Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Muffins

Sweet Potato MuffinsI didn’t grow up with sweet potatoes so I never really knew what to do with them. So I ended up just boiling them and I can’t quite blame my kids for not liking them that way. I have found some better ways to cook them now and I actually really like them. But the soggy boiled sweet potatoes of the past must still be haunting my kids because they don’t even want to try them most of the time.
When I came across this recipe for sweet potato and cinnamon muffins, I just had to try them. Cinnamon is my children’s favourite spice, so these muffins couldn’t be a total fail. However, as usual I couldn’t leave the recipe alone and had to create a healthier version. First I halved the sugar but I still found it quite sweet. So I tried it with only 1/4 of the sugar and they are fantastic. I also used wholemeal flour instead of white and coconut oil or butter instead of canola oil.

When my daughter saw them she excitedly grabbed one and her reaction was: “Mummy!!! These are delicous!!!” She ate for that day and would have had more if I had let her. What a great way to give them a treat and sneak in some vegies, too.

As she was eating her 4th muffin she asked me whether the orange bits were carrot (I had only mashed very roughly) and I told her what it was. I was half expecting her to say “ewwww”. But instead she said: “The sweet potato makes them so yummy and sweet”. It makes them moist and really really soft, too! And they’re really quick and easy to make. If you are making anything with Sweet Potatoes for dinner, just cook a few extras for this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon (or more if you prefer a stronger taste)
1/2 cup raw sugar or Rapadura
2 cups mashedsweet potatoes
1 egg
3/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil or butter – melted
1/4 cup milk (or water or non-dairy milk to make it dairy free)

Method:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit)
If using a silicone muffin tin, you don’t need to do anything. If you’re using a traditional tin, either grease it or line it with muffin liners.
Mix up the dry ingredients in one bowl.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil with the mashed sweet potatoes.
Stir into the dry ingredients until just combined and all the flour has been moistened.
Fill your muffin cups to about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. You can serve these with a glaze (recipe below) but I don’t as I try to cut down on the sugar and they are delicious without it, too.
Makes about 18 muffins for me.
Once cooled these can be frozen – if they even last that long.

Glaze:
1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
2 Tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons butter – melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over warm muffins.

Healthy-er Chocolate Crackles

Use a variation of this recipe (below) to make these cute Easter Nests

I grew up without chocolate crackles. I know, unimaginable, right? Well, we had lots of yummy treats in Germany, but chocolate crackles were not one of them. I’ve seen them at a few kids’ birtdays lately and my daughter really loves them, so I thought I’d make some. But, as per usual, I couldn’t help tinkering with them to make them a bit healthier. So, my best friend Google and I started looking around for alternatives.

Oh, did you know that my husband lovingly refers to me as Gigi – Google Geek

I stumbled across this recipe from “Just this side of chaos”
I will have to check out her other posts.

Anyway, back to the chocolate – yummmm
Her recipe uses coconut oil instead of Copha. Copha is hydrogenated coconut oil. And hydrogenated oil is something I avoid. So, she uses regular coconut oil instead. Coconut Oil is sooo good for you. Google it (I would, but then again, I google everything ;-). People use it for all kinds of things aside from it being a very healthy fat and one that doesn’t go rancid as quickly as many other oils.

I also added some toasted almonds cause i just love them and thought the texture would be nice – and it is. They also add some goodness to them. You can use toasted seeds like sunflower instead if you want to do it nut free.
Finally, for the birds nest version, I also used some Chang’s crispy fried noodles so it would look like sticks.

This makes about 24 crackles

Ingredients:
3 cups of wholegrain puffed rice (or rice bubbles, but  they’re not as wholesome)
1 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds or any other nut or seed or even dried fruit you like
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3/4 cup of icing sugar (I didn’t have icing sugar so I used caster sugar instead)
5 Tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder (I accidentally used too much)
250 grams melted coconut oil (coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature. Although in Queensland summer, it’s liquid)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Drizzle the coconut oil over the top and mix well. Spoon the mixture into paper or silicon cupcake liners and refrigerate until set.
Store in fridge or freezer.

Variation: Easter Nests:
2 cups of wholegrain puffed rice (or rice bubbles, but  they’re not as wholesome)
1 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds or any other nut or seed or even dried fruit you like
1 cup of Chang’s crispy fried noodles
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3/4 cup of icing sugar
5 Tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
250 grams melted coconut oil
mini speckled eggs or any other type of small egg-shaped candy (like jelly beans) to decorate.

