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Butternut Squash Pasta Salad :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

September 14, 2021

Your favorite autumn flavors of butternut squash, greens, apples, and cinnamon, tossed in a gluten & dairy free pasta salad, perfect warm or cold!

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

A slow shift to cooler weather…

Other than the *most* amazing summer on the planet, with perfect 75-80 degree days, powdery beach sand under our feet, and glorious sunshine, early to mid autumn in Michigan is truly paradise. It’s a slow, subtle shift, really. The sky gets a little more golden. The mornings a bit more crisp. But it still warms up enough to enjoy our beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline most days. We swap bathing suits for light hoodies and shorts, and still get a chance to get our feet in the sand.

Holding onto our favorite summer pasta salad!

My girls don’t mind the weather change, in fact these born and bread Michiganders can hardly wait for snow! When they asked for their favorite summer pasta salad this week, I told them I’d give it an autumn twist since squash was a heck of an in-season deal this week. I flipped the oven on for the first time in a while, and set to work on a fun fall take on a pasta salad concept they love. (You can find my classic summertime pasta salad in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook!)

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

Squash Prep Tips

One of our favorite household vegetables, squashes of all kinds hit our table multiple times per week. Squashes like butternut, pumpkin, and acorn squashes are loaded with minerals and vitamins that are vital to organ function and growing kids. Squash is also so kid friendly in taste, with a mild sweetness that amplifies with roasting – it is such a great starter veggie for any older kids that are veggie hesitant. I know that he actual cutting and prep of a squash can seem daunting, but just a quick peel (I find that a sturdy Y-Peeler works best for peeling hard squashes), and a few minutes to scoop the seeds out and cube it up is so worth getting the caramelizing sweetness on all sides of those little squash cubes! The kids will love it! You can also peel and cut the squash on a prep day, or hours in advance. Cut up squash keeps in the fridge for days, and then all you have to do on your weekday dinner night is toss it on the sheet pan to roast.

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad
Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

The Method :: The Roasted Veggies

There is something magical that happens when you roast just about any vegetable. The natural sweetness in the veggie shines, making them really hard to resist! Even the sweet purple onions get even sweeter with roasting, and give the most amazing flavor to the salad. I find these sweet purple onions to work well for kids – especially after they roast. The pungency is covered up with caramelized sweetness. Just toss the squash, onions, and garlic on the roasting pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper. While the veggies roast, you can prepare the pasta and get the dressing ready. In under a half hour your pasta salad can be ready!

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

The Method :: The Butternut Squash Salad Dressing

One taste of this creamy, comforting salad dressing, and the kids will be asking for this on every salad this fall and winter! You’ll take some of the roasted squash and onions from the sheet pan, along with the roasted clove of garlic and blend it up with honey, cider vinegar, cinnamon, and some seasoning. The result is a smooth, spoon-lickable dressing perfect for this pasta salad, or any salads you make this fall!

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

The Method :: Assembling the Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

The first thing you will add to your mixing bowl is the chopped spinach. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, you’ll toss that hot pasta with the spinach to wilt it down. Baby spinach has a beautiful way of adding nutrients to veggie dishes without a veggie taste – it just takes on whatever flavors the dressing have. It is such an easy thing to add in! Then, toss the pasta/spinach mixture with the rest of the pan roasted veggies and the freshly blended butternut squash dressing. You can eat the pasta salad warm, or chill it for a few hours to eat cold.

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

Work and/or School Pasta Salad Prep and Packing

This huge bowl of pasta salad would be fantastic to serve at an autumn party, gathering, or holiday! But it is even more versatile than just an occasional holiday. The pasta salad will keep in the fridge for around 5 days. That makes it a really great make-ahead meal prep for work or school. If you prefer the pasta salad warm, you can use a thermos like my kids use for school. Or, for adults, you can try this super handing mini hot plate slow cooker that I used to use when I worked full time outside of the home to warm the pasta salad up. Add some meal prep chicken, beef, or egg, for protein too if you like! Your kids might also like this pasta salad cold. That makes for even easier packing and this salad doesn’t drip, so it can go right into a container, or into a bento box slot easily.

Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium purple onion quartered, then cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic peeled (leave whole to roast)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1 tsp sea salt divided
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 – 12-ounce box GF pasta of choice I use Jovial GF Farfalle
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes this leaves a “barely there” heat to the dressing, suitable for children. If you like more heat add more!
  • 1 small apple cut into 1-inch cubes (I do not peel mine, but you can)

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a large baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Toss the cubed butternut squash, purple onions, and garlic clove on the sheet pan with 2 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp sea salt, and the pepper. Roast the squash, onions, and garlic at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. While the veggies roast, you can cook the pasta and get the dressing started.
  • Get the pasta boiling, and put the chopped spinach in a large mixing bowl (you’ll be putting the hot, cooked pasta over the spinach to wilt it later)
  • To make the dressing, put ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ – ½ tsp sea salt, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes into a blender or Magic Bullet. When the veggies are done roasting, add the roasted clove of garlic, and 1 cup of the roasted squash/onions to the blender. Blend the dressing until smooth and taste for salt. (Set the rest of the roasted veggies aside to toss with the pasta salad later)
  • When the pasta is done boiling to al dente, drain the pasta, and give the pasta a quick rinse. Add the hot pasta to the chopped spinach in the mixing bowl, and toss to combine and wilt the spinach.
  • Add the remaining roasted squash and onion to the mixing bowl with the pasta, along with the chopped apples and the butternut squash dressing, and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and serve warm, or chill at least 3 hours to serve cold.

Notes

  • The pasta salad can be used as a make ahead meal prep lunch or dinner, keeping in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Warm it up with a splash of water if you prefer it warm, or eat it cold!
  • Change up the roasted veggies! You can swap some of the squash for carrots or parsnips, sweet potatoes, or another squash like acorn or pumpkin!
  • The dressing is…amazing! Make extra for your salads for the week. The dressing will keep for about 5-7 days.
Butternut Squash Pasta Salad

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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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No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

September 4, 2021

Quick and easy blender batter protein pancakes with no added sugar and a fun strawberry topping!

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

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.

An epic summer…and a crew ready for back to school routines!

And a glorious summer it truly was. This kids rode every beach wave, hiked every trail, read every book, and climbed every tree (while also making super cool tree swings out of random things from the garage as you can see behind them!). They played their hearts out, and I have found, years into this school aged kid thing, that kids that play their hearts out all summer are quite ready to go back to school once September hits! As much fun as they had together, they were ready for their first week back this past week, and had a ball seeing their friends at school once again.

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

School morning breakfast goals

While I focus on certain nutrition goals for every breakfast no matter the time of year, school mornings bring along another level of needs, and not all of them include the actual ingredients of the breakfast. Here are my school morning breakfast goals

  • Manageable prep time. Besides wanting to fill the kids up before school with fuel that will last, these school morning breakfasts must be sustainable in prep time. School mornings are early, no matter the age, and it is vital that we can get these kids filled up with food that will fill them up to focus at school *and* be manageable to prep on a busy morning.
  • Low to zero added sugar. Because I love my teachers. And I want them to love my children 🙂 Bouncy little people that have been drowned in sugar before school make the morning really hard to focus. The book Sugarproof Kids is a very good place to start if you are looking to work on getting added sugar out of the diet. I like to fruit-sweeten where ever possible so that the fruit fiber can slow the burn of the natural sweet in the fruit.
  • Macronutrient balance. Having the right balance of fats, protein, and good carbohydrates will sustain the kids and keep them full and focused all morning. The right carbohydrates will give them energy instead of leaving them dragging when you combine it with protein and fat to slow the burn and satiate their hunger.
No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

Pancakes on a school morning?!

When you can blend the batter in just minutes and pour it onto a skillet right from the blender cup, then yes! It absolutely can be done on a school morning! These pancakes also have a good macronutrient balance with whole grain and fruit from oats and banana, protein from almond flour and collagen, and satiating healthy fat from coconut milk and egg. It takes just minutes to get everything into the blender and pour onto the skillet. You can serve the pancakes with fast and easy hard boiled eggs or sausage if you want as well. They are so filling that some kids might even just get away with having the pancakes with a smear of butter, almond butter, or coconut butter, and be good to go.

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

The Method :: The Protein Pancake Blender Batter

Dump it all in and blend away! That’s my kind of pancake batter! Simply add the ACV to the blender cup and then fill the blender to the 1 cup mark with coconut milk. You’ll add the rest of the ingredients right into the blender and then buzz it down for 30 seconds. The batter pours beautifully right onto the skillet from the blender cup, so there’s no extra dirty bowls or scooping cups!

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!
No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

To syrup or not to syrup…

I’m all about a little pure maple syrup on a weekend waffle or pancake. But when I created these pancakes with school mornings in mind, I really wanted to give you some options for a no sugar added topping that will still make the kids happy. And leave their blood sugars happy too! What’s the point of a no added sugar pancake if you are going to drown it in syrup? These pancakes are nice and sweet on their own thanks to a couple bananas, but toppings are so fun too. The strawberry topping is a snap to make, and you can keep it around in the fridge or freezer to pull out anytime. You can change up the fruit if you want too, but we really like the strawberry banana combo!

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

The Method :: The Strawberry Topping

You can use fresh fruit if it is in season, but that is usually just a few short weeks out of the whole year for us. I like to keep a bag of frozen strawberries for smoothies in the freezer, so they work great to make this topping too. Just put them in a small sauté pan with a little water and cook it down for a few minutes. You can leave the strawberries as is, or stir in some chia seed to make it feel thicker like a sauce!

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

School morning hacks!

We’ve already talked about how easy these pancakes are to make on a school morning, but here are a few tips to make it even easier!

  • Make the pancakes up on a prep day and freeze them flat. You can pull pancakes out the night before to thaw and warm in the oven on a sheet tray, or pull them out frozen right into a toaster or toaster oven to warm up before school.
  • Make up the strawberry topping the night before or on a prep day. The strawberry sauce can be frozen too, so if strawberries are in season, batch it up!
  • Have some hard boiled eggs as sides ready to go. I like to make a dozen hard boiled eggs on Sunday evening when I am prepping for the week. Then you can easily pull these quick breakfast sides to go with your pancakes before school.
No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!

