30!

Happy 30th birthday to ME!

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I’ve pretty much been celebrating all month long. You only turn 30 once!

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My golden year was pretty amazing. My husband & I did something we’ve been talking about pretty much since we got married (almost 4 years ago, can you believe it?!?). We moved out of South Florida. It happened super fast, too. It was like “Hey, we’re thinking about moving. Hey, we’re gonna move. Hey, we moved.” It was about 2 months from our scouting trip to our move in date. We had been praying about the decision for months & when it was finally go time it was GO GO GO! Only God could have orchestrated such a smooth move for us. My husband is thriving in his new job & we are getting settled nicely.

There were other changes that occurred between last September & this one, but in all of that here’s how I did with my goals:

  1. Read the Bible regularly. – Ok, this one never gets crossed off. I have been doing better & it’s only made me want to do it more. 1) I completed my first year of BSF with the study of Romans & now I am hooked. Cupcake loves the kids’ program, too! Transferring to a BSF group in Georgia was the first thing I did after we secured an apartment. It’s been a great way to get plugged in & meet some people, too! 2) the YouVersion Bible app is amazing. I have done several of their reading plans & turned on notifications for the verse of the day. My favorite feature is the ‘compare’ feature: you can see the same verses in different bible translations, even different languages! 3) I am slowly doing the Becoming MomStrong Bible study. (It was supposed to be an over the summer thing, but, you know. Life.)
  2. Volunteer. – Habitat For Humanity Project June 16!1536245758545.jpg
  3. Lose weight. – Goes hand in hand with #4
  4. Get more serious about fitness. – In June I finally started eating better & exercising 3-5x a week. Instead of going hard & getting quickly burnt out, I aimed to break a sweat for at least 10 minutes a day & focus on strength training for muscles instead of calorie burning cardio. I took a pause from working out while we were moving, but after settling a bit I got back on the wagon & I am happy to report that I have lost 15 lbs! I did this totally at home with no gym membership or equipment using a combination of My Fitness Pal for calorie counting & Fitness Blender for workout videos! (not a sponsored post – I just really enjoy their website!)
  5. Make Spanish more of a priority at home. – This one is also a permanent goal. My husband has been such a great supporter of this. His Spanish is improving as he tries to speak mostly Spanish to Cupcake. It warms my corazon ❤
  6. Throw a fancy dinner party.
  7. Go to a gun range. – I didn’t go to a range, but I did get to shoot guns at a family member’s hunting camp in Alabama over Labor Day Weekend. Half credit?
  8. Go to local high school football games.
  9. Read more books. – Read: Talking As Fast As I Can , Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra. In progress: IT, That Hideous Strength, Becoming MomStrong, Dad Is Fat.
  10. Learn a (simple) new make up look.
  11. Get more serious about my book business.
  12. Paint more.  – Some of these watercolors also turned into #28: a letter to a friend! I have enjoyed getting in to watercolors & doing some of the challenges on Instagram. It has really stretched me as an artist!  

  13. Build something with my hands.
  14. Donate blood.  Feb 19 – After the shooting at MSD in Parkland. 1536245942479.jpg
  15. Grow my hair long (& healthy) to donate. 12 inchesJune 14th!  

  16. Visit a new city in Florida. – I did TWO! Dec 19: Anniversary trip to Mt. Dora, FL. Jun 29: visited friends near Amelia Island, FL.
  17. Fast.
  18. Pay for someone else’s coffee.
  19. Send a care package to a soldier.
  20. Bake a soufflé. – First I think I should EAT a souffle to see what it’s all about!
  21. Be more intentional about making new friends. – Having just moved to a completely new area, I am definitely focusing on this one now!
  22. Hand make (most) Christmas presents this year. Check!
  23. Pay off debt. – This is the first thing we will do once the sale of our house closes.
  24. Go on a painting/cooking/activity date with my husband. Check!
  25. Go see more local shows/events.
  26. Go to one of the Orlando theme parks. – April 21 – we went to Universal Studios with our moms! Despite the look on her face in this picture, my niece had a great time. 10 minutes after this picture was taken she yelled “THAT WAS AWESOME!”1536247053431.jpg
  27. Work on knife & butchery skills.
  28. Write more letters to friends. – Could have been better, but I’ve sent friends a few cards that I watercolor!
  29. Grow in my relationship with God. – Another one that never gets crossed off. I am excited to go into my 30’s as a dedicated Christ follower. I am working hard to choose joy & be the light. I complain too much and my tongue gets away from me way too often. But I can feel the Father, Son, & Spirit working on me!


