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Renee Kohley

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Roasted Mushroom Broth

October 13, 2017

Use this warm, earthy, and savory roasted mushroom broth for your favorite mushroom soups, stews, risottos, and pilafs!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” I received a copy of Broth & Stock for review purposes in compensation for this post. Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. 

Healing, comforting, warming broth

Years ago it was one of the first things I learned how to cook. I was 23 and barely knew my way around the kitchen. That’s how most in my convenience food generation grew up, after all. But a health crisis in my early 20’s catapulted this kitchen novice into figuring out how to cook food that wasn’t from a box, and it changed my life forever.

Everything I was reading about healing using “real food” pointed toward broth. I tend to be one of those “jump in with both feet” kind of people, and within a week I purchased my first stock pot and began teaching myself how to cook.

Broth is so much more than food

What I ended up learning during those years of teaching myself how to cook was that cooking was so much more than just making food. Something about it made my heart more full. It didn’t just satisfy my stomach, it satisfied my soul.

Deep? Maybe. But I allowed the art of cooking engross me, and I fell in love with making myself food that had love and thought put into it. At the age of 23, I was learning where my food actually came from and that connection to the food we eat is so powerful.

Broth & Stock

I share my story because simple broth making was what made me fall in love with cooking. It opened my eyes to the importance of feeding myself well, and knowing where my food came from – something that I literally did not know, or give any thought to until I was 23.

And that is why I’m not sure that I have been more excited to share a cookbook with you than Broth & Stock by Jenny McGruther from the Nourished Kitchen! I know what learning how to make beautiful stocks and broths did for me, and it is literally the driving force behind the passion and purpose of this blog.

A whole cookbook about…broth?!

Yessss! Because broth is so much more than you think! In only the way Jenny does best, you will learn the differences between various broths and stocks, and how to use them best to make their flavors shine. From a variety of land and sea animal stocks and broths, to different vegetable broths, Broth & Stock has opened my horizons from using the same broth for every recipe I make.

Broth & Stock is also so much more than learning how to make beautiful, healing broth – the recipes in the second half of the book using those healing broths have been such a joy to bring to my kitchen. Being the novice, untrained cook that I am, I have learned so much from Jenny over the years how to bring out depths of flavor in meals using various herbs, spices, broths, wines, and seasonings. Or just leaving simplicity alone, and savoring the true flavor of something by not complicating it. The recipe for pho in the book is the best I have ever made, and the family favorite so far has been the Cream of Chicken Soup with Parsley & Chives. Everyone around the table had 2nd and 3rd bowl-fulls!

Roasted Mushroom Broth

I’ve been adding certain healing mushrooms to my bone broth making for extra medicinal benefits for the last few years, but I had never thought to make a broth with mushrooms alone – and boy have I been missing out! The earthy, savory flavor from the roasted mushroom infused broth is like nothing I have ever tasted before.

Here is an excerpt from Broth & Stock about the Roasted Mushroom Broth:

Roasting strengthens the flavor of mushrooms, amplifying the savory and almost meaty base notes that can give soups a unique foundational richness. Those savory flavors serve as a good match for meat and whole grains. Use this broth as a base for mushroom soups and stews or in risottos and pilafs. Using a wide variety of mushrooms will improve this broth’s flavor and complexity. I often use the stems and trimmings of wild mushrooms left over from foraging, as they give the broth a remarkable depth of flavor; however, using the button or cremini mushrooms easily available year-round in most grocery stores also yields a lovely broth, as roasting improves their flavor. You don’t need to take the peel off the onion, as it produces a lovely color, just split the onion in half and drop it in the pot. –“Broth and Stock”

Reprinted with permission from Broth & Stock from the Nourished Kitchen, written and photographed by Jennifer McGruther, 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

5.0 from 10 reviews
Roasted Mushroom Broth
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3⁄4 pound mixed mushrooms or mushroom stems, chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, skin on and halved crosswise
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 quarts cold water or Chicken Bone Broth
  • 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 sprigs thyme
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet. Nestle the onion halves into the mushrooms, sprinkle the smashed garlic over, and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes in the heated oven.
  3. Remove the sheet from the oven and drop the roasted mushrooms and onions into a heavy stockpot. Pour in the broth and wine. Slip the sprigs of thyme into the pot and then bring it all to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue simmering, covered, for about 30 minutes.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, then use a wide-mouthed funnel to pour it into two 1-quart jars, sealing the lids tightly. Cook with the broth right away or store it in the refrigerator for no more than 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the broth for upto 6 months, making sure to allow plenty of headspace if you're using glass jars.

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Grain Free Pumpkin Raisin Breakfast Cookies :: Kid Friendly & Freezes Great!

October 6, 2017

Get out the door fast with breakfast cookies made with sweet pumpkin and warm fall spices to make any school morning more cozy!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. 

The joy {and busy-ness!} of autumn…

…has made me really re-think my morning routines! This is my first year of having all 3 kids in school at least part time, and I will be honest in saying that I envisioned having a little more time to sip my coffee every morning! That is just hasn’t proven to be the case yet with 3 sets of field trips speckled through the month, projects to be done, after school activities, and of course lots of fun fall family outings to be had!

Keeping up but slowing down to savor

One busy morning it finally hit me. We had already made it to the middle of September, and I hadn’t made one pumpkin thing in my kitchen. I also had gotten into a rut of the same sort of breakfast routine every day. Nourishing? Yes. But savoring this season that we only get to enjoy a couple months out of every year? No!

So I set out to create a special something for breakfast that would help us enjoy the season, but not leave momma stressed for time on a school morning.

Breakfast Cookie Fridays!

Oh yes! It’s a thing, dear friends!

A few years back, I instituted “breakfast cookie Fridays” not only as a fun way for my girls to end the school week, but also as a way for myself to be kicked back and enjoy my coffee a little longer on a Friday morning. I set up a “breakfast bar” with a tray of breakfast cookies, a bowl of hard boiled eggs, and hot tea or raw milk to drink. The girls help themselves and I am hand free. It is a beautiful thing!

A new breakfast cookie Friday addition with a fall twist!

So in my intentional decision to savor the fall despite our busy schedule, these pretty little pumpkin raisin breakfast cookies were born! Warm spices with sweet pumpkin and maple syrup make for a cozy morning with a cup of tea or coffee (or my favorite pumpkin spice latte?!). I’m telling you, your kitchen is going to smell *amazing* after baking these simple little cookies off!

We have been enjoying them over the last few weeks while I perfected the ingredient ratios and tried some swaps, and the girls have finally given me the big 2 thumbs up for being post-worthy!

Ingredient notes and swaps!

  • Keep your eyes peeled in the ingredients for how to swap out the nuts. I have made a couple batches all seed based, and they taste so good! Even if you aren’t nut free, sometimes it’s nice to rotate around and get some nutrients from seeds you don’t have often.
  • These breakfast cookies are naturally egg (and dairy) free too! Pumpkin makes a great egg replacer, and the flax seed meal also provides a natural bind so that I could skip the egg.
  • I have made 1 batch with a good few tablespoons of grassfed collagen for extra protein and gut nourishment. They turned out great, so that is an addition you can put in if you wish!

Embrace the fall, my friends!

I sincerely hope I’ve sparked a bit of thought into you to enjoy this season, dear momma. The kids will remember these warm smells coming from the kitchen as they get older, and I’m telling ya…as my oldest nears more pre-teen ages, I’m starting to be more aware of the need to be intentional at memories versus the survival mode that the newborn years were! Embrace this change of season!

5.0 from 12 reviews
Grain Free Pumpkin Raisin Breakfast Cookies :: Kid Friendly & Freezes Great!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut (If you have a coconut allergy and can handle some grain, rolled oats or sprouted oats will work)
  • ½ heaping cup walnuts (Swap for an even ½ cup of sunflower seeds if you are nut free)
  • ½ heaping cup pecans (Swap for and even ½ cup seeds of choice here if you are nut free)
  • ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ cup flax seed meal (chia seeds should work here too)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup nut or seed butter of choice (I've made these with almond butter, tahini, cashew butter, and almond butter. Sunflower seed butter should be fine too.)
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup pure maple syrup (Raw honey would work here too. I think the warmth of the maple syrup works well with the pumpkin and pumpkin spices!)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coarsely chop the walnuts, pecans, and pepitas. (I like to buzz them up in my food processor to get coarse bits.)
  3. Put all the ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and combine well with a spatula.
  4. Form the dough into cookies using your hands, and place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let the cookies cool 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool further (or you may eat them before they cool!)

More real food PUMPKIN recipes you might like:

LOVE the idea of BREAKFAST COOKIE Friday’s?! Here are more recipes to add to your own breakfast cookie morning rotation!

Dinner Ideas Feeding Babies Healthy Kids and Teens Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

Paleo Wild Caught Salmon Burgers With Dairy Free Garlic Aioli

September 30, 2017

Enjoy these light and flaky, Paleo wild caught salmon burgers with creamy dairy free garlic aioli for a fuss free dinner prep perfect for any weeknight!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. 

Salmon…a household baby favorite!

Years ago, when my older girls were really little, I started making little salmon “cakes” or “patties” – whatever you like to call them! It mostly started because I did not grow up eating fish, and I needed a way that I could…get it down! My babies were completely obsessed with fish, and making salmon cakes was one of the ways I was able to mold my adult palate toward the fish.

You can see my special, nutrient filled ways to introduce baby to wild caught fish in my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings! I truly believe that starting my little ones out with little bits of wild caught salmon while they were young paved the way for their love of fish!

A much needed trip, and a fresh idea!

This summer, my husband and I got away one day {without kids!}, and enjoyed some time to savor each other’s company, shopping…and good food! The trip itself was refreshing, but one particular meal at Fish Lad’s, a fish monger dedicated to wild caught, sustainable fishing methods, had me absolutely over the moon with joy. With each amazing, dilly, juicy bite of their delicious wild caught salmon burger, a new idea on how to make salmon “patties” was realized!

It’s all about the texture

I was never really able to nail down what was missing from every other salmon “cake” or “patty” recipe I tried, until that day. With every bite I remember thinking “this is so light and airy, and yet so hearty, and meaty…and satisfying. It didn’t feel like a dense, egg-y, fish patty. It also didn’t taste like a salmon meatloaf stuffed with breadcrumbs.

Salmon worthy of the name…burger!

Not that there is anything wrong with those typical salmon patty textures, but this salmon…THIS felt like the texture of a burger. I could see tiny flakes of salmon with each airy, juicy bite, and it hit me.

They hand chopped this fish. And it was fresh fish.

You see, most salmon cake recipes used pureed fresh fish, or canned fish. Since fish is SO delicate, it turns into a paste when you puree it, so you add an egg or two to bind it all up, some breadcrumbs to soak up all the moisture, and you get a beautiful salmon “meatloaf” type texture. It works…but this salmon burger texture was nothing short of amazing. And I’m here to tell you it is absolutely worthy of the “burger” name.

My first try…

My first few attempts at my new salmon burger approach this summer had my kiddos absolutely in love, and I was completely sold on this new approach. Instead of pureeing the fish to oblivion, I hand chopped it. I bought a whole wild salmon, skinned it, cubed it…and then ran a chopping knife through it. The result was the texture of what you would be used to feeling with beef hamburger – little small bits of meat.

I was so nervous to see if it would stick together without an egg. But if we make hamburgers without a binder, shouldn’t this stick together too? This chopped salmon texture really does, and it is as fast prep as making hamburgers too, which is SO nice for a quick Friday night dinner.

Because a burger this special deserves a special sauce!

I have been able to nail down my seasoning ratios on the salmon burgers in my last few attempts, as well a brand new aioli topping that everyone will love! The aioli is a dilly, creamy, garlicky dream, and it just puts these burgers over the top – just like the aioli I had on my salmon burger at Fish Lads! It will make your Friday night in feel so special, and because it is loaded with friendly fats and healthy ingredients, you can feel free to pile it up high.

Of course, just like any burger, these salmon burgers are really a blank slate!

Change up the seasonings to your style, and enjoy! You can make them Asian style, or give it some heat with cayenne or flavorful chipotle (this is my favorite way of detailing my specific burger!), use Italian seasoning – whatever suits you! We served the burgers this night with roasted sweet potatoes, but you can change that up too! Homemade restaurant style french fries are always a hit too!

Supporting local…and some thoughts on fish quality

I can tell you that I am 100% sure that Fish Lads’ salmon burgers will be my staple order whenever I’m in Grand Rapids, but I’m so glad I can replicate their masterpiece even by a little at home! If you are newer to adding fresh fish to your household menu, know that the quality does matter. Wild caught fish is superior not only in taste, but in nutrition. If the salmon isn’t that super bright pinkish red flesh, it is farmed and not as good in quality.

Thankfully wild caught Alaskan salmon can be found so much easier these days. Even places like Costco carry fresh, wild caught salmon in the freezer section of their store! Look up your local fish mongers. The demand for quality has risen as  more and more people become aware of the importance of fish being wild caught. Ask the fish mongers questions – my findings have been that these people love what they do, and they want to tell you about their skill!

Onto the salmon burgers!

5.0 from 15 reviews
Paleo Wild Caught Salmon Burgers With Dairy Free Garlic Aioli
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE SALMON BURGERS ::
  • 1 - 1¼ lbs fresh wild caught salmon
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup friendly fat to cook in such as avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, tallow, etc.
  • 3-4 tbsp potato starch to dredge (optional but gives amazing aroma, flavor, and crispy seared texture. If you tolerate white rice flour, that has the same effect.)
  • FOR THE GARLIC AIOLI ::
  • 1 small avocado, pitted
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil (I used a garlic infused olive oil which was even more amazing!)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic (if you don’t care for the “heat” of raw garlic, you can use 2 tsp of powdered garlic)
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp dill
  • ¼ - ½ tsp sea salt per your taste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper or more to your taste
Instructions
  1. Skin and cube up your salmon. Then run a chopping knife through the cubed salmon until the bits are small but not to a puree. The texture should resemble that of ground beef.
  2. Combine the chopped salmon and salmon burger seasonings in a medium mixing bowl. Place in the fridge while you prepare the aioli.
  3. To make the aioli, put all of the aioli ingredients into a pint mason jar, and blend with an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can blend everything except the oil with your food processor, and then drizzle the oil in slowly while it blends. Set the aioli aside in the fridge while you cook the salmon burgers.
  4. Heat a skillet with your friendly cooking fat of choice over medium-high heat while you form your salmon burgers.
  5. Divide the salmon mixture into the sized burgers you want, and form burger patties with your hands. This takes just a little bit of time, but it is worth working the patties gently so they come together and aren't too overworked.
  6. Dust the salmon burgers on both sides in a small bowl of potato starch. Place the potato starch dusted salmon burgers into the hot oil, and cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Flip the burgers and cook another 3-5 minutes, until both sides are golden brown, crispy on the outside, and cooked on the inside. If you make smaller salmon burgers your cook time will be shorter - this cook time was for 1 pound of salmon formed into 4 burgers.

Make sure to check out my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings for safe recipes to introduce your baby to wild caught fish – create that broad taste palate for enjoying fish, and they will be enjoying salmon burgers with the family as they grow toddlers!

More real food recipes you might like:

Holiday Recipes Occasional Treats Real Food 101 Real Food Tips School Holidays

Healthy Halloween Tips and Ideas :: Healthier trick-or-treating ideas {that won’t get you tee-peed!}, family Halloween traditions, & healthy classroom party ideas!

September 23, 2017

Celebrate Halloween and keep your “crunchy momma” status with these super fun, {not lame} healthy Halloween tips and ideas for home and school!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. 

I’m going to just cut to the chase, let the cat out of the bag…you get the idea…

It’s not my favorite holiday.

You know…Halloween. Sure, it’s super fun to dress up little kids like fuzzy ducks, silly clowns, and glittery butterflies, but really, I’m in this whole autumn thing for that Thanksgiving turkey!

