This is the perfect portable “treat” for the kiddos (you don’t have to tell them that there’s little bits of kale inside), or a great chewy re-fuel after a workout. In slightly more than 200 calories, each bar is a good source of protein (10 grams!), iron, Vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, & manganese, a very good source of Vitamin K, and contains about 1,900 mcg of omega-3 fatty acids from four kinds of seeds. Since just enough certified organic raisins and dates are used to hold the bars together, it wouldn’t technically be lying to call this a “chewy raisin bar” for the little ones particularly wary of new foods. This is nutrient density at it’s best!
Flavors include superstar(vanilla rosemary) and mighty mint (cacao nibs with peppermint)
Ingredients (superstar bar): organic raw sunflower seeds, organic raw pumpkin seeds, organic seedless raisins, organic medjool dates, organic flax seeds, organic chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, local organic kale, sea salt, vanilla extract, lemon extract, fresh rosemary
These crackers were inspired by the Millet Crackers featured in Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food (page 509). As I gushed in my recent book review, I adore the book’s simple, practical language, and brief, to-the-point recipes. Of course, this recipe absolutely fails to uphold the simplicity principle, as her recipe instructions are a mere three and a half lines while mine are at least, um, well, just see for yourself. Crackers are a fickle art; what can I say? In any case, I found this to be a successful experiment in adding essential fatty acids, protein, salt, and sweet without crystalline or liquid sweeteners, nuts, or gluten. A groggy post-nap Fionn gobbled several after sneaking them from the still-warm cookie sheet on top of the oven. Enjoy (and thanks, Ruth)!
Millet & Fig Crackers with Rosemary
A crunchy, sweet, nutty cracker with pepitas, figs, and rosemary.
Remove any stem pieces from dried figs and cut each in half. Place the halves in a glass or metal measuring cup and add 1/2 cup hot water. Add the butter so it can melt. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Grind millet and pepitas in a blender (I use a Nutribullet) until a coarse powder consistency. Place this powder in a medium bowl and add the salt. Then crush the dried rosemary with your hands as you add it to the bowl, stirring everything until thoroughly combined.
Blend the fig/water/butter mixture in a blender until the figs are pretty well blended (some small chunks are okay, but nothing larger than a pea).
Combine the fig slurry with the dry ingredients, stirring thoroughly until the dough is a thick and just a little sticky. With oiled hands, roll into a two equally-sized firm balls, then flatten them to about 1 inch thick.
Put them them back in the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll out a large sheet of parchment paper (at least 2 feet long) and place one of the dough balls in the center. Fold the parchment over the ball and then continue to roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. Trim off jagged edges and score the rolled dough into 1 by 2 inch rectangles. Delicately move this sheet over to a cookie sheet.
Add the trimmed dough to the second ball and repeat step 7. For any additional jagged edges, you can flatten then into cracker pieces with your hands or roll them into balls and let your kiddo taste-test them.
Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the crackers out of the oven and spread them out on the sheet, flipping each over to make sure they cook evenly. Turn off the oven and put the cookie sheets back in the oven, setting a timer for 5 minutes. Check them at this point, removing all the crackers except those that still seem too soft in the middle, putting them back in the warm oven for up to 5 additional minutes.
Let them cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
This recipe will yield about 80 1 by 2 inch crackers. I estimate a toddler serving to be about 5 crackers.
I thought we were done with snow days for the year, but alas. It was raining and 40+ degrees when the City of Charlottesville decided to cancel school due to a winter storm warning that would supposedly turn the rain to ice and snow later in the day. Spoiler alert: it happened, despite my fervent disbelief, and it’s sleeting buckets as I write this, safely at home.
Fortunately, Thursdays are not school days for Fionn anyway, so we pretty much operated as normal, waking about 6:15, eating breakfast, sitting on the potty, and finding socks that could pass for matching at 20 feet. Plenty of time to get ready and to head to the gym where he could play with all the other preschoolers off from school.
