How Sugar-Strict Should You Be?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about her ‘crazy’ sister-in-law who won’t let her kids (or the visiting kids) have a soda.  My colleague thought this was a little over the top and that there was nothing wrong with having a soda now and then.  While I confess that I have on occasion let my son have a soda, usually at a birthday party or other celebration hosted by others, I did have an answer for her and came to the defense of the unseen crazy sister-in-law (takes one to know one, right?).

The Sister-in-law’s defense your honor is a matter of the bar.  Not the legal bar exam to become a lawyer, but the bar which is a standard or expectation to which we, or the foods we put in our mouths, all must rise.  When someone raises the bar then they are increasing the expectations.

 

limbo-bar

When someone drinks a soda their expectations for what is considered sweet just got thrown at the ceiling. Splat!  Will it fall on someone’s head like a wet wad of toilet paper from the school bathroom ceiling?  Yes.  It will fall on the heads of parents everywhere who are trying to keep reduce the amount of sugar their kids consume…. and perhaps struggling with their own sugar consumption as well.

Consider this – most people would agree that fruit is sweet.  Kids even like it, or they used to.  I am amazed by how many kids come over to ‘hang out’ (my son is now too old to play) who refuse a piece of fruit.  They don’t like fruit.  Now, surely there are people with fruit preferences and allergies or a particular fruit that just doesn’t a-peel (harhar)….. but I have to stop myself from saying, “What do you mean you don’t like fruit?  What’s not to like about fruit?  What DO you like?”

Candy, soda, sugar – then throw in some chips
Gimme candy, soda, sugar – right past my numbed out lips

When you drink a can of soda that has
39 g (about 10 tsp) of sugar in a 12 ounce can of cola;
23 g (almost 6 tsp) in an 8 ounce serving of minute maid orange juice;
the 23g in an 8 ounce serving of snapple lemon iced tea;
the 33g (over 8 tsp) in a 20 ounce bottle of vitaminwater….. isn’t that supposed to taste kind of like water?

Then don’t you think the following will seem a little less than sweet to your palate?:
9 g of sugar (about 2 tsp) in a serving of pineapple;
7 g (less than 2 tsp)in aserving of strawberries
17g (a bit more than 4 tsp) in 1 large banana
11g (almost 3 tsp) in a cup of apple slices

With or without scientific evidence, we all know that comparisons affect what we eat.  You get used to Starbuck’s coffee and then some other coffees start to taste a bit weak.  You eat lots of salty chips and you will probably find yourself reaching for the salt shaker more often when eating potatoes or eggs or other bland salt vehicles.  It’s the old Ka-Pow theory of the Sis Sisters – as we increase the amount of sugar (or salt for that matter) we feel constitutes the description ‘sweet’, a little less just doesn’t register as sweet anymore.  And sweet is oh so powerful….. it attracts more flies than vinegar after all and it is what little girls are made of along with spice and everything nice.  Or perhaps big girls like sweets so much because we never felt as sweet as we were supposed to be….. okay, I’m coming back, that’s another post entirely.

Back to kids and sugar.  By the time most kids finish the load of candy in their Easter basket there will be some other occasion to inundate them with candy.  In fact they’ll probably be given some at school next week, or at a meeting or gathering of some sort – along with some soda or juice to drink… or water with flavor (chemical crap) in it.  Is it any wonder that they are not interested in fruit?

So how strict should you be with your kid about sugar?  It’s a heck of an uphill battle, but preserving their ability to taste the sweetness in real food will shape what they choose to eat.  Sometimes you just have to draw the line somewhere…. I definitely draw the line at soda.  I do not provide soda for my son and his friends.  Perhaps someday he will go hog wild and drink a bunch of soda…. but he will know just how horrifically, un-naturally sweet it is, and hopefully the rebellion won’t last so long as to re-set his sugar bar.  Unfortunately it doesn’t take much of a miss to bump that pole up a little higher!

