Help for Hummingbirds : Kids & Real Food

I am feeling it a little bit lately, although I am trying to dodge and weave and can’t get ‘it’ in focus.  Like the hummingbird outside the window I just tried to photograph to share with you,  things are feeling kind of fuzzy.  I know that if I open the front door to get a shot from the front porch, she will probably fly away so I am enjoying her and will let you imagine her vibrant green back and her tiny wings that look thick with frenzied speed while the rest of her stays steady and immobile.  Apparently my steady, immobile persona still fools friends who are surprised anytime (and everytime) we eat anything less than perfectly nutritious, yet my wings are getting a bit tired with the attempt to provide healthy, real food in this culture.  So my hard edges as The Food Regulator (TFR) are beginning to blur a bit.

There is a hummingbird out there valiantly staying afloat against all odds.

There is a hummingbird out there valiantly staying afloat against all odds.

Not to complain, but between work, graduate school, TaeKwonDo (which my son and I do together) and home and family, I am starting to wear down a little.  I don’t tell you this for sympathy or “pride of busy-ness” (the 8th deadly sin),but because I am sure that many of you are similarly stretched.  There just isn’t enough time in the day to do all of the cooking and gardening that I used to do and would like to do.  So I have decided that a little controlled erosion is in order lest the whole mountain be undermined and bury us in an avalanche of mcnuggets, doritos and moon pies.

All right, I exaggerate, I don’t think our decline would be quite that drastic, but I will share with you the plan for maintaining my real food airspace and keeping those wings vibrating at mind numbing speed.

I’ve been ‘just saying, No’ for a long time – why is it harder now?  Much of the difficulty is time related, but it is also related to social situations.  My son, who is now 13, has a best buddy who I adore.   He is sweet, polite, eager and just all around a great kid.  A great kid who subsists on Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper.  Several of the times he has spent the night he has gone home without breakfast because he wouldn’t eat anything that I had in the house.  I’m serious.  Not even my natural peanut butter and whole fruit / no sugar added jam on whole wheat bread….. not even whole grain pancakes with as much real maple syrup as his heart desired…. Not even Barbara’s Puffins.  I hate to lessen the chances that this kid is coming over to hang out.  My son has other friends who are also shocked at the selection in our ‘cafe’ (what’s that round red thing with a stem?) and I really would rather they hung out here at least some of the time so I get to know them….. and I know what they’re up to ;-).

This hummingbird needs some help.

My first step to getting back on track in a sane fashion is honesty with my family and the recruitment of help.  The honesty part comes in talking more about why we eat what we eat.  I learned that part of my son’s new-found energy in requesting pizza, chips or ice cream everyday is plain ol’ rebellion.  We had a long overdue discussion (with the hummingbird listening in) about why a kid as bright as he is, who is very focused on his athletic activities, continues to request poor, and even dangerous fuel for his wonderful body.  He admitted that he often talks lovingly of McDonald’s in my presence to irritate me.  We also discussed that perhaps buying lunch on Friday when the school has pizza is not a good idea if it gets him requesting pizza all of the time.  This was a powerful deterrent.  I suggested that perhaps he is an all or nothing guy when it comes to junk food, and since he isn’t going to get ‘all’ under my roof, perhaps we’d better try ‘nothing’.  This suggestion is what brought out the admission (without harsh lights or cigarette smoking detectives) that he partly talks about junk food to enjoy my reaction.  Ah yes, I will now think lovely thoughts, keep those wings moving and gracefully approach another lavender tinged flower while I savor the possibilities rather than peck out one of his eyes ;-)  So we are re-visiting discussing why we eat what we eat, what those foods do for us physically and remembering that one way to control the amount of junk food eaten is to eliminate it all together.

Next I am asking all of his friends who come over what kind of foods they like so that I can find some common ground.  The favorite friend likes scrambled eggs – and he thought that the organic eggs he ate at our house were the best he ever had.  Score one for the hummingbird!

