Category Archives: Recipes for the Whole Family

Baby Birds’ Pumpkin Smash Cake with Cinnamon Frosting – Gluten Free and Low Sugar

I’m very excited to share the recipe I developed for a healthy and delicious pumpkin smash cake! Baby Bird’s Banana Smash Cake is one of my most popular posts on Pinterest and in search engines. It is a healthy cake with no refined sugar or artificial coloring. This year we went pumpkin picking to celebrate both our youngest Baby Bird turning 1 and Little Bird turning 3. So of course we had to have a PUMPKIN smash cake and pumpkin cup cakes. I kept the sugar low by using just half a cup of maple sugar. Although we are not gluten-free, so many of our friends are. To be perfectly honest: these came out BETTER than the traditional cup cakes I made for the guests.

Pumpkin Smash Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting - gluten free and low in sugar

The cinnamon frosting is mostly cream cheese with a little grass-fed butter. I wanted to use maple syrup to sweeten it, but we were out. I ended up using a little organic powdered sugar, but less than a quarter of what most recipes call for. Our pumpkin picking party fell on an unseasonably hot 100° day… the candy pumpkins on top of the smash cakes started melting. But the cake was delicious and I can’t wait to make it again! Maybe as a full-sized layer cake.

Healthy Pumpkin Smash Cake

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Smash Cake Recipe

Prep: Let all ingredients for the pumpkin smash cake sit out at room temperature. Cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of 1 or 2 ramekins. Grease well with butter. Line a muffin tin with a dozen cupcake liners for the rest of the batter. Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a good mixer, add:

  • 12 tablespoons of softened butter
  • ½ cup of maple sugar (brown sugar would also be nice)

Beat on high until light and fluffy. Add

  • 3 eggs, ideally at room temperature

Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each until well combined. Add

  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ cup of yogurt

Mix well. Add

Mix on slowest speed until just incorporated, then add

  • 2 cups of pureed, cooked pumpkin OR 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin (follow the instructions here if you want to cook the pumpkin from scratch – but I won’t tell anyone if you use the can…)

Mix until incorporated, then add

Scoop into the ramekins and any remaining batter into the muffin tin. Bake the muffin/cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes and the ramekins for about 40 minutes. Cool completely or even overnight before frosting with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Notes:

If you follow this blog, you will know that I am all about making things from scratch. They only time I have mentioned using a mix for anything was when I made my own pancake mix to take camping! But I have to say, I loved using this gluten-free mix! I have had so many not so great gluten free baked goods, and tend to avoid them.  This mix is a household staple as Papa Bird uses it at least weekly for his special pancakes. It was nearly a year before I realized it was gluten-free! I am not affiliated with Pamela’s, although maybe I should be! I am an Amazon Affiliate, though, and do receive advertising fees for qualifying purchases made through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Baby Birds' Pumpkin Smash Cake with Cinnamon Frosting - Gluten Free and Low Sugar
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Gluten-Free
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A low-sugar, gluten-free pumpkin cake or cup cake recipe, perfect for a healthy 1st birthday party "smash cake."
Ingredients
  • 12 tablespoons of softened butter
  • ½ cup of maple sugar (brown sugar would also be nice)
  • 3 eggs, ideally at room temperature
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ cup of yogurt
  • 2 cups of Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 2 cups of pureed, cooked pumpkin OR 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin
Instructions
  1. Let all ingredients for the pumpkin smash cake sit out at room temperature. Cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of 1 or 2 ramekins. Grease well with butter. Line a muffin tin with a dozen cupcake liners for the rest of the batter. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In the bowl of a good mixer, add butter and maple sugar. Beat on high until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each until well combined. Add milk and yogurt and mix well.
  3. Add 1 cup of Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix and the pumpkin pie spice blend. Mix on slowest speed until just incorporated, then add the pureed, cooked pumpkin. Mix until incorporated, then add 1 more cup of Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix.
  4. Scoop into the ramekins and any remaining batter into the muffin tin. Bake the muffin/cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes and the ramekins for about 40 minutes. Cool completely or even overnight before frosting with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

Eggplants are peaking right now, in our garden and in the markets, so I wanted to share a round up of quality eggplant recipes to inspire you! Here’s a tip for picking a great eggplant at the farmer’s market or store: find one that is relatively heavy for its size. It will have less seeds and more delicious flesh. Papa Bird (our family’s resident farmer) says homegrown eggplants are ready to pick when you push in with your thumb and it leaves an imprint. He recently put up a shade barrier to protect our growing eggplant from the strong San Diego sun. For more tips on cooking eggplant, check out this post.

Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM BABY BIRDS FARM

Some of my family’s favorite, “regular rotation” recipes highlight eggplant.

  1. Baba Ganoush: a garlicky dip, similar to hummus, and delicious with veggies to dip. Makes great baby food, too!

lamb, eggplant and pomegranate moussaka

  1. Pomegranate, Eggplant and Lamb Moussaka (above): a layered dish that is sweet and savory and spiced with cardamom and cinnamon.

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Maria Nasir of foodaholic is a Pakistani home cook and caterer turned international food blogging star. She has lot’s of delicious eggplant recipes from around the world. But this kid-friendly appetizer caught my eye:

  1. Eggplant Roll Ups: kid-friendly but with a delicious vinaigrette to please picky foodie parents.

 nam prik noom thai green curry

Another international blogger I follow, Azlin Bloor of Lin’s food, recently shared the above treat featuring aubergine (eggplant with a British accent):

  1. Nam Prik Noom (Thai Green Chilli Sauce)

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM FAMILY SPICE

Laura of Family Spice features eggplant in both Italian and Persian-inspired dishes.

roasted eggplant parm sandwich

  1. Roasted Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich from Laura of Family Spice (above): a nice, non-fried version of an eggplant parm.
  1. Pickled Eggplant and Vegetables with Pomegranate (torshi-yeh bademjan va anar): I have never even thought of using this combination of flavors and I am dying to try it.

Persian Eggplant Stew

  1. Persian Eggplant Stew (Khoreshteh Qiemeh Bademjoon) (pictured above).

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM SIMMWORKS FAMILY BLOG

Danielle of Simmworks Family Blog makes a lot of delicious family meals that are often quick and easy for busy families – without sacrificing taste.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

  1. Baked Eggplant Parmesan: an easy family dinner that will please adults and kids.
  1. Eggplant French Bread Pizza: simple, with just a few ingredients and perfect for lunch.

For even more eggplant ideas:

10 Fantastic Eggplant Recipes from Simmworks Family Blog.

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Zucchini Noodles

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls, or gỏi cuốn, are also called salad rolls or summer rolls. They are light and refreshing, and much healthier than fried spring rolls. Over ten years ago my friend, Quentin, invited me over to dinner at his mother’s house. She is originally from Vietnam* and put out a spread of delicious ingredients for us to roll our own fresh spring rolls. I’ve never forgotten it. (*Similar to how I’ve learned a lot of Mexican sweets living in San Diego, we also benefit from a large Vietnamese population here.)

how to make fresh vietnamese spring rolls

I think “Salad Rolls” is a better description for fresh spring rolls, as they are light and fresh with lot’s of greens, herbs and lean proteins. Many restaurants also put in rice vermicelli noodles. I took it one step healthier and used raw zucchini “noodles” made from cutting an enormous garden zucchini with a julienne peeler. Handy gadget. The wrappers are made from rice. The rice paper comes in hard discs that are softened in a few seconds in warm water.

How To Make Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

You can’t get more straightforward instructions than the back of the packaging!

fresh spring roll instructions

Here are my suggested fillings, feel free to only use what you like and to get creative:

  • Grilled Shrimp, Leftover Chicken, Steak or Tofu
  • Salad Greens
  • Fresh Herbs including Thai Basil, Mint, Cilantro , Scallions and Lemon Basil (use a LOT of herbs)
  • Cooked Rice Vermicelli or Raw Zucchini Noodles
  • Chopped Peanuts
  • Bean and Pea Sprouts and other raw veggies

Dipping Sauces for Salad Rolls:

  • The most common is a peanut sauce, easy recipe follows.
  • Another traditional is called nước mắm phawhich is a clear, sweet and sour with a little fish sauce. A girl I once worked with gave me her mom’s recipe, I’ll have to hunt around and see if I still have it.
  • You can’t go wrong with Sriracha!

fresh vietnamese spring rolls with zucchini noodles

Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce for Fresh Spring Rolls

That’s it! Warm in a sauce pan over low heat to mix easier. You can add a little water to thin, if needed.

