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Renee Kohley

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Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

February 7, 2023

These healthy cocoa nib granola bars are nutrient packed to keep the kids full and focused, are fast to make, and taste like a chocolate chip granola bar!

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

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

Active kids and a brand new protein packed granola bar!

My youngest came home from a gymnastics meet not long ago telling me about this chocolate chip granola bar that her teammate was munching on after the competition. She was so intrigued, and wondered if we could get some! I pulled up some nutrition facts on various popular granola bar brands, and asked her if she thought these ingredients would help an athlete recover from the kind of practice and meets that she puts in. Corn syrup and/or sugar, soybean oil, rice and oats were really the only “real” ingredients, along with some preservatives in most of the brands we checked out. Zero protein source to help her muscles recover, rancid oil that would increase inflammation in her already worked-out body, and junky sweeteners…I know of exactly zero children that need a blood sugar spike like that. We decided together that those store bought bars are not exactly the “recipe for recovery” for any growing kid, let alone an active athlete.

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

So let’s make some!

I have plenty of granola bar recipes between the blog and my cookbook, but I have never done a “chocolate chip” granola bar. I had 2 main goals for this recipe.

  • First…it needed to be fast and easy to make. I know, I know…maybe my priorities are a little flip flopped. But if it is fussy to make, even I’m not going to make it on the regular. I am just as normal of a mom as it gets, with a busy work schedule, kid schedule, and everything in between. As much as I love the kitchen, I don’t have time for time consuming recipes every week.
  • And secondly, it needed to have a fantastic macro-nutrient balance. Protein, fats, and carbs…growing kids need them all. We don’t want a carb-heavy granola bar. I wanted something not only great to pack for a hungry gymnast after a meet, but something to pack in a lunchbox that would help the kids focus at school too!
Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

Cocoa nibs versus chocolate chips

Cocoa nibs are little shaved pieces of the actual cocoa bean that chocolate is made of. They are high in antioxidants and minerals, but because they don’t have the sugar added like a piece of chocolate does, they are bitter. Incredibly, when you mix cocoa nibs into a recipe with a natural sweetener like honey and the coconut sugar, they taste just like chocolate! I have nothing against chocolate chips here and there. If you want to use a mini chocolate chip, go for it! But give the little nibs a try, especially if the kids are going to eat these regularly! I have taste-tested these granola bars on more than just my “real food kids” and they have passed with flying colors!

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

Where is the protein coming from?

The biggest challenge in re-creating a “typical” chocolate chip granola bar is finding the protein source. Those store-bought bars are all rice and oat. There is nothing wrong with whole grain oats! But I wanted to add protein without compromising the flavor and texture. My newest baking protein source in the last year are these hemp hearts that I get at Costco. A whopping 10 grams of protein in just 3 tablespoons is an incredibly easy way to get some protein into something like a granola bar! I also added almond flour which makes the texture great. If you are at a nut free school, simply swap the almond flour ground up seeds of any kind – I would stick with sunflower seeds if you don’t want to change the color too much. Pumpkin seeds are great too, but they are green and might turn some kids off.

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

The Method :: The granola bar mixture

Earlier I told you that one of my goals in this granola bar recipe was to have an easy, fuss free, fast prep. If it is a drag to make, I know that I am not going to be motivated to make it on the regular! For these granola bars, you will simply mix up the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then stir in the melted liquid ingredients. It takes minutes!

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!
Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

The Method :: Granola bar molds or baking pans

I am pretty obsessed with my granola bar molds. I have had them for over a year, and I find myself making granola bars way more often because of how easy and *perfect* the shape comes out! I have both large granola bar molds, and recently got these minis because I think they make the perfect little snack bite for younger kids in lunchboxes! You can see the size of the mini’s in the picture below. Sometimes when I pack a larger one in my youngest’s lunch, she gets too full to eat the other items in the box because my granola bars are so packed and filling! To get the granola into the molds, just press the mixture in with a spoon. If you don’t have molds, you can use a parchment lined baking square. You’ll lift the square out of the pan when it cools and cut the bars into the shape you want.

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!
Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

So…did the swap make the cut?!

See the smile on that face?! She has been pretty pumped to have these granola bars for a snack in her lunchbox, and told me she can’t wait to pack it for her next meet! If you have kids that are used to regular, store-bought granola bars, you may want to bump up the honey or coconut sugar a little bit. As is, they taste like a treat to my kids, but they don’t get a lot of sugary foods.

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

Let’s talk about the size of this recipe!

This recipe makes…a lot of granola bars! I purposely did this because I was finding that with recipes like my Paleo Granola Bars, I was doubling them anyway so that I didn’t have to make them as often. You can certainly halve the recipe if you don’t want as many, but they do keep in the pantry for months, or you can freeze them if you like. This recipe makes 2 pans of my mini granola bar molds, and 2 pans of my large granola bar molds!

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Nutrient packed and gluten & dairy free!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. If you plan to use granola bar molds, place them on a baking sheet. If you are going to use a baking pan, you can line two 8×8 or 9×9 baking pans with unbleached parchment paper so the paper hangs off the sides (This helps pull them out of the pan to cut them easier later).
  • Put the oats, shredded coconut, hemp hearts, almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  • Melt the coconut oil in a small sauce pan until it is liquid, and then add the honey and coconut sugar to melt. Add the vanilla extract and then mix the melted liquid ingredients completely into the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
  • Press the granola bar mixture into your granola bar molds, or into your baking pan. I use the back of a spoon to press them into a granola bar mold. When I make granola bars in a baking pan, I use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture in.
  • Bake the granola bars at 325 degrees until golden on the top. For these small granola bar molds, it takes 15 minutes. For these larger granola bar molds, it takes 25 minutes. The baking pans should take between 25-30 minutes.
  • Let the granola bars COOL COMPLETELY before taking them out. You'll be able to pop the granola bars out of the molds. If you are using a baking pan, pull the parchment paper up to take the granola bars out of the pan, and then cut them with a long sharp knife.

Notes

  • I use these hemp hearts from Costco, but there are other brands, and you can price compare what works best for you!
  • If you can’t have coconut, or don’t like the taste, you can swap the coconut shreds for more oats, and the coconut oil for butter if you can have dairy, or avocado oil. I don’t taste the coconut in these bars, but I know some might!
  • If you are at a nut free school, swap the almond flour ground up seeds of any kind – I would stick with sunflower seeds if you don’t want to change the color too much. Pumpkin seeds are great too, but they are green and might turn some kids off.
Healthy Cocoa Nib Granola Bars :: Fast prep, nutrient packed, and gluten & dairy free!

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Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

January 31, 2023

Roasted rutabaga soup is beautiful simplicity, and a super kid friendly creamy soup way to get mineral rich veggies in!

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

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

Beautiful simplicity…

If you haven’t noticed from the last year of recipe posts on the blog, our family is most definitely knee deep in pre-teen and teen years. I’m so happy to hear from so many of you with teens, that you are pumped about the help you are getting from this space as my girls make their way through their teenage years. It’s interesting though…when I really stop to think about it, we aren’t truly doing a whole lot differently than when they were very little. Sure, we have to double (and triple!) the portions and recipe sizes for bigger kids, but my M.O. has always, always been…beautiful simplicity.

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Nourishing soup for ANY age!

Because those big kids in the picture above? They still eat the same power packed soups that I fed them as little ones. The pictures below? Dear momma with little ones at home, please let this be your inspiration…and motivation! Those babies in your house are absolutely *blank slates* for developing taste palates! I’m gonna get all tough love on you, and promise that if you skip the toddler puffs and cereal, and go for the beautiful simplicity of a little mug of veggie soup, you will be rewarded with older kids that actually *ask* for certain veggie soups in their thermoses for school lunch. My 3 very different personality kiddos are living proof! So let’s learn how to make a very simple veggie soup that your little ones (and you too, momma!) can sip from a mug, slurp up from a bowl, or lick off a spoon!

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Why rutabaga?

Well other than the absolute budget saver that this simple root veggie is, rutabagas are packed with fiber and vitamin C. They have the perfect balance of minerals including potassium which so many of us and our kids need more of! The slow burning carbohydrates give busy, growing kids the energy they need, and that coupled with a load of antioxidants? Well, let’s just say sometimes I think the humblest of foods sometimes don’t get enough credit!

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Yes, rutabagas are absolutely divine!

At least when you know how to cook them they are! Rutabagas are just like every other root veggie, in that when you roast them, you’re going to get a slightly sweet, very satisfying starchy taste, that any little one that hasn’t been inundated with sugar will find very, very appealing. And when you blend it up with some bone broth? Those natural, slow burning starches make for a smooth, creamy, very potato soup like texture, and a sweet root vegetable flavor. So let’s learn how to make roasted rutabaga soup!

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

The Method :: Prepping the veggies

To get your soup started, peel and chop your rutabaga. The skin is super thin, so a simple peeler is all you need. And since this soup gets completely pureed in the end, no precision cutting skills are needed here! Just a coarse chop, and you’re ready to roast. This bods well for busy families, new mommas with active toddlers, and those newer to cooking!

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

The Method :: Roasting the veggies

Once the veggies are chopped, transfer them to a large baking sheet. If your baking sheets are smaller, simply use two of them! Toss the veggies with melted butter or olive oil and sea salt, then let the oven do the rest! While your veggies are roasting, you can change the baby’s diaper, read the toddler that book, or *gasp!* take that shower you have been trying to get in all day!

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

The Method :: Finishing the soup

When the veggies are soft and starting to caramelize, you can blend it with your bone broth and a little cream or coconut milk. That is literally it! You get to control the texture and thickness! Add or subtract more or less broth to get a thicker or thinner soup.

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Tips for feeding soup to little ones

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when serving soup to babies, toddlers, and younger children!

  • Serve the soup at a cooler temp than you would probably enjoy the soup. Hot soup is very intense for little ones, and I always found that they ate soup better at pretty close to room temp. That might gross you out, but they will eat it better! You can cool it off with an ice cube, or pop it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.
  • Try different serving vessels! Most little ones like to “do it myself” so try a very small tea cup with a straw or small spoon. Or a smaller bowl. They may even prefer to drink it from a cup or sippy.
  • Some little ones love to dunk! Make some grilled cheese and cut it into strips for dunking, use some crackers or pita bread, or toast up some tortillas in a hot pan as “chips” to dunk.
Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Don’t forget about the school aged kids and teens!

These are the soups that my kids live for! Easy to eat and super yummy! The girls used to pack straws with their thermoses of soup when they were younger. My teens either drink it right out of the thermos like a cup, or pack a spoon now. But the possibilities are endless, really. Pack whatever sides and protein they need to go with it! Below are chicken quesadillas from dinner and some apples. My teens packed some more chicken quesadillas, as well as guacamole to dip the quesadillas in.

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Serving suggestions and freezer friendly tips!

I just love soups like this for the versatility and because they freeze for later use so well. When I had very little ones at home, those 2 points were game changers. If your little one loves this soup, it is versatile enough to serve in a little mug with a plate of eggs for breakfast, or in a bowl with some grilled cheese dunkers for lunch! And if you want to double up and freeze, that just makes life that much easier during busy weeks that you don’t have time to be in the kitchen. I like using these SOUPER freezer cubes for soups that I want to portion out for little ones.

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

Ingredients

  • 2 small/medium onions coarsely sliced into strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and left whole
  • 1 rutabaga peeled and cut into 1-inch sticks
  • ½ large head of cauliflower coarsely chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil or melted butter I like to use a combination of both olive oil and butter for the flavor
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1– 1 ½ quarts bone broth depending on how thick you want the soup
  • ¼ cup coconut milk if you tolerate dairy, cream or milk works too
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Toss the onions, garlic, rutabaga, and cauliflower on a large sheet pan with the olive oil and sea salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
  • Blend the roasted veggies in a high speed blender with the bone broth and coconut milk until smooth. If you do not have a high speed blender, you can pour the veggies and broth into a large soup pot and blend with and immersion blender.
  • Season the soup with sea salt and pepper to taste. I like cracked black pepper to garnish, or a drizzle of olive oil.
Creamy Roasted Rutabaga Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free

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Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

January 24, 2023

Gluten free flourless chocolate cake is the easiest prep in less than 10 minutes, and the most rich, decadent chocolate cake for any occasion!

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate 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.

“Just enjoy it…”

I know they said that these days would go fast. You know what I’m talking about – you’re the completely exhausted newborn momma with a toddler pulling on the yoga pants you haven’t changed in who knows how many days…and the well meaning relative or neighbor says, “Just enjoy it! It goes by so fast!” I know from experience that the comment barely computes on your two hours of sleep, but it stores away somewhere in your tired stupor. And they are right. It really does fly, even though your days feel endless. But if there are young moms reading this today, I also want to tell you it’s ok to tell someone you’re exhausted without the guilt. You can both enjoy your little ones, and admit that you are hanging by a thread!

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Create nostalgia and childhood memories in a simple way

I’m one of those “jump in with both feet” kind of people. So I remember when that well meaning person told me to “just enjoy it” and man did I jump in. I remember panicking that I wasn’t making enough memories, or creating enough joy. There is nothing wrong with planning a fun day with your littles, but expecting to do it all the time will most definitely end in one burned out momma! There are super simple things that you can make a part of your kids’ childhood that they will never forget, and you don’t have to spend days planning it. One of those simple things can be the tradition of Sunday dinner and dessert. (Or whatever day of the week works for your family!). I started this years ago when the girls were too little to understand, and now my 13, 11, and 9 year old’s, ask what Sunday dinner and their beloved treat will be almost every weekend. My husband and I often talk about how we hope that they will want to come home for Sunday dinner even after they have left the nest, and even if they don’t, or live far away, hopefully the memory of our Sunday hikes and Sunday dinner will be a sweet one for them.

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

One of our favorite (fast!) Sunday dinner desserts

Sunday dessert looks different depending on the time of year. Most of the time, I am *not* making something fancy or time consuming. In fact, in the summer, it looks a lot like summer berries and whipped cream! In the fall, I like to make apple crisp often, and sometimes in the winter it’s a quick batch of vanilla bean pudding (this recipe is actually in the Treats section of my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings!), or an oatmeal raisin cookie. I just love this flourless chocolate cake, though, and I think you’ll see that the effort it takes to make is super fast. It can really become one of those recipes to fall back on when you need to have a treat made for just about any occasion!

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

The Method :: Melting the butter and chocolate

You’ll start your cake by melting some butter in a sauce pan, and then letting that hot butter melt your chocolate. I have used both the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate chips and the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips/Chunks for this recipe, and both work. If you don’t tolerate butter, a sustainable palm shortening works. Coconut oil would work too, but it will change the flavor of the cake, so keep that in mind.

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

The Method :: Finishing the batter

Once the chocolate is melted, the rest of the ingredients get whisked in, and you’re ready to bake! Under 10 minutes to prep?! Yes please!

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Let’s talk about cake pan sizes!

You can bake your cake in just about any cake size or shape. I have made the cake in a 7-inch cake round (pictured in this post to fit the size cake plate and cake stand I used!), and also 8-inch and 9-inch cake rounds. The cake will obviously be thinner the larger the cake round, but the cake is very rich and brownie like, so it really fits the kind of cake it is!

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

The Method :: The ganache topping

Once your cake has cooled completely, you can add the simple ganache to the top. Ganache is just a fancy name for chocolate that has been melted in cream. In this case, I used butter. If you are dairy free, sustainable palm shortening works. Just like with the cake, coconut oil would work too, but will change the flavor. Simply melt the butter, and then pour the chocolate in to melt. You can spread it right on the top of the cake and let it set.

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Dairy free friends, this part is for you!

If you do not tolerate butter, you can use sustainable palm shortening. I have made this recipe with it once and it worked just the same. You will also want to be careful with your choice of chocolate chips if you have to avoid dairy, since some of them do contain milk. The Trader Joe’s dark chocolate chips and the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips/Chunks are both good choices, though I have seen other dairy free chocolate chips in the store.

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Let’s dress it up for Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are pretty much BFF’s, so this is a great treat for the little sweethearts in your home, or that night in with your spouse that you planned! If you like sprinkles, you can find dye free Valentine’s Day sprinkles here and here.

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Let’s dress it up for a birthday!

This is the *perfect* opportunity for your kids to work on following a very simple recipe to either make their own cake, OR make YOU a cake for your birthday! If you ask them, I’m willing to bet they would love the chance to make something for you! You can find dye free rainbow sprinkles here!

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

For the Chocolate Cake ::

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup pure cane sugar or coconut sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

For the Chocolate Ganache ::

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and line a round 7″, 8″, or 9″cake pan with parchment paper. I have made this cake with all 3 of those sizes and they all work. In this post, the pictures have a 7″ cake to fit the cake stand and cake plate used.
  • Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Turn the heat off, and add the chocolate chips. Let the chocolate sit for a minute in the hot butter, then whisk together until the chocolate is smooth.
  • Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture, and whisk to combine. Then, add the three eggs, and whisk until the egg is incorporated fully.
  • Stir in the cocoa powder completely, and scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan. Spread the cake evenly.
  • Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or till toothpick comes out clean. I feel like I have to let the cake bake an extra few minutes when I use the smaller, 7" cake pan, so use the toothpick method and make sure it is set. Let cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Melt the butter for the glaze in a small sauce pan, turn off the heat, and then pour in the chocolate chips. Let the chocolate melt for a minute before stirring it smooth. Pour the ganache over the cooled cake, and let it set.

Notes

  • I have used both the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate chips and the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips/Chunks for this recipe, and both work. 
  • I have used palm shortening in place of the butter in the cake and the ganache, and it works great, so if you do not tolerate butter, this is a good swap. Coconut oil would work as well, but will change the flavor.
Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

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Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

January 16, 2023

This creamy sausage, potato, & spinach soup is a Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana with all of the creamy flavor, and none of the gluten and dairy!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

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

Cold weather comfort food, and a teen favorite!

Earlier this fall, my 13 year old had a potluck to cook for at school. We scanned the sign up, and noticed it was fairly “Italian” themed with different pastas and salad. When I saw the section that asked for someone to bring soup, I thought I’d show my middle schooler the delicious comfort of an old Olive Garden restaurant favorite, with a healthy real food spin of course!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

A new teen hit with an old restaurant favorite

She helped me make that “Zuppa Toscana,” and I’m telling, you those middle schoolers licked every last drop clean! Creamy sausage and potatoes…what teenager wouldn’t love that?! We have made it a number of time since, and the girls have claimed this as one of their favorite winter soups now, so I just had to share!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Brown the Sausage

You’ll start your Zuppa Toscana by browning some sausage in a soup pot. I like to use a little of the bacon grease leftover from the weekend to cook in to add even more flavor to the soup, but a little butter or olive oil work great too. And speaking of options, you have choices for the sausage too! If you have a local farmer that you like to support, you can get either their ground sausage, or get plain ground pork and season it yourself! I have an MSG free and sugar free Sausage Season Blend on the blog! There are even some store bought sausages that aren’t so bad in the ingredient department if you look around. At our home, we tend to use our grassfed ground beef from the cow we get for the freezer each year, and season it with my own Sausage Season Blend. If you have ground venison, turkey, or chicken, that does work too!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Cook the veggies

After you brown the sausage, you’ll scoop the meat out with a slotted spoon, leaving behind all of the cooking fat. Use this flavorful cooking fat to sauté your veggies in. This step gives a yummy caramelized flavor to the veggies that will flavor the broth – don’t skip this step!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: The Potatoes & Creamy Broth

Once your veggies have softened, you’ll stir in some garlic and flour of your choice to coat the veggies. I use a GF flour blend. I would not try using almond or coconut flours as these will not yield the same texture results for the broth. The flour gives the broth a rich, velvety texture that will mix with the coconut milk or cream at the end to create a super creamy, decadent broth. After you stir the flour in, you can pour in the broth and toss the potatoes in. You’ll simmer this until the potatoes are soft, stirring along the way.

