Archive for ‘Snacks’

May 8, 2012

Ants on a Log, Caterpillars in the Sand

I’m having one of those days. Can I just feed the kids some twigs? Really, I’m not channeling Kim Jong-il, but what I’d really like to do is send S to school with a bag of trail mix and be done with thinking about and packing lunch. I’m feeling uninspired and tired. I’ve also realized that I’m not going to make it to my goal of making 108 different lunches this school year. Bummer.

After pulling together scraps from my rather bare pantry and fridge, I’m making a version of twigs: Ants on a Log and Caterpillars in the Sand. For the Ants on a Log, I filled two celery sticks (and, yes, it’s worth buying organic when it comes to celery) with sunflower seed butter and topped them with raisins. It’s pretty much your traditional version of Ants on a Log. For the Caterpillars in the Sand, I spread cream cheese in two other celery sticks and topped them with cashews. Nuts must be one of earth’s most perfect food. That and avocados. But I’m digressing. To go with her meager lunch, I packed a  bowl of sliced apples and strawberries, plus some sweet potato chips and Trader Joe’s Crunchy Curls (made from lentils and potatoes).

 

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April 26, 2012

Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day at my daughter’s school today, and ever since I found out her teacher is vegan I’ve wanted to whip up some tasty sweets for the fearless leader of her classroom. Now, I had the perfect excuse. In addition to the Grain- and Dairy-Free Breakfast Bars I wrote about in October, I decided to make these Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. A cookie that’s sweet and savory—is there a better combination? Plus, I like that you get a nice punch of protein from the peanut butter, making it almost good for you. With the grain-free recipe, you lose the flour and pack in even more protein from almond and peanut flour.

I first made these cookies last week when I found the recipe on Elana’s Pantry. If you’re on a gluten- or grain-free diet, you should bookmark the site. Elana has come up with some amazing gluten-free recipes for baked goods. Almost always, they’re tasty and straightforward. Last time, I made the cookies with butter (even though Elana’s recipe is vegan and called for vegan palm oil shortening)and added the chocolate chips. The kids loved, loved it! And so did I. This time, I substituted coconut oil to make it vegan for S’s teacher. They’re just as scrumptious, and the kids couldn’t tell the difference. With just 1/4 cup honey, 2 TB of butter or coconut oil and gluten-free, I’ve decided they’re healthy enough to serve as a mid-day and after-school snack. After the kids descended on these cookies, I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough left for S’s teacher. Try them, try them and you will see!

** If your child has a peanut allergy, consider making these with almond butter or sunflower seed butter.

 

Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from ElanasPantry.com’s Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies)

Makes 12 – 16 cookies.

Ingredients

1 cup blanched almond flour (or 1/2 cup peanut flour and 1/2 cup almond flour)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup roasted peanut butter

1/4 cup honey or agave nectar

2 TB coconut oil or butter or palm oil shortening

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients: almond/peanut flour, salt and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, mix together wet ingredients (peanut butter, honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract) with a hand blender.

Blend dry ingredient into wet until well combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop dough 1 TB at a time onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 6 – 12 minutes until golden brown around the edges.

 

 

April 24, 2012

Simple, Decadent Dessert for Breakfast—Without the Guilt

I’ve found a new love. And unlike most of my food loves, I don’t have to feel bad about it. To celebrate, I’ve been indulging myself every day for the past week. And, nope, I’m not tired of it. Not even close. It’s incredibly easy to make, the kids love it, and you can have it for breakfast, an after-school snack or dessert. Did I mention it’s good for you? When I first made it for S for breakfast, she said, “You’re going to let me eat this for breakfast?”

First, you start with 0% Greek yogurt. Regardless of the fat content, it’s creamy, dreamy goodness. Your gut will applaud you for bringing in all that good “probiotic” bacteria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, if you want to go with the full-fat version, try this (Fage’s whole-milk version is tasty, too, but I didn’t have it in my fridge).

Then, add a handful of frozen berries. If you haven’t heard, berries are chock full of super-healthy antioxidants that fight disease. I like the frozen variety for this “dessert,” because it really helps give it an ice cream-like consistency. However, fresh berries would work just fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, spice and sweeten things up with cinnamon, vanilla extract and a tiny scoop of Stevia. Or, you could use a teaspoon of honey. The Stevia keeps the sugar content—and the guilt—really low. Take your metal spoon and start stirring and pounding it all together. If you have some early-morning stress, this is a good time to get it out. Smoosh and smash and mix it all up, the same way they do at Cold Stone Creamery when they add your mix-ins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After your first bite, all those cravings for Pinkberry and Red Mango will be banished for good. Now, close the door, sit down and have a moment to yourself. It’s better than Calgon. I promise.