Ingredients

No Sugar Added Strawberry Topping ::

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp chia seeds

No Added Sugar Protein Banana Pancakes ::

Instructions

Make the No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping

  • Put the frozen strawberries and water into a small sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. When the strawberries are melted enough, use a potato masher to squish them down. Simmer the strawberries, mashing them up with the potato masher for 2-3 minutes, then set aside off the heat.
  • Add 1 tsp of chia seeds to a small bowl or cup, and then stir in the mashed, cooked strawberries until the chia seeds are evenly distributed. Put the strawberry topping into the refrigerator to thicken while you make the pancakes. This strawberry topping can be made days in advance, and even frozen.

Make the No Added Sugar Protein Banana Pancakes

  • Pre-heat your skillet to medium heat while you blend the pancake batter.
  • Put 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into your high-speed blender or regular blender, and then fill the blender to the 1 cup mark with coconut milk.
  • Put the rest of the pancake ingredients into your high-speed blender or regular blender, and blend for 30 seconds on high. If you are not using a high-powered blender, you may need to blend longer.
  • Use coconut oil or olive oil to lightly grease the skillet, and use the blender container to pour the pancake batter right onto the heated skillet. Cook the pancakes just like regular pancakes – when you see the bubbles, and that the sides of the pancakes are looking more “set,” you can flip them. This takes a minute or so. Then cook the pancakes on the other side until golden brown and cooked through – this takes a couple minutes.
  • Put your cooked pancakes onto a wire rack to cool while you work through the rest of the batter. To freeze the pancakes, let them cool completely, and store them in a freezer bag.

Notes

  • I like to add a few pinches of cinnamon to the batter too! Or pumpkin spice if you are into that sort of thing!
  • If you do not have grassfed collagen, you can leave this ingredient out. It adds protein, but I realize not everyone has access!
  • I think an egg replacer would work for the egg – please let us know in the comments if you are egg free and try this!
No Added Sugar Blender Batter Protein Banana Pancakes :: PLUS! A Bonus No Added Sugar Strawberry Topping!
Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

August 28, 2021

Get dinner done in one shot with this easy one skillet creamy tomato basil spinach pasta and chicken!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

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

Birthday girl dinner requests!

The youngest member of our crew turns 8 this week! EIGHT! I have no idea how this is even possible, but she is just the kindest little spunk you ever did meet. The most perfect blend of sweet and spice! She is my rainbow after the storm, and without getting to emotional on you, our household is truly complete with her. In honor of her birthday, I wanted to share her dinner request! In true third kid form, she is incredibly go-with-the-flow, and while I would have made her just about anything, I’m *super* pumped that she picked this easy, one skillet dinner considering her birthday is 2 days before the new school year starts!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

One skillet mealtime perfection!

Is there really ever a time of year where a one pot meal doesn’t work? I think not! Whether its the on-the-go summer days, or busy school routine winter weeks, having a dinner that can be done in one skillet is really a game changer! You may even want to use a larger skillet, or 2 of them to double up so that there are leftovers for lunch the next day – this skillet is sure to disappear fast!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Veggie packed, and macro-nutrient balanced

Because we’re doing a whole dinner in one skillet, I usually try to get every meal component into the skillet. Side salads are nice, but a truly one skillet dinner has it all. This also makes it much easier to get a load of nutrient packed veggies into smaller children without the fuss of a salad. Once the spinach wilts down, the kids will never know its there – and there is a lot of it! Protein from the chicken, healthy fats all around, and some slow burning, fiber rich carbohydrates – a balanced one pot meal!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

A note on the protein

You really can change this up to your family’s preferences. If your crew prefers chicken breasts, by all means change that up! If you only have beef in the house, that would taste amazing as well. I think the flavor that chicken thighs lend into the pan is life changing – if you have some around give it a try!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Let’s talk about the pasta!

There are so many gluten free pasta choices around these days! If you don’t need to be gluten free, you can use whatever pasta you like to use. I prefer a brown rice pasta for gluten free versions and you can find them both at the grocery stores, as well as online now. The pasta will cook right in the liquid of the skillet, so there is no need to get a pot of water boiling. The starches from the pasta will give the sauce a creaminess that is so comforting, and once again, everything is done all in one pan!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Veggie change ups, and leftovers!

There is a myriad of ways to get even more veggies into this skillet. One of my favorites is to add finely chopped cauliflower. They take on the color of the sauce, and don’t change the flavor at all. My crew also loves when I add mushrooms. You can add both of these into step 3 where you are sautéing the sundried tomatoes and garlic. And speaking of sundried tomatoes! Costco has a great jar of them packed in olive oil! You can find them just about anywhere, but really be careful to take note of what they are packed in – either a really good healthy oil, or just dried in a package is best. You can also leave them out if you don’t have access. Leftovers taste amazing warmed up with a splash of water or bone broth. You can pack it in a thermos for work or school too!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Whisk the sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl and sprinkle over the chicken thighs, seasoning each side. I use my hands to get the rub onto both sides of the chicken.
  • Heat a large skillet over high heat, and melt the coconut oil. You will want the pan screaming hot so that it gives the chicken a good sear. Place the chicken into the oiled pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. You want a golden sear on both sides. Set the chicken aside to rest.
  • Turn the skillet temperature down to medium heat and add the red wine to deglaze the pan. Stir the wine around, and then add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until everything is fragrant.
  • Add the basil, tomato sauce, coconut milk, water, and dried pasta and stir to combine. Stir in half of the chopped baby spinach and cover the skillet with a lid.
  • Let the pasta simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes before stirring. Once you stir the pasta, add the chicken back into the skillet, along with the rest of the spinach, and put the lid back on. Cook on medium heat until the pasta is al dente – check your box of pasta to see how long it takes to cook and follow that.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, you can serve with grated cheese, fresh basil, or a dollop of coconut cream!

Notes

  • You can swap the wine for broth or water if you can’t have the wine – the flavor depth it brings is fantastic though so if you have it, use it! The alcohol cooks off so it is safe for children.
  • I get my sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil at Costco. If you don’t have access to a good sun dried tomato in safe packaging or oil, you can cook down some halved cherry tomatoes with the red wine and garlic at the beginning of the recipe, or leave them out completely.
  • If you can’t have the pasta,  you can leave out the extra water and serve your creamy tomato basil and spinach sauce and chicken over spaghetti squash, or a baked potato or sweet potato.
One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

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One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

August 21, 2021

Hamburger Helper nostalgia with a nutrient loaded, healthy whole foods twist!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

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

The slow transition from summer to fall routines…

I started noticing the sun a little lower in the sky during our after-dinner swims on the big lake a week or so ago. It’s always a little bittersweet to me. We had such a fun, carefree summer. We put school completely behind us. We played and hiked, read a zillion books, and swam (and swam some more!). But when the sun starts setting just a little earlier we are all at the point of being ready to get back to a little more routine. We’re certain to have another good month of beach days left, but I was ready to start thinking about fall meal plans! And I know you all have been asking for my “Hamburger Helper” copycat that I have posted a here and there to Instagram. Today is the day!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

An 80’s classic…and some curious foodie kids

It’s no secret this momma grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Boxed dinners were totally the thing, and while I really don’t remember my mom ever using this particular one that often, we did have our fair share of convenience foods. Earlier this summer the girls asked if they could try Hamburger Helper – I still have no idea where they heard about it, but it doesn’t matter. Our kids don’t live in a bubble, and I want to help them learn how to work through this kind of situation because it will be hitting them from every angle for the rest of their lives!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Kids that can use critical thinking…and creative solutions!

My approach to most of these kind of situations is to first show them them box ingredients and see what they think. No condemnation. It’s more of a “well before you decide to eat something, it’s probably a good idea to see what you will be putting into your body first.” When they were little, I’d read it for them and be more verbal in helping them draw conclusions (remember wayyyy back when Chloe, my oldest, was in preschool and the little boy wanted her to make him “mac n cheese” in the preschool play kitchen?!). They are old enough to see through the marketing now, but I still see the value in this exercise. We went to the store, found the Hamburger Helper, and it was a pretty quick peek before they asked “well, can we make it at home instead?!” I mean, saucy, cheesy, noodles and beef…what’s not to love?!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Same fun meal, same fun taste…with an upgraded whole foods twist!

I’ve been fussing around with this “copycat” Hamburger Helper recipe, as gluten, dairy, egg, nut, and sugar free, and it’s pretty spectacular! You can see in the pictures how I’ve also managed to veggie load it, and that is because I truly want this to be a one skillet, no other side items needed kind of a dinner. That is the whole point of the hamburger helper anyway, right? Something that will be a no-fuss, weeknight friendly comfort food. School nights can be hectic, and I’m hoping to help you fill the kids up with real food in a fun way.

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

But will my kids “taste” the veggies???

The flavor that comes from the aromatics and mushrooms is where the depth and amazing flavors build. If you think the kids will be funny about the pieces, just cut them smaller or buzz them up in the food processor. It does look like a lot to start, but it really, really cooks down. And the spinach? Well spinach is magical like that. Once it cooks in a dish like this, you never taste it, so you can get all the health benefits without the kids having to fuss over the taste!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Back to school meal plans, and a little prep help

I really hope this Hamburger Helper skillet makes the perfect back to school dinner for your meal plan this fall! I think if you are one of those families that comes home from the day super late, having the veggies chopped before-hand would help. You have a couple choices. Either chop the veggies the night before, so that you can just dump them in the pan when you get home. Or, you could just buzz them up in the food processor to cut the chopping step down a little – it really doesn’t matter if the veggies are cut in a perfect dice.

