Apple Cinnamon Energy Bites

Energy bites are one of those trendy foods that seem to be popping up everywhere. These golf ball-sized snacks with vaguely nutritious connotations have appeared at bakeries near my house, and my husband and I saw several varieties on display at a cafe on our vacation in England a couple weeks ago. As a bit of a food traditionalist, I tend to shy away from anything that strikes me as super hip (see also: kombucha, golden milk lattes, anything with matcha). So until recently, I definitely had not jumped on the energy bites bandwagon.

Then again, I never realized how ridiculously easy they are to make, or that they don’t even require turning on the oven–two factors that pretty much seal the deal for a snack-slash-breakfast item to add to my repertoire.

This particular Apple Cinnamon Energy Bites recipe was inspired by a mailer I received from my grocery store. Anyone else feel like grocery stores are seriously stepping up their marketing game these days? We’ve long since left the territory of mere boring newsprint circulars. My local store now sends me books of custom-curated coupons that include glossy, colorful sheets of recipes. Though I don’t generally pay much attention to the recipes in these mailers (I tend to gravitate immediately to the 50 cents off of cream cheese, thank you) this one caught my eye. Something about the small size and roundness of these bites made them seem so delightfully poppable, like donut holes, but healthier. Inspired, I even went out and bought flax seed meal just so I could try these. (Ironically, however, I went to a different store than the one that sent me the recipe. Ha.)

Once mixed and molded–with some ingredient adjustments based on my preferences–these energy bites turned out remarkably tasty with a texture I could eat all day–smooth and chewy for the most part, but with snappy crunches of chopped pecan. Everyone in my family was a bit surprised by how they were a bit sticky to handle, but that didn’t stop us from finishing these off in 24 hours. I’ll definitely be making them again for a nutrient-packed after-school snack for my kids (and myself). And maybe from now on I’ll keep my eyes open for more successful recipes on grocery store mailers.

Where do you get new recipes from? Tell me in the comments!


Print Recipe
Apple Cinnamon Energy Bites
A tasty mix of chewy and crunchy gives these apple cinnamon bites their appealing texture. And did I mention they're no-bake?
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients from oats through cinnamon. Using a box grater, grate green apple (complete with peel) directly into the bowl and mix.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Using your hands, form mixture into 1.5-inch balls. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe, inspired by a Fry's Foods mailer.

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Kids’ Mystery Dinner

Having attended summer church camp every year from third through eighth grade, I have a wealth of wonderful memories. Now that I’m a parent myself, thinking back on all the goofy stuff I used to do at “Teepee Village” in the forest near Prescott, AZ provides a surprising treasure trove of creative activities to do with my own kids. Over this past summer, when downtime hit, I’d reach into my camp memories to give my kids something to do–like drawing eyes and noses on their chins for ridiculous upside-down faces, for example:

And last night, with my husband out of town on business, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally recreate another favorite camp memory: the Mystery Dinner.

This is something I’ve always thought of fondly, with memories of teenaged camp counselors taking campers’ orders from sheets full of mysterious symbols, then rushing around to create haphazard, randomly chosen menus. I think I once ended up with a cup of spaghetti with a straw. Sound a bit bizarre? That’s because it is! If there’s one thing I know about kids, it’s that they love totally off-the-wall stuff–and, as a church camper, I was no exception. I was pretty sure my kids would get a major kick out of a Mystery Dinner, too.

To replicate the experience, I created menu sheets for each child–but not regular menus, mind you. These menus are made up of symbols, each of which stands for an unknown-to-the-kids food item, utensil, serving dish, or drink. I made sure to have a meal of three courses (chili, cornbread, and cake for dessert), with three utensils (fork, knife, spoon), three serving dishes (bowl, salad plate, dinner plate), and three drinks (milk, water, and juice).

I of course had a cheat sheet, ’cause there’s no way I was going to remember all 12 symbols.

To start the Mystery Dinner, each child got to circle one symbol from each category for their first course.

I then served them with the corresponding food, utensil, serving dish, and drink. This meant that my daughter, much to her delight, began her meal with a slice of cake…in a bowl…with a spoon. (I bit my tongue to overcome my nutritionist horror at feeding my child cake before dinner. It’s only one night, right?)

Once the first course was completed, each child got to use a different colored pen to circle his or her selections for the next course. (No repeating anything previously chosen.) My middle child got chili…on a salad plate…with a fork.

