minestrone soup with sesame parmesan (vegan, dairy free, soy free)

(This post contains affiliate links which helps fund this blog but at no cost to you.)

With fall officially peeking around the corner and an early chill in the air – at least around here – I’m starting to crave  warm, comforting foods. Especially big pots of them for plenty of leftovers which matches with our busier back-to-school schedule. Like this minestrone soup.

I first came across this minestrone soup recipe in this cook book while I was trying to find more veggie-based recipes but before I went all in with a plant-based diet. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since.

One of the things I love about it is the subtle addition of zucchini. This is key when your garden produces monster-sized ones because you forgot to pick it (ahem). And when you are more of a zucchini liker than zucchini lovers. And in case you didn’t catch it, here’s a zucchini recipe I shared last week. The other thing I love is the use of rosemary – an herb I thought was a strange addition at first, but it definitely makes this soup sing.

 

I’ll warn you that although this minestrone soup is more labor intensive than many of my other soup recipes (like this one and this one), it’s completely worth it because of the quantity it makes and how well it freezes. If you have children who are able to handle a knife, have them help you with the chopping. Even a young child could help break the frozen green beans or help with the lettuce spinner for the spinach.

The original recipe called for using parmesan cheese. Since this wouldn’t fly for a vegan recipe, I whipped up some sesame seed parmesan which can be sprinkled on or stirred in (which also happens to boost the calcium and protein as well!). For those of you watching your fat intake (especially due to heart disease), you’ll be happy to know the soup is made without any oil and you can skip adding the parmesan altogether.

 

 

 

This soup tastes even better the second day because the flavors are able to develop. If it works, plan ahead and make it the day before you actually plan to eat it!

 

Print
Minestrone Soup with Sesame Seed Parmesan
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hrs
Total Time
1 hrs 30 mins
 

This soup is chock full of vegetables and herbs and tastes even better the second day after it's been made. The sesame seed parm is a nod to the traditional recipe and boosts the calcium and plant-protein and is just plain fun to sprinkle on.

Course: Main Course, Soup
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
For the soup
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
  • 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups finely diced tomatoes (or 1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4.5 cups water
  • 2 small zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup green beans in 1" lengths
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped spinach
  • 2 cups beans (white or kidney)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp crumbled rosemary
  • freshly ground pepper
For the sesame parm
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 4 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
Instructions
For the soup:
  1. Add the onion and garlic along with 1" water to a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the onion is translucent, then add in the carrots, celery and tomatoes. Cook another 1-2 minutes. Add all remaining soup ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45-minutes to 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender. Adjust seasonings as needed.

For the sesame parm:
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender and mix until thoroughly combined and the sesame seeds are crumbly and look like parmesan cheese. Can be stored in an air-tight jar in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Recipe Notes

Recipe Notes:

I prefer this soup with the vegetables (especially the tomatoes and zucchini) finely chopped - or in the case of the zucchini, shredded. This especially helps when serving it to children who tend to be suspicious of large chunks of vegetables - or adults who feel the same way. 😉

 

 

 

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

  •  Click here for my favorite mini food processor
  • I get both my nutritional yeast and sesame seeds in bulk at Whole Foods, but you also can find them here and here.

 

 

Product Review: Banza Penne Pasta

 

My review of Banza Penne Pasta is my own opinion and I was not compensated by the makers of Banza for this post in any way. Some links in the post may contain affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you.

I love doing these product reviews! To catch the others, click here. This week, I’m featuring this penne pasta by Banza. Since pasta is in my meal plan weekly and I’m always looking for ways to boost the nutrients in our diet, I had to try this when I saw a coupon for it in the Ibotta app*. If you want my go-to marinara sauce recipe, click here.

Ever since I changed my diet, my taste for wheat-based products has naturally fallen by the wayside. Although I can tolerate it and don’t have a gluten sensitivity, I’ve found that I just don’t like it as much. For years now, I’ve been using brown rice fusili which I buy at Trader Joe’s and brown rice spaghetti from Aldi. But I’ve missed the penne pasta shape and was excited when I saw Banza was making their garbanza-bean pasta in this shape.

