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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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Rainbow Broccoli Salad

March 24, 2021

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

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

Glimpses of warmer weather

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

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

A better choice broccoli salad…that still tastes amazing!

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

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Tips for making raw salads like broccoli salad kid friendly

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

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

The Method :: The Dressing

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

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Veggies

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

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Yogurt and Mayonnaise Options

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

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

More than just a dinner side!

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

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Rainbow Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Notes

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

More real food recipes you might like ::

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Creamy Cabbage Soup

March 15, 2021

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

Creamy Cabbage Soup

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

It’s been over 15 years.

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

Back to the basics

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

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Breakfast Soup

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

Cabbage…nutrient packed and anti-inflammatory

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

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

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

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Simple, easy soup making method

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

Creamy Cabbage Soup

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

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

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

February 17, 2021

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

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

Winter Inspired Part 2!

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

Winter Inspiration

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

A note about my husband!

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

Warm meals for cold days

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

Let’s talk about lunchbox food products!

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 2}

SO! Let’s get started!

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

Want to build your own meal plan?

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

Winter Inspired Dinners to Swap in the Dinner Section

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

Kid Friendly Veggie Packed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Spring is right around the corner!

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

Gluten Free Strawberry Pie
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Breakfast Cookies 6 Ways!

February 4, 2021

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

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

A Friday tradition, about 7 years in the making!

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

All grown up!

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Our Breakfast Cookie Friday Set-Up!

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

A new breakfast cookie base – with endless possibilities!

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Dried fruit, nut, & seed variations

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Freezer friendly!

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

A note for my nut free friends!

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Almond Raisin Breakfast Cookies

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Almond Raisin Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Apricot Pistachio Breakfast Cookies

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Apricot Pistachio Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Banana Walnut Breakfast Cookies

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Banana Walnut Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Breakfast Cookies

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

Pecan Fig Breakfast Cookies

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

Breakfast Cookies - 6 Ways!

Pecan Fig Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

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

Notes

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

More real food recipes you might like!

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

Nourishing 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}

January 30, 2021

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

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

Finally!

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

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

Balancing Macros {Fats, Protein, Carbohydrates}

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

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

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

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

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

Meal Planning Baby Steps

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

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

A quick note about location, seasonal food, and availability

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

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

SO! Let’s get started!

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

Want to build your own meal plan?

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

Winter Inspired Dinners to Swap in the Dinner Section

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

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

Stay tuned…

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

Raising Generation Nourished 2 Week Meal Plan {Winter Inspired Part 1}
Batch Up Meals Condiments Dinner Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Lunch Ideas Nourishing Staples Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches

Summer Broccoli Salad

August 2, 2020

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

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

Summer 2020…

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

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

A new summer staple!

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

The busy momma kind of food prep…

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

But will the kids eat it?!

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Salad

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

The Method :: The Honey Mustard Dressing

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

Storage and serving

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

Summer Broccoli Salad

Summer Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

FOR THE BROCCOLI SALAD

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

FOR THE HONEY MUSTARD VINEGARETTE

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

Instructions

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

More real food recipes you might like ::

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Raising Generation Nourished School Lunch Gear Resource Guide

August 2, 2020

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

Raising Generation Nourished Lunch Gear Resource Guide

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

Simplifying life

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

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

There’s no one right way to pack a lunch

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

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

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

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

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

BENTO BOX OPTIONS

Planetbox

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

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

BriGenius

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

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

Bentgo Kids

Bentgo Kids is perfectly made for your younger crew!

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

UpBento

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

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

OmieBox

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

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

Stackable Bento Boxes

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

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

THERMOS OPTIONS

LunchBots

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

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

Mira

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

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

Larger Thermoses for Middle & High School

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

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

SMALLER BOXES FOR THERMOS SIDES OR SNACKS

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

LunchBots

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

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

Kid Basix

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

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

DRINKING CUPS

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

Life Factory

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

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

Klean Kanteen

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

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

Hydroflask

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

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

Yeti

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

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

Want more school lunch ideas?!

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

The Little Lunchbox Cookbook
Breakfast Ideas Healthy Kids and Teens Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches Snack Ideas

Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

April 3, 2020

You are one bowl and a 5 minute prep away from the best gluten free banana bread you’ve had in your kitchen!

Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

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.

Rainy day kitchen helpers

“Momma, can I bake with you?” Pretty hard to turn a request like that down, no matter how dreary the day, or how badly I just wanted to curl up with a book and a blanket! We were days from a grocery trip, so I wasn’t sure what we were actually going to bake, but but those sweet eyes, I sure was going to figure something out.

Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

Basic ingredients and one bowl

With a few bananas past their prime sitting in the fruit bowl, and a bag of flour, I decided we would try a really simple banana bread. We love making our favorite Paleo banana breakfast mini muffins, but I didn’t have the right flours, and I really wanted this to be a project that my 6 year old could do herself with really simple ingredients. Just 8 ingredients and 1 bowl, and we were on our way!

Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread
Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

One Bowl Banana Bread :: The Method

This simple banana bread comes together into the bread pan before the oven even has time to pre-heat! Just blend the wet ingredients together before combining with the dry, and then dump the batter into your loaf pan. The banana bread turns out so moist with the best texture chew for a quick-bread thanks to the yogurt and simple ingredient list.

Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

Tips for baking with kids

There is such a beautiful simplicity to the measurements and ingredients in this recipe, which makes it a perfect baking project for kids, no matter the age. Here are some age appropriate thoughts as you take on baking with kids:

  • Most kids can take a fork to a banana and mash it up in the bowl! Get it started for your toddlers so it is a bit easier, and then let them try. Show them exactly what you want them to do.
  • Even toddlers can be taught the start of how to crack an egg. Crack the egg hand over hand to show them how it works, and before you know it they will be cracking their own eggs for more than just baking.
  • Have your reading children read the recipe to you while you bake! Older kids learning fractions can help with finding measuring cups and measuring things out too. With your younger children and toddlers, go ahead and measure it out perfectly, and then let them dump it in the bowl. Baking is precise so you really want to be sure it is measured correctly.
  • Hand over hand the blender with your littles, and before you know it they will be able to manage a blender on their own. Show them how to hold it steady and how to move it around.
  • Little kids love buttering the pan! Wash up their hands good and put a pat of butter in the pan for them to smear around!
  • Don’t forget to have the kids wash up their mess too! These are life skills, dear momma, and your littler ones especially will love this task. You can really stretch this out to occupy the kids while the banana bread bakes by filling up the sink and letting them play in the water for a while.
Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×5 inch (1.5 quart) loaf pan with butter (coconut oil if you can’t have the butter)
  • Blend the mashed bananas, eggs, coconut sugar, and yogurt in a medium mixing bowl until smooth.
  • Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and sea salt and blend on low until smooth and combined. Be sure to "fluff" up the flour a bit before measuring – if it is too packed in the measuring cup there will be too much flour.
  • Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes until the top springs back to touch and a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let the banana bread cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before turning it out to cut into slices.
Easy One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread

More real food recipes you might like ::

Healthy Kids and Teens Real Food 101 Real Food Tips school lunches Snack Ideas

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

March 25, 2020

Put snack packing on auto-pilot with this list of 15 portable healthy snacks for kids that you can rotate!

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

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.

School snack time…my nemesis

Ok, so that might be a strong word. But if you have been around this space long enough, and have read my other school snack posts (my very first snack post, written when I had littles, all about preschool snacks here, and the ever popular, healthy store-bought school snack post here), then you know that I have kind of a love hate relationship with the morning snack at school.

