Crunchy, Savory Chickpea Snacks

IMG_2811This easy snack is a great replacement for chips or Doritos when you are craving something salty and savory but don’t want to reach for an unhealthy processed food. Kids at my daughter’s elementary school enjoyed these snacks and were actually the ones who came up with the suggestion that they taste like Doritos!

Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are packed with fiber and when complemented with a grain provide a complete protein. This is why so many cultures around the world combine legumes and grains in their meals when meat is scarce (lentils and naan, beans and rice, peas and corn). It’s also why I allow my kids to snack on crunchy chickpeas and popcorn! (Chickpeas are a legume; popcorn is a grain)

Having recently hosted a Harvest of the Month demo at my daughter’s school, I happened to have several large cans of pre-cooked chickpeas on hand from Marias River Farm so I used canned chickpeas to make the crunchy bites pictured above. However, the healthiest and cheapest way to prepare these bites would be to purchase dried (uncooked) chickpeas in bulk and sprout them first. Sprouting releases more of the nutrients in the chickpeas for absorption by your digestive system. The instructions below assume you will take this approach. If you’re just using canned chickpeas, skip to Part II.

Instructions Part I – Sprouting and Cooking

To sprout your chickpeas, soak in filtered water for approximately 12 hours. Drain the water and transfer the chickpeas to a colander and cover with a cheesecloth or clean lightweight dishtowel. Rinse the chickpeas every 8-12 hours until you notice little tails beginning to emerge from the chickpeas (this will take 1-2 days). As soon as the tails begin to emerge, they are ready to cook, although if you wait a little longer and the tails begin to grow longer, that’s fine too.

Boil the chickpeas in enough water to submerge them with about an inch of water remaining above the top. After bringing to a brief boil, simmer for 20-40 minutes until the chickpeas are tender. Test the chickpeas periodically and keep an eye on the water level—you may need to add a bit more water as they simmer if they’re taking a while to soften.

Instructions Part II – Roasting or Dehydrating

Drain the excess water from your chickpeas (whether boiled or canned) and rinse with clean water. You have two options for preparing crunchy chickpeas: your oven or a dehydrator. For large quantities of chickpeas, a dehydrator works wonderfully. Simply spread the chickpeas out on the trays (make sure they aren’t completely jam packed) and set to 140 degrees for about 18 hours. Once they are crunchy, turn off the dehydrator, coat in olive oil and mix in the seasonings below.

If you are using your oven, spread the chickpeas out on trays on top of parchment paper or silicone baking sheets (I like silicone baking sheets because they are non-stick, dishwasher safe, and reusable so that I’m not constantly throwing out used parchment paper). Make sure the chickpeas aren’t too tightly packed or they will take quite a bit longer to cook. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-40 minutes, shaking the trays halfway through to facilitate even cooking. Once the chickpeas are crunchy, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool a bit before adding the olive oil and seasonings. This ensures that the heat of the chickpeas doesn’t damage the quality of your olive oil, which is best consumed unheated if you are using extra virgin like I do.

Seasonings (per 1 cup of dried chickpeas)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

If you like some spice, feel free to throw in some chili powder or to vary the blend of seasonings to suit your taste buds. I’m thinking that a touch of fresh-squeezed lime juice would also be delicious!

How many chickpeas should you prepare? It depends on the quantity of final product you want. 1 cup of dried chickpeas will result in approximately 2 cups of cooked chickpeas—but then these will shrink back down again once they are roasted or dehydrated. In general, the quantity of dried chickpeas you sprout and cook will be the quantity of crunchy chickpeas you end up with. If you’re starting with canned chickpeas, then you will end up with approximately half of the volume of chickpeas in your final product.

As I mentioned above, I like to complement crispy chickpeas with stove-popped popcorn for a full-protein, high-fiber snack. Just as with the chickpeas, I use extra-virgin olive oil and a bit of sea salt to flavor my popcorn. Real butter also tastes wonderful, but it takes an extra minute or two to melt so I tend to go for the olive oil!

Chocolate-Coconut Gummies

img_1359

I’m back! Well, sort of–I’m working a full-time job now, so posts will likely be few and far between, but I hope to continue to blog about my endeavors to remain a healthy, motivated mom despite being back at work and pursuing a doctorate.

The transition to me working again has been the hardest on my oldest daughter (now 3 1/2), who is the more sensitive of my two girls. To let her know I’m thinking about her during the day, I’ve been making a batch of these gummy hearts each week so that I can put one in her lunch every day. They’re super simple, taking about 10 minutes to make, and the ingredients are filling and nutritious.

