When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sweet heart lunchbox treats (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

When Valentine's Day falls on a weekday, and time for spending with those dearest to us is in short supply, a special homemade treat tucked inside a lunchbox or work bag is a really nice way to say "I love you".  All three of my wonderful guys will find one of these chocolate granola hearts in their backpacks on Tuesday;  it's a nutritious, not-too-sweet but still scrumptious treat that I can feel really good about sending with them.

The idea for this recipe came from Jamie Schultz of this lunch rox! (which is an informative and really creative site to visit for fun, healthy lunchbox ideas for kids).  I modified Jamie's recipe in several ways, both to accommodate Will's food sensitivities and to comply with our school's no nuts policy, and I used silicone heart-shaped molds to form the treats, rather than making them in the traditional bar form.  Based on the rave reviews I received last week when I made a test batch of regular bars, I think all three of my guys will be smiling on Tuesday!

Heart-shaped Chocolate Granola Bars

1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate (I used part of an Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate bar, 72% cocoa)

1/4 cup Sunbutter (I like the all-natural one with sunflower seeds as the only ingredient)

1/4 cup rice milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp unpasteurized honey

1 cup + 2 tbsp certified pure gluten-free oats

2 tbsp chia seeds

Melt the first three ingredients together in a saucepan on the stove over low heat, stirring often.  Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and honey until smooth.

Add the oats and chia seeds; stir until everything is well-combined. (The mixture should be fairly dryish looking; if it isn't, add more oats a tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition.)

Spoon the chocolate oat mixture into silicone heart molds (I used 8 of them) and press down with your fingertips to get a smooth heart shape.  Place the heart molds into the freezer and chill for 10 minutes, or until the granola hearts are set.

Pop the chocolate granola hearts out of the molds, serve and enjoy! 

(For regular granola bars, you can press the granola mixture into a small, parchment-paper lined glass rectangular container. Place it to set in the freezer, and then slice the granola mixture into bars.  You could also use a mini muffin tin as a mold.)

These easy-to-make, protein-rich granola hearts store very well in the freezer, making them an ideal snack to pack anytime.  I hope your family loves them as much as mine does!

Happy Valentine's Day!  I wish you all a happy heart this week.

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