Sunday, March 10, 2013

My favorite "Cookie" Bites

I's been how long since I've posted....?!   Yes. read the threads right. October.
You see, this little thing called Life happened (as a colleague nicely puts it).    I know many of you that are in the same boat. When someone asks you, "what's new in your life?" And you respond,"Ehhh. Not much. Same old. Same know. Just Life."
And that's just it.  She was right.  I shouldn't feel guilty about not being able to keep up to 100% in every facet of my life.  Life, although at times seems like the "same old dang thing", is constantly happening. Forever dynamic. Always keeping us on our toes.   And priorities change day by day.  Let's face it. Most of us have others-big or small--in our lives in which their business is our business too.  And that means your life AND your their life keep you moving. So, if you're wondering why I haven't posted anything in awhile, it's because Life happened.  There :)
BUT this post.....You are in for a treat.  No really. Not kidding.  When I made this recipe, I had selfishly wanted something sweet for myself that I could have as a treat (when three pairs of blue little eyes weren't looking!).   These are made with a base of dates and walnuts, with some add-ins of other dried fruit, and a little cacao and freeze-dried raspberries (thank you Trader Joe's for carrying these in your store....and thank you Fate for introducing them to me.  Delicious...yes siree.).  Not only did I end up with an amazing little ball of delicious, but I happened to intrigue the kids a bit too with these oddly shaped balls of yumminess once they finally caught a glimpse of them.  Turns out, I'm not very sneaky.
Here's the low-down on what you'll need.  The ingredients can be tweaked.  It's mainly the consistency that is important.  You're looking for the "dough" to be sticky, yet moldable. And experiment with different shapes.  Pat them into cookie shapes.  Pat flat and use small cookie cutters to tailor this treat to the occasion.  Little hearts on valentines, leaves for fall.  The options are endless. 
10 medjool dates (pit removed)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup craisins
1/8 cup freeze dried raspberries or blueberries (optional)
1/4cup whole oats (not quick oats) or buckwheat groats (optional)
1 TB water
Add the pitted dates to the food processor and pulse until they have broken down and are a bit mushy.  Add the craisins, walnuts, cacao beans, and freeze dried raspberries (or blueberries), oats or buckwheat if using.  Pulse until it all crumbly.  Add in the water and pulse again until it forms a sticky dough.  Roll it into balls and keep in the refridgerator or freezer.  This will make about a dozen 1 inch "cookie" balls. These will fit into a gluten-free (if using oats, make sure to use certified gluten-free oats) and vegan diet.  The buckwheat groats and cacao beans give these little bites a fantastic crunch!  Play around with the ingredients and find a new combo that suits you.  Try dried apricots instead of craisins, or even dried papaya.  A little coconut milk instead of the water.  Maybe some dark chocolate bits? Hmmmm...Must try.  Whatever you do, just experiment and don't be afraid of something new :)

Before pulsing in the food processor...


After pulsing.  Look for a crumbly texture.  Then add the water to pull it all togther.


These are a great way to have little hands add ingredients and roll into balls.  Fabulous sensory practice..... I know two little boys who love them!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Giving with Garden Goods

We often have talks with the boys about how we can help others.  It comes up usually when we need to go through toys, clothes, or things in our house.  And then we share them with people who may not have those same things.  It also comes up when we talk about food, if people are sick, etc. "People all over need help in different ways and we can help them.  Wouldn't you want someone to give you food if you were hungry?  Or make you warm if you were cold?" are the things I typically say.   I recognize that they are still so young and that the conversations usually go something like instead like this,
Me:  Guys....we are going to going through some of your toys and give them to some kids who don't have many toys at all.
Them:  Why don't they have any?  Why do we have to give them away?  I don't want to.
Me:  Because sometimes people don't get presents like you do or have enough money to buy a toy.  Wouldn't you want to have someone give you a toy if you didn't have any?
Them:  yeah.....but....not this truck.  don't give this away....seconds later...    "Mom--  I'm hungry.  Can we have a snack?"'s not perfect and we have some work to do.  (*note--H. is much better at the concept being 6 years old.  He's able to go around his room and usually pick toys to put in the box that is being delivered to charity).  But for twin 3 years old...I'll take it.  It's at least a foundation for an ongoing conversation in our house that can be fine-tuned and discussed more as we all grow together. 

I bring this up because recently I have been helping a very dear close friend of mine raise money for Madison's Gilda's Club because it has helped her greatly deal with the reality of her cancer.  I wanted to do something that could bring two worlds together that I hold dearly--good food and helping others.
So often my husband and I have cookouts, parties, or go out to eat with friends and family.  And it's a blast.  However, this time I wanted a new layer added to it.  I wanted to use that same venue to raise money for the organization that is there for my friend (and others affected by cancer) to find strength and give support for them.   That's how I came up with Garden Goods for Gilda's! 

