JCF Lunch box of the week: Healthy Cookies

Healthy Cookies, say what?!

Hi Mamas, this week, how to offer kiddos a yummy and HEALTHY cookie. Sweet, gooey, fudgy, crumbly, who doesn’t love a good cookie?! While these treats are amazing, I try to make them just that, TREATS for once in a while. As much as I love a full butter and sugar gooey chocolate chip cookie, I think we all know this doesn’t qualify as one of the main food groups.

Equally, having your daily dose of something sweet is totally ok and HEALTHY when you choose wisely. My favorite thing to make is raw coconut macaroon balls. They are so versatile and can be combined with an array of ingredients. These sweet babies are a great way to jazz up your kids lunch box so they have have a treat without you worrying about unnecessary sugar and junk. The primary ingredients include coconut, which is super high in fiber and a low glycemic carbohydrate giving you sustained energy without feeling full, and almonds, which are extremely high in vitamins and nutrients (especially dense in vitamin E which we all could benefit from in the winter months for dry skin). Almonds also help to LOWER cholesterol and help towards a healthy heart (tip LEAVE SKINS ON and use RAW almonds for most health benefits).

Ingredients 

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup almonds

4 tablespoons of nut butter of choice (I like sunflower seed or cashew because the butter is creamy and doesn’t alter flavor too much*)

5-6 large plump medjool dates pitted

2 tablespoons raw cacao powder (or bitter cocoa powder)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Mix almonds and coconut in food processor until a dusty flour like texture is made (1-2min).

Add nut butter, cacao, oil and blend slowly. Add pitted dates one at a time and blend well before adding the next. Continue to blend until the mixture comes together in a sticky ball.

Remove from food processor, place mixture in refrigerator for about 1 hour or freezer for about 20minutes, it’s much easier to form into balls when mixture is cold. Use a cookie forming spoon and scoop into evenly sized balls. Roll ball in your hands to solidify shape and form, roll ball in unsweetened coconuts or dust lightly with more cocoa powder, store in air tight container in refrigerator for about 1 week.

**Alternate or additional options:

Use nuts other than almond (walnuts and pecans work equally well)

Use alternate nut butter *while I ADORE peanut butter, if used here it will completely alter the taste and when I am in the mood for that real true coconut taste I choose to use an alternative nut butter

Add seeds (chia, hemp, flax, poppy) for extra nutrient and vitamin boost (hemp seeds are particularly dense in PROTEIN)

Use plump large dried fig instead of dates

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JCF Lunch box of the week: Mini Fun Shaped Pizza

Healthy, Kid Friendly, Fussy Eater Approved Lunchbox & Snack Ideas

This series brings to you fun, healthy kid friendly ideas that even the fussiest of eaters will enjoy, no bribes necessary!

This is a really fun snack to make with the kids as they can get hands on involved in cutting the bread with the fun shaped cookie cutters and decorating the bread with their toppings of choice. It’s a great snow day afternoon activity for 1 kid or small play dates alike. Just lay out some parchment on the kitchen table (to facilitate easy clean-up), place ingredients on the table and let the kids get to work!

1 kid serving

1 slice whole grain natural sliced bread* cut into fun small shapes using cookie cutters, or use a healthy wrap for larger cookie cutter shapes

¼ cup low sodium, sugar free natural jarred tomato sauce with a few chopped spinach leaves stirred in, once warmed, the leaves wilt and it’s a great way to sneak in some greens

1 pinch grated cheese

½ tsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Pinch oregano and black pepper to taste

Chopped black olives, sliced ham or other pizza topping favourites (fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and caramelized onions are personal top pics for me)

Let the kids decorate their mini shapes and simply assist them with the toasting part. Place shapes on foil lined toaster tray and toast/bake for a couple minutes until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese melted and gooey.

*A note on whole grain sliced bread – always read the labels for bread, they often contain a long list of unpronounceable words AND high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. In general opt for whole grain vs. whole wheat (where nutrient rich properties are stripped during milling process). 1 slice should contain less than 1 gram of sugar, 0 grams trans & saturated fats, less than 150g sodium and less than 110 kcals. A favourite of mine is Alvarado’s Bakery FLAX bread.

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JCF Lunch Box of the week: Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggidy dog

Healthy, Kid Friendly, Fussy Eater Approved Lunchbox & Snack Ideas

So it’s the New Year and you have all these goals and intentions set out for the year ahead. Take a step back and think about attainable change to progress your health, and treat it more as a lifestyle change rather than a chore or work.

