretty much the same each day. School gets out, we play on the playground and then walk home. I unlock the door and remind them to take their lunch boxes and folders out of their backpacks and to go and wash their hands. Now begins the scramble to the pantry. The first child calls out “Mom can I have” and then the other “Mom I want”. I answer with a yes, no, then a yes. Cupboards banging, drawers opening. Pretzels flying. This week I decided to do something different.

First, I did a pantry clean up. I realized that the easiest items to reach were the treats and pre-packaged items. I changed that and stuck those in a bin on another shelf higher up. Now they look and see nuts, dried fruit, and some crackers. Secondly, we slow it down. Lunch time was not all that long ago. No need to rush in and finish snack within 15 minutes of walking in the door. There is plenty of afternoon left, I guarantee it. Instead of snack being the first thing that happens, we all take a few minutes and relax and then I tell them that I will go make snack and will let them know when its ready. Simple really.

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Lastly, this next step is really the most important change. I decided to  start planning out the snack. I was worried this would be disappointing to them. I thought that they liked being able to make these choices on their own, but you know what? I think they were as frustrated with the afternoons as I was and don’t seem to mind one bit. The food is served more family style (or party style) so each child can choose what they want of each item.

As an added bonus, since moving beyond the bunny cracker I’ve noticed that we’ve been able to get a little more variety into our mini-meal. Here are a few of the new(ish) items I’ve added to the rotation.

  • Air popped popcorn (going to add nutritional yeast this week and see how that goes)
  • Hummus and pitas
  • Mini bagels topped with blueberry whipped cream cheese (thawed blueberries whipped with cream cheese and a little lemon zest)
  • Tortillas rolled up with Nutella and bananas

This week I decided to make whole wheat pumpkin muffins. I have made these so many times and absolutely love them. They are the perfect addition to our after school routine.

It has been so nice not having to field so many “can I have” questions and to just enjoy catching up after the school day. I think this change will stay – unlike the chore chart.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

I originally found this recipe on allrecipes.com and have made adjustments over the years. You can replace half of the oil with applesauce if preferred. This recipe makes 24 regular muffins or like me, you can make twelve regular and twenty-four mini muffins like I have shown above. I like having both sizes on hand and they freeze great. You could also leave the batter in the refrigerator and bake them off each day as needed. The batter would keep for 3 days. Of course you could throw in some toasted nuts or chocolate chips if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup mild tasting oil (such as canola or vegetable)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Preheat over to 350° F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl whisk flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and spices and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, oil and eggs. Use a wooden spoon and stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture. Stop mixing when flour has been incorporated. Add milk and incorporate. The batter will be loosen and be less dense.

Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and bake. The mini muffins take about ten minutes and the larger ones are done in around twenty minutes. A toothpick will come out clean and the tops will spring back when touched. Let the muffins cool a few minutes and then remove from the pan. Let cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze.

Enjoy!

Strawberry Lemon Pancakes

I started working when I was 12 or 13 years old. I remember rolling up newspapers for my paper route, rubber banding them and riding my pink, banana seat bike all around the neighborhood, tossing newspapers at each front porch.

At 15, I started working at a  pizza place and I worked there all through high school. I worked every summer. I worked and worked and worked some more.

After having both children, I worked full time without a second thought. I was used to working and juggling life around it. Then six years ago, we decided to move cities and knew it would be the perfect time to take a step back and be home with the children. These years are short (or so I hear) and we both wanted a simpler life for ourselves and our children.

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Now, fast forward six years and the kids are older and are both in school. Whew – free and clear! I was offered a part-time job as a baker and snatched it up. I couldn’t wait to get back into the working world. Co-workers! Paychecks! I was also looking forward to the ability to easily answer the question “so what do you do?” Stay-at-home mom always seemed to fall so flat. It sounds boring. It sounds like under-achieving. It sounds so privileged.

But then we were back to the daily juggling. Our simpler life went out the window. After working for a year, my body was telling me no, it was time to say good-bye to the baker position and return to the stay-at-home mom one.

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That brings me back to here.

Raising humans is a monumental task, yet it is made up of a million smaller ones. Packing lunches, laundry, homework, bedtime stories and play dates – all add up to what we hope are responsible adults who are ready to take on the challenges of this world. Yet, sometimes its hard to see the forest for the trees. The mundane tasks seems so – mundane.

I hadn’t realized how much my self worth was attached to my employment until I stopped working. It is hard for me to remember that in fact, self worth comes from me just being me.

In light of this, I’m trying to remember that me just being me is enough. I don’t have to earn my keep, so to speak. I do plenty. I can plan coffee dates with friends and indulge in hobbies. I can spend part of my child free time on things that enrich my life as an individual. Volunteer, read, and of course, bake.

 

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Now, with this extra lease on life, I decided it was time to work on some tasty new pancakes. Blueberry pancakes have never really been a family favorite. A couple years ago, our youngest was watching Daniel Tiger on PBS and they made strawberry pancakes on the episode. He immediately asked to make them and so we did. This time around, I embellished them with a zing of lemon and a powdered sugar for the topping.

Strawberry Lemon Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (half of a large lemon)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup diced strawberries, about 4 large fresh or frozen that have been thawed and drained

Instructions:

Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a medium bowl. In another bowl (I use a large measuring cup) combine the milk, butter and vanilla. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture and combine with a spatula until just combined. Gently mix in strawberries. Pre-heat a griddle to 350 degrees. Spray griddle with cooking spray and ladle 1/4 cup mixture unto griddle. Cook until lightly golden on the bottom (1-2 minutes) and then flip. Press the pancake down gently. Cook for another 1-2 minutes or until both sides are golden brown and the middle is cooked through.

I test the middle of the pancake by gently pressing the side of the spatula into the pancake and if it comes out clean, then I know the middle is cooked. Serve with a bit of butter and powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

 

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake

This week has been a bit crazy. Yesterday, I was taking a walk and a crow attacked my hair – twice. I screamed – twice – then put my hood up and got the heck out of there. Then last night, I left the teapot on the burner without any water in it and felt lucky to not start a house fire. And let’s not even talk about our dinner debacles or the washer breaking down.

As a great reminder of all that is good, I decided to end this crazy week with a celebration. I had my friends over for a simple brunch.

I’ve been wanting to make a yogurt cake and stumbled on one by Molly Wizenberg. Lemon and blueberry are one of my favorite combinations and I love the lemon glaze spooned on top. It was a hit!

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake

Yields one 8×8 inch square cake. The original recipe comes from Molly Wizenburg’s blog http://www.orangette.com and uses the term “jars” as a measuring unit (so French!) but I am just going to simplify and translate into cups, though I think “jars” is an adorable term. Also, check out this link if you want to learn to zest like a pro.

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup full fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Lemon Glaze

  • Juice from 1 lemon (around 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350℉. Spray the bottom of an 8×8 square pan. Place parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and up the sides to create a sling. Spray parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl whisk flour, baking powder, zest, and salt. Stir in blueberries. In a large bowl, mix yogurt, sugar, canola oil, and eggs until well blended. Add flour mixture to yogurt mixture until combined. There might be some lumps remaining but that’s ok.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 20 minutes and use the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack.

Combine lemon juice, powdered sugar, and salt and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust. It should have a strong lemon flavor but not make you pucker. Spoon glaze over top of the cake and then let the cake cool completely on the cooling rack.

Cut into twelve squares and enjoy! Store at room temperature for up to three days.