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat your skillet to medium high heat, melt the coconut oil, and add in the onion, carrot, pepper, and mushrooms to cook for about 5 minutes with a big pinch of sea salt until everything is soft and sweet.
  • Add the spinach and garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring them into the cooked veggies.
  • Add the ground beef to the pan with another pinch of sea salt and pepper to season the beef, and break the beef up to brown up in the pan.
  • Once the beef is browned, stir in the nutritional yeast, potato starch, and paprika until everything is coated and incorporated. Then, add the pumpkin puree, tomato paste, coconut aminos, bone broth, and coconut milk, and stir to combine.
  • Add the pasta and bring everything to a simmer. Stir around after a minute and add a lid to the pan, bringing the heat down to medium-low to simmer until the pasta is al-dente. Take the lid off every few minutes to stir and make sure the pasta is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you need a little extra liquid you can add more broth or water. Once the pasta is cooked through, sea salt and pepper the skillet meal to your taste and serve!

Notes

  • The nutritional yeast gives a cheesy flavor to the skillet without the dairy. If you tolerate dairy and want to use cheese, just add the cheese in to melt at the end.
  • The potato starch helps thicken the sauce. You could also use tapioca starch or arrowroot.
One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

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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}
Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

July 9, 2021

An easy weeknight Hawaiian sheet pan dinner with a sweet and zingy fruit sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce that the whole family will fall in love with!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque 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.

Quick dinners to fuel busy, active kids!

We are in full on summer mode in these parts, and that means HUNGRY kids. Not only are they growing at warp speed, they expend so. much. energy. every waking moment, and that makes for really big appetites. Whether you are enjoying the active days of summer, or are in full swing school fall schedule mode (which…is a whole different level of busy!), I hope you get a chance to get this super fun sheet pan dinner change up onto your meal rotation soon!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

Weeknight perfect prep and *oh so* full of kid friendly flavor!

Sheet pan dinners are so very time-crunch friendly, and you can really pack in the flavor and nutrients all in one shot. The veggies roast down on the sheet tray, which pulls out their natural sweetness, caramelizing on the sheet pan, and we’ve packed out this sheet pan with lots of protein fuel too. Add in mixing it all up with an easy, sweet and zingy Hawaiian inspired barbeque sauce will ensure this whole sheet tray gets devoured by your crew! Fuel that actually counts for rapidly growing kids all on one sheet tray in less time? Sign. Me. Up.

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

Less sugar and more flavor!

I have a love hate relationship with “sauces.” On the one hand, I love how sauces and dips help make veggies and meat more “fun” for kids, which in turn helps get a lot more of it down. And on the other hand I just cringe at the amount of sugar in so many dips and sauces. Thankfully there are really cool companies that have come out with less sugar, or more fruit sweetened sauces and dips, and while they are delicious, and such a great swap, instead of cringing at the sugar, I end up cringing at my budget! A small bottle of sauce or dip that has great ingredients divided among 3 kids and a kid-like husband…well let’s just say it is gone in no time. One particular sauce we fell in love with was a really great ingredient Hawaiian inspired BBQ sauce, so instead of buying it again, I looked at the ingredients and sort of made up my own version for much cheaper!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

The Method :: The Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce

This sauce! OH! This sauce! You are going to fall in love with not only the flavor, but the prep time! This is literally a dump in the blender and buzz away sort of a recipe! The sweetening stars of the show are dates and Hawaiian inspired pineapple! There is zero added processed sugar, and you’ll absolutely never miss it. The pineapple adds just the right amount of liquid, and light refreshing flavor too! You’ll first soak the dates for a few minutes while you pile in the rest of the ingredients into your blender. Add your dates a little of the water from soaking the dates, and blend it all up. It’s as simple as that!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

The Method :: The Veggie Line Up!

This part can truly be tailored to whatever produce is in season near you. It just happens to be summer right now, so in the recipe card, you’ll find summer squash and zucchini. A couple weeks ago I made this with eggplant and green beans. I think this sheet pan dinner will work so great in the winter too for a busy school night, and during that time of year, you’ll just have to swap things out for what you have in the veggie bin – carrots and other root veggies, squashes, and maybe frozen green beans from your summer stash! Give the veggies a quick, coarse chop, and pile them up on the sheet tray.

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

The Method :: Putting it all together on the sheet pan!

Once you season your cubed up chicken, you’ll toss everything with the fruit sweetened Hawaiian BBQ sauce – right on the sheet tray! Don’t get out more dishes to clean, dear momma. Just toss it all on the sheet tray and pop it in the oven. While your dinner cooks, you are hands free for 20 minutes to clean up, help kids with homework, change a diaper, or maybe read a chapter of that book you said you’d get through!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

How’s the heat level on that sauce?

This sauce is pretty mild as written. In fact one of my girls thought it was “too sweet” on when she dipped her finger in it to taste. Keep in mind my crew hasn’t been exposed to lot of store bought sauces, so take that comment with a grain of salt 😉 My husband wanted more heat, so he added some hot sauce and some red pepper flakes to his bowl. I prefer a bit more heat as well, and wanted more ginger flavor, so I added more ginger to my bowl, but this sauce worked really well for my 2 girls that don’t do heat very well. I’d say it is quite kid friendly.

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

Let’s talk about your little ones!

As I was preparing this dinner the other night, I had a thought about how I probably would have made this sheet pan dinner when the girls were younger. So for those of you with itty bitties at home, I have a couple thoughts for you! You have a couple choices on the veggie/meat sizes. The size that I cut the veggies and chicken in these images works well for my older kids, but if you have toddlers and little ones at home, you’ll have to cut their pieces smaller before serving them. Alternatively, you could cut the veg and meat smaller before you cook the sheet pan, and if you do that, just keep in might that your cook time will be faster, so adjust that. Also keep in mind that some little ones get overwhelmed looking at a big bowl of “mixed up” food – I didn’t have one of these kids, but I do know it is a thing, and if that is the case, just get a plate out and separate the chicken in one spot, the rice in another, and the veggies on another side. Pick your battles, dear momma!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

Leftovers and meal prep thoughts

This dinner tastes amazing the next day! Save some for your lunch tomorrow! I also think that if you are the meal prep type, you might like to make this as a lunch prep on a weekend for your weekday meal for work or school. Make up a whole sheet tray and divide it up for your week, and you have a delicious, healthy lunch for your work week. My oldest even asked if she could take this to school for lunch this year! Woot!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

Ingredients

For the Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian BBQ Sauce ::

For the Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner ::

  • ½ purple onion cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini halved and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash halved, seeds scraped out, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2-3 cups total red & orange bell pepper cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ lbs boneless chicken breast rinsed, pat dry, and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup of the Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian BBQ Sauce from above plus extra for side dipping or drizzling
  • 1 heaping cup of pineapple cut into 1-inch pieces

Instructions

How to Make the Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian BBQ Sauce ::

  • Fill a small bowl with warm tap water and put the dates in the warm water to soak while you get the rest of the ingredients into the blender.
  • Put the rest of the sauce ingredients into the blender, add the soaked dates, and ½ cup of the liquid that the dates were soaking in, and blend until smooth. This takes about 30 seconds in my high powered blender. You may have to blend longer and/or scrape down the container if you are using a food processor or regular blender.
  • Set the sauce aside until you are ready to make the sheet pan dinner. You can make the sauce up to 2 or 3 days in advance to store in the fridge too! Great prep day task!

How to Make the Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner ::

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. You can line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or Silpat, though I tend to like a little caramelization on the bottom so I usually leave it off.
  • Put the cut veggies and pineapple onto your sheet pan. Toss the chicken pieces with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then add them to the sheet pan with the veggies.
  • Pour ½ cup of the Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian BBQ Sauce onto the sheet tray of veggies and chicken, and toss to combine. I just use my hands but you can use a spatula or tongs. You can add more sauce if you wish, or save the sauce to add to your bowl later. Stay on the light side first – you can always add more but you can’t take it away!
  • Bake the sheet pan of chicken, veggies, and pineapple at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear. (The internal temp of cooked chicken should be 165°F – leaving your chicken out at room temp for 15 minutes before cooking is a good way to ensure even cooking and tender chicken!)
  • Serve your sheet pan dinner over rice, cauliflower rice, or baked potato/sweet potato. You can serve extra sauce on the side or drizzle over the top too!

Notes

  • Change up the veggies to what is in season! When I photographed this recipe, it was summer, so zucchini, summer squash, and even eggplant work really well! Green beans, root veggies like carrot and turnip, squashes, etc all would swap fine – use what you have!
  • You can prep/chop the veggies a day or so in advance if you need the extra prep time on a busy day. Keep the chopped veg in the fridge and you can just dump it onto the sheet tray on the night you want to make it!
  • This dinner makes a great meal prep for your lunches for a week too. Bake it off on a Sunday night and you can divide the meal up into your busy days for the week to warm up for lunch or dinner.
20 Minute Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner with Easy, No Cook, Fruit Sweetened Hawaiian Barbeque Sauce!

More real food SHEET PAN recipes you might like! ::

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Blueberry Energy Bites

June 21, 2021

Just a 5 minute prep and you can keep these real food blueberry energy bites stashed away in the pantry for easy snack packing!

Blueberry Energy Bites

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

Simple staple snacks for busy kids

For the most part, I’m a super no fuss mom when it comes to snacking. I’d rather focus on the 3 meals of the day, and if a snack is needed, give the kids a simple handful of fruit and cheese. So if I’m going to actually prepare a homemade snack, it needs to be easy prep, and double bonus points for pantry storage! We just kicked off our summer break last week, and packed these fun blueberry energy bites for one of our beach days. They were devoured, and made such a fun snack change up. I hope you get a chance to try them, whether its for your summer road trip or those school lunchboxes this fall!

An easy pantry snack

I just love any homemade food that I can make that doesn’t take up room in my fridge or freezer. That is hard to do with real food, but between homemade granola, my trail mix, and coconut clusters, I have a few easy grab and go snacks that pack easily for school lunches or road trips. Energy bites also store in the pantry well, and I put a spin on the classic cashew/date snack bites that we have all come to love with a fun blueberry flavor! Just perfect for little hands!

