No Bake Granola Bars

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Like a lot of moms, I love the idea of feeding my children preservative free, healthy foods all the time.  The key word there is idea.  Convenience often trumps that desire.  One of Bug’s (and mine!) favorite snack is a granola bar… “granilla bar” if you ask him.  We have a shelf in our pantry that has been deemed the ‘snack shelf’ and it is stocked with store bought granola bars, raisins and Craisins.  We do at least try to buy the ‘healthier’ of the granola bars available (my new favorites are Quaker Real Medleys), but there still has to be not-so-good stuff going into them just to preserve their shelf life.

So, I sought out an easy-to-make, homemade granola bar recipe.  Turns out, you don’t really need a recipe for granola bars.  You just need a combination of oats, fruits, nuts, seeds and something sticky and slightly sweet to make it gel together.  I used the base recipe from the Minimalist Baker, and then added whatever I thought looked yummy.  And yummy they were!

Keep in mind that making granola bars is not necessarily something that will save you money.  But it is something that you can feel really good about feeding your kids… and yourself.

Here’s what you need: (adapted from The Minimalist Baker)
Yield: 8-16 bars depending on thickness

  • 1 cup packed pitted dates
  • 1/4 honey (you can sub maple syrup or agave)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (you can sub almond butter, or probably any other nut butter)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds (you can use whole ones and loosely chop them)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, loosely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (mostly so I could tell Bug there was chocolate in them!)

This is totally optional, but I toasted the oats and flax seeds on 350′ for about 10 minutes.

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Throw the dates in a food processor and process until it forms a dough like consistency.  Mine turned into a ball.  Put everything except for the peanut butter and honey into a large mixing bowl.

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In a small saucepan on low heat, stir together peanut butter and honey until it is warm and melty.  Add peanut butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix it all together.  You could use a spoon, but I totally used my (very clean) hands.

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Line an 8×8 or other small pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Put granola mixture in pan and press down firmly until uniformly flattened.  Cover with plastic wrap, put in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Cut into desired size bars and voila!  You have super delicious granola bars!

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These will keep for a few days in an airtight container on your counter, or for up to a week in the fridge.  They will keep for a few months if you freeze them.  We froze ours and actually ate them right out of the freezer.  We thought they tasted better that way!  They only needed to thaw for a few minutes.

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Stuff I Feed My Kid: Meat Fingers

Ok, I know that sounds gross.  Just think of them as chicken fingers, just with ground beef instead and not fried.  You can call them meat sticks if it makes you more comfortable.  Anywho, I had some ground beef that needed to be used.  We didn’t really want to make hamburgers or spaghetti and didn’t have much else in the house to be creative with.  I had Parmesan cheese and some condiments.  That was about it.  So, here’s what I came up with: MEAT FINGERS.  I apologize in advance for the crappy picture quality.  My camera battery is dead, so cell phone pictures is what you get.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 scant cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 egg

Preheat your oven to 400.  Throw all of the stuff in a bowl and mix it together.  Might as well use your hands.  Go ahead.  Get ’em dirty.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Form fingers/sticks/whatever you want to call them out of the meat mixture.  In reality, they’re almost like little mini-meatloaves.  Bake them for about 15 minutes.  I wasn’t very diligent about checking the time, so that’s just an estimate.

Bug will tell you that his meat fingers were awesome… as were his rice & asparagus.  And, not only did he enjoy them, but Hubby & I did as well.  This is a super simple dinner that can be tailored to whatever you have in the fridge.  Totally doable with cheddar & ketchup.  Or maybe gouda and honey mustard.  Actually, that sounds awesome.  I might have to try that next!

*Side note – this is the first time Bug has actually consumed asparagus.  We cook it the same way every time (baked with olive oil & salt).  Each of the dozen times he’s tried it, he takes a bite and says “ewww, gross.”  For some reason, though, tonight he devoured it.  Ahhh, the way kids eat.

Stuff I Feed My Kid: It’s a Wrap!

One of my favorite blogs ever is Marriage Confessions.  Katie is the mother of two cutie pies… Bean is almost exactly 1 year older than Bug and Gracie is a year younger.  I love reading about how she deals with issues that Bean is going through and bookmarking them for when Bug goes through a similar phase.  She’s been a great resource, whether she knows it or not!  Anywho, she recently posted about this wrap that she has been feeding Bean for snacks.  This post is pretty much a repeat of hers, but I had to share! Take a whole wheat tortilla (or whatever kind you like) and spread it with peanut butter.  Stick a banana in the middle (cutting it in half helps keep it straight).  Sprinkle some granola or sunflower seeds for some crunch.  Sprinkle some raspberries or strawberries or cherries.  Wrap it all up!  Wrapping it in foil helps keep it all together.  I’ve found that splitting the banana in half lengthwise makes it a little easier to wrap up and a little easier for little mouths to eat.

As you can see, Bug is a fan.  Also as you can see, he picked out the cherries.  Silly monkey.  We’ve had these wraps for lunch several times over the last couple of weeks and he’s devoured them every. single. time.  He thinks they are so much fun to eat!  And, for reference, Bug only eats a half of one.  It’s a great way for him to get protein, whole grains & fruit all in one super yummy place.

