Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Ah, Vitamix, you Christian Louboutin of blenders…

I heard the rumors. I read the blog posts. But I ignored them. I avoided recipes that required liquifying kale. Instead I worked my decade old Cuisinart into the ground and dreamt about making smoothies that didn’t have green bits floating inside of them. Then one day something arrived at my doorstep…

No, not Little Guy.

vitamixIt all started when I left my kids with their dad and mine to attend a day long writer’s conference at Rosemont College. While I spent the day luxuriating in writerly stuff, my family spent the afternoon in Target where they were wooed by a Vitamix demonstration. Frozen desserts, green smoothies, ice cream, hot soup. Apparently it was quite the exhibition because they couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then my dad came to visit a few days later with one in the back of his car. WOW. I was totally shocked, in no way expecting such a generous gift.

So, of course I made him a smoothie right away. A green one.

first smoothie

The best part was that Little Guy loved it. In fact, he insisted on drinking the rest of ours.

lg drinking

Life with the Vitamix has been pretty fab. Especially the clean up. Not even kidding. It’s so easy! You may remember me complaining about the torture of having to scrub out the Cuisinart crevices, which made me less likely to use it. The awesome thing about the Vitamix is that it cleans itself (sort of). You add warm water and a dash of soap, give it a crazy whirl, and bam, done. (Unless you make something very sticky or oily, but still, you get a head start with the self cleaning.)

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

What we’ve learned so far: As a Vitamix novice, it’s best to follow a recipe. At least until you get the hang of it. Now I’m able to play more, but in the beginning, every time we (as in my husband, a notorious rule breaker) tried to wing it, disaster ensued. It was too watery, too thick, weird texture (pear issues), or just plain gross (carrot + pear + cinnamon + ice = yuck).

Luckily, Vitamix gives you a huge binder filled with recipes, plus there’s a recipe finder on the website.

Two weeks in, we’re practically experts. Here is my debut recipe, which you absolutely do NOT need a Vitamix to make. Use your blender or Cuisinart. You may need to slightly thaw your fruit first since less powerful machines can’t pulverize frozen stuff without busting up. I know this from experience, unfortunately.

Final thought/warning: the Vitamix is crazy loud. Like, terrifyingly loud. The first time I put mine on the Smoothie cycle I literally thought it was going to launch itself into space. Luckily, it didn’t.

Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Tropical blueberry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 heaping cup yogurt (full fat will make a thicker shake, fyi)
  • 1 ripe banana (frozen or not)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple

This recipe is kid approved. And super healthy. Bunky drank hers down in seconds. She was unfazed by the fact that there is NO added sugar. Not even a drop of honey. And that’s a pretty big deal considering she has a serious sweet tooth.

*If you have a high powered blender, you may need to add ice if most of your fruit is room temperature. Nothing less exciting than a lukewarm smoothie. But that could just be me.

If using a Vitamix, add liquids first, then soft fruit, and frozen stuff last. I put mine on Smoothie cycle. If you need to tweak it, feel free to add more fruit/yogurt/water/ice as needed and hit the cycle again.

Bird's eye view.

Then drink it up quick before your kid tries to steal the rest of yours.

bunky pink smoothie

Do you have any favorite Vitamix/blender smoothie recipes? If so, please share! I’m seriously addicted. Next up: homemade chocolate almond butter, YUM.

Gluten Free Product Review, Autumn Edition

fall in PA

Fall has become one of my favorite seasons. I used to be a real sucker for spring, and in a way I still am. But as much as I love flowering trees and the promise of summer, I feel a special kinship to the spicy warmth of autumn. I like the idea of hunkering down, cozying up, slowing down. Winter bums me out, but fall, with all its crackling fire smells, flame red leaves, and pumpkin recipes, is my kind of season.

So, in honor of fall (at least on this side of the hemisphere!) here is a round-up of my family’s favorite gluten free foods, which of course can be enjoyed any time of year.

First up, is this: (please pay special attention to the box on the bottom)

O M G - Pumpkin Spice Waffles are you kidding?!?

GF Pumpkin Spice Waffles OMG!

The other week my husband asked me to please buy some gluten free waffles that were NOT Van’s brand. No offense to Van’s, but we are a wee bit tired of their waffles. I blame it on my husband who introduced our kids to HOMEMADE waffle-maker waffles and frankly, Little Guy has never been the same since. Unfortunately, our waffle maker broke, and so we have been in a bit of of a waffle funk. Until now.

Nature’s Path Homestyle and Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Hello, beautiful

Hello, beautiful stack of pumpkin spice waffles. You smell like a pumpkin pie and taste as good.

Bring it on Nature’s Path! You rock! Pumpkin Spice Waffles, be still my heart, because you are THAT good. Try a couple with some almond butter smeared in between, and if you live in Pennsylvania, as I now do, use the local syrup. It’s mighty good.

This was my lunch yesterday. Yum.

This was my lunch yesterday. Yum.

The Homestyle ones are good, too. Not that I would know since I am a pumpkin addict.

