Peanut Butter Balls

I have to be honest and tell you that really the only reason this blog is still up and running is because I refer to it rather often. If Fix Me A Snack disappeared I’d be pretty pissed over all the recipes I’d lose. If I was smart, I’d print some of the important ones out. But I haven’t gotten around to it.

After doing this for more than a few years, it’s pretty clear that I’m not going to be the next Food Network Star. I’m proficent in the kitchen, but there’s nothing terribly ground-breaking going on here. So why do I blog? The only reason I can see is that it makes me a better cook. It keeps me wondering about healthy snacks and healthy food in general for my family. Other than that I don’t get much out of it. I’m kind of down on social media these days. I have no blogging friends. Comments on my posts are minimal (wah). I don’t make any money and don’t have the will to improve my SEO or the compulsion to share intimate details of my life along with millions of photos.

But it’s a recipe like this that will keep the blog alive. I will be referring to this one for years to come just like I did with its predecessor, Almond Butter Balls. My kids love it. The inspiration for the recipe comes, in part, from Food Doodles’ No Bake Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies. It’s kind of like the two recipes were combined.

Peanut Butter Balls Recipe

1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup crispy rice cereal

Place the dates and peanuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 60 seconds. Add the honey, vanilla, peanut butter, and salt. Pulse for another 20-30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the cereal and mix well. Take about one tablespoon of the mixture at a time and roll it into a ball. Serve or store in the freezer in an airtight container.

Yield: 22 balls
Prep-time: 15 minutes

Chocolate Chip Banana Biscotti

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Biscotti are a snack I’ve come a tad obsessed with lately. And this recipe is perfection because it uses up a single overripe banana and we always seem to have one languishing on the counter this winter.

I’ve shied away from biscotti in the past because they can be a little challenging for the kiddos to eat. But it turns out that if you make your own, you can leave them a little soft. Eureka!

Bananas aren’t a typical player in the biscotti universe, as far as I can tell. But the taste is brilliant, especially with the chocolate (surprise!). The whole family loves them and they are relatively low in fat and sugar. The kids have taken to dunking them in tall glasses of milk while we discuss important matters such as whether or not fairies are real. [/donotprint]

Chocolate Chip Banana Biscotti Recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Cooking Light housed at My Recipes.

The crispness of the biscotti depends on how thick you slice them and how long they are baked the second time. If you’d like a traditional hard biscotti, bake them until the edges begin to brown (probably an additional 10 minutes). They will crisp up much more when they cool. By the same token, you can cut the second baking time by 5 minutes if you want especially soft biscotti.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium overripe banana, peeled and mashed well
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup small chocolate chunks or mini chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the banana, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and mix until the mixture starts to form a ball. Add the chocolate and mix to incorporate.

Divide the dough in two and form into logs about 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. Wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking, if necessary. Place the logs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten them with the palm of your hand so they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 25 minutes. When they come out of the oven, turn the heat down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allow the logs to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. If they hang out longer they will be more likely to crumble when they are sliced. Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to make 1/2 inch thick slices, preferably at an angle.

Arrange the slices on the same parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. They will still feel soft, but will harden as they cool. Serve or store in an airtight container. They will keep for several days or can be frozen.

Yield: 24 biscotti
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 55 minutes

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Homemade Vanilla Wafers

[donotprint]Even though I’m deep into this make-everything-from-scratch-with-locally-sourced-ingredients-whenever-possible phase right now, there are still certain foods that I don’t feel I have the right to acquire anywhere other than at the grocery store. Nilla wafers are a prime example. I stopped buying them probably because they contain high fructose corn syrup or some other evil ingredient du jour. I never thought about making some from scratch. I let out a little squeal of delight when I saw a recipe for them in The Commonsense Kitchen.

Is there anything better than a homemade version of a highly-processed childhood favorite? Or is it a symptom of how boring and ill-focused my life has become that I find it so thrilling?

