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Instant Pot Chipotle Chili :: Stove Top & Slow Cooker Directions Included! Bean free & Paleo friendly too!

November 4, 2017

Slow cooked chili flavor with a special smoked twist, all in record time! 

Snow dusted roof-tops…

…the last week of October. Yup. We woke up to our first light covering of snow this week, as if October just wanted to nudge us a little reminder of what’s to come in the next month. We already had the heavier coats, hats, and mittens dug out of the basement in preparation, and I can’t tell you how my little Michiganders are excitedly anticipating measurable snow in the coming weeks!

So I’m rolling with it…

Chilly fall evenings definitely call for chili! My slow cooker sprouted chili is a family favorite, but this week set ahead of me just happened to be a bit more packed in schedule than my usual, and I just didn’t have time to get beans sprouting. In fact, I decided one morning that chili just had to be on the menu that night, and that figuring out Instant Pot chili was going to happen! I am so glad I pushed myself to figure it out, because this chili is probably going to take over the family favorite status!

Instant Pot versus Slow Cooker versus Stovetop

It’s a hot debate. And I get it. I’m coming from more of an old school, “love my stove-top cooking” type feeling, and I did have a really hard time adjusting to my Instant Pot. I love the flavor that comes from getting veggie down in fat to sweeten and soften, and the slow simmered flavor that comes from the time and patience that stove-top cooking brings. And slow cookers and chili just go hand in hand because that all day low bubble just makes for amazing flavor.

But man, I’m here as a stove-top cooking lover to admit to you that using the pressure cooker Instant Pot the right way gave JUST as amazing depth of flavor as a slow stove top simmer – and gets it done in record time for the busy family.

Weeknight dinner game changer!

Typically chili is something I save for weekend meals since the prep and cook time take a bit longer, but with the Instant Pot, I was able to have this meal done in record time, and it was so satisfying to serve on a Tuesday night!

One of my favorite features of the Instant Pot pressure cooker is the Saute setting. It allows me to get the caramelized flavor out of the veggies that stove-top cooking gives before pressure cooking. While you definitely could just dump all the veggies in and pressure cook it, trust me, the extra 10 minutes of cooking that veg down in some fat makes the flavor SO worthwhile.

Tips for making this chili all YOUR own, and on a weeknight in record time!

I know many people are very passionate about what makes a good chili. I have my list, and yours may look different! If you love a thicker chili, leave out the bone broth. I like a bit more liquid to mine so I can dunk my cornbread or crackers. If you have a certain spice blend that is all yours, do it up! If you prefer beans in your chili, add more liquid/broth and add those beans in there! I don’t tolerate even sprouted beans like I wish I did, and so I’ve learned over the last few years how to enjoy chili without the beans.

While this chili dinner is not a quite 15 minute meal, it definitely is do-able in 30 minutes with an Instant Pot, or right around an hour-ish stove-top so long as you do a few things in prep the night before or on a prep day!

  • Chop the veggies the night before or on your prep day – this saves you a good 10 minutes between all the veg washing and chopping.
  • Cook the squash for dinner the night before and save the cup you need for the chili so you just have to dump it in. Or save some extra time and use canned pumpkin/squash.
  • Cook the beef and bacon the night before or on your prep day. Just be sure to save the fat to cook the veggies in – that flavor is unmatched!
  • Always have bone broth on your prep day plans. I never let my freezer bone broth stash get below 2 quarts so I’m always ready for making dinners like this.
  • You can also always make the chili on your prep day and then warm it through in a slow cooker or stove-top during the week. If you are serving to a crowd at a gathering, a slow cooker will keep the chili warm all day on the warm/low setting. The chili freezes up great too. My kiddos LOVED taking this chili to school in their school lunch thermos, and my husband took leftovers in his travel crockpot he warms at his desk at work!

Toppers and Sides!

Here are some weeknight fast toppers and sides for your chili meal!

  • Avocado slices with chives and parsley
  • Sour cream or raw cheese and chives
  • Crackers (I grew up with “oyster” crackers in my chili, and these GF blender batter crackers taste and feel JUST like those! If you are grain free, try these easy blender batter plantain crackers, or we like the Simple Mills grain free crackers – even Costco carries them now!)
  • Cornbread (This version is gluten free – if you want to make it dairy free too, swap the butter for ghee or palm shortening, and swap coconut milk for the milk and sour cream. The corn bread pictured in this post is done with ghee and coconut milk! If you do not tolerate corn,  you could try swapping the cornmeal for almond flour – I actually think this would work ok!)
  • Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuits (This is a super fast blender batter and they are so good! If you do not tolerate butter, you can use palm shortening or ghee.)
  • Squash Drop Biscuits (This is another good one to swap if you can’t have corn and need dairy and gluten free too.)
  • Salads with any of these popular kid friendly dressings, or my personal favorite with this chili is the Olive Garden Copycat dressing.
  • Big veggie platters with clean ingredient Ranch to dip. It doesn’t get any easier than just making a family style platter of veggie sticks to share around, and you can make either this egg free Ranch or my Paleo egg free Ranch dip if you are dairy free. If you can tolerate eggs, we also love this squeaky clean ingredient store bought Ranch from Primal Kitchen.

Notes for my Slow Cooker & Stove-Top friends!

Unless it’s worked into your budget, or coming on a birthday or holiday wishlist, there is no need to rush out and grab and Instant Pot just for this recipe. One of my mantras has always been…don’t go broke trying to eat healthy! I spent quite literally the first 9 years of my real food journey with just a stock pot and soup pot at my stove while I learned how to cook, and you can definitely do this thing without an Instant Pot. If it fits in the budget and you are a super busy family that would benefit from the ease and fast cook times, I think you will be so happy with your purchase!

I left both stove-top and slow cooker directions in the Instructions, and you can comment below if you have further questions – I am happy to help! 

5.0 from 14 reviews
Instant Pot Chipotle Chili :: Stove Top & Slow Cooker Directions Included! Bean free & Paleo friendly too!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp friendly fat to cook in, divided (Ghee, butter, tallow, lard, coconut oil, or avocado oil)
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 4 strips of bacon, diced (you can use more if you wish but we found this to be plenty of flavor and texture!)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 small zucchini cubed or diced depending on your size preference
  • 3 jalapeños, de-ribbed/seeds & ribs scraped out, diced
  • 1 cup cooked & pureed squash (acorn, butternut, or koboucha work well. I think canned pumpkin would be fine too.)
  • 1 – 15oz can organic diced tomatos
  • 1 – 15oz can organic tomato sauce
  • 1-2 cups beef bone broth depending on how thick/thin you like your chili (chicken bone broth would be fine too)
  • 3-4 tsp sea salt (start out small and you can always add more when it’s done to your taste)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp chipotle powder
Instructions
  1. Brown the beef and cook the bacon in 1 tablespoon of ghee or other friendly cooking fat. If you are using an Instant Pot using the “Saute” feature to do this. If you are using your soup pot, cook over medium heat until cooked through. Scoop the meat out with a slotted spoon so the fat stays behind for cooking in.
  2. Add the rest of the cooking fat to your IP or soup pot and sauté the onion and peppers with a pinch of sea salt for about 10 minutes until soft and sweet.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  4. Return the meat to your IP or soup pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Give the chili a stir to combine. IF YOU ARE USING THE INSTANT POT, put the lid on, close the valve, press “Manual,” and bring the time to 15 minutes. The IP will take about 5 minutes to come to pressure, and then will pressure cook for 15 minutes. When the pressure cooker beeps that it is done, turn it off and let the pressure release naturally about 5 minutes before opening the lid. IF YOU ARE USING THE SOUP POT, put the lid on and bring to a low simmer for about 1 hour. You could alternatively use a slow cooker from this step cooking on low for 6-8 hours.

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

September 13, 2017

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

Fall fun!

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

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

My granola bar nemesis conquered…

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

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

So worth 6 batches!

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

Minimal prep is the name of my game!

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

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

Nut free school zone safe!

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

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

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

Change it up!

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

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

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

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Crispy Baked Eggplant Dippers and Italian Meatballs

July 20, 2017

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

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

 

We are complete and utter beach bums in the summer…

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

Summer eggplant love

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

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

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

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

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

Little kid sized fun!

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

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

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

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

Ingredient notes/swaps

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

A note about leftovers!

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

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

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Pectin Free Cherry Jam :: Honey Sweetened Too!

July 7, 2017

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

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

It’s no secret…

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

A short but sweet season!

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

Novice cherry jam maker…

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

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

…So a pectin free trial run happened…

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

A note on the “sweet” and types of cherries

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

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

Storage!

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

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

Recipe size and jar storeage

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

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

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

June 23, 2017

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

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

Little kids and Ranch dressing…

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

But back to the kids and Ranch!

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

So what’s the problem with commercial Ranch dressings?

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

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

All the flavor, using real ingredients!

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

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

Lightning fast prep!

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

Why dairy free?

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

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

A note on the fresh herbs versus dried

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

Different ways to flavor your Ranch!

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

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

A note on tools…

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

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

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

June 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)

May 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)Fermenting tools

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

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

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

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

Probiotic Rich Asparagus Pickles (Fermented Asparagus!)

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

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

May 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten Free Options ::

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy Free

May 12, 2017

Portable, pack-able, and power packed! Paleo chia honey power bars are a busy family game changer!

Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy FreeProduct 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.

When the magnolia tree blooms…

I always feel like spring has finally sprung! It bloomed on the early side this year, and the girls always feel like they have their own personal flower palace to play in for the week or so that the magnificent blooms stick around.

Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy FreeSpring also brings busier schedules for us…

…and less kitchen time for me! This is always the time of year that I have to take a step back and really prioritize so I’m not saying “yes” to all the things, and forgetting to enjoy the season. One of the ways that I can say yes to more outside-the-home-activities, is to be sure I optimize any kitchen time I have.

