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Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Fall Inspired Part 1}

September 7, 2021

A cozy, fall inspired menu plan with busy families, school schedules, and nourishing goals in mind!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Fall Inspired Part 1}

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.

Getting back into the groove…

We are a couple weeks into school, and I feel like most of my readers are flowing back into fall school routines, so I’d say it’s safe to start talking about fall menus! Fall certainly has a different feel than going from spring to summer menu plans – does it feel like that to you? For the most part it felt like late spring and into summer, the meal planning goes a little more “fly by the seat of your pants” style, and then once September hits, everyone has no choice but to plan a little bit more, or dinner will never hit the table!

Before we get started!

If you have never seen one of my meal plans, I would invite you to start with the Winter Meal Plan Part 1 and the Winter Meal Plan Part 2. Even though we are not full swing into cold weather, the information at the beginning of each of those posts will help you understand my meal plan approach, how I like to handle macronutrients to balance meals, questions you might have about portions and family sizes, and even more. Make a pit stop there first, and then come back to get some fall inspired meals!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Fall Inspired Part 1}

School staples, and some lunchbox shortcut favorites

With school starting back up, and the long, daunting thought of the lunchbox packing task that awaits us for the whole year, I thought I would put some lunchbox staple favorites all in one place. Some because I didn’t have a ton of room to always label and link veggie/cracker dips and dressings for salads. And also so that you can see some examples of some store bought snacks and favs that I keep in my pantry. I’ll break these up so that you can find them easily!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Fall Inspired Part 1}
Build your own nachos lunchbox with store bought olives and chips (see below for links!)

Staple store bought lunchbox sides

For the most part, these are used sparingly and minimally – a hand full here, and a few there. But they are great to have on hand in the pantry, and especially help kids that are newer to “real food” make the transition to healthier lunchboxes without giving up some comfortable favorites. I also have a post with 11 Healthy Packaged School Snacks for Kids that I use for morning snacks at school here and there, but they also work well in lunchboxes.

Charcuterie Board style lunchbox using the Simple Mills crackers & a Bear Nibbles Yo-Yo Fruit/Veg Strip!

Staple dressings and dips

I’m going to go ahead and list all of our favorite dressings below, and you can put your kids’ favs into your meal plan as you go. I also wanted to mention that we get guacamole cups and hummus cups at Costco. If you don’t have access to Costco, you can find them at most grocery stores these days. You can also find Wholly Guacamole cups and Go Go Dippers Hummus cups online. There are also fantastic, simple recipes for guacamole and super simple hummus in the Lunchbox Staple Chapter of my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!

Fruity Poppy Seed Dressing in the Rainbow Chicken Salad from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!

Veggie Soup Swaps

One of my goals each week in the cooler months of the year, is to get 1-2 bone broth based soups into the family by week’s end. Usually it is a veggie based soup, which the girls have devoured since infancy, and sometimes it is a heartier dinner soup with more protein and bulk. You’ll notice in the meal plan that usually my rhythm is to make the soup for the week on the weekend and that way it is easy to add to a thermos for school lunch later in the week. I know that not every kid will love every soup, and luckily for you, there are a myriad of soups to pick from both on the blog and in my cookbooks. If you have little guys at home, I would encourage you to start these young so that they develop a palate for these tasty soups that are such a great way to get nourishing bone broth and mineral rich veggies in! (Heartier, dinner type soups are linked in the dinner section below)

Copycat Alphabet Soup recipe from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!

So let’s kick off this Fall Menu Plan!

Here is a PDF for you to download for the full 2 week fall meal plan with links to recipes included. {See below this section for a blank version if you want to fill in your own!}

Want to build your own meal plan?

Go for it! My way of doing meals is definitely not the only way! And my recipes are not the only recipes around! Here is a blank PDF for you to print and fill out your own.

Dinner swaps!

I know that not every dinner chosen on the meal plan below will fit with every family’s tastes. There are so many choices for how to fill this in, which is why I never posted meal plans before. I really want you to fill the meal plan in to your family preferences. The plan below is simply inspiration and a guide to show you how I flow certain meals into others, how I double up meals, and how I balance a day’s macronutrient needs for my family. Here are some fall inspired dinner swaps for anything on the menu that you might want to change. Most of this list is from right here on the blog. Any recipe links that have a page number are from my cookbooks. Those with page numbers in green are from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, and those with page numbers in pink are from Nourished Beginnings.

Pot Pie Soup dinner!
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Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}

July 12, 2021

The weather is hot, and the produce is abundant! Create a nourishing 2 week meal plan with this fresh summer inspiration!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}

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 lovin’!

Whew! This summer is flying! I really wanted to get second summer meal plan up for you, and I sincerely hope that you are enjoying all that summer has to offer where you live! We have been hitting up all of the summer fruit U-Pick stands from strawberries to cherries, and this week, we’ll head out for those beautiful Michigan blueberries. The farmer’s markets here are loaded with veggies too, and I have some great meal ideas to help you through the rest of this summer!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}

START HERE!!!

If you are new to this space, I would recommend that you pop over to my PART 1 Summer Meal Plan before you go any further here. There is a load of really great information about how to cook in the summer heat, my approaches to meal planning, and some other helpful tips that will help make this whole process a whole lot easier for you! After you read through Summer Meal Plan Part 1, and get an idea of how those meals flow, you’ll be all set up to roll right into this Summer Meal Plan Part 2!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}

Let’s talk summer outings and packed summer lunches

One thing that I did not touch on in Summer Meal Plan Part 1 was that even though we aren’t in school for a few months, we DO still have to pack meals here and there! Whether its for a sunny beach day, a day trip to the park, or a road trip to the zoo, packed lunches don’t just disappear because school is done for the summer. I pack in different containers for family trips than I do for school lunches. When we go on family trips, there is usually a large cooler involved, instead of each child carrying their own individual lunchbox in their backpack. It’s just a different dynamic than school. As much as I am a sold-out, die-hard fan of our school year Planetboxes, they just don’t pack realistically very well in a cooler. They are heavy for one, and for outdoor spaces like the beach, I noticed how the sand would get in the metal hinges and it was just hard to clean. I have these Sistema lunchboxes That are super light weight and pack in a cooler well for the whole family. (There is also a larger one than the linked above and pictured below – my oldest uses THIS one)

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}

Take advantage of your evening down time

Listen, I’m the FIRST person to raise my hand for an evening beach sunset swim and toes in the sand. We only get a handful of months to enjoy our powdery beach sand, warm sun, and gorgeous Lake Michigan sunsets! But we don’t do it every night, and on the evenings where the sun is just starting to think about coming down, a lot of times I’ll spend about 15 minutes getting *something* ready for the next day. It might be getting a batch of blueberry muffins baked off for the morning, or stirring up a summer salad to make lunchtime a little quicker the next day, or maybe you get a dozen eggs in the Instant Pot so that you have easy to grab hard boiled eggs for the next few days. If you have kids that stay up a little longer in the summer, pull them alongside you and make them a part of it. You’ll be surprised at how much it helps when there are 2 sets of hands in getting tasks done.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}

SUMMER MEAL PLAN PART 2!

Again, if you have NOT read through Summer Meal Plan Part 1, hop over there first, to see the flow, and then you can put both Part 1 and Part 2 together – that’s 4 WEEKS total of summer meals! Here is your free PDF of Summer Meal Plan Part 2!

Short and sweet!

So talk to me! How are summer meals going in your house? Are these summer meal plans helping you this season? Summer is so sacred. These few months are just so, so sweet, and I truly hope that having a little bit of a meal flow idea has helped you enjoy your summer just a little bit more!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 2}
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Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

June 12, 2021

The weather is hot, and the produce is abundant! Create a nourishing 2 week meal plan with this fresh summer inspiration!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

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.

Sun, sand, and flip flops!

Those of you that have been around here for a while know that we spend most of our time at the beach in the summer! We don’t go through months of piled up snow for nothing! We truly live it up on some of the most gorgeous powdery sand beaches of our hometown during the summer months while the girls are home from school. Busy, fun summer days don’t mean we pull back on nutrition goals, though! In fact, these kids play so hard in the summer, I find I’m thinking about how to boost them even more during the summer.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

Our summer schedule…and how yours might look different!

Everyone’s summers look different. Some families don’t have a lot of change with parents working, so instead of going to school for the day, the children are at day camps for the day. That is great! Some families are at home more and have more time to put into meals. That’s great too! And many of us fall somewhere in the middle. Since I work from home, there is a bit more flexibility, though the work still needs to get done (with children at home and a house to still run!). It can get a bit sticky, but we have a flow that has worked well for us, and I hope to inspire you to work with what you have to keep real food on the table, no matter the schedule. Whether your schedule looks very different from the rest of the school year, or things are business as usual, I hope to show you how our family functions with meals during the warm summer months – and while the abundant produce is around!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

How does summer change our family meal plan?

I look forward to summer mornings the most. All school year long, we have a time table to keep in order to get to school on time, so in the summer we truly enjoy slower mornings. Some families don’t have that flexibility, and that’s ok! Sometimes, as a work from home mom, I get up early to knock out some work before the kids get up. But, for the most part, coffee on the porch in my PJ’s is totally the summer morning flow, and I’m absolutely here for it. We swap warm winter oatmeal for cooler yogurt with power packed add-in’s, and some hot weather options like smoothies to swap for egg casseroles that don’t heat up the house, but are still nutrient dense. I do still cook though. You’ll see my thoughts below on “cooking” during the summer, and if that isn’t your jam, do what works for you! For my household, there are a few days a week that I like to still lightly cook for the morning meal for variety and to get an abundance of produce in. ***By the way! If your kiddos are taking packed “school lunch” type lunches for summer day camp each day, you might get more lunchbox inspiration with warmer weather ideas in my Spring Meal Plans Part 1 and Part 2. In the summer, our lunches aren’t always the pack-able kind since we are at home more, but you will find a lot of inspo in the spring when my girls are in school still! ALSO! My friend Kristin from Live Simply has GREAT summer lunchbox ideas on her Insta for her Florida kiddos (insert REALLY hot weather!) that do more day camps in the summer – great, hot weather summer lunchbox ideas there!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

Tips for cooking in the heat

Just like many of you, our summer weather is warm. Actually, as frigid as our frozen tundra is in the winter, you’d never believe the humidity that Michigan can get – it truly feels like walking through a tropical rainforest sometimes! So, in the summer we do tend to do naturally do a bit less “cooking” than in the winter months, but I think some may be surprised that there is still some cooking going on during the warm months here.

  • Our ancestors would have cooked over open fires outside all year long, and I kind of take that thought process as we are looking at meals in our house during the summer. As “modern day” moved our kitchens from the outside to the inside, there may have been a shift to more convenience foods or pantry staples during the hot summer, but I encourage you think about how your ancestors, before kitchens being located in the homes, would have naturally eaten.
  • If you have a grill that is a great start! Cook outside to keep the house cool, just like your ancestors would have done!
  • Since we have modern day kitchens, we also have the convenience of having appliances that don’t heat the house up like a pressure cooker Instant Pot, or slow cooker. Take advantage of that!
  • If you’re going to cook, make it stretch into other meals. You’ll notice in the meal plan that if I’m putting my oven on in the summer, I’m making that meal stretch into the next day so I don’t have to turn it on again. I’ll split a whole chicken to cook in the oven in 1 hour instead of all day, and then use that meat for an easy meal the next day.
  • I think one of the biggest differences you will notice in my summer meal plan versus the rest of the school year, is that since the girls are home for lunch, I tend to do either quick dinner leftovers, or a quick pan saute of all those beautiful summer veggies to serve tossed with pasta, or grilled chicken. It is a huge budget saver to just use what veggies are in season, and skip all the lunchbox specialties and snacks. Sure, it’s fun to make granola bars, or energy bites, or pack healthier choice packaged snacks for school, but in the summer, simple pan cooking is budget friendly, and actually much faster than you think. Besides, I would rather be at the beach than baking granola bars!
Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

What’s with the pan sautéed veggies on the meal plan, and how do you do it?

I mentioned above that since the girls are home for lunch during the summer, I tend to do pan cooked summer veggies for lunch a lot, unless we are on an outing with packed lunchboxes. It takes less than 10 minutes, and when you get those in season veggies it is SUCH a budget saver. To make pan cooked summer veggies, melt some butter, olive oil, or coconut oil in a pan over medium to medium high heat. Add the chopped veggies with a pinch of salt, and just cook until tender crisp. If your kiddos are younger ages, you can cut the pieces smaller, and cook them through a bit longer so they are softer to eat, but this is how I have served summer lunch since the girls were just 1 years old! You can grill chicken, fish, or burgers to serve with the veggies, or even serve them with a PBJ – we absolutely do that too!

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

More help means more outside play! Get the kids involved!

This really should be an all year thing, but especially when the kids are done with school work for the summer, it’s the perfect time to learn new kitchen skills – AND help with getting meals done so you can play outside more! No matter the age, everyone can help with something. My older girls take care of a couple of breakfasts per week, while my youngest helps me prep just about any meal. And I never wash a breakfast or lunch dish in the summer. <– Read that again! It’s true! When they were younger, did these tasks always “help” me? NOPE! A lot of times it took longer and made a bigger mess. But the skills they learn when they are little are SO helpful as they get older. You can check out this post for some help on navigating teaching your kids how to help you more in the kitchen!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

Remember to think about WHERE you live, and how things grow where you live…

Where I live may have a different growing season than where you live. Summer where you live might also look differently than where I live. We have a very abundant summer growing season in Michigan. While it is pretty slow going in the winter, we can pick vegetables and fruit to our heart’s content all summer long. There are U-Pick patches, farm stands, and farmer’s markets on just about every corner, bursting at the seams through the first part of fall. If that isn’t how it is where you live, that’s ok! Just keep that in mind as you look at our meal plan, and just tailor the produce part to your environment!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

Tell me about those popsicles on the meal plan!

They are literally whatever fruit we are picking that week, blended up, and frozen. That is truly how I roll in the summer! There is nothing fancy to it. We have had this ice pop container for years and years, and still use it all summer long to this day. Blend up whatever is in season, and the kids can have a frozen, in-season summer fruit after lunch in the summer. Give this easy blend up and pour task to the kids to do, and take one thing off your plate!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

SUMMER MEAL PLAN PART 1!

Here is a free PDF of Summer Meal Plan Part 1! Right below the image will be a blank version, in case you want to fill in your own!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}

Want to build your own plan?

Here is a FREE Blank PDF Meal Plan so you can sit down with your family and fill in what works for you!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Summer Inspired Part 1}
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Fresh Green Bean Salad

May 19, 2021

Warm or cold, this fresh green bean salad is the perfect veggie side dish change up any time of the year!

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

Our summer happy place

We endure a pretty long cold season in order to enjoy quite possibly the most amazing place in the world to spend summer – the beautiful coastline of Lake Michigan! There is really nothing like it! We have finally hit a warm spurt and it doesn’t even matter that the lake hasn’t warmed up yet! My crew is all in, and we are ready for a few months of sandy barefoot days.

Fresh Green Bean Salad

A summer produce favorite

Green beans are one of the only garden items I can grow like weeds. Our dune-sandy soil is so hard for growing some things, but green beans – I can do that! The girls adore green beans too, so it really works out! As your summer green bean harvest starts coming in, or you see piles of them at the local farmer’s market, grab a big bag full, and try out this fun veggie side with your summer BBQ, or a big juicy burger!

Fresh Green Bean Salad

Simple ingredients

Summer is definitely not the time to be spending loads of time in the kitchen. We only get a few months out of the year to really enjoy all that warm sunshine, so I want to be outside as much of our summer days as possible! This summer salad can be put together in 10 minutes and just hang out in the fridge to be your easy lunch or dinner side dish all week. A simple pound of summer green beans, pretty cherry tomatoes, and a handful of walnuts get tossed with a pantry friendly dressing that shakes right up in a little jar. It doesn’t get much simpler than that – perfect for summer!

Fresh Green Bean Salad

Green bean steaming method options

For this green bean salad, I very lightly steam the green beans. You could potentially serve them raw, but I do find that the dressing soaks in a bit better and is better over the course of days if you give the green beans a light steam, or at the very least, a quick blanch. Here are some steaming options:

  • For the INSTANT POT put 1 cup of water in the bottom of the pot, put the green beans in the steamer basket inside the pot, put the IP lid on, and seal the valve. Press the STEAM feature and bring the time down to “0” minutes. The IP will come to pressure in about 5 minutes in and then be done since you set the time to 0. Release the valve immediately.
  • For an ELECTRIC STEAMER, or if using a STEAMER BASKET OVER BOILING WATER, put the green beans in the steamer and set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • You could also blanch the green beans if you really want a very crisp bean salad.
Fresh Green Bean Salad

Fuss free prep

10 minutes! I promise! Maybe even less if your veggies are already washed up! While your green beans have a quick steam, you’ll make the dressing. You probably already have all of the ingredients right in your pantry to shake up the dressing in the jar. Once the dressing is ready, the cherry tomatoes get sliced, and the walnuts can get a quick chop. Then you’ll toss the lightly steamed green beans with the dressing, tomatoes, and walnuts, and you’re done!

Fresh Green Bean Salad

Serve it cold or warm!

If you happen to get a chance, enjoy a few bites of your freshly tossed green bean salad while it’s warm! Absolute heaven! If it feels like 100 degrees outside, I’m sure the chilled salad fit your menu the best, but if you happen to change up your meal plan in the winter, you can enjoy the cozy warmth of the salad right out of the steamer.

Fresh Green Bean Salad

Nut free friends, and other swaps!

If you are nut free, swap out the nuts for sunflower seeds to add some texture to the salad. I also think that if you have the time to give the walnuts or sunflower seeds a quick 2 minute toast in the saute pan, you’ll really enjoy the flavor that brings. If you are a household that can do dairy, parmesan is a fun addition. And if your kiddos are more Ranch style salad kids, I say swap the dressing for your favorite healthy Ranch if that will make them more willing to try a new salad – you’re still a fantastic momma in my book! You can try my classic Ranch, or, if you are dairy free, use this Paleo Ranch or this better choice store bought Ranch.

