Power Lunch Muffin

Power Lunch Muffins

I have been on the hunt for fun ways to get my daughter to eat more protein in her lunch. 

One of the cookbooks I have been using in my experiments is the “Muffin Tin Chef” by Matt Kadey.  What I love about this cooking method is the mini servings, which are great for the short amount of time that elementary school kids have for lunch.

One of the recipes that struct my eye was the Microwave Quinoa Cakes – I had no idea that you could bake in the microwave using silicone! 2 ½ minutes to muffins? Yes please!  While I haven’t found the perfect recipe to get my daughter to eat quinoa, I was able to adapt the cooking method to my own high protein Power Lunch Muffins. The trick was trying to find a taste good option with out a nut since their school is nut sensitive.

The dates and maple syrup add just enough sweetness to the Power Lunch Muffins, and the cinnamon and allspice keep them being bland. I’m happy that this quick recipe is a winner with the kids, and that their lunch bags come home empty.

Power Lunch Muffin

Power Lunch Muffins

  • 1 medium, ripe banana
  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons diced, dried dates
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract

In a large bowl, mash the banana.  Stir in the flour, eggs, dates, maple syrup, spices, baking powder, and extract. Divide the batter between 6 regular size silicone muffin cups.  Microwave on high power until set, about 2 ½ minutes (rotating throughout).  Let cool, then serve.


Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Classroom Treat “Giant Cupcake”

Last year my Punch Box Birthday Cake was well received, so I thought I would do another “cake” idea to celebrate by daughter’s birthday at school.  Like many schools, it is sensitive to food allergies, so edible treats for birthdays are not allowed. 

Instead, birthdays can be celebrated with small trinkets.  This is where my Giant Cupcake comes in.  I have fashioned mini treat bags to look like slices of cake, topped with a mound of “frosting”. As each student takes a slice (i.e. treat bag) they find a trinket and stickers inside.  Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Not only is this a fun way to celebrate a birthday, it is a fun project to make with your birthday boy or girl.  My daughter had fun “frosting” the giant cupcake, which made this all the more special.

Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Classroom Treat "Giant Cupcake"

Now I just have to decide if I make two Giant Cupcakes to serve all 24 kids in her class, or come up with a second treat . . . .


Classroom Treat Giant Cupcake

1 plastic, 10” diameter cheap plastic bowl ( I bought mine at the Dollar Store)
White glue
Foam brush
2 sheets of tissue paper (one for frosting, another for the cherry)
Confetti or sticker gems
12-13 mini treat bags
Masking tape
Goodie bag treats
Bottom of 10” diameter spring form pan (or 10” round cardboard circle)

Place the plastic bowl open side down.  Lightly spread glue on bottom of bowl with a foam brush and smooth squares of first tissue paper over sides to “frost” the bowl.  Glue a small ball of second tissue paper on top like a cherry.  Glue small gems or confetti on sides like sprinkles; let dry.  Place trinkets in bags, then fold over top, half using one fold and the remaining using two folds.  Gently tape down fold with masking tape. Place two strips of masking tape on spring form pan, sticky side up.  Arrange treat bags in a circle, alternating bags in with one fold and two folds. Gently place bowl on top (open side down) on top.

Each 10-inch round cake holds 12-13 mini bags. 




Turkey Pancakes

Turkey Pancakes

Inspired by some festive Halloween pancakes, I decided to create a fun Thanksgiving Turkey Pancakes. This would be a great way to use up some of the candy eyes I bought for my Bat and Spider Cookies and please the kids with a special breakfast. In fact, when grandpa comes to visit they always look forward to his pancake with faces (a.k.a. candy cakes).

For these Turkey Pancakes I used a bit of food coloring to dye the pancake mix and then used condiment squeeze bottles to make a feather shape on the pan/griddle.  With this method, you can easily change out colors and get creative with shape.

Turkey Pancakes

By making each feather separate I create the turkey shape one piece at a time, and then garnish with candy eyes, candy corn, and colored food decorating gel to complete the Turkey Pancakes. 

The kids thought they were a hoot, though they did tell me Grandpa is the one who makes fun pancakes. Oops – I guess I stepped on Grandpa’s specialty.