The theme for the dinner was using the last of our and our community's (which is our lovely neighbors' veggies and fruit trees!) garden goods to make a beautiful vegetarian based dinner.  Why vegetarian?  Well, in addition to the obvious of it being a very healthy way to eat and celebrate what we just picked from the garden.....eating vegetarain encompasses many elements (phytochemicals,phytonutritients, and antioxidants, etc...) of an anti-cancer way of eating.  And I thought this was appropriate in light of who we wanted to raise money for.  All the money raised at the dinner was donated to the Madison's Gilda's Club.  And I'm happy to say that for a first time gig.....we did pretty darn well!

My husband and I told the boys that we were going to have a part,y and lots of people and kids were going to come over.  Ususally however, when we have a party at our house it's for a birthday or holiday.  So it wasn't surprising when each of the boys asked (repetitively mind you....), " But why are we having a party?  Why this? 
Why that..why...why..why....?"  I reminded them of the different ways we can do thing in our lives  to help people and this was just another way to do it.  I didn't get into too many details...they weren't quite grasping the intangible concept of how this dinner was going to help someone.  Later...later.....we'll get to that later in a few years :)

BUT,.....they did help get involved in the preparation of the meal. And for anyone reading this who was at our GGG dinner, please know that I made them wash their hands for a full two alphabet's-worth of singing! :)   H.  helped make his carrot raisin salad, and S. and G. helped make apple crisp.  And all of us--hubby, I and kids--raided the garden together one night before the frost to save all the veggies for dinner.  I know they didn't understand the "how" of why having friends over, eating dinner together and helping mommy make the food is really "helping people".   But's the exposure.  And over time they will understand.  And we had fun getting ready for it!  (And to those who helped me pull it together...whether it was cleaning, lending me kitchen tools, or helping with the know who you are....THANK YOU!!!)

The dinner was a success :)  Good food.  Good people.  Kids all over.  People meeting new people and having new conversations. Kids riding bikes outside (even in the dark) with laughter (some crying with the now and then owie), even in the light rain.  It was awesome and I loved every second of it.   

my little H. is getting so big. He helped peel the carrots to make his "famous" carrot raisin salad for the dinner. Look at that focus....

peppers and onions from the garden getting ready to be roasted in the oven for the pepper bruschetta. Isn't the color beautiful??
I just picked the kale from my generous neighbor's garden about 5 minutes before I took this picture the morning of the dinner. Such a beautiful healthy green color....look at that vibrancy....all going in our belly! Yum!
And the kale afterwards....Who knew it was so delicious? This salad is one of the dishes that I questioned if people would enjoy because it was, well... "kale".    But I have to was a hit!
little H's famous carrot raisin salad. could it be any simpler? 
2 ingredients: shredded carrots and raisins. 
Boom. Done.

Apple Almond Butter sandwiches!  On the menu for the kids, but I think they were a huge hit with adults too!  This plate initally was STACKED with them!

Main Dish:  Butternut Sqush with Brown Rice and Quinoa with a Sage Brown Butter sauce topped with pecans. Hello delicious!
Squash and sage were from the garden:)

clockwise from bottom left: citrus kale salad, sage butternut squash with brown rice and quinoa, apples and cheese, apple almond butter sandwiches, roasted bell pepper bruschetta

M. going back for seconds:)

See!  Even the growing amount of testosterone in the room loved the meal :)  Kids loved H.'s carrot salad and the sandwiches.  Beautiful having fun the whole night.  There was a lot of goofy giggles!

H.'s Dad ready to eat...great smile!

S. enjoying some of the apple crisp made with apples from neighbor's apple tree topped with whole grain yumminess!

What a beautiful mama and her little boy! Sharing some apple crisp and cuddles :)

Java waiting for a even one little morsel to drop (or for a guest to see her sad face and just give in and give her a bite!)
Ahh....Family.  Beautiful.

Me and H.  Love you H. ! 

Adorable family! Now....if only they could get a little more sleep....I think their little tikes have been keeping them up at night!

Guests dishing up the garden goods.....  It was so fun to watch everyone try all the dishes.

Friends meeting new friends

I hope that someday my kids too will see the beauty in giving and living in the experience of it.   In the meantime we'll just keeping exposing them to it and talking about it.   And for myself ....this experience was awesome.  The part of me that just wants to be involved, helping, and hands on was sitting on cloud nine. 

Garden Goods for Gilda’s
Saturday October 13th, 2012


Parmesan Popcorn & Cinnamon Popcorn

Apple, Pear, & Cheese assortment




Additional Kids’ items:

Apple Almond Butter Sandwiches

Cinnamon Oatmeal Apple Crisp

One of our favorite fall desserts is apple crisp.  So simple.  I like to use whole grains when I can.  And it actually makes this family favorite even yummier!