I really enjoyed having these goals for the past year. Sometime along the way I also made a vision board for our family. I’m looking forward to setting more personal & family goals for 2019.

Bring it on 30’s!

PS: I made that cute belly badge I’m wearing in the first pictures with my awesome new Cricut! My husband totally surprised me with it. I’m already starting to work on Christmas crafts!!!!

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Pastelitos De Guayaba

In South Florida pretty much all of the grocery stores with a bakery have an assortment of Hispanic pastries/baked goods. Empanadas, arepas, and of course, pastelitos.

Pastelitos are Cuban pastries with various fillings. They can be sweet or savory. Today I’m sharing with you the king of all sweet pastelitos – pastelito de guayaba.

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This pastelito is filled with guava paste, which is a very sweet, very thick guava reduction. It is absolutely one of my favorite things. I’ve briefly shared about it before in a couple of recipes.

In this recipe, guava paste is the star. Pastelitos de guayaba (the Spanish word for guava, as you may have guessed) come in two forms – con queso y sin queso. The combination of guava paste & cheese is truly wonderful. Any cheese will do, but for pastelitos it’s cream cheese. The two flavors melt and marry beautifully in the puff pastry. If cheese isn’t your thing, that’s OK. Just stick with the guava.

Thanks to the wonder that is frozen puff pastry, this recipe is ridiculously simple. I don’t make it often because it’s kind of a calorie bomb, but it’s worth every single one.

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To make a dozen pastelitos, cut the guava paste brick into 12 slices. I usually cut in into quarters & then each quarter into 3 pieces. Then lay the guava slices on to the puff pastry sheet, using the folds as natural dividers. For this batch I put cream cheese on half of them.

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Top with the other sheet of puff pastry, cut into 12 squares that each contain a guava slice, & score the top. Then brush with an egg wash to get that nice golden color.

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These pastries are so flaky and delicious. Cuban people would call this breakfast, but this makes a great dessert, too. Basically good for any occasion, any time of day! Pastelitos are delicious warm or cold, but you definitely want them to cool for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Hot guava = lava. Hey, that rhymes! These can be a little messy between the flaky crust and warm, gooey guava. You’ll definitely be licking your fingers!

Now that I don’t live in South Florida anymore I might be making these more often. If your local grocery store bakery doesn’t offer pastelitos, now you know how to make your own!

¡Buen provecho!

Pastelitos De Guayaba

Makes 1 dozen pastries

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry
  • 1 brick of guava paste (approx. 14 oz)
  • cream cheese (optional)
  • 1 egg for wash
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions. You want it thawed enough to unfold without cracking, but not soft.
  2. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  3. Cut guava paste into 12 slices. Place 4 slices per pastry sheet fold to get your 12 servings. If adding cream cheese, place 1 tbsp (or slice of the same length as guava slice) on top of guava.
  4. Unfold the second puff pastry sheet and place it over the one with the guava paste. Cut into 12 squares and score the tops of each.
  5. Brush egg wash on each square. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Can be enjoyed warm or cold.
Nutritional info (with cream cheese): 307 cal, 44 g carbs, 13.5g fat, 4 g protein

Classic Cuban Flan

Deciding what recipe to share with you this week for Hispanic Heritage Month inspired me to make something that I have not made in ages: flan.

classic Cuban flan pressure cooker flanera Mrs. Dessert Monster

What is flan? Flan is a delicious cooked custard. There really is nothing like it in my opinion. It can be very hard to describe. When done correctly, the texture is light and dense at the same time while being totally smooth; truly one of a kind. The caramel on top is just as important as the custard. Flan can be many different flavors. This here is the OG flan.

