Amusing the Kiddos

Cooking Without Drama: Healthy-Ish DIY Chocolate Little Bites

With school back in session I am now getting into the swing of preparing three sets of lunches and snacks everyday.Previously I would pack my husband’s cooler in order to help him stay on the healthy eating track, and pack a bag for my sweet boy.  However, since Princess E has graduated from her daycare/school (which provided breakfast, lunch & 3 snacks in the tuition cost), she now requires a bag of lunch and snacks.

And you can’t toss anything in there.  The food must require no prep, be easy to open, tasty, varied and packed almost every day.  Also the food should be healthy.

One of the kids favorite snacks is ‘Little Bites’.  Enteman’s makes them and I beleive Little Debbie makes a version.  They are basically mini-muffins.  They come 3-5 to a bag depending if you get the regular or 100 calorie, and for a box of five bags will run you between $2.50 and $5.00 depending if they are on sale.  And of course they are loaded with all the packaged food ‘goodies’

However, I make 12 bags of 5 little bites for $2.00 per batch or less. depending on coupons.  When I make them, the recipe actually yields about 72 mini muffins, however there is some snacking going on between getting them out of the pan and into the baggies.

They are also a little healthier than little bites.  Not huge, but enough to make me feel good about serving them.

Homemade Mini-Bites (Makes 72)

Ingredients
2 egg whites
1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 box chocolate cake mix
(If you are not trying to hide the pumpkin, feel free to use another flavor cake mix. I did do this with spice cake for grown ups once and they were yum!)

Special Equipment
Stand Mixer
Mini Muffin tins
Spatuala
Cooking Spray
Pancake Mix squirter (This is awesome. Before I had this, I would make the biggest mess.)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins
2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
3. Add canned pumpkin and mix until combined. (This is the part where I rip off the label and clean the pumpkin can before the kids see. I’m a bad mom-sue me.)
4. Add cake mix and mix until combined.
5. Put mix in prepared muffin tin, filling 1/2-2/3 full.
6. Bake for 8 minutes at 350
7. Let cool for a moment in the pan, remove to wire rack
8. Cool completely and put in little bags

I typically freeze these and pop a bag into the kids lunches and they defrost in time for morning snack. They have never noticed the pumpkin taste and I can’t taste the pumpkin either.   From heating the oven to clean-up this took about 45 minutes, including taking some photos which involved clearing some counter space. If I had a 2 more mini muffin tins, I could knock about 10 minutes off of this and get it done in less than 30 minutes.

Make a batch for your lunches, I promise they will be devoured.

Urban Pirate Adventure

For my son Alex, I have two big challenges for his birthday.  The first challenge is that since his birthday is in the middle of the summer, most of his friends are away, so its hard to have a birthday party with no guests.  This challenge was exacerbated by the fact that we moved from Massachusetts to Maryland less than 3 weeks before his birthday.

The second and more recent challenge is little Dude’s age.  Now that he is 12, he is not enticed by a visit to the petting zoo or Chuck E Cheese (I am grateful about the lack of interest in CEC-really I am).  But I still want to do something special for him on his special day.

This leads me to the Urban Pirates.  Urban Pirates is a pirate themed boat experience that goes around the Inner Harbor in down town Baltimore.  For the very, very reasonable price of $20 per person, you get a pirate sash, temporary tattoos, face painting and a 45 minute pirate adventure cruise.

The staff is wonderful, leading the kids through a lesson in pirate vocabulary, dancing, pass the shrunken head, and a chance to defeat the scurvy MadDog Pirate and rescue the treasure.

If you go, the boat is not usually very full.  Our trip had less than 20 people, but the max is 40.  The music can be a little loud, especially if you are sitting near the front of the boat, but its not too bad.  They also do a Bring Your Own Grog boat ride for the adults.

The boat has bathrooms but no food or drink. Food is not important, but in this heat you will want to have some water.  Don’t be me.  Bring the water from home or hit a CVS on the way.  Don’t buy it at the bakery down the street from where you dock and pay $2.00 per bottle.

My children are ages 6 and 12 and they both LOVED the trip.   They are begging to go again.  And since it was so reasonable, (its cheaper than a movie) we will probably go again.  The only other thing to keep in mind is that they sell very attractive bandanas, swords and guns right where you get on the boat.  They are not bad, $3 for a bandana and $5 for the water pistol, but the baubles are highly visible and the staff does mention hitting the gift shop as you are prepping to get off the boat.

But I am an easy mark, and it was his birthday, so I got them each a trinket.