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Finishing the Soup

Once your potatoes have softened, you can stir in the spinach to wilt and also the coconut milk to add creaminess. You have some options here as well. I like to use baby spinach since I always have a large box of it on hand, and it wilts super quick. Baby kale works well too. If you want to use large kale, you’ll want to add it in while the potatoes are cooking for the last few minutes so the tougher kale has a chance to soften. If you don’t need to be dairy free, you can swap the coconut milk for cream or milk. If you are using raw cream or milk, be sure to add it after the heat is turned off so you don’t ruin the beautiful health benefits of the raw dairy!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

Leftovers!

The leftovers of this soup are…incredible! The flavors marry over time and just get better the next day. So plan this one into your dinner, and you can have it for lunch the next day, or pack it in the kids’ thermoses for school the next day! My teen and tween in particular ask for this in their lunchboxes a lot lately. I’m not a fan of freezing soups that have potatoes – they just don’t have the same texture when they thaw out, and I wouldn’t waste it. Make enough for the week and leftovers and enjoy. It’s simple enough to make on a monthly or bi-weekly basis if the family loves it that much!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp bacon grease butter, or olive oil to cook in
  • 1 lb ground sausage of choice See Notes for options
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 large carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic minced
  • ¼ cup GF flour blend
  • 1 ½ quarts bone broth
  • 4 large yellow potatoes cubed in ½ inch pieces (ends up being about 4 cups of cubed potatoes)
  • 4 cups baby spinach or baby kale chopped small
  • 1 cup coconut milk or cream
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt the bacon grease in a soup pot over medium high heat, and brown the sausage. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pot once it is browned, leaving the cooking fat behind in the soup pot. There needs to be a good tablespoon of fat in the pot leftover from cooking the sausage – if there isn’t, add a little more bacon grease, butter, or olive oil so you can cook the veggies.
  • Over medium heat, saute the onion, carrot, and celery in the leftover sausage cooking fat with a pinch of salt, until the veggies are soft and sweet, around 7 minutes or so.
  • Add the garlic and flour and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the bone broth and potatoes, stir to combine, and put the lid on your pot. Bring the soup to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are very soft – about 10 minutes. Stir the soup every few minutes to be sure the potatoes don’t stick to the bottom.
  • Once the potatoes are soft, stir in the cooked sausage and the chopped spinach to wilt in. If you are using kale, you’ll need to cook it down a few minutes to soften.
  • Turn the heat off, add the coconut milk, and then salt and pepper the soup to your taste.

Notes

You can use farm-bought, store-bought, or homemade ground sausage. I typically use my own DIY sausage seasoning blend mixed into ground beef actually, since we get a grassfed cow every year and our freezer is stocked with grassfed ground beef. The blend also works in ground pork if you have access to good ground pork. If you are a deer hunter, ground venison would work nicely!
Creamy Sausage, Potato, & Spinach Soup :: A Copycat Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Done Gluten & Dairy Free!

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How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

January 9, 2023

Learn how to make gluten free pizza with this fool-proof method that works every time!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

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

Weekend play…and weekend pizza night staples!

We went from blizzard conditions during the holiday, to a mid-winter thaw in a matter of weeks! This spot that we trudged through in shin-high snow just a couple weeks ago, made the perfect stone throwing spot to explore this weekend. And while our weather seems to be ever-changing, our weekend pizza night rarely changes – and I can’t wait to share with you how we have been making gluten free pizzas for about the last year!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

An old recipe made even better

Years ago, I created a gluten free pizza crust that we used a bit when the girls were little. Back then, gluten free flour blends were really hard to come by, and were not very affordable. I typically bought separate gluten free flours, and had to figure out the right ratios. I kinda sound like one of those people that is telling the stories of walking up hill to school, in two feet of snow, both ways, don’t I?! But it’s true. Gluten free baking has come a *long* way, and it is much easier to manage, with more affordable, more readily available gluten free flour blend options that easily swap cup for cup for regular flour.

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

Over a year in the making!

This pizza crust has been tweaked and tweaked for over a year, and finally this summer, I really feel like I found the right consistency and baking method. I can’t wait to share this with you, because I know that pizza night is important. It is ok to make the decision to make healthy food, real food, whole foods for your family, and still want to enjoy pizza night. This pizza method is simple enough to get on the meal plan for pizza night on the weekly – and any leftovers pack up great for school lunchboxes too!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

The Method :: Waking up the Yeast

Before you get the ingredients into your mixing bowl, you’ll want to get the water, yeast, and sugar mixed together. This will “wake up” the yeast. It only takes a few minutes, and you can get the rest of the ingredients into the bowl while the yeast is sitting in the sugar water. The top of the mixture will foam if your yeast is alive, looking like this picture below.

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

The Method :: Proofing the Dough

YES, gluten free flour can proof, and expand, just like regular flour! Once you whisk the dry ingredients into the bowl, you’ll add some olive oil, an egg, and also the yeast/water mixture, and stir to combine. You can see how the dough expands in just a half hour of resting. You can let your dough proof for 30 minutes, or you can make the dough in the morning quick, and let it proof all day. This is what I typically do!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza
This is what the dough looks like after mixing.
How To Make Gluten Free Pizza
And this the dough expanded after proofing for about 30 minutes!

The Method :: Forming the Crust

Once the dough has proofed, you can pre-heat your oven and get your crust onto the pizza pan. I like to make two 10-inch pizzas, but this dough does all fit on 1 pizza pan to make a 14-inch pizza. Gluten free dough is sticky. Do NOT add more flour! You need the moisture or the crust will be dry. In fact, you’ll be adding more moisture, because I have found the best way to get the pizza crust formed is to use oiled hands! And a lot of it! Pour olive oil into the palm of your hand, and don’t be shy! Rub the oil in your hands, and then form the pizza dough into the shape you want on a parchment paper lined pizza pan. The extra olive oil will keep the dough from sticking to your hands, and it will also allow the crust to crisp up (not to mention taste amazing!). Once you form your pizza crust, sprinkle the top with sea salt and garlic powder. I like to be sure the edges get completely covered so that the edges of the crust taste amazing – like breadsticks!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

The Method :: Par-Baking the Crust

Once you shape the crust, you’ll bake it without any toppings on it for about 12 minutes. This will “set” the pizza crust so it isn’t just a sloppy dough, and you can slide the parchment paper out from underneath the pan. You’re going to be baking this crust at a very hot temperature on the LOWEST rack that your oven can go. This will make the bottom of the crust crisp. Alternatively, if you have a convection setting on your oven, you could use that and keep the pizza on the middle rack. Once you par-bake the crust, and take the parchment paper out, you can add your toppings before baking the pizza the rest of the way!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza
Par-Baked Crusts

So let’s talk about those toppings!

I wanted to show you some of our favorites here, but really if your kids are used to pepperoni or just cheese, then go for it! Sometimes we do that too, and I just make sure that we have a big Caesar salad or platter of veggies and dip on the side to get a few veggies in! You can see my original Caesar dressing here, or my dairy free Caesar dressing here. And here are some great dips for a veggie platter too!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

And what about the cheese?

I wanted to briefly mention that if you have been around here for a while, you know that we don’t tolerate dairy well! So how do we do pizza night? Well we have a couple of favorite ways. One way is actually to go cheese free completely. We top the pizza with meat & veggies before the par-bake, and then drizzle olive oil and sea salt when it is finished. It is like a focaccia bread, and is SO good. Another option is the Violife coconut oil based “cheese.” It is dairy free, and we get it at Costco. We also like to use Manchego, which is a sheep’s milk cheese. Sheep’s milk and goat’s milk are different than dairy from a cow, and some people that can’t tolerate regular dairy, can tolerate goat’s milk products!

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

The Method :: Finishing the Pizza

Once you add the toppings to your par-baked crusts, you can pop them back in the oven on the lowest rack for another 10 minutes, or until it is done to your liking.

How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

Gluten Free Pizza

Ingredients

Instructions

Proof the Dough

  • Give yourself 30 minutes to let the pizza dough rest before baking. You can also let it sit all day if that works better for your schedule. I tend to make the dough in the morning quick, or when I have a minute before I pick kids up from school sometime in the afternoon, but you can also make the dough, let it rest for 30 minutes and then bake.
  • To make the dough, first wake up the yeast by mixing the warm water, cane sugar, and yeast in a pyrex measuring cup. Set this mixture aside while you put the rest of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. This will give the yeast time to “wake up” – it will get foamy at the top and smell yeasty if it is good yeast. See the picture above to see what it should look like.
  • Mix the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients until everything is combined. Put a lid on the bowl, or cover it with a towel. Let the dough rest at least 30 minutes, or up to all day if you need to make it in the morning. The dough will get bigger in size after resting (see the pictures above)

Make and Par-Bake the Crust

  • Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees, and put the oven rack on the lowest spot it can go.
  • Line one or two pizza pans with parchment paper. 1 pan will yield a large, 14-inch pizza. Or you can make two 10-inch pizzas.
  • If you are doing 2 pizzas, divide the dough in half, and scoop the dough onto the middle of the parchment paper on the pizza pans. If you are doing 1 pizza, scoop all of the dough onto the middle of the parchment paper.
  • Next, you’ll form the crust into the shape you want. To keep the dough from sticking to your hands, pour a good palm-full of olive oil in your hand, and rub into both hands. Form the dough into a circle. It will seem like a lot of oil on your hands, but trust me, this is ok! And even good! It crisps up the dough and makes it so flavorful.
  • Once you have formed your pizza crust into the shape you want, sprinkle sea salt and garlic all over the crust, making sure that the edges of the crust where the toppings don’t go get the most so that the edge of the crust is super yummy and flavorful.
  • Bake the crust(s) at 450 degrees for 12 minutes. Take the pans out of the oven, and use a spatula to lift the crust up and pull the parchment paper out. Leave the crust on the pizza pan without the parchment paper.

Put the Toppings on the Pizza & Bake

  • Put your toppings on the par-baked pizza crust and bake at 450 degrees for another 10 to 15 minutes to the done-ness that you like.

Notes

This recipe works with a regular, conventional oven, but if you do have the option on your oven to convection bake, it does help make the crust even crisper!
How To Make Gluten Free Pizza

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Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken – EVER!

January 3, 2023

This rotisserie style roasted chicken is the most flavorful & tender roasted chicken – EVER!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

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.

Winter Storm Elliott – and I’m finally blogging!

So, we live in a part of the US that doesn’t get a whole lot of storms with “names,” if you know what I mean – no hurricanes or tropical storms here! Sure, we get completely dumped on with lake effect snow every winter, but it doesn’t usually make national news. The week before Christmas, our little corner of the world DID, in fact, make the news, as we experienced a “Bomb Cyclone,” and an actual named winter storm/blizzard that came our way! My little people are Michigan born and bred, and *love* the snow – so they were pretty much in seventh heaven for this experience with all the snow play they could endure!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Hunkering down and perfecting recipes!

Over the past couple of months, I’ve taken a little blogging break to refresh, as well as recipe test and perfect some new content for you! The winter storm had us pretty homebound for a number of days, and I was able to get some real work done – including a this recipe that I have been working on for a YEAR!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

A pretty hefty claim….

The *most* flavorful & tender chicken – EVER. I know that is a lot to claim, and I can truly say that after a year of working on this recipe, I use this chicken method almost every week now, simply to hear the rave reviews from my family, and completely devoured chicken every single time. Picture the most tender, flavorful rotisserie chicken made right in your home! It is truly mouthwatering – and I don’t say that about a lot of chicken recipes. But there are a couple of very simple secrets to getting the flavor, and I’ll show you just how to do it!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Flavor and Moisture Secret #1 :: The Salt Brine

I know what you’re thinking...I don’t have TIME to brine! I’m not talking about a fussy water bath, or salt water brine here though. This is literally rubbing the whole chicken in a ton of sea salt, and letting it sit in the salt all day. It’ takes minutes to prep – if that. You’ll rinse and pat dry your chicken, then set it up on a wire rack. Then sprinkle all the sea salt over the skin, and inside of the cavity of the chicken. The salt will get drawn into the chicken making every. single. bite – insanely flavorful. Like the best rotisserie chicken. This “dry brine” method is something I have done with my Thanksgiving turkey for years, and it really works well for a whole chicken too!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Flavor & Moisture Secret #2 :: Mayonnaise

I know, I know…but hear me out. Typically we butter or olive oil the outside of the bird, correct? Mayo is really just olive oil, seasoning, and a little egg…basically the same fatty covering to encourage a crispy, roasted skin! The mayo makes the *best* protective coating for the chicken to get brown and crispy, and it tastes so good too! I add just a few herbs – you can use whatever you want! Then rub down the chicken and it’s ready to roast. If you don’t happen to keep mayo in the house often, butter will work as well. If you have the mayo – try it at least once! You won’t be sorry!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!
Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Flavor & Moisture Secret #3 :: The Roasting Method

My original roasted chicken recipe is a more low and slow method. It uses liquid in a pan with a lid to do more of a “braise” than a true roast. It works well for pastured chickens that are lean, but it does take all afternoon to cook. Great for a Sunday…not so great for a weekday! This roasting method works just as well with lean, pastured chicken, but it is more of a higher intensity heat for a shorter duration. The sea salt brine locks in moisture – and I promise you will not have a dry chicken here! Simply roast the chicken for a little over an hour, and you’ll be good to go.

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Flavor & Moisture Secret #4 :: Let the Chicken Rest

I’m making a whole separate section for this step because I want you to figure this time into your “cooking” time. Once your chicken reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees within about 1 hour and a half, then you want to pull the chicken out to rest for a full 30 minutes before carving it. FIGURE THIS INTO YOUR COOKING TIME so you aren’t disappointed when you have to wait another half hour for dinner! It is worth the wait to let all of those juices redistribute into the bird so that when you DO carve the chicken, it is so juicy and not dry at all.

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

How do I use this roasted chicken?

Dear momma, this is a GREAT prep day chicken for your week. Sure, it makes a yummy Sunday dinner, but you can make one or two of these chickens on the same day and use it like you would a store bought rotisserie chicken.

  • Top your salads for lunch
  • Pack it like a deli meat sandwich for the kids’ lunchboxes
  • Use it to toss in a stir fry or soup for dinner
Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Tools you might be interested in!

Because I know I’ll get some questions about the pan & wire rack, what kind of mayo I used, and even meat thermometer recs, I’m going to leave those right here!

  • For 1 whole chicken, a “quarter” baking sheet and wire rack work great! If you are doing 2 chickens, you’ll use a larger sheet pan.
  • I get my avocado mayo at Costco. Most regular grocery stores where I live carry these healthier oil mayos now, but look around and see what you can find. You could also make your own! I have a classic mayo recipe in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!
  • If I could become a spokesperson for this little smart meat thermometer…I would! And I don’t particularly like “selling” things! This “Smart MEATer” would be fun to put on your birthday list for this year. I just pop it into the breast before I put the chicken in the oven, and it alerts my phone of the internal temp, and how long it will take to reach 165 degrees! That is a game changer, and takes the guess work out of how many pounds equals how many minutes! See the image below to see how small this thermometer is, and how it goes right into the meat so easily.
Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken - EVER!

Mayo Roasted Chicken :: The most flavorful & tender roasted chicken – EVER!

Ingredients

Instructions

Dry Brine the Chicken:

  • Cover your chicken in salt for at least 4 hours before cooking. This is called a dry brine. I salt my chicken in the morning and leave it uncovered all day until ready to cook for dinner. You can even do this up to a day in advance.
  • To do the salting (dry brine), rinse your whole chicken and pat it dry with a paper towel. Cover the chicken skin with the sea salt, including sprinkling some of the salt on the inside of the chicken. Leave the chicken on a wire rack on a small baking sheet. The chicken will drip some of it’s liquid, so it is best to not just set it on a plate, or it will sit in all the liquid and the bottom skin will not get nice and dry to crisp up.
  • Leave the chicken UNCOVERED in the fridge to brine. The chicken will need to be at ROOM TEMPERATURE before roasting, so be sure to take it out of the fridge an hour or so before roasting.

Prepare the Chicken for Roasting:

  • Once the chicken has brined in the salt all day, AND has come to room temp for at least an hour, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees for a conventional oven, or if you are convection/air frying do 400 degrees.
  • DO NOT rinse the salt from the chicken. I promise it will not be too salty – chicken needs the seasoning, and the salt was pulled into the chicken meat so that every single bite is flavorful.
  • Mix the mayo, garlic powder, thyme, and coconut aminos in a small bowl, and then brush over the outside of your ROOM TEMPERATURE chicken (top and bottom).

Roast the Chicken:

  • Roast the chicken at 425 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes depending on the size. Use a thermometer to get the internal temperature to 165 degrees. I recently got a Meater, and it just stays in the chicken while it cooks, and tells me on my phone when it is done – SO nice!
  • Once the chicken has roasted and reached 165 degrees internally, pull the chicken out from the oven and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes before carving. If you cut the chicken right away, the juices will leave the meat, and it will dry out. This resting time allows the juices to redistribute – it is SO worth the wait so count this time into your cook time so you aren’t disappointed when you can’t eat it right away!

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How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

October 17, 2022

Don’t throw those pumpkin seeds away! Roast them up for a zinc-rich, salty or sweet crispy snack that the whole family will love!

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

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.

All the October pumpkin fun!

My crew is just like pretty much every kid around October – perfectly pumped to dress up in a fun costume, carve into some messy pumpkins, and run around with their friends to all the neighbor’s houses! We also use SO many of those little pie pumpkins this time of year. I just love to add the creamy sweetness to a broth for delicious soups like pumpkin chicken noodle soup, and chicken & pumpkin corn chowder, or chilis like this Instant Pot chipotle chili. And, of course, pumpkin is so fun to bake with. There are multiple recipes on the blog you can search for, but our favorites are the pumpkin breakfast cookies, pumpkin scones, and these brand new pumpkin donuts!

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

What to do with all those seeds!

With as many pumpkins as we go through in our home (including Halloween pumpkin carving!), we always end up having roasted pumpkin seeds on hand for quick lunchbox additions or snacks at home, and you can really dress them up any way you like! From simple and salty, to savory and complex, pumpkin seeds are a pretty blank slate, and so easy to roast as well. You can also make them a fun, sweet pumpkin spice or cinnamon toast flavor for a healthier Halloween treat!