And my oldest enjoyed his cornbread…on a dinner plate…with a knife. (This is starting to sound like accusations in the board game Clue.)

When all was said and done, our Mystery Dinner was an absolute hit–even for those who had to eat cake with a knife and chili from a plate. My kids asked if we could have Mystery Dinner every week. (Um, no.)

To me, though, having Mystery Dinner on a Wednesday night–just because–added a jolt of fun and spontaneity to our week. Of course you could use this idea for a birthday party, sleepover, or even a whimsical dinner party for adults, but squeezing it in mid-week reminded me that we don’t need a special occasion to be creative–and we don’t even need to go to camp. 🙂

Chocolate Mint Layer Cake

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a cake-aholic.

And I am also a nutritionist.

Do we have a problem here? Not necessarily. I mean, while I absolutely love cake, I don’t eat it every day, I maintain a healthy weight, and my diet is generally (I’d like to think) pretty healthy. In fact, I’m a big fan of the 80/20 principle when it comes to eating: stay on course nutritionally about 80% of the time, do what you like–within reason–the other 20% or so. (I even wrote an article about it here.) So do I feel bad posting a totally indulgent, party-perfect Chocolate Mint Layer Cake on the blog today?

No, I actually don’t. Especially because today is my birthday.

This cake isn’t actually for my birthday (mine will be a Neapolitan Strawberry-Vanilla-Chocolate sugar bomb I intend to make this afternoon), but rather, for my mom’s a few weeks ago. My mom and I have a little arrangement where, because I love making cakes and we both love eating them, I get to make her a cake of my choosing every year. Usually with chocolate.

This year mint chocolate was calling to me, and this recipe, modified from Lindsay over at Life, Love, and Sugar was exactly what I was looking for–except that with our family size, I didn’t actually need THREE layers. (Though I may have wanted them.) The cake came out fluffy and moist and kept well in the fridge, where it shockingly actually lasted a week. And though, with mint frosting, it can be tough to strike the right non-toothpaste-y, yet not-too-mild note, this stuff does so beautifully.

I’m no cake decorating expert–I’ve taken one single class at my local Michael’s with an instructor who was oddly enthusiastic about using Snickers to garnish cakes–but I have to say, I think this, with its pretty green color and tempting Andes mint pieces, turned out looking particularly appealing. And tasted amazing. What more does a birthday cake need?

P.S. I’m not including nutrition info for this one. It’s my birthday and I DON’T WANNA KNOW!



Print Recipe
Chocolate Mint Layer Cake
Minty, chocolatey, and totally indulgent, this cake makes the perfect choice for a birthday or other special occasion!
Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
slices
Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
slices
Instructions
Make the chocolate cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease two 9-inch cake pans well. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt). Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add egg, egg white, milk, and vegetable oil. Mix to combine. Add vanilla and boiling water and mix until well incorporated.
  2. Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Make the mint frosting:
  1. While the cakes cool, mix softened butter, shortening, and powdered sugar until smooth. Add water or milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract and mix again. Slowly add food coloring to your liking (I'd say go with about 2/3 green and 1/3 yellow) and mix until color is even.
  2. Place one layer of the cake on a platter and frost the top. Top with second layer of cake and frost the entire cake, reserving about 1 1/2 c. for extra frosting garnishes.
  3. To get the look pictured, use a cake decorating tip like Wilton 1M to pipe swirls around the outer edge of the cake's surface. Insert whole Andes mints into the swirls, press them into the base of the cake, or garnish however you like!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Life, Love, and Sugar.

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Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

Do you eat eggs at dinner?

Though I almost never eat eggs at breakfast–I’m more of a grains gal to start my day–I am weirdly, unaccountably loyal to them at dinner. I suppose it’s partly because I grew up eating dinner quiches on a regular basis, but partly because eggs have so much going for them. They’re cheap, first of all, and relatively easy to purchase locally. Then there are all their nutrition benefits. With 6 grams of protein, a sizable dose of vitamins D and B12, and only around 70 calories, a single egg packs plenty of nutrition.

Also, the health concerns that used to plague most consumers about eating too many eggs have been shown to be largely unfounded. Whereas in decades gone by, the medical establishment believed that high intake of dietary cholesterol led to high blood cholesterol, we now know that saturated fat and fiber play a far more important role in blood cholesterol levels. So the days of avoiding eggs for the sake of your HDL and LDL are past.

Which is really good news for this amazing Mediterranean Baked Eggs with Croutons and Tomatoes.

