Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

These moist, sweet, and satisfying muffins take my whole family to our happy place. They are great stand-ins for cookies; in some ways they’re even more enjoyable!

This recipe was inspired by one from Nook & Pantry – a very yummy looking blog.

For the muffins:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup finely shredded carrot
1/4 cup raisins, chopped

For the filling:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl, make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and oil. Stir in the flour mixture until combined. Then add the carrot and raisins. Stir to incorporate.

 Spoon the muffin batter into a well-greased mini muffin pan, filling each cup only half way. Then place one teaspoon of the filling in each cup. Cover the filling with the remaining muffin batter.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the largest muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5-10 minutes before gently moving them to a cooling rack. Serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours or freeze in an airtight container in a single layer.

Yield: 24 mini muffins
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 13 minutes

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Honey-roasted pecans

Not too long ago, Serious Eats was kind enough to share a recipe from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home. I have been looking at roasted nuts recipes for a while now and was feeling a little overwhelmed. But Keller’s recipe for Candied Pecans is everything I was looking for. These nuts have perfect balance of crispy, sweet and salty going on. They are also flakey and buttery. If I close my eyes, it feels like I’m eating a croissant. ‘Nough said.

1 1/2 cup raw pecans
1-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread nuts out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a medium bowl. Quickly drizzle the honey and salt over the nuts and stir until they are well coated.

Return the coated  nuts to the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rotating once. I took them out of the oven when it smelled like the honey was starting to caramelize – a tiny bit smokey.

Remove the nuts from the oven, sprinkle on a pinch of salt, and quickly separate any clumps as the honey will harden as the nuts cool. Allow to cool completely and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups nuts (easily doubled)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/2 hours

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Purple Monster Smoothie

[donotprint]Turns out you can have a delicious smoothie and sneak some tofu into your diet. I started experimenting with this because tofu contains a bit of Iron, and Vitamin C boosts the absorption of said Iron. So this seems like an easy way to get a little extra Iron into our low-meat diet. Miraculously, my kids loved it.[/donotprint]

 

1/2 cup silken tofu
1 medium ripe banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Put the tofu, banana, strawberries, blueberries, and maple syrup in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve.

Yield: 2 cups
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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Guacamole

Whenever I eat guacamole, I feel like it might be okay to become a vegan someday.  The creamy goodness an avocado imparts is right up there with cheese and butter in my book. 

For more “authentic” guacamole, omit the beans, chop the cilantro, and mash all the ingredients up with a fork.

 

1 small clove garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1/3 cup canned cannelli beans, rinsed (optional)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe hass avocados, pits and skins removed

Place the garlic, beans, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, salt, and avocados in the bowl of a food processor. Cover and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Serve with tortilla or pita chips. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Press a piece of plastic wrap on top of the dip to keep browning to a minimum.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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Valentine Volcano

Here we have a chocolate meringue with fresh whipped cream and crushed strawberries – a mini pavlova. 

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As I was preparing the meringues, my husband was kind enough to tell me they look like pertrified dog poop. So I guess this snack doesn’t score a 10 for presentation, but the kids didn’t seem bothered in the least.

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This recipe is substantially lower in sugar than any other pavlova recipe I’ve seen.  It’s a relatively light snack all around, except for the whipped cream. But you can’t not have the whipped cream.

 For the meringue:

3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped very fine

For the whipped cream:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons sugar

For the strawberries:

6 frozen strawberries (about 1/3 cup), thawed
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a standing electric mixer, whip the egg whites, sugar, cocoa powder, and vinegar on medium-high speed until semi-stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces with a rubber spatula. Spoon the meringue mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about a 1/3 cup at a time. Create a heart shape, if desired.

Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until outer shell has formed and the meringues are not terribly difficult to remove from the parchment. Allow to cool on the pan.

Meanwhile, make your whipped cream by pouring the heavy cream and sugar into a bowl and beating it with an electric mixer until peaks form. If it’s an especially hot day, put the bowl in the freezer for a while before you begin. Store the whipped cream an airtight container in the refrigerator until the meringues are ready.

Meanwhile, drain any excess liquid off the strawberries. Crush the berries and sugar in a small bowl with a fork until they are broken down. Cover and keep at room temperature until the meringues are ready.

To assemble simply place a dollop of whipped cream on top of each meringue and top with 1-2 teaspoons of crushed strawberries. Serve immediately.

