NUT BARS

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My sister in law made these for a family picnic last weekend and Hugh hasn't stopped talking about them. You know how Lara bars taste reminiscent of real food but they are just too sweet? Personal opinion. Too many dates! Dates are cheaper than nuts per volume, it's business, I digress. For maximum snack staying power we want fat and protein, less sugar, so these are basically a mash of nuts, coconut, coconut oil, and the teensiest bit of maple to gild the lily. Yes, these are super high fat but it's good fat and we got mixed messages about all that too many years ago. Especially if you're active or nursing or in school or diabetic or vegetarian or alive! You need good fats! Speaking of health, the chocolate here is very optional, but I was aiming to make them more attractive for a photo and use them as currency to get my children to eat vegetables. I know you're not supposed to do that, negotiate with toddlers, but I can't help myself sometimes. It seems the only way some nights. ANYWAY. So easy. Two dirty dishes and at least a few days of on-the-go snacks covered. 

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NUT BARS // Makes 12
Adapted from Kitchen Stewardship

The coconut oil here acts as glue for the whole situation, therefore, they hold together better when refrigerated, to remain in a more solid, bar-like state. They are fine at room temperature, but note they will be more delicate and not travel as well. 

2 cups raw almonds (or other crunchy nuts)
1/3 cup flaxmeal
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed if it's rock solid
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. maple syrup

chocolate drizzle, optional
(melt between 2-3.5oz. (to taste) of dark chocolate, drizzle over the top of the bars. Refrigerate until it hardens. Cut the cold bars into squares) 

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Into a food processor, add the almonds and flaxmeal. Pulse a few times to chop the almonds well, Add the coconut, almond butter, coconut oil, vanilla, sea salt, cinnamon and maple and pulse until the mixture forms a coarse paste. If the mixture looks to dry (it should look, add another spoonful of coconut oil and/or maple. 
Transfer the mixture to an 8x8 baking dish (lining it with parchment paper will make it easier to pull the whole square out and cut them for portability, but this is not crucial) and press the mixture down into an even layer with a large spoon. If you are doing the chocolate drizzle (note above) you can do that now, and then chill the entire situation. Refrigerate them to solidify (about 1 hour). 
Cut the bars with a clean, sharp, knife, and store covered in the fridge. 

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Entrée, Gluten Free, Summer

MEXI CAULIFLOWER RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

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I'm doing what I swore I would never do and cooking three versions of one meal. Hugh has been doing a super zero sugar/carb/happiness diet and my kids already require limitations because, well, they're toddlery, so cooking has not been that fun lately. I don't have a big enough ego to keep from you that I've actually been angry about it at times. Angry because the three of them have made this task complicated and also because I've been jealous of Hugh's self control. I have pretty good eating habits, but have never been one to stick to a diet, so WHO was going to eat ice cream on the couch with me after the kids went to bed?! I was mad that now I'd be accountable for my late night sweet tooth. Collectively, they had morphed cooking into a chore, something I had to do as opposed to the way I get to nourish and serve them. I know a lot of people who are really burdened by the task of cooking and I had never quite felt that, until recently. 
And yet, the kids are kids and Hugh is a grown man who can decide to eat whatever he'd like despite my paradigms about health, so as I tell Curran when he is whining or getting frustrated, "problem solve!" I can dig my heels in and complain, or I can come up with a solution. Or maybe there isn't a solution, but perhaps there is another way through.

I pulled this recipe from Dana over at Minimalist Baker after seeing it on a friends' Instagram. I was bored of the salads I was making for one (because God forbid there was a fresh peach or strawberry in there! The sugar! I'm mostly kidding, Hugh, I get the science). I started off making these stuffed peppers for me, as warm food sounded good, and then realized I could make this meal work for everyone. The kids ate the filling wrapped into a tortilla with some avocado and a little more cheese. For Hugh, I skipped the beans and added shredded, pre-made carnitas. There we were, eating together at the same time, which I think is what I was missing the most. I may have had to do an extra step or two but really, no big deal. Deep breaths, just be flexible. It sounds silly when I read this over, trite even, given the state of the country, but I think many of our larger lessons can be taught within the scale of our small reality. I suppose with time and grace, our guards come down and we realize that as easy as it is to blame other people and get mad, we have the power to be part of the movement forward. What a responsibility we have to our own families - to people we love, and to those we don't know. What a refining process it is to care for them well, even if it doesn't look like our way. Now, for more of that, on a bigger scale. 

