Stop Force Feeding Your Kids And Start Muffinizing

This article was featured in Real Woman on November 13, 2014.

Instead of battling with your kids to get them to eat healthier foods, try baking them into their diet, muffin style. You (and the kids) will love the results.


I discovered the hard way that kids can be utterly maddening—inscrutable—when you’re trying to force fruits and veggies and other generally healthy foods into their diet. So I changed gears a few years ago—instead of trying to move the immovable object or stop the irresistible force, I baked my way into getting nutritious foods into my children.

Basically, I muffinized. (Muffinize (verb): to cook (something, such as broccoli and cheese in a muffin pan). If your kids roll their eyes over the same-old turkey burgers, turn the burgers into muffins.

Muffinizing pumps in nutritious foods without announcing health or sacrificing taste. Carrot muffins contain vitamin A (carrots) and anti-oxidants (walnuts). Quiche muffins are full of (loathed) vegetables but I have yet to find my son picking spinach from his. Chocolate ricotta muffins are full of protein. Spinach ricotta frittata derives protein from the eggs and ricotta cheese. Dinner is complete with a Thai turkey meatloaf or cheeseburger muffin. Dessert is full of healthy fat from the avocado in a chocolate avocado muffin.

To encourage the child to eat healthy food, one must be mindful that the work of childhood is play. And it’s not just about the taste. Muffinizing food makes eating fun, especially for kids. A crunchy top adds interest to the multi-textured macaroni and cheese muffin. The tired PB&J sandwich comes alive in a peanut butter muffin with a surprise jelly center. The melted cheese “icing” on a pizza muffin is more alluring than the standard slice. And it’s easy. No straw required. No utensils necessary. Hardly a napkin needed.

Permission to eat with hands is liberating, and not only for kids but also for grown-ups who divvy muffins while driving from school to soccer practice. A handheld frittata muffin is a lot easier to manage than a dripping tuna melt.

Yum. ‘Nough said.

For nutritious muffin recipes, go to

Berry Vanilla Muffins

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Celebrate Election Day or the Fourth of July with the colors of the American flag.

Full of fresh blueberries and raspberries with a hint of creamy vanilla, these muffins are moist and refreshing for a patriotic picnic.

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Berry Vanilla Muffins (makes 12)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, mix butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla.
4. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.
5. Fold in blueberries and raspberries.
6. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan, filling each muffin cup about 2/3 full.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
8. Allow muffins to cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.


Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins


A peanut buttery muffin with creamy, jelly-filled center trumps the PB & J sandwich any day. Its peanut butter isn’t sticky and its jelly doesn’t ooze all over the place. Plus, what child wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised to see frosting-like jelly inside.

The “frosting” actually contains some protein (cream cheese), which complements the amino acids in the peanut butter…shhh, don’t tell!

These muffins are quick and easy to prepare, requiring two mixing bowls and a whisk. They are fluffy, moist, soft and light. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or snacks.

*Possible Substitutions:

  • For the milk, substitute unsweetened vanilla almond milk or soy, cow, rice, goat, or coconut milk.
  • For the jelly, use strawberry jelly, jam, or preserves (or raspberry, apricot, raspberry, grape or cherry).
  • For the peanut butter, use soy nut butter.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins (makes 18)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 heaping cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup jelly, jam or preserves
½ cup whipped cream cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk, milk, peanut butter, oil and vanilla extract.
4. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.
5. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan, filling each muffin cup about 1/4 full.
6. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk cream cheese and jelly.
7. Spoon 1 tsp jelly filling onto each muffin cup. Top with batter to ¾ full.
8. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops are golden.


Pizza Muffins

Pizza Muffins

What child doesn’t like pizza? Mine! I’m continually perplexed that the even the smell of pizza doesn’t excite my kids. However, I’ve discovered that pizza in muffin-form is a gazillion times more interesting and fun.

This muffin doesn’t ooze or drip. The melted cheese on top looks like frosting on a cupcake. Try adding chopped mushrooms, onion, peppers, or sardines to the batter. Eat these muffins hot or cold. Serve for lunch or snack with a side of spaghetti or pizza sauce for dipping.


Pizza Muffins (makes 18)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 cup tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (or mozarella or both), shredded and divided
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin cups with olive oil or cooking spray or line with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, basil, oregano, and sugar. Stir well until blended.
3. Mix in tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
4. In another bowl, beat egg, whisk in buttermilk, and stir until combined.
5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until half full.
6. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese on top of muffins.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.


French Toast Muffins

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French toast is the ultimate comfort food. I craved it, and ate it, throughout my entire pregnancy. No wonder my kids have been fans of French Toast ever since they started solid food. These “cakes” taste exactly like my favorite French toast but with a finer texture. They are super portable – can be toted to the office or packed for a morning playdate or Sunday picnic.

Both toppings below are equally delicious. The first is a cinnamon and sugar glaze, and the second combines the traditional tastes associated with French Toast: drizzled maple syrup and powdered sugar. As on French toast, apply the topping by drizzling. Or, dip each muffin into a puddle of maple syrup and a mound of powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar mixture.

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French Toast Muffins (makes 10)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper muffin liners.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together egg, milk, and melted butter.
4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until just moistened (batter may be lumpy).
5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
7. Top each muffin with one of the two coatings (recipes below) and serve warm.

Topping 1: Cinnamon Sugar Coating

1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

1. In a bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar.
2. In a separate bowl, melt butter.
3. Dip tops of finished muffins in the melted butter, and then in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Topping 2: Maple Sugar Coating

maple syrup (good quality)
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. With a toothpick, poke a few holes in muffin tops.
2. Use a spoon to drizzle syrup over muffin tops.
3. Sprinkle powdered sugar on tops.