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

A vital necessity

It isn’t that I don’t think the kids need it. Many of these kids are having breakfast at 7:30 am or earlier and don’t have a lunch period until 12:30pm or 1 – the morning snack helps bridge that long gap. It has more to do with the time and thought going into packing one…more…thing…for the day. We spend time packing thoughtful, balanced lunchboxes, and the morning snack matters too. Popping an easy bag of pretzels or crackers in their bag is tempting, but defeats the purpose of helping kids focus until the lunch period. Carb loading without a balance of fat or protein only sugar crashes these kids who rapidly use up whatever energy their body is given as their brains work hard in class, and their bodies work hard at playing and growing.

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

Busy momma, I see you.

I get that it is one more thing to pack. I understand that you are already trying to balance their breakfast and lunchboxes for school, and the snack seems insignificant. But I am here to tell you I have seen the kids in these classrooms carb crash with my own two eyes. These teachers are doing their best to help the kids make it to lunchtime, and could use a little help. Packing a balanced snack does NOT need to be hours of homemade “Pinterest Mom” creations. It can be as simple as adding a protein or fatty rich sidekick to that bag of crackers, such as hummus cups, cheese, guacamole cups, boiled egg, or nut/seed butter. The protein/fat will slow the carb burn and satiate their hunger for that extra hour or two until lunch. It really can be that simple…

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

So I say, let’s simplify it

A few years back I was getting burned out from snack packing, and decided that my oldest was old enough to be in charge of her morning snack (she was in 2nd grade at the time). One less thing off my plate! Since she was still learning how to pair the right foods as a balanced snack, I made her a list of options she could choose from each day. That rumpled up piece of paper is still in the cupboard, and now my middle kiddo has joined her in independently packing her own school morning snack. It is a list of simple, easy pairings filled with variety, and the best part is that each snack idea requires ZERO help from me. Two kiddos down, and 1 to learn! I’ve almost got this whole school snack packing thing completely off my plate!

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

My gift to you, dear momma

I want to gift this to your home. I spent some time making a kid friendly, colorful chart filled with my morning snack time ideas that you can use for your own kids. The chart can hang inside a cupboard in the kitchen for your big kids to refer to when packing their own snacks, and if you have littles in the house, they can help pick their snacks from the chart as well. And because I know this list of snacks is not all inclusive, and you may have different diet restrictions we do not have, I am also gifting you a blank chart that you can fill in yourself. You can tailor each snack choice to your household and the kids can pick from your list. If you have access to a laminator, you can mark up your chart with a dry erase marker week after week with new choices based on what you have in the house!

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

The breakdown!

So here is a breakdown of these snack choices so you can see them up close and give the kids a visual for how this can be packed. I would recommend supervision the snack making/packing for a bit so that you can help them choose appropriate portions for their age/appetite, and also help them with strategies for cleaning up. Remember, you can adjust the portion sizes in these snacks for your kids’ ages and appetites. No 2 kiddos are a like! Be sure to check out the TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SNACK PACKING below the snack visuals!

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

1. CRACKERS & HUMMUS

Use snack pack hummus cups, or make your own hummus for a dip container (my own super simple, super smooth hummus recipe will be in the Staples chapter of my new cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook,” on pre-order now!) and pack your favorite crackers! I prefer to keep an eye on the oils in store bought hummus to avoid rancid oils like sunflower, canola, soy, or safflower oils, and I’ve found the Lilly’s hummus cups to be the best using olive oil. The crackers pictured here are Mary’s Gone Crackers GF crackers. (Snack box pictured below is the Sistema Small Split)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

2. CELERY WITH SPREAD OF CHOICE & RAISINS

Spread options are endless here! Nut butters or seed butters are typically the go-to, but spreadable soft goat cheese is a favorite here, and cream cheese is yummy too! (Snack box pictured below is the Planetbox Round container that comes with Planetbox lunchboxes. They can also be sold separately.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

3. COCONUT CLUSTERS

Store bought or homemade for this one, dear momma! Do what you can! I will say that the homemade version is very cost effective AND super fast to prep – just 5 minutes! These sweet, crunch clusters are super kid friendly and packed with fat and fiber from the coconut! (Snack box pictured in this post is the Sistema Snacks To-Go)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

4. MEAT STICK/JERKY WITH CRACKERS & CHEESE

These are my favorite kid friendly meat sticks, but you can use anything you like! Just watch those ingredients. As far as the crackers and cheese go, use your favorite crackers (pictured here are the Simple Mills Almond Crackers) and the best cheese you can afford. Pictured here is a spreadable goat cheese my kids love – you can spread or dip! (Snack box pictured below is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the medium size. I used our Planetbox condiment container for the goat cheese.)

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2020 :: We found these little Duke’s meat sticks at Costco this summer and love them too! You can get them on Amazon as well just in case your Costco doesn’t have them!

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

5. YOGURT WITH GRANOLA

Get whatever is the best full fat yogurt you can afford (coconut milk yogurt would be a great option for dairy free kids). You can make your own granola (very cost effective and easy!), or purchase a quality store bought granola for the pantry. (Snack box pictured below is the Sistema Snack Capsule To Go)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

6. VEGGIES WITH FULL FAT DIP

I find raw veg to be slower to eat for little ones, but as your kids get older, this makes a great crunchy snack! Let them use a crinkle cutter to make the veggies super fun dipping vehicles too! You can see a full list of kid friendly dips here to make at home, or these are a good store bought brand with healthy oils. (Snack box pictured below is the Sistema Snack Attack To Go)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

7. HEALTHY GRANOLA BAR

The sky is the limit here. Since my kids started school, the demand for healthier granola bar options has sky rocketed, and companies are hearing you, dear momma! There are many brands out there using heathier oils, less sugar, and better ingredients all around! My favorite store bought granola bars are the Autumn’s Gold and these Healthy Warrior nut free bars. Of course making your own will almost always be more cost effective – and I’ve got 2 on the blog you can try! This nut free chewy granola bar, and this nut free crunchy buckwheat and apricot granola bar! (Snack box pictured below with the homemade bar is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the small size)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

8. FRUIT SLICES OR FRUIT CHIPS WITH NUT/SEED BUTTER OR COCONUT BUTTER

From fresh apple slices or apple chips to a banana or banana chips, this is always a fun snack. The pantry dried fruit chips make winter packing much more affordable when fresh fruit is expensive. Sunbutter will work best for nut free school zones, but I encourage you to also try coconut butter – it is basically the flesh of a coconut blended into a smooth butter. It is sweet and creamy – so good! (Snack box pictured below is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the medium size.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

9. MUFFIN LEFT FROM BREAKFAST WITH BUTTER

Tuesday’s are muffin mornings here, and with a pan of a dozen muffins, there are leftovers for snacks! Our favorite breakfast muffins that pack well for snacks are these protein banana muffins, GF blueberry muffins, GF paleo mini banana muffins, GF oat bran muffins, and these GF baked oatmeal muffins. Get a big smear of butter on those muffin halves and that is one easy peasy snack! (Snack box pictured below is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the small size.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

10. HARD BOILED EGG WITH FRUIT CHOICE

Every Sunday, I hard boil a dozen eggs so that there is a container of easy to grab snacks in the fridge. They keep for 5 days so it is perfect for the school week. Let the kids pick whatever in season fruit you bought for the week, or dried fruit from the pantry. Figs and dates are so rich in minerals, so I always keep a bag of those in the pantry! (Snack box pictured below is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the medium size.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

