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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Chai spiced sweet potato and orange oatmeal

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We're back from a very impromptu trip to Disney during which we ate primarily ice cream, sausages, and french fries. It was really nice to worry mostly about having fun for a few days, but our diets definitely took a hit. To reverse course, we're pushing the veggies, even at breakfast. 

This puree is delicious with oatmeal, yogurt, or on its own. Though the chai mixture contains a lot of different spices, the end result is very mild. And yes, I realize that "Chai" actually means tea, but I think Starbucks has conditioned us all to use "Chai" as shorthand for versions of this spice combo.

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I boiled the sweet potatoes here, but feel free to use the microwave, steamer, or oven if that suits you better. I find boiling to be the fastest and easiest method.

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Though it's more work, use whole oranges instead of orange juice since the juice doesn't have nearly as much fiber as the actual fruit.

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Chai spiced sweet potato and orange oatmeal

Chai spice mixture:
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cardamom
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1/8 tsp salt

For the puree:
1 lb sweet potatoes (1 x-large or two small), peeled and cubed
2-3 large oranges, peeled
water (as needed)
1-1½  tsp chai spice mix

Cube potatoes and place in a medium saucepan. Add water until just covered or until the potatoes just start to float.

Bring to a boil over high flame. Once boiling, turn the flame down to medium. You want a strong simmer, but not a boil. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender, but not falling apart.

Drain and add to the blender. Peel and add oranges and 1 tsp of chai spice mixture. Blend until combined, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. Hold off on adding water until the oranges are fully broken down because you won't likely need more liquid. If the mixture is too dry, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time until you've reached your desired consistency.

Yield: 2.5-3 cups or 22-25 oz

 

To eat with oatmeal:
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup water
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup chai spiced sweet potato and orange puree
2 Tbsp toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1 Tbsp juice-sweetened dried cranberries
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)

 Yield: One serving

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Roasted pear and yellow squash puree

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Potty training has (haltingly) begun. And so I've renewed my commitment to vegetables and good fats in M's diet. To, ahem, keep things moving. 

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Even though he's well out of the puree stage, I still like to whip up some seasonal fruit and veggie purees when we have produce that's about to turn. Plopped into a pouch or mixed with some yogurt, they make a great snack and are sometimes the only way to get a largish amount of vegetables into M at once. ALSO, I like to use purees as dipping sauces for whole grain waffles and pancakes in lieu of syrup. It's a fun and sweet way to skip the concentrated sugar at breakfast and focus on the good stuff instead.

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A couple of notes: Roasting is always my preferred cooking method because I think it intensifies the flavor of fruits and vegetables more than steaming does. In this recipe, we're not looking for much color, so keep an eye on it. Also, powdered ginger works here, but fresh is best.

 

Roasted pear and yellow squash puree

4 medium pears
1 medium yellow squash
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ tsp fresh ginger (or slightly less powdered ginger)

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and roughly chop the pears and squash. Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and roast for 15 minutes until the produce is soft and fragrant, but not yet browning.

Place the pears and squash into a blender or food processor. Add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and the ginger. Puree until you've reached your desired consistency.

Yield: about 2 cups of puree.

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Blueberry and beet popsicles

Whooooeeeey, what a week. I completely missed popsicle week last week, interestingly, because I was busy making popsicles for my very sick child. Have any of you dealt with Coxsackie? I had never heard of it before having children, but apparently it's a virus that's been around forever and we've all had it.

Also, it's terrible. Thanks to a really sore throat and a high fever, M basically ate nothing for two days, so we tried lots of different frozen treats. Aside from these blueberry and beet-sicles, we made carrot, apple, and coconut treats using carrot juice, apple juice, and coconut milk; Orange coconut creamsicles using orange juice and coconut milk; and a roasted mango concoction that I'm still working on. I'll be honest, the ones with vegetables didn't go over as well while M was sick, but when he's healthy, he gobbles them up. 

