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Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

December 6, 2021

The perfect snowy day breakfast! Cozy hot cocoa waffles made gluten and dairy free with all the yummy hot cocoa flavor!

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

The coziest time of the year!

I’m just about the beachiest beach bum that lives in Michigan. I live for our powdery Lake Michigan shoreline in the warm months of the year, but I truly have Michigander kids. They just love the snow, and will play outside in all kinds of weather. Even though we enjoy a lot of snow here, getting school canceled for snow days are pretty few and far between, so when we do, a cozy breakfast is always on the agenda! We haven’t had any really big snows yet this season, but I thought I’d share a fun snow day breakfast since I think it would also be super fun to serve for Christmas morning too!

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

A new spin on a household staple

Our gluten free protein waffles have become a blog favorite, as they are a staple in our weekend breakfast rotation meal plans, as well as make frequent appearances in my Monday #RGNSchoolLunch posts on Instagram in sandwich form! Last winter, I used that recipe to play around with the idea of a chocolate or “hot cocoa waffle,” and the girls had fun eating them on a few snowy mornings. I picked up this adorable snowflake waffle maker a few weeks ago, and just had to show you how to make this easy, festive breakfast for the kids!

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

The Method :: The eggs

Egg separating is key to any fluffy waffle or pancake. For this recipe, you’ll want to separate your eggs, being very careful not to get any part of the yolk into the bowl that has the egg whites. The egg whites will fluff up the best when there is absolutely zero yolk in the bowl. And that fluffy egg white whip is what magically makes these waffles have the most amazing texture.

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

The Method :: Finishing the Waffle Batter

Once your eggs are separated, and the egg whites are whipped until fluffy, you’ll blend the yolk mixture and combine that with the dry ingredients. After that, fold the fluffy egg whites in, and you’re ready to make waffles! When folding the egg whites into the batter, be very gentle so the egg whites don’t deflate – take your time, and it will eventually be combined!

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

The Method :: Cooking the Waffles

This waffle batter will work on any waffle iron. You don’t need a fancy snowflake waffle iron…but if you have a chance to get one, they sure are cute! It’s a fun way to dress up the waffles in a way that doesn’t take any extra time, or junky ingredients! I have found that for these kind of mini waffle makers, about 1/4 cup of batter is just enough to fill up the iron, and not spill over the edges. My regular waffle maker, this ceramic waffle iron, takes about 1/2 cup of batter for reference. Just cook the waffle batter until the edges are crispy, and transfer to a wire rack while you make the rest.

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

What do they taste like? (How “chocolatey” are these?)

I think these hot cocoa waffles have a mild, kid friendly chocolate taste. If you want a richer chocolate flavor, you can double the cocoa powder – I have done this and love it! When you add more cocoa powder, you tend to need to balance that bitter flavor with more sweetner, so I like to pull it down so that I don’t have to sweeten these much. I would say as is, these are pretty kid friendly. If your kids are used to much sweeter foods, you may want to increase the coconut sugar amount or add a few splashes of maple syrup to the batter mix.

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

Topping ideas!

We love to go with the hot cocoa theme and top these waffles with whipped cream topping. I don’t even put the syrup out on these guys! I do tend to take the short cut of using the So Delicious brand Coconut Whipped Cream, but you can make your own whipped cream so easily. Just pour your coconut cream (or regular cream if you tolerate dairy) into a bowl with a splash of maple syrup and blend until fluffy. Whipped cream is one of my tricks to avoiding the inevitable syrup drowning that ends up happening on waffle or pancake day. I also think that a smear of peanut butter or almond butter tastes amazing. Chocolate and peanut butter – what’s not to love?!

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

Freezer friendly?

Absolutely! I have been freezing our original waffle recipe for years, and they are one of my favorite make ahead meals. This hot cocoa spin on the waffle recipe freezes just as well, so go ahead and make them up ahead of time for that holiday brunch, or for the unexpected snow day you might get this February!

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

Let’s talk waffle irons!

I just think the snowflake is so adorable on the snowflake waffle maker, and the size of these mini waffles are so great for little hands. They make really good leftover sandwich breads too! I do have a ceramic waffle iron that is regular sized as well if you are looking for more that size. I have been using that waffle iron for 8 years and it still works great. I like to use this avocado oil spray for the first batch of batter that goes in – I get this at Costco.

Hot Cocoa Waffles :: Gluten Free and Dairy Free!

Gluten Free Hot Cocoa Waffles

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Separate the eggs into 2 small mixing bowls, being careful to not have any little bit of yolk in the egg whites. If there is anything else in the bowl with the whites, they will not whip fluffy properly. To the egg yolks, add the coconut milk, olive oil, and vanilla extract.
  • Blend the egg whites until fluffy, and then blend the egg yolk mixture until smooth.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients (the dry ingredients) into medium mixing bowl. Add the egg yolk mixture to the dry ingredients, and blend until combined.
  • Gently fold the fluffy, whipped egg whites into the blended batter until just combined – if you over fold/stir, the fluffy egg whites will deflate.
  • Spray your waffle iron with avocado oil spray, and cook according to your waffle iron’s directions. If you are using the “Dash” Mini Snowflake Waffle Iron as pictured above, I have found that about ¼ cup of the batter works perfectly. If you are using a waffle iron like my regularly used, ceramic waffle iron, you’ll use ½ cup of the batter.
  • We like to top our hot cocoa waffles with the So Delicious brand Coconut Whip! There is a coconut whipped topping in a can at Aldi and Trader Joe’s as well. Or you can make your own by whipping coconut cream with maple syrup until fluffy!

