Since the beginning of summer, I have wanted to try incorporating some fresh summer vegetables into some tasty allergy friendly cupcakes in an effort to (of course) get my family (especially, my son) to eat more veggies. If you’ve read some of my other recipe posts (e.g., creamy macaroni and cheese – which I still can’t believe won a recipe contest), you would know that I do not feel at all guilty about tricking my 3-year old and sneaking healthy nutritious foods into his diet. My best creations are those that my son would call “delicious and nutritious!” So, also partially inspired by Diane Eblin’s Friday Foodie Fix summer squash theme this week, I decided to create these mini cupcakes (and muffins) free of the top 8 most common food allergens but packed with summer vegetables and fruit.
Little did I know that the refined sugar free muffin (no icing) version of these treats would also be a big hit with my allergy stricken infant daughter, whose diet recently has expanded to include soft finger foods (great for perfecting those gross motor skills). Although my daughter’s daycare has been supportive in protecting her from unsafe foods (why I surprised her principals and teachers with allergen free Snickerdoodles and PAL awards for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2012), unfortunately, it has not otherwise accommodated her dietary needs. My daughter’s daycare center provides breakfast, snack, and lunch for all children, with a modified menu for the infants’ classrooms. Weeks ago, I asked the principal for a list of ingredients in several of the foods (e.g., crackers and breads) to determine whether they might be safe for my daughter to practice eating with her classmates. Despite my follow-ups, I have yet to receive an ingredient list. And when I’ve asked the center to at least serve her some of the fruits and vegetables on the menu, my request has fallen on deaf ears (perhaps they’re nervous of cross contamination?). So giving up on the school meals, I pack a lunch for my daughter with a variety of easily manageable finger foods. (And I had thought packing a lunch for my picky 3-year old was difficult!) Thankfully, these muffins were the perfect size to add in my allergy-stricken infant daughter’s lunch bag on a few occasions.
This recipe is based off the carrot cake cupcakes that I made as one of my first allergy friendly desserts (also the premier blog post for Nom Yum & Free). This time, I further modified the recipe to make it egg free and gluten free, therefore completely free of the top 8 most common food allergens. I made it egg free, primarily, to accommodate my daughter’s egg allergy (a more recent discovery). And my motivation for going gluten free largely was due to my cupboard’s flour supply. When I checked my pantry for the wheat-packed spelt flour that added a nice nutty flavor to my carrot cake cupcakes, I realized that I was completely out. I however, still had loads of wheat free flours that needed to be used. I think baking gluten free is probably the hardest, because unlike other substitutions (like rice milk for regular milk), you usually cannot just replace wheat flour with a single type of gluten free flour. Rather, you need to combine multiple flours and other ingredients (like xanthan gum), and play with the proportions of your leavening ingredients, to make a successful gluten free treat (hence, the reason for the dozen bags of wheat free baking ingredients in my cupboard).
- ⅔ cup superfine brown rice flour (recommended Authentic Foods)
- 5 tbsp plus 1 tsp buckwheat flour
- 5 tbsp plus 1 tsp potato starch
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt, ground fine
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ ground allspice
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- ⅓ cup finely grated baby carrots
- ¾ cup finely grated green zucchini (about ½ medium-large zucchini)
- ½ cup crushed canned pineapple**, crushed well in blender or food processor
**If you don’t have a picky eater who is easily discouraged from eating anything with pineapple chunks, you can leave your pineapple a bit chunkier to increase its taste in your cupcakes.
Buttercream Frosting (optional):
- ¼ cup dairy free, soy free buttery spread (like Earth Balance)
- ¼ cup dairy free, soy free organic shortening (like Spectrum Foods)
- 3 ½ cups sifted powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
- 3 tbsp pineapple juice
- 1 tsp vanilla rice milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp pure lemon extract
Makes 40-45 miniature cupcakes (or muffins).
Method (or Mistakes)
Vegetable Preparation: Use a box grater to finely shred your zucchini and carrots (note your zucchini will be extremely wet). Dry your vegetables by placing them in a bowl lined with a paper towel and covered with another paper towel, and then gently press (or blot) to absorb some of the water. Replace the paper towel and repeat blotting process 2 to 3 times. Let veggies sit aside with paper towels to “dry” at least 30 minutes.
