Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thai Steak (or Chicken) Salad

I'm always on the lookout for ways everyone get what they want out of a single meal. For the kids this means things they like, not too spicy, small colorful portions, followed by dessert. For Mufasa it entails big robust flavors, plenty of heat, and meat. I want something that tastes good and still allows me to button my pants in the morning. It can be tricky to manage, but this little ditty fits the bill.

Oddly enough, Looly adores cabbage, so the salad portion of this meal is right up her alley. Roo is all about meat and while we've just started venturing into beef territory with him due to his allergies, this recipe works just as well with chicken. Bean likes the meat, veggies, mint leaves, and most of all, using chopsticks.
The flavor is big, bright, bold and spicy which makes Mufasa very happy, and since the meat gets tossed in the sauce after cooking, it's easy to keep the heat turned down for the kids. To dial it up for the grown-ups add plenty of Sriracha after you've tossed some cabbage and meat for the spice averse.

Thai Steak (or Chicken) Salad
adapted from Cooking Light June 2012

1-1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed or 1-1/2 pounds chicken breasts
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp Sriracha
1 cup red cabbage, sliced
1 cup green cabbage, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Cook about 6 minutes per side or until done. Remove meat from pan and let stand 5 minutes. Slice meat across grain into thin slices.
2. Combine lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and Sriracha* in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
3. Combine both cabbages and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Dress the salad mixture with 6 tbsp of the juice mixture and toss to coat. Add meat to the remaining juice mixture and toss to coat. Distribute salad onto plates and top with meat.

*If you're serving kids, hold off on adding the Sriracha until after you've tossed some meat and salad in the dressing.

Serves 6

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Thanks to a traipsing bunch of monkeys swinging from my cart, my grocery store focus was somewhat disjointed the other day and I did the unthinkable. I bought fat-free feta cheese.

It wasn't until halfway though chopping spinach, artichoke hearts and Kalamata olives that I realized my error. In a bit of a tizzy I tossed the hunk of glubber (I really don't know how else to describe it) onto the counter. And it bounced. There is no excuse for fat-free cheese. Moderation is fine. I can get behind reduced fat dairy products of all kinds but fat-less cheese? Why not chew on a Kong instead. At least it will clean your teeth.
Three mandatory bathroom visits, two ponytail adjustments, one argument over who gets to ride which bike to the store, and thirty five minutes later we were back in business with a block of real honest to goodness Greek feta cheese sloshing in cloudy brine. It was worth it.

The beauty of this salad is multifarious. It's nutritious, full of flavor, quick and painless to make, easy to scale to a crowd, can be deconstructed for picky kids, and super versatile. I've made it with orzo, brown rice, quinoa, and farro but I imagine it would be just as tasty with whole wheat rotini, penne, basmati rice, bulgur, kamut or just about any other grain you can think of, but please, no fat-free feta!
Mediterranean Farro Salad
adapted from Cooking Light May 2010

1 cup farro, uncooked
2 cups baby spinach, washed, dried and chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, diced
3 tbsp. Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, reserve the marinade
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. Rinse and cook farro according to package directions. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Combine cooked farro, spinach, tomatoes, onion, and olives. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Drain artichokes by pouring the marinade into the bowl over the top of the farro mixture (this is the dressing). Chop artichokes and add to bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the feta cheese and toss everything together gently. Top with remaining 1/4 cup feta cheese.

Makes about 4 servings of 1-1/4 cup each.
Aside from Bean (who prefers no feta), my kids won't eat this salad all mixed together. Looly loves grape tomatoes, pasta, and feta cheese. She'll tolerate the spinach and artichoke hearts on a good day as long as everything is kept separate. Roo digs pasta, feta, and olives. The other textures are still a challenge for him though so I typically chop avocado for him to eat on the side. Sometimes I feel like I need a spreadsheet to keep it all straight. But in the end, they eat theirs their way, I eat mine my way and we're all happy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Roasted Pepita Honey Butter and 25 Nut-Free Alternatives to Peanut Butter