Next up, Little Guy’s breakfast of champions, Enjoy LIfe Cocoa Loco Bars

enjoy life chocolate barsIs it bad to admit that he eats one EVERY MORNING, and sometimes again after nap?! Because they are fortified and stuff. It’s not actually dessert even though it looks and smells and tastes like dessert. I swear. Little Guy calls them Chocky Bars. Those are the first words he says every morning. No joke.

As grateful as I am to these bars, my true heart belongs to Van’s (see? my loyalty hadn’t been marred by waffle fatigue). Because after three long years, I have FINALLY found a soft and (vaguely) healthy gluten free granola bar for BOTH of my kids. WHA?! No, srsly.

Introducing, Little Guy’s fave, Van’s Peanut Butter Chocolate bars:

vans pb barsI was buying another brand for a while, but they had big chunks of almonds in them and LG kept eating around them (i.e. spitting them out). Since we drive a lot here in PA, it’s not exactly easy for me to catch spit up almonds while zooming by corn fields.

But even more shocking is that I found a bar for Bunky! Even though the kid will not touch peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a ten foot pole (sigh), she loves these bars. Says the jelly tastes like chocolate. Go figure.

vans pbj bars

FYI one of the other flavors, Cranberry Almond, is also delicious. I only know this because I bought them by accident (and I may do so again).

Now, you know as much as I prefer (in a perfect universe where children amuse themselves for hours at a time and gluten free flours abound in my pantry) to bake from SCRATCH, I have a soft spot for box mixes, such as Betty Crocker and Cherrybrook Farm, I recently tried a new mix: Stonewall Kitchen Chocolate Brownie Mix

stonewall kitchen choco brownie mix gfAnd WOW, so good! It was a gift from our lovely real estate agent who gave us an ENTIRE gift basket filled with gluten free goodies when we closed on our new place. (I seriously almost cried it was so nice.)

Well, we didn’t waste much time trying it out.

My beautiful baking assistant.

My beautiful baking assistant.

stonewall kitchens brownie mixThe consensus is THUMB’S UP. All of them.

bunky eating brownies

LG eating brownies

Also in the gift basket were several other goodies new to us, such as these RAD and healthy Orchard Bars.

orchard bars

They are similar in style and texture to Lara Bars, but I have to say, I liked these more. I tried Cherry Almond Crunch – delish and hearty – as well as the very sweet and delightful Pineapple Coconut Macadamia, which was kind of like eating a Pina Colada. Awesome.

According to their website, they are GMO free, all natural, protein packed as well as gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and kosher. My kids didn’t have any (um, because I ate them all) but I suspect once Little Guy gets over his nut chunk issue, he will enjoy these, too.

Another grown up winner? 180 Snacks Pistachio Trail Mix

180 snacks pistachio trail mixThis is basically like candy for adults (or kids with superior taste) but healthy(ish). It tastes like fancy nut brittle. I love that it only has 4 ingredients: nuts, cane sugar, rice syrup, salt. 180 Snacks also carries other kinds of wholesome snacks like nutty fruity clusters and bars. I’d definitely give those a try based on my love of this sticky yum trail mix.

One of the other things in the gift basket was a (not so) secret obsession of mine:

Late July Mild Green Mojo Multigrain Snack Chips (OMG)

late july mild green mojo chipsHave you tried these yet? If not, I highly recommend doing so NOW. They have a wonderful slow burn spice factor that grows with each bite which adds to their addictive quality. I highly recommend. Just beware, you WILL eat the whole bag in one sitting if not careful. I did.

I have to say, after many years of buying groceries from bodegas and the occasional narrow cavernous grocery store, I’m reallly enjoying the Giant suburban grocery store. Not even kidding, it’s called Giant. They have a huge gluten free aisle, so I’m sure we’ll have more favorites soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what your current favorites are. Bring it on in comments. My pantry always has room for more (wow, that sounds all WRONG but you know what I mean).

 

 

GF Grilled Almond Butter + Banana Sandwich


ab sand 2 better

Seems so obvious in retrospect. Almond butter + banana sandwich = awesome, but add butter and a frying pan and you’ve got SUPER AWESOME.

But first, a mini sidebar:

Oh Udi’s, how we depend on love thee. But, after being toasted, which is necessary for edibility, you can taste – how can I say this nicely – a little stale? Yes. Stale, a bit stiff. Not always so awesome. Especially when you sit in a lunch box all morning. Poor sandwich. Poor Bunky who is dependent on said sandwiches.

Luckily, she adores grilled cheese, which taste perfectly lovely on Udi’s bread when grilled in copious amounts of butter. Yum. Little Guy loves them, too. But how many grilled cheeses can a kid eat? Well, a lot, fortunately. But I figured something else out. Something fantastic. I can’t even take credit for it. When my friend told me about it I smacked my head. OF COURSE. Grilled almond butter and banana = Genius!

Can you see the buttery goodness? It's no joke.

Can you see the buttery goodness? It’s no joke.