11. HEALTHY TRAIL MIX

Homemade or store bought here, dear momma! Do what you can! Homemade will tend to be more cost effective, and you can control the ingredients in bit more if you are in a nut free school. There is one really great seed based store bought trail mix that we love though from Enjoy Life! If you need that convenience, these are great, and they come in snack pack bags or larger trail mix bags to pack yourself. (Snack box pictured below is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the small size.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

12. UNSWEETENED FRUIT POUCH WITH CHOICE OF FAT/PROTEIN

We love these fruit and veggie pouches and chia squeezes, and there are so many other safe/organic brands to choose from, so get whatever is the best that you can afford. You can give the kids a choice of fat/protein to go with their pouch based on what you have for the week. Things like hard boiled eggs, jerky, cheese, olives, or nuts/seeds are all great choices. (Snack box pictured below is the Sistema Small Split)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

13. NUTS OR SEEDS WITH FIG OR DATE AND CHEESE

Super simple, and easy to eat! This is a popular one in my house. Figs and dates are rich in minerals for busy kids and keep in the pantry well. (Snack box pictured below is the Kid Basix Safe Snacker in the small size.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

14. MINI LARABAR OR ENERGY BITES WITH FAT/PROTEIN OF CHOICE

Larabars are great snacks. If you have older kids you could pack them a full size Larabar, or if you have younger children, the mini Larabars are great. Since they are mostly dates (fruit), I like to pack the minis with a fat or protein of choice such as olives, cheese, jerky, or boiled egg. Energy bites are also fun to make (there is a chocolate covered banana energy bite recipe in my new cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook,” on pre-order now!). (Snack box pictured below is the Planetbox Round container that comes with Planetbox lunchboxes. They can also be sold separately.)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

15. GUACAMOLE CUP WITH TORTILLA CHIPS OR CRACKERS

We get these little guac cups at Coscto, but just about every grocery store carries them now! Pack them with some tortilla chips or crackers and this super fun snack will become a quick favorite! (Snack box pictured below is a Lunchbot Duo)

15 Portable Healthy Snacks For Kids :: FREE Snack Chart PDF Included!

Tips for successful snack packing

A little planning goes a long way, and I want to see you succeed in this, dear momma. Here are a few tips that I have learned throughout the years to make snack/lunch packing smooth and fast.

  • Food prep. On Sundays I typically hard boil a dozen eggs for the week, and make a jar of dip or dressing for veggies. It takes me all of 15 minutes and really sets me up for easy packing. The girls know where the container of eggs is for quick snack packing, and always have a veggie dip available as well. Once a month (yes just ONCE a month), I’ll stock my pantry with “something” – sometimes that “something” is granola or granola bars, and sometimes it’s trail mix. I have a shelf for these in my pantry in a spot that is easy to access for the girls to pack their own snacks.
  • Snack access. The rest of the snack items (such as nuts/seeds, pouches, and bars in the pantry, and then fruit/veggies, cheese, etc in the fridge) are kept in easy to reach spots in the pantry or fridge so that they don’t have to go digging through my things making a bigger mess. The time it takes to quick organize a shelf of snacks in the pantry and fridge is SO worth saving your frustration, dear momma!
  • Easy to use gear. Let me tell you…I have been through a LOT of lunch gear and snack box gear. I get things sent to me to try out all the time, and I have also purchased a lot on my own. Have a cupboard or drawer designated for your snack boxes that the kids can reach without your help so that you don’t have to search around for things. I have linked each snack box you saw in the snacks above – the ones pictured are my favorite brands.
  • Set them up for success. Explain your snack packing expectations. If you have older kids packing their own snacks, use the “Notes” section on the side of your chart to list your expectations. For instance, maybe you want to say that they can only repeat the same snack twice in one week so you can ensure they are getting variety. Or maybe you have a certain day of the week that you want something used up. Or maybe that week you don’t have a certain item on the list, so you want to let them know that that isn’t an option this week. My girls know that my rule on packaged, store-bought snacks (such as a packaged granola bar, jerky, or pouches) is 2 per week; it isn’t that they aren’t healthy – it is for saving my budget! For your littles, you can help them pick what snacks on the chart they want to eat for the week. Do NOT send new food to school without trying it at home first. This will end in un-eaten snacks and frustrated kids.

Ok! Talk to me! Tell me about your favorite healthy snacks in the comments below! We can keep this list growing!

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Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

March 9, 2020

Keep the pantry stocked with these easy 10 minute prep, nut free school zone safe, crunchy buckwheat and apricot granola bars!

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

Early spring?! We’ll take it!

It sure feels like spring has sprung rather early in these parts, and while I know there is a very good chance we will still see a March snow storm where I live, we’re soaking in every ounce of any sunshine and 40 degrees that is thrown our way with complete and utter delight!

Busy kids and healthier on the go snacks

Spring is a very *busy* time of year for my crew, and having grab-and-go snacks on hand that won’t sugar crash my growing kids is truly the name of the game. Real food fats, proteins, and healthy carbohydrates to sustain and satiate active kids, while still tasting good isn’t as hard as it sounds. Keeping fast and easy hard boiled eggs, fresh veggies with fatty dips, and even some healthier choice packaged store-bought snacks on hand keeps us from blowing our budget on empty calorie snacks and kids that are hungry every hour of the day. When we “make every bite count,” filling our kids up on food that satiates, they won’t be asking for snack after snack.

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

Homemade, made easy

It’s no secret, I’m passionate about seeing kids filled up on nourishing, real fats, sustainable protein building blocks, and energy fueling real food carbohydrates. But I am also a real mom, with 3 very real kids, and this truly is a very real family behind this computer or phone screen that you are reading. There needs to be a balance between store bought everything and homemade all the things if it is going to be sustainable. This quick, 10-minute prep granola bar is made for busy families! The granola bars also store in the pantry, just like regular granola bars, so they will be just as convenient for the kids to grab for lunchbox packing or snack time.

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

Star players

So let’s talk about this fun granola bar change up, and why it is a great idea to keep ingredient variety in our diets. Instead of an all oat based granola bar, I’m focusing on mineral rich seeds for this crunchy, satisfying version. One of my girls has a nut free snack time at school this year, and while nut free is easier than you think, I have also challenged myself to create some seed only snacks (like these copycat coconut clusters) for her this year to change things up. Buckwheat is a seed packed with minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. I feel like it is a really overlooked, mineral rich ingredient, and it has a nutty, toasted taste when baked into a crunchy granola bar. I’ve also added mineral rich pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to add to the nutrient variety and flavors, and of course some traditional oats make these pretty granola bars picture perfect. The kids will love these honey toasted seeds in a convenient little bar, and the dried apricots are a fun little surprise sprinkled throughout!

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

The Method

You’ll start by pouring all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. I use my food processor to buzz up the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, so this part goes fast. After you melt the coconut oil and honey over the stove, you’ll pour that over the dry ingredients and stir them to coat everything evenly. The granola mixture gets pressed into the pan and you can tend to other kitchen tasks or the kids while it bakes! After the granola bars cool completely, you can cut the bars in the sizes you like. The beauty of making your own granola bars is being able to control the size of the bars you like. I tend to make squares so that they can be a small snack or a small addition to lunchbox since my kids are still young. This works well for toddlers too since a large granola bar can be a lot to finish. If you have older kids, you can make regular sized bars.

