Noni Doni Day Requires the Very Best Food

Wednesdays are my Noni Doni days with 2-year-old Austin. (I have his sister, 6-month-old Reagan, every other Thursday.)

There’s no shortage of things to do. Austin might play outside in his little sandbox or ride his Strider bike or his big plastic car in which he drives to the “store” to buy me “food” – usually imaginary milk and grapes, which I accept with an upturned hand, careful not to drop them.

We’ve gone to the movies a few times.  (That’s a toy spider in his right hand, in case you’re wondering.)

And we read countless books and we take walks and assemble puzzles and play with the toy barn and its animals and we stack blocks into tall cities and we talk with Uncle Joe on Skype.

But I confess, feeding Austin has been one of the best parts of being his Noni. Selfishly, I’m always so happy when babies start eating solid foods, because I love to feed them.

In the beginning, I spoon-fed Austin pureed stuff.

Austin feeds himself now. He turns 3 in December. Can that be?! Gosh, it seemed just yesterday he was a toothless baby gumming Cheerioes.

Today he’s a preschooler with a sophisticated palate who’ll eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables, as well as sour and spicy foods, too.

Many mornings we’ve made circus waffles and Mickey Mouse pancakes that we sometimes eat outside by the pool, where Austin likes to sit quietly and listen for airplanes, helicopters, chirping birds, barking dogs and horn-blasts from downtown trains.

Invariably, he’ll look at me — Mickey Mouse pancake in hand — and say, “This is nice, Noni.”

Be still my bursting heart.

From the time Austin was able to toddle, I’ve had a lower cupboard at his level that holds his snack foods, all organic stuff, that I allow him to open. (If his parents disapprove, they’ve kept that to themselves.)

This week Austin’s cupboard includes some Cadia gluten-free Animal Cookies. They taste of vanilla, and come in all the usual animal shapes, like camels, bears and lions, and a few non-traditional shapes, like foxes, goats and cougars.

I bought Austin’s Cadia Animal Cookies at Tops Market (formerly Sunset Marketplace) in Redding. Those familiar with Cadia organic foods know to look for them in natural and organic retailers. But perhaps you didn’t know that Tops Markets in Redding and Weaverville carry many Cadia products, some of which I checked out this week.

One end display in the Redding store on Eureka Way held everything from organic Cadia kettle corn and flat bread crackers to sparkling mineral water (from Italy), Cadia coconut water and of course, the wide variety of juices that Cadia is probably best know for.

I was especially impressed with the line-up of Cadia apple juices, that included plain organic apple juice, to such specialty apple juices as organic Honeycrisp and Gravenstein. And there was Cadia organic applesauce, too.

Tops sells Cadia regular organic apple juices as well as Honeycrisp and Gravenstein.

Austin loves apple anything, so I bought some Honeycrisp juice, and some applesauce. (I bought some of the sparkling Italian mineral water for me.) 

As I drove home it occurred to me that in my almost three years of being Austin’s Noni, I’ve never done the quintesentially grandmotherly act of baking him cookies, mainly because I didn’t want him to have too much sugar.

I lucked out with a compromise: a recipe for Sugarless Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies on I read the recipe twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. No sugar. NO. Sugar. Just applesauce for a sweetener. And raisins. I’m not sure I’ve ever baked a cookie without sugar. 

I’m going to bake them. And I’ll bet Austin would like to help, too.

I’ll bet that will be the sweetest part of all.

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies


1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 c. quick oatmeal
1 c. raisins
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. cooking oil
1 med. egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Soak raisins in hot water or rum 30 minutes before baking.

Mix flour, cinnamon, soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, oatmeal and raisins. Add applesauce, oil, egg, vanilla and mix just to moisten. Drop on greased sheets.

Bake at 375°F for about 12 minutes. If you are not on a strict diet, add 1/4 cup honey for better flavor.

Best served slightly warm.

This recipe sponsored by Tops Market in Weaverville and Redding.

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Click here to order a sandwich online from the Weaverville Tops Market.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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16 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Okay! This is on my list to try. My husband doesn't like too much sugar in anything so this could be a winner. Thanks!

    • You and I can both try them and see what we think. I'll follow the directions exactly the first time. Nuts might be good next time.

      Good luck!

      OK, I'm hitting the hay. I have Austin here in the a.m.!

      • Well, Barbara. Hold off on those cookies for a second. I did a quick read-through of the recipe and, as you can see, the directions say to cream the butter and "sugar". Arrggh! I returned to the website and the sugar is missing from the ingredients, but it's in the directions.

        OK, Plan B. I'm consulting my trusty La Leche League cookbook for a replacement recipe. If I'm lucky, you and I are the only ones up at this ungodly hour reading this recipe, and I can find one to swap out.

  2. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    LOVE Top's–so happy to have it for our neighborhood store. Wonderful, accommodating, knowledgeable staff and great products. Especially love their local produce and fabulous fish. And you can always find a nice hostess gift there. (And no, I'm not an audience plant–just a Top's fan.)

  3. Avatar Ginny says:

    About 30 or so years ago, I began making cookies and cakes without sugar. I substituted frozen orange juice right out of the can, any fruit such as raisins, prunes, apples, and applesauce, etc.

    Just takes a little adjusting and the cakes and cookies will come out just fine. Can't give recipe as I seldom used a printed one I made up as I went along. Only had one flop, which isn't bad over the years. Chuck always called them "Surprises".

    Sure you will always make good things for the children that taste good and are healthy!

  4. Avatar FJM says:

    Maybe leave out the raisins? Isn't Austin too young for them yet?

  5. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    A cautionary tale about a four-year-old and raisins and a trip to emergency to relieve an obstructed bowel . . .

    Doni, count your grandmotherly treasures. Mine never lived closer than 6000 miles away until they were both in high school. Now they're only 3000 miles away. You are filling Austin's memory banks with golden treasure . … pretty good treasures for Noni, too!!

  6. I have a friend who is always cutting out sugar and fat from her baking. She not only substitutes applesauce for sugar in most of her recipes, she also used pumpkin to replace oil. Carrot cake made with part of the oil and part pumpkin…delicious!

  7. Avatar Terry says:

    As you develop more and more dishes for Austin, and later, Reagan, I ask you to consider writing a cookbook for "Grandparents and Grandchildren", and in it, you even could have suggestions on products like Cadia. I can't be the only grandmother who feels a bit inadequate on finding/choosing/making healthy food for the grandkids. 🙂

    Thanks for another great article!

  8. Avatar •Handouts Don&# says:

    Austin is a doll!

    He will grow up all too quickly.

    Someday in the not so far off future, he will bring a young lady (or gentleman if that's his choice) over to meet his Noni Doni. You will reminisce about his growing up and share this wonderful article with her (or him).

    Enjoy his toddler days now – they won't last long!

  9. Avatar Canda says:

    You're such a wonderful Noni, Doni. It's great that Austin enjoys all kinds of food. Having a picky eater for a grandson, I'm impressed. Sounds like Terry might be on to something. What a fun book that would be, especially written by you. Those cookies do look yummy. I like the idea of weaning off of sugar, just as some of us do with salt. I'll give that recipe a try with my grandkids for sure.

  10. Avatar Bethany Chamberlain says:

    Very sweet, Noni…even without sugar.