Granola Bars – nutty or not so nutty

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We’re big fans of granola bars in our house and I’m constantly searching for good options. By my definition, good bars are low in sugar other than what’s derived from dried fruit, absent of ingredients I know nothing about (words that end in –ose for example), and relatively inexpensive. If you’ve shopped for granola bars in the store, you’d know that I’ve basically excluded most brands. When I started researching recipes for making my own bars I was surprised by the vast array of sworn-by recipes. Like everything on Soy Sugar Sherry, I was searching to find the right technique and then planned to tweak it and make it my own.

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Broccoli Red Pepper Fritters

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I’m not going to lie to you, I dread feeding my son. Before I had a kid I used to try and imagine all the things I would love to share with him once he arrived. I would close my eyes and picture reading books before bedtime or giggling while splashing during bath time or see him sitting in his high chair squishing food I’d canned for him between his fingers then eating vigorously. At no point in time did I imagine a kid with yogurt up to his elbows and inside his nostrils screaming red faced at me while throwing food all over the floor.

When we first started feeding Orion I was excited. He seemed to be an intrepid eater with a broad palette and an adventurous sensibility. He ate dumplings at Mission Chinese, smoked salmon and roasted beets at Bar Sajor in Seattle. In fact the only things he didn’t seem to like were sweet potatoes and zucchini – a very short list. We were elated. Then around the time he started walking, something shifted seemingly overnight with our son. He became a kid who does not like to eat. Or more accurately, a kid who sometimes likes to eat but only certain things on certain days at certain times but it’s hard to say what he wants or when. It’s been a huge struggle to try to unravel the mystery of Orion’s eating patterns. And more and more of our meals have been ending like this, Orion covered in yogurt yelling at me yelling at him.

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We recently had several breakthroughs, the first of which was meeting an actually picky child. My niece appears to live off of fake chicken patties, bananas, blueberry yogurt, and candy. Nothing else will pass her lips. Now here was a kid I’d call picky. Orion, on the other hand, will eat things most kids would never eat. Just last week he stole my lunch of avocado with toasted mustard seeds and curry powder. I realized that Orion isn’t picky, he’s just particular, meaning that finding a right answer that’s consistently right is a very difficult challenge. The second breakthrough was examining my own beliefs and behavior around his eating. After almost a year of hard work struggling with my particular child, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I’ve developed along the way that may help you if you find yourself in a similar situation. There’s some principles that probably apply to all kids no matter how they eat in terms of how to approach meals with your kid. Oh and a new recipe we’re very happy with. Orion and I shared it for lunch just this week.

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Healthier Snacks

We’ve been defaulting to graham crackers and potato chips around here. When we’re feeling “healthier” we’ll swap in some string cheese or fresh berries. I actually found myself digging out spoonfuls of peanut butter the other day and thought enough is enough. It’s easy to be uninspired about snacking. When you work to plan and make meals for everyone in the family and have back-up meals on hand in case a certain someone turns his nose up at his first meal option, who has the energy to do much more than grab the first thing you see in the cabinet.

We’ve also been working to transition Orion away from snacking, focusing instead on three solid meals and maybe one healthy snack during his longer period of wakefulness, either that or during the time of day when he’s fussing the most and it’s not yet a meal time. So our cabinets have been emptying out as me and my husband gorge on toddler-sized treats. It’s been tough since I’ve been a dedicated snacker my whole life. First there’s second breakfasts. Then I’ve always considered ten a.m. to be potato-chip a’clock. I’m starving by the time lunch rolls around. Same goes for dinner so I usually have to have at least one snack before a late dinner. I’ve been known to sneak a bowl of cereal before bed as well. Most of the things I snack on though turn out to be choking or allergy hazards for babies, so without realizing it, we had stockpiled all sorts of processed, carbohydrate-heavy snacks and were pressing them on Orion.