 

HERE’S THE FULL SCOOP:

Where I bought it: Whole Foods

Regular purchase price: $3.99

On sale? No

Which money-saving app? Ibotta*

Cost savings: $1.50 ($.50 for the coupon + I an additional dollar off by earning the Weekend Warrior bonus – I only had to buy two products to earn an extra $2!)

Total purchase price: $2.49

How does it compare to what I normally buy? Even with the coupons from Ibotta*, it’s more than twice the price per ounce from what I normally buy. However, it also has more than twice the amount of protein per 2 oz serving size.

How did it taste? Watch this video which I recorded LIVE on my FB page:

 

Would I buy it again? Probably. Especially since my children seemed to like it – and that is often the biggest hurdle to overcome. Although it wouldn’t normally be part of my pasta rotation unless it comes down in price, I like having this option available to freshen up our meal plan and think it would be excellent in pasta salads. I’d keep a lookout for coupons and discounts though! I did find at a cheaper regular price at Target online. OR you can get it here (affiliate link – no cost to you).

 

If you have an idea for a vegan food, personal care or household product I should try, leave a comment telling me the product name, where you found it and why I should try it.

 

*If you’re not familiar with Ibotta, it’s a free money-saving app you download to your phone. I would love to have you join my team so we help each other earn more savings together! I do get a bonus when you join with me but there’s never any cost to you…just cost-savings including a $10 sign up bonus!

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.

 

product review :: Mamma Chia beverage

My review of this Mamma Chia beverage is my own opinion and I was not compensated by the makers of Mamma Chia for this post in any way. Some links in the post may contain affiliate links which help fund this blog at no cost to you.

It’s back to business here at wildberry press after an entire week of snack recipes for Snack to School Week. While I won’t be posting every day, I’m excited to share this new product review series with you along with a new recipe on Wednesday. You definitely want to come back Wednesday!

Since the marketplace has happily become flooded with more better-for-you options, I thought it would be fun to try them out LIVE on Facebook and share my reviews. For the most part, I will make my selections based on electronic coupons available through money-saving apps like Ibotta. That way, not only are we reviewing new products together, but I get to show you how to save money too! However, if you have an idea for a vegan food, personal care or household product I should try, leave a comment telling me the product name, where you found it and why I should try it.

My first review is for Mamma Chia…a purchase that ended up making me $.10.

 

HERE’S THE SCOOP:

Where I bought it: Target

Regular purchase price: $2.79

On sale? Yes! For $2.00

Which money-saving app? Ibotta*

Cost savings: $2 ($1 for the coupon + I gained a second dollar off by earning the Weekend Warrior bonus – I only had to buy two products to earn an extra $2!) PLUS, because I bought this with my Target card, I ended up earning $.10!!!

Total purchase price: $0 (actually I earned $.10!)

How did it taste? Watch this video which I recorded LIVE on my FB page:

 

*If you’re not familiar with Ibotta, it’s a free money-saving app you download to your phone. I would love to have you join my team so we help each other earn more savings together! I do get a bonus when you join with me but there’s never any cost to you…just cost-savings including a $10 sign up bonus!

snack to school week, Day 5: snack roundup

It’s the last day of the first week of school for us. And the last day of Snack to School Week here. I’m a little bit sad since it’s been such fun sharing these school-snack related recipes with you.

However, I’m excited to end this week with a recipe roundup of snacking inspiration that will keep you going with school snack ideas for awhile. I can’t wait to try these out myself, test them on my kids and come up with a new recipes for Snack to School Week 2018.

But first, a little bonus for you!

If you like round ups and lists, then you’ll want to grab a free copy of my Top 10 Go-To Snacks printable! Click to sign up and have it delivered to your inbox.

Ready for that roundup? Here we go…

Cinnamon Apple Chips ll Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen

A fun way to put a new spin on a lunchbox staple.
photo & recipe credit :: carries experimental kitchen
photo & recipe credit :: carrie’s experimental kitchen

 

 

Nut Free Protein Energy Bars ll Petite Allergy Treats

A great option for children with allergies or who attend nut-free schools.
photo & recipe credit :: petite allergy treats

 

 

7-Layer Dip

Layer the dip into individual containers or mix up a big batch for both home and school. This is one recipe that everyone in my family enjoys – an extremely rare occurrence around here!