Fresh Green Bean Salad

Fresh Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

For the dressing:

For the green bean salad:

  • 1 lb fresh green beans trimmed and cut in half
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes halved
  • ½ cup walnuts coarsely chopped
  • 1 recipe of the dressing from above

Instructions

  • Put all of the dressing ingredients into a small mason jar with a lid and shake vigorously for 1 minute until combined. Set the dressing in the fridge to chill while you make the rest of the salad.
  • Steam the green beans to crisp tender. You could do this a few different ways. For the INSTANT POT put 1 cup of water in the bottom of the pot, put the green beans in the steamer basket inside the pot, put the IP lid on, and seal the valve. Press the STEAM feature and bring the time down to “0” minutes. The IP will come to pressure in about 5 minutes in and then be done since you set the time to 0. Release the valve immediately. For an ELECTRIC STEAMER, or if using a STEAMER BASKET OVER BOILING WATER, put the green beans in the steamer and set the timer for 5 minutes. You could also blanch the green beans if you really want a very crisp bean salad.
  • Once the green beans are lightly steamed, add them to a medium serving bowl, and toss with the cherry tomatoes, walnuts, and dressing. You can use half the dressing if you want it lightly dressed, or all of it – I would recommend starting with half to see how you like it! Sometimes I use about half and keep the other half for a salad later in the week. Keep in mind that the dressing will soak into the veggies a little bit too. You can eat the salad warm, or chill in the fridge.

Notes

  • This salad stays good in the fridge for 5-7 days. Make some up on a busy week to pull from all week long!
  • You can use a tasteless healthy oil, such as avocado oil, if your crew doesn’t love the taste of olive oil. 
  • This salad and the dressing double up for a crowd very nicely. This amount feeds my family of 5 for a side dish plus a little leftover.
  • Balsamic vinegar makes a delicious swap for red wine vinegar to change things up. White wine vinegar is another way to change it up a bit.
  • Lemon or lime juice will work but I do love the lime the best!
Fresh Green Bean Salad

More real food recipes you might like ::

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Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 2}

May 13, 2021

Use this fresh, spring inspired meal plan for your growing family!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 2}

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.

Finally!

I know you all have been waiting longer than you have wanted for Part 2 of this spring meal plan, and I thank you for your patience! It’s been a whirlwind of a spring – a welcomed whirlwind, with zoo visits, birthday celebrations, and lots of parks!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 2}

Read this first!

While we are creeping closer to needing summer meal plans, I still wanted to show you how to spin off that Spring Meal Plan 1 into this Spring Meal Plan 2. I had purposely put some food items on Meal Plan 1 that could be flowed another week to keep the time in your kitchen down, and I wanted to show you how to do that. I also added in more meal double duty in Part 2, and I really think you will like this flow! If you have not checked out Spring Meal Plan 1, you’ll want to take a peek at that first – this meal plan will make a bit more sense after seeing that!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 2}

Yes, we are still in school!

I know many of our friends to the south are wrapping the school year up in the next week or so, but up here in Michigan we don’t start school until late August, and so we are packing those lunchboxes until about mid-June in these parts! You’ll see our lunch routine change up a little bit in my summer meal plans, but for this meal plan, keep in mind the girls’ lunches in the plan are still packed up for school.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 2}

Let’s talk about special days and swapping treats!

I wanted to use my spring meal plan space to talk a little bit about special days! We have 2 spring birthdays in our house, and we absolutely want to celebrate that! If you have special celebrations, no matter the time of year, please swap some special meals in your these meal plans! As a for instance, perhaps the weekend of a special birthday you swap the breakfast for birthday scones or a coffee cake. And there may even be a night that you get to take the family out for a special birthday dinner, or end of the school year celebration.

Gluten Free Funfetti® Birthday Scones! :: Gluten, Egg, & Nut Free

FAQ’s!

If you haven’t taken a peek at the first 2 meal plans I created this year, there is some helpful information in both of those. Even if you don’t need winter inspired meals, you’ll want to check out the information on how to balance macro-nutrients for your kids, meal planning baby steps, food availability, (all of these points are in the Winter Meal Plan 1 post), and also how my husband fits into the meal plan as a commuter (in Winter Meal Plan 2).

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

SPRING MEAL PLAN PART 2!

Here is a free PDF of my Part 2 Spring Inspired Meal Plan! Right below the image will be a blank version, in case you want to fill in your own!

Want to build your own plan?

I’m all about that! here is a free blank PDF of the meal plan so you can sit down with the family and create your own plan of attack!

SUMMER is almost here!

I’ll be back soon with some summer inspiration very soon!

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}
Condiments Dinner Ideas Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

April 20, 2021

Free from common allergens, this delicious dairy free Caesar dressing is also gluten free, soy free, nut free, egg free, and fish free!

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

Spring teases, and a need for some dairy free staples

I *think* we’ll see the last of our cold weather snow flurries this week, and we can finally say we are on our way to some consistent spring like temps here in Michigan! We spent a cool but pleasant weekend hiking and even playing at the beach, and while I watched my crew race up and down the shoreline, I was thinking about just how far I’ve come in a health related sort of way.

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

A marathon, not a sprint

As I watched my kids sprint across the sand, I thought about how I had to change my thought process toward getting healthy so long ago. More of a “sprinter” in all things life, I have had to grow and change my method to more of a marathoner’s mindset. And you know what? Sprinters and marathoner’s are both great athletes. But when it comes to healing decades of growing up in a conventional, standard American health sort of environment, sprinting is only going to lead to more injury. It takes time to heal decades. I’ve had a recent set back toward the end of winter, and while I’m on my way, I have had to learn the hard way that while I’d like to sprint myself back into feeling my normal, a marathon mindset is really where it’s at.

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

Peeling back the layers

I have had more than one natural minded practitioner remind me that most healing journeys are like peeling onions. There are layers and layers of them, and before you can get to the center root of the onion, you have to get through the surface layers first. A chiropractor friend reminded me of this last week, and I’m hoping someone here needs to hear it too. There are layers of natural elements, like diet, mineral balance, and hydration. And there are also layers of lifestyle, such as sleep, stress, and activity levels. I’ve been working on the later, with over-exercising and not paying enough attention to stress…a very tough admission for this “Type A!” One layer I DO know how to help with, however is food. And if you need to have inflammatory foods out of your diet for a period of time for healing, I’ve got you covered, dear momma. I have been there, done that, and I have some recipe tricks up my sleeve that I hope will help you!

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

Our favorite Caesar, done without dairy

One of the first recipes I posted to this blog was a recipe for Caesar dressing. It was *the* dressing helped me successfully get my husband off store bought dressings years ago, and has been a staple around here for a while. But the dressing has dairy and egg, which can be inflammatory for those that are healing. Over the years when I have had seasons like I am in right now where I need to strictly be dairy free, I have played around with other ways to make it without the cheese, sour cream, and eggs, and I’m finally getting it here on the blog! This Caesar dressing is a handful of years in the the trial and error making, and I can proudly say it is free from dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, and egg…and it still passes my Caesar dressing critic husband’s taste test!

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing Method

It really doesn’t get any easier than a 5 minute prep, and I’m pretty sure that whether you are on a healing journey or not, less work is music to your ears! I don’t even use measuring cups. Simply use the marks on the side of a pint mason jar and measure to the 1/2 cup mark for the olive oil. Then spoon in your coconut yogurt until the line hits the 3/4 cup mark. The rest is all measuring spoon, and goes so fast. Finally, you’ll use a simple immersion blender to emulsify the dressing into the dreamiest creamy texture!

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

Important Notes!

Please take the time to read through the Notes section in the recipe card! I have been making this dairy free version of Caesar for a while, and I took the time to write down some of my thoughts on swaps and switches, as well as how to tailor this dressing to fit your unique taste palate!

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a pint mason jar, measure the olive oil to the ½ cup mark, then add the 1/4 cup of coconut yogurt to fill until the ¾ cup mark on the mason jar (you could use measuring cups too, but this is my favorite way, and is less to clean up!).
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and use an immersion blender to emulsify until creamy and combined. Blend with the immersion blender for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Store the Caesar dressing in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Notes

  • If you are egg free, leave the yolk out and add an extra couple tablespoons of coconut yogurt for the creaminess.
  • If you don’t have an immersion blender, you could add all of the ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil to a food processor or blender. Then, while the blender is running, you can drizzle the olive oil into the blender so that it can slowly emulsify the dressing until creamy.
  • Add an extra tablespoon of lemon juice if you like your dressing tangier. The recipe as written is very kid friendly, but I love extra tang, so when I make it for myself I use 2 tbsp – about a full lemon.
  • Add an extra tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes if you want the dressing to taste cheesier.
  • If you don’t have coconut aminos, you can leave this out, but it does add a depth of flavor that I just love – traditional sardines would add this too if you have those.
  • If you want to use a neutral/flavorless oil, avocado oil works well and is safe, healthy oil. The olive oil flavor gets pretty covered up by all of the other ingredients, but I know some kids might be sensitive to that taste, and avocado oil is flavorless. Really good olive oil is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, so I always ready for the olive oil when I can, and my kids really like the taste of it.
  • I get the big, 32oz tubs of plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt from our local grocer for a very budget friendly price. Many regular grocers are carrying this now, just take a look!
Dairy Free Caesar Dressing

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Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

April 14, 2021

Learn how to get veggies into taco night with this kid friendly method of veggie loading taco meat!

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Taco night and our first spring dip in the lake!

Lake Michigan is 37 degrees, and that, my friends, means I’m barefoot in the beach sand trying to soak in some early spring sun rays while these little Michigan born and bread kiddos of mine are in the water and happy as little larks! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can help you with those main staples that are on everyone’s meal plan list, by amping up the nutrient level while still keeping them kid favorites.

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Taco Tuesday…Amplified!

I would venture to say that most households have a staple taco night. It is an easy kid favorite, familiar, and obviously so delicious too! Sometimes I over look the obvious staples to blog because I figure everyone knows how to make a taco right? But do you know how to make a taco that isn’t just meat a cheese? Something that will get some mineral rich veggies and fiber into the kids without the kids complaining? Without having to add the taco meat to a salad? Not that there is anything wrong with a salad, but I’ve been in those little kid years, dear momma! I know salads are not always first pick. And toddlers don’t always digest or chew salads very easily. They also will be full after one or 2 taco shells with taco filling…so let’s get more in every bite!

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Making every bite count…taco style!

Little kids have little bellies. And while I have been the witness to bottomless pit kid appetites, when my girls were very little I found out very quickly that 1 or 2 tacos was about all their bellies could hold, so I had to make those bites count. The secret to veggie loading tacos is all about mixing the meat with veggies that have been cooked with the right technique….a slow, flavorful sauté. Sure, this does add about 10 minutes to your cook-time, but it will be so worth it. And one of the best parts about taco meat is that it can be done in advance on a prep-day, and even frozen for easier weeknights!

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Older kid & teen benefits

Veggie loading tacos isn’t just beneficial for filling up little bellies. Those growing teenagers can seriously put the food away! Filling them up on protein is important, but fiber rich veggies will help fill up those appetites and help them feel fuller longer. Another benefit to veggie loading the meat is that the added extra veggie mineral nutrients is so vital to the function of all of their organs – hello teenage hormones! Hormones need these mineral nutrients from veggies to function properly, and this is a great way to get those in. And even better if your teen likes a big taco salad – double the veg!

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Two Birds, One Stone…Veggie Loading & Budgets!

While my main focus in veggie loading these tacos is to get more veggies into your kids, I want to also help you see that this method of making taco meat really stretches that pound or 2 of ground beef for your hungry crew. My family of 5 can pound out a pound of taco meat and then some. But when I veggie load taco meat, not only does the volume of taco meat almost double, giving us more to fill into those taco shells, it is also getting fiber rich veggies into hungry bellies to fill them up.

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

A note about taco seasoning

You can swap the DIY taco seasoning for 1-2 packets of taco seasoning – just be real careful on those ingredient lists – staying organic usually helps with avoiding MSG, GMO’s, and other fillers. Also keep in mind that packets (even many organic ones) add starches, so you will need more bone broth or water because those starches thicken things up. I keep a jar of my DIY taco seasoning doubled or tripled up in my cupboard so it is easy to pull out on taco night.

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Tips for families with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers

Dear momma, if you have an older baby or toddler, I would invite you to take my “jump in with both feet” method of feeding littles, and just add the veggies in without taking too much care to dice them up super fine. Obviously make it small enough for them to handle in their mouths, but I truly believe that my girls never batted an eye at any meal, from spaghetti to tacos, being “veggie loaded” in their lives because we started them out that way. Babies and toddlers have ZERO frame of reference for what a “taco” should look like. <—Read that again! If this is all they have ever known, it is exactly what they will grow up being used to! In fact when I veggie load these tacos, I typically double the spinach in this recipe – feel free to add more if you wish.

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Tips for families with older kids and teens

If you have older kids used to “normal” tacos I have a few tips for you to ease them into this idea!

  • First of all, don’t make it a big deal – you make it a big deal and they will feed off that. I would actually just try the taco meat with the chopped veggies, and if they ask what it is, simply tell them! Don’t try to hide it – that really creates some trust issues. Just treat them like normal human beings, and be honest with them.
  • If you know for sure this is going to be a battle, try starting out with half of the veggies recommended here and work up to the full amount. As I said in the section above, this is actually toned down from my usual amount of veggies, but you can bring it down a couple of notches to work up to the full amount.
  • Try using a food processor to really finely chop the veggies so they are truly barely noticeable. Once the taco season is in the mixture, there is zero veggie taste – promise. But I know that some kids have texture issues, so perhaps making the veg super small will help ease those kids into this. In all actuality, the sauté and simmer cooking times really make the veggies very soft and manageable, but I do know that some children can be veggie detectives 🙂
Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos
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5 from 1 vote

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp friendly fat for cooking in butter, olive oil, avocado oil, tallow, etc
  • 1 small onion diced
  • ½ small red bell pepper diced
  • ½ small head of cabbage sliced thin or shredded
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 4 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 cup bone broth or water
  • Sea salt/pepper if needed to taste

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, melt the fat over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, cabbage, and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt, and cook over medium high heat until the veggies are soft and sweet. This will take about 5-10 minutes depending on how small you chopped the veggies (smaller chopped veggies will cook faster).
  • Add the spinach, garlic, ground beef, taco season, and broth to the pan. Break up the beef, and cook the veggies, beef, and broth together for over medium high heat, until the broth comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, stirring occasionally until the beef is cooked through, and the broth is reduced all the way down so that the taco mixture isn't runny. This takes about 10 minutes.
  • Serve your veggie loaded taco meat with traditional taco shells (we love these blue corn shells or yellow corn shells) or soft shell tortillas with toppings, or over a big salad to make a taco salad (use this French dressing or Fiesta Dressing for the salad!)

Notes

  • Instead of chopping, you could put all of the veggies in a food processor to chop up super small. This is a good technique for kids that don’t like “pieces” in their food, or have aversions to veggies. They will cook down and get so small you’ll never see them this way.
  • You can swap the DIY taco seasoning for 1-2 packets of taco seasoning – just be real careful on those ingredient lists – staying organic usually helps. Also keep in mind that packets add starches, so you will need more bone broth or water because those starches thicken things up.
  • When my kids were little, they always struggled with managing a taco and it’s fillings! I got these little taco holders and they are game changers! 
Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos

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Rainbow Broccoli Salad

March 24, 2021

All of the colors of the rainbow in this healthier choice broccoli salad with less sugar, no dairy, and lots of fun, flavorful veggies kids will love!

Rainbow Broccoli Salad
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.

Glimpses of warmer weather

Michigan likes to do this thing in the spring, where it plays around with 60 degrees one day, and back down to 30 degrees the next day. But my goodness, has spring ever been nice to us this year so far! Lake Michigan is thawed out, our toes are in the sand, and we are ready for warmer weather sides, like fresh spring and summer salads!

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

A better choice broccoli salad…that still tastes amazing!

I’ve been a sucker for a creamy broccoli salad even as a kid. Most broccoli salads are loaded with cheese, bacon, loads of dairy, and sugar…a lot of sugar. Usually anywhere from a quarter to half cup of white sugar is in the typical broccoli salad recipe. What’s not to love about that, right?! I knew when my oldest got to the age where she could manage salads and raw veggies to eat that I had to figure out a better way to make one of my favorite salads with way less sugar. And not that there is anything wrong with cheese, bacon, and dairy, but there is something wrong with the picture when the star of the show in a salad is anything but the veggies. I wanted to teach my girls that salads and veggies can taste amazing without being covered up by sugar.

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Tips for making raw salads like broccoli salad kid friendly

Be sure to pay attention to the Notes section in the recipe card of this post. There are tips and tricks mentioned that will make salads like this easier for little kids to eat, and your older kids will be more likely to accept this new food keeping some things in mind:

  • When chopping the broccoli and cabbage, remember that if you have real little ones, taking the time to finely chop the veg will really help with their ease of being able to spoon the salad and manage chewing it in their small mouths! As they get a little older, you can leave the pieces bigger.
  • If your kids are funny about the pungency of onion pieces, sub the finely chopped onion for 1-2 tsp of onion powder. My kids love the flavor of sweet onions raw when they are cut up small, but I know that is not always the case. If you have littles, don’t shy away from at least trying. This is how my girls’ palates were formed young! Mince them up and try it!
  • Change up the veggies! Beets and tomatoes swap well for the red. I love using roasted butternut squash for the orange, and did this often when the girls were very little – the sweetness is amazing for little ones and the soft squash is so easy to chew. You can use green cabbage too! Add a little bite of pretty fruit to the bowl if you think the kids will like that. My girls typically complain the salad is too sweet when I do this, but yours might like it! My favorite is pineapple or apple, but raisins and blueberries work nicely too.
Rainbow Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Dressing

One bowl side dishes are totally my jam. The dressing consists of 4 simple ingredients that get whisked up right in the bowl that you will serve the salad in. Less dishes, and less prep time! The creamy base is lightly sweetened with a spoonful of raw honey instead of white sugar, and it is plenty sweet. Keeping the vinegar amount lower helps with not needing to add as much sweetener as well. I prefer more of a bite to my broccoli salad, so I tend to add a splash of vinegar to my bowl. You can always add some raw shreds of apple or pineapple to the salad if the kids are already used to a sweet broccoli salad. Using fruit is a much better choice than adding more sugar.