At an afternoon trip to the library this week, I picked up a book called You Can Do It, Sam by Amy Best and Anita Jeram. As usual, I was judging books by the covers when I made a series of quick grabs because before Fionn disappeared down an aisle or dumped a pencil container. I’m also just superficial like that, despite being an English major who should know better than to judge literature by its cover art. Upon getting home, though, my method proved fortuitous: the book features a mama bear and her son Sam, who together bake twelve little cherry cakes before sunrise on a snowy day. They wrap each one and drive out into the pre-dawn snow, delivering them to the doorsteps of their friends and neighbors, Sam hopping out of the passenger side of their beat-up green pick-up truck at each house. I can practically hear the door creaking on its hinge into the cold air each time. The sun is just rising as they get back home, and they enjoy the two remaining cakes with some cocoa, Sam proudly recounting his baking and delivering, hoping his friends liked their surprises. This story brought back memories of my mom’s holiday candy-making (she was a maven of fudge, sugar-coated pecans, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, and just about anything so full of sugar that your teeth would get a migraine after two bites). Every year before Christmas, she would fill little boxes and bags with her treats and urge me off to the neighbors for delivery. I HATED it. Oh, I get nostalgic now, sure, but I HATED it, and I could empathize with little Sam as his mama nudged him out of the truck to go leave his cake surprise at the first house. Then he got into it, of course, just as I did… after about seven years.
So, with two hours before needing to get on with our day and head to the gym (where we both get to play, SEPARATELY, which is key), we got busy with Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Orange-Cherry Cornbread Muffins in the Sunlight Café cookbook, subbing honey for the sugar and using whole wheat flour. I also made my own buttermilk with raw milk and apple cider vinegar, because who keeps buttermilk handy? Fionn’s stirring of the dry ingredients resulted in only minor flour casualties, a triumph he made up for by dumping vanilla extract all over the counter while I grated orange peel. I swabbed it up and used it as cologne to prophylactically disguise my eventual sweat stank at the gym. Little dab for him, too, since toddlers always seem to smell a little weird.
I’m not the type to get fancy with gifts (my wrapping jobs often get mistaken for a man’s), but we managed to fashion a humble sharing receptacle out of an old Amazon Prime box. You should know that I am sheepishly looking away as I type “Amazon Prime,” by the way. Of course, in our version of the story, Fionn didn’t hesitate to stuff his face with two muffins before sharing. Gotta taste test, right? And hell if we were going to hand-deliver each muffin all over town.
Our humble version of “cherry cakes”
Ready for delivery!
The box survived a couple accidental overturnings on the way (I’m a klutz), and eventually found a home on the kitchen counter in the ACAC Kidzone, where I am sure the staff were happy to see baked goods from me that didn’t include turnips or spinach. Yes, I brought paleo turnip spice muffins to share a few days ago. “Dude, just TRY one! Even Fionn says they’re nummy!” was met with skepticism.
NOTE: If a recipe says “10 muffins,” just trust it rather than trying to squeeze out another one with the batter. Ours would have been fuller, with coveted muffin tops, if I had followed instructions. Great recipe, Mollie, as always. The orange zest is crucially delectable.
Remember those flimsy baseball card-sized paper valentines kids used to bring to everyone in your elementary school class out of obligatory, parent-enforced egalitarianism? In fact, do you remember Lisa Simpson’s regrettable decision to give Ralph Wiggum an “I Choo-Choo Choose You” card? If not, here is a 5 second clip on YouTube that was obviously recorded by someone standing in front of their television screen. Ah, the 90s!
In keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme this week, I wanted to use beets in a more savory finger-friendly context than the might-as-well-be-cupcakes ‘Love Bites’ Beet Muffins I posted a few days ago. Inspired by Daily Bites’ Beet & Rosemary crackers, I gladly nabbed some sprigs from our monster rosemary bush and played around with a nut-free version that also beefed up the beet content. Consequently, the result is darker in color and rich in sunflower and flax seed goodness. It’s grain and sweetener free, and would pair well with hummus or any dip that your little one fancies. You could use coconut oil instead of olive oil if you want a purely paleo version.
I had recently acquired a few new cookie cutters from a thrift store, so made both regaular rectangular crackers with this recipe as well as some choo-choos, just to see if it made a difference in toddler-receptivity. The recipe below is the simpler, standard rectangle version. You’re welcome!
Of course, without the train, you’ll need to make a new name for them, like “Flamingo Biscuits,” or “Vampire Blood Crackers,” or “Purple Princess Crackers,” depending on the interests of your little one at the moment.
Rolled & scored.
Rosemary Beet Crackers
Baked a la choo-choo.
