Tag Archives: snacks

Lunch bag: Healthy No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls

peanut butter balls

My 4-year-old’s preschool asks parents to pack healthy snacks that feature at least 2 food groups. This being my first year packing anything resembling a school lunch, of course I’m going over the top looking for fun, healthy snack ideas she’ll eat. This has been my first great victory: they’re easy, she loved helping me make them, they travel well, they’re not messy, & even My Husband The Suspicious Of Anything Labeled “Healthy” gave them his stamp of approval.

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing gently to not crush the cereal, until well coated.
  2. Use a tablespoon or soup spoon to scoop out tablespoon-sized portions & roll them into balls between your hands. Place them on a parchment- or waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet.
  3. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. You can serve them now, or place them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer to portion out in your kids’ lunches. They’ll keep a week in the fridge or a few months in the freezer.

Original recipe here.

Linked up at Mommy Solutions

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One-ingredient ice cream.

I’ve missed sharing ideas with people! I’ve decided to set a goal of posting at least once a week. Now that The Mini-Munchkin is about the same age that The Munchkin was when I started this, I feel like I can take the time to set up more good photos & write some more. Though the girls are so big now, I don’t think I could call either of them Munchkin anymore. I’m currently accepting nominations for new aliases for my 4- & 1-year-olds.

But so that I don’t bite off more than I can chew, let’s start with something easy, shall we?

banana swirl

This ice cream has one ingredient: bananas.

It’s easy to make. It’s fat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, & delicious.

It’s been making the Pinterest rounds, & even Daniel Tiger on PBS is getting into the act; my 4-year-old informed me that this comes from one of his shows & is called “Banana Swirl.”

Instructions:

Just take about 1 ripe (but not banana-bread ripe; I made that mistake this first time. Think still yellow.) banana per person, cut them into thirds or quarters, & freeze. I just stuck mine in a Ziploc baggie. After a couple of hours, remove them from the freezer, stick them in your blender or food processor, & pulverize. The “snow” setting on my Breville worked like a dream. After a couple of minutes, you should see smooth, soft-serve-looking “banana swirl.” That’s it!

Why does this happen? Bananas have high pectin levels. Pectin is the gelling agent that you add when you make jam. It acts as a stabilizer to create that creamy texture. Mangoes apparently also have high pectin levels & would likely produce the same effect if frozen & blended.

This is a great treat for summertime. We made ours to refuel after gymnastics, but I’m thinking one morning I might top it with fruit & granola & serve “ice cream” for breakfast, just to shake things up a bit! What do you think of that?

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5-fruit* muffins for your Munchkin’s lunchbox.

*or 4 fruits & a gourd, depending on how you choose to classify pumpkin.

School’s started for most everyone by now, & I know lots of moms are looking for tasty but healthy options for their kids’ lunchboxes. These muffins fit the bill: they contain five different fruits (as long as you consider pumpkins fruits), as well as almonds & whole-wheat flour. They pack a quick & hearty nutritional punch so your kids can get back onto the playground. They’re so hearty that The Munchkin can only finish half of one, so you may want to consider packing just a half muffin, or else making them in a mini-muffin tin & adjusting the baking time.

They’re also great for new moms because of their heartiness & ease of one-handed consumption. They were brought to me after The Mini-Munchkin made her appearance & I begged for the recipe, so that’s why you’ve got it here!

The recipe says it makes a dozen muffins plus 2 loaves; when I made a half recipe, it yielded not quite 18 muffins. You can choose how & if you want to divvy up the batter. As an added bonus, if you make a half recipe, you’ll have plenty of pumpkin left over in a standard can to make these delicious pumpkin chocolate-chip squares. Just saying.

  • 3 to 4 extra-ripe bananas, peeled & mashed (2 cups)
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease muffin tin &/or loaf pan(s). Combine bananas, pumpkin, eggs, & sugar in mixer bowl. Beat in applesauce.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Stir into banana mixture until just combined.
  3. Fold in dates, raisins, & almonds.
  4. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup; pour remaining batter into loaf pans, if applicable.
  5. Bake muffins for 20 minutes or loaves for 60 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

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The Perfect Oatmeal Raisin Cookie.

Oatmeal has a special place in my heart. Oats just make every recipe better, don’t they? Heartier, tastier, healthier (yes, I am still deluding myself on this one) — you just can’t go wrong with oats! This Martha Stewart recipe is no exception.

These are our travel staple: any time we’re headed on a road trip, I make up a batch the day before & they keep us going forever. In fact, we had two Indiana-Utah road trips in six months that went awry — in Wyoming both times — & these cookies sustained us in countless mechanic’s shops & in the middle of the I-80 median for hours! (Let’s just say that a new car & a new undercarriage on the new car later, we’ve come to the conclusion that either Wyoming hates us, or their mechanics love us. No offense meant to anyone out there who hails from Wyoming — we’ve just had exceptionally bad luck driving through it.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 sticks butter, room temp
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups rolled oats (not steel-cut or quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup raisins
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl & set aside.
  2. Cream together butter & sugars. Add vanilla, milk, & eggs; blend well.
  3. Add flour mixture; beat until just combined.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer (or, if you’re weak like me… just don’t); stir in the oats & raisins.
  5. Refrigerate dough until firm — 2 hours to overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment.
  7. Scoop out about 2 Tbsp. of dough & shape it into a ball. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing the balls 3 inches apart. Press down with your palm to flatten to a 2-inch diameter.
  8. Bake until golden but still quite soft in the center. If you’re doing 2 cookie sheets at once, bake 16-18 minutes, rotating pans between shelves halfway through. If baking just 1 cookie sheet, bake just 14 minutes.
  9. Cool on wire racks.

