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Healthy hearts: Snacks and cupcakes

Feb 1st, 2016 | Category: Cooking

by Carol Frey

We’re in a season of waiting and preparing. The mud is still deep but seed catalogs are pouring in, chicks and lambs will soon begin to make their appearance, and one day soon I’ll be doing early chores by morning light, rather than predawn darkness.

Strawberry cupcakes. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

Strawberry cupcakes. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

I think it’s rather nice that amid all the planning and anticipation, Valentine’s Day will interrupt us with a pink and red burst of levity. The Valentine holiday may have begun as a celebration of romantic love, but over the years it broadened and became a chance to express appreciation for all our loved ones. At our house, the kids will make cards for distant grandparents and snacks for friends and classmates. I’ll try to surprise them with a festive treat, but they’re pretty good at sniffing out any out-of-the-ordinary action in the kitchen (“What are those for? Can I have one? What are you making, mama?”) so we may just end up making our Valentine’s treats together. In their eyes, licking the spatula is just as good as eating the cupcake that eventually finds its way to the table.

The recipes below include a couple of everyday ones for winter snacking and a couple that are a bit more indulgent for Valentine celebrations. The Apple-Nut Doughnuts, named by my younger son, are more of an idea than a recipe, but they make a substantial and healthy snack that’s become quite popular around here. The Beet and Parsnip Chip recipes are different in only one respect: parsnips require a lower cooking temperature. Finally, the one recipe that has two incarnations: if you don’t feel like making cupcakes, the recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting can also have a little strawberry puree added to it to make an indulgent, sweet Strawberry Fruit Dip. I used last summer’s frozen strawberries for my purees. Strawberries from the height of last summer will be much more flavorful  than fresh ones from distant lands so if you have a similar stash, this is a perfect use for it.


Strawberry cupcakes



1 ½ cups white spelt flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup strawberry puree

¼ cup milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons full-fat yogurt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup of sugar

1 large eggs, room temperature

2 large egg whites, room temperature



Let eggs, milk and butter warm to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cups of a muffin pan with muffin liners and set aside.

In one bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a second bowl, mix together puree, milk, vanilla, and yogurt.

Cream butter, then slowly add sugar and beat until well combined. Add egg and egg whites until just combined. Carefully and slowly add half the flour mixture. Add milk mixture, then add remaining flour mixture until blended.

Divide batter into prepared muffin pan. Bake in oven 22 to 25 minutes until tops are just dry to the touch. Transfer pan to wire rack and allow to cool before icing.


Cream cheese frosting, or strawberry cream cheese fruit dip



½ cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese

3 – 3 ½ cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ cup strawberry puree (if making fruit dip)



Beat butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. If using strawberry, fold in strawberry puree, then beat on medium speed until combined. Check consistency and sweetness, adding extra ½ to 1 cup powdered sugar if necessary. If using strawberry puree, mixture will be somewhat thin. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Frosting dip will stiffen in refrigerator. Use as cupcake icing or decadent fruit dip.


Apple – nut “Doughnuts”



Large apples

Nut or soy butter of choice

Topping ideas: Crushed hazelnuts, chocolate/carob chips, dried currants, toasted coconut, dried fruits



Slice the apples into thick rounds. Pat dry before spreading thin layer of nut or soy butter. Sprinkle with  topping choices or put out toppings for snackers to assemble at the table.



Beet chips



2 beets, peeled and greens removed

2 parsnips, peeled

1 tablespoon oil of choice

Salt, to taste

Other seasonings, to taste (ex: rosemary or cumin and chile pepper)



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Slice beets into very thin rounds. If beets are large, cut the round slices in half to ensure crisping.

Toss beets in olive oil, then season.

Place on parchment or foil-lined baking sheet so that no slices overlap.

Bake beets for 15-25 minutes, turning once. Baking time will vary, depending on oven calibration, slice thickness, etc.



Parsnip chips

Parsnip and beet chips. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY

Parsnip and beet chips. PHOTO BY CAROL FREY



2 parsnips peeled

1 tablespoon, oil of choice

Salt, to taste

Other seasonings, to taste



Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Slice parsnips into thin rounds. Slice larger rounds in half. Toss in oil and season.

Bake for 15 – 25 minutes, turning once during cooking and watching carefully for browning. Baking time will vary, depending on oven calibration, slice thickness, etc.


Published in the February 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

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