Ingredients:

  • GF bread, banana slices, almond butter (or whatever you want) + frying pan + butter

Directions:

1. You probably don’t need me to spell this out, but I will just in case. Slap a big pad of butter in your frying pan. Heat that sucker up on medium low (you really don’t want to burn the bread, ew).

2. Spread a generous amount of almond butter on a slice of gluten free bread. Cover with banana slices. Top with a second piece of bread. Place in the pan and fry it up. Then add more butter to brown the other side.

3. Slide it on a plate and DIG IN!

* Want an upgrade? Use NUTELLA instead, or a combo. Oh. My. Goodness. Seriously. It should probably be illegal.

And since posting gratuitous pictures of my kids is kind of my thing, here is a series I call, When Little Brother Attacks.

IMG_3432

IMG_3431

Fun times. Little Guy is so sweet and cuddly, but he’s also a mixed martial arts star in training. My dad has big plans for him.

As for my girl, she is an artist and a budding writer. She’s always loved art, but now that she’s learning to write, she’s making books. How perfect is that?!

spring flowers

Spring flowers, please hurry! We’re so over winter.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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Gluten Free Honey Corn Muffins (Strawberry Optional)

gluten free honey corn muffins

The idea for this recipe has been hanging around in my brain for a while now. Which is saying a lot for my (short) attention span. It all starts, though, with a sweet (though not short, ha) story about Wednesdays with Little Guy.

I love Wednesdays with my boy. We have a little ritual that starts with a music class. To say Little Guy loves music class would be putting it mildly. But don’t be fooled. He’s not one of those kids who runs into the room, dances up a storm and practically vibrates with joy. I see kids like that and I’m kind of in awe. Little Guy sits on my lap. He watches. He smiles. He grabs one of the balls rolling around the room and holds it tightly to his little body. His joy is subtle. On the sly. Blink and you might miss it. But I know it’s there, and so does his teacher.

LG loves baths. You wouldn't know it from this picture.

LG loves taking a bath, but you wouldn’t know it from this picture.

He is not shy. Bunky is not shy either. But people often mistake my kids for shy because they are slow to warm. They won’t offer up immediate smiles or high fives. This makes some people uncomfortable. I can’t tell you the number of people who have said to me, “Oh, (s)he doesn’t like me!” and “What, no smile?” I liken it to a dog versus cat analogy. Most dogs, especially puppies, love attention. They will wag their tails and pant delightedly when you approach them with kindness. Try that with a cat and they will probably hide under a couch, or even let out a defensive hiss. But if you have a little patience and wait for that cat to come to you, the purr will soon follow. You have to work harder with cats, I think. And same goes for my kids.

And isn't it worth it? Check out that smile.

And isn’t it worth it? Check out that smile.

Anyhow, back to music class. Poor Bunky couldn’t handle it when she was around LG’s age. It was too loud, too crowded, simply too MUCH for her sensory sensitive disposition. (Then again, it was also very close to her diagnosis.) We’d go to class and end up sitting in the waiting area until I finally accepted defeat and left. Little Guy hops out of his stroller and grabs my hand and in we go. He says his name out loud (to my utter astonishment and delight) when it’s his turn. While he often stays on my lap and in my arms, I know he’s having fun. I feel his joy. He cries when it’s time to leave.

But Little Guy being very un-Bunky-like, is able to be distracted and cheered up by the next thing. Which is the farmer’s market. The first thing we do is buy a bag of crunchy apples and then stroll over to watch the blue grass trio pluck their guitars and breathe magic into their harmonicas. I love this trio of gray-haired musicians. They are sweet with the crowd of children who are their audience, but it is clear that they are mainly doing this for themselves. They can’t not play these instruments and sing these songs.

Little Guys senses this, I think, and he wiggles his legs while he nibbles on his apple. Up above the canopy of the stroller, however, I am not eating an apple. I am eating a honey corn raspberry muffin with a crumble topping. The GLUTEN kind.

You had to wait a long ass time for the recipe tie-in, didn’t you? Sorry, but you know how I tend to ramble. Which is maybe why I’m not on Twitter. One reason, anyhow.

So, I’ve been wanting to duplicate these in a GF way for a a long time, and now, finally, I have succeeded. I opted to skip the raspberries because I just couldn’t rationalize the crazy price so I went with strawberries instead. Since strawberries have an extremely high water content you have to be frugal with how many slivers you put in, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy (but sweet) mess. I experimented with one batch by doing some with strawberries, some without. Some with a delicious crumble topping, some without.

muffins ariel shot

muffins more

The result? I liked the strawberry with crumble topping the best. My husband preferred the straight up crumble ones. Bunky had none of it because there was no chocolate inside. But my friend and her sons loved them all. Success!

Gluten Free Honey Corn Muffins + Strawberries (optional) + Crumble Topping 

muffins w berries

(based on this recipe from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen blog)

Bringing the cold ingredients to room temperature before mixing will prevent the melted butter or coconut oil from re-hardening once added. Removing the muffins from the oven as soon as they are cooked through is the key to keeping them moist.