Looly loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which is a problem because, in case you missed the memo, Roo is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. So, sadly, no almond butter or Nutella for us either. For years we've relied on Sunbutter for sandwiches, cookies, and pretty much everything else peanut butter-inspired. Huge props to Sunbutter. I don't know what we would do without you, my friend, and seriously, it is pretty freaking good. We're not tossing our jar of Sunbutter but with the school year looming and roughly 540 lunches to pack (that's 180 days times 3 kids!) perhaps it's time to expand our nut-free horizons.
Yup, that's a a smothering of homemade roasted pepita honey butter, baby. Chunky, salty, sweet, crunchy, nut-free yet nutty in flavor, and loaded with good stuff like amino acids, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Pepitas, by the way, are pumpkin seeds, but "pepitas" is a much snappier way of putting it, am I right?
Bean worked the blender and helped taste test. After giving up one too many spoons to her constant lick stealing, I finally gave her a bowl and a spoon. Roo was intrigued but not ready to actually sample quite yet. And Looly, my usual holdout, she gobbled up half a pepita butter and jelly sandwich then wolfed down another thick slice of bread slathered in pepita butter. Yeah. That was after her lunch.
Roasted Pepita Honey Butter

2 cups pepitas, roasted and salted (I bought our pepitas already roasted and salted but you could easily roast your own pumpkin seeds instead).
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup canola oil

Combine pepitas and honey in a food processor or powerful blender and pulse. Slowly drizzle in oil through top of lid and process until you have reached your desired consistency. I left ours just a little chunky and the extra crunch is awesome. Taste and adjust salt and honey to suit your mood.
And just in case you aren't swayed by my recipe, here are 25 more nut-free sandwich spreads to help get you through the school year.

25 Nut-free Sandwich Spreads
  1. Sunbutter
  2. Wowbutter (soy butter)
  3. Nonuts Golden Peabutter
  4. Biscoff Spread
  5. Guacamole
  6. Simple Foods Organic Chocolate Soy Butter
  7. Mashed banana
  8. Hummus
  9. Edamame Hummus
  10. Black Bean Hummus
  11. Baba Ganoush
  12. Roasted Vegetable Spread
  13. Lemon Curd
  14. Triple Berry Curd
  15. Apple Butter
  16. Vanilla Pear Butter
  17. Pumpkin Butter
  18. Mascarpone cheese
  19. Goat cheese
  20. Ricotta cheese
  21. Schuler's Cheese Spread
  22. Whipped honey
  23. Marshmallow Fluff
  24. Nut-free Kale Pesto 
  25. Olive Tapenade
  26. And of course, Roasted Pepita Honey Butter

Monday, July 23, 2012

Herby Pea and Ricotta Tart

Mufasa's herb garden is going bananas. I'm hoping to say the same about the tomatoes in a few weeks but for now, the focus is on trying to use as much mint and basil as possible. Hence, this pretty little morsel from the garden. 
I made this tart for my book club a few weeks ago and shockingly the kids were bummed that they didn't get to try it. Had it been a platter of cupcakes I wouldn't have given the matter a second thought, but pea tart? Okay!

Don't ask where Bean's shirt is. Skin, spatulas, and cupcake aprons. That's how we roll.
Herby Pea and Ricotta Tart
adapted from Cooking From the Farmers' Market by Jodi Liano and Tasha DeSerio

8x10-inch rectangle of puff pastry, thawed
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen but thawed
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tbsp mint, coarsley chopped
3 tbsp basil, coarsley chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 leek, washed and thinly sliced
salt and pepper

1. Bake the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 400 degrees for 10-13 minutes until puffy. Remove from oven. Place a second sheet of parchment paper on top of pastry, lay a second baking sheet on top of parchement to compress the puff pastry and return to oven for 10-13 minutes more. Remove when golden brown and crisping at the edges. Set aside to cool.
2. In a food processor, combine half the peas, all the ricotta, half the mint, and half the basil. Process to make a thick puree. Season with salt and pepper.
3. In a separate bowl combine the remaining peas, mint, basil, lemon juice, zest, and leek. Spread the ricotta mixture over the puff pastry. Top with the pea and herb mixture. Garnish with additional mint and basil leaves if desired. Cut into squares and serve immediately.
In the end the girls were not huge fans of the tart as a whole, but they enjoyed the individual elements. Looly liked the peas and puff pastry and ate plenty of both for dinner. Bean liked the peas, the ricotta puree and the puff pastry, but not all together. After much prodding, Roo sampled a tiny taste of puff pastry but as I've mentioned before, he's a one texture at a time kind of kid.

