This post is about the food-love I’ve bestowed on my fellow mom friends (and you’ll find an epic recipe for lactation cookie cheesecake bites) but these foods and this kind of love and care can be for anyone in your life; maybe a sick relative, a friend going through a divorce, or anyone you want to show some love to. The point is ‘food as communication.’ It’s bringing back that grandmotherly skill set of using food to tell people how much we love them, and also to tell them we understand how hard their circumstances are at present. When you bring a sick friend a nourishing soup, or a new mom a nutritious meal, what you’re inherently saying is, “I know your physical body needs strength for what you’re going through; I validate the tangible reality of what you’re feeling.” Feeding them gives them not only nourishment, but rest—you’ve taken a task and a mental load off their shoulders. It’s a gesture that says so much, and I think quality ingredients and attention to detail enhances the vocabulary.
I like to food-love on my friends with extra next-level decadence. I want to make them things that they would NEVER make for themselves and that makes eating in bed feel like a special occasion. I’m going share with you a really simple mixture of ingredients that can be used as a base for a no bake cookie or ball, an energy bar, or a crust, as well as a number of variations that I’ve made. You may be hearing some ingredients for the first time, and I may link to some of the ingredients I used that are hard to find or expensive or were gifted to me, but these aren’t essential! The point is to use what you have, use what you know, and tailor your recipes to meet a variety of nutritional needs and personal preferences—use your own “vocabulary.” (I hope you come up with your own recipe that becomes your specialty!) I’ve also included a short index at the bottom of the post explaining the benefits of some of the ingredients I chose.
That’s what I call them anyway. I made this assortment for a friend after her mother received a disheartening diagnosis. I wanted to give her something special, decadent, and delicious, as well as bite sized, portable, and nutrient-dense that even if she only had two minutes to herself after caring for four children all day, she’d at least get an ample kick of protein, healthy fat, and a suite of minerals. When you’re feeling down and disoriented with life, sometimes your reaction is to indulge, binge, throw caution to the wind and just not care what you eat (and the last thing you want is to have people judge you or lecture you for it, or tell you you just need to do more #selfcare!). I kind of wanted to hand deliver the option to let go—“Here, play some music, lock the door, and eat this entire box if you want.”
The BASE for these is simple:
- 8-10 pitted dates + 1/2 cup coconut butter + 1/3 cup pastured butter or ghee.
- Pulse and combine in a food processor.
*I’ll refer to this mixture as “BASE” in the rest of the recipes. You can also create your own base with whatever works for you. The dates really help everything stick together and make them sweet, the coconut butter gives it substance, and the butter gives it flavor and also creates a much more pliable texture (coconut butter alone is a bit flaky, and butter alone starts to melt at room temperature. Combined they make a perfect texture.) You can create something similar by subbing in your favorite nuts or nut butter (soaked cashews are perfect for this), cacao butter, etc., or sweetening it to taste with honey, maple syrup, or another whole food sweetener.
To make these awesome Love Truffles, I came up with a variety of different mixtures as well as different coatings. If they’re coated or rolled in something dry, it keeps them from melting on your fingertips while you eat them (not that that’s such a terrible problem to have.) I made a large batch of the base, and then I mixed up each different version in a separate bowl. It’s a good idea to mix the ingredients together, then let the bowl chill in the fridge or freezer for about 5 minutes to firm up first so you can form it into a ball, roll it in a coating, then return it to the refrigerator. These are the recipes for making individual truffles, but these measurements are all pretty imprecise and you can adapt them for making a large batch of the same kind if you want.
From the top left:
1. BASE + gogi berries, rolled in sesame seeds.
2. BASE + Moondeli golden turmeric powder (you could use turmeric, ginger, and cardamom) rolled in rosebud petals (you can find these usually in the bulk tea section of the health food store).
3. BASE + 1tsp mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, clove (you could use apple pie spices), 1tsp wild milled vanilla (or extract), rolled in hemp seeds and sea salt.
4. BASE + 1 heaping spoonful of cacao powder, 1 heaping spoonful of shredded dried unsweetened coconut, rolled in coconut.
5. BASE + granola (I used a spiced mandarin orange granola that a friend made for me, but you could use your favorite), rolled in black sesame seeds.
6. BASE + 1 Tbs cacao powder, 1 Tbs Moondeli cordyceps and cacao powder, rolled in crushed cacao nibs. (You can purchase other medicinal mushroom powders, capsules, or tinctures that you can add to the mixture as well).
HOT TIPS: Keep them cold. They won’t freeze entirely if you put them in the freezer, so that’s a great place to store them for a week or two, or to make them extra cold and firm so they keep their shape until lunch time if you’re packing them in a lunch. I enjoy them the best straight out of the refrigerator. If you’re gifting them, set each one into its own cupcake paper or a small square of parchment. You can give a dozen in a leftover cardboard egg carton or, in this case, an empty date container.
Lately I’ve been making this BASE and using whatever nuts and granola I have on hand to make “fat bombs” for my husband to take to work. (So far he says they really help him keep his hands out of the candy jar and the break room treats, and help get his mid-morning energy up.)