Our son has always been one to lose it when it comes to food. Even his very first night in the hospital, he was up like clock work every two hours demanding to be fed. While it took us a while to figure out what he was saying, most of Orion’s cries related to wanting milk and wanting it in his mouth now. He was born extremely impatient (wonder where he got that from) and despite efforts to work on building his resiliency, if the kid doesn’t get food, he loses it. So I took to tucking bags of gold fish and pretzels and graham crackers in every pocket of our diaper bag. But then Orion started walking and suddenly his appetite has dropped off a cliff. If we can get him to eat a few bites for dinner and drink some milk, we’ll count it a success. Meanwhile there’s lots more screaming now related to not wanting to eat and food thrown on the floor and smeared about because isn’t food more fun to play with than eat. So I decided to start re-thinking my own snacks as reinforcements. Who doesn’t feel better prepared to take on a toddler with ketchup in his ear and dinner on the floor when your stomach is full. Here’s some ideas I found from around the web.

seed crackersby mynewroots

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 by Green Kitchen Stories

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Golden Beet Quinoa Bowl

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We joke that Orion eats like a viking. He sloshes his water, slams his milk cup down on the table or spikes it to the ground sending liquid flying and our dog scurrying. He grabs large handfuls of food, shoving them in his mouth in rapid succession, turning to us to let out a loud “mmmmmm” with a wide, toothy smile. Or, even better, he opens his mouth wide to show us all the contents he’s been able to cram inside. If he decides he’s not interested in a food, he either throws it piece by piece off his plate or even better just pitches the whole plate off the table. He’s recently started using utensils and grips them in crudely in his fists. Nine times out of ten if he’s actually able to get anything into his spoon, the contents end up spilling into his bib en route to his mouth (can I tell you all how much we love these bibs, seriously!) because he’s trying to make eye contact with us to let us know how exciting this all is.

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Root Veggies with Warm Spices

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Here we are again.  My child is quickly spiraling towards a hunger meltdown I have zero plan for dinner. I’ll openly admit that this is a scenario we find ourselves in approximately twice a week.  As much as we try to eat dinner with our daughter there are nights when that just doesn’t happen.  So, what do I do?  Here’s a checklist of how I narrow it down:

Tips and Tricks for speeding up your cooking time for kids:

  • While roasting will be most flavorful there’s no time to preheat the oven.  And there’s no way we can wait for water to boil.  Use a combination of sautéeing and  steaming on the stove top for the fastest cooking time.
  • Unless we have some leftover cooked meat in the fridge, cooking meat from scratch is too difficult in small portions and once again a time issue.  Vegetarian is a super option any night of the week.
  • Just because I’m in a pinch doesn’t mean I want to carbo load my kid.  I need to make something that while fast, contains protein.  Adding beans is a great answer, so I always keep a few cans in the pantry.  Chick peas and black beans are most popular in our house.
  • Don’t be afraid to keep that half a carrot, a third of a sweet potato or a big slice of leftover apple in the fridge.  I know in our case these little bits of food have a tendency to get lost in the corners of our fridge, but if you’re organized, these small amounts of vegetables can be used to diversify your kid’s dishes.
  • Fast does not equal bland.  Don’t be afraid to add spices to your kid’s food.  It doesn’t have to be spicy, and there are plenty of warm spices like cinnamon, allspice, and clove, as well as dried or fresh herbs, that will get your kid accustomed to more complex flavors and improve the likelihood that they will enjoy even the simplest preparations.

On this particular evening, I used every one of these tips to come up with this simple dish. Have a kid clinging to your leg and don’t know what to feed her?  Try these tips and let us know how it goes!

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Broccoli Pesto Orzo Salad

A few weeks back we went for a picnic with good friends in town and shared with them the most magical place we’ve found in Bellingham. This little beach is perfect right down to its name – Teddy Bear Cove. A tiny cove facing out toward Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands, Teddy Bear Cove offers a little something of everything, reminding us why we chose to move to Bellingham in the first place. There are views, water access, spots to kayak, a short hike, the possibility of finding fresh shellfish, pine forests, and most importantly for some in our family – trains!

We brought along a picnic to enjoy the sheltered beach, digging our toes in crushed seashells while chasing pieces of broccoli around our plate trying to finish every last little bit of this orzo salad. I’ve been working on this salad a while, blending several recipes from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. I can’t say enough good things about Heidi’s recipes. They really highlight fresh ingredients and bring a bright, clean flavor profile that is reflected all the way through her photos, writing, and outlook. If you aren’t familiar with it, please stop what you’re doing right now and head to 101cookbooks to see what I’m talking about.

On soysugarsherry we often talk about balancing flavors but in my mind balancing textures is just as important. A well designed dish balances creamy/earthy with bright notes/crispness. It doesn’t have to be in equal parts but those few bites that crunch make it all work and come together. In this salad I played around with adding cucumber and almonds to balance the smoothness of pesto, avocado, and the pasta base. I also added salty feta cheese to bring a little more depth and assist the lemon in the hefty lift of rounding out the brocolli.

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