Jammy Fruit Leather

[donotprint]The sad specimen pictured above is the result of one of my first attempts at jam. Apparently, I was going for broke with my first batch because I always manage to find another jar of it in the cupboard even when I thought I finally used it all up.

I remember that the jam recipe was pretty high in sugar (like most traditional jam recipes). After this batch I started using Ponoma’s Universal Pectin. In addition to the oxidization (browning on the top), the jam never really set so it’s more of a thick sauce. It’s great for yogurt, but I needed more than one way to use up all the jars we have. So I made some fruit leather. And even though my kids are probably going to have a mouth full of cavities the next time they go to the dentist, I still love this snack because it is easy easy easy.[/donotprint]

I still have about six jars of this stuff. I’m all ears if you have any other ideas for using it up.

Homemade Jammy Fruit Leather Recipe

3 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 pint of jam (scant 2 cups)

Mix the applesauce and jam together in a medium bowl until well blended. Divide between three 15-inch square dehydrator trays lined with lightly-greased plastic sheets. Spread the mixture over the sheet to about 1/4-inch thickness. My favorite tool for this job is a large offset spatula. Run your dehydrator according to the manufactuer’s directions. Mine was set to about 135 degrees Farhienheit for about 10 hours.

When it is done, the leather may be slightly tacky, but should not be gooey or sticky. Peel the leather off of the liners. Slice into desired widths and roll up with wax paper. Store in an airtight container. They should last for a couple months, if not longer, as long as they have been dried out properly.

Note: If you’d rather use your oven, a good looking tutorial/recipe can be found at Simply Recipes – How To Make Fruit Leather.

Yield: 18 3-inch wide strips
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Drying-time: 10 hours

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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.

 

Critters

Excuse the lack of a snack recipe. Too hot to snack these days. I have a bunch of stuff in the hopper, but I don’t even feel like looking at pictures of food right now. Insects, oddly, seem much safer.

Here are a couple caterpillars we stumbled across recently.

This white fuzz ball is an American Dagger Moth. At least that’s our best guess. It’s in the fetal position here. Not having the best day apparently.

This green one below is a Red-Lined Panopoda Moth.

And here’s the icing on the cake, the first walking stick any of us have ever seen in the wild. Apparently, these can be kept as pets. But since it hardly moved for 10 minutes while I was taking photos, I’m sure the kids would be bored with it in about 3 seconds.

This one’s missing a leg. It got around just fine though. Cool little bugger.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a giant millipead we found by our front door a while ago. Whenever we find them in the wood pile we get to harass my husband a wee bit because they turn out to be one of the few things in this world that completely freak him out. You think you know a guy…

I said the walking stick was the icing on the cake, but this Luna moth probably has it beat. At least ten of them showed up around our house on May 30th. There must have been a female nearby sending out her oh-so-magical pheromones. The males where thrashing around like crazy and crashing into all our outdoor lights. They were so beautiful when they finally took a rest. I took at least 8,000 pictures.

Did you know that these guys have no mouths? They live for about a week, mate if they’re lucky, and die. It’s so baffling yet marvelous.

I really hope they come again next year.

Chocolate Chip Applesauce Muffins

[donotprint]Here are our Hurricane Irene muffins. I’ve stopped listening to the news because I just sends me into a complete panic. I just spent the day doing load after load of laundry and baking.

By the way, my family’s new favorite dinner entree is a Tomato Tart. I’ve been using the recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook which includes a bunch of smashed roasted garlic covering the tart shell topped with lucious ripe tomatoes, olive oil, salt & pepper, and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. It is then baked for 45 minutes until the cheese is perfectly golden and tomatoes are starting to melt. Please go make yourself one right now. Holy moly.

I  just now got a call from the automated Connecticut Emergency Alert System specifically telling people in my town that Irene is going to be all up in our business starting somewhere around midnight. Time to get crackin’! Here’s hoping it’s all getting blown out of proportion and everyone out there stays super safe.[donotprint]

Chocolate Chip Applesauce Muffins Recipe

This recipe is adapted from Kitchen Stewardship’s Easy One-Bowl Muffins which is found in Katie’s Healthy Snacks To Go ebook. It’s extremely moist, tender, and perfectly sweet.

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup cold water
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farhenhiet.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter, water, eggs, and applesauce. Stir well. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Fill greased mini muffin cups 2/3 of the way. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Once cool, freeze or store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 38 mini muffins
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 15 minutes

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Chocolate vs. Carrots

On a recent afternoon I heard, “Mama, can I have a Hershey Kiss?”

More often than not lately, I’ve been giving her a thumbs up. What harm can it do? But this time, more out of crankiness than anything else, I denied her request. I’ve been slacking lately. The junk has been creeping into our diet with increasing regularity.

My girl’s response was not a happy one to say the least. I dreaded having to listen to her protests.  But the pestering for sugar has gotten out of hand. And her diet has been dominated by beige foods for the past week or so. Instead of gently and lovingly parenting her back into a place of health and well-being, I quickly reached into the crisper drawer and dug out a neglected bag of carrots.

Despite her extreme displeasure with my decision, she was happily munching on carrots 10 minutes later. She’s not one to let go of a fight so easily. It seems that hunger got the best of her. And she actually ate a colorful food! Lots of it actually.

At dinner I was a lot more relaxed about her eating. The carrots had injected some much needed variety into the kid’s diet and there wasn’t as much pressure to make sure she consumed something resembling a square meal. I realized that I really missed being able to relax at the dinner table. The confrontation was worth it.

I guess my point is that even when you’re writing a flipin’ blog about healthy snacks for children, you’re not always bringing your A game. My new life rule is to stop buying little chocolate treats the minute they become routine or anyone in the family seems to be leaning a little too hard on the stash. After some moderately painful readjustments the family will see the light of day. And as long as there’s some fresh produce in the house, everything’s going to be okay!

After School Snackage

Seven or eight years into being a stay-at-home mom and I’m finally gearing up to serve up some genuine after-school snacks to my youngins. In the past, I’ve been pretty lame about after-school snacks. But I’ve resolved to redeem myself occasionally this year by throwing the wee people in my household a surprise treat every now and again. After much scouring of the internet, these are some of the best looking after-school snack recipes I could find. Some are healthier than others. I’d like to try them all.

Oatmeal Toffee Bars from The Urban Baker

Peanut Butter Banana-Dillas from 5 Dollar Dinners

Edamame Hummus from One Hungry Mama

Jam Roly Poly from 5 Second Rule

Ripe Plantain Fritters from Simply Spicy

Smoothies from Talk of Tomatoes

Chocolate Banana Quesadilla from Sunshine Mom

Apple Snack Muffins from The Naptime Chef

After School Snack Wrap from The Little Foodie

Chocolaty Almond Butter Banana Smoothie from Words to Eat By

Salty Apples from Healthy Happy Life

Smørrebrød from A Little Yumminess

Pimento Cheese Dip from She Wears Many Hats

Homemade Parmesan Potato Chips from Picky Palate

Peanut Butter Fruit Dip from This Homemade Life

Raw Linseed Crackers from Chocolate & Zucchini

Cookie Dough Dip from Peas and Thank You

Chocolate and Puffed Grain Morsels from Sprouted Kitchen

Edamame Dip from Aggie’s Kitchen

Kettle Corn from Savory Sweet Life

Butternut Squash Hummus from Kitchen Gadget Girl

Fried Plantains with Coconut Caramel Sauce from Vanilla Garlic

Red Ants on a Log from Cook Play Explore

[Satisfying and Healthy] After School Snacks from Super Healthy Kids

Crunchy Peanut Butter, Banana, and Chocolate Chunk Muffins from Food Blogga

Spiced Cranberry Energy Balls from Perry’s Plate

Banana Bites from Framed Cooks

Baked Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugar from Sugar Crafter at Brown Eyed Baker

Horchata from Homesick Texan

Whole Wheat Raspberry Bars from Peanut Butter and Julie

Almond Power Bars from Kitchen Stewardship

Oatmeal Apple Pie Bars from Once A Month Mom

Butterscotch Pudding from Simply Recipes

Cinnamon Pecan Brittle from Elana’s Pantry

Pizza Egg Rolls from Chaos In the Kitchen

Oatmeal Cream Pies from Macaroni and Cheesecake

Stone Fruit Salad from Poet in the Pantry

Peanut Butter Crispies from Simple Healthy Family

Marathon Chunks from Neverhomemaker

and last but not least…

Chocolate Caramel Crackers from Smitten Kitchen

Fudge Pops

These beautiful little fudge pops are the world’s most perfect way to consume chocolate on a hot summer day. The girls and I love love love them. They are like eating a popscile and a big bowl of chocolate pudding all rolled into one.

Fudge Pop Recipe

This recipe is heavily inspired by (read pretty much lifted from) Matt Aramendariz’s On A Stick!

1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, chocolate, and 1/4 cup of the milk until the chocolate is melted.

2. Add the rest of the milk and continue to stir until the mixture thickens (about 5-10 minutes).

3. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow the mixture to cool for a minute or two. Add the vanilla and butter and stir well.

4. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds (use as directed) or small (5-ounce) wax-coated cups. If you’re using cups, fill 3/4 of the way and cover the top with plastic wrap. Puncture the plastic wrap with a popsicle stick and insert the stick into the chocolate mixture all the way down to the bottom of the cup. Place on a level surface in your freezer for four hours or overnight.

5. To serve, simply tear and peel the cup off of the pop. If you’re using popsicle molds, run them under warm water for a bit in order to loosen the mold.

Yield: 4 – 5 pops
Prep-time: 15 minutes (and another 4 hours in the freezer)

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Mini BLTs

Most of my family is engaged in a love affair with the fresh summer, vine-ripened, field-grown tomato right now. Even our youngest has decided she might actually like the taste of home-grown grape tomatoes picked fresh out of our garden, which is pretty major. 

Mini BLTs Recipe

Heavy duty toothpicks or cocktail forks come in handy with this snack. Once you cut the sandwiches into quarters, they tend to fall apart without them.

Mayonaisse is an essential component in this recipe. Embrace the mayonaisse. Also embrace the white bread. Of course this sandwich would still be delicious if you went light on the mayonaisse and used whole grain bread. Make it your own and I’ll try my best to keep quite.

8 slices white bread, toasted to a golden brown
Mayonaisse, to taste
8 – 10 slices cooked bacon
1 large ripe tomato, preferrably heirloom, sliced
4 leaves of bibb or romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried

Lay out your bread slices on a clean counter or cutting board. Slather the top and bottom slices for each sandwich with mayonaisse. Layer on the tomato, bacon, and then the lettuce. Each sandwich gets 1 1/2 to 2 slices of bacon. Top with another slice of bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters (preferably triangles). Spear with a large toothpick or cocktail fork. Serve.

Yield: 16 mini sandwiches
Prep-time: 10 minutes (not counting cooking the bacon and toasting bread)

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Grilled Bruschetta

My approach to bruschetta is one I made up a while ago without referring to anything or anyone. I figure I’ve read enough cookbooks that I should know how to make bruschetta with my eyes closed. Feel free to educate me in the comments if I’m commiting some bruschetta sin of the highest order.

Grilled Bruschetta Recipe

Feel free to mix it up based on whatever abundance of summer produce you have on hand.  The kids love to “paint” the olive oil onto the bread prior to grilling.

For the bread:
1 large loaf of rustic crusty white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tomatoes:
16 grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Pinch kosher salt

For the summer squash:
2 to 3 yellow summer squash and/or zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
Goat or feta cheese, for garnish

1. Fire up your outdoor grill to medium heat. Somewhere around 400 degrees Farienhight is nice.

2. Slice the loaf into 1/2 inch slices. Combine the olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, coat one side of each slice liberally with the olive oil mixture. Set aside.

3. Cut off the ends of the summer squash/zucchini. Slice them lengthwise to 1/4 – inch thickness. Spread the slices out on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the prepared squash, tomatoes, and bread on the grill. Watch the bread closely and flip it once grill marks appear and is starting to brown. Flip the vegetables when grill marks start to appear. Remove from heat and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

5. To assemble, cut the bread slices in half, if they are large. Spread the bread out on a large serving plate in a single layer. Chop the tomatoes and mix them with the basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Next, chop the grilled summer squash and mix with the thyme and parsley along with pinches of salt and pepper. Heap the vegetables onto the prepared bread slices. Garnish with goat or feta cheese, if desired. Devour immediately.

Yield: 16
Prep-time: 25 minutes

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2011 Lunch Box Under Construction

A friend, I mean a real non-internet friend who I actually hang out with and talk about everything other than kids and eating, just asked me what the heck to buy for lunch boxes this year. I’ve been wondering lately too. The clock is ticking and school’s gonna be here before we know it.

First off, I’ve been thinking seriously of buying these cute little eco lunch boxes ever since I saw them mentioned on Burwell General Store.

But I think I’m going to take a leap and get this little jobbie instead. I’ve always wanted one of these. And as long as my kid doesn’t kick it across the playground after lunch, it should last forever! My practical side likes this one because it’ll be easy to clean and has a handle. At Amazon the price is $24.99.

And if all you’re looking for are containers these boxes from Lunch Bots look perfect. I might actually pick up some of these once my cheapo Ikea tupperware gives out, which should be any day now.

 

I have to admit, that I do have a couple of these dip containers still kicking around from last year. The kids love apples and carmel or carrots with yogurt dip. So I’m sure they’ll be pulled into service again. A good tip is to freeze any dip that may spoil in the inner well overnight and then pop the rest of the snack in in the morning. I usually see these at the grocery store or Target this time of year.

As you can tell, I’m trying to be done with plastic as much as I can. I deeply hate cleaning out the creases in insulted lunch boxes after all sorts of juices and food bits have been stewing in there all day. My kids’ food may stay cooler in an insulated lunch box, but its also living in close quarters with giant germ colonies. I’m psyched to give stainless steel a try this year.

BTW, Amazon isn’t giving me any kick backs for any of these links. It’s just the easiest place I’ve found to buy all this stuff. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used anything like these products and what you thought. Or add a mention of your own lunch box favorite. Educate me!

Thanks!