Kids, Recipes

Banana Almond “Cookies”

I have a confession:  I brainwash my child.

Don’t report me to CPS.  Please.  I do it because I love her.

I don’t serve Siyona, my toddler, sugary snacks.  No ice cream, no cake, no doughnuts, no cookies.  Or at least not in traditional varieties.  This is not the brainwashing part, but we are getting there.

Around my house we eat “cookies,” not cookies.  They have just three ingredients, and they are very healthy.  Now before you hang up with CPS and start dialing the Fun Police on me, let me also note that they are very tasty.  At least I think so, and Siyona seems to agree.

The recipe is an adaption of a recipe I received a while back from a client (thank you, Jill).  It was so long ago that I’ve since misplaced the link to the recipe, or I would give credit where due.  Whoever you are, genius recipe maker, kudos to you.

All you do is mash some banana, stir in almond flour/meal, add a dash of cinnamon, and voila!  You have “cookie” dough!

These are so easy that I tend to make them in small batches, but you could increase the quantities to make more cookies.  I’ve never tried to freeze them, but I suspect they would freeze quite well.

I can’t begin to describe how excited Siyona gets when I pull these out!  Instead I’ll let the pictures below tell the tale.  I know they won’t have this allure forever, but I’m riding this wave for as long as I can.

Eyes on cookie...
Eyes on cookie…
...contact made...
…contact made…
...and it's a winner!
…and it’s a winner!

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’re wondering if she’s ever had a REAL cookie, the answer is yes.  And cake, yes, REAL cake too.  Occasionally she’ll eat treats like this at school or on special occasions.  I admit I don’t like it, but I don’t want her to feel ostracized from her peers.  And really it’s not that I NEVER want her eat these things.  Life would seem less fun if she never enjoyed, say, an ice cream cone on a hot sunny day.

But I also believe tastes and preferences are shaped at a young age, so I’m doing my best to instill good eating habits now.  It seems to be working.  Would she choose ice cream over carrots if both choices were placed in front of her?  Absolutely!  Seriously, who wouldn’t?  But does she like carrots?  Yes.  Broccoli?  Yes (especially if it has cheese.  Again, duh).  Brussels sprouts?  Yes.  And the list goes on.

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I should really probably buy some stock in Trader Joe’s.

Banana Almond “Cookies”

Makes 4 small cookies

  • ¼ cup banana, mashed (about ½ medium banana)
  • ⅓ cup almond meal/flour
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.  Form into small disks on a lightly buttered baking sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees for 13-15 minutes.

 

Kids, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Recipes

Five Make-ahead Healthy Breakfast Ideas

You’re a mom, so by definition you are busy.  And the busier you are, the harder it is make sure you and your family are eating nutritious meals.

A client and friend recently expressed this feeling with regard to breakfast items.  “Do you have any suggestions for fast healthy breakfasts in the morning?” she asked.  She noted that cereal is fast and always popular at her house, but she was looking for “real food’ alternatives that she could pull together in a few minutes in the mornings with minimal clean-up.

What a great question!  Who can deny the allure of placing a pile of Cheerios in front of your child to occupy her while you get ready for work?  And though we might love to make veggie and cheese omelets for the entire family every morning, who has time for that?

Fortunately, there ARE ways to improve your breakfast menu AND still make it to work or drop your kids to school on time.  They do require prep time, but you can do the preparation in advance.  Here are five ideas.

1. Overnight oats.   Instead of cooking your oats, blend them with yogurt, milk, mashed banana, frozen blueberries, cinnamon, salted and roasted almond butter, and some ground chia and/or flax for good measure.  Toss in the fridge before bed, and it’ll be ready to eat in the morning. My palate tells me it lasts a good three days before it starts to lose its integrity, so make a bunch.  I actually thought I invented this one until a friend told me about this “cool new recipe” that she read on some blog.  To my credit, I do make mine differently – and better, obviously 😉 – than the one she read about, but the basic premise is the same. You’re limited only by your imagination with the ingredients, so don’t feel wed to the ones I use.  I make these for myself, but they’d be good for anyone in the family.

2. Plain yogurt and fresh fruit.  Note the word “plain” here.  Yes, you can buy your yogurt with the fruit already inside, but you’re also going to get a lot of added sugar.  Nobody needs that.  Save time in the morning by mixing it all together the night before.  Buy your fruit pre-cut from the grocery store if that helps.  Frozen blueberries also work well.  If you want to take it on the go, invest in some travel containers.   If you’re looking to up your protein intake, eat plain Greek yogurt instead of regular.

