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.

Almond butter quinoa muffins

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What these muffins have: Good fats, protein, Omega-3s, deliciousness.

What these muffins don't have: Gluten, dairy, refined sugar, wheat, eggs, soy.

Bonus feature: The muffins only require one bowl!

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The new school year already started for lots of the country, but here in CT, M's preschool starts again on Monday. I've been thinking about quick ways to begin our day with protein that don't require cooking in the morning. These muffins are the answer!

Half of the flour is ground quinoa, which has lots of protein. The other half is oatmeal. I originally made these muffins with almond flour instead of oats for even more protein, but the almond flour was so dense that the muffins stuck to the roof of your mouth. You could just feed your kid a spoonful of almond butter and save yourself the trouble.

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With the oatmeal, the muffins are still substantial, but they're no longer dense. They're actually a smidge crumbly because I omitted eggs and any other binding agent. I wanted them to stay vegan and I don't always have the patience to make a flax egg. Letting them cool completely before eating them made them sturdier too. 

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For the first day of school, I thought it might be nice to add some blueberry chia jam and a quick icing to make the muffins more special. (I also called them breakfast cupcakes, which went over VERY WELL.) The jam is simple and free of any added sugar. I used cream cheese and maple syrup for my frosting, but you could also use coconut cream or a pre-made dairy-free topping.

You could also mix the chia jam with some yogurt for a delicious breakfast for the younger set (or the parental set, if I'm honest).

If you're avoiding nuts, substitute coconut or rice milk for the almond milk and use sunflower seed butter in place of the almond butter. Still delicious!

Important note: These muffins are best when fresh, so I recommend freezing 3/4 of the batch and then either defrosting a serving at night for breakfast the next morning, or toasting a frozen one right before eating it.

 

Almond butter quinoa muffins

2 large mashed banana
1 cup creamy natural almond butter, well mixed (or nut butter or seed butter of your choice)
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or rice, coconut, or other non-dairy milk of choice)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup quick oats
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the almond butter, maple syrup, almond milk, and vanilla extract and mix well.

Add the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Mix well. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix again. Let the mixture sit while you prep the muffin tin and prepare the jam and icing (if using).

When ready, spoon the mixture into your muffin tin until each opening is half full.

Bake for 12-14 mins or until the tops turn golden brown and the muffins are firm to the touch.

Let cool completely in the muffin tin before serving.

Yield: 18 muffins

 

For the Blueberry chia jam:
1 pint blueberries
1 ½ Tbsp chia seeds

Put the blueberries into a small sauce pan and cook over a medium low flame until the berries have broken down and become syrupy, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes and add the chia seeds. Mix well.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes or until ready to use.

Yield: 1 Tbsp per muffin

 

For the frosting (optional):
2 ¼ cups whipped cream cheese
6 Tbsp maple syrup

Mix the cream cheese and maple syrup well with a spatula. The mixture will look curdled at first. Continue mixing until the two ingredients have come together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 2 Tbsp per muffin

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S'mores energy balls

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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.

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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!

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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

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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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Raspberry rhubarb chia jam bars

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Preschool germs. Is there a stronger force in the universe? In my memoir, this era will be titled: The time when my child who never got sick, was never not sick.

And I don't know if all kids do this when ill, but mine is like a koala bear who drank a pot of coffee. He's both lethargic and wired, wanting to be on top of me while simultaneously thrashing like he's breaking out of a human prison. In short, this has not been a fun week.

Anyway, since we're stuck in the house for the foreseeable future, I've tried my hand with chia jam a few times. The basic recipe in that link has worked well for me as long as I cook the fruit down for about 20 minutes before adding the chia seeds and letting the mixture set in the fridge for about 30 to 60 minutes before using it. 

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And this jam is really versatile! It works in sandwiches, obviously, but is also great when added to oatmeal, yogurt, and baked goods. It would also make a tremendous baby puree.

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This is as easy as dessert/snack/breakfast gets. One bowl, no extra tools, and the same batter for the base and the top crumble. This recipe also uses gluten-free flour and clarified butter, so it's free of gluten, dairy, nuts, and eggs. And I've used as little butter and sugar as possible to maximize health without losing out on taste and texture.

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This dough is definitely crumbly, but packs down nicely with a rubber spatula. If it's too crumbly, feel free to add an extra tablespoon or two of butter.

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Raspberry rhubarb chia jam bars

For the jam:
12 oz frozen raspberries (one package or about 1 ½ cups)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 large green apples, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp chia seeds  

Add raspberries, rhubarb and green apples to a medium pot. If your berries are still frozen, add 1 tablespoon of water to get things started. If your berries have unfrozen and there’s some liquid in your bag, skip the extra water and just start cooking.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium or medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is falling apart and the liquid has largely evaporated or become syrupy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and add the chia seeds. Cool in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before using.

Yield: About 3 cups


For the bars:
1.5 cups gluten free flour
1.5 cups quick oats
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
½ tsp kosher salt
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
8 Tbsp clarified butter
4 Tbsp ice water
1.5 cups chia jam (see recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x9 brownie pan with clarified butter or olive oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt and mix well.

In a small bowl, melt some clarified butter. Measure the butter when melted and add to the dry ingredients, stirring after adding each tablespoon. Add the ice water, also stirring between additions.

Pack about 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of your brownie pan with a rubber spatula or wet hands. Top with the chia jam and smooth out. Crumble the rest of the oat mixture over the chia jam. If possible, pack some of the oat mixture into larger pieces and place those on top.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the edges begin to darken slightly.

Let cool completely before cutting.

Yield: 16 pieces

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