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Kid Friendly Roasted Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

October 3, 2018

Warm up this fall with this savory and sweet velvety roasted acorn squash and sweet potato soup!

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 just going to cut right to chase today…

This soup doesn’t need much of an intro. It’s chilly in Michigan. Tank tops and flip flops have been traded for hoodies and baked oatmeal {notice I haven’t traded my flip flops yet? Yeah, that’s a Michigan thing 😉}, and I’m all about the warm veggie soups for just about any meal of the day.

Holding out on turning the heat on…

It’s a Midwest thing, just like those flip flops we refuse to give up until snow is tickling our toes, and the only way I can get away with it, is by keeping my oven running. This beach bum isn’t as hardcore Midwest as most who hold out on turning the heat on until November, but I can get away with getting through the first week or so of October. Especially when I can get my oven going for an hour to roast some yummy squash and sweet potatoes, and warm the house up at the same time!

Two birds, one stone

The oven not only kicks the warmth up in a chilly house for a while, it also makes the most amazing flavor come out of just about any vegetable. Just oil up the flesh of your squash and sweet potatoes and lay them flesh down – they will get a gorgeous caramel color and flavor that will add an amazing warmth to your soup. Add in a pinch of cayenne and a hint of maple syrup and everyone will be wondering just what all that great flavor is coming from!

Kid favorites packed with healing bone broth!

It’s no secret that squashes and sweet potatoes are some of the most kid friendly vegetables around. The sweet taste and smooth texture is pleasant for just about any kid, and when you fix those veggies into soup form, you can also pack a gut healing bone broth punch to your little guy’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Soup for breakfast?!

Yes, absolutely! If you have followed my Instagram for any length of time, you know that soup purees like this are in my breakfast bowl many days of the week. (Check out my hashtag #RGNMorningMommaFuel to see!) It is an easy way for me to get veggie minerals in, and it tastes amazing with an apple muffin and side of eggs. The girls most often take theirs along in a thermos for lunch at school, but as babies and toddlers they ate soup for breakfast many days of the week. It was an easy way for me to get food into myself and baby, and those little guys don’t know any better than soup might not be considered a “breakfast food!”

Freezer friendly

Absolutely grab onto those great fall farmer’s market and grocery store deals on your in season acorn squash and sweet potatoes and get your freezer stocked up! It is so nice to be able to pull out a quart of soup on a busy day where there isn’t time for cooking. The soup just needs to be cooled to room temp before you put them in freezer safe containers, and you can stash them away!

Babies, Toddlers, and Lunchbox Thermos Tips

Your babies and toddlers will adore this soup. Use a spoon, or try a short, wide smoothie straw for them to drink it right up. Straws were a favorite way for my littles to drink soup so they could do it all by themselves. Pack school aged kids yummy soup in a thermos along with an apple muffin with butter, a chicken wrap, or some crackers! It makes for a great lunchbox change up, and can be packed this way for daycare too.

5.0 from 14 reviews
Kid Friendly Roasted Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeds scooped out
  • 4 small sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 6 tbsp of olive oil or butter, divided
  • 1 medium/large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of cayenne or to taste if you like heat
  • 1½ - 2 quarts bone broth depending on how thick/thin you prefer your soup
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish with coconut milk/yogurt or sour cream, and a drizzle of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spread olive oil over the flesh of your acorn squash halves and sweet potato halves, and then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Place the squash and sweet potatoes flesh side down on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
  3. You can start the rest of the soup when take the squash and sweet potatoes out of the oven so they are cooling while you work – you’ll want the squash cooled so you can handle it to scoop the flesh out.
  4. In a large soup pot, add 2-3 tbsp of butter and the onion with a pinch of sea salt. Cook the onion over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the thyme, broth, and roasted squash and sweet potatoes, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat, and blend the soup with an immersion blender, or pour it into a regular blender to puree. Garnish each bowl with a splash of coconut milk or dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Muffins

September 29, 2018

Preserve your apples, and send the kids off to school with healthy gluten free apple cinnamon breakfast muffins!

My toughest transition….

Apple season is just about one of the only ways you can drag me kicking and screaming out summer and into the autumn equinox. I know some of you live for all your pumpkin spice, wool mittens, and cozy blankets, but this beach bum has a hard time saying good bye to her flip flops and hello to fuzzy boots. Last weekend we celebrated the autumn equinox with our first apple picking of the season, and we couldn’t have asked for better fall apple picking weather, or any better of a farm experience!

A new organic apple farm favorite!

We were lucky enough to get a chance to visit Evergreen Lane Farm & Creamery, a “new to us” organic apple farm, one their first day of their apple picking season. There trees were simply gorgeous boasting a variety of apples to choose from, including Ida Reds and Jonagolds, which is what we picked! There were buckets of bruised or dropped apples near their goats and horses that the girls had a riot feeding to the animals. It was such a fun day trip, and felt so good to show the girls the importance of supporting farmers that care for their plants and land in a way that is sustainable and safe.

A bushel of fun!

We brought home a bushel of apples, and my goodness have we had some fun with our apples this week! I did end up making some apple baked oatmeal right off the bat, and then the girls and I settled in at my Instant Pot to pump out quart after quart of delicious “Kid Prep” applesauce for the freezer. When I was down to my last 5 pounds of apples, I decided to create a new muffin for school mornings, and we are so in love with these fluffy, delicious apple cinnamon muffins.

High muffin standards…

Because if I’m going to be sending my girls off to school fueled on a muffin, they are going to have to make it through my checklist! Our household has to be gluten free, but I also want the ingredients “count.” Which means I want balanced macro-nutrients in the muffin. These muffins have a great balance of protein, satiating friendly fat, and energy fueling good carbohydrates. They also happen to taste and feel amazing, which is also on my checklist, because that does matter!

How to make these work on a school morning!

  • Get all of the dry ingredients into a small bowl so you can dump them into the wet ingredients super quick in the morning.
  • Have the muffin tin ready to go the night before. Line the muffin tin with either silicone muffin cups or unbleached paper liners.
  • You can measure out the oil and coconut sugar right into the mixing bowl the night before as well. Then, in the morning, all you have to do is add the eggs to beat, and all the rest of the ingredients go in after that while the oven is pre-heating.
  • Use an apple cutter and your food processor to make the apples easy to manage. It literally takes less than a minute to cut 2-3 apples with your apple cutter, and then just buzz them up in the processor quick instead of hand chopping to save time.

Freezer friendly?

Yes! That actually happens to be one of my criteria for a “keeper” on my muffin list. If I can stick the leftover muffins in the freezer, or make a double batch to stock up my freezer and preserve the apples, then I’m totally in! And these muffins definitely fill that need. Having freezer muffins make for easy grab and go school morning breakfast or lunchbox additions.

A note on ingredients and swaps

Please know that it is impossible for me to test out every possible ingredient swap. I noted some alternative swaps in the recipe. Any unanswered questions you can drop comments at the bottom of this post, and I will try my best to help!

5.0 from 16 reviews
Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Muffins
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs (I haven’t tried egg free, but I would imagine flax eggs or applesauce “eggs” would work – the muffins will probably not puff up as much but they would still taste great.)
  • ⅓ cup coconut sugar (Raw honey or pure maple syrup would work too. If you have older kids used to sweeter things, I would bump this up to ½ cup. As is these muffins have a mild sweetness, perfect for a healthy breakfast muffin for little ones.)
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or melted coconut oil or butter)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (or raw milk/yogurt if you tolerate dairy)
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • ½ cup blanched almond flour (If you are nut free, you could try more cassava flour)
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups chopped apples (it ended up being 2-3 small apples for me – I just buzz them up in the food processor quick for the chop)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with silicone muffin cups or unbleached paper cups.
  2. Beat the eggs, coconut sugar, and olive oil for 1 minute until frothy.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend to combine, and then fold in the apples.
  4. Scoop the muffin batter into your lined muffin tin (recipe makes 12 large muffins), and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean if they are done. Let the muffins cool 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. To store leftovers in the freezer, let the muffins cool completely, wrap them up in plastic or beeswax wrap, and then into a freezer bag.

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Kid Prep Instant Pot No Peel Applesauce! :: Let Them Make It Start To Finish!

September 29, 2018

Give them ownership over a kitchen project with Instant Pot no peel applesauce! Let the kids make it start to finish!

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.

Still making time for it…

A little real food blogger confession. As the girls have been getting older, I’ve been less likely to invite them into the kitchen to work with me. Shocking, right? The real food blogger that literally shoves it into your face the importance of getting your kids into the kitchen with you, struggles with making time for it now that the littles aren’t so little anymore? Well, when those babes are super little, they are constantly needing you, hanging on you, and forever by your side, so inviting them up to the counter to help is really survival mode many days, yes?! {And all the toddler mommas are nodding their heads!} Now that the girls are older, more independent, and off doing their own thing a lot, I really have to make a conscious effort to make them a part of what I’m doing in the kitchen.

A big job, made into a family project

So I also must confess that I was somewhat dreading apple season. I knew we wanted to go picking – it is the highlight of the fall me to watch them, and the girls love it. But man, oh man, the food prep that goes along with picking a bushel or 2 of apples! It is a lot of work! Older kiddos also mean less time at home, busier schedules outside the home, and the desire on their part to do more adventuring outside the home. Catch the theme? Less home time, means mom gets stuck doing all the kitchen work tending to the apples, and I decided on a plan to get through the apples and maintain my sanity! Make them a part of it! So off we went apple picking…!

A one day job!

What used to take me a full week to get through with a bushel of apples and applesauce on my mind, now just takes a day thanks to the Instant Pot. We started making applesauce in the IP last year, and I’ll literally never go back! It still locks in all the nutrients in the apple, and gets the job done in a fraction of the time. Remember that whole, away from home, busy schedule thing? This definitely is right up my alley right now!

So kid friendly, you can just leave it up to them!

Kids eat up independence. When you let them know that they can have a whole kitchen task to themselves, well, that ownership is magical, dear momma. I gave my 2 older girls a quick lesson to remind them of how to make applesauce with the Instant Pot, including having them write down step by step instructions, and I left the kitchen. Did you hear that part? I left. They have made it with me so many times, cut apples since they were toddlers, and respect kitchen tools, so I just left them to it. Sure I popped in if there was a question, and I popped in simply because I wanted to spend time with them, but I left them to own their project. And I can’t tell you the pride that that gives a child – to make their own food.


How To Make Kid Prep Instant Pot Applesauce!


1.) Wash and Cut The Apples

Your toddlers can help with washing the apples! In fact find yourself some laundry to fold, because your toddler will probably want to wash your apples for a good half hour! They just love it. Use an apple cutter for the easiest slicing. This task can be tough for littles if the apples are very hard. Get them up and over their work surface because the leverage helps cut in. Standing on a chair at a kitchen table works well for little ones. My oldest still uses a step stool to get up and over the counter best.

2.) Put The Apples Into The Instant Pot

Dump them in! All ages can help with this part! Fill the Instant Pot up to about half inch below the “Fill” line.

3.) Add 1 cup of Water

Dump it in! Your older children around Kindergarten on up can measure 1 cup if you show them how, and all ages can help pour the water in. Hand over hand with your littles to show them, and let your bigs do it themselves.

4.) Put The Lid On the IP, and Set the Timer, and Quick Release

Make sure the valve on your IP lid is closed, press “Manual” and bring the time down to 4 minutes. The Instant Pot will start automatically. Once the IP reaches pressure, it will count down the 4 minutes. Once the 4 minutes is over, you can do a quick release. I make my girls cover their hand with a towel to open the valve, so they don’t accidentally get steam on their hand. Older children around the age of 7 or 8 and older are best for this job.

5.) Put the Cooked Apples Through The Food Mill

Let the apples cool off for about 10 minutes so the children don’t burn themselves with the steam, and then let them scoop the apples into your food mill to churn. My toddlers needed hand over hand help to learn how turn the food mill, but were independent with this job after a bit! Let everyone take a turn! The color of your applesauce will depend on the type of apples you used! Namely, the color of the skin. If your apples have red skins, your no-peel applesauce will be pink in color. If your apples were more gold/light green, the applesauce will be golden in color!

To sweeten or not?

I’ve never had to sweeten our applesauce. Fresh picked apples are plenty sweet if you get the right variety. If your apples happen to be on the tart side, you can add some raw honey to the hot applesauce after it is run through the food mill. Cook and taste the applesauce first though and see what it needs. If you have really little guys at home, I’d skip it!

How we store our applesauce

I use these BPA free freezer containers and just freezer ours. We don’t make more than maybe 6 to 8 quarts, so it really doesn’t take up a lot of room in our freezer, and we eat it pretty quickly! If you tend to make more, and like to can it, you can certainly do that.

Freezing time…

One thing that you cannot, in fact do, is freeze time. It is always so worth slowing down to spend some time making and sharing food in the kitchen with your kids!

5.0 from 4 reviews
Kid Prep Instant Pot No Peel Applesauce! :: Let Them Make It Start To Finish!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Apples, cored
  • 1 cup of water (you can add more if you like thinner applesauce)
Instructions
  1. Fill your Instant Pot liner with apple slices to about half inch below the “Fill” line, and then pour 1 cup of water in.
  2. Put the IP lid on and close the valve. Press “Manual” and then bring the time down to 4 minutes. The Instant Pot will start automatically. Once the IP reaches pressure, it will count down the 4 minutes. Once the 4 minutes is over, you can quick release the valve.
  3. Run the cooked apples through a food mill for the smoothest applesauce. You can use a blender if you wish as well.
  4. Taste your applesauce for sweetness at this point. You can add raw honey if your apples were more tart, or leave as is if the apples are sweet enough.

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Paleo Trail Mix Breakfast Cookies :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free

September 20, 2018

Your favorite handful of sweet and salty trail mix combined into one amazing Paleo Trail Mix Breakfast Cookie!

Breakfast cookie Friday’s!

You say you’ve never heard of Breakfast Cookie Friday before?! Well let me tell you, dear momma, it is totally a thing. (Check out my hashtag #BreakfastCookieFriday on Instagram!).

It all began with that sweet and spunky second born that so many of us end up scrambling after!

My second threw me for a complete loop as a baby and toddler, tossing me every single opposite behavior as my mild natured first born. If you looked up “infinite energy” in the dictionary, her name and picture would be right next to it, along with the definition of “sleepless.” Breakfast cookie Friday started as a way for me to feed my non-stop, busy toddler at the end of the week when I was completely spent and awaiting the weekend reinforcements to arrive (otherwise know as…Daddy!).

Same breakfast idea, different reason…

So “breakfast cookie Friday” became a “thing” in my house to survive the inexhaustible days of the toddlerhood season of life. Today, we still enjoy our Friday breakfast cookies, but for different reasons. Now I have a houseful of 3 school-aged kids, and breakfast cookie Friday is a fun way for us to end the school week – the girls look forward to it every Friday. I set up a “breakfast bar” of sorts, with a bowl of breakfast cookies, a bowl of hard boiled eggs or container of yogurt, some hot tea, and some plates and the girls help themselves. Oh yes, dear momma…you totally have permission to eat your breakfast cookie with a cup of coffee just a little longer because the kids can do this by themselves. *cue the round of applause! *

*Another* breakfast cookie recipe?!

I know it. There are so many on the blog – you can use the search bar for “breakfast cookies” and find all of them. (I will also link some of them up later in this post). But yes. I did create another recipe. I was inspired by some trailmix that I started making over the summer as an on-the-go snack for the girls. They were obsessed with all the flavors, and I ended up playing around with making it in cookie form. Having a variety of different breakfast cookie options not only gives our family a change up every Friday so we don’t get bored with the same flavors, it also allows me to play around with different combos of ingredients so that my readers are able to find something that fits their unique dietary goals.

All the trailmix fun in a portable, handheld breakfast on the go!

Just think of your favorite trail mix! Think of all the fun components and flavors. Salty, sweet, crunchy, and just fun to eat! Everything from nuts and seeds, to dried fruit and crispy dried coconut, it’s really all in here!

Notes on the dried fruit

This is the super fun part to change up. Depending what you have available where you live, go for it and have some fun! I will say that in the 6 or 7 batches of these cookies that I trialed making (including lots of different dried fruit trials), chopped figs were my kids’ favorite flavor. My favorite was a toss-up between the chopped figs and dried cherries. I’m able to get dried figs at a very good price at Costco or on Amazon, so it is cost effective for me. If it is pricier where you live, then simply use some raisins – they are tasty too!

What are cacao nibs?

Essentially, raw cacao nibs are little bits and pieces from a real cacao, which are the little seeds from a cacao tree. What we know of as “chocolate” only contains a little bit of cacao plus a load of sugar. They taste “bitter” on their own, but sprinkled into a honey sweetened breakfast cookie with swirls of fig or other dried fruit, and they really taste like little chocolate bits! These little cacao nibs are packed with phyto-nutrients, and you can read more about them and their benefits here.

Other ingredient notes and swaps

*Please note it is impossible for me to trial every single ingredient possibility. I did up to 6-ish batches of these cookies with various combos and I have a few swaps to suggest. If you have dietary restrictions that are not mentioned here, feel free to ask and I can try to help.

  • You can swap sprouted oats for the coconut if you can tolerate grains.
  • If you are nut free, you can swap “seed meal” for the almond flour. Just blend up sunflower seeds super fine, but don’t take it all the way to “sunbutter.” Also, if you are nut free, you can swap pumpkin seeds for the walnuts.
  • There are notes right in the recipe for my egg free friends. This is one swap I am sure of because there was one day that I ran out of eggs and didn’t have a choice! I thought the fruit puree worked fantastic.
  • If the “heaping 1/3 cup” of raw honey scares you, remember this is divided among about 16-18 cookies depending on how big you make them. It is pretty minimal. If you prefer, you could swap the honey for coconut sugar with lower glycemic index. Keep in mind that will change the color a bit darker because of the color of the coconut sugar.