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

Allll the zinc – and so many other healthy benefits!

Pumpkin seeds are known in health circles for being packed with zinc. Our bodies need zinc for so many things, including immune health, so it is pretty amazing this crispy snack is available during this time of year while the kids are back to school! But, did you know that pumpkin seeds are also loaded with other minerals, including magnesium, which so many of us (yes, kids too!), are super deficient in? What a fun way to get some minerals in!

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

The Method :: Soaking the Seeds

After carving your Halloween pumpkin, or scooping the seeds out of your roasting pumpkins for baking, you’ll want to soak the seeds. Add a little salt to a bowl, dump the seeds in, and fill to cover with water. They need to soak for at least an hour, but you can leave them overnight too. You’ll be able to pull any leftover pumpkin flesh out much easier after soaking too.

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

The Method :: Rinsing the Seeds

Once the seeds have soaked, drain the water, and give them a good rinse. This is a good spot to pick out any leftover pieces of pumpkin flesh that are stuck to any seeds too.

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

The Method :: Drying and Prepping the Seeds to Roast

After you rinse the seeds, you can lay them out on a paper towel to soak up any dripping, excess water. You don’t need them bone dry, but use the paper towel to pat the tops of the seeds. Next, dump the seeds onto an unlined, ungreased baking sheet. You’ll toss the seeds right there on the baking sheet with butter and sea salt. You can also add any extra seasonings or flavors you wish to add at this point.

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

The Method :: Roasting the Pumpkin Seeds

Roast your pumpkin seeds for about 15 minutes, and then give them a good shake or stir to make sure everything gets roasted evenly. Then roast another 7-10 minutes until golden. The pumpkin seeds will crisp up more as they cool, and you can store them in the pantry for a good month.

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

Let’s talk about dressing them up!

While butter and sea salt will always be my “go-to” favorite for pumpkin seeds, sometimes it is really fun to give the flavor a spin – especially if you have a lot of them! Here are some ideas! {All of the instructions for dressing up your pumpkin seeds are in the recipe card below}

  • Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Seeds :: This is super fun for Halloween night, with a crispy sweet flavor, it makes a yummy healthier treat option!
  • Savory Pumpkin Seeds :: With a little garlic and onion powder, your seeds will transform into a savory snack in the best way!
  • Cinnamon Toast Pumpkin Seeds :: This is another sweet option that works really well for Halloween night!
  • Pizza Night Pumpkin Seeds :: If you’re craving the flavors of pizza, this one will hit all those salty, herby notes you love!
  • Spicy & Sweet Pumpkin Seeds :: One of momma’s favs, the sweet heat is perfect for any fans of a little kick in the house!
  • Vinegar, Sea Salt, & Black Pepper :: Like vinegar chips! Need I say more?!
All of the instructions for dressing up your pumpkin seeds are in the recipe card below

How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

Ingredients

  • Seeds from 2 pie pumpkins about 1 – 1 ¼ cup seeds
  • ½ tsp sea salt for soaking
  • 1 tbsp of butter or avocado oil
  • ½ – ¾ tsp sea salt for roasting
  • See below for savory/salty/sweet flavor options!

Instructions

  • Before roasting your seeds, you’ll want to clean and soak them for at least an hour. Cover the seeds with water in a small mixing bowl, and add about ½ teaspoon of sea salt to the water. Stir everything around, and let the seeds soak at least an hour, or up to 8 hours.
  • Drain the seeds in a strainer, rinse, and remove any pumpkin flesh left behind. Put the seeds on a paper towel to soak any excess water, and gently pat dry. They won’t get totally dry unless you let them sit out overnight (which you can do if you want!). I usually don’t and they crisp up just fine.
  • Pour the seeds onto a baking sheet, and toss them with melted butter and sea salt. If you are flavoring your seeds at all, you will add those seasonings here as well.
  • Spread the seeds out on the baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Stir the seeds around and bake for another 7-10 minutes until golden and fragrant. The seeds will crisp as they cool.
  • Store your seeds in an airtight container in the pantry for 2 weeks.

Notes

Here are some fun flavor variations!
  • Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Seeds :: Pull the sea salt down to ¼ – ½ tsp, and add 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1-2 tsp coconut sugar
  • Savory Pumpkin Seeds :: Add ½ tsp onion and garlic powder
  • Cinnamon Toast Pumpkin Seeds :: Pull the sea salt down to ¼ – ½ tsp, and add 1 tsp cinnamon and 1-2 tsp maple syrup
  • Pizza Night Pumpkin Seeds :: Pull the sea salt down to ½ tsp, and add 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp basil, and ½ tsp oregano
  • Spicy & Sweet Pumpkin Seeds :: Add a few pinches of cayenne to your heat preference, and ½ tsp paprika, 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • Vinegar, Sea Salt, & Black Pepper (Like vinegar chips!) :: Add a tsp or so of white vinegar, and a few pinches of black pepper to taste
How To Roast Crispy Pumpkin Seeds :: Plus 6 Different Flavor Variations!

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One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

October 16, 2022

No need to separately boil the pasta or make a separate sauce! This weeknight friendly, one pan gluten free baked ziti has a super fast prep, and even easier clean up!

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

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.

Fall weather is here!

I think we have made the final pivot from warm, summer weather into a cooler, and more crisp fall pattern – and my crew eats. that. up! They are true Michiganders and are perfectly giddy for fall, and the anticipation of those first snow flakes in the coming months! Their momma, on the other hand…well, she would prefer summer stick around, but if we are going to make a shift to cooler weather, then I’m going to take advantage and get my oven on!

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Comforting oven meals on a week night time frame!

Because as the kids get older, man alive do things get busier! When they were little, we were home a lot more often, so flipping the oven on all afternoon, even on a weekday, was not out of the norm. The girls are older now, and each have their own passions to pursue, and of course zipping them around to hang out with friends is so important for this very social age as well! With a work at home mom that also likes to be involved at school (they are only at that helping out at school age for so long!), my plate is also happily full, and I’ve developed some really great, nourishing dinners to help me keep real food on the table, even on a busy weeknight.

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Baked ziti in one pan?!

It’s like a dream, right?! Sometimes those pasta dishes seem daunting on a weekday just because you have to boil the pasta. I’ve taken the boiling step out of this super fun, kid favorite dinner, making this “dump it all in dinner” a perfect weeknight solution! Chop a quick side salad and your crew will have dinner on the table in no time!

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Let’s get this simple one pot meal started!

You’ll want to use on oven safe casserole dish, braiser, or pot that has a lid. I like to use my pan that I can use stovetop as well so that I can brown the meat, and then dump the rest of the ingredients right in. If you don’t have a casserole pan or brasier that can be used stovetop, you can brown the meat separately, and then add everything to your casserole pan or baking dish to bake. Again, you’ll want a pan or pot that has a lid – if you don’t, you can use a baking pan and cover with aluminum foil.

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Now for the “dump it all in” part!

Once the meat is seasoned and browned, just stir the rest of the ingredients in – yes, even the dried pasta and uncooked spinach! It will all cook together in the oven! Put the lid on your casserole, and you are free for 30 minutes to help kids with homework, pack lunchboxes, change a diaper, or even {gasp!} read a chapter of your book! Easy peasy, right?!

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Can I veggie load this baked ziti?

This baked ziti has a load of spinach, and even some creamy pumpkin puree inside, so I tend to serve it with a side salad for simplicities sake. You absolutely can “veggie load” the sauce if you have hesitant salad eaters, or little ones not loving salads yet. My suggestion would be to use finely chopped cauliflower and shredded carrot which will all blend in super easy.

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Let’s talk toppings for my dairy free friends!

Our family is dairy free for the most part, but we do tolerate sheep’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses, so I keep a lot of manchego on hand. My family also enjoys the Violife Vegan cheese that is coconut oil based with a great ingredient list. I don’t use a lot of vegan cheeses because of the ingredients, but this is a good one and tastes pretty great! You could also top your baked ziti with bread crumbs, gluten free bread crumbs, or a ground up nut combo.

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

One Pan Gluten Free Baked Ziti

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp friendly fat to cook in butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil
  • 2 lbs grassfed ground beef
  • 1– 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast optional – see Notes for details
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree fresh or canned
  • 2 cups bone broth or water
  • 1 – 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 2– 3 cups baby spinach You can finely chop this if you want it less noticeable
  • 12 oz dry pasta of choice We use GF rice pasta
  • 2 cups cheese of choice to top I use a Manchego since we tolerate sheep’s milk best. See Notes for dairy free options

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • You can make this entire dish in a stove top/oven safe casserole, braiser, or pot with a lid. If you do not have this, you can brown the meat in a skillet and transfer everything to an oven safe casserole pan with a lid or use aluminum foil.
  • Melt the fat in a large oven safe casserole pan or braiser over medium high heat, and brown the beef with the sea salt. Add the Italian seasoning, onion & garlic powders, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and add the nutritional yeast, pumpkin puree, bone broth, tomato sauce, spinach, and pasta. Stir to combine and top with cheese.
  • Put the lid on your casserole, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I like to take the lid off at the end and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top and crisp up any edges too!

Notes

  • If you don’t use nutritional yeast, you can leave this out, or if you can have dairy, you can stir some cheese into the mixture.
  • If you are dairy free, you can top your baked ziti with bread crumbs, gluten free bread crumbs, or a ground up nut combo.
  • If you have little ones that don’t like to eat a salad along side dinners like these, you can definitely “veggie-load” this baked ziti wit a couple cups of finely chopped cauliflower or cabbage, or shredded carrots! 
  • I don’t even drain the grease from browning the meat, because it add so much flavor. We get a half side of grassfed beef every year for the freezer, and the meat from grassfed cows is super lean. If your beef lends a lot of grease, you can drain some of it.

More real food ONE PAN DINNERS you might like!

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Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

October 10, 2022

These super soft, super delicious pumpkin donuts are the perfect treat for all of your fall weekend adventures!

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

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

It’s pumpkin time!

You never know what your going to get as far as the weather goes on pumpkin patch weekend, and this year it was probably the warmest we’ve ever experienced! I also never know what we’re going to get as far as what kind of pumpkins my little people pick out, and while I’m a traditionalist, and love an orange pumpkin, the girls always tend to find the coolest colors, varieties, and sizes just to stretch me 😉

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

A new pumpkin challenge!

As the girls get older, this time of year has gotten hard as they definitely know what they are missing when we take a pass on the pumpkin patch donuts. When they were little, we’d steer clear of the bakery area, and call it good. But, they know a little better now, and last year I ended up playing around with a new donut pan, coming up with some fun recipes so they could feel like they got to enjoy a special treat, and I could feel good about keeping the ingredients on the healthier side.

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

Roasted pumpkin or canned?

I’m an absolute sucker for fresh roasted pumpkin. I designed this pumpkin donut to make a good 15 donuts so that I only had to make them once per fall, freezing any leftovers, which absolutely makes it feel more do-able to go fresh on the pumpkin in my book. Canned pumpkin will work just fine as well, so go that route if you are shorter on time. If the kids have never seen a pumpkin go from the patch to the oven to a baked good though, it is so, so worth the time to do that! Simply pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees, use some good avocado oil or butter if you can have that on the flesh of the pumpkin, and roast flesh side down on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes until tender. You can scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender to puree from there. I don’t think you’ll turn back once you taste it!

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

Easy peasy, one bowl batter!

If you have been around these parts for very long, you know that I freely admit that I don’t enjoy baking – it is just not my thing! I love to cook, but baking is fussy and finicky, and I barely have the patience for it! So most of my baked items are super fuss free, including this one. You’ll whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the wet ingredients to mix, and then get them into the donut pan! The batter is thicker than a muffin batter, but not as thick as a cookie dough.

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

Let’s talk donut pans and how to bake!

Silicone is the way to go from my experience. I had metal donut pans last year, and the middle part didn’t come up very high, so it made it hard to fill the pan and keep the hole in the center of the donuts in tact as the donuts rose. My silicone donut pans have a nice high center, and the donuts come out of a silicone pan SO easily too! Since the batter is thick, I have found it easiest to pipe the batter into the donut pan so that you get a really pretty, and smooth donut. If you don’t have piping bags around, you can snip the end of a zip top bag just as easily.

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free
Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

That topping though!

I have played around with a few different donut toppings for these pumpkin donuts, and just love the traditional donut glaze that has a fun shiny top – it really looks like a store bought or bakery bought donut! You’ll just melt some butter or coconut oil in warm coconut milk and molasses, and then whisk the powdered sugar into the pan. Keeping the glaze warm is key in getting a really pretty, smooth frosting top. As it cools, it will harden and have that shiny gorgeous finish! Here’s the deal though – if you have really little ones at home, they are not going to know ANY differently if these donuts are glazed or not. It’s really just a mildly sweet muffin without the glaze, and if I had small children or toddlers at home, I’d be leaving the frosting off – they will still love them!

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

Storage and freezing options

This recipe makes a good 15 donuts – my kids do NOT need 15 donuts! You can certainly halve this recipe, but I like to freeze them. It’s nice to do a fun treat on pumpkin patch day, and then freeze some for Halloween morning! That is one less thing you have to make on Halloween, and they really do freeze up well. I freeze them with the frosting on, but you can also just freeze the donuts once they cool, and then make fresh glaze when you pull them out.

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

Ingredients

For the Pumpkin Donuts:

For the Brown Sugar Icing:

Instructions

For the Pumpkin Donuts:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray your donut pans with avocado oil spray. This recipe makes about 15 donuts. You can halve it if you need!
  • Whisk the flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Add the pumpkin puree, coconut milk, avocado oil, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar, and mix to combine.
  • Snip the tip of a piping bag or Zip Top bag to make a thick circle for the batter to come out of. Scoop the batter into the piping bag, and pipe the batter into the donut pan. I filled my silicone molds up to the top.
  • Bake the donuts at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are golden.
  • Let the donuts cool for a few minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before glazing.

For the Brown Sugar Icing:

  • Put the coconut milk, butter, and molasses in a small saucepan, and melt together, whisking along the way.
  • Turn the heat off, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth.
  • You’ll want the glaze to stay warm so that the donuts will dip easily, so I just keep the glaze in the sauce pan and dip the donuts from there. Dip the donuts, let the glaze run off into the saucepan, and then set on the cooling rack to dry.

Notes

  • Canned or fresh pumpkin puree will work just fine in this recipe. If the kids have never seen a pumpkin go from the patch to the oven to a baked good though, it is so, so worth the time to do that! Simply pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees, use some good avocado oil or butter on the flesh of the pumpkin, and roast flesh side down on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes until tender. You can scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender to puree from there. I don’t think you’ll turn back once you taste it!
Fresh Pumpkin Donuts :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free

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6 Ways To Use Leftover Chicken

September 14, 2022

Tips for stretching a whole chicken, plus a variety of recipes to use your leftover chicken!

6 Ways To Use Leftover Chicken

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

Back to school schedule rhythms

We are back into fall routines, and we all know that means needing a little more rhythm to our meal plan! Many of us are back to busy schedules, after school activities, homework…and enjoying all of the fun fall events too! This felt like a simple enough post to write, but I felt very important, since this “using a whole chicken for multiple meals” thing is something that I rely on very heavily on a weekly basis during the school year.

6 Ways To Use Leftover Chicken

My year ’round menu staple…

Learning how to cook a whole chicken was one of the very first things I learned how to make when I started my whole foods journey. I was actually quite sick at the time. After seeing doctor after doctor, I saw a more holistically minded practitioner that turned my focus to healing through food. I made my first whole chicken and my own bone broth, and over a period of a few months, and other diet clean-ups, I saw a significant change in my health. I was sold, and the practice of making a whole chicken and broth on a weekly basis became a household staple.

6 Ways To Use Leftover Chicken

It isn’t as intimidating as it sounds!

Little did I know that years after I got into that rhythm of making a whole chicken and broth, and I started having children, that this simple kitchen task would actually end up becoming a budget and meal planning lifesaver! Whole chickens are less per pound than chicken parts, and you can really stretch that chicken into multiple meals. Of course if you have a larger family, you may need to make more than one chicken at a time to accomplish this! Here are a few posts to get you started on your own journey to making whole chicken! Use whatever kitchen appliance you have – I have a method for just about anything!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Onto the recipes!

Whether you plan to make a whole chicken specifically to use in a recipe like these, or you plan to make a whole chicken for dinner, and use the leftovers for another meal, I think you’ll find that the possibilities are endless when it comes to utilizing the whole chicken for your weekly meal plan!

6 Ways To Use Leftover Chicken

Recipe #1 :: Chicken Noodle Soup (plus other chicken soup ideas!)

The quintessential leftover chicken recipe, and my “go-to” on many weeks, is soup. Whether that be chicken noodle soup, or something heartier like stew, it is truly a no brainer. Save the juices that you cook your whole chicken in (called meat stock), and you can literally make soup in the same pot as your whole chicken! Also! If you need some biscuit ideas to go with your soup, you can try my Grain Free Butter Biscuits, my Soft Fluffy Pumpkin Biscuits, or my Cheesy Spinach Biscuits! Here are some of our soup favs with chicken (all of these are gluten and dairy free!):

6 Recipes To Use Leftover Chicken

Recipe #2 :: Chicken Fajitas

I can’t think of a way that I love using shredded chicken for more than fajitas. The texture from a whole chicken is out of this world, and I think you’ll find that the kids will love this on the meal plan rotation often! Go ahead and veggie load that fajita filling too (you can learn how to veggie load taco meat here, and use the same method!), and you can have the whole skillet as a meal to use in tortillas, shells, or on a big salad. If you need a fantastic fajita seasoning blend, you can find my recipe for fajita seasoning mix in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook! Or, if you prefer to buy, this is a good brand.

6 Recipes To Use Leftover Chicken

Recipe #3 :: Chicken Fried Rice

When my girls were little, fried rice was an easy lunchtime staple that I made often while they were home with me. Now that they are bigger, they love to take this savory meal in a thermos to school, but since they are bigger, the little bit of egg in the fried rice doesn’t go as far! I started adding chicken, and it is protein packed enough for a meal for big kids too! If your kids are sensitive to eggs, you can leave them out and add more chicken. This recipe is in my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings – the flavor will definitely remind you of a restaurant fried rice! So good!

6 Recipes To Use Leftover Chicken

Recipe #4 :: Chicken Pesto Pasta

*The* most requested pasta dinner in my house is this! I know, I know…it’s green. But hear me out! This creamy, dreamy pasta is SO, so flavorful and comforting. The recipe for my pesto pasta is in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, but if you have a favorite pesto recipe, you can toss that with pasta and chicken and make your own! The recipe from the cookbook has some hidden veggies in with the pesto that the kids will never know are there because the sauce is so creamy, so you can truly call this a one pot dinner!

6 Recipes To Use Leftover Chicken

Recipe #5 :: Chicken Salad

Whether you are super short on time, or the weather is too hot to cook, chicken salad is a fast, no-cook way to use up the leftover chicken from your weekly whole chicken! My kids love to scoop chicken salad with veggies and crackers, which makes for an easy lunchbox protein. You can make chicken salad with a simple mayo (I like this brand from Costco, or here is my Paleo Mayo, or my dairy based egg free mayo), or get fancy with yummy add-ins. There is a really delicious chicken salad pinwheel recipe in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook that the kids will love, or you can try this Mexican Chicken Salad! (PS! If you want to try another “cold” chicken sandwich idea, try my shredded BBQ chicken sandwich recipe!)