I’m excited to try to get him to eat other things in wraps!

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Pancakes!

Let’s be honest… who doesn’t love pancakes?  Actually, there’s a guy I work with that doesn’t like anything breakfasty, so I take that question back.  That’s weird though… to not like pancakes or waffles or crepes, right?

Anywho.  Every morning for breakfast, Bug eats pancakes, fruit & YoBaby.  I should probably mention that we don’t give him syrup or anything… he just eats the pancakes plain.  He used to eat the Nutrigrain Whole Wheat Eggo waffles, but one day I realized that I could make pancakes and freeze them myself for WAY cheaper.   So, every time I make pancakes for Hubby & I, I make a double batch and freeze the leftovers.

Here’s my pancake recipe… it’s a recipe I’ve adapted from a few found recipes over the years.  Try it and you’ll never use Bisquick again.  I apologize for the fantastic picture quality & color.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3/4 cup regular all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (all purpose)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg – room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups milk – room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium to large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients… flours, baking powder, salt & sugar.  Mix together.

In a smaller bowl, mix together wet ingredients… butter, milk, egg & vanilla.  It’s important that your egg & milk aren’t cold.  It’ll cause the fat in the butter to congeal.  Room temperature is ideal.  The microwave is a handy tool.

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix together.  That was hard, huh?

Heat skillet over medium heat and put some butter in the pan (or spray oil, whatevs).  Pour batter in pan.  Flip when bubbles form… after a couple of minutes.  My mother-in-law gave me these adorable pancake molds & batter pourer thing from Williams-Sonoma.  Adorable.  And, the batter pourer thing is awesome.  I made a couple of each mold for breakfast this particular morning, and then the rest of the batter I just poured silver dollar pancakes.

As far as freezing the pancakes goes… I just let them cool off a little and then throw the lot into a gallon Ziploc freezer bag.  They’ll freeze well for probably about 3 months.  To thaw, just put them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.  They stay nice & moist.

Like I said… Bug’s a fan!

What do your kids eat for breakfast?

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Sweet Mashed Potatoes

I mentioned last week that we hide a lot of food in sweet mashed potatoes.  Probably a good idea to share with you how to make super easy sweet mash.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 or 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup cream (or milk)
  • 1/8 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:

Skin your potatoes and cut them into 1″-2″ chunks.  Put ’em in a pot of water.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat a bit and let simmer for 20 minutes or so… until very tender when poked with a fork.  Drain.

In a large mixing bowl put cooked potato chunks and all of the other ingredients.  Seriously.  Just throw them all in there.  In reality, you could do this right in the pot after you drain the water, but my potato masher is metal and it scratches my non-stick pots & pans… BIG no-no for me.

Then… mash it all together.  I use a potato masher.  You could use a hand mixer for smoother potatoes… or even a food processor.  I don’t really feel the need to have super smooth potatoes.  Plus, it’s easier to clean the masher.

The end.  Super easy, no?

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Baked Zucchini Sticks

I haven’t done a Stuff I Feed My Kid post in a while.  Mostly because I don’t really cook anything special for Bug anymore.  He pretty much just eats what we eat at this point.  Since he eats a couple of hours before we do, Bug’s dinner usually consists of our leftovers from the night before.  I still try to keep a few healthy things in the freezer for him just in case our leftovers aren’t particularly nutritious.  One of those things is these baked zucchini sticks that I dreamed up one day.  I’m always on the lookout for easy things to make & freeze… so if you have any other ideas, feel free to send them my way!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2-3 zucchini
  • 1-2 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • Salt/pepper/seasonings
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vinegar

Preheat your oven to 400 and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you don’t have parchment paper, grease the sheets.  Cut the zucchini in half and then into sticks.

Set yourself up with 3 bowls.  In the first bowl, put the flour and whatever seasonings you wish.  I used salt, pepper & Zoe’s Seasoning, which Hubby’s aunt sends us from Birmingham.  I’m not even really sure what’s in it, but it’s awesome.  In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk & vinegar.  In the third bowl, put the bread crumbs and more seasonings.  The toddler clinging to your legs is assurance that you are doing a great job.

Dip the zucchini sticks in each bowl… flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.

Place the breaded sticks on the baking sheets and bake for 10-20 minutes.  You might want to flip them over halfway through.  And, watch ’em.  They don’t really brown a whole lot, but once they do start to brown, they’ll burn quickly.

Buggy loves these, and frankly, so do Hubby & I.  I especially love them dipped in ranch dressing.  Bug loves them because they are soft enough for him to bite through them.  YUM.  And, they freeze pretty well.  To defrost, I microwave them for about 30 seconds.  If I’m defrosting them for me & Hubby, I’ll then put them in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes to crisp them up.

