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


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Foodie Friday: The Very Versatile Pizza Roll

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I ran across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread a year or so ago.  While anything with the name “garbage” in it isn’t inherently appealing (or is it just me???), the thoughts of ooey-gooey-spicy-chicken-and-cheese were enough to win me over.  I made the Buffalo Chicken Pizza Roll, as I prefer to call it…and it was soooo good.  I loved it, Hubby loved it, and my girls would have eaten thirds if I’d let them.

Over the past year, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, and I’ve tried it with any number of filling options.  One of our favorite combinations is the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Roll.

DSC_0174I use leftover meat of some sort…in this case, peppered pork tenderloin.  I dice it, along with some veggies….here, onions, peppers, and mushrooms.

Then I saute my ingredients.  For this iteration, I cooked my onions and peppers first, and then I added my diced meat and mushrooms.  Because I was using peppered meat, I didn’t season it any further.

DSC_0175Then, roll out some pizza dough.  (I use the refrigerated kind that comes in a can.)  Roll your dough pretty thin…although not too thin so that it tears when you roll it up.

DSC_0177Then spread on your filling (meat and veggies) and sprinkle with cheese.  Here, I used a blend of Mexican cheeses, as that’s what we had.  Some Swiss or Provolone would have been even better.  The original recipe calls for almost three cups of cheese, but I use considerably less, not more than a cup…just enough to help hold everything together.

DSC_0179Very carefully, roll up your dough and place it, seam side down, on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.  Tuck in the ends of the roll.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes (or according to the directions on the pizza dough).  Allow it to sit for about five minutes before you slice into this deliciousness!!!

DSC_0183This basic recipe works with so many combinations, and it’s a fantastic outlet for leftover meat.  In addition to the Philly Cheesesteak version, I have made the Buffalo Chicken roll with leftover rotisserie chicken, wing sauce, and blue cheese.  And I used leftover turkey at Thanksgiving to make a turkey + onion + bacon (cooked and crumbled) + Swiss cheese roll.

(Reference the original recipe for approximate measurements.  I don’t measure the filling…if I have more than I need, I save it to go in an omelet the next day = double win!)

It seems the sky is the limit with this recipe, and the results at our house are guaranteed to garner some cheers at the dinner table.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  A food photographer, she is not, but she blogs about her girls’ adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Foodie Friday: Filled Christmas Tree Cookies

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Every year, my coworkers and I participate in a departmental cookie competition. Since I love holiday food decorating, I plan out my contribution months ahead of time. I always aim to win the “Best Decorated” category. In years past, I’ve made mini-gingerbread houses and 3D animals, so I decided to go with another three-dimensional offering this year.

I made these sugar cookie and gingerbread standup Christmas trees with a surprise inside. Let’s call them “filled Christmas tree cookies.”




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Foodie Fridays: Indian Roti (Flatbread)

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Growing up I used to help my mom in making roti (also known as chapatti) which is a flatbread similar to the Mexican tortilla. She would make the dough and I would sometimes help her roll it out into a circle (or a square, or the map of India, or some other shape) and help her to pan fry it.

In many traditional Indo-Pak families, the lady of the house would make fresh roti every day for dinner. That is just not feasible for most families nowadays, so you buy the chappatis in the grocery store. However since I am trying to domesticate myself by trying to make food from scratch whenever possible, here is my take on how to make rotis in your home!

It’s a simple, affordable and healthy alternative to store-bought bread.  The best part is kids love it and you can sneak all sorts of healthy ingredients without them knowing it! The one downside is it is a 3 step process and can be a bit time consuming and requires some practice to get it right.


Anyone can make Indian ‘roti’. Just take a note from our kids when they use playdough!

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Foodie Fridays: Chatpati

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A few weeks ago, my daughters’ school hosted their Dual Language Program Family Night. It was an opportunity for all the parents to get on the same page about the how the dual language program worked and to meet each other. We were optionally invited to bring food to share that represented our family heritage.

