essential ingredient: the scoop on stevia

If you’ve been here for more than a few posts, you’ll notice that the majority of my recipes are free from any form of added sugars. Instead, I love using whole fruits (mostly dates) and stevia to do the heavy lifting of adding the required sweetness because they don’t give you the spike and crash and are more immune system-friendly.

Stevia has continued to gain traction in the food marketplace, but with it, packaging that I believe is deceptive and misleading. You might think you’re getting stevia, when you’re actually getting stevia + other sweeteners and fillers.

That’s why I decided to go live over on the wildberry press Facebook page today.

Check out the video over there or view it below – let’s just ignore the weird close-eyed video still. #goodgrief If you want the online ordering info for 100% pure stevia, don’t forget to scroll past the video.

 

Here’s the order information I referenced for easy access:  NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order. (contains affiliate links @ no cost to you, but helps fund this blog)

If you plan on ordering from Vitacost and want to save on shipping then you’ll also want to download my top Vitacost buys tip sheet. In it, I share the products I most often buy from Vitacost to bulk up my order. As an added bonus, the products in the tip sheet are usually cheaper on Vitacost than other online or brick-and-mortar store options! Click here to get it delivered to your inbox.

P.S. If you wanted the Spicy Sweet Pumpkin Seed recipe I referenced in the video, you can get that here.

apple pumpkin granola fall parfait (vegan, no added sugar, gluten free option)

Last week, I shared one apple-based recipe and one with pumpkin – both bonus recipes in my Perk Up Your Pantry – Fall edition erecipebook. It’s free for a limited time, and you can get yours here.

Today, I’m ending the debate and bringing both flavors together with one snack-tastic recipe…the apple pumpkin granola fall parfait.

When I created the Perk Up Your Pantry erecipebook, my thought was to include recipes that could be enjoyed by themselves, but also easily combined in new ways so your meal plans feel fresh and fun. Which is exactly what I love about this pumpkin harvest granola which is one of the erecipebooks bonus recipes!

 

 

 

You could make this for breakfast or as a snack – even one on the go. To re-create your parfait as I did, you’ll need your favorite variety of fresh apple, my date caramel recipe and the pumpkin harvest granola which can only be found in the Perk Up Your Pantry erecipebook.

The other thing I love is that it shows how easily you can create an indulgent-looking snack (or breakfast!) without any added sugars or dairy products. It’s food that loves you back!

I will add, however, that it’s still wise to eat a well balanced diet – one filled with leafy greens especially. If you go crazy on the carbs – especially added sugars, plant-based fats, processed vegan foods and fruits and veggies with a high naturally-occurring sugar profile, you might not experience the health benefits you’re looking for.

 

That’s also what you’ll find in the Perk Up Your Pantry erecipebook – a good balance of recipes with sensible, but fun, vegan eating in mind. If you haven’t checked it out yet, the erecipebook includes:

  • 5 essential sauce recipes
  • 5 essential snack recipes
  • 5 easy main dish recipes
  • 3 fall-inspired bonus recipes
  • A shopping list of all ingredients

PLUS you’ll receive encouragement and tips for perking up your pantry, meal planning and prepping tips (including a suggested 5-day meal plan), my favorite ways of saving money at the grocery store and a behind the scenes peek at my own pantry with my top organization tips. Download your copy here.

pumpkin harvest granola (no added sugar, gluten free option)

Pumpkin lovers, this one’s for you!

If this big orange fall fruit-that-we-think-of-as-a-vegetable is your thang, than you’ll want to scoop up this recipe pronto.

The pumpkin harvest granola is seasonal twist on my simply saturday version and ushers the spicy scent of fall right into your kitchen. Eat it at breakfast if you want to stick with tradition, but I’ve found a few ways to work it into my snack-happy habits and I’ll be sharing one of those with you next week.

It’s recipes like these that are slowing winning me over to the ways of pumpkin…I don’t think it will ever edge out my love of apples, but it just might come close. If you want to share where you fall in the pumpkin vs. apple debate, enter your vote here on my FB page.

The pumpkin harvest granola recipe is one of the three bonus recipes included in the the Perk Up Your Pantry – Fall edition recipe book. If you haven’t claimed your copy yet, you can get it FREE (for now), here.