What are your favorite road trip staples?

Tidy Mom

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The Munchkin’s colorful birthday.

For The Munchkin’s first birthday last June, I designed a color-wheel-inspired party around the rainbow cupcakes I posted yesterday.

A color theme is pretty much the easiest theme you can go with: there are no limitations on activities, & you don’t have to worry about logos or anything. I got everything at the Target Dollar Spot, Hobby Lobby, & Dollar Tree, so it was a really low-cost party too!

We started with a simple, graphic invitation to convey the paint theme. My mother-in-law had the great idea for a paint can card with a slit for a paintbrush to fit into. We’re not Photoshop masters, so it could look more professional, but it was creative & fun to make! We printed the images onto card stock, then cut out a double sheet in the paint can shape. I made a slit with an X-acto knife & glued the two paint can pieces together, just around the edges. The party details were hidden until you pulled the paintbrush out! (Click on the image to see the details better.)

Now to the most important part (to me, anyway): the food. The party was in the afternoon, so we didn’t need to serve a real meal; we had fresh fruit & other snacks arranged into a color wheel: red=watermelon, orange=carrots with ranch dip, yellow=pineapple, green=grapes, blue=blue corn tortilla chips with salsa, purple=grapes.

The drinks were brightly colored Kool-Aid in colorful pitchers. I made a “happy birthday” banner on a friend’s Cricut out of primary-colored cardstock & festive scrapbook paper, with colorful ribbon tied between each letter. To hold utensils, I took old empty soup cans & relabeled them “Birthday Girl Brand Paint.”

We covered each table in a different colored plastic tablecloth & put streamers & balloons wherever my help crew (aka: my husband & brother) felt like it. We also found coordinating paper plates, napkins, cupcake papers, & cupcake toppers with colorful polka dots at Hobby Lobby, but you could easily use solids in different colors.

Here’s the dessert table:

Also on the dessert table: the super easy, super cheap favors I made. Interested? I’ll continue. I baked my special chocolate chip cookies, but with M&Ms instead of chocolate chips. (I even picked out most of the brown ones, but you don’t have to be as weird as me.) Then I put them in small cellophane bags from Hobby Lobby & sealed them with regular old Inkjet labels that I printed with “Thanks for making my 1st birthday party more colorful! Love, [The Munchkin]“.

The kids kept busy with a number of different activities around the backyard. They enjoyed putting on “smocks” we made out of old t-shirts & fingerpainting pictures for a memory book for The Munchkin. We hung their works of art on a clothesline to dry, so they added to the decor.

The kids also colored pages out of a Sesame Street coloring book I got at Dollar Tree with crayons & markers. To hold the coloring stuff, I tied rainbow ribbon around old empty mason jars.

My mother-in-law found some great bath toys & butterfly nets in bright colors at the Target Dollar Spot, so we let the kids “fish” in a splash pool. Even though it wasn’t strictly related to painting, it was colorful & a big hit for that hot summer day! I also found small containers of bubbles in primary colors for the kids to play with & take home. Again, not painting-related, but fun!

The Munchkin loved her birthday cupcake, & it looked really pretty when it was smashed!

Finally, I just have to add this because it makes me laugh & hopefully will make you laugh too. From My Husband The Nerd:

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Skinny banana bread.

I recently overcame the denial brought on by 15 months of nursing & came to the realization — only 6 months late — that I actually do need to watch what I’m eating. There are only so many ways to explain away the tightness of one’s jeans… “They just came out of the dryer; they’ll stretch back out.” (Putting them on again 2 mornings later…) “Crap.”

So I’ve been cutting calories, limiting treats, & finding ways to lighten up or “healthify” foods that I enjoy. I also went out & bought my first-ever bag of whole-wheat flour. Gasp! I know.

I had some bananas mottling on the counter (you may have seen them in the background of pictures of my daughter giddily sloshing Rice Krispies from here to Shanghai — that was for you, Karen!), so I decided my “maiden” whole-wheat substitution recipe would be Skinny Banana Bread from Paper Crafts Gourmet, a cookbook with accompanying craft projects (parties, cards, wrapping ideas, etc.) that my aunt-in-law (is that a thing?) & neighbor found at our local A.C. Moore for 5 bucks. Bargain!

It’s almost entirely fat-free, but thanks to the heartiness of the whole wheat it tastes substantial & fills you up! It’s also moist, & yes, tasty! Though mine would’ve been more flavorful if I’d had all 3 bananas they called for; I only had 2 1/3.

