Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Here’s a snack that the kids and I can’t say ‘no’ to lately. Even the peanut butter hater in my household is a big fan. It’s the best I’m-craving-chocolate-but-I actually-want-to-put-some-real-food-in-my-body kind of snack there is.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

2 overripe bananas, peeled
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Put it all in a blender and whiz until smooth. Makes 2 cups.

Basil Hummus

The days are getting shorter and the nights are cooler. Instead of shopping for new sweaters at Anthropologie I should be dealing with all the herbs I planted this spring. At least I’ve got some of the basil taken care of with this Basil Hummus.

This is a winner of a recipe from An Organic Conversation that I found via seaweed snacks. It is simple to prepare and has the perfect amount of garlic and lemon juice. It’s great for dipping and on sandwiches. Love it.

Top Ten Back-To-School Snacks

It’s that time of year again. I’m increasingly convinced that summer is just long enough to make my brain go completely soft around the whole lunch-and-snack-packing dilemma. I could do it all blindfolded a few months ago I swear. Perhaps this little round up will help me get back into the rhythm.

I hope everyone has a semi-smooth transition into the school year. A wise teacher once told me that everything starts to seem normal sometime around Halloween.

Top Ten Countdown of Our Favorite School Snacks

10. Polka Dot Fruit Roll Ups

9. Almond Butter Balls

Send them to school frozen and they hold up perfectly. If your child’s classroom is nut-free, you could try them with sunflower seed butter. But if you do, throw in some chocolate pieces to make it yummy again.

8. Homemade Wheat Thins or Cheese Crackers

7. Kettle Corn

6. Veggie Sticks with Herb Yogurt Dip

Freeze the dip the night before.

5. Homemade Apple Chips and Dried Nectarines

4. Hummus and Pretzels

3. Granola Bars

I love these for nut-free classrooms because the store-bought version isn’t allowed, but these are completely legal.

2. Nutter Butter Rolls

Sometimes I do another version of the roll up with Cocoa Almond Butter from Trader Joe’s. Have you tried it? It’s like crack. I love it.

1. Fresh Fruit

Photo by The Kitchn

The queen of all fresh fruit snacks for school is the apple puzzle. The king is grapes, cut up or otherwise.

 

Peanut Butter with Chopped Chocolate

One of the best parts of being a food blogger is that I feel required to keep a well-stocked pantry. I keep a large quantity of nuts, specialty flours, and, um, chocolate in my extra fridge that lives in the garage. The likelihood of me following through with a suggestion or random idea goes way up if I have all the ingredients on hand.

Now that I think about it, all it really takes to keep my family snacking healthy is a) a tiny bit of forethought, b) a bowl full of fruit on the kitchen counter, and c) a well-stocked pantry that leans toward healthy real stuff because you know I’m going to reach for that which is salty, fatty, sweet, and easy first if it’s anywhere in the house.

There, now you know all my secrets. Now that we’ve got that all figured out, go have some fun.

Seriously, a friend suggested that I try mixing some finely chopped chocolate into nut butter over a year ago. We’ve been munching away on this fabulous little treat on a regular basis now that the apples are starting to come in. This snack is a lot like Mud Dip. But it’s even quicker to pull together.

Peanut Butter with Chopped Chocolate Recipe

Serve this concoction as a dip with thickly sliced apples. Part of me wants to top it with roasted marshmallows, sliced banana, and top it with crumbled graham crackers…But that’ll have to wait.

It’s easiest to chop chocolate if you go at it if a serrated knife at an angle shaving off a little bit at a time.

2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/2 ounce dark chocolate, chopped fine

Mix. Serve.

Yield: one generous serving
Prep-time: 5 minutes

10+ Ways To Deal With A Ton Of Cucumbers

We took the plunge and planted our first real in-the-ground garden this spring. Excuse me as I gush over how cool it has been to plant seeds, tend to their needs, and harvest their fruit. I don’t think any of us expected things to go as well as they have. It’s entirely possible that a gang of raccoons is circling at this very moment and plotting an invasion, but for the moment we are blissfully enjoying our gardening honeymoon.

The other day my 8-year-old had a moment. She looked over at me while eating veggies and dip and said, “It just hit me Mom. We are actually feeding ourselves.”

When it comes to cucumbers, indeed we are…

We are growing pickling cukes and slicing cukes. I’m already hatching plans for a few more varieties next year. Are Perisan cukes better than American slicing cukes? What about English? We’ll have to grow them all now and find out.

