Wholesome R.D. Mom

Making Nutrition a Way of Life


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Gingersnap Cookie Balls

My kids love ginger! It’s not typically a flavor of choice for many young ones, but my kids truly love it! As we walked down the grocery aisle at Trader Joes the other day, my daughter began to ask (or should I be more accurate and say, “whine”) about purchasing some Ginger Kitty Cookies. I got down to her level, looked her in the eye and asked her if she would like to make or bake some sort of gingerbread cookies at home with me instead? Her answer was, “YES! YES! YES!” (while jumping up and down ecstatically)……..and the subject of buying those Kitty cookies was long long gone 🙂

When we arrived home and got settled in, I gave my daughter some options as to which recipe she would like to make. I gave her a brief description of how each recipe might turn out (soft and chewy, thin and crispy…etc) and what each process entailed. She quickly chose the Gingersnap Cookie Ball recipe below (I’m guessing because the dough was edible and it didn’t require baking). We had a great time rolling the balls together, tasting the dough, and grooving to the latest Vacation Bible School CD. I certainly hope that she will carry on the cooking tradition and make many more precious memories in the kitchen with her children.

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These Gingersnap Cookie Balls are both grain and nut free, so they can be consumed by most everyone and even be included in nut-free school lunches!

So lets take a quick look at some of these powerhouse ingredients:

Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds): contain a good amount of vitamin E (found in various forms), an antioxidant, which scavenges harmful radicals in the body to help you stay healthy.

Flaxseeds: these little seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fiber,  having both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Organic raisins and dried apricots: these fiber-rich fruits are dense sources of energy, vitamins, minerals, and phytohemicals. Raisins are rich in resveratrol, a phytochemical which has a protective effect against cancers and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, raisins and apricots are a good source of potassium……..even more so than that good ol’ banana that you think of when someone mentions “potassium.”

This Gingersnap Cookie Ball recipe is so simple to make and your kids will love to help you!

Thank you to Healthful Pursuit http://bit.ly/1kXxkzD for this recipe base. Please see my “NOTE” below for recipe variations.

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Gingersnap Cookie Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • ⅓ c. ground flaxseed or flax meal
  • 2 c. organic raisins
  • 12 dried apricots (I buy the organic, unsulphured Turkish variety from Trader Joes)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground all spice

Directions: 

  • Process the pumpkin seeds in a food processor or blender until they are about the size of a sesame seed (for about 1 minute on high).
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor/blender and place it on high for 2-3 minutes or until all of the dried fruit has broken down into a paste and the mixture sticks together forming a ball.
  • Line a dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper (preferably something that will fit in your freezer).
  • Rub a little butter or coconut oil onto your hands so that the mixture does not stick to them.
  • Scoop a scant (try saying that 5 times fast) tablespoon at a time and roll it into a ball between your palms (this is usually the kids’ favorite part, aside from the eating of the batter)
  • Place the rolled balls onto the parchment paper and continue until you have rolled all of the mixture.
  • Place the dish/cookie sheet with the Gingersnap Cookie Balls into the freezer to harden (about 20 minutes).
  • Store the remainders in a sealed container in the fridge (they should last a couple of weeks) or store them in the freezer for longer keeping (about 3 months)

NOTE: If you are not sure how the ginger will go over with your kids I would recommend halving the amounts of nutmeg, ginger and allspice until you have tasted the batter. You may want to boost the cinnamon by 1/2 tsp as well.

This recipe is super adaptable. I’m already thinking about how I can replace half of the raisins with dried cherries, add only 3/4 tsp of vanilla, while adding 1/4 tsp almond extract and replacing the spices with cacao powder to create a Chocolate Almond Cherry Bomb 😉 You can also replace the raisins with dates…..so use what you have in your pantry. The possibilities are endless!

What are your favorite flavor combinations?