Mind you – we are all about Baby Steps even when it comes to kids and sugar – and perhaps especially when it comes to kids and sugar.  Work it down and work it out a bit at a time, hopefully with their agreement for lasting effects.

 

 

 

Fruit Glorious Fruit!

Was that the name of the musical or just one of the songs?  I don’t remember ;-)

At any rate we are coming up on yet another wonderful holiday which has been transformed from a celebration of renewal, life and goodness into yet another opportunity to stuff candy in all colors of the rainbow and all textures imaginable into our gullets.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, we will stuff other things into our gullets as well…. personally I’m hoping for some asparagus.

But can our children truly appreciate the deeper meanings of the day and the time with friends and family while glazed over with sugar inside and out?  Well maybe they can, but I certainly can’t and it makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it!  Whew.  Caught my breath, clearly it’s time to stop ranting and share something meaningful here.

Like fruit!  Fruit is meaningful and wonderful and full of life and juice (usually).  It grows on trees, bushes, canes, vines… and in baskets!  You’ve seen fruit baskets right?  Incredible how the different varieties can grow from the same basket.  And baskets fit in perfectly with Easter!  So am I suggesting that you give your children fruit baskets for Easter?  Ha!  Even I am not that much of a nave fool.  I am however going to suggest that you make a fruit dessert.  Why not?  And if you really wanted to, you could substitute some of the candy for interesting or exotic fruits in the basket and I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I found all manner of suggestions – all of which are fast and easy – with presenting fruit in a fancy dessert-like way.  I decided to find a way to make a dairy free fruit dip / cream that could be used with any fruit to make it fancier.  That recipe follows and then the list.  In addition, Little Sis has some creamy, dairy free fruit zipper-upper in her nectarine pie.  Check that one out as well!

Mine is sweet orange sunflower dip

1 cup raw sunflower seeds soaked for at least 6 hours in 2 cups of water
zest from 1/2 – 1 orange.  Zest is a little tart, so if you are wary, start with 1/2 and add more if you want
juice from 1 orange (was a bit less than 1/4 cup if you have juice in the frig)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor and run it for a few minutes until well combined.  Scrape down the sides a few times to catch the errant seeds.

Serve with fruit.  My 13 year old enjoyed this and didn’t do his usual, can I have some dessert after eating it, so it did the trick!

 

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So here is a list of fancy sounding, delicious looking and easy fruit desserts that you might serve up on Easter, or on any day!  I am intrigued by the idea of just broiling some fruit (like pineapple or mango) and it’s ready to go.  You might put a little ice cream with it, but you might not, and if you did, at least there would be more fruit and less dessert on the plate, right?

Saucy & Sweet Grilled Pineapple:

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

Easy Glazed Banana

Tropical Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Sauce

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Citrus Infused Strawberries

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Broiled Mango

Chocolate & Banana

Carmelized Bananas

Almond Cream with Strawberries

Enjoy and have a rejuvenating and wonderful celebration of the return of spring and the power of goodness and love.

 

Veggie-licious Snacks

It all comes to down to space right?  Although some stomachs are bigger than othesr, and I’m talking on the inside, not the outside… there is a limited amount of space in a stomach for food.   The more of that space you fill with vegetables, the less space there is for more objectionable, less nutritious items.  This is not to say that only vegetables are healthy, but you pretty much can’t do better.  And you KNOW it is much easier to fill in the holes for carbohydrates and protein, I doubt you’ll go too low in either category if you eat more vegetables.

Although the eat more veggies philosophy will serve anyone who wants to be healthier well, it becomes problematic in relation to ‘snacks’.  My son will come home from school inquiring about snack food and my list of fruits and vegetables / dips / bread with a healthy topping is followed by his question, “after that can I have a ‘snack?”  Snack has become synonymous with treat… which in his mind is something he’s not supposed to have often.  Ah – that old beast – Forbidden non-fruit, right?