Notes

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

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Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

November 29, 2021

You can make the Wonderful® brand chili roasted pistachios right in your own home with a super easy and fast prep!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

Picture this…

I know my fellow Costco friends are going to hear me on this one…You pick up a fun new Costco find. Something you’ve never had before, but looks intriguing. You bring it home, get completely and utterly hooked on it, only to find that it is nowhere to be seen the next time you go to Costco. They are notorious for this! They’ll have seasonal items that come and go, but when you tease us with a cool snack that we end up falling in love with, don’t take that away!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

An opportunity to create

Earlier this fall, I grabbed the big bag of Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios at Costco. I have seen them in the regular grocery store before, but there is no way I was going to pay what they were asking! The price at Costco was half of the grocery store price and double the size bag, so I went for it. My husband and I were completely hooked. I’d grab a small handful here or there when I needed a quick protein snack, and they really hit the spot! I couldn’t wait to go back the following month to get another bag, because, who knows how long this stuff will be around, right?! Exactly. It wasn’t there, and I haven’t seen it since. A one time wonder, and I was so disappointed. A good friend of mine reminded me this might be a good opportunity to create, and I decided I was missing them enough to get into the kitchen and try my hand at Chili Roasted Pistachios!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

The Method :: The Chili Seasoning Blend

I took a peek at the back of the chili roasted pistachios I had at home. It took about 4 batches to get it just right, but these pistachios really do taste like the store bought version! The great part about making them at home is that you can adjust the heat to your preference. Want the heat a little more tame? Pull down the amount of chipotle powder, or completely omit it. That is how I make them for my younger 2 girls that don’t like spicy heat. Want to take it up a few notches? Add more chipotle, or even a few pinches of cayenne to bump it up. Simply whisk the seasonings in a small bowl and you’re ready to dress up your pistachios!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

The Method :: Roasting the Pistachios

My favorite part about making these chili roasted pistachios at home is that you get to use a healthier fat than the store bought version. I used coconut oil, but you can use butter, olive oil, or avocado oil too. Simply toss the shelled pistachios with the melted coconut oil and the seasoning blend from above and you’re ready to roast!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

Will my kids be able to tolerate the heat?

It really depends on your kids. The best part of making your own seasoning blend is that you control the heat! All of the really spicy heat lies in the chipotle chili powder. If you leave that out, you’ll have a sweet, smoky flavor left to the chili pistachios – very mild and almost no heat. This is how my younger 2 girls like them. My oldest has grown an affinity for spicy food, and does enjoy the original version, so if you have kids that like to spice it up, give it a try! What a fun way to change up a lunchbox trail mix snack!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

Can I use a mix of nuts?

Absolutely! I think this is going to make a fantastic holiday gift in a jar with a pretty ribbon, or a hostess gift for any parties you attend this year! Use the same amount of nuts to seasoning and oil ratio and you can double up if you want as well. I’m partial to walnuts, and really think that a pistachio, walnut, and pecan blend would be perfect for the holidays!

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Stir the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and spread out evenly on an unlined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. The pistachios will crisp up more as they cool. Use an airtight container to store your chili pistachios in the pantry.

Notes

  • The heat level on these pistachios is really all in the chipotle chili powder. If you want to make these for the kids, and they don’t love heat, just leave that out and there will be a mild smoky sweetness that the kids will enjoy. I do have one kiddo that enjoys a really spicy heat and she loves it made the original way. Just make 2 batches or 2 halved batches if you want to have some mild ones for the kids and spicy ones for you.
  • The Wonderful Spicy Pistachios brand I believe has even more spice than this recipe. If you want that level of heat, add a pinch or so of cayenne!
Copycat Wonderful® Chili Roasted Pistachios

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Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended, Screen-Free Gift Ideas for Every Tween & Teen!

November 27, 2021

Super Fun, Opened Ended, Screen-Free Gift Ideas for Every Tween & Teen!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!

Raising Generation Nourished…

It’s more than just the food, though that is typically the focus around here! Today, I thought I’d take a little step aside from the recipes, and focus on another aspect of raising a nourished generation. A generation that is creative, focused, and content. A generation that has just so much good ahead of them. Their future is so bright.

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!

Contented kids

Not long ago I received a private message on my Instagram asking how I’ve raised kids that are so “content.” She mentioned it always felt like my kids found joy in the simplest of things – digging in the sand at the beach, stirring a pot of soup, taking a hike…simple childhood. She was curious how a 12 year old could be happy with such simplicity. We aren’t a completely screen free home – we definitely enjoy a good movie! And my kids have their favorite shows. We even play the occasional educational computer game. But over 12 years into this thing, I do think that part of my kids’ joy in simple childhood play has to do with limited screens. They aren’t the enemy, but open-ended play is vital to kids that don’t need to be constantly entertained with a screen. Contented kids that are ok with being “bored” because those are always the moments where creativity shines the brightest. I have seen it with my own eyes, and I would go back and do it all over again to see that in my kids.

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!

You do you momma!

I am most definitely not here to mom shame. Every household has a different rhythm, and every child has different needs. If you have video games in the house, and that is working for you, great! If your kids have tablets, and that is working in your home – totally fine! What I am here to do, is give you some ideas for under the Christmas tree that my upper elementary/tween/middle school aged kids have enjoyed and are enjoying right now, that I really think any kid will have fun with, whether they are into screens or not. I hope to give you some ideas to put something different under the tree next to the other items.

Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended, Screen-Free Gift Ideas for Every Tween & Teen!

