At this point in my life, I’m not one to overdose on Halloween candy. Up until a few years ago, yes. Now, not so much.
Mostly because if I start eating it, I won’t stop. So I don’t start (if I can help it).
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want something sweet on the holiday. I mean, who doesn’t? This is one of the most sugar-centric holidays we have in this country, and I’m a lover of sweets. I just don’t need to eat an entire bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (though I’d love to).
My newest favorite sweet treat happen to taste a bit like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups mixed with cookie dough, but they’re much, much healthier: Peanut butter cookie dough bites.
I plan on bringing these to some of the Halloween-themed functions I will be attending, and I highly recommend making them if you’re staring down the candy stash hours (or days) before the trick-or-treaters begin to show up. Eat a few and you’ll feel much better than if you overdo it on the candy, plus you’ll get a dose of good fat, fiber and flavor.
These days I tend to make a double batch of these any time I have a moment to actually “cook” them (funny how the baby loves to eat but would rather not give me time in the kitchen).
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites (adapted from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats or oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 heaping tablespoons smooth peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (you might want a bit more if there’s no salt in your peanut butter)
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
If using regular rolled oats instead of oat flour, start by grinding your oats into a fine powder using either a high-speed blender, food processor or (my favorite) a coffee grinder.
In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla, and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the almond flour, oat flour and salt and beat again until combined. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add a bit more peanut butter and/or maple syrup. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Roll the dough into small balls. If the chocolate chips fall to the bottom of the bowl, press them back into the dough when rolling. Place the finished bites on a plate or pan lined with parchment paper.
Freeze the bites for five to 10 minutes or until firm. Store the bites in the freezer in a freezer bag for quick and easy snacks.
Makes about 30.
Tips: Make sure all your ingredients are room temperature (I keep my maple syrup and almond flour in the fridge) because if ingredients are too cold, the coconut oil will start to solidify, making it hard to mix. Also, if you’re using the type of nut butter that requires stirring, make sure the oil is well-incorporated before measuring it out for the recipe.
Last week, I promised a holiday cookie recipe. And, boy, do I have one for you. It’s super tasty, extremely easy and about as healthy as a holiday cookie can be. Plus, it is reminiscent of a holiday favorite: the peanut butter-chocolate yumminess that is the “buckeye.”
Yes, buckeyes without the powdered sugar and butter, but with all the taste. (They’re Megan Stuke/Flying Fork approved, so yeah, they’re GOOD.)
Now, I’ll quit my yapping and cut to the recipe, because I’m sure you want to get started.
Healthy Free-Form Buckeyes
1 cup puffed kamut or brown-rice cereal (I used Arrowhead Mills Puffed Kamut)
½ cup smooth peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter)
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup chocolate chips
Cacao nibs (optional)
First, cover a cookie sheet in parchment or wax paper OR fill a mini-muffin pan with liners — you will be freezing your buckeyes either on the paper or liners, it’s up to you.
Next, in a food processor, mix together the maple syrup and peanut butter until smooth.
Add cereal and process, taking care to stop the machine and scrape down the sides when necessary. Process the dough until it gets to the “ball” stage.
Next, use a teaspoon to scoop out loose balls onto your parchment or into your mini-muffin liners.
Once all the dough has been used, pour your chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl or Pyrex and melt them in the microwave, going at 30-second intervals and then 15-second intervals as you get closer to all the chips being melted. Stir in between stints in the microwave. When your chips have all melted into a thick liquid, use a teaspoon to drizzle the chocolate on top of your buckeye balls. Top with cacao nibs if desired.
Next, put them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The chocolate should get hard, while the dough will stay chewy. Enjoy!
I have a secret to share. And I bet you anything you probably have the same one.
I totally sneak treats into the movie theater.
I don’t do it all the time, but occasionally, I want something they don’t have at the movies. Hey, it’s not my fault theaters don’t have the healthier options I crave. If they had tubs of pomegranate seeds or packages of dried figs stuff in there between the Twizzlers and the Junior Mints, I’d gladly pay out the nose for them. Seriously.
But, because that’s not a reality (yet, anyway), I’ve resorted to turning back to my teenage years to totally sneak in my favorites. (Though, back then it was copious amounts of Jelly Bellies that I kept undercover. Oh, how times change.) Of course, I DO feel guilty when I pull it off, so it’s probably a good thing that I barely ever go to see a movie in the theater these days (Hey, with a sitter added in, it’s really expensive to do dinner and a movie.)
That said, we decided to make this weekend one of those rare ones where we try for a night out. We really wanted to see “Skyfall” and our babysitter was available, so we gave it a go. And, in case you’re wondering, the new James Bond flick was totally worth the final price tag for the night: $85.
I knew I’d want something to munch on, even after dinner out, so I opted to smuggle in my new favorite version of homemade trail mix. I’m calling it “Super-Duper Superfood Trail Mix” because it’s full of antioxidants, minerals, amino acids aka the building blocks of protein, healthy essential fatty acids and, oh, yeah, TASTE. (Though, I’ll admit, it’s a far cry from the Jelly Belly mixes I could concoct as a 14-year-old. Le sigh.)
My mix’s star is the goji berry. These little red dried fruits resemble raisins, though they’re not as sweet. These little suckers are high in iron, calcium and protein. In fact, they have more than 20 trace minerals and 18 amino acids. Plus, they’re antioxidant superstars.
Next, I’ve included raw pumpkin seeds, which are also known as pepitas. They are chock full of zinc, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and they have been shown to work as well as non-steroidal drugs and reducing inflammation. Oh, and they’ve been shown to protect your liver.
Adding to the mix’s staying power and nutrition are raw almonds, which have been shown to reduce spikes in blood sugar that often accompany a meal by working to lower the glycemic index.
And, finally, I almost always round out my trail mix with chocolate — home to high-quality antioxidants and minerals like magnesium and copper. I prefer to chop up an ounce of dark chocolate so that I can keep the variety up. In the mix pictured above, I used a high-quality dark chocolate that had been infused with orange peel. But this mix is good with pretty much any dark chocolate bar (try to get 70 percent cocoa content and up so that you get the full range of antioxidants available).
So, there you go, a healthy alternative to the M&M/peanut/raisin trail mix (or the espresso-jalapeño-watermelon-buttered popcorn-marshmallow jellybean mix) of your childhood. Enjoy!
Super-Duper Superfood Trail Mix
4 tablespoons goji berries
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tablespoons raw almonds
1 ounce good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or sandwich-sized baggie. Makes about a half cup or two servings.
Sometimes, I just have to ask myself, "WHY must you love foods that STAIN so?"
Blueberry season is one of those times. My kiddo likes the little berries about as much as I do, and between the two of us, we're constantly spotted black-and-blue all summer long.
Same goes, in truth, for pomegranate season. Though, I have learned the best way for seeding a pomegranate to avoid a kitchen that looks like a murder scene (seeding it underwater is the trick — the seeds won't detonate on your backsplash and the pith floats to the top while the seeds sink), I still seem to stain my clothes, counter or kid with pomegranate juice.
That said, it's TOTALLY worth it. Both these fruits are super high in antioxidants because of their dark color, and are foods you should devour whenever you get the chance. Their antioxidants fight damage-causing free radicals and may even protect you from the possibility of cancer. Reason enough to sacrifice a few stained pieces of clothing, right?
Right. And thanks to the miracle of frozen fruit, I've been enjoying these two powerhouses together this winter. Fresh pomegranate seeds (or arils) mixed with frozen blueberries and other goodies have been the basis of more than a few smoothies recently. I seeded about seven pomegranates this weekend (I like to do several at once), and I've been alternating eating them out of hand as well as blended.
If you like pomegranate juice, but hate the price (it IS very expensive, no?), I totally recommend trying your hand at a pomegranate-tinged smoothie. Because they're in season right now, whole pomegranates cost about $1.50 a pop, and you'll get maybe a cup's worth of seeds with each one. That's a lot of cancer-fighting power, right there.
So, here's a truly tasty, healthy, power-packed recipe for your new year. The pic above shows about two-thirds of the recipe — my son drinks the rest in his own cup (and then begs for more). Bonus: He's less likely to make a mess with a smoothie than eating fresh berries and arils out of hand.
Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie
1 cup blueberries (frozen or thawed)
1 handful (or more!) pomegranate seeds
1 scoop protein powder (optional)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon hemp seed (optional, but good for Omega-3s)
2 teaspoons chia seed (optional, to sprinkle on top, good for Omega-3s)
1.5 to 2 cups water
Blend everything but chia seeds in a blender until smooth. To serve, sprinkle chia seed on top. Serves 1-2.