Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snacks for middle schoolers

I've been asked to speak to a classroom of middle schoolers tomorrow about the way our family eats.  I am way excited about this, mainly because, well.....I really like to talk!  And these kids pretty much have no choice, they have to listen to me.  In fact, if I catch one of them not listening, I am going to point and yell DETENTION as loud as I can. 

I am trying to figure out what to talk with them about, in hopes of inspiring them to rethink what they eat.  I think the biggest point I want to make is that our family believes that processing food compromises it's nutritional value.  There is no processing that can improve a food or make it healthier.  I also want to talk a bit about the environmental impact that eating processed food leaves, mainly from the consumption of fossil fuels in both the processing and the transport of the food.  And finally, I thought it would be fun to talk about labels and how the manufacturer hopes we interpret them compared to what they really mean.

I also want to prove to them that by giving up processed foods, we are not giving up tasty food that is fun to eat!  So I am going to bring them granola bars, muffins, homemade cheese-itz, and poptarts!  And, before you get all, "Heids McGhee, that isn't exactly health food" on me.  I know!  That's my plan.  I'm going to sucker them in with cheese-itz and poptarts and then force the beet salad on them.

Homemade Granola bars (recipe from marathonmom)

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup local honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups oats (not quick oats)
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ or ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

  • 1. Melt the butter, peanut butter and honey in a pot over medium to low heat, stirring constantly. Turn off the burner when melted.

    2. Pour in the cup of oats and the wheat germ/flaxseed. Stir til combined.

    3. Wait til it cools and stir in the coconut and chocolate chips. Or, if you’re impatient with things like this, like I am, go ahead and dump it all right in. The result will be a more uniform chocolate taste.
    4. Pour into foil-lined 8 X 8 pan and stick in the fridge.

    5. Once cooled, flip out onto cutting board and cut to the size you like.

    I have had several people ask me what natural peanut butter is.  Not Skippy.  Not JIF, either.  You want the ingredients of your peanut butter be peanuts.  No sugar.  No hydrogenated anything.  No salt.  If you buy a jar of natural peanut butter, the oil may separate from the peanut butter, so stir it a bit each time.  We grind our own peanut butter at our local organic market.  Most small organic markets and Whole Foods have a peanut butter grinder.  Not sure how to operate it?  Just stand next to the machine with a dumb look on your face and eventually a cute little salesgirl will come over to show you how to use it.  Once you start eating fresh-ground peanut butter, you will never settle for JIF again.

    I also changed this recipe to use dark chocolate chips.  I found some the other day and embarassed myself by doing a happy dance in the store.  Use dark chocolate chips with the highest percentage of cacao, or if you're a real badass....use raw cacao nibs.  Probably not a shocker, but I prefer the dark chocolate chips. 

    If you can find it, use LOCAL HONEY!  When you buy honey in the store, it's been processed and pasteurized, which means all the good enzymatic qualities of the honey have been zapped!  Local honey is an antioxidant, contains vitamins and minerals, and can be used to treat allergies, digestive issues, cough syrup, or as a topical salve.  Support your local farmers and buy local honey!  I get my honey from Miz Bee Haven.  Seriously.  Miz Bee Haven.  How cute is that?!?! 

    Since my minis love my pumpkin muffins, I thought I would bring some of those to share with the middle schoolers as well.  I think we will talk a bit about processing flours and how we should strive to only use whole grain flours.

     Pumpkin Muffins

    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
    • 2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 4 eggs
    • 1.5-2 cups pumpkin puree
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)
    • 1/3 cup applesauce
    • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted slightly)
    • 1 cup honey
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. In a bowl mix flours, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce, coconut oil, and honey.
    4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into well. Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. DO NOT OVERMIX.
    5. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
    I've had a few people ask me about coconut oil.  I try to use coconut oil whenever possible.  Recent studies have shown that the health benefits of coconut include improving hair & skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, lowers risk of heart diseases, manages high blood pressure, manages diabetes, prevents cancer,  and improves bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.  (source of information)  So, try to use coconut oil.  If I were making these muffins for myself, I would eliminate the vegetable oil and use 2/3 cup coconut oil. However, my minis don't like any coconut taste in their pumpkin muffins, so I use grapeseed oil as well in addition to the coconut oil.

    I am also bringing my homemade cheese-itz.  The shocking thing about the homemade version is that they are chock-full of CHEESE!  These are really tasty and always a big hit, so I think the students will really like them.

    Homemade Cheez-itz (from New Nostalgia)

    • 1 cup flour
    • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small squares
    • 1 (8-ounce) bag grated extra-sharp 2% Cheddar cheese (preferably orange)
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1. Combine all ingredients.  If you are fancy and have a food processor, pulse until crumbly.  If you are like me and think you are fancy but really aren't, combine with your hands.

    2. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together. I needed a lot more water than 4 tablespoons, I used probably more like a full cup of water.
    3.  Form into ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

    4. Place dough between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, and, using pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 1 inch squares. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

    4. Bake for at 350F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven when crisp and just starting to brown. Let cool and serve.
    Look at all that CHEESE!!!!!  And do not even think about using pre-shredded cheese.  Get your cheese shredder out and start shredding.  It's good for the biceps!

    And, I plan on sealing the deal with these kids with my homemade poptarts.  These are so good, they'll never settle for a store-bought poptart again.

    • 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
    • 1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)

    1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
    2. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
    3. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.
    4. Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.


    1. If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes.
    2. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9" x 13" pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.
    3. Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on.
    4. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.
    5. Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
    6. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.

    Here is what they look like rolled out....

    ....with the filling added.

    Ready to bake.

    Adorable.  And tasty. 

    Wish me luck!  I am hoping middle school isn't as traumatizing for me as it was the first time around!