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Homemade Healthy “Ranch” Dressing (kid-approved)

When it comes to cooking, baking, or any kind of food prep, the simpler the better……….and this “ranch” dressing fits right into my idea of simple! My family nor I are big dill fans so we’ve taken on “ranch” with a different angle and I do change it up from time to time with the other ingredients. My son nor I can tolerate too much garlic so we go light on the garlic (therefore, please adjust to your taste). I like that this dressing is light and cultured (due the to the plain nonfat yogurt), helping to put a few good probiotics into my little kiddo’s bellies while they munch on their vitamin-rich vegetables. This recipe is very versatile with regards to seasonings and can easily be made into a dip as well. Don’t be afraid to play with the taste a bit until you find something that you and your family love……as we all have different taste buds (see the note below)! I hope you enjoy our family’s simple take on the ol’ ranch dressing 😉

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Homemade Healthy “Ranch” Dressing

Makes about 1 1/4 cups dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. plain yogurt (I used an organic, nonfat variety)
  • 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese, to taste (Stay away from the Kraft stuff and use freshly grated parmesan. I buy mine at Trader Joes in the refrigerated cheese section).
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning (or you can use dried basil or 1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh basil which would taste even better)
  • 1 small garlic clove (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder or to taste)
  • a small pinch of dill (optional)
  • A couple pinches of salt and some dashes of black pepper (to taste)
  • A little milk to thin the recipe to your desired thickness (I use about 2 Tbsp whole organic milk, but it all depends on how thick your yogurt is)

Directions: 

  • Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Use on a salad, with cut up veggies or as a spread on a tortilla roll-up or sandwich.
  • Store in a glass jar (I use my old peanut butter jars) in the fridge for up to 1 week or so (I have also been known to just follow the date on the yogurt instead).
Note: If you’d like to make a thicker dip you can substitute plain Greek Yogurt for the yogurt. Also, feel free to add any of your favorite herbs or some chives. I have also been known to add 1 tsp of Dijon or Bragg’s liquid aminos to this dressing and sometimes it needs some brightening with a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Don’t be afraid to taste test along the way and make it yours!
I’d love to hear how you like your Ranch dressing!


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Blueberry Oat Cream Cheese Muffins

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We sure do LOVE blueberries at our house. My son and I definitely reign supreme by being the largest consumers (and I’m going to point fingers at the baby I’m growing inside because it’s ridiculous just how many I will eat in one sitting right now)! Last week our family went blueberry picking at a local farm and came home with 9 pounds of delicious berries…..that does not include the multiple pounds that we ate while picking…..and not a single one of those will need to be frozen. This time of the year is truly my favorite for produce!…..and while we have bags of freshly picked blueberries heading into our kitchen my kids are itching for some blueberry muffins. Yummmmmmmmm!

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Once we got home from blueberry picking the kids and I threw on our aprons and started to bake away. My daughter is my kitchen side-kick. She loves to do everything from pouring in the ingredients, stirring, whisking and handling anything she can, just to get her hands dirty (I’m constantly telling the kids they need to wash their hands before cooking and not just after). My son, on the other hand, has designated himself as the taster. He used to love to cook and bake with me, but after my daughter came along and took over my son backed off a bit. I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can get him back in the kitchen. He loves to watch MasterChef Junior (I’m excited about the new series coming up) and I think that he would love to practice his ninja skills with a dull knife and some soft foods. Maybe I’ll have him help me with the cooking while my daughter helps me with the baking…..at least for a while…..until they both understand that there  is room in the kitchen for EVERYONE!

Ok, so back to the blueberry muffins…. These muffins are a great way to get in some whole grains by using whole wheat pastry flour (I buy the organic 365 version at Whole Foods) and old fashioned oats. The cream cheese topping really rounds out the lightly sweetened batter so don’t skip out. These muffins are not very sweet but we tend to like them that way. However, if you prefer a sweeter muffin please refer to my note at the bottom of the recipe for increasing the sugar.

We hope you enjoy them!

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Blueberry Oat Cream Cheese Muffins

Recipe adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/better-blueberry-muffins-shape-magazine-432030

Makes about 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or you can use all purpose flour)
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar (preferably unrefined and organic)
  • 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (I stick these in a small food processor/blender to make the oats a little smaller and cook a little easier)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c. milk (your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large egg (preferably organic and cage free)
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I tend to use almond or walnut when I bake, but you can use any neutral oil)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries 
  • 1/4 c. cream cheese at room temperature (you can use regular or light)
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).
  • Pour the milk and lemon juice into a medium bowl and let sit for a few minutes (you are making buttermilk).
  • Add the egg, oil, and vanilla extract to the newly made buttermilk and whisk until mixture is uniform.
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until incorporated, then gently fold in the blueberries
  • In a small bowl, whisk the cream cheese and maple syrup together.
  • Use your 1/4 measuring cup to fill a greased or lined muffin tin with batter.
  • Use a teaspoon to add a dollop of the cream cheese mixture into the center of each muffin (I use another small spoon to scrape the cream cheese off the teaspoon).
  • Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin (where there is no cream cheese topping) comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes and then go ahead and let your begging children try one 🙂 and you can follow.
  • Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge.