Blueberry Energy Bites

How to Make Blueberry Energy Bites

A very simple handful of ingredients (please be sure to read the section below titled “Ingredient Sourcing” for help on making sure you don’t blow your budget on this stuff!) and a blender is all you need! You’ll put everything but the blueberries into your food processor, and blend to make the energy bite mixture – it should stick together when you pinch it. After you pulse in the freeze dried blueberries, you just scoop and roll the bites up! That’s it! I love that these energy bites can store in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. It’s up to you!

Blueberry Energy Bites
Blueberry Energy Bites

Can I use fresh blueberries?

Believe me, in the height of summer, I’m all about using our fresh Michigan blueberries! Fresh blueberries would just make these energy bites a sloppy mess though with all the juices. You could dehydrate your own blueberries, or freeze dry your own blueberries. I have had success in freeze drying my own fruit by just putting a tray of blueberries into the freezer (uncovered). You let them “freeze dry” for about 2-3 weeks, and they should be ready to go once you bring them to room temp and let the condensation dry off them. These days, you can buy freeze dried fruit just about anywhere, and for not that bad of a price in some places! I grab the bags at Trader Joe’s, but you can get them online too.

Blueberry Energy Bites

Just for my nut free friends!

If you can’t have the cashews or almond butter, you can swap those out for sunflower seeds and sunbutter or tahini. I have made energy bites with both before, and they turn out great! In fact, the chocolate covered banana energy bites in my lunchbox cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook, are completely nut free, using sunflower seeds since many schools are nut free school zones.

Blueberry Energy Bites

Ingredient sourcing

I’ll be the first one to tell you from experience that fun little real food snacks like energy bites can absolutely BLOW your budget. Listen to me…don’t do it. If you cannot source this stuff without going broke, pack the kids local fruit and a handful of nuts and call it good for their snack. I don’t want you going broke to make these. If the freeze dried fruit is expensive where you live, leave it out – they taste so good even without that fancy fun stuff! For what it is worth, I do get every single ingredient on the list, except the freeze dried blueberries, at Costco. I pick up the freeze dried fruit at Trader Joe’s. I know not everyone has these places to choose from. In fact Trader Joe’s was even a mythical dream for me up until a couple years ago when they finally built one here!

Blueberry Energy Bites
Blueberry Energy Bites
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Blueberry Energy Bites

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Put the dates, cashews, almond butter, vanilla extract, and sea salt in your food processor, and pulse the blender a few times. Then, continuously blend the mixture for about 1 minute until everything is incorporated, and the mixture can pinch together and stick together.
  • Add the freeze dried blueberries, and pulse until the blueberries are incorporated into the mixture in tiny bits.
  • Use a tablespoon or a spoon to scoop the mixture, packing it into the measuring spoon. Use your hands to roll the energy bite into a round ball. Continue with the rest of the energy bite mixture. This recipe makes about 18 tablespoon sized energy bites.

Notes

  • These energy bites keep in the pantry for a month, or in the fridge or freezer for 3 months.
  • If you are nut free, I have used sunbutter and sunflower seeds for energy bites before with great success! you will use less sunflower seeds, so play around with the amount – it will probably be more like 3/4 cup or a little less.
  • You can use medjool dates if that is what you have. Just pit and halve them to measure.
  • You can swap the freeze dried blueberries for any freeze dried fruit!
  • This recipe doubles well if you have a large enough food processor, like my 14-cup food processor.
Blueberry Energy Bites

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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}
Healthy Kids and Teens Occasional Treats Real Food 101 Real Food Tips

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

June 2, 2021

Naturally sweeten your favorite frozen treat with homemade date sweetened ice cream! You’ll never guess this ice cream is also dairy free, egg free, and gluten free too!

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

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

18 summers…

We get 18 summers with them. Sure, the kids don’t just disappear as soon as they turn 18, but for the most part, we get 18 summers with them under our care, and under our roof…and my goodness is that a wake up call when 2 out of your 3 kids is already halfway through those 18 years. Those baby and toddler summers…are exhausting to say the least. And I’m not going to be the veteran momma that says to the young moms, “oh just enjoy it – it goes by so fast!” Because, dear momma, I’ll call it like it is…babies are beautiful and amazing, but that season of life will suck every last ounce of energy from you, as wonderful as those sweet cherubs are! I cherished the girls as babies and toddlers…But THIS age! These in between ages were they aren’t quite off with friends everyday, and you don’t need to make it home for naptime…this is the sweet spot. And I’m so here for it all summer. I am determined to enjoy every last minute of the remaining 18 summers that we have, including extra beach days, last minute road trips, Lego villages spanning the length of my living room for a week…and saying yes to ice cream!

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Summer Ice Cream Sweetened with Whole Fruit!

Over the past 6 months I’ve been playing around with sweetening some of my recipes that need sweetening with whole fruit, and I made a goal to work on some new ice cream recipes for the summer. We live in Michigan, so dear friends, that means we get this super amazing 3 months of serious paradise weather. It truly doesn’t get any better than summer on Lake Michigan! Last year, we got into a bit of a “habit” of popping into the local ice cream shop for dairy free ice cream, and while I think the summer of 2020 totally deserved that, I really want to replace that habit with something a little better in choice. Will we pop into the ice cream shop this summer? You bet! But probably more like a couple times versus every other week. Our family is completely obsessed with this homemade, whole fruit, date sweetened ice cream, and it is such a fabulous swap for your summer ice cream!

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Looking at “natural sweeteners” in a new way

If you follow my Instagram account, you’ll know that earlier this year I read through the book Sugarproof Kids. The authors sent the book to me for review, and while I’ll be the first to admit that there is no way I know *everything* there is to know about sugar and feeding kids, I remember thinking there probably wasn’t too much in the book that would be “new” information to me. Sugar is still sugar, and it truly does effect so many things for kids, but reading through this book did make me re-think how I am “naturally” sweetening things. Learning about how even natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup attach to our taste receptors effecting the way our brain sees “sweet,” and spikes blood sugar similar to plain sugar was a really good reminder. I remember when the girls were very little, I used to sweeten everything from their oatmeal to their treats with whole fruits only. As they got older the ease and convenience of honey or syrup won me over, and I figured a little dash here and there each week won’t matter. There is nothing wrong with a drizzle of honey over oatmeal, or a little splash of syrup in a muffin recipe, but reminding myself that the fiber in whole fruits helps the sweet spike to blood sugar slow down…well let’s just say I’ve been challenging myself to use whole fruit to sweeten things where I can! I’ve even gone back to just blending fruit to stir into the girls’ oatmeal instead of a few slices of fruit and drizzles of honey. (The book Sugarproof Kids is really excellent – I do highly recommend it regardless of where you are in your real food journey. It is gentle and non-condemning enough for newer friends to whole foods, and clearly was a good read for even this seasoned real food writer!)

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

So let’s make some {date sweetened} ice cream!

Just a handful of simple pantry ingredients is all you need for this dairy free, egg free, gluten free ice cream recipe! I like to use simple canned coconut milk. And don’t skimp on the fat – get the full fat version of whatever can of coconut milk you can find. The kind of fat in coconut milk is so good for your children’s growing brains and ever changing hormones! I don’t mind using the kind that has a little guar gum in the ingredients because when it comes to making ice cream, I find it helps with a creamier texture. The basic cans of Thai Kitchen coconut milk are very budget friendly, and work well for ice cream making. If you have homemade coconut milk, or just plain coconut milk without any thing added in, that will still work too! And of course the star of the show – dates! These dried fruits are packed with natural sweetness and once you soak them a little bit in some water, they blend up super smooth into your ice cream mixture. It really is as simple as putting all of the ingredients into your blender and buzzing it all up until it’s smooth.

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

What’s with the nut/seed butter ingredient?

I have made…a lot of homemade ice cream since having kids in the house. Some batches have been great, and others…well let’s just say a rock hard block of coconut ice is no fun to scoop, and doesn’t really feel like real ice cream. A number of years ago I read about how adding a spoonful or 2 of nut butter to ice cream mixtures helps with texture, keeping the icy crystals at bay, and making the ice cream really scoop-able. If you are a nut free house, seed butters like sunbutter work great too! And if you are completely nut and seed free, simply leave this ingredient out – the dates and thick, full fat coconut milk do make a great texture too.

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

But how does “date sweetened ice cream” taste?!

If I’m gonna have ice cream, I want it to taste and feel just like ice cream! You know what I mean?! Dates have a very neutral sweetness, with a slight hint of warm caramel notes. Since dates are dried and packaged without any added sugar, you are truly just getting the sweetness from the whole fruit. With the added vanilla extract and splash of almond extract to the ice cream mixture, the ice cream really turns out tasting like vanilla ice cream. Stay tuned throughout the summer, as I have some plans to perfect a chocolate date sweetened ice cream, as well aswell you tell me! What is your favorite flavor?! Let me know in the comments below!

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

A note on ice cream makers

One of the greatest investments I’ve make for our kitchen is our ice cream maker! Store bought dairy free ice cream is so expensive. It surely works in a pinch, but over time that is a huge hit to anyone’s budget. And even if you aren’t dairy free, finding an ice cream with a stellar ingredient list is pretty tough. Especially if you want it to be lower in sugar without using questionable low calorie sweeteners. If the ice cream maker doesn’t fit in the budget this summer, be sure to add it to your birthday or Christmas list this year – you will not regret it! I did start out with a cheaper ice cream maker that worked well at first, but did eventually tucker out. We have had this nicer, middle of the road ice cream maker for about 7 years now and it still works like new.

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Gluten free ice cream cone options

If you are in the mood for a cone, there are a few different options out there now! This has not always been the case! In fact, you can find most of these gluten free ice cream cones right in the baking section of your local grocery store – usually by all of the ice cream toppings. This is the brand that our grocery store carries (it is a much better price at the store for me, by the way, so shop around). The ingredient list isn’t perfect, but we also don’t have cones every time we have ice cream – I save them for special days.