Every Latin country has their own flan recipe. Actually, it probably even varies family to family! This is my family’s recipe.

classic Cuban flan pressure cooker flanera Mrs. Dessert Monster

I made my family’s classic Cuban flan the old fashioned way – in the pressure cooker.

classic Cuban flan pressure cooker flanera Mrs. Dessert Monster

Hisssssssss

We’ve never made it any other way. There are other recipes out there for making it in the oven. This recipe is staying true to my roots & embracing the scary pressure cooker. There really isn’t anything to be scared of. I bought this one like 10 years ago & it has a sensor that WILL NOT allow you to open it if it’s still pressurized. It’s pretty fail safe. The hissing sound it makes really takes me back to my childhood. I introduced Cupcake to that sound today – she wasn’t a huge fan. Yet.

You CAN make this recipe using an InstaPot, or so I have read. I have zero experience using one, so I’m not sure what the conversion would be. It took me many years to embrace the CrockPot, so I think it’ll be another while before I can embrace the InstaPot.

The other item you need to make this recipe the traditional way is a flanera.

flanera flan Mrs. Dessert Monster

I just bought this one off Amazon (not affiliate link, just sharing!). It’s actually a little sad I didn’t already have one, but I really haven’t made flan in ages! Siglos, as my mom said. The locking lid prevents water from getting in to it. Again, there are other recipes that omit this equipment, even using a pressure cooker or InstaPot. For me, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’m not messing with success & proven results!

This recipe and this cooking method is a part of my heritage. Sure, there are other times I totally embrace different ways of making classic recipes. Or even just outright buy my favorite Cuban foods. No one I know makes their own croquetas anymore, thanks to Goya. But this flan is special. And special equipment aside, it’s pretty simple to make.

classic Cuban flan pressure cooker flanera Mrs. Dessert Monster

Back when I did make this flan more often, I quickly jotted down my mom’s recipe one day. You can totally tell English is my heart language, even though Spanish was my first language. Since it’s been a while I called her to clarify & wrote down the instructions more clearly for all of us.

Classic Cuban Flan

  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • ~1 cup milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Pour sweetened condensed milk into a large mixing bowl. Take the now empty can of sweetened condensed milk & fill it with milk (it’s approximately 1 cup, but doing it this way ensures you have equal parts by volume milk & sweetened condensed milk).
  2. Add eggs & vanilla to bowl. Mix thoroughly using electric mixer or by hand with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. To make caramel, pour 1 cup of sugar into medium saucepan. Melt until a light golden liquid caramel forms. Carefully pour caramel into flanera, using oven mitts to turn the flanera to cover the sides with caramel.
  4. Strain the egg custard mix into the flanera with caramel. Close the latches.
  5. Place flanera into pressure cooker. Fill with water until just below lid of flanera (this was less than 2 cups for me, just to give you an idea). Do not fill too high. Close pressure cooker properly. TIP FROM MY MAMI: when using an electric stove top, you may want to use a metal or foil ring to prevent flanera from being in direct contact with the heating element. I have a gas stove so I did not do this step.
  6. Turn the stove on medium heat. When the pressure cooker begins to hiss, cook for 30 more minutes, then turn off heat. Allow pressure cooker to fully depressurize before opening. I usually leave it for about an hour. Take flanera out & put into fridge for 1-4 hours.
  7. When ready to serve, open flanera. Take your serving dish, invert it over flanera & flip flan out. You want a serving dish with some sort of edge so you don’t lose all that precious caramel! Cut into slices & spoon residual caramel over top.
Nutritional info, based on 12 servings: 200 calories, 32 g sugar, 5.8 g protein, 5.1 g fat

Hispanic Heritage Month

¡Hola amigos! Today marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hispanic Heritage Month goes from 9/15 – 10/15. I’ve always said that Hispanics are so extra that they couldn’t just pick a calendar month – hahaha, I mean, jajaja! I actually just recently learned (thanks to a post by Spanish Mama) the reason behind the dates. It was first National Hispanic Heritage Week starting in 1968 under President Johnson. It was designated as the week to include 9/15 & 9/16 because several Latin American countries celebrate their Independence Days then. In 1988 President Reagan made it a whole month.