Freezer notes

One of the coolest things about Breakfast Cookie Friday, is that if you plan a little ahead, you can just pull your cookies out of the freezer for breakfast – it doesn’t get any more convenient for real food than that! Cool the cookies to room temperature before putting them into freezer bags and into the freezer. I pull them out frozen the morning of and just warm them up in the oven a little. You can leave them on the counter overnight and just eat them at room temperature too.

5.0 from 14 reviews
Paleo Trail Mix Breakfast Cookies :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup cassava flour
  • ½ cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds, finely chopped (I use my food processor to buzz them up. You can combine flavors of seeds and use a variety of seeds if you wish.)
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped (I use my food processor to buzz them up. You can combine flavors of nuts and use a variety of nuts if you wish.)
  • ½ cup nut or seed butter of choice
  • 2 eggs (OR if you are egg free, you can use 2 chia “eggs,” OR 2 “fruit puree eggs” (1/2 cup mashed banana, applesauce, or pumpkin puree)).
  • Heaping ⅓ cup raw honey (if you have older kids used to sweeter things, you can bump this up to ½ cup for sure)
  • ½ cup dried fruit such as dried cherries, chopped figs or dates, raisins, goji berries, etc.
  • ¼ cup raw cacao nibs
  • 1 tsp almond extract (vanilla extract would work too if that is all you have)
  • ½ tsp sea salt (if your nuts are salted you can skip this ingredient)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Everything into a medium mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Form the cookie dough into the size cookies you want. These will not spread out, so just roll, and flatten into a disk, and set them on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-19 minutes. Check the cookies around the 15 minute mark in case our ovens run differently. Cool on the pan for a few minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.

 

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Shepherd’s Pie Loaded Baked Potatoes :: PLUS! How To Make Baked Potatoes With The Crispiest Skin & Creamiest Inside!

September 12, 2018

Shepherd’s pie loaded baked potatoes take that classic comforting dinner we all love, and make it in to a family dinner made for a 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.

Back and forth…

You just never know what you’re gonna get in September here in Michigan. One day, we’re enjoying the beach and 80 degrees, and the next day, we get a fall preview, waking up to 50 degrees, hoodies, and hot tea! I love that about Michigan though. It’s as if she knows you can’t just swap our blissful summer days for the chill that late fall brings. We ease into it around here. The chill does last for quite a while around these parts, after all.

Cooler weather menus

I’ve been sitting on this recipe since last spring! It happened to be one of those cooler spring days where I decided to use the oven to warm up the house and snap a few pictures while I was at it. The late day lighting suggested warmer weather was on the way with summer around the corner, and I just tucked this recipe away for the inevitable fall cool down, when you all would want to turn your ovens back on again. When the chill hits the air where you live, I hope you can give this recipe a try.

All the shepherd’s pie comfort with less fuss

Because, real life, ya know? It’s so fun to make a big pan of shepherd’s pie on the weekend, but if you’re craving that warm comfort on school night, this method of loading the creamy shepherd’s pie filling right on top of a perfectly baked potato is just the ticket.

The perfect baked potato

This is important! If you’ve never had a really well done baked potato with a creamy inside, and crispy skin on the outside, you are in for a treat! The method will seem so simple, but sometimes that’s the way to go – the less fuss the better. Avocado oil makes things super crispy, which is why I usually reach for that. And making sure the potato skin is coated in sea salt helps dry it out and crisp it up! I also have had nice crispy skin using olive oil. Seasoning the outside of the potato really well not only helps to crisp the skin, it also seasons the potato so you really don’t have much to do after cooking, other than pile on the shepherd’s pie filling!

Can I use sweet potato instead?

Absolutely! In fact 2 out of my 3 girls prefer their shepherd’s pie over a baked sweet potato versus the white potato. The prep method and cook time is about the same – sometimes if the sweet potato is a bit larger, it can take an hour to bake. Just prick the sweet potato with a fork around the 50 minute mark to see if it is soft on the inside.

Shepherd’s pie filling 101…

Savory, creamy, and hearty – that is what should come to mind for a shepherd’s pie filling. The gravy-like sauce is the perfect topping for your bake potato, and the taste will make any kid ask for seconds. I kept the veggies very “classic” shepherd’s pie with peas and carrots, but you really can use whatever you have on hand. If you are grain free, you can also leave out the corn. I love adding diced butternut squash to replace the corn in the fall. Again, pictured here in this post is the classic shepherd’s pie filling with the corn.

How to make the perfect “nest” for your shepherd’s pie filling

When your potatoes are done baking, use a knife to slice a lower case “t” along the top of the potato – one line down the length of the potato, and another across the width. Then pinch the ends of the potato until it “pops” open – the perfect little bowl to nestle all the shepherd’s pie bits and gravy into.

Weeknight prep tips

Both the potatoes and the shepherd’s pie filling can be prepared in advance. If you are a “prep day” kind of a person, you can make the filling on your prep day, and just stash it away in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it. The baked potatoes can be baked off as well, and just warmed through to crisp up in the oven prior to eating. Since the filling freezes so well, you really could double up, and save part of the batch for another time.

5.0 from 16 reviews
Shepherd's Pie Loaded Baked Potatoes :: PLUS! How To Make Baked Potatoes With The Crispiest Skin & Creamiest Inside!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE POTATOES:
  • 5 medium organic russet potatoes
  • 4-5 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  • 3-4 tsp sea salt
  • FOR THE SHEPHERD’S PIE FILLING
  • 2 tbsp friendly fat to cook in (butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil will work well. I like to use half of this as leftover bacon fat for flavor)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1lb grass-fed ground beef
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp tapioca flour (depending on how thick/saucy you like your filling)
  • 2 tbsp organic tomato paste
  • ¾ cup bone broth or water
  • 3-4 tsp coconut aminos (it is fine to leave this out if you don’t have it – it does really add to the flavor though! It mimics soy sauce in flavor.)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¾ cup frozen organic peas
  • ½ cup frozen organic corn (omit if you are grain free/paleo. Butternut squash subs well - dice it and cook it through at the beginning)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste to finish
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Make sure the potatoes are dry. Poke a fork into each potato 2 times. Rub the oil all over each potato, and then rub the salt over each potato.
  3. Set the potatoes in a baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for 50 minutes until fork tender.
  4. While the potatoes are baking, you can make the filling. Melt your friendly fat in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots with a small pinch of sea salt, and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic to stir in.
  5. Add the beef to the cooking veggies along with the sea salt and pepper and brown the beef.
  6. When the beef is done browning, stir in the tapioca flour and tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add the broth, coconut aminos, and thyme, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, bring the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 7 minutes.
  8. Take the lid off, stir in the peas and corn, and return the lid, cooking for 5 more minutes.
  9. Taste the filling for salt and pepper, and then top your baked potatoes with the beef/veggie shepherd’s pie filling.
  10. **Filling can be made days in advance for quick, weekday dinners!

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Walnut Crusted Crispy Mahi Mahi :: Kid Friendly and Gluten Free!

September 5, 2018

Quick, kid friendly, and gluten free, walnut crusted crispy mahi mahi is perfect for dinner any night of the week!

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.

Simple.

That’s the way we’re keeping life around here these days. My girls are all back to school, and anyone that has ever had a brand new pre-K or Kinder kiddo in the house knows that after school melt downs can be a very real thing. Since this is my third time around this block, I was prepared long before my fresh new pre-K sweetheart set foot in that classroom last Monday, and I planned out our menu that week accordingly.

Yummy flavor, minimal work.

Because that sweet little wee one in the picture above has needed some downtime after her exciting days of pre-K! She *big puffy heart* loves fish of any kind, so I just knew I had to plan that into our first week back to school. This minimal ingredient, and minimal hands on time crispy fish is always a favorite. After she ate 2 helpings, she was a complete chatter box telling me about all her exciting school time adventures!

Crispy fish method

I don’t take that whole “minimal work” thing lightly. Just a few ingredients into a bowl to “bread” the fish and then crisp it up in a skillet. Finish the cooking in the oven and it’s done. The key to the crispy outside lies in a few things:

  1. The right flour. Walnuts are pretty oily when you blend them up, so adding another flour to the ground walnuts makes up for the oily walnuts and gets the outside of the fish really crispy. White rice flour is one of my favorites because it is cost effective and nice a dry – which makes a nice crispy outside. But if you are true Paleo/grain free or do not tolerate white rice flour, you can use coconut flour which works to crisp things up just as good.
  2. The right oil. I feel like avocado oil or animal fat such as pastured tallow or lard makes anything crisp up the best. Butter and olive oil tend to make things softer. Also, scalding olive oil in the kind of heat you need for a crispy fish, can make it taste bad. Coconut oil will work just fine as well, but you will have the coconut taste there (which is fine if that doesn’t bother you!).
  3. And a super hot skillet. Big time cast iron skillet fan here, but if you don’t have one, a regular skillet will work just fine. Just don’t crowd the pan! If your skillet is smaller like mine, do the crisping up in batches so the temperature of the skillet stays hot.

Fish sourcing

We started finding the wild caught Mahi Mahi at Costco a year or so ago – I’m so thankful they now carry it along with wild caught salmon and cod so we can keep some variety to our fish night menu rotation. We also have a couple of local fish mongers that carry wild caught fish. Look around where you live – even our local grocer now keeps a selection of wild caught fish. To read more about why wild caught fish is more superior to farmed, visit www.eatwild.com.

Can I use other fish?

Sure! Wild caught cod is more fragile, so just handle it carefully – it also cooks a bit faster so back off the time. Smaller pieces might work better in the pan so it doesn’t fall apart, since cod is very delicate. Salmon works fine too if you have access to wild caught.

Side dish ideas

This part can really throw off your plans for a “quick and minimal work” dinner! Just keep it simple. My older girls are big time salad lovers. While my youngest will tolerate them, I ended up roasting her some sweet potatoes and serving buttered peas with them. Again, super minimal hands on work, and the sweet potatoes can roast right alongside the cooking fish. Here are some other ideas:

  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Steamed mixed veggies
  • Salads (here is a great Olive Garden salad dressing, and Ranch too!)
  • Roasted potatoes (you can roast other veggies like broccoli right alongside these too)
  • Squash (my kids’ favorite side – Instant Pot or roast it and blend with butter – keep it simple)
  • Bone broth cooked rice with veggies. This is so simple to do with those frozen mixed veggies – just pop the veggies right in with the cooking rice and top it all with butter.

Well fed, *and* well nourished

Because it is in fact possible to be fed and still not feel well and energized. My biggest goal when thinking about feeding children is making every bite they take count. Man, those school days can be long and exhausting. It is so important to snuggle them close, and let them unload from the day, but it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on re-fueling them if time to cook is short. Replenishing their little bodies can be as easy as a simple fish dinner, bowl of soup, or omelet. It can be fast prep, and nutrient loaded for their ever growing bodies. Happy school year to you!

5.0 from 18 reviews
Walnut Crusted Crispy Mahi Mahi :: Kid Friendly and Gluten Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (I buzz mine up in a food processor into a “meal”)
  • ½ cup white rice flour (or coconut flour if you are grain free/Paleo)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika (optional but lovely color and flavor)
  • 1-2 eggs, whisked
  • 4 wild caught Mahi Mahi fillets
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • ¼ -1/3 cup avocado oil for the skillet (enough to completely cover your skillet generously)
  • Lemons and parsley to garnish if you choose.
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Combine the walnut “meal,” rice flour, and paprika in a shallow dish or plate. Set up the whisked egg in a bowl next to the walnut mixture and a clean plate for your coated fish at the end.
  3. Coat the Mahi Mahi in the whisked egg, and then the walnut/flour mixture on all sides. Place the coated fish on a clean plate while you finish coating the rest of the fish. Sprinkle the tops of the coated fish with sea salt and pepper to your taste.
  4. Heat the avocado oil in a skillet over medium/high heat. When the oil is hot, place 2 of walnut crusted Mahi Mahi fillets in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes ON EACH SIDE until the outside of the fish is golden brown. The less you move the fish around the crispier they will get – I even set a timer for about 3 minutes so I am not tempted to peek! When those 2 fillets finish cooking, place them on a baking sheet while you cook the other 2 fillets. You can cook all 4 in the skillet if your skillet is large enough, but do not over crowd them. I think the fish gets crispier using a cast iron skillet, and mine is smaller so I just do 2 at a time.
  5. Place the baking sheet with the crusted fish into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking the middle. Garnish with lemons and parsley if you choose.

 

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How To Make Soaked Baked Oatmeal :: A framework for a nutritious baked oatmeal that you can flavor any way you choose!

August 30, 2018

Learn how to make traditionally soaked baked oatmeal using a framework of nutritious ingredients that you can flavor any way you choose!

So, are we easing in yet?

Back to school rhythms? While my household definitely longs for the routine of school by September, we do tend to still cling to summer and the warm air for a bit longer. Before we know it, hats and scarves will be out, so for now…we enjoy our beach-y sunsets and the warm sand in our toes.

Breakfast staples for the school year

As always in using this space to write, I’m hoping to keep my recipes this fall super relatable, sustainable, and *practical.* I love finding super fun, “over the top” recipes to play with, but quite frankly in this season of life I very much get you, dear momma. With a 9, 7, and 5 year old at home, working from home, and everything that goes along with those items, I just need my life to have a flow. A rhythm. And a few ounces of practicality. And that includes having some breakfast staples that I don’t have to think too hard about.

Bake once, eat twice…

Or three times! This mindset is a game changer for so many busy families. Baked oatmeal is one of those breakfast staples that just about any kid will eat *and* just so happens to make enough for at least 2 breakfasts for most small to medium sized families. I’m also willing to bet larger families can double this into two 9×13 pans and have enough for 2 meals – if you have the oven on, you might as well do double time!

A baked oatmeal framework

There are so many different ways to dress up baked oatmeal. Keeping your baked oatmeal breakfast menu rotation full of variety is what will keep everyone from getting bored of having “the same thing” every week. This also ensures keeping the humble oat as budget friendly as we brag about it being. So the base of your baked oatmeal is always the same, but we can change up the flavor! You won’t find our winter baked oatmeal loaded up with fresh blueberries or peaches, because summer fruit is triple the price here in the winter, and that just isn’t sustainable. Instead, in the wintertime, you’ll find our baked oat slices filled with fresh apples or bananas, or  sprinkled with dried fruit like raisins or cranberries that you can get year ’round.

More than just oatmeal

This is loaded oatmeal! And by that I mean filled to the brim with *balance.* Satiating and filling fats and protein from the nuts, seeds, eggs, and coconut milk (or milk), along with the slow burning fiber filled oats will make this breakfast last way past the first school hour of the day. And for so many kids, that is HUGE. Make every bite of their breakfast count – it is all packed into these little oatmeal squares.

Why soaked?

In short, it is what your ancestors would have done with any grains. Soaking any grain in an acid medium, such as yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, whey, lemon juice, or vinegar reduces anti-nutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors (which all grains contain). Grains have gotten a bit of a bad rap in the last decade or so, and while I think many Americans “over grain” their plates, eating it way more frequently than our ancestors would have, they do serve purpose in our diets if there isn’t a true food allergy present. Whole grains, like oats, contain an impressive nutrient profile, so long as you don’t cover up those nutrients by eating them without soaking first.  Just a couple minutes to add the oats and acid to your mixing bowl the night before is really all you need. It actually helps with prep time the next day since that part of the recipe is already in the bowl!

Onto the flavor choices!

They are truly endless. You can keep it as basic as can be with just a bit of honey and cinnamon, or dress  it up with pumpkin and apples for the fall, cranberries for winter, strawberries in the spring, and peaches for the summer! Just follow the basic frame work, and here are some ideas to change flavors up:

  • apples
  • pears
  • bananas (cinnamon and bananas is seriously amazing!)
  • raisins
  • cranberries (Fresh or dried – and try almond extract versus the vanilla. So good!)
  • pumpkin or butternut squashes (cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice blends work well here!)
  • strawberries
  • cherries
  • blueberries (Fresh or dried)
  • peaches
  • raspberries
  • Or, skip the fruit, and go with more of a maple flavor using syrup instead of honey, or use honey and cinnamon for flavoring your baked oatmeal. Sometimes less is more, and the girls love just cinnamon baked oatmeal too!

Add in options

I kept the nuts and seeds section of the recipe pretty general, so that you can change that part up too. Different nuts and seeds have different nutrient components, so it is nice to have some variety there. And since nuts and seeds have anti-nutrients like phytic acid just like grains, I do prefer to use soaked/dehydrated or sprouted nuts and seeds. You can soak/dehydrate yourself, or buy them sprouted (here you can find already sprouted seeds or sprouted nuts). I usually buy the organic nuts or seeds at Costco and just soak/dehydrate myself to save on my budget. If you have a nut free household, all seeds works just fine, or you can swap the nuts/seeds for shredded coconut or more oats. Directions for doing this is right in the recipe. Here are some nut/seed ideas to try:

A note on sweeteners and amount…

While 1/2 cup of sweetener may feel like “a lot,” keep in mind this is spread out across an entire 9×13 pan of baked oatmeal – it’s a lot of baked oatmeal. The half cup of honey leaves this baked oatmeal with a nice, mild sweetness. If you have older children used to sweeter foods, you may want to add a bit more. Or bake it off this way, and you can drizzle a little honey on the top of theirs if they mention that it doesn’t taste sweet to them. You can use whatever sweetener you feel comfortable using – honey, pure maple syrup, etc. I do like to use coconut sugar lately because we love the warm taste, and it has a lower glycemic index. Keep in mind coconut sugar does make the baked oatmeal darker in color because of the coconut sugar’s darker color. It just looks more rich to me. Pictured in this post is a combination of honey and maple syrup.