And yet…

…the kids nearly jump out of their skin for this holiday, and so we roll with it. I’ve spent the greater part of the last 8 ½ years of this motherhood journey navigating just how to approach the sugar crazed holiday, and I feel like I’ve come up with a happy medium that works for our family.

My middle kiddo making pumpkin pasta before trick or treating!

Did you hear that key phrase?

I’ve found what works for *our* family. It won’t be the same for every family, but I’m hoping my list is super comprehensive and will at least give you a bit of empowerment to start making your *own* family traditions to make the holiday special for your kids, without compromising your real food standards.

Because that’s really what it’s all about, right?

The fun, right!?

Listen, I may be one of those ____(insert your choice of terms to describe health conscience moms…crunchy, holistic, green…) mommas, but I don’t want my kids to feel like the odd duck. Sure they may pack bone broth loaded soup for school lunches, but I also pack an occasional PBJ. And yes, for the most part treats are just saved for birthdays and holidays, but we have the occasional Friday night pizza or weekend celebratory cookies.

It’s called balance…

And that balance is crucial to making sure your kiddos don’t buck back against you when it comes to fun things like Halloween. Trust me…I’ve done the whole skipping trick or treating to avoid the candy thing. I thought since I would be having them dump the candy anyway, why bother!

Instead, what I had was a disappointed 6 year old who knew about trick or treating from her friends at school, and all she wanted to do was dress up and have some fun. Not every kid will come to this conclusion, but she would have been just as happy to dump the candy just for the chance to dress up and have some fun! Don’t take that away from them!

Our family Halloween traditions!

Again, every family is different, and there is no one right way to do this Halloween thing. I hope everyone reads that part carefully – my way isn’t the highway, but I’m hoping you can get a few ideas to help, and learn from my mistakes!

  1. We carve pumpkins, dress up, and do the trick-or-treating thing. My kids are still at the ages where this is super cool to them, and they don’t even care that the rule is dumping the candy in the trash afterward. They seriously just want to dress up and have fun!
  2. We swap their trick-or-treat candy for a special treat that they get to make with momma. We do something different every year, and the kids get to pick. We’ve made caramel corn, candy apples, tootsie rolls, and sugar cookies made into pumpkins (I use this recipe using a pumpkin cutter and then use naturally dyed orange sprinkles over white frosting!). They get to enjoy their special treat after trick-or-treating – period. Not the next day or the weekend after. Even if it’s a school night, they are staying up and having fun. Don’t be the party pooper mom. Yep I said it – and I get to say it cuz I’ve been there and it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Live a little 😉
  3. I hand out candy. Well, honey sticks to be exact. I went years without handing out candy because I just couldn’t stand the thought of handing out GMO filled candy to innocent little kids. I couldn’t afford the expensive organic chocolate candy for everyone, so I just didn’t hand anything out. I can’t remember where I got the honey stick idea, but we are going on our 3rd year of handing them out, and it is a compromise I feel good about. Kids get something sweet, and I feel good about the quality.
  4. As far as school Halloween parties go, our school doesn’t celebrate Halloween in the traditional way, so I have zero experience there. They do some crafts, and make applesauce! (The kids love this by the way – let them peel and chop, and then slow cooker or Instant pot the applesauce!) If you have kiddos at a school that does the whole Halloween party fiasco, please leave us some comments below on how you handle the school parties so we may learn from you!

I absolutely cherish this picture of my oldest making the caramel for caramel apples and her sisters watching! That is what this is all about! (Recipe for the caramel apples from Nourished Kitchen is below!)

A quick note on my thoughts about babies & toddlers…

Take those babies and toddlers to the pumpkin patch! Do fun arts and crafts with pumpkin seeds, orange paint, and pumpkin cutters in play-doh!

My philosophy on the babies and toddlers with candy is…do *you* want to explain to a 1 or 2 year old why we don’t have candy every day of the year? They just don’t have the capacity to reason why this isn’t a good idea like a 4 year old on up would. I kept my babies and toddlers with a fun snack of fruit salad with simple whipped cream, or simple fruit leathers (I love the idea of this winter squash fruit leather – perfect for toddlers!), or cut up fruit in a fun mini cookie cutter for Halloween shapes.

They don’t know any better, dear momma. You’ll be so glad you did the next day when you don’t have to explain why we don’t have chocolate everyday to a 2 year old who doesn’t know how to understand that. It just isn’t fair to them.

That said…when it comes to older siblings in the house, let them have some fun. I admit my third born had her first piece of candy much younger than my oldest who was at least 4 before she had hers. However,  I definitely didn’t feel like going through the meltdown process at ages 1 or 2 when she wanted *more*, so she was just in bed when my oldest kiddos had their special treat.

Again, this philosophy isn’t set in stone. It is my opinion, and my thought process. You do you dear momma, but at least this gives you some food for thought! 

Onto the ideas!

SO! I wanted to comprise a list of ideas that will help you through Halloween with your {ahem} crunchy momma label 🙂 Pick and choose what works for you, and pass by what doesn’t. Read through it with your older kids and make some new family traditions together!

Trick-Or-Treat Hand-Out Treats:

Let’s face it…an apple or box of raisins is just not something special to a kid over the age of 3! Lighten up and try some of these fun, safer ideas that will make the kids smile! Please note the prices per candy, and maybe you could do the more cost effective ones for the masses of trick-or-treaters, and save the pricier ones for those smaller, at home parties or classroom parties if candy is allowed.

{PLEASE keep in mind that Amazon prices can fluctuate. I broke the price down per candy for your convenience, and the price here reflects what Amazon had the price at during the time of this post publishing.}

Treat Alternatives:

Let’s face it…kids probably have enough pencils, and the gross plastic fake Halloween teeth will just get tossed in the garbage. Here are some fun, non candy ideas for the kids that stop by that can’t have candy!

{These aren’t really my thing, but I do think that for the little guys that come around, some parents might be thankful to get something like a sticker that isn’t full of sugar. I’m pretty sure you will want to have the candy from above on hand for older kids. PLEASE keep in mind that Amazon prices can fluctuate. I broke the price down per toy for your convenience, and the price here reflects what Amazon had the price at during the time of this post publishing}

  • Stickers (2 cents per sticker. Obviously, you can find stickers just about anywhere! Shop around! I thought these were cute for the Halloween holiday!)
  • Temporary Tattoos (6 cents per tattoo. Obviously, you can find temporary tattoos just about anywhere! Shop around! I thought these were cute for the Halloween holiday!)
  • Stampers (18 cents per stamper. Obviously, you can find stampers just about anywhere! Shop around! I thought these were cute for the Halloween holiday!)
  • Glow Sticks (6 cents per glow stick.)
  • Bouncy Balls (13 cents per bouncy ball)

Homemade Treats The Family Can Make Together:

Make sure you use the comments to tell us your family Halloween treat traditions! I would love to add to this list!

Honey Caramel Apples (This is the recipe we use every year!)

Honey Sweetened Caramel Corn

Pumpkin Spice Latte {Because Mom & Dad need it! Leave the coffee out for the kiddie cups!}

Homemade Tootsie Rolls

Spider Cupcakes

Candy Corn Panna Cotta

Chocolate Dipped Mandarin Oranges

Paleo Ghost Truffles

Sweet, Spicy, & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Dark Chocolate Nut Butter Cups

Fresh Figs With Cheese & Walnuts

Chocolate Covered Apples

Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Pumpkin Gummies

Cinnamon Maple Nut Butter Apples

Honey Nut Popcorn

Healthy Family Halloween Dinner Ideas {Kids will actually eat before trick-or-treating!}

Traditions That Will Make Halloween Super Special!

Make sure you use the comments to tell us your family traditions! I would love to add to this list!

  • Pumpkin carving contest
  • Play Halloween themed Pictionary
  • Pumpkin seed counting contest
  • Make your own personal pizzas (2 recipes above in the Halloween Dinner section!)
  • Watch a movie
  • Play board games
  • Play Halloween themed Charades
  • Have a scavenger hunt
  • Have a spa night

Fruit Based Treats For Classroom Parties (Or at home for those toddler treats!)

Applesauce Making (Have the kids peel & chop, then slow cooker or Instant pot it in class!)

Halloween Monster Mouths

Fruit Bat Snack Bags

Monster Fruit Cups

Pumpkin Spice Fruit Dip

Frozen Boo-Nana Pops (I’d use greek yogurt!)

Halloween Green Yogurt Fruit Dip & Spooky Fruit Snacks (I’d skip the nutella or make your own)

Healthy Halloween Orange Pumpkins

 

Ghost Berries (I’d use organic white chocolate or even dip in Greek yogurt and freeze.)

Orange Jack-O-Lantern Fruit Cups

Candy Corn Fruit Pops

Spiders On A Log

Fruit Gummy Worms

Treat Alternatives For Classroom Parties

Think games and crafts! The focus at classroom parties doesn’t always have to be on the food. If they kids are having fun, and get a break from normal classroom routine, that is all they care about.

Please note there are probably a zillion Halloween crafts and games! I tried searching for things that could be done in the classroom easily and affordably. If you are a teacher or parent that have some fun classroom craft ideas, please drop them in the comments below and I’ll add to the list as we need!

CRAFTS FOR THE CLASSROOM {OR LITTLE ONES AT HOME!}:

Halloween Spider Craft

Halloween Rock Monsters

Monster Corner Bookmarks

Pine Cone Spiders

Yarn Pumpkins

Pumpkin Apple Stamps

Paper Plate Mummy Lacing Craft

Craft Stick Spider Webs

Build A Monster (This link has a free printable!)

Paper Plate Black Cat

GAMES & ACTIVITIES FOR THE CLASSROOM:

  • Carve a pumpkin and have a estimating contest on the amount of pumpkin seeds
  • Roast the pumpkin seeds!
  • Peel & chop apples and slow cooker or Instant Pot applesauce right in class! If you have access to an oven at school like our school does, you can have older kids do a baked applesauce which will make the whole school smell amazing!
  • Make play-doh with a fun fall scent or slime in class
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Science experiments
  • Bingo (this link has a free Bingo printable!)
  • (I had a harder time finding games! If you are a teacher with some fun Halloween games, please comment!)

SO! We want to hear from YOU!

Let’s make this the most comprehensive, “crunchy momma” guide to a {not lame} FUN Halloween! List out what you do in the comments! If you are a Switch Witch family, a big party family, or you do something totally different, we want to hear it!

 

Batch Up Meals Breakfast Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches Snack Ideas

Healthy Homemade Nut Free Granola Bars :: Nut Free School Zone Safe and Naturally Refined Sugar Free!

September 13, 2017

Nut free school zone safe homemade granola bars that are fruit sweetened, and definitely kid approved!

Fall fun!

I feel like every mid September I start to feel the crunch. As in…you have T-minus 2 more months until that weather turns, and instead of sinking your toes in the sand and soaking up the sun’s rays, you’ll be sinking your toes into warm, wool socks and soaking in the warmth from thick blankets while snow surrounds your house!

We are on the go until that winter mess happens, and that means snacks need to be portable!

My granola bar nemesis conquered…

Granola bars have been on my goal list for at least 2 years now. I just could never get them right. I tried a few recipes when my oldest started Kindergarten a few years back, but the ingredients were never to my standard using puffed cereals, rice syrup, and oats that weren’t properly prepared. I would make swaps to meet my ingredient goals, and the whole darn thing would fall apart.

Turns out you really need the right kind of “sticky-ness,” and *just* the right ratios of solids to liquids to get these puppies to hold. I would give up for a couple months and then re-visit them…and this time around, I hit the nail on the head!

So worth 6 batches!

If you are a follower to my Instagram school lunch posts (just search the hashtag #rgnschoollunch on IG!), you are going to be seeing these granola bars often this year. The girls are obsessed with them, and they are going fast. I did end up making 6 batches to make sure my consistency was perfect with certain swaps, and I have a nice stash of them in the freezer for quick, pack-able school morning snacks or lunchbox additions. I have been grabbing them to go for myself as well.

Minimal prep is the name of my game!

Listen, I know it is just as easy to grab a healthier version of granola bars at the store. So my goal in making these was not only to make the nutrition far superior to that found in store bought granola bars, but I also needed it to be something I was willing to make weekly, or even just monthly to keep in my school packing rotation. I don’t have extra time to be spending on picky little steps and long drawn out processes for making a simple granola bar.

You are going to flip at how easily these come together!

Nut free school zone safe!

While my kiddos are not at a nut free school, I have been feeling the questions from you, my dear readers, about nut free snacks for your kids who may be in nut free schools, or who have kids at home that need to be nut free. These granola bars are seed based, and even if you don’t have kids that have to be nut free, it is such a good idea to keep a variety of foods in front of them so they are getting different nutrients.

Hold up! These are not just for nut free kids!

My kids tolerate nuts and eat nuts just fine, but let’s face it….Between that PBJ a couple times per week at school, granola or nuts on their oatmeal once or twice a week, and using almond flour here and there for baked goods, it doesn’t hurt to change things up a bit. I fully plan on making these granola bars with some different nut varieties too, but it was a really fun challenge to make these completely seed based so that our nut free friends could enjoy them too.

Change it up!

Since these granola bars are SO easy to make, they will soon become a staple in your lunchbox packing game! Here are some ways to change things up so that you can keep things interesting!

  • Swap the raisins for another dried fruit (dried cranberries, dried mango, dried apples, dried blueberries, dried apricot) or healthier option chocolate chip
  • Swap the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice and use dried apples for a fun fall flavor.
  • Change out the seed butter for different flavor seed butters or, if you tolerate nuts you could try some different nut butters.
  • If you tolerate nuts, you could swap some of the seeds for nuts.

5.0 from 12 reviews
Healthy Homemade Granola Bars :: Nut Free School Zone Safe and Naturally Refined Sugar Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 6 large Medjool dates soaked in warm water to soften, plus 3 tbsp of the date water to make the date paste (I find our dates in the produce section at our local grocer or at Costco)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds (I buy coconut shreds in bulk at our local health food store)
  • 1 cup raw pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds), coarsely chopped (I buzzed them up about 5 long pulses in my food processor)
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds, coarsely chopped (I buzzed them up about 5 long pulses in my food processor)
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal (I buy our flax seed meal at Costco)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (I buy our chia seeds at Costco)
  • ¾ cup - 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp sea salt (if your seeds or seed butter are salted, you will want to cut this back by at least half)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup tahini (This is sesame seed butter. Sunflower seed butter should work too. Or if you tolerate nuts, use a nut butter of choice like almond or peanut butter. I think the biggest thing to keep in mind with the seed or nut butters is that you want something that doesn't have a bunch of other added ingredients/oils/sugar etc. Just check the ingredient labels.)
Instructions
  1. Fill a small bowl with warm/hot water from the tap and place the dates in the warm water while you prep the rest of the ingredients. They need to soak at least 5-10 minutes to moisten and soften.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees, and line a small baking pan with parchment paper. There is no need to grease the pan or the paper. Make sure the sides of the paper go over the sides of the pan so you can lift the granola bar mixture out of the pan easily.
  3. Put the pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax meal, chia seeds, raisins, salt, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl, and stir with a spoon to combine.
  4. Pit the dates, and put them into a blender along with 3 tablespoons of the warm water that the dates were soaking in. Blend to make a smooth date “paste.” Put the date paste and tahini in a small sauce pan. Warm the date paste/tahini mixture until it melts and starts to sizzle a little, stirring along the way. This only needs about 1 minute to melt and warm so that it is easier to mix into the seeds.
  5. Stir the warm date paste/tahini mixture into the mixing bowl with the seeds using a spatula. It will be thick and sticky. It will seem dry at first but do not add more moisture or they will not set right. It will start to combine as you mix.
  6. Press the granola bar mixture into the parchment paper lined baking sheet. I use my hands – press it in tight. Press it into the sides and corners, and slide the edges and corners down to compact in.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, take them out of the oven, and use the back of a wooden spoon t gently press the granola down a bit more so it really compacts in to set. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then use the parchment paper sides to lift the solid bar mixture onto a cooling rack to finish cooling (I keep it on the parchment paper while on the cooling rack). Do NOT cut the bars until they are cooled – it sets up as it cools off, and it will fall apart if you cut it while it is still hot.
  8. Once the granola is cooled, cut the bars into the sizes you want, and either freeze or store in an airtight container.