As far as recruiting help, we all sat down this morning and planned out the next week and part of the following week of meals.  Everyone contributed suggestions, everyone helped look up recipes and a shopping list was created to reflect this plan and avoid extra trips to the store.  We have done this (and shared this with you) in the past, but we stopped doing it.  Hindsight reveals the power in planning our meals.  There is nothing like a break between semesters to get our act back in gear.  Here’s my trusty write-on-wipe-off planner.  I have 2 and they are magnets that go right on the refrigerator.  Pretty nifty:

20140817_090359

The upper entries of the first week spots are for what is going to school for lunch that day.  We will re-visit this plan next Sunday and complete next week and probably part of the next.

In addition, my son likes to bake and will bake some and my husband is picking out some crockpot recipes that he can handle (he’s an awesome dish washer….).  This leaves leftovers (always make extra!!!!) for lunches!

So honesty and recruitment have my wings beating a little stronger again.

Next, I am lowering the bar on a few things as the bar is currently too far above my head to reach.

- I no longer make almond milk.  We buy it.  I prefer the homemade with no additives at all, but there it is.

- I will not be baking much for school this year, and because I am working full time and we have a little extra money we will indulge in the ready-made treats from the more health conscious bakers at Nature’s Bakery, Larabar, Clif, and even Kashi since they agreed to stop using GMO ingredients in their products.  Basically I go into the health food section at my Kroger, look for sale signs, read labels, and get whatever is healthiest and slightly reasonable.  Not only does this satisfy the request for a sweet-ish thing with lunch, but because it is packaged it is apparently more socially acceptable.  I know, gag me with a spoon, but a little compromise is in order to keep this increasingly independent boy from utilizing all of his spending money to by junk food.

- The boys are eating more meat when I am not home.  I don’t like to eat much meat, we try to eat all organic meats and sustainable fishes but my boys really like their meat – so they eat it more often when I miss dinner because I am working a 12 hour shift at the hospital.  This is easier for them, and again, creates, rather than uses, leftovers which we use for lunch.

It’s coming back into focus now!

Honesty, help and a lower bar.  Still eating real food the vast majority of the time.

20140817_071102

I can see the flowers now that we are all looking together and now have the energy to stay aloft.  I have no illusions that the struggles are over but a re-set sure helps.  If you need a re-set for feeding your kids healthy stuff or addressing issues over school lunches and choices, check out these old posts:
Enabling the Lunchable
Small Mouths, Small Bites
Veggie-licious Snacks
Previous post about meal planning and snack packing

Keep beating those wings my friends, and please share some of your challenges and successes (or failures) in convincing kids to eat healthfully and/or feeding friends who are not accustomed to real food.

 

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you…

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) inspired by these beauties.

 photo IMG_0657.jpg

  • 2 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 3 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 3/4 c applesauce
  • 1/4 + 1 T maple syrup
  • 4 T coconut oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c grated/shredded then chopped zucchini
  • 2 c chocolate chips of your choice (DF if that’s your thing)

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Before you get started with the other bits, I would suggest draining the zucchini. These squash hold a surprising amount of water that can leak out while cooking and produce a steaming effect on your food that is not always desirable. To do that, place the chopped zucchini (my little man suggested chopping it smaller after seeing the shreds – “too big for cookies Mom”) in a fine mesh sieve, adding a dash of salt, stir and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then press with a spoon to release more water. The rest of the preparation here follows the usual cookie procedure of combining dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another and then joining the two. Combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, oats and salt in one bowl. Whisk to integrate. Combine eggs, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla in a smaller bowl and whisk to combine (this will be considerably easier if the applesauce is NOT super cold as that tends to harden the coconut oil). Add wet to dry and stir to combine. Add zucchini and stir to distribute. Add chips and stir to distribute.

 photo IMG_0635.jpg  photo IMG_0641.jpg  photo IMG_0642.jpg

Place dough on parchment sheets in blobs approximately 1 1/2 Tbs large (I use one of these cookie scoops). Then gently press with a spoon or fork to flatten a bit (they will not do it on their own and your end result will be weird if you don’t). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges have slightly browned. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack. You should eat one at this point, while the chocolate is still melty. Delish!

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.

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!!

P1010580

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

Roasted Garlic Several Ways

Even a garlic lover can deem a dish too strong with raw garlic.  Sauteed garlic is much gentler and does not remind you that you ate it for as long as raw garlic.  Yet, there is another rung on the ladder of kinder, gentler garlic, and it is a very tasty rung indeed – not that I make it a practice of licking ladder rungs, but flies (who taste with their feet) certainly can attest to the quality of the highest rung of garlic preparation.