How to freeze and re-heat leftover baked oatmeal

Because that is really why we are here right?! To learn how to make a breakfast that serves itself twice!

  1. Completely cool the baked oatmeal.
  2. Cut the baked oatmeal into the sized servings you want.
  3. Individually wrap each slice of baked oatmeal with plastic wrap (you can use beeswax wrap if you wish), and then place them into a freezer bag. This will ensure they don’t get freezer burn. Alternatively, you can just put the squares into a freezer bag without individually wrapping them. If you plan to use the baked oatmeal within 2 weeks, you are not likely to get the freezer burn. If you plan to have them frozen for over 2 weeks, my suggestion is preventing the freezer burn, and using the wrap.
  4. The night before you want to serve the frozen leftover baked oatmeal, take the servings out of the freezer, and set them on the counter to thaw out. They will be thawed by morning and ready to warm up!
  5. To warm up the thawed out baked oatmeal, I like to place the servings on a baking sheet and set the baking sheet in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to pre-heat to 350 degrees. By the time the oven pre-heats, the baked oatmeal is gently warmed up! You can turn the oven off, and serve.

5.0 from 18 reviews
How To Make Soaked Baked Oatmeal :: A framework for a nutritious baked oatmeal that you can flavor any way you choose!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 5 cups oats (Not quick cooking oats. If you are gluten free, be sure your oats say they are gluten free like THESE)
  • 2 ½ cups full fat coconut milk or raw milk
  • ½ cup unsweetened full fat coconut yogurt, or dairy yogurt. (Our grocer carries the large 32oz tubs of So Delicious plain coconut yogurt which is what I use.)
  • 2 cups of nuts or seeds of choice, chopped (I buzz them up in my food processor quick. I like to use soaked/dehydrated nuts for best digestion. *OR* you can skip the nuts/seeds and add in 1 more cup of oats to the soaking process. *OR* you can skip the nuts/seeds and add in 1-2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut. A mix of nuts/seeds and shredded coconut works too.)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup sweetener of choice (Raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1-4 tsp cinnamon (depending on the fruit you are using – I like more with apples, bananas, pears, or raisins. And less if using berries and peaches)
  • 3 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 ½ - 2 cups of fresh fruit, OR 1 cup dried fruit (see above notes for ideas!)
Instructions
  1. Soak the oats 8-24 hours before baking. The day before you want to make this for breakfast, put the oats, coconut milk, and yogurt in a medium mixing bowl, stir to combine, and cover with a towel to soak overnight. You can also butter your 9x13 baking dish the night before so it’s ready.
  2. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Add everything EXCEPT the fruit to the soaked oats, and mix in thoroughly.
  4. Fold the fruit into the batter, and pour the batter into the buttered the buttered baking dish.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. You can use the toothpick method to make sure the middle is set – it should come out clean if the baked oatmeal is done cooking.

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Breakfast Stuffed Peppers {Sausage Hash & Egg Stuffed Pepper Cups!}

August 24, 2018

Every bite you love about breakfast packaged into perfect little breakfast stuffed peppers!

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 shifts…

Ahhh…we are literally soaking up every last ounce of summer beach time that we can before those school doors open! There’s still plenty of warm weather left, but these last few weekend escapes have me savoring as much of sweet summer as I can!

A new kitchen favorite!

This fun stuffed breakfast pepper idea has become a weekly staple in at our table this summer. While it might not necessarily be school morning friendly in prep time, it will definitely hop onto my weekend rotation for the school year, because the girls really love them!

It all began with leftovers…

Breakfast hash leftovers that is! Tuesday’s are breakfast hash days here at my house (you can see my school weekday breakfast rotation HERE – it looks a little different these days, but is similar). I made more than I needed for one breakfast one Tuesday, with thoughts of using the leftovers for my breakfasts in the coming days, but ended up not using it. I found it in the fridge a couple days later, and decided to try making it into something new!

Everything you love about breakfast, in one happy place!

Little kids love little packages. I think sometimes we overwhelm little ones with huge portions and so many choices, that they end up shutting down. Little bites of potato, egg, sausage, and pepper in one pretty little pepper cup is such a great way to get a variety of food groups into little kids!

Sausage notes

Use whatever sausage you love using for this ingredient. If you have a favorite farmer or good quality, clean store-bought brand, use what you and the kids like to eat. We have a local farmer I love to get ground pastured pork from, and I season it with my own Sausage Season Blend. Or we get the organic ground turkey from Costco, and season that with that same DIY sausage season blend.

To scramble or not to scramble…

That is up to you! The best part about these little pepper cups, is that you can customize each pepper to how your kiddos like their eggs. My household is pretty split! One of my girls and I love a drippy yolk to stir into our pepper cup, while the rest of the family prefers scrambled. Do what works for you!

Make ahead tips

Here are a couple tips I’ve been utilizing that make this breakfast come together super quick:

  • Make the hash ahead of time. You can make it the night before, or on your prep day and stash it away. Then all you have to do is stuff the peppers and into the oven when you want to bake them off.
  • Make the hash work double time! Double the hash and serve half of the hash with extra veggies and a side of eggs or some shredded cheese, and save the other half of the hash to stuff the peppers with later in the week.

Tips for stuffing the peppers

  • Larger peppers are easier to stuff and fit a whole egg into.
  • Make sure to dice the potatoes small so the hash fits every nook and cranny!
  • Leave room for the egg when you are scooping the hash in.
  • If you are doing a sunny side up egg, I have found that poking the egg white membrane near the yolk to break it up a little helps with it cooking all the way through the best.

Cooking medium advice

I have tried cooking this so many different ways this summer. From sheet pan prep, to a lidded pan, the yolky eggs really cook best with a lid. I am not a fan of using aluminum foil, but if all you have is a baking dish, then that should be fine. If you have a casserole dish with a lid that is large enough, that works, or I used my large roasting pan with a lid with the best results.

5.0 from 19 reviews
Breakfast Sausage Hash and Egg Stuffed Peppers :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in, such as butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or tallow/lard
  • 1 lb of your favorite clean ingredient sausage (You can use my sausage season blend to make your own with plain pastured ground pork or turkey, or purchase from the farmer’s market or store)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium potatoes or sweet potatoes, diced
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach or baby kale, chopped
  • 4 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, and seeds/ribs scooped out
  • 8 pastured eggs (you can skip the eggs if you are egg free)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley to taste to garnish (you can also melt shredded raw cheese or goat cheese on the top if you tolerate that)
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the butter to melt in. Add the sausage and onion cooking until the sausage is almost browned, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are browning and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. You can pre-heat your oven at this point as well.
  3. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook for one minute, and then turn the heat off. If you are prepping ahead, your hash is done at this point, and you can cool it, and store it away until you are ready to use it.
  4. Put ½ cup of water in the bottom of a large casserole dish or roasting pan that has a lid. Place the bell pepper halves in the bottom of the pan, and fill each pepper with hash. Be sure to leave enough room for the egg! Crack an egg into each bell pepper, on top of the hash. Or, you can scramble the eggs and pour them into each cup if that is how your family prefers eggs!
  5. Put the lid on your pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes for sunny-side up eggs, or 30-40 minutes for scrambled. Check the peppers at the minimum times so you can be sure the eggs are set to your liking. You can take the lid off the pan for the last 10 minutes to melt cheese up top if you want too! Sea salt and pepper the tops as well as garnish with parsley if you wish.

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11 Healthy Packaged School Snacks For Kids

August 15, 2018

Give yourself some grace, dear momma, and stock your cupboard with these 11 healthy packaged school snacks for kids to help you balance homemade food with real life!

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.

So here we are…

The start of the school year! I’ve got a handful of amazing back to school fall recipes up my sleeve that I just can’t wait to share with you. But first…my favorite packaged morning school snack ideas for back to school!

*Cue the real food police*

Packaged?! *Gasp!* Yes, my friends. Three kiddos into this school thing, I have discovered one key to keeping a happy household. That one thing is keeping momma sane. Keeping momma from burning out. Keeping momma…mentally healthy. And sometimes (for this momma at least), that means pulling a “better than most” packaged snack from my cupboard to take care of that dreaded morning snack for school.

Grace, dear momma…

Because we don’t give ourselves enough of it. Like, at all. Give yourself some grace dear momma who was up all night with a newborn and needs to get her preschooler to playgroup. Let up on yourself dear momma who has a brood of kids to get into the van by 8 for school. Take a deep breath and give yourself a break dear momma of that busy teen that you stayed up talking to just trying to help them figure out…life.

Because they are watching.

The kids. They are watching you. They are not only watching how you take care of yourself by choosing healthy meals to cook day in and day out, they are learning from you what self-care means. And sometimes self-care means taking a break from making things from scratch, admitting you cannot, in fact, do it all, and make some careful choices on some packaged items to reach for when life gets busy to avoid burn out.

Morning snacks

I think most elementary school aged children have a morning snacktime. I struggled with this concept for years when the girls started school, because I typically never “snacked” my kids. They ate really balanced breakfasts, and when they got hungry again, we ate lunch, and then dinner. I found out real quick that doing a morning snack lead to un-eaten lunches, and that gets super frustrating. I bagged snack time all together…that is until school started. And truthfully, these school aged children do need a small snack most of the time to get them until the lunch hour. Eating breakfast at 7am and expecting a young, growing child to make it to noon without a snack is not going to happen.

Snack time goals

“Make every bite count” has always been a goal of mine, and if you have been around this blog long enough, you know that is always my mantra when it comes to anything kids are taking in as nourishment. You can check out my “9 Fast Prep School Snacks Post” for my favorite rotation of morning snacks that take some preparing. These work well for every age, are filling, nutritious, and satisfying. But in the last couple years, I have made a few packaged snacks a part of the morning snack rotation to give myself some grace on needing to prep *everything*. I use these packaged snacks for 2-3 out of the 5 school morning snacks during the week. Will that change as the years go by? Possibly. Is that what you have to do? Absolutely not. If you choose to make the morning snack something packaged every day, no one (at least in this community) is judging you.

How to make it into my approved packaged snack list!

I can guarantee this list is NOT inclusive of every packaged snack that has a great list of ingredients and is safe, nutritious, and satisfying. I find new items every year, which is fun and exciting, actually! The real food community is growing, and manufacturers are listening to where we are spending our dollars – and responding with making really great packaged choices for those times we just don’t have time to make things from scratch. Here are some of my criteria when I’m looking at something packaged:

  • Zero high fructose corn syrup
  • Very little to no added sugar
  • Healthy fats only (no sunflower, safflower, soy, vegetable, canola oils)
  • Zero food dyes
  • Natural or zero preservatives
  • Some sort of fat or protein for satiating – not just all fruit or all grain.
  • Gluten free (many of these snacks are also dairy, grain, and egg free)
  • Under $1.25 per snack to keep my budget happy
  • And finally…something my kids will eat 😉

Couple final notes…and some ground rules

  • Please, use the “shopping cart method” while browsing my snack list. If there is something you don’t agree with as “healthy,” simply leave that item “on the shelf” and move on. Pick up ideas from the list that appeal to you and check on out!
  • Also, I realize that some of you are in nut free school zones. Our school is not a nut free zone, so I am able to use all of these. More than half of this list is nut free, so there is plenty to choose from.
  • Finally, keep in mind this is a snack. Not a meal. My goal is not to make the girls “full” with this – it is something to give them some quick burning fuel, so they can make to lunch time. Meaning…I want them hungry at lunchtime! Morning snack time is a great break from classroom time – it’s a brain break and should be enjoyed!


Chia Squeeze


I grab for Chia Squeeze Pouches over plain fruit pouches not only because of the mix of veggies with the fruit, but the added chia seed brings some satiating sustenance to the snack. They are nice a filling and taste great!


Nut Butter Pouches


There are a lot of options to squeeze the nut butter pouches onto! My girls love dried banana chips to dip, so I’ll just toss some of those in our favorite snack container with a pouch. My only note to take on this one would be that the pouches works best for older children. My youngest (age 4) is messy with the pouches. You can scoop some nut butter from a jar into a condiment container to make this same snack, but again, I’m trying to keep the prep and wash up time at a minimum, so my older girls will take these for a morning snack. Also, keep in mind some of the Justin’s nut butter pouches are a bit high in sugar and other ingredients – just watch for that. I usually just get the plain almond butter, but occasionally our Meijer will put the Maple one on sale for a really great price and I’ll grab those (as you can see pictured!)


Larabars


A staple for many real food families. There are so many options here now as well. The girls have really been loving the Fruit & Greens Larabars in addition to their regular flavors. They also enjoy the Nut & Seed Crunchy Larabar (they are so good!).


Grassfed Beef Sticks


These were tough for me to find for a while, but in the last couple years there are some great brands out there that are also affordable. We like the SoGo Grassfed Beef Sticks,  Field Trip Grassfed Beef Sticks, and we just got a brand new product from New Primal Brand called  “Snack Mates” Meat Sticks For Kids, and they are fantastic! The New Primal brand also has meat sticks using chicken or turkey if your little one can’t have beef. The girls pack these alone, but if you have older kids, you could toss a slice of cheese or piece of fruit in there as well.


WholeMe Grain Free Clusters


The WholeMe Clusters taste so good and have a great ingredient list, packed with nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and honey. I toss a hand full into our favorite snack box for the girls to take to school.


Guacamole or Hummus Dippers


Costco is my best friend on these items, but you can find them just about any store now. I like the Organic Wholly Guacamole Minis, and the Kirkland Organic Hummus. Pack along veggie sticks if you don’t mind the prep – I tend to load up the girls’ lunchboxes with veggies, so I toss Simple Mills Crackers (I get the crackers at Costco too), or Plantain Chips in with these. The dippers and crackers fit in the medium size of these snack boxes we have had for years and love! (Please note the hummus does have sunflower oil. The Kirkland hummus is organic/non-gmo so to use for every once and a while, I don’t worry about it. I have yet to find a hummus dipper mini with good oils – please let me know if you find one!)


Shine Pouches


I like the ingredients on this Calm flavor and Purify flavor the best, and these are my oldest’s favorite snack. One note for you on these would be that they are bigger than most pouches. My youngest (4 years old, almost 5) rarely finishes a whole pouch. I tend to opt for the Chia Squeeze above for her if we want to do pouches. But because these are bigger, they make a great option for older children that might not feel filled up after the smaller pouches.


Enjoy Life Seed & Fruit Mix


The Enjoy Life Seed & Fruit Packs are fantastic especially if you are in a nut free school zone and the kids want some trailmix! This is the only snack on the list that has some added sugar in the form of a few mini chocolate chips per pouch – super minimal. My kids love these. My only hang up with them, is that my youngest cannot open the pouch easily. When I pack it for her, I dump it in our favorite snack box. You can also buy the seed & fruit mix in a big pouch to take handfuls from for snack boxes.


Seaweed Snacks


Salty and crispy, Seaweed Snacks are a fun one to munch on, and full of nutrients! Be very mindful of ingredients when you look for seaweed though. Many seaweed snacks use questionable oils and have soy or other flavorings that do not meet my criteria for a snack to use regularly. In this GimMe brand I go for the one that says Olive Oil, and the ingredients are minimal and safe.


Lark Ellen Farm Sprouted Seed & Nut Granola Clusters


These granola clusters are super tasty, and I love that the nuts and seeds are sprouted. Great ingredient list too. I just toss a handful into our favorite snack box for the girls to take along to school.


Pressed by Kind Fruit & Chia Bars


The Kind Pressed Fruit & Chia bars are just fruit, veg, and chia seed! That’s it! These are nice portions, filling, and taste really good! Our Meijer puts them on sale a lot so I snag them that way most of the time, but the Amazon pricing is decent too.

Give yourself some grace, dear momma! Happy fresh start to the school year to you!

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Paleo Cinnamon Raisin Zucchini Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

August 9, 2018

Put your summer produce to work in these super soft, power packed paleo cinnamon raisin zucchini muffins!

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.

Weekend escapes!

We have spent the last few weekends escaping to our favorite Lake Michigan shoreline spots both up North and South of us, soaking in as much sand and lake time as we can before that school bell rings!

Portable nourishment

One of my tricks to keep the food real for travel is taking a bit of time before we leave to prep a bit of food. Not only does this save money, but it keeps us from needing to eat out where there may be questionable ingredients. I’m not against heading out to eat here and there (we have done this, still do this, and ENJOY it!), but in my house, going out to eat is an occasional treat, so I’ve got to have some recipes up my sleeve that travel well and will keep my busy girls sustained for all of their adventures!

Breakfast on the go

Last week, I perfected these grain free zucchini muffins using a pile of zucchini I picked up. The recipe testing I worked on made for a fantastic, portable breakfast for us while we headed up North for the weekend, and the girls just loved these sweet little muffins.

Revisiting an old recipe…

Some of you that have been around here long enough might know that I already have a gluten free cinnamon raisin zucchini muffin here on the blog! I hesitated posting this recipe because of that, but because the ingredient amounts are quite different to accommodate the grain and dairy free nature, and because I have had a number of readers ask how to swap the flours in that recipe for grain free, I decided it would be worth investing some time for those of you that truly need a grain free and dairy free version. If you tolerate grains and dairy, and like my original gluten free version, these muffins taste exactly like those! If you like to change things up, and get some variety of nutrients into your diet by using different flours, give this one a try! You’ll see it is just as easy, feels just as soft, and tastes amazing.

On that note…some flour tips!