More real food lunchbox ideas you might like!

Condiments Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

How To Make Soy Free and Refined Sugar Free Teriyaki Sauce :: Plus! A 20 Minute Beef Teriyaki Stir Fry Recipe!

September 9, 2017

Learn how to make soy free and refined sugar free teriyaki sauce, and a bonus 20 minute beef teriyaki stir fry recipe for those busy weeknights!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. 

Season transitions…

While most that are unfamiliar with Michigan think we are buried in snow most of the year, the reality is…we have just about the most amazing summer you’ll find anywhere on the planet! And while that snow *is* our reality about 3-4 months out of the year, having distinct seasonal changes is what keeps me in love with this place we call home.

We are hanging up our body boards and swimsuits and welcoming the new school year with open arms!

Season changes and new school routines

The new school year brings a different kind of busy to our house. With 3 young children, we kept pretty “busy” all summer long, but the school year type of busy is just a little different. There are places to be *on time*, lessons and practices to be *on time*, and bedtimes that are not as flexible as the lazy days of summer.

Which brings me to dinner…

Efficient but nourishing is the name of my game!

I know many of you picture this foodie blogger momma floating around the kitchen all day preparing elaborate meals for her family. That is just not my reality! This house is about as real as it gets, and as a work at home mom with kids that need to be taken to and from school, as well as still has a little one that isn’t in full time school yet…well, dinner needs to be efficient.

But how do we make a quick dinner, and still meet those goals of using real food instead of convenience foods?

My veteran momma school year dinner prep tips!

Well, maybe not veteran, but I do have a few years under my belt with school aged kids, and I have learned a few things about dinner time during the school year that I hope will help you.

  • Make weekend meals stretch into the weekdays. Plan your big roasted chicken for Sunday dinner, and use the leftover meat for a stir fry on Monday. Plan a doubled up stir fry on Saturday or Sunday and use the leftovers for dinner on Tuesday. You get the idea. Take a good 1-2 days out of that 5 day work week to use leftovers, and the week of dinners will feel less daunting.
  • Prep “the little things” ahead of time. Salad dressings, dips, sauces (like this teriyaki sauce!) may take just a few minutes to make, but that few minutes on a crammed out Wednesday night of activities will rush you. Every Sunday I like to make some “little things” like salad dressings, mayo, or a sauce for dinner and just stash it away for the week. Repeat after me…one. less. thing. (!!)
  • Take 5-10 minutes before bed to prep anything for dinner the next day. Again, it doesn’t take long to chop veggies, but that 5 minutes of time is precious on a school night. Chop your veg, slice meat (or get it marinating!), peel garlic, and make that dinner prep fly by the next day. You can even do things like make the rice for this dinner meal the night before. This could be considered one of those “little things” from the above point. If you know you eat rice 1-2 times per week, make that rice up while you are having your prep time in the kitchen over the weekend.
  • And a quick tip for work at home or stay at home moms! I know this isn’t everyone, but since I fall in this category, I do have a tip to share for my friends in this place. Make dinner before school gets out – or at least have it ready to go, on a sheet pan, chopped, half way made, etc. I don’t know about you, but my kids are starving after school, and a lot of times we just go ahead and have dinner when they get home around 4pm. Most days, I make dinner when I put my toddler down for her nap so it can run quick without interruption, and I’ll just warm it back up when the kids get home from school. Again, I understand this is not do-able for every momma. If you are a work outside the home momma, we would absolutely love to hear your tips and tricks for dinner time in the comments!

Naturally sweetened teriyaki sauce {made in 5 minutes!}

Sticky and sweet teriyaki sauce will make just about any hesitant stir fry eater in the house change their minds! Most teryaki sauces you find on the market or in restaurants are loaded with corn syrup or sugar. In just about 5 minutes, you can make your own teriyaki using natural sweeteners, and it seriously tastes like anything you would love right out of a restaurant!

5.0 from 13 reviews
5 Minute Teriyaki Sauce
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup coconut aminos (Most health food stores carry this now. It tastes just like soy sauce, so you can avoid the soy!)
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (more if you want some heat – this is very mild kid friendly)
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot mixed with 1 tbsp water for the thickening slurry (tapioca starch would work, or if you can tolerate grains, you can use GMO free cornstarch)
Instructions
  1. Put everything except the arrowroot slurry into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the arrowroot slurry and whisk until the sauce thickens. This will take less than a minute.
  3. Pour your sauce over any stir fry! You can freeze your sauce in ice cube trays or small freezer containers too. This recipe makes a little over 1 cup of sauce – enough for 1 family sized stir fry.

So I’ve got my 5 minute teriyaki sauce made…now what???

Well…you make a stir fry with whatever is in season near you! Here’s a quick template recipe, but it is really forgiving. If you have chicken instead of beef, use that. If you have different veggies on hand, swap them out!


20 Minute Beef Teriyaki Stir Fry


For the beef ::

  • 2 tbsp potato starch (arrowroot or tapioca starches would work, but I like the crispy finish that potato starch lends)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ lb swiss steak, cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp friendly fat to cook in such as tallow, butter, ghee, or coconut oil

For the stir fry ::

  • 2 tbsp friendly fat to cook in such as tallow, butter, ghee, or coconut oil
  • ½ large white onion
  • 2 small or 1 large bell pepper (I used orange)
  • 1lb frozen broccoli, thawed (or 1 head fresh broccoli. I get large bags of frozen organic broccoli at Costco)
  • 1 large carrot peeled into strips (I use this Y-peeler to make the cool, noodle like strips!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 recipe of the teriyaki sauce above
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions :: 

  1. Make the teriyaki sauce, and set aside. See the above instructions for the 5 minute teriyaki sauce!
  2. Make the beef strips: Whisk the potato starch, sea salt, and pepper in a bowl and toss the beef strips in to coat. Melt your fat in a skillet over medium-high heat, add the beef, and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Set the crispy beef aside.
  3. Make the stir fry: Melt the friendly fat in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and broccoli and cook for 5 minutes. You can cook this for an additional 5 minutes if you prefer your veggies softer. Add the garlic and carrot strips and cook another 3 minutes. Add the crispy beef and teriyaki sauce and simmer 3-5 minutes. Sea salt and pepper to your taste.
  4. You can serve your stir fry as is, or over a bed of cauli rice, bone broth cooked white rice, veggie noodles, or gluten free rice ramen.

More real food recipes you might like ::

Holiday Recipes Occasional Treats Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

Gluten Free Rustic Skillet Peach Pie

August 26, 2017

An easy prep gluten free skillet peach pie with buttery, flaky crust and sweet juicy peach filling!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. 

This little sweat pea…can I tell you about her?!

My baby turned 4 this week, and while I’m happily waving good-bye to the *unique* toddler years in my house for good (whoop!), I’m still kinda like…whaaaaa! My baby is not a baby anymore!

Caitlyn teaches me peace. She teaches me trust. And she teaches me how to unconditionally love anyone. In perfect third kid style, this sweet baby goes with the flow, no matter what that flow may be. Schedule changes? No problem! New experiences? Awesome! She plans on everyone being her friend the minute she walks into a room, and is the coolest kid to play with. She makes everyone feel special.

When you have *2* August birthdays in the house…

You have peach pie!

My husband just so happens to have a birthday just 2 days before Cait (I was miserably 42 weeks pregnant, and while I said my entire pregnancy I didn’t want them having the same birthday, I would have given just about anything to have her that day! Ha!). I have always wanted to do something summer fruity for Cait’s birthday since there is such an abundance of summer goodies during her birthday month, and this year, I got my wish!

That whole busy schedule thing…

Having a birthday at the end of August also means things are really busy doing all the back to school preparations. So we made lots of special time last weekend with family to celebrate Cait’s birthday early while everyone was still in summer mode. That way everyone could enjoy and celebrate her!

I also wanted to celebrate on her actual birthday though, and decided to have her pick a summer fruit to make something special with…

Summer peaches meet easy peasy skillet crust!

Peaches are totally her jam this summer, so I had a feeling that is what she would pick. I was perfectly giddy that she did, and before I started in making this super easy peach crisp, I had a second thought and really wanted to make peach pie.

The time to fuss with a fancy pie crust just wasn’t going to work with the weekend ahead, and I was just thrilled with how this more rustic (read…less fussy!) crust worked.

Buttery, flaky, no-fuss crust!

I played around with my “perfect gluten free pie crust” recipe a bit, trying to make it work for the skillet. I didn’t want to wait around for dough chilling, and just by chance I happened to change the ratios of the flour, butter, and water to get a dough that rolled out easily right out of the food processor.

This momma is definitely a “non” baker – not my favorite thing to do in the kitchen, and this crust was super easy to work with. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it rolls out. And because we are talking “rustic” – it doesn’t have to have perfectly neat little edges! Yeah!

A note on peach types

Different peaches have different levels of juiciness and acid which affects sweetness. There are dozens of peach varieties – our local peach farmer carries at least 6 or so. That said, you can fuss around with the sweetness to your taste. I picked up the very last of a white flesh variety called blushing star – they have a really pretty white flesh with streaks of almost pink. They are super sweet and quite juicy.

Our peaches were very ripe – almost too ripe. Because of that, I used a good ½ cup of flour to make sure it didn’t get too runny in the middle – if I were to make it again, I would use a bit less – 1/3 cup, or maybe even ¼ cup. I like to have a little bit more messy juiciness to my pie! The “sweet” was right on to our palates for the peaches we had. If your kids are used to sweeter pies, I would go for more like ½ cup of the sugar.

Topping options!

While the peach skillet pie certainly shines on it’s own, everything is better with a little topping, right?! Here are some great, easy, real food ideas!

New to skillet cooking?

For years I was pretty petrified of screwing up a skillet – so I never used one. In the last few years I have been almost exclusively using my cast iron skillet because it is so easy to use! Go figure! I follow these instructions from The Kitchn for seasoning my cast iron and keeping it super non slip. The pie slices slid right out. If you are in the market for a cast iron skillet (what a great gift idea for this year!), this is the one I use. They are so affordable, and last forever!

5.0 from 5 reviews
Gluten Free Rustic Skillet Peach Pie
Author: 
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Make the filling :: Put the filling ingredients into a medium mixing bowl, gently mix, and set aside.
  3. Make the crust :: Put the flour, sugar, and salt into a food processor and pulse 5 times to mix. Add the palm shortening (or butter), and blend until the palm shortening (or butter) is incorporated making little bits in the flour. Add the water to the drip cup on the lid of the food processor, and press blend until the dough comes together. This takes about a minute.
  4. Get the crust into the skillet :: Flour a counter surface with the Namaste flour or rice flour and roll out your dough. You’ll want to leave it wider than your skillet so you have enough to fold over the top. Gently set the crust into the skillet, and softly press it down the sides. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust with the beaten egg. This keeps the crust from getting soggy.
  5. Assemble the pie :: Pour the prepared peach filling into the crust, and fold the edges of the pie over the filling. Brush the top of the crust with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar. You can put a few pats of butter over the top of peach filling too.
  6. Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees for 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

More real food peach recipes you might like!

Feeding Babies Healthy Kids and Teens Holiday Recipes Occasional Treats Products & Books We Love! Real Food 101 Real Food Tips School Holidays

Paleo Plátanos Calados :: Stewed Spiced Ripe Plantains

August 23, 2017

Plátanos Calados are a creamy and sweet fall spiced glazed plantain treat that everyone in the family will love!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family. I received a promotional copy of Latin American Paleo Cooking for review purposes for this post.

September is approaching, and fall is right around the corner!

We are moving into full blown back to school mode! My older 2 girls are getting antsy to get back to their friends and the daily routine of the classroom, and my youngest is beyond ready for her preschool year! With the anticipation of getting back into the classroom, my oldest 2 were having a particularly “bored” day, and I decided to have a little “school” here at home…

A little taste of Latin American culture

My little Montessorians are used to studying world maps all the time in school, and they were thrilled at the chance to learn more about a unique part of the world we call Latin America! My dear friend, Amanda, from The Curious Coconut just happened to send us her brand new cookbook, Latin American Paleo Cooking that week, and it was the perfect opportunity for the girls to brush up on their map skills, as well as learn about a unique, and very special culture.

A whole new cookbook experience!

I was prepared for Latin American Paleo Cooking to have super fun, gorgeous recipes knowing Amanda (which it totally does!), but what I wasn’t anticipating was the added cultural learning I was going to glean from the cookbook – and that dear friends, is priceless.

My older girls poured over the delicious recipes “ooo-ing” and “ahhh-ing” over the stewed meats, pretty folded little empanadas, and of course luscious sweet treats. My oldest noticed the flags with each recipe indicating what country in Latin America the recipes were from, and was soon glued to the computer maps trying to find the countries. We talked about the people from these countries, their heritage, what the weather is like in these tropical regions, as well as what kind of food grows there. It was a great learning opportunity!

Latin American Paleo Cooking Features and Stats!

Here’s the low down on this amazing book!

  • The cookbook has over 80 traditional recipes made Paleo and as authentic as possible, with over 90% being AIP or easily adaptable
  • All recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free; all but 1 are egg-free. 2 recipes use white rice BUT there are grain-free options for both of those.
  • The countries represented include: Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Brazil, each marked with that country’s flag for easy reference. Some recipes are so ubiquitous that they cannot be attributed to a single country, and are designated as pan-Latin.
  • Platos de la Familia (Family Dinners) includes recipes meant to feed a crowd, and many of these recipes are great for batch cooking.
  • Comida Fiesta! (Party Food!) includes Paleo versions of Latin recipes that people get ridiculously excited about, like pupusas, pandebono (“cheese” buns), empanadas, arepas, plantain sandwiches, and more.
  • Rapido y Facil (Quick and Easy) includes recipes that are, like the name says, quick and easy to prepare. Some are still great for batch cooking, too, extra bonus!
  • Accompañantes (Sides) includes many ways to enjoy tropical starches like yuca, malanga, boniato, and plantains PLUS both a starchy and non-starchy rice replacement AND starchy and non-starchy BEANS replacement!
  • Un Poco Dulce (A Little Sweet) is a short but delicious desserts chapter
  • Lo Esencials (The Essentials) includes cooking bases, sauces, marinades, condiments, broths, and more, which are used throughout the book and can be the launching point for readers to get creative with numerous uses! Of note is the QUESO BLANCO recipe that is unlike any other “cheese” recipe I have seen in the Paleo/AIP community. It melts and stretches like mozzarella!
  • While over 80 recipes are written, this book comes with numerous suggestions and options to create dozens of other recipes using different combinations of meats/fillings/breads/pastry shells/condiments/marinades. It is written to empower the reader to try new combinations!

Fall spices meet tropical fruit!

One of the recipes the girls kept coming back to was the stewed and spiced Plátanos Calados, meaning “drenched/soaked plantains.” This recipe originates in Colombia, and showcases sweet plantains glazed in warm and sweet spices we typically associate with the fall. Think pumpkin spice meets caramelized bananas…it is truly a match made in heaven.

A word about adventurous taste palates…and some veteran momma wisdom

Those of you who have been around here long enough know that I am a huge fan of exposing kids to the tastes of YOUR unique home. As far as our house goes at least, there is no such thing as “kid food” and “adult food” – all food is kid food. It’s family food. Starting these kiddos out young with the tastes and flavors of your home, and different cultures sets them up to be excited about trying new food. Those kids will never bat an eye at new things on their plate when they have been given the opportunity to have a wide variety of flavors and textures instead of being boxed into just “kid food.”