  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (in banana bread? I was a little skeptical too, but it totally worked, & it made my house smell amazing while it was baking!)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (1/3 cup if you have large bananas)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (optional — I used them for the added protein)
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Mix dry ingredients & wet ingredients in separate bowls.
  3. Combine, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in nuts, if desired.
  4. Pour into prepared pan & bake 55 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

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Holy guacamole & other healthy snacks, Batman!

I keep reading post after post about guacamole, so it must be the week of the S**** B***. (What is it with copyrighting the names of certain sports events so that everyone has to say “The Big Game” instead of “The S**** B***”? But you’re allowed to say “The Indy 500″ instead of “The Big Race”? I can’t remember if “World Series” or “NCAA Basketball Tournament” are copyrighted too; if they are, IP lawyers, please don’t sue me for all the money I don’t have.) So let’s talk the unofficial official chip dip of the NFL (hopefully that isn’t copyrighted too).

Unless you’re willing to pay $4 an avocado at Garden of Eden (which I have been known on many occasions to pay for a pound of grapes there because they are just so dang good), New Jersey is a hole when it comes to fresh produce. They must send all the good stuff to the city & leave us squeezing rock-hard avocado after rock-hard avocado hoping for just one that the city pirates didn’t steal away. So what’s a California girl with a hankering for guac gonna do?

Buy the packaged stuff. No, don’t stop reading.

True, I have had bad experiences with the packaged stuff in the past. One year when we were living in Indiana (another fresh produce hole unless you’re talking corn, & it is the most delicious corn you’ll ever sink your teeth into. Period.), I had the severe lapse in judgment to pay like $3 for “guacamole spread.” Yeah, it was as disgusting as it sounds. So why did I decide to try again?

The February issue of Parents magazine featured the 25 best healthy snacks for 2011: prepackaged snacks that were selected by dieticians for nutrition & taste-tested by entire preschool classes & their parents for deliciousness. One of those was Wholly Guacamole 100-calorie snack packs, & as it turned out, that same guacamole (but not the snack packs, just the big package) was on sale at Shop Rite last week!

The verdict? Awesome! My husband said it was the best guacamole he’s ever had. The Californian in me won’t go that far — it’s a little salty & I’d like it to be chunkier — but it’s the best we’re going to get out here for the price & the effort! Better still, even though the package was too large for me to eat in one sitting (I do sometimes have self-control, people) by snipping off a corner & just storing it in a baggie between munchings, I’ve been able to keep it fresh & green for 4 days & counting! Take that, fresh guac!

But The Munchkin still won’t touch the stuff. Oh well, more for me.

Here are some of the other snacks that the article recommended that we have personally taste-tested.

Terra Chips. I haven’t had the Thai Basil Curry flavor they’re suggesting, but we learned about the original flavor Exotic Veggie Chips on our JetBlue flight out here in August. I got the chips for me & some animal crackers for The Munchkin, & she ate the whole bag of chips instead! I think we went through like 3 or 4 little bags on that 5 1/2-hour flight. They’re a little higher in fat than tortilla chips, but they offer a full serving of veggies of all different colors in every ounce. Plus, they’re tasty, too! They’re like potato chips, but with a less salty, earthier twist. My husband balks that they “taste healthy,” but The Munchkin & I enjoy them. They’re great for packing as a snack in the diaper bag on our city jaunts.

Speaking of city jaunts, The Munchkin’s favorite treat for the train into the city is “squeezie fruit.” The Parents article calls it Go Go Squeez Applesauce, which happens to be the brand name, but we like our term better. It’s resealable, the spout minimizes mess, it offers a full fruit serving, & it’s just fun to squeeze! My friend Halley turned me on to these at Garden of Eden (there it is again! Love that place!) a couple months ago, & we haven’t looked back. It’s perfect for packing away & giving to little munchkins to suck on in the stroller, car, or train.

We also love the British brand Ella’s Kitchen, which makes baby food as well as Smoothie Fruits in the same squeezable, resealable pouch. They’re more expensive, but I like the wide variety of fruits in each one. The “Yellow One” The Munchkin is slurping here has bananas, mangoes, apricots, & apples. They’re also 100% organic, which could make this one a winner for you.

Lastly, the article recommended Thomas’ (the English Muffin people) Whole-Wheat Bagel Thins. The Munchkin is a bagel fiend, & we buy their regular-sized Whole-Wheat or Plain Whole Grain bagels every week. We use them for bagel pizzas for lunch, & she loves just a toasted half a bagel with some cream cheese for breakfast with some bananas or raisins. The reason the nutritionists liked the Thins was that they were the perfect portion size for kids. I liked that because often The Munchkin only eats half of her breakfast bagel, so I got them. The verdict? Sure, she finishes her breakfast bagel now, but it’s just so anemic-looking, don’t you think? She asked for two bagel pizzas last time because the thin one wasn’t enough, which meant more fatty toppings. I’m going to finish off this package with her breakfast bagels & then go back to my old regular-sized ones.

Have you tried any of the Parents-recommended snacks? Are you planning on giving any of them a try? What are your favorite healthy snacks for your kids (& yourself)?

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