That means that Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, too!

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Maybe it’s being in Atlanta away from the Caribbean bubble of South Florida, maybe it’s missing my Mami, or maybe it’s the fact that Cupcake looked at me the other day & said “I don’t want any more” instead of “no mas”😳, but I want this Hispanic Heritage Month to mean a little more to us as a family. Usually it’s like October 3rd (another important date, lol) before I’m like ‘oh wait, isn’t it HHM?’

So let’s have some fun this year. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Latin recipes this month & invite you to share yours with me!

¡Hasta la próxima!

 

My Gratitude Journal

We just recently moved to Atlanta & decided to rent an apartment for a year before trying to buy a house. It is the best decision for us right now, but living in an apartment after several years of home ownership is hard.

 The water pressure is terrible. There’s carpet everywhere (not great for toddlers or pets!). The kitchen countertops are this ugly material that is hard to clean. We have this weird humidity issue happening. And don’t get my dad started on the stairs!

I could go on, but I won’t.

Instead, I am choosing to focus on the things that I am loving about this apartment. Instead of just surviving here for the next year or so until we buy a house, I am choosing to thrive here. Instead of grinning and bearing and wishing this year to go by quickly, I am going to make the best of it.

I have realized that this year of apartment living matters. There is a window above the kitchen sink & I can see the leaves changing colors for Fall. The views in general are actually quite nice here. My husband is actually enjoying his commute from here. Cupcake is going to turn 2 here. Depending on how long we’re here, we might even have another baby here! I won’t wish this away.

God has put me right here, right now, for His glory.

I’m going to try something new. When something is majorly bothering me, instead of complaining, I will aim to come up with 10 things that I like about it. 10 things that I am grateful for. I will try to realize just how privileged & undeserving I am of all of the things that I have. I will strive to thank the Lord for blessing me.

What’s something that is bothering you in your life? What are you most complaining about right now? Will you join me in making a gratitude journal about it?

My Gratitude Journal

Atlanta Apartment List, in no particular order

  1. 3 bedrooms
  2. Gas stove!
  3. Large laundry room
  4. Garage that I will actually use to park my car
  5. Large walk in closet
  6. Deck with a sliding door
  7. Our bedroom fits our new king size bed
  8. Good storage space
  9. Dog friendly
  10. The view of the leaves changing from our kitchen window

Gratitude Journal Mrs. Dessert Monster

 

 

Cupcake’s Nursery

When we first moved in to our house, the second bedroom was affectionately called Phase 2. As in the second phase of unpacking/renovating. It remained that way until about my 4th month of pregnancy – 1.5 years later!

That’s when it officially became Cupcake’s nursery.

Ever since completing the nursery & bringing Cupcake home from the hospital, I’ve been meaning to write this post & share it with y’all. So here it is – almost 2 years later, after we moved out of this house.

That’s right, we have left the Sunshine state & moved to the Peach state! We are now officially Atlanta residents (OTP, for those of you in the know). After decades of living in South Florida, we moved north to move to The South.

Before we moved, I was finally able to have the room look organized enough to take photos. What I mean is that her room did NOT look like this on a daily basis – not even close! But I wanted to preserve the memory of her first room in its best state.

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We decided on teal/aqua, yellow, & pink for her room colors. The color on the wall is Aqua Wish, in case you are wondering!

Cupcake’s favorite corner was this one with her book shelf & glider.

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How many Usborne & Kane Miller books can you spot?

Here’s a prime example of why I say her room never really looked this organized!