I tried bringing sweets last year, but Bengali sweets (mishti) are always too sweet and often too spicy for the American palate. I ended up bringing a lot of the sandesh home. I thought I’d bring chatpati this year instead, a savoury snack food sold in roadside stalls in Bangladesh. I thought that the adults, at least, might find its exotic flavours interesting and I knew I’d be happy to eat the leftovers.

Much to my surprise, the pickier of my daughters, M, declared it “totally delicious” the morning of Family Night. Once we arrived at the event, two people asked for the recipe and kids kept returning to the table to refill their cups. My daughters asked if they could bring some to school the next day for snack, but there wasn’t enough left from the 4 quarts (triple the recipe below) we’d brought with us. I promised to make it again.I don’t know whether it was the familiarity of the ingredients I used, common to both Mexican and Indian cuisines, or the tanginess of the flavours that worked for the kids. Either way, here’s a way to introduce your family to the flavours of the Indian subcontinent and get some protein into their diet while you’re at it.

Bengali Chatpati


Foodie Fridays: Chatpati recipe from
Photo Credit: Qfamily
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup onions, diced
  • 3 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste (available at Indian food stores)
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 2 (or more) dried red chilies to taste, whole
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1-2 cups water, divided
  • cayenne powder to taste (optional)


  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (coriander leaves), chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, diced (optional)
  • 2 eggs, hard boiled and diced (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a pot. When a drop of water added to the oil sizzles, lower the flame and sauté the onions until translucent.
  2. Add the cumin, coriander and bay leaf and sauté for one minute.
  3. Add 1/2 cup water and the tamarind paste. Bring to a boil, then simmer until it forms a thick paste.
  4. Add red chilies and cayenne to the mix and cook for a couple of minutes. If you want something spicier, you can chop the chilies. For kids, I’d recommend against chopped chilies.
  5. Add the remaining water to the spices and add the potatoes, tomatoes and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Add the garbanzo beans. At this point, I transferred everything to my crockpot and let it cook on low overnight and all day, having added water to ensure that the beans and potatoes were covered.
  7. If you’d like to keep going on the stovetop, either because you have the time or don’t have a crockpot of the right size, simmer for another 2.5-3 hours. Depending on the type of potato you use, it may disintegrate into a thick spicy sauce or stay chunky.
  8. Discard the chilies (unless chopped) and bay leaf.

Serve this dish hot, topped with raw onions, fresh cilantro and optionally eggs and cucumber, both of which serve to calm the spiciness.

Chatpati recipe from

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Foodie Friday: Quitting the Recipe Quest for My Picky Eaters

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Fresh carrots
Photo Credit: Distant Hill Gardens

My friend Karl once told me that there’s a good reason that children develop pickiness in their food choices around age two. Around that age, hunter-gatherer kids would start to stray farther from their mothers. Their dislike of unfamiliar (and I assume a bunch of familiar) foods protected them from sampling poisonous leaves and berries when mom wasn’t looking.

As I discovered with breastfeeding, “natural” doesn’t mean “easy.” A picky kid, normal though she may be, is a pain to deal with. It seems ridiculous that in a time where nearly any food is available to us at any time of year, we struggle to get our kids to eat a well-rounded diet.

I have egg on my face from my bragging about what great and varied eaters my girls were during the early stages of solid food.

J is a little picky. She hates anything in sauce… unless it’s pasta in red sauce, dryish macaroni and cheese, or ranch dressing. The toddler who inhaled yogurt, bananas, fish and curry has turned into a school-age lover of pizza, sandwiches and mac and cheese. She won’t sit near anyone eating yogurt. She’s recently decided that all cheese is “slimy” unless it’s grated, so I’ve had to start leaving cheese out of her sack lunch sandwiches. She’ll eat most kinds of fruit and raw vegetables, although she’s anti-pear and anti-banana. She likes chicken fine and loves fish. She loves bready things of all sorts: sliced bread, rolls, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, waffles. We stick with whole-grain at our house.

