Homemade Fruit Snacks

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We’ve been giving Indira whole foods for a few months now, simply because she prefers them over purées and would much rather feed herself than be spoon-fed. Girl knows what’s up.

So far her favorite foods are mainly in the fruit category—oranges and blueberries ranking supreme. She adores these fruit snacks as well, and I feel good about giving them to her because they contain collagen, an essential nutrient in helping keep our bodies healthy and growing. Definitely recommend giving it a try if you’ve never used it before.

Homemade Fruit Snacks

A few notes: For the juice, I like 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup lemon juice. For the berries, frozen raspberries are my favorite. You can skip the honey/sugar if your fruit is really sweet, though gelatin has a way of reducing the overall sweetness in the end product, so a little bit extra can help. Finally, if you’re using raw honey, don’t heat it—just add it at the very end. // Yield: About 40 bite-size snacks

3/4 cup fruit juice
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup berries
5 tablespoons Vital Proteins gelatin (or other unflavored gelatin)

2 tablespoons honey or sugar, or a few drops of liquid stevia (optional)

Combine about half of your juice (just eyeball it), applesauce, and berries in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and heat until hot, but not boiling.

Combine gelatin with remaining (cold) juice, whisking to combine well; make sure there are no lumps. Note that this is how Vital Proteins gelatin works best–you combine it with cold liquid, then whisk in hot. Your gelatin may differ so revise accordingly.

Slowly whisk hot fruit-juice mixture into gelatin, whisking until well combined. You may need to return it to the blender if there are lumps.

Pour into a small glass baking dish (no need to grease) or silcone molds. I fill one little silicone heart mold and pour the rest into a small 3-cup glass baking dish. Refrigerate for a few hours until firm, then remove with a spatula (it should come out as one piece with some careful prodding) and cut into bite-size pieces or use a cookie cutter to make shapes if you’re feeling extra fancy.

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What’s Really(!) Been Cooking + Blueberry Muffins

When I last wrote, I was about 16 weeks pregnant and headed home to share the surprise with my family at the Thanksgiving table (and what a surprise it was!—they were elated of course). Up until that point, Suraj and I had only shared the news with a handful of people, as we really wanted to wait to go “public” until I had the chance to tell my family in person.

Now that I’m well into my second trimester and feeling great, here we are. I am due the beginning of May—just four months away! Eeek! My pregnancy has been wonderful so far and we both feel blessed that everything has gone so smoothly. It’s amazing to me how natural the process and changes have been, and how your body just knows what to do. And those baby kicks, oh, they are just the sweetest, aren’t they?

I’ve still been cooking up a storm, with perhaps a bit more of a focus on carb-y things, cheese, and eggs because those give me the most comfort. I also adore avocado, peanut butter, and clementines (aka our baby’s favorite food), but all of those things I liked before so no major surprise that I love them even more now. All in all, I’d say we are eating very well! (Though you can best believe I am ordering sushi the moment we leave the hospital…)

Keeping with the carb theme, I figured I’d share a simple and (somewhat) healthy recipe for blueberry muffins. I’ve been loving having these at tea time, spread with a little butter. I make a full batch, then freeze half for future snacks and breakfasts. They stay moist and tender from the sour cream, a key ingredient in baked goods, in my opinion. Enjoy!

Muffins

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and Smitten Kitchen
You can use full-fat yogurt in place of the sour cream, but I really think the sour cream makes them the most soft and tender. // Yield: 9 to 10 standard muffins

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half spelt flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Raw sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray.

Rub the sugar and lemon zest together, using your hands, in the bowl of an electric mixer. This helps release the lemony goodness of the zest. Just a couple minutes will do the trick and it will smell heavenly.

Add the butter to the sugar and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then sour cream and vanilla.

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries. The dough will be quite thick.

Fill your muffin cups ¾ full (I like to use an ice cream with a spring release for this) and sprinkle raw sugar on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (assuming you don’t pierce a berry). Serve warm, split and spread with butter.

What’s Been Cooking

Park Walk

It’s been another busy month around here, with more work trips (this time to L.A.) and time spent outdoors enjoying the last of the fall foliage (photo above Suraj took on one of our many walks at a park nearby). This week, I’m off to Buffalo for Thanksgiving and am really looking forward to the break.