Turkey Pancakes

Turkey Pancakes

2 cups pancake mix
Milk or water per mix directions
Red and yellow food dye
3 Condiment squeeze bottles
4 Candy eyes
2 pieces candy corn
Red decorating gel
Black decorating gel

 Mix pancake mix with water or milk according to package directions, then divide into four bowls. Use  the red and yellow food dye to color one bowl red, one yellow, and one orange.  Scoop the colored pancake mix into each of the three condiment bottles. Prepare a griddle or pan over medium high heat.  Once hot, use the squeeze bottles to pour the colored pancake mix onto the pan/griddle in the shape of feathers.

Remove from heat and set aside.  With the remaining uncolored pancake mix make two large and two small, round pancakes.

 To plate, evenly divide the colored feathers between two plates in a fan shape.  Place one large, round pancake on each, and then one small round pancake on top. Using the dab the back of the candy eyes with gel and place on the small round pancake, then place one candy corn in the middle of each small round pancake as a beak. Use the red gel to paint on a waddle, and use the black gel to draw on wings and feet and serve.


Note: Making each feather separate allows for better control. While you can make the feathers and body in one pancake, it is challenging to flip and gets heavy which can cause the pancake to tear.


Cornucopia Gratefulness Cookies

My children are now old enough that they can comprehend the idea of Thanksgiving. So this year I wanted find a fun way to decorate my thanksgiving table while letting all my guests voice their prayers of thanksgiving.  What came to mind was these Cornucopia Gratefulness Cookies which are a take on a fortune cookie. Rather than finding a fortune inside, each cookie has comments from each guest on what they are thankful or grateful for. Quotes can be about general items of thanksgiving or specific thanks about each other.

cornucopia gratefulness cookies

I started my experiment by asking my kids what they were grateful for just before bed. Here is what they said:

  • I am thankful for all the special activities you do with us
  • I am grateful for Grandma and Grandpa
  • I am thankful for cuddle time with you and dad

 Pretty special, right? I can’t think of a better way that to start a meal with those that I love by reading aloud our Thanksgiving praise. Not to mention this easy cookie craft is a colorful way to dress up the table and is super quick to put together.  Older kids can even help put them together (I found that my 3 and 5 year old were more interested in eating them than completing the craft on the day I tried this).

cornucopia gratefulness cookies

cornucopia gratefulness cookies

cornucopia gratefulness cookies

Cornucopia Gratefulness Cookies

Sugar cones (one per place setting)
Vanilla wafers (one per place setting)
Thanksgiving/fall sprinkles such as Wilton’s fall leaves mix
Paper and pens

Collect comments from family and guests ahead of Thanksgiving regarding what they are thankful or grateful for.  Write on strips of paper, roll up and place inside sugar cones. Place a bit of frosting around the edge of the vanilla wafer and gently place in the opening of the sugar cone (tucking the paper strip inside) until it fits snuggly.  Frost the entire exposed surface of the cookie and then dip into a shallow bowl filled with the fall sprinkles.  Set aside and repeat with remaining sugar cones and vanilla wafers.  Use as decoration for Thanksgiving place settings and break open cookies to read the notes of thankfulness.


Goblin Smoothie

I had so much fun with last week’s easy, Halloween themed post I couldn’t resist making another themed post.  I had a few different ideas for a festive drink, but the one I was most excited about didn’t quite work.  As I was scrounging around the kitchen for a new idea I happened upon a box of vanilla pudding mix and this Goblin Smoothie was born. The package actually listed a recipe for a banana smoothie (the recipe here with two bananas and some granola mixed in and the dye omitted) which I thought could easily be modified for a Halloween treat. I had bought some plastic eyeballs to place garnish a treat and scare my kids ( I know, mean mom) and I thought this might be a great rescue to my festive drink attempts.

goblin smoothie

Add a bit of extra milk to the pudding package gives it a smoothie texture, yet it is thick enough to float the Halloween garnish on top.  The classic flavor means that it will be a hit with a wide audience, and much to my surprise my kids thought the ghoulish garnish was funny.  I guess I have to work harder to give them a fright!

goblin smoothie

Goblin Smoothie

One 4 ounce package of vanilla pudding
3 cups milk
10 drops green food coloring
4-5 Plastic eyeballs for decoration (or other ghoulish accents)
4-5 festive straws


In a large bowl mix together the vanilla pudding, milk and green food dye until smooth and even in color.  Pour into 4-5 serving glasses and let set for five minutes.  Gently place the eyeballs on top and add a festive straw.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.