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Orzo & Veggies

This is a colorful, easy & healthy recipe.  Not much of an explanation needed.  I would normally use a whole wheat orzo, but I couldn’t find any this time around.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup diced fresh red bell pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked orzo (follow package directions)
  • 1/2 a lemon (or a tablespoon or two lemon juice)

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add rosemary and saute for a couple of minutes to release the aroma.  Add corn, peas, peppers, salt & pepper and cook for 7-10 minutes, until peppers are translucent… you want the veggies to be tender, but not mushy.

Put orzo in a mixing bowl and add the veggies.  Squeeze juice from half a lemon (or pour in a tablespoon or two lemon juice) and mix well.  Serve as is or with diced chicken.  Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

When I first made this I thought it might work out as something Eli could eat with his fingers, but I was wrong.  Too slippery & small.  So, we’re spoon feeding this to him at the moment.  He’s generally pretty good with his own spoon, but he can’t seem to get this stuff in his mouth without dropping it all in his lap.  Too slippery I guess.  He is a big fan of this meal, though!

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Zucchini & Quinoa

Have you tried quinoa yet?  I was apparently a little late on the super-food train… I have seen quinoa in magazines and trendy restaurant menus for quite some time but was always a little hesitant to try it.  Something about me physically preparing new, trendy foods seems daunting to me, like they are going to be really hard to make or something.  I read in one of my baby food cookbooks (I can’t remember which one) to mix zucchini with millet, but when I couldn’t find millet at the store, I bought quinoa instead.  Figured it was worth a shot.

**NEWS BULLETIN – QUINOA IS SUPER EASY TO MAKE**

Seriously easy… like easier than rice easy.  Not only is it easy, but it is delicious.  It has a little crunch to it, but is still a soft grain.  Actually, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is not technically a grain… it is a seed from a plant that is related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds.  Mmmm, tumbleweeds.  My new favorite seed is high in protein, fiber & iron… which are all very important nutrients for little guys.  If you’re worried about your baby’s iron, feed him some quinoa!

Onto what this post is actually about… zucchini & quinoa.  Bug loves zucchini, but it is really runny as a puree (which actually makes for a great first food!).  Quinoa turned out to be a perfect pairing.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 or 3 zucchinis, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (follow package directions for cooking)

Put about an inch or two of water in a saucepan and place a steam basket on top.  Bring water to a boil over high heat.  Place zucchini in basket, cover and steam until tender… about 5 minutes.  Mix the zucchini in a food processor/blender/whatever until pureed.  You can really leave it as chunky as your baby can handle, but I like to get it pretty smooth for this recipe.

Pour zucchini puree into a bowl.  Pour in quinoa.  Mix together.  Serve The end.

Tough, huh?

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days for freeze for 3 months.

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Succotash

Do you like lima beans?  I do!  Hubby doesn’t!  I’m not sure if Bug does… he actually hasn’t tried this recipe yet.  I got this from Cooking for Baby.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen lima beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Throw in corn, beans, salt & paprika and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Pour in chicken broth and cover… cook for 10 minutes or until veggies are good and tender.

When it’s all done, put it in a food processor/blender/whatever and mix to a consistency your baby can handle… or just mash with a fork.  Serve and/or store.  This would make a great finger food if your lima beans are small enough.  The beans I used were huge and would most certainly choke my kid, so I mashed ’em pretty good.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Stuff You Need to Feed Your Kid

I started doing these ‘Stuff I Feed Your Kid’ posts, and then I realized that I should probably post on general baby-food-making supplies.

You really don’t need that much to make your own baby food.  In fact, chances are you already have at least one of these things in your house.

The most expensive item is a food processor.  I have this Kitchen Aid processor and love it.  You don’t have to have a food processor, though.  A blender will work just fine.  You’ll use this to make fine purees for baby’s first foods and even for chunkier purees later on.  I used my food processor quite a bit before baby, too, though… for desserts, grating carrots or other veggies, soups… all kinds of stuff!

Item number two is a steam basket.  You’ll use this to steam fruits and veggies.  Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook vegetables.  They don’t lose nearly as many nutrients as they do from boiling directly in water or sauteing.  At first, you have to steam many of the fruits that baby eats to make digesting that new, delicious food a little easier on their tummies.

Item number three = ice cube trays.  I bought cheap ones and they cracked after a couple of months.  We inherited some from Hubby’s grandma that have to be 20 years old and they are amazing.  You’ll use these to freeze the food you’ve just made into portions.  When Bug first started eating solids, he would only eat like 1 cube a day.  Now, he eats 4 cubes for dinner.  I really have no clue how much this is in terms of baby food jars.  I measured how many cubes a jar of stage 1 baby food was once, but I forget the result.

So, that’s about it!  Once I make and freeze Bug’s food, I store it either in disposable plastic containers or in freezer bags.  Most things last for about 3 months in the freezer.

Oh, one more thing that helped me quite a bit… I have a couple of baby food cook books that were given to me as gifts.   This one is my favorite: The Baby and Toddler Cookbook.  These books were helpful at the beginning when I had no clue what I was doing and have been great for creative ideas as Bug has gotten older.  Also: Wholesome Baby Food.com is a great resource all around.  Not only are there recipes, but also information on what nutrients are in different types of foods and when you can feed different types of food to your baby.