Tweens & Middle School ages

Years back I created a Montessori Inspired gift guide for younger children when my kids were little, and I thought it was time to do an update! My older two are 12 and 10 and this list was so fun to put together with them. They helped me pick out their favorite activities in our home now, and we messaged with friends of both boys and girls of this age group to find out what their favorite screen-free activities were too. I hope you find something fun to put under the tree for the kids this year that will stimulate the child that is within them, foster creativity, and give them purpose!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!

STEM/Science/Building

The number one thing my children along with every momma that I texted said for this age group was…LEGOS! Every last one of them. My 12 year old still asks for Legos every holiday and birthday, and she pulls them out all the time. This age is literally built for STEM mindset, and it is why so many schools focus on innovation days, science fairs, and STEM clubs from 4th grade through middle school. There are so many to list – I would love to hear your tween and teens favorite STEM items to add to this list – please comment below if you do!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!
The solar robots became a favorite sometimes even over Legos over the last year (age 12)

Crafts

Our crafting collection started around my oldest’s 6 year old year, and has become such a staple inside activity in our home over the years. Those “I’m bored” moments almost always land in the Rainbow Loom box, Perler bead bin, or with a sketch pad and markers.

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!
Rainbow Loom bracelets she made to sell!
Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!
All the perler beads, all the time!

Board Games & Puzzles

This is definitely not an inclusive list! Please comment below with other favorite board games – we are always looking to add to our collection too!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!

Outdoors/Movement

No matter the weather where you live, fresh air is an important part of childhood. It will create habits that will last into adulthood, and that, my friends is where raising a nourished generation starts. I would love to know what your tweens and teens like to do outside so I can add to the list for our readers! Use the comment box below!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!

Safe Skin Care/Self Care

I started putting little self care things in the girls’ stockings starting pretty young. A new bar of soap or a fun nail polish to start, and as they are getting older it is getting even more fun. You can do the teen girl stuff in a safe, non-toxic way so easily these days too! Use the EWG Skin Deep website to check ingredient safety, but for the most part, these are the brands we love and use in our house.

Books

This was the hardest list to tailor down when I asked the girls’ their favorites. I do have a household of very big readers, and I am here to tell you I really do think it is because when I get the “I’m bored” look, if they aren’t pulling a craft out, they are pulling out a book because we don’t have tablets around. I will often say on a rainy day “go get sucked into a book” and they haul up in a beanbag for hours! Here are some of our favorites both in our home and ones the girls have had to read in school at the upper elementary and middle school ages so far. Please let me know what your tweens are reading! I have one adventure lover that needs action and Harry Potter-like books, and another that prefers more imagination, and less thriller like books!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!
Fun lights to make a cozy reading nook is a great gift idea too!

Cooking & Baking

Of course this is near and dear to my heart, but I literally haven’t met a tween that doesn’t like to bake or do something in the kitchen. It is part science/STEM, part mess, and right up their alley! I’d love to know what your tween and teens are making in the kitchen and what tools they love the most that would make great gifts! Please comment below!

Screen Free Tween & Middle School Gift Guide! :: Super Fun, Opened Ended Ideas for Every Kid!
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Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

November 21, 2021

These buttery scones have a special cranberry orange twist the whole family will love!

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

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.

Holiday season transitions!

And are we ever ready for them! Right around Thanksgiving I get the urge to totally nest in the house and just hibernate for a month! We certainly get outside for as much fresh air as we can, but we also cozy up inside, and enjoy all the traditions of the holidays that we can. Last year we played around with a new cranberry scone recipe for our Christmas brunch, and I just had to share it with you all at the beginning of the holiday season so that you can enjoy it for Thanksgiving day breakfast and also for all of those Christmas brunches!

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

A classic combination stirred into our household favorite scone recipe

A couple years back, I was able to perfect a fun scone recipe that I lovingly called our FunFetti Birthday scones. Those scones have become quite the household birthday request, and that fall I dressed the scones up for Halloween making a pumpkin scone! This summer, I also used some of our freshly picked summer berries to make a mixed berry scone that was just so much fun. I’m one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of people, and since we love the base scone recipe so much, I decided to make our scones a bit more festive last Christmas brunch with a classic holiday combination – cranberry orange!

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

The Method :: The Orange “Buttermilk” Mixture (The Wet Ingredients)

You’ll start your scone recipe by whisking up the wet ingredients. Buttermilk has a special way of magically making scones soft but still crispy on the outside, as well as giving them the “fluff” they need without using eggs. We don’t keep milk around here much, so I just make my own “buttermilk” using coconut milk, and it is so easy. Just put a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a liquid measuring cup, and pour in the coconut milk until you hit the 3/4 cup mark for this recipe. Then you’ll add the juice from an orange or clementine until you hit the 1 cup mark (using 1/4 cup of juice). Whisk this with the vanilla and that is your orange infused buttermilk to fancy up these scones! **Just be sure that you zest your orange or clementines before you juice them! You’ll need the zest later!

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
(Stir up the wet ingredients)

The Method :: The Dry Ingredients & Cutting the Butter In

Set your liquid ingredients aside and whisk the dry ingredients next, including the orange zest. Then comes the butter part! Keep the butter in the fridge until you are ready to do this step so that it stays cold. Cut the butter into cubes, and use your pastry cutter or hands to incorporate the fat into the flour. It will not get wet yet – you’ll just see pieces of butter chunks through the flour. You’ll notice in the next few pictures, including after rolling the scone dough out that you can see little piece of butter – that is ok!