Again, and we have discussed this previously in our Baby Steps series, I rely on Pre-Emptive Produce, i.e. – fill up on veggies first!  Requiring a healthy snack prior to a smaller helping of whatever you allow as a less than healthiest snack choice in your home still means more veggies and less crap.  It works for me as well.  An orange, an apple, a carrot dipped in almond butter, some leftover roasted sweet potato, all make me able to remember that I don’t need to eat some of the more tempting items in my pantry.  So with the seasons of more plentiful produce upon us…. I promise they really are upon us, if a little delayed this year… here are some suggestions for veggie-licious snacks beyond the carrot and celery stick.

Sweet & Spicy carrots:
Cut 2 large carrots into chunks, microwave for 60 – 90 second or to desired tenderness

Mix together 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt P1010627 Mix with carrots.
Make a double or triple batch and store in  the frig in little containers that can be grabbed – like a ‘snack’! P1010630 Pickly- cucumbers:
Slice 1 large or 2 med – small cucumbers into a glass container.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar & 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Cover with water
Add pepper if desired
Let sit for 4-5 hours – taste and add more vinegar / sugar / pepper if you like
Little Sis has some more complicated but delicious pickley cucumber goodness here.

Coleslaw cups
:
Coleslaw is very adaptable. Folks who don’t like (or don’t eat) mayo, can use alternate recipes and you can make it a little sweet without going crazy on the sugar!   Little Sis has a great cole slaw recipe here.

Roasted or baked potatoes
- this is a great alternative to chips. And if you can afford small, colored potatoes, then even better!  A mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes is very nice and can be achieved in a 375 – 425 oven for 20 – 40 minutes depending on how small you cut the pieces.  But if you are making them for a snack it can go on while you are eating or doing something else right?  I just make extra when we have them for dinner – toss them in the frig and they are there to be easily heated up and scarfed down as a delicious snack!

Cauliflower crunch
:
Coat florets in olive oil then sprinkle paprika and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once).  I usually roast things at 375.

Frozen Grapes & Kiwi:
As simple as it sounds.  Place grapes and bite-sized chunks of peeled kiwi on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  When hard, place in smaller containers and keep in the freezer.  Healthy, tasty frozen snack!

Crispy Asparagus:
dip asparagus in egg white and bread with either whole wheat panko, or Italian breadcrumbs and bake til crispy.  I would think this would work with green beans as well – and again 375 would be a good place to start – but watch them closely the first time!

Unusual fruits and veggies:
Novelty can be good or bad – depending on the person, but it is at least special or different.  Try serving fresh pineapple for dessert one night.  It goes on sale and can be a lot cheaper than ice cream (if you buy good or non-dairy ice cream in particular).  Sugar snap peas make a great snack that many kids like because they are sweet and crunchy.  Offer something different!

And of course there is the option of dipping various crispy fruits and veggies into:
hummus
salad dressing
nut butter
yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon and sweetener, or onion soup mix – read the label!!!)
Nutty Lunch Dip

So change the snack paradigm in your house.  A snack is sustenance to carry you through to the next meal, or through a workout / physical trial.  It can also be a treat…. surely some of these will fill both bills for the snackers in your house.  And if they still have to have a little somethin’ somethin’ that is not at the top of your list of acceptable, they can have less of it on top of their healthy snack.

Real Green Food for St. Patrick or Every Day

I love my twins’ teacher. I really do. She’s smart, organized, thoughtful, compassionate, and inspiring. She has been super helpful with out big transition to first grade. In addition to all her other fine qualities, my favorite first grade teacher LOVES holidays. She loves all of them. She knows all the traditions, all the stories, all the everything about every holiday anyone might celebrate EVER.