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Veggies

I think you’ll find that chopping the veggies really small is worth the time that it takes. The kids will be able to spoon it easier, and your little ones will chew smaller raw veggie pieces easier this. Chop the veggies up and toss them with the simple dressing and the salad is ready to eat!

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Yogurt and Mayonnaise Options

There are so many ways to make the creamy base for the dressing suit your dietary needs. If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, plain yogurt and your favorite healthy oil based mayo will do the trick. If you are dairy free, you can swap the regular yogurt for full fat coconut yogurt, or just use all mayo and thin it out with a little splash non-dairy milk like coconut milk or a nut milk. Our favorite store bought mayo using healthy fats is Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo that we get for a great price at Costco. There are so many avocado oil mayonnaise choices for great prices now though, even if you don’t have access to Costco. If you are egg free, store bought mayo can be super tough. But I have a solution! There are 2 egg free mayo options on the blog. This Simple Egg Free Mayonnaise is dairy based if you can have that. And this Paleo Mayo is dairy and egg free.

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

More than just a dinner side!

Meal prep this Rainbow Broccoli Salad on Sunday, and you can use it for your a lunchbox veggie side for the kids, and also for your lunches. This kind of preparing helps keep kitchen food prep time at a reasonable amount for busy families. Broccoli salad packs fantastic in lunchboxes, and is such a great change up from regular veggie sticks. To pack Rainbow Broccoli Salad in a lunchbox, I would suggest a leakproof container, or something that seals the sides a bit. For my youngest’s Rover Planetbox shown below (she is 7), we use the little silicone cups that come with the Planetboxes that seal up to the sides. The salad is not drippy, but just in case a little condensation is there, it will prevent little drips. My older girls (almost 12 and 10) have the larger, Launch Planetbox, and they use the bigger Rounds bowl with a lid that the Planetboxes come with for their salads since they are bigger. When packing for little kids, remember the veggies don’t need to be the star of the show for a long school day and a short lunch period. I save bigger veggie portions for her breakfast and/or dinners. Time is of the essence when at school, so I want her filling up on protein and fat packed bites of food. My older girls can eat a bit quicker so they pack bigger salads.

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

  • ½ cup full fat yogurt or coconut yogurt
  • 1/3 cup avocado mayonnaise see Notes for homemade mayo options
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • ½ small onion finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper diced
  • 1 large carrot peeled and shredded
  • 1 head of broccoli florets chopped to bite sized (see Notes)
  • ½ head of a small purple cabbage sliced into thin, short strips (see Notes)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste if needed

Instructions

  • Whisk the yogurt, mayo, vinegar, and honey in a medium mixing bowl until smooth.
  • Toss the veggies with the dressing in the mixing bowl, and taste for salt and pepper. Serve the salad right away or hours later – as the flavors marry, the salad gets even better!
  • Store your Rainbow Broccoli Salad in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes

  • If you are egg and dairy free, try my Paleo mayo! Or if you are egg free but can have dairy, you can try my egg free, dairy based mayo. Any clean, crisp vinegar will work for the dressing.
  • If your kids are funny about the pungency of onion pieces, sub the finely chopped onion for 1-2 tsp of onion powder. My kids love the flavor of sweet onions raw, but I know that is not always the case. If you have littles, don’t shy away from at least trying. This is how my girls’ palates were formed young! Mince them up and try it!
  • Try multiple colors of bell peppers to boost the color even more! When chopping the broccoli and cabbage, remember that if you have real little ones, taking the time to finely chop the veg will really help with their ease of being able to spoon the salad and manage chewing it in their small mouths! As they get a little older, you can leave the pieces bigger.
  • Change up the veggies! Beets and tomatoes swap well for the red. I love using roasted butternut squash for the orange, and did this often when the girls were very little – the sweetness is amazing for little ones and the soft squash is so easy to chew. You can use green cabbage too!
  • Add a little bite of pretty fruit to the bowl if you think the kids will like that. My girls typically complain the salad is too sweet when I do this, but yours might like it! My favorite is pineapple or apple, but raisins and blueberries work nicely too.
Rainbow Broccoli Salad

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Creamy Cabbage Soup

March 15, 2021

Creamy and velvety cabbage soup, packed with nutrients and full of flavor!

Creamy Cabbage Soup

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

It’s been over 15 years.

About 20 years ago I got the diagnosis that would change everything for me. Hashimoto’s – an autoimmune thyroid disorder. I’ll spare you the details of the 3-4 years after that diagnosis of trying to actually figure out what that meant, and how to feel even an ounce of better. After a few years of trying everything mainstream medical and not feeling any different, I saw more of a natural, functional medicine practitioner. Answers and more of a “root issue” approach helped me quite literally peel back layers and layers of healing that my body needed. I learned how to listen to my body. I learned what worked for me, what the red flags and warning systems looked like, sounded like, and felt like….and I have felt what “good” really and truly feels like.

Back to the basics

And because certain things like stress (hello 2020), infections, inflammatory foods, and toxins can trigger an autoimmune “flare,” I’ve learned how to nail down those triggers so they don’t spiral out of control. I’m feeling one of those “flares” in the season I’m in right now, and after about 6 months of ignoring the red flag symptoms (because we have all been in survival mode in 2020, amiright?!), it’s time to get back to what I know I need to be doing for my body. And for me, that always means getting back to less inflammatory foods even if they are considered “healthy” for most, and hello to more cooked veggie minerals at every meal. It has, and probably always will be a game changer for me. It is one of the biggest reasons there are so many veggie soup recipes on the blog, and in my cookbooks, and why you’ll always hear me talking about “breakfast soups.”

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Breakfast Soup

And lunch an dinner soup. Cooked veggies just digest easier, and it is so much easier to get a variety and abundance in when you roast or “soup” your veggies. Souping your veg doesn’t have to be boring either. There are so many ways to change things up, and give your body the mineral variety it needs! If you are new to veggies at breakfast, soup might sound so strange, but hear me out. A little mug of steamy soup, a muffin, and some sausage or egg? It is perfectly dreamy to be honest. Sure, a veggie hash or a smoothie with greens works for breakfast too, but there is something about souping breakfast that has been the ticket to feeling amazing for me for years.

Cabbage…nutrient packed and anti-inflammatory

And did I mention a big time budget saver? Because let’s face it – that part matters too! Cabbage is about as cheap as it gets, but it is also loaded with micronutrients and minerals. Cruciferous veggies like cabbage can also be anti-inflammatory. For some, cruciferous veggies can be a problem digestively, especially in the raw state, but cooking can help with digestion. It also helps to eat these veggies with a healthy fat, so cooking the veg in a nutritious fat that works for you such as butter or olive oil is perfect. If you are someone that tolerates cabbage well, you are going to love this soup!

But how does it taste, and will my kids eat it too?!

The last thing I want you to be doing is making a bunch of meals that the rest of the family won’t eat, dear momma. Even though I have seasons of needing to eat a little differently than a growing, metabolism burning kid, it doesn’t mean that they can’t also be eating many of the same foods! The girls love just about every soup blend that has come out of my kitchen for their lunchbox thermoses. When they were babies I served them soups for breakfast often right along with myself. It is perfect for those seasons of sleepy babyhood for everyone to eat the same. These days it looks a little more like the kids having a muffin with eggs and a packed out smoothie, and mom having the same muffin, but with some meat, and a mug of soup. This works for our metabolisms where they are right now in the season we are in at the moment. The cabbage for this soup cooks down and and gets sweet with sautéing and really is a blank slate for whatever flavors you want to add in. I use some nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavor without the dairy, as well as some of my sausage seasoning blend to give the soup the warmth of cooking with sausage.

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Simple, easy soup making method

This is a one pot deal, and I think that is something just about everyone can handle these days! Just use the slow sauté approach to bring out the sweetness and flavor from the veggies, toss with some potato starch and then simmer them with your broth. The potato starch gives the soup a grain-free velvety, creamy texture that is to live for! You’ll use your immersion blender to puree the soup to a perfect creaminess once it is finished, but if you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender too.

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Other creamy soup purees that work well for any meal of the day!

My rhythm has most often been to make a soup for the week on the weekends or on Monday’s. If you don’t like to eat the same soup for days in a row, make a couple different kinds and start building your freezer stash. If you store a quart of soup into the freezer each week, you’ll soon have a lush soup stash to pull from so that, perhaps, on an extra busy week you don’t have to cook a soup. Or so that you can pull some variety throughout the week.

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp butter to cook in bacon fat, olive oil, or avocado oil work well here too
  • 2 small onions halved and sliced into strips
  • 1 carrot coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery coarsely chopped
  • 1 small/medium head of cabbage sliced into strips
  • 3 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast optional but lends a cheesy flavor without the dairy!
  • 1 tsp of my sausage season blend optional, but gives the flavor of having meat/sausage in the soup
  • 1 quart bone broth
  • 1/2 – 1 cup full fat coconut milk or regular milk if you tolerate dairy
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium high heat, and saute the onion, carrot, and celery for a few minutes while you chop the cabbage. There is so much cabbage, so give the first few veggies a few minutes to get started first.
  • Add the sliced cabbage and saute over medium high heat until the cabbage reduces down about half, and gets really soft and sweet. This takes a good 10 minutes to achieve and the flavor is amazing. Stir throughout the cooking process.
  • Put the potato starch, nutritional yeast, and sausage seasoning blend into the pot, stirring to coat the veggies in the starch and seasonings.
  • Pour the broth in, stir, and bring the soup to a low simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the stove off, pour in the coconut milk, and blend the soup with your immersion blender or in a regular blender until smooth. Salt and pepper the soup to your taste once it is blended.
Creamy Cabbage Soup

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Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

February 17, 2021

More winter inspired meal planning to create 2 more full weeks of nourishing winter meals!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

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 Inspired Part 2!

You asked, and I’m all ears, dear momma! I was hesitant to hit publish on my first Meal Plan a couple of weeks ago, but my heart is just so full with the messages and posts about how this has helped your families. So I’m back with more! ***If you have not had the chance to read my first Winter Inspired Meal Plan, you’ll want to hop over there to start. You’ll read a lot of great tips for portion sizing, balancing macros, and ideas for making your first baby steps into meal planning with real food.*** There is a full 2 week printable meal plan with winter inspired foods there, and another full 2 weeks on this post – that is a full month of meals to play around with, and I can’t wait to hear about your meal planning successes!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

Winter Inspiration

I know there are readers from all over the world that visit this space, so I want to be sure that I reiterate my recommendations on the first meal plan to buy what is in season where YOU live. February in Florida, or somewhere in Australia looks very, very different from February in Michigan! But I also realize that while I’m drooling over your beautiful farmer’s markets this time of year, our farmer’s markets and available in season produce will be bursting at the seams during the summer months. We just have very different growing seasons. Keep in mind where you live, and shop produce that fits in your budget within the season that you are, and you’ll be good to go!

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

A note about my husband!

I left this out of the Part 1 Meal Plan, and for that I apologize! My husband eats all meals with us on the weekend. He is a commuter on work days, and so he takes his breakfast and lunch with him Monday through Friday (he has been working from home since April, but still preps his food the same way). In the winter, his breakfast is prepped on Sundays. He makes a skillet of potato hash with spinach and sausage for all 5 days, and takes that with him to work. He warms that up at work and adds an egg most days. A nice travel thermos or electric travel mini hot pot works well for anyone that does not have access to warming things up. In the warmer months of summer, he will do smoothies more often. For his lunches, he preps some sort of meat main (typically chicken or beef), and brings enough salad for the week with him. He keeps all of this at work. He eats dinner with us most nights of the week, though sometimes he fasts dinner. {He did not always prep this himself by the way! That started happening when I was pregnant with baby 3…sometimes momma just can’t do everything! He enjoys taking that off my plate, so he still does this, but I know that is not the case in every house. Do what you can!}

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

Warm meals for cold days

That is the name of the game in the winter months here. If you live somewhere warmer, feel free to swap some of our hot meals for cooler ones! Just look at this frozen Lake Michigan beach in the winter months! We enjoy really warm dinners in the winter, so you’ll see that reflected in the meal plan for the winter months. That does not, however, mean that I want to be in the kitchen all day! I think you’ll see how I’m able to stretch meals into the next day, and repurpose food for new meals to help with time management.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

Let’s talk about lunchbox food products!

I love homemade hummus…but 3 kids into this thing I found the convenience of hummus cups to be a bit of a sanity saver. You just can’t always make everything all the time, least you burn out, dear momma. Same with guacamole. We just can’t afford the avocado prices here where they don’t grow, so guacamole cups are a very nice alternative. I do some of this shopping at Costco, and some online, so here is a great post with some of the packaged convenience lunchbox snacks, including crackers and granola bar options that you’ll see in the meal plan too. I do sometimes make these from scratch, but it sure is nice to have the option to buy them during certain seasons.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

SO! Let’s get started!

Here is a PDF for you to download of my full 2 Week Winter Inspired Meal Plan with links to recipes included. {See below this section for a blank version if you want to fill in your own!}

Want to build your own meal plan?

Go for it! My way of doing meals is definitely not the only way! And my recipes are not the only recipes around! Here is a blank PDF for you to print and fill out your own.

Winter Inspired Dinners to Swap in the Dinner Section

I know that not every single dinner idea on my blog or in my cookbooks is everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps you have other ingredients available or in season right now where you live. So here are some other dinner ideas to swap for the dinner section of the meal plan that fit with the idea of “winter inspired!” OR, fill in your own family favorite meals! Most of this list is from right here on the blog. Any recipe links that have a page number are from my cookbooks. Those with page numbers in green are from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, and those with page numbers in pink are from Nourished Beginnings.

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Spring is right around the corner!

I hope you enjoy the 4 total weeks of cold weather meal planning I’ve created for you! I am going to be working on some spring inspired meal planning in the next month or so, and would love any feedback or questions you might have as I prepare to create those! Drop some comments below!

Gluten Free Strawberry Pie
Batch Up Meals Breakfast Ideas Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips RGN Meal Plans school lunches

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

January 30, 2021

Learn how to build a 2 week meal plan for your family centered around whole, real food found in the winter, busy schedules, and nourishing families!

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.

Finally!

After 7 years of blogging, 2 cookbooks, and countless in person workshops…I’ve made a meal plan! *Sound the trumpets and throw a parade!* I know so many of you have asked throughout the years, and I just never did it because really I never thought I was much of a meal planner. I have always had a bit of a “framework” in my head, gone shopping and bought seasonal food on sale for the week, and then built my week around that – for the last 11 years that I have had children in the house! But more and more of you are asking, and I decided that there definitely could be some value in showing you how I keep our menu seasonal to fit in our budget, as well as show you how I build a week of meals for a normal, “real world” family of five!

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

Balancing Macros {Fats, Protein, Carbohydrates}

Healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – they all matter when it comes to kids. It’s all about the balance/ratio that works for you and your family. This will look different for each family – and possibly each child! We are talking about normal, healthy children, without inflammatory diseases, etc here. There are special circumstances where a spurt of a more “keto” or other type eating style would benefit a child, or an adult working on healing some things. But for most normal children, a good balance of all 3 macros is the key to stable moods and blood sugars, really good sleep, and laser focus for every life activity. Keep in mind that growth spurts, seasons of stress/sports/extra activities will make the ratio need for each macro vary for your child. Listen to their body – kids are smart. Most of them don’t live to eat, they eat to live. And they crave what their body needs at that very moment. So make your meal planning mantra…“Make every bite count!” When you look at any given meal, are all 3 macros represented in a healthy way? If so, you are on your way!

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

Portion Size Considerations **VERY Important – Don’t skip this section!**

One of the reasons I have always hesitated making meal plans trying to portray portion size and meal prep for every kind of family. Every kid has different appetites (even within the same age group!), and every family has a different number of kids at varying ages! The way that I made meals when I had very small children in the house is actually quite different than how I make meals now. The meals are the same, but my method is different. Back then, I used to have way more leftovers! I think I ate leftovers for breakfast almost daily. Or we had leftovers for dinner at least 2 times per week. I’m lucky to get 1 dinner of leftovers for my whole family of 5 these days with 2 pre-teens in the house! I have to be intentional if I want leftovers. That means purposely doubling or tripling something so that I can use the meal again. SO! With that in mind, if you have older children or MORE children in the house than my 3, you may want to consider doubling some of what I have listed. And if you have just a toddler or 2 in the house, know that you probably won’t have to make as many dinners as I do! You’ll have more leftovers to pull from.

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

Meal Planning Baby Steps

If you pull up this meal plan and feel overwhelmed, slow down, and breathe a minute. Baby steps is key to not quitting. Most of the people that I polled wanted all 3 meals represented, and 2 weeks or more at a time. But if you are new to cooking and real food, you might need to back off on changing everything all at once. This is the real world, and I get that momma. This can be done without overwhelming time in the kitchen. Promise. I don’t have time for it, and kitchen work is part of my job! I don’t want you to quit, so please read through these thoughts!