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
(Whisk the dry ingredients)
Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
(Cut the butter in)

The Method :: Finishing the Scone Dough & Rolling it Out

Once you cut the butter into the flour, you’ll add the liquid ingredients you stirred up earlier. You’ll get a shaggy dough that you can start with your rubber scraper, and then finish with your hands by kneading. Flour your counter, and form a disk with the dough. You can roll your scone dough out to 1-2 inches high depending on how high you want your scones to be. Use your hands to form around the outside to make a circle.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
(Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine)
Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
(Knead, and then roll out the scone dough)

The Method :: Cutting the Scone Pieces

I like to use a pizza wheel to get the pieces evenly cut, but a knife works just fine here too. I do think a knife might make cutting through the dried cranberries a little tricky and might pull some of them out of position – the pizza cutter rolls right through. Place your scones onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and you are ready to bake.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
(Cut the scones)

The Method :: Baking the Scones

Once you cut your scones, you have a couple options. You can freeze the scone dough here if you are making this in advance. This is the perfect task to get done ahead of time before a holiday brunch or party! Or you can bake them right then! Just a half hour in the oven – keep an eye on them around 20 minutes in case our ovens run differently. You want a golden crust on the outside.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

The Method :: The Orange Glaze

Let the cranberry orange scones cool completely before drizzling the glaze. That way it won’t melt into the scones, and instead it will create a fun, hardened glaze drizzle on the top. Whisk the juice from the orange and the powdered sugar to get the consistency you want, and then drizzle. It will take about 20 minutes for the glaze to harden.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones
Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

Can I make these without butter?

Yes my friends! While butter is obviously incredible (!!), I do know that some friends can’t have the dairy. I have used cold palm shortening before without any issues. I do like to add a pinch more of salt to the dry ingredients when I use the palm shortening since I usually use salted butter for my scones.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

Can I use fresh cranberries?

Absolutely! I use dried cranberries because fresh are quite a bit more tart, and the base scone recipe doesn’t have a lot of “sweet” to it. I think if you plan to use fresh cranberries, you might want to bump the sugar up a little in the dough, but if you really enjoy that tart punch, go for it!

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

Tips for serving at a Christmas Brunch & Freezing Instructions

Hosting a holiday brunch can feel like a lot of steps. But with something like a scone, you really can make a lot ahead of time, and knock one recipe off the list early! The scone dough can be frozen ahead of time. Like weeks in advance even! Just make the recipe to the point where you cut the scones out, and freeze flat on a sheet tray. Then take the frozen triangles and pop them into a freezer bag until you need them. You also can bake the scones and freeze them that way – they do thaw really nicely and still taste good. If you plan to make the scones and not freeze them, you can store them up to 2 days before serving by storing in an air tight container.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Scones

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or coconut buttermilk to make 3/4 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
  • 1/4 cup juice from orange or clementine be sure you zest first before juicing to use the zest for a later step
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 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 tbsp zest from an orange or clementines this is the zest from 1/2 orange or 2 clementines
  • 8 oz cold butter 2 sticks, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tsp juice from an orange or clementine

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Make your buttermilk in a liquid measuring cup first if you don’t have store-bought buttermilk. To the butter milk add 1/4 cup juice from an orange, and the vanilla, and stir to combine. Set this aside for later.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, cane sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and orange 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.
  • Stir the dried cranberries into the flour/butter mixture, and then pour the buttermilk/orange/vanilla mixture into the flour/butter/cranberry mixture. Use a rubber scraper to mix. 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 1-2 inches 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 orange 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

  • 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 Cranberry Orange Scones

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Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

November 15, 2021

Give those sweet bell peppers a roast with creamy kid friendly sweet potatoes and carrots for a super smooth, velvety blended soup that the kids will ask for every time!

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: 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.

First snowfall of the season, and a new kid favorite soup to warm up with!

The first snow of the season is quite possibly my kids’ most favorite day of the year. My little northern crew lives for fresh snow, and this weekend we got our first dusting, despite the fall trees not quite agreeing with the timing! We were visiting our new home, and the girls just had to make a snowman for the construction crew to enjoy this week. And with the plummeting temperatures around here, I hopped in the kitchen to play around with a new soup to the blog for you!

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

Weekly soup routine

During the cooler months of the year, I like to get a vegetable soup of some sort made every Sunday. Easy favorites like creamy broccoli soup (this one is in my cookbook, The Little Lunchbox Cookbook – it’s just like Panera!), this blended winter veggie soup done in the IP, and Copycat Campbell’s Veggie Soup are among some of our staples. Not only does this help me with an easy lunch for Sunday afternoons that I don’t have to think about, it also gives me soup to pull from for the week to fill up lunchbox thermoses…and fill up my soup mug during the week to get more healing bone broth in.

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

The Veggie Line-Up!

Sweet bell peppers may be the “star” of the show in this soup, but the real “secret weapon” lies in the sweet, creamy vegetables saddling up next to those peppers! Sweet potatoes and carrots are on most kids’ favorite veggie lists, and when you roast them, they get even sweeter. This veggie line-up also happens to be loaded with vitamins and minerals that the whole family needs to stay healthy and focused all winter long.

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Roasting the Veggies

To get the most kid friendly soup flavor for this soup, simply toss the veggies on a sheet tray with some olive oil and little bit of smoky paprika, salt, and pepper, and roast away. You’ll have the soup more than halfway done at this point, and completely hands free while it all roasts!

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Blending the Soup

Once the vegetables are done roasting, I dare you to snitch a little bite! You’ll have to hold yourself back from eating the whole sheet tray at this point, but I promise it will be worth the wait to quickly blend the soup up! Scoop the roasted vegetables into your blender, pour in some bone broth, and buzz away. I like to use the soup setting on my high powered blender for optimal smooth texture. Use whatever you have though! I didn’t always have one of these, and have made this soup using a regular blender, and an immersion blender works too.

