S'mores energy balls


Happy national s'mores day everyone! While I love a real s'more, I don't dig activities that include both my toddler and fire, so we're sticking with this faux, somewhat healthier version. Also, these energy balls can be packed in a lunchbox (after subbing the nuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds if necessary).

Your kids' teachers and counselors will thank you for skipping the sticky marshmallows and melted chocolate.


These balls start as your basic date, cocoa powder, nut, and chia seed energy ball. And if s'mores aren't your thing, you can absolutely stick with this base and have a delicious treat.

But, since it's summer and who doesn't want a s'more or something a little special, I like to stick some lightly toasted marshmallows in the middle and coat the outside in graham cracker crumbs. A couple of easy swaps here make this free of gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, and soy. (Look for soy-free marshmallows; gluten-free graham crackers; and, as I said before, swap the nuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds.)

One note about the toasted marshmallows: Since they're so small, toasting them makes them a bit crunchy. You can absolutely use untoasted marshmallows to have that soft texture in the center, but to me, the taste of slightly burned sugar is more s'more-like. I also like a little bit of crunch in the middle of a soft energy ball anyway.


A note about the graham cracker coating: If you can, store the crushed graham crackers in an air-tight container and roll the balls right before eating. Otherwise, the crumbs can get soft.

So many texture issues!


S'mores energy balls

12 medjool dates
½ cup cashews (I like to use roasted, lightly salted cashews)
2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder (depending on how chocolate-y you like things)
2-3 tsp water
1 tbsp chia seeds
Pinch of kosher salt
15 mini marshmallows
5 graham crackers

Pit the dates and place them in a large food processor. Add the cashews (or seeds, if using), cocoa powder, chia seeds, and 2 teaspoons of water. Blend until the mixture starts to form a large ball, about 3-4 minutes. If your mixture won't come together in a large ball with the machine running, add the final teaspoon and blend until you have a large ball.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place your mini marshmallows so that none are touching. Toast them in an oven or toasted oven heated to 400 for about 1-2 minutes. The regular oven will toast the marshmallows very quickly, so watch them like a hawk. You can even leave the door open slightly to make sure that the marshmallows don’t burn too quickly. The toaster oven is somewhat easier to control, but you still have to watch the marshmallows very closely.

Place the graham crackers into a large bag and crush them with your hands, a rolling pin, or a heavy can.

To make the balls, measure out a slightly heaping tablespoon of the date and chocolate mixture. With wet hands, roll the mixture into a ball. Make a large hole in the center and add three toasted marshmallows. Fold the mixture over the marshmallows and roll into a ball again.

Roll each ball in the crushed graham crackers.

Yield: 10 energy balls


Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark


Remember two weeks ago when I talked about the danger of expectations around the holidays and how we were going to be easy on ourselves and M? HA! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, universe. I shouldn't have taunted you like that. (As always, scroll to the next photo for more about food and less about life with a toddler!)

My body, our house, and our toddler's frustration tolerance have all deteriorated at the same time. We moved into the house that "didn't need any work" about four months ago and in that time we've had two floods in the basement; the oven, washer, and now dryer have all broken at different points; we had a leak from the third floor bathroom that traveled all the way to a light fixture on the first floor; and now we have to replace the furnace vent.

And while there are daily magical moments in which I'm stunned by M's hilariousness and creativity, there are also moments where I feel like screaming into the abyss. He's just such a toddler. He'll ask to go outside and we'll say, "Sure. Let's put on your clothes/shoes/whatever," but he seems to hear, "NO! WE'RE NEVER GOING OUTSIDE AND YOU WILL STAY INSIDE EATING GRUEL AND STARING AT THE WALL FOR THE REST OF TIME! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!" Or, at least, that's my interpretation based on the intensity of his reaction sometimes.

And potty training is going nowhere fast.

And my back went out for the 500th time.

I'm just drowning in "shoulds." We should have started potty training sooner. I should read parenting books to figure out a better way to handle tantrums and the lack of listening. I should be more proactive about my back by losing weight and doing more strength training. We should know how to fix stupid things like the dryer.

Mostly, I should stop fretting because it could be worse. Back pain isn't the end of the world. A toddler not listening and tantruming is par for the course. A new house will always come with quirks and there's a learning curve when it's your first time owning one. So on top of feeling bad, I feel bad for feeling bad.

I think part of my problem is that the state of the world and our country has me at an 8.5 most of the time, so little things put me right up to 10. How do you turn off fear and anger about what's happening daily? How do you push forward knowing that so much needs to be fixed and is only getting worse? AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Okay, I'm done.


So, why isn't cookie bark more of a thing? It's a lot easier than making individual cookies and takes less time to bake than a skillet cookie. I mean, the topping for this crumble I made over the summer is basically a lightly healthified oatmeal cookie. I suppose it has to do with most people liking some crisp bits and some gooey bits, which you don't get in a thin crackable cookie like these. Okay, so maybe I answered my own question, but I still think we can make cookie bark a thing.


Also, I'm calling these "cookies" but they're really a hybrid. Not quite granola, not quite a cookie, they're not terribly sweet, but are sweet enough to pass convincingly for a dessert. They're also chock full of healthy stuff like toasted coconut, dried cherries, and chia seeds.

In one batch I swapped out the toasted pecans for raw pepitas and they were good, but not great. However, if you wanted these for a lunchbox snack, M still liked them a lot, so I think it's a good way to make them school safe.


Also, there will be a bit of extra liquid that seeps out of the mixture when you spread it on a baking sheet. Try to get as much of it into the mixture as you can. But, I recommend rotating the baking sheet mid-bake and at that point, the extra liquid will have set a bit and is easy to scoop away and discard.

And a last note about baking: We are trying to find the balance here between drying out the bark and burning the bark. Cook it for as long as you can without scorching the edges to get a dryer, more crackable cookie. 

And a last last note about the chia seeds: If you spill any, you WILL think you have an infestation in your home. Over the past week, I've panicked that we had ants, bedbugs, and ticks. A tiny chia seed in a child's hair looks EXACTLY like a deer tick. Just a heads up.


Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark

2 eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
½ cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted in the oven
1 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
2/3 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chia seeds

Preheat the oven to 300. On a parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheet, toast the raw pecan pieces until they just begin to smell nutty, about 5 minutes (but keep a close watch). 

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs to combine the whites and yolks. Add the maple syrup and salt and whisk vigorously until the mixture is a bit frothy on top.

Add the dry ingredients and turn a few times to coat everything.

Dump out onto your parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly in a thin layer, trying your best to trap the liquid inside and not let too much seep out. But, see note above if some does seep out. You'll have the chance to scoop it out later.

Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the baking sheet to ensure even browning. Cook for 15 more minutes and check the mixture. If the sides haven't begun to brown, keep cooking for 5 more minutes and check again. Once the edges are a nice golden browned, remove from the oven and let the bark cool completely on its original baking pan. This will take about 2 hours, but I've left this uncovered overnight on the counter and the snap is best the next day.

Yield: 20-30 pieces, depending on how big you make them.