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This room & this house will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s the first home Cupcake knew outside my body.

We’re looking forward to decorating her new room in our apartment. And now we have a new ‘Phase 2’ in the 3rd bedroom!

 

See You In September!

Don’t worry, I haven’t deserted the blog!

See you in September with more recipes & fun!

#NextNominee – Sign The Petition!

For the last few months I have been working with Secular Pro-Life on a project that officially launched June 15. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. God’s timing, if you ask me!

The project is called #NextNominee.

From our press release: “Young adult anti-abortion advocates organized by Secular Pro-Life have launched #NextNominee, a campaign to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy with a pro-life woman. The centerpiece of the campaign is a petition hosted at petitions.whitehouse.gov, a federal website that allows concerned citizens to voice their concerns directly to White House officials. If the petition receives at least 100,000 signatures in the next 30 days, the Trump administration will respond.”

You probably have heard by now that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the Supreme Court.

Reactions are polarized – conservatives are elated & liberals are worried. It’s not hard to guess where I fall.

 

As a woman who loves this country, it is truly upsetting that the 3 female voices that are supposed to speak for me on the Supreme Court are vehemently pro-abortion.

RBG

RBG doesn’t represent me! Image taken from #HelloHyde.org

While the argument can be made that any pro-life candidate for the Supreme Court would be great, I would really like to put the whole “old white men” pro-abortion talking point to bed.

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There are SIX qualified women on President Trump’s short list. Love him or hate him, he will be the one making this decision.

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Please visit the #NextNominee website to learn more about the potential nominees, or use this link to go directly to the petition!

If you have ever wished you could just do something to advance the cause for human rights for all humans, here is your chance! It might not seem like much to sign your name, but this petition is a big deal!

God bless America!

giphy

 

Toddler Cards For Any Occasion

Cupcake’s birthday is in January, so last year she got to enjoy all of her first holidays in order. This means that I got to do all of the fun handprint/footprint crafts for with her.

Footprint Valentines day heart? check. Footprint Father’s day craft? check. Handprint turkey for Thanksgiving? check. Handprint AND footprint clay ornaments for Christmas? check.

Now that she’s no longer an infant, I just don’t find it as cute. Let’s face it – the gift recipients know who really made those things. ME. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really cute ideas on Pinterest. But most of them are just work for mom.

Cupcake is 17 months old – old enough to want to do things on her own, but not old enough to really understand that we are making a gift for someone else. So even if I wanted to, it’d be pretty challenging to get her to give me a handprint or a footprint this year. So strong willed, & she’s not even 2! Say a prayer for me.

For Father’s day I searched for ideas of something she could make her daddy that was minimal work for me while being a little more thoughtful than just her scribbling on a piece of paper. I didn’t really come across any ideas I liked, but inspiration came from Cupcake herself. She likes to color & paint all by herself (heavily supervised, of course!) & her absolute favorite thing in the world right now is stickers. That gave me an idea.

It sounded too simple, but what if Cupcake really could make a card for daddy by herself with minimal guidance from me?

Toddler Cards for Any Occasion Made By Toddlers - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Sometimes, the K.I.S.S. principle really is the best. Keep it simple, silly!

Cupcake had a lot of fun painting this card for daddy.Toddler Cards for Any Occasion Made By Toddlers - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Once the paint was dry, we added stickers. I let her add as many hearts as she wanted before giving her the sticker letters, one at a time in order, to spell DADA. That’s really all of the involvement I had, minus making sure she didn’t get paint everywhere! Oh, and writing her name & the date on the back!

This craft is so easily adaptable for any occasion! Use different colored paper, paint, or markers depending on your target audience & time of year! It’s infinitely customizable. You can let your toddler add as much or as little embellishment as you wish. The only ‘must’ is sticker letters. As long as your toddler has the motor skills to put stickers on a paper, they can do this craft!