Here are some tips for doing that:

  • Plan 1-2 hours (or a morning/evening) for a prep day. During this prep time, get ahead on whatever you can to make your meals run smoother for the week. I have one prep day (about 2 hours) every week. My prep time almost always includes, making bone broth for the week, salad dressings/mayo for the week, a dozen hard boiled eggs for the week, and veggie soup for the week to use. Bone broth and eggs are pretty hands free, but it is cooking along while I take a few minutes to stir up dressings, and get a pot of soup going. Once you get in a “mode” it’s easy to move from one thing to another in one shot.
  • Prep odds and ends to make meal prep flow faster during the week. On your prep day add whatever else might be needed for that particular week such as veggie chopping to make dinners run smoother, making crackers or granola (which I usually replenish once a month or so), or getting breakfast cookies, pancakes, or bars like these chia honey bars into the freezer so breakfasts and snacks run quick.
  • When making dinners, double up to optimize your time. It’s always nice to take a couple nights per week off from making dinner! Warming up dinner leftovers really helps on busier nights. Also, consider taking a longer prep dinner such as roasted chicken, to have on a less busy day like the weekend. Then, as you are de-boning the chicken pop the bones into your crockpot or Instant pot to make bone broth right off the bat. The leftover meat can be used Monday night when everyone is busy from their day back to school or work for a quick stir fry or salad, and the bone broth can be used for a dinner meal of soup later that week.
  • Allow yourself a non cook night 😉 Or two! It is totally acceptable to have a family style platter dinner night! Load up a big tray of veggies and dip, fruit, cheese, nuts, olives, and hard boiled eggs. Or have a salad bar night using veggies, nuts/seeds, dried fruit, leftover meat, or avocados.
  • Ask. for. help. 🙂 You are allowed! If those kiddos are old enough to feed themselves off a plate, they are old enough to peel carrots, chop fruit, stir a pot of soup, and wash the dishes. It’s ok to teach the kids that many hands make light work 😉 The more you can get done with your crew of hands, the more park time, beach time, zoo time, play time!

Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy FreeSo let’s talk about these chia honey power bars!

I love hand held snacks just as much as everyone. I put so much thought into every single ingredient in these bars, so that with even the littlest of kiddos in the house, “every bite counts!”

Here’s a little break down!

  • Chia Seeds :: The tiniest of superfoods, chia seeds are not only loaded with fiber, protein, antioxidants, and omega 3 fatty acids, they are a mineral powerhouses of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and manganese.
  • Friendly Fat Focus :: Filled to the brim with long chain fatty acids, the shredded coconut and avocado oil feed growing brains and satiate the hungriest of appetites (because “I’m hungry” every hour doesn’t jive in this house!)
  • Protein Balance :: The chia provides some protein and there is also a nut sourced protein as well as grassfed collagen sourced protein. It’s a great balance and helps keeps the kids fuller longer as well as help feed their muscle growth.
  • Non Refined Energy Source :: These are power bars for active kids after all! Listen, kids expend a LOT of energy. The raw honey and banana not only make the taste more palatable for kids, it also provides a great energy from a safe source to keep kids going. The fat and protein will keep blood sugars balanced so they aren’t crashing on you within an hour.

Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy FreeTips for freezing

These bars freeze up fantastic. If you have those bananas starting to turn too ripe on the counter, grab them up and double batch into honey chia power bars for later. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to say “yes!” to an impromptu park picnic or beach day and pull a nourishing snack or meal addition out of the freezer. Not having to worry about what the kids are going to eat when they {inevitably} get hungry, is a game changer, dear momma!

You can pop your honey chia power bars right into a freezer bag. For lunch packing, just put them right in the lunchbox from the freezer – they will thaw by lunchtime. If you are serving them for breakfast, you can either set them on the counter the night before to thaw overnight, or you can pull them out of the freezer and warm them up in the oven.

Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy Free

5.0 from 7 reviews
Paleo Chia Honey Power Bars :: Gluten, Egg, and Dairy Free
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup chia seeds (flax seeds should work here too)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 small ripe bananas (I think 1 cup of applesauce would work here)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (or melted coconut oil or butter)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour (If you are nut free, I think ground sunflower seeds will work, or swap for cassava flour or sorghum flour. You may want to back off the amount to ¾ cup with the sorghum.)
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup grassfed collagen
  • ¼ cup honey (you can taste the mixture and add more if you need. If you have really little guys in the house I’d stick to this or even just a few tablespoons. For the little ones, go with less sweet than your preference as they really don’t know any different!)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Blend the chia seeds and water so the chia seeds are more of a “meal” versus seed texture. Set aside to thicken while you make the rest of the batter (It will get goopy, almost pudding like. It will act like “glue” to bind the bar.).
  3. Put the bananas in a medium mixing bowl and mash with the back of a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, along with the chia/water mixture, and mix everything to combine.
  4. Press the batter into a small baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the bars cool 10 minutes before cutting.

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Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!

April 9, 2017

Creamy paleo coleslaw will become your quick & cool summertime veggie staple!

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

Spring is {finally!} in the air!

And everything is starting to wake up and perk up around these parts! Despite the really cold temperatures during spring break week, we made the best of our time off, enjoying one of our favorite spring stops! The butterfly gardens!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!Less kitchen time is the name of my game…

With spring time also comes busier schedules. I need to get these little people out in that sunshine they have been so desperately lacking over the winter months, and let’s just be honest…I need it too! After being cooped up for months on end, I’m ready for more park time, beach sand, and bike riding!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!Less kitchen time doesn’t have to mean compromising on real food

In the warmer months of the year, it is still important to keep the kids and myself fed well so we have energy to do what we want to do! It’s one of those work smarter, not harder things! And one of my work smarter not harder mottos is – bulk up!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!Keep it simple and don’t over-complicate!

In the fall and winter, I bulk up on soups to pull from the freezer, and steamed veggies to scoop from a container in the fridge. In the summer, while we still drink a lot of veggie soup (Hello fresh summer tomatoes for the best fresh tomato soup!!), cooler veggie sides like veggie sticks, salads, and slaws rule the week. Fresh veggies are so easy to grab at farmer’s markets this time of year. They pack up for on the go so fast too!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!Prep ahead once, eat all week long!

Cool veggie sides like veggie sticks, slaws, and salads make the perfect warm weather meal addition for busy families. Coleslaw is one of my favorites to prep for the whole week because the flavors just get better as the week goes on…if it lasts that long! You might be surprised at how much your kids take to creamy slaw salads. Because of their smaller, bite sized, shredded pieces, my toddlers took to slaws quicker than they took to big kid salads.

And have I mentioned how amazing coleslaw is on top of a grilled summer burger?!

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!Notes on ingredients and swaps!

This coleslaw makes enough for a family gathering, picnic, or BBQ, filling a medium sized serving bowl. This amount is also great for keeping in the fridge all week to scoop from just for your family. If you have a smaller family, you can half the recipe – my crew quite literally inhales this just shy of a week!

The dressing I use in this coleslaw is derived from my Paleo Egg & Dairy Free Mayo. You can use whatever clean mayo you like – here are some options for you! {Don’t forget to add the hint of heat in the recipe and the paprika – it takes the flavor over the edge amazing!}

Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Creamy Paleo Coleslaw :: Egg, Dairy, Gluten, and Soy Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ head purple cabbage, sliced thin
  • ½ head green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of your favorite clean ingredient mayo or homemade mayo (Amount depending on how creamy you like your coleslaw. Pictured here is about 1 ½ to 2 cups. I use this homemade egg & dairy free paleo mayo – it blends in the jar in just minutes! This is another great mayo we love too.)
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Optional ⅛ – ¼ tsp cayenne for a flavorful heat kick (or chipotle powder for a flavorful smokey heat kick – my personal favorite!)
  • Sea salt & Pepper to your taste
Instructions
  1. Put everything into a large mixing bowl and combine. Put the coleslaw in an airtight contiainer in the fridge to let the flavors marry for at least an hour before serving.
  2. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

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Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}

April 9, 2017

Just 5 minutes and this creamy paleo mayo is ready to go for your favorite salads, slaws, wraps, and more!

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}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.

When life hands you a lemon…

…you make lemonade, of course!

I don’t consider myself a natural optimist. I have always been quite the black and white realist when it comes to pretty much everything. But, if there is anything that I have learned in almost 15 years of autoimmune thyroid disease, it is that getting down about healing roadblocks and restrictions only makes life gloomy. And when you have a house full of kids, that just plain doesn’t work well.

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}Life handed me a big ‘ol bucket of lemons

Healing roadblocks and autoimmune diet restrictions have been some of my best moments – because this stubborn go-getter fights back making gallons of lemonade out of those lemons. Sometimes it takes those flare ups to get fired up. I had a few days of feeling sorry for myself, and then I got busy. Why? Because I know this isn’t a life sentence. And I know that some of my best work comes during these times.

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}Why no eggs?!

Pastured eggs are so healthy – I mean they are full of really good fats, vitamins, and minerals. But, my friends, just because a food is inherently “healthy” doesn’t mean that it works for every “body.” After a Hashi’s flare up that we are thinking is in part due to an EBV infection coming out of dormancy, I decided to pull eggs out of my diet to help calm the flames of inflammation. Eggs are just one of those foods that can be inflammatory for those with any autoimmune conditions.

Within a month of keeping the eggs out of my diet I had lost 10 pounds. In essence, 10 pounds of inflammation. Even though I was not experiencing digestive distress when I ate them, eggs just weren’t working for me!

(I highly recommend the book Hashimoto’s Protocol by Dr. Isabella Wentz if you have not explored root causes and effective treatments for Hashis – according to her book, the vast majority of Hashimoto’s sufferers should be off eggs {along with dairy, gluten, and soy}. I want to make sure you all know that I am NOT a doctor, and what is working for me, may not necessarily be the case for you. Especially when it comes to autoimmune/Hashis/thyroid stuff, the root cause for one is not always the same for the other. Dr. Wentz’s books have been life changing – highly recommended!)

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}No eggs (or dairy)?! No problem!

I’ve been there and done that – in fact I’ve already been off dairy for the last few years because I know it just doesn’t jive with thyroid conditions. I also couldn’t eat eggs with any of my newborns least they be super fussy, and one of my girls couldn’t eat eggs during her babyhood/toddlerhood. Might there be a genetic component here? Could be. I have had numerous food allergy and sensitivity tests done in the last decade, and I never have come out as allergic or sensitive to eggs. It very well just may be that my body doesn’t do well with them – especially when my thyroid is acting up.

We’ll talk about baking without eggs another day. To be honest, I’m not doing a ton of baking. I’m keeping things as simple, rustic, and gentle as possible right now while I calm my system. Back to the basics…it’s cheaper, easier to plan, tastes amazing, and you know what? It works. If you are needing to calm inflammation, keeping it simple is key.

