When You DO Need a Treat

I struggle with the treat area.  There, I said it.  My kids have been the fortunate recipients of mostly unprocessed or only lightly processed snack foods, but I have, in my forty some-odd years on the planet, consumed a fair number of packaged snack foods.  The difficulty that this poses for me as a parent is that I am vulnerable to the argument that perhaps I am being TOO restrictive, that I am depriving my kids (OH NOOOOOO, ANYTHING BUT DEPRIVING YOUR KIDS!!!!) of some sort of necessary and later to be romanticized pleasure of childhood.  So I struggle to find balance.  They don’t get A LOT of the things that their classmates and friends get, but I attempt to frame it, as I do with myself, as a turn toward the abundance and delicious satisfaction that real food, even as snack or treat, can provide.

Healthful twin lunches. Healthy twin kids.

My recent efforts, as a reflection of my desire to keep my kids on the attitude of gratitude end of the spectrum as regards their lunchtime totage, have focused on the treat portion of our little stainless steel container.  As it turns out, packing lunch has been something of a guilty pleasure for me.  The picky child in our family takes her Tinkerbell lunchbox everyday with the utmost trust that I have included SOMETHING that she will eat.  And I generally do.  And the funny thing is, she eats it.  She eats most parts of whatever I pack.  She eats things she won’t eat at home, and when she gets home, she finishes whatever’s left…. hot diggity.  So I have no guilt about providing a small not so sweet in their tins.  I have made two lovely discoveries this week that I thought I would share… one that is gluten (but not chocolate) free, and one that has gluten, but is vegan, and I must say, quite awesome.  I’m eating some right now as I type.  On to the goodness…

What do you mean what happened to the first row? What first row?

First up: Gluten Free Blondies – adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Chip Blondies. These babies are BEAN based; that’s right, you heard me, bean based.  So I’m thinking I need to whip up a lunchbox yummy and looking at my fridge to see what I should use up and rolling my eyes at the container of white beans from the previous night’s dinner… turns out they were just what I needed.  I love it when that happens.

See those little beanies in there?

The changes I made to Katie’s recipe here are pretty minimal.  I cut the sugar to 1/2 c from 3/4 c.  For the grain I used a mixture of flax and rolled oats. I added 1T of applesauce because my batter seemed too dry (I used homecooked rather than canned beans).  I went a little light on the chips to no ill effect and I added 1/4 c of pecans. The procedure is super easy. Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients with the exception of chips and nuts (if you use them, which you should) in a food processor until the batter is smooth. Add chips and nuts and stir to incorporate. Place in 8×8 greased or lined baking pan. Bake for around 30 minutes. They will be softer than your average blondie – sort of fudge-y and awesome. If you’re smart enough to eat one warm, you’ll get the reward of the melty chip drip that is part of the blondie experience. Delish.

Turns out beans weren’t the only thing I needed to use up. With the onset of the school year (and cooler temps), our green smoothie intake has diminished and my banana purchases got ahead of me. Super over-ripe bananas can only mean one thing in my house… banana bread. Oh yes. This recipe is adapted from one I got from a dear friend who first made it for us during a delicious fall weekend on a farm in the Catskills. She had adapted the recipe from one she’d had given to her by someone else… Honestly neither one of us has any idea at this point where it originally came from. On the off chance that it was yours and you still recognize it, let me know and I’ll credit you.

I was encouraged to limit my pecans so we could try it “both ways.”

Intensely Good Banana Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup regular oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 2 large eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/4 c peanut (or other nut) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecans for the top

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Place sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add eggs, banana, nut butter, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Decorate with pecans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Eat some while it is warm and the outer crust is at its peak. Cool completely on wire rack before storing.  Amazing.

Need more ideas for healthier sweets?  Try these gluten free chocolate chip cookies, these gluten free coconut almond milk mash cookies, honey milk balls, apple oat muffins.

This week we’ve joined Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Blog Carnival. Check out the other real food entries here.