6 Recipes To Use Leftover Chicken

Recipe #6 :: Chicken Stir Fry

Clean out the veggie bin at the end of the week and toss it with your leftover chicken! It can be as simple as that, or you can dress it up with some yummy stir fry sauce! Here are some recipes to get you started:

6 Recipes To Use Leftover Chicken

Don’t forget the bone broth!

If you are investing in a whole chicken, you might as well squeeze the most out of it that you can! Having the bones leftover after pulling the chicken apart is like the gift that keeps on giving. My usual routine is to toss the bones/carcass into my Instant Pot or Slow Cooker as I am de-boning the chicken and make the bone broth right there. You can leave it to cook in the slow cooker over night, or pressure cook it it a couple hours using your Instant Pot (a lot of the times I end up pressure cooking after dinner, and then leave it it in the pot over night since it is so incredibly hot – it cools off by the morning and then I strain and freeze it.

6 Ways To Use Leftover Chicken

So tell me!

What are your favorite things to do with leftover chicken? Also! I would love to hear from you if you try making a whole chicken for the first time after reading this post! Let us know how it goes!

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Our Favorite Herbal Tea for Kids

August 20, 2022

Our household favorite herbal teas, with lots of tips for using herbal tea with kids!

Our Favorite Herbal Tea for Kids

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.

Over the years, you’ve watched our girls grow up before your eyes, and one of the things you may have noticed when I share breakfast bar set-ups, or our infamous “Breakfast Cookie Friday” tradition, is the herbal tea on the counter, or little teacups in the girls’ hands. A warm cup of “something” to go with breakfast, or as an afternoon pick-me-up, is always comforting, and with back-to-school rhythms commencing, I thought this might be a useful resource for you!

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

A few considerations before we get started

I just wanted to preface that I am not a doctor, naturopath, or herbalist. I’m going to share herbal teas that I have found that my girls really enjoy, herbal teas that have been recommended by our functional medicine doctor or herbalist friends, and teas that I have found work really well for my kids. Every kid is different, and I would just keep that in mind as you read through. I keep away from caffeinated tea for the kids, and stick to gently steeping the teas. For instance, for the most part I’ll steep tea for the girls for a few minutes so it isn’t as “strong,” or if it has steeped a while, my girls will dilute it with some water if need be. As they get older, I find them diluting it less, and enjoying a stronger tea. I never used honey to sweeten the girls’ tea, but if you prefer to do that, you may!

Our Favorite Herbal Tea for Kids

The benefits of herbal tea for babies

Babies, toddlers, kids, and teens alike can all benefit from being introduced to herbal teas. In my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings, I show you how I introduced my babies to little sips of different herbal teas off a spoon or teacup using colic or tummy calming herbs, fever supporting herbs, as well as mineral rich nourishing herbs. It’s a great way to broaden their palate to the taste of tea, and can help gently address any tummy ailments, colds, and overall health. If you have a baby in the house, I encourage you to pick up Nourished Beginnings, and use that as your starting point, as there are tips and instructions specific to using herbals with babies that will be helpful to you.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

The benefits of herbal tea for toddlers

One of my favorite things about using herbs for any age is how easy they are for the body to absorb. When used appropriately, they are gentle and easy on the body, as well as very effective. And for little ones like toddlers who don’t have a reference to sweet beverages like soda or juice (hopefully!), tea can be a super fun beverage “treat” that you can feel good about. I also found herbal teas useful when my toddlers were fighting off a bug. It was something easy to get into them when all they wanted to do was drink instead of eat. Talk about that 2 birds and 1 stone thing! Hydrating, replacing minerals lost, as well as addressing symptoms through herbs is so helpful when a toddler is ill.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

The benefits of herbal tea for kids

Similar to toddlers, herbal teas can be an easy way to address symptoms in your children in an easy to administer, as well as easy to digest and absorb way. I have found sending a diluted cup of tea in the girls’ water cups for school to be helpful on so many occasions. At the beginning of the school year adding some relaxing herbs to keep their first day jitters calm. During those sniffly months to add an immune system supporting tea to keep them bolstered. During testing weeks to use focusing or calming herbs. Or while they are on a hot and sweaty field trip or long day outside to use mineral rich, replenishing herbs.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

The benefits of herbal tea for teens

As the girls have grown, I have started explaining to them more about how different herbs can help them, how to pick what tea they need, and how to listen to their body. I wish I had started explaining herbs a little younger than I did, because I really think they can learn so much even as little ones, but start where you are! Giving these older kids and teens the tools they need to target how they are feeling with herbs is a priceless life skill they will take with them when they leave the home. For instance, as my oldest has entered puberty, we have talked about herbs that will support her during every week of her cycle. Helping our girls feel empowered instead of helpless with how their body changes each week is going to make such a difference in how she views this season of her life. Helping teen boys and girls learn how to use herbs to support times of stress, times of joy, times of hard work, times of illness, and times of rest is also going to serve them well as they enter their young adulthood.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

To tea bag or loose leaf…that is the question!

This part is up to you, but I do have a few thoughts to help you make your choice!

  • If you have little ones that “want to do myself” I do find that tea bags are less fuss, less mess, and you’ll be more likely to stick to it. I did use a little tea infuser and loose leaf for a while, and my little ones were mild mannered enough to handle it, but it does get messy, and it is more time consuming. The tea bag brands I list in this post all use UN-bleached tea bags, and have been tested for safety (ie no chemicals or junk).
  • If you have a certain herb, or blend that you come to find that you use on the daily, or more often than most, it will save you money to buy in bulk loose leaf, and make it yourself. I do this with nettle and hibiscus because we love the blend of those 2 herbs, and use it often.
  • Tea bags make for a tidy “tea corner” using a little organizer next to your electric tea kettle. It becomes an easy “self serve” spot for the kids to help themselves once they are independently fixing their own tea.
  • If you plan to loose leaf, I have found scooping herbs from the bags they come in, into jars with lids is neater and easier to use.
Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Electric kettle game changer!

I started using an electric kettle when my oldest was really in a “do it herself” stage. While I didn’t mind helping her stir a pot of soup here and there, boiling a kettle of water everyday was time consuming and, on those major “toddler days,” daunting. Using an electric kettle meant she could fill up the water, flip the switch on, and then “help” me pour the water in her cup. And your teens will enjoy how fast the water boils using an electric kettle. 😉

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Onto our favorite household teas!

This is by no means a complete list. There are so many great tea blends out there. The brands listed here are organic, and use safe, unbleached tea bags, and so, in general, if you find another blend in the same brand that you want to try, it should be good to go, so try it out!

Our Favorite Herbal Tea for Kids

Organic India Tulsi/Holy Basil Tea Blends

Tulsi (sometimes called Holy Basil) is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it aides the body during stress by restoring and supporting. The Organic India brand carries just the singular Tulsi herb in a tea bag, but it also has several blends that my kids enjoy on the regular. I would say that in addition to making Nettle Hibiscus infusions in our house, these teas get used the most.

  • Tulsi Sweet Rose :: This tulsi blend uses rose and chamomile to make a soothing, calming blend. If you have a little one who has a sensitive heart, this is a beautiful blend for them.
  • Tulsi Sleep :: This tulsi blend uses ashwagandha and chamomile to support restful sleep. If you have high strung kids that have a hard time settling for bed, this is a great one to use at dinner time. One of my girls finds this blend helpful to have with her breakfast before school to calm her if she is experiencing anxiety about testing or changes.
  • Tulsi Hibiscus :: This tulsi blend simply has hibiscus added to the adaptogenic herb. Hibiscus tastes really yummy to kids, makes for a fun reddish pink color, and is a good source of vitamin C!
  • Tulsi Raspberry Peach :: This tulsi blend also includes hibiscus and elderberry with some natural flavoring for a really palatable tea for kids. It is a nice one to introduce to older kids that might turn a nose at more herbal tasting teas, and you’ll get the stress response supporting tulsi herb in there too!
Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Yogi Organic Elderberry & Lemon Balm Immune & Stress

Let’s face it, when our bodies are under the weather, that is a form of stress. So an herbal blend that addresses both the immune system and adrenals makes sense, right? This herbal tea not only tastes really good, it is a wonderful tea to keep around during the fall and winter months when the kids at school are passing bugs around. The girls will take this in their water bottle to school often during the winter months. This herbal blend also has a good amount of ashwagandha which I have found to be one of my favorite adaptogens for stress support.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Yogi Organic Honey Lemon Throat Comfort

The herbs in this tea are great to have around when you have that post-nasal drip feeling, scratchy throat, or cough. More than just “honey lemon,” this tea blend also has cherry bark is great for soothing coughs, and echinacea for supporting the immune system to do it’s job. Stevia leaf also makes this tea feel “sweetened” without adding any sugar.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Yogi Organic Mango Ginger Digestion Support

Ginger root is known for soothing an upset tummy – but it can also be known for being on the “spicy” side for kids. I only have one kid that enjoys straight ginger tea, but this blend is so great for kids, with dried mango right in the tea blend to tone down the ginger. This is a great tea for tummy upset, but I find the girls grabbing it even if they don’t have a sore tummy because it does taste good! Ginger is a wonderful “anytime” herb, so this is a good one to keep around. (This blend DOES still have the ginger as the main ingredient, so if you have little ones, it can be “spicy” if you steep it for too long – just a couple minutes to start is all you need, or if you happen to steep it longer and it tastes too ginger-y, just water it down a bit.)

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Yogi Organic Relaxed Mind

I think of this one when I think of racing thoughts. If you have a child that is more high strung, a child who’s brain cannot “turn off”, or, as my husband likes to call it…you can literally see the wheels spinning in her brain making smoke (!), then this is a great blend for them (or you!). It also uses some berries so it has a nice flavor for kids.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Yogi Organic Relaxing Pumpkin Spice

Ok, so you’re enjoying your once or twice per fall “pumpkin spice latte,” and your kids want to have something fun too! This tea tastes so yummy, and it actually serves some purpose too! I love that! I can’t think of anyone that can’t benefit from relaxing herbs, and this blend not only tastes like a fun pumpkin spice drink, it also has chamomile and passionflower (one of my favorite calming herbs!) for relaxing. Make a big pot of it on Christmas Eve night and you can have a fun drink that also relaxes the kids!

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Sleepy Teas

There are plenty of “sleepy tea” blends out there, and I wanted to share a few of our favorite, safe ones to drink that my girls like the taste of. Sleepy teas aren’t just for sleep either. While they are helpful for promoting restful sleep, they are not necessarily like a “knock you out” kind of a feeling. I mentioned above that my more “high strung” kiddo finds sleepy tea helpful to drink with breakfast if she is feeling anxious for a test day at school, or something new. More of a “bring you down a few notches” versus making you drowsy!

  • Organic India Tulsi Sleep :: This sleepy tea uses the adaptogenic herb tulsi blended with ashwagandha and chamomile to support restful sleep.
  • Organic Yogi Bedtime :: I mentioned above how well we find passionflower to be useful for calming nerves and promoting good sleep, and this blend has passionflower and valerian, making it one of my favorite sleepy tea blends. This blend does have some stevia so it tastes sweeter, and you may find the kids like the orange flavor pretty well.
  • Traditional Medicinals Organic Nighty Night :: Another option, and found in a lot of grocery stores, this blend uses passionflower, chamomile, linden, and catnip to promote easier sleeping.
Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Gentle Detox

Kids don’t need (and shouldn’t be) heavily detoxing. (In fact, adults shouldn’t be either!) But, there are some gentle herbs that can support the liver as it gets rid of toxins in the body, and that is a great thing to do!

  • Traditional Medicinals EverdayDetox Tea :: A blend of classic liver detox herbals with lemon peel to make it taste better, this is is a nice and gentle detox blend.
  • Yogi Organic Berry Detox Tea :: Dandelion root is the most common of liver detoxers, but it can taste bitter – in fact some adults like to use it as a coffee substitute! I have 2 kids that actually like the taste of dandelion root teas, but I would imagine many kids will need a little help to enjoy it. This berry detox tea tastes great, and you can get the herbal benefits of some gentle liver detoxers too! They also make a Peach Detox Tea too!
Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Nettle/Hibiscus Infusions

A staple for the girls water bottles throughout the year, I make half gallon jars of nettle/hibiscus infusions often. Nettles are a mineral rich, overall health herb. And because nettles pull histamines down, they are great for kids with seasonal allergies too. Nettles can taste pretty “grassy” on their own, so blended with more pleasantly tasting hibiscus, it is more palatable for kids.

Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Healthy Cycle (for pre-teen/teen girls)

I will be the first to admit that it took me years to learn about my cycle, how it works, why it works the way it does…and how to fix things that needed fixing. I am an 80’s kid, and 90’s teen, so I won’t even go there and tell you how we managed our cycles when I was a teen. And THAT is why I’m dedicated to helping my girls NOW, while they are pre-teens and teens, instead of walking into it blind and searching for answers in their adulthood. While I’m pretty new to having a cycling teen in the house, I’d like to share how we’ve navigated it so far, and I’ll update along the way if we come across anything else useful!

  • Yogi Organic Red Raspberry Leaf :: Red raspberry leaf tea is well known for supporting the uterus during menstruation. It can ease and soothe cramping pain. While we have only experienced some mild cramping so far, the difference this tea makes has been noticeable in my teen – enough that she has chosen to take it in her water bottle to school before. While the goal is to have minimal symptoms (severe PMS over the course of a few months is a red flag that something needs addressing!), it is absolutely normal for a newly cycling teen to have some ebbs and flows of cramping as her body starts cycling, and figures hormones out. Red raspberry leaf tea tastes a bit like black tea – it is on the bitter side. If you find that it works but the taste turns your teen off, try a drizzle of raw honey and squeeze of lemon or orange to brighten it up.
  • Traditional Medicinal’s Healthy Cycle :: I was trying to find a red raspberry leaf tea that tasted a little better than just plain red raspberry leaf, which can be on the bitter side. I wanted to be able to share something that even teens that are new to herbal tea might enjoy. My oldest actually really enjoys the plain tea, but I will tell you right now that my middle one will not when it comes her turn. I found this blend and I really like it for a couple reasons. It has a fun citrusy, minty flavor, and it has the benefits of some gentle liver detoxers like dandelion root. Anytime there are hormones changing, the liver needs to be in tip top shape to handle the hormone dumping. If there are liver clogs or stagnation, you’re sure to have more intense symptoms. I love the extra nourishing nettle in there, as well as relaxing herbs like chamomile (which I think we would all agree we need during our period!)
Our Favorite Herbal Teas for Kids

Ever changing, ever growing…

As I learn and grow with the girls, I’ll try to keep this post updated! As stated above, this list if tea options is definitely not the only options. If I come across something new that we like, I’ll be sure to share!

Our Favorite Herbal Tea for Kids
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“Anytime” Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

August 9, 2022

Say “yes!” to this fry sauce anytime! This healthier ingredient, restaurant style sauce is perfect for fry dipping, salad dressing, burger topping, and more!

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

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

Summer staples!

I know that my “long-time” readers know how much our family adores summer. We live for our Lake Michigan beach right next door, the powdery sand, crystal fresh water, and near perfect summer temps! We also love walking through our little beach town to window shop, and one of the things the girls notice more as they get older are some of the yummy looking foods on the plates of people dining outdoors! We went for a rare-for-us out to dinner at one of these spots for the 4th of July this summer, and the girls were introduced to the concept of “fry sauce.” They were obsessed, and I just had to figure out how to make it at home…with ingredients that I felt comfortable with them having more than just one time!

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

So what’s so wrong with restaurant style or store by fry sauce?

Well, nothing really, if you are only going to have it for a special treat one time. But if you are wanting to replicate this fun dip for a homemade burger & fry night at home on your menu plan on a regular basis, making it with ingredients that don’t inflame might want to be on your radar. The last thing any of us need, including kids, is more inflammation. Most store bought and restaurant style sauces, dips, and dressings are made mostly with inflammatory, rancid oils like canola, sunflower, or soy. These oils have a great shelf life, and are cheap for companies to save money, but they wreck havoc on our bodies, causing fiery inflammation and free radicals to roam.

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

But I just don’t have time for one. more. homemade. thing….

I so get it, dear momma. I really do. Which is why I wanted this fry sauce to be made in under 5 minutes. You’re already making the steak or burgers, and the fries, so this quick dipping sauce can be made while the burgers are grilling in just a few minutes. Or even the day before. It is a big serving too, so you can stash it away in the fridge for weeks and pull it out when you need it. It even works double time for you because it can be a salad dressing, or burger topper too!

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

The “Anytime” Fry Sauce prep ::

Everything into a small mixing bowl, and stir to combine! That’s it! Truly! This can even be a prep item for the kids to make while you are fixing the rest of dinner.

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Mayo options and other swaps

Primal Kitchen Mayo (we get this from Costco), or Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo are healthier choices here using good fats versus rancid, inflammatory fats. If you prefer to make your own, you can try my traditional mayo recipe in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, or my Egg Free/Dairy Free Paleo Mayo, or my Egg Free Dairy Based Mayo. Also, if you prefer to skip the ketchup in the recipe, try a tablespoon or 2 of tomato paste mixed with some honey for a more natural sugar option. 

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

The possibilities are endless!

Why do we call this “anytime” fry sauce? Well not only am I happy to let the kids have this fry sauce “anytime,” it actually can be used for so many other things “anytime” too! It is so versatile! Of course use it for your french fry dipping, but my girls love it on a salad, on top of a burger, or using for veggie dip!

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Tell me about those FRIES!

These sheet pan french fries are a staple recipe in my home, and I think you are going to love them! Easy peasy method, and a special trick used to ensure the crispy fry factor (without the extra time of pre-soaking the fries!). Making your own fries also allows you to control the oil used. Just like with store bought or restaurant dipping sauces, french fries from restaurants or the freezer at the store are typically cooked in junky oils. I don’t know about you, but I like to have fries more than just once! When you make them with healthier oil, you can serve them more often without the inflammation spike.

"Anytime" Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

“Anytime” Fry Sauce! :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Ingredients

  • 1 cup healthy mayo of choice See "Notes" section for recommendations!
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup ketchup See "Notes" section for alternatives if needed
  • 1-2 tbsp mustard

Instructions

  • Whisk all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. If you want it thinner, I like to splash in pickle juice. This dip/dressing keeps in the refrigerator as long as your mayo has a good "best by" date.

Notes

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Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

August 1, 2022

Reminisce your summer vacation memories on your favorite horse-drawn carriage, bike riding island with your own, clean ingredient & dairy free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

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

A most special vacation spot!

Around these parts, Mackinac Island is a pretty popular summer vacation destination, but I would imagine that if you don’t live near the Mid-West, perhaps this beautiful island in the middle of the Great Lakes of Michigan is unknown to you!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

Simple summer fun!