To that end, I try to make a conscious effort to prepare and eat healthy, nourishing meals most days of the week so as not to feel so badly or guilty when I choose to indulge on that occasional cookie, muffin, whatever. In the spirit of preparing healthy, yummy foods, I am starting a new regular instalment on healthy, colourful, kid tested and approved lunch box and snack ideas.

I don’t know about you, but in my house, I am always trying to invent fun creative ways to get my daughter to eat her vegetables without a fight. More often than not it’s an uphill battle typically involving some sort of reward or bribe in the end. This series brings to you fun, healthy kid friendly ideas that even the fussiest of eaters will enjoy, no bribes necessary!

Why kids love hot dogs is seriously beyond me. I find most of them to be rubbery, salty and unappetizing and several brands contain little to no meat and virtually no nutritional value WHATSOEVER. I prepare my daughter’s lunchbox every day and it usually contains things like avocado, quinoa, fresh fruit, vegetables etc, but equally I understand that she wants to have ‘what other kids are having’. I have explained to her the value in fuelling your body with healthy, nutrient rich and delicious foods, equating the body a car, and if you try a run a car on, say soda instead of gas it would not function properly. While she understands this comparison, sometimes she just wants the typical ‘kid food’. My solution, compromise, try and incorporate it, in MODERATION, just like anything else. This week Isla said she wanted pretzels and hotdogs, so I made up this lunch box:

Hot dog and cheese pretzel skewers, cauliflower (lightly steamed and salted), avocado

Mixed nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, raisins and a few super mini pretzels

Strawberries

Pretzels used: I discovered ultra mini Synder’s snacking pretzels, they are TINY, about half the size found in the fun size variety bags. So you can satisfy that salty crunchy cravings, having loads, and it really only works out to a fraction of even the convention kid snack size pretzels.

Hot Dogs: I used hot dogs from the Brooklyn Hot Dog Company. I like this particular brand because the list of ingredients is short and identifiable/natural, so you know exactly what you are putting in your kid’s tummy (beef, water, spices, garlic, salt, citrus powder, in natural casing), no fillers, additives, preservatives, nitrates…. They taste yummy when cooked on grill pan and served with spicy relish or mustard (I tried it to verify, purely for test purposes only 😛 ).

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Thanksgiving’s 5 Best Vegan Side Dishes

Thanksgiving’s 5 Best Vegan Side Dishes

The main part of your Thanksgiving feast is great and all, but it’s nothing without some amazing side dishes! We’ve created a list of some of the most delicious vegan substitutions for your family favorite Thanksgiving Day side dishes. Grab your knife and fork and dig in!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is such a staple to a Thanksgiving meal and one of my favorites. I always use fresh cranberries and replace the sugar with Maple Syrup like this Pioneer Woman recipe.

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

It turns out that Martha Stewart has quite a few vegan friendly recipes on her website. Vegan Mashed Potatoes are just as yummy and fluffy as their cream based cousin! 

Vegan Stuffing

Stuffing from scratch can change how you think about this old fashioned side. When making this dish, it is always better to opt for fresh sage as opposed to dry sage to bring out the maximum herbal flavor. Use whole-wheat fresh bread to bring out a whole new level of heartiness to this traditional dish.

Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole

It’s time to replace the marshmallows on this holiday favorite with something much more wholesome and nutritious. Adding pecans and rolled oats gives you a crispy flavorful top layer that will leave you going back for seconds. And thirds. This vegan, gluten-free recipe will knock your socks off.

Vegan Gravy

Mashed Potatoes without gravy is just not the same! Sure, mashed potatoes are delicious in all scenarios, but drizzling some creamy, tasty, warm gravy on top is like the icing on a cake. I put this gravy on everything. To make it vegan be sure to use vegan butter as opposed to dairy butter.

Squash

Make a gourdgeous (see what we did there) dish out of squash! We even have a yummy recipe for you to follow!

Brussel Sprouts

This vegetable can be caramelized, chopped and cooked to your heart’s delight! Here’s a recipe to help you make the most fun out of sprouts!

There are even more yummy food options to give your holiday food spread a healthier twist! Want more vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten free options even after the holidays are over? We got you covered!

 

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Chocolate Treats for Holiday Parties

Hello moms! The holidays are coming up, which often means small gatherings with friends or chaotic family reunions. Have you ever been stuck in a food dilemma in which you need to make a crowd-pleasing dish for friends and family with little effort in a short amount of time? Try making chocolate truffles! It may sound intimidating, but I guarantee that these sweet treats will require a minimal amount of stress and maximum amount of fun to create delicious, mouth-watering works of art. These are the perfect one-bite treats to please your guests that will have them clamoring for more. With just a few ingredients and an afternoon of fun with your little helpers, you can easily whip up a batch of chocolate goodness that will eave you and your kids feeling like master chocolatiers! This recipe has a healthy twist, which makes it even more delightful and guilt-free.