Muffin recipe:

  • 1 cup sifted stone ground gluten free cornmeal (145 grams sifted)
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour blend*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend contains it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (one 6-ounce cup) 2% or nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind works)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar (can omit this for less sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter**
  • 3-4 strawberries sliced into thin slivers (optional)

For the crumble topping (I halved this Food.com recipe):

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chilled diced butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. (You can use liners, but I find the muffins can stick to the papers.)
  3. In a large bowl, sift the cornmeal. (This is not totally mandatory, but I found that that NOT sifting made for a grittier texture and slightly bitter flavor.) Add gluten-free flour blend, baking soda, baking powder, xantham gum and salt. Whisk to blend.
  4. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the yogurt, milk, honey, and melted coconut oil or butter and whisk to combine well.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well, to activate xantham gum.
  6. I like to use my ice cream scoop to fill the 12 muffin cups easily and without (too much) mess.
  7. If desired, now is the time to add the strawberries. Take three thin slivers and place on top of each to each muffin. Press down gently. They don’t have to be submerged, they will sink while cooking.muffins unbaked
  8. Bake for 5 minutes. While baking, made crumble topping by placing the ingredients in a small bowl

     and mixing together with a fork until crumbly.

  9. After 5 minutes of baking, take the muffins out and add crumble topping.

    Continue baking until cooked through, 5-8 more minutes or until a knife runs through clean.

*My (current) GF Flour Mix is 60% whole grains (millet and sorghum) and 40% starches (sweet rice and potato starch), all certified gluten free from Bob’s Red Mill that I mix myself using my kitchen scale and giant plastic canister. See here for details, or use what you have.

**Using coconut oil (particularly the healthier unrefined version) will give a slight yet distinct coconut flavor to the muffins. I love coconut, so this was a bonus, but my daughter doesn’t and she noticed it right away. If you don’t like coconut, then just use melted butter instead.

Below, a muffin pictorial and a bonus picture of my Bunky, who has a new hairstyle!

Strawberry with no crumble.

Strawberry with no crumble topping.

muffin inside

Strawberries add a nice moistness to the muffin.

The crumble topping rocks. Unclear what's inside.

The crumble topping rocks. Unclear what’s inside.

I'm about to dork myself out, but look at that lovely crumb.

I’m about to dork myself out, but look at that interior crumb. Gorgeous, right? Ha. No, but seriously.

And finally, may I present, the Bunky’s new look…

bunky bangs

BANGS!!

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

chocolate pic

In my home, it’s hard to bake anything without chocolate. I see recipes on Pinterest for lovely looking lemon vanilla sugar cookies and gorgeously frosted banana maple donuts, but I don’t make them. My family demands chocolate. Even Little Guy, who is not yet two, bites the chocolate chip off the top of his mini pumpkin muffin first and then goes rooting around for more. 

So when it comes to pumpkin season, which everyone knows is now (unless you live under a rock) I automatically add chocolate to my recipes, with the exception of pumpkin pie, which incidentally no one in my family enjoys but me. I thought this pumpkin + chocolate thing was universal, but after doing some reading on foodie blogs, it seems not everyone agrees.

They go so naturally together, don't you think?

They go so naturally together, don’t you think?

This recipe could go either way, but since my family demands chocolate that’s the route I take. You could skip it and frost with some decadent cream cheese frosting, or squirt some inside like the recipe I adapted mine from does, but that goes against one of my daughter’s very strict food rules, which I learned about the hard way a few years back after an unfortunate vomiting episode: cream cheese should never be sweet. Hence, the chocolate. 

No matter how you swing it, this recipe is a keeper. I made these a few weeks ago while trying to stock up on healthy school breakfasts before Bunky started kindergarten. They were so popular I made them twice that first week, and now again. It’s a great way to use a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree, since each batch uses about a half a can. (Reason enough to double the recipe, which I haven’t actually done yet so if you do let me know how it goes.)

pumpkin big close up

Final thing before I get down to business: don’t be concerned about the seemingly long ingredient list. The spices make it appear busy, but in fact this recipe comes together very fast and easily. You know I have no time for any fussiness in recipes. Not with a kid crawling up my leg.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yield: 9 regular size + 12 minis (or 12 regulars and a handful of minis)

pumpkin mini

[Measurements are in weight and volume because I am kind of a dork about my kitchen scale.]

1 + 1/2 cups GF Flour Mix* (200 grams)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 + 1/2 tsps cinnamon
sprinkle of ginger (or up to 1/4 tsp)
sprinkle of nutmeg (or up to 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup coconut palm sugar** or sugar of your choice (about 140 grams)
1/2 cup canola oil (90 grams)
1/4 cup milk, any kind is fine (60 grams)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (approx half of a 15 oz can is about 220 grams)
1 cup chocolate chips

* I sifted my coconut palm sugar because it’s kind of grainy and that seemed to do the trick. It made me use a bit more to get the measurement right, but I tossed the harder crunchy pieces back in the bag cause it’s great in my coffee (not to mention rather pricey).

Notice the price tag is scraped off because I can't stand to look at how much I paid for it.