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free
Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free
Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

Swap thoughts

Even if you aren’t in a nut free school or have kids at home with nut allergies, I would love to see you try these seed based bars! The nutrient diversity is good for your gut and growing bodies. That said, if the you have nuts on hand to use up, I do think that they will swap in this recipe for the seeds. If they are bigger nuts like almonds or walnuts, you might want to use a heaping ¼ cup of nuts to make up for the small seeds that fill up the quarter cup. If you don’t have dried apricots just yet, raisins should work just fine, though if you get a chance the apricots are so fun and pretty too!

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and line an 8×8 baking pan with unbleached parchment paper.
  • Put the oats, buckwheat groats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat flour, and apricots in a medium mixing bowl, and set aside.
  • Melt the coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan and then pour over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Stir the granola bar ingredients thoroughly so that everything is coated with the coconut oil mixture.
  • Pour the granola bar mixture into the lined pan and press the mixture down using the bottom of your half cup measuring cup so that everything is pressed into the pan evenly. Pay attention to the sides and corners so that everything is straight and even.
  • Bake the granola bars at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Do NOT cut the bars until they have cooled completely. The will harden as they cool and be easier to cut. Once the bars have cooled completely to room temp, pull the sides of the parchment paper so the granola bars come out in one square. Use a long sharp knife to cut the granola bars into the sizes you want.
Nut Free Crunchy Buckwheat and Apricot Granola Bars :: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free

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Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

February 11, 2020

Fast and easy prep white chicken chili with a smooth, creamy texture, and out of this world flavor!

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

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

Winter hikes & (kid friendly!) warm chili

I’ve learned that if I just don’t get out in it, I become a big grump by February my friends. So we pull on the winter gear and trudge through the snow, no matter how deep it is. Every weekend. Some winters we can barely tolerate 20 minutes the cold is so bitter and the snow is so deep. Other winters, like this year, we are left wondering if this really is still Michigan or not with the mild(er) temps and small dusting of snow! No matter the winter, a warm bowl of chili is always a good idea during the darkest months of the year!

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

An old recipe made (so!) much easier!

White chicken chili has been one of my favorite slow cooker recipes for years. The creamy broth base is super kid friendly, and my version is not only packed with chicken, but boasts a load of veggie variety that contributes to it’s amazing flavor. With busy schedules that come with the territory of having older kids and not as much time at home, I was finding that I wasn’t making my favorite white chicken chili as much because it did feel a bit time consuming!

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

Enter the Instant Pot, and an easy peasy secret to the creamy broth!

When I wrote that recipe, oh so many years ago, the Instant Pot was not even a thought! Since my trusty IP has become my go-to for our favorite regular chili, I decided it was time to give my favorite white chicken chili a face lift – Instant Pot style! And since I don’t always have time to make the cream of chicken soup for the creamy base, a little coconut milk and potato starch did the trick so well!

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

Dump it all in!

Other than a quick little saute to pull some flavor and sweetness out of the veggies in the beginning, this recipe is a dump and go! *Cue the busy mom applause!* The beauty of the Instant Pot is quick cook times and flavorful, juicy meat outcomes, and this recipe does not disappoint. Simply put all of the ingredients into the IP after sauting the veggies, place the raw chicken breasts on top, and when the Instant Pot is done pressure cooking, you’ll have easy to shred chicken to stir into your chili!

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

A note on the heat (and to bean or not to bean!)

This recipe is mild in heat and very kid friendly. I left the jalapeno as optional in case your kids are sensitive to heat. I use just one jalapeno in mine, and while I’d love a bit more heat to my bowl, I want my kids to inhale the chili too! I tend to add a hit of cayenne or chili flakes to my bowl to heat it up. One of my tricks to “cooling down” a bowl of chili for little ones is to be sure you top the chili with sour cream. The cool, fatty dairy cuts the heat well. You can use coconut yogurt or coconut milk if you are dairy free. This recipe as written does not contain beans, but if you want to add some white beans, you may!

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

Storage and school thermoses!

This white chicken chili freezes really well! I love that this hearty chili can be packed in school thermoses on a cold winter day! They play so hard outside at recess! You can pack a side of cheese or sour cream to add on top in the thermos too. To freeze the chili, cool the chili to room temperature, and store in freezer safe containers.

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp ghee to cook in butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or tallow/lard work too
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper diced
  • 1-2 small jalapenos optional if you like the heat
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp potato starch Not potato flour. Tapioca or arrowroot would work here too
  • 2 tsp taco season I use my own DIY blend
  • 2 to matillos diced
  • 2 small zucchinis large dice
  • 1 – 4oz can green chilis
  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 3 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts 1 lb
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Cilantro, lime wedges, and avocado slices per preference to garnish (optional shredded raw cheese or sour cream if you tolerate that)

Instructions

  • Turn the Instant Pot on to “saute” and melt the ghee. Saute the onion and bell peppers with a pinch of sea salt for about 5-7 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Turn the Instant Pot “off,” and stir in the taco season and potato starch until the veggies are coated. Stir in the tomatillos, zucchini, broth, and coconut milk, and then set the chicken breasts in the liquid.
  • Put the lid on the Instant Pot, and close the valve. Turn the IP on to “Soup,” and bring the time down to 20 minutes. The IP will take about 5 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 15 minutes. When the 15 minute timer is up, turn the IP off and let it naturally release for 5-10 minutes before releasing the rest of the valve pressure.
  • Take the chicken breasts out of the IP, shred them with a fork, and then return the shredded chicken to the IP, stirring the chicken into the chili. Season the chili to your taste and garnish each bowl with cilantro, lime, and avocado slices per your preference.
Easy Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

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Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

February 6, 2020

From lunchbox snacks to on the go toddler munchies, these copycat coconut clusters are kid approved and safe for nut free school zones!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

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.

February thaws and a new favorite snack

Good gracious these Michiganders of mine aren’t quite sure what to do with this mild winter we are having so far! The first weekend into February and we had such a huge thaw that we could play in the beach sand and hike without snowpants! We’ve been extra active this winter, which is so nice, and it also works up little appetites! Let me tell you about a new favorite of ours!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

From a Costco find to a homemade copycat!

Earlier this fall, we picked up these cute new coconut cluster snacks at Costco, and my kids really liked them. I loved the simple ingredients, and that they were packed with fatty coconut and mineral rich seeds. I did not, however, love that they were sweetened with brown rice syrup and sugar. I decided to try a bag anyway, and when I discovered how much the girls liked them, decided I better figure out a better way to make them so they weren’t having brown rice syrup and sugar on a weekly basis. The snack was such a great idea otherwise, so we gave it a shot!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

The prepping method

Because in all actuality, the store bought coconut clusters were really just as simple as a bunch of coconut flakes and seeds baked with their mode of sweetening! You’ll start by adding your coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia into a large bowl and then mix with just the right amount of mineral rich pure maple syrup.

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

The baking method

Then, you have two baking choices! If you like neat little cluster rounds, you can spoon your coconut mixture into small cookie sized shapes. Or, you can spread the entire mixture onto the baking sheet, and break it up after it bakes, leaving uneven little clusters. The choice is yours! Both work great!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!
Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Sweetener choices

I loved the warmth that the pure maple syrup brought to these little coconut clusters. I do think that raw honey might work here, however honey has a tendency to burn a bit, so be super careful as they bake. I have not tried a combo of maple syrup and coconut sugar but I do think that might work. You do need some sort of liquid sweetener though to get the stick that you need for the clusters to come together. I’d love to know what you’ve tried, if you want to comment below! As it is, the fat and fiber in the coconut and seeds balances the sweet, and this is a side or snack, not a full meal, so all in all I don’t tend to worry about it!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Can I swap the seed for nuts?