  • Don’t change everything overnight – even if you are a jump in with both feet kind of person. Start out with one meal of the day. Maybe just start with fixing your breakfast routine. Once you have a rhythm set for that meal that feels good to you, then you can move onto lunch, or dinner.
  • Sit down with the whole family and make a menu TOGETHER. Everyone gets a favorite somewhere in the week. TELL THEM why – they will understand! You could go in so many different life skill directions in this conversation too. Everything from helping them see how good their bodies will feel eating real food, to helping them see how planning meals out helps the family budget.
  • Don’t shy away from a “rotation.” Once you figure out your rhythm…trust me it is like auto-pilot and so nice! You’ll see some similarities within each week, and you’ll see how I plan Sunday breakfast and dinners to help me on Monday every week. There is plenty of variety and change, so that things do get boring, but there is also some predictability. There are some things that look the same but have veggie or fruit switches depending on what I find on sale or in season, and you can do the same according to where you live.
Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

A quick note about location, seasonal food, and availability

I found out real quick when I started doing my weekly shopping trip Stories on IG how vastly different food cost, availability of food, and seasonal differences are depending on location! I love getting messages and learning about how food is bought all over the world! Please keep in mind that where I live may not be where you live. Where I live, buying a half grass-fed cow for the year is affordable for many, and very available. That is definitely not the case everywhere. So where you see beef on my menu, you may have to swap for a different protein, or whatever meat is the best you can afford. I have readers from Europe that ask why we don’t eat much lamb, and people from East and West Coasts of the US that ask why we eat fish only occasionally. Both lamb and fish are quite costly where I live, so it is just not something that fits more than just weekly, if that. In the winter you will probably never see summer fruit like berries, or spring veggies like asparagus, because it is out of season in the frozen tundra of Michigan, and very expensive. Stick with the seasonality of where you live, buying the very best you can WITHIN the budget that you have for your family. Don’t go broke eating real food – you can do this smart within a budget.

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

SO! Let’s get started!

Here is a PDF for you to download of my full 2 Week Winter Inspired Meal Plan with links to recipes included. {See below this section for a blank version if you want to fill in your own!}

Want to build your own meal plan?

Go for it! My way of doing meals is definitely not the only way! And my recipes are not the only recipes around! Here is a blank PDF for you to print and fill out your own.

Winter Inspired Dinners to Swap in the Dinner Section

I know that not every single dinner idea on my blog or in my cookbooks is everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps you have other ingredients available or in season right now where you live. So here are some other dinner ideas to swap for the dinner section of the meal plan that fit with the idea of “winter inspired!” OR, fill in your own family favorite meals! Most of this list is from right here on the blog. Any recipe links that have a page number are from my cookbooks. Those with page numbers in green are from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, and those with page numbers in pink are from Nourished Beginnings.

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

Stay tuned…

YES, I would like to make more of these! Stay tuned for another winter inspired meal plan in the coming weeks, and then I’ll jump into spring inspired meals when we get there! Since I am newer at making meal plans for sharing with readers, I would love to have your feedback so that this is as relevant for you. Let me know how you like the layout, etc. If I’m going to spend the amount of time I did to put this one together, I want to make sure they are going to be used!

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}
Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

January 9, 2021

Add this easy, 20 minute skillet chicken and kale with garlic mushroom sauce dinner to your busy weekday menu!

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom 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.

Happy new year!

I took a look back at some of my new year recipe posts over the years this week, and I noticed a trend. They are all about getting back to the grind, eating well, but with kids in mind. Because those little guys don’t feed themselves, and they sure as the sun aren’t going to eat a boring kale salad everyday just because you have a few health goals 😉 {Go on ahead and call the real food police on that one – they already know I am not a fan of kale salads 🙂 }

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

Get the kale in, but in a kid friendly way!

The kids need to eat dinner too – and you don’t want to be a short order cook, I’m guessing. Veggie variety is the key, dear momma. Those kids don’t need kale everyday – and quite honestly, neither do you. We have a variety of veggies, every color of the rainbow, available to us for a reason. Those colors equal different nutrients, so it is important to change it up. But on those days that you’re going to get those dark green leafy nutrients in, you might as well make them taste amazing…amiright?!

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

All in one skillet dinner in 20 minutes?!

YES please! We all need yummy weeknight dinners that are easy to make, and don’t fill up the sink with a load of dishes. You’ll need a pot to boil your pasta in if you choose to serve with pasta, but the rest of the dinner is done in one skillet in about the time that it will take the boil the water and cook the pasta – and that is a recipe for the perfect weeknight dinner!

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

The Method :: The Chicken

I have a secret place in my heart for the delicious flavor of seared chicken thighs, but if you are more of a chicken breast person, you can totally use that. Simply whisk the seasoning in a shallow dish, coat the chicken, and sear it off in a super hot skillet. The key to the flavor is allowing it to form a little golden crust!

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce
Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

The Method :: The Flavorful Veggies

There is just something magic about a hot skillet, sliced mushrooms, and a little time. The golden color after cooking mushrooms is big flavor that will infuse the creamy sauce along with the garlic – don’t skip this part! It doesn’t take long! And one of the reasons I chose fast cooking veggies like kale and frozen green beans is so that you don’t have to spend extra time cooking that part. You’ll simply add the kale into the pan after the mushrooms turn golden and make the rest of the sauce. The green beans will cook while the sauce simmers. And bonus! All of these veggies have fat soluble vitamins – so eating them with the fatty cream sauce not only makes them easier to eat for kids, it makes the vitamins absorb better for their growing bodies!

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce
Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce
Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

The Method :: The Dairy Free Cream Sauce

I know what you’re thinking…how can you get a cream sauce without dairy?! I also know what your first thought will be when you see coconut milk. Let me be the first one to tell you – I am not a fan of coconut…of any kind! So let that be the proof that the sauce doesn’t taste like coconut – it really takes on the flavors of the rest of the skillet, and just leaves a super creamy heaven for the chicken and veggies to soak in. {You can call the real food police on the coconut admission too…they already know it isn’t my fav!} And a quick note for those that tolerate dairy – cream or whole milk will work just fine here if you would rather use that.

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

To pasta, or not to pasta?

If you have kiddos, and they can tolerate pasta of any kind, I’m thinking you’re going to find the dinner goes down even easier mixed with some fun pasta! Whether you like regular pasta, or gluten free, there are so many healthier choice varieties these days, and if you are off pasta for a bit, you can just serve your plate without the pasta. I think it tastes amazing over a baked potato or sweet potato.

Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

Skillet Chicken & Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 5-6 boneless chicken thighs
  • 4-6 tbsp olive oil ghee, or butter
  • 6 oz mushrooms sliced
  • 2-3 cups chopped kale
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine broth would be fine here
  • 1 ¼ cups full fat coconut milk or cream/milk
  • 2 handfuls of frozen green beans
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked pasta of choice to serve over About 3 cups dry pasta. I use the Gluten Free Jovial or Tinkyada rice pastas

Instructions

  • Whisk the basil, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper in a large dish until combined. Pat dry the chicken thighs and toss them with the seasonings in the dish until the chicken is coated well. You can do this up to 24 hours in advance. If you season the chicken in advance, put plastic wrap around the dish and place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to make dinner.
  • Melt 4 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the seasoned chicken thighs to cook until both sides are golden brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Take the browned chicken thighs out of the skillet onto a plate and set aside while you cook the veggies and sauce. *Keep all the leftover oil and browned bits in the skillet to cook the rest of the veggies in – so much flavor!
  • Melt another 1 tbsp of ghee in the skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until the mushrooms are fragrant and golden. Add the kale and garlic and cook for a minute or two.
  • Bring the heat up to medium high, and add the wine to deglaze the pan, simmering for a minute or 2. Add the coconut milk and green beans, stir, and bring to a simmer. Put the cooked chicken thighs in the skillet sauce, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  • Serve the chicken with mushroom garlic sauce over cooked GF pasta of choice. If you are grain free, you can serve this over a baked potato or sweet potato!

Notes

  • If you have fresh green beans versus frozen, you’ll just have to cook them in the pan a bit longer but it does work.
  • You can use spinach instead of kale, but it does cook up faster, so just add it at the end to wilt in.
Skillet Chicken and Kale with Garlic Mushroom Sauce

More real food recipes you might like!

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Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

December 30, 2020

Healthy comfort food for your dinner rotation! Stuffed Butternut Squash packed with flavor, and creamy without the dairy or gluten!

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: 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.

Happy new year!

How about a new dinner idea for your menu rotation this winter? We’ve been enjoying these stuffed butternut squashes all fall long, and my girls have devoured enough of them that I thought it about time to share the recipe with you!

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

Fancy presentation, easy peasy prep!

I know the idea of a stuffed squash seems time consuming, but it really is very little hands-on time. The oven does most of the work for you, and you can get so much done while dinner is in the oven! You could even roast the squash on a prep day if you do that, so that it is ready to go during the week. This also makes the perfect weekend comfort dinner when you do have a bit more time at home!

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: The Roasted Squash

A simple slice down the length of the butternut squash is all the cutting you need to do for this squash dinner. No peeling or dicing – my kind of dinner prep! After you scoop the seeds out, rub some olive oil over the flesh and sprinkle salt and pepper and you’ll be hands free while the squash caramelizes and sweetens in the oven.

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: The Filling

While your squash is roasting, the filling can be made in about 15 minutes. That gives you plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, help with homework, or tend to kiddos while the squash finishes roasting! To make the filling you’ll sweeten your aromatics before adding some grassfed ground beef. The nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor to the cream sauce without cheese! Heaven! Once the veggies and beef are cooked, you’ll coat them in potato starch so that the coconut milk will thicken once it hits the pan. You can swap an starchy flour you like here from tapioca to arrowroot. I leave the broccoli to add until the end so it doesn’t get too mushy. If you prefer your broccoli very soft you could add it earlier. The creamy filling is just so decadent and flavorful!

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Assembling and Roasting the Stuffed Squash

Once your squash is finished roasting, you’ll easily be able to scoop little spoonful’s of the soft squash into your skillet filling. This does 2 things – it makes a perfect little well for the skillet filling to stuff into the squash, and secondly it stirs into the skillet filling, making it even creamier and buttery in taste! After stirring the squash into the filling, you can “stuff” the squash! A little sprinkle of the almond flour based topping and the stuffed squash is ready for the oven!

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

An Important Note on Squash Size and Doubling!

Most of the time when I am grocery shopping, I pick out the short, fat little butternut squashes. I would consider them to be “small” butternut squashes. The recipe as written uses a small butternut squash, and feeds my family of 5 for one meal. If you need more servings, this recipe doubles very easily. You could use 2 small butternut squashes, or one large. I feel like the large butternut squashes take longer to roast, so when I do want more leftover, I tend to just make 2 small butternut squashes in a large, 9×13 baking pan, so they cook faster. And let me tell you, the leftovers are *ahhh-mazing* for breakfast the next day, dear momma!

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

Can I Use Dairy or Cheese If I Tolerate It?

Absolutely! I know many, like myself, find too much dairy to be inflammatory, so typically this time of year, my body is ready for a little dairy break after the holidays. If you tolerate cheese, that makes such a yummy topping for the stuffed squash. We did that a couple times this fall with some Manchego, a sheep’s milk cheese that my dairy sensitive daughter and I tolerate very well. You could also sub real milk or cream for the coconut milk if you have access to that.

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!
Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash

Ingredients

For the Roasted Squash

  • 2 tsp olive oil butter is ok here if you tolerate that
  • 1 small butternut squash halved and seeded
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

For the Filling

For the topping

Instructions

For the Roasted Squash

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Rub the olive oil over the 2 halves of squash, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a baking dish for 40 minutes at 425 degrees until soft. You can make the filling while the squash roasts.

For the filling

  • Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, and add the onion and pepper. Sprinkle some sea salt and cook over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and soft.
  • Add the garlic and cook for a minute
  • Add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and coconut aminos and cook until the beef is browned. Stir and break up the meat into small pieces as it cooks.
  • Once the beef is browned, stir the nutritional yeast and potato starch into the mixture, and combine until everything is coated well. Pour the coconut milk and broccoli into the pan and stir until the coconut milk thickens, a couple of minutes. The broccoli will still have some bite to it, but it will cook more in the oven – if you add too early it will get too mushy.

Assemble the stuffed squash

  • Once the squash is done roasting, scoop some of the flesh into the filling mixture in the skillet and stir to combine. Make enough room in the squash to be able to “stuff” it, leaving some squash around the sides and bottom.
  • Once the squash has been stirred into the filling mixture, scoop the ground beef mixture into the squash to stuff it.
  • Mix the topping ingredients with a fork in a small dish, and sprinkle over the top of the squash. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, until the topping is golden.

Notes

  • If you need more servings, this recipe doubles very easily. You could use 2 small butternut squashes, or one large. I feel like the large butternut squashes take longer to roast, so when I do want more leftover, I tend to just make 2 small butternut squashes in a large, 9×13 baking pan, so they cook faster.
  • If you tolerate cheese, that makes a delicious topping too!
Creamy Paleo Stuffed Butternut Squash :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

More real food recipes you might like ::

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

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

October 26, 2020

Veggie vitamins need healthy fat to absorb, so we might as well make them taste amazing with kid approved creamed vegetables using any veggie!

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

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 the basics

Last week, I happened to Instagram a quick veggie side dish that has been one of my go-to, “clear out the veggie bin at the end of the week” side dishes since my crew was very little. I was pretty blown away by the interest in the recipe specifics, but I can’t say super surprised, because it is one of the things that I adore the most about this RGN community. The following here is one of actual, real, everyday moms trying to do this real food thing with normal mom schedules and budgets…and this is as real life as it gets my friends!

A busy momma’s best friend!

This easy veggie side dish is going to become a regular on your dinner rotation – I happen to know because it most definitely was when my babies were very little, and still as as my girls have grown. An auto-pilot, nutrient-loaded way to get vegetables into my growing girls that they willingly (happily even!) inhaled each and every time when they were tiny, and ask for a lot as older kids! In right around 10 minutes, this kid approved veggie side can go alongside everything from a Sunday roasted chicken or beef roast, to a weekday pan seared fish.

One of my girls as a toddler gobbling creamy veggies!

For nutrient absorption, fat is where it’s at!

Dear momma, I hope you’ve hear the news by now that healthy fats are not the enemy. If you are anywhere near my age (I’ll be 41 next week!), I’m willing to bet that you grew up with a plethora of low fat food items in the pantry, and heaven forbid there ever be a stick of butter in the house. No, we grew up with a tub of rancid margarine in the fridge, and were told to stay as “low fat” as possible to be healthy. Thankfully the we have learned more about real, healthy fats, and their importance in our bodies. For hormones, for brain function…and for nutrient absorption! Fat soluble vitamins in many fresh foods from vegetables to pastured animal products need fat to even get into the tissues of our body. The very word “soluble,” meaning “able to be dissolved” should clue us in on how these fat soluble vitamins should be consumed. I love this article from my friend Jenny at Nourished Kitchen explaining the role that fat takes when eating fresh food.

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!
Go on and butter up those veggies, dear momma! They help the vitamins in those veggies absorb and make them taste great for kids! Missing my babies at this age!

Ok, I get it! Fat is good to consume with veggies! Now how do we make the creamy veggies?!

I’m so glad you asked! One of the reasons I have never posted this recipe is because I kinda thought it might be too simplistic. The reality is, however, that these simple dishes happen more often in my house than fancy baking, fun treats, or elaborate dinners. This is the everyday grind, and I am committed to helping the moms of this generation learn how to cook real food everyday – not just every once and a while!

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

Let’s talk about what veggies to use!

The total amount of veggies including the onion is about 6-8 cups chopped. The whole point of this kind of skillet side is to use what you have, so change up the veg to what is in season in your veggie bin, and what you have leftover that needs to be used up at the end of the week. Add some frozen corn if you can have grains to add an extra pop of color! You can swap the carrot for sweet potato or bell peppers. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, or asparagus swap well for broccoli. And zucchini swaps great for the green beans. Chopped spinach always wilts in at the end very well. Just remember 6-8 cups totally veggies – the cooking of the veg in the fat will bring out any veggies natural sweetness and make them super kid friendly in taste 😊

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

The cooking method

The key to making these veggies palatable to children lies in the cook method and the fat. Let the veggies get super soft and sweet, cooking in that fat for a good 5-10 minutes before making the cream sauce. You will be so glad you did. This method is the same that I use for the base of just about every veggie soup on the blog, and many dinners as well. It helps the veggie’s natural sugars shine and kids really love them!

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

Budget friendly

Because if we are going to do this real food thing, there are some things that are going to be spendy, such as buying quality meat and eggs. In order to balance that out in my budget, we pile high the budget friendly veg. Cabbage, green beans, carrots, spinach – we’re talking high nutrients with very little cost. The veggie fiber is priceless, and we already talked about how that little bit of fat swirled in helps all of the nutrients absorb. That is a big time budget win!

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

Serving suggestions

I used this creamed veggie skillet as a side to everything from a big Sunday dinner to an easy weeknight meal. Here are some ideas:

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!
How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp healthy fat to cook in butter, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, etc
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • ¼ – ½ medium cabbage sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced
  • 1 head broccoli florets chopped
  • 2 handfuls frozen green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp flour of choice to thicken any GF flour blend or regular flour, rice flour, or if you are grain free, you could use tapioca starch, potato starch, or arrowroot
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk or regular milk/cream if you can have dairy
  • ½ cup cheese of choice shredded (If you cannot have dairy and tolerate goat or sheep milk cheese, that would work great. Or if you can’t have that, try adding in about 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast to add some cheesy flavor)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion, cabbage, carrot, and broccoli with a big pinch of sea salt. Stir to combine and cook over medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes until the veggies are soft and sweet.
  • Stir in the frozen green beans and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the flour into the cooked veggies and stir to coat them well. Then, pour the coconut milk into the pan, and stir until the sauce thickens about a minute or 2. Turn off the heat, and stir in the cheese. Salt and pepper the veggies to your taste.