Small Mouths, Small Bites

Happy day after Mother’s Day! I was planning to give you a garden tour this morning to celebrate the new plantings that were part of our Mother’s Day festivities, but the rain has chased me inside… well, okay, I never made it out.  A garden update is in our future, and it’s very exciting, at least in my humble opinion.  Dead seedlings were replaced and the garden is exploding, and when the sun comes out, I’ll show you.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about lunch.  Okay, I think it’s pretty clear to all of you that I’m thinking about food most of the time, but lunch has been on my mind ever since I registered my wee ones for kindergarten in the fall.  I have already resigned myself to packing lunches daily, a plan that was reinforced when I looked at the school lunch menu – but that’s another post for a day when I’m already in a bad mood, because it will have a pretty high percentage of rant in it.  For this gentle rainy morning, I just want to explore a trend that has emerged in yummy, nutritious, fun lunches for me and my little people.  I’ve stumbled upon a recurring theme.  Small bites.

In Big Sis’ discussion of Lunchables (Lunchables are also a zen threatener for me, so I’ll be brief here), she conceded that the packaging of these products (many of which have as much sugar as a Snickers bar, BTW) is kid-sexy.  Little compartments, small amounts, a variety that they can choose from, assemble, control.  The bento box craze reveals some of the same appeal.  Compartments that contain small amounts of various bits that they can choose between, manipulate, control. Honestly, this has also been one of my favorite things about eating Ethiopian food or tapas: variety, tastes, experiments.

So with these thoughts in mind, I decided to put a lunch together that really offered as many different bites a I could fit on the plate, a strong element of choice, some possibilities for assembly and experimentation.  I included one new food, and some things they’ve been reluctant to eat in the past as well as some old standbys.  This was not revolutionary; I’ve offered my kids strange little collections of food before, but I’ve not been this deliberate about it, nor have I ever watched and listened as carefully while we ate.  I tried to be quiet (this is hard for me) and see what choices they would make without pressure. This lunch was remarkably successful.  Was it the quantities?  Was it the variety?  The fact that they couldn’t help but have a healthy lunch if they ate any two of the items on the plate?  I have no idea; what I DO know is that they both ate most of it.  And my little picky one ASKED about 2/3 of the way through the meal if she could skip the rest of the celery if she ate all the other veggies, because the flavor of celery is okay, but she doesn’t like the way it feels in her mouth….  If you’ve eaten with my daughter, you know this is not the way our meal conversations usually go.  Delightful.  And Daddy and I got to finish the dip which they liked with the apples and on the bagel, but not on everything else.  My preference was to have it with the celery and banana.

Nutty Lunch Dip

  • 4 T peanut butter
  • 4 T plain yogurt (I used almond yogurt)
  • 1/2 t maple syrup
  • generous shake cinnamon

Ready for another miraculous cooking procedure?  Put all those bits in a bowl and stir them thoroughly to make smooth yum.  Adjust ingredients to taste.  If it seems like a little more sweet would be good, try a little more cinnamon first; you may be surprised.  When you’ve got it tasting the way you want, dip a few things in it.  Let your inner five your old take control of the lunch plate.  Pretend you don’t already know what tastes good together; you just might find something new hiding in the guise of an old trusted and predictable vegetable.  Nutty small bites for all!  Delish.

Enabling the Lunch-able

My kid would give one of his Wii games to bring a ‘Lunchable’ to school.  He’s offered to pay for one with his own money!!

How did this happen?  Is it purely rebellion against the ‘healthwhack’ Mom?  He actually has fairly refined taste: eats a lot of things other kids won’t even try and when he eats junk food he is satisfied fairly quickly and does not overdo it.  He has been fairly well trained.  For now.  But there is something about the little box in a box with a little of this and a little of that.  You can put stuff together from the different pockets!  You can eat them in any order you want!  You will be the envy of all you survey!  Or at least of the pepperoni crowd. Continue reading