Personally I think it rocks. Lemony, light, crisp, creamy and hearty enough to make a decent lunch. It's good now at the height of summer but I can so see it on an Easter buffet using some new spring peas - yum!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Peanut-Free or Not to Be?

This peanut thing is tricky. For one reason or another, peanuts in schools seem to be getting a lot of folks all worked up these days on both sides of the lunchroom. As mom to a peanut and tree-nut allergic kid, I'm oddly bipartisan on this front.

Obviously it would be safer to rid Roo's world of all traces of nuts starting with his school lunch table. On the other hand, singling out peanuts doesn't really help us much since a stray walnut or trace of almond butter are just as dangerous for him, if not more. 

I also understand the frustration of parents who can't send an easy, reliable, standby sandwich to school with their child. My kids are not always great eaters and if someone tried to tell me I couldn't send chicken to school with Roo, I'd be a little peeved. Then again, if that chicken was going to endanger another student's life, I'm pretty sure Roo could manage with carrot sticks and turkey roll-ups. I'm not messing around with kids dying.

The other aspect of my peanut-free ambivalence is perhaps more controversial. See, I don't trust other parents. I can't. It has taken years of reading labels, calling manufacturers and restaurants, reviewing RAST results, reading allergy studies and meeting with specialists to gain a firm understanding of how to keep my own son safe. That still doesn't qualify me to keep another child, one with different allergies and a different level of severity absolutely safe.

At four years old Roo is pretty well-versed and won't accept anything to eat unless he's verified its safety with an adult. But quite honestly, that's not their job. I don't expect another parent, camp counselor, or teacher to scour labels for filberts or albumin (yup, he's egg-allergic too) and call manufacturers when there's any doubt. It's just not realistic. I will mention, however, we've been very lucky to have a superstar teacher at Bean and Roo's preschool who goes way above and beyond in terms of understanding and accommodating Roo's unique needs.

To me going "peanut-free" at school doesn't mean much. There is still no way to guarantee that Timmy's mom didn't sneak him a peanut butter sandwich, just this once, or that Karen's grandpa didn't realize that the Kitchen Sink cookies from the local bakery contain peanuts. Roo needs to know that unless something has been deemed safe by me, his dad, or another trustworthy adult who has read, reread, and understood his entire allergy protocol, it is not safe. On some level isn't it more dangerous to instill a false sense of security at school when that's not how the rest of the world works? I don't want him thinking that just because he's at the peanut-free table, everything's copacetic.

Now, don't get me wrong. You have no idea the tear it brings to my eye when someone takes the time to find out what works for Roo, then opts for birthday fruit kebabs over cupcakes because they are safe for the whole class. I sincerely appreciate the efforts that so many of our dear friends and family have made over the years...from the first batch of vegan, nut-free sugar cookies my sister sent a few Christmases ago, to the strategically planned family anniversary party at a restaurant that would accommodate Roo's needs. My gratitude is immense.

Clearly food allergies are real and sadly, they're not going away any time soon. I don't know what the right solution is but as we're figuring it out one thing is clear. We're going to need to work together. Allergic kids and their parents deserve an environment in which they're empowered to protect themselves. Epi-pens in every classroom would be a good start, in my opinion. If we can manage defibrillators in public places, a few strategic epi-pen jr. packs placed throughout schools should be doable. Parents of non-allergic kids need to be able to ask questions and feed their families without being attacked and accused.

No matter your stance, many of us are looking at nut-free lunches this coming school year. Be on the lookout soon for posts highlighting the many delicious and varied alternatives to PB and J and peanut butter cookies that our family has grown to know and love.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Intro to Fried Dough

 Ever wonder what to do with leftover pizza dough?
We had make-you-own pizza night not so long ago. As usual the kids had fun beating dough into submission with their fists, popping air bubbles, spreading sauce, picking toppings and throwing mozzarella around the kitchen. Looly, our resident artist, made this cute owl out of black olive rings and fresh basil.
All in all a good night, but in the morning we were left with a puffy ball of unused pizza dough in the fridge. Sure we could have made calzones for lunch or baked it into bread or crackers, but I had a better idea. I wanted to show to the kids how food can transform drastically depending on how you prepare it, thus illustrating my point that they shouldn't say they don't like a food after trying it prepared any single way. Fried dough, anyone?
Easy Fried Dough (from pizza dough)