In the recipe as written, I’ve given you 2 grain free options for the flours. I have baked both of these versions at least twice each, and I love both – truly. So, pick which one fits your diet requirements the best. I tend to opt for the combo of cassava with almond flour just because I like the added protein/fat that the almond flour brings. However, I do understand there are those of you with either nut allergy and can’t have almond flour, and so there is a cassava flour only option too. Note that I have tried this recipe with a combo of cassava and coconut flours and the results weren’t my favorite. It worked, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Why cassava flour?

Cassava flour is dried and ground up yucca. Yucca is a ground tuber that is a good source of fiber, folate, and potassium. Cassava flour is also a great source of PRE-biotics, which feed the good bacteria in your gut so that your gut flora can stay at a healthy population and thrive. Not only is cassava flour a healthy, grain free choice for baking, it creates fantastic baking results. Instead of dense, dry grain free baked goods, cassava flour muffins are light and fluffy. The only way I can describe it to help you understand, is that it feels the closest to a muffin with gluten as you can get!

Freezer friendly?

Absolutely! If you have an abundance of zucchini from your garden, or find a steal of a deal at the farmer’s market while zucchini is in season, camp out for a couple hours in your kitchen and stash some zucchini muffins away for the school year. It will make for a quick morning breakfast, OR lunchbox addition to go with a thermos of soup. To freeze these muffins, cool them completely first, and then put them in a freezer bag to freeze. When I thaw out muffins, I just leave them on the counter overnight, or pop them in a warm oven for a bit. You can put them in a lunchbox frozen and they will thaw by lunchtime.

A  note on the “sweet”

You can definitely play around with the amount of “sweet” in this recipe, as well as the source. I enjoy coconut sugar for the taste and the lower glycemic index, but bake with raw honey or real maple syrup sometimes too. If that is what you have, go for it. If you have real little ones in the house, I would back off the sweet to about quarter of a cup. They won’t know any better, and that what I do often with my girls still.

5.0 from 18 reviews
Paleo Cinnamon Raisin Zucchini Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free
 
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup full fat plain coconut yogurt or coconut milk (I get 32oz tubs of plain full fat So Delicious Coconut Yogurt at the store)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil (avocado oil or melted coconut oil/butter would be fine too)
  • ⅓ cup coconut sugar (If you have real little ones around you can get away with ¼ cup for sure. Raw honey or pure maple syrup would work here too.)
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups of cassava flour (OR 1 cup cassava flour plus 1 cup blanched almond flour works lovely too if you can tolerate nuts (This is also my favorite version). Please note that brand of cassava flour DOES matter. I use THIS brand – if you use a different brand, you may get different results – that has always been the case for me with cassava.)
  • 1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • ½ cup raisins
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with silicone muffin liners or grease them with butter or coconut oil.
  2. Blend the eggs, coconut yogurt, olive oil, coconut sugar, vinegar, and vanilla extract in a medium mixing bowl for 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and cinnamon and blend until combined. It will feel a bit dry but the zucchini will provide plenty of moisture - do not add more liquid!
  4. Stir the shredded zucchini and raisins into the batter with a spatula.
  5. Scoop the batter into a 12 cup muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

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Paleo Strawberry Chia Jam Muffins :: Grain & Dairy Free :: Works With ANY Flavor Chia Jam!

June 28, 2018

Sweet strawberry chia jam swirled into soft Paleo muffins, perfect for breakfast on the go!

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 night paradise

This really has nothing to do with strawberry chia jam muffins, but we’re right in the thick of summer, and we are pretty much parked at the Lake Michigan shoreline daily! That warm powdery sand and crystal clear fresh water makes for the best evening playground to wear out kids of every age for bedtime, and we take full advantage of it being right in our backyard!

A new breakfast option!

We picked strawberries last week, and boy this heat has them turning so fast! I used the last bit of strawberries that were turning too fast to make some chia jam so that it wouldn’t go to waste, and as one of my girls was spreading it on her banana muffin for breakfast one morning, I had an idea! That chia jam would be so amazing swirled right up into a breakfast muffin!

Summer’s best produce jammed up…chia style!

I was pretty late to the party jumping onto the chia jam train. I know it’s all the rage, but there was just something about that once a year task of choosing a summer fruit and cooking it down for jam that was so satisfying! Last year I just didn’t have the kitchen time to spend making traditional jam for our strawberries, and really fell in love with making them into chia jam.

No strawberries? No problem!

This muffin recipe will really work with whatever chia jams you are making this summer, and better yet, if you are jamming up the traditional way, that jam will work too! Really any summer fruit will work just fine!

Texture perfection!

Almost tipping on the addicting side of things, the texture of these muffins are perfectly soft and satisfying. You’ll never know they aren’t loaded with gluten! Not only are they gluten free, they are free of grain too for those following more of a Paleo lifestyle or need to avoid grains for gut healing.

Some notes on the jam

If you have already canned your favorite summer fruit jam, you can use that for this recipe! Or, if you are done picking fruit, and only have store bought jam on hand, you could use that too. The chia jam recipe I will leave in this post is a super basic chia jam – always about a cup of fruit to a tablespoon of chia seed and sweetener to taste. I think if you have some real little guys in the house you could get away with just a half or so tablespoon of the honey for that jam. If you are going to use store bought, just watch the ingredient list and be sure there isn’t anything funky added to the list.

Muffin ingredient swaps notes

I haven’t tried these muffins egg free, but if you don’t tolerate eggs, I do think a couple gelatin or chia “eggs” would work in here. There are only 2 eggs in the whole recipe so that usually swaps out ok. The muffins might not puff up as much since the eggs make that happen, but they will hold together and still taste really good. The only flour swap that I have made is the Namaste Gluten Free Flour – that will work to swap for all of the cassava, almond, and coconut flours if you happen to have that on hand and prefer to use that. I love the nutritional profile that the specialty flours give to add to breakfast, so that is why I love those other flours. If you are nut free, I do think that using all cassava flour would work.

Ohhh yes they are freezer friendly!

As you move through your summer, picking and enjoying all the special fruit that the warm summer months have to offer, make a batch of chia jam muffins to preserve the fruit! Stashing them away will make your school morning breakfasts easy peasy come fall! To freeze, simply let the muffins cool completely to room temperature, and then put them in a freezer bag. The texture stays super soft even after they thaw out!

5.0 from 18 reviews
Paleo Strawberry Chia Jam Muffins :: Grain & Dairy Free :: Works With ANY Flavor Chia Jam!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CHIA JAM (if using your own jam, you will need ½ cup total jam – this chia jam recipe makes exactly ½ cup) ::
  • 1 cup quartered strawberries
  • 1-2 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • FOR THE MUFFINS ::
  • ½ cup avocado oil (melted butter or coconut oil would work too)
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk plus 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar mixed in to make “buttermilk” (you can use raw milk here or if you have access to quality raw buttermilk you can use that)
  • ½ cup plain full fat coconut yogurt (I get big 32 oz tubs of the SoDelicious brand at the store. You can use homemade coconut yogurt, or if you tolerate dairy, you can use plain full fat regular yogurt.)
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup of chopped strawberries (I quarter them, and then dice)
Instructions
  1. MAKE THE CHIA JAM: Put the strawberries and maple syrup in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Squish the strawberries with a potato masher and let them cook down and break apart over medium/medium-low heat for about 8 minutes. Pour the chia seeds into a small jar, pour the cooked strawberries over the top, and stir to combine. Place the jam in the fridge to set up. This will take an hour to cool off and set up.
  2. When you are ready to make the muffins, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Blend the oil, honey, vanilla, and eggs in a medium mixing bowl for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the milk, yogurt, flours, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt and blend to combine.
  5. In a separate small bowl, stir together the diced strawberries with the strawberry chia jam, and then fold the jam/strawberry mixture into your batter. Don’t stir this too much – you are going for more of a swirled look.
  6. Scoop the batter into silicone muffin cups or paper muffin cup lined muffin pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Recipe makes about 16 muffins. Let the muffins cool the pan for 5 minutes, and then put them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They will come out of the paper liners or silicone cups the best when completely cooled.

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How To Make A Healthy Yogurt Breakfast Bar :: A simple weekday breakfast idea!

June 23, 2018

Letting the kids serve themselves with nourishing, power packed yogurt toppings will become one of your weekday breakfast staples with this easy, healthy yogurt breakfast bar!

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.

A fresh new summer

I’m sitting here writing this post trying to figure out where the last 9 months have gone! Moments of this past school year seemed to be never ending, while most of it really and truly feels like a blur to me! Regardless of how the last year has looked for you, I invite you to look at summer a little outside the box than most.

Relaxed, yes. Taking advantage of summer energy – totally!

I don’t know if it’s the sunshine that my body so desperately needs, but summer always brings a renewed energy toward fresh projects, organizing previously unorganized spaces, and, as a blogger, a flood of new ideas to use this space to help others. While many use the summer to take off work, take it easier, and back off on things, I tend to have more creative energy in the summer, and really find it is a good season for me to knock out new ideas. Will there be relaxing beach days? More than you can count! You bet! But between juggling my 3 girls, getting our feet in the beach sand, and home life, I’m hopeful to stir things up over in this space a bit more in the next few months.

With the season change this year, comes a brand new season of life for this momma.

Nine years. The last 9 years of my life have literally revolved every minute of every day around the little people here in our home. I wouldn’t trade the last 9 years for anything! But this fall, all THREE of my babies will be in full time school, and quite frankly, I am SO many things. I am literally all the above. Happy, sad, joyful, terrified, lost, accomplished…relieved to have made it this far and still have kept all 3 alive.

A new kind of busy

While I completely and utterly bow down to my newborn momma readers here today (I do promise you, sweet momma, that they will sleep someday!), I always imagined this season of life as having a more time to play in the kitchen with new ideas. That has really proven to be false, as I’m outside of the home way more now than when I was a newborn mom! It really is all about perspective and priorities. My health goals and priorities are always a non-negotiable, but I’ve figured out some “short-cuts” to allow some of my other “outside of the kitchen” priorities still happen – in other words…balance. Right?!

Self Serve Yogurt Breakfast Bar!

Once your littles get to the age of being able to self serve (don’t underestimate this – I’m not talking 9 or 10! I’m talking 3 years old, and for those little “responsible beyond their years” first borns…you could probably start this around 2), this breakfast idea will become one of your weekly menu rotations. The possibilities for loading these bowls up is literally endless. The kids will be full and focused for a full day of play and school starting their day off on this foot!

First things first! The yogurt!

So let’s talk yogurt! Dairy free or non-dairy, homemade or store-bought, you have so many options. There won’t be any claims of one right way, or superior yogurt style here. Only what works best for your family, their digestions, and your schedule. We want a sane mommathat is the end goal. If store-bought yogurt means momma feels more on top of her day, then grab that {quality, non-sugar added} store-bought yogurt. If making your own yogurt makes your heart feel full and accomplished! Girl, you make that yogurt then!

If you are going for store-bought yogurt here are some things to make sure you look for:

  • Plain/No Sugar Added. Sugar or sweetener doesn’t need to be in the ingredient list. You can add fruit or control your own sweetener like honey this way. Many store bought sweetened yogurts are worse than candy bars when it comes to grams of sugar.
  • Full Fat/Whole Milk. Low fat or fat free isn’t don’t anyone any good. Our cells, organs, hormones, blood sugars all need fat to survive and thrive. It will make the kids feel more satiated, and it will feed their ever growing brains the fat they need.
  • Dye Free. If you are meeting the above 2 points, you probably don’t need to look out for this, but I’m just mentioning it in case! Yogurt shouldn’t need fancy colors – they mess with kid’s brains and moods. Just be mindful of it, and watch those labels.

Safe Store-Bought Yogurt Options (Dairy & Dairy Free):

  • Any local whole milk yogurts. The area I live in is pretty abundant in either Amish farms, or all grassfed farming practices that also make yogurt. This is really going to vary where you live. I would recommend if you would like to find local yogurt, to check farmer’s markets or local health food stores. Ask around!
  • Maple Hill Creamery Full Fat Grassfed Yogurt
  • Organic Valley Full Fat Plain “Grassmilk” Yogurt
  • Stoneyfield Full Fat Plain Grassfed Yogurt
  • {Dairy Free} SoDelicious Full Fat Coconut Yogurt (Plain or the Vanilla both don’t have added sugar). Our local grocer and health food stores carry the 32 oz tubs of plain and vanilla which is great on the budget buying in that size. If you don’t see it where you live, ask for it! It can never hurt to ask for your stores to carry something!
  • {Dairy Free} CoYo Full Fat Coconut Yogurt
  • {Dairy Free} The Coconut Cult Full Fat Coconut Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt Options:

Here are some great recipes for yogurt if you would like to try making your own! It is so rewarding, and I still do this some of the time!

Now the FUN part!

The toppings and add-ins! Not only is this part fun for the kids, this is the part that will add even more nourishment to their bowl to make this a full, balanced meal that will stick with them all morning. Here are some ideas:

  • Fruit. This can be seasonal for sure. In the winter I do a lot of bananas. In the summer it is usually berries. Wintertime means some dried fruit occasionally as well when most fruit is out of season. The fruit also helps add a bit of sweet to the bowl. If you have really little guys at home, I’d skip the honey all together and just keep them used to fruit and the sour taste of yogurt. All 3 of my girls still eat yogurt without honey (ages 9, 7, and 4). They just have never had it any other way. It is possible to train their palates to loving the tart yogurt taste.
  • Seeds. Rotate these around each week to change up nutrients! Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds – so many options!
  • Nuts. Again, rotate these around to change up nutrients. I think the nuts do best with yogurt when you chop them up a bit just fyi.  Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios  are all great, and places like Costco are now starting to carry their nuts in organic too! That is awesome on the budget!
  • Grassfed Collagen. This is a no-brainer to me now, but might not be something you would think of right off the bat at first! Grassfed collagen adds a great little protein punch to your yogurt bowl (10 grams for per scoop!), and especially for those using coconut yogurt which is lacking in protein, it is a fantastic addition. This real food source of grassfed protein is tasteless and also has a gut healing component to add as well.
  • Granola. There are a number of granola recipes on the blog here, and if you need pre-made, I found a bunch of great granolas to try on Amazon if you just search “sprouted granola” or “paleo granola.” Here are a few of the more popular recipes on my blog (I do make our granola for our household to save on the budget since we go through it pretty fast) :: Grain Free Apple Cinnamon Granola, Simple Cinnamon Granola, Morning Glory Granola, and Honey Cluster Granola (this uses rhubarb but you can sub for apples).
  • Other “superfood” boosters. My kiddos LOVE the Acai Berry Powder from Perfect Supplements. Not only does it make their yogurt a super cool purple color, it makes the yogurt a bit more berry in flavor. They love it, and it is a great superfoods berry with loads of antioxidant power for them. I also think this is a great spot to add in probiotic powders, vitamin C powders for immune boosting, etc if you have a hard time getting your kiddos to swallow/accept those items. My girls all swallow caps, but as babies, I used yogurt as a vehicle for supplements a lot!
  • Real food sweeteners. This is super optional, but if you have older kiddos used to sweeter things, do not try to force them on the no honey train. It isn’t worth it. Raw honey is loaded with minerals and enzymes that are great for them, and you don’t need a ton of it to make the kid’s sweet tooth happy. Raw local honey, pure maple syrup, or coconut sugar is just fine in small amounts.

Tips for keeping the “self serve” part {ahem!}…mess free…

I know, I know. Seriously, I get it. It is SO much faster and less mess to just do it yourself. But I promise you, that if you do a few of these tips, you can have a really streamlined yogurt bar flow even for a Tuesday school morning that won’t leave you with a big mess to clean up when they are done.

  • SHOW them and practice (and not on a school day!). So plan your first and second yogurt bar on a day that the kids don’t have to be out the door by 8am. Set it up on a Saturday morning so you can demonstrate and help them practice how to serve themselves appropriately.
  • Use the right sized serving bowls. If they are too big and cumbersome, you are sure to have a mess.
  • Use the right sized serving utensils. This will help with portion sizes.
  • Give them portion specifics. “You may take 1 teaspoon of chia seeds.” “You may take 4 spoonfuls of yogurt”. If you use the same serving bowls and utensils each time this will make this part easier. I typically serve the yogurt, for example, right out of the yogurt tub (most of the time I get the SoDelicious coconut yogurt in the 32oz tubs) with the same serving spoon. The girls know that my youngest gets about 3 “scoops” with that spoon, and my oldest knows she takes about 6 “scoops”. I have teaspoons or tablespoons set out for seeds and nuts or other toppings. They  have learned appropriate portion sizes this way, so they don’t under-fill or overfill their bowls and end up with an unhappy amount of one thing or another. I have a bunch of these little teaspoons and these tablespoons so I can set them out easily to serve.

Balance is the key to sustainability.

When it comes to eating real food in the time and space we live in today, keeping it going without quitting a month in all boils down to balance. YES our society needs to take a step back, get out of the drive through, and step into the kitchen a little more. We need to turn off the TVs and phones and turn on the stove. Put some boundaries around extra events and get around the table with family more often. BUT…we also don’t live in the same world our ancestors did. We do have different responsibilities and lives than they did. I’ve been going at this real food thing for well over a decade now. What constitutes sustainability for that long? Making sure there is some grace in my meal plan. I cook breakfast from scratch a good portion of the week, but I *big puffy heart* love my Wednesday morning yogurt breakfast bar! I hope this breakfast idea gives you some inspiration to keep at your real food goals! XO, Renee

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10 Minute Gluten Free Ramen Noodle Bowls

April 6, 2018

You are just 8 simple ingredients away from 10 minute gluten free ramen noodle bowls perfect for dinner and then leftovers for lunch the next day!

