Almond Bon Bons

[donotprint]This is recipe that might not belong among the “healthy” recipes that are supposed to grace the pages of this blog. But, at least it’s fresh and homemade. Much better to indulge with these when your sweet tooth can not be denied.

Some people have asked me if they can replace the rice syrup with honey or corn syrup, to which I resoundingly reply “No!”. I really try not to use unusual ingredients unless I feel they are truly necessary. The bon bons would probably turn out fine with another sweetener, but the rice syrup gives the bon bons an oh-so-lovely carmel-like flavor. It is not to be missed.[/donotprint]

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1 1/4 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup organic almond butter or peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
1 cup quality chocolate chips

Grind almonds in a blender until texture resembles a course meal. A few larger chunks are fine. Be sure not to grind too long or you will make almond butter. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm syrup and almond butter over low heat until well blended and smooth. Remove from heat and add ground almonds, salt and ground flaxseed. With a sturdy spoon, stir until well combined and mixture sticks together and begins to form a ball.

Make one inch balls by hand and place on wax paper. Your hands will get greasy.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using a microwave, use 20% power for 2 minutes and check. An additional minute at low power may be required. The chips will hold their shape. Stir with fork. If about half of the chips appear to have melted, keep stirring until all of the chips are melted. This may take a couple minutes. By keeping the chocolate’s heat low, the cocoa butter and chocolate solids are much less likely to separate and the chocolate will remain in temper.

If using a double boiler, be very careful not to let any water come into contact with the melting chocolate or it will sieze. Over low heat, stir constantly until 3/4 of the chips are melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth.

Using a fork, dip the balls in the chocolate one at a time until thoroughly covered. Place in airtight container on wax paper and allow to set for approximately one hour. Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. These taste best when they are very fresh, but will keep for a week or more.

Makes approximately 30 balls.

[donotprint]Note: To learn more about tempering chocolate, read Mark Bittman’s article Chocolate Gets Hot But Holds Its Temper. Bittman makes it look easy in the video. I’ve tried tempering a handful times and was successful once. That’s why I’ve avoided the tempering process in this recipe. But I’m still fascinated by it and will conquer it someday.[/donotprint]

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Banana Burritos

[donotprint]Kids can easily help make these treats. Put your leftover banana half in the freezer for a smoothie. I use bread instead of frozen puff pastry because a) the ingredient list is a little daunting on puff pastry and b) the instant it starts to cool packaged puff pastry starts to taste like styrofoam. I figure the bread is healthier and more likely to already be in the kitchen.[/donotprint]

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4 slices soft whole grain bread
4 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 ripe banana
4 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut crust off of bread slices and discard. Arrange slices on a flat surface and roll flat with rolling pin until they are as thin as possible.

Spread 1 tablespoon (or less depending on the size of the slice) over each of the flattened slices. Slice banana into discs 1/4″ (or less) thick and arrange 2-3 banana slices on one half of each of the bread slices. Top with 1 teaspoon of the chocolate chips on each of the bread slices.

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Fold over the bread, covering the bananas. Crimp edges closed with a fork.

Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes (more if you are feeding a toddler) and serve.

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Crispy Rice Squares

For best results, the peanut butter in these squares needs to be homogenized. Minimumly processed nut butters that allow the oil to seperate and rise to the top of the jar don’t work as well. I’ve found a “natural” Smuckers brand peanut butter that works well and has a relatively short list of ingredients.

Brown rice syrup can be found at the health food store or in the health food section of the grocery store. It’s consistency works well here and it is much less sweet than honey or even agave nectar. I find the sweetness of honey overwhelming when it comes to rice crispy squares.

When the mood strikes, feel free to throw in a handful of sweetened dried cranberries or chocolate chips along with the cereal.

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1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
3 cups crispy brown rice cereal
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat the peanut butter and syrup until smooth and warm, 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add cereal and flaxseed. Mix gently with a rubber spatula until well combined.

Transfer cereal mixture to 8×8 baking pan. Flatten evenly and firmly press mixture into the bottom of the pan with rubber spatula. Cover pan with plastic film and cool in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Cut into squares and serve cold. The squares will hold together at room temperature, but not as well. Store remaining squares in airtight container in refrigerator for up to two days.

Makes 16 squares.

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Banana Dogs

[donotprint]I had not heard of banana dogs until recently. My kids love them. We actually eat them as a part of breakfast more often than as a snack. [/donotprint]This recipe works just fine with bananas that are ripe or nearing over-ripe. I’d try something else if your banana has more black than yellow on its peel as the banana does need to hold its shape.

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2 whole grain hot dog buns
1 ripe banana
2 tablespoons strawberry jam or organic chocolate syrup

Cut banana in half lengthwise. Put each banana half in a bun and top with 1 tablespoon jam or syrup. Serve. Makes 2.