My daughter knows more about St. Patrick’s day than Tommy O’Shaunassy in County Cork. Somehow in sharing these stories about St. Patrick’s Day, my daughter received the impression that EVERYONE experiences all the possible traditions and myths all day long. I know I sound like a killjoy, but frankly St. Patrick’s Day has had pretty limited implications for me in the past – a few jigs and reels, a green shirt, perhaps a green beer. I had no idea I would be expected to produce big green messes and pretend a leprechaun made them. If I’m forced to make a mess intentionally, I WILL be building a leprechaun trap and it will work – I don’t need help with messes in my house, thank you. I also had no idea of the variety of food to which green food coloring could be applied in celebration of good old St. Pat.

In order to satisfy my daughter’s rapidly increasing expectations where St. Patrick’s Day was concerned I confess that I did a little reel around Pinterest and I had a revelation. Here’s the thing to remember about St. Patrick’s Day – leprechaun aside, a great deal of the focus is on green food.  Guess what I try to get my VERY picky daughter to eat every other freaking day of the year? You guessed it, green food.  I had already decided not to apply green food coloring to anything (see yuckies about food coloring here), it was just a short step to decide to simply make green food – perhaps not the dishes we eat regularly – it need only seem unusual and green to be passable as a special St. Patrick’s Day meal. And a healthy day of eating ensued.

St. Patrick’s Smoothie (or We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shamrock Shake)

  • 2 c fresh pineappleIMG_0274
  • 4 medium frozen bananas
  • 4 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 rolled oats
  • 1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 large avocado
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup

If you have a power blender, load it up and let her rip as you usually do. If you have a standard blender, I would start with the milk and frozen bananas and add the other elements when possible. The result? Super creamy, super green, fantastic and delicious way to start a happy St. Paddy’s Day. And not a pinch in sight.

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While I’d hoped to pack lunch for the kids today, it snowed here in the Mid-Atlantic last night and so we had yet another Monday at home. Our lunch at home consisted of some Japanese style noodles. Know what goes great on top of Japanese noodles? Green things: dried seaweed, peas, and cucumbers. Yep, she did it. Ms. Picky Pants gladly took all those bits in celebration of St. Pat.

Dinner was a little trickier… we had a green salad because we often do and everyone enjoys it.  I figured why stop doing something that works.  The trick was to make the rest of the meal different enough. I had cauliflower I really wanted to use, but the only way that’s green is in spirit, and I knew that wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to make cauliflower steaks – but what to sever them with that would be green enough? Time to get clever.

Savory Green Quinoa

  • 2 c quinoa
  • about 4 c water, divided
  • 2 c spinach or other deep greens
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Shake of nutritional yeast (opt)

Combine 2 c water and greens in blender and blitz the mess out of it. Add enough water to get 4 c liquid. Move the 4 c to a large saucepan. Add salt and bring to boil. While water is warming, rinse quinoa at least twice. When water boils, add quinoa, lower heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add a shake of nutritional yeast if desired. Delish.

Having found a strategy that I can really get down with, I admit to having warmed to St. Patrick’s Day this year. I remind myself as I check the calendar for the next holiday my daughter will be excited about that which stories we tell, which traditions we follow, and what that looks like in our house is up to us. Green food doesn’t have to mean green cotton candy or even green beer, it can mean a day of eating the healthiest real foods we can find and enjoying them as we celebrate with family. Okay Easter, I’m ready now.

Mi So Hongry

As a salute to the end of our long winter confinement, we seem to have contracted the latest public incubation system virus – and this time it’s a stomach thing. Oh mercy. Mr. Little Sis was the first to fall, then my little boy, then yesterday while checking out at Costco I succumbed. I imagine it is a matter of days (hours) before my daughter gets knocked out as well. Cooking for a family of four can be a challenge. Cooking for people who feel awful is an entirely different puzzle. While the one poor soul who’s suffering really doesn’t want anything – or just wants to test the waters, the others who aren’t yet affected are starving and ready for dinner.

