Chocolate hummus

Chocolate hummus!

Even the best intentioned parents fall into bad habits when it comes to toddlers and food. I swore we would never make M a separate dinner from ours and yet, here we are. I also swore that I would never cave to bedtime snack requests, but…you guessed it.

Look, we have a lot of good habits and we course correct pretty fast when we realize that we’re off track. And we try not to sweat it when things change or don’t work around mealtimes. But f*&$@#ing hell is it frustrating.

While M isn’t a huge snacker between meals, he would happily eat all “snack” food for his meals. For lunch, I’m more okay with packing him a collection of finger foods (hard-boiled egg, veggies and hummus, fruit, mini muffins, etc), but for dinner, it’s hard for me to swallow guacamole and chips as his main course (pun intended).

I mean, he has an entire adolescence to make bad food choices, so we have to get some goodness in while we can, right?

All this to say, we’re struggling with food right now. One strategy we’re implementing is trying to ensure that M’s whole day is rounded out with good stuff so that one bad meal isn’t a big deal.

Chickpeas, dates, maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
Blend until really smooth for a protein-packed after school snack.

I started making my own chocolate hummus after being introduced to this magical concoction (seriously, how did I not know that chocolate hummus existed until about 2 months ago?) at my book club.

Chocolate hummus: free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, and all animal products. Basically, the perfect after-school snack.

This sweet dip is mostly chickpeas, which have a ton of protein and fiber, plus some natural sweeteners and a couple of spices. It takes about 15 minutes to make and most of that time is spent waiting for water to boil. This snack is also free of nuts, gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and any animal products.

IMG_8633.jpg

A couple of notes:
- Soak 4 dates, though you may not need them all. This dip tends to get sweeter as it sits in the fridge, so be careful about adding all four dates up front.
- If the dip doesn’t taste sweet enough after two dates, try adding another pinch of salt. The salt really brings out the sweetness and the chocolate, so you may not need additional sweetener.

Chick peas, dates, maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.

Chocolate hummus

1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained |
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup maple syrup
2-4 dates, soaked in boiling water for 5-10 minutes
1/8 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp vanilla extract

Boil some water and pour over 4 dates. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse your chickpeas and pour them onto a paper towel. Dry them lightly. Add to a food processor.

Measure the other ingredients and add to the food processor. When the dates are soft, add them to the other ingredients and blend until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Serve.

Yield: 1.5 cups or about 14.5 ounces

IMG_8636.jpg

Chocolate hummus!

Possibly the perfect lunchbox treat or after-school snack.

S'mores energy balls

IMG_8252.jpg
IMG_8256.jpg

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.

IMG_8244.jpg

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!

IMG_8241.jpg

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

IMG_8265.jpg

No-bake granola bars

IMG_7850.jpg

Guys. I have tried and tried to make actually good, lower sugar, school-safe granola bars. I succeeded with these bars, but they're a bit more effort than I'm willing to expend when I suddenly realize on a week night that we don't have anything for snack or lunch boxes the next day. These granola cups are super easy, but we're entering that sweltering season where turning on the oven is basically just opening the gates of hell.

IMG_7840.jpg

Instead we have these no-bake granola bars that are super quick and easy (and cool) to prepare, are lower in sugar than store bought bars, are free of dairy, nuts, gluten, and eggs AND are absolutely freaking delicious.

IMG_7842.jpg

I've tried a couple of no-bake granola bar recipes via Pinterest that left me wanting. Some recommended using quick oats, which got lost in the honey and nut butter mixture. Some also suggested rice cereals that lost their crunch when mixed with the other ingredients.

Many of them also call for dates, which I tried in these bars too. Here's the thing: If you use enough dates, they do help the bars stick together when they heat up. But, your bars taste primarily like dates, which I didn't want for this recipe. So, just beware that these bars are ever-so-slightly crumbly when they heat up.

IMG_7846.jpg

A couple of notes:
- The texture of these bars can change based on a few factors: First, nut butters separate, especially in the heat, so the thoroughness of your mixing can change the texture of these bars. Try your best to mix vigorously so that your nut butter isn't too thin or too thick.
- You should be able to form the mixture into a ball that stays together and doesn't stick to your fingers. If the mixture is too crumbly, add one Tbsp of nut butter at a time and mix again to see if the grains come together. If the mixture is too sticky, try adding 1 Tbsp of oats at a time until you have a better consistency.
- Give the dry ingredients a good stir before adding in the wet ingredients. The mixing of the wet and dry ingredients can require some elbow grease, but is easier if you've already distributed the grains and cinnamon.
- To make these bars school safe, use sunflower seed butter. If you don't have nut or peanut restrictions, peanut and almond butter are perfectly great substitutes.
- If you can't find or don't want to use the chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, any old chocolate chips or carob chips (we're particularly fond of these non-dairy chocolate chips), will do.  
- Millet is a slightly more exotic ingredient, but it's available at Whole Foods or health stores and really helps these bars to have some crunch. Millet is also gluten free and has a ton of health benefits.

IMG_7865.jpg

Actually good, no-bake granola bars

1¾ cups rolled oats (not quick oats or steel cut)
½ cup millet
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup sunflower seed butter
¼ cup honey
½ cup chocolate covered sunflower seeds or chocolate chips
Optional: a pinch of salt

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and give them a stir.

Add the sunflower seed butter and the honey and stir to combine. You can zap these ingredients in the microwave to loosen them up a bit first, but I find that a little elbow grease and some wet hands do the trick.

Add the chocolate covered sunflower seeds or chocolate chips and stir again just until they’re incorporated.