Notes

The total amount of veggies including the onion is about 6-8 cups chopped. The whole point of this kind of skillet side is to use what you have, so change up the veg to what is in season in your veggie bin, and what you have leftover that needs to be used up at the end of the week! Add some frozen corn if you can have grains to add an extra pop of color! You can swap the carrot for sweet potato or bell peppers. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, or asparagus swap well for broccoli. And zucchini swaps great for the green beans. Chopped spinach always wilts in at the end very well. Just remember 6-8 cups totally veggies – the cooking of the veg in the fat will bring out any veggies natural sweetness and make them super kid friendly in taste 😊
How To Make Kid Approved Creamed Vegetables With Any Veggie!

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Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

September 14, 2020

The best savory and sweet flavors of fall, all in one breakfast casserole the whole family will love!

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole
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.

Michigan apple season has arrived…

…and we are totally here for it! Honestly with the way 2020 has been going, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this year was one of those years where we got a late frost in the late spring to ruin apple blossoms, but as it turns out, Mother Nature wanted to gift Michigan with a bumper crop of sweet, delicious apples this year! The trees are quite literally loaded!

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

A new, savory apple recipe

We’ll for sure be picking apples many weekends this fall, which means we’ll have plenty for those apple pies during Thanksgiving, and of course sweet breakfast muffins before school, and apple coffee cake on the weekend! I’m planning on making a freezer batch of butternut squash and apple soup, but had a craving for a warm savory breakfast using our freshly picked apples. I played around with this idea of a savory and sweet breakfast casserole last winter, and I’m ready to share it!

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Gorgeous presentation, fuss-free prep!

I know, I know…this probably isn’t much of a weekday breakfast. But that’s what weekends are for right? We get to look forward to warm, comforting breakfasts that take just a little longer in the oven to make. While this breakfast casserole probably isn’t school morning prep material, it is definitely really easy to get into the pan, and then you can enjoy your jammies and fuzzy slippers under the blankets while it bakes on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

The Method :: The Sausage

Whether you have a local farmer that you love to get sausage from, or you make your own, you’ll start by flavoring your skillet with warm sausage flavor, browning your sausage through. We purchase a half grass-fed cow every year, so typically I just season some of our ground beef with my own sausage season blend.

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

The Method :: The Veggies & Apples

While the star of the show for this breakfast casserole certainly is the big, chunky sweet apples, I did manage to sneak in some pretty sweet potatoes too. The sweet potatoes add some bulk to the casserole, not to mention pretty color and a little starchy veggie sweetness. You’ll start caramelizing the sweet potatoes first, since they take a bit longer to cook. Cooking the veggies in the sausage drippings adds flavor that you just can’t create any other way! The rest of the veggies and the apples will soften rather quickly and then you can stir the sausage back in with a healthy cup of cheese.

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

The Method :: Assembling the Casserole

Once you pour your veggie, apple, sausage mixture into your casserole dish, all you have to do is pour in some whisked eggs and milk of choice, and bake it off! The prep time takes about 15 minutes and then you can be hands free. On a weekend that absolutely means you can hop back in bed, or snuggle up with your favorite blanket on the couch with the kids for cartoons!

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Swaps and Subs

While I absolutely recommend the exact veggie/apple/sausage combo in this recipe card (please trust me – the balance of savory/sweet will knock your socks off!), I know sometimes you just don’t have everything on hand. I do think you could swap bacon for the sausage, or just leave the meat out if you wish. If you leave the meat out, you’ll want to bulk up the casserole with more veggies. You can swap kale for the spinach. You can swap regular white potato for the sweet potato, and I think squash would be lovely here too.

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Does it freeze?

The jury is still out on that. I’ll update you later this week though! I froze one square of the casserole and will thaw it out next week and update here! Stay tuned! What I WOULD do though, is bake this off on a Saturday or Sunday, and refrigerate any leftovers. You can eat the leftovers on Monday or Tuesday before school by warming the squares up in the oven. If you aren’t baking for a crowd, you could halve this recipe and make a smaller portion too.

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Holiday morning perfect!

I was having a conversation with friends earlier this week while I was preparing to photograph this recipe and one of my friends mentioned how perfect this casserole sounded for Thanksgiving morning brunch. I couldn’t agree more! I also think it would be so great for Christmas morning as well!

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of butter or olive oil or combo of both
  • 1 lb ground sausage of choice I make my own using plain ground beef or pork with my own sausage season blend
  • 2 small sweet potatoes ½-inch cube (2 cups of ½-inch cube sweet potato. I didn’t peel but you can if you want)
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • ½ red bell pepper diced
  • 2 medium apples 1-inch cube (I didn’t peel, but you can if you want)
  • 1 – 1½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic fine chop
  • 1 handful of baby spinach chopped
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups cheese of choice shredded
  • 12 eggs
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk or milk

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter, and brown the sausage. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the browned sausage out of the skillet, leaving the fat behind to cook the veggies in.
  • Add the sweet potato to the fat in the skillet over medium-high heat, and cook for a few minutes. Sweet potato takes a bit longer to cook than the other veggies, so don’t add the others just yet.
  • Once the sweet potato has cooked for a few minutes, add the onion, pepper, apples, sea salt, thyme, and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cook the veggies for about 7-10 minutes until soft and sweet.
  • Add the garlic and spinach to the skillet, stir, and cook for one minute. Turn the skillet off, and stir in cooked sausage and the shredded cheese.
  • Dump the cooked veggie/sausage mixture from the skillet into the buttered casserole dish, and spread the mixture out evenly. Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium mixing bowl and pour over the veggie/sausage mixture.
  • Bake the breakfast casserole for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees until the eggs are set, and the top is a pretty golden brown. Let the casserole rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
Apple, Sweet Potato, and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

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How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

September 9, 2020

Easy to make, super soft, gluten free flour tortillas with only 5 ingredients!

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

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

Sweet friends, and a special story…

(Preface :: I got permission from mom to share these girls’ important story and the picture below. Please be the amazing supportive community that my readers always are to this dear friend of mine with positive, uplifting comments.)

See the sweet girls with my crew in the picture below? We met this precious family during Caitlyn’s Young 5’s year at school, and you know those friendships that just click in place like they were always meant to be? Their momma is amazing, and our kids just go together like peanut butter and jelly. Earlier this summer, this family finally figured out what was making their 2 sweet little girls’ tummies ache so much, and experience so much digestive distress all the time from early toddlerhood…a new, VERY positive Celiac diagnosis. For both girls. Talk about life coming to a screeching hault in order to learn all things gluten free! I watched as this strong momma bear gutted her kitchen of all utensils, pots, seasonings, appliances, and foods that might have traces of gluten on them or in them, and then joined her for a shopping trip to fill her kitchen with safe food for her babies.

I have to admit, I was thinking this shopping trip would be super easy. I’ve been gluten free for…gosh, has it really been 15 years?! You’d think an old gluten free pro would be able to help a newly diagnosed celiac family grocery shop. What I found was that gluten free shopping when you have a gluten sensitivity is VERY different from gluten free shopping when you have an autoimmune Celiac disease. SO many packaged gluten free items are NOT made in dedicated gluten free facilities. For people that can’t even have a trace of gluten residue, that is a prescription for disaster. And there were a few times this summer that they found out just that – even foods that we thought were gluten free, definitely “glutened” these sweet girls, making them very sick. Anything that wasn’t labeled “made in a dedicated gluten free facility” was absolutely out of the question.

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

A Gluten Free Tortilla Challenge!

Over a decade ago during my new gluten sensitivity diagnosis, I tried my hand at some homemade gluten free tortillas, but honestly the abundance of store bought gluten free tortillas has sky rocketed as “gluten free” has become more popular, so I chalked up tortillas as one of those store bought conveniences that I would take advantage of. There is a variety of “gluten free” tortillas out there, but as I shopped with my friend, we found that there were NONE with healthy ingredients that were made in dedicated gluten free facilities. NOT ONE! This really frustrated me! It’d been a long while since I tried my hand at homemade tortillas, but I really wanted to create something that my friend could safely use for her girls. Gluten free flour blends have REALLY improved in the last 15 years, and I had a feeling Namaste would be a really good candidate to trial with tortilla making.

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

5 Ingredients?!?!

Just 5 ingredients?! YES, dear momma, because I want you to be able to make this weekly or bi-weekly, or monthly – whatever your prep day looks like. I don’t want you to dread it or put it off because it feels like a fussy project. I had that friend of mine in mind with 2 Celiac daughters who can’t just pop into the store and grab a quick bag of tortillas. She doesn’t have a choice, but she also has a life to live, kids to take care of, a house to run…and needs realistic kitchen projects so her girls can eat safely. The ingredients are affordable and accessible, and the method couldn’t be easier!

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

The Method :: The Dough

This super soft, pliable dough will blow you away! It is really forgiving, and rolls out easily. Whether you plan to use a rolling pin or a tortilla press, you’ll find the dough really easy to work with. Simply mix all of the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl. I start with my spatula, and then finish by kneading with my hands. When measuring the water, I wanted to mention that to make it easy, I fill a 2-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup to exactly 3/4 cup mark, and then use a tablespoon to add the 2 tablespoons of extra water. If you don’t do this your dough will be tougher and drier. If you use a full cup of water, your dough will be too wet – trust me and do the exact measurement!

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

The Method :: Rolling Pin or Tortilla Press!

In my recipe card, I included both rolling pin and tortilla press methods. I borrowed a friend’s tortilla press so that I could test it out both ways. I do feel like I was able to get the tortillas a bit thinner using my rolling pin. I did 3 batches with the tortilla press, and found that I could get them thinner by rotating the pressed tortilla, and also making sure I pressed down for a good 5 seconds wait. I would LOVE to hear about tortilla presses that you love, and/or tortilla press techniques for a novice press user, so please comment below in the comments section! I’m still on the fence for purchasing one for myself! The rolling pin method is super easy, though I have to admit finding the right tortilla press could change my mind. You’ll want to work with parchment paper when rolling your dough out with either method because adding a floured surface will fuss with the texture of the tortilla. Roll the ball of dough in your hand, flatten it slightly on your counter or the tortilla press, and then either roll it out, or press it out! Get the tortilla dough as thin as you can, and then you are ready to cook. If you are rolling your dough out with a rolling pin, I love using my 8-inch soup pot lid to cut a perfect circle! You can toss the dough scraps back in with the dough to keep making more tortillas.

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Pinch off a 2 1/2 inch ball of dough and roll it until smooth.
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Lay a Silpat on the counter to keep your parchment from sliding. Slightly flatten the dough ball with your hand before your roll it out.
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Place parchment over the top of the dough and roll out as thin as you can.
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Use an 8-inch soup pot lid to cut a perfect circle!
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Toss the scraps back in the bowl with the rest of the dough to roll out more tortillas!

The Method :: Cooking the Tortillas

The tortillas cook up so fast! Just a minute on each side over medium heat, and you’re done. It is important to use a dry pan! Don’t oil your pan at all! Keeping the tortillas soft and warm while you cook all of the tortillas is as easy using a tortilla keeper (so inexpensive!), or a simple plate covered with a towel. I have been able to make tortillas quick in the morning or afternoon when I have a minute, and they stay warm until dinner using a tortilla keeper.

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

Tortilla Storage

Use your fresh tortillas right out of your tortilla keeper or plate, warm and soft! Leftovers are best kept frozen to maintain moisture, softness, and pliability. What I have found is that you can toss the leftover tortillas into a freezer bag, and they don’t even stick together in the freezer bag! When you want to use a tortilla, simply take a frozen tortilla out and it will thaw within 20 minutes. You could warm in the oven or a pan too if you wish.

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

Ideas for using your tortillas!

Other than the obvious Taco Tuesday night (which is an absolute must!), the possibilities are endless for these tortillas! Here are some ideas!

  • Considering GF bread is really difficult to make, and super expensive to buy, using these tortillas as sandwich wraps, is probably the must functional use that I can think of. From tuna salad and chicken wraps, to ham and cheese and even PBJ, you can make any sandwich into a tortilla roll-up! You can find my “Kid-Approved Apple & Tuna Salad” and “Sweet & Sour Chicken Wrap” recipes in my cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!”
  • Quesadillas! There is a really great “Garden Party Quesadilla” recipe in my cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook,” using a really yummy, simple bean spread and roasted veggies, or you can make your own up!
  • Pinwheels! Little kids love these, but I’m telling you right now, my 11-year old also adores pinwheels! They are so fun and easy to eat! You can try my egg salad pinwheels, or in my new lunchbox cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook,” you can try my “Healthy Chicken Salad Pinwheels” or “Colorful Rainbow Pinwheels!”
  • Tortilla Chips! Check out my tortilla soup recipe and see how you can crisp your tortillas up to make chips for scooping and dipping!
  • Tortilla Pizza! Check this one out for a really easy Friday night pizza night!
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Tuna Salad Wrap in a lunchbox!
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free
Garden Party Quesadillas in a lunchbox! Recipe is in my cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

Ingredient swap thoughts

I am sure that other gluten free flour blends will work with this recipe, though different blends have different ratios of flours, so you may need to play around with the amount just a touch to get the right consistency if the flour absorbs differently than Namaste. For the most part, any GF Flour Blend that has xanthan gum should behave about the same (the gum gives that “gluten-y texture” to the tortilla. The palm shortening is important. Coconut oil or butter just won’t give the same outcome. I really would just stick to the palm shortening. You can find organic, sustainable palm shortening here.

How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

Gluten Free Flour Tortillas

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat while you mix the ingredients. Put all of the ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and use a spatula to combine. Once the dough comes together, knead the dough with your hands until it is all incorporated well. If you are in a very humid, wet environment, you may need to add a tablespoon or so more of flour if your dough feels too wet and sticky. I had to do this in the warmer, summer months.

ROLLING PIN METHOD ::

  • Lay a Silpat mat on the counter, and tear 2 pieces of parchment paper. Lay one piece of parchment down on the Silpat. (The Silpat will keep the parchment paper from sliding all over your counter while you roll!)
  • Pinch off a palm-sized, 2 ½ – 3 inch ball of dough, and roll the ball of dough in your hands until smooth.
  • Put the ball of dough on the parchment paper and flatten with your hand slightly. Place the second piece of parchment paper over the dough, and roll out as thin as you can get the dough, around 1/16th to 1/8th inches. Use an 7 or 8-inch pot lid to cut out a perfect tortilla circle!
  • Place the rolled-out tortilla circle in the hot skillet (do NOT oil the skillet!), and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. You can roll out a second tortilla ball during this time if you want. Or you can roll all of the tortillas out first, and then cook. When the tortilla has finished cooking on both sides, place it in a tortilla keeper or on a plate with a towel covering the plate to keep the tortillas warm and soft.

TORTILLA PRESS METHOD ::

  • Tear 2 small pieces of parchment paper and lay one of them on the bottom of the tortilla press.
  • Pinch off a palm-sized, 2 inch ball of dough for an 8-inch tortilla press (if you have a larger tortilla press make your dough ball about 3 inches), and roll the ball of dough in your hands until smooth.
  • Put the ball of dough on the parchment paper that is on the tortilla press, and flatten with your hand slightly. Place the second piece of parchment paper over the dough, and use the tortilla press to press the tortilla down, holding for 5 seconds. Open the press, rotate the tortilla 90 degrees, and press again.
  • Place the pressed tortilla in the hot skillet (do NOT oil the skillet!), and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. You can press a second tortilla ball during this time if you want. Or you can press all of the tortillas out first, and then cook. When the tortilla has finished cooking on both sides, place it in a tortilla keeper or on a plate with a towel covering the plate to keep the tortillas warm and soft.

STORAGE ::

  • Use your fresh tortillas right out of your tortilla keeper or plate, warm and soft! Leftovers are best kept frozen to maintain moisture, softness, and pliability. What I have found is that you can toss the tortillas into a freezer bag, and they don’t even stick together in the freezer bag! When you want to use a tortilla, simply take a frozen tortilla out and it will thaw within 20 minutes. You could warm in the oven or a pan too if you wish.
How To Make Gluten Free Flour Tortillas :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Egg Free, Soy Free

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Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

September 2, 2020

Skip the fussy prep and make skillet stuffed peppers with the most rich, delicious flavor, sure to make the whole family happy!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

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 and fall routines!

To say we were pumped for school to start this week is an understatement! This crew (and this momma!) thrive on routine, and while we absolutely enjoyed every ounce of our summer beach time over the last few months, the first day of school brought some of the biggest smiles I’ve seen in months! The promise of seeing favorite teachers and reuniting with friends was almost too much to handle!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Long school days call for easy, comforting skillet dinners!

Re-thinking stuffed peppers into an easy weeknight prep skillet was born on a particularly long remote schooling day this late spring. The kids were capital D.O.N.E. and this momma had literally forgotten every ounce of 5th grade math from her youth, so a comforting, easy dinner was in store for all! Instead of actually stuffing the peppers, this fast deconstructed version is weeknight friendly, and *oh so* satisfying!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

One pan dinner – veggies included!

Because one pan was about all I had the time and energy for that day, I decided to stuff this stuffed pepper skillet with enough veggies to be able to say the whole thing was a full meal so that I didn’t have to make extra sides! Not only are the super sweet, kid friendly bell peppers scattered throughout, I also added a whole box of chopped baby spinach. The baby spinach wilts into the skillet meal, and the kids will never taste it. This is truly one of my secret weapons in getting greens into so many of my meals.

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

The method

The secret to the rich, savory sauce for this skillet dinner lies in getting a good caramelization of the onion and garlic, and then using the seasoning combination with the coconut aminos to flavor the beef. Once this important skillet work is done, all you have to do is dump in veggies, rice, marinara sauce, and broth, and sit back and let it cook until the rice is tender. Of course adding the cheese at the end and sliding the whole skillet under the broiler is what takes this dinner over the top!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Leftovers ideas

I’ve made these stuffed pepper skillets a hand-full of times during this summer, even though it screams fall and winter food! Every time I make it, the girls ask if I can put it in their thermoses for school lunches this fall. I’m a huge fan of “cook once eat twice,” so I’m all about that! The recipe as written makes a large skillet full, and my family of 5 usually has at least a couple of kid portions leftover for the next day. If you are a smaller family or have smaller kids, you’re sure to get 2 meals out of this!