IMG_0252My solution to this was to devise a soup that would allow each person to cater to their level of hunger/food readiness. But what to use for broth? And then I saw it. The miso paste container sitting there so innocently in the fridge. I’d bought it to make this delis cashew based cheddar and for whatever reason, didn’t even consider making soup with it even though miso soup is one of those rare birds that gets 100% positive response at my table.

A quick perusal of the internet and some cookbooks and I was off to the races. The beauty of this idea is that it’s totally variable, kind of like a soup version of our Varia-Bowl.

Miso BrothIMG_0255

  • 2-3 t miso paste per cup of water (I used 2 for a mild flavor)
  • However many cups of water you need to make enough soup.

That’s it. You boil the water and then add the miso paste. Yes, it’s that simple. No the paste won’t dissolve completely.  If you’ve eaten miso soup in a restaurant, you’ve seen the same thing – thicker broth on the bottom, thinner broth on the top.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, assemble your add-ins. If you want noodles, you should obviously start them first as well.

Our Add-InsIMG_0260

  • cooked rice noodles
  • thinly sliced mushrooms
  • shaved carrots
  • chopped cilantro
  • spinach
  • tofu

Others That Would Be Great

  • seaweed, of just about any kind
  • basil
  • lemon juice
  • red pepper
  • rice
  • spring onion

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You really could put lots of things in there, and the fun of it for us was building that bowl of soup right at the table.  I dished up broth for everyone and then we each constructed our own miso bowl, perfectly suited and seasoned for our health level and taste preferences. Delish!

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookie (and it’s GF!!)

Oh my oh my how I love cookies.  I have been drooling over the chocolate chip cookies that Little Sis kindly gave to her neighbor (who kindly plowed her drive)…. but they have wheat flour and I can’t see torturing one member of the family by making chocolate chip cookies that he can’t eat.  So I decided to give a GF choc chip another try.  I also decided to indulge by in part using Bob’s Red Mill GF flour / baking mix.  It makes up for the use of potato starch with garbanzo bean flour, so it has fiber and protein in it, but, as the name suggests – no gluten.

These cookies were chewy and since they are a little sweeter than my usual home baked goods, I could use these to thank neighbors and friends as well.  I was dubious enough of the outcome that I did not take any pictures of the process… but I quickly just snapped a picture of the last 2 cookies.  A few have been frozen away for lunches, but don’t tell, because they might not all make it into my son’s lunchbox!  I try to freeze some of whatever treat gets made so that A) it can easily be stuffed into a lunch box over the next several weeks, and B) there isn’t a big pile of it sitting around asking to be eaten!!

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Okay, so one is a little broken – but I don’t cry over broken cookies…. they are just a hint from the universe to remember to share!

My Best GF chocolate chip cookies  - vegan as well!!
- adapted from I.S. at Yahoo Voices

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix
½ c almond meal (or dried and pulverized leftover almond milk mash – that’s what I use)
½ c brown rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp guar gum
½ c unrefined sugar
½ tsp salt
½ c pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup organic neutral flavored oil
½ – 2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips
½ c roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the dry except chips and nuts
In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chips & pecans, and stir until combined
Place ½ Tbsp scoops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, rotating halfway through until browning just a tad on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack before removing from tray.
As Little Sis always says….. and she comes from a very bright family I hear – Eat that chocolate cookie while it is still warm!!

Looking for some other Gluten Free treats?
Chickpea/Chocolate Cookies
Almond Joy Brownies
2 Ingredient Yum (Fudge)
Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch
Nut Butter Bliss Balls
Sweet Potato Crust Apple Pie / Cobbler

Breakfast Ice Cream OR Creamy Smoothies For All

IMG_0214If you’ve been playing a long for a while, you know that here at the pantry we simply LOVE smoothies, especially those that allow us to hide some super nutritious deep greens from our children…. Yeah, it’s probably dirty pool, but you only have to really hide them a couple of times before they no longer care what’s in there and will eat it up regardless.