Eggs and veggies on plate
…The cheesy broccoli and sliced grape tomatoes rounded out the meal. 🙂
Siyona eating eggs
The frittata can make for a nice lunch too! Here’s Siyona enjoying hers – and the sun (finally!) – on our deck last week…

3. Veggie frittata.  This is one that my toddler eats.  I saute frozen chopped spinach and kale then add that mixture to beaten eggs. I then pour it into an even layer in a frying pan, flip it once, and it’s done. A three-egg frittata lasts me three days.  I use a LOT of greens, referring to the egg as a mere means of binding it all together, but you needn’t be as heavy-handed. 🙂  I think it’s tastiest fresh, but my daughter eats it straight from the fridge with no problem. If you want to really stock up, you could pour the same egg mixture into cupcake tins and make crustless quiches that you freeze.  Then thaw in the fridge the night before you plan to eat one. Cheese would make a tasty addition to these too.

4. Make-ahead oatmeal.  Is it just me, or does instant oatmeal taste gross?  The science behind it mystifies me, since I think instant oatmeal is just pressed more thinly than rolled oats.  Maybe the Quaker people just use gross-tasting oats?  In any case, I know I prefer the taste and texture of the regular rolled oats, and I’ve heard at least some sources say they are nutritionally superior.  If you feel similarly, you can make a huge vat and then freeze individual portions in ziptop bags.  If you do this, definitely freeze them in a very thin layer to expedite future thawing.  You can freeze them plain or as you plan to eat them.  Cinnamon, blueberries, and a touch of salt make nice additions.

5. Hard boiled eggs.  These are so portable!  If you do plan to take these with you and are worried that you won’t have somewhere to put the cracked shells, you can peel them the night before.  People boil these a lot of different ways.  Here’s how I like to make mine:  place the eggs in a pot and cover with water.  Heat on high until water begins to boil.  Lower heat and let the eggs slow boil for one minute.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pot, and let them continue cooking for another 12 minutes.  Immediately cool in an ice-water bath (this prevents the yolk from turning gray on the outside) before storing in the fridge.

And if you absolutely MUST have your breakfast cereal (and I’m  not throwing stones here.  I fall into this category), you know there are healthier and more natural choices out there than Lucky Charms, right?  Some brands that get my general approval are Barbara’s, Nature’s Path, and Arrowhead Mills.  I can’t speak for all their varieties, but I know the ones I eat are made with whole grains, have very little added sugar, and have no preservatives.  Check your boxes carefully and abide my general rule of passing on any option with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Kids, Nutrition

Five Tips for Eating Well When Eating Out: The Toddler Edition

Often you’ll hear people discuss how difficult it can be to eat well when dining out.  This is true not just for us big people, but it’s true for little people too.  So today I thought I’d share some strategies for helping your little ones eat well when a restaurant controls the menu.

I actually think it can be even HARDER for kids than adults to eat healthy meals at restaurant.  A big reason for this is the items you tend to find on children’s menus.  On a recent dinner out, here’s the menu the waitress handed me for my daughter:

  • Beef hot dog with fries
  • Cheeseburger with fries
  • Chicken tenders with fries
  • Cheese or pepperoni pizza
  • Kids pasta with cheese sauce, tomato sauce, or butter

Before I continue, I simply can’t resist the urge to get on my soapbox for a minute.  And it’s my blog, darnit, so I’m climbing up!  All too often I hear people say things like, “Kids don’t eat X,” where “X” is anything healthy and often something green.  And I can’t help but find this a self-fulfilling prophecy: to the extent that this is true, it’s true because we make it true.  When our children first start eating, they eat what we select for them. If they aren’t eating broccoli, it’s because we’re not feeding them broccoli.  If instead we feed them items like you see on the menu above because “that’s what kids like,” then guess what?  That’s what they WILL grow to like and expect.

And the longer we wait to introduce healthy foods to our kids, the harder it becomes to change preferences and behavior. Growing up my conception of vegetables was limited to green beans and corn that you get from a can.  And you know what?  I LOVED canned green beans and corn.  On the rare occasion that a fresh green bean wandered my way, I thought it tasted terrible!  I have a vivid memory from childhood of eating chicken noodle soup over at a friend’s house.  I was expecting Campbell’s and was hugely disappointed when my friend’s mom placed a steaming bowl of homemade soup in front of me.  It had carrots in it.  HUGE chunks of carrots.  I tried one – the first time I think I ate a carrot.  It was disgusting.

Over time my eating habits improved, but it took a LONG time.  At some point during college I started eating vegetables because I wanted to improve my diet.  At first I didn’t like them at all; then I started to tolerate them; and eventually I started to enjoy them.  Now I eat roasted Brussels sprouts like they’re candy.

[Chris steps down from the soap box]

So change IS possible, but we don’t have to make it so hard.  We can start our kids eating well when they are young.  And that takes us back to the issue at hand.  What do we do when menus like the one above greet us at restaurants, as they so often do?  Here are five suggestions.Children's menu

1. Pass on the children’s menu.  The host or hostess will almost surely offer a children’s menu when you arrive.  Glance it over quickly and say, “No thanks,” if it even remotely resembles the one above.