So while this recipe certainly is super fun (who doesn’t love sweet, creamy glazed fruit?!), there are other recipes in this book that I am absolutely planning on making that I have no idea what they will taste like! And you know what? The girls are biting at the bit for me to make something new! I promise you that getting little ones started out eating a wide variety of flavors, tastes, and textures will reward you with the same adventurous eaters I enjoy every day.

This picture right here below, is that of pure and utter foodie kid joy!

A quick note on some additions I made!

Amanda just knows me way to well! She mentioned to me that because I love “making every bite count” when it comes to feeding little kids, that possibly swapping some of the water for nutrient dense, fatty coconut milk might be a good idea to bump up the nutrition. I was all about that. So I swapped 1/3 cup of the water for coconut milk and it was delicious. I think you could even swap more, if not the whole 1 cup. We weren’t sure if the glaze would get too thick using all coconut milk but I think there is some room for more than the 1/3 cup that I did.

I also backed off the sweet a little bit. My kids’ palates aren’t real used to super sweet, and I had a feeling this would almost be more sweet than they would enjoy. They thoroughly enjoyed every bite of these Plátanos Calados with half the coconut sugar. The caramelized ripe plantains were more than enough sweet for them. If you have really little guys in the house, I would definitely recommend doing this. If you have older kiddos in the house used to sweeter desserts, the ¼ cup will definitely please them – I made a half batch just for myself with the full amount and was in absolute heaven eating it with my café con leche 😉

When you start thinking pumpkin spice this fall, put Plátanos Calados on the menu for a quick and delicious sweet treat!

5.0 from 9 reviews
Plátanos Calados :: Stewed Spiced Ripe Plantains
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Latin American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4 servings
 
Plantains are so extremely versatile and can be appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert! This recipe utilizes very ripe plantains that are mostly black and soft to the touch. They are naturally very sweet on their own and pair wonderfully with the warm spices. In the fall when everyone is going crazy for “pumpkin spice” everything, make a batch of these!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (235 ml) water
  • ¼ cup (60 g) coconut sugaror grated panela sugar
  • 1 tsp (2 g) ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp aniseeds
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil
  • 2 large, very ripe (mostly black) plantains, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
Instructions
  1. In a small pot, combine all the ingredients, except the plantains, and stir well.
  2. Add the plantains and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 to minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the plantains are cooked throughout and tender.
  3. Serve with a generous portion of sauce and enjoy!
  4. AIP compliant: Omit the aniseeds and optionally replace with ½ teaspoon of ground mace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

20 Minute Ginger Almond Crispy Chicken Stir Fry With Bone Broth Rice :: Nut Free Options and Rice Alternatives Included!

August 18, 2017

Bone broth packed rice, and crispy chicken in a veggie packed stir fry with a kid friendly flavor! All in 20 minutes!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

It doesn’t seem to matter what time of year it is…

…I think pretty much everyone would admit that most of the week, most families need under 30 minutes of meal prep for dinner time. I thought as my babies got older (read, less needy!), that I would have more time for all sorts of things. As it turns out, these older kids are pretty fun to do stuff with!

We’ve had the most freedom-filled summer I’ve had in years without babies in diapers, or nursing, nap schedules, and fussy teethers! I’ve been nailing down some of my less than 30 minute dinner ideas for you all, and I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me this summer.

Fast prep but power packed

Busy families need filling meals that actually count. Not just fillers. My kids are growing like crazy right now, and meals with balanced macros make all the difference not only in their mood, but their sleep and stamina.

This dinner is packed with mineral rich vegetables (that actually taste good!), and energy packed carbohydrates to fuel busy kids. The protein is sourced not only from the chicken, but by infusing the rice with amino acid rich bone broth. This packs a big nutrient dense punch to this meal. Don’t skip out on adding a pat or 2 of butter or ghee to the rice servings – the extra fat will satiate growing appetites, as well as nourish their ever growing brains.

My secret to fast, crispy chicken!

It looks so fancy doesn’t it?! I’m telling you, dear momma, cooking a whole chicken or two every week and keeping the meat for quick meals like this is my best kept (or not so best kept!) secret.

I use my Instant Pot to cook one or two chickens most weeks (if you have a slow cooker, that works just as good and is how I did my chickens for years and years!). Slice up the meat, and stash it away for quick salads, wraps…and meals like this! It just needs a quick dusting of seasoning and starch and it will crisp up in a pan of friendly fat and have the taste and feel of crispy chicken from a restaurant.

Rice swap ideas

If you don’t tolerate rice, here are some other ideas to serve your stir fry over:

  • Cauli-Rice (I hear some health food stores carry cauli-rice now so look for that if you have one to save time!)
  • Zoodles (spirilized zucchini!)
  • Peeled carrot “linguine” (use a Y-peeler like this and get fun, wide “noodles”)

Veggie options!

Definitely get creative and swap out the veggies for what is in season and budget friendly near you. That is one way that you can keep this kind of dinner on your menu rotation every other week and still keep it interesting! Swap the broccoli and peppers for sugar peas, zucchini, cauliflower, or carrots. You can also add a huge handful of spinach or kale at the end to wilt in for extra veggie power! I do this more often than not and it’s a good way to get a load of green into your family.

Tips for busy families to make this kind of meal happen

While this meal literally does just take me 20 minutes to make, I wanted to leave a few tips that will help you make things run super smooth (because dinner prep time of the day can be crazy, right?!), and shave off even more time. I know some of you have busier schedules than I do, or maybe are a new momma and can’t even imagine taking 20 minutes to do anything but nurse right now 🙂 I get it!

  • Have a prep day. If you have even an hour or 2 each week that you can devote to getting food prepped for the week, you can side step quite a few instructions on any recipe. Your prep day can include making the rice ahead of time – and maybe doubling or tripling it so you have servings of rice for other meals. Chopping vegetables and portioning them off into containers for certain meals. The sauce for this stir fry can even be made up ahead of time so you just have to dump it in. Just whisk it all up and pop it in the fridge til you are ready to use it. And of course, cooking off a chicken or 2 for your meals during the week will help meals go faster.
  • Have the kids help. Good lawd does it feel like prep goes slower with those little guys around – at first! But let me tell you, when I can had my 4 year old the veggies to wash up, and my 8 year old is doing the chopping, that leaves my hands free to get the other stuff ready. It’s worth the training – put ’em to work dear momma!
  • Double up. You can easily double this recipe to feed your family twice in one week. The recipe on it’s own feeds my family of 5 for one dinner, so doubling up will give you a night off cooking if you need it for those days where cooking just isn’t going to happen.

5.0 from 9 reviews
20 Minute Ginger Almond Crispy Chicken Stir Fry With Bone Broth Rice :: Nut Free Options and Rice Alternatives Included!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE BONE BROTH RICE (See above section for Cauli Rice or veggie noodle options if you are grain free!) ::
  • 2 cups bone broth
  • 1 cup organic long grain white rice
  • 2 tbsp ghee (or butter, olive oil, or avocado oil)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • FOR THE CHICKEN ::
  • ¼ cup potato starch (or arrowroot, or tapioca flour)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger, divided
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken, sliced into strips or cubes (You could use raw chicken – the cook time will be a bit longer however. I used leftover chicken from my Instant Potted chicken from the weekend – slow cooker chicken works too!)
  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in, divided (Avocado oil, ghee, butter, tallow, lard, or coconut oil are good choices)
  • FOR THE SAUCE ::
  • ¼ cup coconut aminos
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp almond butter (Or cashew butter. If you are nut free use sunflower seed butter. If you can’t have seeds or nuts, I would use a tablespoon or so of ghee for the nutty richness)
  • 2 tsp raw honey
  • ½ - 1 tsp ground ginger
  • FOR THE STIR FRY ::
  • ½ large onion, sliced into strips
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1lb frozen broccoli (Or 1 head of fresh broccoli florets. I get the big bag of frozen organic broccoli at Costco)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Green onions to garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. GET THE RICE GOING :: Put the bone broth, rice, and ghee in a pot with the lid on. Bring to a low simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the meal. When the rice has simmered for 15 minutes and all the bone broth is absorbed, turn the heat off, keep the lid on, and let it rest about 5 minutes, or until you are ready to serve your meal.
  2. PREPARE THE CHICKEN :: Put the potato starch, ginger, and salt in a dish and whisk to combine. Toss the chicken in the starch mixture to coat. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat, melt the ghee, and toss the chicken in. Cook the chicken until golden brown and crispy, stirring occasionally – about 5 minutes. You can prepare the sauce while the chicken cooks. When the chicken is done cooking, set it aside until the stir fry is done.
  3. PREPARE THE SAUCE :: While the chicken crisps up, put the sauce ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside until it is time to pour into the stir fry.
  4. MAKE THE STIR FRY :: Melt the ghee in the large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss all the veggies into the pan with a big pinch of sea salt and cook for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the veggies are tender/crisp. Add the crispy chicken and the sauce, stir to combine, and cook about 3 minutes until the sauce thickens (the starch on the chicken will thicken the sauce!). Sea salt and pepper the stir fry to your taste, and serve the stir fry over the bone broth rice. Garnish with green onions if you wish!

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Gluten Free Peaches and Cream Baked Oatmeal Cups :: Baked Oat Muffins To Go!

August 16, 2017

Portable, healthy, on-the-go gluten free peaches and cream oatmeal!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

We are…slowly switching gears…

You know…switching back into school routines. In just shy of a month, our lazy summer mornings, and sandy beach lunches will be swapped for out the door school morning breakfasts, and lunchbox noon meals!

And I’m pretty serious when I say we are *slowly* switching gears, because summer is just so sweet where we live. We really are soaking in every last ray of sunshine that we can!

A new breakfast idea to savor summer!

We picked up a bushel of local peaches last week, and while I dreamed of peach sherbet, my practical side took over and decided to create something useful for busy school days using our peaches.

My plans for preserving our blueberries into blueberry granola for the pantry were spot on, and I have been tucking these little peach baked oatmeal cups into the freezer for a cool fall day when those fresh peaches are long gone!

A favorite summer breakfast with a twist

Every August, the girls’ favorite breakfast is peaches and cream oatmeal. Those warm bowls of oats drowning in fresh cream and sweet peaches is nothing short of amazing! These baked oatmeal cups are like wrapping those bowls of peaches and cream oatmeal into a little hand held muffin cup, perfect for on the go and for tiny hands.

Ingredient notes and swaps

I have a few swap thoughts, but if you happen to try some other flour blends, please comment below so others can see how they worked out!

  • Egg free friends, I’m pretty sure these baked oatmeal cups will work great with flax or chia eggs. They may not puff up as much but it will still work great
  • If you don’t have access to the Namaste gluten free flour blend, I’m sure most gluten free blends will work well. You could also try using a couple gluten free flours that you like to bake with and make your own blend.
  • If you are a gluten free household, please be sure that your oats are gluten free as oats can carry traces of gluten from processing.
  • I used coconut milk (this is my favorite gum/additive free brand, or I make it quick myself) and lemon juice to make “buttermilk” for soaking the grains. If you have a quality, well sourced buttermilk, you can use that instead, or use raw milk with lemon juice.
  • To change things up, I did try one batch swapping the 1 cup of Namaste flour for 1/3 cup each of almond flour, coconut flour, and cassava flour. They turned out great, and it’s a great way to change nutrients up.
  • I tried one batch with a few tablespoons of grassfed collagen in the batter to add another level of nourishment, and it turned out great. I know some do not have access to grassfed collagen, however, and for those friends, this recipe turns out just as good without the collagen.

No peaches? No problem!

Whatever fruit is in season near you, I’m quite certain they will swap nicely! Here are some ideas, and let us know if you try any of them!

  • Apple Cinnamon (just swap the peaches for diced apple, and I’d add a bit more cinnamon or maybe some cloves or apple pie seasoning blend!)
  • Pear Cinnamon (swap the peaches for pears)
  • Strawberry (swap the peaches for strawberries and leave out the cinnamon. I think almond extract would taste really good versus the vanilla)
  • Blueberry (swap the peaches for blueberries and leave out the cinnamon. I think almond extract would taste really good versus the vanilla)
  • Banana (swap the peaches for diced banana)

Freezer friendly tips

I mentioned I’ve been stashing some of these baked oatmeal cups away for school mornings, so I wanted to give you some tips on making that happen!

  • Let the muffins cool completely before freezing them
  • Put the cooled muffins into a freezer bag and then into the freezer. I would freeze them right away – same day that you make them. This locks in the moisture so they don’t get dry. So if you are making them for breakfast, eat what you need for the meal, and then freeze the rest.
  • To thaw and warm back up, you have 2 options. You can thaw them on the counter overnight. Or you can pop them on a tray right from the freezer and set them in your oven. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and by the time it pre-heats, the muffins will be thawed and warmed.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten Free Peaches and Cream Baked Oatmeal Cups :: Baked Oat Muffins To Go!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put the oats and gluten free flour blend in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice. The mixture will be thick. Cover with a towel and let the mixture soak overnight about 8 hours. This soaking process breaks down the phytic acid in the oats and flour, making it easier on digestion. It also allows the nutrients in the grains to be absorbed better.
  2. The next morning, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs and honey for 1 minute until frothy. Add this to the oat/flour mixture that soaked overnight, along with the oil, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Stir to combine (this takes a minute and some muscle at first as the oat/flour/milk soaked mixture is a bit thick – do NOT add more liquid. It will loosen up and the peaches will add a lot of moisture.
  4. Fold in the diced peaches, and scoop the batter into a muffin tin lined with silicone muffin cups (or, if you don’t have silicone muffin cups, you can butter your muffin tin to prevent sticking). Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until the tops are golden brown (check them around the 30 minute mark in case our ovens run differently). Let the muffins cool 5 minutes in the pan before turning them out to a cooling rack for 10 minutes before eating.
  5. Recipe makes 12 large muffins. You could make them smaller and get 18 – if you have real little ones in the house, I’d make them smaller so they can eat a whole muffin. You will probably need more like 30 minutes to bake if you make them smaller.

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Paleo Blueberry Granola :: Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free Options

August 2, 2017

Paleo blueberry granola will bring a sweet blueberry taste and a light crispy crunch to your breakfast bowl and snack time!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Ah, the signs of late summer…

Sun kissed hair, scraped up toddler knees, sandy feet…and bottomless buckets of blueberries! I haven’t even gotten a chance to freeze any blueberries this summer yet, as my crew of 3 hungry, growing kiddos has been devouring them by the pound!

A new way to preserve our summer blueberries

We’ll see if I get a chance to freeze any of those pretty berries, but this week, I tried preserving some of the blueberries into granola, and the result was…delicious!

Versatile, forgiving granola

Homemade granola may sound like a daunting task, but hear me out! This is just about the easiest, most forgiving type of food you will ever make! Those of you who know me well, or who have been following my blog for very long, know that baking is not my favorite kitchen task.

Dehydrating granola is so forgiving. You can flip flop around the ingredients to what you have in your kitchen, and the result dries out in the dehydrator no matter what…that’s my kind of “baking!”

Waking up to warm blueberries…

I set up my blueberry granola to dry out in the dehydrator overnight. I always look forward to the smell of warm granola the next morning, so overnight dehydrating is my favorite. But friends….oh my! The scent of warm blueberries when we woke up that morning was like nothing I have ever made before! Everyone – including my (not real blueberry loving) husband noticed how amazing it smelled.

The little flecks of dried blueberry infuses this granola with the most amazing flavor too.

One granola…so many possibilities!

I keep granola in my pantry at all times because it is so useful. It makes a great breakfast cereal with a splash of raw milk or coconut milk,  lunch time yogurt topper, or quick packing school snack. It is also great for little hands. This granola is light and crispy – which makes it easy to chew for little guys. (Keep in mind that babies under the age of one year should not eat nuts or seeds yet, so this recipe is not good for them. If your toddler is over the age of 1, and tolerating nuts/seeds, you are good to go!)