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ – 2 tbsp coconut aminos this is like a soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 – 5oz box baby spinach chopped
  • 1 ½ large or 2 small/medium bell peppers large dice
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 – 32 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 1 cup water or bone broth I do like to make about ¼ cup of this liquid a really dry red wine but that is completely optional. I think it makes the sauce even richer – totally up to you though!
  • 1 cup cheese of choice to top shredded

Instructions

  • Melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large, oven safe skillet (I use my 14-inch cast iron skillet. A dutch oven would work too). Add the onion and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes until lightly golden and fragrant.
  • Add the garlic, cook for a minute, and then add the beef, Italian seasoning, coconut aminos, sea salt, cumin, and smoked paprika. Stir everything together, and cook until the beef is browned and cooked through.
  • Add the spinach and bell peppers, and stir to combine. Then add the rice, marinara, and water and stir until everything is combined well. Bring the skillet to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer with a lid on the pan until the rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Once the rice is cooked through, turn the heat off and give the skillet stuffed peppers a stir, tasting for salt to your taste.
  • Turn the broiler on in your oven to “HI.” Top your skillet stuffed peppers with shredded cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for 2-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden to your liking. Every oven broiler runs differently, so check the cheese around 2-3 minutes in case yours runs hot. Mine takes about 5 minutes.

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Skillet Stuffed Peppers :: An Easy, Healthy One Pan Dinner!
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Summer Broccoli Salad

August 2, 2020

This light and fresh broccoli salad is perfect for hot summer days!

Summer Broccoli Salad

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 2020…

It sure wasn’t what we thought it was going to be, eh? (See there’s that northern accent coming out in me!) While summer 2020 wasn’t what many of us dreamed it would be, we *did* decide to make the best of what we could actually do, and as it turns out, it was a pretty amazing summer! Hiking, waterfalls, cold and rocky Lake Superior shorelines, and hot powdery sand beaches along Lake Michigan…the outdoors wasn’t canceled and we were totally here for it!

Summer Broccoli Salad
Summer Broccoli Salad
Summer Broccoli Salad
Summer Broccoli Salad

A new summer staple!

I know we are inching our way toward the start of another school year, but there is still plenty of warm weather ahead, and I thought I’d share a new salad obsession of mine! I’ve perfected it this summer and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Summer Broccoli Salad

The busy momma kind of food prep…

My gracious has the last few months been a bit…extra…on us mommas! I made this salad up on a particularly busy week. I wanted to be able to pull a veggie side out of the fridge for myself without any prepping, and this salad has become a staple for me this summer! A shake up in the jar dressing and just 4 veggies to chop, this summer broccoli salad is something everyone has time for.

Summer Broccoli Salad

But will the kids eat it?!

Bonus! This broccoli has been a big hit with the kids as well! The super fun colors, and kid friendly dressing makes this broccoli salad easy on young taste buds. I can see packing this broccoli salad in school lunchboxes as veggie side this fall! I would recommend chopping the salad pieces quite small if you plan on your kids eating it. If the pieces of veggie are too big, it will make it harder to manage for kids. So as much as I love a big strip of onion in my salad, diced will work better for littles. And that extra chop of the broccoli and cabbage will make it easier for kids to eat.

Summer Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Salad

Just chop and toss – it really is that simple! You can add or subtract veg based on your preferences. I have added sunflower seeds before, and even a hard boiled egg to my bowl.

Summer Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Honey Mustard Dressing

I use a small 8 ounce jelly jar to measure and shake up my dressing. It is so fast and at this point in the summer I have it memorized because the ingredients are so simple! The dressing is sweet and tangy – perfect for everyone on the family. And instead of the heavier creamy broccoli salad dressings we are all used to (nothing wrong with those!), this light and crisp dressing is perfect for hot summer days.

Summer Broccoli Salad

Storage and serving

The broccoli salad is ready to eat as soon as it is tossed, and it keeps so well for about 5 days. This makes a great prep day item so that you can ensure that you have some veggie side to go with your lunch or dinner every day. I love that this salad doesn’t get soggy even with the dressing on it! If you prefer, you could just add the dressing when you are ready to eat it. The dressing will keep in the fridge for weeks.

Summer Broccoli Salad

Summer Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

FOR THE BROCCOLI SALAD

  • 4-5 cups of chopped broccoli florets
  • ¼ head of cabbage sliced into strips
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • ¼ red onion sliced into strips (or diced if you like smaller pieces)
  • ½ cup manchego cheese Or whatever cheese you have on hand. You can leave this out if you are dairy free!

FOR THE HONEY MUSTARD VINEGARETTE

  • 3-4 tbsp raw honey
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar I liked more bite of vinegar, but my younger girls ate this happier with 1 tbsp
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Put all of the broccoli salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Put all of the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously to combine. You could use an immersion blender if you wish. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Start with ½ of the dressing and add more to your liking. It really depends on how much dressing you like on your salad. I use the whole jar most of the time. Any leftovers taste great on any salad you make and will keep in the fridge for weeks.
  • This broccoli salad will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. Make some on the weekend and use it as your weekday lunch veggie each day!

More real food recipes you might like ::

Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Products & Books We Love! Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

Raising Generation Nourished School Lunch Gear Resource Guide

August 2, 2020

This all-inclusive school lunch gear guide will help you select what lunch gear works best for YOUR family and how YOU pack lunches in YOUR home!

Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

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.

Simplifying life

It is so very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the lunchbox choices that we have today. While we have certainly improved from the squished brown paper bags and endless plastic baggie waste of our 1980’s and 1990’s youth, we have also been inundated with enough lunch gear choices to make any mom’s head spin. My hope is to give you a comprehensive guide with my own veteran momma thoughts on packing so that you can select gear that works for YOUR household.

“Build Your Own BLT Lunchable with Amazin’ Bacon Dipping Sauce” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Bentgo Kids Box

There’s no one right way to pack a lunch

This has become a mantra of mine when teaching about lunch packing every school year, and I mean every word of it. Every household has a different rhythm, and my rhythm does not have to be your rhythm. Your bestie momma friend’s rhythm does not have to be your rhythm. We all have different schedules, different likes and dislikes, and of course – different kids!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Colorful Rainbow Pinwheels” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a BriGenius Bento Box

So as you walk through this guide think about how YOUR household runs.

How YOU like to pack lunches. And then match that rhythm to lunch gear that fits.

  • If you like to incorporate dinner leftovers, soups, and warm items weekly, be sure to check out the thermos options section.
  • If your kids prefer “snackier” cold lunches with lots of choices, then a multi-compartment bento might work better for you.
  • If your child gets overwhelmed by too many choices, pick a simpler box and set up.
  • If your kids like lots of variety, you might want to invest in both a thermos type of lunch box as well as a cold lunch bento. You are truly in the driver seat!
“The Best Chinese Take-Out Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a thermos

BENTO BOX OPTIONS

Planetbox

Planetbox has been a favorite in our household since pre-school ages, my now 11-year-old still uses the same Planetbox she had from her early elementary years!

  • Material :: Planetbox styles are all stainless steel.
  • Design :: These lunchboxes are multi-compartment bento boxes depending on the style – see the styles below. The bento box comes with magnets to customize the lunchbox if you want (be sure to pull these off before washing however or the steel will rust underneath!)
  • Leak-Proof? :: The actual compartments do keep items separate very well, but they are not leak-proof. Each Planetbox does come with leak-proof containers though, so things like salad dressings, ketchup, other dips, can go in a condiment container neatly in the box. And other leaky items like juicy fruit, applesauce, and yogurt can go in the larger round containers. Again, these leak-proof containers come with your Planetbox.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Planetbox and all of the accessories are dishwasher safe. I would recommend pulling the magnets off before washing to prevent water from getting under the magnet and rusting the box.
  • Age Group :: Depends on the style Planetbox – see each style below.
  • Planetbox Style #1 – “The Shuttle” :: The Shuttle is a really nice size for toddlers and pre-schoolers. My youngest was in Young 5’s two years ago, and we used this for her for the first part of the school year.
  • Planetbox Style #2 – “The Rover” ::The Rover is really the ultimate elementary aged sized lunchbox. Lots of compartments to separate food without being overwhelming, easy to open and close, with everything presented just like a plate at home. My kindergarten through late elementary aged kids used this box.
  • Planetbox Style #3 – “The Launch” ::The Launch lunchbox is a great size for middle school ages and beyond (I even used it to pack sometimes as an adult!). If you have an upper elementary aged child that has a really good appetite, then the Launch might work well for him as well.
  • Lunch Bag :: You’ll have to use the Planetbox lunch bag to fit the unique design of the planetboxes. These have lasted my kids many years. I have only bought a new one for my oldest once, and it was mostly because she wanted a different color.
  • Price Point :: While the price point on this lunchbox feels high, I have considered it a very worth investment as it is the only lunchbox I’ve had to buy my kids in 7 years of schooling so far!
“Charcuterie Board Lunchbox from “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Rover style Planetbox
“Colorful Rainbow Chicken Salad with Fruity Poppyseed Dressing” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Launch style Planetbox

BriGenius

The BriGenius has been a fun lunchbox to play around with, and I can see this working very well for both younger and older children with it’s simple set up for ease of eating for little kids, and plenty of space to pack for older ones.

  • Material :: The BriGenius bento box is made of BPA free wheat fiber. (Does anyone know what this means for Celiac kids? I tried researching this and came up empty – please comment below!)
  • Design :: The box is a 5-compartment bento. It feels lightweight like plastic and washes up well. This bento box comes in one color, but the lid is plain and might do well with a some fun laptop stickers to customize!
  • Leak-Proof? :: The compartments keep food separated well, but only the middle compartment is leak-proof, perfect for dips. I did not think it did well with thinner dressings, but thick dips like ketchup, hummus, or a creamy dressing do well.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This bento box washes up well and fuss-free. It is dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: While this box advertises “older kids and adults,” I can see this bento box being great for little kids too. It is a simple set up for little ones and easy to open/close.
  • Lunch Bag :: This lunchbox would fit in most lunch bags you can find at the store measuring 7 inches X 8.7 inches X 2.7 inches.
  • Price Point :: I love the price point on this lunchbox, though I have only had it about a year, so I can’t comment on how long they last. If anyone has one and would like to comment, please do below!
“Best Busy Kid Approved Veggie Nuggets” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

Bentgo Kids

Bentgo Kids is perfectly made for your younger crew!

  • Material :: Bentgo Kids is made of BPA free plastic.
  • Design :: The box is a 5-compartment bento box. You can get Bentgo Kids in one color designs, two-tone color designs, or with patterned designs too.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Bentgo Kids is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: The tray comes out for dishwasher safe washing, but outside of the box with the leak-proof seal is recommended to be washed by hand to maintain it’s leak-proof nature. I have a feeling you will want to pull the rubber leak-proof parts out to wash here and there unfortunately or it might start to smell/mold.
  • Age Group :: They recommend ages 3-7, though I can see your younger toddlers being able to manage this box. Also, my 7 year old is able to fit her portion sizes into this box, so I can see this box working through 1st or 2nd grade.
  • Lunch Bag :: The box measurements are 8.5 inches X 6.5 inches X 2 inches, so it is going to fit in most store bought lunch bags. I have found the Bentology bags to fit most bento boxes perfectly.
  • Price Point :: The price point on this lunchbox is great, and it does have a 2 year warranty. I’m not sure if that means they plan on it being worn down by then or not! If anyone has experience with years of use using a Bentgo, we would love to hear from you below!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Crunchy Honey Oat Nature Valley® Granola Bar Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

UpBento

The UpBento brand is very similar to Bentgo in design and age range, but I liked the versatility of having 2 trays with different set up options that this box gives. It makes it stretch past the age 7 in my opinion.

  • Material :: The UpBento box is made of BPA free plastic.
  • Design :: The box comes with 2 tray set-ups (a 4-compartment tray, and a 6-compartment) for versatile food options. There is just the one, 2-toned color pattern for the lunchbox, but it does come with some fun stickers that your child can personalize their lunchbox with. I’m not sure how long those stickers stay! If anyone has experience with this lunchbox, please let us know below!
  • Leak-Proof? :: The UpBento is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This bento box is dishwasher safe. The leak-proof lid has a part that removes to wash – I think water will get underneath and start to smell if you don’t do that often just FYI.
  • Age Group :: They advertise the box as ages 3-8 but I know that my 7 and 9 year olds’ portions fit just fine in here (my 9 year old is going into 4th grade).
  • Lunch Bag :: The UpBento measures 8.9 inches X 6.9 inches X 2 so it will fit most store bought lunch bags. I have found the Bentology bags to fit most bento boxes perfectly.
  • Price Point :: This box has a 180 day warranty and an affordable price point.
“Party Time Confetti Bean Salad” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in the 4-Tray Option of the UpBento Box
“Carnival Corndog Copycat” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in the 6-Tray option of the UpBento Box

OmieBox

I’m putting the OmieBox in the Bento Box section even though it has a thermos, because it is the only bento box with a thermos option! If you are a thermos packer, this is such a great option for your elementary aged children. Instead of a separate thermos and box to manage, everything is all in one which is perfect for little kids.

  • Material :: The OmieBox is made of BPA free plastic. The thermos is stainless steel.
  • Design :: The box has 3 compartments plus a thermos compartment that is completely removable for days that you don’t want to pack hot food – it is the perfect size for a sandwich or larger food. The thermos holds 6 ounces of hot food – which is truly a perfect size thermos for little ones. The other 3 compartments are plenty deep and hold a lot of food.
  • Leak-Proof? :: This box is totally leak-proof.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: This lunchbox is dishwasher safe, though the rubber sealed parts do need to be removed to wash here and there or they start to smell – I have had this happen!
  • Age Group :: Pre-school to around middle elementary school years. My 4th grader’s portions would still fit in this box. I would say anything past 4th grade this box will be too small though. I will mention that my 4th grader thought this box was “too baby-ish” last year in 3rd grade though, so keep that in mind.
  • Lunch Bag :: I love that this box has a handle for carrying – you don’t need a separate bag! You could purchase the OmieBox carrying bag however in case you have to pack a cold pack sometimes.
  • Price Point :: Considering you are getting both a bento box and thermos in one, I consider this price fairly affordable.
I gave our OmieBox away to a friend – apologize for the stock image! If you have other OmieBox questions, I used it for 2 years and can answer them!

Stackable Bento Boxes

I wanted to share one other option for bento boxes that you might not think about! I can see stackable bento boxes working very well for middle school and high school, especially for kids that want a more space saving, compact lunchbox. This age carries around so many books and devices, that I think the compact nature of this style might be nice for them.

  • Material :: You can find stackable lunchboxes in stainless steel or BPA free wheat straw type plastic materials. It depends on how you like to clean your lunchboxes, as well as if the weight of the lunchbox matters to you. The plastic boxes will be lighter weight.
  • Design :: The main concept of these Japanese style lunchboxes is 3-5 separate compartments that stack easily on top of each other. The boxes are nice and deep, holding a lot of of food for older kids. I love that these compartments not only work well for staples like sandwiches, but also for big salads like taco salad, pasta salad, cobb salads, or chicken salads, and then have a compartment for sides like chips, fruit, etc. Great lunch options for older kids!
  • Leak-Proof :: Many of the stackable designs are completely leak-proof as each compartment has a separate lid.
  • Dishwasher Safe :: Most of the stackable designs are dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: Upper elementary through high school and college. I wanted to also mention that the reason I wouldn’t pack these for younger kids is because of all the separate boxes and lids that aren’t attached. It is just too much for little ones to manage (and not get lost!), so for that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this style for little ones.
  • Lunch Bag :: Many of these stackable designs have a strap or carrying handle making it so easy to travel. I think a taller lunch bag would be nice to have around though for packing with ice packs as needed. I found many on Amazon.
  • Price Point :: I just love the price points on the stackable lunchbox styles! I’m not sure how long they hold up, but I think they are quite affordable and super compact!
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Fast Prep Brain Boosting Bow Tie Pasta Salad” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
“Taco Tuesday” Fajita Salad from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook

THERMOS OPTIONS

LunchBots

We’ve been using LunchBots thermoses for years now, and I would say I’ll probably buy them again if we wear them out!

  • My biggest love for these thermoses (other than the fact that they keep food hot and my kids can get the lid on and off) is the size. These thermoses hold 8 ounces of hot food, which is the perfect size for most kids. It is a bit big for your really little guys (see the OmieBox in the bento box section above if you want a really small thermos), but my kindergartners have “grown into” their thermoses, and this thermos is still a great size for my 6th grader. I literally search every year for a thermos that holds 6-8 ounces, and have only found this one! Most other popular thermoses for kids (Thermos Brand, Skip Hop, Foogo) are all 10 ounce thermoses – they hold a lot of food but it really is a lot for kids. These sizes will work for older kids I’m assuming. The problem with a container that is too big, is that the food will get cold faster if the container is not filled up at least 3/4 of the way. By getting a smaller thermos, you can be sure the food won’t have a bunch of empty space to compete with keeping the food warm.
  • LunchBots thermoses are stainless steel and dishwasher safe. They are easy to clean by hand if you have to do that too.
“Creamy Tomato Bisque” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Lunchbots Thermos

Mira

The Mira Thermos was a new to me thermos while I wrote The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, and it’s a nice one!

  • This thermos is stainless steel and dishwasher safe – it cleaned up nice.
  • The Mira thermos holds 9 ounces of hot food – as I said in the above Lunchbots Thermos section, I have found 8 ounces to be a good size for most elementary school aged kids, so you can judge what would work for your children.
“Back To School Fall Harvest Soup” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a Mira Thermos

Larger Thermoses for Middle & High School

So I’m planning on updating this section as my crew gets bigger. As of right now, my oldest is in 6th grade, and I am still finding the 8 ounce Lunchbots thermos works for her. If you have older kids, I would love to hear your thoughts on how many ounces of hot food they like to pack! Here are some bigger thermoses that I think older kids would like the look of and the amount of food they hold is great. I would really love to hear from you if you try any of these out, or have a thermos that your middle or high schooler loves! Please comment below!