 

 

Vegan Cheezy Crackers ll Robin Robertson via Glue & Glitter

Finally, a vegan answer to goldfish crackers and cheez-its!
Recipe from Veganize It! by Robin Robertson // Photo Credit Glue and Glitter

 

Blueberry Peach Fruit Roll Ups ll Cupcakes and Kale Chips

Another fun twist on sending fruit to school and no need to worry about bruising or mushiness!
recipe and photo credit :: cupcakes and kale chips

 

 

Salt & Vinegar Zucchini Chips ll Sugar-Free Mom

If you’re children like salt and vinegar chips, give these a try…it may help them become more excited about eating zucchini at the dinner table too!

recipe and photo credit :: sugar-free mom

 

 

Blueberry Banana Bread Bars

These also are a great breakfast dessert option and are my favorite way to use up very ripe bananas.

 

 

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Energy Balls ll Cupcakes and Kale Chips

This allergy-friendly recipe is both nut and seed free and can be made gluten-free if using gluten-free oats.
recipe and photo credit :: cupcakes and kale chips

 

 

Homemade Cool Ranch Doritos ll She Likes Food

Forget the kids! These would go in my own lunchbag. 
recipe and photo credit :: she likes food

 

 

Peanut Butter Banana Jumbleaya 

Keeping things simple – like this recipe – in the midst of very busy schedules is a smart way to save your sanity. It can also teach your children to experiment with different food combinations.

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

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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: imperfect fruit cups

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

 

I debated about sharing this recipe with you because, well, it didn’t go exactly according to plan.

It was the first time I was trying out the vegan alternative to gelatin and because our last few weeks were crazy busy, I didn’t leave time to practice with it before wanting to share the recipe with you. It certainly tastes fine, but it didn’t hold up the way I had hoped. In fact, a few of them fell apart.

However, I think there’s a lesson in this which is why I’m sharing the recipe anyway. Because as moms with access to an overwhelming number of ideas beautifully styled, captured and shared online, we can feel like our own efforts are not good enough when they turn out less-than-perfect. Which makes us feel less than.

And I think this message gets filtered down to our children.

This is why I’m sharing my less-than-perfect first attempt with this recipe (and what I might try next time) because I want to live believing that my attempts to delight and surprise my children are good enough even when they don’t look that way on the surface.

 

Delighting and surprising my children is exactly what I had in mind when I decided to try the vegan version of “jello” fruit cups since it’s a rare treat around here. Vegan “jello” uses agar agar (which comes from seaweed) instead of the animal-based gelatin typically found on store shelves. If you want to learn more about how animal-based gelatin is made, here’s the low down from organicauthority.com.

 

 

The other advantage of making your own “jello” fruit cups is the ability to control the sugar content by using 100% fruit juice. For this recipe, I chose a cranberry, raspberry, blackberry blend.

 

I think there were a few contributing factors to these falling apart once I removed them from the muffin tin:

  1. I used frozen raspberries instead of fresh which increased the water content. Therefore, I recommend using fresh fruit for these.
  2. I probably needed more agar agar than recommended because I used berries (which affects the geling abilities) and I wanted these to pop out of a muffin tin instead of staying in a dish.
  3. It took me a few attempts to figure out how to free them from the tin without destroying them, and go figure, it was gravity that came to the rescue.

 

Print
imperfect fruit cups
Prep Time
5 hr
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
5 hr 10 mins
 

These "imperfect" vegan fruit cups subtract added sugar and animal-based gelatin and multiply fun.

Course: Snack
Servings: 15
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • 4 cups 100% fruit juice of your choice
  • 4-6 tbsp agar agar
  • 1/2 cup fresh fruit (apple, pear, banana, berries, oranges, kiwi)
Instructions
  1. Grease a muffin tin very well with coconut oil. Set aside.

  2. Pour the fruit juice into a large saucepan and sprinkle in the agar agar*. If you plan to add berries, oranges or kiwi, you will need to use 6 T of agar agar. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

  3. Using a ladle, carefully pour the liquid into each muffin cup, leaving enough room to add the fruit without the liquid spilling outside the cups.

  4. Add a few pieces of fruit to each cup, then place muffin tin on a jelly roll pan (to catch any spills), and put in the refrigerator for several hours or until set.

  5. To remove fruit cups from the tin, carefully run a knife around the sides of each portion to loosen. Then, over the jelly roll pan, invert the muffin tin upside down at about a 30 degree angle. One by one, run the knife around the side of each fruit cup. Gravity to help the cup to slide out of the tin and onto the pan. You'll want to rotate the muffin tin as you do this so that the fruit cups you are loosening are closest to the jelly roll tin. Use a spatula to scoop up each fruit cup and carefully place in a storage container. If stacking them in one container, separate each layer with a piece of parchment paper. Store in the fridge.

Recipe Notes

*I used agar agar flakes. You may need to adjust the quantity if using agar agar powder or bars - simply follow those package directions. Not all fruits are compatible with agar agar. To learn more about this, visit this link.

 

(contains affiliate link which helps fund this website but at no cost to you)

  • I found my package of agar agar flakes at Whole Foods Market in the Asian food section. Natural food and Asian grocery stores also may carry it, or you can find the flakes here and the powder 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.

 

(contains affiliate links)

  • 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.

 

snack to school week: trail mix

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Today my children started back to school; it’s a day I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. Not just because we’re (okay, I’m) ready to get back on a more structured schedule, but because I’ve been dreaming up recipes and planning posts to share for “Snack to School Week” here on Wildberry Press! Yipee!

Before we jump into today’s recipe, a little disclaimer…while I hope these recipes will please those little palettes – and your too! – I won’t use the label “kid friendly.” I’ve been down that road enough times to know there is always at least one child who refuses to eat “kid friendly” foods. I don’t know about you, but that has always left me feeling a) I was scammed by the recipe creators or b) my child isn’t normal. Neither of which is true; it’s just life. 😉 Instead, I’m sharing recipes that are generally crowd pleasers and have been given the thumbs up by most of my brood.

Like this trail mix.

Though it’s tempting to buy pre-made trail mixes in the stores, I have yet to find one that doesn’t contain an unnecessary amount of added sugar, preservatives and/or food dyes. So for the longest time, I’ve made up my own mixes.

Back when my children were little and I hadn’t curbed my sugar intake LOL I used to make this version all the time and I had to share it because of the secret I discovered in getting them to eat all the trail mix and not just picking out the chocolate chips.

Want to know what it is?

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and pop it in a warm oven like 200 degrees F) for at least 15-20 minutes.

 

Then simply stir until all the pieces are coated in chocolate, pour onto a jelly roll pan and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. And voila! Trail mix with chocolate that can’t be picked out.

The other thing I love about this recipe is the ability to customize it to different tastes and control the sugar content (or eliminate all together if you’ve cut back on sugar like me).

To keep it vegan, look for dairy-free chocolate chips. If you’re sending this to nut-free school, check if seeds, like pumpkin and sunflower, are allowed instead or eliminate them all together.

 

 

 

 

 

(contains affiliate links)

  • Buying nuts in bulk is cheapest. I get mine at BJs, but you also can find them here
  • I buy Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels (also at BJ’s), which you can find 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
  • I prefer using apple juice sweetened cranberries which I find in the bulk section at Whole Foods, but you also can find them here
  • I also get my raw pumpkin seeds in the Whole Foods bulk section, but they also can be purchased here.

 

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Trail Mix
Prep Time
35 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

Easily cutomizable and free of the excessive added sugars, preservatives and/or food dyes commonly found in store-bought trail mixes. 

Course: Snack
Author: Andrea Anderson
Ingredients
  • almonds
  • mini pretzels
  • raw pumpkin seeds
  • raisins
  • dried cranberries
  • dairy free chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Place in a warm oven (around 200 degrees F) for 15-20 minutes or until the chocolate chips are soft and melty. Pour the mixture onto a jelly roll pan and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the chocolate has firmed up. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes
  • Using apple juice sweetened cranberries lowers the added sugar content
  • Try different combinations of nuts and seeds and dried fruits.