Notice the price tag is scraped off because I can’t stand to look at how much I paid for it.

Speaking of the bag, look at the back! It’s the gluten free world’s very own Carol Kicinski, of the great recipe blog Simply Gluten Free and it even features a GF recipe. Score!

palm sugar carol k

Ok, finally (!) The Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tins with cupcake liners, or spray.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together GF flour mix, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, spices, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla extract, and pumpkin until smooth. Slowly add in dry ingredients, mixing well.

4. Now would be the time to fold in the chocolate chips. But I often leave some minis plain so Little Guy can eat some before his nap without me stressing about him having a chocolate high. I was feeling rather generous, however, so I plopped one chip in the center of his minis.

A very un-photogenic pic of my unbaked goods.

A very un-photogenic pic of my unbaked goods.

5. Fill each prepared liner about 3/4 full with pumpkin batter. Bake the regular sized muffins for about 15-18 minutes and the minis for 8-10, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let muffins cool about 2 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in air proof container or freeze.

pumpkin big

**My (current) GF Flour Mix is 60% whole grains (millet and sorghum) and 40% starches (sweet rice and potato starch), all certified gluten free from Bob’s Red Mill that I mix myself using my kitchen scale and giant plastic canister. See here for details. But you can probably use most kinds of ready made all purpose GF mixes, including your own. If your mix already includes xanthan gum, then please – for the love of your stomach – don’t add any more.

And finally, having nothing to do with baking whatsoever, please enjoy this hilarious and adorable pic (in my humble and totally biased opinion) of my kids playing dress up, big sister style.

crazy dress up

Strawberry Banana Split Balls

strawberry banana ball

Yes, more balls, I know. It’s getting out of hand. Will I ever get tired of making balls or making puns about balls? I don’t think so, but I may run out of ingredient combos. This one is stretching the bounds of imagination a bit. But it’s good. Really good.

Let me start by saying this is in no way meant to be a replacement for an actual banana split. Not at all. If you’re looking for a decadent ice cream extravaganza, you will probably be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a super tasty raw ball that happens to be delicious and healthy, you’re in luck.

Now that it’s strawberry season (or so I will assume since strawberries are no longer a bazillion dollars and tasteless) I am buying a pint a day. Between me and the kids they go fast. Then the other day I got suckered into buying not only fresh strawberries, but the crazy expensive freeze dried ones, too. I was waiting in line at what Bunky calls The Pickle Market, because of the pickle samples she gorges on, and my hand – with a will completely of its own – reached over and snatched one of these suckers off the rack.

freeze dried strawberries

It ripped on one corner so I very understandably realized I’d have to buy it no matter the price. It turns out Little Guy loves freeze dried fruit, but I didn’t let him finish the bag because I had some new balls in mind…

strawberry banana ball no bits

Strawberry Banana Split Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dates cut in half, soaked in some water to soften up (drain before adding)
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes (mine were finely ground already, but any would work)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried strawberries (you could use more but they are crazy $$)
  • handful of freeze dried bananas (leftover from my banana “bread” bars)*
  • 1/4 cup (or more!) mini chocolate chips, optional

* If you don’t have freeze dried banana, no worries. Use half of a ripe banana instead, and if the batter is too mushy, just add some more moisture sucking coconut flakes.

Directions:

1. While the dates are soaking, grind the nuts first. [I do this because I want them to be finely ground for the Little Guy, who doesn’t have all his teeth yet, but you can skip this step if you don’t mind a little more texture.] Then remove ground nuts to a bowl, set aside.

2. Put dates and just a bit of the soaking water into the food processor. Whirl away until a paste is formed. You can either add all the whole nuts now, or the ground ones. Pulse to combine. Then add the coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pulse again.

This is what Little Guy was up to while I made these.

What Little Guy was up to while I made these. So cute.

3. Then add the freeze dried strawberries and banana. Add chocolate chips (please) if you’re not feeding these to a baby. Pulse to combine. Turn out the batter onto parchment and roll into balls or press into a bar. Freeze until firm.

Raw dough blob very gross looking.

Raw dough blob very gross looking.

I did a totally unnecessary thing, mainly out of boredom but also because balls are not very photogenic, and rolled a few in some extra strawberry bits. It looks kind of cool in the pics, and adds an extra strawberry burst, but you don’t need to do this. They taste pretty rad all on their own.

Random but important tip: When rolling the dough into balls, DO NOT wet your hands thinking that will help with the stickiness. If you do the balls become hideous looking and slimy. It’s okay that your hands will be covered in bits of dough. Lick it off or wash it later, but keep them dry for the rolling. I speak from experience and on the behalf of one sad soggy little ball that I had to throw out.

strawberry balls in parchment

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

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I’m also excited to share it on Raw Foods Thursdays on Gluten Free Cat. * Please note, that the recipes on this link-up will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

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Blueberry Granola Balls and a Cautionary Tale

blueberry granola balls

I try to support local businesses. I do, really. Before Barnes and Noble took over the world, I tried to buy most of my books from small independent bookstores. (Full disclosure: I did work at Barnes and Noble after college, which was an awesome job for a book lover, but that’s when they were a SMALL chain. Yeah, I’m old.) Now that Amazon has taken over the world, I try to shop at Barnes and Noble. You get the idea.