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!
Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

The Method :: Finishing the Soup

After you blend the soup, pour it into a soup pan and stir in the coconut milk. You’ll want to warm the soup through from here, and season with salt and pepper to your taste once it has simmer a bit. If you like your soup to have a more “brothy” texture, add another cup of bone broth as well. You can ladle your roasted sweet bell pepper soup and finish with a swirl of coconut yogurt or olive oil too!

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

Freezer friendly?

Absolutely! That is the beauty of soups like this. That whole “cook once, eat twice” deal works well for blended soups, and this one is not any differently. Let your soup cool completely, and store in these freezer safe BPA free quart containers, or in these incredible BPA free silicone soup dividers – you can freeze in 1/2 cup portions, 1 cup portions, or 2 cup portions!

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers quartered and seeds scooped out (you can use a combo of those colors)
  • 1 small/medium sweet potato cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 2 medium carrots peeled, cut into ½ inch strips
  • 2 small onions halved and then sliced into strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled (leave whole)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2-3 cups bone broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. You’ll want to use a large, unlined baking sheet for the roasting.
  • On a large sheet pan, toss the bell peppers, sweet potato, carrots, onions, and garlic with the olive oil, smoked paprika, sea salt, thyme, and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Scoop the roasted veggies into a blender (high powdered blender, if possible, for optimal smooth texture), add 2 cups of bone broth, and blend until smooth. I use the “Soup” blending setting on my Blendtec pictured in this post.
  • Pour the blended soup into a soup pot, add the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper to your preference. You can add more bone broth if you want a thinner soup.
  • Garnish with swirls of coconut yogurt and/or olive oil if you wish.
Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Soup :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

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Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

November 10, 2021

Use your Instant Pot or slow cooker to get the most tender and flavorful beef stroganoff! This one is veggie loaded for added nutrients and you’ll never know those extra veggies are there!

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut 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.

SOLD!

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had the chance to write for you, and it’s for good reason! In a whirlwind month, our house was up for sale, sold, and we moved into a temporary rental – whew! We’ll be in our permanent new place by late January (hopefully!), and we are excitedly anticipating that! For now, we are settling into our temporary space, and I wanted to show you how I’ve been cooking during this really busy season, utilizing my Instant Pot!

Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Beef Stroganoff :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

A sea of boxes…

We’ve been living amongst boxes for the last month, while packing up our home for the last 11 years, as well as while settling into this new space, and for a while there, I really did rely on my Instant Pot for a lot! My goal was to keep things simple, but nourishing as our bodies processed all the new changes, both exciting and sad. Moving really is really a very bittersweet season of life! Simple, one pot and one skillet meals like chili, skillet stuffed peppers, and one pan chicken & pasta have been my saving grace during this time. I found a bag of frozen stew meat while I was moving our deep freezer to our temporary home, and decided that beef stroganoff was due on the menu!

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

To Instant Pot or not to Instant Pot…

I have had really good luck with stew meat in the Instant Pot. Similar to how a long, Dutch oven braise, or all day slow cooker method of cooking stew, pressure cooking stew meat makes this typically tough cut of meat, very, very tender. And truthfully, as much as I adore slow, oven cooking all day, during seasons like moving your family to a new space, a faster, Instant Pot pressure cook is really the ticket to a quicker, more convenient, but still delicious meal outcome. But have no fear! If you are not a part of the Instant Pot crew just yet, I have left slow cooker instructions in the “Notes” section of this post, just for you!

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

Beef Stroganoff…veggie loaded?!

I know, I know…definitely not what we all grew up eating, but remember the season I’m in right now? Getting literally the entire meal, including the veggies for the meal, into the same pot all at once is totally my jam right now. No extra clean up, just a little extra chopping time. You can leave the veg out and serve a side salad if you wish, but I am really willing to bet you’ll never know the veggies are there. I purposely picked veggies that get super sweet and soft with sautéing, and they really blend right into the sauce once it’s all cooked. All the benefits are there, and no change to that delicious, rich, stroganoff sauce!

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

The Method :: The Veggies

It’s going to feel like a lot, but all these veggies really cook, down – promise! And you’ll be left with fiber rich, mineral loaded veggies blending right into your stroganoff meal! Simply chop the veggies super small – I used a shredder for the carrots even. You could pulse in your food processor to save on time if you wish (secretly, chopping is very cathartic for me, so during this time of change and unknowns, I find therapy in it!). You’ll use the “Saute” feature on your Instant Pot to melt some coconut oil to cook in, and saute your veggies up to 10 minutes. The secret to the sweet veggie flavor, and blending the veggies into the sauce is this saute step – do not skip it!

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!
Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

The Method :: Pressure Cooking the Stroganoff

Once the veggies are soft, sweet, and fragrant, you’ll add the flour to coat the veg – this will help create the sauce in the end. A little goes a long way, but you can adjust the amount to your sauce thickness preferences. From there, it’s just adding in the rest of the ingredients except the pasta and yogurt, and pressure cooking away. It goes so fast, and the pressure cooking method leaves the meat so tender. You will add the pasta after the meat has pressure cooked since it does not need a lot of cook time. Just a few minutes to pressure cook the noodles in and you’re done! Stir the yogurt in (you really can leave this out if you don’t have access or can’t have it!), and season to your taste.

