Not long ago, I caught an episode of Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods. This particular episode was all about the culinary delights of Australia. Marmite was given a large chunk of air time including an interview with a couple of boys who ate it on buttered toast at least twice a day as a snack.

I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. So I picked some up at the store. I buttered some toast. And I was so scared that I suckered my 4-year-old into tasting it before I did. Bad mommy.

It smells pleasant enough, reminding me of molasses. But the taste was not to our liking in the least. It reminded me of fermentation experiments I’ve encountered that have gone horribly wrong. It’s too bad because Marmite is packed with B vitamins. It stands as a shining example of the fact that kids can enjoy all kinds of foods if they are exposed to them regularly when they are young.

Our Favorite Picture Books About Eating and Food

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had enough of cooking and serving food to last a while. Even when it comes to simple and healthy little snacks, I’m taking a break.

Snack time around here has been devoted to eating the 17 million granola bars sitting around the house. Also, we might be trapped under a pile of  apple chips soon because I found it impossible to walk away from the cheap bags of “applesauce” apples from Bushy Hill Orchard. And thank goodness for clementines which have been a bright spot in our snacking repertoire.

This week, in the name of taking a break from cooking, I’m posting a list of children’s picture books about eating and food instead of a snack recipe. These are our current favorites:

1. Bread and Jam for Francesby Russel Hoban

The rest of this list is in no particular order. But this book is number one for a reason.

2. I Can’t Said the Ant by Polly Cameron

Everyday kitchen objects and foods cheer on a heroic ant who comes to the aid of a broken teapot. Fabulous rhyming.

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

We all love a good caterpillar story and this is one of the best.

4. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Brilliant illustrations and a great story make us all smile every time we read it.

 5. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

The pacing of this story is extremely energetic and fun. A great reminder to never stop laughing and never give up when it comes to trying new foods.

6. Scrambled Eggs Super by Dr. Suess

A boy flamboyantly searches the world for the ultimate gourmet egg.

7. Bee-bim Bop by Linda Sue Park

Fantastic rhythm. Complete with a detailed recipe.

8. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

This summer, my youngest put Sal to shame in the blueberry patch.

9. Mean Soup by Besty Everitt

Anger management via soup-making.

10. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

A little girl denies her love of lima beans and pays dearly.

11. Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider

A puppy literally eats his way through his new home. Joyously goofy.

12. The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

A hilarious and beautifully illustrated tale of a boy that decides to get smart the easy way.

13. The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth

Food on the run is always fun. See #16 as well.

14. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood

A little mouse is convinced a bear is after his precious strawberry and will do anything to save it.

15. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly retold by Simms Taback

I listened to this song a great deal as a child and now I get to enjoy it again with my kids. The amusing illustrations are a definite bonus.

16. Stop That Pickle! by Peter Armour

A hilarious tale of a crafty pickle on the run. Wonderfully goofy.

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.


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


Apple Date Muffins

The ground cloves in this recipe, albeit a tiny amount, set these tender muffins apart.

Apple Date Muffins Recipe

1 1/2 cup white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (half stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup chopped dates
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until well combined and smooth. Add the egg and milk and stir well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture along with the dates and apple. Stir until just combined.

Fill each cup of a greased mini muffin pan with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm. Once the muffins are cooled completely, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.

Yield: 24 mini muffins
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Bake-time: 15 minutes


New Snack Category: Travel!

Due to popular demand (i.e. a couple of pesky emails from friends and readers – I love you all.), I’ve pulled together a new category for healthy kid snacks that are perfect for traveling and general life on the go. I’ve been thinking a lot more about this category of snacks lately and hope to be developing it a great deal in the coming months.


Easy Healthy Birthday Party Snacks


My eldest just had her seventh birthday party and it was a blast. For pre-cake munching we offered the kids chocolate-dipped strawberries, fruit kebabs, and cheese pinwheels. The strawberries were the most popular by far. Next time I’ll just make 300 of those and call it a day.

The cheese pinwheels were the least popular, but I’ll offer you the recipe anyway. I’ve got to put some sort of variety out there just so I can say I tried. The adults were more than happy to pick up the slack and graze away.


Cheese Pinwheel Recipe

4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup shredded orange sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 sliced loaf soft whole wheat bread

In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and garlic powder. Set aside.

Cut the crust off of a slice of bread and flatten it with a rolling pin. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the flattened bread. Roll up the bread and wipe off any excess cheese. With the seam side down, slice the roll into 1-inch rounds (with a small serrated knife if you have it). Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: 70 pinwheels
Prep-time: 20 minutes


[donotprint]By the way, the cake was a HUGE hit.



Homemade Apple Chips

[donotprint]This easy recipe for homemade apple chips is a new favorite at our house. My kids love them. I love them. Everyone’s happy. It’s been a while since I made something so simple yet brilliant. Hooray Apple Chips!


Apple Chips Recipe

I used some Macoun and Empire apples to make these and they didn’t require any measures to prevent browning. If you think your apples will brown excessively, dip them in a solution of 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice right after they have been sliced.

3 medium apples
Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and core the apples using an apple corer. Slice off the a 1/4″ of the top and bottom of the apple and discard. Slice the remaining apple using a mandolin set to 1/8″ thick.

Spread the apple rings out onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Try to avoid overlapping the rings. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for approximately 3 hours, rotating once or twice. Start checking on them around 2 hours. They may be slightly pliable out of the oven, but should crisp up when cool. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: I’ve also made these same chips using a food dehydrator set to 155 degrees Fahrenheit for around 6 -8 hours.

Yield: approximately 30 chips (not enough!)
Prep-time: 5 minutes
Bake-time: 3 hours