Cinnamon Oatmeal Apple Crisp

*Key Health Players:  Whole Oats, Apples


1 cup whole oats (oatmeal)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup butter cut into cubes and not softened yet



10 + cups peeled and sliced apples

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Add all the topping ingredients to a food processor and pulse until all is blended and butter is distributed evenly. Set aside.  For the apples: Mix all together and spread in a sprayed 13x9 pan.  Sprinkle the topping over the apples evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for ~ 45 minutes or until apples have soften and topping is slightly browned. 

Fall Roasted Bell Pepper Bruschetta

Fall Roasted Bell Pepper Bruschetta

*Key Health Players:  Red and Green peppers, garlic


1-2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 medium sized onion, thinly sliced
olive oil, as needed
1 loaf French bread, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place red peppers and onions in a pan with a small amount of olive oil, cook until peppers and onions are tender.
Place slices of bread onto a baking sheet and lightly drizzle olive oil on them. Spread the minced garlic onto the bread slices, then stick the pan in the oven for 3 minutes, or until very lightly toasted.
Remove the pan from the oven, and evenly distribute the onions, peppers, and basil on each slice.
Add salt and pepper, to taste. Put the pan in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, or when the bread is nice and toasty (golden brown).

Kale, Mango and Orange Salad with Citrus Dressing

another fresh garden recipe we loved.  Even little G. likes this one.

Kale, Mango, and Orange Salad with Citrus Dressing

*Key Health Players:  Kale

1 bunch kale (stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced)

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons honey

ground black pepper

1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)

2 oranges, peeled and cut into chunks

2-3 tomatoes, cut into small chunks

About 2 heaping TB of toasted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) or toasted walnuts


In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a about medium pinch kosher salt. Massage the kale leaves with this mixture. This means rubbing the dressing over the leaves so that they soften just a tad.  The kale starts to soften and wilt. This will take 2-3 min.  Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango, tomatoes, oranges and pepitas. Toss and serve.

Brown Rice with Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Sage Browned Butter

Brown Rice with Butternut Squash, Pecans, & Sage Brown Butter

*Key Health players:  Brown Rice, Butternut Squash, onions, and garlic*

~ 8 oz brown rice and 4 oz Quinoa

6-8 TB finely chopped shallots or sweet onions

2 tsp minced garlic

2 TB minced fresh sage

3 cups cubed cooked butternut squash 

½ cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Freshly grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the brown rice and quiona ahead of time per directions.  You can do this a day ahead.  Heat the butter over low in a large skillet on stove.  Add the shallots or onions, garlic, sage.  Cook until the butter just begins to brown, keeping the heat on medium.  Reduce the heat to low and gently add in the cooked squash.  Add just a tad of salt and pepper to taste.  Add the cooked rice and toss gently with squash and add toasted pecans.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan.


Friday, October 05, 2012

little bowls of energy

I love using little bowls for snacks at our house.  Especially for a snack right after school when H. needs a little pick me up, but dinner is in a little bit.  Yes, we eat early.  Around 5:30ish.   This will likely change as the boys get older, but right now, that's the time.  And I'm glad....I'm usually starving by then!
So the little bowls....I like to use little ramekins or egg poaching bowls, or measuring cups.  They're different then the typical little plastic tupperware bowls.  They look funky or like the ramekins--more "grown-up".   Usually I fill them up with the snack because they are smaller and it looks like more then to the kids...tricky I know.  I'm sure we all know that tactic.   A little simple dried fruit/nut mix is what typically gets thrown in there:  craisins and walnuts, or golden raisins and almonds.   Lately, S. has been really digging dates.  Who knew?  Have you ever tried one?  They are DELICIOUS!  I'd recommend going to the bulk section of a store and getting them there. Especially Medjool Dates.  Yummy.  Like bites of chewy caramel.  So I will put a few of those in his bowl.  There are lots of yummy dried fruits out there.  Mango, apricots, raisins, craisins, apples, strawberries, and more.  And you can make your own too, which is fun to do with the kids.   Hmmmmm....will have to write about that later.  
Anyways, here's H.'s little ramekin filled with his afterschool snack.   And for full disclosure, for those who think that this is H's favorite afterschool snack.  No, it is not.  He's a fan crackers, chips, cookies just like any other kid. This is our "pantry" snack compromise.  For some reason kids think that the pantry is more filled with cooler food than the fridge.  My, my....aren't they perceptive.

Bowl of Energy:
~ 2-3 TB chopped walnuts
~2-3 TB craisins (dried cranberries)