Ingredients:

4 squares dark chocolate (about half a bar)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 T. maple syrup
4 T. grass-fed gelatin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. chia seeds (optional)

Instructions:

Pour the chia seeds into a small dish along with an equivalent amount of water (this will allow them to gel while you proceed with the rest of the instructions). Melt the chocolate in a saucepan, then add the coconut milk and syrup; warm over low heat. Add the gelatin one tablespoon at a time and stir in thoroughly, then stir in the gelled chia seeds. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a glass dish, cover, and refrigerate.

I use Great Lakes brand unflavored gelatin, which is sourced from grass-fed animals. Gelatin is essential for joint and tissue health, so it’s not just fun to use but also good for you and your little ones. The coconut milk adds enough fat to make these snacks more filling than their juice-made counterparts, and the chia seeds add a few extra vitamins and minerals (and, purportedly, an energy boost). The maple syrup and vanilla help to bring out the chocolate flavor, which can otherwise be overtaken by the gelatin, which has a slight flavor of its own.

If you’re making these for adults or older children, an entire bar of dark chocolate will taste wonderful; I use half a bar for my girls simply to minimize the amount of caffeine in the treats.

Happy eating!

The Mangy Munchkin’s Meal Plan

Licking her plate clean

After my last post on the evils of sugar, I received a request to write a post about what I feed my kids. If we don’t eat breakfast cereals, processed foods, desserts, or drink juice, what do we eat? It might seem that there’s not much left to please children if you cut out everything with sugar and refined carbohydrates, but as you can tell from the photo above, there are still plenty of delicious foods left to keep our little ones happy.

In this post, I’ll give a basic run down of the current menu in our household (it varies from time to time as I discover new foods and recipes) and then share some ideas for snacks to keep your kiddos satisfied in between meals and on the go. If I’ve already posted a recipe that I mention, it’ll be linked to the appropriate post; if I haven’t yet posted a recipe, I’ll try my best to get to it soon so that you can start trying out some of my ideas in your own home!

Breakfast is a big deal in our household. It competes with dinner for the largest meal of the day and is always hot except for a side of sauerkraut. Most mornings my youngest and I eat eggs from our free-range hens while the mangy munchkin, who has an egg sensitivity, eats sausage from one of the farms and ranches in our area (for more on why I’m careful about the meat I select, read my post on pastured meat and eggs). All of us eat a side of homemade sauerkraut with our meal to aid with digestion and to provide a healthy dose of probiotics. Occasionally we’ll enjoy a bowl of soaked oatmeal for breakfast instead of (or in addition to) our eggs and sausage. Oatmeal is absolutely delicious with a dash of cinnamon and a tablespoonful of virgin coconut oil, which enhances flavor, satiation, and nutrient absorption. Instead of fruit juice, which has as much sugar as soda, we sip water kefir with our meal.

If we don’t eat oatmeal with breakfast, we often eat oatmeal cake for lunch along with chocolate brain pudding and frozen banana ice cream. When I make chocolate brain pudding for my girls, I just use a few squares of chocolate since I don’t want to expose them to too much caffeine. Another common lunch we enjoy is homemade sourdough rolls smothered with butter (we prefer Kerry Gold) and a side of milk kefir, which I make nice and thick so that it has a consistency somewhere between yoghurt and cottage cheese. Believe it or not, my girls LOVE this super tart, probiotic treat and always ask for seconds.

Dinner typically involves some sort of meat or poultry and as many veggies as I can muster. If I make slow-cooker chicken I dump in kale, beets, beet greens, broccoli, zucchini, onions, garlic–whatever looks fresh and good at the grocery store (although we usually buy the broccoli frozen). If I brown ground beef, I do it in a large cast-iron pot with a lid so that I can add chopped mushrooms, eggplant, and onions to cook along with the meat for a healthy hash. Baked sweet potatoes or squash mashed with butter and cinnamon are a common side with any dinner, and “dessert” is often one or two pieces of crystalized ginger, which doubles as a digestive aid.

So what about snacks? Since I make most of my meals from scratch, I want snacks to be easy. Here are some things I keep on hand for simple, healthy snacking:

  • Cheese
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Raisins
  • Apples
  • Dried coconut
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Frozen peas (boil a handful at a time–takes two minutes!)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn (tastes great drizzled with virgin olive oil and sea salt)
  • Organic, nitrate-free jerky (we make our own but buy it at our health-food store when we run out)
  • Dehydrated veggie snacks (also purchased at our health food store)

If your kids are used to a more sugary, starchy diet, switching them over to the kinds of meals and snacks mentioned in this post might be challenging at first, but it is definitely possible (see my last post for tips on transitioning your children away from refined carbs and sugar). Your reward for sticking it out will be cheerful, healthy children who won’t require a trip to the doctor’s office every month!

Oh, and a note about olives: if your kids refuse to eat them at first, show them how to pop them on their fingertips and see if they don’t eat them up once they realize what a fun “finger” food they are!