I’m breaking a cardinal rule I set a while ago for this blog by publishing a cookie recipe. But I’m sure I’m the only one who even remembers that post. You’ll be happy know that this is in no way a healthed-up cookie. I think I’ve made peace with cookies. I say enjoy them, eat too many, and move on.[/donotprint]

Vanilla Wafers Recipe

This recipe is adapted ever so slightly from The Commonsense Kitchen. These little gems are so so much better than their grocery store counterparts.

5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
2 cups unbleached cake flour or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farhienhiet.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk and mix well. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well.

Spoon the dough into a gallon-sized freezer bag. This is a bit easier if the corner of the bag to be filled up is resting inside a large wide-mouthed glass. Cut off the tip of one of the corners and pipe the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets at least one inch apart.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the bottoms begin to turn golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 15 minutes

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Apple Turnovers with Cheddar Crust

Supposedly, back in the day, a piece of warm apple pie with melted cheese on top was the bee’s knees. I haven’t tasted it yet. But I feel like I read a whole chapter about it a couple years ago in John T. Edge’s Apple Pie and have been salivating ever since.

If you’re not in the mood to make dough from scratch, please just keep it simple and make an apple tower which could be almost as good if the cheese and the apple are excellent. But there’s nothing quite like pastry. And this filling is pretty awesome.

Dough Recipe

Adapted from The New York Times Cookbook.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups fine, soft homemade whole wheat bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayeanne pepper
Dash of paprika

Combine all the ingredients except the Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process for until the dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the processor and form it into a flattened rectangle about 1 – 2 inches thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Filling Recipe

2 medium apples, peeled and cored
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 egg
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farhenhiet.

Grate the apple with a box grater. Squeeze excess moisture out of the grated apple. (Save the juice for a little drink if you wish.) Place apple in bowl along with the sugar, applesauce, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Roll out the dough on a well floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut dough into 4-inch squares with a pastry cutter or pizza wheel. Transfer the squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place a generous tablespoon of the apple filling in the middle of each of the squares.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. Paint a bit of the egg wash on the outer edge of each square. Fold each square over into a triangle and gently press the edges together with your fingertips. Seal the triangle with the tines of a fork. Paint more egg wash on the top of each triangle and make a small slit on the top with a serrated knife. Sprinkle each turnover with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

Yield: 10 turnovers
Prep-time: 1 hour
Bake-time: 35 minutes

[donotprint]Oh, and by the way, we just got a new puppy. He’s the sweetest little boy in the world. His name is Otter. He’s a mutt/rescue. Supposedly his mother was a Boxer/Lab mix.

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Graham Cracker Report

I’ve been making a boat load of graham cracker recipes lately and am here to report the results of all my testing.

The winner (pictured above) is from Smitten Kitchen. Even though two of my favorite food bloggers (101 Cookbooks and Smitten Kitchen) figured it out a long time ago, it’s taken me quite a while to make a phenomenal graham cracker. Sure, I thought I had it all figured out awhile ago. But then I made these beauties and saw the light.

The only problem is that they are high in sugar, fat, and white flour. They’re really a cookie. And they are not simple to make. It took me a couple years to motivate to make these. Whenever I read the recipe and realized that I was looking at something more complicated than pie dough, it gave me serious pause. But like most things homemade they put their grocery store counterparts to shame and it was all worth it. The effort involved in making them will keep them in the realm of the occasional treat and I really don’t think I’ll be able to buy those cardboard-like grocery store graham crackers anytime soon.

I also made the graham crackers from King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking cookbook which are a lot more like pie dough (and my previous recipe for graham crackers), flakey, sweet and nutty. They are also a lot lower in sugar and a lot higher in whole grain flours. But, at the end of the day, they just taste too different from the grocery-store graham crackers that I’m used to. I have a feeling that graham crackers used to taste a lot like this recipe. But somewhere along the line graham crackers were jacked up with way more sugar and less whole grains. Sounds like something that would have happened in the 70s.

 

Salted Chocolate Almonds

Meet my ‘it’ snack of the moment. It’s crunchy. It’s simple and easy to prepare. It’s salty and sweet. And last but not least, there’s the chocolate! We all love these little nuts. I have no idea why oh why it’s taken me so long to pull this together. If I had come up with it three years ago when I started thinking about healthier kid snacks, I might have considered the case closed and never started this blog of mine.