Simple, real life…

It’s what I love the most about you guys. I’m being totally and completely serious. Every time that I hesitate to post something to Instagram because it might be “too boring” or “too simple” you all are all over it asking for a method or a recipe…and I love that about you. You are totally my people…simple, real moms just trying to make this thing work with some real food on the table that won’t keep you in the kitchen all day.

A humble staple

My husband found these safe ingredient ramen noodles last summer, and I have to tell you, they have become somewhat of a once a weekly staple in my house. A meal I don’t have to think about. A simple, budget friendly, filling lunch or dinner that the girls completely devour, and one that can be tailored to veggies that are in season.

Cook once, eat twice

Because I hardly ever cook for just one meal, this ramen dish is no exception! I started making this my Tuesday or Wednesday night dinner menu item, and then bulked it up so that I could fill up school lunchbox thermoses for the next day or later in the week! Seriously, dear momma, make that kitchen work do double time for you – there is no need to be in there all day long every day. You can see an example of how I pack the leftovers for school lunches below, and follow my Instagram with the hashtag #rgnschoollunch for more ideas.

One meal, but oh so many possibilities!

There are so many ways to fancy up this dish. The ingredients laid out in the recipe section is super bare bones minimum – though it really has so much flavor. My kids adore this prep, but they get just as excited about it being seasoned with curry, or coconut aminos (a great alternative to soy sauce). Change it up to keep things interesting, and to broaden the kids’ palates.

Veggie change ups!

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to real food and produce is…keep it in season. If you have a budget to stick to, your wallet will thank you. Swap the veg out for what is in season near you, and not only will your budget stay on track, your palates will appreciate the change up too! I tend to shop the organic produce at Costco and can really save my budget there during the winter months, but when spring, summer, and fall hit, it is so nice to keep it local and seasonal.

Optional added protein

Very often I’ll make this dish for dinner with some leftover chicken or make some quick meatballs. Then I’ll take the leftover veggie stir fry and noodles without the mean to pack for school lunches. You can add protein to this meal in so many ways. In fact, my favorite way is topping the noodle bowls with a drippy duck egg. The girls also enjoy chicken, beef, or crushed walnuts – there are so many options. If you are packing the veggies and noodles for school thermoses, you can always add a side of mixed nuts, or leftover meat from dinner the night before.

Tips for leftovers and school lunch thermos packing

I’ve had the same thermoses for hot lunches since my 3rd grader was in Kindergarten – they have served us very well! And the girls love having a hot lunch a couple times per week – wouldn’t you?! It is so easy to warm it up in the morning before school. Just fill up your empty thermoses with hot water from your tap water to “temper” the thermos – otherwise the cold thermos will cool off the hot food too easily. I let the thermoses temper while I’m fixing breakfast or while I’m in the shower. They only need 10 minutes, tops, to be effectively tempered. Warm up your ramen noodle meal, adding a splash of water or bone broth while you warm it up. This loosens up the noodles, helping them warm up easier. Dump the hot water out of the thermoses, and fill them up with the ramen meal and you’re good to go!

Quick portioning tip! This recipe feeds my family for one meal. When I want to have more left for lunches the next day, I bulk this up a bit more!

5.0 from 16 reviews
10 Minute Gluten Free Ramen Noodle Bowls
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee to cook in, plus another 2 tbsp to finish the ramen (Butter or olive oil works too. I love the flavor of the ghee for this dish though)
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small/thin florets (sugar peas, asparagus, or sliced cabbage work well here too)
  • 1 medium orange, red, or yellow bell pepper, cut into strips (if you have real little guys at home, you can dice this for them to manage it easier. Mushrooms give a nice flavor here to if you don’t have peppers.)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Heaping handful of baby spinach, chopped (baby kale works here too)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • 4 gluten free rice ramen noodles
  • Optional sliced green onion to garnish
Instructions
  1. Get your water boiling for the ramen while you chop and cook the vegetables.
  2. Melt the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion, broccoli, and peppers with a big pinch of sea salt. Stir to combine and add a splash of water or bone broth to help the veggies cook quick and keep them tender (just a couple tbsp of water is good). Cook the veggies until they are the texture you like (I cook for about 7 minutes to keep a little bit of a bite to the veggies. If you want the veggies softer, you can cook them longer.)
  3. When your pot of water comes to a boil, add a few tbsp of avocado or olive oil to water to help the ramen from sticking, and then add the ramen noodle squares to the pot. After a minute, break apart the noodles, and cook another 2-3 minutes to keep an al dente, bite tender texture. If you like your ramen noodles softer, you can cook further to your liking.
  4. Scoop the ramen noodles with a slotted noodle spoon, and add them to the cooked veggies. I don’t let every drip of water drain off because the extra little bit of starchy liquid helps keep the noodles from sticking. You can use some of the liquid to make the stir fry saucy if you have added a curry seasoning or coconut aminos to dress yours up.

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Paleo Lemon Poppy Seed Mini Muffins :: Gluten/Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, & Refined Sugar Free!

March 24, 2018

Healthy paleo lemon poppy seed muffins are your answer from everything to Easter brunch to your weekday school morning breakfast rotation!

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.

Signs of spring!

I saw my first robin of the spring last week, and while that might not seem like huge news, it pure joy after bitter cold and snow for the last 4 months! We are perfectly giddy to put the snow gear away, and have been enjoying more daylight, sunshine, and the promise of warmer air coming soon! I hope you are seeing signs of spring where you live too.

Easter brunches memories

Lemon poppy seed muffins are about as spring as it gets! I remember the little lemon muffins piled up across brunch buffets for Easter years back, and was always drawn to the bright, fun flavor. I don’t know why it never dawned on me to try to make them myself, but I have been having so much fun testing the idea of these little mini bites in a healthier way, and my girls have fallen in love with the idea as well.

Best of both worlds

Let’s face it…sometimes gluten/grain free baked goods just aren’t the same. They can turn out dry and crumbly – we have all been there. After over a decade of baking gluten free with years scattered in there that had to be grain free, I will be the first one to admit it takes some practice. You will love how soft and fluffy these lemon poppy seed muffins feel though! I am always blown away when I work with cassava flour – when you do it right it really has a great, soft, gluten-like texture. And of course you can’t go wrong with lemon and honey for the flavor! I think my favorite part is the hint of almond extract that really takes it over the top.

Quick and easy batter *and* freeze-able…yes please!

Because these mini lemon muffins are not only perfect for the Easter brunch! They pack perfectly for your hiking adventures, and be a great addition to your weekly school morning breakfast rotation too. The batter blends right up into a 4-cup measuring cup to pour right into your muffin pan, and can be blended up ready to go in less than 10 minutes! I did my freezer test on the muffins last week, and the texture holds up as well as taste. Bulk up and make your mornings easier!

How to make lemon poppy seed muffins a school morning breakfast

Because it is what I do best…let’s get practical 😉 Easter brunch is great, but these muffins are so great for a quick school morning breakfast too. Here are some ways to make it a balanced meal for your kiddos:

  • Lemon muffins and glass of raw milk/coconut milk (You can pack the milk in a thermos if on the go. I used these for travel drinking for my little ones). You can spread butter on the muffins too.
  • Lemon muffins spread with coconut butter, and dish of coconut yogurt. You can add collagen to the yogurt for extra protein too. If doing this to-go, just put the yogurt in a to-go container.
  • Lemon muffins with breakfast meat and a banana. (Bacon, sausage, or even dinner leftovers like chicken or beef – I served my kids meat leftover from dinner for breakfast since infanthood so they really don’t know any differently. If you have little guys at home, start now – it makes life so much easier down the road!)
  • Lemon muffins, raw cheese/goat cheese, and grassfed beef jerky make a great on the go bowl of little bites!
  • Lemon muffins, cubes of avocado, a few almonds, and a clementine make a great on the go bowl of little bites too!

Don’t forget the lunchboxes!

The girls have loved having the lemon poppy seed muffins in their lunchboxes to go with a thermos of soup, or in their morning snack container for mid-morning. It is a great boost of energy that isn’t full of sugar and has blood sugar stabilizing protein, fat, and fiber in a balanced combination.

Ingredient notes

  • Make sure to measure out the lemon juice – my lemons may be more, or less juicy than yours, and the liquid makes a difference in the final product.
  • You can swap the sweetener for your choice. We get a local raw honey from a farmer we love and the taste is so amazing. Just be sure to pick a honey that you love the taste of. If you get a very flowery honey, your muffins will take that taste on (which might be a good thing if you like that!). If you don’t have access to a quality raw honey, this is a good brand. I think coconut sugar or pure maple syrup would swap well too – the honey goes with the lemons so well though.
  • You can swap the coconut milk for raw milk/cream if you tolerate dairy. I don’t think rice milk will be fatty enough. Cashew or almond milk/cream should be fine. I do not recommend consuming soy milk.
  • I have not tried other swaps for the cassava flour. Even if you are not grain/gluten free, I would recommend giving your guts a break from the typical flours you use and try something new! Cassava flour is made from the cassava plant which is a root vegetable. It has numerous health benefits from gut flora feeding PRE-biotic fiber and healthy, energy giving carbohydrates.
  • Egg free friends, I think you could make a few flax eggs to swap here. I would add a splash of ACV to help react with the baking soda to help with some rise – the muffins might not puff up as much as these since eggs really help with rising, but I know they will bind well and should taste great. I have made these with duck eggs if you happen to tolerate those better (my daughter and I tolerate duck eggs better than chicken eggs). If you try an egg free alternative, please let us know how it turns out in the comments so that other egg free readers might gain from your experience. Thank you!
  • I think you could leave out the collagen if you don’t have access to that. I love the extra bit of protein and gut nourishment it provides, and collagen tends to lend some softness to baked goods that I love.

Little hands friendly, and toddler approved!

I’ve been a bit laid up over the last 6 weeks healing a broken wrist (boo!), and I’m telling you, dear momma, I am so thankful for this mini muffin pan that I just happened to get not to long before that. I have been able to have a freezer bag filled with quick, healthy muffins for my littlest to munch on for early school mornings, and I can back off on too much breakfast cooking. Toss a few mini muffins in a little bowl with a hardboiled egg, and your little guy can have a nutritious breakfast on the way to dropping siblings off to school, or packed up in a container to have for breakfast at daycare.

4.9 from 20 reviews
Paleo Lemon Poppyseed Mini Muffins :: Gluten/Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, & Refined Sugar Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup raw honey (This is mildly sweet - you can taste the batter and add more to taste if you like. I get raw honey from a local farmer. If you don't have access, THIS is a good brand.)
  • ⅓ cup avocado oil (Melted coconut oil or butter should work too)
  • ¼ cup juice from a lemon (this has been 1 medium/large lemon for me)
  • 2 tsp almond extract (Vanilla extract would be nice too if you can't have nuts or don't have almond extract around)
  • ⅓ cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • ¼ cup grassfed collagen
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 heaping tbsp lemon zest (this has been the zest of 1 lemon for me.)
  • 1 tbsp poppyseeds (optional if you don’t like them)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and grease your mini muffin pan. I like to use this avocado oil spray for ease, but you could dip a paper towel in some avo oil to wipe the pan.
  2. Blend the eggs, honey, oil, lemon juice, and almond extract for 1 minute on high. I have been making my batter right in my 4-cup liquid measuring cup to make for easy pouring right into the muffin pan – it fits perfectly. A small mixing bowl works too.
  3. Add the coconut milk, cassava flour, collagen, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds, and blend on low until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the greased muffin pan and bake at 375 for 11 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. To freeze the muffins, let them cool completely before putting into freezer safe bags.

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Gluten Free Mini Pancake Muffins :: Easy Prep, 8 Ingredient Batter Too!

March 17, 2018

On-the-go breakfast just became kid friendly, mess free, and super delicious with these portable, pack-able, freeze-able gluten free mini pancake muffins!

So close we can almost taste it…

Spring that is! We have had some glimpses of spring teasing us with its promise of more sunshine, and we are soaking in all that we can as we climb out of our winter hibernation! I hope you all have been able to see peeks of spring near you in the last few weeks that I’ve taken off while nursing a broken wrist. Thank you for your patience while I heal – it has been so hard to no be able to type, and I have missed you all! Here’s to plenty of sunshine, and lots of spring and summer recipes on the way to fill your table and nourish your family’s bellies!

Little hands and early mornings…

I’m on the tail end of about 8 years in a row of the toddler and preschool years through 3 different personality kiddos, and dear momma, I have learned so much. While those little guys seem to have early body clocks most days, it always seems like the days that we need to be out the door early are the days that they decide to be pokey in being ready to go for the day…who’s feelin’ me?!

Stop rushing them, and roll with it dear momma

Because it just isn’t worth it. About 2 kiddos into this thing I realized it wasn’t worth fighting. Having some on the go options that pack well for the morning school drop off/carpool/whatever your morning schedule looks like has been a lifesaver for me since my first born started school years ago. Those of you wondering why there are so many breakfast cookies on my blog can now understand how those were born! (Use the search bar up top and search breakfast cookie to see what I mean!). Roll with it and keep your sanity. You can still make healthy, filling breakfasts that can easily pack and travel too.

Saturday pancakes made for a Tuesday morning!

Because most of us don’t have time to mess with fussy 15 ingredient batters, or sit at a griddle flipping pancakes on a school morning! One of my biggest goals with these mini pancakes was less than 10 ingredients. I want even my busy work-outside-of-the-home mommas, and my new-to-real-food-cooking mommas to be able to get these on the breakfast menu weekly and not be intimidated. I’d say these 8 ingredients are pretty simple, and I hope that the fact that they freeze well will also make this a winner for every kind of household schedule.

Freeze-able?!

Absolutely, dear momma! Double up baking the mini muffins for your Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast, and save one of the batches for the middle of the school week! The kids will love the change up, and you will never look back because this freezer batch up business is seriously where it’s at! My freezer routine for these kind of baked goods is to take the freezer bag of muffins out before I go to bed so they thaw over night. Then in the morning just pop them in a cold oven on a sheet tray. I pre-heat the oven to 275 and turn the oven off. They warm up perfectly in the pre-heating time. They do also taste great without being warmed through by the way!

Making these mini pancakes a balanced breakfast

There are so many ways to make this breakfast have a happy balance of macros so the kids are full and focused. On the go ways at that! Please keep in mind every kid is different. Some kids need more of certain macros than others – this is simply some suggestions. Use the shopping cart method and pick and choose what works best for your unique kiddos.  Here are some of the other items I serve with the mini pancakes on busy days that my littlest needs to eat in the car/on-the-go:

  • Plain pancake muffins with hard boiled eggs and glass of raw milk/coconut milk (pack the milk in a thermos if on the go. I used these for travel drinking for my little ones). You can spread butter on the muffins too.
  • Pancake muffins spread with coconut butter or nut/seed butter of choice, and dish of yogurt. You can add collagen to the yogurt for extra protein too. If doing this to-go, just put the yogurt in a to-go container.
  • Plain pancake muffins with breakfast meat and a banana. (Bacon, sausage, or even dinner leftovers like chicken or beef – I served my kids meat leftover from dinner for breakfast since infanthood so they really don’t know any differently. If you have little guys at home, start now – it makes life so much easier down the road!)
  • Plain pancake muffins, raw cheese/goat cheese, and grassfed beef jerky make a great on the go bowl of little bites!
  • Plain pancake muffins, cubes of avocado, a few almonds, and a clementine make a great on the go bowl of little bites too!

 Ingredient Tips

  • Measure the maple syrup to taste. If you have little ones use that 2 tbsp – they won’t know any differently. If you have older kids, that 4 tbsp will make it tasty to the point they won’t want to dip it in more maple syrup like real pancakes. I have found that when I make them with less syrup with the thought of letting them dip the pancakes in syrup, they use way more syrup than if I just add that extra syrup into the batter and don’t offer the dipping. Do what works for you though!
  • I’m sure other GF flour blends would work, but I have not tested them. I hear the TJ’s GF mix is very similar to Namaste. Let us know in the comments if you try a different GF flour blend and how it works!
  • For my grain free friends, my goal with this recipe was super, super simple for even new real foodies to be able to make, which is why I stuck with the simple GF flour blend. I have not tested the recipe with grain free flours, though I think it is definitely do-able. Amounts will need to be adjusted for sure, and you will probably need a couple different types of grain free flours to make it work – if you like playing around with that let us know what you try and what works! I’m sure there are others who will love to learn from you! In the meantime, have you seen the Paleo (grain free) mini banana muffins posted last month?! They are ahhh-mazing!
  • Egg free friends! If you can’t swap the chicken eggs for duck eggs, go ahead and swap eggs for flax eggs. I think it will work just fine. You may want to add a tbsp of apple cider vinegar to react with the baking powder to help with the rise of the muffin since the eggs not only help bind, but also rise.

My newest kitchen love…

Gah! You guys this mini muffin tin. I swear if I could go back to my really early toddler days with 3 kids under 5 years old, I would totally gift myself one of these! It is such a game changer for little hands. Sure, regular sized muffins are a big hit with little kids, but these mini muffins are easier to eat, less messy, and you have less of a chance of that thing happening where they say they want another muffin, take one bite, and then say they are full…*all the eyerolls* right?! Seriously…you deserve to gift yourself one! I also want to mention that I’ve found this avocado spray to be the best way to grease mini muffin tins – it is way faster and makes clean-up a breeze.