NOTE: These muffins are sweet enough for my family’s liking. However, if you favor a sweeter muffin, you may want to increase the sugar to 1/2 cup.

Additionally, I have substituted 1/4 cup Oat Bran for the old fashioned oats and still came out with 12 delicious muffins (thank goodness) so feel free to use Oat Bran if you prefer.

Also, if you have buttermilk on hand please feel free to use it in place of the milk and lemon juice. If you do not have buttermilk or lemon juice you can make buttermilk by using milk and apple cider vinegar instead (use 1 Tbsp vinegar per scant cup of milk)…..and this goes for any recipe.

I’d love to hear if you made this and what you thought about them! Enjoy!

 


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Lemon Blueberry Muffins (Grain-free, Dairy-free, Nut-free)

Prior to becoming pregnant I started a grain-free diet to see if it might help with an auto-immune thyroid condition that I have had for many years. I will be honest and say that I did see dramatic improvements in my energy levels (even though I am not ruling out confounding variables). I also had a physical during that same time and my HDL (healthy cholesterol) levels were 20 mg/dL higher than normal (one number that I have never been able to budge before…. even with a solid increase in exercise). However, my grain-free journey was short-lived as I became pregnant a few months later and did not feel that it was appropriate to complete my little personal study…..but my interest was definitely peaked. Please note that my short grain-free stint does not mean that a grain free diet will elicit the same results for you.  Therefore, if you have any questions regarding a diet that will suite your lifestyle and medical needs I would advise you to talk with your doctor and see a Registered Dietitian.

Once the pregnancy morning sickness started I definitely turned back to grains to help with the nausea. However, the whole grains did not seem to help and I found myself craving my grain-free muffins. I have also found (through trial and error) that when I eat a good amount of protein with my meals (together with unprocessed high fiber carbohydrates), I tend to have more energy, less tummy troubles and better blood sugar control…….which is why I think these muffins are absolutely perfect for breakfast.

Surprisingly my kids enjoy the grain-free muffins just as much, if not more, than their whole-wheat counterparts…….so needless to say they have entered our breakfast/snack rotation with ease. I will mention that some individuals cannot get passed the texture/taste of the coconut flour, but I actually love it! So you’ll just have to try these Lemon Blueberry Muffins and come to a conclusion of your own. I love the fact that I can feed my family these muffins for breakfast and know that they will be receiving a meal that is well balanced in macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats), beneficial antioxidants (from the berries) and rich in fiber (from the coconut flour).

Grain-free blueberry muffins

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free)

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp butter (or coconut oil for dairy free version)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup (or you can use honey)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (with zest if you have an organic lemon)*
  • 1/8 tsp pure lemon extract (optional, but I prefer it to be included) or you could also use some lemon zest 🙂
  • 1/2 c. coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 heaping cup fresh blueberries (or you can use frozen, thawed blueberries if fresh is not available

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Mix all of the wet ingredients together (eggs, butter, applesauce, vanilla, maple syrup, and lemon juice) and whisk until well blended (I do warm the butter/coconut oil to help blend it into the mixture…..just make sure that you are whisking while you add it to be sure you don’t cook the eggs if the butter is warm).
  • Add in the dry ingredients (coconut flour, salt, baking soda) and blend until uniform. The mixture will thicken as the coconut flour absorbs some moisture.
  • Gently fold in the blueberries
  • Use your 1/4 measuring cup to scoop the batter into a muffin tin lined with parchment paper liners (which work the best for muffins with a high egg content).
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out clean (stick a toothpick in the muffin, if you remove it without any batter on the toothpick the muffins are cooked through, if it come out dirty with muffin batter then cook a little longer).
  • Enjoy them warm or place them in a sealed container for storage in the fridge.

*With regards to the lemon juice, I use to squeeze fresh lemons to avoid all the preservative found in store-bought lemon juice. However, I recently ran across this great lemon juice with no additives/preservatives (that I find is cheaper than juicing my own) so I thought I’d share it with you: Lakewood Organic Cold Pressed – Not from Concentrate Pure Lemon Juice. I find it at my local grocery store in the juice aisle.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts!