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Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal Cups

December 9, 2017

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

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

T’was the night before Christmas…

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

Slowing down

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

Fun and fast food prep!

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

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

A faster, more portable baked oatmeal

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

Fresh cranberries versus dried…

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

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

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

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

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal Cups
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups oats (Not quick oats. If you are gluten free, make sure your oats say gluten free like these.)
  • 1 cup Namaste gluten free flour blend
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or raw milk if you tolerate dairy)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • ¼ cup juice from your zested orange (this has been about the juice of about 1 medium orange for me}
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (or melted butter, coconut oil, or ghee )
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries or ½ to ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • Coconut sugar to sprinkle the tops (optional, but the flavor is so good with these!)
Instructions
  1. Put the oats and gluten free flour blend in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice. The mixture will be thick. Cover with a towel and let the mixture soak overnight about 8 hours. This soaking process breaks down the phytic acid in the oats and flour, making it easier on digestion. It also allows the nutrients in the grains to be absorbed better.
  2. The next morning, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Blend the eggs in a medium mixing bowl for 1 minute until frothy. Add the beaten eggs along with the rest of the ingredients to the oat/flour mixture that soaked overnight, and stir to combine (this takes a minute at first as the oat/flour/milk soaked mixture is a bit thick – do NOT add more liquid. It will loosen up as you incorporate the wet ingredients you added.)
  4. Scoop the batter into a muffin tin lined with silicone muffin cups (or, if you don’t have silicone muffin cups, you can butter your muffin tin to prevent sticking). Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with coconut sugar if you choose.
  5. Bake the baked oat cups at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until the tops are golden brown (check them around the 30 minute mark in case our ovens run differently). Let the muffins cool 5 minutes in the pan before turning them out to a cooling rack for 10 minutes before eating.
  6. Recipe makes 12 large muffins. You could make them smaller and get 18 – if you have real little ones in the house, I’d make them smaller so they can eat a whole muffin. You will probably need more like 30 minutes to bake if you make them smaller.

More real food recipes you might like ::

Healthy Kids and Teens Holiday Recipes Occasional Treats Real Food 101 Real Food Tips School Holidays

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

November 25, 2017

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

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

The first snow…

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

Bringing a little snowfall to our kitchen!

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

Ownership…

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

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

The holiday sugar trap…

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

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

A game changing combo!

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

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

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

Kid friendly serving sizes

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

A note on the powdered sugar…

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

Ingredient notes

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

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

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

More real food Christmas ideas you might like!

 

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

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

November 17, 2017

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

I see you, dear momma…

I see your endless nights with newborns and toddlers…

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

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

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

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

Because we all can’t do it all

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

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

You can still do this

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

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

The ultimate nutrient dense dinner…meatloaf!

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

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

A weekend dinner made for the weekday!

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

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

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

Tips for making this work on a weeknight

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

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

5.0 from 12 reviews
30 Minute Gluten Free Grassfed Mini Meatloaf with Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies :: Kid Friendly Taste, Paleo
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE ROASTED SWEET POTATOES & BROCCOLI ::
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets (save the stems for broccoli soup!)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil, butter, ghee, or coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp all season salt
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • ¼ - ½ tsp pepper to the kid’s taste
  • FOR THE MINI MEATLOAF ::
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 heaping cup of baby kale, chopped finely
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup gluten or grain free flour of choice (I’ve used tapioca, cassava flour, and white rice flour. Nut flours and coconut flour do NOT work in my experience)
  • 3 tbsp full fat coconut milk or raw milk/cream
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ - ½ tsp pepper to the kid’s taste
  • Ketchup to top the mini meatloaf (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare the veggie trays. Toss the sweet potatoes and broccoli florets in a large mixing bowl with the oil and seasonings, and divide between 2 sheet pans.
  3. Prepare the mini meatloaves. Mix all the meatloaf ingredients together by hand in a small mixing bowl. Divide the mixture into 6, and distribute the meat into a half dozen muffin tin. Spread ketchup on the top of each mini meatloaf if you wish.
  4. Roast everything together at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring the veggies around at the halfway point.

More real food recipes you might like ::

 

 

Healthy Kids and Teens Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

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

November 11, 2017

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

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

Where it all begins…

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

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

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

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

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

Where to start!

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


4 Steps To Mastering Kitchen Skills With Kids


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

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

So let’s talk about age appropriate tasks!

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

Let this be your inspiration! 


Best Kitchen Tasks Ages 6 months 2 years old


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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Kitchen Tasks Ages 3-5 years old


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


Best Kitchen Tasks Ages 6-9 years old


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Kitchen Tasks for Older Children (Tweens/Teens)


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

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


My favorite kitchen tools for kids


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

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

 

Batch Up Meals Dinner Ideas Instant Pot Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips Soup

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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How To Make Sprouted Candied Nuts & Seeds :: Sprouted For Better Digestion & Nourishment :: Made With Real Food Sweeteners & No Junk!

October 28, 2017

Learn how to make candied nuts and seeds for the holidays the real food way! Sprouted for better digestion and using better sweeteners without the junk!

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. 

Harvest parties, Thanksgiving, & Holidays….oh my!

The next few months are sure to bring on party after party and gatherings almost weekly! I wanted to share with you a staple party snack I keep in my back pocket (technically just stashed away in my cupboard!) all holiday season, to make the holidays a bit less stressful, and still yummy real food. Keeping a stash of candied crispy nuts in my pantry ensures that I always have something to pass around when invited to last minute events that don’t leave me with enough time to cook, or where I’m not expected to bring a large dish to pass.

An “evergreen” holiday treat for everyone!

Whether its a snack bowl out on trick-or-treat night, the appetizer table at Thanksgiving, or the big holiday party at home or the office, candied pecans, walnuts, almonds, or any type of mixed nuts or seeds are always a hit. And there are always those present at these events that will be thankful to have a healthier, more protein rich treat to snack on versus the starchy cookies and candies hanging around.

My special real food ingredients, and some notes on sprouting!

Because you really can make a few little swaps and techniques to make these holiday nuts easier on digestion, more nutritious, less processed – and still taste amazing!

  • Soaking/Sprouting :: I leave directions for both in the instructions. Soaking takes the phytic acid levels down so the nuts and seeds are easier on digestion. It takes just 7 hours of hands free time to soak (think over-night while you are sleeping!), so it really isn’t an inconvenience. If you have the time to take an extra day or 2, I recommend sprouting your nuts and seeds! It sounds intimidating, but it is really so simple. After soaking, you simply drain the water and let the nuts and seeds sit in the bowl until they start to sprout a little “tail” over the next 24-36 hours. It is a little extra time, yes, but super hands free, and so special! If you make big double and triple batches of these candied sprouted nuts, you can keep them stashed away for quick grab and go party snacks.
  • Dehydrating under 150 degrees :: Dehydrating versus baking or roasting maintains the integrity of the nut and seed oils. It is just a healthier way to consume them!
  • Coconut Sugar :: Instead of corn syrup or even “regular” white sugar, I always swap for coconut sugar. The glycemic index is lower which keeps blood sugars happier. It is an easy swap, and since coconut sugar has become more mainstream, you can find it even in regular grocery stores.
  • Molasses :: I once tried a candied almond recipe at a party that just really “wow-ed” me. I remembered thinking there was just something different about this recipe and ended up tracking down the guest that made them to ask what their secret was. It was brown sugar! Technically, brown sugar is just sugar mixed with a bit of molasses, so I’ve got the ratios down in my recipe to make a sort of “coconut sugar brown sugar,” and the warmth of the flavor will blow you away!

Special hints of flavor options

Don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit! Most people are pretty used to the typical sweet, candied nuts, but adding special aromas or spicy hits will make your recipe really special.

  • Pumpkin Pie Spice :: Not just for that latte or pie! This makes Halloween trick-or-treating parties so fun for snacking with your pumpkin spice lattes for the adults and warm apple cider for the kids!
  • Cayenne :: This is certainly optional when serving to little kids, but if you are attending an adult party, go for this one! Just a small pinch gives a flavorful heat that goes so well with the sweet and salty flecked candy shell.
  • Orange Zest :: My personal favorite! I think it just brings a happy, bright aroma to the bowl, and it leaves people asking “what is that in there?” – in a really good way! Serve with warm mugs of Winter Wassail – it compliments it so well!
  • Vanilla :: I have mixed vanilla bean to the coconut sugar mixture once before to serve with chilled mugs of real food eggnog, and it was SO good! Very special!
  • Cacao :: Dust in a few teaspoons of raw cacao for a chocolate flavor! So good! Serve with warm mugs of hot buttered raw cacao hot cocoa (recipe is in my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings!) – it compliments it so well!
  • Honey or Maple flavor :: You can swap out the coconut sugar for raw honey or pure maple syrup for a different sweet flavor too!
  • Cinnamon :: Swap the pumpkin pie spice for cinnamon if that is more your flavor preference!

Notes for nut free friends or party guests

My kiddos actually prefer candied seeds to nuts, so don’t be afraid to try out a seed mix even if you aren’t nut free! If you have party guests that have true nut allergies, just be sure you don’t dehydrate the seeds and nuts together in the same batch – do everything separate, and make sure the tools are all washed up real good in between. In fact some can’t even be in the same room as the nuts, so if you know this ahead of time, just stick to a seed mix and leave any nuts out. The seeds are just as festive and taste amazing.

I prefer a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds but there are so many things you can do. Adding chia seeds will make more “clusters” – almost like a candied seed “bark” and those just feel so special!

Notes for egg free friends or party guests

I would love to hear from my egg free readers how this works out, but I would imagine that a flax egg – or really just half of a flax egg – would work out just fine here. The egg white combines with the coconut sugar to create the candied coating. I have seen recipes where you combine water and the sugar and bring to a boil until a thick candy coating is made. Let us know in the comments if you have tried this – I would love to make this post a great resource for friends that need to make these allergy swaps.

A quick note about dehydrating/cook methods

Do not. I repeat do NOT, not make these just because you don’t have a dehydrator 🙂 YES dehydrating nuts and seeds below 150 degrees maintains the integrity of the nut oils and nutrients, but I would rather you make these in your oven than not make them at all, and buy crummy ingredient holiday nuts at the store. If you make them in the oven, just be sure to stir them around so they dry out evenly – it is more hands on than using a dehydrator, but it works.

If it happens to fit on your birthday or holiday wishlist, I get SO much use out of my dehydrator, and have had it for years. It is a great investment. If you want to make homemade granola for breakfast and snacks much easier with less hands on time, homemade jerky, and other dehydrated goods, you will not regret it. I have this “middle of the road” dehydrator, though I will definitely be spending the money when mine finally gives out to get a more quality dehydrator. Mine is 6 years old now and does not maintain the heated temperature as evenly (it’s tuckering out!), so I’ll be investing in a more quality dehydrator soon.

5.0 from 15 reviews
How To Make Sprouted Candied Nuts & Seeds :: Sprouted For Better Digestion & Nourishment :: Made With Real Food Sweeteners & No Junk!
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups raw nuts and/or seeds of choice
  • 2 tsp sea salt for soaking
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (See above section for different flavoring options to swap here from vanilla and cacao to cinnamon!)
  • Zest of 1 orange (Optional if you enjoy the citrus aroma and a hint of citrus to the nuts/seeds)
  • Up to ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (Optional only if you want some heat to your mixture – I’d leave this out if serving to kids – I make a separate batch with some heat just for the adults because it’s so yummy!)
  • Sea salt to sprinkle over top to your preference
Instructions
  1. Put the raw nuts/seeds into a medium mixing bowl with 2 tsp sea salt and fill the bowl with water to cover the nuts/seeds. Stir the mixture around to dissolve the sea salt, and then cover with a towel. Let the soaking nuts/seeds sit on the counter 7-12 hours to soak. This soaking process breaks down the phytic acid in the nuts/seeds making them easier on digestion. You could also sprout your nuts/seeds if you have the time to take that process further for more nutrient availability. After 12 hours of soaking, drain the water, cover with a towel, and let the nuts/seeds sit on the counter for 24-36 hours until you see a little sprout of a tail. Rinse and drain the nuts/seeds a couple times a day during this sprouting time.
  2. After soaking (or sprouting) your nuts/seeds, drain the water. Whisk the egg white, coconut sugar, and pumpkin pie spice (and cayenne if using it) in a small mixing bowl, and then put the drained nuts/seeds in. Stir the nuts/seeds with the coconut sugar mixture to coat evenly.
  3. Spread your coconut sugar coated nuts/seeds over a dehydrator tray (or baking sheet if using an oven). If you are dehydrating the nuts/seeds, you can dehydrate under 150 degrees to keep the nutrients and oils stable in the nuts/seeds. This will take around 12-24 hours depending how high you set your temp – I do about 135 degrees and it takes about 12 or so hours (this is the dehydrator I use.). If you are using an oven, you can bake at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes to an hour. Stir them around once or twice while baking to make sure they dry out all the way.
  4. Store your crispy candied nuts and seeds in an airtight container in the pantry.

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Savory Steak and Mushroom Soup :: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, & Grain Free

October 21, 2017

Savory steak & mushroom soup will become your staple comforting bowl of warmth this fall and winter!

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. 

Comforting bowls of warmth

That’s what fall and winter are all about right?! We’ve been enjoying an unseasonably warm fall so far, which make for really fun fall hiking, or pumpkin patch days! But with the sun going down a bit earlier each day, the cool air settles in by dinnertime, and that, dear friends calls for warm bowls of soup to end the day!

A new nourishing staple in my home

Last week I introduced you all to Nourished Kitchen’s Roasted Mushroom Broth that I have completely and utterly fallen in love with this fall. I’m so thankful to have discovered this broth at the beginning of “soup season” so that I can enjoy trying it out in new meals all fall and winter!

I have been making some creamed mushroom soups with this warm and earthy roasted mushroom broth, but one night decided I needed to use it for more of a full dinner meal – one that my husband would actually consider a “dinner”…and that means it needs to have some sort of meat involved 🙂

Steak & Mushrooms…like a match made in heaven!

I don’t know of anyone that wouldn’t take a steak and mushroom dinner every day of the week. Getting those mushrooms down into a golden braise with warm ghee or butter sends this bowl of soup over the top. The extra nourishment from the roasted mushroom broth or using a collagen loaded beef bone broth boosts the nutrient level of this meal, making it something I’m definitely putting on my monthly meal menu this fall!

Rich and savory without the heaviness

I know the idea of steak and mushrooms can feel kind of “heavy” but this brothy soup will feel comforting without the heaviness you would get from a big steak meal. Roasting the mushrooms for the broth makes this soup base feel so rich. It was such a satisfying and satiating dinner for a weeknight!

Tips for serving baby and little kids

I can tell you right now that my older babies would literally inhaled this soup! I very often made beef stew (in my cookbook Nourished Beginnings Baby Food), and chicken stew for my babies and blended it up for them – they were perfectly giddy with these meals! Those tougher cuts of beef like the steak in this soup are tough for little ones to chew though. Even my 4 year old needed her steak chunks cut a bit smaller to handle.

Here are some tips for serving this nourishing soup to little ones:

  • This would be a safe soup to start in pureed form for babies over the age of 6-9 months that have already tried tastes of beef and some veggies so you know they don’t have any reactions to the individual ingredients. You can pour mostly the broth base into a blender, Magic Bullet, or food processor along with a few of the veggies and a cube of the beef and blend it up.
  • For toddlers that like to “do it myself,” puree half of his bowl of soup including the beef to make it a thicker soup. He can fist-full it, or use a spoon. You could also just put little pieces from the soup onto his tray to finger food and see if he will sip the broth from a cup. My little ones loved having little tea cups of broth!
  • For older toddlers and preschoolers (even into those little guys in the Kindergarten and 1st grade ages), just make the beef chunks smaller. Even though the beef is really tender in this soup, it is just easier to chew that way for little mouths. To be honest, I made the steak cuts larger than I would have for photographing purposes for this post. When I make it again, I’ll be making the cubes smaller so my preschooler and 1st grader can handle them without needing take the beef out and cut it up more.
  • Remember that little kids don’t like temperature extremes for their food. Their senses are so much more heightened than adults. Instead of serving piping hot soup to your little one, serve it lukewarm or even room temp. I have found my babies to go from completely refusing a food, to gobbling it down without hesitation simply by letting the food cool off to what I would consider cold!

The perfect steak and mushroom soup accompaniments!

Here are some simple sides to serve with your soup – easy enough even for a weeknight

5.0 from 7 reviews
Savory Steak and Mushroom Soup :: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, & Grain Free
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup friendly fat to cook in such as butter, ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, or tallow (I like using a combination of ghee and olive oil)
  • 1 – 1 ½ lbs grass-fed round steak, cubed (Sometimes this is called swiss steak. Our beef processor tenderizes this cut as well, so if your is not, I would pound it out a little. Stew beef, chuck, or any steak cut you wish should work fine. I do think ground beef would be fine if that is what you have, and what fits in the budget.)
  • 4 tbsp arrowroot or tapioca flour, divided (You can increase this if you want a thicker "stew." If you tolerate grain, white rice flour will work nicely here if that is what you have)
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 small onions, diced (or 1 large onion)
  • ¾ - 1lb mushrooms of choice (I used a combination of cremini and shitake)
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup full fat coconut milk (If you tolerate dairy, you could use raw milk/cream if that is what you have)
  • 1 ½ quarts roasted mushroom broth, or beef bone broth
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp parsley
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach or baby kale, chopped
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the friendly fat in the bottom of your soup pot over medium/high heat while you toss the beef, 2 tablespoons of the arrowroot, salt, and pepper in a bowl to coat. When the oil is hot, carefully set the coated beef cubes in, searing the meat on all sides. Set the beef aside leaving the juices/oil behind in the pot.
  2. Over medium heat, add another tablespoon of oil along with the onions and mushrooms. Sprinkle with a big pinch of sea salt and cook over medium/medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, until the mushrooms and onions are softened and caramel in color.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the coconut milk. Bring the coconut milk to a simmer for a minute or 2, and then add the last 2 tablespoons of arrowroot. Stir until everything thickens.
  4. Add the broth, seasonings, and seared beef to the pot and bring to a simmer. Keep the soup at a low simmer over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat off, and add the chopped spinach in to wilt, then and sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste.

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Roasted Mushroom Broth

October 13, 2017

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

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

Healing, comforting, warming broth

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

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

Broth is so much more than food

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

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

Broth & Stock

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

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

A whole cookbook about…broth?!

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

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

Roasted Mushroom Broth

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

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

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

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

5.0 from 16 reviews
Roasted Mushroom Broth
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 3⁄4 pound mixed mushrooms or mushroom stems, chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, skin on and halved crosswise
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 quarts cold water or Chicken Bone Broth
  • 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 sprigs thyme
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet. Nestle the onion halves into the mushrooms, sprinkle the smashed garlic over, and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes in the heated oven.
  3. Remove the sheet from the oven and drop the roasted mushrooms and onions into a heavy stockpot. Pour in the broth and wine. Slip the sprigs of thyme into the pot and then bring it all to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue simmering, covered, for about 30 minutes.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, then use a wide-mouthed funnel to pour it into two 1-quart jars, sealing the lids tightly. Cook with the broth right away or store it in the refrigerator for no more than 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the broth for upto 6 months, making sure to allow plenty of headspace if you're using glass jars.

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

October 6, 2017

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

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

The joy {and busy-ness!} of autumn…

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

Keeping up but slowing down to savor

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

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

Breakfast Cookie Fridays!

Oh yes! It’s a thing, dear friends!

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

A new breakfast cookie Friday addition with a fall twist!

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

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

Ingredient notes and swaps!

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

Embrace the fall, my friends!

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

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

More real food PUMPKIN recipes you might like:

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

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Paleo Wild Caught Salmon Burgers With Dairy Free Garlic Aioli

September 30, 2017

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

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

Salmon…a household baby favorite!

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

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

A much needed trip, and a fresh idea!

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

It’s all about the texture

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

Salmon worthy of the name…burger!

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

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

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

My first try…

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

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

Because a burger this special deserves a special sauce!

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

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

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

Supporting local…and some thoughts on fish quality

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

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

Onto the salmon burgers!

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

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

More real food recipes you might like:

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

September 23, 2017

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

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

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

It’s not my favorite holiday.

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

And yet…

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

My middle kiddo making pumpkin pasta before trick or treating!

Did you hear that key phrase?

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

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

The fun, right!?

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

It’s called balance…

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

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

Our family Halloween traditions!

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

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

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

A quick note on my thoughts about babies & toddlers…

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

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

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

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

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

Onto the ideas!

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

Trick-Or-Treat Hand-Out Treats:

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

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

Treat Alternatives:

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

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

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

Homemade Treats The Family Can Make Together:

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

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

Honey Sweetened Caramel Corn

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

Homemade Tootsie Rolls

Spider Cupcakes

Candy Corn Panna Cotta

Chocolate Dipped Mandarin Oranges

Paleo Ghost Truffles

Sweet, Spicy, & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Dark Chocolate Nut Butter Cups

Fresh Figs With Cheese & Walnuts

Chocolate Covered Apples

Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Pumpkin Gummies

Cinnamon Maple Nut Butter Apples

Honey Nut Popcorn

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

Traditions That Will Make Halloween Super Special!

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

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

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

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

Halloween Monster Mouths

Fruit Bat Snack Bags

Monster Fruit Cups

Pumpkin Spice Fruit Dip

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

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

Healthy Halloween Orange Pumpkins

 

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

Orange Jack-O-Lantern Fruit Cups

Candy Corn Fruit Pops

Spiders On A Log

Fruit Gummy Worms

Treat Alternatives For Classroom Parties

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

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

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

Halloween Spider Craft

Halloween Rock Monsters

Monster Corner Bookmarks

Pine Cone Spiders

Yarn Pumpkins

Pumpkin Apple Stamps

Paper Plate Mummy Lacing Craft

Craft Stick Spider Webs

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

Paper Plate Black Cat

GAMES & ACTIVITIES FOR THE CLASSROOM:

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

SO! We want to hear from YOU!

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

 

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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.

More real food lunchbox ideas you might like!

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

September 9, 2017

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

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

Season transitions…

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

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

Season changes and new school routines

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

Which brings me to dinner…

Efficient but nourishing is the name of my game!

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

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

My veteran momma school year dinner prep tips!

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

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

Naturally sweetened teriyaki sauce {made in 5 minutes!}

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

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

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

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


20 Minute Beef Teriyaki Stir Fry


For the beef ::

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

For the stir fry ::

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

Instructions :: 

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

More real food recipes you might like ::

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Gluten Free Rustic Skillet Peach Pie

August 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have peach pie!

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

That whole busy schedule thing…

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

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

Summer peaches meet easy peasy skillet crust!

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

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

Buttery, flaky, no-fuss crust!

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

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

A note on peach types

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

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

Topping options!

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

New to skillet cooking?

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

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

More real food peach recipes you might like!

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Paleo Plátanos Calados :: Stewed Spiced Ripe Plantains

August 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

A little taste of Latin American culture

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

A whole new cookbook experience!

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

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

Latin American Paleo Cooking Features and Stats!

Here’s the low down on this amazing book!

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

Fall spices meet tropical fruit!

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

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

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

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

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

A quick note on some additions I made!

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

August 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Fast prep but power packed

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

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

My secret to fast, crispy chicken!

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

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

Rice swap ideas

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

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

Veggie options!

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

Tips for busy families to make this kind of meal happen

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

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

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

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

August 16, 2017

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

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

We are…slowly switching gears…

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

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

A new breakfast idea to savor summer!

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

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

A favorite summer breakfast with a twist

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

Ingredient notes and swaps

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

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

No peaches? No problem!

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

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

Freezer friendly tips

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

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

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

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

August 2, 2017

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

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

Ah, the signs of late summer…

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

A new way to preserve our summer blueberries

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

Versatile, forgiving granola

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

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

Waking up to warm blueberries…

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

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

One granola…so many possibilities!

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

Ingredient swaps and notes

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

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

Dehydrator notes

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

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

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

July 27, 2017

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

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

We kicked off blueberry season a couple weeks ago!

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

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

Embracing a new season of life…

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

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

A new recipe for this busy momma

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

The best coffee cake texture!

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

One recipe – lots of options

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

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

School morning breakfast bake off???

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

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

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

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

July 26, 2017

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

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

Summer is flying by!

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

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

20 minutes start to finish?!

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

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

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

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

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

Ideas to change it up!

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

Noodle Options!

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

Gluten Free Options ::

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 20, 2017

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

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

 

We are complete and utter beach bums in the summer…

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

Summer eggplant love

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

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

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

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

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

Little kid sized fun!

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

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

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

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

Ingredient notes/swaps

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

A note about leftovers!

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

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

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

July 7, 2017

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

Our family has been enjoying Michigan cherry season!

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

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

Hands on learning where their food comes from…priceless.

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

New recipe goals!

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

Ingredients that count

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

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

What is buckwheat flour, anyway?

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

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

Some notes on cassava flour

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

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

More than just a muffin!

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

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

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

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Pectin Free Cherry Jam :: Honey Sweetened Too!

July 7, 2017

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

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

It’s no secret…

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

A short but sweet season!

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

Novice cherry jam maker…

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

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

…So a pectin free trial run happened…

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

A note on the “sweet” and types of cherries

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

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

Storage!

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

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

Recipe size and jar storeage

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

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

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

June 23, 2017

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

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

Little kids and Ranch dressing…

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

But back to the kids and Ranch!

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

So what’s the problem with commercial Ranch dressings?

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

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

All the flavor, using real ingredients!

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

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

Lightning fast prep!

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

Why dairy free?

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

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

A note on the fresh herbs versus dried

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

Different ways to flavor your Ranch!

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

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

A note on tools…

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

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

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