Embrace it, dear momma

I used to hate hearing it, because most toddler days just don’t seem to “go by so quickly”…but it truly does. I am not going to say I miss it, because quite frankly it was exhausting. I also truly did savor my babies, so I’m ready for the next stage! Embrace those quirky little guys with up and down appetites, funky requests, perfectly timed melt-downs, and endless unconditional loved kisses and give them a few mini muffins to make the morning a little easier 🙂

5.0 from 13 reviews
Gluten Free Mini Pancake Muffins :: Easy Prep, 8 Ingredient Batter Too!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (olive oil, melted coconut oil, or melted butter would work too)
  • 2-4 Tbsp pure maple syrup (See notes in the "Ingredient Tips" section for tips on this)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups coconut milk (raw milk would work too)
  • 2 cups Namaste Gluten Free Flour (See notes in the "Ingredient Tips" section for tips and swap notes on the flour)
  • 3 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your mini muffin tin. I like to use this avocado oil spray. You could dab a paper towel with avocado oil or butter to grease them easily too.
  2. Blend the eggs, oil, syrup, and vanilla extract on high for 1 minute.
  3. Add the coconut milk, flour, baking powder, and sea salt and blend on low to combine. A few flour lumps are ok.
  4. Scoop the batter into your mini muffin pan filling each cup ¾ of the way full. It should fill up a full 48 cup mini muffin tin.
  5. Bake the mini muffins at 350 for 15 minutes until they puff up and are golden brown on the sides. Cool in the pan for a few minutes and then transfer the mini muffins to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. They slide right out, so I just dump them right on the cooling rack. If you plan to freeze the muffins, cool them to room temp before putting them in a freezer bag.

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Instant Pot Alfredo :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

February 10, 2018

Classic Alfredo flavors in a fraction of the time, and made gluten, dairy, and nut 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.

Mid winter pick-me-ups…

I hear Lake Michigan is over 50 percent frozen these days, and from the looks off the pier down the road at the beach…I believe it! During this frigid time of year, we are definitely in need of some dinner comfort to warm our bellies, and I’ve got just the ticket for you if you’re feeling the same way.

Comforting Alfredo

I remember the first time I ordered alfredo pasta at a restaurant as probably a teen or 20 something. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t fall in love after the first creamy bite, and I remember thinking this must be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I also remember thinking…there is no way I could ever make something like this!

Dairy free Alfredo?!

Interestingly, Alfredo bases are really nothing more than a little garlic, butter, milk, and Parmesan. I am a huge fan of raw dairy, but if you are one that can’t tolerate that (sadly myself and one of my daughters included), there is another way! I have found coconut milk and nutritional yeast to be a great swap – you really can’t taste the coconut. I have a couple of coconut taste critics in my household, and this dinner gets gobbled up time after time without complaint. Cooking the noodles in the coconut milk allows the pasta’s starches to thicken the sauce and there really isn’t anything like indulgent, drippy, creamy, garlic infused Alfredo sauce!

Weekday fast in the Instant Pot!

It’s no secret, the Instant Pot has really been a game changer for a lot of family kitchens, and this traditional real foodie is one of them. It did take me a while to get the hang of it (let’s be honest – it took me 2 months to even take it out of the box!), but it has become a counter staple for weekly bone broth, soups, and whole chickens, and full meals like this alfredo dinner.

Literally one pot for the whole meal – that is definitely weekday friendly!

Pasta favorites

If you tolerate gluten/wheat, I recommend the Jovial brand of Einkorn pasta. If you need a gluten free diet, here are some of my favorite gluten free pastas:

If you are grain free, I would recommend separately making this DIY alfredo sauce, and then just add some spiralized zucchini or sweet potato noodles. My kiddos love this dinner too, and it is a great way to get some extra veggies in. The recipe done in the Instant Pot using veggie noodles will not turn out. The starches from the pasta helps thicken the alfredo sauce, and the cook time would make veggie noodles way to soft.

Add-ins to change things up!

I wanted to keep this recipe as simple as possible, so that there were no more than 10 ingredients. This also leaves some room so you can put your own creative spin on it! I happen to love adding cherry tomatoes to the cooking veggies in the first step. I also tend to add a big hand full of spinach to wilt in after the pasta cooks. If you chop it really small, your littles won’t even know it’s there if that is something that would normally bother them – it is taste free and it just looks like herbs. One of my kids particularly loves it when I add peas, while the another likes when I add bits of bacon.

Important Notes

  • Frozen broccoli gets too mushy. Believe me – I’d love nothing more than to just dump a bag organic frozen broccoli into the pot, but it just doesn’t work.
  • Different pasta brands might have different cook times.
  • I think cashew or almond milk would work if you don’t have coconut milk and like using those. If you tolerate raw milk/cream that should work great. I don’t think rice milk is thick/fatty enough, and I do not recommend soy milk.

5.0 from 20 reviews
Instant Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Alfredo :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup ghee (If you tolerate butter, you can use that. If you don’t tolerate ghee, you can use avocado oil. Coconut oil will change the flavor too much.)
  • 1 small onion, diced small (or ½ large onion)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup white wine or bone broth to de-glaze the pan (white wine adds a really good flavor to the final dish)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken (about 1 ½ chicken breasts), cut on a bias or cubed
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional but gives the cheesy flavor of parmesan. You could use a good 2-4 tbsp parm if you tolerate the dairy. If you don’t have this on hand, a little extra sea salt will help with the salty bite of parm.)
  • 1 ½ quarts coconut milk (I like to use this entire 33oz carton of coconut milk which is about 1½ quarts. If you tolerate raw milk/cream, you may use that)
  • 8 oz gluten free pasta
  • 1 head of fresh broccoli, cut into florets (not frozen broccoli)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Turn the Instant Pot on using the “Sauté” button, and melt the ghee. Add the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt, stir to combine, and cook for 5-7 minutes so the veggies soften and sweeten.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, and then add the wine to deglaze the pan. Simmer the wine for a minute or 2 to burn off the alcohol. Turn the Instant Pot “Off.”
  3. Stir the chicken and nutritional yeast into the cooked onion/carrot/garlic mixture. Pour the coconut milk in the pot, and then put the pasta in. Make sure the pasta is submerged in the coconut milk. Put the broccoli on top of the coconut milk/noodle mixture – do not mix the broccoli in, or the noodles will not stay under the coconut milk and won’t cook all the way through.
  4. Put the lid on the Instant Pot, and be sure the valve is closed. Press the “Manual” button and bring the time down to 2 minutes. The Instant Pot will take a few minutes to come to pressure, and then it will count the 2 minutes down.
  5. When the Instant Pot beeps after the 2 minute countdown, turn the Instant Pot off (do NOT release the pressure valve yet), and set a timer for 3-4 minutes. 3 minutes will leave your noodles with an al dente bite, and 4 minutes will leave them softer. After 3 minutes, release the valve for the rest of the pressure in the Instant Pot, and take the lid off. Stir everything up – I like to let it sit for a few minutes to absorb some of the liquid – this will also allow the noodles to soak in more liquid. Sea salt and pepper the alfredo to your taste and serve!

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Paleo Mini Banana Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Kid Friendly & Easy Prep!

January 27, 2018

Head out the door with fast prep Paleo mini banana muffins, packed with filling, nutritious ingredients to fuel your little ones for the day!

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.

Third kid in, and I’m still learning…!

I am definitely not one to pretend that I have this motherhood thing all figured out. How could you when each child is so individually different and beautiful? Certain lessons pass from one kid to the next, making little aspects of subsequent kiddos added to the mix run a bit smoother, but for the most part, I still take one day at a time figuring this thing out just like everyone else!

My how my mornings have changed!

One routine that looks quite different from my first born in the toddler/preschooler years to my third born is breakfast. Sure, the nutrition is still there, and my standards for quality, nutrient dense meals still remains my number 1 priority, but the mornings themselves just look different. With that first and even the second kid, there was time to help with getting those last few bites down by helping feed them a little if there was an appointment or work to attend. I dare say our mornings were pretty laid back. Even though I worked outside the home during those days, overall there were just fewer distractions and it made for easier meals.

Little hands, little bellies…and busy mornings

The youngest in my house has had to tag along for school drop offs, appointments, and after school activities and play dates since the day she was born. She basically was groomed to go with the flow, but we still struggle with this age that can be pokey at the breakfast table – especially when the big sisters have to be to school by 8:15. There are mornings she sleeps in, and I’m literally popping her from bed to the car seat in her jammies, and other mornings where she has it in her head she is going to play instead of eat when she gets up in the morning – and darn it I’m going to let her do that because she’s 4!

It never fails on those mornings though…she will remind me how hungry she was right as we are loading up the van for school 😉

Mini muffins to the rescue!

One of the reasons breakfast cookies are such a popular and abundant recipe selection on my blog, is because they were my go-to for my youngest for on the go breakfast. I recently saw some mini muffin pans for sale, however, and I thought I might mix things up a little and try some muffins. Larger muffins tend to get pretty messy, or in those smaller ages, sometimes they eat half of a large muffin and don’t need the rest. I never thought to try mini muffins – and it has been on of those lessons learned on this third kid that has really been a life saver!

Priorities…

Because of our busier schedule, my kitchen routine has also evolved a bit with more kids. When babies are home and you are pretty “stuck” at home, it is really easy to have kitchen time almost daily. I really don’t have that privilege anymore, and so prep days are vital, and I need food that can be made in big batches to eat throughout the week or freeze to pull out easy on a busy morning. With that said, here are the goals I had for the development of these muffins!

  • Nourishing ingredients
  • *Minimal* ingredient list (less than 10 ingredients)
  • No fuss prep (batter is done and in the muffin tin in the time it takes the oven to pre-heat!)
  • Keep well on the counter for a few days
  • Freeze-able
  • Pack well in school lunchboxes (because I might as well make these bad boys do double time as not only an option for a school morning, but as a quick add-in for lunchboxes!)
  • Taste good!

But what about filling up the older kids?

I’m all about making each meal fit for every kid in the house – you don’t need to be in the kitchen all day, dear momma.

I am also finding that as the kiddos get older, they ebb and flow in and out of times of what feels like you can never keep them full! Bottomless pits if you will! During times like these (that can also happen with toddlers by the way!), just be sure to have other options around to add to their bowl or plate of food. The muffins are part of the meal. Easy sides like hard boiled eggs, breakfasts meats (bacon, sausage, jerky, or even meat from dinner last night), yogurt, smoothies, etc are just as easy to add to the meal and will fill growth spurting kids up easily.

Mini muffin breakfast side items {that are fast!}

These little muffins are a great source of fiber (coconut flour) and fat (coconut flour, healthy oil, and eggs), but unless you want the whole pan gone in one shot, here are some fast side items to balance out the plate.

  • Eggs (hard boiled eggs can be made ahead of time on a prep day – I make a dozen at a time for easy pull out snacks or breakfast)
  • Raw milk or coconut milk tonics (this is a fatty blend of nourishing ingredients – the recipe I use is in my cookbook Nourished Beginnings)
  • Yogurt or coconut yogurt
  • Breakfast meat (sausage, bacon, jerky, or even whatever meat was served for dinner last night)
  • Green smoothies

Batching & Freezing Tips

I am loving my 48-cup mini muffin tin! This recipe fills between 36 and 40 of the mini muffin cups, so if you have 2 of these muffin trays, you could definitely double up and put them in at the same time. To freeze the muffins, let them cool completely, and put them into a freezer bag to freeze. They can pull out to the lunchboxes and thaw by lunchtime, or you can leave them out the night before to be ready to go in the morning.

5.0 from 11 reviews
Paleo Mini Banana Muffins :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Kid Friendly & Easy Prep!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 small bananas, peeled (If your bananas are larger, or you are going to use applesauce, my 2 small bananas have been measuring out to about ⅔ cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup avocado oil (or melted coconut oil)
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar (raw honey or pure maple syrup would work too)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the bananas in a medium mixing bowl and mash them with the back of a fork until smooth. Add the rest of the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, coconut sugar, & vanilla) and blend with hand beaters for 1 minute until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the flours, baking soda, and salt and blend to combine until smooth.
  4. Scoop the batter into a mini muffin pan. I like to use this safe avocado oil spray to lightly grease the tin before scooping. You could use mini muffin liners or butter - I find the spray faster for so many little muffins. I get about 36 mini muffins out of this batter.
  5. Bake the mini muffins at 375 degrees for 12 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Let the mini muffins cool for a couple minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. The muffins hold up really nice and are ready to eat in a just a few minutes of cooling! To freeze the muffins, let them cool completely and then toss them in a freezer bag to freeze.

More real food fast breakfasts you might like ::

 

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Mahi Mahi Fish Taco Buddha Bowls With Dairy Free Chipotle Garlic Lime Aioli :: Paleo Friendly Real Food!

January 19, 2018

Quick prep “fish taco” inspired Buddha bowls the whole 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.

Let’s give dinner a little change up!

I get it. We all have been there. Just because food bloggers make meal time look effortless, doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with meal planning sometimes. Many of us still have a houseful of kids with normal busy lives and schedules, and that means dinner ruts – even for a food blogger.

The busy mom’s answer to any meal!

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, when I’m in a rush and need something fast for a meal, the ever popular “Buddah bowls” are the answer. I consider myself somewhat of an expert at piling high my biggest bowls with whatever I can to make a meal – having 3 kids in the space of just over 4 years will do that to you!

Meal bowls, (or “Buddha bowls” if I want be popular 😉 ) are quick and easy to make, and can be customized to whatever is in season or in your fridge this week.

How to customize buddah bowls for little kids!

Listen, I love myself a good crisp, raw salad, or a buddah bowl crammed with crunchy coleslaw and slivers of raw veggies. And even though my kids are open to meal bowls with raw veg and salads/slaws, I am here to tell you that using roasted/cooked veg in your buddah bowls will get WAY more veg in the kids – especially the really little guys.

Don’t wait to serve buddah bowls to your kids until they are older and can handle chewing raw veg. Get a little bowl in front of those older babies and toddlers with a variety of roasted vegetables and meat, and let them have at it two fisted! They will be so used to eating them at those young ages, that they won’t bat an eye at this being a regular rotation in your meal plan – and that, dear momma, is a priceless time saver.

A little sheet pan love

Because most nights, I certainly don’t have time to sit at the stove at cook…I love my sheet pans!

Pile a load of your favorite veggies right on, and you are hands free while it roasts right along with the fish. Not only is this method time saving, roasting gives veggies a super kid friendly sweet flavor that irresistible. The meal possibilities are endless with that veggie bin full of produce!

Notes about swapping the fish type and sourcing

While we really love the mild taste and light texture of mahi mahi, if you don’t have access to a wild caught source of mahi mahi, by all means use what you have. Wild cod and wild salmon will work, and if there isn’t a safe source of fish near you, swap the fish for whatever quality meat you love to eat in your house.

We are pretty thankful to have sustainable source of wild caught fish mongers in our area, but that is definitely not the case everywhere. The demand is growing however, so don’t be afraid to look at even regular grocery stores. Our Meijer carries wild salmon, and many times we pick up our wild caught fish at Costco. If you don’t have access to beneficial fatty fish, using a quality cod liver oil in your house regularly will ensure you and the kids are getting the DHA and EPA oils that are so important for nervous system function.

A note about taco seasoning

One of my biggest goals for this particular meal, was to keep the ingredient list to a minimum. Which means go ahead and use that taco season blend you love, dear momma! I keep a tripled up batch of my DIY taco season blend in the pantry so it’s easy to scoop from, or you could keep your favorite brand on hand.

Here are some safe brands with no MSG, fillers, or starches added:

But this sauce though!!!

So let’s talk about this dreamy aioli to drown your fish taco bowl in!

Honestly, I’ve been putting it on just about everything I can lately, from this sheet pan fish taco bowl, to salads, wraps, and even as a dip for homemade french fries. Creamy and flavorful without the dairy or additives, it almost feels too good to be true! I have one “not” spicy fan in the house – this creamy sauce is mild enough for her and should work for most kiddos. You can halve the chipotle to start with just in case, however. All 3 of the girls were licking their bowls clean on this one!

Serving Options & Add-In Choices

The sky is the limit here! Our family tolerates an organic long grain white rice just fine, but there are so many different delicious options for serving your buddah bowls with! And while I would love to sprinkle fresh mango or pineapple over our bowls, winter in Michigan yields over priced fresh tropical fruit, so dried fruit is just as delicious, and keeps my budget happy. The brightness from the fruit also keeps the kiddos smiles around making dinner a bit more fun.

Here are some add-ins to choose from:

5.0 from 18 reviews
Mahi Mahi Fish Taco Bowls With Dairy Free Chipotle Garlic Lime Aioli :: Paleo Friendly Real Food!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FISH TACO BOWLS ::
  • 4 wild caught mahi mahi fillets
  • 1 tbsp taco seasoning to taste for the fillets (I use my MSG/starch free DIY Taco Season)
  • ½ small head of purple cabbage, sliced
  • ¼ small head of green cabbage, sliced
  • ½ Spanish onion, sliced
  • 2 jalepenos, halved, de-ribbed, and sliced (The heat lives in the seeds and ribs, so if you like more heat, leave it in!)
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Your choice add-ins to the bowl! :: tomatoes/salsa, fresh or dried mango, cauli-rice or long grain white rice, avocado slices, fresh sliced veggies like pepper sticks
  • CHIPOTLE, LIME, & GARLIC AIOLI ::
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 small avocado, pitted
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 tsp raw honey
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp chipotle powder (this leaves the aioli with a mild, kid friendly taste – feel free to add more if you like more heat)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425. You can also get your rice cooking at this time if you are serving your bowls with rice – it will be done by the time you finish the fish!
  2. Season both sides of the mahi mahi with taco season, and place on a sheet tray. Toss the cabbage, onion, and jalepeno slices with avocado oil, sea salt, and pepper and spread out on another tray.
  3. Place the veggie tray on the middle rack of the oven, and the fish on the rack below that. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through, and the veggies are lightly caramelized.
  4. While the fish/veggies are baking, you can make the aioli. Place all of the aioli ingredients into a pint mason jar, and use an immersion blender to blend into a creamy sauce. If you do not have an immersion blender, put everything into your food processor EXCEPT the oil. Press blend, and then use the oil drip cup to slowly drizzle the oil in as it is blending so it can emulsify.
  5. After the fish/veggies cook, you can assemble your bowls. Veggies and rice (or cauli-rice) down first, and everything else surrounding it! Drizzle the aioli and serve with lime wedges.

