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urbanMamas snack: The recipes that changed our lives

Never one to shy away from an opportunity to hyperbolize food, I was enthralled with my neighbor Camellia's email today, asking me to try a recipe for raw, vegan "brownies," and write about them here in the context of life-changing food. What, she asked, are the simple, healthy, delicious recipes we couldn't feed our families without? 

Immediately, I thought of my favorite shortbread cookies, made with measures of brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, and white flour; honey; and plenty of butter. They put me at peace despite the fat content; it's all whole "real" foods and it's giving us the sweet cookie fix we all crave with a hefty dose of whole grains and none of the processed sugar I've come to fear. I also love the "recipe" Truman and I devised; stir together plain hazelnut or sunflower butter, honey, and a few drops of vanilla, eat with a spoon (that was breakfast today). And of course, there are zinemama's zucchini carrot muffins, shared with us just yesterday (great way to use up frozen grated zucchini!).

As soon as I have 20 minutes to shell the walnuts (gathered, appropriately, from the enormous tree behind her house), I plan to try these out; she, like me, had been treating herself regular with pieces of chocolate bar and these -- with only the whole-foods sugar of the dates -- are a far less compromising luxury. And if you like these, also try the homemade "Lara Bar" recipes here and here. Please, share your recipes that delight both kid and parent alike with their delicious wholesomeness! Camellia's and my recipes are in the "more" portion of the post.

Camellia's raw vegan brownies

  • 1 cup raw, shelled walnuts
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup raw cocoa powder (or half cocoa, half carob)
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

Chop ingredients well by whizzing them all in a food processor for 30-60 seconds, or if you're Sarah, by chopping the walnuts and dates with a big knife and putting everything in a mortar and pestle. The longer you whiz, the more fudgey it becomes; use your judgement. Press mixture in a pan, refrigerate a few hours, then cut into squares. Or: eat with a spoon.

Sarah's spicy honey shortbread

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/8 to 1/2 cup honey (or thereabouts)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1⅓ cups white flour
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (we like the way coarse ‘finishing’ salt tastes in shortbread)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon; 1 tsp lavender flowers; 1 tsp candied ginger; or whatever spice has you inspired)
  • 2 tbsp. cream (or milk, if needed)

Beat butter with a wooden spoon or in a stand mixer until creamed, and good. Add in honey and vanilla and beat again until creamy. Mix flours, salt and spice together to combine (if desired, I just dump 'em in) and add in about a third at a time to blend well. You should have a slightly sticky mixture that's not crumbling at all. If it does crumble or seems too dry, add a little cream, milk, honey or maple syrup, a tablespoon at a time, until it sticks together well. Way too sticky? Add a little flour.

Using wet fingers, pat into large rectangles on a cookie sheet. Score with a butter knife into bite-size squares. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes, until browned at the bottom.


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Ooh, I love those Lara-bar/raw brownie things. We do those with all sorts of mix-ins: crystallized ginger and pistachios is one of my favorite grown-up versions and we all love them with dried cherries and almonds.

Strangely, one of the more life-changing foods that me and my kids love isn't a snack, but a condiment: mayonnaise. We make it with eggs from our chickens, natch, and it even comes with a story about how one evening I had to tell my son he had to finish his ice cream before he could lick the food processor bowl in which I'd just made mayo. He LOVES our mayonnaise. And when we have sandwiches with home baked bread, home canned tuna, and homemade mayo, my kids get a lesson in good taste, good nutrition, and DIY all at once.

What was life-changing about our mayo is that it made me realize that there are so many condiments and such in my fridge that I could easily make myself and experience better flavor and ingredient control, for far less than I'd spend at the store, and in a way, that was the seed of my business.

For anyone who wants the recipe, I blogged about the mayo last summer: http://lostartskitchen.blogspot.com/2009/08/best-mayonnaise.html

These are all great recipes, but we are a tree nut and peanut free house. Any homemade high protein snack/bar recipes without tree nuts or peanuts? Thanks!

My little man now almost 1, has so many allergies it has caused me to get creative, well, at least look online for creative people's recipes... we are transitioning to be egg, wheat, milk, soy, and peanut free but boy do I craze some good food. I look forward to seeing the comment section of this post as I am liking the brownies:O)

I love these. They take brown sugar, but just a touch and they are so delicious! (They are dry. But I like dry...I wonder what they'd be like with dates instead of brown sugar....)


thanks for posting this, Sarah! A couple more notes on the brownies: I decrease the dates a little to make them less sweet and I add a pinch of sea salt. I top them with shaved coconut. We've been eating these every afternoon since we discovered them...

my latest obsession is coconut oil, (organic, virgin) which came to my attention when my kid had swine flu and I was searching for natural anti-virals. The health benefits of this stuff seem endless (google search) and so Ive been trying to add it to our diets by replacing it for butter on honey toast/pancakes etc but my kids prefer cereal for breakfast. Someone recommended the following treats which I have yet to make (need cocoa) but are said to be delicious.
Coconut chocolates
5 tbls coconut oil
5 tbls cocoa powder
5 tbls grated coconut
1-2 tbls powdered sugar (Im going to try honey)
pinch of salt
Mix oil and cocoa first then add the rest, press into small molds and place in fridge. These need to be kept cold or the oil will melt. Nuts, fresh mint, raisins etc were all recommended as additions.

I make big batches of these granola energy balls: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dghfqzth_62g5thdqx3

The recipe is really flexible, so you can adjust it based on what you have on hand or for people with allergies.

Camellia, are you using fresh dates or dried?


They are dried, but not too hard. Some recipes I've seen recommend soaking the dates first if your food processors has trouble, but I've never needed to. They are the pitted bulk dates from New Seasons.

So cute! I already like you on FB and also get your posts on Google Reader. :)

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