Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bites

Toddlers have truly stolen my heart. Being that my boys are past the age, I can now observe with an impartial eye. I teach baking classes with parents and their children and am absolutely smitten with these passionate creatures. Watching the pure joy that a child gets from whisking flour and then biting into the final baked product is so rewarding. Being around toddlers reminds me to look for the wonder in the small joys of life, be present in my environment and explore with all my senses.

fullsizeoutput_612

 

Toddlers liked making and eating these oatmeal chocolate chip bites. They are slightly sweet and resemble a cookie more than a bowl of breakfast mush. We had so much fun mashing bananas and stirring in the chocolate chips. By the time the class was over, there wasn’t a crumb left on their plates. Want to try it for yourself? I promise you won’t be disappointed.

fullsizeoutput_afa.jpeg

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bites

When I say a recipe is toddler approved, please know that I am giving it the highest form of flattery. This recipe is adapted from the cookbook “Home Baked”. They come together in a snap and are the perfect accompaniment to any meal or snack time. I love that these are nut free, which make them an easy choice to bring to the classroom.

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 2/3 cup old fashioned or instant oats
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 ℉. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mash banana and egg white with a fork. Mix until the mixture has a few chunks and is creamy and frothy. Add honey, oatmeal, salt, cinnamon and chocolate chips and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. It may look dry but that is ok.  Using your hands, firmly press the mixture together to form two inch balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the balls are golden brown on the bottom and dry to the touch. Cool and enjoy. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

My Favorite Banana Bread

“Did you make something yummy today mom?” my son asks skipping home from school. Today the answer is yes. Though banana bread transcends seasons, I tend to make it more during the winter months. Domed golden brown loaves that toe the line between bread and cake sit on the counter waiting for afternoon snack time. I gently slice the tender loaf revealing the speckled interior. I hand each a thick slice, warm and slathered with butter.

fullsizeoutput_43d

Banana bread is chock full of memories. I smile thinking of sitting at the kitchen table with Grandma Pat and eating the loaf she brought with her. She would say how healthy it is since it is full of bananas and give anyone a friendly swat if they dared to disagree. She would probably be sporting Sponge Bob Square Pants socks or Betty Boop jewelry and have a few crumbs clinging to the corners of her mouth. Banana bread was one of her favorite foods. Shortly after she passed away, Kai was born. His middle name is Patrick in remembrance of her. Making banana bread connects me to sweet memories of the past, while creating new memories for the future.

fullsizeoutput_43f

I’ve made chocolate banana bread and bourbon banana bread. I’ve made olive oil banana bread and banana bread with flax seeds. None of these variations disappoint but I find that when I want banana bread, I want the classic. I want the bread to taste strongly of banana. I want it to have a light crumb. I want butter and warm spices. I want all the ingredients to already be in my cupboard. I want it to stand on its own without needing nuts or chocolate. I want my home to smell like heaven. This recipe checks all the boxes and I hope you feel the same.

What special memories does banana bread hold for you? I’d love to know!

fullsizeoutput_447

Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf

I adapted this recipe from Chef John’s Banana Bread on allrecipes.com. Though commonly called “quick bread”, I think that is a misleading name. Anything that takes an hour in the oven is not quick in my mind. If I truly am in a hurry, I scoop the batter into muffin tins. I might also put the batter together and refrigerate it over night and bake it the next day. I find that light colored pans give the best results. I also always end up covering my bread with foil half way through so that the top doesn’t burn. It will look done on the outside but be completely raw in the middle. Use an instant read thermometer, like you would for meat, to determine if the bread is done baking. The bread is fully cooked at 200° F. You could also stick a skewer in the middle and when it comes out clean, you will know that the bread is finished baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (10 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (35 g) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Thoroughly whisk flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar with the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes on medium speed.
  4. Add in eggs one at a time and beat on low – medium low to emulsify the batter. Scrape the bowl in between each egg.
  5. Mix in mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla extract. The batter will look chunky and not well mixed but hang in there, you are doing great!
  6. Add the flour mixture and stir until the flour is incorporated. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl and sides. The batter should be a cohesive mixture, thick like pancake batter and loose enough to pour.
  7. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans. Tap bottom of pan on the counter to get rid of any air pockets.
  8. Bake for 60-70 minutes. Check at 30 minutes and cover with foil if getting too brown. An instant read thermometer should read 200°F when done.
  9. Let the bread rest in the pan for 15 minutes and remove from the pan onto a cooling rack.  Once completely cool, wrap in saran wrap and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator over night. The bread’s texture is improved with a rest and is much easier to slice. It will keep for 3-5 days.