We’ve had many, many a smoothie over the last few years, but I have to IMG_0205confess that my recent favorites include a decadent ingredient: avocado. In our recent smoothies, I’ve been adding the flesh from 1/2 and avocado, and it gives the smoothie (or breakfast ice cream if you use a little less liquid and don’t blend QUITE so vigorously) a distinctly ice cream-y quality.  Who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?

Our recent formula goes a bit like this…

IMG_0212Breakfast Ice Cream

  • 3-4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 cups deep greens (or more if you can get away with it)
  • frozen berries to top of blender container
  • 1 soup spoon honey (opt – we use if the berries are tart, i.e. raspberries)
  • non-dairy milk (we used coconut) until blend ability (usually 1.5 cups for us) or some other liquid of your choosing

IMG_0219We have a power blender, which makes all of this very easy.  If you have a standard blender, I would recommend starting with the liquid and the non-frozen ingredients, and then add the frozen ingredients slowly.  This makes a lot of breakfast ice cream, which is awesome, because if you have leftovers you can freeze and pack in a lunch or serve with a grapefruit spoon to someone with a sore throat.  Breakfast ice cream.  THAT’s living.

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For Your Good Neighbor… Cookies to Share

I know Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I should have something heart shaped for you, but right now I have to confess I’m thinking more about my neighbor than I am about my sweetie. Let me explain…

When we moved here 6 years ago, there were a variety of features of our property that didn’t register as they probably should have.  For example, I might have expected that a house on “Slate Hill Pl.” might not offer the most friable garden soil in the region. I might have investigated how difficult it would be to remove a urinal. I also really could have taken a moment to notice how VERY VERY long my driveway is.

Out of cheapness and a determination to prove my ruggedness, I forbade Mr. Little Sis to purchase some kind of machine to help us with the snow that might arrive on this driveway.  For years my stubbornness bore few consequences, with the exception of one very long weekend of 4 feet of snow assisted by very kind and forgiving friends.

Enter the winter of 2013-2014. I’m reasonably certain we’ve had more individual snowfalls this year than we had over the last 3 years combined. The good news is that last year my resolve diminished during a holiday sale and we obtained machinery to help deal with precipitation on our VERY VERY long driveway. Ironically, my neighbor (who has an EVEN LONGER driveway) obtained an even larger, and faster snow moving machine.

So where are we going with all this (and WHEN DO WE GET THE COOKIES)? My wonderful neighbor, if he begins his task first, comes and does our driveway with his super fast machine, “to get us started.” His boost amounts to a good 75% of the work, and so Mr. Little Sis is freed up to go help another neighbor, who is a tough old bird, but will for some reason, let Mr. Little Sis (and no other neighbor) clear her drive. What happened when Mr. Little Sis was away during a storm? My neighbor plowed my drive, and another neighbor snuck out pre-dawn and shoveled out Ms. Mary. And the kids and I made cookies for everyone. Sometimes a little snow brings out the best in all of us.

So make ‘em for your favorite neighbor, make ‘em for your sweetie, make ‘em for yourself. These are lower in sugar than the average cookie, although they are admittedly higher in chocolate than most chocolate chip cookies.  These are a true treat – one will do and will be a real thank you to whoever deserves it the most.

Good Neighbor Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) - makes enough to share

  • 3/4 c coconut oilIMG_0146
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 c turbinado or coconut sugar
  • 4 flax eggs (4 Tbs flax meal + 12 Tbs water)
  • 4 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chip cookies
  • 1/5 c hopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine baking soda, salt, and pastry flour. Set aside.  In stand mixer bowl or large bowl, mix together coconut oil, applesauce, and sugar.  Beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and continue to mix until it looks like cookie batter.  Add mix ins and combine.

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Drop in cookie sized gobs (I use a cookie batter scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 2 minutes ON the cookie sheet and then remove to wire racks.

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WOW. Okay, that’s not the healthiest thing I’ve ever made, but daggone they are good.  Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Snow Day. Happy Neighborhood.

Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Sitting here between these two holidays and all of their associated traditional dishes, I find myself scrambling pretty regularly to get some non-holiday food on the table between chores in preparation for family, friends, and food. Last night I ran an experiment that just may change my holiday table forever – it certainly gave us a pleasant surprise for dinner.

IMG_0439I love sweet potatoes.  We’ve gushed about this nutritious tuber here before, and found ways to work it into so many different meals and treats (breakfast, soup, more soup, brownies, cookies, dinner). I know that many families have a tradition of holiday sweet potatoes that include all manner of sweetener from maple syrup to marshmallows. I confess these preparations have rarely appealed to me, but I wondered if there wasn’t another way to go with that sweetness – to enhance the natural sweetness in a nutritious way.  Looking around the kitchen I spied an overabundance of ripening bananas and it occurred to me that I might be on to something.  A quick google search told me I could, indeed, roast bananas.  One small step for me, one large step for sweet sweet potato dishes. Continue reading

12 Healthy Cookies, Treats and Giftables

It’s that time of year.  Lots of lists, lots of tasks, and hopefully a good dose of merriment to go with those lists and tasks.  I don’t know if it’s a sign of my age, but I’ve found that an increasing number of people on my gift giving list don’t really seem to want or need a present from me. They want my presence (which is flattering), and I’ve found over the last few years that if my presence is accompanied by something to eat, the greeting I receive is all the warmer.  In looking back through our posts, I see we have quite a collection of treats that are great to share with friends and family and that still provide some nutrition during this season of culinary madness (check out this post for some healthy holiday tips).

And so a bit of a roundup for those of you who are preparing to get baking, who need some ideas for gift giving, or who are invited to all manner of holiday celebrations at which you do NOT wish to arrive empty handed.  Healthier treats galore!

Perfectly Packable Gifty Treats

1. No Bake Brownie Balls (GF,DF)- dark chocolate taste, low sugar joy, great gift for a dark chocolate loving adult

2.  Healthy Pumpkin Cookies (GF,DF) - sweet enough to feel like a treat, healthy enough to do the bod some good

3. Sweet Potato Cookies with Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chips  (GF,DF) - fantastically delish healthy cookies

4.Crancherry, Almond, & White Chocolate Cookies  (GF,DF) – slightly sweeter than many of our other cookies – a great starter cookie for a lifetime of healthier treats

5. Intensely Good Banana Bread Mini-Loaves (DF) – not your grandmother’s banana bread (which I’m sure is divine), this puppy packs some molasses for a spicy edge and an iron boost.  Lovely gifted in mini loaf pans (because WHO doesn’t want mini bakeware?!)

6. Healthier Holiday Fudge (GF,DF) – Oh yes, it’s that good. Nobody will call you a health whack for this one…

7. 2 Ingredient Caramel Fudge (GF,DF) - WHAT DID SHE SAY?!  Yes, 2 ingredients.

8. Roasted Chili Lime Nuts (GF,DF) – I’ve heard tell there are folks who prefer savory snacks.  Ok, I admit it, I’m even related to a couple.  A tin of these babies will knock their unsweet socks off.

9. Nut Butter Bliss Balls (GF,DF) – Pleasing normal treat eaters everywhere… or at least in parts of Tennessee and Maryland

If You’re To “Bring Dessert”

10. Cranberry Apple Pecan Crumble (GF,DF) – Easy for you, delish for everyone.

11. Cocoanutty Good Bars (GF,DF) – No it’s not your imagination, I served these bars as cake and it was a huge success.  Drooling a little, and I guess you didn’t need to know that.

12. Pumpkin Pudding (GF,DF) – Bigg Sis wondered what would happen if you stopped worrying so much about the pie crust… and it was good.

Well, there it is.  Now you have a pretty good idea what’s going to be going on at my house for the next few weeks.  Here’s hoping your house is full of delicious and healthful food and wonderful people.