If you can handle nuts, and want to change things up for more variety, any nuts will work here too. If they are heftier nuts like almonds or walnuts, I would consider a rough chop to make the pieces a little smaller.

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Storeage

Good news! These little guys store right in your pantry for easy peasy lunchbox additions or snacktime! Just put the baked and cooled coconut clusters in an airtight container in the pantry up to 3 months.

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Copycat Coconut Clusters :: Nut Free School Zone Safe!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 2 sheet pans unbleached parchment paper.
  • Mix all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, until thoroughly coated in the maple syrup.
  • To make clusters, use a spoon to drop a couple tablespoons of the mixture into a cluster onto the sheet pan, lining up the clusters like you would cookies on a cookie sheet. To make one large sheet pan to break up into uneven clusters and smaller chunks, divide the mixture between the 2 sheet pans and spread the mixture out evenly, making sure everything is touching so it sticks together.
  • Bake the coconut clusters at 350 degrees for 14 minutes until the coconut is lightly toasted. Do NOT touch the coconut clusters for about 1 hour so that they harden. Leave them on the sheet tray. Once the coconut clusters are completely cooled, they will be hardened and stick together well. If you made a large sheet pan full, you can break apart your clusters once they are cooled. Store your coconut clusters in an airtight container in the pantry up to 3 months.
More real food LUNCHBOX RECIPES you might like! GF Pizza Pinwheels Paleo Mini Banana Muffins Instant Pot Tomato Soup for Lunchbox Thermoses GF Pizza Muffins Honey Nut Granola for Lunchbox Yogurt Parfaits Nut Free Granola Bars

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Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

January 15, 2020

These easy prep, freezer friendly, gluten free pizza pinwheels can be used for everything from lunchboxes to game day!

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

Reunited and it feels so good!

I feel like I spent my late summer and entire fall buried under a rock! Buried under a rock writing a cookbook, that is! We did come out and enjoy all that our Michigan fall has to offer, with hiking, beach play, and leaf piles, but I have missed communicating with you in this space, and I’m so excited to be back. My new lunchbox cookbook, “The Little Lunchbox Cookbook,” is in the editing process for the winter, and will release later this summer! I couldn’t think of a better way to jump back into the blog than with a fun lunchbox idea, since I’ve spent the greater part of the last 6 months in lunchbox mode writing the new cookbook.

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

Pizza day with a twist…literally!

One thing that having 3 kids spanning grade levels from kindergarten to 5th grade has taught me is that everyone could use a mid-week “fun lunch.” If you follow my #RGNSchoolLunch hashtag on Instagram, you’ll notice a pattern to Wednesdays. They are typically more on the “fun” side of things. Not that the other lunches that are packed are “boring” per say, but something like a yogurt parfait, spaghetti thermoses, and pizza lunchable copycats (the recipe for the soft, grain free flatbreads for these will be in my new lunchbox cookbook!) just make the mid-week fly by. Instead of Wednesday being just another day, the kids will have something small to look forward to in their lunch, and before you know it  you are half way to the weekend!

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

These look…fancy – it must be fussy?!

Fast, freezer friendly, and something that moms are *actually* going to do (read, not complicated!)…those were all thoughts in the forefront of my mind when I was creating my new lunchbox cookbook. So when I had the idea for using the pinwheel concept that so many kids love, made into a pizza package, I knew that I needed to make it busy momma friendly. There is no dough rising, or extra steps. You’ll mix the easy pizza dough, roll it out, spread the toppings, and roll it into a log! Once you cut the pizza log into pinwheels, you’ll simply bake them in a muffin tin. And did I mention they freeze great?! Because that means you can make these on the weekend with the kids and stash them away for Wednesday!

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

Here’s the step by step for my visual friends!

1. While the yeast is blooming, you’ll get the rest of the ingredients into the bowl…

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

2. Then the dough gets mixed up – it’s so soft and easy to work with!

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

3. You’ll cut the dough in half and work with a small, rolled out rectangle of dough. It is easier to work with the dough this way.

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

4. Spread the sauce…

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

5. Add the chopped pepperoni…

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

6. Sprinkle the cheese…

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

7. Then roll it up!

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

8. Once you slice the log of dough, you can place them into your muffin pan and spray the tops – they need just 20 minutes in the oven after that!

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

How to Pack Pizza Pinwheels for little kids

Most of your littles will eat one or two pizza pinwheels, depending on how big you make them. The pinwheels are a decent source of protein, fat, and carb, so you can add some fresh fruit and veg on the side to make it a balanced lunchbox. If you have littles with bigger appetites, you might add a half avocado, some olives, coconut chips, or a handful of almonds.

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

How to Pack Pizza Pinwheels for big kids

Your older children will eat anywhere from 2 to 4 of these, and while I’m sure many grown teens could eat the whole muffin pan (ha!), the key to stretching this meal is all in the big salad. Send 2 or 3 pizza pinwheels along with a loaded salad to fill up your growing big kids. You can add nuts, hard boiled egg, and/or avocado to their salad to make it more filling, and add a fatty nourishing dressing and they should be good to go for the afternoon.

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

How to store pizza pinwheels in the freezer

Once you let your pizza pinwheels cool completely, you can toss them into gallon freezer bags into your freezer. They can be pulled out frozen right to your child’s lunchbox and they will be thawed by lunchtime. If you want to pull them from the freezer to warm up in the oven for a quick dinner, you can thaw them out and use a baking sheet to warm them back up in the oven.

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels
Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

Author: Renee – Raising Generation Nourished

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and spray a 12-cup muffin pan with avocado oil spray or olive oil spray.
  • Measure 1 cup of coconut milk into a liquid measuring cup, and pour it into a small sauce pan to warm up until it is warm to touch – not hot. If it is too hot it will kill the yeast. While the coconut milk warms, put the yeast and coconut sugar into the liquid measuring cup. Pour the warm coconut milk over the yeast and sugar, and stir with a spatula until frothy and combined. Let this sit to bloom the yeast while you prepare the rest of the dough ingredients.
  • Put the flour, egg, oil, baking powder, and seasonings into a medium mixing bowl. Once the yeast has made the coconut milk bubble (see above picture), it is bloomed, and you can pour this into the rest of the dough ingredients. Stir the dough with your spatula until the dough comes together. I start with my spatula and end kneading it with my hands.
  • Roll the dough into a ball, and cut the dough in half. You’ll be making 2 rolls of pizza pinwheels. It is easier to work with the dough this way.
  • Flour your counter and roll out one half of the dough into a rectangle, as thin as you can make it without it tearing or being to hard to roll up (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch). Spread 3-4 tablespoons of pizza sauce on the dough, sprinkle about ¼ cup of chopped pepperoni, and finally about ½ cup of shredded cheese.
  • Starting at one end of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough to make a log. Slice off the un-even ends and then make about 5-6 pinwheels (about 2 inches wide each). Place the pinwheels inside your sprayed muffin pan, cut side up.
  • Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the other half of the pizza dough, making another log of 5-6 pinwheels. Place these into the pan, and then spray the tops of all of the pinwheels with the avocado oil spray.
  • Bake the pizza pinwheels in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Let the pizza pinwheels cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a cooling rack. They will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator. If you are freezing your pizza pinwheels, cool them completely and then store them in freezer bags in the freezer up to 3 months.
Gluten Free Pizza Pinwheels

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Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

August 15, 2019

This simple, staple gluten free blueberry muffin will be a hit on your breakfast menu rotation!