Roasted garlic is soft and has a mild but rich flavor.  It is so mild that you can literally smear a clove right on bread, cracker, romaine lettuce leaf… or nothing!  Pop it in your mouth!  You’ll be pleasantly surprised!  The extra step up the ladder is definitely worth it.

Fortunately, even though it’s a higher rung, it is not a difficult climb. If you have an oven and 30 minutes you can whip up a batch of roasted garlic that can then be doled out into lots of recipes.  During a recent hankering for hummus I opted to skip the raw garlic (making it more friendly as a work snack) and use roasted instead.  As a nurse I think it only fair to skip the raw garlic in my lunch or snacks as the folks I work with are generally suffering enough as it is! ;-)  The roasted garlic I prepared dressed up a lemony hummus and also came in handy with Brussels sprouts… I’ll get to that as well.

First off roasting garlic merely involves placing the head of garlic in the oven.  You can buy a fancy roaster (here’s an example) but I have not found that to be necessary.  I just place mine pointy end up in a glass pie plate or loaf pan and place it in a 400 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes.  This recipe at Simply Recipes suggests using a muffin tin.  She also suggests placing olive oil on the head after you cut the top off and wrapping the head in aluminum foil.  I did not do any of that.  If you don’t even cut the top off, it keeps the cloves protected, but I might try it that way next time to see if it’s tastier.

After the head of garlic is cool, just peel out the cloves and use them in recipes like this!

Lemony Roasted Garlic Hummus
3 cups cooked and rinsed chickpeas (save the cooking water or canned water to used below)
6 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
juice from 1.5 lemons
4 Tbsp. tahini
6 Tbsp. water
1 tsp, ground cumin
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. oil

Place all in food processor and beat the heck out of it.  I usually mix a little before adding the water as I think it makes for less sloppage up the sides of the processor bowl, but of course you can always scrape down the sloppage.  Depending on the softness of your chickpeas and your tahini, you may need to add a little extra water or oil.  It’s your call!  Get the hummus to a consistency that you like.

I used to use a lemon squeezer to get lemon juice without seeds but somehow the little buggers were always sneaking around the corners…. seeking out an opportunity to be planted I guess, but now I just use this method:

P1010408-001Works like a charm.

Once the tahini was smooth and creamy…
Love that tahini so cool and dreamy…

Sorry had a rhythmic interruption there.

Once it was done, I packed some into small cups to be taken to work or school or in the car for snacks.  Packing small, extra or lunch size portions of something when I am putting it away saves lots of time packing lunches and saves lots of money in that I don’t buy something when I stop for my Big Gulp!  (I’m just kidding, a Big Gulp! is a Big Health Problem AND a Big Urinate – ain’t nobody got time for that!)

Here’s my cute little hummus cup in action….P1010417-001

Later that day, as I pondered roasting brussels sprouts for dinner, I decided to use some more of the roasted garlic and dress those cute little cabbage wannabes up a bit.

Dijon Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts – enough to about cover the bottom of your baking pan) – or however many you have, probably shouldn’t bother unless you have 5 or more ;-)
1/2 – 1 Tbsp. oil
salt to taste
1.5 – 2.5 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
4 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp oil

I usually cut the tough stem end off and then cut the brussels in half – so they cook faster and more thoroughly in the middle.  

Toss with the 1/2 – 1 Tbsp oil (I used avocado – your favorite or what you have on hand will work as well) and salt, spread out on a baking pan, and roast at 375.  They usually take about 30 – 40 minutes.  

While they are roasting mash the garlic, vinegar, tsp of oil and mustard together.

When the Brussels have just about reached their desired tenderness, take them out and mix in the sauce.

Roast for another 5 – 10 minutes.

P1010410-001

If you think you don’t like Brussels Sprouts, I highly recommend you try them roasted.  And if you think you don’t like garlic, I highly recommend you try it roasted.  And I’m trying to think of some other clever or snide thing to tell you to roast but I’m too lost in the wonder of roasted garlic and brussel sprouts.  My buddy Carol calls roasted brussels the “Over 40 Party Food.”   Well…. I think young folks these days have more sense than that, so, come on you under 40-type young people, tell me how much you like roasted Brussel sprouts!

