Friday, May 17, 2013

Banana Drop Cookies

So I've been on a health kick lately. I'm trying really hard to train for some 5ks this summer in addition to losing baby weight. We have been doing juicing, blending and increasing our physical activity as a family. The hardest part when I'm trying to eat right is avoiding sweets. I completely and thoroughly enjoy a well-made dessert. I've been on a quest for healthful cookies. It seems like they either aren't truly healthful or they taste healthful (and not in a good way). It's hard finding both. Because we enjoy juicing frequently we always have fruit pulp leftover. We felt guilty throwing this nutritional bi-product away, so I tried thinking of ways to use it. We use it as organic compost for our garden, but I wanted to benefit from the fiber. I decided to try adding some of the pulp to these cookies as a source of fiber and it turned out great. You couldn't even tell that it was in there. If you don't juice, don't worry about adding the pulp to the cookies. It's completely optional.

So as far as the cookies I couldn't believe how yummy they turned out and they are packed with so many good-for-you ingredients. I also love that they are dairy and fat-free (if not using chocolate chips) and packed full of fiber. They are the perfect balance of sweet and chewy and I loved the texture of the chia and flax seeds with the oats. And they are SO moist! If you haven't tried adding chia and flax seeds into your diet, you are missing out on some great benefits. You can buy either at health food stores, but I have found mine at my local Winco and Kitchen Kneads stores for a fraction of the price. Maybe I'll do a post on the nutritional benefits of these lovely seeds for those of you that don't know much about them.

I  really loved the addition of the dark chocolate chips to this recipe. These can be optional if you want these to be more healthful, but I thought a few added a great flavor and made me feel like I was eating regular cookies. If you freeze your ripe bananas and you use them for these cookies, you may need a little more agave for sweetness. I've made these cookies with fresh and frozen bananas and I've noticed that I don't need any extra sweetener when I use fresh bananas.

I hope you enjoy these. I love that I can still have a little something sweet without completely breaking my weight-loss goals. I love storing the leftovers in the fridge--they taste SO good cold!

Here's what you need: Makes 25-30 cookies

3 ripe bananas, mashed with some chunks
1/3 C unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C almond milk
1 T chia seeds
1 T flax seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 T agave (or stevia)
2/3 C dried fruit, cranberries and raisins mixed together
1/3 C dark chocolate chips or carob chips
2 C oatmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c fruit pulp, opt

1. Preheat oven  to 350 degrees. Combine mashed bananas, applesauce, almond milk, cinnamon salt, agave and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Add baking soda and stir until incorporated

2. Add chia and flax seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips, oatmeal and fruit pulp if desired. Stir until well incorporated.

3. Spoon on to parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350° for 15-16 min until top begins to brown.

4. Remove from oven and allow to rest on baking sheet 2-3 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy a cookie while they are still warm. :)

Enjoy and Happy Baking! (And Healthful Eating!)

Here is the printable recipe.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Warm Fuzzy Jar

So here's another non-recipe post, but parenting has been on my radar especially as of late. I love my 3-yr-old, but some days it's all I can do to be patient. I am far from being a "perfect" mother, but I try my hardest to be a really great mother. I am really close with my Mom and she is so great with kids. My 3-yr-old is also very close with her and there are things that my Mom can get her to do that I can't. I was talking with my Mom about some of our parenting issues and any of you that have/had a 3-yr-old know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a hard age. They think they are bigger than they are, they want to be independent and they are constantly pushing boundaries. I try SO hard to be patient, but some days are insanely difficult. I wake up in the morning with the best of intentions, but there are days that it doesn't last long. I'm not gonna lie, some times I just want to run and hide in my closet with some cupcakes. It's amazing how demanding little children can be at time.

I believe in positive reinforcement, but some times it seems like my 3-yr-old only responds to loud voices and negative reinforcement. I was talking to my Mom about it and asking her advice for a positive way to help my daughter engage in cleaning up, assisting with age-appropriate chores, not stealing toys from Little Sis--all without screaming, throwing tantrums and sassing. Impossible? It felt pretty dang close. What? Have a 3-yr-old corporate AND do it cheerfully? Shaaaaa, whatev. It felt like an oxymoron.

Then the advice from an experienced Mom, whom of which I thought knew absolutely nothing about parenting when I was a teenager, saved the day. Side note: Isn't it so funny how your parents become so wise when you finally have kids of your own? 'Tis the circle of life.

I came one afternoon to pick up my girls after work and my Mom had made this cute jar with my daughter. My Mom is very frugal and she created a little miracle for less than $3. Please meet the Warm Fuzzy jar:

This jar has been so awesome. You can use it for your kids, nephews/nieces, younger siblings or any children that you care for. You could try using it with your teenager(s) or your significant other, but, well, good luck with that. :) How it works is anytime you catch the child doing something without being asked, being a nice friend, sharing with a sibling, or doing other responsibilities with a good attitude then they earn "warm fuzzies". They get to choose the color and put them in the jar. Then when they fill the jar they can earn prizes, special privleges, TV time, field trips or whatever reward works for them. This concept is all about focusing on positive behaviors and attitudes and positive reinforcement. I also love that it's a great way to discuss emotions with children. It is working beautifully for us so far. Our daughter loves finding things to do to help us and she gets so excited to see her jar fill with the fuzzies. We had a discussion about things that help us feel happy or that give us "warm fuzzies." It was neat to hear my daughter's ideas. It's amazing how aware children are.

Here's what you need: (all found at the dollar store)
-an old jar (could be a spaghetti sauce jar, mason jar, baby food jar, etc.)
-construction paper
-googlie eyes
-craft pom poms
-assortment of stickers

1. Assembly is super simple. All you need to do is cut out a circle to fit over the lid. Glue it on to the lid and then glue on some googlie eyes. Let the child decorate it with stickers. You could even let them name their jar. Put it in a special place that the child can see and then start letting them earn the warm fuzzies.

I love seeing my daughter find positive ways to help in our family and her behavior has improved so much. I love that my Mom teaches me simple ways to help engage children. I think I try to make things too complicated. This has been the best reward system yet.

If any of you have some great ideas that you use as positive reinforcement with your children or children that you care for, please leave me a comment. I'd love to hear more ideas! "It takes a village to raise a child."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brownie Turtle Cake

I have to be honest. I am not usually a brownie lover. I love chocolate, but there is just something about brownies that doesn't float my boat. I actually have willpower when it comes to brownies. Well, this has all changed. This brownie turtle cake is divine and it's given me a new love for brownies. It's quick, easy and the ingredients are simple. This is one of my favorites to make for when company comes over or to take to a potluck. You can make this in advance and it comes together quickly. I think the combination of the brownie paired with pudding and the cheesecakey flavor is so divine. And I love that this is served cold.

The fun thing about this cake is that you can customize it and make variations that fit your tastes and preferences. This cake also tastes great with fresh berries on top. You can also switch up the chocolate pudding for banana pudding and top with fresh bananas. The possibilities are endless. Have fun discovering what flavor combinations you love best. This would also be fun to do for a birthday in lieu of traditional birthday cake. 

Here's what you need: This generously serves 7-9 people
-(1) Duncan Hines Turtle brownie mix
-2 eggs
-1/3 C oil (can use veggie, canola or coconut)
-3 TBS water
-(1) 8oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp (I used light)
-1/4 C agave (or you can use honey or powdered sugar)
-(1) small container Cool Whip, thawed
-2 tsp. vanilla
-(1) 3 oz chocolate pudding mix
-1 1/4 C milk 

-Caramel sauce (included in brownie mix)
-chopped pecans
-mini chocolate chips

1.Take brownie mix, eggs, water and oil and mix together in a medium mixing bowl. Place in a greased 11x7 baking pan. You can use a 9x13, but the brownie layer will be thinner.  Bake according to box instructions. **High altitude bakers need to add 1/4 C flour to mix. Allow to cool completely.

2. While brownies are baking, put cream cheese, agave (or whatever sweetener you are using) and vanilla into a medium mixing bowl and beat until smooth. I like using an electric mixer, but you can do it by hand. Fold in the container of Cool Whip. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the pudding mix and milk together and beat with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes. Put in refrigerator until ready to assemble. 

4. Once brownies are cooled, take half of your cream cheese mixture and spread on top of brownies. Next, put all of the pudding on top of cream cheese layer and spread. Then place the rest of the cream cheese mixture on top of pudding and spread. 

5. Allow cake to set up in fridge for at least 1 hr. before serving. You can make this a day or two in advance, just make sure to cover top with plastic wrap and keep cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Right before serving, drizzle the top with the caramel sauce that was from the brownie mix. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and mini chocolate chips. Cut into pieces and serve cold.

Here's the printable recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!