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}With a good, staple mayo, you can make just about anything!

Why mayo? Because with a good mayo, you can make Ranch dressing, flavored aioli, and just about any slaw, salad, or creamy dressing you need!

I have been craving coleslaw and salads! Probably that spring fever bug that is bitten me! I have been using my Italian dressing, French dressing, and Asian dressing (subbing almond butter for peanuts right now), but I have been wanting my Olive Garden dressing and tuna salad which both need a scoop of mayonnaise to make it taste really amazing! Eggless mayo isn’t a new concept to me – I created this mayo years ago when my toddler couldn’t eat eggs. It is so amazing, and if you can tolerate dairy it is so good – you’ll love it!

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}The real deal…legit…whatever you wanna call it – I want it to taste GOOD!

Over the last month I have been working on this egg and dairy free mayo making sure it tastes *just* like the real thing – ie one that does NOT taste like avocado or coconut! Ha! And I want that smooth, creamy consistency – not too thick and not too thin.

Thank you for being so patient with me as I perfect these recipes – I know my Instagram followers have been asking for these egg free recipes as I post them! I want them to be the real deal before I post, and I am confident your family will love this! The taste *and* texture is just like what I grew up on – you know…that blue lidded container! Only this is made without the rancid soy oils and preservatives!

Homemade Paleo Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}Ingredient notes and swaps!

  • Olive oil will swap for the avocado oil if that is what you have. Avoid vegetable/canola oils. I purchase avocado oil from Costco.
  • Almond or cashew milks should swap for the coconut milk if that is what you have. If you are following an anti-inflammatory (AIP) type diet, coconut milk would be the best option over a nut milk. I promise this doesn’t turn out tasting like coconut! (I love this coconut milk that doesn’t have gums or preservatives, and keep it on hand in the pantry. You can also make your own coconut milk.) If you tolerate dairy, raw milk/cream works too.
  • You can leave the raw honey out if you are sugar free. Organic pure cane sugar or coconut sugar would work too. The hint of sweet makes it really taste like Miracle Whip if that is what you are used to. Without the sweet it tastes more like a Hellmann’s type mayo and is really yummy too! I purchase raw honey from a local farmer.
  • Make sure you taste the mayo once it is blended for sea salt/pepper to your taste, as well as “tang” – you can add more mustard or lemon juice if you want more tangy bite.

I literally eyeball everything into a mason jar – mason jars have measurements on the side so I just fill the avocado oil and coconut milk to the levels on the jar and toss in the rest – it takes less than 5 minutes!

5.0 from 12 reviews
Homemade Mayonnaise :: Free from common allergens! {Egg, Dairy, Soy, & Gluten Free!}
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ - ½ cup avocado oil (depending on how thick/thin you like your mayo)
  • ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 small/medium avocado, pitted
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2-3 tsp raw honey
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Put everything into a pint mason jar, and use your immersion blender to blend until smooth and thick. (I think this would work in a food processor if you drizzle the oil into the oil drip cup to slowly be added in to emulsify.)
  2. Taste for sea salt/pepper to your taste, as well as “tang” – you can add more mustard or lemon juice if you want more tangy bite.
  3. Store your mayo in the fridge up to a week.

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Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!

April 7, 2017

Light and crispy outside, fluffy and chewy inside! You’ll never know these gluten free waffles are packed with protein and nourishing fat!

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!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.

You guys have been so patient!

Thank you for that! I have been posting about these waffles for the last couple months as leftovers in my girls’ school lunches, and my poor Instagram followers are about ready to throw rotten tomatoes at me if we don’t get these bad boys up pronto!

afe waffle iron recommendations!All the texture and flavor you want in a waffle…without the sugar crash!

Because who needs a carb overloaded toddler anyway?! {No thank you!} I’m so proud of the breakdown of ingredients in these waffles. I’m even more proud that they don’t feel like a brick, they don’t crumble in your mouth, and they keep a fantastic texture for leftovers. Which means momma can do double time and save kitchen time! Yeah!

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!If you want the right waffle texture, you gotta play the waffle game…

Which means those darn separated eggs and whipped egg whites. Friends, there is just no doubt about it. If you want super fluffy batter, crispy but soft and airy waffles…you can’t skip this step! Believe me – I have made plenty of brick texture waffles in my day!

I promise it doesn’t take much more than an extra few minutes, and your family is going to rave over these airy, light, and crispy waffles!

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!All star player ingredients!

Ok, so we want that great flavor and texture, but we also want those stable blood sugars, and even a nutrient component to these, right? So here’s what I came up with! Instead of a waffle with all grain flour, I mixed a great gluten free flour blend with some protein and fat rich almond flour. The grassfed collagen keeps the texture soft as well as bumps up the protein even more.

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!Filling and satisfying

Because these waffles are so satisfying, I actually found that my kids are eating less waffles than when I used to make an all grain based waffle. Sure, I always paired their waffles with eggs, raw milk, and even bacon sometimes, but carb-filled waffles are easy to down one after the next. These waffles are light and airy, but they are also very protein and friendly fat rich – which makes them satiating! Next to a side of eggs or sausage, the kids will be full in one serving!

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!Which means leftovers for school!

***Big time round of applause from the busy mommas!***

Because if I can pack Monday’s school lunch right after Sunday morning breakfast…#winning! I slather almond butter and jam, or coconut butter and raw honey in the middle, and then look at all the possibilities!

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!Ingredient notes

  • My sweet egg free friends! Give me a few more weeks – I am on the verge of a waffle that I have been working on for myself since I cannot have eggs right now. This recipe just doesn’t work the same without the eggs. If you are an egg free pro and end up with a swap, leave us some of your wise notes in the comments section!
  • If you are nut free, swap out the almond flour for more of the GF flour blend. I actually think that buckwheat would be a nice swap here too. Buckwheat is a seed, so make sure it doesn’t fall into the family of nuts or seeds you can’t have. It is high in protein and minerals to boot too!
  • I’ve been using coconut milk instead of raw milk for our waffles lately since our milk share is low until late spring. Coconut milk works great!

Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!Safe waffle iron recommendations

I have had my ceramic coated, safe waffle iron for a couple years now and it still works like new! I love it! Here are some safe waffle iron options ::

3

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten Free Protein Waffles :: Gluten, Soy, and Refined Sugar Free!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Whisk the flours, collagen, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Separate the egg whites into a small mixing bowl. Put the egg yolks in a different small mixing bowl along with the milk, oil, syrup, and vanilla extract
  3. Blend the egg whites for a couple minutes on high speed until they are fluffy like whipped cream. Set aside.
  4. Blend the yolks and wet ingredients to combine for 1 minute.
  5. Pour the egg yolk wet ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients, and blend to combine.
  6. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter onto a hot waffle iron and cook according to your waffle iron directions. Mine takes about 2 minutes.

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Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!

March 21, 2017

How do you make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget? Let this veteran real food momma show you how!

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!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.

Early mornings. Clingy toddlers. School work. Never ending bills. Babies that just…won’t…nap.

Dear momma, I am right there in the trenches with you. I get it. I get the time crunch. I get the budget. I get your desperate desire to feed your family well and just not knowing where to start, or where to put your priorities into what part of it is the most important.

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!Baby steps.

Here is some veteran momma wisdom for you. Let’s start somewhere. Instead of getting overwhelmed with fancy food prep, elaborate meals, and time consuming recipes, let’s get back to the basics. Real food at its core. Because let’s face it…our ancestors would have kept it that simple.

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!How to save time among the chaos of mommahood

I do not, I repeat, I do NOT spend all day in my kitchen. Here are a few ideas for you to make your meals work for YOU!

  • Dear momma, make that meal work double time for you. I almost always make more of a meal than we need. Especially when it comes to soups, casseroles, and baked goods etc double up that recipe and use it later in the week when you don’t have time to cook.
  • Get the kids in on the action. I know what you are thinking…doesn’t that make it take longer?! Well, yes at first. But let me give you a little perspective. If the problem with getting the meal made is the kids being around, isn’t getting their hands busy washing, peeling, or playing with scraps at the counter keeping their hands busy so you can do your thang?! YES! Secondly, I promise you that over time, those hands that fumble over a peeler, and need constant supervision at the stove, will become your best soux chefs! My little helpers have become my right hand in the kitchen at times.
  • Prep day. Or prep afternoon or evening. Or prep hour even! Whatever you can do, have one set aside time during the week where you can have a little prep time. Wash and chop veggies (so you don’t have to buy the expensive pre prepped veg!), make salad dressings, mayo, and other simple staples you need for the next couple weeks. Make a huge pot of soup to eat from on busy days so you can avoid reaching for fast food or convenience foods when life happens.
  • Lastly, keep it simple. I love a fancy meal just as much as you. But life doesn’t always allow fancy food prep time. You can still put a delicious, satisfying meal on the table keeping things simple.

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!A little dose of real life…

One of my goals in every post, and every book I write for you, dear readers, is to keep myself as relate-able as possible. My real life is about as real as it gets. We lived for years on one income. We’ve been the one car family, the laid off family, the food stamp family. We have been the sleepless night family, the 3 kids four years old and under family, the both momma and daddy working family.

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!My heart is to show you that despite “life,” this real food thing really can happen.

Because of this real life that I live, I am very choosy about projects that I take on. I’m talking super picky. I only have so much time to pour into projects with my busy family, and I want to be ensured that every project I take on will have meaning for you, my readers.

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!A new project!

Which is why I quite literally jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the 30 Minute Clean Eats On a Budget e-book project. When I read through Kelly’s vision for this E-book my heart leaped.

Her vision for this ebook project included:

  • Recipes need to be free from most common allergens and Paleo friendly. (Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free.)
  • Recipes need to be 30 minutes from start to finish, and must be made in a pot or pan (No slow cooker or Instant Pot recipes because not everyone has one or can afford one).
  • Recipe cost needs to be under $20 for 4 people (the lower the better).

Doesn’t that just make you perfectly giddy?

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!

Well, we did it!

Along with a talented group of 19 veteran real food bloggers, we have compiled an affordable E-Book cookbook of over 80 budget friendly, time crunch friendly, real food meals for the whole family! Not only is this e-book loaded with recipes you can make today, there are tried and true real food budget tips to help you baby step your way into this lifestyle.

You can snag up your copy of the 30 Minute Clean Eats On a Budget e-book here right now! Let us hold your hand through this lifestyle change – we are so excited for you!