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.

Chickpea Salad Sammies (DF)

Lunch arrived today amidst a variety of house renovation chores.  Having little time to make a hot meal as I might have liked to, I decided sandwiches would be just the thing. Lacking our usual go to sandwich fare, and having eaten most of the leftovers earlier in the weekend, I was in a bit of a pickle (har har) about what kind of sandwiches I could pull together.  And then it struck me… literally.  The precariously balanced can of chickpeas in the pantry tipped and landed on my foot.  I decided I would show that can who’s boss.

In trying to figure out how to quickly incorporate chickpeas into a sandwich without mashing them and cooking them somehow, I considered typical sandwich offerings.  The notion of a chickpea salad came to mind immediately, and I knew a route that combined the chickpeas with some manner of creaminess and some savory herbiness could only lead to a good lunchin’ place. A quick dip into the fridge and the spice rack and I was off to the races.

Chickpea Salad (GF,DF) makes enough for 4 generous sandwiches and some leftover for a lunch or two

  • 2 outer ribs celery, choppedIMG_0306
  • 1/2 red onion (or whatever you like), chopped
  • 2.5 c cooked or canned (rinsed and drained) chickpeas
  • 4 T sunflower cheese (or creaminess of your choice)
  • 2 T dijon mustard
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 – 1 t dried thyme
  • 2 t dried tarragon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into smallish pieces
  • sprinkle paprika (opt.)
  • green olives, chopped (opt.)

Sound like a lot of ingredients, I know, but this whips up super quick.  Combine the chopped celery, onion, and chickpeas in a bowl.  In a smaller bowl mix the sunflower cheese, mustard, vinegar, and seasonings.  Whisk (or fork it as I usually do) until incorporated.  Scrape wet bowl into dry bowl.  Stir until they’re all playing nicely.  Add avocado and stir again to combine.  It’s okay if the avocado smushes a bit – it will just add to the creaminess of the salad.  Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and a dusting of chopped olives.  We had ours on whole wheat bread with red lettuce.  Delish, and just right for a VERY busy weekend.

IMG_0298 IMG_0301 IMG_0302

Almond Joy Brownies (GF, DF…. OMG included)

I’ve been a baking slacker lately.  This only poses a real problem for my kids’ expectation for a “treat” in their lunches.  Mind you my lunchbox treats tend to be less sweet than anybody else’s, but it seems that it’s more important that there be something treat-like in there than that the treat in question be of any particular kind.  So up to now, I’ve been pretty good about doing just enough baking to keep them supplied with a steady stream of reasonably healthy “treats.”

A few weeks ago I started slipping ‘em low sugar graham crackers – really pretty harmless and something they enjoy.  No problem.  After a while of that they requested something else – anything else (and who can blame them).  I found myself wandering through the prepared treats aisle reading packages of corn syrup laden white flour options as though I had never once baked in my own kitchen.  I practically forgot that I used to spend a few minutes just about every weekend assembling a treat that would satisfy both the kids and me.  I would bake for our customary Sunday dessert and then serve the rest throughout the week in small lunch sized portions. When I brought home cookies previously deemed pretty wholesome without even reading the label, ate one and felt a film in my mouth and had to stop because it was too sweet to enjoy, I knew I’d hit the proverbial bottom.  Which is great, because it led me to spending a little time today making my new favorite dessert, Almond Joy Brownies.

Almond Joy Brownies

The Brownie – adapted from Sarah at Gazing In’s Sweet Potato Fudgy Brownies

  • 1/4 c coconut oilIMG_0199
  • 2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao if you’re feeling spendy
  • 1 c gluten free rolled oats blitzed in food processor until flour like
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c coconut sugar
  • 2/3 c sweet potato puree (baked sweet potato in food processor with enough water to create baby foodish consistency – add water SLOWLY so as not to overshoot)
  • 1 T ground flax meal + 3 T water (AKA flax egg)
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla

Preheat Oven to 350. Melt coconut oil and add cocoa, stirring to create smooth, silky chocolate that you should not eat. Combine oat flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Combine coconut sugar, sweet potato puree, flax egg and vanilla in medium or larger bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add chocolate.  Stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients (if you’re still holding a whisk, now is the time to switch to a spoon, unless you’re trying to create an “Oh no, I have so much brownie batter stuck in my whisk, however will I get it off…. slurp” kind of scenario.  Not that I’ve ever done that. Add a handful or so of your favorite chocolate chips.