I don’t have a set recipe for today, but thought I’d just share some links to things I’ve been cooking these past few weeks, in case anyone is looking for inspiration:

–These sweet potato waffles are my new fav. I made this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago, after finally buying a new waffle maker, and they’re awesome. We have a stash stored in the freezer and they are excellent re-toasted and spread with peanut butter and fig jam (trust me on this one…).
–For a quick, ready-made lunch solution, I made a big batch of these freezer burritos a few weeks ago and can’t recommend them enough. I kept them vegetarian and used sour cream, refried black beans (this recipe), brown rice, sauteed ripe plantains, and cilantro for my filling. They reheat in about a minute in the microwave. Suraj is a huge fan. I may do another batch soon, with scrambled egg, for a breakfast version.
–This wild salmon soup is a staple for us, and is especially easy to throw together when I have homemade broth on hand. We usually use potatoes in place of the squash.
–I thought I didn’t like teriyaki until I tried this recipe, and now I’m a total convert. It’s SO simple and SO good. We had it for dinner last night with garlicky green beans. You can get chicken with the skin on (vital for this recipe) at Whole Foods; it’s in the sealed packages.

As for Thanksgiving, here’s a few things I’m taking home with me, as well as what I’ll be making there (each of my siblings is bringing a dish or two, and my mom’s got the rest…homemade pies included. So excited!):

broccoli cheese bites. Super easy to throw together and will be a good breakfast/snack during my 8-hour drive. Would also make a great appetizer if you did them in mini-muffin pans.
butternut squash and orzo salad. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for months, after my friend Jess sang its praises. She was right; it’s great! I’m packing a huge container and we’ll likely eat it for a few lunches this week. I subbed feta for the blue cheese.
hummus. This is something I seem to take home and on vacation without fail (mainly because my sister loves it as much as I do). This recipe is my go-to; it’s so smooth! I add a little more water and/or olive oil at the end, and it’s done it about 30 seconds in my Vitamix. We’ll probably have it with salad and pita at some point. (Sidenote: Have you ever had pizza with hummus for dipping? You’ll never eat it any other way once you do.)
Italian vinaigrette. Is it weird that I am packing my own salad dressing to take home? Well I don’t care if it is because this is my new favorite dressing and I can’t imagine any salad without it. I also plan on using it in a panzanella (bread) salad I’ll make while I’m there, for which I’ll use this sourdough for the bread.
s’mores cupcakes. I made these a few weeks ago for a Halloween party, and they were a total hit. I’m going to make them again at Thanksgiving, for the kids (in hopes that they will eat them instead of all the pie).

Hope everyone has a fantastic holiday!

Thanksgiving Table

 

Healthy Snacks

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The perks of being a cookbook editor are probably pretty obvious—you get to read hundreds upon hundreds of great recipes day after day. Yes, it is fun—and yes, it is exhausting. I liken it to going to the grocery store and buying one of every single thing in the store. You can make so…many…things…! The possibilities are endless! But where do you even begin? What do you do?

Simple. You faint like an over-excited goat.

(Sorry, too great not to share.)

Really though, this is what actually happens: You bookmark all your favorite recipes while you’re editing, tell everyone at lunch about your grand cooking plans—then forget about it all completely by the time you’ve reached home at 7:30 pm. You eat Chipotle for dinner.

BUT WAIT!, months later, the printed book arrives and it’s like Christmas! You get excited all over again, go nuts with your arrow flags, and bring an advanced copy home to (finally) commit to the task.

You make many, many snacks (or smoothies, or one-pot dinners, or whatever the subject may be) and declare how much you love your job, and your authors. You text your coworker friends, email your author your thanks, and decide to write a post on your blog about it all, which, ironically, is probably how you came across the book idea/author in the first place (yep, a blog).

That was a fun ride, wasn’t it? #booklyfe

So back to the snacks. They come from a new book called The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet (yes I realize the title is wicked long—it is part of a series). The author, Laura Fuentes, and I are now working on our third book project together, which pretty much puts us in best-bud territory. Laura’s recipes are awesome, and the photos she and Alison Bickel churn out are amazing. Do I sound like a proud parent? Well, I am. Sometimes you have to gloat.