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free
Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Be sure that your ice cream maker’s freezer bowl has been chilling in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
  • Put the dates in a medium bowl with warm tap water enough to cover the dates. Let the dates soak about 5 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
  • Put the coconut milk, nut or seed butter, vanilla extract, almond extract, and sea salt in your high-powered blender. Drain the soaking dates, and add the dates to the blender as well.
  • Blend the ice cream mixture until smooth. I use the ice cream function of my high-powered blender, but you could use any setting as long as the mixture gets smooth. If you do not have a high-powered blender, a Magic Bullet style will help the dates get super smooth, or a food processor will with some extra time.
  • Pour the blended ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and process for 30- 40 minutes, or according to your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream mixture will be thin at first and within 20 minutes get very thick! Transfer your churned ice cream to a freezer safe container and chill.

Notes

  • My ice cream maker holds 1.5 quarts. If you have a 2 quart ice cream maker, I think you could get away with doing a recipe and a half of this to get more out of it!
  • I get the big bags of Noor dates at Costco – do some shopping around grocery and online to get the best price!
  • I know the nut or seed butter ingredient is odd, but over the years I have found just that little scoop of nut butter really helps with homemade ice cream texture. It keeps it from getting icy and hard, and makes it super creamy. If you are nut free, use Sunbutter! If you can’t have nuts or seeds, simply leave this ingredient out – you will still get a great ice cream!
  • For my daughter’s birthday last week, I added a bit more almond extract to make the ice cream taste more like “cake batter” and after it churned I folded some naturally dyed sprinkles into the ice cream to make “cake batter ice cream!”
  • Stay tuned this summer for more ways to dress up this basic ice cream recipe! I have plans to perfect chocolate and strawberry for sure!
 
Homemade Date Sweetened Ice Cream :: Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

More real food SUMMER recipes you might like ::

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Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

May 30, 2021

Celebrate a special birthday with this yummy gluten free vanilla cake with the BEST naturally flavored and naturally dyed strawberry frosting!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

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.

She’s 12!

Ah, you guys. This kid! If you had asked me 12 years ago what age made me the most nervous about having to navigate in motherhood, I probably would have said those tween-y, teen sort of ages, ya know? Babies? I could do that. But 12 year old’s that have thoughts and opinions? I remember being in 6th grade, ya’ll. (And alllll the toddler moms remind the tween momma that toddlers have all kinds of thoughts and opinions…amiright?!) I am actually absolutely adoring this age. Chloe is thoughtful and kind. She really does make me stop and think in different ways, and she makes me a better person everyday. I think most adults would struggle with the kind of empathy and compassion she has, and I am so glad she made me a momma 12 years ago!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

Her favorite cake…and a last minute decision to blog it!

Chloe decided she wanted strawberry frosting this year, and while I’ve made this sort of cake before using freeze dried fruit, I’ve never blogged it! After I dressed this cake up on her birthday, I decided last minute to blog it for you…hence the reason why I don’t have all of the step by step instructions here that I typically do. I really hope you get a chance to try it though – the ingredients, and the steps are quite simple! Use the comment section below if you have specific questions!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

Beautiful presentation, simple ingredients!

Oh, it’s just so pretty! You’d think this cake was dyed with red 40, or some other sort of dye, but all I use is freeze dried strawberries! They used to be a lot harder to find, but most grocery stores and health food stores carry them now, and you can find them online too. I tend to pick them up at Trader Joe’s. It is a super fun splurge to have amazing color, and even better – the BEST flavor! This cake and the frosting are also all gluten free, dairy free, and nut free!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

The Method :: The Vanilla Cake

This is a simple vanilla cake, with big vanilla flavor. If you have a chance to use real vanilla bean, I would absolutely do that – it is my favorite. Extracts work well too. You’ll blend the wet ingredients for this cake, add the dry, and then divide the batter between 2 cake round pans to bake. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

The Method :: The Strawberry Frosting

Here’s the secret to this beautiful, absolutely delicious cake! The strawberry frosting! Freeze dried fruit packs a huge punch in a small package, and it doesn’t change the texture of the frosting like fresh or dried fruit does. There is zero extra moisture. If you used the same amount of fresh strawberries in this frosting as you do freeze dried, you’d have a big soupy mess. Fresh fruit is great to decorate the top with if you wish, or as a big bowl of fresh fruit on the side at the party, but for this cake, I promise you will be so glad you grabbed that bag of freeze dried strawberries. Simply buzz them up in a grinder or blender into a powder and cream them into the frosting! Be sure to check that your freeze dried strawberries don’t have any added sugar – some of them do and you really don’t need that!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

It was a big hit!

This was all that was left after the party! I didn’t have time to set up a big photoshoot to get a pretty inside shot – but I hope this does the trick for you to see what the inside of the cake looks like. The vanilla cake is fluffy and moist, and not overly sweet, and the star of the show is definitely that flavor packed strawberry frosting!

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

Ingredients

For Two 9-Inch Cake Rounds ::

For the Strawberry Frosting ::

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and use palm shortening or butter to grease 2 – 9 inch cake rounds. Trace the bottom of your cake rounds on parchment paper, cut the rounds out, and place the fitted parchment paper rounds on the bottom of your greased cake pans.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, sugar, and eggs, and beat for 1 minute.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients for the cupcakes and mix with beaters until combined.
  • Divide the batter between the 2 cake pans, and bake for 40 minutes – the cake should “spring” back when you touch it, and a toothpick will come out clean.
  • Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
  • When you are ready to frost, blend about 3/4 of the bag of freeze dried strawberries in a Magic Bullet type blender or coffee grinder until it becomes a fine powder. Set the rest of the freeze dried strawberries aside to crumble on the top of the cake later.
  • Blend the palm shortening, powdered sugar, freeze dried strawberry powder, coconut milk, and extracts until smooth. You can adjust the coconut milk depending on how thick or thin you like your frosting texture. I had wished I had added a bit more coconut milk to mine this time because it was a bit thicker – the strawberry powder adds another element of dry ingredient that soaks it up.
  • Crumble the remaining freeze dried strawberries to sprinkle over the top of the cake if you want for decoration!
Vanilla Cake With *The* Best Strawberry Frosting! :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Naturally Flavored, & Naturally Dyed!

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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

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

April 10, 2021

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring 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.

Signs of spring

Where we’re from, when those last ice caps melt on the lake, snow boots are swapped for muddy rain boots, frog friends are found just about everywhere, and there is just a bit more daylight left at the end of the day, we know warmer weather is coming! As the seasons change from cold and dark, to warmer and brighter, I wanted to share with you how I transition our meal plans from winter inspired meals to more spring inspired.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 1}

Before we get started!

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).

Fresh Mango Marinade and Sauce :: Perfect For Fish, Chicken, Veggies and More!

How are the meals really changing here?

For some parts of the world, spring feels a bit warmer, but here spring really takes its time. Springtime in Michigan can bounce between a 40 degree cool rain, to 65 degrees and sunny in just a matter of 24 hours! So you’ll still see some cold weather foods, like soups and warming dinners, but with a fresh twist using in season, spring veggies. The biggest change will just be that we’re transitioning into spring produce. This is exactly how we were meant to eat by the way! Eating with the seasons gives our bodies a variety of nutrients, gives our guts a break from the same foods over and over all year long, and allows our bodies to follow the natural rhythm of the seasons of the year.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 1}

“Spring cleaning” isn’t just for your house!

Certain times of the year are better for cleansing than others. All of those great spring greens help clear out our livers and digestion from the winter. You’ll notice that some of the heavier winter foods with longer cook times to keep our homes warm, will be replaced with quick sheet pan veggies and lots of raw salads. If your body is not in a place to handle raw salads, please listen to your body. If you are on a healing journey, you may need to stick to lightly steamed or roasted veg until your digestion can handle raw.

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

The school routine home stretch!

And alllll the tired lunch packing momma’s said “amen!” By the end of Spring Break I am capitol D.O.N.E. with school routine, but there is a couple months left, and it really does matter what the kids are eating before school for breakfast, and while at school in their lunchboxes. In fact, as the weather warms and activities pick up, the fuel these kids are taking in matters all the more. Their busy bodies and burning metabolisms need real fuel, not just fillers. “Make every bite count” is what I always keep in mind while planning meals for my growing kids, and that doesn’t have to mean elaborate fancy food at every meal. Keep it simple, but meaningful.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 1}

A note about age groups and portions

As I have mentioned in both the Winter Meal Plan 1 and Winter Meal Plan 2, one of my hesitancies in posting meal plans is how every kid’s food intake needs vary – even within the same age group. Please adjust portions to your kiddos – my meal plan is not set in stone or the only way. It is meant to be inspiration. One difference I have noticed as my kids have gotten older, is that I used to be able to get away with way more smoothie breakfasts when they were little. Now, smoothie breakfasts are still a great warmer weather breakfast, but my older kids need some sides even if the smoothie is packed out with great fat and protein. That is just one example, so definitely adjust each meal of the day to how your kids eat.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 1}

Let’s do this!

Here is a free PDF of my Part 1 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 meal 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!

Spring Inspired Dinners to Swap in the Dinner Section

Whether the dinner ideas in the dinner section aren’t your jam, or you have already been through the spring meal plan once and are itching for something different, here are some other meal ideas to swap in! 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.

So let’s talk meal plans!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below how the meal plans have been helping so far this year! How can we make them more user friendly? Are you finding them useful? I would like to continue another Spring Meal Plan later this month, so I do take this feedback seriously! If I’m going to put the time into them, I want them to be relevant to you.

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Spring Inspired Part 1}
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Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

March 30, 2021

Pretty little bursts of berry sprinkled throughout *the best* gluten free scones, for a delicious breakfast upgrade!

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

The first day of spring, and a new recipe to celebrate!

We welcomed the first days of spring last weekend with all the hiking, biking, and even Lake Michigan toe dipping! All that fresh spring air got us excited about the amazing produce that will be growing here shortly, and with Easter next weekend, I decided to grab some berries and try a new breakfast treat for our Easter brunch this Sunday!

A familiar scone base, with a sweet berry change up!

If you’ve been around these parts in the last year, you know that last spring I perfected a Funfetti Birthday Scone for my middle kiddo’s birthday! That scone base then became a Thanksgiving morning treat with warm fall spices and molasses in my Pumpkin Scones. So for this spring inspired version, I used pretty berries! I cannot wait to get our hands on fresh Michigan berries this summer and make them again!