Mackinac Island is located to the Northeast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, surrounded by Lake Huron. This super special island is well known for it’s gorgeous, crystal clear fresh water lake, and you’ll also notice that there is no motorized vehicles on the island! Between biking and horse drawn carriages, tourists are able to explore the 8.2 miles around the island, as well as the beautiful hiking spots within the island too.

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream
Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream
Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream
Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

But that fudge though!

One of the things that Mackinac Island is most known for, are their many fudge shops! With super fun set-ups to allow you to watch the process start to finish in each fudge store, it makes for a fun experience, and the best treat to enjoy on your vacation! Our favorite fudge stop is Ryba’s since they have a dairy free fudge option, and the ingredients are are pretty clean for a store bought dessert (ie – not something we have everyday!). Just cocoa, powdered sugar, maple syrup, cane syrup, coconut oil, and cocoa butter – that’s it! Compared to a lot of the other fudge on the island, this one is the best option as far as ingredients go. We enjoyed a block of fudge while on vacation, and then wrapped up a block to bring home with the goal of making the famous “Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream” that you find in so many stores here in the Mid-West. I ended up only using half of the fudge for one back of ice cream – so you can get 2 batches out of one brick of fudge!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream
Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

A fun project for my teen

Earlier this spring, my oldest and I went on a trip with her middle school to Mackinac Island, and she had the wonderings about how we could possibly make the famous ice cream with the yummy fudge from the island in it. We had the conversation on the way home from the trip, and decided that when we went back for summer vacation, we would make it happen! Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream is basically a vanilla ice cream base with chunks of fudge and swirls of chocolate rippled throughout. Easy right? We made my staple date-sweetened vanilla ice cream base to start. If you are in the market for an ice cream maker for the family, the one pictured below is the same one I bought to make ice cream for Chloe’s 3rd birthday – which means it is 10 years old and still works like new!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

Now for the fudge!

Once the ice cream churned, we transferred it to my ice cream container, and sprinkled the fudge chunks. These fudge chunks were frozen after I chopped them which made them easier to stir in and keep separated. The fudge is soft at room temp, and I wanted them to keep their shape, so if that is your goal too, keep the fudge in the freezer while your ice cream churns. Again, I only used half of the brick of fudge for one batch, so you can freeze the chunks of fudge you don’t use for another time!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

And the chocolate ripple!

After we folded the fudge into the ice cream, we used a store bought organic, dairy free chocolate sauce to ribbon in too. If I didn’t have this sauce already in the fridge from a past birthday party, I would have made my own. Don’t go out and buy something that you don’t need to! Here is the store bought version that I used – our Meijer stores carry this, but you can take a peek at the ingredients here if you wish!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

And then…we wait!

You’ll have to have some patience for a good 4 hours for the ice cream to freeze up, but it is so worth the wait. We were blown away at how amazing the texture of the fudge was in the ice cream – not rock hard like a brick to chew, but soft and fudge like! And of course that ice cream base is not our favorite ice cream for nothing! I have a very “coconut detecting” husband that was surprised to hear that the ice cream base was made with coconut milk and dates – it is so creamy and delicious, and the other flavors mask the coconut flavor completely. It’s pretty enough to be on store shelves!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

What do I use if I don’t have access to Mackinac Island Fudge?

If you are thinking this ice cream is drool-worthy enough to make yourself, but don’t have a trip planned to Mackinac Island, you have options! I don’t know how it works in other cities, but in our area, we have our own little shops that make their own fudge, and any fudge will really do. If you want to go the extra mile and make your own fudge, the ingredients in this homemade dairy free fudge are fantastic, and similar to that on Mackinac Island itself! And in a pinch, I think the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks or Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips would be just fine too!

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

Empowering our kids with kitchen know-how

So what did the teen think of her work? Well she was thrilled. I was completely hands off on this project, and that sense of accomplishing a project like this is super empowering. This kid truly doesn’t digest dairy very good – well, the processed kind of dairy. And so she truly has never gotten to experience Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream, and it is priceless to be able to do that for her. AND! To give her the tools to fuss with recipes to make them work for her dietary needs or to flip flop a processed food to make it with whole foods is a life skill that will be with her forever.

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Be sure that your ice cream maker’s freezer bowl has been chilling in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
  • Put the coconut milk, dates, vanilla extract, almond extract, and sea salt in your high-powered blender. Blend the ice cream mixture until smooth. I use the ice cream function of my high-powered blender, but you could use any setting as long as the mixture gets smooth. If you do not have a high-powered blender, a Magic Bullet style will help the dates get super smooth, or a food processor will with some extra time.
  • Pour the blended ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and process for 30- 40 minutes, or according to your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream mixture will be thin at first and within 20 minutes get very thick! Transfer your churned ice cream to a freezer safe container, and spread evenly.
  • Spoon the frozen fudge chunks over the top of the churned ice cream, and fold them in. Then, drizzle the chocolate sauce and very gently use your spoon to swirl it in. If you stir the sauce too much, you will end up with chocolate ice cream so just take your time and just do a little!
  • Freeze the ice cream for at least 4 hours before scooping. I like to set the ice cream container on the counter for about 15 minutes to let it soften before scooping.

Notes

  • If you are thinking this ice cream is drool-worthy enough to make yourself, but don’t have a trip planned to Mackinac Island to get fudge, you have options! I don’t know how it works in other cities, but in our area, we have our own little shops that make their own fudge, and any fudge will really do. If you want to go the extra mile and make your own fudge, the ingredients in this homemade dairy free fudge are fantastic, and similar to that on Mackinac Island itself! And in a pinch, I think the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks or Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips would be just fine too!
Homemade Dairy Free Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream

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Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

July 13, 2022

Start your child off on the right foot for eating lunch at school with these easy to follow, practical tips for lunchbox packing!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to 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.

Back to school lists

Pencils, paper, glue, scissors, markers…it’s enough to make your head spin, isn’t it?! Honestly I don’t remember supply lists being this intense as a kid, but I probably wasn’t paying much attention to it either! We love our teachers though, and really want them to have all the tools they need to help our kids be at their best for school, and I think sometimes the school lunch thing gets a little over looked.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

It really does matter

And I say this with all the love that I have for you dear momma. Because I know there is a lot on your plate, and I know what it is like to be an overwhelmed mom. But even more important than the brand of pencil that the teachers want your kid to have for the school year, is having a child that is well fed for a full school day. It’s that whole hierarchy of needs thing, ya know? If a child is hungry, they can’t focus for squat, and that fancy paper or folder you bought for them isn’t going to matter if they can’t make it through their afternoon. Those school days are long for any school aged kid, and we want to set them up for success with full bellies and fed brains so they can make it through.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Sustainable lunch packing rhythms

What goes into their lunch does matter, but, especially for any moms reading this that are newer to having school aged children, I want to help you be successful at lunchbox packing for the whole school year – not just the first week. So let’s dive into some practical thoughts I have for you, now that I have 2 middle schoolers and my last little one in elementary school!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Give your child time to practice using their lunch gear

Multiple years of being room mom in early elementary classrooms has taught me many things – and one of them is this tip! If you are reading this post and it is summertime, purchase your child’s lunchbox now so that you can pack it up for your summer outings (or even just lunchtime at home!) to practice how to use it! Latches, zippers, pouches, buttons, lids – those take time for little hands to figure out, and it will save them time when at school. Also be sure they know how to properly close their water bottles so you don’t end up with a soggy backpack on the way home! If you need lunch gear suggestions, take a peek through my Lunch Gear Resource Guide! It’s free!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Consider lunch gear & foods that don’t involve a lot of separate containers to open & close

Speaking of practicing lunch gear! One thing I have noticed in these classrooms, is that kids with lunches packed in multiple food containers, or lunches packed in containers with multiple compartments that need to be opened and closed, took longer to eat. If you are in the market for lunch gear, and have little ones, this is a good thought to consider before buying. If you need some lunch gear recs, here is my Lunch Gear Resource Guide with multiple suggestions to help you decide!

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Pack familiar food

If you have been around here for a while, you know that I am all about helping your children become adventurous eaters! However, the first week of school is not the time to try out new foods. Think about your little one’s first days of school – even the entire first year or so. There are so many new things going on, rules to remember, friends to meet – it is SO. MUCH. Their little brains can only regulate so much at once! You throw a new food on top of all that and they may think “Hmm, I just can’t do one more new thing right now, and this feels scary, so I’m just not going to eat it.” And it really could be something they would like if they weren’t so overwhelmed! Just try new stuff out at home first. Serve it for dinner, and the talk about how you would like for them to help you pack it in their lunchbox some time.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Understand your child’s school snack and lunch schedule

This is a big one because everyone’s school schedule varies. Does your child have a morning snack time? When is snack time in relation to lunch time? This will all determine what and how much you pack for lunch. You know your child best. If the kids have a snack at 10 and eat lunch at 11:30, then perhaps you need to make the snack small so they are still hungry to eat their lunch at 11:30. Or maybe you split the lunch up into 2 smaller meals so they get part of their lunch at snack time and the other part at lunch. They may have lunch closer to 1pm, so you might want their morning snack to be a mini meal so they can make it to 1pm. Also find out how much time your child will have to eat that lunch. This will help you pack accordingly. Regardless of how we feel about a 10-15 minute lunch time (I think we would all agree that is pretty rough for a little kid!), if that is how it is at your school, you’ll want to be sure to pack easy to eat foods that pack a filling punch so your child is ready to focus for the rest of the school day.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

The 2-minute lunchbox tour

Before packing that lunchbox into their backpack, open it up and show your child. Ask them what they think are the foods in there that will help them feel good for the afternoon and focus for school. Help them learn where the protein is, and important bites that will help them so they can start there. That way, if they don’t have time to finish, they will have at least gotten something filling in. This 2-minute lunchbox tour can happen the night before while you are packing the lunchbox together, or it can happen in the morning before you pack it up in their backpack! Before you know it, they’ll have so much more body awareness and independently know what kind of foods help them feel their best.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Macro balance

And speaking of foods to help them feel their best! Every child has different macro ratio needs – but all the macros matter for growing kids. So just take a quick scan of the lunchbox each day and be sure it’s all in there – fats, protein, and carbs. It all matters! If you need some great balanced lunchbox inspiration to see some examples, you can check out my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook! Inside there are 60 different lunchbox examples, all balanced with what your child needs to get through their day.

Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

My child is coming home with a lot of leftover food consistently – what should I do?

Kids’ appetites can ebb and flow depending on growth spurts, illness, life changes, sleep, etc. Noticing some food coming home every once and a while is normal, but if they are bringing food home day in and day out, here are some things to think about:

  • Re-evaluate your child’s snack and lunch time schedule, and portions. Is your child eating a big morning snack only to have lunch an hour later? Are the portions you are sending realistic for your child? How long are they allowed for eating? Re-visit the above section called “Understand your child’s school lunch and snack schedule,” where you will find more information on addressing each of these.
  • Help them realize their hunger after school. If they are crabby or emotional in the car on the way home, seem sleepy, or tell you they are “starving,” and you notice they didn’t each much of their lunch, help them make that connection! Kids aren’t always body aware enough to realize that not eating lunch is why they feel so crummy. Present it nicely – no shame. But remind them they will feel so much better when they focus on their food at lunch time.
  • Ask them why! “Hey, I noticed that there is a lot of lunch left in your lunchbox – did something happen at lunch time?” Don’t make them feel badly for not eating – just ask them. There may be a good reason!
  • Chatty Kathy’s or Ken’s! Sometimes that reason is that you might have a “Chatty Kathy” or “Chatty Ken!” Ask them who they sat with at lunch. This age does not understand the time management of lunch at school yet. Help them understand that with time, they will learn how to manage talking with their friends AND eating at the same time! Sometimes just making them aware is all you need to do.
  • Reconsider hard to eat foods for little ones. As a health food leaning blogger, you know that I value getting veggies into kids. But there are so many ways to do it in an easy to eat way, OR maybe save larger veggie portions for at home when they have more time. Your goal in a school lunchbox is to get the most nutrient dense food into your little one in the amount of time that they have to eat. It is easier to eat cooked veggies versus raw, so my kindergarteners were rarely bringing raw veg and dip or salads. They were bringing blended soup purees to slurp with a straw, or leftover roasted veggies from dinner. Or frozen veggies that thaw. It is faster, and easier to eat, which leaves them less stressed.
  • Help them prioritize with the 2-minute lunchbox tour. Leftover food is going to happen sometimes, but I’d rather them leave the strawberries than leave the sandwich – you know what I mean? That is the reason for the 2-minute lunchbox tour! See the above section about the 2-minute lunchbox tour and learn how to help your child learn what part of their lunch will help them feel their best for the afternoon so they start with eating that first.
  • Some foods are just “at home foods.” Listen, my kids adore sardines and liver pate – but I’m not going to do that to them! Unfortunately, to most children, those are just really weird foods to pack, and it might make your child uncomfortable if they are constantly getting questions about unfamiliar foods. I’m definitely not saying pack junk food every day! But I am saying, if there is a food that is consistently coming home, check with your child and see if they are not comfortable with bringing it to school. I think I ask my girls yearly if they really do want me to pack tuna salad for lunch – one of their favorites, but clearly doesn’t smell the best! Every year they surprise me by saying they want it, but I am perfectly fine with making certain food “at home food.”
Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Tips for navigating lunchbox questions at school

It’s inevitable, that if you focus more on whole foods in your child’s lunchbox, you are bound to get a few wandering eyes and curious kids asking your child questions about their lunch. Here is how we have approached that at our house.

  • Remember that kids are genuinely curious. Especially for younger children that truly aren’t at the “peer pressure” age yet, they might just truly wonder what it is! This age group is so blunt, aren’t they?! If they have never seen something before, they have no filter, and they are going to ask! Remind your preschooler through 2nd grader this, and help them understand that some kids might not have had the chance to try that food yet! In fact, I have found that the kids asking these questions are the ones coming to school with the same thing for lunch everyday…perhaps they are even wishing that they could have a variety of lunch like that.
  • Ask them how they feel about the food. I always ask this question when one of the girls says “so and so asked what this was.” Nine times out of 10, when I ask them how they feel about “that green soup” or a pinwheel roll up, or even olives, my girls have answered, “well I love it” about that food. So we talk about that! Just because other kids might not like something, or don’t know what it is, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it! Positively start teaching them about gently standing up for themselves by eating foods they enjoy, even if others think it’s strange.
  • “At home foods” are ok! In the section above, I described some examples of “at home foods” that we have labeled in our house. Leaving some of the “less popular” healthy foods for at home, is totally fine. We want our children to be confident in their food choices, but we don’t have to cross the line!
Lunchbox Packing Tips for Back to School

Questions?

I’m all ears! If I didn’t hit on a lunchbox issue that you are having, please ask! And if there is something not listed here that you have found helpful with lunchbox packing, please share! Teachers, we want to hear from you too!

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Prep Day Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken

July 5, 2022

Save money using a whole chicken on your prep day for shredded BBQ chicken to use for salads, sandwiches, and baked potato toppers!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Summer vibes

All the sun, all the sand! Our barefoot days spent on the shore of Lake Michigan in the summer is what gets us through the snowy winters here, and this summer is no different! The weather has been incredible…which also means I don’t want to be inside cooking meals all day!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Growing tweens and teens nutritional needs

If you have been around here as long as this blog has been around, you have truly watched my girls grow up. I started this blog when my third born was just a baby, and you’ve gotten to witness so many seasons of their growth. In the last few years, I’ve slowly started a bit of a larger gear shift as my oldest went through her tween years, and then turned 13 this spring. Now, with my second born right smack dab in her tween-hood, I feel like I’m seeing a pattern in nutritional needs of these rapidly growing, hormone-shifting years. Protein. And a lot of it. Sure, this age needs some really good, healthy fats for their ever-changing hormones and growth spurts – in fact it is vital. Hormones *need* fats to work. But I am also seeing even more importantly that their growth spurts and rapid metabolisms need protein, or they will eat you out of house and home!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Keeping the tweens from being starving!

I remember the moment I decided I had to change *something.* My oldest was a tween, and I literally couldn’t keep satisfied – she was always hungry! She was growing out of shoes left and right, and within one school year grew at least 5 inches. I was feeding her the same sort of meals as I always had, with larger portions, and making sure there was healthy fat at each meal. What I noticed was that on days that we had more protein on the plate, she was happier and more satiated. I started working on getting more meat into specifically our lunch meals, and it really helped during those growth spurting tween years. (Side note! YES pastured eggs are a great source of protein as well, and we use them for my younger two – but my oldest cannot have them other than in baked goods so that source is out for her!)

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Saving your budget with a whole chicken

With an increased need for quality protein in my growing kiddo’s diet, I changed a few things around, and started focusing on using whole chickens for meal preps. We already had our half grassfed cow in the freezer at around $4 per pound (an absolute budget lifesaver!), but I didn’t want to be blowing my budget in cuts of chicken day in and day out. I needed something to pull for meat every day without cooking every day too! The budget savings in using a whole chicken at $4 per pound or less, versus cuts of chicken at over $6 per pound – well that is a no brainer.

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

More than just the meat!

Of course the tender, juicy chicken meat off the bone is by far superior to cuts of chicken, but you also get to use the leftover chicken juices (called meat stock), as well as the bones to make bone broth – practically free broth to use for weekly soups, stews, gravies, and cooking veggies or rice in! When your whole chicken is done cooking – whether that be in a slow cooker, oven, or Instant Pot, just strain the juices off and you’ve got yourself a nutrient packed stock for cooking with – without having to buy it at the store!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Let’s talk BBQ Sauce before we get to the chicken!

For this post, and for most of the summer, I like to use my super quick 5-minute BBQ Sauce. It stirs up in a jar in literally minutes, and it tastes so good! If you prefer a more fruit sweetened sauce, try my date sweetened BBQ Sauce here – it blends up in a blender in just minutes without cooking too! Or, if you have a store bought version that doesn’t have a bunch of junk ingredients, that works too! There are plenty of brands out there now that have made BBQ sauce from the store healthier without using high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and preservatives. Since we are talking a bit about budget saving in this post, I’ll recommend trying to make your own, and saving the money!

5 Minute BBQ Sauce

The Method :: Cooking the Whole Chicken

My goal in this meal prep recipe is to make the prep part as simple as possible, so that you will want to do this regularly, instead of just one time! Since the purpose of this whole chicken is to be shredded up with BBQ anyway, I don’t even spend time fussing with seasoning the chicken. We are essentially boiling/poaching the chicken plain. That way, the meat stock leftover in the pot is a perfectly beautiful, unseasoned but flavorful blank slate that you can use for anything you want. To get started, fill your Instant Pot liner with a couple cups of water and fill with carrots, onion, and celery – this veggie mix along with the chicken will flavor the stock beautifully. Add the chicken to the water and veggies, and pressure cook on the poultry setting for 28 minutes. After the chicken pressure cooks, let the pressure release naturally for about 15 minutes before opening the lid and getting the chicken out. Be sure to strain off the liquid (meat stock) to use for soup or cooking veggies/rice in this week!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

The Method :: Shredding the Whole Chicken

Once the whole chicken has been cooked, you can pull the meat off the bones as soon as it is cooled off enough to handle. Sometimes I don’t have the time to wait, and I’ll use some tongs or put some rubber gloves on to get it done! Put all of the meat from the chicken into a large bowl and shred with 2 forks. You could blend with a hand mixer if you want too – it really does work!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

The Method :: How to Turn the Shredded Chicken Into BBQ Shredded Chicken!