Not only does it include this recipe, but you’ll get these as well:

  • 5 essential sauce recipes
  • 5 essential snack recipes
  • 5 easy main dish recipes
  • 3 fall-inspired bonus recipes
  • A shopping list of all ingredients

PLUS you’ll receive encouragement and tips for perking up your pantry, meal planning and prepping tips (including a suggested 5-day meal plan), my favorite ways of saving money at the grocery store and a behind the scenes peek at my own pantry with my top organization tips. Download your copy here.

apple cabbage slaw with apple cinnamon dressing (vegan, raw, paleo, gluten free, no added sugar)

In the apple vs. pumpkin debate, I fall in with the apple crowd.

What about you?

It’s been a great year for apples here in Northeast Ohio…especially the organic red apples we’ve been enjoying from my parent’s neighbors. Which got me brainstorming ideas for a fresh fall apple-based salad…

Voila! Apple cabbage slaw with apple cinnamon dressing.

I can eat it like candy.

My favorite thing? I can’t decide. It’s a toss up its crunchy sweetness (but without any added sugar!) or being the perfect balance to the heavier comfort food dishes because the apple cinnamon dressing is free of heavier oils found in traditional coleslaw.

The apple cabbage slaw recipe is one of the three bonus recipes included in the the Perk Up Your Pantry – Fall edition recipe book. If you haven’t claimed your copy yet, you can get it FREE (for now), here.

Not only does it include the apple cabbage slaw recipe, but it includes these as well:

  • 5 essential sauce recipes
  • 5 essential snack recipes
  • 5 easy main dish recipes
  • 3 fall-inspired bonus recipes
  • A shopping list of all ingredients

PLUS you’ll receive encouragement and tips for perking up your pantry, meal planning and prepping tips (including a suggested 5-day meal plan), my favorite ways of saving money at the grocery store and a behind the scenes peek at my own pantry with my top organization tips. Download your copy here.

 

And in case you fall on the pumpkin-side of things, I’ll have a pumpkin-inspired recipe for you later this week.

german chocolate cake (vegan, no added sugar, soy free)

 

Happy Birthday…to me!

Yep, it’s my birthday today and I’m celebrating by sharing this german chocolate cake recipe with you.

But first…if you’ve been checking regularly with me, you might have noticed it was awfully silent here last week. It’s for a good reason, I promise you, and I’ll be revealing more later this week (eek! excited!). My newsletter tribe already got a bit of sneak peek. If you also want to be among the first to hear exciting news and never miss a recipe, sign up for the newsletter here. I also share a little more content and personal stories there too!

Right. Back to the cake.

Before I made the switch to a vegan, low/no added sugar diet, german chocolate cake topped my list as a favorite birthday cake. It was one I thought was crossed off my list forever since the traditional frosting uses evaporated milk and eggs and is packed with sugar.

Then I discovered that if I combined dates with three basic ingredients. it produced a frosting that closely approximates the original but far surpasses it nutritionally. Insert celebration with confetti here.

photo @pixabay.com

 

The german chocolate cake itself is a modification of my chocolate zucchini muffin recipe…which means these also work perfectly as cupcakes!

And here’s an interesting bit of trivia…when I first heard of this cake, I thought “german” meant it was a cake that originated in Germany by some inspired baker. However, it actually refers to the last name of an English-American chocolatier, Samuel German, who invented a certain kind of dark baking chocolate. So, really, the cake should be German’s chocolate cake.

Print
German Chocolate Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hrs 10 mins
 

This classic cake gets a healthy makeover by eliminating both the added sugar and dairy. Instead, dates, pecans and coconut form the decadent frosting and the cake itself gets a nutritional boost from shredded zucchini.

Course: Dessert
Ingredients
Dry Ingredients
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 scoops 100% pure stevia*
Wet Ingredients
  • 2 small ripe/slightly underripe banana
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond coconut milk
  • 2 flax eggs 2 T ground flax seed + 4 T water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup date paste*
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Frosting
  • 15-20 Medjool dates with pits (remove pits before mixing)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
Instructions
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9" cake pans well (coconut oil is recommended). On a piece of parchment paper, use one of the cake pans to trace two circles in pencil. Cut out the circles and place one (pencil-mark down) in each cake pan. 