1 pound pizza dough
Enough canola or vegetable oil to fill a large heavy bottomed pot about 1-2 inches (about 2 cups, depending on the size of your pot)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

1. Heat the oil to 350 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Cut pizza dough into desired shapes. We made little doughnut holes and I rolled out some longer strips and fused the ends together to make mini doughnuts.
2. Drop dough (fry same size pieces together) in batches into the hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally until all sides are golden brown and the dough floats to the top of the oil. Remove fried dough from the oil and drain on several layers of paper towels.
3. Place powdered sugar in bowl. Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Toss the warm fried dough in desired toppings, which is the perfect job for helpful, hungry kids.
So, it's fried dough. It's warm and crispy and gooey and sweet and delicious. And my kids didn't like it. Well, most of them didn't like it. Looly deemed it too sweet and asked for a banana instead, though she did enjoy licking powdered sugar straight out of the bowl. Roo was not a fan. He is typically more of a salty kind of guy. Bean though, was nearly as big a fan as her parents, which is why we ended up throwing away half the batch while we could still save ourselves. Really good stuff. In moderation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shareholder Open House at Angelic Organics

As I mentioned in my recent beets post, we are shareholders at Angelic Organics, a super community supported agriculture farm in Caledonia, IL. This weekend we visited the farm as part of an open house for shareholders.
We took a hay ride through the fields to admire and learn about the crops. The kids were particularly taken with the first blushing tomatoes and watermelons ripening on the vine, and Looly asked some great questions about the different growing techniques. There may be hope for my city kids yet.
Bean enjoying the hay ride
While a performance by famed Bubble-ologist, Geoff Akins, was definitely the highlight for Looly, Bean, and Roo, they also loved visiting the pigs...

petting goats and chickens...

and picking 3 pounds of green beans and wax beans in the U-pick garden, which resulted in 4 pints of spicy pickled beans. I need to work on my bean loading technique as these are kind of smooshed into their jars, but the marinade is good and spicy. Mufasa has big plans to put them to use during football season tailgates. They will be awesome nestled alongside a freshly grilled bratwurst, in peppery bloody marys and for general snacking, of course.
Spicy Pickled Green Beans and Wax Beans
adapted slightly from food.com

2 pounds green beans, wax beans or a combo, trimmed
2 tbsp. salt
2 and 1/2 cups red wine vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup vodka
4 tbsp. mustard seeds
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 tbsp. pink peppercorns
4 tsp. fennel seeds
4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (less, if you prefer)
8 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. dill

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch beans until crisp tender, about 4 minutes, then plunge into an ice bath to halt cooking.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium high heat for 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar.
3. Place beans into sterilized pint jars (more neatly and artistically than I did, no doubt!). Remove bay leaves from marinade and pour hot marinade over beans leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. Allow to sit in the canner for 5 minutes then remove and cool completely on a wire rack or clean towel. Check seals and reprocess if needed. 

Makes 4 pints

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bring on the Beets

As much as I want to be that mom that drives a hybrid and outfits my children in hemp and secondhand organic cotton, I spend a lot of time at Target. And Starbucks. And while I'm making confessions, sometimes I don't turn the engine off on the minivan while I'm waiting to pick up the kids. Yup. I idle.

But, I do buy organic as much as I can. Dairy and meat almost always, skincare most of the time, produce when it makes sense. I turn off the water while brushing my teeth. The kids color on recycled paper that goes back into the recycling bin. And we subscribe to a weekly CSA box from Angelic Organics. That's a whole share, people. No half-boxes here.

I adore our weekly CSA box. Opening the flaps of that waxy cardboard to a chorus of oohs and ahhs from dill-sniffing, lettuce munching munchkins is pure joy. But there is one problem. The beets.

That's one week's worth, people. There will be more to come in six days and counting. Another confession. I can't stand beets. Yes, I've tried them with goat cheese. I've tried them in salads, roasted, candied. And you know what? I still don't like beets.

But in all fairness I've been calling out the kids a lot lately claiming that they can't say they don't like something until they've tried it in every possible preparation we can find. So, I've got some work to do. Beet chips. It worked for the kids with kale chips. Let's go.