Speaking of, I am including a few links for giving towards those affected by the storms in Texas, the Carribean and Florida. These are organizations that have a good Charity Watch rating. This isn't an easy season for me to leave the roost, but I wish I could be there with boots on the ground, holding babies and feeding people. I'm inspired by those giving so much of their time and resources. Unfortunately, I know there will be another time I can do this in the future. I know there are many more, so go ahead and tell us about them in the comments if they are something you've looked into.

Houston Food Bank
Preemptive Love Coalition
The Texas Diaper Bank needs diapers, obv
UNICEF
Save the Children

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MEXI CAULIFLOWER RICE STUFFED PEPPERS // Serves 4
Adapted from Minimalist Baker

Dana's original version is vegan, but I see that you can take this recipe any direction towards what your family eats. I added a small amount of sour cream and goat cheese to keep the insides creamy and the whole thing not overly dietetic, but you could leave those out to keep it dairy free. You could go with no cheese, or use goat, cheddar or queso fresco (I am sounding ambivalent about the cheese choice, but I think all work here). I have added chopped grilled chicken or prepared carnitas for company. This way you can do a few vegetarian peppers and then add meat for those that prefer it. It's pretty flexible. 
The times given below will leave your peppers with some texture. If you prefer yours really soft, add 5 minutes to both roasting times. 

3 bell peppers, ribs removed
extra virgin olive oil, for brushing

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (coconut or avocado work too!)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. riced cauliflower (store-bought or from one, medium cauliflower)
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1/3 cup prepared salsa
5 green onions, chopped
1.5 cups cooked black beans (roughly a can, drained and rinsed)
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) goat cheese, white cheddar, queso fresco, plus more for serving

avocado, green onion, limes, sour cream, hot sauce, for serving

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Preheat the oven to 400'. Grease a large baking dish with coconut oil or whatever you use. Put the halved peppers in the dish and rub them all over with said oil. Roast for 15 minutes for them to just soften. Turn the heat up to 425'. 
While the peppers roast, make your filling. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic, cauliflower rice and salt and stir to mix. Let it cook for a minute or two. Add 1/4 cup of water (this will help the cauliflower soften) and stir again. Add the chili powder, cumin, prepared salsa, green onions and stir. Cook another 5-10 minutes until the mixture is softened but not soggy. Set it aside to cool slightly. Stir in the black beans, sour cream, cheese and mix. If you are adding any other cooked protein, add it now. 
Stuff the mixture into the peppers - be generous. Pop it all back in the oven for 15-20 more minutes to warm through. For serving, garnish with sour cream, avocado, green onion, hot sauce, go crazy!

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Feeding Babies

FEEDING BABIES: LUNCHBOX EDITION

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Curran (3) starts preschool next week and I know some of you have been in a few weeks or are approaching your start as well. I will be honest with you, I get stuck on kid lunches. A sunflower butter and banana sandwich on repeat seems the simplest way out but I'd rather save that for days when I have no minutes to prepare something. Generally speaking, I try to get some protein, fat and fiber in there to keep his energy up and stable. I recognize the sugar will get in there naturally via fruit, crackers, bread etc. and believe me, I don't always get this right, but I try to keep in mind that kids' blood sugar is even more sensitive than ours. If it's a nut butter and fruit sandwich, the side is leftover roasted chicken or a hard boiled egg or string cheese. I'm not a nutritionist, but I read a lot, and there is a plethora of research explaining the short and long term benefits of not having huge spikes in blood sugar throughout the day, and that includes kids. It helps their mood, behavior, attention span and normalize energy levels. Curran runs on the ultra sensitive side, so whatever I can do prevent a crash. Below are a few ideas, whether you have kids in school or not, or for yourself. I love the broccoli pesto in my scrambled eggs. My kids are not vegetarian, so some of these ideas include animal proteins but you can easily leave them out.