After finally getting my hands on a copy yesterday (there are quite a few of us fighting over them), I picked two recipes to make for myself. This was not an easy decision as 1) I LOVE snacks, a fact you may remember from this post, and 2) I was starving so all of the recipes seemed to be calling my name. I finally settled on one one super-simple, no-bake recipe (cookie dough balls) and one healthy baked treat (a granola-type bar). I loved them both so much that I asked Laura if I could share each of them here, and she of course agreed (best buds!).

Whether you’re making them for yourself or your kids, these are quick and easy recipes. They’re also filled with natural ingredients, and are about a zillion times better than the store-bought stuff, from both a taste and a nutritional standpoint. I’ll be making them weekly—until I’m swayed by the rest of my tabbed recipe pages, of course.

No-Bake Cookie Dough Balls
These are actually called “Winnie the Pooh Snacks” in the book, but I felt slightly creepy using that title as I was just making them for myself and thought Suraj might be a bit weirded out seeing a container with that label in the fridge. They’re so good though! Like a mix between a buckeye (minus the chocolate) and peanut butter cookie dough—but with all-natural ingredients. If you’re unsure on the coconut, I’d encourage you to try them anyway, as I didn’t find that flavor noticeable at all. Next time I’m adding a few mini chocolate chips too. // Yield: 8 to 10 balls

1/2 cup (112 g) creamy almond butter (I used ¼ cup almond butter + ¼ cup natural peanut butter—definitely recommend)
1/4 cup (85 g) honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (27 g) unsweetened, dried coconut
1/3 cup (42 g) coconut flour* (see Note below)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing until they form a ball of dough. If your dough is dry, add a little more nut butter or honey. If it’s too wet, add a little more coconut flour. (Mine was just fine.)

Scoop out tablespoon-size portions and roll into balls.

Place on a plate and serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.

Note: Coconut flour is available in grocery stores now, and is a great product to keep on hand. It contains no gluten and no grain, and is low in digestive carbs and high in fiber and protein. It contains only one, all-natural ingredient—coconut—but is actually very subtle (and slightly sweet) in taste, so even if you don’t like coconut, you really can’t detect much of that flavor. And because it’s so high in fiber, you only need a small amount in any recipes calling for it, as it absorbs a good deal of liquid/moisture.


Energy Bars (aka Homemade KIND Bars)
These fruit and nut bars are the perfect cross between a granola bar and rice krispie treat, and remind me a lot of KIND bars (only with fewer ingredients). Light enough for a snack, but still satisfying. Brown rice syrup is available in most grocery stores, usually near the honey. You can swap out pretty much any of the nuts or fruit with what you have on hand, as I did below. Note that when you take them out of the oven, they may seem too soft, but they set up more once they’re full cooled. You can cut them into either squares or bars. // Yield: 8 bars or 16 squares

1 cup (110 g) almonds, coarsely chopped (I used blanched, sliced almonds)
1/2 cup (48 g) sunflower seeds, chopped (I used a mix of hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and crushed peanuts instead, as I didn’t have sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup (6 g) crisped brown rice cereal (I used plain puffed white)
1/4 cup (35 g) raisins
1/4 cup (35 g) dried blueberries (I just used ½ cup chopped dried cherries for the raisins/blueberries)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup (115 g) brown rice syrup

Preheat the oven to 325°F (170°C). Line a square baking pan with parchment paper. (I greased it with a little coconut oil first so the paper would stick.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine almonds, sunflower seeds, brown rice cereal, raisins, blueberries, sea salt, and cinnamon. Pour brown rice syrup over nuts and fruits, using a spatula to evenly distribute the syrup throughout.

Pour mixture into baking pan. Place a second piece of parchment or waxed paper on top of mixture and press down to compact ingredients (I just used wet hands). Remove the top layer of paper.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the bars begin to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Using excess parchment paper as handles, lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board, paper side up. Peel off paper and cut into bars or squares. Store extras in the fridge. I like to wrap them individually in waxed paper so I can pack them in my lunch bag.

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