Mealtimes are once again a battlefield.  This is a cyclical occurrence.  Sleep and food are the two things Babyman can control, so when he is transitioning through a hard-core Testing Twos phase, nap strikes and high-chair tantrums are his tools of choice.  They are effective, too, when it comes to cutting a parent off at the knees.  Both are deeply psychological weapons, as the parent knows what even the toddler himself can’t grasp: that an infuriating mealtime or a missed nap is but the first phase; it is invariably followed by the Exhausted and Famished Toddler phase, a phase in which all reason flies out the window and we are left no choice but to endure the downward spiral until sleep, invariably, eventually, takes hold.

Of course, like all things, This Too Will Pass.  (Lather, rinse, repeat.)  But in the meantime, why is this post titled Bakin’ and not, say, Where the Heck is the Wine??  Well I’ll tell you: in the deep midwinter of the Testing Twos, baking has become my best friend.

I do not purport to be a baker.  My husband is an excellent baker, able to turn out a pie crust from scratch, and from memory, in a matter of minutes.  It is he who project-manages dessert at the holidays, while I dutifully peel apples and open cans of pumpkin pie mix (both roles which will soon be assumed by our kids, I am sure).

However, in the wake of a mealtime battle, when a tired mommy gazes at the long morning ahead (and possibly long day, depending on concurrent nap strike), the only glimmer of hope is Snacktime.  Snacktime is a chance to dig ourselves out of this hole.  Snacks, by definition, can be eaten on the go (take the high chair out of the equation).  With the right amount of legerdemain, snacks can even masquerade as treats, making them more desirable than a meal.  Snacks are my Trojan horse, my chance to put a whole arsenal of nutrition into an innocuous package and ward off hunger-induced toddler craziness.

Goldfish alone can’t do the job.  We need protein!  We need slow-burning fuel!  We need…cue “Chariots of Fire”…the healthy muffin.
The healthy muffin comes in many forms: zucchini bread, carrot cupcakes, sweet potato biscuits, raisin bran muffins.  Add a swipe of cream cheese and you’ve practically got a balanced meal on your hands.  The trick, of course, is to try to limit the fat and sugar while simultaneously preserving the cupcake/cookie mystique.  And this is where I regularly trip up.  Butter is hard to fake, period.  Ditto for sugar.  But it’s a good thing I have all those veggie purees around, eh?
I recently found this recipe for Healthy Squash Muffins online, and it’s a keeper.  The muffins aren’t too dry, and there is just enough sweetness.  I actually use real sugar or honey rather than sugar substitute, as the post suggests, and I use 1% milk because that’s what we have in the house.  The last time I made it we were out of butter (who runs out of butter?  that’s never happened before…) so I substituted half vegetable shortening and half applesauce and actually the results were pretty good.  Babyman likes them in the stroller, with a sippy of milk, right around the same time when we desperately need to get out of the house on a Testing Twos morning, so everybody wins.
I’m always looking for more (especially when the CSA stops bringing squash and inundates me with zucchini) so if you know of a good recipe, let me know!

Healthy Butternut Squash Muffins

Muffins with a Touch of Spice and Health  Jan 1, 2010 Rachel Walton

  • 1/2 pound of butternut squash (seeded, cubed and washed)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon or pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 cup of Brown Sugar Splenda (or your choice of sugar substitute)
  • 3/4 cup of skim milk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  1. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. In a separate medium-sized pot, boil the butternut squash on medium-high for approximately 20 – 25 minutes. Once the squash is tender, remove from the heat and drain.
  3. Puree the squash in a food processor (or mash until creamy in consistency).
  4. In a large separate bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. This includes the whole wheat flour, the baking powder, the salt, the cinnamon and the Brown Sugar Splenda.
  5. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg, milk and melted butter.
  6. Add the creamed squash to the mixed egg, milk and butter. Mix well.
  7. Fold the squash mixture into the dry ingredient bowl. Keep folding until the flour mixture is moist.
  8. Spoon the prepared batter into the muffin tins, filling each cup about halfway.
  9. Place the muffins into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick put in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  10. Remove muffins from the muffin tin and cool on a wire rack.

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