With my neck outstretched and eyes squinting, I stood on my tip-toes and methodically scanned the supermarket, hoping my gaze would once again lock on my daughter. You try to not look alarmed or at all unusual in those moments, as a parent. “Oh hello! Hi! It’s fine … just misplaced my child, nothing to see here … I’ve got it all under control.”
“Elle. Elle? Elle!!” Where did that girl run off to now …
There’s a moment, somewhere in between the initial realization that you’ve temporarily lost sight of your small child and the sigh of relief you experience when you spot them again, when you experience a world of emotions – a lifetime of emotions – in what seems like the blink of an eye: Subtle panic. Mild annoyance. Impatience. Worry. Stress. A rush of blood to the head … This emotionally-charged moment to which I refer is something I live again and again as the mother of two small, curious, busy children, and I suppose it’s just part of the special package deal of parenthood.
I found Elle with her nose squished against a vending machine, ogling the rows upon rows of colorfully wrapped candy bars and sugar-laden treats.
“No, no. Not today, Elle. We’ve still got heaps of Easter candy to work through at home.”
But then fate laughed at me and said, “Ha! Watch this Elle’s Mom!”
“Watch this, Mom!” Elle said. With that, she pushed a button and out came a chocolate bar. And then another one. And another one. And so on and so forth.
She’d emptied half a row of bars before I snapped into action and halted her progress. I can imagine that, to a child, this probably felt like the equivalent of winning the lottery. It was hard not to enjoy her enjoyment in that moment, the moment after the moment in which I’d temporarily lost her. After paying for it, I let her take one home – one of those shiny chocolate bars sent straight from vending machine heaven – and she split it with her little brother. And all was right with the world.
Healthy Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel & Almond Bars (vegan, GF, refined sugar free)
First and foremost, I made this recipe in honor of two friends of mine, Sonja and Alex Overhiser, who recently adopted an adorable baby boy. This post is part of a virtual baby shower that is designed to celebrate this beautiful boy and officially welcome him to the world – and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. Sonja and Alex, who run the fabulous healthy food blog, A Couple Cooks, live right here in Indianapolis not far from me, and are beloved in the blogging community. They’ve been very open about their journey to parenthood and it is truly wonderful to be able to share in their happiness right now, as they settle into a new chapter of life with little Larson.
I’ve listed the other food bloggers who have contributed healthy snack recipes as a part of this sweet virtual bash, and I urge you to check them out! There’s some great stuff down there …
Flourishing Foodie | Avocado and Asparagus Tartines with Basil Pesto
The Full Helping | Individual Strawberry Chocolate Crisps
Snixy Kitchen | Roasted Lemon Mint Pesto Tartines, Two Ways
This Mess Is Ours | Coriander & Lime Scented Cashews
Making Thyme for Health | Hemp Ranch Hummus
Two Red Bowls | Buttered Eggs on Toast, with Radish & Parsley
Cookie and Kate | World’s Greatest Guacamole
Dolly and Oatmeal | Sunshine Mung Bean Spread w/ Gluten-Free Za’atar Bread
Edible Perspective | Tropical Oatmeal Snack Cookies
Eat This Poem | Red Pepper and Walnut Hummus
Brooklyn Supper | Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro-Avocado Sauce
Gather & Dine | Muffin Tin Granola Cups with Lemon Greek Yogurt and Berries
The Fauxmartha | Laura’s Sunshine Crackers
FoodieCrush | Baked Beet Chips
This is one of the best recipes I’ve made in a while. It is truly a triumph of healthy, plant-based cooking – something that I’ve been exploring a lot lately. I am not a vegan nor am I a vegetarian, but I often eat like I am, as I tend to feel better when I do, in more ways than one. This healthy chocolate bar recipe took me a couple of tries to get right, as I sampled a few other recipes that I’ve seen around online and found that certain aspects of them needed just a little tweaking.
There is a delicious coconut flour-based cookie crust on the bottoms of these bars, topped with a creamy, easily spreadable (that’s key) salted caramel made from dates, almond butter and vanilla. A sprinkling of toasted, sliced almonds and a blanket of glossy dark chocolate complete these amazing, healthy treats and make them kind of addictive, truth be told. You can make them full-sized or fun sized and you can drench them totally in chocolate, or pull back a little and just drizzle it on. Up to you! However you choose to serve these, I promise you’ll love them. Unlike the vending machine variety, this is one type of candy bar that you can eat to your heart’s content.
½ cup applesauce (unsweetened)
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 ½ cups coconut flour
¼ tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup liquid coconut oil
3 Tbsp raw honey (regular clover honey is fine too)
1 lb pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup almond butter
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or 1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste)
1/3 cup liquid coconut oil
1/4 cup water
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup toasted, unsalted sliced almonds (I purchase mine from Trader Joe’s)
Dark Chocolate Coating
18 oz dark chocolate chips or chunks, you can also use whole bars (70% cacao or higher)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Make the cookie layer: In a small bowl, stir together the applesauce and the chia seeds. Set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, the coconut flour and salt. Stir in the melted coconut oil, honey, the applesauce-chia mixture, and then blend until the mixture holds together when pressed. You want this to be pretty moist, as it will be tough to work with if it’s dry and crumbly upon assembly later. So, if it seems dry, just add another teaspoon or so of coconut oil until it presses and holds together easily.
Line a 13″ x 9″ baking pan with parchment paper and press the cookie mixture into the pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges start to turn light brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before adding the caramel and nuts.
Meanwhile, make the salted caramel. Add the dates to a food processor and process until they’re very creamy. Next, add the almond butter, vanilla, salt, coconut oil, and water. Process again until smooth. You want a really smooth and spreadable caramel here, so if it seems a bit tougher than you’d like, you can add more water until it is the consistency of say, peanut butter. (If it’s too thick, it will be really hard to spread over the tender cookie bottom).
Spread the caramel in an even layer over the cookie bottom (it’s okay if the cookie is a little warm, as this will help with the spreading). Top the caramel with the toasted almonds, and really press them down into that caramel so they are locked in there. Place the pan in the freezer for at least 4 hours (frozen candy bars are MUCH easier to work with).
Just before removing the bars from the freezer, add the chocolate and 2 Tbsp coconut oil to a large heat-proof bowl and set this over a pot of simmering water (make sure the bowl is bigger than the pot so it rests on top nicely). Whisk occasionally until the chocolate is smooth.
Remove the pan from the freezer and pull the edges of the parchment to remove the bars. Place on a work surface and slice into 16 equal bars. (or you can do half-sized “fun sized” bars).
Dip each bar in the melted chocolate, and use a fork to pick them up (this is easiest). Let the excess chocolate drip off and then place the bars on a rack to harden. While the chocolate is still setting, sprinkle with extra almonds if desired. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes to an hour. Store in an airtight container in the freezer, and let them sit at room temp for 10 minutes prior to serving.