Bake The Cookies

IMG_2853.jpg

I was raised in a culture of love-by-the-way-of-food. It comes down from both my mom and dad’s sides, and I’ve gladly inherited that legacy since becoming a parent. Food is made from scratch and piled on plates whenever there are more than two family members gathered in a room. For me, it doesn’t just bring comfort; it’s a call out for togetherness.

We’re nearing the end of a school year and looking forward to the shift in gears and a chance to let our collective guard down. We’ve filled the summer calendar with opportunities to relax and recharge (we’re not used to so many blank squares!). We do love to experience new things and spend time with other people, but being home together is always the favoured choice when we need a break from the rush and hustle.

I can almost see the finish line, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spending a lot of time looking back on the year behind us. I’m wondering if we got it right and what could have gone better, and I also worry about the year that’s waiting up ahead. When I’m feeling untethered like this, I usually go straight to the kitchen and start thinking about which favourites or comforts I can offer up like love notes. Last weekend, I landed on these power-packed breakfast cookies. My older kids are about to enter weeks of cramming and exams, so I’m trying to fill the freezer with quick snacks. This recipe was easy to double batch. And the cookies freeze well in an air-tight freezer bag.

They are actually a variation of a recipe I found here. I substitute the tahini with applesauce and add chia seeds for my own version. Thanks to Erin and Dara for their fabulous recipe (they have many more if you check out their site), which I’ve pasted below with my own twist.

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed and chia seeds (or hemp hearts)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ripe banana (mashed)

½ cup unsweetened apple sauce

⅓ cup maple syrup

½ cup chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, chia and/or hemp seeds, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk mashed banana, apple sauce, and maple syrup.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix again.

4. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop batter about 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten cookies lightly with your hand. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm and brown around the edges.

5. Let cool for five minutes on a baking sheet. Remove to cooling rack and let cool completely.


Best (OMG!) Fried Rice (Shhhh, Don't Tell My Mom)

Best (OMG!) Fried Rice (Shhhh, Don't Tell My Mom)

You can understand my skepticism when my sister-in-law texted me to say she'd fed her kids the most incredible version of fried rice, and that it had nothing to do with actual rice. I should say here that my husband isn't as big a fan of this wonder grain as the rest of us. And one of our four kids is in her dad's camp. Last week, I was feeling adventurous and decided to give the recipe a try, to see if we might be able to sub it in for rice now and then. 

Read More

Holiday Giveaway: 100 Days of Real Food Fast & Fabulous

Photo provided by Lisa Leake

Photo provided by Lisa Leake

It's the most wonderful, hustle and bustle time of the year. 

Our family is feeling like we've barely had time to pack away our Halloween costumes, before donning our ugly Christmas sweaters to decorate the tree. 

It's all good, though. Holiday get togethers and doing our best to make the season more about giving than receiving means we'll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen in the coming weeks: making our own meals and preparing treats and food to share with others. This week there's a potluck and a girl on a mission to make something sweet for our neighbours penciled into the family calendar.

With four growing kids, the kitchen is already the highest traffic area in our home. If we don't look for ways to be efficient with shopping and meal planning, we start to slip into a pattern of cobbled together meals that don't fuel us the way we need to be fuelled to get through our hectic schedule. Oh, and we get on each other's nerves when all of us are bumbling around in the kitchen foraging for food!

During the week, I am the primary kitchen person. Most nights, it's just me and a couple of the kids at the table. Plates of dinner for the rest of the crew wait for their later arrival. And that was an important decision for our family. It can be all-too-easy to get into a fend for yourself groove when the whole family isn't able to eat together. It happened a lot when the kids were small and I was on my own for meal prep. Once they were older, and I could spend more time in the kitchen, I started to make some serious changes. The first thing to change was the mindset that I didn't need to prepare a family meal if we weren't eating together. Now that we have our routine of setting aside plates for latecomers, I'm more likely to prepare a well-rounded meal. On the weekends, my husband takes over in the kitchen and we do our very best to make sure all six of us are at the same table on one of those nights. 

I'm not going to pretend it comes easily. It's work to come up with ideas and to plan for pulling meals together around our schedule. I rely (heavily) on inspiration from others. And one of the cookbooks and blogs that really works for our family is 100 Days of Real Food and now the newest cookbook in the series 100 Days of Real Food Fast & Fabulous. I stumbled upon Lisa's Instagram feed last year, and I was hooked. 

These recipes meet all my requirements for family meals: quick, user-friendly, real ingredients (that are easy to find in the grocery store and are often already in my kitchen). 

The newest cookbook (which I'm working my way through) has 100 recipes and includes a lunch box section which has some great ideas for grown up and pint-sized lunches. She also provides gluten-free and nut-free options in the recipes. And did I mention easy? I was amazed by the five minute jars of overnight oats the kids could grab in the mornings. And the dinners really are fast and fabulous, I'm not exaggerating! 

EASY FISH TACOS. Photo provided by Lisa Leake

EASY FISH TACOS. Photo provided by Lisa Leake

Like I was saying, the kids are older now. I can spend more time in the kitchen while they're busy doing other things. But here's the kicker: they are also old enough to start pulling their own weight when it comes to feeding themselves and the rest of the family. My husband likes to remind me (often) that he was preparing dinner for his whole family at least once a week by the time he was 10, and I'm doing my best to let go of my need to control the kitchen. The recipes and ideas in this cookbook are completely tween and teen friendly, so no more excuses for any of us. There are going to be some more changes in the new year when it comes to meals. 

I'm so happy with this new cookbook that I'd like to give one away to a lucky reader, so you too can head into the busiest time of year with the best tools to feed your family (and anyone else who you happen to be spending time with over the holidays). 

If you are a Canadian resident, you can enter below. Thanks and good luck!

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this post, but I was generously gifted a copy of the new cookbook 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous by Lisa. I love this book so much (and I think you will, too) that I bought another copy to give away to one of you!