There’s this meal — it comes every single day whether I like it or not and it is a continuing source of stress for me. At this meal, my kids turn their noses up at anything new; we’re always in a rush because we are pressed for time, and I am perenially un-inspired to come up with new things to make for them. The meal? Breakfast. Both Andy and I have gone on record declaring it the Hate Story to our house’s Dinner’s Love Story. Somehow, when the girls show up at the evening table, they show up with minds open, tastebuds flexing. They will eat oysters and duck curry and on occasion have been known to fight me for the last piece of Hamachi crudo. But at breakfast? Forget it. If it’s not one of the SuperStarches of the Morning Table (French Toast, Pancakes, Bagels) they’re not interested.
Until now. I’m almost afraid to type this for fear of jinxing things, but we seem to be in a good place — thanks to Abby’s sudden affection for the overpriced, oversweetened Starbucks parfaits, and Mom’s polite suggestion to maybe just maybe have one at a different time of day? Like say…Breakfast? Phoebe got on board as soon as I told her we could make the granola and she could customize the batch however she liked it.
And we were off.
The backbone: I start with a simplified version of the one I loved in the Times last year: Oats, brown sugar, coconut, syrup, oil, salt, and cinnamon.
Then we add the Variables: Pistachios, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, raisins, dried cherries, cardamom. Not shown: pepitas, hazelnuts, chopped walnuts, flaxseed, sesame, millet, dried pineapple, apricots, or apples.
In a large bowl, mix together:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey (have not tried agave, but I will very soon)
1/2 cup oil (I like olive oil, but anything works)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Then mix in your pre-bake extras (any or all of the following):
1 1/2 cups nuts (such as pistachios, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, pepitas, hazelnuts, chopped walnuts)
1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1/4 cup of variables (such as millet, sesame seeds)
Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 300°F for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer granola to a large bowl and let cool.
Finish by tossing in some post-bake extras.
handful of M&Ms, chocolate chips, carobs
handful of dried fruit such as: dried cherries, apricots, raisins, pineapples, apples.
Store in an easily accessible jar. To make parfaits, layer plain yogurt, granola, honey, and fresh fruit (such as jarred Morello cherries from Trader Joe’s — pictured — or pomegranate seeds, strawberries, blueberries) in the most fun glass you can find.
Note: Phoebe picked the basic formula plus coconut flakes plus pistachios and almonds. She likes hers with no fresh fruit. Abby takes hers with cherries and pomegranate seeds.
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Tags:healthy breakfast for kids·healthy snacks·homemade granola
The subject of the email was “High Levels of Arsenic…” and the first sentence, written by Ali, my babysitter, was “Did you see this?” (Never a good sign.) Attached was a link to an ABC News story telling us to watch out for elevated levels of aresenic in organic powdered formula, cereal bars, energy bars, or anything that listed “organic brown rice syrup” as the first ingredient — like, for instance, the granola bars from Trader Joe’s that our children had been consuming five days a week for three years now.
I googled a bit more to see what else I could find – for whatever reason, it makes me feel better in these situations when an alarmist title like “Arsenic in Baby Formula” doesn’t spread like wildfire. I like to convince myself that the media is more savvy about these things, so they don’t fall for sensational health (more…)
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Tags:alana chernila·healthy snacks·healthy snacks for kids·homemade granola bars·homemade snacks·lunch ideas for kids·the homemade pantry alana chernila
OK, so it’s Thursday, aka Halloween + 96 hours. If you followed my prescription for the candy roll-out, your kids have consumed over of dozen Crunch/Mounds/Snickers bars, and you are likely checking in with DALS today to curse my name or to call up some magical recipe that might exorcise a sugar demon or two. I don’t blame you. Times like this call for either a Detox Soup or a big batch of something so healthy, so virtuous, so green, that it is capable of eliminating all traces of junk from little-person bodies, and all traces of guilt from big-person psyches. In other words, send in the kale!
Truth be told, I was terrified of kale until recently. Sure, I’d wilt it into minestrone every now and then, but I never figured out a way to introduce it to the family table in a way that didn’t feel like homework. Kale is so ridiculously good for us: Just a small mound of it has the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk, and I may be imagining this, but as soon as I eat it, and as soon as my kids eat it, I feel smarter and stronger and have a sudden urge to start an Olympics for Parents and enter myself in every event.
There are two recipes that convinced us that kale could be enjoyed as opposed to endured. The first was Andy’s: Kale with Avocado and Pickled Onions. It’s all about the parboiling here, which renders the leaves silky smooth and tender. Mixed with avocado and set off by the bright, flavorful onions…it was pretty much the only thing I could talk about at the dinner table that Sunday night. (This in spite of a combined 2 assists and 1 goal involving a breakaway only a few hours earlier.) The other recipe is for kale chips which I found in Kim O’Donnel’s fun new Meat Lovers Meatless Cookbook. It takes about as long to make these as it would to go to the pantry and open up a bag of potato chips. They are simultaneously delicate and crispy and melt in your mouth in a way that almost reminds me of cotton candy. Phoebe wouldn’t quite give me that one, but she ate up the chips anyway. And then begged me for Skittles. (more…)
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Tags:healthy snacks·healthy snacks for kids·kale·salad recipes
Saturday afternoon, week before last, was one of those moments when you think, man, having kids is fun. I mean, it’s almost always fun and it’s not like hanging out with the kids on a sunny weekend afternoon is ever a hardship, but this was different. I feel like last Saturday marked some kind of occasion, a corner turned in the hang-out department. We’d been following the World Cup pretty faithfully as a family for a couple weeks now, tuning in live when we could, catching up on DVR when we couldn’t, rating the uniforms, identifying the underdogs, mocking the bad hair, picking our favorite players, and all the while, I was quietly doing everything I could to maniupulate — I mean, show the kids how much fun it could be to get into an event like this, that featured so many countries and was so special, that happened only once every four years. Mission accomplished. Both girls were on the couch at 2:20 pm, in the alert, upright position, ready to watch the U.S. take on Ghana. I put on the pregame and sat down between them.
“I’m hungry,” Abby said.
“Let’s wait a little while,” I said.
“Can you make popcorn?” said Phoebe.
I couldn’t risk a mutiny at this point — the prospect of sitting and watching a game with them (and maybe catching a quick nap) was too good to pass up — so I obliged. As I got up, I told them that I would make a snack on one condition: that they promise to try whatever I made, no matter what. They agreed, warily. I decided to make peanut butter sandwiches five ways – with bananas, with raisins, with bananas and raisins, with honey, and with bacon. (When I got to the refrigerator, however, I saw we had no bacon, not even one slice — apologies to Mr. Presley — so I subbed in almond butter for a fourth variation.) The bread was just a good Italian loaf, thinly sliced, and toasted. The peanut butter was the organic stuff with the green lid from T. Joe’s; the honey was from our farmer’s market. Five minutes later, I was back on the couch with what I sold as “a special soccer snack” — a tray of mini, open-face sandwiches. The kids, who up until this moment, had been strictly peanut butter and jelly girls, were intrigued by the presentation. And they kept their promise. They tried them all. They loved them all. If only we’d had bacon.
Midway through the second half, Phoebe’s head was buried in Narnia, Abby was rooting hard for Ghana (prettier jerseys), and the U.S. was losing. But hey: we were still on the couch together, and the snack was a winner. –Andy
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Tags:game noshes·healthy snacks·peanut butter sandwich recipes