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

The Method :: The Scone Dough

Scones can feel intimidating, especially with squishy berries in the mix, but I promise this is not fussy. A simple dry ingredient combination, and let the butter shine! Crumble the cold butter into your flour, and then mix in your buttermilk. (I left instructions for making your own buttermilk or coconut buttermilk, which will give these scones a fluffed up, soft texture on the inside.) Once your dough is moist with buttermilk, you’ll fold in the berries gently with a rubber scraper to start, and then I found using my hands was the easiest way to get it all to come together into a loose dough.Once you flour your counter, use your hands to gently form a disk, then use a rolling pin to gently roll the disk to about just over an inch. After cutting your disk into eighths, place the scones a baking tray to bake. You can brush the tops of your scones with more milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar to make for a crispy, top.

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones
Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones
Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

The Method :: The Lemon Glaze

We played around with this lemon glaze a lot! My husband and I enjoyed a good tablespoon of lemon juice, while the kids were more into just a couple teaspoons. It really depends on your palate, so I recommend starting out with a teaspoon and working up from there to your taste. Remember the glaze will be drizzled over very lightly sweetened scones, so the sweet lemon flavor will blend into the scone some too. Berries and fresh lemon – what’s not to love?!

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones
Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

Freezer friendly!

I popped this whole batch of scones in the freezer for Easter this weekend! After a few days, I took them out to see how they would thaw and feel, and they are perfect. That means you can bake ahead of time if you want. Or you could even get the dough ready and cut out into triangles, and freeze the dough triangles so that you can bake them fresh on the morning you want to eat them.

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

Berry Ideas

One of the things I am super pumped to hear from YOU is all of the great berry combos that you are able to make with these scones this summer! Please keep me posted on your favorites, and others will be able to try your favorite combinations. From blackberries and raspberries, to mulberries, blueberries, strawberries, and more!

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

Let’s talk about swaps

I am pretty sure most Gluten Free Flour blends will swap in the recipe fine. Scones are treats in my house, so I don’t worry about the protein content, or try to get extra special “healthy” flours into the dough, because I don’t serve them daily. This is meant to go with a brunch table for Easter, or for a special breakfast in the summer served with sausage and eggs. I do think if you are not gluten free, and want to use an all purpose flour, it should work ok. I also think that if you are dairy free, you could use a good quality palm shortening instead of the butter.

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk or coconut buttermilk to make 1 cup of buttermilk, put 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a liquid measuring cup, and fill with full fat milk or coconut milk to the 1 cup line. Stir together and let it sit while you get the rest of the ingredients together
  • 3 cups Namaste GF Flour Blend fluff the flour before measuring so it isn’t packed down
  • ¼ cup organic pure cane sugar plus a little more for sprinkling the tops of the scones if you wish
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp zest from a lemon this is the zest from 1 small lemon
  • 8 oz cold butter 2 sticks, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups berries if using strawberries, be sure to cut them about the same size as any other berries in the scone so they mix uniformly.
  • 1/3 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tsp juice from the lemon you zested for the scone

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Make your buttermilk first if you don’t have store-bought buttermilk.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, cane sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and lemon zest
  • Use a pastry cutter or your hands to cut the cold butter into the flour. You want to still be able to see small pieces of butter throughout. See the picture above for reference. I do not have a pastry cutter – I just use my hands!
  • Pour the buttermilk and vanilla extract into the flour/butter mixture and use a rubber scraper to mix. Add the berries to fold in gently. I use the rubber scraper to start, and finish with my hands gently.
  • Flour your counter, turn the dough out onto the floured surface, and gently make a disk with your hands. You can use a rolling pin to gently roll the dough to about 1 inch thick, and then use your hands again to shape the disk into a perfect circle.
  • Cut the disk into eighths, and place the triangles onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with a light coating of milk or coconut milk, and sprinkle with a little sugar if you wish.
  • Bake the scones at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the edges are golden. Cool the scones completely before icing.
  • To make the icing, whisk the powdered sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice in a small dish and drizzle over the tops of the cooled scones. The icing will dry and harden within about 20 minutes.

Notes

  • You can swap the lemon juice in the icing for coconut milk or regular milk/cream if you don’t want the extra lemon flavor.
  • If you want a thicker glaze, add more powdered sugar, or decrease the amount of liquid in the glaze (lemon juice or coconut milk)
  • The scones freeze very well! Just cool completely, put the icing on and let it harden, and then freeze them in freezer bags.
Gluten Free Mixed Berry Scones

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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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Sheet Pan French Fries

March 10, 2021

Make easy sheet pan French fries for the perfect compliment to any burger, or the most fun munchy snack for game day or movie night!

Sheet Pan French Fries

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.

Like peanut butter & jelly…

The beach and flip flops. Peanut butter & jelly. Spring time and muddy children. A burger with the perfect French fries. Like so many things that just go together, I really think that having a great, healthy option for French fries is an absolutely must in any kitchen! Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with this French fry method, and I think it will become a staple in your house for every burger night, or munchy snack need too!

Sheet Pan French Fries

The Method :: Cutting the fries

Whether your kids have had restaurant French fries or not, one of your favorite kitchen tools for making fries is going to become the crinkle cutter. This inexpensive cutting tool not only dresses your fries up to look more like restaurant fries, or fries from the frozen section of the grocery store, you can also use it to crinkle cut veggies to jazz those up too! I also find a crinkle cutter an easy to grasp tool for toddlers that want to try learning how to cut soft veggies. To cut the French fries, I like to use a straight knife to cut medium potatoes into thirds lengthwise. Then lay those pieces flat to cut the crinkle fry shape. Be careful with the thickness of the fries – if you go to thin, they will cook really fast and not have that fluffy potato center.

Sheet Pan French Fries

The Method :: Seasoning the fries

Once the potatoes are cut, toss them in a bowl with olive oil and seasoning. It doesn’t get much easier than that! I like using simple sea salt and pepper with a little paprika and parsley for color. But you can dress them up however you like here!

Sheet Pan French Fries

My favorite French fry method…

The secret to fries that don’t stick to the pan, and the perfect crispy outside all lies in the screaming hot sheet pan. One burger night, a very long time ago, I turned the oven on to pre-heat while I prepped my potato fries, and didn’t realize that I had inadvertently left my sheet pan in the oven from earlier in the day. When I went to put my fries on a sheet pan, I couldn’t find it, and, of course, remembered it was in the oven. The sizzle when the oil coated fries hit the pre-heated sheet pan made me wonder how these fries would turn out, and much to our utter happiness, we couldn’t believe how amazing the texture was.

Sheet Pan French Fries

Bake, toss, bake, toss, bake…

Sounds fussy, but I promise it just takes a few seconds to toss those fries around. Let them sear on the super hot sheet pan for about 15 minutes, and then toss them around. Bake another 15-20 minutes, and then toss again. You’ll do one more round of 15, and then you’re fries are ready. Moving them around every 15 minutes or so will ensure the super hot oven doesn’t crisp just one side of your fries. And I’m not talking perfection here – I definitely do not sit there and meticulously flip each fry. I just use a spatula to flip them around, give the pan a shake and toss it back in the oven.

Sheet Pan French Fries

Dipping ideas!

I know, I know…ketchup. But think outside the box a little bit, and one of my favorite fry dipping modes lately in a restaurant has been any kind of aioli they serve! Or as my husband puts it, “fancy mayo” 🙂 You can use your favorite healthy store bought mayo, or make your own. On the blog, I have a great dairy based egg free mayo, and a Paleo egg free mayo to try. There is also 2 great aioli recipes on the blog! Try my chipotle lime aioli or my garlic aioli – both are dairy free!

Sheet Pan French Fries

Does this method work for sweet potatoes?

Absolutely! I tend to flip sweet potatoes a little more often because they tend to burn easily, but stirring them around the 10-12 minute mark seems to do the trick. It all depends on the size of your cut.

Sheet Pan French Fries

Sheet Pan French Fries

Ingredients

  • 5-6 medium russet potatoes
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp sea salt to taste start with around 1 tsp – you can always add more later but you cannot take it away
  • 1 tsp smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp pepper

Instructions

  • Put a large, unlined baking sheet into your cold oven, and then pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. You want the sheet pan to be in there to pre-heat as well. This will prevent sticking and make for crispier potatoes.
  • Cut your potatoes into French fry shape. I like to cut the potato lengthwise in thirds using a straight knife, and then use a crinkle cutter to cut the flat pieces into thirds again making a crinkle cut.
  • Toss the French fries in large mixing bowl with the oil and seasonings until the potatoes are coated evenly. I think using my hands works the best here.
  • Once the oven pre-heats, take the hot sheet pan out of the oven, and pour the seasoned and oil coated French fries onto the hot pan (listen for the sizzle!). Use a rubber scraper to get all the oil out of the bottom of the bowl. Spread the French fries out on the pan.
  • Bake the French fries at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Stir the fries, and then bake another 20 minutes. Take the French fries out again, stir the fries, and the bake another 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. If you cut your French fries smaller/thinner, they will take less time. If you cut them bigger, you will want to add more time.

Notes

  • You can leave the paprika out, but I love the color it gives, and the slightly smoky flavor to a smoked paprika. If you use a sweet paprika you won’t taste it as much so that would be a good option for little ones that might not like the smoked flavor, but would still give the pretty and appealing color.
  • Change up the seasoning to what you are serving it with! Try rosemary with a steak, or dill when serving with crispy fish!
Sheet Pan French Fries

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Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

February 23, 2021

Have a fun and healthy start to the day with a balance of macronutrients in these fun bakery style carrot oat muffins!

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

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

Middle School…We’ve got this!

I’ll be the first one to admit that I was a little tentative about it being her 6th grade year. I remember 6th grade…do you remember middle school?! I do not remember ever having this much confidence and poise in 6th grade, but I’ll take it. This middle school thing hasn’t been so hard so far, and my goodness is this kid so fun. Her sense of humor totally surprises me, and her maturity blows me away.