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

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 blueberry bliss…and a new RGN project!

Happy August, my friends! I cannot wait to share this new, fun blueberry muffin with you – it is sure to be a school morning staple! But first! We have had a whirlwind of a summer filled with sprinklers, park play, of course all the beach time…and a new book deal! I am so excited to be able to share with you where I have been pouring my heart this summer. It’s been quiet around the blog for good reason, and I promise you that this new lunchbox concept cookbook is going to be worth the wait! I’ll be sharing more over on Instagram throughout this process, giving you snippets of peeks during recipe development, and I’m so honored to bring this piece of my home to you.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

On to the blueberries!

Because man alive did we have to wait for them this year! Michigan had a slow start to produce season because of the cold and rainy start to the summer, but it sure has been worth the wait with these gorgeous Michigan blues. Since we are so close the school year with these late blueberries, I decided to come up with a new, fun school morning blueberry muffin that will work right out of the freezer, and also pack in lunchboxes well. Win-win!

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

My school morning blueberry muffin checklist…

If I’m going to be using these for school mornings, they need to be fast to prep, and hold up well to travel, lunchboxes, and the freezer. Most often on school mornings that involve muffins, I’m pulling them from my freezer stash. Whenever I bake, I make sure to stash at least a few a way, so that I have something to pull from when I need fast breakfasts. These blueberry muffins have a super soft texture, and keep well in the freezer.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

Because flavor matters…

I’ve tried lots of different sweetening options and landed on coconut sugar or maple sugar being my favorites. The subtle warmth is the perfect light sweetener for a school morning so that blood sugars don’t go through the roof, but also keep kids happy.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

Fruit swaps?!

I am so excited to play around with this muffin base with other in season fruit…namely apples that will be in season this fall. I think this muffin recipe will be very versatile to whatever fruit you have laying around, including dried fruit from the pantry later this winter when nothing seems to be in season. From banana slices, to strawberries, I look forward to updating this post throughout this year to let you know what works! If you happen to try a new fruit in the blueberry’s place, let us know how it works out in the comments below.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

Flour swaps

If you cannot have the almond flour, you can use all Namaste, just use half the amount of the almond flour amount (1/2 cup). I preferred the texture of the muffins with the almond flour, but the all Namaste flour muffins did turn out. If you need a grain free version, you will love these buckwheat flour blueberry muffins! If you do not have to be gluten or grain free, these are the loveliest sprouted grain blueberry muffins from Nourished Kitchen!

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

A new journey…

I’m so grateful to this community for patiently waiting this lunchbox book out. I am thinking of every single one of your kiddos and mine as I write every word, and my hope is that this book will be the most loved, tattered, torn, dripped on, and dog-eared cookbook in your library!

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins
Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins
Print Recipe
5 from 8 votes

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar plus more to sprinkle the tops if you wish (Turbinado, maple sugar, or sucanat would work too)
  • ½ cup melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract or another tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup buttermilk You can make buttermilk by putting 1 tbsp ACV in a liquid measure and then filling to the ½ cup mark with coconut milk or raw milk
  • 1 cup Namaste GF Flour Blend
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with silicone muffin cups, or unbleached paper cups.
  • Blend the eggs, coconut sugar, butter, and extracts in a medium mixing bowl, about 1 minute.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except the blueberries and blend until just combined, and then fold in the blueberries.
  • Scoop the batter into your lined muffin tin. If you want to sprinkle the tops of the muffins with more coconut sugar, you can do that at this time too.
  • Bake the muffins at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and spring back to touch.
Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

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Gluten Free Honey Nut Granola

May 31, 2019

Little bites of honey nut granola, reminiscent of childhood cereals, made with healthy, real ingredients, perfect for yogurt topping and on the go snacks!

Summer splendor and warm weather breakfasts

We are counting the days down. We just have to get through 4.5 more days of school and we are free for carefree summer bliss for the next couple months! Warm, muggy summer mornings call for cool and quick loaded yogurt bowl breakfasts, and this breakfast bar yogurt concept has become a summer morning staple at least a couple times per week during the warm months of the year. We stir in all sorts of great add-ins, and granola just happens to be a favorite of the girls.

Gluten Free Honey Nut Granola

An old, childhood breakfast favorite with a real food twist

Oh come on 80’s and 90’s kids…you know what I’m talking about. The cold breakfast cereal that so many of us had in our bowls as little kids – Honey Nut Cheerios! While I didn’t set out for this granola to taste like a nostalgic cereal from my childhood, I was totally blasted to the past when I took the first bite. A cross between those honey sweetened O’s and another childhood favorite – Honey Bunches of Oats – these crispy little granola bits are certain to remind you of childhood.

Power packed ingredient line up!

While we love a good granola base focused on oats, I wanted to create something with a bit of diversity. Why, you ask? Well, beyond adding a super fun crispy crunch and amazing flavor, adding some different grains, nuts, and seeds in the mix also creates a breakfast platform that offers a variety of nutrients instead of just one or two. So let’s talk about these great, sometimes forgotten, players!

Buckwheat Groats

Buckwheat is a seed used in many Asian culture’s cuisines. If you have ever enjoyed soba noodles before, or one of my cherry buckwheat muffins, you’ll know that the nutty sweetness is irresistible, and as it lightly toasts in the oven for this granola, it crisps into that familiar “kasha” cereal like texture. Buckwheat has an impressive protein content for such a small seed, and since it also boasts fiber nutrition, it makes a really perfectly balanced superfood bursting with minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins. You can typically buy buckwheat groats in bulk at any health food store, or you can get organic buckwheat groats online. You can also buy sprouted buckwheat groats for even more optimized nutrition.

Millet

Millet originates in Chinese and African cuisine, seen most often in couscous dishes, as well as porridge dishes and breads. Millet contains prebiotic fiber, essential for feeding the good bacteria in your digestion. This sometimes forgotten super grain is a good source of magnesium and calcium as well as B vitamins and antioxidants. Millet is has a more mild nuttiness, and takes on the flavor of whatever you are using with it to cook in – in this case it gently crisps up in the granola and tastes of honey and nuts! You can pick up hulled millet in bulk at most health food stores, or you can buy hulled millet here online. I have never been able to find sprouted millet, but you can sprout it yourself if you wish.

The oats, nuts, & seeds

Of course we love the simple, and humble oat as well. Amazingly, these days you can find sprouted oats very easily – this is my favorite brand. Using sprouted oats optimizes nutrition and is easier on digestion, but if you can’t find sprouted oats, you can certainly use a regular rolled oats. For the nuts and the seeds, use what you have in the pantry, but I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and change things up too! I found the buttery flavor of walnuts and classic almond flavor together give the granola the taste of the cereal that we all know and love really well. But I wanted to add in the sunflower seeds for some variety. I also made this once using Brazil nuts in place of the almonds and loved the outcome. If you are completely nut free, try pumpkin seeds, flax, and sunflower to change things up. There are so many to try in both the nut and seed family that you can really bring a variety of nutrients to your granola.

The process

While making your own granola may feel daunting, and look fancy, it is truly one of the easiest kitchen swaps you can make from buying store bought. Not only does it allow you to control the sugar content, it also allows you to use safer, healthier oils. Even many of the “healthy” looking granolas at the store are made with junky fats like canola, sunflower, and safflower oils. We use simple coconut oil in this recipe, but you could easily use olive oil, butter, or avocado oil. Simply toss the dry ingredients into a bowl with the melted fat and honey and it’s ready to go. Stir it around a few times and a half hour later you have granola for stashing away in the pantry. This recipe lasts my family of 5 a good couple of weeks or longer!