These are adaptable as a bar instead of a ball, too. Just press them into a baking dish or a cookie sheet and let it chill until firm. Slice into your preferred size, then you can take them to go, wrapped in parchment paper or Bees Wrap.
And if it wasn’t versatile enough, imagine this as a crust for a cheesecake....because that’s happening next.
NO BAKE KINDA-KETO CHEESECAKE
This was my son’s first birthday treat! Here I used the BASE + pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almond flour, and pie spices to make a thicker, more dense crust and pressed it into the bottom of a springform cake pan (the kind where the side of the pan can separate from the bottom). Let the crust chill while you whip up the no-bake kinda-keto cheesecake filling (and you can also adapt the sweeteners to make it keto conpliant).
- 1 package of organic full fat cream cheese
- 4 Tbs pastured butter
- 1 cup cashews, soaked and strained
- 1 Tbs maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 scoop collagen peptides *
( * optional)
If you’re dairy-free or have other dietary preferences, you can use any no-bake cheesecake recipe to top this crust. You can also use a thick chia pudding as a topping instead if you’re looking for a paleo option.
Whichever crust + cheesecake combination is right for you, or whomever you’re preparing it for, you can create these adorable little bite-sized treats:
LACTATION COOKIE CHEESECAKE BITES
I made these for a friend expecting her fifth child. I wanted to bring her something she could put in the freezer the week before she delivered to have on hand right after the baby arrived, something that would be easy to eat one-handed, that her kids could bring to her in bed (with a warm cup of tea!), would be nutrient-dense and energizing with protein and healthy fat, and would support lactation and healing after birth. Most importantly, I wanted them to be beautiful. After giving birth—especially after multiple children—a new mom is propped up in bed with a milk-stained t-shirt, diapers and wipes everywhere, the nightstand cluttered with glasses of water, jars of ointment, thermometers, crumpled tissues, a dirty plate from that thousandth lasagna someone brought, and who knows what else. It’s a time when aesthetics take a back seat to utility. But I want my mom friends to feel like a glowing grown up woman! No mother I know would ask outright for a dainty little treat like this, but I promise you EVERY ONE OF US WANTS ONE.
I adapted these with brewers yeast for lactation support, as well as rose hip powder for vitamin C and collagen for tissue healing. Even though they’re labeled “lactation cookies” they can be appropriate for anyone (the only ingredient I might sub out in that case would be the brewers yeast. It’s great for boosting milk supply but can have a strong flavor).
For these recipes, the total yield is about a dozen+ mini cupcake sized treats, and references the same “BASE” recipe from above, with some variations. Remember that you can tailor these to your own needs, preferences, and ingredient availability.
Crust: BASE + 1 Tbs cacao powder, 1 Tbs collagen peptides, 1 handful chia seeds, 1 handful pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbs brewers yeast, 1 Tbs maple syrup. Press into the bottom of a dozen mini cupcake liners and chill. Add cheesecake topping (from recipe above), and sprinkle with rosebud petals (or other garnish).
Crust: BASE + 1 Tbs finely chopped or grated lemon peel, 1 Tbs collagen peptides, 1 Tbs wild rosehip powder, 1 handful chia seeds, 1 handful cashew pulp* or almond flour. Press into the bottom of a dozen mini cupcake liners and chill. Use cheesecake topping from above and also add: juice from 1 wedge of lemon, 1 Tbs grated or finely chopped lemon peel, and a whole food sweetener to taste (since the sour lemon might need to be balanced out with a little more sweet). Garnish with lemon peel, rose hip powder, and schizandra berry powder.
(*I used the leftover cashew pulp from making cashew milk)
This turned into some teachable moments with my daughter and the opportunity to show her how to care for the women in our lives, and to honor their important work by nourishing their bodies. She sat at the counter with me, making her own weird 4-year-old concoctions, asking “Mom, what’s in this ingredient?” and choosing them based on the the kinds of nutrients I told her were in them. When she would ask, “Mom, why can’t we keep these?” we would talk about the meaning of generosity and the amazing celebration of new babies and growing families. When she said, “Why are we working so hard on this?” it gave me my own chance to tell her that I do this work for every meal I make for our family (she visibly pondered this but I could tell it will still be another decade and a half before it really sinks in). Still, I’m trying to teach her the language within the food we eat.
Here are a few unusual ingredients I enjoy incorporating into my recipes for mothers, and why they’re nutritionally valuable:
- Black Sesame Seeds- supports lactation, good source of minerals, promotes hormone balance.
- Brewer’s Yeast- high iron content to support lactation.
- Collagen Peptides- source of protein and essential amino acids, helps the body build connective tissue for healing.
- Rosebud- calms and soothes digestion + uterine discomfort, rich in antioxidants
- Rosehip Powder- very high vitamin C content, which helps the body repair tissue and heal. Vitamin C also facilitates the formation of collagen and the absorption of iron, so it complements the other ingredients used. This particular powder was harvested and hand-made by my friend in Germany (THANKS ANN MARIE!) but you can find it from Mountain Rose Herbs as well.
- Schizandra Berry Powder- good source of antioxidants, and supports liver detoxification which is important for new moms.
(For more recipes and resources for birthing moms, you can check out my post from last year about postpartum nutrition!)