No-Bake Bat and Spider Cookies

Since my kids are so into crafts I wanted to have them help me make a simple themed dish for Halloween. Thus we made No-Bake Bat and Spider Cookies using black fondant and Oreos.

no bake bat and spider cookies

My kids helped make the Spider Cookies which were as simple as rolling log-shaped legs out of the fondant and carefully placing them inside the Oreos.  Premade candie eyeballs were affixed to the front for the cuteness factor (as did the uneven leg sizes and odd number of legs per my pint-sized chefs wishes).

no bake bat and spider cookies

I made Bat Cookies in a similar manner, using a bat shaped cookie cutter to cut wings out of the fondant, though you could use a holly leaf. They were actually pretty easy to put together once I got going, which is a plus when you have a lot of tasks to accomplish for a themed party.  I can also see adding more detail with extra supplies – white fondant to make vampire bats, or red fondant to turn the simple spiders into black widows. I’m sure the kids and I will be making other themed no-bake cookies in the future since we all had such a great time making these treats.

bat and spider cookies

No-Bake Bat and Spider Cookies

Two 4.4 ounce packages of black fondant (I used Wilton’s)
One package candy eyeballs ( I used Betty Crocker)
One package Oreo’s (24.25 ounces)
Small amount of icing
Bat or holly leaf cookie cutter
Bat Cookies: Working with one package of fondant at a time, cut of about 1 ounce, rewrap the remainder of the fondant and roll out the fondant to about 1/8th inch thick and cut out two bat wings using your cookie cutter.  Then using a knife, cut two small triangular ears.  Carefully twist apart an oreo and place the inner edge of each wing into the cookie on the frosting. Replace the top cookie half gently, yet pressing down slightly to seal.  Next affix the ears to the top of the cookie and then affix two eyes using the frosting as “glue”.  Repeat with the remainder of the fondant and cookies until you run out of fondant.  You should get approximately 24 cookies.

Spider Cookies: Working with one package of fondant at a time, cut of about 1 ounce, rewrap the remainder of the fondant. Roll the fondant into eight small log-shaped legs.  Carefully twist apart an oreo and place four legs on each side of the cookie on the frosting. Replace the top cookie half gently, yet pressing down slightly to seal.  Next affix two eyes using the frosting as “glue”.  Repeat with the remainder of the fondant and cookies until you run out of fondant.  You should get approximately 24 cookies. Note: Flatten the end of each leg you place inside the cookie to minimize cracking of the top cookie when it is replaced.  Number of cookies is approximate – as you can see from the photos my kids had a wide size range in the legs they crafted.


Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles

It has been awhile since I posted a kid-inspired recipe, but these Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles stem from a question asked by my 4 year-old daughter. The conversation went something like this:

“Mom, why does Santa only eat cookies? Shouldn’t he also eat vegetables?”

“Good question. Yes, he should. Should we put vegetables in his cookies?” I replied.

“YES! Apples and carrots. Are they both vegetables?” she asked.

“No, just the carrots are vegetables.” was my second response, which was all it took to get my wheels turning. What immediately popped into my head was carrot cake and snickerdoodles. Why not try to combine the two?

I knew using fruit purees is a common way to reduce fat in baking. I was sure the same could be done using a vegetable puree, however I wanted to make sure the quantity I used to cut the butter and shortening would result in a good cookie. I found this Wilton baking site which confirmed my plan – using an equal quantity of puree to substitute half of the fat of the original recipe.

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles2

Since I have never made snickerdoodles, I wanted to start with a classic recipe. Most I found had similar ratios of ingredients – the one I closely followed was from Betty Crocker. My only modifications were cutting the butter and shortening by substituting with pureed carrots and adding the candie melt drizzle.

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles

The resulting cooking turned out even better than I imagined. My Mother-In-Law even declared it her new favorite. I fear that even if we do set these “healthier” Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles out for Santa this year, the kids might not let them last until he visits.

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles 3

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles6

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles7

Carrot Cake Snickerdoodles

¼ lb chopped carrots (or 1/2 cup carrot baby food)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
48 white candie melts

If using whole carrots, add the carrots to a small sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Drain the water and mash (or puree in a food processor) until smooth (makes 1/2 cup of carrot puree); set aside.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Mix the 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening, eggs, and pureed carrots together in a large bowl until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until smooth (I found this easiest with a paddle attachment on a standing mixer). Next, shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture, then place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to wire rack to finish cooling. Melt candie melts according to package directions, then drizzle over top of cookies. Let the drizzle cool, then store cookies in a tightly lidded container. Makes 3 1/2 dozen.