Can I skip the grains?

Sure! One of my favorite things about making granola is that it is super forgiving. If you need to be grain free for your household, you can swap the oats and millet for any combination of the following. (Buckwheat is technically a seed, and is not in the wheat family as it is not a grass. It is actually in the same family as rhubarb! Some in the paleo community consider it a pseudo-cereal, but I’ll leave whether you want to consider it a grain up to you! I go by what my family tolerates and feels good on, and we love buckwheat – if it doesn’t agree with you, by all means swap it out!)

  • Unsweetened shredded coconut, or coconut flakes
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp
  • Flax seed (chia seeds are already in the recipe in a good amount — I wouldn’t add any more than what is already written)

LOVE the granola yogurt breakfast bar idea?!

Here are a few more granola recipes to try, to change things up a bit!

Print Recipe
5 from 15 votes

Gluten Free Honey Nut Granola

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and set out 2 large sheet pans.
  • Put the oats, buckwheat groats, millet, nuts, seeds, and coconut sugar into a large mixing bowl, and set aside.
  • Melt the coconut oil in a small sauce pan, turn the heat off, and stir the honey to melt in. Add the extracts to the oil/honey and stir.
  • Add the melted coconut oil/honey mixture to your dry granola ingredients in the large mixing bowl, and stir to combine well.
  • Spread the granola mixture onto 2 large baking sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir the mixture and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Stir the mixture one more time and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove the sheet trays from the oven and let it cool completely. It will crisp up as it cools. Store the cooled granola in an air tight container.
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Gluten Free Oat Bran Muffins :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

May 9, 2019

Soft and sweet with nutty knobs of bran, these gluten free oat bran muffins will become a weekly breakfast staple!

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

A last minute idea, a new recipe, and some love for every teacher

I’m not very much of a last minute person. Oh, sure, I don’t use an elaborate meal plan, but I have an idea or a framework for most weeks. But when it comes to planning something like an event, I’m a details person. Earlier this year I was assigned to “Teacher Appreciation Day” at our school, typically a luncheon at some point during Teacher Appreciation Week. Having all 3 kids in full time school this year has given me some extra hours to help out at school, and last week I had this revelation…1 day of celebrating our teachers simply wasn’t enough. I am in awe every time I help at that school. My village. I wanted to do something each day of the Teacher Appreciation Week. With a tight budget, a couple mom friends, and determined personality, my mind was made up, and we made it happen! We already had the pot luck style luncheon set up, I had a super talented thrift store super shopper friend that found some great gifts for one day, a beautiful gardening friend that brought flowers one day, and…probably the most anticipated day of the week – this Friday, myself and 7 other parents are doing a “recess take-over” giving the staff an extra long lunch while we man the playground duty! Gold!

Muffins and coffee

A simple muffin. A cup of dark coffee. It is so simple, but you guys the day during that Teacher Appreciation Week that we brought in boxes of coffee from a local coffee shop and 4 dozen simple oat bran muffins, you would have thought we brought them the world. These sweet teachers’ faces were priceless. I wish you all could have seen the picture. In fact, I’m challenging you to make your *own* picture. These teachers are capital D.O.N.E for this year, and to surprise them with a simple coffee and muffin on a Tuesday morning would absolutely fuel their hearts to get through one more week.

So let’s talk about these muffins!

Super cost effective (I had a budget to stick to, remember?!), healthy, filling, and the most important thing when you are baking for someone else…they are delicious! Bran muffins should have a warm, molasses-y sweetness to perk them up, and I was so happy with how the coconut sugar brought that warmth and fun flavor without adding a ton of sugar. Those knobby bits of oat bran throughout add a lovely nuttiness as well.

The softness secret, and that beautiful rise though!

Buttermilk. A simple soured milk gives these muffins a soft texture despite the coarse bran, and you can make it yourself if you don’t have access to quality buttermilk. In fact, you can even make it with dairy free milk if you need to be dairy free. I love the fatty richness that coconut milk has, and soaking the grains in that coconut buttermilk made for such a rich, satisfying muffin. A quick whisk of some apple cider vinegar and milk, and that’s it! The acid in the buttermilk also acts as a soaking medium for the grains. If you choose to soak the grains in the buttermilk over night, you’ll be rewarded with an easier food for your digestive system to manage as the phytic acid is broken down.

Add-ins?

Sure thing! Since I was making these muffins for a crowd, I left them as is, because some people aren’t fans of dried fruit. But I made a batch of the oat bran muffins for my girls with chopped dried apricots and the girls thought they hit the jackpot! We made a batch with chopped dried figs as well – my youngest’s favorite by far. You could use raisins, dried blueberries, or chopped dates as well.

Freezer friendly

I made 2 double batches of this muffin recipe for that Teacher Appreciation morning, and they really held up for the 2 days that they sat in a bag on the counter. If you are going to make more than you need, I would recommend putting extras in the freezer right away, however because it will lock in all of the moisture. These muffins will make great grab and go lunchbox add-ins and breakfast on the go with hard boiled eggs!

Print Recipe
5 from 16 votes

Gluten Free Oat Bran Muffins :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

Ingredients

Instructions

  • The night before you want to make the muffins, put the oat bran and GF Flour in a medium mixing bowl. Make “buttermilk” for soaking the oat bran and flour by putting 1 ½ tbsp of ACV in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup and pouring coconut milk in until you reach the 1 ½ cup mark on the measuring cup. Whisk this together – this is “buttermilk.” Pour the buttermilk over the oat bran and GF flour, and mix together. It is thick – do not add more liquid. Cover your bowl and set on the counter overnight, 8-12 hours. This soaking process breaks down the phytic acid in the grain making it easier on digestion over time.
  • The next morning pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a dozen cup muffin tin with silicone muffin liners or unbleached paper liners.
  • In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs, coconut sugar, and vanilla with electric beaters. Add those wet ingredients to the soaking oat bran/flour mixture and blend slowly to combine. The oat bran/flour mixture will feel dry and thick at first, but the liquid will loosen it up. I start with the beaters and finish with my spatula.
  • If you are adding dried fruit to your muffins, you can add them at this time.
  • Scoop the muffin batter into your muffin pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. The tops will be golden brown and spring back to touch. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. You can freeze leftover muffins in freezer bags.

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Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancake Mini Muffins With Berry Dipping Sauce :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

April 16, 2019

A healthy buckwheat pancake, in the perfect “little hand sized” package – mini muffins!

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!

I’m pretty sure I get more excited about the girls’ birthdays than they do 🙂 I love remembering being pregnant with them and experiencing their birth stories, and telling them about how they were when they were babies! This sweet and spunky middle kiddo of mine turns 8 next week, and we started celebrating a little early with a fun breakfast idea that is totally up her ally…

On. The. Go.

If you look up busy bee in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure Claire’s picture would be right next to it. From the day I felt her strong, *non-stop* kicking in utero, to her blazing fast, “sunny-side up” delivery, never-ending toddler years, and now these smart as a whip school age years, we are definitely kept on our toes with this one, and on-the-go breakfasts have become a specialty of mine in her honor.

Pancake…muffins?

Absolutely! While we love a slow start Saturday filled with a fluffy stack of pancakes, in reality, busy weekday mornings just don’t have room for that. Last year we created *the* pancake mini muffin – a perfect, portable substitute for that fluffy pancake stack. I hear from you guys all. the. time. about how much your kids love them, so I’m giving you another option to add to your rotation to get some new ingredients into the mix!