Ingredient swaps and notes

Here are my ingredient swap thoughts. Again, granola is pretty forgiving, so as long as the fat (oil) and raw honey are about the same, you can swap around the dry stuff as much as you want.

  • For those that are new to buckwheat, this power packed seed is a great source of protein and fiber. If you can’t tolerate buckwheat, swap it with coconut flour or other flour of your choice. (If you choose the coconut flour, you can skip the soaking in step 1.)
  • For the nuts and seeds,  I used a combo of walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pecans. If you are nut free, use all seeds – pumpkin, flax, sunflower, chia are all good choices! I used soaked/dehydrated nuts/seeds for best digestion.
  • I used coconut oil for the fat, but you could use butter, avocado oil, or olive oil.
  • For the raw honey, start with 1 cup and add to your taste after tasting the granola mixture. I used 1 cup which was sweet enough for my crew that isn’t used to super sweet cereal.
  • I chose to pulse the blueberries a few times before stirring them in. I wanted the flavor of the blueberry infused in the granola, and that definitely happened! If you prefer to keep your blueberries whole, I think that would work. Just keep an eye on the blueberries to be sure they dry out completely or they will go bad quick.

Dehydrator notes

I’ve had the same dehydrator for over 5 years now. It really has done it’s duty, but I do have to admit that I feel like the temperature isn’t staying quite as even in the last 6 months, and it may be puttering out. Things still dehydrate, but it takes a bit longer or higher temperature setting. That said, my little “middle of the road” dehydrator has definitely served its purpose! It is a great starter dehydrator. I haven’t decided yet if I will splurge on the fancier dehydrators with the promise that they will last longer yet 🙂

5.0 from 7 reviews
Paleo Blueberry Granola :: Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Nut Free Options
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 lb unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 4 cups nuts/seeds of choice, ground into bits (I pulsed them in my food processor.)
  • 1 ½ cups almond flour (If you are nut free, use more seeds ground into flour, or more coconut shreds or flour)
  • 1 ½ cups coconut oil, melted
  • 1-2 cups raw honey, melted (Just melt your oil first, turn the heat off and stir in the honey to melt.)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons almond extract (or vanilla extract)
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, coarsely chopped (I did 5 pulses in my food processor)
Instructions
  1. Stir the buckwheat, water, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the mixture soak 7-10 hours. This soaking process makes the seed easier to digest and makes the nutrients more available to absorb.
  2. After the buckwheat has soaked, add the rest of the ingredients and combine well.
  3. Spread the granola mixture over your dehydrator trays (I line mine with these "clean screen" tray liners since this mixture is wet and can fall through large tray holes), and dehydrate at 135 degrees until dry. This time will vary depending on how well your dehydrator keeps it’s temperature, how wet your mixture is from the blueberries and water, as well as how thin you spread the mixture out on the trays. Should be anywhere from 12-24 hours. It will continue to crisp up as it cools too. You can dehydrate at a higher temp such as 165 degrees and have it dry out a bit faster if you want.
  4. When the granola is dry, you can crumble it into an airtight storage container and keep it in your pantry. I like to keep some larger pieces for easy snacking too.

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Fast Prep Blueberry Coffee Cake :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo Friendly

July 27, 2017

Enjoy the very best of summer without fussing in the kitchen all morning with Fast Prep Blueberry Coffee Cake!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

We kicked off blueberry season a couple weeks ago!

The picking was a little early, but we got a good start, bringing home about 20 pounds of beautiful blueberries to enjoy until the warmer weather brings some easier picking.

We are literally surrounded by gorgeous blueberry fields where we live, so every summer we take advantage of supporting these amazing farmers by putting up about 70 pounds. The frozen blueberries make for great school morning smoothies, warm bowls of oatmeal on cold, snowy mornings, and yogurt topping snacks on a busy day.

Embracing a new season of life…

This summer has brought on more activities than we have done in past summers, now that my kiddos are getting older. I don’t have as frequent of a napper anymore, and the girls love seeing more of their friends from school. I normally have a bit more time to fuss with special recipes in the kitchen, but to be honest, I just haven’t had it in me this summer!

After scouring the interwebs for a coffee cake idea to use up some of our blueberries, I was about to scratch the whole idea after dreading all the fuss of making the filling and all the separate steps…

A new recipe for this busy momma

I scraped everything that I dreaded, and decided to try something new. Something…not fussy. Something that would make me want to make this special breakfast more than just once a summer. Six times to be exact! I made the recipe 6 times in the last week to try different combos and ratios to get it just right – and also to make it friendly for anyone needing to avoid grains etc.

The best coffee cake texture!

Perfectly spongy, and so satisfying! The mild sweetness is perfect with a cup of coffee – or a big glass of raw milk like my girls had with theirs. I think my favorite part is the sweet and salty combo of the crumble topping – it hit every taste bud in my mouth and the girls literally raved over it with every bite. Little foodies I have, I tell ya!

One recipe – lots of options

And in a few different ways too. If you are not in blueberry season, swap the fruit for raspberries, peaches, or blackberries.

I found the coffee cake to be super forgiving with each batch that I changed things up. Obviously I can’t trial every different special diet, but I did hit some of the bigger ones and loved the outcomes with each time. Note the recipe swaps for things like nut and grain allergies in the recipe card. For my egg free friends, I did make one batch with flax eggs, and while the egg version was my favorite, I did enjoy the flax egg version. It doesn’t puff up as much but it stayed together and tasted really good!

School morning breakfast bake off???

So my prepping for this post lead to 6 batches of coffee cake making…what did I do with all that coffee cake?! My family would have easily pounded out a whole pan of it in one shot, but no one needs that much coffee cake everyday for a week! I froze squares of coffee cake and tested how they warmed up in the oven from the frozen state. It was just perfect! So…hello school morning breakfast pick me up!

What a great way to store away those special summer blueberries. It will be so fun to pull out that coffee cake on a cool fall morning, or a blizzardy snow day home from school this winter!

5.0 from 9 reviews
Fast Prep Blueberry Coffee Cake :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Paleo Friendly
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE ::
  • 3 eggs (or 3 flax eggs if you are egg free)
  • ⅓ – ½ cup raw honey (you may use more if you have older kids used to sweeter things – this is a mild, little kid friendly amount of sweet)
  • ⅓ cup coconut milk (or raw milk/cream)
  • ⅓ cup avocado oil (or melted butter, ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (vanilla extract would work – the almond is so good!)
  • 2 cups Namaste GF Flour Blend (If you are grain free, use 1 cup cassava flour and 1 cup almond flour. If you are nut free, all cassava flour will work – let us know in the comments if you try it!)
  • 1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
  • FOR THE TOPPING ::
  • 1 heaping cup of pecans, finely chopped (I buzz mine up in the food processor. If you are nut free, I think sunflower seeds would work nice – or shredded coconut.)
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil (or melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil)
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp almond extract (vanilla extract would work – the almond is so good!)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter small baking dish or pie plate.
  2. Whisk the eggs, honey, coconut milk, avocado oil, and almond extract in a medium mixing bowl until smooth.
  3. Stir in the flour and baking powder, fold in the blueberries, and pour the batter into a buttered baking dish.
  4. Mix the topping ingredients in bowl, and then sprinkle the topping over the batter.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the coffee cake cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

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20 Minute Chicken, Mushrooms, and Kale With Tomato Basil Cream Sauce :: Gluten and Dairy Free

July 26, 2017

Savory, creamy and delicious tomato basil cream sauce with chicken, mushrooms, and kale – all in 20 minutes!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Summer is flying by!

We are soaking in every bit of sun that we can – and counting our blessings that we don’t go back to school until September around here! I’ve got 3 little water bugs and that basically means this beach dweller is in absolute heaven!

Being at the beach most days also means dinner needs to be…fast!

20 minutes start to finish?!

Yes please! And since it is summer we are going to clear out the herb garden of that overgrown basil, use up a bowlful of those pretty cherry tomatoes, and a handful of garden kale while we’re at it!

Basil, little cherry tomatoes, and kale are some of the easiest summer garden items to grow – and can be done in pots on the patio if you don’t have the garden space. Its a good one to get little kids in on to help with and start fostering that idea of knowing where their food comes from!

Secrets to meal prep, fast summer meals, and optimizing kitchen time

I am not in the kitchen all day, dear momma. Stretch a whole chicken to last you at least 2 meals, and you will have a lot more time to spend at the beach – promise!

We happened to use some leftover chicken from our Instant Pot chicken over the weekend for this meal. I’ve been using the Instant Pot a lot this summer for my whole chickens to avoid heating the house up – and it is so fast too. If you don’t have and IP, you can use your slow cooker! After cooking your whole chicken, simply save most of the chicken breast, slicing it up, and plan it into this meal the next day.

Ideas to change it up!

You can definitely change up the meat part of the meal however. Homemade sausage or pan seared wild caught cod would taste really good with this. And if you happen to have chicken breasts, just sear them up and slice before you make the meal.

Noodle Options!

The tomato basil cream sauce in this recipe is made for soaking into dreamy noodles! Here are some noodle options for both those who can tolerate grains and those who cannot! I promise, dear grain free friends, the veggie noodles feel just as amazing as regular noodles. I serve this dish that way often – especially when zucchini is at such amazing budget friendly prices during the summer months.

Gluten Free Options ::

Grain Free Options (Use a spirilizer, Y Peeler, or Julienne Peeler to make these veggie noodles!) ::

  • Zucchini Noodles (see the notes in the recipe card for how to make your zoodles!)
  • Sweet Potato Noodles
  • Butternut Squash Noodles
  • Golden Beet Noodles
  • Parsnip Noodles
  • Carrot Noodles

If you are not on a special diet, and can handle the gluten, I recommend using a wheat based noodle using Einkorn flour for best digestion.

One last note on the finishing oil, and a fun momma story 😉

I love finishing pasta dishes like this with really good olive oil. I promise you will find it takes the flavor and texture to a whole different level.

My husband and I were able to get away for a couple days last week to Grand Rapids, and we visited the Downtown Market while there. If you are every in the area, be sure to take a couple hours to browse and try all of the amazing food! We were able to eat these amazing wild caught salmon burgers, drink local kombucha, watch fermented pizzas be made, and enjoy every last bite of local grassfed milk ice cream – it is truly amazing!

There are also some stores within the market selling local spices, teas, wine…and olive oil! We sampled numerous bottles from Old World Olive Co. (it was so fun!) and I decided on an herb infused olive oil. The flavor is out of this world, and I am savoring it every chance I can! It was a fun trip that we rarely get to do with 3 kiddos in the house, and I really loved every minute! It was a foodie’s dream!

5.0 from 8 reviews
20 Minute Chicken, Mushrooms, and Kale With Tomato Basil Cream Sauce :: Gluten and Dairy Free
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3-4 tbsp friendly fat of choice to cook in (butter, ghee, avocado oil, lard, tallow, or coconut oil)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms of choice, sliced (I used baby bellas)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ - 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste – ½ tsp is kid friendly mild in heat)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, sliced (I used leftover chicken from my whole chicken cooked in the Instant Pot the night before)
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (or raw milk/cream)
  • ¼ cup white wine (or more coconut milk or bone broth)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • Pasta of choice or veggie noodles (like zucchini noodles) to serve over (See the above section about noodle options!)
  • Good olive oil to drizzle over your plate to finish
Instructions
  1. Warm a large skillet with your friendly fat of choice over medium heat. Add the onion and mushroom with a big pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, and chicken. Cook over medium heat for 7 minutes until the tomatoes soften.
  3. Add the coconut milk, wine, lemon juice, and kale. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the kale wilts and the liquid reduces/thickens.
  4. Add the basil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Sea salt and pepper to your taste and serve over pasta or veggie noodles of your choice!
  5. (If you are serving over zucchini noodles (zoodles!), simply spirilize your zucchini, place the zoodles in a strainer in the sink with a big pinch of sea salt, and let them drain while you cook the rest of the dinner. Squeeze out the liquid before serving. You can pan cook them for a minute to warm them up, but take care not to overcook them, or they will get too soft and not feel like a noodle.)

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Crispy Baked Eggplant Dippers and Italian Meatballs

July 20, 2017

Change up your eggplant routine and make a kid friendly, dip worthy dinner with crispy baked eggplant dippers and Italian meatballs!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

 

We are complete and utter beach bums in the summer…

…and as my girls reach the not-so-baby ages, we are enjoying the waves and powdery beach sand by our home almost daily at this point! The evening sunsets and waves have my girls all heart eyes over summertime, and I’m more than willing to indulge them every last bit as the school year approaches ever so quickly!

Summer eggplant love

Another one of our favorite summer spots is the farmer’s market, and pretty purple eggplants are my girls’ favorite summer veggie! Don’t pass them up when you see them out this summer. Eggplant is one of those produce finds you can only get a few short months a year – the first eggplant find of the summer is so exciting!

Eggplants are a great source of veggie fiber, as well as numerous vitamins and essential minerals. The purple skin is also loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients.

So pretty…but what do I do with this thing?!

A few weeks ago I let the girls pick out their own eggplant (it was fun to see what colors they picked and why!), and I set out to make a few fun dishes with them.

I am always quick to grab up those really big, dark purple eggplants, with my mind on roasted eggplant & tomato soup and this veggie spaghetti sauce, but I was really glad that the girls wanted to try some of the smaller, pretty colors because it made me think outside the box to cook with them – I wanted to do something special!

Little kid sized fun!

My 3 year old picked some pretty light purple swirly striped eggplants, and I envisioned them as being perfect for her little hands. This age *big puffy heart* loves anything that they can hold in their hands…and dip too! The small eggplants made the perfect sized little dippers for her, and my older 2 girls ended up devouring theirs too.

Super fun veggie side, but what about the rest of the meal?!

Dear momma, you didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?! Of course I know you need something to go with your eggplant dippers, and since we are on the little hand sized fun theme, we might as well do meatballs, right!?

I doctored up these quick prep meatballs with the same marinara/Italian flavors as the eggplant dippers, and this finger food dinner is right up any kid’s alley! They are just as easy to prep and can cook right alongside the dippers. We had quick side salads with this Olive Garden Copycat dressing, and it felt like we were dining in a fancy Italian restaurant!

Ingredient notes/swaps

You can note the flour options/swaps in the recipe card – feel free to play around with it though. I have found you can coat these with just about anything. I do happen to like the potato starch the best as it gives the crispiest finish. If you are egg free, you can use a flax or chia egg for both the egg wash for the dippers, and for the bind in the meatballs.

A note about leftovers!

While preparing for this post, I baked off quite a few eggplant dippers! They were so good as leftovers the next day. My kids ate them right out of the fridge, but you could probably warm them up in the oven for a few minutes. We ended up having tomato soup the next day, and the girls were dipping their eggplant dippers in the soup – so good!

5.0 from 8 reviews
Crispy Baked Eggplant Dippers and Italian Meatballs
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE EGGPLANT DIPPERS ::
  • ⅓ cup potato starch
  • 1 egg whisked with a splash of water
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • ⅔ cup white rice flour (If Paleo/grain free use almond flour, or cassava flour)
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1-2 small eggplants, sliced into thin rounds
  • Your favorite marinara sauce for dipping!
  • FOR THE MEATBALLS ::
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp white rice flour (If Paleo/grain free use cassava flour)
  • 2 tbsp marinara sauce or pizza sauce
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil (or about 1-2 tsp dried basil)
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh oregano (or about 1-2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Set out 3 bowls. Put the potato starch in the 1st bowl. Whisk the egg/water in the 2nd bowl. Whisk the coconut shreds, rice flour, Italian season, salt, and pepper in the 3rd bowl.
  3. Dip each eggplant round in the potato starch 1st, then the egg/water bowl 2nd, and finally the flour bowl. Line up the coated eggplant dippers on a Silpat lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake the eggplant dippers at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, flip the eggplant dippers and bake another 20 minutes (You will be putting the meatballs in to bake for that last 20 minutes too!)
  5. While the eggplant dippers are baking the first 25 minutes, you can roll your meatballs. Put all of the meatball ingredients in a small mixing bowl and combine. Roll the meatballs and line them up on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes along with the eggplant dippers that you have flipped. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping and salads on the side!