  2. Mix up your flax egg and set aside. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine.

  3. In a food processor or high speed blender, add all wet ingredients EXCEPT the zucchini and apple cider vinegar. Blend until well-combined and very smooth then add to the dry ingredients. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
  4. Gently stir the batter as you sprinkle in the zucchini a little at a time and then add the apple cider vinegar and gently mix again. Spoon into prepared batter into the pans and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  5. When finished baking, leave in the cake pans for 10-15 minutes, then loosen with a knife and remove from the pans and place on a cooling rack. Store cake in a covered container for 1-2 days or refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Recipe Notes

*Recipe Notes Be sure to use 100% pure stevia If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using. I recommend using spelt flour and unsweetened almond coconut milk as it's why I used and results may vary with other flours or dairy-free milks although feel free to experiment Unless you don't mind a slight banana flavor to the cake, I recommend using a small perfectly ripe or just under-ripe banana.

 

 

 

  •  Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I got my organic spelt flour (GMO free!) from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or you can find it here.
  • Target and many other grocery stores carry the unsweetened almond coconut milk, but you also can get it here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping
  • I usually buy my almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but click here for another option.
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut: If you have a Whole Foods or natural foods store near by, check the bulk section! Or get it here.
  • Pecans: I buy mine at BJs (a wholesale club) or you can find them here. If you aren’t a member of BJs and want to check it out, use this link to sign up for a BJs membership and we’ll both get $25!

 

 

game, set, matcha coconut lime energy bites (vegan, no added sugar, gluten free, paleo)

As we’re learning, life in high school is busy…especially when you throw in sports. It usually makes for a long day and a late arrival home.

To brighten up my daughter’s long day and making snacking on the run easier, I whipped up these matcha coconut lime energy bites – a nod to her chosen sport this season and because matcha naturally boosts energy. It also helps with mental alertness, has antioxidant powers (hello bright green powder!), boosts the immune system and cardiovascular health and can fight infections – which gives it an A+ in my books.

 

 

This was my first time trying matcha after hearing of it several years ago on Kathy Patalsky’s blog, Healthy Happy Life. Yep, even thought I’m a tea drinker, it took me this long to try it since it’s more expensive than the tea I normally buy, but happily, I found that a little goes a looong way. And I’m excited to experiment and see what this does for my own energy.

If you’ve never tried matcha, it tastes like green tea because it is, um, green tea, but carries greater health benefits. If you want to learn more about its history, how it’s grown and it’s properties, click here.

Making these game, set, matcha energy bites is as easy as 1-2-3. Just thoroughly mix the ingredients in a food processor, form into bite-sized balls and coat in unsweetened shredded coconut since the batter is very sticky. You could coat them in matcha powder as I did here, but that amount of undiluted matcha powder carries a bitter overtone. So unless you don’t mind a little bitter with you no-added-sugar sweet, I’d stick with the unsweetened coconut.

Speaking of sweet…as with most of my recipes, these energy bites do not have any energy-sapping, immune suppressing added sugar! They also work for gluten-free and paleo diets since they are free from grains.

 

Print
Game, Set, Matcha Coconut Lime Energy Bites
Prep Time
15 mins
 

These coconut lime energy bites carry the subtle flavor of green tea and are perfect for hectic days when you're on the go and need a natural boost of energy.

Course: Snack
Servings: 9 energy bites
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 scoop 100% pure stevia powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for coating)
  • 2 pinches salt
Instructions
  1. Pit the dates, then put all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and mix until thoroughly combined and the cashews have mostly been chopped into very fine pieces. Since the mixture is very sticky, keep your hands slightly wet with water to form the bite-size balls. Place additional coconut in a plastic bag, drop in each energy bite one at a time and shake to coat. For best results, refrigerate for at least one hour before eating.

    Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for several days.

Recipe Notes

RECIPE NOTES

It's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them as they tend to stay juicer than when the pits are removed. Make sure you are using 100% PURE stevia - read the ingredients closely! - as most stevia powders have added sweeteners and/or artificial ingredients.