Real Food For Real Families :: How to make real food happen with a busy schedule and on a budget!

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Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup :: Grain Free Options

March 17, 2017

Give that bowl of classic chicken noodle soup a ginger and leek flavor upgrade!

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup :: Grain Free OptionsProduct 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.

One last warm, wintry soup for the season, ok?!

I’m staring out the window at more snow falling. On March 17…

It’s pretty safe to say I’m over it, but for the moment I’ll embrace the last of winter hanging on…as long as I have a warm bowl of soup like this to cheer me up!

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup :: Grain Free OptionsA chicken noodle soup make-over

My kids rarely tire of classic chicken noodle soup – in fact 9 times out of 10 when one of my girls requests soup, chicken noodle is definitely her jam. She asked for it a few weeks back and I decided to change things up a little bit. We were getting over a bit of a cold and I had some ginger to use up from making our cold busting ginger tea. It made simply the most amazing noodle soup we’ve had in a long time!

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup :: Grain Free OptionsAn early taste of spring!

We needed a bit of cheering up after fighting our cold, and the brightly colored rainbow carrots and fresh green leeks seemed like just the ticket – and made the perfect swap for the typical carrot and onion. Since I wanted the ginger flavor to shine, the leeks were a lighter background onion flavor, and the pretty yellow carrots were a hit with the kids.

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle SoupWhether you have special diet needs or not, we’ve got a noodle for that!

Gluten Free Options ::

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

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

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

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup :: Grain Free OptionsDon’t forget to pack the leftovers for school!

And work too! My husband loves his travel crockpot to warm up soup right at his desk without ruining all of the nutrients in the bone broth in a microwave. He keeps the base at work and just brings the liner home to clean and fill back up. You can read more about the thermoses I like to use for the girls at school here – they keep the soup very warm all the way to lunchtime!

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup :: Grain Free OptionsHere’s to happy spring thoughts coming our way!

Gluten Free Ginger and Leek Chicken Noodle Soup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 TB friendly fat to cook in such as butter, tallow, coconut oil, or avocado oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (I like to use 1 orange carrot, and 1 yellow carrot for more color)
  • 1 large stalk of celery, diced
  • 2-4 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 TB of grated ginger will leave a very mild ginger flavor and almost no heat. 2 TB of grated ginger will leave more flavorful heat to the soup - we like the heat!)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 leek, leaves and roots removed, quartered lengthwise, then chopped (soak in a bowl of water and strain to get the sand out)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped (save some of the green to garnish the top)
  • 2 quarts bone broth (You can use Instant Pot Broth, or here is my slow cooker method)
  • 1½ cups shredded cooked chicken (Use leftovers from your roasted chicken, slow cooker chicken, or Instant Pot chicken)
  • 6oz gluten free noodles
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat, and add the carrot and celery. Add a big pinch of sea salt and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to get the carrots softening.
  2. Add the grated ginger, minced garlic, leeks, and green onion. Cook for another 3-5 minutes over medium heat until fragrant and soft.
  3. Add the bone broth and chicken, turn the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and cook over medium/high heat until the noodles are cooked to your liking. Sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste.

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Classic Vegetable Soup

February 17, 2017

The classic nostalgia of that red can of vegetable soup, loaded with mineral rich bone broth and packed with nourishing vegetables, all in about 20 minutes!

Classic Vegetable Soup :: Bone Broth Packed & Tastes Just Like Campbell's Canned!

A trip back in time!

A couple weeks ago I showed a quick Instagram Story about my prep day, and I just happened to be making a simple, quick, and frugal vegetable soup. One that I make quite often with varying vegetables depending on what I have in house.

I had mentioned that the flavor is very similar to those little red cans of veggie soup in the soup isle at the grocery store, and you all were very excited about learning how to make it! Even though the nutrition in those little red cans is not stellar, it really brings back a lot of memories for people, I think, and you really can make it taste amazing with real food so your kids can have the same memories!

Classic Vegetable Soup :: Bone Broth Packed & Tastes Just Like Campbell's Canned!It’s all in the flavorful base…

That same sweet, tomato-y broth that the those store bought cans of veggie soup have is very easy to duplicate using real food! Something magical happens when you get that veg down in some butter and let a little time do some work on it. It sweetens the tomato paste as it cooks, and makes for a really delicious broth!

Classic Vegetable Soup :: Bone Broth Packed & Tastes Just Like Campbell's Canned!If it’s in season, it will work!

The beauty of this soup is that it really can be tailored to the veggies your family likes, and what is in season. You can pack it out with as much veg as I do, or add more broth if you want it a brothier soup.

I like keeping the veggies pretty simple – similar to that in the red can, with a few favorite add-ins like mushrooms, and, because I’m always looking for a way to get green in, a couple handfuls of spinach always wilt in so easily adding more nutrient punch to this simple soup.

Classic Vegetable Soup :: Bone Broth Packed & Tastes Just Like Campbell's Canned!

Easy peasy lunch packing!

Because this simple vegetable soup freezes up so nice, it makes a great lunchbox addition. I shoot for a veggie at every meal, so for my kids, soup fills that veg gap a lot of the time. I like to freeze in quart containers for my crew so it is easy to pull out one container that will feed all 3 girls and myself for one meal. You can freeze in smaller portions if you need.

I can also send a quart container with my husband to work for the week that he can have here and there, warming it up in his travel Crockpot.

Toddler tips!

Sometimes those little guys have issues with “pieces” – I know I have one of those right now and there’s no rhyme or reason to it other than…she’s 3! She waivers between not caring about the pieces and caring very deeply about it, so I have a couple tips to save your sanity!

  • Blend it up! Most little ones are more apt to eating smooth, texture free soup so just buzz it up. I have gone from complete refusal to more than willing to eat the soup with just this approach. Choose your battle and just get it into them that way, I say!
  • Let them pick out what veggies are going in. If they get a say in it, they are more likely to eat it. You can set it all out in front of them and ask them to pick 2-3 vegetables they want (in addition to the onion, garlic, tomato paste etc). On that same note you can let them help you cook it too!
  • Make sure it is a good temperature. I don’t talk about this often enough, but most kids are really sensitive to extreme temperatures of food. In fact what is warm or sip-able to you, is most likely scalding hot to them. Same goes cold food. My toddlers always preferred lukewarm to room temp soup, and when it came to stuff right out of the fridge, I usually let it warm up on the counter for a bit.

Classic Vegetable Soup :: Bone Broth Packed & Tastes Just Like Campbell's Canned!Soup and crackers go hand in hand!

Here are some ideas for you to keep in the pantry for easy additions to the lunchbox packing!

Classic Vegetable Soup
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3 TB friendly fat to cook in, such as butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, tallow, or lard
  • 1 small/medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 cups frozen organic green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces (fresh works too if it is in season!)
  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 6oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen organic corn
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained (if tomatoes are season, use fresh!)
  • 2 quarts bone broth (You can use Instant Pot Broth, or here is my slow cooker method)
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach or baby kale
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large soup pot, melt the friendly fat, and add the onion, carrot, green beans, potato, mushrooms, and corn with a big pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium/medium-high heat for about 7 minutes until the veggies soften.
  2. Add the garlic and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a couple minutes.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and bone broth, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat off and wilt in the baby spinach, and then sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste.

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Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!

February 4, 2017

Cleaner oil, quick blender batter, 5 easy ingredients…what’s not to love in these simple gluten free crackers?!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!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.

When the sun shines up north in January….

You drop everything and get outside! Literally!

A couple weekends ago, it felt like mid-spring around here and we ditched our winter coats and snow boots for hoodies and rainboots! (Unheard of for January in Michigan!!) I quickly dropped all of my kitchen plans that weekend, and I was so glad I had these gluten free crackers to fall back on for quick, warm bowls of soup and crackers after our outside excursions!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!Modern convenience…

Store bought crackers have really upped their game in the last handful of years, boasting organic labels and safer ingredients. And while many of them still use iffy oils, I have found myself leaning on them here and there in a pinch when life gets busy.

There is nothing wrong with that in my opinion!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!Cheaper and cleaner.

But what if I showed you how to make a load of crackers for the pantry using a healthier oil in very little time, and for a fraction of the cost?! It is possible!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!#MomGoals

My biggest goal with this cracker project was to create something using as little ingredients as I could so it would be something I would actually want to do. When there is a counter full of ingredients, it just makes a project like making crackers every week less appealing. I wanted it to be something I could take 5-10 minutes on a food prep day to throw in the oven easily.

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!Fuss Free!

I also didn’t want it to be fussy. I have just about been there and done that with every cracker recipe on the planet. I have said before that I am not a baker…like not even close. I get zero joy out of figuring out batters and dough and trial and error-ing {usually lots of error-ing!}. I wanted a fuss free dough that rolled out easy so that, again, I would actually want to make these crackers!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!The perfect cracker texture

Crispy, light, and salty!

The texture and taste actually reminds me of Oyster crackers (that will take you back!)! They keep in a airtight container in the pantry for weeks without spoiling, and keep their crispy texture for whatever you are going to use them for.

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!Our favorite cracker uses!

Oh the possibilities!

  • Soup toppers and dunkers
  • Hummus or guacamole dippers (I don’t always have time to make my own hummus, and love the organic hummus at Costco if you are looking for one! I also like their organic guacamole in a pinch or if avocados are not available at a decent price – which definitely happens where I live! When looking at store bought, be sure you are looking at oils used as well as other added ingredients.)
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Nut butter, coconut butter, or cream cheese dippers

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!Soup ideas for your crackers!

Because I had to share with you my obsession over bone broth based soups! There are so many ways to make getting bone broth into the kids – especially when they get to stir in some yummy crackers to their soup!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!I truly hope these crackers are able to become an easy part of your prep day!

Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Simple Gluten Free Crackers :: 5 Ingredient Blender Batter & Easy to Roll Out!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Namaste Gluten Free Flour Blend (I pick mine up at Costco. I think other GF flour blends will work but you might have to play around with water amounts - start with less water and you can always add more if you need. I hear the Trader Joe GF flour blend is similar to the Namaste, but I don't have a TJ's near me to look - if someone wants to comment below if they try it, that would be helpful!)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (I pick mine up at Costco. I think melted butter or coconut oil would work too)
  • ½ - 1 tsp sea salt (depending on how salty you like your crackers)
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1 cup water (again, if you are using a different GF flour blend I would start out with less and add more if it needs it just in case absorbency is different)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put all of the ingredients into your food processor and blend to combine until the dough comes together in a ball.
  3. Divide the dough between 2 Silpats (or 2 pieces of parchment paper). Lay plastic wrap over the top of the dough and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out as thin as you can make it fit the Silpat. Get a butter knife wet with water and make the crackers the size you want. A pizza cutter would work well here too.
  4. Sprinkle sea salt to the top of the crackers if you want, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes (I like to rotate the pans about halfway through). You can check them around the 10 minute mark in case our ovens run differently. After 15 minutes, turn the oven off BUT keep the crackers inside the oven for another 10 minutes or so to crisp up/dehydrate all the way. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.
  5. Store your crackers in an airtight container in the pantry.

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Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!

January 12, 2017

Soft and buttery biscuits to go with everything from soup to a plate of breakfast eggs!

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!

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 I’m thinking we could all use a little biscuit love to get us through mid January?!

We eat a lot of bone broth based soups all year round, but in the winter we have it daily here in our frozen tundra we call home! Somehow we make it outdoors every day despite the snows and wind chills least momma, ahem, I mean the kids go completely stir crazy. That means warming soups are on the menu most days of the week to take off the chill.

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!And every bowl of soup deserves a piece of bread to go with it!

Even better, every bowl of soup deserves a butter biscuit to go along with it. These savory butter biscuits are the perfect match for a warm bowl of soup packed with so much buttery flavor. The kids will be all over these, and I’m willing to bet even the most skeptical gluten lover will too!

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!Lighting fast, 5 minute blender dough is my answer to a busy day!

I have been using my Instant Pot weekly to make one huge pot of veggie soup for the whole family to eat from throughout the week – what good is a super fast prep soup if the biscuits are going to take forever to make?

I can get these biscuits onto the tray faster than it takes my oven to preheat! I’ve been testing these out for the last month with my weekly pot of soup. Once I get my soup in the pot and pressure cooking, I can have the biscuits done by the time the soup is done!

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!The perfect weekend project, and some freezer pro tips!

Weekends are perfect for making a huge pot of soup for the family. You can double or triple up some biscuits into the freezer to save for your busiest weeknight. My biggest suggestion if you plan to freeze them is to wrap them up individually as soon as they cool off and get them right into the freezer. This locks in the moisture that can sometimes end up ruining gluten and grain free baked goods after they have been baked.

On your busiest weeknight, all you have to do is pull the biscuits from the freezer, pop them on a tray and into your oven to thaw and warm through. With my oven, all I have to do is set the tray in and preheat to 350. I turn it off from there and they are perfectly thawed and warmed through. Every oven runs differently so play around with yours. You can have the perfect, hot out of the oven bread to go with dinner every time!

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!Don’t forget about breakfast!

These are my go-to right out of the freezer for fast morning momma fuel with a cup of leftover soup and some fried eggs. So fast! The kids will love a side of cheesy scrambled eggs and some fruit with their biscuit and you can feel good about starting their day off with stable blood sugars.

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!Flour swapping answers!

I chose coconut flour for these biscuits for a few different reasons. First, I already have a staple biscuit in our house with some grain. I am not against grain in the least for those who can digest it! (By the way the squash drop biscuits I’m speaking of freeze just as great as these to keep on hand!) We handle gluten free grains in our house just fine, and I think they definitely have a time and a place. I don’t, however think, at least in my family, that we need to have grains at every single meal. It is nice to have a grain free biscuit option if we have already had enough grain for the day.

I also love using coconut flour because it is a great source of fiber, protein, and fat. It really makes every bite count for those little guys with little stomachs, and it makes a really great start to the day instead of shooting blood sugars up only to crash an hour later.

Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!Nourishing soup recipes to enjoy with your biscuits

All of these soups pack well and freeze well! Use your school thermos for the kids and a travel crockpot for yourself if you are away from home during the day! You can have a warm meal on the go!

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Put everything except the egg into your food processor, and pulse/blend until the butter is smaller than pea sized pieces. Add the egg and blend until the dough forms a ball. Pinch off your biscuits, gently roll them, and flatten a bit onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking tray. I always make 5 biscuits with this recipe. Bake at 375 degrees for 14 minutes. Let the biscuits cool a good 5-10 minutes before handling so they can set up.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Grain Free Herb Butter Biscuit :: 5 Minute Blender Prep!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup cold butter, cubed
  • ⅓ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup grassfed cold soluble collagen
  • 1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp dried thyme (dried rosemary, oregano, or and basil work too depending on what you are serving the biscuits with!)
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 eggs (if you are egg free I do think 2 flax eggs would work here - they might not puff up as much but it would still work - perhaps add a bit of baking powder for the rise? Let us know in the comments if you try something!)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put everything except the egg into your food processor, and pulse/blend until the butter is smaller than pea sized pieces.
  3. Add the eggs and blend until the dough is combined well.
  4. Scoop some of the dough with a spoon, gently roll them, and flatten a bit onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking tray. I make 5-6 biscuits with this recipe.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 14 minutes. Let the biscuits cool a good 5-10 minutes before handling so they can set up.

 

 

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Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}

January 12, 2017

Nourish yourself with the best of the winter produce in a fraction of the time with your Instant Pot!

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions 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.

I really should have known better…

Last year when I started playing around with my Instant Pot a bit more, I fell in love with making some of my staple soup recipes in much quicker time. It meant that I could have veggie soups on the table most days of the week – and for this busy work at home mom with 3 kids under 7 years old, that meant…a lot!

We were blown away at how fast I could make a huge pot of soup, but something was missing…

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}Butter and time….

I had gotten into the habit of just tossing everything in and hitting go, foregoing that precious little “Saute” button that our Instant Pots come with. A 5-10 minute butter sauté with some key veggies (namely the aromatics like onion, carrots, celery, etc), takes a pot of soup from good to amazing.

As those aromatics cook with a little butter and sea salt their flavor changes and brings a sweetness and depth of flavor to the soup that will hook in just about any hesitant soup eater.

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}Back to the basics…with a little modern convenience thrown in!

So when it comes to my Instant Pot I’ve gone back to my traditional cooking roots to get that flavor, and am still enjoying the convenience of a quicker cook time than the stovetop would yield. Whether you are a novice cook, or a seasoned foodie I think we would all agree that an extra 5 or 10 minutes to get amazing flavor is worth it – especially when it will be devoured as quickly as this pot of soup did!

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}The best of winter!

So some of us don’t think of very many veggies being in season in the winter (at least those of us with snow piled knee high!). While there certainly isn’t the abundance that late August brings, you really can find some great seasonal vegetables to use.

Sometimes our grocer is hit or miss on a few of these items, but I would say that the vast majority of us have access to most of this list to at least pair a couple items together with staple onion, carrot, celery aromatics and make a really great soup! Just be sure you include at least one “sweet/creamy” starchy veg such as one of the squashes, sweet potatoes, or potatoes to balance out the sometimes bitterness that dark winter greens can have.

  • Leeks and/or onions
  • Parsnips and/or carrots
  • Celeriac and/or celery
  • Fennel
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet potato
  • Winter squash (buttercup, butternut, acorn – whatever you can find!)
  • Winter greens (kale, chard, spinach)
  • Potato
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}At home comfort in a pack-able meal!

This entire pot of soup didn’t even last a week in my house! Between lunch that day, packing some up for my husband’s Travel Crockpot for work lunch, my breakfasts, school lunch thermoses, and my toddler’s tea cups, it was G.O.N.E.!

If you have never used a Travel Crockpot before, and you work away from home, boy are you about to be mind blown! We actually have 2 of these so that my husband can bring multiple meals to work. He keeps a warming base at work and we have 2 of the liners that he brings home to wash and re-fill. Oftentimes he likes to bring soaked oatmeal for breakfast in one liner, and soup/dinner leftovers in the other. It is really great for those who are gone from home most of the day. If you want to read more about how to “temper” a school lunch thermos for the kids so their soup is nice and warm at lunch, this article explains that better!

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}

5.0 from 6 reviews
Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped (or 2 large leeks, rinsed of sand, tops discarded, and roughly chopped)
  • 2 medium/large parsnips or carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped (If you don't have access to this winter root, 2 celery stalks roughly chopped works fine! Celeriac has a mild celery taste and is so great in soup but even I can't find it at our store sometimes!)
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 10 large brussel sprouts, ends cut and discarded (you can use more if your sprouts are small)
  • ½ medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 quarts bone broth (You can use Instant Pot Broth, or here is my slow cooker method)
  • ¼-1/2 tsp chipotle pepper or cayenne (optional if you don't like the heat - we love it and it really brings it to another flavor level! Not to mention the warming heat is great in the cold winter here!)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Parsley to garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Set the Instant Pot to "Saute," melt the butter in the bottom of the pot, and then add in the onion, carrot, and celeriac with a big pinch of sea salt. Saute the veggies for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally while you chop up the rest of the veggies.
  2. Turn off the Saute feature and toss in the rest of the veggies and the bone broth.
  3. Put the lid on, close the valve, and press "Soup". Bring the time down to 20 minutes, and it will turn on automatically. Once the pot comes to pressure, the 20 minutes will count down.
  4. After the 20 minutes of pressure cooking is done, turn the pot off, and open the valve to let the pressure out. Puree the soup with a handheld blender or in batches in a regular blender. After the soup is pureed you can sea salt and pepper to your taste. Garnish each bowl with parsley if you wish.

Stovetop soup instructions

The best part about this section is that it really isn’t much different than using the Instant Pot!

You can still save a bunch of time by just coarsely chopping your veggies – no need to be a perfect dice when it is all going to get pureed anyway! Simply saute the aromatics in butter like the first step. Then add in everything else, bring the whole pot to a simmer, cooking until the veggies are tender. Simmer it at the back of your stovetop so that you can tend to babies, clean up the kitchen, or fold laundry while it simmers away. I did this for literally years dear mommas…I have only had an Instant Pot for a year and a half! Fancy tools are so great, but you really only need a good soup pot if we are being honest!

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}

Biscuit and cracker ideas to go with your soup!

Instant Pot Winter Vegetable Soup {With Stovetop Instructions Too!}

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Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented Vegetables

January 6, 2017

You are 2 household ingredients away from a jar of fermented carrots teeming with gut nourishing probiotics, enzymes, and B vitamins!