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Paleo Cherry Buckwheat Breakfast Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, & Dairy Free!

July 7, 2017

Paleo cherry buckwheat breakfast muffins will wow your family with fluffy, soft texture, and juicy sweet cherries!

Our family has been enjoying Michigan cherry season!

We have the Cherry Festival up in Traverse City on our bucket list to do as the girls get older (and easier to travel with!), but in the meantime, we are literally surrounded by cherry farmer’s where we live right along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

There is just something about the weather and soil in this area that is the perfect growing condition for cherries!

Hands on learning where their food comes from…priceless.

There are some great places around us that offer U-Pick cherries so the girls can get right in there and see how their food is growing. It just doesn’t get any better than that! We are grateful for the experience, and the girls look forward to it every year.

New recipe goals!

I guess I’m feeling a bit adventurous this year, as I have been doing just about all new recipes with my cherries this season! We perfected cherry jam over the weekend, and this week have been enjoying multiple batches of these cherry buckwheat muffins! After the first attempt, I just knew I had to get these just so and share them, because they are so good and very satiating.

Ingredients that count

Those of you following me for very long know that one of my mottos when feeding kids is “make every bite count.” In other words, little kids have small stomachs – stop thinking fillers and start thinking nutrient dense fueling. Fueling kids with food that satiates and nourishes keeps them focused longer – and keeps you from having the fix snacks every hour!

These cherry buckwheat muffins are not only loaded up with friendly fats from coconut milk, eggs, and coconut oil, the flours I’m using have a purpose too…

What is buckwheat flour, anyway?

Despite the sound of it’s name, buckwheat flour is ground up buckwheat seed – its a seed, not a grain! Many people that cannot tolerate gluten or grains can tolerate buckwheat, and it has a host of nutritional benefits. Buckwheat has an impressive protein content and is packed with essential minerals our bodies need to function at it’s best.

Even if you can tolerate gluten/grains, it is a good idea to rotate your food around. Using the same flour day in and day out in your baking will wear on the gut. Change things up a little! The buckwheat gives these muffins a mildly sweet, nutty flavor that goes so well with cherries!

Some notes on cassava flour

Cassava flour is a newer gluten/grain free flour to my kitchen in the last 9 months. I’ve been playing around with it a lot, and this is my first real recipe on the blog using it! I have fallen in love not only with the ease of baking it provides and incredible finished texture to baked goods, but also the nutritional benefits. Specifically the prebiotic fiber.

Cassava flour is dried and ground up cassava root. It is a tuber vegetable and it is loaded with these amazing starches that actually feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. We are learning more about prebiotic importance – it isn’t enough to just populate your gut with probiotics. They are living organisms and need “food” to feed on. That is where prebiotic fiber in foods such as the cassava root come in!

More than just a muffin!

With all of these amazing ingredients, these muffins are more than just a starchy filler to the breakfast plate. They are filling and satisfying – and will please even the biggest kid muffin critic in texture and taste – I’m sure of it! They are SO soft. It really feels like all purpose flour was used to make them.

And you can’t beat juicy, sweet cherries in every bite!

5.0 from 7 reviews
Cherry Buckwheat Breakfast Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, & Dairy Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk (or raw milk, buttermilk, or yogurt if you tolerate dairy)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup cassava flour (or if you Namaste gluten free flour blend if you tolerate grains)
  • ¼ cup softened coconut oil (or butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ -1/3 cup raw honey (If you have older kids used to sweeter things, you can bump this up to ½ cup. If you have really little guys in the house, I’d keep it on the low side – it may taste light on the sweetness to you , but they don’t have a frame of reference for that yet! You can always drizzle a bit of honey on the muffin you are eating.)
  • 1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 2 tsp almond extract (vanilla extract would work too)
  • 2 cups cherries, pitted and halved (you can chop them up if you want the bits of cherry smaller in your muffins – that is personal preference)
Instructions
  1. The night before you want to make the muffins, put the buckwheat flour, coconut milk, sea salt, and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl, combine, cover the bowl with a towel, and let it sit overnight (8-9 hours). This soaking process breaks down the phytic acid in the buckwheat seed so it is easier on the gut, and also makes the nutrients in the buckwheat more available to absorb into the body.
  2. When you are ready to make the muffins, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the cherries into the bowl, and stir to combine, and then fold in the cherries.
  4. Scoop the batter into silicone muffin cups (my personal preference), or paper muffin cups, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the muffins cool 10 minutes before taking them out of the muffin tin to finish cooling on a cooling rack.

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Pectin Free Cherry Jam :: Honey Sweetened Too!

July 7, 2017

Preserve the best of cherry season with delicious cherry jam, perfect for all of your jam topping dreams!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

It’s no secret…

We love cherry season! Cherry picking has become one of the summer activities my older girls look forward to all year, and my youngest is really starting to get the hang of this whole cherry picking thing too 😉

A short but sweet season!

Only about a week or so long, we try to get right in there as soon as we hear word of those cherries being ready to pick, because before you know it – they are gone! This year, we had a late spring frost that damaged a lot of the cherry blossoms, but thankfully some were salvaged and we have been enjoying every juicy {messy!} bite of the 60 pounds we picked.

Novice cherry jam maker…

As many years as we have been picking cherries, I have never made cherry jam! I usually pick one fruit from the summer to make jam with, and this year I decided cherries were the lucky ones! I was so thankful that despite the frost this spring we were still able to pick, and I really wanted to do something special with them.

Since our cherry picking was literally the day before the 4th of July holiday, I didn’t have time to get to the store to buy the pectin for jam making I like…(If you are really loving jam making season, THIS is the safe, preservative free pectin I like to use!)

…So a pectin free trial run happened…

…and while my first batch was a bit runny (made a great syrup for pancakes!), we loved the result once I got it right! Since making the first trial, I have made 3 batches of this jam, and really nailed a great consistency for all your jam topping dreams, as well as the perfect amount of sweet and cherry flavor.

A note on the “sweet” and types of cherries

I have made a couple batches of this jam with our favorite local raw honey, and 1 batch with organic cane sugar to be sure it worked, and to get the amount right. For those of you who don’t have access to a good raw honey that tastes really light and delicious, the organic cane sugar is your best bet at a good jam. If your raw honey is too floral, dark, and rich, it will overpower the cherry flavor, and you don’t want that in this kind of recipe – the cherries are SO good!

Be sure to taste your jam before jarring it up. We all have different sweet palates, and your cherries might have a different level of sweetness. If you are using sour cherries you will probably have to double the sweet. Ours were sweet cherries that were perfectly ripe – almost over ripe and were very sweet.

Storage!

In my house, homemade jam is a treat, so I just don’t make a ton of it anymore. Jam for run of the mill use like PBJ’s for school are reserved for a cost effective organic brand from Costco – 3 mouths to feed, times 3 sandwiches, a few times per week equals a lot of jam! I reserve our homemade jam for a treat to top weekend pancakes, or to stir into yogurt, or to swirl into homemade ice cream!

That said, you can batch up and store this jam however you wish. I am just keeping mine in the fridge – it will go that fast!  Since I made some extra batches to prepare for this post, I’ll be giving some away as gifts, and I stored the extra in the freezer as freezer jam. If you like to can, you can water bath can the jars and just be sure to check the seal the next day to make sure it took. If they are good to go, you can pantry store them, and if you get one that doesn’t seal right just freeze it.

Recipe size and jar storeage

This recipe makes enough jam for four 8oz jelly jars. I happen to think this style is much cuter for gift giving by the way! You could also use eight 4oz jelly jars which also make wonderful gifts, or are great for storage when you don’t want to pull out a larger jar of jam. I freeze my jam for 24 hours, and then put the lids on to prevent the jars from breaking.

5.0 from 5 reviews
Pectin Free Cherry Jam :: Honey Sweetened Too!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 8 cups sweet cherries, pitted (you can use sour cherries, but will have to adjust the honey/sweet to your taste)
  • ¼ cup water
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup juice)
  • ¾ cup raw honey (organic pure cane sugar will work too. Be sure you enjoy the taste of your honey – pick a light color honey – if it is very floral in taste it will cover up the cherry flavor. If you can’t find one you love, I’d suggest using organic cane sugar!)
  • 2 tsp almond extract (optional but so good!)
Instructions
  1. Put the cherries and water in a pot and bring to a simmer. Use a potato masher or spoon to squish the cherries while it simmers for about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the lemon, honey, and almond extract and bring to a constant, rolling boil until it thickens, and you can feel it thicker to stir, about 20-25 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking and scorching. You will see the jam thicken up toward the 20 minute mark, looking more viscous. You can jar it up and put it in the fridge or freezer, or water bath can it at this point! Recipe makes 4 of these 8oz jelly jars.

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Paleo Ranch Dressing and Dip :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, and Filled With Healthy Fats!

June 23, 2017

From salad dressing to dip and everything in between, Paleo Ranch dressing is everything you love about Ranch, without the dairy!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Little kids and Ranch dressing…

It’s a bit like my 6 year old and toads…they just go hand in hand! We’ve been enjoying all the creatures that summertime brings…especially this little one who I am pretty sure is destined to be some sort of animal scientist!

But back to the kids and Ranch!

I don’t remember using many other dressings as a kid, and I don’t know too many kids who don’t love Ranch dressing! As the commercials usually show, most kids will gobble up just about any vegetable if there’s Ranch involved!

So what’s the problem with commercial Ranch dressings?

Store bought Ranch dressings (yes, even many with “healthy” claimed on the bottle), are filled with rancid vegetable oils, soy, preservatives, sugar, and other additives. Kinda ruins the idea of the kids loading up on mineral rich, healthy veggies when they are drowning in it all that doesn’t it?!

It’s truly just not worth it. We have generations of kids (including my generation) that grew up on these toxic, rancid fats that did our bodies zero favors. Everything from our brains, to organ function, and even hormone regulation relies on real, healthy fats to work right.

All the flavor, using real ingredients!

Real food is so delicious dear friends! Big box companies just have to bottle up that flavor somehow faster and cheaper, as well as make it last long on the shelf. Which is why they have to add so much junk to it!

The good news, is that when you stick to the basics, and make it yourself, not only does it take just minutes to make, the real flavor from everything from the onion-y scallions to the herb-y dill and parsley give that dressing the Ranch flavor without even having to work hard!

Lightning fast prep!

I’m talking literally 5 minutes to dump it all in a jar and blend it up. It is easy and fast enough to prep on your prep day every week – if it will last that long. This dip/dressing goes really fast in my house – I swear the girls would drink it out of the jar if they could, and they definitely lick the bowl clean!

Why dairy free?

I’ll be the first one in the room to raise my hand when asked if raw dairy is a good food source. I am a huge believer in the power of raw dairy – and I love our local raw dairy farmers! Sadly, I just don’t tolerate it. So while it is a very healthy food, it just doesn’t work for some people, and that’s where I come in! You can swap the coconut milk for raw milk or cream easy peasy if you tolerate dairy and wish to!

And my dear dairy free friends, I hope you enjoy this creamy dreamy Ranch – I promise you won’t taste the coconut! Pinky swear!

A note on the fresh herbs versus dried

This time of year, my herb garden is loaded to the brim with herbs to make Ranch. In the winter we swap to dried herbs a lot (simply figure cutting the amounts of the fresh herbs down to a couple teaspoons of dried to make the swap). I do think that fresh herbs just make the Ranch that much sweeter…it really just takes the flavor up a few notches. If you have access to fresh, do it!

Different ways to flavor your Ranch!

Change things up a little big with these really fun ways to flavor your Ranch for a fun dip or dressing. My kids to tend to prefer just the plain Ranch, but 2 of them really love the Asian dressing mixed with a slaw salad – don’t knock it til you try it!

  • Chipotle Ranch :: Add 1 tsp chipotle powder (start with this and add more if you like more heat)
  • Bacon Ranch :: Swap the avocado oil for 2-4 tablespoons of bacon grease. You can also fold in chopped crispy bacon after blending
  • BBQ Ranch :: Add 3 tbps of your favorite BBQ sauce (we like this safe ingredient 5 minute homemade BBQ sauce)
  • Asian Style Ranch (so good on a cabbage slaw salad!) :: Swap the avocado oil for sesame oil. Swap the parsley for 1/2 tsp or more of ground ginger to your taste. Swap the white wine vinegar for 2 tbsp coconut aminos (tastes like soy sauce without the soy).

A note on tools…

It is easiest to make this dressing in a quart sized jar. The recipe makes a little over a pint of dressing. The quart jar just gives you more room to get all the fresh herbs in there, as well as use the blender. And speaking of the blender…the immersion blender will become your most beloved kitchen tool if you have never tried one before! Put it on your wishlist – you won’t be sorry. It gets daily use in my kitchen from dressings to soups!

5.0 from 8 reviews
Paleo Ranch Dressing and Dip :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Filled With Healthy Fats!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole coconut milk (I like this gum free coconut milk. If you tolerate dairy, raw milk would work)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (Olive oil would work too.)
  • 1 small avocado, pitted
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 large green onions, chopped (use the green and white part!)
  • ¼ cup fresh dill (no need to chop)
  • ¼ cup fresh chives (no need to chop)
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh parsley (no need to chop)
  • 3-4 basil leaves (no need to chop)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (1 garlic clove would be fine but might adds a bit of heat to the dressing)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Everything into a quart mason jar (I just measure the liquids using the measurements right on the jar instead of dirtying measuring cups!).
  2. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Taste for salt/pepper to your taste.

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Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!

June 16, 2017

Kid favorite tomato soup made with nourishing bone broth and fresh tomatoes in a fraction of the time!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Wait, 92 degrees in June? {In Michigan?!}

I can’t even begin to describe how excited about this I am! I am a hardcore beach bum, and this weather totally suits my style!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!It does not, however, jive with some of the cooking projects I had planned this month!

I wasn’t anticipating this weather when I picked up some fresh tomatoes destined for soup. It is just too hot to have that stovetop heating my house up. My kids were really looking forward to that soup, so I decided it was time to get the pressure cooking method  perfected on this family favorite soup recipe.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!A family favorite staple soup

My original tomato soup recipe is a family favorite – one we have almost weekly all year round! During the summer I use as many tomatoes from our small family garden, along with a good bushel full from a local farmer, and stash it away for cooler months. I happened to see these greenhouse grown tomatoes at the farmer’s market this week, and just had to get started on my stash!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Same soup…WAY quicker cook time!

I’ll be honest, the first time I pressure cooked tomato soup, I wasn’t planning on it taking on the same slow cooked taste as my original. I was curious, however, and boy was I wrong. It literally tasted the exact same! The key is that buttery sauté in the first step before you pressure cook the rest!

And the quicker cook time {plus not heating up my house!} thanks to the Instant Pot has basically sold me on making all of my summer tomato soup this way.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Step 1 – Flavor Infusion

Turn the Instant Pot  to “Saute,” melt the friendly fat, and sauté the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt for about 7 minutes until the veggies soften and sweeten. Add the garlic and tomato paste, combine and cook for 1 minute. Turn the Instant Pot to off (“cancel”).

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Step 2 – Set It and Forget It!

Add the bone broth, tomatoes, and basil. Put the Instant Pot lid on, and make sure the vent is closed. Turn the Instant Pot to the “Soup” setting. Bring the time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will take around 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes.

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!Step 3 – Blend, Season, and EAT!

Once the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is complete, turn the Instant Pot off, release the valve, and take the lid off. Add the honey, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste once pureed. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can pour the soup into a high powered blender to puree)

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!School {Or Work!} Packing Tips

I mentioned above how nice this soup is to bulk up on, and use for school lunches. Here is how I make that work without being in the kitchen all the time.

