Cooking with Toddlers: Moose Muffins

We recently checked out from the library If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and The Toddler loves reading it (along with the OG If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.) While I haven’t posted a recipe here in about 100 years, we just succeeded in a small baking experiment that works for killing some time, delighting a toddler, connecting literature to real life and prepping breakfast for the week, all in one.

Moose Muffins - inspired by the children's book
Moose muffins! Very little added sugar, no added oil, contains both fruit and vegetables, and best served with a good book 🙂

If you’re anything like me, it also provides your young baker a lesson in flouting the specific measurements of any given baking recipe and enjoying or suffering the consequences. (Fortunately, this turned out pretty good!) I’ve never been one to closely follow a recipe, so consider this a basic roadmap from which you can detour depending on what’s in your pantry and what your family likes to eat.

The Toddler gobbled a few mini-muffins up as soon as they were cool enough to eat, and seemed pretty impressed that his pouring and mixing turned into food. He even helped clean up afterward!

I kept these pretty low-sugar so I wouldn’t feel guilty about serving them for breakfast and didn’t add any oil (though I use whole milk/yogurt in my muffin recipes and entire eggs.) I do find that the no-oil muffins I make tend to stick to the muffin cups/tins more than usual, so don’t be afraid to be a little liberal when greasing them.

Finally, thanks to The Husband for being a second set of hands during this activity; it’s doable with just one adult, but a nice weekend-morning family activity. (If you’re doing this solo, try to gather everything up before your little one is waiting anxiously to get started or you may run out of attention span.)

Moose Muffins - baking with toddlers (The Last Mommy Blog)

 

Moose Muffins

Makes 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of raisins (we used golden raisins)

Directions

  1. Read If You Give a Moose a Muffin with your toddler. Ask, “Would you like to bake some muffins for a moose?!” If they respond enthusiastically, “Yes!!!!” proceed. If not, try again some other time.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Strap your toddler in to a booster seat/high chair at the kitchen table so they can’t run amok with ingredients, and then pile everything up just out of their reach. Gather a wet ingredients bowl, dry ingredients bowl, a teaspoon, your measuring cups, muffin tins and muffin liners.
  4. Have your toddler line your muffin tins. (We don’t have mini muffin liners, so I swiped at the mini muffin tin with an oil-soaked paper towel.) See note above about these being sticky; feel free to grease the muffin liners themselves to avoid this.
  5. Put the dry bowl in front of the toddler and measure out each ingredient for him and let him dump the measuring cups into the bowl and stir in between. To make it even more educational, do lots of counting: “This is one cup of flour.” “We need two scoops of baking soda.”
  6. Do the same with the wet ingredients, cracking each egg into the measuring cup and letting him dump, etc.
  7. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet (or is it vice versa?Whatever muffin recipes usually say.) Try not to over-mix. Fold the raisins in last.
  8. You should probably do the scooping of the muffin batter into the papers/tins, but count while you do it.
  9. Bake muffins. The mini muffins were done in about 12 minutes, and the standard-sized in about 20-22 minutes, but your mileage may vary.
  10. Allow to cool, serve with blackberry jam! (Consume while re-reading If You Give a Moose a Muffin.)

Substitutions and variations:

  • Finely chopped walnuts would be really good in this (if your kid is of the age to eat such things.)
  • Swap out some or all of the applesauce for pumpkin puree; switch the shredded zucchini for shredded carrot. (I’d also probably switch to regular black raisins for this alternative.)
  • Don’t like raisins? Use frozen blueberries! Or chocolate chips! Or nothing!
  • Don’t have zucchini? Shred a fresh apple instead to make these extra-appley. I’d swap out the allspice for ground ginger in this case.
  • If we had any plain yogurt in the house while I was making these, I would have used that instead of milk.
Cooking with Toddlers: Moose Muffins

Pear overload

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Happy 28th birthday to my little brother (and to my mom, and to all the other mothers who are or have taken the name of this holiday quite literally to mean welcoming new babies to the world.)

This weekend we did a whole lot of cutting up fallen trees and felling damaged trees from the crazy storm that swept through our property. One very sad casualty was the 100-year-old apple tree right off our back porch that was crushed by a rogue locust tree the guys cut down. Their guide rope snapped and the tree ended up just brushing our gutter, but annihilated the apple tree. It was on its last legs, propped up with an old post, but we were hoping to keep it alive another season to try to graft it. It had been planted by my great grandfather.

Anyway, as it’s not particularly safe to operate a chainsaw with a baby on your back, my contribution to the storm cleanup this week was trying to preserve the windfall of pears that had been blown from our trees in the storm. They were slightly underripe when I picked them up off the ground, but at the same time almost universally bruised or cracked from their fall, so it was a race against the clock to get them processed.

I took zero photos and have no recipes to share with  you. The Baby has been napping for two hours (!!!) and is due to wake up any second, so here’s just a short list of things I made with the pears:

  • Pear sauce! Just like applesauce, but with pears. Organic and with no sugar added, this makes a great baby food. And the cooking helps soften and sweeten the harder, greener, most underripe pears. I froze a little under two gallons of it and with the other gallon or so I made…
  • Pear sauce bread. I adapted this recipe  based on what was in my pantry, using only whole wheat flour, not bothering to grind the oats, using plain full-fat organic yogurt rather than sweetened Greek yogurt, and using pear sauce that still had pretty big chunks of not-too-mushy pears in it. I also didn’t add in any extra fat (coconut oil or butter) since the yogurt was full-fat. I just adjusted the amount of yogurt so that the batter was the appropriate texture/wetness. It turned out pretty good, like really dense bran muffins but moist because of the pears. We’ve eaten two loaves and there are two in the freezer.
  • Pear pie with a bacon-grease crust and oat crumble topping. (This I made with the riper pears without pre-cooking them.) I’ve been straining and refrigerating our bacon grease for awhile now, and while I’ve done some vegetable sauteeing with it, I needed to use it up and have been considering it for pie crust for awhile. I did a little Googling and ended up just sort of eyeballing the flour-to-bacon-fat ratio with a tiny bit of ice water. It didn’t roll out great, but it ended up with a surprisingly nice texture. It definitely had a hint of bacon flavor, but with the pear filling, it was good! I adapted this recipe for the pie filling/topping.

All in all, I was able to save about 10 pears that were undamaged and could ripen and be eaten raw.

So that’s been my weekend. I find myself getting a little overwhelmed during harvest season, not wanting anything to go to waste but also not wanting to spend all waking hours blanching tomatoes and making pepper jelly (another thing I did this weekend), but it does make winters nicer to have access to this stuff, and it sure helps our budget while we’re living on one income, plus whatever I can earn freelancing.

I’ve got a little pear sauce left. Anything else I should try to make with it?

20160828_183257
The pears – after the storm, before I cooked them. (Or, in most cases, before the deer ate them.)
Pear overload