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Gone are the days of mini muffins…

The little ones grow up, don’t they? They grow so rapidly in these pre-teen and teen years, and the minis just don’t do the trick for these growing appetites. My oldest has been completely enamored with the idea of a muffin that looks like her favorite coffee shop, and it’s actually pretty fun to sit down with a warm mug and an almost 12 year old. The way their minds think at this age will make you think, and will soften your heart.

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Breakfast muffins that count

You know that whole “rapidly growing” thing I mentioned above? We can still do a fun breakfast muffin that feels like a coffee shop, but also fill these pre-teen and teen growing needs with ingredients that actually count. Without compromising on texture, I was able to combine all 3 macronutrients in a healthy, balanced way in these carrot oat breakfast muffins. Because Lord knows no one needs a hormonal, hangry pre-teen in the house. {And truth be told, no one needs a hangry, tired toddler on their hands either!} Healthy, well sourced carbohydrates, fats, and protein is where it’s at for happy blood sugars, and a focused morning at school.

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

The Method :: The Muffin Batter

The carrot oat muffin batter is quite simple. You’ll blend the wet ingredients until smooth and then blend in the dry. This batter comes together so quickly, and I find myself making them up quick the night before I want to serve them so that I can get those few extra winks of sleep! I use the shredder tool on my food processor to make the carrot shredding go fast, but this is also a fun project for any littles in the house that are ready for sharps to shred the carrots on a little shredder. I remember having extra afternoon time when I had napping babies with an extra older preschooler that didn’t nap anymore. It is always nice to have a little project to work on with them to keep their hands busy!

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free
Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

The Method :: Muffin Size and Baking Tips

My household used to *live* for mini muffins, but as my littles have grown (along with their appetites!), the novelty of the minis has sadly worn. If you have toddlers in the house, mini muffins will be so helpful to you. There is less waste because sometimes little ones get halfway through a regular sized muffin and decide they are done! It is also less overwhelming to look at a mini muffin or 2 on your plate versus a very big one. (This is the mini muffin pan that I have) If you have older kids in the house, they will just love the idea of having a big, bakery sized muffin! For the minis, simply use a tablespoon to fill the mini muffin cups and bake for about 15 minutes. If you are going for more of an oversized, bakery style muffin, I’ve found a heaping quarter cup measure works really good. Those larger muffins will need to bake around 35 minutes. Of course a nice regular sized muffin works good too – and packs nicely for lunchboxes. You can use a quarter cup measuring cup to scoop those out and bake around 25 minutes.

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Freezer Friendly

Go ahead and double this one up! It bakes up doubled perfectly, and these breakfast muffins can make a regular appearance on your meal plan because they freeze up great. Just cool them off after baking and stash them away in the freezer in gallon freezer bags. You can thaw them out on the counter overnight, or pop them in the oven to warm in the morning while you get ready.

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Swaps and Switches

If you are egg free, try 2 flax eggs, and perhaps make some of the liquid for the flax eggs some apple cider vinegar so that it will react with the baking powder and create some rise. The flax eggs will bind, but will need some help to fluff up. If you are nut free, I’m sure you can swap the almond flour for something else. If you fall into either of these categories, please let us know what you try so that others that are egg or nut free can have some options!

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free
Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with unbleached paper cup liners or silicone liners. This recipe will make 10 large, bakery style muffins, or 12 regular sized muffins. You could also do mini muffins and get about 24 or so.
  • Blend the eggs, olive oil, syrup, and molasses about 1 minute until smooth.
  • Add the almond flour, oats, Namaste flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt and blend to combine. Add the carrots and blend to combine.
  • Scoop the muffin batter into your muffin cups, and top with a sprinkle of oats if you wish. Bake the muffins at 350 degrees. Large, bakery style muffins like the size in this post will bake for 35 minutes. Regular sized muffins will bake for 25 minutes. If you try mini muffins, they will need about 15 minutes. The tops of the muffins should be golden brown and spring back to touch.

Notes

  • This recipe doubles great and is freezer friendly. Just cool the leftover muffins and store in gallon freezer bags in the freezer.
  • If you are egg free, try 2 flax eggs, and perhaps make some of the liquid for the flax eggs some apple cider vinegar so that it will react with the baking powder and create some rise. The flax eggs will bind, but will need some help to fluff up.
  • If you are nut free, I’m sure you can swap the almond flour for something else – let us know what you try so that others that are nut free can have some options!
Bakery Style Carrot Oat Muffins :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free

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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
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Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

February 9, 2021

Classic lasagna flavor, with a rich grassfed meat sauce packed with veggies, layered with cream and noodles, all in the convenience of your slow cooker!

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna
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.

Brrrr!

Michigan born and bred has made us quite used to months of piles of snow and cold, but right around the middle of February, we usually dip well below even our threshold for cold air! These kids are pretty used to playing outside everyday no matter the weather, though, and we embrace the cold with warm campfires, cozy blankets…and comforting lasagna!

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Warm lasagna made in the slow cooker!

Not that popping a casserole dish in the oven is that hard, but there is just something about being able to get dinner done before noon that makes me smile. Checking dinner off the list early in the day always makes me feel 10 steps ahead of the game, and this slow cooker lasagna will warm up even the most chilled to the bone kids and adults alike in just a few easy steps.

https://amzn.to/37fd5iD

Veggie packed but so kid friendly

I don’t mind a big salad to get our veggies in on lasagna night, but sometimes a cold salad just doesn’t work in February. And little kids eat cooked veggies easier than raw. This lasagna is super packed out with plenty of veggies, but chopped small, and sautéed until sweet, they are the perfect kid friendly way to get flavorful and nutrient loaded vegetables in on lasagna night. Just look at all that veg!

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

The Method :: The Veggie Meat Sauce

The veggie meat sauce can be made up to a day in advance. If you have a prep day, this is the perfect activity for that day. Or if you plan to make this for a school night, simply make the sauce the night before, so that you can just get everything into the slow cooker in the morning without any fuss. To make the veggie meat sauce, you’ll pull out all the sweetness and flavor from the veggies first by sautéing them in butter or olive oil. This time is precious, and will create so much flavor. Once the veggies are perfection, the beef will get browned, the sauce will be added, and a few minutes of simmering will pull all the flavor together.

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

The Method :: The Creamy Bechamel Sauce

If you are dairy free, you are in luck! You really can have a creamy element to your lasagna without dairy, and this creamy sauce is just the ticket to your creamy dreams! Make a quick rue with rice flour and butter (if you can have it) or olive oil, then whisk in some coconut milk. If you tolerate dairy, cream or milk work fine here. The creamy bechamel sauce comes together in mere minutes, and this too, can be made a day in advance so that you can build your lasagna easily.

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

The Method :: Building and Slow Cooking the Lasagna

Once you have the 2 sauces made, you are ready to go! Get a little of the meat sauce down on the bottom of the greased slow cooker, and then build 3 layers of lasagna noodles, bechamel sauce, and veggie meat sauce. If you tolerate a lot of dairy, you can add some cheese on top of each bechamel layer. This is totally optional. Two of my family members only tolerate sheep’s milk or goat’s milk cheese, which is pricy, so we just add some Manchego to the top of the lasagna and are happy! If you are completely dairy free, just leave the cheese off the top – it still tastes so good!

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

A note on the eggs

I know this is a weird ingredient, but in years of testing out slow cooker lasagnas, I have found a couple eggs whisked into my creamy sauce makes the lasagna set up better. I’ve even used up to 4 eggs! If you are egg free, I would suggest simmering the meat sauce down a bit more so there is less liquid. It does work without the eggs – you may not get perfect little square slices, but it works.

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

A note on prepping and timing

If you have a slow cooker that has a timer function, you are going to want to use that. I have a super old school slow cooker that does not have a timer, so I have to remember to turn my slow cooker off a the 4 hour mark. When the lasagna is done cooking on low for 4 hours, you want to let it rest with the heat off for at least 30 minutes, but I prefer more like 2 hours. It allows the juices to be soaked in by the noodles, and helps the lasagna to set. You really can make this an all day slow cooker meal while you are at work if you have a timer to shut off the slow cooker while you are gone. If you don’t, like me, you’ll want to save this meal for the weekend, or if you work from home like I do, just set a timer to remember to turn it off.

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Lasagna Noodle Tips and GF Brands

So one of the things that my “type A” personality had to get over to make a slow cooker lasagna was that slow cookers are oval…and lasagna noodles are not. It about killed me the first time I broke some noodles up to cover the area needed in my slow cooker, and truth be told, it really doesn’t matter! It all comes out looking the same! By the way, if you are gluten free, you can use the Jovial GF Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles, or the Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles! Some regular grocery stores even carry these now!

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Ingredients

For the Veggie Meat Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • ½ head cauliflower chopped small
  • 4 ounces of mushrooms sliced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 – 32 ounce jar marinara sauce
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

For the Creamy Bechamel Sauce

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour
  • 2 ¼ cups full fat coconut milk or regular milk
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 eggs whisked

For the Slow Cooker Lasagna

Instructions

Make the Veggie Meat Sauce:

  • Over medium high heat, warm the olive oil and then sauté the onion, bell pepper, cauliflower, and mushrooms for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and soft.
  • Add the garlic, spinach, and tomato paste, and stir to combine.
  • Add the ground beef with a big pinch of sea salt and pepper, and brown the beef, stirring it into the cooked veggies.
  • Once the beef is fully cooked, add the marinara sauce, stir to combine, simmer for 5 minutes, and then set aside.

Make the Creamy Bechamel Sauce:

  • Use a medium saucepan and melt the butter over medium high heat.
  • Whisk in the white rice flour, making a paste, and then gradually stir in the coconut milk, whisking along the way. Add the sea salt and pepper.
  • Keep the heat on high and whisk the mixture until creamy and smooth. This takes a minute or 2.
  • Turn the heat off. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and gradually add little bits of the egg at a time to the bechamel sauce whisking along the way until full incorporated.