Dump the mixture out into a parchment-lined brownie pan (I like 8x8 best for the size of the bars it produces, but 9x9 or larger will also work with thinner results).

Freeze for 20 minutes. Remove the bars and cut them into 16-24 portions. Store in the fridge.

Yield: 16-24 bars

IMG_7848.jpg
IMG_7851.jpg
IMG_7858.jpg
IMG_7862.jpg

Instant pot chicken mole

IMG_7598.jpg

That's right. Mole. In an instant pot.

Now, hear me out. I don't claim that this mole is in ANY WAY authentic, but what is an authentic mole anyway? It seems to me that there are characteristics that qualify a sauce as mole, but that there is no one recipe to rule them all.

Now, I also realize that this dish is usually made with a huge list of spices and chiles, most of which you have to toast or hydrate, and that traditionally, these spices are ground by hand with a mortar and pestle.

But, WHO HAS THAT KIND OF TIME? Surely not parents of toddlers. 

IMG_7612.jpg

Instead, you can toss everything into an instant pot and have a really complex dinner on the table in about an hour (with most of that time being hands off).

The most time consuming part of the process here is reducing the sauce after the chicken has been pressure cooked. You'll want to saute the liquid until it reduces by about half and when you scrape the bottom of the pot, the sauce doesn't re-cover the metal right away. That will be a good indication that the sauce is thick enough.

The sauce before thickening.

The sauce before thickening.

The sauce after being reduced. See how the sauce doesn't cover the metal right away?

The sauce after being reduced. See how the sauce doesn't cover the metal right away?

IMG_7617.jpg

This dish is great over white rice, brown rice, cauliflower rice, in a taco, in a lettuce cup: you get the picture. The ingredients all comply with Whole 30, which means it's gluten, dairy, and refined-sugar free. You can also swap in seed butter for the almond butter if you need to avoid nuts.

IMG_7584.jpg

Instant pot chicken mole

1 cup chicken stock
1 cup chopped tomatoes in liquid
1 Tbsp chili powder
1.5 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
½ red onion, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp chipotle in adobo
¼ cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp almond butter
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place all of the sauce ingredients in your instant pot and whisk to combine. Add the chicken breasts and scrunch them around to make sure that there is liquid surrounding the pieces.

Close the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Release the steam manually and remove the chicken. Check the doneness of the chicken with a thermometer (it should read at least 165).

Turn the Instant pot off and then back on with the sauté function on medium. Saute until the remaining liquid has reduced by half and thickened significantly, about 20 minutes (you should be able to scrape the bottom of the pot and see the metal for a second before the sauce covers over it). Let cool slightly.

Add the liquid to a blender and blend until smooth.

Serve the chicken with 1/4 of the sauce and any other garnishes and accessories that you want.

Yield: 4 grown-up servings

IMG_7610.jpg
IMG_7606.jpg

Healthy hot chocolate blender pancakes

The toddler absolutely stuck his finger into this pancake right before this photo.

The toddler absolutely stuck his finger into this pancake right before this photo.

There were 500 reasons why I loved living in Manhattan, but the city in winter was not one of them. Pushing a stroller through mountains of dirty snow and then the huge puddles on every corner once they melted, was torture. And not for nothing, but New Yorkers stop picking up after their dogs when it snows. Like, do you think the snow renders your dog's poop harmless? Because the only thing grosser than frozen dog poop is melted dog poop. But I digress.

So now we're cozy in our house in the suburbs while arctic winds and snow howl outside (and the only frozen poop belongs to OUR dog).

And while we've amended our diets for the inevitable post-holidays detox, it's not as easy for M to swear off sweets (nor do we expect him to), so we're toning them down and transitioning away from indulgence and toward moderation.

Enter, hot chocolate pancakes. The name is enticing and fits with the frigidity of our current climate. BUT! The ingredients are more wholesome than the name implies.

IMG_6807.jpg

One thing I like about this recipe is that, unlike other recipes that use banana as a natural sweetener, they don't actually taste like banana. I mean, I love bananas, but I don't always want my baked goods to taste like them.

IMG_6809.jpg

I also think that the mixture of malt powder and cocoa powders tastes more like hot chocolate than cocoa powder alone. *If you don't have malt powder, use 2 Tbsp of cocoa powder total and add 1-2 Tbsp of maple syrup to the batter.

And while we're at it, let's talk about "blender pancakes" as a concept. As an admittedly lazy cook and housekeeper, I'm skeptical of getting out the blender when it's not strictly necessary. Maybe I'm scarred from not having a dishwasher for most of my adult life, but it seems so much more complicated to clean the blender than to wash out a bowl and spoon.

Anyway, the blender is totally justified here because the oats get chopped up nicely and incorporated more easily. Without blending, you'd either have chunky pancakes or you'd have to wash a food processor and a bowl and spoon. In conclusion, thank god for dishwashers.

IMG_6805.jpg

Hot Chocolate pancakes

1 large banana
1 cup quick oats
2 eggs
¼ cup milk (dairy, almond, soy, coconut, rice- anything will work)
1 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp malt powder (*See note above if omitting malt powder)
1.5 Tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, scraping the sides if necessary.

Heat a frying pan with the butter or oil of your choice over medium low heat. Pour out about 1/2 cup of batter (we're looking for about 4-inches in diameter) into the hot pan and let cook until 1 or 2 bubbles form on the raw side. (You won't get lots of bubbles as you would with regular pancakes.) 

Once a bubble or two form, carefully flip the pancakes over and cook for 4-5 minutes on the other side, until a crust forms and the pancake feels firm to the touch. 

Serve warm with berries, syrup, powdered sugar, nut butter, or honey.

Yield: 5-6 medium pancakes

IMG_6817.jpg