Yield: 10 mini heart-shaped pavlovas
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/2 hours

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Raisin Muffins (a.k.a Salad Muffins)

This snack is inspired by the Salad Bars recipe in Julie Van Rosendaal’s cookbook Grazing. If you’re feeling extra fancy, top them with some vanilla greek-style yogurt!

1 cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato paste
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a mini muffin pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and ketchup. Pour the flour mixture into the bowl and stir to combine. Add the zucchini, carrot and raisins and stir until evenly distributed.

Transfer batter to mini muffin pan, filling each cup approximately 3/4 full. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Yield: 24 mini muffins
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Bake-time: 15 minutes

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Bananas Royale

Inspired by The 6 o’clock Scramble’s Snack list. The soft marshmallows on top of creamy melted peanut butter are a winning combination. Seriously. The smell of this snack was very distracting during the “photo shoot”.

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
4 teaspoons nut butter (such as peanut or almond)
8 mini marshmallows

Line the bottom of two small bowls with 4 banana slices each. Top each with 1 teaspoon nut butter. Layer on another four banana slices and additional teaspoon of nut butter. Place 4 marshmallows on top.

Microwave on high for 20 – 30 seconds or until marshmallows start to melt. Top with sprinkles or chocolate sauce and serve.

Yield: 2 servings
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Potato Skins

The absence of bacon in these vegetarian potato skins is offset a bit by the flavor of the smoked cheddar.

I’d need a nutritionist to do the math for me to say for sure, but there might be a nice little dose of Iron in this snack. Potatoes and their skins supposedly have a relatively high level of Iron (for a vegetable) and the Vitamin C in the broccoli might be enough to help boost the Iron’s absorption.

When all is said and done though, I just love potato skins. And even though there is broccoli in the mix, my three-year-old does too!

4 medium russet potatoes
1/2 cup grated smoked white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated orange cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon chili powder (or more to taste)
4 broccoli florets, cooked and chopped (about 1/3 cup)
Salt to taste
Sour cream or greek-style yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and bake the potatoes for 40-60 minutes, depending on their size. When a knife inserted into a potato meets little resistance, they are done. Remove from oven and allow to cool until they are easy to handle. Leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, mix the cheeses, chili powder, and broccoli in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out the potato’s flesh leaving about 1/4 inch of the flesh attached to the skin. Cut each potato skin into halves or thirds depending on the size  of the potato and your preference. I made them on the smaller side in order to accommodate small hands.

Spread the potato skins out on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the skins. Bake at 400 degrees Farenhiet for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt if desired. Serve with sour cream or greek-style yogurt if desired.

Yield: 22 potato skins
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 50 minutes

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Oatmeal Banana Blueberry Muffins (a.k.a Nirvana Muffins)

A friend of mine special-ordered this recipe. I hope it provides a happy home for all of her overripe bananas.

Oatmeal Banana Blueberry Muffins Recipe

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup mashed ripe banana (from two medium bananas)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 10 seconds. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the egg, banana, oil, honey, buttermilk and vanilla. Make sure that the honey is dissolved and not hiding out anywhere in a big clump. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir to combine. Add the blueberries and fold them in gently.

Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. Fill the cups 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the biggest muffin comes out clean.

Yield: 12 muffins
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 18 minutes

Note: My friend tested these out for me and told me that mini muffins only take 8-10 minutes to bake. Oh, and she said they have earned a place in her recipe box! Yippee!

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Almond Butter Balls

When all else fails, I usually have some almond butter balls in my freezer. These are a little tricky to form into balls. But that’s because they have a fraction of the honey most recipes for peanut butter balls call for and they have glorious crispy rice cereal which makes them crunchy!

Feel free to replace the almond butter with cashew or peanut. I used natural-style almond butter. But this recipe is extremely flexible so feel free to experiment.

3/4 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup crispy brown rice cereal
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small mixing bowl, stir the powdered milk, cereal, wheat germ, flaxseed, and salt until combined. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir the almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract with a rubber spatula until combined. Add the powdered milk mixture and stir until uniform.

The mixture may be on the crumbly side. To form into balls, take a tablespoon of the mixture and squeeze it with your hands more than roll it. I pass it back and forth between my hands squeezing and rolling gently with my fingers as I pass. This might be tough for kids to master. If the mixture is too crumbly, add more of something gooey such as honey or even a tablespoon of vegetable, coconut, or flax oil.

Serve or store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw for a couple minutes before serving.

Yield: 30 balls
Prep-time: 20 minutes
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