* Most schools are no nuts, so sunflower butter is a staple. They sell an unsweetened one at Trader Joes and Whole Foods. I've made my own but can never get it as spreadable as the store-bought stuff. Jam most often has added sugar, so think about layering fresh fruit in its place. Banana slices, strawberries, peaches and apple have all been successful. They have no added sugar and add texture to an otherwise moosh sandwich. 

* Frittata type things. Made in muffin tins make them super portable. These are easy if your kid is ok with mushrooms. I find they are passable when chopped small enough. On the note of great breakfast items that can also be thrown in a lunchbox, these pancakes look perfect. 

* These broccoli balls. They travel well and pack some good protein, fat and fiber. Speaking of, these Vegetable Flatbreads from Green Kitchen Stories are amazing and so easy. For the little kids and big kids here, we love these Squash, Greens and Quinoa Fritters

* I am not above a packaged snack. I try to do one if I need to fill it out and I'm certain it's the first thing he eats and that's ok, I did the same thing.
 I found a variety snack pack of Luke's at Costco recently. They were half the price they are on Amazon but just so you can see them. Both kids like the crispy chickpeas from The Goodbean. Both Costco and Trader Joes sell dried broccoli which I think smells like fish food but my kids love it so I add that to the mix. We also like the kids Rx bars or cut up half a Perfect Bar and put it in the "dipper jar" of his lunch box** (see note below). These would be considered a treat. They sell these at Costco, Trader Joes and Target in the fridge section. Add other things you like in the comment section!

* I am planning to make Laura's Seedy Granola Bars (recipe posted here) and just skip the chocolate drizzle on top. Cut these Brown Rice Crisp Treats into smaller squares and you'll make someones day...including your own. Or I will hide a few chocolate chips inside a pitted Medjool date as a treat. All are nut free options.

+ Water bottle and a love note post-it or a sticker and I feel like WHEN DID I BECOME OLD ENOUGH TO BE PACKING LUNCHES?!?! Ok, good luck! 

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LUNCHBOX SAMMIES, THREE WAYS

V.1 "sushi sandwich" (which I learned about from Weelicious )

1 slice of soft sandwich bread
2 Tbsp. hummus
1ish Tbsp. grated carrots
sprinkle of herbs or sprouts, optional

Roll the bread with a rolling pin to make it flat and thin. Cut off the crust. Spread the hummus over the top and then top with the grated carrots and herbs/sprouts, if using. Roll it up lengthwise and slice them into 1/2" pinwheels. 

V.2 "Broccoli Mashup"

This will make enough for a few sandwiches. I also mix a few spoonfuls into my scrambled eggs halfway through cooking and eat it with a sliced tomato. Make a double batch for that reason alone. 

broccoli pesto

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp. sea salt
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup barely steamed and cooled broccoli florets
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
small squeeze of lemon
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 whole grain tortilla or sandwich bread
cheese, chicken, salami or garbanzo beans, one or all to taste

In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts, garlic and salt and pepper. Add the basil leaves, broccoli, olive oil and pulse to combine. You want it well chopped but not a puree. 

Into a tortilla or between bread, do a generous spread of the broccoli pesto and then layer with cheese, shredded chicken, salami and or chickpeas as you wish. 

V.3 "cheese + veggie spread"

This is sort of like a lazy version of hummus, but is a way to add vegetables to the sandwich without them being particularly noticeable. 

veggie spread
3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup white beans
handful of baby spinach
1.5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

sliced turkey or chicken, optional
1 whole grain tortilla or 2 slices sandwich bread
sprinkle of shaved parmesan or 1 slice of provolone, havarti or mozzarella

In a food processor, combine the artichokes, white beans, spinach, oil and a good season of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times just to chop and get everything to hold together a bit. Barely toast the bread or warm the tortilla (I like to take the raw edge off but not dry it out). Spread the vegetable mixture on, a layer of turkey, if using, and a slice of cheese or sprinkle or parmesan on top. Roll and slice the wrap or sandwich.

**The lunch boxes posted here are from Planetbox. Comes with a bag and a dipper container that I'll use for necessary dips, hummus or plain yogurt. I find stainless to not hold on to color and smell like plastic does. 



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