This recipe is so versatile because of the numerous ways to combine flavorings and coatings that you will no doubt have fun creating different variations to satisfy every palate. Be creative with these!

Simple & Scrumptious Chocolate Truffles

 

What you will need: 

  • 1/2 lb. dark chocolate (60% cacao)
  • 1/2 lb. semi-sweet chocolate
  • coconut milk (you may substitute with almond milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp. honey

Let’s get started!

  • Finely chop the chocolate with a knife. Place in a heat-proof bowl.
  • Heat the milk in a saucepan until it begins to simmer. Be careful not to boil or scald the milk.
  • Carefully pour the heated milk into the bowl with chocolate.
  • Use a spatula to gently whisk the hot milk and chocolate together until the chocolate has completely melted.
  • Whisk in the vanilla extract, salt, and honey.
  • Place the chocolate ganache in the fridge for about 4 hours until firmed.
  • Once chilled, use a teaspoon to spoon chocolate onto your palm and roughly roll it in your hands to shape it round. Place the chocolate ball onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Place the baking sheet into the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Take your chocolates out and roll in any coating you desire.

Once rolled into balls, the chocolate may be refrigerated for weeks, but will taste best when served at room temperature. 


Coating Ideas

  • Confectioner sugar
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sprinkles
  • Crushed biscotti
  • Coconut shavings
  • Colored sugar crystals
  • Crushed nuts

In this recipe, I rolled the truffles in cocoa powder, coconut shavings, and chopped almonds. Be creative, and style them to your taste!

Oh My Muffin! 5-Minute Banana Oatmeal Muffins

5-Minute Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Hello moms! Have you ever had one of those mornings when you’re in a bit of a rush, and your kids are fussy because they don’t want yet another bowl of cereal for the third day in a row? Well here is a simple and healthy breakfast solution when you need to hustle everyone out to the car before they’re late for school or an appointment.

This muffin recipe is unbelievably easy to make, and takes just 5 minutes to make right in the microwave! Yep, you read correctly – all you will need is a mug, a microwave, some fresh ingredients you already have in your kitchen, and just 5 minutes! No need to whip out that frying pan or turn on the stove, these muffins will have your kids wanting them every morning!

What you will need: 

  • 1 microwave-safe mug
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • a handful of raspberries & almonds

* Be creative with your mix-ins! You may use your favorite berries or nuts. You can substitute with chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or dried/frozen fruit for this recipe. I used raspberries and slivered almonds for tartness and crunch. 

Let’s get started:

  • Break up the banana into 3-4 pieces and place them in the mug. Use a fork to mash the banana.
  • Add the egg into the mug and mix it with the banana.
  • Add in the oats and blend the mixture well.
  • Add in your mix-ins. Gently stir to distribute evenly.
  • Microwave your muffin mixture for 2-3 minutes. Let stand for about a minute to cool.
  • Carefully take your muffin out of the microwave (the mug may still be hot).
  • Enjoy!

 

School Lunches

SCHOOL LUNCHES-  QUICK AND EASY

When it comes to packing lunches for school, quick and easy is the way to go. Being prepared will ensure this happens on a daily basis. Children usually do not have much time to eat. So, it is best to offer a meal they will eat and is packed with nutrients to help them get through the rest of their day.

Planning – planning your menu is a great way to start. This takes a little time, but it is worth it. Take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to discuss with your children about what they would like to eat for lunch. Children are always happier when they are involved. Take time to write your menu down; it will remind you of what you have planned and you can mark what lunch or lunches your child likes best.

When planning remember to include protein, grains – good choices include: chicken, beans, hummus, whole wheat bread and tortillas. Also, fresh fruit and vegetables, skim milk and or juice. A small snack size treat is nice too- such as a granola bar or pretzels.

Preperation – With so many single serve items available it is difficult not to reach for them. But with a little planning you can provide your own with a considerable savings. Again, let your children be involved- in snack size bags portion out carrot sticks, orange slices, celery sticks or grapes.

I have found it best to be organized by keeping my non-perishable lunch “stash” in a plastic tote in my kitchen closet. This includes:resealable plastic bags-several sizes, sandwich and snack size, napkins, handi-wipes, granola bars, trail mix, pretzels, crackers, etc. I have access to all items quickly and know for certain when I need to replenish.

Dinner time leftovers can provide a great lunch for the next day. Chicken, beef or pork can be served cut up and put into a sandwich or wrap.  