Okay, they are freakishly beautiful. If the chips don't go over well maybe I'll just use the next batch to make some natural dyes. I mean come on, look at those things.
Beet Chips with Curried Yogurt Dip*

4-6 beets, thinly and uniformly sliced on a mandolyn
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Greek yogurt (fat content of your choice)
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped

1. Heat oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pot to 350 degrees. Add beet slices in small batches and fry until bubbling subsides and edges curl and brown. Interestingly I found different colored beats needed varying frying times with the dark purple beets taking the longest. I'm assuming this has to do with different water content but use your judgement. I recommend frying batches of one color at a time. Nobody likes soggy chips. Burned ones, I kind of dig, but the choice is yours. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still warm.

2. For the dip, combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Serve alongside the beet chips.

*My kids struggle to gain weight and I was really trying to sell these so I fried our chips. You could save yourself a heck of a lot of calories and oil by baking them instead. Just toss the beet slices in a little oil and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until crisp and nicely browned.
Verdict? They. Were. Awesome. I'm still not ready to dig into a bowl of borscht, but seriously, these were perhaps the most delicious chips I've ever eaten. The sweetness from the beets really enhances the salty crispiness we're used to in chips. Bean couldn't get enough. Roo, upon tasting his first chip, instructed me to make all of the rest exactly like the one in his mouth. High praise from a boy who fasts like a martyr much of the time. And Looly, well, she was the lone holdout but it's no surprise. She's a slow sell and she's finally coming around to kale chips so give us a few months.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pineapple Mango Sorbet with Chili, Lime, and Salt

Digging through the freezer for a long lost package of onion bagels to go with my smoked salmon, I stumbled upon the ice cream bowl for the KitchenAid and realized we had yet to make ice cream this summer. Utter blasphemy.

With half a carton of Costco mangoes ripening on the counter and a fresh pineapple looking for a home, the recipe pretty much wrote itself.

It wasn't all tropical fruit and smiles, though. Blood was shed.
Relax. She's not doing what you think she's doing. Just an unfortunate incident with a vegetable peeler.
The kiddos loved theirs just like this. Icy cold, smooth, crisp, and pure. But I couldn't stop thinking about a summer long ago spent walking the waterfront in Veracruz crunching jicama and pineapple in copas de frutas coated with chili, lime, and a sprinkle of salt. Can you see where this is headed?

Vacation in a Cup Pineapple Mango Sorbet

1/2 of a fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into pieces
3 mangoes, peeled and pitted (watch those little fingers with that slippery peeler)
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. dark rum (optional)
chili powder (optional)
sea salt (optional)
lime wedges (optional)

1. Puree pineapple and mango in a blender until smooth. Add sugar, lime juice, and rum and process until well combined. The kids gave me a hard time about the rum, but 1 tsp. distributed throughout an entire batch of sorbet is not going to kill them and it lends a nice subtle counterpoint to all that fruity sweetness. Chill mixture in the fridge for an hour or so.

2. Pour cold mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the instructions (or pour into any freezable container if you don't have an ice cream maker and chill several hours until firm). Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

3. Top with a squeeze of lime and dust with salt and chili powder before serving. Voila! Your Mexican tropical beach vacation in a cup.

Monday, July 9, 2012

JoMo's Zucchini Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

My mom, aka JoMo or Nana, has been making this cake since before I was born. A site to behold, isn't it? It was the much anticipated payoff for hours spent weeding our massive vegetable garden and tolerating the plethora of beets it produced. Now, every year as soon as the zucchini harvest starts rolling into the farmers market, I get the craving.
Most of the time I strive for Roo-safe baking. It's not always easy due to his egg allergy. The texture on this baby is so perfect, however, that I couldn't bring myself to use Egg Replacer, which made the whole ordeal scandalously indulgent. Roo helped grate zucchini and mixed in non-egg ingredients but he couldn't eat the finished product. Luckily I had plenty of Divvies Choco-lot Brownie Cookies in the freezer.

Of course you could forgo the frosting and bake this in bread pans for a more traditional breakfast style quick bread but don't do it! The voluptuous curves, thick dribble of cream cheese icing weeping down the sides, and a sprinkling of citrus zest elevate this humble quick bread to an entirely different plane.
JoMo's Zucchini Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups raw, unpeeled, grated zucchini
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 cups flour, sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl beat the eggs until foamy. Gradually beat in oil and sugar. Add grated zucchini, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well. Gradually blend in flour, mixing well after each addition.

2. Pour batter into a greased 3-quart Bundt pan and bake for one hour or until the cake tests done and begins to leave the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn onto a cake rack to cool.