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented VegetablesProduct 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.

Simplicity.

Last week I asked my Instagram and Facebook audiences what they wanted to see more of in the next year and what I heard loud and clear was that many of you wanted to see more of the simple, nourishing staples from our home, and the “why” behind them.

Easy to fix, easy to find ingredients, and food that normal, everyday people have time to make.

I couldn’t be more overjoyed at your request to add more traditional, real food staples to my writing!

Because truthfully, while fancy brunches and fun treats are great, nourishing everyday meals, nutrient dense breakfasts, and staples like these fermented carrots are really where it’s at! This is where we get down to the nitty gritty, nutrient packed foods that are going to make a real difference in your family’s health.

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented VegetablesThe status of your gut determines just about everything…

At this point most people know that just about everything in the body relies on the status of your gut health. And that the status of your gut health is tied to the type of flora (bacteria) dominating the territory.

If the good bacteria reigns “king,” digestion is sound, the immune system works more effectively, and the brain is clear.

When the bad bacteria is more prevalent, digestion is disrupted in a myriad of different ways (YES we should be pooping daily – if you are not you are constipated. NO your poop shouldn’t be runny, it shouldn’t hurt to poop, and indigestion, heartburn, and tummy aches are not normal!), the immune system is completely off (ie getting sick often, autoimmune disease, cancer, etc), and the brain is a foggy mess (the gut-brain connection is tied to many brain/neurological disorders from depression and Alzheimer’s to ADHD, autism, and everything in between.)

Infiltrate and populate!

Traditionally fermented foods provide easy to absorb probiotics to our guts to use for battle every day. Whether you are generally healthy or have a few health issues, fermented vegetables such as these fermented carrots can populate your gut with the bacteria it needs to sustain a robust immune system, healthy digestive system, and sound mind.

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented VegetablesProbiotic powerhouse without the fuss!

I know, I know…first it’s bone broth, now it’s “get the ferments in!” You’re thinking you are going to be in the kitchen all day! Not in the least! I, for one, don’t have the time to be in the kitchen all day.

A little salt water, a jar, and some chopped carrots is all you need to get your ferment going, and it truly is one of the least hands on activities going on in my kitchen. The process of the natural bacteria feeding on the sugar and starches in the carrots not only creates a variety of strains of beneficial flora for the gut, it also produces beneficial digestive enzymes and B vitamins. It is truly amazing!

That sounds great, but how in the world am I supposed to get my kids to eat this?!

If you have super little kids – as in ages 6 months to 2 years old, this is where it’s at! Get those palates used to ferments and soured foods as soon as you can! I was always so surprised at how easily my babies took to sour plain yogurt, sauerkraut, and shredded fermented carrots. You can even give the little ones a half teaspoon or so of the fermenting liquid from the jar which is loaded with probiotic goodness!

If you have older kids, I have a couple suggestions. First, don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t tell them “I’m not sure that you are going to like this but let’s try it”. If they already eat carrot sticks and dip, serve it to them with homemade Ranch – it is delicious! Any age above 2 or 3 years old is also a great time to explain the “why” behind healthy food. Tell those toddlers and younger school aged kids that fermented carrots puts the “good guys” into their tummy to fight off the bad guys! Pull out an anatomy book for those older school aged kids and teens and show them the why. Give them examples of what goes on if the good bacteria isn’t winning the battle.

(I also would recommend halving or leaving out the garlic if you think that might deter the kids. My kids looove garlic and I think the garlic gives an even sweeter flavor to the finished product but you can leave it out and they are a yummy salty/sweet carrot stick to dip in Ranch!)

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented VegetablesTips for prepping the carrots for babies, toddlers, and big kids

Cut your carrots depending on what texture the kids will like better and what you are using it for. Sticks work best for lunch packing, and shredded works well for sandwiches and salads. Shredded also works best for older babies/toddlers that can’t chew thicker cut sticks. I tend to make sticks so they are ready for lunchboxes, and then just chop them up for salads or wraps. When I had babies in the house, I always had a jar of the shredded fermented veggies on hand for them.

If the taste is overwhelming to your kids at first, try chopping them up small into a salad, sandwich, or wrap. My kids love shredded chicken wraps with fermented veggies. You can make this 5 minute mayo that has a sweeter taste and top the sandwich with sweet tomato slices or even shredded apples to sweeten the deal a little.

Dips!

Listen, so long as it’s sans the store bought junky oil dressings, I say let them dip whatever they want if it is getting it into them! My kids prefer homemade Ranch, though right now my toddler is in a raw honey kick and I’m totally cool with that. Other options might be guacamole or hummus!

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented VegetablesHow do I begin eating fermented vegetables if I have never tried them before?

Fermented vegetables are teeming with good bacteria, and, especially for those with sensitive tummies, food allergies, or digestive disorders, fermented vegetables make the entire eating process easier on the gut by acting as a digestive aide! Eating even a tablespoon or so of ferment with each meal will aide in digesting your food as well as provide stability to your immune system and brain health.

Start with 1 tablespoon or so per day to begin with to allow the friendly bacteria to make their home in your gut. Starting out with too much all at once can lead to tummy upset as the good bacteria takes over the bad. Increase to 1 tablespoon 3x per day as you feel comfortable. Once your body is used to the ferments, you can eat as much as you like and tolerate. My school aged girls eat up to 1/4 cup or more at a time.

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented VegetablesFermenting tools

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

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

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

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

Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented Vegetables

5.0 from 7 reviews
Fermented Carrots {that kids will actually eat!} & The Benefits of Fermented Vegetables
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pint warm water
  • 3-4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 medium/large carrots, peeled, and sliced into sticks, or into "coins," or strips/shredded (see notes above for help choosing the size that will work best for you)
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed (Optional. If you have other household favorite herbs go for it! Many people like to use dill for fermented carrots - I love those too. Garlic happens to be our favorite!)
Instructions
  1. Make the brine. Stir the sea salt into the warm water until it dissolves. You will need most of this brine but will have a little bit left over - you can store the remaining brine in the fridge, or use it for another batch.
  2. Put the carrots into a clean pint jar, packing them in as tight as you can, leaving about 1 inch of head-space at the top.
  3. Pour the warm salt water brine over the carrots to cover them completely. Put your fermenting weight on top of the carrots/brine if you are using one, and wipe the rim of the jar clean.
  4. Close up your jar (Put on your Pickle Pipe, or close the lid of your Fido Jar, or lid and use your Air-Lock. A simple plastic lid can work for your first time until you get the hang of things and want to invest in something to make your fermenting process easier.).
  5. Set the jar at room temperature for 1-4 days depending on the taste you are going for. The longer it sits, the more flavor will develop. You can open and taste along the way until you are satisfied. I ferment mine for about 2 days, and that is the taste my kids enjoy best. Sometimes I make a jar just for me that I let ferment up to 5 days but I enjoy that funkier sour taste! One of my older girls does now too! Keep in mind that if you live in a warmer climate, you may not need as much time to ferment. In the summer sometimes ours are done in just 24 hours.

Tips on recipe size

This recipe makes 1 pint of fermented carrots. It is a great amount to get started on. I typically double this recipe into 2 pint jars (you could double into a quart jar, but I like to use the 2 smaller jars so my kids can get it out of the fridge to help themselves). For a doubled recipe, I use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of sea salt into a quart of warm water to make the brine to divide up into the 2 pint jars.

More real food recipes you might like ::

Dinner Ideas Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

Versatile Cabbage and Beef Skillet

October 27, 2016

Budget friendly, real food for the whole family with plenty of flavor change ups, so there’s enough variety to serve it often!

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!So a little real life for you…

Sometimes life gets busy and I don’t want to think about what to make for dinner…

And some weeks we are stretched super {super} thin on the budget by the time we get to pay day, so the dinner possibilities are not, in fact, endless…

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!I’m pretty sure this is not just my reality…and can I tell you something? I have grown to love teaching people how to keep their kitchens real food focused while sticking to a budget.

I have to be honest in saying that I have been fighting myself to even post a recipe like this because…I know it isn’t fancy. It isn’t typical “viral” blog material. But this, dear friends, is real life – this is what we have to do day in and day out. Make real food that nourishes our family without spending all the money!

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!Because, let’s face it…you can do some pretty major budget damage at health food stores!

We have so been there. It can ruin your real food eating goals in one shopping trip, and send your spouse running back to that box of Hamburger Helper in about 2 seconds flat. Don’t go broke trying to eat real food. It isn’t worth it.

Instead, get back to the basics! Simple, real food tastes amazing, makes your body feel incredible, and won’t make you go broke if you do it up right!

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!Real food budgeting 101…Fall in love with cabbage my friends!

And every other mineral rich vegetable you can get your hands on. When you stretch that grassfed/pastured meat budget by filling the large majority of your plate with vegetables that taste amazing, you really can stick to a super strict budget and still eat very well.

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!The secret to amazing veggie flavor is all in the method!

I know when I was just beginning to cook real food, I had zero clue how to cook vegetables. I am not a trained chef, have never taken a cooking course, and I’m from the generation that had their home ec classes taken away. But when I started figuring out the secrets to cooking vegetables in a way that used their amazing flavor potential, that was the turning point!

I truly wish I could make this just one time for all of you, my reader friends, just so you could taste it just once – because I know you would be hooked! This meal is served in our house at least once a week in some form or fashion – and there are so many ways to change it up so there’s no boredom!

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!So here is the basic cabbage and beef skillet recipe – our family favorite way of making it by the way!

And at the bottom of the recipe be sure to check out the different ways you can swap things in and out to change it up!

Versatile Cabbage & Beef Skillet :: Budget friendly, real food for the whole family, and with plenty flavor change ups, there's plenty of variety to serve it every week!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Versatile Cabbage and Beef Skillet
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 3-4 TB friendly fat to cook in such as butter, tallow, avocado oil, or coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small head of cabbage (or ½ - ¾ large head), sliced into strips
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp dried thyme (or other seasoning of choice)
  • ¼ pound baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked long grain white rice or cauliflower rice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, add a tablespoon of butter to melt and then brown the ground beef. Set the cooked beef aside but leave behind any of the juices/fat. (I also like to get the rice started cooking when I get the beef going so it is ready to be added to the skillet at the end)
  2. Add the rest of your cooking fat to the skillet to melt, along with the onion, mushrooms, and cabbage with a big pinch of sea salt. Combine and cook this mixture over medium/medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or so until the cabbage, mushrooms, and onion are soft and sweet. If the veggies feel dry, you can add a splash of water or bone broth.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  4. Add the thyme, cooked ground beef, baby spinach, and cooked rice. Combine and cook over medium heat until the spinach wilts to your liking. Sea salt and pepper the skillet to your taste.