Provide- A week’s worth of lunches can be provided with minimal planning and prep.

It is always a good idea to post your “menu”, so the children know what they will be eating the next day.

Lunch time was always one of the highlights in my children’s school day!

Art-and-soul burgers

Ok….so there are tons of vegetable burger recipes out there…and I am not saying that this is the best one, but considering what’s in here, this might just be the good for your ‘art-and-soul’ burger. The vegetable and lentil patties provides nutrition, the flip side of the bread provides a canvas for little hands and, ketchup from a squeeze bottle provides all the inspiration! And like they say..if they make ’em, they will eat ’em too…!

So go ahead and try this….it might soon become a lunch box staple. Serve this with your child’s favorite burger trimmings like cheese, lettuce, etc., and sprinkle some sunflower seeds on the patties, just before serving, for some extra crunch. I served mine  this afternoon with 3 dates on the side. I know, I know…that was really stretching it, but hey…it was all eaten. 🙂

 

For vegetable patties:

1/2 cup brown lentils
1 medium sweet potato; boiled and peeled
2 stalks scallion, finely chopped
1 small carrot; peeled and grated
1/2 tsp ginger; grated
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)
1 tsp cumin seed powder
1 Tbsp parsley; minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 Tbsp oil

Mix 2 Tbsp of Mayo with 1 Tbsp of ketchup and set aside. Use this sauce to spread on the bread for burgers.

Pick and wash the lentils in 2-3 changes of water. Add about 3-4 cups of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. Boil for about 20 minutes or until the lentils still hold together but are soft in the center. Test by squashing a single grain on your kitchen counter. Once cooked, drain the cooked lentils in a colander set over a bowl and set aside for 8-10 minutes. Discard the drained water.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl and using a potato masher, mash up the sweet potato and the lentils. Add all the other ingredients except oil and mix thoroughly with your hands to form a dough. Taste and adjust for seasoning. This mixture can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for 12-14 hours. (Hence, this is a great idea to make the mixture the night before and then just form and cook the patties in the morning for your child’s lunch.)

When ready to cook, heat a non-stick pan on medium-high heat.

Pinch off a small portion and form flat patties. Drizzle a scant tablespoon or so oil on the pan and cook the burgers on one side for 1-2 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Drizzle a little more oil and flip the burgers and cook for additional 1-2 minute on the other side. Similarly, cook the remaining burgers. Serve warm or at room temperature on bread with all your child’s favorite burger trimmings.

A Sneeky-Peeky Lunch Sandwich

Kids getting fussy about vegetables?? Here’s a clever way to sneak in some in their favorite sandwich. Okay, I agree you can’t hide it completely, Because the carrots and the peas still manage to peek at you….but trust me, one bite, and all they will think about is how ooey-gooey and delicious the cheese in the sandwich is. I tried this on my son, when one day he proclaimed how he didn’t like peas…or carrots…anymore. Not the one to give up easily, I took the challenge…….. and my son, took the bait. Needless to say, he is now hooked on this sandwich.

Sneaky-peaky grilled cheese sandwich  (Serves 4)

For the filling:

2 medium potatoes; boiled, peeled and mashed

1 small carrot; peeled and grated

1/2 cup; petite peas; defrosted

1/4 cup green beans; very finely chopped

1/4 cup ricotta cheese (optional)

1/2 tsp. cumin seed powder (optional)

2 Tbsps tomato ketchup

1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

4 tsp butter

8 cheddar cheese slices (or any other cheese slice of your preference)

8 oatmeal bread slices (or any other bread of your preference)

More ketchup for serving

Method:

Heat a flat non-stick pan or a skillet on medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, mix and mash the filling ingredients in a small bowl until it all comes together. Taste for seasoning.
Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and set aside. (The filling can be made ahead and refrigerated for 10-12 hours). 

Lay 4 slices of bread on a cutting board. Place 1 slice of cheese on each. Next, spread the divided filling mixture evenly over each bread; spreading with a butter knife or your hands, to cover the entire square. Now, layer each with a second slice of cheese and then cover each sandwich with a slice of bread. So each sandwich should stack up in the order of bread, cheese, filling, cheese and bread. Spread a scant 1/2 tsp. of butter on the hot skillet and grill the sandwiches for 1 to 2 minutes; or until it is nice and golden on one side. Spread a scant 1/2 tsp butter on the top and flip the sandwich to grill the second side for another minute or two. Similarly, grill the rest of the sandwiches.

Cut each sandwich into two halves and serve with some extra ketchup on the side. Enjoy!