For the Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest, divided
3 cups powdered sugar

1. Beat the cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice, and 1tsp. lemon zest in a large bowl. Gradually mix in powdered sugar stopping at your desired consistency. For zucchini cake I like to keep the frosting thick but just little runny so it will drip down the sides.
2. When the cake is completely cool, spoon icing on top, letting it ooze and drip down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining lemon zest.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Frozen Banana Sundae Pops and Chocolate Pretzel Coconut Bark

Given the recent slew of triple digit temperatures, we can't eat our ice cream fast enough. After losing one too many scoops to the deck monster who yanks them off cones every time I turn my back, we decided to give frozen bananas a try. Slower melt time, nice creamy texture, a few additional nutrients, dark chocolate coating and we could choose our own toppings!
I skewered bananas, froze them for a bit, dipped them in melted dark chocolate and handed them off to the troops who slathered them in crushed pretzels, freeze dried strawberries, rainbow sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs, and flaky coconut. I meant to take pictures of that part but a giant bowl of melted chocolate and six little hands didn't lend itself to a leisurely photo shoot. So, you get the finished product instead.
Frozen Banana Sundae Pops
(serves 10)

5 large, firm bananas
1 10-ounce package chocolate chips
10 skewers or Popsicle sticks
Assorted toppings of your choice. We used rainbow sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs, crushed pretzels, freeze-dried strawberries, and flaked coconut but the options are endless (M&Ms, white chocolate chips, crushed cookies, mini marshmallows, candy corn, popcorn, nuts, crushed saltine crackers, hot cinnamon candies, crushed candy canes, you  name it!)

1. Peel the bananas and cut them in half crosswise. Skewer the bananas and place on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer for an hour so they'll be nice and firm for dipping. Crush graham crackers, cookies, or pretzels in plastic baggies using a mallet (great kid job) and lay each topping out on a plate.
2. When the bananas are firm, pour the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 20 second intervals, stirring often, until melted. Carefully dip bananas one at a time and coat with desired toppings. Return to parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 2 hours.
The coconut was a revelation for the girls who up to this point had flat out rejected it on top of granola, in cookies, and anywhere else they encountered it. Suddenly they couldn't get enough and emptied our topping bowl before the bananas were done. For a minute there Looly truly believed she'd discovered the epic combo of coconut and chocolate.

Roo, for the record, did sample a coconut flake but the texture was too much for him and he spit it out. And sadly, we had another sprinkles incident you can read about here. For few moments, though, he was totally digging his banana.
All tasty indeed but the real star of the show turned out to be the frozen chocolate pretzel coconut bark I made with the leftovers. As tasty as any candy bar and so incredibly easy!
Chocolate Pretzel Coconut Bark

1 bag chocolate chips (we used Ghiradelli Bittersweet Baking Chips)
1 cup pretzels, any shape, crushed or chopped
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, heating in 20 second intervals and stirring in between until just melted. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle half the pretzels on the parchment. Pour chocolate over the pretzels. Top with remaining pretzels and sprinkle coconut on top. Place baking sheet in the freezer for an hour or more. Remove and break chocolate bark into pieces. Store in the freezer for an extra refreshing summer treat.

No Sprinkles on Top

We made frozen bananas this week. They were fun and tasty and overall things were going great until Roo tried a couple of bites...
Exactly two bites in he started complaining that his stomach hurt. Ten seconds later he threw up his  dinner. Don't worry, I haven't lost my mommy vomit mojo. I caught most of it in my bare hands.

Ten seconds after that he was completely fine again and asked for a popsicle. No gagging, no stomach flu, no runny nose, nothing. So, clearly he's reacting to something, right?

This is at least the fifth time he has vomited after eating rainbow sprinkles, which would be incredibly useful information if he hadn't also eaten rainbow sprinkles a hundred other times and not reacted at all. What gives?!

Food dye intolerance? Before I get a verbal pistol whipping on the dangers of food dyes, I realize they are nutritional super-villains but honestly when your kid can't eat a normal egg-laced cookie at a party, sometimes skittles and lollipops are the way to go.

Now we're looking at Betty Crocker versus CK Jimmies (definitely not so good for Roo), comparing ingredient lists and studying up on Blue 1 dye verses Blue 1 Lake. And of course, swearing off sprinkles for a while. Roo is not pleased.