Cupcakes/Muffins: Line mini muffin pan(s) with cupcake liners (or grease well). Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and spices, and then set aside. In a small saucepan, stir together flax seed, water, and pineapple juice. Bring flax seed mix to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for about 2 minutes (until resembles consistency of an egg white), and then remove you “flax eggs**” from the heat. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer or electric mixer to beat together oil and flax eggs until thickens (about 1 minute). Gradually add brown sugar, in 3 parts, blending and scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula after each addition. Add dry ingredients in 2 parts, alternating with the addition of the pineapple. Blend just until incorporated. Fold in zucchini and carrots. Use a small cookie scoop to fill muffin pans ¾ of the way full. Bake 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in muffin pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.
** This “flax egg” recipe comes from a 1990’s cookbook, entitled Allergy & Candida Cooking – Rotational Style, which a work colleague bought years ago to accommodate his son’s dietary needs. For cupcakes, I think I like this egg substitute more than my favorite substitute for cookies.
Buttercream Frosting (optional): Using a hand mixer or electric mixer, cream together buttery spread and shortening. Add ½ of the sugar and cream on low speed. Add pineapple juice, rice milk, and extracts. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add remaining sugar. (Add less powdered sugar if your icing is too thick or more if it seems too runny.) Beat on high until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Use a piping bag (or Ziploc bag with a corner cut off) to frost your cupcakes.
Even if you put frosting on all of your muffins, you likely will have quite a bit of it remaining. You can either half your recipe, or do like I did and save the remaining icing in an airtight container in the fridge to use for more cupcakes later.
(Store cupcakes in an airtight container in refrigerator; however, if you need to store longer than 5 days, place in freezer.)
When I pulled the first batch of my mini summer veggie muffins from the oven, I (of course) had to “test” one. Holding my daughter in my arms, I wasn’t anticipating that she would “ask” to try a piece (this involved her reaching out toward the muffin and humming “hmm hmm!” in a demanding sort of way). Nor was I expecting that my baby girl would enjoy the summer squash and baby carrot muffins so much that she would be the tester (leaving me only having sampled the first crumb that I had broken off). For a completely refined sugar free treat for my infant daughter (and the a few office mates who might want an even healthier version), I left about ¼ of my cupcakes as muffins without the pineapple buttercream icing.
My 3-year old was also a huge fan of these cupcakes – hidden vegetable, “nutritious and delicious,” treat success! At first, he was a bit hesitant to try these when he saw pieces of orange carrots, one of his least favorite vegetables. He critically asked, “Mom, do these have carrots?” Without answering him directly, I informed him that even his favorite carrot cake cupcakes have carrots – that’s where they get the name. (Good thing he didn’t realize they had twice as much zucchini as they did carrots!) My son’s response after trying these veggie packed treats, “YUMmy in my tummy tum!” (I’m sure the slightly pineapple flavored icing on top was a large factor in his decision.) I’m glad that I crushed the pineapple (unlike my carrot cake cupcakes, because my son had no clue that it was in there. (I still don’t understand how he loves eating pineapple, but cannot stand it in his cupcake – like his aversion to fruit in yogurt, my guess is it’s a consistency issue.) There was one cupcake, however, that had a small chunk of non-crushed pineapple (pictured),which of course somehow my son picked one evening. He gagged, said he didn’t want anymore, spit his bite in the trash, and then passed the remainder of his cupcake to his dad. Luckily, he quickly forgot this incident and was enjoying another vegetable packed cupcake a few nights later.
All the adults who tried these summer squash (zucchini) cupcakes and muffins also enjoyed them. Everyone, especially me, was amazed at how soft and moist these were despite being gluten free. The buckwheat flour added a nice earthy touch to the summer earth vegetables featured in these cupcakes. And the dab of moist pineapple lemon buttercream icing atop these miniature treats provided a mini I-just-enjoyed-a-decadent-cupcake experience but without the guilt. One of my co-workers jokingly asked me if I was trying to compete with one of my favorite allergen free companies, Enjoy Life Foods (who is kindly giving away samples of their newest chocolate ingredients to a lucky one of my readers), which was the highest compliment – as she was the one who first introduced me to their allergy friendly foods.
Have you had to find creative ways to sneak vegetables into your children’s diets? If so, when you comment, please share some of the tricks you have found effective. Then, maybe we can all learn a few new ideas to use. . . .