Salted Chocolate Almonds Recipe

This recipe is easily doubled. It would also probably be insanely good with smoked salt if you happen to have any on hand. If you don’t have almonds, use cashews!

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 teaspoon (give or take – more is more) kosher salt

Melt the chocolate chips gradually in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, proceed with caution and set the power level to 20% for a minute at a time. After a few minutes, the chips should not appear melted, but should be soft enough to stir into a semi-smooth mass with a silicone/rubber spatula. Stir for a good thirty seconds or more. The warm bits of chocolate will gradually melt all of the firmer chips as the heat is redistributed. If you heat the chocolate too much, it will turn into a coarse chalky mass (from which it is impossible to recover). Melting it gently and keeping it away from moisture of any kind will allow the chocolate to keep its temper and be shiny when it cools.

Once the melted chocolate is ready, add the almonds to the bowl and stir to coat. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread the nuts into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to dry. This should take about ten minutes. Break apart any huge clusters of almonds and serve. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes (including drying time)

S’more Bites

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News Flash: Fix Me A Snack made it into Babble’s list of Top 100 Mom Food Blogs for 2011. Fix Me A Snack is  ranked at #51! Seeing Fix Me A Snack in a list along with so many big shots whom I truly admire is a huge honor. A big Thank You to Babble and all my dear readers.

Now let’s get back to snackin’.

The ingredient list in this S’more Bites recipe is a bit schizophrenic, I know.  Brown rice syrup and miniature marshmallows may seem like odd bedfellows. But the truth is that these s’more bites are supremely satisfying and chocolaty without being too sweet. Oh, and unsurprisingly, the kids loooove them.[/donotprint]

S’more Bites Recipe

If you don’t have brown rice syrup, you can replace it with Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Honey is another possibility, but I haven’t tried it because it is sweeter than brown rice syrup and has a more powerful flavor.

The consistency of the chocolate mixture depends entirely on the amount of oil that gets thrown in along with the nut butter. Even when I’m using the same jar of almond butter, the results vary depending on whether I’m at the beginning (lots of oil) or end (getting dry) of the jar. Use the wheat germ to create a consistency easiest to work with. Your hands will get a little greasy perhaps, but the mixture should be easy to roll into balls and not too sticky.

5 store-bought graham crackers, broken up into large chunks
1/3 cup almond or peanut or sunflower butter
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 – 3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
20 miniature marshmallows

Put the graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the processor for about 30 seconds or until the crackers are broken into fine crumbs. Add the almond butter, chocolate syrup, 1 tablespoon of  the wheat germ, and brown rice syrup to the bowl of the processor. Pulse for 10-20 seconds or until the mixture starts to come together into large crumbles.

Take a bit of the mixture in your hands and test to see if it will roll nicely into a ball. If it’s too wet, add more wheat germ a tablespoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add something moist like almond oil, chocolate syrup or brown rice syrup one tablespoon at a time. Run the processor for a few seconds after each addition to incorporate. 

Take pieces of the chocolate mixture a heaping teaspoon at a time. Knead it a bit and flatten it in the center of your palm. Place a marshmallow in the center and coax the chocolate mixture around the marshmallow with your fingertips. Once the marshmallow is covered up, round out the ball by rolling it gently. Serve or store in an airtight container. These freeze beautifully.

Yield: 20 bites
Prep-time: 20 minutes

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Little House Molasses Snow Candy

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The other day, we finally made Molasses-On-Snow Candy from The Little House Cookbook. And let me tell ya that nothing enlivens a snowy New England day like playing with molten sugar! 

Last winter, books from the Little House series dominated our bedtime reading. I don’t recall reading them as a child so I was enjoying them as much as the kids were. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s retelling of her childhood transported us back in time. 

After we read the Christmas chapter of Little House on the Prairie my eldest said to me, “Gee Mom, I hope our Christmas is as good as Laura and Mary’s!!” I think Laura and Mary got a candy cane, a cake, and maybe a pair of mittens in their stockings…and that’s it. They marveled at a heart-shaped cake they found in their stockings and squealed with delight because it was dusted with white sugar! While I enjoy the comforts of modern living, I certainly relate to my child’s desire to be fully enraptured by the magic of Christmas-time.