Note: These really have to be kept in the fridge, especially in summer as the coconut oil is not firm enough otherwise to hold them together. If you want firm chocolate crackles that don’t need refridgeration, try the following recipe which is based on this

Makes 24 mini crackles
200g milk chocolate
100g butter or coconut oil
2 1/2 cups rice bubbles or puffed rice
1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts or seeds

Line a mini-muffin pan with paper or silicon cases. Melt the chocolate and fat together over a double boiler or in a heavy based saucepan over low to medium heat., gently stiring. Be careful not to burn your chocolate. Cool slightly and add your rice and nuts or seeds. Spoon into lined muffin pan and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

Fish Fingers

We all know that fish is good for us. And most kids love fish fingers, right? For a home-made version that also sneaks some vegies, give this recipe a try. My kids just inhaled them for dinner (with a little tomato sauce, cause in their mind tomato sauce goes with anything).
It’s based on this recipe.
These turn out nice and crunchy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.
My little secret is panko crumbs. They are Japanese bread crumbs and they are just da bomb 😉 But if you don’t have those on hand, you can use cornflake crumbs or even normal bread crumbs.

Panko Crumbs make these healthy-er fish fingers soooo crunchy

Serves 3

Ingredients:
1 (450g) of canned salmon – I mixed red and pink salmon
1 small onion, grated
1 celery stick, chopped very finely
1 small carrot, grated
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (or you could pulse all the vegies in a food processor)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
juice and zest of half a lime (or lemon)
1/2-1 cup of fine dry breadcrumbs (I didn’t have any so used a combination of panko crumbs and flour)
1/2 cup or more of panko crumbs for coating (you can use normal breadcrumbs or cornflake crumbs)
oil or butter for frying

Drain salmon and place into a mixing bowl. Flake roughly and mash the bones between your fingers. The bones are a great source of calcium, so don’t remove them. Add the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, eggs, lime juice and breadcrumbs and mix. Add more breadcrumbs if needed. You are aiming for a mixture that is dry enough to hold its shape when you form a patty but not crumbly and firm.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Place remaining breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl.
Form sausage shapes with the mixtures. Roll the sausages in the breadcrumbs and flatten lightly between your palms. Place into the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Serve with tartare sauce for the adults or tomato sauce for the kids.

Tip: to cut down on the fat content, you could bake these in the oven on an oiled tray for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) or until golden brown. Turn after 10 minutes.

Bunny Bento with Fish Fingers

These are also great cold the next day. Here's an example on how to use them in a Bento style lunch that is sure to please most children. Just include some tomato suace in a little condiment cup or bottle. The bunny face has been drawn with FooDoodler food colouring markers.

St Patrick’s Day Shamrock Buns

These cute little Shamrock buns were a breeze to make and are very healthy. Not only do they have quite a high proportion of wholemeal flour, they also hide broccoli in them. And they’re delicious, especially with cream cheese (lots of cream cheese)…
I adapted this recipe from the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” site. For those unfamiliar with this revolutionary method that involves neither kneading nor multiple rises, check out this post.

Bright green Shamrock buns for St Patrick's Day

Yield: 8 buns
Ingredients:
1 2/3 cup of raw broccoli florets
1/2 cup of water for cooking
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten*
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon of warm water
Optional: 1/3 cup of grated cheese for sprinkling – I left this out
I also added a few drops of green food colouring

*(I have this as I use it a lot. You could skip it, but your buns might not rise as much. To add some more gluten to your dough, you could use bread flour in place of the plain flour. If you are planning to bake with wholemeal flour again, you should be able to buy vital wheat gluten from a health food shop)

Method:
Bring the water to a boil in a small pot. Add the broccoli and cook covered for about 4-5 minutes. Pour water and broccoli into a blender and blend until fairly smooth. I added a few drops of green food colouring here to make the colour pop.
Mix the flours, gluten, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and broccoli puree and mix with a spoon (or in a food processor). You might need to use wet hands to make sure there are no pockets of dry flour.

This is the dough after it is mixed but before resting

Set aside in a warm spot, covered (I use a plate to cover my bowl) for 2 hours.
Now you can refrigerate the dough for later use (up to 7 days). The original recipe calls for 3 times the amount, so you could bake 3 batches at 3 different times.
I chose to bake it straight away. I floured my bench, plopped the dough onto it and shaped it into a ball. I cut that dough in half, and cut each half in quarters so I had 8 roughly equal portions of dough. I divided each of those portions into thirds and formed them into balls which I placed onto a baking tray that I covered with baking paper. I arranged the little balls in groups of 3.

The original recipe calls for 4 balls per group, to make a 4-leaf clover. But shamrocks actually have only 4 leaves. I also omitted the muffin tin because I was aiming for a more defined leaf shape.

Now is the time to pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
After a 20 minute rest (40 if you’re using refrigerated dough), I baked the buns for about 20-25 minutes.

They're ready - aaand... kinda.... green...

Of course you could experiment with other ingredients. Maybe try beetroot instead for pink bread and make flowers out of 6 little balls of dough (one in the centre and 4 petals).
Happy St Patrick’s Day!!!!