The only thing left to do is stir in the BBQ sauce at this point! Use as little, or as much as you want! For this 5 pound chicken, I did use an entire pint of my 5-Minute BBQ Sauce. You may also need to salt and pepper your chicken to your taste since we did not season the whole chicken, and chicken tends to be bland without. It is truly a blank slate – make it taste how your family likes it!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

How to serve your shredded BBQ chicken!

For this post, I’ve shown you how to use the BBQ chicken for sandwiches, but there are a couple other ways I like to serve it too! One of the girls’ favorite ways is over baked sweet potatoes. It changes up the starch from bread, and adds a veggie in there too! My kids will eat the chicken cold in a lettuce wrap as well. Another option is mixed into a salad, or you can go with the classic bun (we like the GF buns from Trader Joes’), pita (we like the GF pitas at Costco from BFree), or wraps!

Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

Prep Day Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery coarsely chopped
  • 1 Whole chicken between 4-6 pounds, rinsed
  • 1-2 cups BBQ sauce of choice I like to use a pint of my 5-minute BBQ Sauce
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Put 2-3 cups of water into your Instant Pot liner, along with the veggies, and then the whole chicken on top.
  • Close the IP lid, seal the valve, and press "Poultry." Bring the time up to 28 minutes. The IP will start on its own, taking about 5-10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 28 minutes of pressure cooking time.
  • Once the chicken is done pressure cooking, let the IP sit for 15 minutes to naturally release some of the pressure. After waiting 15 minutes, release the rest of the pressure from the valve, and transfer the whole chicken to a large dish or plate to de-bone. Strain the juices (called meat stock) and use those for any soups, stews, stir fry, or cooking veggies/rice in another time!
  • De-bone the whole chicken, and then shred the meat in a large bowl using 2 forks. Once the chicken is shredded, stir in the BBQ sauce, and then season with salt and pepper to your taste.
Prep Day Shredded BBQ Chicken

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Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened – No Added Sugar!

June 11, 2022

This strawberry banana ice cream is all of the banana split flavors you love in one scoop! And this dairy free ice cream is only sweetened with whole fruit – no added sugar needed!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

We. Made. It.

Just *look* at those faces, my friends! Those are the faces of the last day of school, and we are pumped about the next couple of months of beach sand between our toes, sunshine on our faces….and summer ice cream!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

A fun, fresh ice cream for summer!

We are *oh so close* to our Michigan strawberry season, but when I made ice cream last week, we weren’t quite there yet. So when the girls asked for strawberry ice cream for the first days of summer, I decided to combine the few strawberries I had with banana. The result is a sweet, creamy ice cream bursting with the flavors of a banana split! So fun!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

So let’s talk about sugar…

Last summer, I started playing around with the idea of date sweetened ice cream to avoid added sugar in our beloved ice cream on a hot day. My kids were shocked that the ice cream was only sweetened with fruit, and it became an almost weekly staple for a fun, frozen weekend treat. When we use whole fruit to sweeten where we can, we can avoid huge the dramatic blood sugar spikes that white sugar can cause. The fiber in the fruit slows the spike, and I’ve definitely noticed how much of a difference that makes – even compared to honey-sweetening. For this strawberry banana ice cream, adding a whole banana to the dates adds even more yummy, sweet flavor, and my kids were all over this!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

Those beautiful red strawberries!

I can hardly wait for fresh summer strawberries, but for this batch, I used frozen. Both work great, so use what you have. I didn’t add any sugar to the strawberry sauce that gets swirled into the ice cream because the ice cream itself is plenty sweet. To get the strawberry sauce made, simply simmer with some lemon juice for about 10 minutes until it cooks down.

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

Homemade summer ice cream game changers!

Because let’s face it…the last thing you need is something fussy on your plate whilst managing the summer activities for the next 2 months! So let’s ditch the multi-step ice cream approach and toss it all the blender! This method makes an ice cream base in minutes, which makes the thought of making homemade ice cream much more tolerable, yes?!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

The ice cream maker investment

I am not a huge fan of multiple kitchen appliances on my counter. For the most part, I’m quite minimalistic when it comes to my kitchen. But my ice cream maker?! I’ll always recommend this one for any real food kitchen, because homemade ice cream is an easy swap for store bought – and way more cost effective than any healthier options in the store. I’ve had my ice cream maker for about 10 years, and it still works great. I’d say I have about the middle of the road when it comes to ice cream makers – there are some that are less expensive, and definitely those that cost more.

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

The strawberry swirl method

Once your ice cream is churned, we need to get that pretty little strawberry ribbon in there! Just put half of your ice cream mixture into the bottom of your freezing container, and then spoon half of the strawberry sauce on top in little dots. Use a spoon to gently swirl the sauce, and then layer the rest of the ice cream on top. Spoon the rest of the strawberry sauce on the top, and swirl again. This ensures those yummy strawberries are in every bite!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

Ice cream container options

You can freeze your ice cream in any empty container that you have! For years, I froze ice cream in empty coconut oil jugs. I liked using old loaf pans for easy scooping for a period of time too. If you make ice cream often, I think you would enjoy getting an ice cream container like these for easy storage. 

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

Swaps and switches!

One question I think some might ask is how strong the banana flavor is. I would say with the 1 banana, the banana flavor is pleasantly mild. If you prefer a stronger banana flavor, adding another banana would definitely work. I would suggest making the ice cream base as is, and then tasting it once blended – you can always add another banana if you want. I also wanted to mention that if you want to use oat milk, cashew milk, macadamia nut milk, or almond milk, any of those will swap for the coconut milk fine. If you tolerate dairy, you can swap the non-dairy milk for whole milk or cream.

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened – No Added Sugar!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Make the strawberry sauce first so that it can cool while the rest of the ice cream is being made. Put the strawberries and lemon juice in a small sauce pan and bring the heat to medium. Use a potato masher to squish the strawberries into a sauce as it cooks. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes to reduce down. Set the sauce aside to cool for later.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients into a high speed blender and puree until smooth.
  • Pour the ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker, and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions, until the ice cream is thick, and the consistency of soft serve ice cream. My ice cream maker takes about 30 minutes to do this.
  • When the ice cream is done churning, pour half of the ice cream mixture into your freezer container (see Notes for container suggestions). Spoon half of the strawberry sauce over the ice cream, and lightly swirl it so that it is distributed evenly. Then, pour the rest of the ice cream mixture into the container, and swirl the other half of the strawberry sauce into the ice cream
  • Freeze the ice cream at least 3 hours before serving. Let the ice cream container sit at room temp for at least 15 minutes to make scooping easier.

Notes

  • I would say that the banana flavor is pleasantly mild. If you prefer a stronger banana flavor, you could add another banana.
  • Want to serve in an ice cream cone? There are so many gluten free ice cream cone options these days – our regular grocery stores around here even carry them so do some looking around!
  • You can freeze your ice cream in any empty container that you have! For years, I froze ice cream in empty coconut oil jugs. I liked using old loaf pans for easy scooping for a period of time too. If you make ice cream often, I think you would enjoy getting an ice cream container like these for easy storage. 
Strawberry Banana Ice Cream :: Dairy Free & Fruit Sweetened - No Added Sugar!

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Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free “Cheesy” Herb Sauce

May 19, 2022

This yummy sheet pan lemon garlic chicken is an easy weeknight dinner packed with flavor the whole family will love!

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

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

My newest “tween”

It’s been a whirlwind of a spring around here, with all the school events that come with the end of the school year, a house move…and also our household spring birthdays! We have 2 of them in the spring to be exact, and my middle kiddo is officially 11! I feel like I have hit the tween jackpot so far, as my 2 girls in this age bracket have so far been quite a breeze considering. This age group also brings a different kind of busy to our household schedule than the baby, toddler, and little kid years, and boy oh boy have I been relying on sheet pan dinners during this “in and out the door every evening” season of having kids!

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

1 dinner, 2 sheet pans

I feel like sheet pan dinners are one of the most under-rated “fast weekday dinners,” especially with the Instant Pot craze, and the old faithful slow cooker all of our mothers used. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my Instant Pot, but when I am meal planning out my week, the dinners that come to mind for the busiest days are always sheet pan meals. And lately, they are on the rotation quite often. Protein, veg, starch all go in the same oven temp, and mom is hands free to tend to other things while it cooks? Sign. Me. Up.

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

But will my kids eat it?!

I know the lemon garlic flavors sound strong for a child’s palate, but this meal is super family friendly. The lemon and garlic are mild, though are enough to make an adult very happy too. And most kids are open to the idea of crispy potatoes and broccoli that tastes good after roasting. I would really encourage my young moms with babies and toddlers to toss a few bites of this on their highchair tray, or invite them to eat right off your plate too. The younger ages between 9 months old and 4 years old are super social eating ages – meaning, they are more likely to try something new if it is with you, and off your plate! You’ll be able to teach them to eat off their own plate with time, and with time they will actually want to do that -for now, don’t fret if all they want is what is on mom’s plate! Train their palates for these fun flavors, and this easy dinner meal can be on your rotation on the regular!

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

The Method :: The Lemon Garlic Marinade

The marinade for the chicken can be made up in advance, though is easy enough to make the night of as well. Just be sure you leave enough time for the chicken to marinade for at least 20 minutes. If you have a busy day, you can whisk it up before you leave in the morning, and toss the chicken in for the day. Or perhaps you get the chicken into the marinade before you leave to get the kids from school or practice so that it is ready to cook when you get home. Once you whisk the marinade together, you’ll want to scoop out about 1/4 cup into a small dish so that you have some to toss the veggies with that have not been touching the raw chicken.

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

The Method :: Prepping & Roasting the Potatoes

I like to spread this dinner out on 2 sheet pans despite the pictures. It allows for more even cooking and less “steaming” cooking versus roasting cooking so that you get a crispy outside on the potatoes and chicken. You can definitely back off on the amount and get everything on one sheet pan though if you have less people to feed. To get started, you’ll toss the potato quarters with a couple tablespoons of the reserved marinade and roast on the sheet pan first. The potatoes need more cook time than the broccoli and the chicken, so you’ll give them a head start.

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

The Method :: Prepping & Roasting the Rest of the Dinner

Once you stir the cooked potatoes around, you’ll toss the broccoli on the same sheet pan with the other 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade. I like to scoot the potatoes to one side of the sheet pan, and the broccoli goes on the other side, though you can toss them all together if you wish. Then, line up the marinated chicken thighs on the second sheet pan, and everything roasts together!

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce
Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

The Method :: The Dairy Free “Cheesy” Herb Sauce

The sauce…this sauce! You’ll want to dunk every piece, or drown the whole plate full in it because it just elevates every bite! While your dinner is cooking on the sheet pans in the oven, you can stir the sauce up in a small bowl in just a few minutes. This creamy dipping sauce will last for days in the fridge, so if you have any leftover (there is usually none leftover when I make it!), you can drizzle it on your salad, on a wrap, or any leftover chicken dinner you might have.

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

What if I can have dairy?

If your home consumes dairy, you can make the cheesy herb sauce with regular, plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt, and parmesan cheese instead of the coconut yogurt and nutritional yeast. Even sour cream is a good base – use what you have. It is delcious!

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

Are you a meal prepper?

If you like to prep a week’s worth of lunches for your busy day, this meal can be prepped on a Sunday to portion out for your lunches for the week so easily. Use portion containers to store it in, and you’ll have an easy lunch to pull from whether you are at work, or busy with littles at home.

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free “Cheesy” Herb Sauce

Ingredients

For the Lemon Garlic Marinade ::

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of ½ lemon about 3-4 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard or regular mustard
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

For the Sheet Pan Dinner ::

  • 1 recipe of the above Lemon Garlic Marinade
  • 8 boneless chicken thighs
  • 8-9 yellow potatoes quartered
  • 1-2 heads of broccoli cut into florets (about 6 or so cups)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste

For the Dairy Free “Cheesy” Herb Sauce ::

  • 1 cup full fat dairy free yogurt such coconut yogurt I like the large tubs of So Delicious plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Instructions

Make the Lemon Garlic Marinade ::

  • Whisk the marinade ingredients in a container that has a lid. **Scoop out ¼ cup of the marinade into a small bowl to save for the veggies.**

Marinade the chicken ::

  • You’ll want to marinade the chicken for at least 15-20 minutes, but you can do this in advance in the morning if you want. Rinse and pat dry your chicken thighs, add them to the marinade that is in the container, put the lid on the container, and shake it up to mix the marinade and the chicken. Let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator until you are ready to make dinner.

Make the sheet pan dinner ::

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and get 2 large sheet pans out. Do not spray or line the sheet trays.
  • Toss the quartered yellow potatoes on one of the sheet trays with 2 tablespoons of the reserved lemon garlic marinade and about ¼ to ½ tsp of sea salt to taste.
  • Roast the potatoes at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, and then give them on a stir on the sheet tray. S
  • Scoot the potatoes to one half of the sheet tray, and add the broccoli florets to the other side. Toss the broccoli florets with the other 2 tablespoons of lemon garlic marinade and sprinkle a few pinches of sea salt.
  • On the second sheet tray, line up the marinated chicken thighs, and then put both sheet trays into the oven together to roast for 25 minutes.

Make the Dairy Free “Cheesy” Herb Sauce ::

  • While the sheet pan dinner is in the oven, you can stir up the dairy free “cheesy” herb sauce. OR this can be made up to a couple days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Add all of the ingredients for the sauce into a small bowl, and stir together until combined.

Notes

  • You can swap the thighs for chicken breasts but you’ll want to fillet any breasts that are on the thick side to match the size/thickness of the thighs represented here.
  • You can swap the broccoli for whatever veg is in season! Use green beans, asparagus, zucchini, or a mixture of veg!
  • If you are not dairy free, you can use regular yogurt or Greek yogurt and parmesan for the cheesy herb sauce.
  • This dinner makes a great meal prep for a whole week to warm up for work.
  • Any leftover chicken can be cut up and used for salads, wraps, or stir fry
Sheet Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, & Broccoli with Dairy Free "Cheesy" Herb Sauce

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Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

April 18, 2022

These simple, crispy chicken fillets are the Paleo answer to making healthy, delicious meal prep day success!

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

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 race to the finish line!

We are a week back into school since Spring Break, Easter has come and gone, and I really feel like we are starting to see that finish line to the school year in the distance! Those of you that have been around these parts long know that I just love our summers at the beach, and while we are definitely routine keepers around here, taking a couple months off in the summer is balm to our souls. One thing I have learned in the years since I have had kids in school is that May is….crazy! I don’t think there is one day that doesn’t have *something* on the calendar for me every May, and that means I’ve got to have a plan to keep us fed without compromising, and also without being in the kitchen all day.

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

Back to the basics

Something that helps me keep whole foods on the table during busy seasons, is having the protein figured out and prepped ahead of time. It can make all the difference in the world in faster, easier meals. For instance, getting a dozen hard boiled eggs made quickly every Sunday, makes school morning breakfast additions so fast so that I don’t have to rely on convenience breakfast staples like boxed cereals that don’t have the nutrition, and won’t keep my kids sustained all morning. Likewise, I have found if I have a protein like chicken or beef made up ahead of time, I eat lunches better while the girls are in school. Let’s face it – it is so easy to skip it or just grab quick little things when busy during the day when the kids aren’t there to force the stop for lunch….*Guilty as charged!* So if I get some chicken prepped ahead of time, I’ll add it to a salad for lunch, or as a side to veggie soup, and I’m way better at getting lunch in.

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets
Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

Not just for lunch meal prep!

But wait! Having a simple protein prepped or even just this method in your back pocket for a busy weeknight can make dinnertime such a breeze. Add this simple crispy chicken to a skillet filled with a veggie stir fry, or a pot of pasta and cream sauce, and dinner is so satisfying without having been in the kitchen all day!

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

Key players and keeping it simple

I don’t think there is anyone that would turn down a piece of crispy chicken…super flavorful outside, juicy inside – what’s not to love?! But the dredging, and the egging, and the flouring…most of us don’t have time for that other than special occasions. This lightly breaded chicken gets crispy without the fuss, and with just a couple of ingredients. Salt and pepper whisked with a simple sprinkle of cassava flour is as easy as it gets! I love cassava flour for a few different reasons. Even if you are not paleo, or need to avoid gluten, cassava flour is a great pantry addition that will help you keep your ingredients on rotation, so your family is getting variety. The cassava plant is a root vegetable, and the flour is quite literally just the plant, dried out and ground into flour. It is very absorbent, which makes for a nice crispy outside, and the health benefits from the natural pre-biotic fibers are so good for the gut too!

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

The Method :: Prepping The Chicken

I did photograph this entire crispy chicken method, but let’s not complicate this. Prep the chicken into the sized pieces that you prefer. I’ll show you what I typically do here, but you can make the pieces bigger or smaller, depending on what you are using the chicken for. I like to rinse, and then pat dry the chicken with a paper towel. I don’t even use an extra plate (less dishes, less kitchen time, amiright?!) – just rinse, pat dry, and place on your cutting board. I like to fillet the chicken thin, so I typically cut the thicker top half off to fillet, and leave the smaller bottom half as is. Sometimes I’ll fillet the bottom half as well.

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets
Chicken breasts, rinsed & pat dry with paper towel
Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets
Filleted chicken breasts
Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets
Here are all 3 breasts filleted and ready for the flour!

The Method :: The flour coating

This cassava flour breading is as basic as it gets, though so flavorful. If you plan to use your chicken for a stir fry, you could add some ginger. Or if you are using it for a pasta meal, add some Italian seasoning! Just whisk the flour with the seasonings in a small dish, and then coat the chicken. I don’t even use a different plate or bowl – just toss it all right on the cutting board.

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

The Cooking Oil…

Before we move onto actually cooking the chicken, let’s talk about what to cook it in! I prefer a super hot, cast iron skillet with coconut oil. You’ll want to pick a very high heat stable cooking fat, that is also healthy and not filled with inflammatory fat that will cause free radicals in your body. Oils like canola or peanut oil do very well with high heat, BUT they are so inflammatory, and they will inflame the body when eaten on the regular. Healthier fats like coconut oil, ghee, or avocado oil also tolerate the high heat well, but are so incredible for your health. The feed your brain, your hormones, and actually work to keep inflammation down. I use a nice big chunk of the coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet, and get a really nice, crispy crust on the chicken!

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

The Method :: Cooking the Chicken

Once your coconut oil is heated, pull the chicken pieces right from the cutting board into the oil. You’ll want to keep some space around the chicken, so you may need to work in batches if your skillet will not hold them all, or if you are making a larger quantity of chicken. Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for a good 3-4 minutes so that the golden, crispy outside can develop. If you start moving your chicken and it is sticking, you probably have not let it cook long enough to develop the crust. Flip the chicken, and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the chicken is golden and crispy on the other side and cooked through. I like to transfer the cooked chicken to a wire rack so it stays crispy.