Can I confess something? I don't really like beets. I also HATE cooking them myself, though everyone claims that it's sooooo easy. Whelp, I bought the beets in this photo because they were cheap and pretty at the farmer's market, but I fully used the organic pre-cooked ones you can buy at the grocery store that are vacuum sealed in plastic. I refuse to ruin my cutting board for a vegetable I don't even like.

However, I DO like beets when they're mixed with other things; chocolate, goat cheese, blueberries, etc.

This puree is great on its own or when mixed with yogurt, cooked grains, or pureed proteins for more advanced eaters. I personally love eating these as popsicles and would one day like to spike them with some sort of alcohol. For M, I mixed the blueberry/beet puree with a yogurt, almond butter, and honey combo that cut the fruit and veggies with something a little creamier. I also encourage you to make popsicles using just the yogurt mixture because they. are. great. Even my sick,-as-a-dog child ate the frozen yogurt. 

A couple of notes: If you have the temerity to cook the beets yourself, here's how. Otherwise, do what I do and use the precooked ones. Be sure to roast the blueberries (don't skip this step!) because raw ones in frozen treats don't have a strong flavor. Does anyone else notice that frozen raw fruit tastes blander? Anyway, I also recommend eating these only while wearing dark colors and/or when you can immediately dunk your child in water to clean up because they're a little messy. But isn't that half the fun of a popsicle?

Beet and blueberry puree and popsicles  

For the puree:
1.5 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 pint, minus whatever is filched by your toddler)
¾ cup chopped beets (about 3 very small)
¼ tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread the blueberries on a foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until the berries are soft and fragrant, but haven't burst. Place the blueberries and beets in the blender, add the cinnamon, and puree until you've reached your desired consistency. 

Yield: 1.5 cups or 12 oz of puree

For the pops:
1 cup full fat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp almond butter (preferably salted)

Fill the popsicle molds 1/2 way with the blueberry and beet mixture and freeze for at least 30 minutes or until the mixture begins to set. Fill the rest of the molds with the yogurt mixture and freeze solid, at least 5-6 hours.

Yield: 4 large ice pops

Cheers!

Cheers!

Purple carrot and coconut applesauce

Toddlerhood is a time of highs and lows, for the toddler and for his parents. This week, for example, M, started saying "Go away, Mama;" screaming at the very top of his lungs when he wanted something; and spun in a circle so much that he barfed. But he also said, "I miss you, Mama;" spelled his name (he's a genius! or at least, a genius mimic); and was completely focused and determined while trying to use chopsticks, all of which made my heart grow about ten sizes.

In our bad moments, I'm desperately trying to remember that M's acting out is normal limit testing and that it'll pass, but it is SO HARD. Living with a toddler is like having an irrational, demanding, perfectionist, narcissist for a boss, but who's sometimes so cute and wonderful and effusively loving that you can forgive his disturbing lack of empathy.

All that to say, my kid is normal. And like all normal toddlers, really really loves applesauce. To bulk this one up, I added carrots because then I feel like he's getting more than just some fruit. I also tossed in some coconut milk to add a little fat for those days when applesauce comprises a meal. Also, though we're far from apple season, our farmer's market always has barrels of over-wintered apples that are cheap, local, pesticide-free, and perfect for applesauce.  

A few notes: I didn't bother to peel my apples because a lot of the fiber is in the skin, but mostly, I'm lazy. However, if your little likes things very smooth or is just starting out with purees, go ahead and peel them. I also roasted these because I like the flavor and a chunkier end product, but if you're looking for a smooth puree, do a boil/steam combo as described in this recipe

Purple carrot and coconut applesauce

2 lbs apples (about 3 very large apples)
8 oz purple carrots (about 2 large or 4 small carrots)
¼- ¾ cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 400. Peel and chop carrots and apples (don't bother peeling the apples; see note above). Place on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.

Puree the apples, carrots, and coconut milk. Start with ¼ cup and add more coconut milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator, but heat for 15-20 seconds before serving to loosen up the coconut milk. Stir and test for hotspot

Yield: 26 oz or about 3-3 ½ cups.