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.

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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.

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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, mashed
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup nuts or choc chips
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 ℉. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix oatmeal, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg white until bubbly and frothy. Add egg white to the mashed banana and honey. Mix for a couple strokes to combine. Add banana mixture to the bowl of oats and spices. Use a rubber spatula to mix. It will look dry at first but keep mixing. Once the banana mixture has been fully incorporated, pour in chocolate chips and mix again. Let rest for 5 minutes. This rest time will soften the oats and make it easier for the balls to hold their shape. Using your hands, firmly press the mixture together to form two inch balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly brown and firm to the touch. Cool and enjoy. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Toast – The Tastiest Bite

I’m a sucker for personality tests. I find it comforting that seemingly personal quirks and internal motivations can be sorted and classified. When my husband sent me the 16 Personality test, I took the free test almost immediately. The results showed my personality type as more extroverted and organized than I often feel. Wanting to learn more, I signed up for the weekly e-newsletter which discusses challenges and opportunities for growth. Today’s topic was organization. I thought about this as I opened the fridge and pulled out the soft, white sandwich bread.

Consuls (my type from the test) are highly organized. I put the thick slice of bread into the toaster and grabbed the cold jar of natural, no stir creamy peanut butter. The toast was dark brown and smelled as toast should; nutty and reminiscent of the lazy mornings of childhood. I spread the peanut butter on thick. This can be helpful but also leads to a hard time just “being”. It’s challenging for me to slow down long enough to enjoy the very act of living. Next, I slipped the speckled skin off the ripe banana and sliced it into coins. After nestling the slices into neat rows, I grabbed the jar of honey and roughly squeezed the little bear so that honey lay in thick puddles on top of the bananas. Lastly, I sprinkled coarse salt lovingly over top and grabbed a fork.

It’s a good reminder that checking off a to-do list is not what makes for a happy life. I cut a small square of toast and speared it with my fork. The toast shattered happily in my mouth and I tasted the perfect balance of my simple breakfast. The checklist can wait until later.

Did you take the personality test? Do you have a trait that can be both challenging and helpful?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.