More real food sheet pan and quick prep dinners you might like ::

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Fig Breakfast Bars :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free

January 5, 2018

Make breakfast or snack time count with quick prep, freezer friendly, and power packed gluten free fig breakfast bars!

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 great winter produce dilemma!

Well in the north it’s a dilemma at least – especially if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for out of season fruit and veggies. We are enjoying all that winter brings to us though, including almost daily sledding trips during the long holiday break!

Settling in for the long winter…

While I’ll be looking forward to grabbing up some early strawberries from my Floridian and Californian friends this March (thank you for shipping them to Michigan – we are so thankful!!), this time of year we like to enjoy what is left from our summer blueberry and cherry picking freezer stash so we don’t grow tired of the same oranges and bananas through the long winter months.

Because we have such long winter here, we do rely on dried fruit a bit! Drying fruit throughout the seasons is something our ancestors would have done to preserve the food growing in their area for times like winter when food is at lower supply, and it is so smart! Dried fruit keeps in the pantry easily, and provides a real food source of some pretty important vitamins and minerals our bodies need – not to mention tasting pretty amazing!

Figs!

Dates and figs are probably our household favorite, and since organic fresh produce was slim pickings this week (or way more than I care to afford!), we’ve been enjoying figs! (The linked brands are what I pick up at Costco).

Not only do figs taste pretty amazing, they are packed with potassium and magnesium – minerals that most of us could use a little more of! They are a great, real food source of fiber, as well as vitamins like B6 and K. They are readily available in most stores, and they are really cost effective on Amazon or at Costco.

A new breakfast change up

My kiddos have been ready for a breakfast change up, so my big bag of dried figs from Costco was the perfect reason to hash out a new recipe just for them…and for you! Sweet, dried figs layered with some power packed, fat and protein loaded ingredients make for a great addition to any school morning breakfast, or an easy, pack-able morning snack for school too.

Busy momma, I haven’t forgotten you!

Because let’s face it…none of us have time for a fussy breakfast prep on busy school mornings! Not only are these fig breakfast bars easy enough to make the night before school, they are freeze-able! Which means you can double batch them on the weekend (or whenever your “prep day” is), and keep them in the freezer. The kids can pull their own bars out in the morning on the way to school, and that is about as hands-free prep time as it gets!

Prep time tips

I’ve made these bars at least a dozen times over the last week, and I’ve got some tips to help your kitchen time flow super fast!

  • The pan can be put together in the time it takes your oven to pre-heat if you simmer the figs while you prepare the crust in the pan.
  • The bars need to cool completely to set up before cutting, so you could potentially bake them off in the evening and stash them away in the pan in the fridge til morning when you cut them up for breakfast. Otherwise, getting the bars made up on your prep day list will be beneficial – you can double up and store them away.
  • Do not try to double the recipe into a larger pan – the middle doesn’t cook or set up as well. Instead, I doubled up into two 8×8 pans, and they cooked beautifully.

How to use your fig breakfast bars

For some children, a fig bar and a cup of raw milk or coconut milk would be the perfectly portioned breakfast. For others, a fig breakfast bar with a side of hard boiled eggs or sausage and a cup of yogurt will be best. Still others will be one way this week, and the other way the next! Bottom line…all kids have different appetites and growing periods, so listen to that.

For the toddlers who tend to eat 2 breakfasts, this is a great second breakfast mid morning! Start them off with some eggs and/or veggie hash, and milk in the morning when they get up, and finish off their morning with a bar when they get hungry while you are out grocery shopping! I’ll be using these bars for my school aged kids in their morning snack boxes a lot I think. When I use them for breakfast, they will be having theirs with sides of sausage and raw milk or coconut milk.

Ingredient notes and swaps

While I did make quite a few batches of the bars, there is no way I can possibly test out every swap option. I’ll list out what my thoughts are, and if you do try a certain swap not listed here, we would love it if you would leave your results in the comments so others may use your method if they need that swap too!

  • Fruit swaps: dried apricots, dates, and dried mangoes should all work quite well. I also think that even just a fruit jam you have sitting around would work, though watch the added sugar on some of those.
  • Coconut shred swaps: Sprouted oats work well for the coconut shreds if you can tolerate oat grain.
  • While I did not test swaps for the almond flour, I do think that sunflower seed meal should work fine. If you try a different gluten free flour, start out with a smaller amount – you can always add more if it’s too wet.
  • Chia seed swaps: Flax meal works well if you prefer that, or you can swap the chia out for more coconut shreds which also works. I like the variety of having a healthy seed in there, but if you do not tolerate chia go ahead and swap it out.
  • The grassfed collagen is optional if you do not have it around. If you have it sitting around, it does add another protein component to the bars.

5.0 from 19 reviews
Fig Breakfast Bars :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put the dried figs and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes while you prepare the crust.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients (shredded coconut, chia, flours, coconut sugar, baking soda, and salt) in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Melt the coconut oil, turn off the heat, and add the vanilla. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Use your 1 cup measure to take out 1 cup of the crust mixture, and set aside. Press the rest of the crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 8x8 baking pan (grease your pan with organic palm shortening, coconut oil, or butter).
  5. Blend the simmered water/fig mixture in your food processor, and spread over the top of the pressed down crust in the pan. It spreads really easy like jam. Sprinkle the reserved 1 cup of crust over the top of the jam and lightly press it down, making sure to get the sides and corners too.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Let the pan cool completely before cutting the bars so they can set up. If you cut the bars while warm, they will fall apart. In fact, I found that cooling it in the fridge or freezer made for the cleanest cutting. Once the bars are cut, you can store them in an airtight container for a few days, or pop them in a freezer bag to freeze up to 3 months.

More real food breakfast ideas you might like ::

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Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal Cups

December 9, 2017

Tart, seasonal cranberries meet bright, sweet oranges to make a compact, portable, easy to make breakfast for little hands, or on the go!

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.

T’was the night before Christmas…

It’s the best isn’t it?! I take this picture the “night before Christmas” every year, and I seriously pinch myself with each passing year because it just gets better and better as the girls are at these amazing ages of understanding the wonder of this season. The kids always have a way of reminding me to be a kid again (ie chill out and just enjoy it all!)

Slowing down

The last couple years have given me this sense of needing to slow down and just enjoy it. I know that while the holidays will always be fun with my family, the type of “fun” will be in ever-changing ways as the girls get older, and I want to savor this little kid season we are in right now. While this foodie momma would just *love* to plan out an elaborate Christmas morning breakfast for everyone to help make and enjoy eating, breakfast is about the last thing on these little one’s minds on Christmas morning!

Fun and fast food prep!

A happy medium is the answer right?! Last year I created these super yummy blender batter cranberry breakfast cookies that became a huge hit on this blog even outside of the Christmas season. They made a fun, fast breakfast the kids could munch on while they enjoyed tearing into their gifts and playing with a new toy.

Last year they ended up working perfectly as a “first breakfast,” and then we had a nice brunch later in the morning when I had some time to cook. We fell in love with this concept, so I decided to create another fast holiday breakfast option to have fun with this year.

A faster, more portable baked oatmeal

This summer, a bushel full of peaches inspired me to fill my freezer with school morning friendly *portable* peach baked oatmeal cups. They have been so nice this fall on busy school mornings, and I thought maybe I’d do a spin on those with a more holiday season flavor profile!

Fresh cranberries versus dried…

Sweet and tart cranberries and a subtle bright freshness from an orange…what’s not to love?! I have made at least 6 batches of these cranberry orange muffin baked oat cups, and I’ve got some tips to help you customize them to your family’s preferences!

  • I’ve made batches of all fresh cranberries, and some with all dried cranberries, and both turn out well! It all really boils down to your flavor preferences. If you love the tartness of a fresh cranberry, there is enough sweetness in the muffin to balance it so you aren’t puckering! This was our favorite way to make them. If you prefer sweeter dried cranberries, go for it! It turns out great too!
  • I made one batch with chopped fresh cranberries – it does back off the tart punch if you are afraid of that. We still really loved the whole fresh cranberries as our favorite.
  • Don’t leave the orange zest out! It really helps with the hint of orange flavor. The juice isn’t quite enough!

A practical solution to enjoying a childhood full of fun Christmas mornings!

I really hope that what has become a family tradition of fun, faster prep Christmas morning breakfasts for our family will help you to enjoy this precious time with your kids at this age even more. I’d love to see what you end up making – if you post to Instagram, hashtag #raisinggenerationnourished and give me a tag so I can see! Wishing you and your family a merry Christmas!

5.0 from 15 reviews
Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal Cups
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups oats (Not quick oats. If you are gluten free, make sure your oats say gluten free like these.)
  • 1 cup Namaste gluten free flour blend
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or raw milk if you tolerate dairy)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • ¼ cup juice from your zested orange (this has been about the juice of about 1 medium orange for me}
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (or melted butter, coconut oil, or ghee )
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries or ½ to ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • Coconut sugar to sprinkle the tops (optional, but the flavor is so good with these!)
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. Blend the eggs in a medium mixing bowl for 1 minute until frothy. Add the beaten eggs along with the rest of the ingredients to the oat/flour mixture that soaked overnight, and stir to combine (this takes a minute at first as the oat/flour/milk soaked mixture is a bit thick – do NOT add more liquid. It will loosen up as you incorporate the wet ingredients you added.)
  4. 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). Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with coconut sugar if you choose.
  5. Bake the baked oat cups at 350 degrees for 30-35 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.
  6. 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.

More real food recipes you might like ::

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Paleo Cinnamon Snowflake Christmas Cookies Using Coconut Sugar :: Grain, Gluten, Dairy, & Egg Free

November 25, 2017

Celebrate the season without the sugar overload and make these festive and fun Paleo cinnamon snowflake cookies!

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 first snow…

My little winter babes are still anticipating the first measurable snow approaching the first week of December, peeking their little nose at the windows each morning to see if today is the day! I seriously have no idea where they get it from {self proclaimed beach bum here…}, but growing up here my whole life, I do have to say that there is just something magical about that first snowfall!

Bringing a little snowfall to our kitchen!

So while we await fresh powder to play in outside, I decided to bring a little snowfall to the inside! These sweet little powdery snowflake cookies made the girls completely giddy, and I loved that my oldest could make the entire recipe on her own. Sure the littles in the house loved helping here and there. But there is just something about this age 8…bam! She is not one of the “littles” anymore…she is genuinely a huge help in the kitchen, and so mature it blows me away!

Ownership…

And while we are on that note…man, oh man. Do I ever get it. It takes a little extra time to let them help in the kitchen, doesn’t it? This “Type A” and “go go go” personality momma has really had to learn how to step back and let my kids do their thing. Especially this age. Ownership means the world to them. Being able to edify them in front of their family or peers that *they* made the cookies does amazing things for their confidence.

And that whole “life skills” thing is pretty important too. Believe me. Growing up in a microwave generation and having to teach myself to cook in my 20’s has given me a new appreciation for making sure this generation knows how to make themselves some food. Get your kiddos into the kitchen this holiday season and help them start mastering those kitchen skills – start somewhere!

The holiday sugar trap…

It’s a tough one, isn’t it? I have worked on this balance for years now, and feel like I’ve come up with some happy mediums so that we can both enjoy the fun of the holiday, but also stay healthy and well so that we can actually attend all of the parties and have some fun. Sugar does, after all, feed those sick bugs in our bodies, so party after party, and holiday event after event can really wreck havoc on little ones especially.

{You can read more tips on keeping kids healthy during the holiday season in this super important post!}

A game changing combo!

These cinnamon snowflake cookies are not only super adorable, but they make a much healthier choice for a sweet treat when your kiddos have been “sugar-ed out” and you still have some holiday parties to attend! The nut flour keeping the starches down, coupled with the lower glycemic coconut sugar, make for a winning combination to keep blood sugars at bay.

Ok, fine…coconut sugar…so, how does it taste???

So good! There is a warm, almost light molasses flavor to coconut sugar, so it really gives these cookies in particular a gingerbread cookie flavor with the added cinnamon. It is so festive! I’ve switched to coconut sugar almost exclusively in some of my baking and my family really enjoys the flavor.

Kid friendly serving sizes

Make ‘em small and super cute, dear momma! They won’t know any differently! Here are some super cute mini cookie cutters you can use to make at least 2 dozen cookies (I made over 30 with mine). So instead of having to break apart a huge cookie for your 4 year old, and they feel slighted for only getting half a cookie, they get to have a whole one! Or even 2!

A note on the powdered sugar…

If you have super little ones at home and no bigs…I’d just leave it off 😉 They really don’t know any differently, and the cookies taste amazing without it! If you have some older kiddos at home like I do…I’m telling ya…the illusion of these looking snow dusted with the powdered sugar is SO worth the look on their faces! Do it up! Grab an organic/non-GMO sourced powdered cane sugar, and let them shake it on. Just watch those sweet faces light up!

Ingredient notes

Five batches in, and I was able to at least narrow this one down to gluten, dairy, and egg free! I know, I know, my dear nut free friends! Sigh. I didn’t get to trying these with a seed meal – I really think a sunflower seed type deal just might work. Blend it up into a “flour” and give it a go! And please comment below if you tried it so others who need to be nut free may try. I feel like I worked out the rest of the common allergens like dairy, gluten, and egg though!

If you don’t have access to coconut sugar, then organic cane sugar will work fine. I also think that soaked, blended dates might work. I think honey or maple syrup will be too runny/sticky, but you could give it a try.

5.0 from 14 reviews
Paleo Cinnamon Snowflake Christmas Cookies Using Coconut Sugar :: Grain, Gluten, Dairy, & Egg Free
Author: 
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Put all of the ingredients into a medium mixing bowl, and blend to combine. The dough should press together well. It shouldn’t be tacky or wet though. From here, you can either roll them right out, or refrigerate the dough until you are ready to roll it out. I have done both, and rolling out is easy both ways – I feel like the cut-outs came out of the cookie cutter a little easier when the dough was chilled.
  3. To roll the dough out, you can either use parchment paper, or dust the counter with Cassava Flour. I have done both and they both work well. Roll out the dough, cut the snowflakes out, and place them on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. I found that dipping my little cookie cutter into a bowl of olive oil made the cookies slide off the cutter easiest. Or dip in some cassava flour to flour it before cutting.
  4. Bake the snowflakes at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. You can dust the cookies with the organic powdered cane sugar at this point. After they cool a couple minutes on the baking sheet, move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

More real food Christmas ideas you might like!

 

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30 Minute Gluten Free Kale Stuffed Grassfed Mini Meatloaf with Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies :: Kid Friendly Taste, Paleo

November 17, 2017

A nourishing, nutrient dense meatloaf dinner in weeknight fast prep time!

I see you, dear momma…

I see your endless nights with newborns and toddlers…

I see your taxi driver miles put on the van carting kids to school, events, activities, and friends…

I see that work you are doing both inside and outside the home while the kids are in school, or that on the side work you are doing while your kids sleep at night…

I see you taking the time to navigate teen friendships, homework, and activities.

And I see your heart to want to nourish your family with healthy meals while still keep up a schedule like this…

Because we all can’t do it all

YES balance is good. Yes sometimes things need to be trimmed to make priorities happen.

But I also get that we all can’t stay at home all day and be in the kitchen. We all can’t quit a job that is paying our bills to make sure healthy dinners are on the table every night. And I’ll be the first one to stand up for the stay at home mom to say that it isn’t just playing dress up with babies all day and dollies with toddlers. No one can do it all. No one.

You can still do this

So even if you never try the recipe in this post today (I hope you do!), please walk away from reading this post feeling a sense of hope. You CAN do the real food thing not only on a budget, but on a time crunch. And it is so worth being able to get through your day with that much greater ease because your body is nourished with food that fuels.

Did you hear that part? I didn’t even mention your kids…yes nourishing the kids is great (and so important so they can get through their day too!), but YOU dear momma. YOU need to be fueled because this ship sinks without you being well.

The ultimate nutrient dense dinner…meatloaf!

It is no secret, my family is obsessed with my meatloaf recipe. My husband, in particular, favors it over most any dinner I make. This momma loves that it is packed out with nutrient loaded grass-fed beef AND liver and that it is happily gobbled over and over.

But I don’t, however, always love that it is not very weeknight friendly to prep, and an hour and half cook time just doesn’t work on a Tuesday night…

A weekend dinner made for the weekday!

My meatloaf recipe is so good, but I’ll be the first to admit, that it is more of a weekend meal. Especially when you want to go the extra mile and make special sides like really amazing mashed potatoes. On weekdays, I need quicker prep time, quicker cook time, and just over all less fuss

Quicker prep time, cook time, and less fuss? How can that be for a meatloaf dinner?! I’m so glad you asked!

  • Less fuss with prepping the meat. While I love the flavor that the cooked mirepoix gives in my original meatloaf, it does take some extra time and steps that a weeknight just doesn’t call for. Instead, I packed these little guys out with amazing flavor using seasoning you probably already have in your pantry, and it makes the meatloaf taste really yummy.
  • Less cook time. One-third of the cook time to be exact! Pop everything into the oven for 30 minutes while you help the kids with homework, play a game, give the baby a bath, or read books to the toddler and dinner  is done! Super hands free!
  • Quicker veggie sides – but still kid friendly! I think it’s pretty safe to say most kids will accept sweet potatoes on their plate – especially when they are roasted sweet, and have tasty seasoning. But you can change up the veg to what your kiddos love too! Sheet pan veggies are super fast and kids love the taste.