Toddler Cards for Any Occasion Made By Toddlers - Mrs. Dessert Monster

My hubby really loved receiving this card from our sweet daughter. She handed it to him herself! It might sound silly, but the fact that he can tell she really made it (as opposed to mommy) makes it more special!

Toddler Cards For Any Occasion

  • card stock – any color!
  • paint, crayons, and/or markers
  • sticker letters
  • optional: more stickers, glitter, paper scraps, or any other embellishment you can trust your toddler with, plus glue if necessary!
  1. Have your toddler paint or color on the piece of card stock. If you use paint, you will have to factor in drying time. (I used paint & had it be a 2-day project. Twice the fun!)
  2. Have your toddler stick on any other embellishments. I gave Cupcake heart stickers, since this was a Father’s Day card & she ‘hearts’ her daddy. Use holiday themed stickers to be extra festive!
  3. The last step is to give your toddler sticker letters one at a time & in order of whatever word(s) you are trying to get them to spell. I minimally guided Cupcake on putting the DADA stickers next to each other. I suspect that in another month or two, I wouldn’t even have to do that! Then, write your toddler’s name & the date on the back.
  4. Have your toddler give the card to loved ones & watch their heart melt!

 

Vegan Mini Carrot Muffins

Whole wheat? No refined sugar? Vegan?!?

Don’t worry, I’m not going all ‘crunchy’ on you. I’m just a mama trying to get her toddler to eat veggies.

I think I fed Cupcake too many carrots when she was a baby, because one day around 11 months old she just started rejecting them. She loves peas, but hates carrots. Go figure.

I, on the other hand, love carrots. So I started looking for a way I could get Cupcake to eat them that wasn’t straight up carrot cake. I came across this recipe by Ambitious Kitchen & decided to give it a try. I was going for the vegan option to try & get a little flax in there, but planned on using regular whole milk. I also chose to make mini muffins instead so they’d be a good size for Cupcake. I have a 48-ct mini muffin pan & it’s just the best!

The thing about baking when you have a toddler around is that you are very distracted. Meaning I just straight up forgot to add the milk. Any milk. Which is ironic because the recipe I was following was a sponsored post by Almond Breeze. So I accidentally made them totally vegan, and they were still totally delicious.

Vegan Mini Carrot Muffin - Mrs. Dessert Monster

In my opinion, the carrots are moist enough not to need the milk & the mini size means they’re still a good texture. I don’t think I would try a regular sized muffin like this, though. Also, the OP’s note about these tasting better sitting after in an airtight container overnight is true. They are good straight off of the cooling rack, but they are GREAT after a night in the fridge.

Vegan Mini Carrot Muffin - Mrs. Dessert Monster

Cupcake agrees!

Don’t skimp on the carrots – 1 cup finely shredded! Shredding carrots by hand with a box grater is a pain in the arm (gotcha!) but these are totally worth it. If you are wondering if you need a 3rd carrot to make that cup – you do. I usually use 2 large carrots & then end up shredding a 3rd smaller one.

Full disclosure: I add non-vegan mini chocolate chips to mine. But there are vegan chocolate chips out there, or  you can add another mix in such as nuts, raisins, or coconut flakes.

I told you I wasn’t going ‘crunchy’ on you! 🙂

Vegan Mini Carrot Muffins

Makes 4 dozen mini muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup packed finely shredded carrots (about 2-3 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax + 3 tbsp water, mixed)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mix-in of your choice, such as mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, raisins, or coconut flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients (first 5) in a medium bowl.
  3. By hand or with an electric mixer set on low, combine carrots, maple syrup, olive oil, applesauce, flax egg, & vanilla.
  4. Add dry ingredients to carrot mixture & stir until you no longer see dry flour. Gently stir in desired mix-in.
  5. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups – less than a tablespoon in each. Bake until they pass the toothpick test, about 12 minutes. Once cool, transfer to airtight container & keep in the fridge. They’re good once cooled, but GREAT after a night in the fridge!

Vegan Mini Carrot Muffin - Mrs. Dessert Monster