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

The possibilities are endless!

Here are some ways that I like to use my crispy chicken, both for lunches or dinner!

  • Salad topper
  • Stir fry
  • Pasta dishes
  • Sandwiches or lettuce wraps
  • Sliced as guacamole dippers – my kids love this in their lunches
  • Or just eaten plain with sides!
Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

Can I use chicken thighs?

110% yes! (Can you tell I’m a thigh girl?!) The method is the same, though you won’t need to use as much cooking oil since chicken thighs lend some fat as they cook very easily. If you prefer thigh meat, definitely use that! It is so good crispy and then used in all of the applications above for meal suggestions.

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Rinse the chicken breasts in cold water, and pat any excess water off using a paper towel. Place the chicken breasts on your cutting board as you go.
  • Fillet your chicken breasts so they are thinner, and spread them out on the cutting board. I like to cut the breast in half horizontally first so the smaller end is one fillet, and the top half gets filleted into 2.
  • In a small dish, whisk the cassava flour, sea salt, and pepper and then sprinkle half of the mixture over the chicken breasts. Rub the flour around the tops of the chicken, and then flip them over. Sprinkle the other half of the seasoned flour on the chicken, and then toss the chicken on the cutting board to coat evenly.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over high heat. Bring the temperature to medium-high heat, and add the coated chicken to the hot oil, making sure to leave some space around each fillet. You may have to work in batches. With my 12 inch cast iron I can do this in 2 batches.
  • Once the bottom of the fillet is golden brown (this takes 3-4 minutes), you can flip the chicken to cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Properly cooked chicken should have internal temp of 165 degrees. I don't test this, but you can.
  • Once the chicken is cooked through, place them on a plate or drying rack to rest a few minutes before cutting. If you are storing your chicken for meals for the week, you can let it cool, and store in an air tight container. If you are adding your chicken to a dish or skillet meal, you can add it right in, or slice and add it it!

Notes

  • Avocado oil would be a good neutral oil to cook in as well. Olive oil and butter will tend to smoke/burn at the higher heat so I prefer the coconut oil. You can use refined coconut oil if you don’t like the taste of coconut oil. I love the mild sweetness it brings to the chicken.
  • Season the flour however you wish! I like to add smoked paprika sometimes, or ginger depending on what I am using the chicken for.
Simple Prep Day Paleo Crispy Chicken Fillets

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Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

March 28, 2022

This simple, no fuss, fool-proof Instant Pot hard boiled egg method is sure to become a part of your weekly prep day to set you up for easy grab and go meal add-in’s!

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

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.

Prep day staples to make meals run smoother

Just about every time I post one of our breakfast bar mornings to my Instagram, I’ll get a private message or 2, and some comments asking how I do the hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. I never really gave thought to posting this, since it seems so simple, but truly, these are the kitchen tasks that make the meal plans we do during the week flow so much faster – in other words…this is how we do real food for real life families!

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

So let’s talk about what a Prep Day is in my house

For me, Prep Day is hardly a “day,” so let’s just get that out there! I know there are people that truly spend an entire day prepping food for the week or month, and I think that is great. Do what works for you. For me, I’ll pick a 2 hour spurt during the week (typically on Sunday’s, but this changes depending on the time of the year). During that 2 hour spurt of the week there are a few tasks that I *always* do (like these hard boiled eggs), and a task or 2 that will be specific just to that week, or maybe dedicated to replenishing a monthly pantry item like granola bars.

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

What in the world do you do with a dozen hard boiled eggs in 5 days?!

In my family of 5, this dozen eggs sometimes doesn’t even make it to the 3rd day, but let me give you some ideas! If you have a bigger family, by all means batch this up more!

  • Easy breakfast addition or breakfast bar item to go with muffins or breakfast cookies
  • Quick lunchbox add-in to go with everything from a soup or salad to leftover pancakes from the weekend to make a “breakfast for lunch” lunchbox
  • Fast morning or afternoon snacks
  • Egg salad for lunch or dinner
  • Crumbled onto a salad at dinner for extra protein for growing kids
  • Deviled eggs for a fun and easy addition to a charcuterie board lunch or dinner
Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

So now that you know how to use them, let’s talk about what kind of eggs to use!

I’ll keep this as short as I can, because truthfully, I want you to use whatever are the best eggs that you can afford. However, I was reminded this week that some people may not understand the difference between cage free, free range, pastured, organic, etc when it comes to eggs, and I want to be sure you know! Because when you know better, you can do better, right? No beating yourself up – just work on fitting into your budget what you can. Obviously the best bet is going to be a local, pastured egg from chickens on pasture around where you live. Whether that be a friend down the street or a local farmer, these eggs will be the best nutrition for your family. Eggs with bright orange yolks are indicative of nutrients in the grasses and bugs that the chickens were eating. You’ll notice that conventional store bought eggs have a pale yellow yolk, and those eggs just don’t have the levels of nutrients that a pastured egg does. Unfortunately many may be tricked by the verbiage “cage free” because it sounds like the chickens are treated pretty great as they are not in a “cage.” Tricky, tricky wording because technically cage free chickens still can be kept inside with a certain about of space per chicken, and may not even get to feed on grasses or bugs at all. Chickens were meant to be on grass eating from the ground, giving their eggs the most optimal levels of nutrients. My recommendation would be to look for at the very least “free range,” and at the very best “pastured.” If you have further questions on this, please as in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer! I would also encourage you to visit your local farmer’s market to ask your local chicken farmers questions about how their chickens live and about their eggs – 9 times out of 10, farmers just love to talk about their chickens – especially if they are raising them right!

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

How to make Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

***First, you’ll fill your Instant Pot with a cup of water and place a steamer basket or the trivet your IP came with into the bottom of the pot. I love the steamer basket because at the end, I just pull the whole basket of eggs out and dunk them into the water

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

***Second, you’ll put the IP lid on and close the valve. Press “Manual” on the IP and bring the time down to 5 minutes. The Instant Pot will beep, and then take a few minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 5 minutes.

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

***Next, after the Instant Pot pressure cooks the eggs, you’ll release the valve right away, and pull the steamer basket out of the IP to dunk into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. If you are using the trivet, you’ll have to use a tongs to individually take the eggs out, which is totally fine. I just use a large mixing bowl in the sink to fill with cold water.

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

***Finally, after the eggs cool off for a few minutes, you can crack and peel them. I have left the eggs in the cold water up to an hour and that is fine too, although I have found they peel the best right away. Peel your eggs and store them in an airtight container in the fridge.

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

Get the kids involved in prep day!

Making the weekly hard boiled eggs is actually a fantastic way to get the kids in the kitchen. If you have little ones, have them help you peel the eggs – they will love this task! If you have older children, put this kitchen task on their plate entirely from start to finish. It is great life skills for when they are older, and they will feel proud contributing to the family. I’d even let them make some deviled eggs to get fancy if they love those!

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

Tips for introducing eating hard boiled eggs to little ones

Hard boiled eggs were one of my girls’ favorite finger foods as toddlers. They were an easy, compact protein for on the go little people, and I have a few ideas to make the introduction even more fun! Little kids *love* to be in charge. It all starts with letting them help you make the eggs, and for little ones this will mean gently placing the eggs in the IP, and maybe even helping you press a button or 2. Little ones also love peeling eggs – let them help you! Get a little egg cutter to make the prep a little safer (the egg cutter pictured below is one that I have had over a decade and I couldn’t find it, but there are so many in the stores, and if you like the Prime stuff, here are some to choose from there!), and let them cut the egg how they like – their choice. Let them sprinkle a little sea salt on the egg too!

Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 12 uncooked eggs

Instructions

  • Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of your Instant Pot stainless steel pot, and place a steamer basket, or the trivet in the bottom of the pot.
  • Put up to 12 eggs into the steamer basket or on the trivet, close the lid of the IP, and seal the valve so it is closed.
  • Turn the IP on, press "Manual," and bring the time down to 5 minutes. The IP will beep, and then take a few minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 5 minutes.
  • Once the 5 minutes of pressure cooking is done, open the valve so the pressure releases, open the lid of the IP, take the steamer basket out, and place the steamer basket with the eggs into large bowl of cold water. I just fill a large mixing bowl with cold water in my sink. If you are using the trivet, you'll have to use tongs to pull out each egg and drop them into the bowl of cold water.
  • Let the eggs sit in the cold water at least a few minutes, though sometimes I forget about them for up to an hour. The eggs will peel the best after just a few minutes, but it still works if you have left them longer.
  • Once the eggs have cooled in the cold water for a few minutes, you can peel them. Store your hard boiled eggs in an air tight container up to 5 days in the fridge.
Simple Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

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Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

March 9, 2022

These yummy oat free Paleo granola bars are a snap to prep in the blender, quick to bake, and even easier to eat!

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

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

Moving week…and snack short-cuts!

It’s *finally* here! Moving week! It’s been a long year as we awaited our house to finish, and I’m getting ready to get these boxes we have been surrounded by into their final destination! Which means…I won’t have a whole lot of time in the kitchen, or be able to find much of anything until we get unpacked. I decided to get a few things stashed in the pantry that we can grab easily while we are moving, and I even got a new kitchen find to make the granola bar making process even faster!

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Meet my new $13 kitchen friend!

Seriously, this is the best 13 dollars I’ve spent in a long while! I would even say life changing status that compares to the Instant Pot. If you have ever made granola bars before, you know that in a pan, the edges tend to get slightly more cooked than the middle, and sometimes the cutting process can lead to some crumbs. These little silicone granola bar pans literally solve all of those problems, and truly the end result is perfectly shaped, perfectly cooked bars every. single. time….and I’m so here for that!

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Let’s talk about the ingredients!

While we aren’t a “paleo” exclusive house, I do like to keep ingredients on a rotation so we aren’t just eating the same ingredients all the time. Most granola bars have an oat base, and since we do oats in other places throughout the week from baked oatmeal to breakfast cookies, I wanted to make this staple, easy to make bar without oats to change the nutrient profile up a little bit. You can swap the nuts for whatever nuts that you have on hand – and I do think that if you are nut free you can use all seeds. The combination power packed nuts, seeds, and coconut, makes for a balanced fuel for everyone in the house!

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

The Method :: Mix the Dry Ingredients

No hand chopping here! This whole granola bar mixture can be done right in your food processor! Put all of the dry ingredients into the food processor, and pulse about 4 long pulses, just to mix everything up and give a coarse “chop.” The pieces should look about like this ::

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

The Method :: Mix the Wet Ingredients

Next, you’ll want to melt the honey, coconut oil, and almond butter in a sauce pan, and pour into the food processor. The wet ingredients are what gives the “stick” to the granola bar to bind the pieces together, so you really shouldn’t try to adjust the amounts of these, or you’ll end up with a crumbly mess if you use less, or a gooey mess if you use more. Pulse the food processor to combine the dry pieces with the wet ingredients. You can pulse until the pieces are still on the visible side, or until they are very small and unrecognizable. I like to go somewhere in between – I do have “coconut chip” detective that will refuse the bar if she can “see” the coconut chips – but she has no idea they are there in this form (and she is the biggest fan out of everyone of these bars btw!)! The mixture should look like this ::

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

The Method :: Assemble and Bake

Again, I think the $13 investment in the silicone granola bar pans is so worth it – I am kicking myself for not getting one sooner! I think I would even pay double that for this convenience. Simply spoon the mixture into each well, and press it down firmly with the pack of your spoon. If you are making the bars in an 8×8 pan or a 9×9 pan, line the pan with parchment paper first, and then pour the mixture in. You’ll want to press the mixture down as firmly as you can before baking.

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Snack ideas and storage

Once the bars cool completely, they pop out of the silicone liner so easy, and you can store them in an airtight container in the pantry up to 3 months. Use your paleo granola bars for easy lunchbox add-ins or a quick snack with a side of fruit or veggies and dip! And for those of you with little ones at home, the *best* part about making your own granola bars is that you control the size. You can easily cut these bars into “bites” which is how I often still pack them for my 8 year old’s lunchbox. A full bar makes a good snack for her, but she doesn’t need all of that with other things in a full lunchbox too. My older girls do, though, so we keep the full size in the pantry, and I cut them to the size I need!

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Easy Paleo Granola Bars :: Oat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and place your silicone granola bar liners on a baking sheet. If you don’t have granola bar pans, you can use an 8×8 or 9×9 pan and cut them, just line the pan with parchment paper.
  • Put the walnuts, cashews, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, flax seed meal, cinnamon, sea salt, and coconut sugar into your food processor, and do a long pulse about 4 times to mix the pieces and break them up a bit. You can see what this should look like in the image above labeled “Mix the Dry Ingredients.”
  • Put the honey, coconut oil, and almond butter in a small sauce pan and melt over medium heat, stirring along the way.
  • Once the liquid ingredients are melted, pour them into the food processor with the dry ingredients, and pulse the ingredients to your desired consistency, making sure the wet ingredients have fully incorporated. If you want bigger pieces, pulse less times. If you want to make the pieces smaller so you can’t “see” them as much, pulse a bit longer. You can see what this looks like in the image above labeled “Mix the Wet Ingredients.”
  • Spoon the granola bar mixture into your silicone granola bar pan rectangles. Press the mixture down to pack it in tight using the back of your spoon. If you are using a square baking pan, pour the mixture into the parchment paper lined pan, and press firmly into the pan.
  • Bake the granola bars for 20 minutes, until lightly golden, for a slightly crunchy/slightly chewy granola bar, or 23-25 minutes, until darker golden brown, for a crunchy granola bar (similar to the texture of a Nature Valley Crunchy Honey Oat bar). I happen to love them crunchy, but both ways are fantastic! Let the bars cool completely before taking them out of the pan so they have time to harden. If you take them out while warm, they will fall apart.

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Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

March 8, 2022

A whole dinner all on one sheet pan! The kids will love these sweet, sticky teriyaki meatballs and sweet roasted veggies!

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

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

Real life, real food

For those of you who have followed me for a while on social media, you know that our family has been in the building and moving process for the last year – with the last 5 months living somewhere other than “home.” I haven’t overly talked about it, as I like to keep things zeroed in on our real food goals in this space, but let me just be real for a minute! Having a family, moving, cooking in someone else’s kitchen, and trying to keep “normalcy” for the kids…its a stressful, full-time job! While life has been a little extra busy, I’ve found it harder to blog, but what I *have* found, is that you all do enjoy these simple, everyday meals that are the only thing I have had time to write up for you, and that makes me super happy. It tells me that you are real people, not just looking for the fancy shmancy “health” food treats…you are looking for real food for everyday life!

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

Momma’s secret weapon for a busy weeknight…

Sheet pan dinners! Oh sure, the Instant Pots are all the rage. And quick skillets are great too. But seriously…dump it all onto a sheet pan and it cooks while you tend to other matters in the house or with the kids? Sign. Me. Up. I cannot tell you how much I adore that whole “kill two birds with one stone” thing – and sheet pan dinners allow me to get dinner in the oven, and be hands free for other things while it cooks.

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

What is teriyaki?!

In short, this sweet, sticky sauce is Asian inspired, and it usually used to toss with simple stir fry. I have found over the years that it is a great way to get veggie hesitant kids to try a stir fry, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Traditional teriyaki sauces or those that you find in the store will be soy based, which we avoid in our house, so years ago I developed a teriyaki sauce that we could enjoy in our house. I hear from you all frequently that your little ones adore it!

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

The Method :: The 5-Minute Teriyaki Sauce

Making versus buying this sauce may seem like a redundant extra step, but not only can the teriyaki be whisked up in 5 minutes, it can be made days in advance. Simply add all of the teriyaki sauce ingredients to a small sauce pan and whisk until thickened. Primal Kitchen does have a soy free, great teriyaki sauce if you prefer to buy it! It doesn’t usually fit in my budget, so I tend to just make my own.

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

The Method :: The Veggies

The sky is the limit here! For this dinner, I used what I had left in my veggie bin this week. I would definitely encourage you to try the purple onion and cabbage – they both get so sweet and kid friendly with roasting! It is a great budget saver as well! Get all the veg cut up into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces, and just toss them on the sheet pan with some olive oil.

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

The Method :: The Meatballs

These meatballs are SO delicious, and you can just roll them up and place them right on the sheet pan with the veggies! It doesn’t get any easier than that! The meatballs can also be made in advance – you can even freeze them if you have a prep day and want to stock up. That way on a busy weeknight you just have to pull them from the freezer.

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

The Method :: Brushing the Teriyaki Sauce, and Roasting

Once your meatballs are rolled up, brush some of the teriyaki sauce on each of the meatballs so their tops are covered – we aren’t looking for perfection here by the way! Then drizzle the rest of the teriyaki sauce over the veggies in the pan and roast the sheet pan off for 20 minutes.

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

Serving suggestions

We love to serve our teriyaki stir fry over rice, but if you prefer grain free, it is absolutely delicious over a baked sweet potato (or regular potato). I also think a little rice ramen (Costco carries this brand btw) would be incredible! Another way to serve would be to add another sheet pan of veggies to roast right along with this sheet pan and just have extra veg.

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

Prep ahead tips

While the actual roasting of this dinner is just a quick 20 minutes of hands free time, there are a couple of steps to get to that point, and you can do some of it ahead of time. You can make the teriyaki sauce days in advance so that part is done – you could even chop the veggies on a prep day so that it dumps in the pan fast. The meatballs are definitely something that can be rolled up ahead of time and frozen on a prep day. This sheet pan meal would also make a great meal prep for mom’s lunches all week to pull from. Make it up on a Sunday, and warm it up everyday for lunch!

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

Ingredients

For the 5 Minute Teriyaki Sauce ::

For the Veggies ::

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 purple onion cut into ½ inch thick strips
  • ½ small head of cabbage cut into ½ inch thick strips
  • 2 bell peppers cut into 1 inch strips and then halved to make them bite sized
  • 2-3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 medium/large carrot peeled and julienned (or bite sized pieces in the shape you like)

For the Meatballs ::

  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup GF panko bread crumbs or GF flour blend
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and get a large sheet tray out. The sheet tray does NOT need to be lined with parchment or greased.

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees, and get a large sheet tray out. The sheet tray does NOT need to be lined with parchment or greased.

Make the Teriyaki Sauce ::

  • Put everything into a small sauce pan, and bring the heat to high.
  • Use a whisk to stir every so often until it comes to a simmer, then continually whisk for about 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Turn the heat off and set the sauce aside.

Get the veggies ready ::

  • Toss all of the veggies with the olive oil on a large sheet tray so that the veggies are coated evenly.