 

Fresh Strawberry Jello & Whipped Cream

We’ve been touring middle schools this week (!!!) and I’m having to come face to face with the reality that yes, this is happening. I’m as nervous and excited as my son is. I feel the desperate desire to cling to every shard of his childhood, yet I have to remind myself that this is the whole point of raising our children. We want them to grow up and become the fullest version of themselves. It’s a new phase, yet reminds me of when we were getting ready to start kindergarten. Which school is best for him? Will he be able to remember his schedule and locker combination? Will he make friends? The truth is yes and no. It won’t be perfectly smooth but this is the truth of life. We learn and grow and change.

fullsizeoutput_352

In an attempt to help myself make this transition to the middle school years, I have been reading a book called “Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World“. This book was recommended to me by a friend and WOW is it eye opening. I really appreciate how the book highlights how the relationship between son and parent changes. It gives us practical advice that actually comes from teenage boys. We get to see situations through their eyes and gain wisdom from those parents that have gone before us. Effective parenting, it seems, is a balance between letting our boys grow up and make mistakes while loving and supporting them through this complicated and complex world. Wish us luck.

fullsizeoutput_36a
This is the consistency of the puree that is ready to be simmered.

Thankfully, February is one of my favorite months of the year. I love any excuse to shower the people I love with affection. especially if it involves something from the kitchen. I found these little heart shaped ramekins and knew immediately what I wanted to fill them with. When JP was two, I had a Valentine’s Day party at our house. We had heart themed activities and bright red jello cut in heart shapes for snack. I may not be able to turn back the clock but this is the beauty of food. It holds the memories for us, connecting our past with our present.

fullsizeoutput_365
Adding the gelatin

I think it’s time for jello to get an upgrade. Let’s do away with the watery, jiggly, artificial tasting, neon jello of our youth. This jello has everything good: a strong strawberry flavor (that is actually from strawberries), a firm texture, and a beautiful ruby color. I like how it feels in my mouth as the gelatin softens. The sweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment to the juicy strawberries. Strawberries and cream are a classic combination in any form, but heart shaped might just be the sweetest of them all.

fullsizeoutput_370
Most of the gelatin has been absorbed into the puree. Give it a little whisk before adding it to the hot strawberry mixture. This will make it easier to not have lumps.

Fresh Strawberry Jello & Whipped Cream

Strawberries and cream are a classic combination that illicit happy memories of spring. Being a bit impatient for the perfect strawberries to arrive at the grocery store, I found that this recipe appeased my strawberry craving. Frozen strawberries are a good option to use here if fresh are not optimal. This recipe is adapted from the Knox gelatin package.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ripe strawberries, washed and hulled; or frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin (I use Knox brand)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 small lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Whipping Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

Puree strawberries in a blender, using a little water if needed to thin. You should have 2 cups of strawberry puree that is the consistency of heavy cream or slightly thicker. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the puree into a medium pot. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar, salt and lemon juice and stir. Bring to a simmer on medium heat. It should taste delicious at this point, full of strawberry flavor and just sweet enough to be pleasing to the palate. Adjust as needed.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup puree into a wide bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top and don’t stir. The gelatin should mostly dissolve into the liquid but don’t worry if some still remains on the top. The back of the Knox package suggests 1 minute.

Once the strawberry mixture is at a simmer, take it off the heat and whisk gelatin mixture before adding it to the hot strawberry puree. Whisk to incorporate the gelatin mixture. There may be some lumps at this point but keep whisking and watch as it thickens. Whisk for 3-5 minutes. Strain to remove any remaining lumps. Pour into 4 – 4 ounce ramekins and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. These will firm up in an hour or two but can be stored for 3-4 days before serving if desired.

To serve: Combine all the whipping cream ingredients in a medium bowl and whip to firm peaks. Spoon over strawberry jello and serve.