Assemble and Cook the Lasagna

  • Spray the slow cooker with avocado oil spray before you assemble the lasagna.
  • Scoop enough of the veggie meat sauce onto the bottom of the slow cooker to generously cover the bottom.
  • Layer your uncooked lasagna noodles over the meat mixture. You’ll have to break up the noodles a bit to cover the area.
  • Pour about 1/3 of the creamy bechamel sauce over the noodles, and then scoop some of the veggie meat mixture over the top of the bechamel sauce, spreading it out to cover all of the surface of the noodles.
  • Add another layer of noodles, bechamel sauce, and veggie meat sauce.
  • Add the last layer of noodles, the last of the bechamel sauce, and the last of the veggie meat sauce, and then sprinkle with shredded cheese of your choice.
  • Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. Turn the slow cooker off and let the lasagna rest for at least 30 minutes to soak in the juices and set up before cutting and serving. Up to 2 hours is even better and will still be hot!
Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

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Breakfast Cookies 6 Ways!

February 4, 2021

Enjoy a fun, healthy breakfast with these power packed breakfast cookies made 6 different ways to change it up!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

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 Friday tradition, about 7 years in the making!

It all began about 7 years ago. Imagine…a busy mom of a 5 year old in kindergarten, a {seriously rambunctious} 3 year old, and a baby on her hip. Not exactly the picture of the most relaxing morning, let alone getting a good breakfast in. I think back to those days and really do wonder sometimes how I managed. And dear momma who is in the same boat, you WILL, in fact, make it through those years. It was during those years that I created my very first breakfast cookie – something packed with nourishment that we could head out the door with when the morning fell apart trying to get a kindergartener to school while toting along a feisty toddler and squirmy baby!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

All grown up!

That little baby in the picture above is now marching right along in 1st grade this year! And, no, all those busy, pulled-in-all-the-directions mornings did not “ruin her” as I once thought they might – she is pure joy {with a sprinkle of spunk, I might add!} And while it’s been a hot minute since there have been babies and toddlers in the house, Breakfast Cookie Friday has become a most looked forward to breakfast over the years for my school aged children ready to celebrate Friday and welcome the weekend!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Our Breakfast Cookie Friday Set-Up!

We set up our Breakfast Cookie Friday’s in a breakfast bar style. A bowl of the cookies, a bowl of hard boiled eggs, some hot water for tea…and the best part – the kids serve themselves! *Round of applause for the moms!* Dear momma, I promise that spending a bit of time while they are young to show them *exactly* {precisely!} how you want them to serve themselves, is worth every single minute of your extra coffee time not having to tend to serving them! If you already have big kids, just a quick demo will do. If you have toddlers and younger children, show them precisely, {every single step!} so that you don’t get frustrated when eggs land on the floor, or there is a big mess. I have found that age 2-3 is a good age to start this, depending on the child. Giving them the gift of independence and your trust in them to serve themselves is priceless! These days, my Fridays are extremely hands free with an 11, 9, and 7 year old, and it is just glorious! I make the hard boiled eggs and cookies the night before and the morning is extra relaxed.

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

A new breakfast cookie base – with endless possibilities!

Honestly, this recipe was born because I wanted just one recipe that I didn’t have to pull up instructions for – something I could memorize easily, and then adapt to whatever I had in my pantry. You’ll just adore this power packed, base breakfast cookie recipe, and then you get to pour the add-ins that you have available in the pantry that week!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Dried fruit, nut, & seed variations

I’ve created 6 different recipe cards with different dried fruit and nut/seed combos for you to try, but really the possibilities are endless! I just picked up a bag of brazil nuts and dried mango at Costco last week, and plan to use that the next time I make these. So fun! Truly though, use what you have in your pantry before you go out and buy something else. That is the beauty of this recipe – use what you have!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Freezer friendly!

Do yourself a favor, and go ahead and double up this recipe once you know that the kiddos give them the ok! These cookies freeze up fantastic. My method is typically to make them on a Thursday night and double up. Then I only have to make breakfast cookies every other week or so. Freeze up what you don’t use on Friday morning and next Friday’s breakfast is set!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

A note for my nut free friends!

I would love to hear from my nut free readers how your swap tries go. Breakfast cookies are some of my favorite kind of recipes because they are VERY forgiving. Meaning, I think you could try some swaps and still always have an edible cookie that tastes good. You can swap the almond butter for sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) or tahini (sesame seed butter), and swap the nuts for pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or even shredded coconut. The almond flour is going to be your call. I think finely ground up seeds would work just fine here, or you can try another flour of your choice. You are going for a cookie dough consistency as pictured above. Remember that the almond flour that you are replacing is oily and not super absorbent. So if you choose to use something that is dry or very absorbent, back off on the amount. If you are fully nut AND seed free, I would try coconut butter for the almond butter, coconut shreds for the nuts, and for the almond flour, just swap for another flour of your choosing. The chia seed can be left out completely and still turn out.

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Almond Raisin Breakfast Cookies

This basic recipe has nuts and dried fruit found in most anyone’s pantry! If your kids aren’t raisin kids, try mini chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Almond Raisin Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Blend the coconut oil, almond butter, and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  • Form the cookies in your hands, flattening them to the shape and size that you want. They do puff a little but not too much – just make them about the size that you want them to be, and then place them on your lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes for small cookies, and 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until golden on the tops. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They firm up as they cool, and hold their texture very well.

Notes

  • If you prefer less nut texture, you can blend up the almonds to more of a fine chop.
  • You can swap the almond butter for any nut or seed butter that you like.
  • If you are egg free, this egg should be easily replaced with a flax egg or egg replacer.
  • These breakfast cookies are good at room temp in an airtight container for 3 days. They freeze up great as well, so leftovers can be put in the freezer.

Apricot Pistachio Breakfast Cookies

One of our newest favorite combinations, this one is such a fun change up! We are able to find shelled pistachios at Costco, as well as apricots, so this cost effective variation is definitely hopping on our rotation!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Apricot Pistachio Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Blend the coconut oil, almond butter, and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  • Form the cookies in your hands, flattening them to the shape and size that you want. They do puff a little but not too much – just make them about the size that you want them to be, and then place them on your lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes for small cookies, and 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until golden on the tops. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They firm up as they cool, and hold their texture very well.

Notes

  • If you prefer less nut texture, you can blend up the pistachios to more of a fine chop.
  • You can swap the almond butter for any nut or seed butter that you like.
  • If you are egg free, this egg should be easily replaced with a flax egg or egg replacer.
  • These breakfast cookies are good at room temp in an airtight container for 3 days. They freeze up great as well, so leftovers can be put in the freezer.

Banana Walnut Breakfast Cookies

Reminiscent of banana walnut bread, only this breakfast cookie version is perfect for on the go! Such fun flavors – bananas are always a kid favorite!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Banana Walnut Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Blend the coconut oil, almond butter, and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  • Form the cookies in your hands, flattening them to the shape and size that you want. They do puff a little but not too much – just make them about the size that you want them to be, and then place them on your lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes for small cookies, and 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until golden on the tops. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They firm up as they cool, and hold their texture very well.

Notes

  • If you prefer less nut texture, you can blend up the walnuts to more of a fine chop.
  • You can swap the almond butter for any nut or seed butter that you like.
  • If you are egg free, this egg should be easily replaced with a flax egg or egg replacer.
  • These breakfast cookies are good at room temp in an airtight container for 3 days. They freeze up great as well, so leftovers can be put in the freezer.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

Oh yes, I went there! This one is for momma…and I suppose the kids can have one too! Treat yourself dear momma! Cacao nibs are little bits of pure chocolate without the sugar added and packed with antioxidants, but don’t fear! The mild sweetness from the cookie and the freeze dried strawberries are in every bite and make those little bits of cocao nib taste just like sweetened chocolate!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Blend the coconut oil, almond butter, and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  • Form the cookies in your hands, flattening them to the shape and size that you want. They do puff a little but not too much – just make them about the size that you want them to be, and then place them on your lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes for small cookies, and 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until golden on the tops. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They firm up as they cool, and hold their texture very well.

Notes

  • You can swap the almond butter for any nut or seed butter that you like.
  • If you are egg free, this egg should be easily replaced with a flax egg or egg replacer.
  • These breakfast cookies are good at room temp in an airtight container for 3 days. They freeze up great as well, so leftovers can be put in the freezer.

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Breakfast Cookies

This breakfast cookie is another that has seeds and dried fruit that are staples in many people’s pantries! I love the fun seed color, but you can blend them up if you wish.

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Blend the coconut oil, almond butter, and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  • Form the cookies in your hands, flattening them to the shape and size that you want. They do puff a little but not too much – just make them about the size that you want them to be, and then place them on your lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes for small cookies, and 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until golden on the tops. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They firm up as they cool, and hold their texture very well.

Notes

  • I leave the pumpkin seeds whole, but you can chop them if you wish!
  • You can swap the almond butter for any nut or seed butter that you like.
  • If you are egg free, this egg should be easily replaced with a flax egg or egg replacer.
  • These breakfast cookies are good at room temp in an airtight container for 3 days. They freeze up great as well, so leftovers can be put in the freezer.

Pecan Fig Breakfast Cookies

And last, but certainly not least…my youngest *very* favorite breakfast cookie with her *very* favorite fruit in the whole wide world…figs! We always have the big bag of dried figs from Costco on hand, so this is an easy one to make for the littlest hands in the house – and you see the look on her very happy little face how happy she was to eat her food photography prop at the end!

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Pecan Fig Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Blend the coconut oil, almond butter, and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  • Form the cookies in your hands, flattening them to the shape and size that you want. They do puff a little but not too much – just make them about the size that you want them to be, and then place them on your lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes for small cookies, and 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until golden on the tops. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely. They firm up as they cool, and hold their texture very well.

Notes

  • If you prefer less nut texture, you can blend up the pecans to more of a fine chop.
  • You can swap the almond butter for any nut or seed butter that you like.
  • If you are egg free, this egg should be easily replaced with a flax egg or egg replacer.
  • These breakfast cookies are good at room temp in an airtight container for 3 days. They freeze up great as well, so leftovers can be put in the freezer.
Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

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