Tips for making this work on a weeknight

Ok, so I get it. 30 minutes is still 30 minutes, right? So this meal probably doesn’t work on that 2 hour gymnastics practice night, or the night you work late and the kiddos are one their own, or the day you have a fussy, teething baby or sick, needy toddler. But this definitely works for most run of the mill weeknights, *especially* if you do just a little prep work the night before!

  • Get the meat into the pan the night before. Mix it up, divide it up, cover it up, and stick it in the fridge til it’s time to cook!
  • Or, prep the meat into servings and freeze big portions. Put this on your prepday and triple batch! That will make 3 dinners for the next month! Simply freeze the mini loaves and pop them into a freezer bag. You can pull out however many minis you need for dinner that night, thaw them, and cook.
  • Chop the veg the night before. It’s one of the reasons we eat sweet potatoes over white potatoes more often – they don’t brown, so I can prep them ahead! Chopping the sweet potatoes and broccoli the night before will save you at least 5 to 10 minutes of prep time. On dinner night, just dump them onto your trays, oil & season them, and they are ready to go!
  • Use leftover roasted veg from the weekend or night before! Seriously, I do this all the time. When I’m cooking one meal, I might as well double it up I figure. I can use the leftover veggies for my breakfast or dinner the next day.

5.0 from 13 reviews
30 Minute Gluten Free Grassfed Mini Meatloaf with Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies :: Kid Friendly Taste, Paleo
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE ROASTED SWEET POTATOES & BROCCOLI ::
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets (save the stems for broccoli soup!)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil, butter, ghee, or coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp all season salt
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • ¼ - ½ tsp pepper to the kid’s taste
  • FOR THE MINI MEATLOAF ::
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 heaping cup of baby kale, chopped finely
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup gluten or grain free flour of choice (I’ve used tapioca, cassava flour, and white rice flour. Nut flours and coconut flour do NOT work in my experience)
  • 3 tbsp full fat coconut milk or raw milk/cream
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ - ½ tsp pepper to the kid’s taste
  • Ketchup to top the mini meatloaf (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare the veggie trays. Toss the sweet potatoes and broccoli florets in a large mixing bowl with the oil and seasonings, and divide between 2 sheet pans.
  3. Prepare the mini meatloaves. Mix all the meatloaf ingredients together by hand in a small mixing bowl. Divide the mixture into 6, and distribute the meat into a half dozen muffin tin. Spread ketchup on the top of each mini meatloaf if you wish.
  4. Roast everything together at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring the veggies around at the halfway point.

More real food recipes you might like ::

 

 

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4 Steps To Mastering Safe Kitchen Skills With Kids PLUS! A Break Down Of Appropriate Kitchen Tasks By Age

November 11, 2017

“Raising a real food generation in the real world” starts with getting little ones in the kitchen! Learn the 4 steps to mastering safe kitchen skills with kids age by age!

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. 

Where it all begins…

This post is so full circle for me. I literally have chills as I write these first few sentences, because other than writing about nourishing babies with real food and stopping the cycle of processed food, this topic is what I had envisioned writing about more as my kids get older.

Because this is where it all begins, yes? If we want to see the next generation of kids know where their food comes from, and “raise a real food generation in the real world,” it must start with the littles in the kitchen.

…We must stop the cycle of disconnect with our food, and be ok with messy hands, spilled milk, and egg shells in the batter.

…We have to be ok with dinner prep taking a few minutes longer so the toddler can be the one to wash up the potatoes, and 9 year old can be the one to do the chopping.

Maybe not every night, but making a commitment to include our kids in the kitchen will save them the years and years of relationship issues with food that the last few generations are still digging out from. 

Where to start!

So here I am, 8 1/2 years after having my first baby, and having ZERO culinary background or schooling, to tell you that kids really can learn how to master kitchen skills. I’ve found that even with my 3 very different personality kids that there is a really concrete flow for teaching them how to master these skills without tears or frustration. Here is my method!


4 Steps To Mastering Kitchen Skills With Kids


These steps are evergreen for any kitchen skill at any age. The process will look a little different between showing a 3 year old a new skill versus a 10 year old, but the concept is the same. The goal is to set the kids up to succeed and not fail.

  1. Show Them. YOU do the task and explain what you are doing along the way. SLOW DOWN, so they can see what you are doing and process it. You may stay at this step for 1 run through, or for ages. For instance, washing up produce really just takes showing your 2 year old how you want the apples washed, how to do it with care so they don’t bruise, and where to set them when they are done washing. How to clean up their splashes and how to dry the apples. Easy peasy. But my toddlers watched me most of their toddler-hood before they used a sharp knife. Anytime they were up in their little helper stander watching me chop, I was telling them what I was doing. It all starts there.
  2. Hand Over Hand. Get right up over their shoulders and help. Even with the washing example, a 2 year old will still need help along the way until they have done it a few times and know what to expect. You can hand over hand peeling carrots, chopping fruit, stirring a pot of soup or muffin batter, etc. This is really key to helping kids feel confident – because you can keep them safe at the same time. Slip ups and mistakes will still happen, but you are still there.
  3. Supervised Independence. This is where the setting them up to to succeed comes in. Stick around until they feel confident on their own. Letting a 2 year old go to town on a sink full of produce will only end in a mess to clean up and an irritated mom if you are not right there next to them in the beginning to let them know it is not ok to pour a cup of water on the floor. When expectations are clear, they are set up to succeed. This step also is important with older children as well. My 8 1/2 year old is still not out of this step for chopping with a sharp chef’s knife. She mastered using a kid safe kitchen knife years ago, but last year we introduced a kid hand sized, regular sharp knife, and I’m still watching over her shoulder here and there as she goes along. It gives me a chance to correct a posture or holding technique so she doesn’t get hurt.
  4. Mastery. When the child has demonstrated independence over a period of time, you can confidently let the know they have mastered that skill. Kids love this – they literally eat this kind of challenge up. I learned this terminology from watching my girls in their Montessori school – mastering certain skills or work stations gave them such pride.

So let’s talk about age appropriate tasks!

Here me on this first, and repeat after me…every kid is different. EVERY kid is different! This is not concrete, rather a general guideline. I remember thinking sometimes, there is no way my kid could do this or that, and then got gutsy and tried it, and they blew me away at their ability. Other times I would try something that one of the other children was responsible to do at a certain age, or caught onto fast, and was quickly reminded that not every kid is ready for everything at the same time!

Let this be your inspiration! 


Best Kitchen Tasks Ages 6 months 2 years old


  • Mixing Practice :: As soon as those little guys can sit up on the floor, grab those empty mixing bowls and spatulas and let them have at it! Empty bowls of course at first, but you can even toss some blocks or pretend food in. As the little ones are able to stand safely in a little helper stander, you can stand them right up next to you and they can pretend at the counter while you work. A 2 or 3 year old might also do well stirring a small bowl of water to start learning the cause and effect of spilling and splashing. I’d rather have them learn this consequence with a bowl of cool water than a pot of hot soup – 3 kiddos into this thing and we’ve never had a burn from splashed soup because they learned very young that you need to stir gently or it makes a mess that you have to help clean up. (In the image below, you’ll see my then 4 1/2 year old stirring a small pot of soup independently, while my then 2 year old stirs a bowl of water that she is totally pretending is soup 🙂 )

  • Scooping Seeds Out :: Squash clean up is such a fun task for little ones! The sensory play is fantastic, and it is great activity for toddlers

  • “I Chop, You Dump!” :: Toddlers love putting things in and out of bowls, filling up cups, and just feeling like they are helping momma. Tell them you need some help getting those chopped veggies in a bowl and they will proudly puff their chests out to be the big helper. I’m telling you, give a toddler a board full of chopped carrot coins and they’ll put them from bowl to bowl or cup to cup for a good half hour of focused play! I used to start dinner early just for this great occupying play!

  • Washing Produce :: Hop those toddlers up on a Little Helper Stander and let them help scrub the potatoes up, wash up the apples, and rinse of whatever produce you are preparing. A bowl full of water and chopped leeks are great sensory play to get the sand out (and they will inhale this creamy potato leek soup after they rinse the leeks!).

  • Pre-Chopping Skills :: We purchased this toddler chopping toy for my oldest’s 1st birthday, and it has been passed down to each of the other girls – it is a GREAT way to introduce the process of chopping to little ones in a safe way and start building and coordinating their hand muscles for this task.

  • Other odds and ends :: Toddlers big puffy heart love buttons! Let them push the blender, mixer, or food processor on! They also just love being a part of whatever you are doing. Take the time to let them take a turn to stir the muffin batter, put the muffin cups in the muffin tin, put the veggie peel scraps in the garbage, hand over hand scoop the biscuits off the baking sheet, and butter the pan for the bread. You’ll be surprised not only at how much they really can do, but what this does to puff up their confidence in other life tasks.


Best Kitchen Tasks Ages 3-5 years old


Not only will these little guys transitioning into more preschool ages still thoroughly enjoy the tasks from their babyhood, ages 3-5 is a fun age because they are gaining more fine motor control and can reason about hot/cold, cause and effect of splashing, and some are even trustworthy to start some simple knife skills.

  • Same Kitchen Tasks from the Above Babyhood Section :: Just take it up a notch. Give them more responsibility such as counting out how many potatoes need to be washed and dried – and clean up the splashes that happen. Let them mix a bit more when you are making muffin batter.

  • Peeling :: One of my girls was peeling with a Y-Peeler by the age of 2, but she was extremely trustworthy and followed directions well. I usually like to start peelers around age 3, but again, follow your child’s lead. Follow the “4 Steps to Mastering a Kitchen Skill” from above, and you’ll probably never have to peel a carrot as long as they are around! Your older 4 and 5 year olds will also enjoy the Julienne Peeler to make strips of veggie “noodles” for stir frys – they are always a big hit here!

  • Cracking Eggs :: This is a good age to start this skill, though my experience has shown me every kid picks it up differently – one of mine took a good year to master this skill while another just a few tries. Just follow the “4 Steps To Mastering A Kitchen Skill” from above and they’ll catch on!

 

  • Measuring :: I typically start introducing this skill around this age by measuring it myself and letting them dump into the bowl. As they get closer to age 4 and 5, you can start with some independent measuring using smaller measuring spoons and work up to the bigger cups and liquids.
  • Pouring :: Don’t start with something you need poured precisely right away. Start with just a couple of simple tea cups or small pitchers with water only a quart of the way filled up and let them practice pouring from one pitcher to another. Back and forth. You can even start with something dry like rice or beans, and when they master pouring that, use a little bit of water.

  • Special Tools This Age Can Manipulate :: This age does well peelers, Julienne peelers, spirilizers, and little choppers for dicing onion or chopping nuts. Apple cutters work well if you get them started. Don’t try a full apple until they are a bit older – cut some rings of apple and let them do the rounds versus a full apple – full soft pears work well though! They also still love pushing buttons, so let them make the hummus in the food processor, or blend up the smoothie.

  • Messy Sensory Tasks! :: Let them butter up the pan for the muffins or bread, scoop out the seed for the squash (let them put the seeds in a bowl and have at it – they will play with it for hours!), and wash up the dishes. This is big time prime age for helping with cleaning up. They have a deep need for order (this is not just a personality thing – ages 2-4  years old is a Montessori Sensitive Period for “order” where they are seeking out where things should be and how things should be – it is why they melt down when things aren’t just so!). Show them how to wash up the dishes (I keep the sharps out of the dishwater), and how to stack them up on the drying rack neatly – they LOVE this! It is one of the biggest reasons I can’t do without my Little Helper Stander! When they are done with the dishes, let them play in the water a bit 😉

  • Pre-Chopping Skills :: At this preschooler age, I like to introduce a these kid safe knives and start hand over hand chopping practice with soft things like steamed veggies, bananas, strawberries, or soft pears. You will definitely find that chopping responsibility age varies from kid to kid. My first born was trustworthy with a small, paring knife (paring knifes are sharp) for strawberries and other soft veg around the age of 4, while my other 2 were not. My 6 ½ year old is just now starting to use a sharp knife (this chef’s knife is my favorite knife for older kids as they start needing sharper knives for real chopping) safely and I think this is probably more the norm.

  • Hot Food Prep :: Just like knife skills, trustworthy-ness for hot food prep will vary in age from kid to kid. My first born was standing next to me in her Little Helper Stander at the age of 2 and 3 helping me stir a pot of soup. Never leaving her side, but she was very trustworthy. I learned real quick that my second born was not the same way from the second I set her up there and she was going to test my warnings of “hot” herself. Simply let them know you are going to scoot their stander over to the other side of the counter where they can stir a bowl of pretend soup (water) until they are ready to be safe with hot food. It isn’t a big deal! They’ll catch on! She was safely stirring a pot of soup closer to 4 ½ and this is the same for my third born.


Best Kitchen Tasks Ages 6-9 years old


  • Refinement of Toddler Section Skills :: Now is when I’m going to start telling you to let go a little 🙂 Let them make a mess a bit while they learn how to measure flour precisely, let them get  a little egg shell in the batter as they refine their egg cracking skills (just scoop it out before you mix!), and let them have a salad with roughly chopped versus neatly diced carrots. Their confidence and skill mastery will only sharpen with letting go!

  • Follow a Recipe :: While my toddlers and preschoolers watch me refer to my recipes while cooking all the time, when my Kinder age kiddos start reading, I start pointing out what I’m reading and why. Let the 8 and 9 year olds follow a simple recipe for making hummus, a salad dressing, or simple soup.

  • Measuring and Pouring :: Let it go momma, and let them try 🙂 Put the flour in an easy to scoop container (I actually find freezer bags are just as good for the little bags of gluten free flour). Instead of pouring milk from a large jug, let them measure it out from a smaller pitcher. Yes, more dishes to clean and a little extra time, but it is worth it every so often to let them practice this skill.

  • Blending, Mixing, Whisking, Folding :: Follow the “4 Steps to Mastering a Kitchen Skills” and show them the difference between stirring and folding. Show them the different tools and the why behind wanting to fold something versus blend it up with a mixer.

  • Special Tools This Age Can Manipulate :: This age should be pretty independent with peelers and soft veggies like zucchini for the spirilizer. If you get the child up high on a step stool, up and over the apples, an apple cutter works well too – I still find that halving the apple at least so there is a flat, even side to rest on the table so it doesn’t roll around is best. Rolling pins, cookie cutters, and piping bags can all be introduced by age 5 or 6 and refined as they get older. My 8 1/2 year old understands how to independently use the blender for a smoothie, food processor buttons, and the Instant Pot! I’ll be out of a job soon 😉

  • Slicing and Chopping :: This age will still most likely need a step stool for safest chopping. Getting them up and over the work area gives them better control and leverage (try chopping something sitting at the table even level with what you are cutting – it is much easier to be up and over what you are slicing). I like starting with these kid safe knives at first, and then move to these kid hand sized sharp chef knives that are nice and sharp. Remember, the duller the knife the harder they will have to press and that will cause slips and accidents. When the knife is nice and sharp, they won’t have to work as hard and accidents won’t happen. Start using a sharp knife with softer veggies like zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans, and fruit like strawberries. You can core an apple and have them slice those too. When they master being able to handle these softer items, move to carrot sticks and potato cubes, again following the “4 Steps To Mastering Kitchen Skills.”

  • Hot Food Prep :: This age should be pretty good to go on helping stir a pot of soup, but this is also a great age to start teaching how to make a simple egg in a pan, flip a pancake, and sear some meat. It takes some time to supervise and help them learn the coordination of it all, but it is worth it when they can fix themselves an egg in the morning without your help! Again, I think it is best to keep them up and over the work area, so even my 8 year old still uses a step stool at the stove for safe hot food prep.

  • Pre-Meal Planning :: This is a good age to start testing all that you have taught them as little ones with regards to eating in a balanced way! Start having them help you plan out the breakfast menu, pack a balanced lunchbox, and prepare dinner. Every family’s eating style will be different even within this RGN real food community, so I won’t tell you what that should look like. As an example in our home, there is always a healthy fat, veggie, and protein at each meal. It will look differently from household to household, but my kiddos by this age know how to plan a meal and what might be missing.


Best Kitchen Tasks for Older Children (Tweens/Teens)


So here’s were I’m going to make this post an ongoing work in progress! My oldest is 8 1/2! I don’t have older children yet, so I’m not going to pretend that I know what I’m doing here. I do have a few thoughts that I will share, but as my kids reach through these ages, I’m hopeful to update this section as we go!

I think these older kiddos, just like our little guys, are capable of much more than we think. I’m just now starting to work with my 8 1/2 year old on more refined cubing of potatoes and dicing of veg for soups. Following bigger recipes and taking things in and out of the oven. I think tweens and teens ought probably be helping plan and make most of one meal once or twice a week, and packing most or all of their lunchboxes. I would really love to hear what your tweens and teens are doing in the kitchen at home! Inspire us with little ones by using the comment section below to tell us all that your teens can do!


My favorite kitchen tools for kids


Here is a comprehensive list of the tools I love using with my kids – I have tried and tested SO many different kitchen tools with them. Some have been disasters, and so this list is truly all of my favorite tools to make working with my kids in the kitchen safe, easy, and fun!

One of the tricks I used to adding to my kitchen tool collection for the girls, was getting these tools on their gift lists for holidays, birthdays, etc. Wrap them up in a fun apron, or slide a great recipe in with the gift with the promise of some kitchen time together!

 

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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!)

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