Scoop into oiled square baking dish.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Look for typical brownie crackling on top and a slightly firm feel in the middle of the pan (that second test is only for those of us in the asbestos fingers crowd). You can try the toothpick test, but these are fudgy, and will not likely come out totally clean. So just look for not wet, mostly clean.  Remove and allow to cool in the pan.

IMG_0174 IMG_0182 IMG_0188

The Topping

  • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 16 whole raw almonds

Place coconut in food processor.  Turn on and let it run, run, run.  You’re going to let it go so long that the coconut is going to turn into a liquid.  You’ll want to stop it occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl so all of the coconut gets transformed into superific coconut butter.  When the contents of the bowl are shiny, let it run a couple more minutes and then place in a container you can put a lid on so you can save the leftover and put it on your toast, in your oatmeal…. yes, the options are mind-boggling..

IMG_0167 IMG_0166 IMG_0171

The You Got Your Coconut On My Brownies Moment

So when the brownies have cooled a little (you don’t have to let them cool completely), spread the coconut butter on top in whatever amount makes sense to you.  I tried to show a little restraint because I wanted to chocolate flavor to prevail.  If your coconut butter has hardened, gently warm it a little to soften.  Place almonds on top – I did a one whole almond per brownie ratio, to get that crunch that I used to love in the Almond Joy, but I think chopped almonds would make for a nice effect as well.

IMG_0183 IMG_0194 IMG_0197

I don’t think I even need to tell you that these were great – what’s not to love? Super dark chocolate flavor, coconut creaminess and that wholesome crunchy almond.  Delish.  And now I’m ready for those lunch boxes for real.

Did She Say Chickpeas AND Chocolate?! (GF,V)

We’ve had quite a week here at Lake HolyCrap.  The twins started first grade on Monday and our search for a new furry friend reached its final, and extremely happy conclusion.  While the kids were at their second day of school, Mr. Little Sis and I responded to the call from a lovely woman who runs an animal rescue about a half an hour from us.  She thought we might be just the people for Baxter, an adult labradoodle mix.  We jumped in the car immediately and it’s been love ever since.

IMG_9838Baxter rode home with me yesterday and I had my first experience using a mobile groomer (for the dog, mind you).  I didn’t want to traumatize him by taking him somewhere else or leaving him for a couple of hours, so I found the nicest groomer who pulled into our driveway with a trailer that had everything she needed to get rid of our new friend’s matted dreadlocks and leave him much more comfortable and very, very handsome.  What’s a nervous new dog Mommy to do while a stranger is tending to her new charge in the driveway? Bake, of course. Continue reading

Brown Baggin’ It

Well, they launched.  They made it.  They walked out that door, onto the bus (with only a little hesitation on Ms. Picky Pants’ part) and they are off to first grade.   I can’t flippin’ believe it.  Just yesterday I was using a food mill to grind their kale casserole (yes, I’m serious) and now they will be sitting at desks instead of tables… Oy. Honestly, we had a fantastic summer and I will so miss spending time with my little peeps, but I would be flat out lying if I said I’m not ready for a little quiet time now and again, time to work the paid job without taking time away from them, time to plan a meal without being interrogated about it simultaneously.  There are advantages to the return to school.

Of all the chores associated with the daily school grind, I have to admit that lunch preparation is not my favorite.  Apparently it’s not just me.  I’ve noticed that there is a lot of anxiety about packing lunch and what our kiddos are eating at school (well deserved in my opinion), so I thought I’d through together a little compilation of suggestions that Bigg Sis and I have shared as regards packing lunch for the littlest humans in our life, bearing in mind of course that all of these suggestions also work for the bigger ones, you just may need a bigger boat, as it were. So – ready to feed all the travelers in your life an awesomely healthful lunch?  I knew you were.  Let’s take it in stages… Continue reading