February 21, 2012

Zucchini Patties with Feta

I’m always looking for ways to use up zucchinis, especially in the summer when they’re in season, so when I came across this recipe I had to try it. I couldn’t wait for the summer. And I’m glad I did, because C ate three in a sitting. S was lukewarm on them, telling me she prefers spinach patties. Oh, well. You can’t please everyone all of the time.

I bought so many zucchinis that I ended up doubling the Epicurious recipe.  To make it gluten-free, I simply substituted Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour for the regular wheat flour. Other than that, it calls for eggs, feta cheese, green onions (which I subbed with sautéed white onions and garlic) and fresh parsley and dill. I left out the dill, because I wasn’t sure the kids would like it. Instead, I minced and stirred it into the Greek yogurt dipping sauce that accompanies the zucchini cakes. As it turns out, the kids loved the dill in the yogurt. Next time, I’ll definitely mix it into the patties. I may also try it with Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, instead of the feta.

We had them as side dish with dinner, and the next morning C asked for them for breakfast. Even though S thought they were just meh, I packed them in her lunch. I froze the rest, so I could have an easy, healthy snack on hand.

CLICK HERE for the Zucchini Patties with Feta recipe.

 

February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day Cookies – Just Say No to Red #40

I love Christmas and Valentine’s Day, and I especially love baking for both holidays. But I detest artificial food coloring. I won’t go into the myriad reasons why it’s awful,  unnecessary, and  should be banned. But I do want to make you aware of all the places it shows up. Yes, it’s on virtually every birthday cake your child will eat. Plus, it’s in rainbow-colored goldfish crackers, most candies, maraschino cherries, jello, popsicles, commercial breakfast bars, and those gummy fruit-flavored snacks that are somehow passing for fruit. Food coloring also sneaks its way into children’s Tylenol and Ibuprofen, as well as the majority of toothpastes.

With that said, my kids are no different than anyone else’s. They love colorful icing, sprinkles and candies. And while I appreciate how beautiful desserts can look with artificial food dye, I want nothing to do with eating them. As for S and C, that’s another story. To satisfy the whimsy in my kids and me, I decided to make my own red food coloring—from beets. And you know what? It worked! Plus, it was super easy.

                                      

I always have beets on hand because of my CSA, so I decided to slice one beet into four slices and steam it with a 1/3 cup water. You have to be careful not to let the water burn off, so add more water as you steam, if necessary. After about 15 minutes, I had a beautiful deep red liquid in my pan. I added about a tablespoon of it to my icing and voila it all turned pink. Since beets are naturally sweet, it didn’t impart an unusual taste to the icing. I was happy and the kids were ecstatic, because their mom was going to let them frost the cookies and eat them, too! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Pink Icing (made from beet juice)

1/2 stick butter, at room temperature

1 lb. powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Beet juice

milk

Beat butter with powdered sugar until well blended. Add vanilla and beet juice. When you’ve achieved the desired color, add milk a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency. Spread over cookies, cake or cupcakes.

February 7, 2012

Thai Fish Cakes

It’s a feast of leftovers at my house, after hosting a Thai food party on Saturday evening (I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures!). I was so worried there wouldn’t be enough food that I sort of  completely overdid it. I made 100 Thai fish cakes, 100 skewers of chicken satay, a large mound of papaya salad and a vat of vegetarian green curry. And that was for 15 skinny women. On top of that, a friend of mine brought two rice noodle dishes, one cold and the other warm. Plus, another made Thai coconut and mango sticky rice. In my defense, I had a handful of moms who at the last minute couldn’t make it.

My kids love Thai fish cakes, especially after dipping them in a sweet chili sauce. It’s a good thing they dig them, because in addition to having them for dinner and snack time, they’re also showing up in S’s lunch today. Fish cakes are one of the very few foods I deep fry. But they’re so quintessentially Thai and so delicious that I give myself a get-out-of-jail pass for serving them to my kids. And I make them only once or twice a year.

The secret to a good fish cake is using kaffir lime leaves. I like to throw in a few extras for extra flavor, and I use a very generous tablespoon of red curry paste. Then, I also add some minced lemongrass, even though the recipe below doesn’t call for it. Add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a beaten egg and some thinly sliced snake beans or green beans and you’re ready to mix and shape them into little patties. I deep fry them in a wok, and drain and blot them on paper towels after they’re cooked. Serve these to your family warm, and I promise they’ll think you’re a culinary goddess. But don’t forget that dipping sauce. It comes in a glass bottle, often in the international section of grocery stores and at Trader Joe’s.

