So! I’m just going to come out with it, before I start to weep. Little C, who was already clearly no longer Baby C, is well on her way to becoming Kinda Big C. Today marks my baby girl’s First! Day! Of! Kindergarten! She also turns FIVE at the end of the month. You guys, I can’t even. It’s all so crazy. But we are all very excited about the whole thing around here. School supplies, sturdy new shoes, and an arsenal of navy, white, and light blue clothing articles (I never thought I’d say this, but hallelujah for school uniforms. The less thinking I have to do before 7:00 a.m. the better). We are SET.
The next few weeks will be full of all kinds of exciting changes for my girl, but I can’t help but be a total jerk and think of all the ways my personal day-to-day life will change. For starters, adjusting from her three-days-per-week preschool schedule, which meant we were often all still in our pajamas at 10 a.m. on her off days (glorious!). And then there’s shifting the baby’s sleep and nap schedule, too, which might be the most painful part of the entire thing–he may still be up to party half the night, but will easily sleep until 9:30 in the morning, creating ample coffee/e-mail/plan the day time. No longer, son. So basically what I’m saying here is that I can no longer be a lazy morning person. Oof.
But! I am, at least for now, really looking forward to one thing, which is packing C’s school lunches. And to kick things off, I’m starting with her lunchbox treats. Tasty but wholesome, preferably low-sugar lunchbox treats. Because I have every intention of becoming That Mom. At least for the first week.
To keep it real, it will be a miracle if I make it to the end of September without throwing a box of those cookie packets into my Target cart, but for now I’m very much up to the challenge of trying to find ways to add a little something sweet to my kid’s lunchbox to brighten her days that actually has some nutritional value. Admittedly, I’m setting the bar pretty high with these treats, the base of which is sugar-free, gluten-free, and nut-free, and, get this–ABSOLUTELY FLIPPIN’ DELICIOUS. As in, like eating a ball of cookie dough delicious. I know! I can’t believe it either.
Basically what you’re dealing with is oatmeal, raisins, dates that have been plumped in hot water, a little spice, and a handful of chocolate chips (because YOLO), all dumped into a food processor and ground up together. That’s it! (There ain’t nothin’ wroooong….with a little dump n’ griiiind…) (Sorry/I’m not sorry.)
Also! There is so much health happening here, friends. Like chia seeds. A major buzzfood right now. I’ve been adding them to my yogurt and oatmeal lately in the hopes that I’ll wake up looking like Gwyneth Paltrow. That hasn’t happened yet. But I have found one seed actually sprouting near the drain in my bathroom sink (that I had apparently flossed out a couple days earlier). So there’s that. And as far as I can tell, not only do these wonder seeds grow plants inside of you (ch-ch-ch-chia!!), they also turn sort of jelly-like when exposed to liquid, which helps to bind the treats.
Something else that really intrigues me about these treats is the soaked dates that lend fabulous moisture, sweetness, and chewy texture here. It took me a while to stop thinking that dates really kind of look like giant cockroaches, but once I got over that, I really haven’t been able to stop brainstorming other ways to use dates as a way to create a whole bunch of really delicious sugar-free dessert alternatives that are perfect for the lunchbox. So get comfy looking at cockroaches/dates, is what I’m saying. You might be seeing more of these buggy looking things around these parts as I strive to become a modern day, whole foods-promoting June Cleaver.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Raisin No-Bake Treats
From Real Sweet
The dates should be nice and tacky here, more like a delicious edible glue than a soft fruit puree. Medjool dates work best in this recipe because they’re extra sticky, but Deglet Noor dates work too –they may require about 10 minutes more soaking time.
Once you’ve got the dates, oats, raisins, and chia seeds, there’s about 1 million ways to riff on these treats. If there’s no need to avoid nuts, then a nice rounded tablespoon of peanut butter or other nut butter as listed here makes them even more crave-worthy and cookie dough-like. A version using dried apples for an apple-cinnamon kind of thing would be excellent. Or dried cranberries and a little white chocolate. Lemon zest and dried blueberries! I could go on. It’s pretty hard to mess this one up.
Makes about 25-30 1-inch balls
1 cup pitted Medjool dates, tightly packed
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60% to 70% cacao)
1 generous tbsp natural peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Place dates in a medium bowl. Fill bowl with hot water to cover dates by about an inch. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.
Combine all ingredients In the bowl of a food processor. Process continuously until mixture comes together, forming a dough of sorts. You want the oats to be pretty much completely broken down, with a few bits of raisins and little chips of chocolate still visible.
Using a teaspoon-size scoop, portion out small pieces of dough, using your hands to roll them into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place balls on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Once chilled, transfer to an airtight container to store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
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