True story: When I first made these rolls at home, I went to a Vietnamese market in search of peanut dipping sauce. I asked the young man stocking where it was. He didn’t think they had it and asked his grandmother. She laughed and (with her grandson translating) explained they always made it. She swore all you needed was these two ingredients. I usually can’t restrain myself from throwing in a little sriracha and nước mắm, but try it as is!

Shopping Notes:

The best prices are in Asian markets. These ingredients are pretty common, so you can usually find them on the “ethnic” aisle of big grocery stores. If you can’t find them easily, I’ve included some affiliate links to Amazon. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!

The Best Ever Strawberry Jam (Little Added Sugar and No Pectin)

I shared yesterday about our family trip to pick organic strawberries at Suzie’s Farm during their “Strawberry Jam.” Well, what better way to use up the strawberries we couldn’t eat fresh than making homemade strawberry jam?

the best strawberry jam - low sugar, no pectin

After we made it home, I sorted through our freshly picked strawberries. Most of them were still perfect and gorgeous, but I managed to set aside some that had the smallest of bruising for jam. Here is my trick for keeping strawberries fresh and pretty: I line a pyrex dish with a paper towel (or cloth kitchen towel) and spread them out in a single layer. I don’t wash them until just before eating.  These strawberries we picked were so fresh, it didn’t matter, but this can extend the life of store bought berries.

The rest of the berries went into jam! I didn’t have any pectin, and I was curious if all that sugar in most recipes served a vital purpose, so I picked the brain of my neighbor, our local grandma stand-in. I figured she would have pectin I could borrow, but she encouraged me to try without it. Then I found a recipe on Northwest Edible Life (the blog known for the hilarious “Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater.”) Erica makes the case for ditching pectin and uses much less sugar.

organic strawberry jam

Click here for detailed instructions on how to make preserves without pectin.

Here is what I ended up using in our strawberry jam:

  • 2 pounds chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

I ended up with a little over 3 cups of jam. I did not “can” them or seal them as I figured we would eat it quickly. (One week later, only about 1 cup is left.) And to be perfectly honest, I am still a little scared of my steam canner!

Any tips for getting started canning?

Strawberry Picking and Green Strawberry Pickles

Strawberry Picking

Last weekend we celebrated Papa Bird’s birthday with a fun family day at Suzie’s Farm. They held their annual “Strawberry Jam” last Saturday and we all had so much fun, picking strawberries and eating yummy food. Little Bird loved apple picking as a tot and felt right at home with the plants and chickens.

strawberry picking

We started off picking organic strawberries. Every plant was filled with the most perfectly beautiful, sweet and flavorful berries. (At home, Little Bird tends to pick all of our strawberries while they are still green and small.) I did get some temporary hives from stinging nettles, but they went away.

strawberry picking

Next I sampled strawberry chutney, drank a strawberry and basil kombucha, and made green strawberry pickles with Austin from the San Diego Fermenter’s Club. Little Bird loves them. They are mild, slightly crunchy and have a hint of strawberry flavor. You can find the recipe for Green Strawberry Pickles here.

green strawberry pickles

Green Strawberry Pickles Recipe

After all that hard work, I was ready for a grass fed burger made with strawberry jam, and a beet and quinoa salad from Green Truck. The cold and windy weather discouraged our plans for eating ice cream from our friends’ Calexico Creamery, but we took home a pint of (what else?) Fresa and a pint of Mexican Cocoa. Little Bird and I hid out from the wind in a teepee and she gathered twigs and sticks to build a play fire.

organic strawberry jam

Check back tomorrow and I will share the best recipe for strawberry jam! It has hardly any sugar in it and no pectin. The only other ingredient is a lemon…

–> Update: Strawberry Jam now posted HERE.