2. Share your entree with your little one.  Ok, so now you’re at the table without a children’s menu, but your little one still needs to eat.  Now what?  For young children who don’t strongly desire their own meals, order something for yourself that you can share with your child.  I often do this with my two year old, Siyona, and she’s perfectly happy to share.  If you’re committed to seeing your child eat well, this can be extra motivation for you to eat well too, which sometimes we need!  Plus, little kids often don’t have the appetite to eat their own meals, so you’re saving money AND avoiding waste.  I die a little inside when I’m dining out and see the server clear away the hardly-touched plate from the toddler sitting at the table next to me.

3. Make healthy side dishes and appetizers your friends.  For slightly older children who really want something of their own and/or for those with slightly larger appetites, order them something but not a full meal.  Now that Siyona is getting a little older, I might share part of my meal with her but also order her a healthy side dish, such as sauteed vegetables or brown rice.  Good choices for a healthy appetizer might be chicken satay, shrimp skewers, or tomato basil mozzarella salad.

4. Reinvent the menu. I will often ask my server to make simple modifications to the menu.  You know how restaurants often have protein “add-ons” to salads, such as grilled chicken or salmon?  Those make a wonderful main dish for a little one, and not once has a server declined this request.  If you see avocado anywhere on the menu, you could ask for a bit of this at a small additional charge.  Same goes for any fruit or vegetable you know is a hit with your child. You can create your own children’s menu by just making simple requests like these.

5. Have something in your back pocket.  Or more specifically, have something in your purse or diaper bag.  I will often bring something simple from home for Siyona to eat as a last resort.  This is useful in cases where the menu options are SUPER scarce, if she needs a little something to fill out her meal, or if she’s just being picky.  (In general, she’s a great eater, but hey, she’s still two. Give her a break).  If you join me for dinner and search my bag, there’s a good chance you’ll find a bag of nuts, some raw veggie slices, plain yogurt, or my (not so) famous oatmeal (I feel like I link to this recipe in every blog post.  But it’s good!  I’m tellin’ ya!). The really nice thing about the nuts is that they take her forever to eat, and they don’t make a mess.  In other words, they keep her entertained for a LONG time.  Who needs crayons?

Some restaurants ARE coming around and offering healthier options for kids, but it never ceases to amaze me how many places still list chicken tenders and fries as the featured kids’ item.  And that’s in the DC-area where you might expect more enlightened thinking.  But at least now you’ve got some tips to make sure your little one is eating well while we wait for the rest of the world to catch up!

Kids, Nutrition, Recipes

Move over, Quaker.

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I’m loath to feed my two-year old anything that comes out of a box.  It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I think Cheerios are evil.  We could talk more about that, but that’s another post for another day.

Instead I’ll step away from my soapbox (you’re welcome!) and share with you my make-ahead oatmeal recipe that works around the Cheerios problem.  It has a great mix of all the macronutrients and a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals.  Blueberries – an excellent source of antioxidants – are one star ingredient.  Two other heavy hitters are spinach and kale, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  The ground flax seeds and chia provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your little one’s cognitive development.  I only half-joke when I say I’d be ok if this was the only thing Siyona ever ate!  In fact, these oats often round out lunch or dinner at our house.

I’m guessing I lost a few of you when I listed spinach and kale among the ingredients.  I know it sounds strange!  But I promise you the flavor of the dark, leafy greens is pretty subtle.  And if you’re worried, you can always use less than I do.  Here’s another tip: I always have a bag of frozen spinach and a bag of frozen kale on hand in my freezer.  I toss them into SO many recipes to easily up the veggie content – soups, smoothies, stir frys, chili, even my chicken enchiladas!

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I do so love the Trader Joe’s!!  The wild blueberries are nice for this because they’re small.

It’s a little bit time consuming relative to making instant oatmeal, but you can make a big vat that you keep in the refrigerator for several days. (And, anyway, instant oatmeal is gross!)  Not only is warming optional, I actually prefer it cold.  The recipe is also very flexible.  I make my oats with water, but you could easily use milk.  I use almond butter, but if your child (or you! you can eat it too!) has a nut allergy, sunbutter would make a fantastic substitute.  And consider my quantities suggestions.  Do everything to taste.

So give it a whirl, report back, and tell me what you think!  I know I have at least one fan.  🙂

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And if you like this post, do me a solid and repost!

Souped-up Breakfast Oats

  • 1 ½ cup regular rolled oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 T almond butter (I prefer roasted and salted)
  • ½ mashed banana
  • 2 t chia seeds
  • 2 t freshly ground flax seeds
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ⅓ – ½ cup frozen chopped spinach
  • ⅓ – ½ cup frozen chopped kale
  • ½ cup frozen wild blueberries

Cook oats in water on stove top until desired doneness.  Kill the heat.  Add almond butter and stir until incorporated (do this BEFORE adding the frozen ingredients as it will blend better).  Blend in the mashed banana, chia, flax, and cinnamon.  Stir in the spinach, kale, and blueberries.  Cool to room temperature before refrigerating.