Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Apples and honey breakfast cookies

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Oh apple season, how I love you. However, baking with you in your natural state sometimes leads to a soggy mess. So, dried apples it is. I like the Trader Joe's version the best because they're dry (obviously), but not so dry that they're hard to eat. Though I still have to cut them up for M because he shoves so many of the whole ones into his mouth that he chokes. When will he learn??

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Anyway, these cookies are ever-so-slightly sweet thanks more to the dried apples and golden raisins than the honey, though the honey is necessary for binding everything together. These cookies are sort of like if granola, oatmeal, and a cinnamon raisin cookie had a baby, but with less refined sugar than most granola or cookies and more portability than oatmeal.

 

This is also a great place to sub in some store-bought sunflower seed butter to make these lunchbox appropriate. Pretty sure the rest of the ingredients would mask the sometimes glue-y taste of store-bought versions. Using gluten-free oats also makes these safe for kids with gluten allergies. And I haven't tried these with egg substitutes, but I'm assuming that two or three flax eggs would also work to bind these together. If using a flax egg, directly reduce the amount of flax seed meal that goes into the batter, but keep the baking powder the same. I would also use a full cup of honey as an increased binder. But note that I'm speculating here as I haven't tried these changes myself. I'll update the post if I do!

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Apples and honey breakfast cookies


8 oz natural peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter
¾ cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup flax seed meal
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups dried apples, chopped (plus 12 whole ones for decorating the tops of the cookies)
½ cup golden raisins
Olive or coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the peanut butter, honey, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until all have been incorporated into the wet ingredients and no streaks remain.

Wet hands and form the dough into 12 large balls and gently press down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. The dough will be sticky and crumble-y, which is why wet hands are helpful. Don’t worry if the dough feels like it will imminently fall apart. As long as it mostly sticks together, they’ll bake and cool into a solid cookie.

Press a round dried apple onto the top of each cookie and spray or brush with coconut or olive oil.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the sides just begin to brown. 

Let cool completely before removing from cookie sheet. (The cooling also helps bind the crumbly cookie together.)

Yield: 12 very large cookies

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Healthy strawberry and cherry granola bars

Healthy strawberry and cherry granola bar | Me & The Moose. These chewy granola bars are a mixup of granola bars, oatmeal cookies, and rice krispy treats, but healthier and more filling than any of the traditional ones. #meandthemoose #granolabarrecipes #nutfree #glutenfree #naturalsugar #granolarecipes #granolabarrecipes #snacks #snackrecipes

Say hello to the Frankenbar: Part granola bar, part oatmeal cookie, and part Rice Krispie treat. These beauties are also free of refined sugar (mostly), gluten, nuts, and can be dairy-free if you swap out the chocolate-covered sunflower seeds with carob chips. The brown rice syrup takes a little getting used to; to me, it has a slightly funky flavor on its own. But the syrup is far stickier than honey or maple syrup, so it's a better binder, and you don't taste it in final product.

Actually, I have a confession to make: I find a lot of "healthy" baking ingredients a little gross on their own. I wouldn't necessarily choose carob chips or coconut sugar over their more refined counterparts, except that I prefer using ingredients that are generally better for me and for M when I control the food. Also, I aim to only publish recipes here that I know are delicious and don't suffer (at least, to my tastes) from the healthy stuff.

Healthy strawberry and cherry granola bar | Me & The Moose. These chewy granola bars are a mixup of granola bars, oatmeal cookies, and rice krispy treats, but healthier and more filling than any of the traditional ones. #meandthemoose #granolabarrecipes #nutfree #glutenfree #naturalsugar #granolarecipes #granolabarrecipes #snacks #snackrecipes

These bars are also completely adaptable based on preferences and allergy concerns. Can't find dried strawberries or cherries without extra sugar? Use other dried fruits. Don't have any nut allergies? Use almonds or peanuts and almond or peanut butter instead of the sunflower seeds and seed butter. Can't find chocolate covered sunflower seeds? Swap in the aforementioned carob chips to make the bars dairy-free or use chocolate chunks or M&Ms.

Healthy strawberry and cherry granola bar | Me & The Moose. These chewy granola bars are a mixup of granola bars, oatmeal cookies, and rice krispy treats, but healthier and more filling than any of the traditional ones. #meandthemoose #granolabarrecipes #nutfree #glutenfree #naturalsugar #granolarecipes #granolabarrecipes #snacks #snackrecipes

This recipe is also a great way to use up sunflower seed butter if you have some leftover. Again, one of those ingredients that tastes kind of terrible on its own (unless you make this homemade version which is GREAT), but adds a nice nuttyness. These treats would also make a great snack for Valentine's Day parties in nut-free classrooms.

Healthy strawberry and cherry granola bar | Me & The Moose. These chewy granola bars are a mixup of granola bars, oatmeal cookies, and rice krispy treats, but healthier and more filling than any of the traditional ones. #meandthemoose #granolabarrecipes #nutfree #glutenfree #naturalsugar #granolarecipes #granolabarrecipes #snacks #snackrecipes

Strawberry and cherry granola bars

1 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
1 1/2 cup puffed brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chocolate covered sunflower seeds
2/3 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup dried strawberries
1/3 cup freeze-dried strawberries
1/3 cup freeze-dried cherries
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp sunflower seed butter (1/3 cup works, but the bars are slightly crumbly)
6 Tbsp melted coconut oil (measure after melting)
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment and lightly grease. Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt the coconut oil and add to the dry ingredients along with the sunflower seed butter and the brown rice syrup. Using a spatula or your hands (I always use my hands), stir well to combine. Dump the mixture into the parchment-lined baking pan and pack down with gusto. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Let cool completely before serving. The bars stayed crunchy for one week in a sealed bag at room temperature, but go ahead and freeze some or all if you won't eat within a week.

Healthy strawberry and cherry granola bar | Me & The Moose. These chewy granola bars are a mixup of granola bars, oatmeal cookies, and rice krispy treats, but healthier and more filling than any of the traditional ones. #meandthemoose #granolabarrecipes #nutfree #glutenfree #naturalsugar #granolarecipes #granolabarrecipes #snacks #snackrecipes