This delightful breakfast-lunch-or-dinner dish comes from America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, a fabulous resource I’ve been working my way through since receiving it for my last birthday. If you like Mediterranean flavors (or dig the health perks of a Mediterranean diet), you’re going to love this unique combination of crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs. Something about the match of blistered, tender tomatoes against the crunch of croutons and the heft of the eggs has made this one of my new favorite meals.

Made step-wise by baking the croutons and tomatoes at the same time, assembling, and baking again, this recipe may look slightly daunting at first, but ultimately is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Plus, the baking time involved gives you a few extra minutes to toss a light salad–True Food Kitchen’s Kale Salad, perhaps?–to complete the picture of an unforgettable Mediterranean-style meal.

Bring on the eggs for dinner!


Print Recipe
Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes
A breakfast-lunch-or-dinner standout full of Mediterranean flavor: crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs--yum!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the bread chunks with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread into it in an even layer. Set aside.
  2. In the same large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add cherry tomatoes and stir to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pouring any additional olive oil mixture over tomatoes.
  3. Place both the dish of croutons and the baking sheet of tomatoes in the oven. Bake the croutons for 10 minutes and the tomatoes for 20 minutes.
  4. Once both tomatoes and croutons have baked, pour tomatoes over the croutons and gently stir together, adding an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Using a large spoon, make six shallow indentations in the mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper. Return the baking dish to the oven for another 12 minutes or until eggs are just set.
  5. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle crumbled feta over the top and serve.
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Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli

Cauliflower is, as they say, “having a moment.” More accurately, it’s having a decade. Everywhere you look, cauliflower versions of food products have cropped up in the last few years, whether it’s cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, or cauliflower cake. (Yes, really.) Apparently our national fear of carbs and/or gluten has driven us to conclude that cauliflower is the miracle vegetable that will save our dietary souls. I’d say this tweet I saw this morning pretty well sums it up:

 

I haven’t jumped on the cauliflower bandwagon (I still think bread and potatoes have their own nutritional benefits), but cauliflower does boast plenty of nutrients of its own, including fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. So bear with me as I add to the Cauliflower Conversation with these Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli. I think you’ll forgive me when you taste them.

Cauliflower steak sandwiches have actually been on my mind for about six months. Back in February, our family took a trip to Disneyland. At the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland (formerly the Village Haus pizza restaurant) I was trying to be healthy and ordered the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich.

And it ROCKED. MY. WORLD.

As described on the menu, it’s a “grilled cauliflower steak, spicy lime aioli, tempura-battered green beans, lettuce and tomato on a toasted roll.” But the description doesn’t do justice to the amazing combination of flavors and textures this plant-based dish had to offer. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Ever since, I’ve wanted to re-create it at home, but couldn’t find any copycat recipes online.

Sooooo I had to make my own. I started with roasted cauliflower steaks (I don’t grill; it’s my personal cooking Waterloo)…and seasoned them with lemon juice, olive oil, and red pepper. These cauliflower cross-sections emerge from the oven crispy and sandwich-ready.

From there, whipping together a chili-garlic-lime aioli wasn’t too complex. Added to a toasted ciabatta bun with lettuce, it totally fulfills my Fantasyland-inspired craving. (I will admit, though, that I haven’t gone to the trouble of making tempura-battered green beans like the Red Rose Taverne. I do enjoy putting Snapea crisps on top, however!) Now I don’t have to go all the way to Disney for my favorite sandwich.

But I think I’ll keep going anyway. 😉

Print Recipe
Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli
Inspired by the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich at Disneyland's Red Rose Taverne, this copycat makes a tasty plant-based lunch or dinner.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cauliflower steaks:
For assembling the sandwiches:
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cauliflower steaks:
For assembling the sandwiches:
Instructions
Make the cauliflower steaks.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice cauliflower head lengthwise through the core into 4 slabs. (It helps to leave a bit of the core on to hold them together.) Place on greased baking sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Brush this mixture on the upward-facing side of the cauliflower. Roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Flip cauliflower steaks and brush the other side with remaining olive oil mixture. Continue roasting another 20 minutes or until browned around the edges.
Meanwhile, make the aioli.
  1. In a measuring cup, combine all aioli ingredients and mix with an immersion blender (or whisk vigorously) until well combined.
Assemble the sandwiches.
  1. Assemble to your liking with cauliflower steaks, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the toasted ciabatta rolls.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe, cauliflower steaks adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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