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Chocolate Cinnnamon Pudding

[donotprint]I’ve seen some extremely “picky” eaters gobble up this pudding. The pudding is very sweet even without the agave nectar. When in doubt, leave it out. Enjoy![/donotprint]

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1 lb silken tofu
1 heaping cup quality milk chocolate chips
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until chocolate has melted. The tofu will break up into bits and not look terribly appetizing, but have faith. Transfer to blender (or use a hand blender) and process mixture until smooth. Scoop into small bowls or ramkins. Cover and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Serve.

Yield: 5 (1/2 cup) servings

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Blueberry Fun Cakes

[donotprint]My kid came up with the name. She comes up with a good many of the names actually, or at least makes serious contributions to the brainstorming sessions we have in the kitchen while stuffing our faces.

A whole english muffin could  be used instead of bread slices, but cutting out the bread rounds takes very little time and is oh so cute. This recipe is also an easy opportunity for kids to have a big role in preparation.[/donotprint]DSC09823

1/3 cup fresh blueberries
3 slices whole grain bread
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Wash berries and gently pat dry with a towel. Set aside to dry further.

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Cut bread into 2″ rounds with cookie cutter or shot glass. Each slice should yield 3-4 rounds. Arrange rounds on ungreased baking sheet and set aside.

In small bowl, mix together yogurt, sugar, and lemon juice. Spoon approximately 1 teaspoon of yogurt mixture onto each of the bread rounds. Top with 1-3 blueberries depending on size of berries.

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Bake for 5-8 minutes or until edges are golden and berries are starting to burst. Allow to cool for 2 minutes (blueberries can retain heat and be too hot for young children – when in doubt, cool longer). Transfer to plates with spatula and serve.

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Granola Bars

This is an extremely flexible snack recipe that is sweet and satisfying. Replacing the honey with apple butter brings the sugar content down to a buzz-free level. But I do love the sweet, moist goodness the honey imparts. These bars freeze very well (separate layers with wax paper) and keep for up to a couple months.

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup raisins or 1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey or apple butter
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F

Mix oats, sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, salt and raisins in medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add remaining ingredients. Mix well.Transfer to greased 9 x 13 pan and flatten mixture into pan with your hands.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are brown. The majority of the pan may look under done. As long as the edges are brown, it’s okay. Don’t over bake or it will be dry.

Allow to cool slightly in pan. Cut into squares and serve or store in airtight container.

Yield: 24 bars (on the smallish side)
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 20 minutes

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Baked Pita Chips

There are tons of variation possibilities here. Instead of cheese and italian seasoning try some cinnamon sugar OR smoked paprika. This is a recipe that the grown-ups as well as the kids in my house really enjoy. It also does well on the go.

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2 10-inch whole wheat pita rounds
Vegetable oil spray
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese powder
1 teaspoon italian seasoning

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Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut pita rounds into small triangles, approximately 12 pieces per round.
Pull breads apart at the fold and arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Spray lightly with oil.
Bake for 10-15 until slightly golden. Allow to cool slightly on baking sheet.
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Sweet Potato Chips

If you don’t have a mandolin, don’t bother with this recipe. This is one of those times when a fancy kitchen gadget has actually proven itself necessary.

1 sweet potato
Salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Slice potato very thinly with a mandolin (less than 1 millimeter or thereabouts).

Arrange slices individually on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with fine salt, if desired.

Bake for 10-30 minutes until chips are curling and almost entirely dried out, rotating at least once. When ready, the chips will slightly pliable, but not wet. They will crisp up more as they cool. The trick is to allow them to dry out almost entirely in the oven, but take them out soon enough so that they don’t start to brown which seems to start happening the instant they dry out (see Note).  The size and thickness of the chip plays a large role in baking time.

Allow the chips to cool on the baking sheet or on a cooling rack. Serve or store in air tight container.

Note: The potato I used today was kind enough to give me some visual clues as to when it was dry and ready to be removed from the oven. It turned from an reddish orange to more of a yellowish orange as it dried.

In the photo above the top of the chip is still a little wet and the bottom is dry.

In this photo the left side of the chip is a little wet still and the right side is crispy and delicious. Sometimes parts of the chip will brown a little bit before the entire chip is dry. Sometimes I flip them on the baking sheet, but I don’t think it makes a difference.

Yield: depends (around several handfuls)
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Bake-time: 10-30 minutes

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Heath Bar Cookies

[donotprint]This cookie recipe comes close to not being allowed on this blog because calling a healthy snack is just wrong. A lot of the time when I take a normal cookie recipe and reduce the sugar and fat it feels so much healthier than what I could have made and through some magical transformation it becomes “healthy” or a “healthier version”. Anything to justify heath bar. Yum![/donotprint]

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1 1/2 cup white whole wheat all purpose flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 1.4 ounce Heath Bars, chopped into small bits

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In medium bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter with rubber spatula. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until batter starts to stick together and form a ball. Add Heath Bar bits and mix into dough.

Scoop dough with a cookie scoop onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges just start to brown and the tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Inspired heavily by a beautiful recipe from Simply Recipes:
http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/005213heath_bar_cookies.php

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