  • HydroFlask – holds 12 ounces (These are popular with water bottles in this age group, so I think they would be more likely to pack a hot soup or dinner leftover with a thermos in the same brand!)
  • Thermos Brand – there is a 10 ounce, 16 ounce, and 24 ounce option here
  • Capsule – this brand has a 16 ounce food capacity and a sleek look I think older kids would like.
  • Iconiq – there is a 10 and 16 ounce option for this brand. I love the stackable option and the spot for the fold-able spork!
Dairy Fake Out Mac ‘N Cheese” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook in a larger, ArderLive Thermos that might work well for High School aged kids.

SMALLER BOXES FOR THERMOS SIDES OR SNACKS

I wanted to include some ideas for the side items that get packed on a thermos day! You don’t need a huge lunchbox in addition to the thermos, so I have a small container that I use for things like their main items to go with a thermos of soup, or their side items to go with a thermos of spaghetti.

LunchBots

On most thermos days, I pack a Lunchbots Container with the girls’ main or side items to go with the thermos. I like the Uno or Trio for days that I want to pack something like a sandwich or wrap to go with a thermos of veggie soup, or a salad to go with spaghetti. And I like the Quad for days that I want to pack snacky sides to go with a thermos of dinner leftovers like stir fry.

  • Material/Design :: Lunchbots has a variety of set-ups from the Uno (one compartment) to the Cinco (5-compartment). They are all stainless steel.
  • Leak-Proof :: These boxes keep dry food separated well, but they are not leak-proof. They do have accessories like condiment containers that keep dips and dressings leak-free.
  • Dishwasher Safe :: These simple stainless steel designs wash up nice and are dishwasher safe.
  • Age Group :: These boxes are easy to use, but do have a lid that is not attached. If your little one tends to lose things, you might practice before school starts for your child to put the lid under the box while eating so they are in the habit of keeping it in a safe spot. I think the portion size of these boxes is good for holding food to go with a thermos lunch for older kids. You might not need this much room for younger ones.
  • Lunch Bag :: I always used my Planetbox bags for thermos days that included side items too. I think you could put a thermos and Lunchbots container in just about any lunch bag.
  • Price Point :: While you may feel like these boxes are pricey when you have to buy a thermos to go with it, I have not needed to replace our Lunchbots containers since my 6th grader started school. No rusting, no damage – they look brand new. They are made very well and are a great investment!
“Winter Blues Buster Creamy Potato Soup” from The Little Lunchbox Cookbook with sides in a Lunchbots Trio

Kid Basix

From thermos side items to morning snacks, we love these containers!

  • Material/Design :: Kid Basix boxes are a one compartment, stainless steel with a BPA free plastic lid that is attached. There are 3 sizes – small, medium, or large and a variety of lid colors.
  • Leak-Proof? :: These boxes are not leak-proof. I have found both Planetbox and Lunchbots condiment containers do fit in these boxes though, so if you need to pack a dip you could do it that way.
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes
  • Age Group :: I used these most often for my younger girls on thermos days. They are smaller and have an attached lid! These also work fantastic for any age group for morning snack packing.
  • Lunch Bag :: I always used my Planetbox bags for thermos days that included side items too. I think you could put a thermos and Kid Basix container in just about any lunch bag.
  • Price Point :: These containers have a great price point and have lasted us literally years – since my oldest started school.

DRINKING CUPS

So let’s also briefly talk about drinking cups! Let me tell you a secret, dear momma! I am a drinking cup SNOB. I *loathe* washing drinking cup straws and accessories, so I am a minimalist. This is list is not all inclusive – just my favorites for ease of washing and safe materials. I don’t have a dishwasher, so part of my weirdness surrounding drinking cups has to do with the fact that I can’t just toss everything into a magic dishwasher!

Life Factory

I know, I know, glass. But hear me out! If your school allows it, I truly just love how glass washes up, and I have never had one break – even with my kindergartners.

  • Material/Design :: Glass with BPA free drinking top parts. There is an open spout option or straw (probably the ONLY straw cup I’ll use because it’s easy to wash!). Because these cups are glass, they are going to feel heavier than some stainless steel – though the insulated stainless steel cups are pretty hefty too.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes, however I recommend a cleaning brush for straws in the straw version.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cups are great for Preschool through middle elementary. You can start with the straw top for littles, and buy an open spout lid when they are ready! The sizes for older kids come in 16 ounce or 22 ounce.
  • Price Point :: The price point on these cups are so affordable, and they last so long. I have never had to replace one or any of the parts.

Klean Kanteen

My favorite stainless steel option for cups with a simple, easy to clean design.

  • Material/Design :: All Klean Kanteen options are stainless steel with BPA free plastic lid/spout options. The single walled cups are very light-weight while the double walled/insulated cups are heavier.
  • Leak-Proof :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes, however I’m not sure how long the spouts hold up using a dishwasher since I don’t have a dishwasher.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cups are great for Preschool through early elementary. They have a sport top spout. The sizes for older kids come in 18-ounce or 27-ounce.
  • Price Point :: These cups have an affordable price point and we have had our cups for about 5 years without any issues.

Hydroflask

I am including Hydroflask because we are trying them out this year. I know it is a “popular” brand and I wanted to give them a try so that I can speak from experience. In my research, I have found that Hydroflasks made after 2017 do NOT have the lead “dot” at the bottom (if you are unsure of what I am talking about – just Google how insulated water bottles that have the little dot at the bottom of the bottle have lead – it is eye opening!). So any Hydroflasks made after 2017 are safe.

  • Material/Design :: Stainless steel with BPA free lid options.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes – I’ll keep you posted on how the spouts hold up.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cup is good for pre-school through middle elementary and has a straw spout. The size for older kids comes in 21-ounce size and has a sport cap top. There are some other larger sizes that perhaps might be good for high school aged kids.
  • Price Point :: I’ll keep you posted if the investment is worth it! These are pricey IMO!!!

Yeti

I am also testing out Yeti for kids this year. One of my older girls is getting a Hydro Flask and the other a Yeti, and I’ll keep you posted! I know both are popular and I want to be able to report on how they hold up if your kids are asking for one. From my research, Yeti does not contain the lead “dot” issues that some insulated stainless steel cups have.

  • Material/Design :: Stainless steel with BPA free lid options.
  • Leak-Proof? :: Yes
  • Dishwasher Safe? :: Yes – I’ll keep you posted on how the spouts hold up.
  • Age Group :: The smaller, 12-ounce cup is good for preschool through middle elementary and has a straw spout. The sizes for older kids come in 18-ounce or 26-ounce but you have to buy a straw spout or spout top separately. It is just a wide-mouth open cup otherwise.
  • Price Point :: Again, I’ll keep you posted if the investment is worth the hype – I know that I have loved my Yeti coffee travel mug for years, but I’m skeptical if having this spendy of a water cup for kids is necessary!
Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

Want more school lunch ideas?!

My cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook has over 60 ideas with full color photos of balanced lunchboxes! Just one homemade item per box, these lunch ideas are do-able for the busiest of families! You can read more about The Little Lunchbox Cookbook here!

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

March 18, 2020

Busy week? This 30 minute BBQ chicken thighs and roasted veggie dinner is a full meal on 2 sheet pans!

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

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

So close we can smell it!

You know that feeling when you take a hike and you can just smell spring in the air?! When the kids get warm enough to pull jackets off after hiking and climbing trees for hours? There is just nothing like the feeling of making it through another Michigan winter season. It has thawed out a bit early this year, and I am totally here for it!

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

Quick dinners & more outside time

Sheet pan meals are my go-to for busy days that I am not at home much. Everything for one meal on a couple of sheet pans? Sign. Me. Up. If you pop to the bottom of the recipe in this post, you’ll see just how many sheet pan meals are on the blog, and why I love them so much. And one of my sheet pan goals is always to make sure that everything can go in at the same time and cook at the same temp – I’ve got you covered on the prep time and simplicity, dear momma!

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

The method :: The Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs

The chicken thighs can be prepped in less than 10 minutes *AND* can be prepped in the dry rub ahead of time – even up to 24 hours ahead of time. This means you can prep the meat the night before if you plan to be gone all day, or if you have nappers at home, you can get the chicken ready while babies are sleeping so that when dinner time arrives (aka “the witching hour” for those of you with babies!), all you have to do is toss the meat and veg onto the sheet pans and bake them off while you tend to the kids. Simply whisk the dry rub ingredients into a large dish, toss in the chicken thighs, and you can bake them off from there, or you can wrap the dish up and put it into the fridge until you are ready to bake them for dinner.

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!
30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!
30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

The Method :: The Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies

This is about as easy as it gets – just chop, toss, and roast. You could chop the carrots and broccoli ahead of time, but you’ll want to do the potatoes right before you put them into the oven, or they will brown with air if you chop them too far in advance. The roasted veggies cook right alongside the sheet pan chicken thighs, and everything is done at the same time. The veggies can also be swapped out for whatever is in season or on sale. Once spring hits, you can swap the broccoli for asparagus! In the summer, take advantage of all that great farmer’s market produce! And in the fall, swap the potatoes for sweet potatoes or squash! You can serve everything as is, or add a pile of buttered rice if the kids need a little extra.

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

How spicy is the rub?

This rub is really mild – perfect for kids. If you love extra heat, I would very highly recommend swapping the sweet paprika for another tablespoon of smoked paprika – that is my favorite way to eat this chicken, and I often make a separate batch of extra heat chicken thighs just for me! I love the leftovers sliced over a salad for lunch the next day.

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

Chicken thigh sourcing

If you are lucky enough to grab thighs from a local farmer that keeps their chickens on pasture, that is always going to be the best bet! But, I also am not against the organic chicken thighs I’ve been able to find at Costco. It is a great price point, and it is so nice to have in the freezer for those times when I need a really quick meal for my family, and it will always be 1000% better than choosing take-out for dinner.

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

Ingredients

For the Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken

For the Sheet Pan Roasted Veggies

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and line a sheet pan with Silpat or unbleached parchment paper. You will need a second sheet pan for the veggies but you won’t need to line the second sheet pan.
  • Whisk the seasonings for the BBQ chicken in a large dish and set aside. Use a paper towel to pat dry your chicken thighs, and then place them into the dish with the BBQ rub. Mix the chicken thighs with the seasoning blend, coating each thigh completely. (You can do this hours or up to a day in advance, wrapping the dish up with plastic wrap and letting it marinate in the refrigerator.)
  • Place the BBQ rub coated chicken thighs on the Silpat or unbleached parchment paper lined baking sheet and set aside.
  • Toss the veggies with the olive oil, sea salt, and all purpose season on the second sheet pan, until coated evenly.
  • Bake both sheet pans in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. If you cut your potatoes too large, that sheet pan might need an extra 10 minutes – be sure to make your potato cubes around ½ – ¾ of an inch.
30 Minute Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Thighs and Roasted Veggies :: 1 Dinner on 2 Sheet Pans!

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Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

February 24, 2020

Just like Asian take-out without the soy and gluten, this light, crispy coated white fish with fresh veggies has a gooey Asian stir fry sauce the kids will love!

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

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 tween take-out inquiry (and some Michigan winter love!)

Ah, these tween years are interesting, eh?! My oldest asked what “chinese take-out” was the other day, as her friends were gushing over something they had for dinner the other night. Hormonal girls and savory, salty, sweet, indulgent take-out! Sounds about right, yes?! I’m all for that umami goodness too, and during our school’s mid-winter break, I decided to show my sweet tween just what her friends meant by those to-die-for flavors. We mimicked that take-out with flying colors! We headed out for a mid-winter break hike and came home to take-out…real food style!

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish
Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Having our cake and eating it too…

I’ll take any excuse I can to get brain nourishing wild caught fish into my kids. Truth be told, because we started them eating it so young, they would be happy clams if we fed them plan skillet cooked fish on the daily! It’s fun to change things up though, and instead of using chicken or beef for this take-out copycat, I pulled out some omega 3 rich wild caught Mahi-Mahi. Super delicious take-out style dinner, and super healthy? Talk about having our cake and eating it too!

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Method :: The Fish

You’ll start your stir fry by preparing the fish. You truly could use whatever protein you have on hand from chicken to any fish. I’d stick with a firm fish like Mahi or salmon – cod is really delicate and might fall apart with the batter and cooking. This fish batter is a wet batter, and it doesn’t get any simpler. Just mix it up in a medium bowl and toss with the cubed fish. You can set the fish aside while you prepare the sauce and the veggies for the rest of the meal – once those are done the rest of the meal comes together super fast!

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish
Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Method :: The Sauce

I think one of the reasons I love Chinese cuisine so much is because their approach to sauces is so right up my alley – toss everything into a sauce pan, whisk it up, and done. No fuss or crazy extra steps! For this sauce, you’ll whisk the ingredients and simmer a few minutes to thicken it up. You can make it ahead of time on a prep day too!

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Method :: How to Cook The Crispy Fish

Coconut oil is the name of the game here, but you can use any high heat oil you like. I love the sweetness that the coconut oil gives the crispy batter, though my favorite high heat cooking fat is a good grassfed tallow or lard. Ghee works fantastic as well and has such a good flavor. Butter is going to burn too easily, and while I love a stir fry done in a good olive oil, to crisp this fish up, that delicate olive oil is going to burn a bit and get a funky taste. To cook the fish, simply heat the oil super hot and cook the fish in a couple batches until crispy. Use a wire rack or paper towel after cooking so the crispy fish doesn’t get soggy.

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Method :: The Stir Fry

Once these simple sauce and fish part of the meal is set (and it truly doesn’t take more that 15 minutes!), then you are ready to assemble the stir fry. This part goes fast! Just stir your chopped veggies into some cooking fat and cook until bite tender and then toss with the crispy fish and stir fry sauce.

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish
Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish
Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Serving options

This part is up to you! You can go the traditional route with white or brown rice, or even some gluten free ramen (try cooking your rice or ramen in bone broth to soak in extra nutrients, and be sure to add a generous pat of real butter to the rice!). Or you can eat it straight from the bowl sans the rice.

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

Ingredients

FOR THE FISH BREADING BATTER:

FOR THE STIR FRY SAUCE:

  • ½ cup water or bone broth
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey you can bump this up if you need more on the sweet side
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • ½ inch knob of ginger minced (or about 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • ¼ – ½ tsp red pepper flakes more if you like more heat
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch

FOR THE STIR FRY:

  • 1-2 tbsp ghee for cooking in or butter, olive oil, coconut oil
  • ½ medium onion sliced into strips
  • 1 medium bell pepper sliced into strips
  • 3-4 oz mushrooms sliced
  • 4 cups frozen green beans thawed

Instructions

MAKE THE BATTER AND MARINATE THE FISH:

  • Mix the starch, flour, baking powder, coconut aminos, and olive oil in a small mixing bowl. Toss the cubed fish in the batter, coating each piece, and set aside while you prepare the sauce.

MAKE THE STIR FRY SAUCE:

  • Whisk all of the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan thoroughly until the starch dissolves. Put the sauce pan over high heat, and simmer until the sauce thickens, just a few minutes. Set the sauce aside until the stir fry is ready.

COOK THE FISH:

  • Heat your wok or large skillet over high heat, adding the coconut oil to get nice and hot. Cook the battered fish in 2 batches, flipping the fish to crisp each side until golden brown. This will take a couple minutes for each side. When you take the first batch out, set the crispy fish on a wire rack or paper towel so the fish doesn’t get soggy.

MAKE THE STIR FRY:

  • Heat your wok or large skillet over medium high heat and melt a tablespoon of ghee. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes until crisp tender. Add the thawed green beans, crispy fish, and the stir fry sauce, combine and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  • You can serve your crispy fish stir fry over white rice, GF ramen, or just eat it from the bowl!
Gluten Free Asian Stir Fry with Crispy Fish

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5 Summer Platters For Cool and Easy Lunch or Dinner!

July 11, 2019

Keep playing and turn the stove off! Enjoy these 5 summer platters filled with nourishing bites for a cool and easy summer lunch or dinner!

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 fun and summer FOOD!

I feel like we have hardly been home this summer! This is my first summer without a napper in the house in a DECADE! What?! You know what that means? It means that instead of hanging out at the beach for the morning, then scurrying home with tired crabby kids that need lunch and a nap, I have kids that can seriously hang, spending all day at the beach, park, splash pad, zoo…you name it! THAT my friends is a game changer – and so stinkin’ much fun! But it also means I need to have some meals up my sleeve that are fast to prepare, and summer friendly (read – no cook because it really does get hot in Michigan – promise!).

5 Summer Platters For Cool and Easy Lunch or Dinner!
5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

3 birds, 1 stone!

We started making summer lunch platters a couple summers ago, and these quick meals really hit both of those needs. They are both summer friendly/no-cook, as well as fast to prepare! And a bonus third point…they are so FUN! I know at least for my kids, having a presentation change up from the same lunchboxes all year, as well as some new summer foods, make coming to the lunch table even more enjoyable.

5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

So what is a summer lunch platter?

If you want get super fancy, this is basically like eating charcuterie board style! A bit on a smaller scale and, at least in my case, with less fancy/expensive food because we like to make these at least twice a week. Grab a big plate or even just your big wooden cutting board, and load it up with small bites that everyone can share. Community eating always goes over well with little ones, so don’t shy away from trying this with your toddlers. Eating should always be a fun experience, and they will love this. Fill the plate up with a variety of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, healthy fat), in ratios that your family enjoys eating.

https://www.raisinggenerationnourished.com/2014/04/diy-salad-dressings-5-recipes-whole-family-will-love/

What do I do if my kid will only pick one thing off the plate?