'Love Train' Beet and Rosemary Crackers
This recipe yields about 80 1 inch by 1.5 inch crackers.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the sunflower seeds and flax seeds. Pulse until a coarse meal forms.
Add the rosemary, garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Pulse until everything is a fine meal. Remove mixture and place into a medium sized bowl. Do not wash the processor bowl.
Drain the beets, reserving any liquid, which should be a deep magenta. Add the drained beets
the to the food processor, along with the 4 tablespoons of the reserved beet cooking liquid, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil to the food processor. Process until the beets are pretty thoroughly pureed.
Use a spatula to scoop out the beet mixture, adding it to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until everything is combined, and a ball of dough begins to form.
Pat the dough into a rectangular shape on a large piece of parchment paper, using generously oiled hands. Top with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out to about 1/8-inch thick rectangular shape. Transfer the dough, parchment paper and all, to a baking sheet. Remove the top piece of parchment and sprinkle a tiny bit of coarse sea salt on top (if salt's your fancy). Trim any jagged edges off with a knife or pizza cutter and save it for another round of rolling. Using the knife or pizza cutter, score the dough into cracker shapes, depending on whether you prefer a square or rectangle.
Bake for 15 minutes until firm to the touch and light brown around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven off. Separate the crackers along the pre-cut lines and space them out a little bit on the baking sheet so the air can circulate around them. Place the pan back in the hot oven for 5 minutes (longer if, like me, you only managed to roll them to somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch). This step helps to crisp up the crackers a little more.
After 5 minutes, remove the crackers from the oven and cool completely. I wait at least a couple hours and preferably overnight just to be safe.Crackers will continue to crisp up as they cool.
Store in an airtight container after they are completely cooled.
Nutritional information assumes a toddler serving of about 4 crackers.
Our toddler teacher’s request for Valentine’s Day themed snacks seemed like the perfect time to experiment with a chocolate-free version of Simply In Season’s Secret Chocolate Cake, which, by the way, I made for my husband’s birthday (which is conveniently less than a week before Valentine’s Day). For these muffins, I removed the cocoa, added a bit of ground flax and ginger, increased the proportion of whole wheat flour, and skimped a little on both the oil and honey (which replaces sugar in the original cake recipe from Simply in Season). Just as a note, honey can replace sugar in most recipes, though you only need 2/3 the volume when you use honey. It’s potent!
I love beets, and they seem an underexplored ingredient in healthy baked goods. Full of Vitamin C, fiber, folate, potassium, and manganese (see full nutritional profile here). Mmmm. Manganese.
Throughout the fall and winter months, I eat steamed beets with yogurt every morning, along with a hard-boiled egg and some homemade granola. A close second to the fresh berries of summer, which I have already raided from the freezer-stash by February.
As with nearly all vegetables, I do not peel my beets. I grow my own or buy organic when possible, and simple soak them in cold water and lightly scrub the surface before chopping and tossing in the steamer.
These muffins are moist, cakey, and even earned an “It’s yummy?” from my son, which is pretty high praise from him. I regret that my final product did not retain that same beautiful magenta of the batter, so I am recommending a little lemon or orange juice in the recipe here, hoping that the acid might help you yield a brighter-colored muffin. I used mini-muffins, but the recipe below would yield at least 18 full-size muffins. More detailed nutritional information is available here, courtesy of Self Nutrition Data.
No need to peel.
Steam 15 minutes.
Decorate with seeds.
'Love Bites' Beet Muffins
A honey-sweetened muffin that is moist, gingery, and worthy of the cupcake genre.
Puree beets and applesauce in blender with the 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice until smooth. Set aside. I never keep applesauce handy, so I just steamed a quartered Granny Smith and crammed two or three of the gooey softened quarters into a 1/2 cup measure, carefully adding water to fill in the crevices until it came to the top of the measuring cup.
Sift flours, baking soda, flax seed meal, salt, ginger, and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
Combine honey, oil, yogurt and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes.
Add vanilla, along with pureed beets blend; beat another minute.
Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, mixing them in with a spoon, but stirring only until blended.
Spoon into greased lined mini-muffin tins. Place two sunflower seeds in the shape of a heart on top. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees (about 16 minutes for mini-muffins and 20-22 minutes for regular sized muffins).
This will make 57 or so mini-muffins or at least 18 regular sized muffins. Nutritional info assumes that a toddler serving is about 2 mini-muffins.