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • Since this was my first time trying matcha, I purchased a small amount from Whole Foods. But you can find it cheaper here and in a larger quantity
  • Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping

chocolate zucchini muffins (vegan, no added sugar, dairy free, soy free)

 

I know I’ve hit on a real winner of a recipe when my husband asks for me to make it again. He’s my gold standard. Not that my other recipes aren’t equally tasty, but rather, they might not be equally tasty to people who still love to eat meat, dairy and sugar. Like my husband.

So I’m going to guess that these chocolate zucchini muffins will be safe to label as crowd-pleasers …for vegans and non-vegans, sugar addicts and sugar abstainers alike.

I honestly wasn’t sure how these would turn out and it’s been awhile since I’ve attempted baked goods because most of my past efforts weren’t good enough to try baking again. You see, when you remove the dairy and the eggs and the added sugar, the science of baking a simple muffin suddenly becomes more complicated.

That challenge makes this victory all the no-added-sugar sweeter. If you’re curious why I work to eliminate added sugar in my diet and what the heck do I mean by added sugar anyway, click here to receive a free video which explains all that.

I love these chocolate zucchini muffins because…

  • they are chocolate (hello!)
  • are sweetened only with fruit
  • contain a ‘veggie which my children normally don’t like
  • have an added plant-protein boost from the almond butter and ground flax seed
  • and just look at these delightful air bubbles when you split them open (which reminds me of the Aero bars I used to eat as a child – it’s a Canadian thing)

 

When I’ve made these, I used fresh shredded zucchini. If you’re using frozen, make sure you stir it in while it’s still frozen and get them into the oven ASAP. That way, the water naturally occurring in the zucchini won’t create a soggy mess for you.

Confession: I did add a few dairy-free chocolate chips to some of the batter which helps “bridge the gap” between traditional added sugar muffins and fruit-sweetened ones. However, I don’t think my family was any wiser when they ate the chip-free muffins, so I might leave them out altogether next time.

 

Print
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

These chocolate zucchini muffins are sweetened entirely with fruit which makes them perfect for breakfast, but they are sweet enough for snacking or as a dessert too!

Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Servings: 12
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia*
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 small ripe/slightly underripe banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond coconut milk
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax seed + 3 T water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup date paste*
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease your muffin tin well (coconut oil is recommended). Mix up your flax egg and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine.

  3. In a food processor or high speed blender, add all wet ingredients EXCEPT the zucchini and apple cider vinegar. Blend until well-combined and very smooth then add to the dry ingredients. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.

  4. Gently stir in the zucchini and then add the apple cider vinegar and gently mix again. Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 27-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


  5. When finished baking, leave in the muffin tins for 10-15 minutes and then loosen with a knife and remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. Store muffins in a covered container for 1-2 days refrigerated or 3-4 days refrigerated.

Recipe Notes

*Recipe Notes

  • Be sure to use 100% pure stevia
  • If you can't find date paste, you can make your own by soaking 3/4 cup of Medjool dates in warm water for 1-2 hours and then blending until smooth. In this case, it's best to buy Medjool dates with the pits still in them and simply remove the pits just before using.
  • I recommend using spelt flour and unsweetened almond coconut milk as it's why I used and results may vary with other flours or dairy-free milks although feel free to experiment
  • Unless you don't mind a slight banana flavor to these muffins, I recommend using a small perfectly ripe or just under-ripe banana.

 

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  •  Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I got my organic spelt flour (GMO free!) from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or you can find it here.
  • Target and many other grocery stores carry the unsweetened almond coconut milk, but you also can get it here.
  • Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping
  • I usually buy my almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but click here for another option.
  • Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes) Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.
  • I get my chocolate chips at Trader Joe’s, but here is another kind of dairy-free chocolate chip if you aren’t near a Trader Joe’s

 

weeknight tacos with tres taco “meat” (vegan, soy free, gluten free, no added sugar)

Sure it’s not Tuesday, but tacos are too good to have only one day a week dedicated to them, right?! Last week, I was pretty excited about having them for lunch leftovers two days in a row and love this new tres taco meat I whipped up featuring walnuts, chickpeas and lentils. It’s a tres-fecta of plant-based protein.

