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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Cookie Fit vs. The Fit Cookie

 I sadly admitted a while back that snacking is my children’s main meal of the day (probably, your kids' too, you know it!). When mine were little, I thought I would teach them how to eat properly, sitting down at a table full of healthy, well balanced and delicious food three or four times a day;  table mats set with napkins, a plate, a bowl, a spoon and a fork. Then I began snacking up on my own words, as despite all my beliefs, we had ended up swapping dishes for Ziploc bags and polka-dotted BPA-free, ergonomic, spill proof vessels. Their contents were enjoyed always on the go and at random times.
The abundance of newer portable foods, just states that I’m not alone in this. However, even if I had given in in the snacking, I wasn’t willing to compromise the quality of the snacks. Fresh, freeze-dried, dry, and/or pureed fruits, veggies, yogurt, air popped popcorn (once they were old enough not to choke on them), granola, edamame, and National king of kiddie snacks: Cheerios…I made sure they weren’t only empty calories.
One day, things changed. At pick up from pre-school, a mother holding a warehouse club-sized box of Oreos (which by the way, end up being some of the most allergy-friendly goodies around, as they are dairy, nut and egg free) stood up at the classroom door to greet her child with the cookie sandwiches. My son, who was next in line and observed the process, hopeful and excited--instead of saying hi to me--, asked what his snack was.
I showed him the sweet, bright orange clementine I had brought…Seizures of anger and a Tony Award-deserving tantrum followed. The cookie-holding mom offered some to my child, who was by then (and less than a minute had passed) lying on the floor kicking the puddle formed by his own tears. Thoughtfully, she had brought the big box for sharing and everything went back to happiness. She was sweet and generous about it, but I was pretty annoyed with her, my son, and the clementine.
Since that day on, I decided all I could do was prepare my children tasty snacks, that although would never be welcomed as an Oreo, would at least be delicious, attractive, portable, and would offer more than just a sugar rush. I didn’t want any artificial ingredients, I tried to include as many whole grains and as little sugar as possible, and I made sure there were real foods and nutrients. I’m constantly in the kitchen trying new ingredients, tweaking and testing. Here’s a winner (aka approved by both of my children) for the season:
CHAMOMILE-PEAR MINI SCONES
These are a great option for people suffering from allergies to eggs, dairy and nuts, and can be made gluten free. You can add other seeds, shredded coconut, nuts (of course, if there are no allergies). You can also switch the fruit you are using. They are delicious with berries and fresh herbs during warmer seasons.
The zest of any citrus fruit works really well too. You could substitute other herbal teas for the chamomile, or experiment with Rooibos* (red tea) or a bit of minced fresh ginger for a more grown up punch.
Substitute vanilla extract for the seeds of one vanilla bean, and/or for 2 teaspoons or orange blossom water* or rose water*. This is one of those recipes that you can customize as you please. Just keep the amounts of chickpeas, liquid sweetener, oil, flour, quinoa flakes, chia, salt, baking soda and fruit constant, and the rest, make it your own!
I did mention above that you can substitute the chamomile, however, besides a plesant floral taste, this herb has anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It's been used since antiquity to alleviate sleep disorders, anxiety, skin conditions, stomach aches and menstrual cramps. So...it might be a good idea to keep it if your child reacts like mine did when I offered him the clementine!
NOTE:  High doses of chamomile can cause drowsiness. People allergic to the daisy flower family can present a severe reaction to chamomile. Do not use chamomile during pregnancy (it could stimulate the uterus), or if you suffer from bleeding disorders (it can thin the blood).
Oh, no!!! I just feel like an ad for cigarettes (in the old days) or a farma product, where they first tell you how amazing, life-fixing, fun, to conume the product is, and then a disclaimer follows, ruining the party. But I did feel a big responsibility, especially with pregnant women, as I had no idea chamomile could be dangerous when expecting.
Ingredients
1 bag chamomile tea, optional*
1 (15-OZ) can chickpeas*, rinsed and drained
7 ounces pure maple syrup, honey, or coconut nectar
4 oz, mild tasting extra virgin olive oil OR expeller pressed grape seed oil*
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract* 
8 ounces whole oat flour (gluten free)* if necessary
3 ounces quinoa flakes*
2 tablespoons chia seeds*
½ teaspoon fine sea salt*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 medium pear, cored and coarsely chopped

*These ingredients can be found here

Method
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Pour the contents of the chamomile tea bag –if using-- in a spice or coffee grinder and grind until it looks like powder. Measure 2 teaspoons of ground chamomile and set aside. Reserve the rest for another use.
Process chickpeas, maple syrup, oil and vanilla until chickpeas are coarsely chopped. Empty mix into a large bowl. Add flour, measured ground chamomile, quinoa flakes, chia, salt and baking soda into bowl with chickpea mix. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. Once dough comes together, add in chopped pear and mix until incorporated.
Scoop dough into small balls with a mini ice-cream scoop. Place scones onto prepared baking sheets, keeping 1-inch separation between each. Bake for about 20 minutes until they look dry, and feel set and crusty when touched gently. If still in doubt, break one of them and make sure its interior looks done.
Let cool and enjoy or wrap in plastic and freeze. For best taste, reheat before serving.
Makes about 75 mini scones