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

Allergen considerations

My biggest goal in creating this stroganoff, besides getting all the veggies in, was to make it dairy free. Traditional stroganoff finishes with sour cream, and I don’t usually have that around since we are mostly dairy free. We also have gluten free covered using gluten free pasta, and since most stroganoff uses egg noodles, I also covered egg free in using a still curly spiralized rice pasta that the kids will love! If you are grain free, Jovial has cassava flour pasta now that you can use, or you can serve the stroganoff and sauce over a baked potato.

Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

Instant Pot Veggie Loaded Beef Stroganoff :: Gluten Free & Dairy Free!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 6-8 ounces white mushrooms sliced
  • 1 heaping cup thinly sliced cabbage about ¼ of a small head of cabbage
  • 1 heaping cup shredded carrot 1 medium carrot
  • 1 heaping cup chopped cauliflower about ¼ of a head of cauliflower
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp Namaste GF Flour Blend most GF flour blends should work here
  • ¼ cup red wine of choice
  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds grassfed stew meat
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 3 cups beef bone broth You can also make beef broth in the slow cooker. Chicken bone broth does work if that is what you have.
  • 8 ounces GF pasta I used the Jovial GF Spiral Pasta
  • ½ cup plain coconut yogurt to your preference
  • Chopped parsley to garnish

Instructions

  • Turn the Instant Pot on to “Saute” and add the coconut oil to warm. Once the Instant Pot is nice and hot, and the oil warmed, add the onion, mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, and thyme, with a big pinch of sea salt. Saute for 7-10 minutes until fragrant and golden.
  • Add the garlic and GF flour, stir to combine and coat the veggies, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the wine, stir to combine, stir off any bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook the wine for 1-2 minutes.
  • Turn the “Saute” feature off. Season your beef stew meat with sea salt and pepper, and add to the Instant Pot. Pour in the coconut aminos and beef broth, and stir everything to combine.
  • Put the lid on the Instant Pot and seal the valve. Press “Manual” on the Instant Pot, and bring the time down to 15 minutes. The Instant Pot will take around 5 or so minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 15 minutes of pressure cooking time.
  • Once the Instant Pot has pressure cooked for the 15 minutes, release the valve right away. Open the lid, stir in the pasta, and put the lid back on. Seal the valve, press “Manual,” and bring the time down to 3 minutes. This will cook the pasta to al dente.
  • Once the 3 minutes of pressure cooking is done, release the valve right away, open the lid, and stir in the coconut yogurt, and season with salt and pepper to your taste. You can garnish with chopped parsley if you like too.

Notes

  • Slow Cooker tips! YES! You can make this in your slow cooker if you don’t have an Instant Pot! Every ingredient is the same EXCEPT you will be halving the bone broth (use 1 ½ cups) since you will need to cook your pasta separately. Saute your veggies in a skillet to give them more flavor, just like the saute in step 1 above. Put everything but the pasta and yogurt into the slow cooker, stir to combine, and cook on high low for 8-10 hours. Once the stroganoff has slow cooked for 8-10 hours, stir in the yogurt and cooked pasta, and taste for seasoning to your preference.
  • I get the So Delicious brand of plain coconut yogurt in 32 ounce tubs at our local grocer. You can also make coconut yogurt!
  • I love adding finely chopped baby spinach to the Instant Pot after the stroganoff has cooked – it will wilt into the hot stroganoff and give another layer of veggie and color!
  • I tend to pepper my stroganoff per bowl – it doesn’t taste like stroganoff to me without a good amount of pepper, but some kids might be sensitive to that. I set the pepper grinder at the table and the kids can do it to their preference.
Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff :: Veggie Loaded, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, & Nut Free!

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Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

October 12, 2021

Give your chicken noodle soup a flavor upgrade using roasted pumpkin to create a creamy and sweet kid friendly broth!

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle 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.

Autumn changes and family transitions!

There are just “barely there” hints of the leaves changing colors around these parts in the last few weeks, and as we watch the autumn transition in Michigan, our family is moving into new transitions as well! We aren’t leaving our sweet little beachy town that we love so dearly, but we are moving into a new home, and while the build finishes in the next couple of months we will be making all of the transitions that come along with moving a family of five, while trying to keep a sense of normalcy for the kids.

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

Comfort food

It is absolutely a thing, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with easing the stress of temporary life happenings with a bowl of something familiar and comforting. One of my kiddos was having a particularly hard time with the thought of leaving her bedroom for someone else, and after we talked it through, and worked through all the life skills one little 10 year old can muster, we talked about what we could possibly move on with that evening and have for dinner. Her choice was chicken noodle soup, and that just made my real food momma heart burst. I want my kids to think of the food from home when they think of comfort, and this just hits that mark for me!

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

Classic chicken noodle with a comforting, creamy fall twist!

I just happened to notice the little pie pumpkin still sitting on my counter that needed to be used up, and decided to give it a quick roast to stir into the broth of my chicken noodle soup. Sure, a can of pumpkin would do the trick, but filling the house with that roasted pumpkin flavor after a day of hard emotions was exactly what my family needed. There is also nothing like the depth, sweetness, and creamy texture that you get from putting a roasted pumpkin puree into a soup broth. It is one of my tricks to incredible soup broth in 3 soups here on the blog – the Beef & Kale Soup, Smokey Sweet Pumpkin Corn Chowder, and also the Autumn Harvest Chicken Stew, and I just knew it would take this chicken noodle soup to the next level!

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

The Method :: Roasting the pumpkin

There is really nothing easier. And pumpkins are easier to cut than a thick butternut squash – promise! Just cut the pumpkin in half, and butter the flesh. Sprinkle the pumpkin flesh with salt and pepper and also a bit of cinnamon. YES, cinnamon in a chicken noodle soup! There is just the slightest hint of warm sweetness that will knock your socks off when it simmers with the sage once it’s in the broth. It’s truly everything about fall that we love!