  • Whenever I make the soup, we eat it for a meal, and there is usually enough to fill 1 quart of soup for the freezer. That way, every time I make it, I’m building my stash. You cannot double this recipe in the Instant Pot (although I think  you could in the newer 8 quart Instant Pots!), but you can double or triple in a stockpot if you wish to cook stovetop. That is typically how I do things at the end of the summer when I purchase a bushel of tomatoes from a local farmer, to get a bunch done in one shot. I may do both stovetop and Instant Pot this summer!
  • I freeze soup in these BPA free freezer containers. When my family was small, I froze in pint containers. At this point, I generally freeze in quart, though sometimes in half gallon. I like to thaw on the counter overnight, but in the fridge for a day is fine too. If I’m in a real pinch and forgot, just a sink full of hot water will thaw it out in a half hour 😉
  • We have had these fantastic soup thermoses since my oldest was in Kindergarten – going on their 4th year of use multiple times per week all school year long, and they still look AND keep food warm just like new. They are a great investment.
  • These stainless steel, shorter straws are fantastic for babies and toddlers to drink their soup. In fact my youngest 2 (age 3 and 6) still prefer to have soups like this with a straw. My 6 year old especially for school so it is easier to eat and doesn’t make a mess. My oldest is too cool for a straw anymore as I was promptly told not to pack one earlier this year 🙂
  • My husband takes soup to work in a Travel Crockpot – the base stays at work and he brings the liner home for me to fill up. That way, he can warm it up right at this desk.  We’ve had this for years – longer than the thermoses – and it still works like new!
  • Re-heat your soup stovetop so you keep all the bone broth benefits!

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Tutorial :: Picture Tutorial and Lunch Packing Tips Included!

5.0 from 9 reviews
Instant Pot Tomato Soup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in such as butter, avocado oil, tallow, lard, or coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 quart bone broth
  • 5 large tomatoes, seeds scooped out (no need to chop finely – I just halve them)
  • ½ cup fresh basil (or a tbsp or 2 of dried basil)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Turn the Instant Pot to “Saute,” melt the friendly fat, and sauté the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt for about 7 minutes until the veggies soften and sweeten.
  2. Add the garlic and tomato paste, combine and cook for 1 minute. Turn the Instant Pot to off (“cancel”).
  3. Add the bone broth, tomatoes, and basil. Put the Instant Pot lid on, and make sure the vent is closed. Turn the Instant Pot to the “Soup” setting. Bring the time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will take around 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes.
  4. Once the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is complete, turn the Instant Pot off, release the valve, and take the lid off. Add the honey, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste once pureed. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can pour the soup into a high powered blender to puree)

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Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!

June 16, 2017

Remember Nestle® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookies from your childhood, but want to make them with better ingredient choices? I’ve got the answer!

Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

We were known for them…

Growing up, our house was *known* for bringing the best chocolate chip cookies *ever* to whatever gathering we went to. I’m talking people were NOT happy if they were not brought. They were soft and sweet, and whether it was right out of the oven, out of her old Tupperware, or if we were sneaking them out of the freezer {ahem…}, they were seriously nothing short of amazing.

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.My mom’s secret?

The recipe on the back of the Nestlé® Tollhouse® chocolate chips bag, with a couple tweaks that literally make them melt in your mouth.

Her secrets to making them soft and chewy instead of crispy were:

  • Swap the butter for vegetable shortening – in other words…Crisco® (I know, I know. Just hang tight with me real food police…I’ve got your back in a few paragraphs here…)
  • Half the salt. I’m not sure why this is – I didn’t half the salt in the recipe I made just out of curiosity and I still liked them. Could have been her preference!
  • Back off the cook time to about 8 minutes. Meaning leave them just slightly under-cooked. They finish cooking a couple minutes on the hot sheet pan and then on to the cooling rack to cool. The result is a middle that is soft and literally melts in your mouth!

Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!The challenge…

Well her tweaks, along with most of the rest of the ingredients in the recipe have made it pretty hard to enjoy knowing what I know now. Know better, do better, right? I’ve tried literally dozens of “healthier” cookie versions but nothing reminded me of my childhood…until these!

Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!What’s so bad about vegetable shortening?

Dear friends, something happened during my grandparent’s generation. Fat got a super bad rap. Everyone started swapping their butter for this new fangled cooking fat medium called vegetable shortening. It is usually made up of hydrogenated soy. It was easy to cook with, gave amazing results, and {the real kicker for this particular generation}…it was cheap.

In short, we have not only come to learn the damage that hydrogenated oils such as vegetable shortening does to our bodies causing free radicals (think cancer feeders), but that it also doesn’t do the body systems that actually need real fat any good. Everything from our brains, to our digestion, to our hormones, rely on real, unprocessed fat. These hydrogenated vegetable oils were also made cheap and fast using GMO crops which is leading to a host of digestive/genetic issues in the last couple generations of kids.

In the end, we have a couple generations in counting of kiddos that grew up without well fed hormones, brains, etc and we are still recovering from the mess. (Hence my mission at Raising Generation Nourished! To read more about healthy fats, how to make the switch to the good ones, and how to use them, you can pick up my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings! There is a whole section on fats, their use, which ones to avoid, and almost 100 recipes using real, healthy fats to cook with!)

Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!Still a cookie…but with real ingredients.

Yes, dear friends these cookies still have sugar (albeit the non GMO variety!). And whether you want to admit it or not, sugar is still sugar. I‘m not glorifying these cookies by even letting them be called healthy. Because if you ate them everyday, you’d be overloading your body with sugar.

But for a weekend family reunion treat? A birthday sleepover midnight indulgence with friends? Absolutely!

Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!Here are my Nestle® Tollhouse® Real Food Copycat Swaps!

  • Swap the vegetable shortening my mom used for Nutvia Organic palm shortening, which is coconut/palm oil based (No it doesn’t make it taste like coconut! And yes, please be careful on brands – this brand is sustainable, fair trade, etc). You could use butter if you want, which is what is on the original Nestle recipe. Your cookies will be crispier – and some people like that! Awesome! I was really going for the soft and chewy cookies my mom made when I was a kid, and palm shortening is the ticket!
  • Use an organic, non-GMO sugar, and back off the amount a bit. Honestly, when I make these again for just my kids, I will be backing off the sugar amounts even more. These were so sweet for my kids’ and my palates because we just don’t eat sugar anymore. They taste JUST like I remember them as a kid (even with the amount backed off a bit!), and I cringe that I thought that was ok! So I backed off the {organic/non GMO} sugar from ¾ cup to ½ cup and then made my own brown sugar. You can get organic brown sugar and use ½ – ¾ cup brown sugar. I never use brown sugar and it always ends up getting hard in the back of my pantry. Brown sugar is just sugar mixed with molasses (1 cup to 1 tablespoon ratio.). So instead of ¾ cup brown sugar, I used another ¾ cup sugar and around 1 tablespoon of molasses (This is why the sugar is 1 ¼ cup. ½ cup regular sugar plus the ¾ cup used for the brown sugar. Again, I think we could pop that sugar down to 1 cup total or even ¾ cup and my kids would still be very happy).
  • Because we are a gluten free home, I used the Namaste Gluten Free Flour Blend. It swapped for all purpose flour perfectly. (If you can tolerate gluten, I would try some Einkorn All Purpose Flour. I am not an experienced baker with it, but if there are friends here reading this that are, please let us know your experiences. I hear it leaves things “wetter”, or the flour isn’t as absorbent, so the amount may need to be adjusted up a bit?)
  • Swap the Nestle® chips for an organic brand. This is another one of those, “Well if sugar is still sugar, then why fuss about this ingredient? Well to be honest I don’t want to support companies that are still making products with GMO filled cane sugar and/or corn syrup, soy, and fillers. If you are dairy free, the Enjoy Life chocolate chips or Enjoy Life chocolate chunks are a good choice. I like using the Organic Meijer brand that our local Meijer grocer carries. If you are going to shop around, just really watch the ingredients (even in “health food” stores!). You can find them without the GMO’s, fillers, and corn syrup!

Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!

5.0 from 4 reviews
Real Food Copycat Nestle® Toll House® Cookies :: Gluten and Dairy Free Too!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup organic & sustainable palm shortening
  • 1 ¼ cup organic pure cane sugar (I will be trying 1 cup next batch - the 1¼ is still less than the original Nestle recipe, but quite sweet for our taste as we don't eat sugar much)
  • 3-4 tsp molasses (If going lower on the cane sugar, use more lik 2-3 tsp molasses)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ¼ cup Namaste Gluten Free Flour Blend (I hear the Trader Joe’s GF flour blend is similar if you have that. I am not sure how other GF blends will behave, but it is worth trying! There are many great ones out there!)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 10-12oz package chocolate chips of choice (If you are dairy free, the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips or Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks are a good choice. I like using the Organic Meijer brand that our local Miejer grocer carries. Just really watch the ingredients if you want to shop around. You can find them without the fillers and corn syrup!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Use a hand blender to cream the palm shortening, sugar, molasses, and vanilla. Add the eggs and blend until creamy and smooth.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, sea salt, and chocolate chips, and stir with a spatula until mixed evenly.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of batter on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. You don’t need to roll these unless you want perfect circles – this is one thing I remember as a kid loving – my mom always let us drop the dough on the sheet and imperfectly shaped cookies feel the most homemade to me! Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool on the tray for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool off the rest of the way (if they last that long!)

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Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!

June 8, 2017

Honey rhubarb water kefir soda is a naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!

Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Spring rhubarb, spring temperatures…and spring birthday babies!

Well she isn’t really a “baby” anymore, but my oldest turned 8 years old a couple weekends ago, and I’m declaring I’m still allowed to call her my baby!

Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!We celebrated her birthday with canvas painting, blowing out candles, and enjoying her friends!

This sweet baby has the kindest heart and more compassion for people than anyone I have ever met. She is so special, and I am truly blessed to call her mine.

Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!My late spring birthday baby also just happens to *big puffy heart love* rhubarb!

Rhubarb is always in full swing around her birthday, and making her a special bubbly birthday drink with rhubarb for her special day has become tradition! I can’t wait to share this recipe with you!

Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!Water Kefir Basics…

Water kefir is a mild, kid friendly fermented drink. The gelatinous water kefir “grains” (not a grain at all by the way!) are little colonies of beneficial bacteria that infuse the water it breeds in with numerous cultures and food enzymes. It has a mild lemony flavor upon fermenting, and you can flavor this finished kefir however you wish. In today’s recipe, we are flavoring our finished kefir with raw honey and rhubarb.

For more in depth information on the who, what, when, where, and why of water kefir, see this post, Water Kefir Basics, to learn more, and then hop back over to make your honey rhubarb soda.

Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!It’s all about that flavor!

If I’m gonna take the time to do a second ferment on my water kefir, I want it to have a super fun, bold flavor. Usually loading up the bottle with whatever chopped sweet fruit is in season does the trick. Rhubarb is a bit tricky because it is so tart. The flavor is so amazing, however, so infusing some water with that big flavor and then sweetening the deal with our favorite local raw honey makes the most amazing, bright pink “rhubarb syrup” to flavor our water kefir with!

Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!Ingredient notes, and tools of the trade

  • Honey Notes :: I know so many love rhubarb and strawberry, but let me tell you…rhubarb and raw honey are a match made in heaven. It is my favorite way to sweeten up rhubarb, and if you have a fantastic local raw honey source that you just love the taste of, you will not be disappointed! If you don’t have a local raw honey source, this is a good raw honey to use, or you can swap it for organic cane sugar.
  • Fermenting Tools :: You will read in my Water Kefir Basics post that I love fermenting my water kefir using Pickle Pipes, and then finishing off those flavored second ferments in air tight, grolsch type (swing top) bottles. It makes the fermentation more efficient, giving way to a super effervescent fizz you will love.
  • Recipe Size :: Also keep in mind that if you are only brewing a quart of water kefir at a time, you will want to half this recipe. I ferment a half gallon at a time so this recipe represents what I always make.

Rhubarb and raw honey are a match made in heaven.

5.0 from 5 reviews
Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda :: A naturally probiotic rich fizzy, fun drink for the whole family!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 7-8 stalks of rhubarb, sliced (Since rhubarb sizes can vary, you will need about 5 cups of sliced rhubarb)
  • 2 ½ cups of water
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract
  • ½ gallon (2 quarts) finished water kefir
Instructions
  1. Bring the sliced rhubarb and water to a simmer for about 10 minutes until the rhubarb is disintegrated. Strain out the rhubarb fibers, leaving behind the pink, rhubarb infused water.
  2. Leave the rhubarb infused water to cool a bit before stirring in the raw honey to dissolve. Add the vanilla extract at this point too.
  3. When the rhubarb syrup has cooled to room temperature, add the finished water kefir to the bowl (if you add the finished kefir to the rhubarb syrup when it is still hot, it will kill off the bacteria, so be sure it has cooled off). Stir the rhubarb syrup and kefir together, and pour the rhubarb kefir into swing top bottles using a funnel (Leave a few inches of headspace at the top to account for gas build up. This batch will fill up 4-5 of these sized swing top bottles.).
  4. Seal the tops and ferment the drink for 1-3 days to your taste. You can open the bottles daily to release the built up gasses and taste if it is done to your liking. Fermentation rates are variable upon temperature of the room as well as the strength of the culture. When it is above 70 degrees, I have found water kefir doesn’t need more than a good 24 hours.

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How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!

June 2, 2017

Sweet and sticky, this balsamic reduction sauce is the perfect, kid friendly compliment to any meal!

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!

Ladies and gentlemen, we made it to the beach last weekend!

I’m not real sure what is going on with the cooler late spring temps around here, but we just couldn’t help it! Because I have 3 big time water bugs, I decided to go with the bathing suits despite the 60 degree weather, and 54 degree water temps (!!), because inevitably they are like a moth to a flame when it comes to the big lake.

I bundled them up in sweatshirts on top of their suits and off we went…my oldest and youngest flung their sweatshirts off the second their feet hit the sand…and yes my dear friends they did the polar plunge and totally swam in the icy water!

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!Three extremely busy kiddos, means 3 extremely hungry kiddos!

Summer time beach days sometimes call for light, snacky suppers, but more often than not, that doesn’t fly with my kids! They burn through everything so fast – they really need meals that count when they are so active. And I’ve got a super quick one for you today that will still give you enough time to spend the whole day at the beach if you want!

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!One sauce, multiple possibilities!

I am not sure that balsamic reductions are the first sauce that comes to mind when it comes to kid friendly meals, but I’m telling you – my kids ask for this over ketchup any day of the week! Sweet and sticky, it makes any dinner meal that I drizzle it over completely disappear.

Balsamic reduction sauces are so versatile, tasting amazing over everything from chicken and fish, to steak or even salads and roasted veggies. It’s a great sauce to keep in your back pocket when you want to dress something up a little bit and need a little change up.

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!So here’s the balsamic reduction sauce recipe!

Use your sauce however you like! If you are stuck on a whole meal idea, keep scrolling for the sheet pan dinner idea to use your sauce with!

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!

5.0 from 5 reviews
How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Put everything into a small sauce pan and bring to a low boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and simmer until the sauce has reduced by half, stirring occasionally along the way. This will take about 15 minutes. It will be viscous and sticky when finished. You can fix the rest of your meal or bake/roast a sheet pan meal while the balsamic sauce is simmering.

So what about that “quick” meal you were talking about?!

I promise I’m not going to leave you hanging. This sauce sounds amazing, but how do we make it work into a meal idea that is not only kid friendly, but do-able on a time crunch?

I’m so glad you asked!

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!Sheet pan dinners to the rescue!

I’m all about these hands free cook methods, dear friends! Pile up that sheet pan with whatever veggies are in season and let the oven do the rest. While your veggies and meat are roasting, you can simmer your balsamic sauce up on the stovetop (recipe above!). Start to finish the sauce just takes 15ish minutes so it is perfect timing for a sheet pan meal!