Anyway, back to the problem at hand…

I’ve already made a couple batches of dill pickles but the plants are showing no signs of waning. Rather, I’m a wee bit afraid of what they have in store for me. Come to my house this winter if you like pickles.

Pickling cukes are easy. I know what to do with those (even if it can be a lot of work). But slicing cukes have been demanding more and more attention lately so I decided to make a list of all the ways I’d like my family to eat them up:

1. Cucumber Snack Salad is a family favorite. And don’t forget Cucumber Sandwiches. And Cucumber Yogurt Cups.

2. And Tzatziki too!

3. Dill Cucumber Corn Salad is delightful.

4. I made a pretty killer cucumber soup (recipe from the WSJ, scroll down) the other night.

5. Check out this Cucumber Salad with Mint and Feta from Simply Recipes. And this Bread Salad is so happening once the tomatoes come in. Oh and this White Gazpacho too!

6. If buttermilk dressing is more your thing, check out this Cucumber Ribbon Salad from The Perfect Pantry.

7. If you’re having a party, try some Cucumber Bites with Garlic Herb Filling.

8. Looking for a perfect starter for a meal? Look no further: Cucumber Salad Recipes from Eating Out Loud.

9. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, this recipe uses up zucchini as well as cucumber and looks scrumptious: Cucumber and Zucchini Carpaccio Salad from White on Rice.

10. When all else fails, peel a fresh cuke and cut it into wedges. Sprinkle on some fine salt and eat it immediately. Yum.

 

Any other suggestions are more than welcome. I’m gonna need all the help I can get. Thanks.

Dried Nectarines

To know Belltown Hill Orchards is to love the back corner of their farm store. During the summer, the shelves are loaded with baskets full of seconds that are a fraction of the usual price. The greedy home preserver in me always opts to get too much while visions of tarts and jams dance in my head.

Fresh nectarines are one of my favorites. They are easily my favorite stone fruit. All the brilliant sweetness of a peach without the medical aftertaste or the too-thick fuzzy skin.

Drying nectarines is super easy. The key is to cut along the crease and twist the fruit away from the pit. Slice, arrange on a tray, and dehydrate for 8 to 12 hours.

Store in an airtight container. Nibble on them in the dead of winter. Smile.

Combating Downton Abby Withdrawl

A few months ago I went on a Downton Abby bender. Watching at least a couple episodes a night was my entire reason for living. In order to fill the gaping hole that has been left in my being I’ve been turning to whatever works of British fiction I can get my hands on.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson was recommended by my local library. It’s set in modern England. But the main character clings to his tenuous ties to the past and still dreams of being invited into the world of the aristocracy.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin was fluff based on small threads of history. The setting and the time period is the same as Downton Abby and that went a long way for me.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a brilliant little book and probably one of my favorites at the moment. I read it in one day during a plane ride and was riveted the entire time. It is set in post World War II Great Britain. Don’t let the title turn you off, it’s splendid.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is so well reviewed that I had to give it a try. But honestly, I couldn’t stick with it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is fabulous, of course. I think I’m about to head into a Bronte bender in the near future.

So what have I missed? My attack of British literature and quasi-literature has been haphazard at best. There are plenty of recommendations on Amazon that are directly related to the Downton Abby show and the history of the castle where it is based. But I’m more interested in semi-historical fiction at the moment. It’s summer.

Frosty Rainbow Bits

I don’t know about you, but in the Northeast things have been getting pretty toasty lately. We’ve been lessening the blow by eating as many local strawberries as possible and lounging excessively.

The picture of the precious little frozen fruit bits above was taken last year. In a couple weeks it will be reappearing in our freezer. It was a delightful little healthy snack for the kids last year. Nothing beats a frozen treat on a hot summer day. And this one has no added sugar or anything other than fruity goodness. It looks like I used green apples, blueberries, raspberries, nectarine, and sweet plum.

The only problem with this snack is that it requires a little planning in advance as the fruit needs at least four hours, preferably over night, to harden. Spread them out on a tray in a single layer and place the tray in your freezer. After the fruit  freezes completely, store it in an airtight container.

Also, I wouldn’t feed this to a kid under three years old. The young ones should probably stick with larger frozen items like chocolate-covered banana pops, orangsicles, or frozen fruit on a stick.