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

The Method :: The pumpkin puree

While your pumpkin roasts, you’ll make the base of the soup. It is a very classic chicken noodle soup base with a slight twist because the sage brings the comfort level up about 10 notches! After you pour the pasta into the broth to cook, you’ll scoop your pumpkin flesh into a blender and to puree until smooth. Give the kids a taste if they have never tasted roasted pumpkin before – be warned you may not end up with much left for the soup though! It is one of my girls very favorite side dishes all fall and winter long!

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

Finishing the soup off

Once you’ve blended your cinnamon roasted pumpkin, you’ll add the puree to the soup broth while the pasta finishes cooking. The squash will melt right in, giving a sweet creaminess to the broth. But we’re not done there! Once the pasta is cooked, and the heat is off, a generous splash of creamy coconut milk adds to the decadency of this soup, and you can also wilt in some finely chopped spinach. The spinach leaves zero flavor, but adds pretty color and a pop of nutrients too!

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

A few tips for prepping ahead for faster soup making

From start to finish, this soup may not be the most weeknight friendly in prep considering the roasting time for the pumpkin, BUT you CAN do a couple of things to prep ahead before the week so that you CAN make this soup on a weeknight. Firstly, the pumpkin can be roasted and pureed days in advance. Pop it into the oven on the weekend when you are at home, and stash it away in the fridge for later in the week. The chicken can also be a prep ahead item. If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can brown up chicken breast cubes right in the soup pot before you make the soup, or make it days ahead of time. There are multiple ways to cook a whole chicken every week in order to have leftover chicken for weekly meals! If you aren’t in to a Sunday dinner roasted chicken, you can cook a whole chicken in your slow cooker, or cook your whole chicken in your Instant Pot!

If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can brown up chicken breast cubes right in the soup pot before you make the soup. Remove the browned chicken and start the soup from there. There are multiple ways to cook a whole chicken every week in order to have leftover chicken for weekly meals! If you aren't in to a Sunday dinner roasted chicken, you can cook a whole chicken in your slow cooker, or cook your whole chicken in your Instant Pot!

A note about our favorite fall squashes!

Dear momma, squashes are not just “baby food!” If you have veggie hesitant kids, greens are not the easiest place to start in my humble opinion! Squash not only tastes amazing, they are absolutely loaded with minerals. These kids need real, and substantial fuel. Squash will replenish electrolytes, fill them up with slow burning carbohydrate fiber, and open their palates to the idea of veggies tasting good. Give the kids a spoonful of that roasted squash before you add it to the soup – I really think you are going to see how a buttery cinnamon roasted pumpkin can quickly become a veggie favorite for your crew.

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter divided (you can use ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil if you are dairy free)
  • 1 small/medium pie pumpkin halved and seeds scooped out
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 large carrot diced
  • 1 large celery stalk diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp ground sage
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken I use leftovers from our weekly roasted chicken
  • 2 quarts bone broth
  • 2 cups dry pasta of choice I use the GF Jovial Rice Spirals
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 big handful of baby spinach finely chopped
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Place your halved pumpkin flesh side up in a baking dish. Rub 1 tablespoon of butter over the flesh and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and some cinnamon. Roast the pumpkin at 425 degrees for 50 minutes, until the flesh is fork tender and fragrant. While the pumpkin roasts, you can prepare the rest of the soup.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large soup pot over medium high heat, and add the onion, carrot, and celery with a pinch of sea salt. Cook the veggies over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the veggies are soft and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, thyme, and sage to the soup pot, stir to combine, and cook for a minute or two.
  • Add the cubed chicken and bone broth, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, and reduce to a simmer to cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta starts cooking, you can prepare the pumpkin to add to the broth.
  • Scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the shell and into your food processor or blender. Blend the pumpkin until smooth. Add the pumpkin puree to the soup pot where the pasta is cooking and stir to combine.
  • When the pasta is cooked to al dente, turn the heat off, add the coconut milk and chopped spinach, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Notes

  • If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can brown up chicken breast cubes right in the soup pot before you make the soup. Remove the browned chicken and start the soup from there.
  • There are multiple ways to cook a whole chicken every week in order to have leftover chicken for weekly meals! If you aren’t in to a Sunday dinner roasted chicken, you can cook a whole chicken in your slow cooker, or cook your whole chicken in your Instant Pot!
  • You can use regular milk or cream in place of the coconut milk if you are not dairy free.
  • You can use canned pumpkin if you wish – about 1 cup of puree. The roasted flavor from cooking a pumpkin is super worth it in the flavor though just fyi!
  • Save your pumpkin seeds to roast! I like to soak them in sea salt and water, toss with avocado oil, sea salt, and cinnamon on a sheet tray, and then cook at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.
Roasted Pumpkin Chicken Noodle Soup

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Stuffed Butterkin Squash

September 21, 2021

A cross between a butternut squash and pumpkin, this little stuffed butterkin squash is sure to be a kid favorite!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

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

Fall hikes and meal routines

We’re getting into the season of layers here in Michigan! We start out in hoodies and by the end of the hike the kids have peeled off all the layers to enjoy the golden warmth of the fall sun! We have a Sunday routine of hiking every weekend, and in the fall that routine also includes a roasted chicken for Sunday dinner. One of my favorite things to do with the leftover chicken is make an easy filling for a stuffed squash, and this week, we make it very weekday friendly – meaning super simple! So I thought you might like to see how to do it!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

Stuffed squash basics!