Fried Fish Cakes with Green Beans (from The Food of Thailand)

Makes 30

Ingredients

1 lb. firm white fish fillets

1 generous TB red curry paste

1 TB fish sauce

1 egg

2 oz. snake beans or green beans, finely sliced

5 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves, finely shredded

peanut oil, for deep-frying

sweet chili sauce to serve

Directions

Remove any skin and bone from the fish and roughly chop the flesh. In a food processor or a blender, mince the fish fillets until smooth. Add the curry paste, fish sauce and egg, then blend briefly until until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and mix in the beans and kaffir lime leaves. Use wet hands to shape the fish paste into thin, fat cakes, about 5 cm (2 inches) across, using about a tablespoon of mixture of each.

Heat 5 cm (2 inches) oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil seems hot, drop a small piece of fish cake into it. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.

Lower five or six of the fish cakes into the oil and deep-fry them until they are golden brown on both sides and very puffy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep the cooked fish cakes warm while deep-frying the rest. Serve hot with sweet chili sauce.

January 28, 2012

Chinese New Year – Making Almond Cookies

I could feel it. S was about to accuse of me of being a Food Nazi—again.

She told me that one classmate had Oreos for snack time earlier this week and another had Oreo ice cream in a cup. I was dumbfounded. Really? Now, was she telling me because she herself was shocked, too? Or because she was trying to say, “Mom, you’re the only parent who’s such a Food Nazi!” In either case, I was listening.

I would’ve had a hard time believing her, except that a few months ago I had chaperoned a school field trip. Boy, that was eye-opening! Mini-blueberry muffins, crunchy breadsticks, Pringles and little tiny cookies. That was the entirety one child’s lunch. Elsewhere, I got a glimpse of Pepperidge Farm chocolate-chip cookies bigger than the size of my palm, snicker doodles, and crackers galore—Cheez-Its, Goldfish, graham crackers. Oh my carb! Don’t get me wrong. I love a good carb as much as the next person, but many carbs make not a meal. Where was the protein, not to mention fruits and vegetables?

I thought the school had a no-sweets policy, but apparently it’s either not enforced or I was delusional. “They mean ‘No candy,'” S explained. “Told you you’re allowed to pack dessert.” I guess she was right. However, it didn’t change my lunch-packing routine. I always figured desserts were after-dinner treats, not after-every-meal goodies. But even I could see that perhaps I was being a bit, ahem, rigid.

So, I decided to surprise S with some homemade Chinese almond cookies. And I could feed them to her guilt-free under the guise of cultural heritage. We baked the cookies together, with C putting a blanched almond in the center of each ball of dough and S brushing the tops of the cookies with an egg wash.

     

S was positively giddy with excitement when she saw me slip a light, buttery cookie into her lunchbox the next day. But just as I was about to feel proud of myself for loosening up a bit, she asked me, “One? Can I please have two?”

Click here for the recipe for Chinese Almond Cookies.

 

January 25, 2012

Chinese New Year – Making Tea Eggs

I have memories of my mom making these eggs for me when I could barely peer over the stove. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see the hard-boiled eggs bubbling in the pot, because I could smell them. The aroma of anise, cinnamon, orange peel and black tea would waft through the house as the eggs simmered hour after hour. I’d be so excited when she turned off the heat, but I would have to continue to wait. And as you know, waiting is not a children’s game. The eggs had to steep in the tea overnight, so the dark caramel color could penetrate the egg’s cracks and create a beautiful marbled effect. This takes coloring eggs to another level—and without the food coloring. Bonus: they’re incredibly easy to make.

In the morning, I would be the first one down the stairs because I wanted dibs on the eggs.  I’d examine all the tea-stained shells and find the one with the most cracks—but small, fine cracks, without large pieces of shell broken off. Those were usually the most beautiful inside. Then, I would carefully peel off the shell to reveal the art beneath. Egg after egg after egg, the anticipation never wore off. My brother and I would compare eggs, and like a typical boy he didn’t care that I had the prettier egg. But I did.

Now, I get to pass on the tradition to my kids. I watched this morning as S painstakingly removed the shell of her tea egg. Her excitement mounted with each fragment of shell that came off. She was so pleased with herself when she was finally done. After admiring the intricacy of the design, she gobbled it up and asked me, “Can I take one to school, so everyone else can see what tea eggs look like?” After C peeled his egg, he asked me repeatedly, “How’d you do that?”

