The kiddo has been talking about bringing his lunch to school for more than a year.
In the days before he started preschool, he asked if this is the year he could bring his lunch. We said no (because of school policy), but that he could bring his lunch in kindergarten.
I sort of suspected that eventually his enthusiasm for bringing his own lunch would wane. But it didn’t during all of preschool. Or in the days leading up to kindergarten, where he got a chance to bring his own lunch to a camp he was attending. And it hasn’t waned (yet) now that he’s an actual kindergartener.
It’s funny, because I remember wanting school lunch. Mostly because it (sometimes) contained things I didn’t often get at home: pizza, french fries, etc. More than that, I remember collecting quarters specifically so I could buy a la carte goodies my parents wouldn’t let me have such as ice cream, cookies and Little Debbie Nutty Bars.
I can’t delude myself into thinking my perfect little boy won’t do this too, no matter how interested he is right now in eating fruits and vegetables. Kids are constantly learning about themselves and the world around them through their experiences. And experience includes food.
I’m not going to put my kid in a food bubble until he’s 18.
But I will make his lunch. For as long as he wants me to.
Which might be until next week or might be until he’s old enough to drive. Hard to tell. But while I do have control of his lunchbox, I’d prefer good stuff go in there.
But I don’t want him to feel deprived either, which is why he always (so far) gets a treat to go along with his basic sandwich/fruit/vegetable trio.
So, one week he got our favorite little chocolate chip cookies (above). Another week, he’s gotten these cookies, which he actually likes better, even though they’re pretty ugly. But even an ugly cookie is a tasty cookie. I’ve also been giving him some special muffins, which I’ll share next week.
But first. The best ugly cookie ever to go in a lunchbox. And, yes, I’ll make them for him through his 18th birthday and beyond.
I feel good putting these in his lunchbox. They’re healthy, taste good and might even stave off his eventual career as a small-change thief with a soft-spot for junk food. Or not.
The Healthiest Cookies Ever (Recipe from www.detoxinista.com)
1 ½ cups raw walnut halves
1 cup medjool dates, pitted (about 12)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seeds plus 3 tablespoons water)
½ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade, process the dates and walnuts together until a crumbly texture is formed. Add in the salt, baking soda, vanilla and flax egg and process again until the batter is relatively smooth. Add in the chocolate chips and briefly pulse, just to combine.
Spoon the batter onto a lined baking sheet, and use your hands to gently flatten the cookie dough. (Tip: Wet your hands with water to prevent sticking.) Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve immediately, and store the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for best shelf life. These cookies should last a week in the fridge, and a month or more in the freezer.
For Valentine's Day, my little guy wanted to make something special.
He’d already devoured my deconstructed chocolate-covered fruit salad (turns out he likes white chocolate?), so we decided to make something else from scratch.
Ever since Christmas, he’s been constantly asking to make cut-out cookies, but we just hadn’t done it, mostly because I don’t want him to think it’s OK to eat Grandma’s sugar cookies all year long. I mean, they’re delicious, but they’re not the healthiest dessert imaginable.
So, I found a recipe on one of my favorite sites that is for a cookie with a base of almond flour and honey. I find these ingredients to be far healthier than flour and white sugar and butter. Add in a healthier version of icing, and we were off to the races.
Thus, we had a win-win-win: Kiddo gets his special cut-out cookies, Mom gets her nutritional preferences met and we both get to eat the heck out of a special holiday treat.
Of course, Valentine’s Day has passed, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make these for your sweetheart for another occasion
Almond Flour Frosted Sugar Cookies
For the cookies
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened (or use butter instead)
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the frosting
2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together the cookie ingredients until a thick, creamy batter is formed. If the dough seems dry, add a little bit of maple syrup to make it creamier.
Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge
Using a cookie scoop, drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet, lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Press each bit of dough flat and then cut into desired shape with cookie cutters.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, simply cream together the coconut oil, honey, almond extract and salt until well combined. If the coconut oil starts to melt (it melts at temperatures above 76 degrees), briefly place the mixture in the fridge to help it set.
Frost the cooled cookies, and let them set in the fridge for a more solid-frosting.
— Recipe adapted from www.detoxinista.com
So far this month, I've written about tricks for eating healthy, frozen food helpers, the pros of eating dessert and how to plan healthy snacks.
I thought I'd end this month's healthy eating pep talk with a delicious treat that works as both a snack and dessert. And — bonus — this treat has protein (from the almonds), healthy fats (from the almonds and coconut oil), iron (from the molasses) and contains no refined sugars.
Oh, and it's a delicious treat/snack/healthy choice.
I've been making these every couple of weeks since the fall and find the taste to be perfectly sweet and spicy and the texture is nice and chewy. In fact, the only downside to these cookies is that you have to wait 30 minutes for the dough to firm up.
But it's worth the wait. I promise.
Helpful note: You want to start with all your ingredients as close to room temperature as possible. This is because the coconut oil solidifies at 75 degrees. So, if you mix it with cold ingredients, it clumps a bit and this can drastically alter how your cookies come out. Trust me, I've been impatient before and the cookies I got were flat and off.
Grain-Free Ginger Cookies 1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix until a thick batter is formed. Chill the batter for 30 minutes in the fridge to make sure it’s nice and firm before scooping.
Preheat the oven to 350 and drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat, or parchment paper. Use a wet fork to flatten each dough mound, into your desired cookie thickness. If you’d like a sugar topping, try sprinkling a bit of low-glycemic coconut crystals over the tops before baking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until firm around the edges, but still soft in the center. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serves 12.
— Recipe from www.detoxinista.com
Yes, this space is called "Eat Your Vegetables" and we all know I implore y'all to do that as much as humanly possible.
But let's be real a second: The holiday season is most assuredly not about the vegetables.
If we're talking food, it's about the cookies.
Sugar cookies. Pinwheels. Spritz.
So many beautiful, sweet beauties. So, so little time.
OK, that's not true. We have a full month's run up of cookies from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Cookies, cookies every day.
Cookie decorating was always a huge deal in my house. My mother makes about 10 different types of cookies. Maybe more. Honestly, I've kind of lost track now that I don't get to see her make them over the course of a couple of weeks in early December. Macaroons, pecan pie bars, mint chocolate fudge and the aforementioned sugar cookies, pinwheels and spritz. There are others, to be sure, changing a bit each year, but those are the classics.
Since we've come to celebrate Christmas in Lawrence, we've come up with a new twist on the necessary cookie baking. My mom brings a sampling of the cookies she makes at home (see that pretty tin above). And then she makes and decorates sugar cookies with my son here.
The result is a family tradition that's been kept intact for 30 years.
I remember being in preschool, watching my mom cut and bake stars, trees, wreaths and candy canes. Then, once they were cool and we had a good chunk of time, we'd crank Mannheim Steamroller, huddle over the table, bowls of homemade icing thickly holding their appointed spoons, sprinkles at the ready and decorate until every last cookie was primped and primed into cookie stardom.
Well, my mother's sugar cookies were the stars. Mine were not.
Try as I might, I never — even as a teen or an adult — had the skill, patience and steady hand to properly decorate cookie after cookie without them turning into an accident at the Crayola factory.
My mother, on the other hand, could (and can) create endless little green sprinkle wreaths (each with their own bows), perfect red stripes to white-frosted candy canes and many other designs.
Time will tell if my son is more of a natural cookie decorator than I am. He probably will be, judging by the cookies he churned out for this Christmas (look at those pretty cookies above!).
Good thing we'll be decorating them again next year.
To start things off, let me just say that 2013 was a pretty darn good year to be a member of one of the many CSAs in the Lawrence area.
Unlike the past two summers, which were so hot things couldn’t grow, this one was varied enough that nearly every crop seemed to thrive, or at least produce a little bit.
When you’re buying a weekly share from a farm or a collective of farms like the one I subscribe to, Rolling Prairie, that sort of variety is exactly what you’re looking for.
Because we had such great weather, this year we received everything from okra to tat soi to melons to mushrooms from our CSA at various parts in of the season, which started in late spring and roared through October.
Just as I did last year, I tried to find my favorite recipes of this season.
It was tough to pick, but I went for a top five (in no particular order) plus two bonus cookie recipes I threw in during the season just to shake things up. The recipes range from a delicious double squash dish to an eggplant lasagna that was a lot of work but totally worth it.
Honestly, though they are things I made during the spring, summer and fall of 2013, I'm pretty sure they could be satisfying year-round.
Bonus cookie recipes:
What was the recipe that became your favorite over the 2013 CSA season?
Admittedly, there are no local ingredients in the recipe I’m sharing today. I just felt like for the week of Halloween we all needed a cookie break.
A seasonal cookie break.
If you still need a little something to have around the house or bring to a party at Halloween, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are the cookie to bring.
Admittedly, they’re not the healthy fare I usually share in this space. But I don’t feel totally guilty, because you do get some modicum of vitamin A when you eat them (how’s that for rationalization?). But, really, eat them because they are totally, amazingly delicious.
Honestly, these cookies are my secret weapon this time of year. The recipe makes a ton, everyone always loves them and they are appropriate for everything from Halloween to Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup shortening, margarine or butter
1-½ cups sugar (I often use half coconut sugar)
¼ cup regular or soy yogurt (vanilla, plain or maple)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on two cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour through cinnamon (all dry ingredients). Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together your shortening/margarine/butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the yogurt and then stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. When all combined, add chocolate chips.
Drop by the teaspoonful onto parchment. Flatten a bit with clean fingers. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Yield 50 cookies.
So, what’d we get on our last week of Rolling Prairie for 2013? Eggplant, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, leeks, green onions and kale.
OK, I realize peanut butter cookies do not seem like a CSA-friendly treat, but they are. Just stick with me.
You see, these peanut butter cookies use two ingredients you might see in your CSA or at the Lawrence Farmers' Market: honey and eggs.
Now, I didn't get either of those ingredients in my Rolling Prairie CSA last week. Rather, we got strawberries, snap peas, green onions, head lettuce, asparagus and Swiss chard. Those items were all accordingly eaten the normal ways: strawberries and snap peas out of hand, asparagus steamed, head lettuce and green onions in salad and the Swiss chard was juiced.
Now, I could've shared that juice recipe, but I know many of you don't have a juicer or the inclination to juice. Yes, I know my veggie juice is a tad bit inaccessible. Peanut butter cookies? Not so much. They're generally pretty easy to make, and, allergies not withstanding, they work well in large groups.
This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe given to me by my friend Dorian. They are super soft and chewy, plus they don't use any white sugar or flour, which is great if you're avoiding that sort of thing.
Honeyed Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
2 cups peanut butter
3/4 cup local honey
3/4 maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs or 2 flax "eggs" (2 tablespoons ground flax seed in 3 tablespoons hot water for each egg)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. The dough will be very wet. Scoop by the rounded teaspoon onto the parchment, leaving a good amount of space between each cookie.
Bake 8-10 minutes. When they start to brown, pull them out and let them "bake" about 5 to 10 minutes more on the warm cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack. They'll be very soft.
These freeze well, though they may stick together if not separated. Makes about 40 cookies.
What'd we get this week? Beets with greens, basil(!), head lettuce, snap peas, kale and broccoli.
Honestly, folks, this is going to be a pretty short post this week. I'm sorry about that, but when I tell you the reason why I think you'll understand.
My grandmother passed away this week. It feels strange typing this, not only because it's still such a foreign idea in my mind, but also because I didn't think I'd be telling anybody in this fashion.
I'm not telling you this for your sympathy, though it's appreciated. Honestly, the only reason I'm sharing this at all is because my grandmother was a fabulous cook and taught me so much of what I know about food. She left a giant, flour-coated impression on me and colors my food writing whether she knew it or not.
I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in her kitchen, watching her work her magic. She made the best desserts known to man, and I've told many, many, many people that if she'd ever opened a bakery it would've become a sweets-lover's destination, a national chain, or both. Chocolate pie, strawberry shortcake, peanut brittle, chip chocolate cookies (NOT chocolate chip, mind you), muffins ... the woman could do it all. And it was all so very good.
So, in her memory this week — we're working very hard to celebrate her life and how fantastic she was, rather than dwell on the sadness we all feel — I thought I'd share my favorite recipe of hers: peanut clusters.
They're simple — there are only three ingredients — but they're out of this world.
I've made them many, many times and they've been loved by people all over the country — I've made them in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Florida, and my mother has whipped up a batch or 20 in Alabama.
Honestly, I've probably known the recipe by heart since I was 10 or so, but when I got married, my mother's best friend asked for everyone in attendance to provide a recipe, hand-written on a recipe card. My grandmother wrote out the recipe in her beautiful handwriting and, now almost 10 years later, I still have it, as clean as the day she wrote it out.
So, in her memory, I'm going to share it with all of you. Honestly, it's not as healthy as most of the recipes I share in this space, but it's fantastic, and I hope you all enjoy it. The day she died, my husband insisted we make some as a little tribute. I even had one even though they're not vegan (or "funny" as my grandma would've said), and I'm glad I did.
Grandma Jeanne's Famous Peanut Clusters
1 (6-ounce) package chocolate morsels
1 (12-ounce) package butterscotch morsels
1 (12-ounce) package salted Spanish peanuts
Combine chocolate and butterscotch morsels in a double broilers (or microwave) until melted, being careful not to burn them, and stirring often.
Stir in the peanuts. Drop by the teaspoon onto waxed paper. Let set until firm either in the freezer or fridge. Store in an air-tight container in the freezer.
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!
Kids and cookies go together like Santa and his reindeer. And for some Lawrence kids, cookies are just what they need to help bring holiday cheer to their preschool.
The Lawrence Arts Center Preschool Cookie Sale begins at 9 a.m. Saturday as a fundraiser for the award-winning preschool, which teaches arts-based education. Cookies will be sold for $6 per pound and will be on sale within LAC's preschool classrooms at 940 N.H. until only crumbs are left says Linda Reimond, preschool director. Limited bagels and barbecue will also be served to those cookie shopping during breakfast and lunch.
In addition, individual cookies will be sold at the Gingerbread House Festival and Viewing beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St.
The cookies are a combination of treats made by the kids, contributed by their families or donated and then decorated (both Munchers Bakery and Great Harvest Bread Co. both contributed undecorated cookies).
On Wednesday afternoon, preschool kids and their parents visited Meadowlark Estates in West Lawrence and decorated cookies with elderly residents. Reimond says about 10 dozen cookies were prepared by the kids and Meadowlark residents.
"I love the fact that there were grandparent-age (folks), and some of the moms were there, and then the kids. That was what was so special to me, that they were going to do it together," Reimond says before running through this year's treats. "You won't even believe all the cookies that will be here. There will be some decorated cookies, some holiday cookies, and one of the preschool classes made dog biscuits. So we can even have cookies for your pet."