Ways to change it up!


Egg Roll In a Bowl!

  • Swap the thyme for coconut aminos, grated ginger, and red pepper flakes (powdered ginger is fine too!).
  • Add shredded or julienne peeled carrots when you add in the spinach.
  • Serve with sliced green onion.

Curry Me!

  • Swap the thyme for your favorite red or yellow curry.
  • Add sliced, colorful bell peppers right in there with the cabbage.

Deconstructed Cabbage Roll Style!

  • Add some oregano in with the thyme.
  • Add a can of diced tomatoes in when you toss the cooked beef back into the pan with the cooked cabbage.

Italian Style!

  • Swap the thyme for Italian Seasoning
  • Add lots of sliced cherry tomatoes in when you toss the cooked beef back into the pan.
  • Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Taco Tuesday!

  • Swap the thyme for taco seasoning and a dash of chipotle powder. You could swap the beef or some of the beef for cooked pinto beans too!
  • Add some diced bell peppers in with the cabbage, and chunky salsa to stir in when you toss the cooked beef back into the pan.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream OR you could even serve it right in a sprouted corn tortilla shell!
Dinner Ideas Holiday Recipes Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips Soup

Smoky and Sweet Chicken and Pumpkin Corn Chowder

October 21, 2016

Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!

Smoky & Sweet Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder :: Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!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.

Apple picking, hayrides, fall color hikes, pumpkin carving, and costumes, oh my!

Smoky & Sweet Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder :: Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!

October has become such a busy month since having older kids in the house! I am such a summer girl, but over the last couple years, I have really grown to love all of the fun fall activities that October brings…as well as all of the warm meals that go along with it!

Smoky & Sweet Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder :: Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!Daily bone broth is one of my simple, daily goals for keeping my crew of kids healthy all season, and sometimes we need a little soup change up!

Even though I am sure this will most certainly become an adult favorite in the home, I really wanted to bring up trying this soup with the kids too. I think you will be surprised at how little ones will like the smoky flavor of chipotle. It has a milder, more flavorful heat that tastes so good. Two of my babies really took to heat as little ones and never really skipped a beat.

Smoky & Sweet Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder :: Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!So what about those littles that aren’t keen on spicy food?!

I have one of those! When she was really little I simply used less spicy heat, and then would add more heat to the plates my husband and I were eating from. It’s simple enough, and still trains the taste palate of your little one for a new meal. When it comes to something like soup or chili, I tend to season with the heat we like, and then “cool” her bowl down by stirring in sour cream or coconut milk/cream – it works SO good!

Smoky & Sweet Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder :: Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!Creamy and comforting without the dairy! But what about that corn?!

If you can’t eat corn (remember corn is a grain – so if you are grain free listen up!), I have a couple of swaps for you! I think the best swap is using either chopped or “riced” cauliflower. You can cook it right alongside the potatoes if they are chopped, and if it is “riced”, simply add it in when you put the garlic in since it doesn’t need a long cook time. I also have tried diced sweet potato and think that works well (add this right in with the potatoes).

That secret step of blending up half the soup before putting in the chicken is what gives the soup it’s creamy texture! No dairy or flour needed!

Smoky & Sweet Chicken & Pumpkin Corn Chowder :: Creamy and comforting meets the savory heat of chipotle in this sweet and smoky chicken and pumpkin corn chowder!Take advantage of those sweet little pie pumpkins over the next couple months and make that broth super creamy and sweet!

Flavorful soups are the a fun way to make nourishing bone broth a part of everyday. Mineral rich seasonal veggies not only bump up the mineral profile but can also bring amazing flavor and make a daily bowl of soup more interesting and fun!

That secret step of blending up half the soup before putting in the chicken is what gives the soup it's creamy texture! No dairy or flour needed!

5.0 from 5 reviews
Smoky and Sweet Chicken and Pumpkin Corn Chowder
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pie pumpkin
  • ¼ cup friendly fat to cook in such as butter, avocado oil, lard, or coconut oil (I happen to love this soup with a good TB of the friendly fat coming from bacon grease - it gives it a really great flavor!)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 medium/large yellow potatoes, small cube or diced (smaller is best if serving to kids but if you like bigger chunks go for it!)
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1½ quarts bone broth (if you want a much thicker broth you could use just 1 quart)
  • ½ tsp chipotle powder (this leaves a mild, kid friendly smoky heat - if you prefer it spicier (like I do!) you can add a full teaspoon or just add more to the serving in your bowl. Sour cream or coconut milk can tame the heat for little ones if you want to go that route too!)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed (use leftovers from roasting a whole chicken, doing a slow cooker whole chicken, or Instant Pottting a whole chicken!)
  • 2 cups frozen organic corn (I get mine at Costco)
  • 1-2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place your whole pumpkin in a baking dish, and roast at 425 degrees for 50 minutes. Slice the pumpkin in half to cool, scoop out the seeds, and puree in a food processor or blender. (You could skip this step entirely and use a can of pumpkin if you are stretched for time! Keep in mind canned pumpkin is typically other squash so it is darker orange in color and will just give the soup a different color - it will still be pretty and so delicious though!)
  2. While you are waiting for your pumpkin to cool, start your soup. Melt your friendly fat in a large soup pot and add the onion, potatoes, and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 7-10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  4. Add the broth, pumpkin puree, and chipotle powder, and stir to combine. Bring to a low simmer and then turn the heat off or down to low. Scoop out about half of the soup to a medium mixing bowl and blend with an immersion blender (or scoop the soup into a blender to blend) until smooth.
  5. Return the blended portion of the soup back to the soup pot, add the chicken and corn, and bring to a low simmer for a 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the spinach to wilt in, and then sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste.
  6. Again, for the little ones in the house, you can add sour cream or coconut milk to their bowl to tame any heat. You can also puree the soup entirely for little ones that are funny about "chunks" in their soup.

More real food recipes you might like ::

Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly!

September 17, 2016

Change up your lunchbox routine with these healthy, easy to prep school lunches!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

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 a couple weeks into the school year…who is needing a little lunchbox inspiration?!

I am pretty sure we all start the year off motivated to pack fun, healthy lunches for our kids…but I will be the first to admit that a month or 2 into the daily packing, unpacking, and washing of trays I start losing a little steam! Guess what? That’s ok! None of us are perfect, we are all human, and school lunch making totally gets mundane after a while!

Which is why it is so easy to fall into the PBJ rut. It’s easy, fast, and a no brainer!

You’ll probably even see it in my daily #rgnschoollunch posts on my Instagram right around April…when I have had enough already with the school lunch packing! Go ahead and browse that hashtag over there to take a look – I can guarantee the sandwich ratio during that last month or 2 of school sky rockets!

So, what’s the big deal then? What’s wrong with PBJ every day?

Nothing! Absolutely nothing if that is how you want to roll with your lunch packing! I am definitely not in your shoes, and I don’t run your house! But, I’m willing to bet because you clicked over to read this post, you are searching for some inspiration. Some ideas to break up the week a little. If you browse my school lunches on Instagram you will notice even I do PBJ once a week. Do it up momma! (PS – if you are in a nut free school zone, coconut butter or sunflower seed butter works as a great companion to jam for those quick sandwiches!)

I am also willing to bet that your clicking over to this post means you have some healthier eating goals in your house. Awesome! Because variety is key in creating healthy, broad taste palates in kids! It makes for less pickiness when it comes to food, and makes those kids well rounded not only in the nourishment hitting their system, but also well rounded in their acceptance of new food.

We pack PBJ *all* the time…where do I begin???

My advice to you if you are a PBJ packer most of the week is to take some small baby steps. If you overhaul lunch in one shot you are sure to get resistance from older kids. Pick *one* day a week to try something new with your kids. I think you would be surprised at how excited they would be to have something different for a change! Show them this list, as well as my other 6 non PBJ school lunch lists, and see what their eyes light up about!

A note on packing time

Because I know what you are thinking…I’m going to be in the kitchen all night packing these kind of lunches! Please note the prepping tips in each lunch idea. I guarantee I don’t spend more than 5-10 minutes packing lunches every evening – promise. I just can’t! I don’t have the time for it. What I do have the time for is making dinners that stretch into lunch and spending an hour in the kitchen over the weekend making things that will stretch into the week.

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

I hope to see some of these over on Instagram in the coming weeks – give me a tag so I can see your creations!


The Pizza Day Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Whether it’s the cafeteria pizza day, or a just the end of the week that needs to be celebrated in a fun way, using leftover pizza is the perfect way to enjoy a fun pizza day lunch! Simply plan to make pizza night dinner one night, and double it up so there is sure to be leftovers! I always serve a big salad and some fruit with our pizza nights at home so that everyone fills up on the other stuff too which helps with having some leftovers!

Lunchbox Contents:


The Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

There is simply nothing like a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup on a cool fall day, or those chilly winter afternoons! Warm those kiddo’s bellies up with comforting chicken noodle soup from home! Plan a big pot for dinner one night and pack up the leftovers right into the thermos! Easy peasy! A fatty, satiating side like avocado rounds out the meal and cinnamon apples are just fun! The cinnamon keeps the apples from browning too!

Lunchbox Contents:

  • Homemade GF Chicken Noodle Soup (pictured is this thermos – I love the wide mouth for these kind of soups – just like a bowl! You can read more about how to keep food warm in thermoses in this post.)
  • Avocado (wrap the flesh up in plastic wrap or rub it with lemon juice to keep it from browning!)
  • Apples with cinnamon (or other seasonal fruit you have on hand!)

The Hummus Dipper Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

I don’t think I’ve met a kid that doesn’t love to *dip*! Hummus is a pretty typical kid friendly dipping side and gives a little variety to lunchtime! Whether you like to use crackers, tortilla chips, or crisped up rice tortillas like I have pictured here, it is perfect for little hands rounded out with fresh veggies and fruit, as well as a hard boiled egg for protein and brain nourishing fat. (Hard boiled egg prep tip! I hard boil 1 dozen eggs every Sunday to keep in the fridge for quick lunchbox addtions!)