How To Make Balsamic Reduction Sauce :: Plus! A 30 Minute Sheet Pan Dinner!

Balsamic Glazed Salmon & Roasted Veggies:

Ingredients:

  • ½ large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
  • 3 medium red potatoes, cubed
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil (or other friendly fat to roast with)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (to taste)
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 3-4 salmon filets (If you have little ones like I do, you can cut the filets in half for smaller portions – I use 3 filets and half them to make 6 total servings.)
  • Avocado oil to brush over the salmon
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste to sprinkle over the salmon
  • 1 recipe of the balsamic reduction sauce from above

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss all of the veggies with the avocado oil, sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill on a large sheet pan. Spread them out evenly and roast for 10 minutes while you get the balsamic sauce going and prepare the salmon.
  3. While the veggies are roasting you can get your balsamic sauce simmering on the stove (see recipe above). You can also brush each salmon filet with avocado oil and sprinkle sea salt and pepper to your taste on both sides of each filet.
  4. After the veggies have roasted 10 minutes, take them out and stir the veggies around. Place the salmon fillets on top of the veggies and roast another 20 minutes until the veggies are bite tender and the salmon is cooked through to your liking. If you like your veggies softer, you can cook them longer than that first 10 minutes. The salmon will only need the last 20 minutes of cook time.
  5. Spoon the balsamic reduction sauce over each salmon filet and drizzle over the veggies as well before serving.

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Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)

May 26, 2017

A big probiotic boost and delicious salty, sour bite from your fresh spring asparagus!

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

We’ve been jarring up some yummy Michigan asparagus over the last couple weeks!

This is a fun project to get the kids in on. The steps are so easy that even a toddler can follow along! (And said toddler will probably be more willing to eat them if he gets to help!)

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)Little helpers and seasonal produce!

My littlest helper in the house has been eager to hone her asparagus snapping skills, and she makes a really good jar stuffer too, packing those spears of asparagus in like a pro does!

Here are some great tips for including little ones in your kitchen tasks (without losing your ever loving mind 😉 )

  • Show them first. Literally do each step you want them to do. Break it down momma. They haven’t done this before!
  • Hand over hand next. For the really little guys, get your hands over theirs and show them how to do what you are asking them to do. Whether that is stirring, cracking an egg, or snapping some beans. They need to feel it.
  • Let them try with you narrating the steps. Slow down. Yes I know that is so hard when there is so. much. to. do., but it is worth it when they will be able to do it independently. I promise you will be more frustrated if they are doing it the “wrong way” over and over again because you didn’t show them the proper way to do something. (Please learn from my experience!)
  • Tell them the why! If you are snapping the ends off the asparagus, tell them why. If you are slicing the stems off the strawberries, let them know why! Giving them purpose and a reason will help them remember how to do what they are doing better instead of just blinding doing a task.
  • Keep it positive. Spills happen. Mistakes will happen. You’ll see that I even let an asparagus go into the jar that is right here in this post that Caitlyn forgot and snapped the wrong end so it ended up really short! Go over the steps again and show them. You’ll frustrate them and tear them down if you get angry or frustrated with them. If it turns out they can’t handle a task, simply let them know we’ll try something else, and maybe we will try this task again another time.

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)Sooo…Asparagus “Pickles?!”

Yep! I brine these babies just like I would pickling cucumbers, and they disappear just as fast as regular pickles around these parts! A little sour and salty bite, I use the same dilly, mustardy, garlicy blend I do with cucumbers and add a bit of heat with red pepper flakes. It leaves a perfectly kid friendly taste, and I even make a jar just for momma with a little extra heat for my liking 😉

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)2 birds…1 stone!

Not only do pickled asparagus taste amazing, they are loaded with beneficial bacteria for our guts too! The salty brine keeps the bad bacteria at bay, and allows the naturally good bacteria in the vegetable to proliferate and grow. Adding a spear or 2 of pickled asparagus to that lunchtime salad or wrap will not only get your veggie minerals in, but it will nourish the gut with the most cost effective source of probiotics around!

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)Fermenting tools

While you can definitely get your ferments going today with just glass jar and a plastic lid (metal lids will corrode over time so plastic is recommended), as you get going you may want to take a look at fermenting tools that make the process even easier and stress free.

Vegetable ferments do best in an anaerobic environment (that is, “no oxygen” using an air tight seal). Plastic lids work fine, though some air does get through, and as the gasses build up in the ferment you need to “release” them by opening the lid here and there. The air that gets through also makes it easier for stray airborne microbes and molds to get in which can make the whole jar go bad.

There are a couple of sealing options you can choose from, and I really have found these to give the best fermenting results. The one that I use is the first recommendation, the Pickle Pipe.

  • The Pickle Pipe :: I am convinced a busy, “every day” mom invented this fermenting tool! Talk about zero fuss, *easy to clean,* and affordable! The Pickle Pipe creates a seal with a simple (easy to wash!) silicone disk, and the metal ring your jar comes with. The “pipe” part of the silicone disk has a special opening that only pressures open when the gasses build up in the jar and need to be released. So basically…set it and forget it! You don’t have to check for pressure everyday at all. I also am in love with their Pickle Pebbles which weight down the ferment at the top so you don’t have to worry about molding or the tips of the veggies going bad from being out of the brine. Invaluable! I have never had a ferment go bad or mold using my Pickle Pipes and Pebbles.
  • Fido Jar :: Fido jars create an incredible anaerobic sealed environment and are super easy to clean and take care of. No crazy parts to clean, and they are beautiful lined up in the kitchen to ferment! You will need to “burp” these every day or so to let the gasses out but they work very well! They are pricier than mason jars (especially if you already have a lot of mason jars at home, and can just get some Pickle Pipes to top them off), but they will last forever and, again, they are beautiful!
  • Traditional Fermentation Crock :: I have to be honest…I love these! I really do! They are on my foodie dream list and when I can afford a really beautiful new fermenting crock I really, really want one for my kitchen! They are gorgeous, easy to clean and work fantastic. They come with a weight to keep the veggies down to prevent molding and they create a perfect anaerobic environment.
  • Air-Lock Lids :: These are a really great, inexpensive option – especially if you already have a lot of mason jars at home. I think the Pickle Pipes are easier to clean and use, but if you have some of these lying around don’t let them go to waste – they work great!

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)

5.0 from 8 reviews
Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1½ to 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill OR 1 ½ tsp dried dill
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends discarded (spears should fit into a quart mason jar with a good inch of headspace at the top. Trim up the ends if you need to accommodate this)
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the sea salt into the warm water and set aside. This is your brine to pour over the asparagus later.
  2. Put the garlic, mustard seeds, dill, and red pepper flakes into a clean, 1 quart mason jar. Then the pack the asparagus spears into the jar as tightly as you can.
  3. Pour the salt water brine over the packed in asparagus and spices, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. Be sure the asparagus is completely submerged under the brine (I like to use a weight, like this Pickle Pebble, to keep the veggies down).
  4. Seal your jar with your fermenting seal of choice. I use these Pickle Pipes. See the above section about sealing options.
  5. Let the sealed jar sit at room temperature until the taste is to your liking, anywhere from 5-14 days. You can taste them every couple days to see where they are at. Remember that if you live in a warm climate, the fermenting will go faster. It is still quite chilly up here, and so my veggie ferments take over a week to get to where we like them.

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Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!

May 20, 2017

Flavorful smokey heat meets creamy chicken veggie soup, without the dairy or gluten, and in record time!

Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

This picture has nothing to do with chipotle chicken and veggie soup…

…but I just had to show you that despite posting such a lovely, warming comfort soup today, spring really has sprung around here! My youngest has been enjoying our lilacs while she patiently waits for her sisters to be done with school for the summer!

Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!So why the soup recipe when summer is around the corner?!

Because this isn’t just any old pot on the stove soup! This is an Instant Pot soup, and that, my friends, means extra time before dinner to play outside! Which is really where we all want to be this time of year, anyway!

I’m all about the faster prep dinners that don’t heat my house up in the warmer months of the year. I probably use my Instant Pot in the spring and summer more than any other time of the year!

Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!Star players, and an amazing finish!

Smoky chipotle gives this soup my favorite heat – a flavorful heat. You can adjust the heat to your preference, and since the nature of chipotle is flavor versus “in-your-face” heat, it really is a kid friendly way to add a little heat to your meal. Coconut milk tames this heat and brings out more of the smoky flavor as well as adding creamy indulgence.

Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!Noodle options…and swaps!

The recipe as is uses gluten free noodles. Here are some gluten free noodle options – these should all cook up about the same in the Instant Pot.

Gluten Free Options ::

If you are grain free, use veggie noodles! Take the broth down by a cup or so since the broth gets cooked into the regular noodles and you don’t need that extra amount for veggie noodles. You can also get away with 1-2 minutes versus 3 minutes for the cook time. In fact, if using zucchini noodles, I would leave the zucchini out while you pressure cook the soup/broth and then add the zucchini noodles in at the end with the kale to just wilt in. It doesn’t need much cook time.

Grain Free Options (Use a spirilizer, Y Peeler, or Julienne Peeler to make these veggie noodles! Also, back off on the bone broth by a couple cups and make a tapioca starch or cassava flour slurry to make the broth smooth and have the starchy feeling of noodles) ::

  • Zucchini Noodles
  • Sweet Potato Noodles
  • Butternut Squash Noodles
  • Golden Beet Noodles
  • Parsnip Noodles
  • Carrot Noodles

If you are not on a special diet, and can handle the gluten, I recommend using a wheat based noodle using Einkorn flour for best digestion. I have not used an Einkorn noodle in the Instant Pot, so I am unsure of if the time will need to be adjusted for that. If you give it a try, leave us some notes in the comments so others may know what to do!

Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!Tips for stovetop prep!

I didn’t forget about you, dear stove top friends! This soup was actually born on the stovetop this past winter, and I only recently converted it to the IP.

Simply sauté the veggies over medium heat in a large soup pot, following steps 1 and 2. When you get to step 3,  add the ingredients listed, except the noodles, and turn the heat up to high in order to bring the soup to a simmer. Once the soup is simmering, add the noodles, and boil until the noodles are al dente. Then stir in the kale. It’s as simple as that!

Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken and Vegetable Soup :: Dairy Free and Gluten Free :: Stovetop Directions Included Too!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in such as butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, tallow, or lard
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium celery, diced
  • ½ medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp chipotle powder (This will leave the soup with a mild smoky, flavorful heat that is kid friendly in our house. If you prefer to half this for your kiddos, you can always add more to your bowl if you want more heat. I usually add more to mine from this amount as I like it pretty spicy.)
  • 1 ½ quarts bone broth (You can use Instant Pot Broth, or here is my slow cooker method)
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk (this is my favorite brand that doesn't have gums, fillers, or sweeteners added)
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken (Use leftovers from your roasted chicken, slow cooker chicken, or Instant Pot chicken)
  • 8oz gluten free noodles
  • ½ lb baby kale, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Set the Instant Pot to “Saute” and melt the friendly fat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper with a big pinch of sea salt. Saute about 5-7 minutes until the veggies soften and sweeten.
  2. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and chipotle powder, stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the bone broth, coconut milk, cooked chicken, and noodles. Turn the “Saute” off, and push “Soup,” then bring the time down to 3 minutes using the (+/-) button. (Make sure the valve is closed so it can come to pressure! The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure and then will count down the 3 minutes.)
  4. When the Instant Pot is done counting down the 3 minutes, turn the Instant Pot off, and release the valve (use a towel so you don’t burn your hand with steam!). Take the Instant Pot lid off, and stir the baby kale in to wilt. Sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste and serve.

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Occasional Treats Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice Cream

May 19, 2017

Sweet local honey, fresh tart rhubarb, and fluffy whipped coconut cream swirl into the most decadent spring ice cream treat!

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamProduct links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

80 degrees!

We hit 80 degrees this week! Can’t you even believe it?! After spending most of the winter buried in snow, we practically float out of our houses in wonder at the return of the sunshine!

We are also pretty giddy to get our hands in the garden. Michigan takes its good ‘ol time warming up in the spring however, and we typically have to wait until closer to June to plant much outside!

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamWhich is why we are so thankful for rhubarb!

Every March, it faithfully peeks its leaves from the just thawed ground, and by the first of May it is ready for little hands to tug and harvest! It gives my kids something to tend to until the ground warms up a bit more for the rest of the garden, and you can do so many fun things with it!

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamFrom the everyday practical, to sweet treats!

While I keep things pretty practical around here, using the majority of our rhubarb for making honey rhubarb granola, we make room for an occasional treat sometimes too! I use the honey rhubarb granola for end of the school year teacher gifts, and then stash at least 2-3 batches away for hot summer mornings when I don’t want to heat the house up with cooking breakfast.

We had already made a batch of strawberry rhubarb creamsicles, and my kiddos were asking for ice cream with the unseasonably warm weather we had this week!

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamNo ice cream maker, no problem!

The only set back in my head was that my ice cream maker puttered out at the end of last summer. I had thought of replacing it by this summer, and it just hasn’t made it into the budget yet! I decided that I would try it with whipping the cream part nice and light to see how the texture came out – I figured if it wasn’t super light and fluffy, that I would just tell the girls it was rhubarb sorbet and call it good 😉

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamBeyond my expectations!

I really thought the ice cream would turn out denser, like a fruit sorbet. But it was almost as fluffy as freshly churned ice cream! Whipping the cream to stiffness did the trick, and the kids were so happy to enjoy the rhubarb they picked in frozen form!

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamCream options, and how to easily scoop coconut cream!

We used coconut cream for our ice cream this time, but if you have access to raw milk, you can skim the cream off that to use!

For this recipe, I put a 33oz container of coconut milk into the fridge. This makes the cream separate and solidify at the top of the container. Then I just use scissors to cut the top of the carton open, and scoop the cream out. There will be about a cup of liquid left behind that you can put into a smoothie later.

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice CreamNotes on the honey, and how much to use

This is a great time of year to meet your local farmers that are keeping bees! They love to tell you about their hives and how they care for their honey. Just ask! We have a fantastic local farmer we buy from in 5 pound containers. Choose a honey that you LOVE the taste of. If you don’t prefer a “flowery” honey taste, don’t use it in this ice cream – they honey flavor really shines with the tart rhubarb.

The amount of honey to use in this recipe is personal preference, and depends on your kids’ palates. If you have really little guys in the house, I would use anywhere from ¼ cup to ½ cup. If you have older kids used to sweeter, store bought ice cream, you may want to do the ¾ cup. I find ¾ of a cup really sweet – I love feeling the tartness of the rhubarb so I tend to use ½ cup or less. Remember that honey is actually sweeter on the palate compared to sugar, so really a little goes a long way!

No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice Cream

5.0 from 5 reviews
No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice Cream
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rhubarb, sliced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup – ¾ cup raw honey (See notes above when considering how much honey to use. If you don't have access to local raw honey, this is a good brand that has a mild, non flowery taste good for this recipe.)
  • 2 ½ cups coconut cream (Or raw cream if you have access. See above notes for how to scoop the coconut cream. This amount was the amount of cream skimmed from one 33 oz carton of coconut milk)
Instructions
  1. Cook the sliced rhubarb, lemon juice, and sea salt in a sauce pan over medium heat, for about 5-7 minutes, until the rhubarb is softened.
  2. Put the cooked rhubarb mixture into a blender along with the honey, and puree. Set the rhubarb/honey puree aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  3. When the rhubarb mixture is completely cooled, you can make your ice cream. Pour the coconut cream in a small mixing bowl, and use a blender to whip it into whipped cream. Fold the rhubarb/honey puree into the whipped cream, and then pour the ice cream mixture into your freezer safe container to set up. (I used a small glass loaf pan for easy scooping)
  4. Before serving, set the ice cream on the counter to soften a bit so you can scoop it easier.

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