While a stuffed squash looks fancy, I promise you this is a busy mom’s dream dinner. Comforting and satisfying without the fuss and time of usual comfort dinners, makes for the perfect weekday meal. Really, a stuffed squash is just a roasted squash filled with a protein/veggie stir fry, and topped with cheese or crispy topping. Its dinner all in one, hitting all of the protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs for growing kids. Win-win! You can truly use any squash, and once you try it, you’ll see why there are 3 other stuffed squash recipes on my blog, and one in my cookbook, Nourished Beginnings!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

Ok, sounds good! But what in the world is a butterkin squash?!

We discovered these cutie little squashes a couple years ago, and it has become a family favorite. The butterkin squash is a cross-breed of butternut squash, and pumpkin – get it? Butter-kin! In my taste palate opinion, while it has more of the shape of a pumpkin, it tastes more like a butternut squash – buttery smooth, and sweet. It has a really kid-friendly texture and honey sweet taste. If you don’t have access to a butterkin squash, you can make this stuffed squash with a butternut squash, pumpkin, or acorn squash – all equally delicious!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

The Method :: Roasting the butterkin squash

I promise the cutting part is not intimidating, so long as you have a proper knife! I will also promise you that while it is much faster to just plop any squash in the Instant Pot to pressure cook away, the flavor and texture that you will get from properly roasting a squash is second to none – the kids are going to inhale this! Using a sharp knife, slice around the width of the butterkin squash, so that you have the top and bottom, equal transverse halves. Scoop the seeds out, and put them into an oven safe baking dish or cast iron skillet. You can have the kids spread the butter all over the flesh of the squash, and then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. You’ll roast the squash for 50 minutes, which gives you plenty of time to make the filling – in fact you will probably have time to clean up and do other things as well!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

The Method :: The stuffed squash filling

The sky is the limit here! This week called for the simplest of the simple. I just needed basic. Some weeks I like to get fancy with more veggie variety, but I just didn’t have it in me this week, and truthfully those kind of dinners are sometimes the best. I had a lot of spinach to use up, and mushrooms just jive so well with that, so I went with it. Use whatever you have in your veggie bin – this filling is a great way to use up leftover veggies from the week and clear the fridge out. You’ll cook the veggies in butter until fragrant and golden, and then add the chicken, garlic, and spinach. This filling really only takes 15 minutes to cook, and it can be done ahead of time too! I like to use a few splashes of broth for flavor and moisture since leftover chicken can be dry. The result of the broth cooked down with the mushrooms, onions, and garlic leaves a very flavorful filling for your sweet squash!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash
Stuffed Butterkin Squash

The Method :: Stuffing the squash, and finishing the topping

Once your filling is cooked, and the squash is done roasting, all you have to do is load up the squash with the filling – don’t be shy! Pack it in! And then you can sprinkle the topping on. Again, on this day I needed simple. I used the Ian’s Gluten Free Panko Breadcrumbs mixed with freshly grated parm, and called it good. You can do all cheese if you want, or there are some notes in the recipe card for a topping idea that is both grain and dairy free if you need that. Once you sprinkle your topping, get it up under your oven broiler for a few minutes, and you’re ready to eat!

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

Leftovers?!

If there happens to be any leftovers (a rarity in my house these days!), they truly make *THE* best breakfast the next day topped with a fried egg. Seriously heaven. It could also make a great leftover lunch too. If you think far enough ahead, you could technically roast off 2 full squashes and double the filling if you want more leftover (or have a bigger family!)

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

Stuffed Butterkin Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butterkin squash cut in half across the width, seeds scooped out
  • 2 tbsp butter divided
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2-3 cups leftover cooked chicken shredded or finely chopped (you could also brown up ½ pound of chicken beforehand)
  • 3-4 cups baby spinach or baby kale chopped small
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 2-4 tbsp bone broth stock, or water for cooking in
  • ¼ cup GF Panko bread crumbs see notes below for grain free option
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese see Notes below for dairy free option
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Place the halved butterkin squashes flesh side up in a baking dish, and spread 1 tbsp of butter over the flesh of the squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast at 425 degrees for 50 minutes. While the squash roasts, you can make the filling.
  • To make the filling, melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes until fragrant and golden.
  • Add the garlic and the chicken, stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the spinach, thyme, and splashes of bone broth and cook until the spinach wilts and the broth cooks off – this takes a few minutes.
  • When the squashes are done roasting, turn the oven off, and take the baking dish with the squash out. Scoop the chicken/spinach skillet mixture into each half of the butterkin squash, patting the filling down into the middle.
  • Whisk the GF Panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese together in a small bowl and sprinkle over each squash half.
  • Put the stuffed squashes under the oven broiler on “HI” for 3-5 minutes watching carefully for a beautiful golden color. Every oven broiler can run differently so take a peek after a couple minutes in case yours runs hotter.

Notes

  • I like to use leftover chicken from my weekly roasted whole chicken. It makes meals like this so fast and cost effective to stretch that one roasted chicken dinner into 2!
  • If you don’t have leftover chicken, you can brown up about ½ pound of chicken or beef.
  • If you are dairy free and/or grain free, you can swap the gluten free panko crumbs for 3 tbsp almond flour mixed with 1-2 tsp olive oil.
  • This is such a simple veggie mixture for this stuffing. If you have different veggies on hand, go ahead and swap! Stuffed squashes are a great way to empty the leftover veggies in the fridge from the week.
Stuffed Butterkin Squash

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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
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

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!
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

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!

More real food recipes you might like!

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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 2 votes

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!

More real food birthday recipes you might like!

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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

More real food salad dressing recipes you might like!

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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
Print Recipe
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}