M is much pickier. Like Sissy, she hates sauce textures, although she will eat applesauce and has recently branched out to marinara. She even allowed herself a taste of yogurt the other day! We’ve come a long way from dealing with her texture aversion in feeding therapy. She’ll eat several kinds of raw vegetables: broccoli (stems only), spinach, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, jicama. She’ll also eat boiled or canned corn.

She loves apples.

"I love my mom because she always lets me eat apples when I want to eat apples."
Seriously, the kid loves apples. My Mothers’ Day gift was a declaration of love for me based on the fact that I “always [let her] eat apples when [she wants] to eat apples.”
Other fruit? Don’t bother, unless it’s a purple seedless grape. Green grapes are a no-go in the under-30 set at our house.

Protein is easier. Like J, M will eat chicken, pork, fish and eggs. And breads… she loves her bread. The kid would live on pancakes, apple slices and breakfast sausage if I let her, occasionally eating a croissant for dessert.

These children have inherited my sweet tooth, but that’s a tale for another day.

For years, I’ve sought out recipes that will tempt my children’s palates. When M was a toddler, I came to terms with her odd rhythm of living on milk for a couple of days, only toying with her food at mealtimes. She’d then eat a single gigantic meal before returning to 2 days of a liquid diet. I’ve learned to accept that the things that my kids will eat taste bland and boring to me. I’ve learned to focus on nutritional balance over variety. And I’ve learned that I’d rather spend time talking to my kids about their observations of the world than arguing over food.

In recent months, I had a flash of insight. If my kids prefer their fruits and vegetables raw and separate, why do I seek out vegetable recipes? My love for rich combinations of flavours and textures doesn’t mean that different concoctions and preparations will tempt my children. They can have their veggies raw. At least they’re eating them.

Now, instead of coaxing my kids to try the latest and greatest vegetable solution I’ve come up with, I lay out a raw vegetable or collection of veggies at meal time. The girls can assemble their own salads or keep their carrots from touching their jicama if it’s that kind of day. J can have her ranch while M and I forgo dressing.

Do they like what I like? Not yet. Are they getting their fibre and vitamins? Yes. Are they learning to make good food choices? Yes. Would I rather we could all enjoy Cajun okra or curried cauliflower together? Absolutely.

What’s your children’s take on fruits and vegetables? Do they eat them cooked? Raw? Not at all?

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Smoothie Addicts

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My children have a problem. An addiction. Something they ask for morning, noon, and night. (Even more than they ask for TV.)

My kids are smoothie addicts.

Smoothie Addicts

It’s all my mom’s fault. She’s the one who introduced the smoothie into our lives. And indulged the kids’ every-morning request when we stayed at her house for the holidays (and last summer, and the winter before that).

Smoothie Addicts

Truth be told, it’s probably my very favorite toddler addiction.  To them: majorly awesome frozen sweet treat.  To me: fruit and calcium.  And it couldn’t be any easier.

The specifics, as we make them at my house, in case you’ve never made a smoothie yourself:

  • 4 (ish) strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup (ish) frozen blueberries
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup (ish) yogurt, any flavor or plain
  • 1/3 cup (ish) milk

Clearly, you can see I’m not scientific about this, I just dump stuff in the blender.  If I’m using fresh strawberries, I’ll often throw in a couple of ice cubes to keep things nice and cold.  Switch it up and throw different kinds of fruit (fresh or frozen) in there. Or, as we did at my mother-in-law’s house when I was improvising, a little scoop of mango ice cream.  You can’t go wrong, and aside from the occasional ice cream, you can’t argue with its nutritional value.

So, as long as my blender pitcher is dishwasher-safe, my kids can have a smoothie any day of the week.

P.S.  If grandpa is there when you’re making smoothies one day, and tells the kids to “hold their ears” because it’s loud, your son may do this every time you make one:

Smoothie Addicts

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