Crunchy Chipotle Chickpeas

Once again, my daughter has inspired a new treat – this time in snack form. She declared she wanted crunchy beans, which neither I or my husband could figure out what she meant. We had crunchy wasabi peas in the house, but I’m sure you can guess how much a 2 yr-old or 4 yr-old like these.

What first came to mind was a recipe for Chickpea Kickers I had saved from Good Housekeeping eons ago (ok, from their May 2006 issue to be exact). While I still can’t wait to try it, the pan roasting method sounded like it would create a softer exterior than I wanted. I decided to lean on a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and another one by Kim of Life in the Van for roasting tips to get that perfect crunch. Both indicated two important tips: (1) dry the beans after draining, and (2) roast for nearly an hour.


The end result IS a crunchy bean that is just as satisfying as chips or other snack food with the added benefit of a good boost of protein. For an extra kick, I spiced things up with a chipotle flavored seasoning blend ( I can’t wait to try other blends!) to create these Crunchy Chipotle Chickpeas.


Crunchy Chipotle Chickpeas

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons southwest chipotle seasoning blend

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt


Preheat the oven to 375 °F and spray two baking sheets with non-stick spray. Pat the chickpeas dry with a towel, then place in a medium sized bowl and pour olive oil over chickpeas and stir to coat. Sprinkle the seasoning blend and the sea salt over the chickpeas, stir to coat evenly, then spread evenly on the two baking sheets, spreading the chickpeas as much as possible. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir, then return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until the beans are turning brown and have a crispy exterior when tested.  Remove from the oven and let cool, then serve.


Chocolate-Banana Trifle (a.k.a. Banana Swirl)

Last week my daughter proclaimed that we should have Banana Swirl for dessert. Typical of most preschooler conversations, I asked her what was in that dish. She then mentioned it was bananas and bread mixed together. Hmmm. It sounds like she just came up with another installment of what I’m going to call kid-inspired recipes.

Much like my Pretzel Soup recipe, I decided to take this as more of a suggestion/starting point. Instead of bread I used a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin to create a Chocolate-Banana Trifle or “Banana Swirl”. bananaSwirl2b

I layered muffin pieces with vanilla flavored Greek yogurt (I opted for a healthier layer rather than a more typical custard or whipped cream layer, though this dish still qualifies as an extra-special, sugar loaded treat), a bit of caramel topping, and slices of fresh banana.


The result was an enticing trifle which in my mind straddles the breakfast and dessert categories.  I know, I know, caramel for breakfast? Nonetheless, I’m still going to let you decide when you want to eat it!



Chocolate-Banana Trifle (a.k.a. Banana Swirl)

1 large chocolate-chocolate chip muffin

½ cup vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt, divided

1 banana, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons caramel topping, divided

Tear the muffin into chunks and place half at the bottom of a parfait glass or an 8 ounce juice glass. Add half of the yogurt, half of the banana slices, and then half of the caramel topping. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 1 serving.


Port Wine Cheese Soup (a.ka. Pretzel Soup)

Just before Christmas in 2014 my husband asked my daughter what she wanted to eat on Christmas Day. She said, “yummy soup made by mommy. PRETZEL SOUP!”

Pretzel soup?  I had never made pretzel soup before, but like any self-respecting foodie I accepted the challenge. First step – what pairs well with pretzels? Cheese was the first thing that came to mind. As a kid I loved dipping my pretzels into port wine cheese, so why not make a port wine cheese soup with pretzel croutons?


A bit of sautéed shallots, roux, and equal parts chicken stock and half & half create the base, then an entire container of port wine cheese is stirred in.

The creamy soup gets flavored with some black pepper, garlic powder, and salt before being garnished with fresh thyme and honey-mustard pretzel pieces.


While it might not be a soup entirely made of pretzels, the port wine cheese soup pairs perfectly well with the pretzel bites for a stick-to-your-ribs soup. Given the cold weather and snow storms sweeping the country this week, this soup is just the thing to warm you up!


Port Wine Cheese Soup (a.k.a. Pretzel Soup)

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 cup diced shallots

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cup chicken stock

2 cups ½ & ½

14 oz jar Port Wine Cheese spread

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Fresh thyme (to taste)

Honey-mustard pretzels bits as croutons (to taste)


Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the flour and stir for about 2 minutes, or until just fragrant. Add the stock and the ½ & ½. Bring to a low boil and add the port wine cheese. Cook until the cheese spread is melted into the soup and the soup begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Laddle into bowls and serve with fresh thyme and pretzels.