  1. Be pro-active. If you have never served a platter meal before, start with some ground rules before the eating even begins. If you have toddlers through age 5, be very specific. For example, let them know that they need to take at least 2 pieces of protein, 1 piece of green veggie, 1 piece of other color veggie, 1 fruit, and that fat has to be somewhere on their plate whether that be as a dip or somewhere else (This was an example only! Use whatever ratios work for your family!) The choosing is still up to them, but you are helping them learn the importance of variety and portioning. As your children get older, you should be able to be a bit more general – they need to have veggie, fruit, fat, protein, for example. My girls have been eating this way for years, and I rarely need to say anything anymore. They will actually check their plates for variety like they are on auto pilot without my cue! I will even hear them remind each other to make sure they take a green veg and another color. They are doing my mom job quite nicely! Ha!
  2. Put the ball in their court. If the children do not cooperate with creating a healthy variety on their plate, then in my house, they haven’t shown that they are independent to enjoy a fun lunch like this, and mom will have to go back to making their own plate for them. YES, I have had to have this conversation with my toddlers! You’re in charge, dear momma! Once they have demonstrated independence with following the instructions, then they are free to create their own plate! There is still a ton of wiggle room within setting those parameters of having all of the macro-nutrients on their plates. My girls’ plates always look vastly different from each other! I have one that is always packed with all the protein – but she still gets her veggies and fruit in. I have one that loads up the veggies and I still have to remind her about getting a bite of protein on her plate every once and a while. Every child has different needs, and you can help them learn the importance of the macro-nutrient variety while listening to their body’s needs for more of a certain food.
https://www.raisinggenerationnourished.com/2014/04/diy-salad-dressings-5-recipes-whole-family-will-love/

The possibilities are endless

They truly are, and while I’m planning on showcasing 5 platter meal examples in this post, within each platter there are so many different ways that you can change things up. Use whatever veggies and fruit are in season or on sale near you for that week, and rotate your protein and fat sources! Not only does that keep the routine from getting boring, more importantly, you are changing up the nutrients that your family is getting for more variety.

https://www.raisinggenerationnourished.com/2014/04/diy-salad-dressings-5-recipes-whole-family-will-love/

On to the platter ideas!

Again, these are only to spur your inspiration. Pull from each platter what YOUR family loves and make your own! These are examples from actual lunch platters the girls have enjoyed throughout this summer so far!

https://www.raisinggenerationnourished.com/2014/04/diy-salad-dressings-5-recipes-whole-family-will-love/

Platter #1 :: Scoop City!

Kids love to scoop and dip, and the scooping and dipping options are endless here! Use lettuce leaves, crackers, bell pepper “boats”, carrot sticks to scoop and dip. The dipping is where the meal magic is – you can really load up the brain building fat, and sustaining proteins here. Top to bottom this platter is:

5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

Platter #2 :: Real Food “Lunchable!”

Think crackers, cheese, and meat where you can make little cracker sandwiches! Kids are always all over these kind of meals. (I am too!) Top to bottom, this platter is ::

5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

Platter #3 :: Stuff Your Own Pita Platter!

Spread the inside with some hummus, and then stuff with with a pretty rainbow of veggies and salty cheese! Top to bottom this platter is ::

  • Grapes
  • GF Pita Bread (We get the Sami’s Bakery GF Pitas at our local health food store)
  • Hummus (I absolutely have a quality store bought here, but you can certainly make your own hummus! I get the Lilly’s Hummus which is made with olive oil versus soy/corn/canola/sunflower oils, in the big tubs at our health food store.)
  • Rainbow carrots
  • Baby bell peppers
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Cheese (Pictured is the Kerrygold Dubliner from Costco)
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomato slices
  • “Ants on a log” (Celery sticks with any nut or seed butter, and topped with raisins)
5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

Platter #4 :: Lunchtime Fiesta!

Mexican flavors are always a hit with kids! In this platter I made Instant Pot Refried Beans – basically my refried bean recipe made in the IP versus the stove. You could use leftover taco meat too. And while the chips are fun too, give those cabbage leaves a try as a “soft taco shell” for the beans, guac, and salsa – it is so good! Top to bottom this platter is ::

  • Apples
  • Tortilla chips (we get these organic from Costco)
  • Refried beans (this recipe makes a lot and it freezes great for an easy pull out lunch!)
  • Cabbage leaves
  • Salsa (I get organic salsa from our grocery store)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Bell pepper “boats” (these also work great as a vehicle for the beans and guac!)
  • Guacamole (You could buy a quality store bought version too!)
5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

Platter #5 :: A European Vacation!

That’s right, my friends. Momma’s pretending like we are blissfully sitting in an Italian Cafe dipping bread in gorgeous European olive dipping oils… Ahem…back to reality! This is truly one of the girls’ favorite platter concepts and every drop of that oil is gone by the end of lunch – talk about a brain boost! Top to bottom, this platter is ::

  • Cherries (truly just do whatever fruit is in season – it happens to be cherry season right now!)
  • Tomato slices with sea salt and pepper
  • Grassfed Kielbasa (we get this from Costco)
  • Goat Cheese
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Baby bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrot sticks
  • Olive oil dipping oil (see the recipe below!)
  • Strips of pita bread for oil dipping (You could use whatever bread or crackers your family enjoys!)
  • Broccoli
  • Applegate pepperoni (I get this from our local health food store)
5 Summer Platters For Easy Hot Weather Lunch or Dinner!

Seasoned Olive Oil for Bread Dipping

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Whisk everything in a shallow bowl good for dipping bread!

Notes

Olive oil sourcing does matter. If you are in the USA, look for the COOC label to ensure your olive oil isn’t cut with other cheap oils. We like the Bari Organic Olive Oil which is available at most grocers now. Recently, California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, which I have used up until a few months ago, lost their seal and I cannot trust their process right now. I have recommended them in the past and do not at this time. 

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Wild Caught Salmon Meatballs with Simple Pesto

April 28, 2019

Turn wild caught fish into your kids’ favorite dinner with salmon meatballs and simple pesto for dipping!

Quick dinners and warm weather herbs

We are all about extra beach time during the warm months of the year. We are just at the tip of beach season in Michigan, and on those gorgeous spring days that feel like summer is knocking at our door, I swap our favorite slow roasted dinners for fresh spring and summer meals.

Salmon…meatballs?!

I’m telling you…make anything into a meatball and kids will be all over it. Needing to get more greens in? Try a meatball! Need to add some nourishing liver to your diet? Yup – those same kale stuffed meatballs have liver too! My girls truly adore wild caught salmon – as evidenced by so many salmon recipes on the blog, but if you have kids tentative about fish, I invite you to give this a try! Salmon is a summer staple because it is so quick to fix, and these meatballs are no exception.

Simple ingredients & no fuss!

I learned a couple years back that the *best* salmon burger is made by hand chopping the meat instead of pulverizing or blending it, and NOT using eggs for any binding. The salmon is first chopped into bits about the size of ground beef, and mixed with some simple seasoning. A splash of olive oil to add some fatty moisture and some tapioca for a soft texture and to hold in some of the moisture and that’s it. It will take you no longer than the time it takes the oven to pre-heat to roll up the salmon meatballs and then dinner is done in 15 minutes!

Dips for all the days!

Because if there is anything I know about kids, it’s that they *big puffy heart* love to…dip! So if they are going to dip these delicious, nourishing salmon meatballs, let’s give them something equally as mouthwatering and bump the nutrition past the same ‘ol ketchup stand-by. Something like pesto! I would totally even serve the meatballs on toothpicks for dipping in the pesto – what fun for the kids!

{And as a side-note, if those kiddos of yours will only eat the salmon meatballs with a side of ketchup, by all means roll with that – I would rather them get that brain nourishing fatty fish into their growing bodies than none at all. If you do the polite bite thing in your house, I would definitely give that a go with the pesto first (don’t even put the ketchup out as an option), but pick your battles, momma!}

But back to the dreamy pesto…

I truly can’t think of anything we use our garden herbs for more in the summertime than pesto. It makes such a great, nourishing, budget friendly lunch with a side of bread or crackers and veggie sticks. And big time bonus…my older girls can make it without mom’s help! *All the moms in the house cheer!* Basil itself is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, but the kids don’t necessarily care about those details – make them a part of *planting* and tending to that garden basil, or picking the basil out at the farmer’s market this summer, and ownership will take over as the star of the show. Basil is one of the first seeds my oldest has asked for to plant the last couple of spring seasons, and it is solely for the purpose of her beloved pesto! Using pesto as a side dish dip or scoop-able dressing is also a great way to get olive oil into the kids’ diets. A proven brain booster, this power-packed mono-unsaturated fat is super tasty and mild – perfect for kids.

Time saving tips

  • The pesto can be make super quick while the salmon meatballs are baking in the oven.
  • The oven temp is perfect for cooking other veggie sides along with the salmon meatballs, so make your oven do double time. The timing of the meatballs cooking is the perfect timing for spring asparagus, or summer zucchini or broccoli.
  • Or, skip the oven baked veggies, and just make some quick side salads such as Paleo Coleslaw, Olive Garden Copycat Salads, or kid favorite Ranch dressing drenched salads (use this Paleo version, or this classic version using dairy!)
  • The salmon meatball mixture can be made up the night before and sit in the fridge until everyone is home from work and school – that way all you have to do is roll them up and bake them off.
  • The salmon meatball mixture freezes well! Roll up the salmon meatballs and freeze them on a sheet tray. Then pop the uncooked frozen salmon meatballs into a freezer bag.
Print Recipe
5 from 12 votes

Wild Caught Salmon Meatballs with Simple Pesto

Ingredients

FOR THE SALMON MEATBALLS ::

  • 3-4 wild caught salmon fillets skinned (about 1 – 1 ¼ lbs of salmon)
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley if you have fresh parsley, use 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill if you have fresh dill, use 2 tsp chopped leaves of the fresh dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

FOR THE PESTO ::

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • Heaping 1/3 cup walnuts If you have access to pine nuts use 1/3 cup of that. Pine nuts would be the more traditional way of making pesto – I don’t have access to quality pine nuts, so I usually use organic walnuts
  • ½ cup raw cheese or goat cheese shredded
  • ¼ tsp sea salt start here and you can always add more to taste depending on the saltiness of the cheese you are using.
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic (If you are a garlic fanatic do the 3 – you won’t regret it! It does add a slight spicy bite since raw garlic has some heat to it – it is my favorite way to eat pesto. If you have kids eating the pesto, use 1 clove of garlic. Two of my girls love the garlic packed version, while my youngest still feels like it is a bit spicy for her and will gobble it down with just 1 clove. If you are new to pesto, start out with 1 clove – you can always add more if you want more garlic flavor.)
  • ½ cup olive oil

Instructions

FOR THE SALMON MEATBALLS ::

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper
  • Skin and cube up your salmon. Then run a chopping knife through the cubed salmon until the bits are small but not to a puree. The texture should resemble that of ground beef.
  • Combine the chopped salmon and the rest of the salmon meatball ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Roll the meatball mixture into balls and place them onto the Silpat lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the salmon meatballs at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs. 

FOR THE PESTO ::

  • Put the basil leaves and walnuts into your food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
  • Add the cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic, and pulse several times to chop through until everything is very small and combined well.
  • With the food processor running, use the oil drip top on your food processor to slowly add in the olive oil. This will allow the oil to emulsify, thickening the pesto, and keeping everything sticking together so the oil doesn’t separate. If you prefer the oil to be more separate from the herbs (I like it this way too!) you can just do a quick blend through or even just stir in the oil.

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Probiotic Rich Fermented Red Onions & 10 Minute Sheet Pan Fish Tacos!

April 10, 2019

Sheet pan fish tacos topped with tangy, probiotic rich fermented red onions are a match made in heaven!

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.

Beach days, rock hunting, & fish tacos…

We made it. Our feet were grounded on the Lake Michigan shoreline all weekend, and we couldn’t be more full of joy! While we spend most of our spring and summer days with our feet in the soft, powdery sand of our hometown shoreline, we do love to beach hop to some special places along Lake Michigan with a more rocky landscape so that my rock hunters can find special treasures! My oldest has become quite the geologist in the last few years, with such a love for collecting different rocks and fossils. And my oldest also couldn’t think of a better way to re-fuel after our first spring beach day than fish tacos!

The obsession began a few summers ago…

We were enjoying a rare to us night out at a restaurant after a long, hot beach day, and my oldest, who was about 6 at the time, ordered fish tacos. They were just about the biggest hit you could ever dream of for her, and she still talks about them to this day. They had the avocado crema, mango salsa, and those pretty little pickled red onions sprinkled on top – the works! She was obsessed, and I just knew I had to duplicate them for our menu rotation after that!

The real deal “pickled” red onions

Quick little refrigerate pickled red onions are great, and truly is nothing wrong with them, but what if there was a way to make them the “real deal” way? Instead of pickling them in vinegar for the sour punch, letting nature do it’s work with a little sea salt and water, and allowing the natural, good bacteria in the vegetable ferment the onions to tangy perfection – the way your ancestors would have preserved and “pickled” onions! And let me tell you…the tangy, sweet, salty, crunchy red onions make *the* best fish taco topping!

A quick fermentation 101

It’s as simple as making a little salt water brine to suspend your onions, a clean, air tight space to allow the science to happen, and a little time. When you add the salt water brine to vegetables, the good bacteria in the vegetables starts eating away at the natural sugars in the veggie. The lactic acid left behind from this veggie sugar metabolizing gives the vegetable a tart, tangy taste, and is also just so amazingly good for our bodies! It is a great way to keep beneficial bacteria in our gut flora (probiotics), and it balances stomach acid.

Ok, so what do I need to get started fermenting my onions?

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

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

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

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

Do the kids like them?

Well, 2 out of my 3 give these little onions 2 thumbs up. My youngest is still warming up to them, but onions are strong in the first place, and probably aren’t a great fermented food to start out with for really little guys. My suggestion for littles and fermented foods is to start out with fermented carrots and sauerkraut. Sour pickles and fermented asparagus are fantastic options that are kid friendly too. I also loved this recipe for Ranch Dressing made with Kefir (a style of fermented milk) to dip your veggies in! The littles will love it, and you can feel good about what their gut being nourished. All in all, be inspired to give even the smallest of children in the house a try of fermented foods. My girls were eating small shreds of sauerkraut and shredded fermented carrots by the age of 9 months old, and developing that taste palate is priceless.

Fermented onions first, then onto the tacos!

So grab a mason jar and get some fermented red onions going! Then plan a fish taco night into your menu plan this month and just wait until you see how fun fish taco night is! Here is the recipe for the fermented onions, and the tacos will follow.

Print Recipe
5 from 32 votes

Probiotic Rich Fermented Red Onions :: The Perfect Topping for Fish Tacos, Salads, Wraps, and More!

Ingredients

  • 1 pint warm water
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 large red onion sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar optional

Instructions

  • Dissolve the sea salt in the warm water.
  • Put the sliced red onions and sugar into a mason jar, packing them in tightly.
  • Pour the salt water brine over the onions leaving a half inch to inch of headspace at the top.
  • Add your fermenting weight over the onions in the brine to be sure the onions stay submerged. If you do not have a weight, just be sure the onions are completely submerged in the brine or you will get molding.
  • Put your fermenting lid on the jar (I use pickle pipes) and leave in a warm space in your kitchen on the counter or in a cupboard for 1-3 weeks. You can taste the onions along the way to get your preference of tartness. If your house is warmer, it will ferment faster, and if your house is cooler, it will take longer. Everyone has a different taste for fermented foods. Your fermented onions should smell oniony and taste pleasantly tangy/sour. The longer you ferment the more beneficial bacteria will be present. I ferment my onions around 3-4 weeks if it is winter time and cooler in my house, and it takes more like 2 weeks in the very warm summer months.

But getting back to those fish tacos!

A couple months back, I had dinner with some friends at a local restaurant. It was all about conversations that didn’t revolve around slime, school work, or Hatchimals; glasses of wine, and great food – it is such a necessity of mom life to do this! One of my friends and I ordered the fish tacos, and, after we quite literally devoured them, I had a renewed desire to get a fun, family friendly fish taco recipe to the blog!

Sheet pan prep for busy families

…Because fish tacos on a Wednesday night is just the bees knees, and I promise it will be *the* thing that gets you through the rest of the week. Just a quick slice through some wild caught white fish, a toss through some taco season of your liking, and 10 minutes at the most in the oven. That is weeknight dinner at it’s best.

What kind of fish?

Any wild caught white fish will do, though we have certainly enjoyed fish tacos with wild caught salmon! Use whatever your family likes to eat. We pick up wild caught mahi-mahi, cod, and salmon at Costco. We also have a local fish monger that has the fish here and there. Check around where you live, and ask! Fish mongers are always happy to tell you about where their fish comes from!

Fish Taco Bar topping ideas!

  • Shredded cabbage or lettuce
  • Coleslaw
  • Fermented Red Onions (Recipe is below!)
  • Raw cheese or goat cheese
  • Guacamole
  • Shredded carrots (or ease your littles into the fermented topping idea by using shredded fermented carrots – my youngest eats them this way)
  • Salsa
Print Recipe
5 from 32 votes

10 Minute Sheet Pan Fish Tacos

Ingredients

FOR THE FISH

  • 4 fillets of white wild caught fish such as cod or mahi mahi Cut into strips, or bit sized chunks if you have little ones at home.
  • 3-4 tsp taco seasoning I use my own taco season mix.

FISH TACO TOPPING OPTIONS

  • Shredded cabbage or lettuce
  • Coleslaw
  • Fermented Red Onions (See above recipe)
  • Raw cheese or goat cheese
  • Gauacamole
  • Shredded carrots
  • Salsa

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line your baking sheet with Silpat, or spray with avocado oil spray, or lightly grease with butter or coconut oil.
  • Toss the cut up fish with the taco season and spread the pieces of coated fish onto the sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes. If you made smaller pieces for little kids, you will have a shorter cook time.
  • Serve on your favorite tortillas with toppings of your choice!
My sweet tween, happily inhaling said fish tacos after the photoshoot 😉

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