In keeping with weeknights, which typically are busy for many of us, this recipe is simple and requires quick heating or none at all in case you prepare the ingredients ahead of time.

Let me walk you through this recipe with that busy schedule in mind…

  • The night before, put the walnuts and water in a bowl, cover and place in the fridge.
  • Also, go ahead and cook those lentils (and while they’re cooking, you can tidy up from dinner, put away some laundry, help your kids with homework, read to them or just put up your feet for a well-deserved rest)
  • If you plan on serving guacamole, you’ll want to mix up it up just before you serve it.
  • The morning of…chop up some lettuce, tomatoes and any other fresh topping that won’t spoil and store in separate airtight bags or containers. Have your salsa chilling in the fridge too and set out your spices for the tres taco “meat.”
  • Dinnertime prep…prepare the tres taco meat according to the directions. If you want the taco meat warmed, add it to a saucepan with a some salsa and gently warm it over medium-high heat which takes less than 5 minutes. If your children are old enough, they can help set out the toppings while you do this!
  • If you’re making the guac…pull out the bowl with some the prepared ingredients, add the lime juice and then the avocado and mash away.

There you go. Dinner reading in one, two, tres!

 

Before we get to the recipe, I have a little something extra for you… 

How would you like my favorite go-to guacamole recipe, and top three guac-tips which include cutting the fat but not the flavor, how to make it easier to prep on busy weeknights PLUS the secret ingredient I like to pair it with delivered right to your inbox? You would! Super! Just click this link to receive your FREE printable guacamole recipe + tip sheet.

 

 

 

Print
weeknight tacos with tres taco "meat"
Prep Time
6 hr
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
7 hr
 

This plant-protein packed taco "meat." featuring lentils, chickpeas and walnuts is simple to prepare and even with a little extra prep step. The lentils and chickpeas also keep it budget friendly. When combined with crisp organic taco shells and a few simple topping, weeknight dinners come together in one, two, tres!

Course: Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8 tacos
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the Tres Taco Meat
  • 3/4 cups walnuts, soaked 6 hours or overnight
  • 1/3 cup uncooked lentils
  • 2/3 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp chiii powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup salsa or 1 medium tomato
For the toppings (suggested ingredients)
  • lettuce, chopped fine
  • tomatoes, diced fine
  • sugar free salsa*
  • jalapeno peppers
  • guacamole
Instructions
  1. Put the walnuts in a bowl with enough water to cover them completely and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours to overnight.

  2. Either the night before or at least 1 one before you want to make your taco meat, cook the lentils according to package directions.

  3. In the meantime, prepare the other taco toppings. I recommend making the guacamole just before you're ready to eat it to minimize the oxidation.

  4. When you're ready to make the taco meat, drain the walnuts and rinse, then add to a food processor along with the remaining taco meat ingredients. If you want to warm the taco meat, add to a medium saucepan along with some salsa and heat over medium-high for about 5 minutes.

  5. Assemble and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

*I usually buy Tostitos or Old El Paso salsa, but you can buy any kind that is free of sugar (read the ingredients to be sure!)

*I love Jeff's Natural's jalapeno peppers because they're free of some of the additives and dyes typically found in most prepared jalapeno pepper brands.

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  •  Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I usually buy my taco shells at Trader Joe’s because they are organic which you can get online here!
  • I love Jeff’s Natural’s jalepeno peppers which are free from the usual additives and dyes found on store shelves. I find mine at Whole Foods Market, but you also can get them here.

 

snack to school week: apples + date caramel (vegan, no added sugar)

(Subscribe to my newsletter here so you don’t miss a Snack to School Week – or any – recipe!)

 

The other week I shared this recipe for date caramel. This week, I’m sharing it again; this time with the quintessential back to school fruit: apples.

My personal favorites are granny smiths because their tartness is a perfect complement to the natural sweetness of the date caramel. Organic apples are best since conventional apples rank #4 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. (Hint: to have quick access to this list, download their Dirty Dozen app to your phone!)

And on that sweetness…there is no added sugar in this date caramel. It’s sweetened entirely by the sugars which naturally occur in the dried Medjool dates (which are the best choice for this recipe).

Funnily enough though, my youngest thought it was “too sweet.” I’m still scratching my head over this one since he happily eats candy and drinks pop whenever he can despite my best efforts to squash that. LOL Which just goes to show even “kid friendly” recipes aren’t foolproof as I shared on Day One of Snack to School Week.

I love this recipe because its:

  • easy to prepare
  • fun
  • packed full of nutrients
  • smooth and creamy
  • a better way to appease that sweet tooth
  • versatile

If you’re sending the apples to school, try squeezing a little lemon juice over them to keep them from turning brown.

Only one more day to go in the 2017 edition of Snack to School Week. Come back tomorrow for my roundup of other amazing school snack ideas!

Print
Date Caramel
Prep Time
10 mins
 

Rich and creamy and loaded with nutrients and plant-protein, this date caramel easily comes together to satisfy your sweet tooth, but without giving you a sugar crash.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 6-8 Medjool dates
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp (scant) salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Instructions
  1. Pit the dates and then add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy, adjusting salt to taste. For a thinner sauce, add more almond milk.

Recipe Notes

Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.

(contains affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you 🙂 )

  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I usually buy my almond butter from Trader Joe’s, but click here for another option.
  • Happily, Aldi has been carrying Medjool dates lately, but you can also find them here.

 

snack to school week :: more spinach trees! (nut free, sugar free, vegan)

As I was dreaming up this week of recipes for you, I had several goals in mind: the recipes had to be quick and easy to prepare, offered healthier, more nutrient-dense alternatives to typical kid-geared snacks and had an element of fun to entice tiny palettes.

When it comes to fruits and sweeter veggies like carrots, this isn’t so hard. But greens like spinach are another matter.

Which is why I’m so excited to share this recipe with you! I’m mildly obsessed with it and cannot believe I hadn’t thought of it before. It’s ridiculously easy, free of nuts, can also be make seed-free and takes an already healthy condiment to a new level.

Meet the “More Spinach Trees” snack.

You have two options for mixing up the spinach hummus dip. Either you can finely chop the spinach and stir it into the hummus for a leafy look.

Or place the hummus and spinach in a food processor and give it a whirl until the spinach is thoroughly incorporated and turns the hummus a light green color. While I love homemade hummus (you can find my favorite recipe here), I usually buy mine because it’s a time saver for me.

To assemble as the More Spinach Trees, slice some cucumber, spread on the spinach hummus dip and add a pretzel rod trunk. If you’re sending this to school, you can package each element separately and let your child assemble on their own. While it’s healthiest to leave the pretzel rods out all together, keep them in if it encourages your child to try the spinach hummus dip.

While I find it hard to notice a difference in taste or even texture when I’ve added the spinach, suspicious children may still balk at trying this (one of mine did). If that’s the case, start out with smaller amount and gradually increase it over time as they adjust to the new color.

If you try this, I would love to hear your feedback! Did your children like it? Or not?

 

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More Spinach Trees!

A fun and easy way to boost the nutrients in an already healthy snack and sneak some extra greens into your child's diet...and your own too!

Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup regular hummus of your choice
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed spinach
  • cucumbers, sliced
  • pretzel rods
Instructions
  1. For the "leafy" spinach hummus dip, finely chop the spinach and stir it into the hummus. For the blended green hummus, add the hummus and spinach to a food processor and blend the spinach breaks down and turns the hummus to a light green color.

  2. To assemble the "trees," spread the hummus on each slice of cucumber and place on a tray. Add a pretzel rod "trunk."

Recipe Notes

For pickier eaters, you may need to start off with smaller quantity of spinach and gradually work your way up. The spinach doesn't noticeably affect the taste or texture of the hummus, but the different appearance can cause little ones to be suspicious. 😉

One of the best tips for helping children accept vegetables and new flavors is one I encountered in a vegetarian cookbook several years ago: chop the veggies into smaller child bite-sited pieces. I’ve found I like doing this for myself too! For this dip, finely chop the spinach if you’re going to stir it in vs. blending it.

 

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  • Click here for my favorite food processor
  • I bought my pretzel rods at Trader Joe’s, but here’s a brand I like even better!
  • My go-to brand of hummus is made by Sabra which many grocery stores carry.