So when I saw a very narrow little health food shop open up near my home, I got very excited. Especially when I realized they had some gluten free stuff. Although there are plenty of small grocers in a nearby neighborhood that sell (insanely overpriced) GF stuff, there is nothing this close. Now whenever I’m walking by, I stop in to see how I can support them and not go broke (golden chia seed is VERY expensive, sigh).

Mostly I’ve been stocking up on my family’s beloved Cheddar Nut Thins. Have you tried these? SO GOOD! The cheese powder is addictive like Doritos but on a rice cracker, which means you can eat the whole bag in one sitting and not feel guilty. Unless your kid asks for some in an accusatory way. Then you feel a little guilty.

Anyway, the other day I decided to bite the bullet and buy Kind brand’s Blueberry Vanilla Granola. I had been debating on making my own granola for a while now, but haven’t had the time or energy. I figured I’d use my baking time for muffins and cookies while supporting a local business. Besides, the price was reasonable and I like Kind bars. Seemed like a win win situation. As a bonus, when I checked the ingredients there was NO natural vanilla flavor, just REAL vanilla extract. No potential beaver butt for me!

However, everything went to crap when I tasted it and nearly gagged. It was like eating plastic crunchy stuff. I sniffed inside the bag. It smelled like it tasted. Horrible. I made my husband, who has the nose of a hunting dog, smell and taste it. He confirmed my fears. It was rancid. We checked the expiration which was only a month away. (For the record, I’ve had Kind granola before and it was fine, I’m thinking this bag was just old.)

[The moral of this story is not to avoid small stores, but to always check expiration dates. Close ones like this should be avoided, especially when shelling out the big bucks for GF.]

I’m usually not the bring-it-back-to-the-store kind of girl, even when I should, but this time I had to. The lady at the register was very courteous about the whole thing, which was a relief since I was all anxious and sweaty. Not only because I was holding Little Guy. I always get that way in any kind of confrontation situation, even when I’m in the right. Totally pathetic, I know. She smelled and tasted the granola. I tried to read her expression to see if she thought I was another crazy hyper sensitive customer or if she agreed. From the look on her face I think the latter. But regardless, she let me exchange it for a bag of Bob Red Mill’s GF oats. I always need more oats. Especially with recipes like this delish looking honey muffin one and this flourless oatmeal cookie hanging out my Pinterest Treats board.

All those extra oats and a desire for something that actually tasted like blueberries and vanilla inspired the latest in my ball series. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, they might be my new fave.

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Blueberry Granola Balls (or Bars, your call)

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cup of dates cut in half, soaked in some water to soften up (drain before adding)
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • approximately 2 teaspoons of coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons of maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries*

* If you don’t have dried blueberries, which can be crazy expensive, feel free to sub in cranberries or skip the fruit all together and toss in a teaspoon or so of cinnamon. They’re your balls now.

Directions:

In a food processor, blend the softened dates a bit before adding the nuts. Process the nuts and dates together and then add the other ingredients up until the last two.

Lastly, add the blueberries and oats. Pulse until just combined. You don’t want to pulverize the oats. They add a nice texture.

Roll into balls and then put in the freezer for about an hour to chill. Store in freezer for best results. You can also press into a square (using parchment paper, the dough is VERY sticky) then freeze and cut into whatever shape you fancy.

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Two little hints:

If you feel like the dough is too dry, add a 1/2 teaspoon more of coconut oil or maple syrup. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more oats, a tablespoon at a time.

If you want the nuts very finely ground, like I do sometimes for Little Guy, process those FIRST and then set aside. Then process the dates into a paste. Add the finely ground nuts and then continue with the recipe.

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Yes, that is a ball tower. I went a little nuts taking photos. Ha!

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

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It’s also posted on Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. * Please note, that the recipes on this link-up will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

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Vanilla Macaroon Raw Balls

vanilla coconut raw balls

Happy Passover to all you Jews out there. Or Pesach, as we say around here. Okay, not true, but if I was more religious maybe we would.

I have fond memories of the Passover Sedar from when I was a kid, my favorite parts being the food, namely charoset, the sweet apple, honey, walnut, and wine mash for spreading atop matzoh (or eating with a spoon like I always did), and macaroons. Not surprising given my sweet spot for sweets.

Though I’m quite non-practicing these days, I often feel nostalgic for my Jewish roots around holidays, so I thought about making some macaroons (these both look awesome) and was bummed to realize that we’re out of eggs. Since the idea of walking to the store with two kids on a blustery cold snowy (spring) day wasn’t very appealing, I had a very non religious revelation – raw macaroons!

vanilla macaroon ball close up

Since I’m on a raw bar/Lara bar kick lately, this seemed perfect. To make them more macaroon-y, I shaped them into balls and rolled some in extra shredded coconut, but you could also make the square from the Banana “Bread” bars and slice away.

My favorite part of this process today was the photographs, shockingly enough. Instead of Little Guy closing his finger in a drawer and Bunky pitching a fit, both kids happily chomped on the macaroons while I snapped pics. Pretty cool.

pink tower of balls

Vanilla Macaroon Raw Balls (or Bars)

Ingredients:

  • 1 full cup dates cut in half, soaked in some water to soften up (drain before adding)*
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (I used this finely shredded one, but any flake will work)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • extra shredded coconut for rolling, if desired

Directions:

Grind the almonds and pecans in a food processor until the pieces are uniform in size and then set them aside in a bowl. Then process the dates, coconut, and vanilla. Put nut mixture back in and pulse everything together until the dough comes together.

Oh dear, I just wrote this sentence: You could totally play around with the nuts since I just used what I had in the house – until I realized how terrible that sounded. But I didn’t have the heart to delete it, ha. You know what I mean, though.

*If the mixture seems too dry – which can happen when you work with coconut, since it sucks up moisture like a sponge – add a few more dates, or even a teaspoon of coconut oil to soften things up.

Then pour out on a piece of parchment paper and either press into a square, or roll into balls. Use some extra shredded coconut flakes if you’d like to roll the balls around and make them look all pretty like these. Bunky and Little Guy prefer theirs plain, but I enjoy the extra coconut.

pink tower close up

Maybe all this holiday baking will reignite my non practicing Jewishness into something more substantial than just throwing around Yiddish words like Pesach and schmuck. Or not. I’ll keep you posted.

Either way, keep an eye out for another Passover inspired raw bar/ball recipe coming soon, this time I’ve got charoset as an inspiration… And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Easter. I mean, hello, chocolate?!

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

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It’s also posted on One Creative Weekend, hosted by One Creative Mommyand Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. * Please note, that the recipes on these two link-ups will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

OneCreativeWeekendslightly_indulgent_tue

Gluten Free Banana “Bread” Lara Bars

banana bread bar friends

It’s been a rough week here, at least on the domestic front. Um, wait, that’s really the only front for me.

On Monday we took Bunky to the doctor where she tested positive for strep and the whole family got a turn getting swab sticks jammed down their throat (fun!). Luckily the rest of us were in the clear, but man, is that test awful! I think there’s something to be said about (occasionally) having the same stuff done as your kid because the empathy really flows. Like when I got the whooping cough vaccine while pregnant with Little Guy and my arm ached for days. Too often, I think we encourage kids not to dwell on the (many) hurts that they have to endure throughout their childhood, mainly for our benefit (re: less whining) but the truth hurts, literally, and sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that.

So this meant no school Monday or Tuesday. Little Guy has never watched so much TV in all his short life and he was pretty thrilled. Which just means I’ll have two kids screaming for more shows soon enough. Sigh.

We tried sending her to school on Wednesday, but a few hours later I got a call from the school nurse (the first of many, I’m sure) saying she threw up. Poor kid! Maybe it was the antibiotic, but it could have been a stomach bug because she was a total wreck all day. Thank goodness she’s feeling better today, though she’s still at home recovering, i.e. watching more movies.

Speaking of which, have you seen the Lalaloopsy characters? Totally creepy button eyes, but Bunky loves them. At least they’re not mean like the Strawberry Shortcake girls, or vapid like those awful My Little Ponies, sheesh.

lalaloopsy doll

In between shows and vomiting and snuggling, I managed to make these Banana “Bread” Lara Bar knock offs. And take pictures, though that didn’t go as smoothly since Little Guy got his finger caught in a drawer during my “photo shoot” and Bunky pitched a mini fit because I made her turn on all the lights (her dolls were napping).

But somehow I did it. Because I need these bars. You need these bars. They are easy to make and super healthy, which makes their addictive quality totally acceptable. I made mine without chocolate chips because Little Guy loves them too, but feel free to mix them in at the end, at the last pulse, or stick them on top like I do when he’s not looking.

banana bread bar stack

Banana “Bread” Lara Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dates cut in half, soaked in some water to soften up (drain before adding)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 cup freeze dried banana*
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 ripe banana, mashed
  • dash or two of cinnamon

* If you don’t have freeze dried banana, which crumbles quite easily and is so so sweet without ANY additional ingredients, either sub in another 1/2 of a real banana, or 1 cup of banana chips.

dates and nuts

Directions:

Normally, when making raw bars like these delicious Cookie Dough ones, I’d throw everything in my food processor and zippity zap. But this time I decided to process each ingredient separately, partly because I really wanted to avoid making accidental walnut butter. Let’s just say there is a reason why they don’t sell walnut butter in stores along with every other nut. It’s gross. Poor walnuts, sad but true. Also, I need to make the nut pieces VERY small so Little Guy doesn’t choke. He loves these bars as much as I do. Maybe more.

After processing each ingredient separately (except for the 1/2 banana, which I smushed with a fork in a bowl) I put them all in the food processor together and pulsed briefly until the dough came together in a ball.

Everything processed separately and in their own bowls before blending together.

Everything processed separately and in their own bowls before blending together.

It would probably be fine to do it this way, too: Process dates (drain water first), nuts, and dried banana together until pieces are uniform and dough starts to come together. Add vanilla extract, smushed banana, and cinnamon. Pulse until it combines into a ball of dough. I’ll probably do it this way next time so I don’t dirty so many dishes.

Then turn out the dough blob onto a piece of parchment paper. Using another piece of parchment, push down on the dough and form it into a shape, like a square.

dough square

Put it in the freezer for an hour or more to chill. Then cut into pieces, or just dig in with a fork. You can also roll the dough into balls and chill that way, too. This makes a great breakfast or snack. They get mushy at room temperature, so store in the freezer.

banana bread bars

Here’s hoping Bunky makes it to school tomorrow. Next week is spring break and I’ll have another week with two kids. I really don’t know how we’re going to make it through the summer. Am I a parenting wimp or what?!

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

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It’s also posted on One Creative Weekend, hosted by One Creative Mommyand Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. * Please note, that the recipes on these two link-ups will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

OneCreativeWeekendslightly_indulgent_tue

Chocolate Pudding Yogurt Pops, Oh Yeah

Breakfast around here has taken a turn. And I’m not talking about a good one. Behold, the most beautiful rainbow of non-nutritive value…

This is the prettiest picture of Fruity Pebbles ever.

The prettiest picture of Fruity Pebbles ever.

Our yogurt pop breakfast dream was going strong for quite a while before things went downhill to Pebble land. Bunky was a trooper, eating the pops daily, with unwavering enthusiasm until the bitter end. When I noticed a glimmer of pop exhaustion, I threw in some peaches, experimented with pineapple, and used some raspberry sorbet as sweetener instead of honey, but in the end, the dream died. There are only so many fruit filled yogurt pops a kid can eat before they get tired of them.

How did this Stone Age oaf get invited to breakfast, you wonder?

fruity pebbles

Two words: My husband.

Before you mistake me for an anti-sugar cereal ogre, I will flashback to a heart warming story about my mom, of whom I have very fond memories regarding her lenient breakfast policies. She pretty much let us loose in the sugar cereal department, drawing the line at Cookie Crisp, which she was apologetic about, but unrelenting. My cousins, who were never allowed any sugary cereals, used to spend the night and wake up in eager anticipation and pure joy at our amazing bounty of cereal choices. Peeps, my lovely cousin, still talks about this decades later.

Now that I’m a mom and an avid reader of food labels (a most riveting post about this coming soon) it is sort of appalling because I know how bad and kind of gross artificial flavoring is for growing bodies, but to defend my mom, it was the 80s. That’s right. I’ve just used an entire decade as a defense. You read my bran muffin nostalgia post, right?

So even though I do not technically approve of the whole Fruity/Cocoa Pebble situation, I do not squash it because I know that doing so now, after it has already been introduced to an utterly thrilled Bunky, would be a futile battle. The better way might have been to avoid it until she knew enough to request it, but too late now. Thanks, honey (that was meant for my husband, though I can call you honey if you’d like).

The truth is, I am a closest Cocoa Pebbles eater, when pressed for sugar. I mean, it turns your milk into chocolate milk, which is pretty cool. Also, both cereals are gluten free (and nut free, incidentally) and for kids who are banned from nearly all pop culturally addictive cereals, there is some merit to this.

But I knew that it couldn’t go on forever, at least not on a daily basis.

{Addendum: I just found out about this post from Celiac Yoga Momma who did a nutritional and taste analysis of Cocoa Pebbles versus a “healthier” version and turns out the former is better for you, who knew?}

Drastic measures were needed in the yogurt pop arena. Fruity pops just can’t compare to Fruity Pebbles, alas, but I suspected I could work with chocolate, Bunky’s weakness…

And voila, the Chocolate Pudding Yogurt Pop (with a secret banana) was born!

rocket pops

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 heaping cup of greek yogurt
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 Kozy Shack chocolate pudding
  • 1/2 cup or as much Chocolate Almond Milk as needed (or regular chocolate milk)
Throw everything in your food processor or blender and whirl away! Then fill pop molds. 
I used 4 rockets and 2 stars for variety. And cause 2 rockets broke. Grr.

I used 4 rockets and 2 stars for variety.

Freeze ’em up and enjoy. Don’t forget to use the dregs of the “batter” though, for a smoothie. I plopped in more yogurt, chocolate almond milk, almond butter, and ground flax = awesome mom breakfast, which I generously shared with Little Guy, my pop + smoothie partner in crime.

smoothie

He’s totally getting the hang of eating the frozen pops, too, which is super cute. Here he is, enjoying what might have been the final fruity pop, with his sister and my dad, who we call Greedles.

The family that pops together.

The family that pops together.

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

gffbadgesmall_zpse392b4e3

It’s also posted on One Creative Weekend, hosted by One Creative Mommyand Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. * Please note, that the recipes on these two link-ups will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

OneCreativeWeekendslightly_indulgent_tue