I’m even giving you a little permission to cut your time in half and use some store bought hummus if you don’t have time to make it. I love to make hummus, but I rely our Costco organic hummus a lot. Just be very sure to check the ingredient list to avoid junky oils or additives.

Lunchbox Contents:

  • Rice tortilla “chips” with hummus (crackers, tortilla chips, etc would work too!)
  • Sugar peas and tomatoes (or whatever fresh veggies you have on hand!)
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Oranges (or whatever fresh fruit you have on hand!)

The Classic Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

It doesn’t get any better than this! We all grew up on this classic lunchtime staple and I love packing these memories for my kids! The fresh tomato soup is such an easy recipe – you can make it to enjoy over the weekend and pack the rest away in the thermos for a school day during the week! My kids will eat the grilled cheese cold and I think if you get that bread done up right with a generous helping of butter and cheese, just about any kid would happily gobble it up! It takes just minutes to cook in the pan the night before or that morning too. Fresh veggies and dip with a sweet potassium rich date on the side too!

Lunchbox Contents:


The Loaded Salad Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Think of your favorite cobb salad or salad bar pile-ons! Sure fresh chopped veggies are nice too, but add in some chopped nuts, eggs, seeds, and raisins too! A kid friendly dressing like homemade Ranch, Thousand Island, or French is not only loaded with brain nourishing fat, it makes it taste even better! Make some breakfast cookies, granola bars, or energy bars on the weekend in a doubled up fashion so you can keep them in the freezer for quick lunch additions too! This lunch truly takes just minutes to make!

Lunchbox Contents:


The Fiesta Lunch!

6 {More!} School Lunches Besides Peanut Butter & Jelly! :: Change up your lunchbox routine with these nourishing, easy to prep school lunches!

Who doesn’t love a good Taco Tuesday?! In my house any day of the week is good enough for a fiesta, so this is a popular lunchbox with my kids! Have a taco night and make a load of guacamole so there is enough to pack up in the condiment containers for the next day! Pictured here I crisped up some rice tortillas to make chips for the guac, but you could use tortilla chips or crackers too! Guacamole is a great brain nourishing fat as is the olives!  15 minute Chicken Tortilla soup goes well with this lunch (really any soup for that matter is fine!).

And again, there are some great store bought guacs out there if you just don’t have the time for making it. Avocados are extremely expensive at times where I live, so I do rely on certain guacamoles at Costco here and there – take a look around and please be sure you are checking ingredient labels – some of those brands get sneaky with their preservatives, junky oils, or other additions!

Lunchbox Contents:

  • Rice “tortilla chips” with guacamole (crackers or tortilla chips work too! Just watch the ingredient labels!)
  • Olives
  • 15 minute chicken tortilla soup (picture here is this thermos)
  • Pear (or other seasonal fresh fruit!)

More school lunch posts you might like:

Dinner Ideas Instant Pot Lunch Ideas Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein

September 10, 2016

All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein :: All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Our school year is off and running, and I feel like we did just that for the first week…Run!

Whew!

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein :: All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!

We are still getting our feet wet back into the groove of early mornings and school after a laid back summer break, so I have been perfecting some of my quicker weeknight meals.

While we don’t have a lot of extra-curricular activities after school yet with such little ones, I *do* have a brand new kindergartener getting used to full days of school (read – tired!), a toddler that has to get woken up on occasion from naps for school pick up (read – crabby!), and a 2nd grader that wants to get her project done *right now* (read – busy!). It just helps to have a dinner that doesn’t require a lot of hands on time.

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein :: All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!

I am coming up on my 1 year anniversary of having my Instant Pot and I feel like this summer we really got to know each other!

I had been using it mainly to make whole chickens and bone broth up until this summer, and boy I am really loving figuring out how to use it for more than just that. As much as I love cooking, there really are more days in the week that I need fast meals than ones that I don’t. If there is room on the birthday or Christmas list this year, an Instant Pot is definitely one I would try to fit in!

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein :: All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!

This quick Lo Mein has every flavor burst you love about Asian food in a “dump it all in” style of cooking!

I have even done the 5 minutes of veggie chopping the night before and set it in the fridge until dinner the next day so it literally can just be a “dump it all in” meal! Salty, sweet, and savory all in one bite, the kids will not only be in love with *all* the noodles, but it just plain tastes amazing! And you can feel good about getting the veggies in!

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein :: All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!

A quick note on how you can change it up and add variety!

While this is definitely a filling meal for how my family eats as it is, you can certainly add some chopped beef, chicken, or fish. I usually have leftovers topped with a fried egg the next morning and it is pretty much amazing (scrambling an egg into it would work fine too)! The veggies are pretty interchangeable as well – use whatever you have on hand. I have swapped the spinach for chopped kale if that is what I have, or used fresh broccoli instead of peas.

You can also add more bone broth and make it more of a Lo Mein soup. I have found a rich beef broth tastes so good! Also, don’t forget to pack the leftovers up in the school lunch thermos! Just add a splash of water or broth to warm it up in the morning and put it in a thermos to go! There are more details on how to temper your thermos and keep food warm for school in this post.

Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein :: All of the Asian flavors you love, in less than 10 minutes of time! This healthy Asian Lo Mein is weeknight fast and nourishing at the same time!

4.6 from 5 reviews
Fast Prep Instant Pot Vegetable Lo Mein
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups bone broth (a rich beef broth works best. You can do bone broth in the Instant Pot too !)
  • ¼ cup Coconut Aminos
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 inch knob ginger, peeled and grated (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (this leaves a kid friendly, mild heat - if you like more kick add more!)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced on a bias
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ lb gluten free pasta of choice (I used the Tinkyada brand of rice noodles that our local grocer carries)
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped finely
Instructions
  1. Everything *except the spinach* into the Instant Pot, stir to combine, and seal the lid. Be sure the valve is closed.
  2. Turn your IP on, press manual, and then use the (+/-) button to press the time down to 2 minutes. The Instant Pot will turn "ON" and come to pressure before it counts down the 2 minutes.
  3. When the 2 minutes is done, turn the Instant Pot "OFF", and set a timer for 4 minutes to let the pot naturally release some of the pressure and finish cooking the noodles through.
  4. After the 4 minutes, release the rest of the pressure, take the lid off, and stir in the fresh spinach to combine. There will be a little bit of liquid in the bottom that will continue to soak up into the noodles and the starch from the noodles will make it "saucy". Serve topped with sliced green onion or chopped nuts.

A note on Instant Pot cook times

This recipe gives the noodle a good, “al dente” texture in cook time for me. Not too mushy and not hard! It is just perfect! I have, however, found that sometimes when I have tried other people’s Instant Pot recipes that cook times for noodles, rice, even hard boiled eggs can vary. For instance the “6-6-6” method for hard boiled eggs leaves my eggs really overdone – I have to cook at 5 minutes on low pressure!  I’m actually not sure why this is (please chime in if you know!), but keep that in mind. If you open the lid and your noodles need a bit more cook time, simply turn the saute button on and let them cook a little longer. I will try to answer your IP questions as best as I can, but please remember I am fairly new to using it myself – thank you for understanding!

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5 Minute Mexican Chicken Salad

August 25, 2016

Mexican chicken salad is abundant with bright, bold flavor, and just 5 minutes of prep time!

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Sometimes it is simplicity that everyone craves.

A few weeks ago I casually posted a “last minute” dinner I made to my Instagram and Facebook page. It was a simple Mexican chicken salad with some crackers and guacamole. It was a super hot, muggy day, and I had zero cooking desire.

5 Minute Mexican Chicken Salad :: Mexican chicken salad is abundant with bright, bold flavor, and just 5 minutes of prep time!

I posted the picture, and I remember being surprised at how much reaction this simple dinner received.

Because honestly and truly, we all crave simplicity I think. I had never thought to post a recipe like this chicken salad that I make so often because it is embarrassingly simple in ingredients! What I learned that day is that you all are just like me. You made me feel human! We all have days we just. can’t. do. one. more. thing.

5 Minute Mexican Chicken Salad :: Mexican chicken salad is abundant with bright, bold flavor, and just 5 minutes of prep time!

We all have days where we need a simple, easy prep dinner that tastes amazing.

Is that so much to ask?! It really isn’t! I think you will really enjoy putting this Mexican chicken salad into your meal rotation for lunch or dinner!

5 Minute Mexican Chicken Salad :: Mexican chicken salad is abundant with bright, bold flavor, and just 5 minutes of prep time!

Here are some ideas for how you can serve your Mexican chicken salad!

  • Scooped into avocado halves (our favorite!)
  • Rolled up into a wrap or a lettuce leaf wrap
  • Scooped into bell pepper halves
  • Used as a dip for veggie sticks or crackers
  • On a sandwich with lots of veggies
  • Mixed into a green salad
  • Toddlers can eat it right off the spoon – and little ones love to dip! Try some crackers or veggie sticks!

5 Minute Mexican Chicken Salad :: Mexican chicken salad is abundant with bright, bold flavor, and just 5 minutes of prep time!

5.0 from 1 reviews
5 Minute Mexican Chicken Salad
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 cup chopped green onion (Red or Spanish onions work well too)
  • ½ small/medium tomato, coarsely chopped
  • ⅓ - ½ cup mayonnaise (I like to use my 5 minute, egg free mayonnaise , but an egg based homemade mayo works well too, or a quality store avocado or olive oil based mayo would be fine!)
  • 2-4 tsp taco seasoning (I use my quick, DIY taco seasoning- if using store bought just watch those ingredients for hidden MSG or other preservatives/starches. Start out with the 2 tsp especially if little kids will be eating it - you can always add more if you need but you can't take it away! My DIY spice blend is on the mild side since I have little kids in the house. My husband likes to add some cayenne, chipotle, or hot sauce to his to kick it up a bit.)
Instructions
  1. Everything into your food processor and pulse to combine to a texture you like. You can puree it all the way through for those that might have texture issues with chunks or who might not like seeing "pieces" in their food.
  2. Serve Mexican chicken salad on avocado halves, bell pepper halves, as a dip for veggie sticks or crackers, in a wrap or as a sandwich, or mixed into a green salad! Store in the fridge up to 5 days in an airtight container.

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