Given our heartfelt connection to the Ingalls family, it’s unclear who likes the whole idea of making foods out of the Little House Cookbook more, me or the girls. Either way, they did a spectacular job making molasses candy. Nobody had to go to the hospital with third degree burns. Another successful day of parenting! Mostly we made blobs. The fun little shapes depicted in the Christmas in the Big Woods picture book were a little out of my kids’ reach. However, it did get much easier to control the pour out of the pitcher after the molasses had cooled for a few minutes.

These candies are quite tasty. The brown sugar takes the bitter edge off of the molasses perfectly.[/donotprint]

Molasses Snow Candy Recipe

This recipe requires a small ceramic pitcher (A creamer works well), a candy thermometer, and fresh snow. The pitcher’s spout helps control the flow of the molasses. The handle on the pitcher allows the kids to pour the molasses without touching a hot cup directly.

1 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

Prepare 3 or 4 pans of snow using 9-inch pie plates, cake pans, iron skillets and the like. Gather fresh clean snow into the pans and leave them outside in the cold.

In a small saucepan, stir the molasses and sugar together over medium heat with a rubber spatula. Heat the mixture to 245 degrees Fahrenheit (firm ball stage), stirring frequently. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. When the molasses mixture has reached 245 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the molasses mixture into a small ceramic pitcher. Place the pitcher on a plate in your work area.

Bring the pans full of snow into the work area and allow the kids to pour the molasses mixture onto the snow. Read them the riot act about how hot and dangerous the molasses is and supervise them closely. You have about 10 or 15 minutes until the molasses starts getting difficult to pour.

About 5 minutes after the molasses has come into contact with the snow, test to see if has solidified. If it feels cool and hard, it’s ready to go. Let the kids eat some. Stick any leftovers in the freezer (or outside) still on the snow. If you store it without the snow, it will turn into goo.

[Update Feb 8, 2010: See my daughter and I make it on TV! http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/ct_style/in_the_kitchen/molasses-snow-candy]

Yield: 3/4 pound
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Kid activity time: 15 minutes

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Chewy Granola Bars

[donotprint]This recipe is as close as I can come to homemade chewy granola bar perfection. It’s the result of lots of testing and tweaking of every decent looking recipe I could find. Because I have a huge soft spot for Quaker Oats S’more Chewy Granola Bars, I tried a variation that included mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. But sadly, they melted. I also played a lot with the ratios of sugar and fat and this recipe it is as low as I’m willing to go with both. Anything less pretty much leaves you with a crunchy granola bar.

We’ve been doing a fair amount of hiking (i.e. strolling in the woods while potential buyers poke around our house) lately. These granola bars have served us well on the trail. They are also free of nuts or nut-products so they are legal in my kids’ lunch boxes and snack bags. So, at the moment, they seem like one of the greatest snacks of all time.

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Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or Lyle’s golden syrup or corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
3/4 cup brown crispy rice cereal
2 tablespoons roasted sunflower kernels
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. The paper should come out and over the top edges of the pan thereby creating handles for easily lifting the granola out after it has been baked. Lightly grease the paper with butter or spray oil. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat along with the brown sugar, syrup, and salt. Bring mixture to a low bubble and stir for a minute to be sure that all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, sunflower kernels, and raisins. Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir well with a rubber spatula. Transfer the mixture to the prepared 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Press the mixture down into the pan firmly with the rubber spatula. Otherwise, the granola bars may be too crumbly.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. For best results, I wait to cut the bars until the pan is moderately warm or even getting close to cool. After a few minutes out of the oven, you can speed up the cooling process by carefully lifting the granola out of the pan with the parchment paper and placing it on a cooling rack.

Cut and serve or store for up to a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They freeze well too. Best served at room temperature. Try to avoid serving them cold as they are a lot less chewy and sweet.

Yield: 12 bars
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 20 minutes

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