Make the meatballs, assemble, and bake ::

  • Mix all of the meatball ingredients in a small mixing bowl until combined evenly.
  • Roll 1 – 1 ½ inch meatballs and place them on the sheet tray with the veggies – they can rest right on top of the veggies or on the sheet tray.
  • Brush each meatball with the prepared teriyaki sauce, and then drizzle the rest of the sauce over the veggies on the sheet tray.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Notes

  • If you don’t have access to good GF Panko crumbs, you can use any GF Flour Blend, or something simple like rice flour or even cassava flour if you are grain free.
  • Meal prep tips! You can make the teriyaki sauce days in advance so that part is done – you could even chop the veggies on a prep day so that it dumps in the pan fast. The meatballs are definitely something that can be rolled up ahead of time and frozen on a prep day.
  • The overall consensus for my kids is that the teriyaki sauce as written here is overly sweet for them – I think it tastes like a normal teriyaki you’d buy in the store which is why I left it as is. If you have little ones at home that aren’t trained toward sweet yet, I’d pull the sweet back a bit!
  • Change up the veggies to what is in season!
Sheet Pan Teriyaki Meatballs & Roasted Veggies :: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free

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Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

February 22, 2022

An egg free, dairy free, and gluten free breakfast casserole that everyone can have! This delicious sausage & potato casserole is filled with mineral rich veggies and protein packed sausage too!

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

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

Weekend hikes & weekend breakfast routines!

Every weekend for as long as the girls were babies, my husband has taken Saturday morning breakfast making, and if you are a mom, I don’t have to tell you how much I craved those Saturday mornings! He has always made a frittata and hashbrowns, and I don’t even care that it is the same thing every weekend, because I am not the one making it! The girls just adore frittata and it works. We have a super hot, filling breakfast, and make our way to the woods for a long weekend hike (or when it’s the summer we hit the beach!)

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Egg troubles

Those frittata Saturday’s are still a fan favorite in our house, but over the last 2 years I have come to the conclusion that while I can digest eggs, and they don’t make me feel yucky, every time I bring them back into my diet, my thyroid antibody numbers skyrocket…they are just inflammatory for my body. I also know that I have so many egg free readers in this space that either can’t have them because they hurt your body, or you have found they are inflammatory for you. So this winter, I’ve worked on a breakfast casserole of sorts that does work for me, and I’m so excited to share it with you! My entire family pounds this skillet down every time it’s served, so even if you can have eggs, I think you’ll enjoy this one!

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Easy prep, pretty presentation!

I really hope to help you see how you can make this a weekly part of your meal prep to last for more than one meal. I know it looks fancy, but I promise you can make this without a ton of time in the kitchen. During your kitchen prep time for the week, you can get this casserole into a casserole dish, and leave it in the refrigerator up to a day or so until you are ready to bake it. Or you can bake it on your prep day, and eat from it all week long. Especially if you double the recipe, this could be a game changer for your weekday breakfast routine!

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

The Method :: The Sausage & Veggies

To get your casserole started, you’ll want to brown the sausage. If you don’t have a clean source of ground pork sausage, you can use my DIY Sausage Seasoning Blend and make your own using ground pork or beef. In fact, I used ground beef for the pictures shown in this post – the seasoning blend is fantastic! After you scoop the browned sausage out of the pan, you’ll use the drippings that are loaded with flavor to cook your veggies in!

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

The Method :: The Shredded Potatoes

I use a combination of white and sweet potatoes for the casserole, and you can see pictured here, that I like to use my food processor shredding attachment to make this faster. I’m not a huge fan of the ingredients added to frozen hashbrowns, but if you have a good source of them with good ingredients you are comfortable with, then you should be able to thaw them out to use for this recipe. I’d say shoot for a good 3-4 cups.

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

The Method :: Assembling the Casserole

Once your sausage and veggies are cooked, and the potatoes shredded, you’ll want to combine them together. I find this easiest to do in a mixing bowl, versus trying to mix it all up in the skillet. Combine the sausage, veggies, and potatoes, and return them to the pan.

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

The Method :: The Dairy Free Cream Cheese Sauce

Whisk up the dairy free sauce ingredients and then pour that over the casserole, and you’re ready for the oven!

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Prep ahead tips & doubling for a crowd

There is absolutely nothing like having breakfast all ready to go for a week. If you are someone that doesn’t mind eating the same meal for breakfast everyday, then dear momma, I recommended prepping this for yourself to scoop from everyday! If you like to eat the same as the kids each day, then double up, and eat from this meal for a day or 2 until it is gone depending on how many kids are in your crew and how hungry they are! Like I said above, this recipe as written in my 12-inch skillet gets devoured completely by my family of 5 in one sitting. Double this into a 9×13 pan if you think you’ll need more, or are cooking for a crowd!

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Ingredients

For the Sausage & Hashbrown Skillet Casserole ::

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground sausage See the Tips for making your own if you don’t have a good source
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper diced
  • 1 head of broccoli chopped small
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 cups baby spinach finely chopped
  • 2 medium russet potatoes shredded
  • 1 small sweet potato shredded

For the Dairy Free Cream Cheese Sauce ::

  • 1 ½ cups full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup full fat coconut yogurt you can use more coconut milk here if you don’t have access to coconut yogurt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp potato starch or tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne if you like the heat. I light on this and then add more to my plate so it isn't too much heat for the girls – I like it spicy!
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Instructions

  • I make the entire casserole in a 12-inch cast iron skillet, but if you do not have one, you can use an oven skillet on the stovetop and then pour everything into an oven safe casserole dish. If you will be using the casserole dish, be sure to grease it before pouring the casserole in.
  • Warm some olive oil in your skillet over medium high heat and brown the sausage. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the browned sausage out of the pan, leaving the drippings behind. You’ll want 1-2 tablespoons of the drippings in the pan to cook the veggies – if you have more than that, you can drain some of the grease out.
  • After the sausage is browned, and removed from the skillet, add the onion, bell pepper, broccoli, and a pinch of salt to the skillet, cooking over medium high heat until the veggies are soft and sweet – about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and spinach to the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the spinach is wilted.
  • Next, the cooked sausage, veggies, and shredded potatoes and sweet potatoes need to be combined. I find this easiest to do in a large mixing bowl versus trying to stir it together in the skillet. Transfer the cooked veggies, sausage, and shredded potatoes to a large mixing bowl and combine well.
  • Return the sausage/veggie/potato mixture back into your cast iron skillet (or if you are using a casserole dish, pour the mixture into that instead), and spread out evenly.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the Dairy Free Cream Cheese Sauce liquids, and then whisk in the nutritional yeast, potato starch, and seasonings until smooth. Pour the Dairy Free Cream Cheese Sauce over the sausage/veggie/potato mixture in the skillet. It should spread evenly but you can use a spoon to ensure everything is covered well.
  • Bake the casserole, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. The top will be golden brown. Let the casserole rest on the counter for 5-10 minutes before cutting in.

Notes

  • This recipe as written fits in my 12 inch cast iron skillet. For a casserole dish, I’d say use smaller than a 9×13 pan, and you’ll be good. 
  • If you want to double this recipe (which I would do if you have a bigger family than mine, or if you are making this for a crowd), you can double it into a 9×13 casserole pan.
  • If you don’t have access to a clean source of ground sausage, you can use my sausage seasoning blend, and add it to ground pork, or ground beef. What is actually pictured in this post is my seasoning mixed into ground beef because that is what I had.
  • You can use all sweet potato, or all russet potato depending on what your crew likes!
  • If you have access to a clean source of frozen hashbrowns, I think this would still work if you thaw them out. Just watch the ingredients for any extra oils or starches that might be added and whether those are ok in your diet.
Sausage & Potato Breakfast Casserole :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

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Strawberry Valentine’s Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

February 8, 2022

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with super yummy naturally flavored strawberry waffles that are gluten free, dairy free, and packed with protein!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

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

A fun, new kitchen toy, and a special Valentine’s Day treat

Earlier this winter, I noticed these adorable mini heart waffle makers on sale right around the same time that I created the Hot Cocoa Waffles with my mini snowflake waffle maker. I enjoyed creating that recipe so much, that I decided I needed to come up with a Valentine’s day flavor for the heart shape, and it has been fun to play around with!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

One of my favorite ways to naturally flavor and naturally dye!

I just love using freeze dried fruit for naturally flavoring and dying food! The process for freeze drying is very simple, and does not ruin the integrity of the fruit. The fruit is place in a freezer, untouched, until it dries out – it’s that simple! The result is a super dry, crispy fruit, that blends into a fine powder or crumbles into a fun sprinkle topping. I get my freeze dried fruit at Trader Joe’s typically, but you can get them online and price compare, and they are in many grocery stores now. I have also freeze dried my own in the summer when berries are in season, and it is so easy!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Let’s talk about waffle color!

So my first attempt at making these waffles made me a little disappointed – I really wanted them to turn red – or at least pink! I do think that freeze dried raspberries might turn them a bit more of a color, but in order to have bright color, you’ll have to use a natural dye. All of my natural dyes are still packed away in storage (yes, we are still waiting for our house to be finished!), so I just stuck with the freeze dried fruit, and also used it crumbled on top for color!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

The Method :: The Fluffy Egg Whites

If you are familiar with my other waffle recipes, you know this is a part we don’t skip! Yes it’s an extra bowl, and a few extra minutes, but the secret to fluffy waffles is those whipped egg whites, and it is so worth it! Separate your eggs and blend until fluffy!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

The Method :: Finishing the Waffle Batter

Once you whip your egg whites, you can blend the wet ingredients, and add that into your dry ingredients. The dry ingredients include your blended freeze dried strawberries, so don’t forget to add those! Then, you will fold the fluffy egg whites into the batter, and you’re ready to make your pretty waffles.

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

The Method :: Making the Waffles

If you are using the little mini waffle maker, I found that a couple of tablespoons is all you need to fill it up. Of course you can use a regular waffle maker, and use more to make bigger ones – in fact, before this little mini maker, I use to just make big ones and cut hearts out with a cookie cutter, and that absoluetely works too!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Now let’s dress them up for the occasion!

My favorite way to dress Valentine’s Day waffles is with a drizzle of coconut butter and little heart strawberries. My coconut butter was packed away (no, we were not planning on the house taking this long!), so I grabbed the canned coconut whipped cream from Aldi to make a pretty topping. A little crumble of more freeze dried strawberries makes a pretty “sprinkle” and some heart strawberries made the plate even prettier! The coconut butter really is my favorite though, and it looks like a little “frosting” touch – if you have little ones in the house, I would really recommend trying this on waffles and pancakes because it is such a great, low sugar, good fats way to dress them up. My girls still love it to this day!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Strawberry hearts…help!

As simple as this is, I knew there might be someone that might not know how, so here is a little visual for you! I remember looking up this method a long time ago when my girls were toddlers and I wanted to give them a special Valentine’s Day treat without the sugar, and I hope this helps you too! Just slice the green stem off, and then hull the strawberry – there are special hulling tools for this, but I just use a paring knife. Once you slice the strawberry in half, you can cut a little “V” into the top and voila! A strawberry heart!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Freezer tips

Listen, if I’m going to spend the time next to my little mini heart waffle maker to make a dozen little mini heart waffles, I’m gonna get some use out of them, amiright?! Double up and freeze them, dear momma. You can do this days in advance from Valentine’s Day, and it is one less thing to make on the special day.

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Other ideas for your heart waffles!

Other than breakfast, these waffles will make a super cute heart “sandwich” in lunchboxes if Valentine’s Day lands on a school day. I froze mine and plan to pull them out the day before to make PBJ’s, but you could totally make coconut butter and jam waffle sandwiches too. I also think that the heart waffles could be so cute using my hot cocoa waffle recipe made into a dessert of sorts. I’m thinking a drizzle of dark chocolate and the heart strawberries! Chocolate and Valentine’s day go hand in hand!

Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Strawberry Valentine’s Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Separate the eggs into 2 small mixing bowls, being careful to not have any little bit of yolk in the egg whites. If there is anything else in the bowl with the whites, they will not whip fluffy properly. To the egg yolks, add the coconut milk, olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  • Blend the egg whites until fluffy, and then blend the egg yolk mixture until smooth.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients (the dry ingredients) into medium mixing bowl. Add the egg yolk mixture to the dry ingredients, and blend until combined.
  • Gently fold the fluffy, whipped egg whites into the blended batter until just combined – if you over fold/stir, the fluffy egg whites will deflate.
  • Spray your waffle iron with avocado oil spray, and cook according to your waffle iron’s directions. If you are using the “Dash” Mini Heart Waffle Iron as pictured above, I have found that about 2-3 tablespoons of the batter works perfectly. If you are using a waffle iron like my regularly used, ceramic waffle iron, you’ll use ½ cup of the batter.
  • We like to top our hot cocoa waffles with strawberries and a squirt of the canned coconut whip from Aldi or Trader Joe's. So Delicious brand has a great Coconut Whip as well! Or you can make your own by whipping coconut cream with maple syrup until fluffy! I also love drizzling melted coconut butter on waffles and pancakes, and think that would be a great "frosting" look-alike option! If you have babies and toddlers at home, I would definitely train their palate for coconut butter over syrup – this is how my girls still eat them!

Notes

  • You can swap the coconut sugar for maple syrup or honey if you want.
  • The “chocolatey” flavor and sweetness of these waffles is a mild, and kid friendly. If you want a richer chocolate taste, add more cocoa powder. If you need them sweeter, you can add more coconut sugar.
Strawberry Valentine's Day Waffles :: Gluten & Dairy Free and Naturally Flavored!

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Copycat Trader Joe’s® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

February 5, 2022

All of the yummy “Everything but the Bagel” flavor with a cleaner oil and no corn syrup! Copycat that Trader Joe’s® Nut Duo for your own pantry!

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

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

A Trader Joe’s® trip, and a fun, new snack!

Every first of the month, a couple of friends of mine and I hop in the car and head out for our monthly Costco and Trader Joe’s trip! We live a good 45 minute drive from the closest of either of these stores, so we make a morning of it once a month, and try to stock up until the next month. I am not a huge TJ’s shopper – I’ll grab a couple things here or there, but every once and a while I’ll find a fun snack, and this month was one of them. I was cautiously hopeful as I turned the bag of the TJ’s “Everything But The Bagel” Nut Duo to check out the ingredients…because my usual disappointment with these kind of stores, and these kind of snacks, is that the oils used are junk, and there is usually added sugar. This one checked both of those disappointing boxes, and I set the bag back down. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fun flavor that those nuts could be though….

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

A new kitchen experiment!

While I continued my shopping, I passed the spice isle, and decided to grab the “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning, and just try to make my own. Trail mixes are so easy to put together, and while the convenience of grabbing a bag off the shelf is always nice, making my own would save the budget *big-time* (because these specialty items are always over-priced), and I could also add a healthy snack to our pantry rotation on a regular basis instead of just once, because the ingredients are fantastic when you make it at home!

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

Why do food companies use these ingredients, and why do we want to avoid them?

Cheap and readily available. It really boils down to the dollar bill. Cheap oils like sunflower, soy, and safflower oils, as well as sweeteners like corn syrup are so cheap and easy to get, that it really hits the bottom line for these companies in a good way for their profits. When it comes to sweeteners, corn syrup is as cheap as it gets, and it tastes super sweet, so they don’t need to add a lot to make it super palatable to people. Corn syrup sky rockets blood sugar even more than table sugar, and is almost always GMO, so it is just really important to avoid if you can. Sunflower oil “looks” healthy – I mean sunflower seeds are healthy right?! But the way these seed and veg oils are processed makes them super unstable on the shelf, and they go rancid so quickly. When we eat these kind of rancid oils on a regular basis, it causes a lot of inflammation in the body. Free radicals fly everywhere and it inflames. (One caveat to this, would be if you see a truly cold-pressed – sometimes called expeller pressed – sunflower oil. The cold pressed process on the sunflower oil keeps the integrity of the fats so they don’t go rancid – this is very hard to find in products though!)

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

So how do we replace the bad stuff, and still get a yummy product?

It is so much easier than you think! Swap the sunflower oil for a healthier oil, and swap the “sweet” for a more natural sweetener (or leave it out). In the case of this nut trail mix, the oil part was easy. I almost always use coconut oil for my trail mixes because it is so good for our bodies, and it doesn’t change the flavor to us. If you are really sensitive to the flavor of coconut, you might want to use butter or avocado oil. Even a good olive oil would be fine for this recipe. As far as swapping the corn syrup, I tried the recipe without a sweetener at first, because I figured it was a savory snack, and didn’t need it. I was right on the flavor, BUT there is something the corn syrup did for the TJ’s snack that was lacking in my first attempt. The stick factor!

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

How to get that crunchy “stick” to the trail mix

Because the “Everything But the Bagel” Seasoning is larger pieces, you really need a way to get it to stick to the nuts, or it just ends up in a pile on the sheet pan. Most trail mixes that need to make a “candy like” crunch coating use egg whites. And you could totally do that and leave the sweetener out in this recipe if you want. BUT…I have so many egg free readers, and I really wanted to figure out a way to make this without the egg whites. I tried coconut sugar to start, since it has a lower glycemic index, but the candy like coating did not happen, so the seasoning fell to the bottom of the pan. Then I remembered that the secret to the crunchy coating on my Coconut Cluster recipe was maple syrup, so I tried that…success! It’s really just a couple of tablespoons for the whole batch, and I’d say that is totally worth it!

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

Egg white method

The trail mix can be made without the maple syrup, but the seasoning does not stick to the nuts very well in my experience. It is worth the stick to have that little crunch and flavor together! If you need it to be sugar free, and can have eggs, you can swap the maple syrup for 1 whisked egg white, and that will accomplish the same thing. I have so many egg free readers though, so I had to figure out a way to make this without the whites! If you can have eggs, the egg whites is a great way to get the seasoning to stick without using maple syrup.

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

Can I use any nut combo, or swap for seeds?

Absolutely! The Trader Joe’s® “Nut Duo” uses almonds and cashews, so that is what I used – but please use whatever nuts you have in your pantry. And I would actually encourage switching the combo up every time you make it, so that you are getting different nut or seed nutrients! If you are nut free, use pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp, etc! I really think it would be a fun mix to change things up for you!

Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

Copycat Trader Joe’s® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, toss all of the ingredients together until well combined.
  • Spread the mixture out onto a large, unlined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. Take the sheet pan out, stir the mixture around, and bake another 10 minutes until the nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted.
  • Leave the trail mix to cool completely before touching it. The maple syrup will cool and harden, sticking the seasonings to the nuts. Once the trail mix has cooled, you can store it in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 2 months.

Notes

  • I used the Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel seasoning, but you can find that blend just about anywhere now, and there are lots of homemade, DIY blend recipes online that you can find on Pinterest! Use what you can find or what is available to you.
  • The trail mix can be made without the maple syrup, but the seasoning does not stick to the nuts very well in my experience. It is worth the stick to have that little crunch and flavor together! If you need it to be sugar free, and can have eggs, you can swap the maple syrup for 1 whisked egg white, and that will accomplish the same thing. I have so many egg free readers though, so I had to figure out a way to make this without the whites!
  • You can swap the coconut oil for melted butter, avocado oil, or olive oil if you prefer that, or have that on hand.
  • My Everything But the Bagel Seasoning did have some salt added to it. Since the nuts are unsalted, I found the mix still needed some salt, which is why there is salt in the recipe. If you use a different brand of Everything Bagel seasoning, just be sure to account for this, and if yours does not have salt added, you may want to adjust the salt amount.
Copycat Trader Joe's® Everything But the Bagel Nut Duo!

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