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.

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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

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Chocolate hummus!

Possibly the perfect lunchbox treat or after-school snack.

No-bake granola bars

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes

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I waited until December to officially post anything holiday-related! You're welcome! (Though I couldn't resist Instagramming this last week.) While I love any excuse for an elaborate, calories-be-damned baking project, this month we'll be focusing on nourishing rather than indulging (though I'm sure I'll cave and post SOMETHING rich this season). And here's why:

There are SO MANY BLOGS that have cornered the market on fancy and indulgent holiday treats. And let's face it: Toddlers who are off schedule and also on a sugar crash are not fun to be around. So we're limiting the sweeteners and focusing on the natural variety while also adding in veggies and proteins wherever possible.

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I love this recipe so much, mostly because I love any form of gingerbread and nothing says "Welcome to the holiday season" as much as this warm, spicy combination of molasses, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. We've boosted the nutrition by using a combination of spelt flour and whole wheat flour. The spelt flour has more protein and fiber than regular flour, but mimics white flour in flavor and texture. And whole wheat flour is great because, whole wheat.

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The molasses and spice flavor is also strong, but not overwhelming, so both adults and toddlers can enjoy these bad boys. The maple syrup, carrots, and whole cranberries also add more sweetness and moisture while keeping these vegan. And while the ingredient list isn't exactly short, this recipe is less fussy than some vegan ones because it doesn't require a flax egg or anything exotic. An added bonus to this treat is that it checks a lot of allergy boxes: There are no nuts, dairy, or eggs. And while I haven't tried this with any gluten-free flours, I would assume that any tried-and-true gluten-free mix would work here.

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This recipe baked up perfectly in two 5' x 2' cake pans as well as small bundt pans.

And did I mention that you only need one bowl?

For the topping: I think these are fantastic plain or with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Depending on your needs, I also topped these with a maple cream cheese frosting that was amazing with the cake, but slightly overpowered the gingerbread flavor. I would recommend doing this if you want to bring these to a party and dairy isn't an issue. I haven't personally tried these with the cake, but there are some great coconut whipped toppings on the market and coconut cream whips up into an easy easy dairy-free whipped cream for a vegan option. 

For the decorations here, I made these super easy candied cranberries and used this technique for brushstroke ivy. I've tried making these brushstrokes with chocolate and carob, but I haven't found anything that works as well as regular old candy melts, which unfortunately aren't vegan. Let me know if you find anything else!

Vegan carrot and cranberry gingerbread cakes

½ cup olive oil
½ cup + 2 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup molasses
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½ cups whole fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup + ¼ cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add the shredded carrots and cranberries and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Let sit while you grease your baking tins with olive oil.

If using mini bundt pans, fill all the way to the top. These don’t get a huge amount of rise, so the bundts will stay pretty flat. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

If making mini cakes, fill about ¾ of the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Yield: 12 mini bundt cakes or 5’ x 2’ cakes

 

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Candy corn popsicles

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

These treats resemble candy corn in color, but not in taste. Because candy corn is disgusting.

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

However, candy corn says "childhood autumn" for me like nothing else. Mostly because we didn't have cider donuts or pumpkin spice anything back then. Dark times.

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

These fruit and vegetable purees/pops are packed with seasonal flavors while also being light and refreshing since it was 80 degrees in New York last week. Also, it's always teething season in our house, so these pops are a handy way to soothe the savage beast while also getting some vitamins and good fats into him. These purees are delicious on their own, but especially when combined.

Spices like cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and turmeric make these frozen candy corn-inspired treats so much better than the original. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear

Banana, coconut milk, and cinnamon puree (White)

Whelp, I thought I was being creative here and then I found this puree on Baby Foodie when I was searching for a different recipe. Credit where it's due: I'm sure this puree was rattling around in my brain because I saw it there originally. It's great! The author recommends microwaving the banana, but I didn't and it was fine. It also froze well. I recommend doubling Baby Foodie's recipe and using the blender for these pops.

 

Sweet potato, coconut milk, and coriander puree (Orange)

Also from Baby Foodie, this combination was one of M's very favorites when he was still eating exclusively purees. For these pops, I used a ratio of 1 cup coconut milk to 1 sweet potato, which is significantly more liquid than is called for in the original recipe, but works in these pops. I used 1 large sweet potato, 1 cup coconut milk, and 1/4 tsp coriander.

 

Pear, apple, ginger, and turmeric puree (Yellow)

2 small or medium pears, peeled
1 large apple, peeled
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp turmeric

Peel the apple and pears, if desired (though if you leave the peel on, you may not get a uniform yellow color). In a steamer basket over boiling water, steam apple chunks for 5 minutes. Add pears and steam for 5 more minutes. Let cool slightly. Combine fruit and spices in a blender and process to desired consistency.

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

Combine purees in a tall pop mold starting with the coconut, banana, and cinnamon puree. I was too lazy to freeze them in stages, but if you're more precise than I am, you could freeze the white puree for 30 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes to achieve a cleaner color barrier. But, meh.

Yield: 4 double pops (like those pictured) or 8 single pops
 

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric