Foodie Friday: A Healthy Alternative to Thin Mints

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I’ve been rather obsessed with making different types of energy bites or energy balls lately for middle-of-the-night nursing snacks.  As much as I like them though, I will be THRILLED when we don’t need nighttime nursing snacks anymore!!! (Please tell me that some day our triplets will sleep through the night!!)  I started making these little balls of goodness a couple months ago after seeing a recipe on Pinterest but have since done a lot of experimenting with various flavor and ingredient combinations.  In general, I am a “just wing it” type of cook who likes to look at recipes for inspiration but then just throws things together.  Measuring is not really something I do, which is why baking isn’t really my strong suit.  The great thing about these little energy balls is that they are “no bake” gems that are very forgiving to imprecise measuring.  I’ve only made one “I bet this would be good in here” batch that flopped and the rest have been pretty tasty. These little energy balls are pretty quick and easy to throw together, which we MoMs know is clutch because “free time” tends to come in short bursts!  I’ve made many a batch of these wearing a baby or two.

Because you now know how much I despise measuring, I hope you will appreciate the effort it took me to actually measure and write down this recipe for you!  I would catch myself about to just toss something in and then remember that I needed to measure it so I could pull this recipe together.  But for those of you out there who are creative cooks like myself, please feel free to add “ish” after all these measurements! I’ve also added notes about substitutions that would work nicely if you don’t have these things on hand.

The raw ingredients!
The raw ingredients!

We love having these for nighttime nursing and since they’re chock full of oats I think they’re good for our milk supply.  They also have a little protein to help them stick with you.  And the best part is that they are delicious!  I’ll grab one from the fridge and it feels like sneaking a bite of cookie dough without the guilt!

The finished product!  They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they're delicious!
The finished product! They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they’re delicious!

Chocolate Peppermint Energy Balls

  • 1 cup cashew meal (I find this at Trader Joes.  Almond meal also works great)
  • 2 cups oats (I use gluten free oats from Trader Joes, but any will do)
  • 1 cup oatbran (if you don’t have this you could sub oats or more nut meal)
  • 1/2  cup cacao powder (standard cocoa powder works fine too)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dates (not tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (can subagave or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/3ish cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips but was out when I made this batch)

Instructions: Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Put chia seeds in a measuring cup and then add water up to about the 1/2 cup line and let rest for a few minutes.  When you come back to your chia seeds they should have absorbed the water and be pretty thick and gel-like.  Add maple syrup and peppermint extract to the chia and water mixture and stir that and the dates into the dry ingredients.  It can take a bit of work to fully distribute the dates and wet ingredients.  The “dough” will be pretty dry and crumbly looking.  Mix in chocolate chips.  This is where it gets messy.  Now grab a small handful of “dough” and smush it together.  Some recipes say to “roll” the bals, but in my experience it’s really more of a smushing than rolling to get them to stick together.  This recipe will make approximately two dozen balls about an inch in diameter.  Usually about halfway through making the balls my hands are so sticky that the balls aren’t smushing well.  So I just wash my hands and come back for another round of smushing.  For those of you with older kiddos this would be a great job for your kiddos to help with!

Other flavors I’ve made include chocolate peanut butter, almond joy, chocolate almond, and honey peanut butter banana.  I’ll try to find the time to measure out the ingredients for these recipes and post them on our blog therrientriplethreat.blogspot.com.

 

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Foodie Friday: Stovetop French Fries

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At our children’s day care, Friday is “French Fry Day”. I know this because that is how Mister answered my question about what day it was. And why not, who doesn’t like French fries?

As a mom, I’m not too crazy about the idea of feeding my kids salty French fries from the Drive-Thru. And although I don’t mind the occasional treat of French fries, I am always trying to make healthy food for the kids.

Our neighbour N showed me a great way to make homemade French fries for Mister and Missy when they were toddlers.. boil the potatoes on the stovetop! This is a great meal for little ones who wouldn’t know the difference between boiled, baked or fried! Not only is it healthy and quick to make, it’s easy to little mouths to chew.

Below is the uber-simple recipe for you to try. Enjoy and let me know how it turns out.

Oh and stay tuned for my next post on how to make veggie fries.

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Foodie Friday: Toddler snack

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In our house, one of our constant struggles is what to eat. What should we feed the kids, age 15 months? We need something that’s healthy, well-balanced, not to messy, easy and we have ingredients for in the house. What should we feed us? What to feed us is something we haven’t figured out yet, at least not completely, although

Enjoying a snack in the stroller
Enjoying a snack in the stroller.

having me work fewer hours certainly helps, but we have found an easy, non-messy, travel-friendly snack for the kids. And, as a bonus, they love them! We take them as snacks in the car, in the stroller, or in a bag in my purse to pull out in hunger emergencies. We make a batch on the weekend and use them throughout the week as an alternative to any of the processed snacks. (Note photo of the kiddos happily munching their snacks at the zoo). Keeping them in the fridge helps them stay fresh all week.

Fruit and Oatmeal bars
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 8-oz. container vanilla or plain low-fat yogurt
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. fat-free milk
2 tsp. vanilla
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup diced dried mixed fruit, such as raisins or dried cranberries 

You don't have a better snack than I do, do you?
You don't have a better snack than I do, do you?

Heat oven to 350F. In large bowl, combine sugars, yogurt, egg whites, oil, milk, and vanilla. Mix well.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Add to yogurt mixture; mix well. Stir in oats and fruit (and nuts and chips if you choose to use them).
Spread dough onto bottom of ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.
Bake 28-32 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered.

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What to Do – Rainbows

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My daughter is almost three and often has more energy than I can handle. I’m constantly struggling to find something that she can do – something that will hold her attention for longer than the 3.865 seconds that she typically spends – so that I can deal with my 8 month old boys. I thought it would be helpful to fellow multiple mommies to have a go-to list of stuff to do that you could whip out like the mother-of-the-year that you are (or in my case, that I wish I had the time/energy/patience to be). If your kids enjoy the beginning activity, I’ll provide more things along a theme. Stuff like related songs, books, snacks – you get the drift. The first theme is rainbows. (Why rainbows first? No idea. It’s just what appealed to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a child of the 80’s, when rainbows, unicorns and the Preppy Handbook reigned supreme.) Anywho…let’s get started.

Core activity: Rainbow hunt.

  • Age appropriateness: 18 months & up
  • Materials needed: Nothing special, just stuff around the house!

Activity: We’re hunting rainbows! Or at least we’re looking for colors in the rainbow. The object of the activity is to have your kids look for objects around the house in each of the colors of the rainbow. When Katie was little, I used to take cups and bowls of several colors and then find little toys that would fit in each of the cups. Then we’d work together to match each thing to its “home.” For example, a blue ball would go into a blue cup, and a yellow ducky from the bath would go into a yellow bowl. Now that she’s older, I take different colors of construction paper and tell her to go find toys that match the colors. You can adapt this to your own kids’ age and interest level. I’ve tried this with kids stuck in chairs waiting for dinner to arrive at a restaurant. Each kid gets a magazine and then has 20 seconds to find as many colored images as they can. Here is Katie’s collection of treasures. She’s pointing to her favorite color (yellow) with her foot.

Note two things, if you will. Number one: I didn’t have purple construction paper in the house. I improvised with a marker. Number two: the foot that so gracefully points to her favorite color is still in pajamas. Today is a family sick day. We are all in our pj’s, including yours truly.

Sing. Here are some songs related to our rainbow theme. I did a simple search on YouTube to find clips of the songs so that you can hear the melodies.

Make. More rainbow-themed activities from other blogs that I found.

Explore. I did a couple of online searches and came up with some cool resources. My dad often sits a grandkid on his lap and does a Google images search for such favorites as helicopters or lions. Then they click through to whatever looks interesting.

Read. I’m a book-a-holic and children’s books are my favorite by far. Here are just a few – some are old favorites and others new ones to enjoy.

Experiment. Here are a couple of “scientific” activities that I found trolling the internet.

  • Fill a spray bottle with water, look at the mist in the sunlight.
  • Create an indoor rainbow with a prism
  • Make a rainbow in the dark

Eat. Fill your kids’ plates with fruits & veggies from a rainbow of colors. And you can use a drop or two of food coloring to turn milk or water into your kids’ favorite colors

  • Red: apples, strawberries
  • Orange: orange, mango
  • Yellow: banana, yellow bell pepper
  • Green: kiwi, celery, grapes
  • Blue: blueberries
  • Purple: grapes, eggplant, plums

Well, that’s all folks! I’m hoping to have a new activity every other Monday. You know, Monday, when you are chock full of energy and resolve that this week the kids are not going to watch so much TV and that you’re actually going to eat a piece of fruit or something that passes as a vegetable at least once every day and that you will, for sure!, get the minivan cleaned. Oh wait. That’s me.

If you have any more bright and colorful rainbow ideas, please add a comment. And if you have an idea for an upcoming theme, I’d love to hear about that too!

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