Hi! My name is Mariah and I’m very excited to be sharing with you for Take a Taste Tuesday! My blog, From This Point. Forward., isn’t primarily about food or even motherhood, but focuses on how my life changed after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at the age of 25. That being said, perhaps the most difficult part of my RA journey has been figuring out how to navigate motherhood while living with a chronic autoimmune disease. (If my story sounds familiar to you, please keep an eye on my new site – Mamas Facing Forward – which will soon offer resources and support for the unique challenges faced by moms who are also living with chronic illnesses!)
My boys are currently three and five, and they’ll be gaining a little sister in just a few months! Like many kids, my oldest ate just about everything under the sun with gusto until he hit about 18 months, at which point he narrowed his list of “acceptable” foods to mere handful of items – most of which are carbs and dairy. Getting him to consume any type of produce is often a challenge. And though my younger son is much more willing to eat a wider variety, he’s also apt to reject food if his older brother declares it to be gross. So I needed a life hack for easily getting nutrients into my family’s meals – even when I’m not feeling my best. And that’s where “green cubes” come in!
In the summertime, we belong to a CSA, which stands for “community supported agriculture.” Basically this means we pay upfront to support a local farm, and then visit the farm once a week all summer and most of the fall to pick up our share of whatever the farm produces. This generally includes a huge variety of greens – spinach, kale, chard, beet greens – and between the CSA and our own garden I often end up with a literal mountain of greens that we have zero chance of eating before it wilts (particularly since the kids won’t eat it fresh at all!)
So, instead of letting the greens go to waste, I make a batch of green cubes. This involves gently steaming the greens, pureeing them, and popping them in the freezer. I use an immersion blender and one of those baby food freezer trays – because that’s what I happen to have – but a food processor and a regular ice cube tray would work just as well.
I will admit that this process can be somewhat time consuming – so I generally try to save it for a time when I have at least a little bit of energy to spare. I do think the investment of time is worthwhile, however, as it gives me a quick option for easily adding nutrients to meals later on. I also find that I get more and more efficient with this process as time goes on. These days I’m able to multitask in the kitchen – cleaning up from dinner, for example – as I simultaneously put a mountain of greens through the steamer in batches.
Once the green cubes are frozen, I keep them in a giant Ziploc bag in the freezer and add them to anything and everything. I throw in one or two almost anytime I’m cooking ground meat – meatballs, meatloaf, taco meat. It’s also a great way to add extra nutrients to jarred tomato sauce. And while I refer to these as “green cubes,” because I make them most often using greens, you can do the same thing with other vegetables too. For example, if I buy a big bag of baby carrots and we don’t get through them all, I’ll throw the rest in the steamer and make a batch of orange cubes to mix in with the Kraft mac and cheese!
Veggie Banana Muffins
Of course, green cubes are only effective at getting nutrients into your kids if they’ll actually eat the meal you mix them into! My oldest currently refuses sauces (except ketchup) and all meat, so unfortunately he’ll completely reject most of the suggestions I just made above. But he will happily consume any baked goods I care to provide – which is how I came up with what we call “green banana muffins.”
In addition to getting my children to happily consume kale or chard, I’ve managed to sneak some other nutrition into these muffins as well. And, once you have a bag of green/veggie cubes in your freezer, this recipe is simple enough to make often and let the kiddos help!
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar (the banana muffin recipe I started with called for ¾ cup sugar, but I usually use less because I add vanilla protein powder and it’s a bit sweet. I’ll use even less if I substitute applesauce for the egg!)
2 scoops (about ¼ cup) protein powder (This is totally optional, but as my oldest doesn’t currently eat meat I’m always looking for ways to get extra protein into him! I generally use vanilla whey powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (when bananas start turning brown in our house, I peel them and throw them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer so I can use them for these muffins instead of wasting them)
1 egg OR ¼ cup applesauce (I’m including an alternative here not only because it gives you options for different nutrients but also because I can’t be the only mom who starts a baking project and then discovers I’m missing necessary ingredients! I’ve totally been known to squeeze an applesauce pouch into this muffin batter!)
1/3 cup butter OR 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (There are lots of health benefits to coconut oil and I think it tastes great. Also – and this may be TMI – one of the reasons I particularly love it in this recipe is that it’s a natural remedy for constipation, which can sometimes be a problem for my oldest when he’s being particularly picky)
2 big cubes (about the size of a baby food jar) cooked, pureed vegetables (I usually make this recipe with green cubes, but you can also do it with sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, or beets – though I will warn that while the beets turn the batter a delightful shade of hot pink, the baked muffins sadly don’t retain much of the pink color!)
Mix ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin tins. I recommend using paper liners or coating muffin pans with a non-stick spray. We have a couple of silicone molds just to make these muffins a bit more fun! (Though these days I have to admit I wish the dinosaur one was nothing by T-rexes, because both boys tend to get upset when the T-rex muffins are gone haha!)
Even when we make a double batch of these, they rarely stick around in our house for very long. They’ve always been a hit with our friends – so I hope your family enjoys them too!
Each Tuesday for the next several weeks a fellow mom/friend/community member will be sharing a fun recipe, tips to include kids in the cooking process, or a great family restaurant for “Take a Taste Tuesday.” If you are interested in sharing your eating and/or cooking fun be sure to connect with me via email!