I love that the kids love tea eggs, and not just because I have such fond memories of my mom making them. Eggs are high in choline, which is essential brain food for growing children. Plus, the high quality protein in the eggs keep them full longer, gives them more energy and makes them more alert. Sure beats a handful of crackers or Pirate Booty.

Note: These do taste different from regular hard-boiled eggs, but it’s subtle. However, the fragrance of all the spices is pretty strong. When you bring that egg to your lips, you’ll get a nice whiff of anise, cinnamon and tea.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Ingredients:

12 eggs

4 TB of black tea leaves (or 4 tea bags)

1/2 cup soy sauce (or tamari, if you’re gluten-free)

2 tsp salt

1 TB sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 star of anise

1 tsp. Szechwan peppercorns (optional)

3 strips of dried mandarin orange peel (optional)

Directions:

Gently place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs, but leave the water in the pot. Cool the eggs under running water. Using the back of a small spoon, or the surface of a hard counter, tap the eggshell to create cracks all over. You want to tap hard enough to make the cracks, but not so hard that pieces of shell start to fall off.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the eggs back into the pot and simmer on low for three hours. Turn off the heat, and let the eggs steep in the tea overnight. Peel, admire beauty and eat.

December 17, 2011

Spinach Patties Everyone Loves

I discovered these spinach patties early last year when we were on a grain-free diet. The original recipe from Epicurious.com calls for breadcrumbs, but at the time I replaced it with more eggs, pine nuts and grated Pecorino Romano. I’ve made these almost half a dozen times and this was the first time I used breadcrumbs. The patties did hold together better, but I don’t think they added much to their taste. Next time, I may try corn meal. It’s a great recipe to experiment with—just don’t leave out the nutmeg.

My kids like these for snack time, breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner. S prefers to have wrap her patty with a piece of ham. Meanwhile, C sees it as yummy finger food that he runs around the backyard with. I like them best for a quick, nutritious breakfast. I just pop them in the toaster oven to warm them up and give them a little crispiness.

Happy holidays! Enjoy your two-week break from packing lunches. I know I will 🙂  It may be my favorite Christmas gift this year.

Sephardic Spinach Patties (from Epicurious.com)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, cooked, chopped, and squeezed dry, or 20 ounces thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
About 1 cup matza meal or fine dried bread crumbs
About 3/4 teaspoon table salt or1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving
1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and, if using, the garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, matza meal, salt, pepper, and, if using, the nutmeg. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more matza meal. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.
2. Shape the spinach mixture into patties 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, with tapered ends. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. In batches, fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.

Sephardic Spinach Patties with Cheese (Keftes de Espinaca con Queso):
Add 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Muenster, Swiss, Gouda, or Cheddar cheese; or 1/4 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese.

Sephardic Spinach Patties with Walnuts (Keftes de Espinaca con Muez):
Substitute 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped walnuts for the matza meal.

Italian Spinach Patties (Polpettine di Spinaci):
Add 3/4 cup raisins soaked in white wine for 30 minutes, then drained, and 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts.

 

October 19, 2011

Oatmeal Snack Bars

S has been complaining that the grain-free bars I make are too sweet. Really? This is coming from the child who would love nothing more than to eat a bowl of icing. But, okay, I like bars, so I’m game for finding a new recipe. I prefer to stay away from wheat, when we can, so these super-easy oat bars from KathEats.com sounded interesting. There’s no sugar or flour, just oats, dried fruit and a bunch of nuts and seeds. If you’re sensitive to gluten, use gluten-free oats. (I’m a fan of the ones from Bob’s Red Mill.)

The verdict? It’s a keeper. But I will be playing with it some, trying different nuts, fruits and coconut. S thought they weren’t sweet enough (The other bar is too sweet and this one not sweet enough. Ack!), but C liked them. And I had two with my cup of coffee this morning. For the next go-around, I’ll add 1/4 cup of honey or brown sugar.

Note: These have the texture of a dense muffin, rather than a crunchy cookie. Recipe follows the photo.

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars (from KathEats.com)

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. chopped nuts (any variety is fine – walnuts, almonds, etc.)

1/2 c. dried fruit (again, any you like is fine – raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, figs)

1/4 c. seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax or sesame)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt (I think you could eliminate this or cut it to 1/2 tsp., esp. if you don’t add a sweetener)

1 1/4 c. skim milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients.

Pour wet into dry. Stir to combine.

Pour into a 9X9 baking dish either coated in cooking spray or lined with parchment.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Cut into squares.

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