A new ingredient line-up…

So many of you have messaged me asking how to make my original pancake muffins egg free and/or grain free, so this version is dedicated to you. But wait! If you don’t happen to be a “free” anything household, these delicious buckwheat pancake muffins are still for you too! Food rotation is so important to get a variety of nutrients into your family. Eating the same thing over and over again can wear on the gut, and can create imbalance in your nutrient levels.

What is buckwheat?

Despite the sound of it’s name, buckwheat flour is ground up buckwheat seed – it’s a seed, not a grain! Many people that cannot tolerate gluten or grains can tolerate buckwheat, and it has a host of nutritional benefits. Buckwheat has an impressive protein content and is packed with essential minerals our bodies need to function at it’s best. Even if you can tolerate gluten/grains, it is a good idea to rotate your food around. Using the same flour day in and day out in your baking will wear on the gut. Change things up a little! The buckwheat gives these muffins a mildly sweet, nutty flavor, and the vanilla and warm coconut sugar make them taste like pancakes!

Allergen friendly!

It is pretty tough to get a muffin to look like a muffin without eggs, my friends. Let alone feel like a muffin and taste like a muffin! But for some reason, I have found that buckwheat batters have some “stick” to them almost like a chia seed, so the egg binding isn’t always needed. And add in a bit of baking powder to react with an acid, and you’ve got yourself a nice puffy muffin top without the egg rise!

Little kids love to dip!

That is no secret to you, I’m sure, dear momma! So instead of dipping these little pancakes in a load of sugary maple syrup, we’re going to cut the sugar down and use some fruit, and then mix it with some fat to keep blood sugars balanced. Use whatever berries are in season near you, or thaw out some frozen berries to use if it is wintertime. The sauce takes no time at all to make, and you can customize it to your kids’ taste for sweet. If you have really littles in the house, I’d skip the added honey all together. If you have teens in the house used to sweeter foods, that touch of honey will really bring out the berry’s sweetness, and it will still be less sugar than dousing them in maple syrup before a school day.

Not just for breakfast!

This recipe as written fills my 48 cup mini muffin pan! That, my friends, is the epitome if the whole “cook once, eat twice” mantra so many of us try to live by on busy schedules. The girls enjoyed taking the leftovers from breakfast in their school lunch the next day topped with butter, and with a thermos of soup. They freeze fantastic too, so if you don’t have a need for the extras right away, just pop them in a freezer bag for another time.

A note on the soaking

If you are newer to the more traditional real foods movement, this whole soaking process is probably new to you. In a nutshell, soaking grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds is an ancient practice that helps reduce gut disturbing phytic acid, making digestion more sound over time. It takes only minutes to prepare, though remembering to get the flour soaking the night before is part of the process! And because I totally, and utterly understand that, I’m going to step out and be a little taboo for a minute…if you are a hardcore traditional foodist, you’ll want to cover your eyes for this part… Skip the soaking if that means you’ll make these instead of opening a box of cereal, dear momma. I’d rather have you make this healthy, nutrient dense breakfast for your kids without the soaking versus not making them at all. If you are totally into the soaking, go for it! I actually love it because it means most of the recipe is made the night before.

Print Recipe
5 from 12 votes

Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancake Mini Muffins With Berry Dipping Sauce :: Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free

Ingredients

FOR THE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKE MINI MUFFINS ::

FOR THE BERRY DIPPING SAUCE ::

  • 1 cup berry of choice quartered if large like strawberries
  • 2-4 tsp raw honey or coconut sugar depending on how sweet your berries are
  • 1-2 tbsp butter optional if you don’t tolerate dairy

Instructions

FOR THE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKE MINI MUFFINS ::

  • The night before you want to make the muffins, put the buckwheat flour, milk, vinegar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and let the mixture soak overnight 7-10 hours. This soaking process helps break down the phytic acid in the buckwheat seed making it easier on digestion over time.
  • The next morning, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray a mini muffin tin with avocado oil spray or use mini muffin liners
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients to the soaked batter, and spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin.
  • Bake the mini buckwheat pancakes at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (if you are making regular sized muffins, bake for more like 25-30 minutes). Let the muffins cool for a couple minutes, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. You can keep the muffins in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for months. 

FOR THE BERRY DIPPING SAUCE ::

  • Everything into a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally, letting the sauce simmer and break down for about 3-4 minutes. A potato masher helps this along well.
  • Taste the sauce for sweetness, and then blend until smooth. The berry sauce will keep up to a week, chilled in the refrigerator. 

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Spring Onion Soup

April 3, 2019

Spring onion soup made sweet and mild, perfect for sipping on a cool spring day!

It’s no secret that spring takes it’s good ‘ol time sprouting around here…

We bounce between winter coats and boots one weekend to hoodies and tennis shoes the next! While we await a more consistent warmer spring air around these parts, I’ll share one more warming soup for the spring season.

What are spring onions?

Spring onions (also called scallions) are just early onions, harvested before the onion bulb forms. You can find spring onions with a slightly larger bulb than what is pictured here if you can find them at farmer’s markets. This is more typical of what I can find organic in a grocery store around here, and either works great for this soup. Spring onions have more of a mild onion flavor, so we love eating them raw on salads in the summer, and it makes for a very sweet and mild onion soup – perfect for adults and kids alike.

The process…

This spring onion soup couldn’t get any simpler as far as ingredients go. A simple potato crisped to perfection for flavor in sweet butter. A gentle and flavor enhancing saute, and a quick simmer with some fresh baby spinach for color and nutrients. A blend through with an immersion blender or in your regular blender, and you have a super smooth, sip-able soup for your mug, or the kids’ tea cups that will warm your belly and nourish your body with spring at it’s best.

But will the kids like it?

If you have older kids that enjoy a French Onion soup, they will love this mild onion soup flavor. If you have little guys, say age 3 and under (even your 9 month old’s are in this category – perfectly safe to try if baby has started some bone broth and veggies just fine!), I say ladle some of this gentle soup into a little tea cup with a straw and let them have at it. Introducing my babies to veggie soup purees from very young is, I’m almost positive, why they accept just about any new veggie soup puree I put in front of them. Including this one, which was a new soup for them. “New” foods can be a struggle for ages 3-6, and my 5 year old was not an exception. She did ask what it was, but knew that she just had to take a couple of “polite bites” to try the new food, and if she wasn’t a fan she could be done. As it turns, out she slurped down 2 small bowl-fulls and asked for it in her thermos for school. My oldest asked if there was any left the next morning for breakfast…like her momma, she is becoming, I tell ya!

Breakfast soup?

This beautiful and delicious spring onion soup has been a favorite breakfast of mine over the last month while I’ve perfected my ingredient ratios for you. Super hot in a mug with a side of hard boiled eggs and a muffin to be exact! Bone broth rich soup is a wonderful way to start the day, and truth be told, as the weather turns warmer, I’ll be swapping my breakfast soups for smoothies more often, so I’m savoring all I can of this beautiful season.

Topping ideas

SO many possibilities here! Our favorite so far has been the sweet and salty bite of shaved Parmesan or your favorite cheese on top. If you don’t tolerate cheese, you can add some nutritional yeast flakes during blending to add the cheesy bite. We also loved a swirl of tangy coconut yogurt. You could do sour cream if you wish too. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds gives great crunch as well.

Freeze-able?

If you see an abundance of spring onions this season at your farmer’s market for those amazing in season prices, take advantage and double or triple this soup up. It freezes fantastic, and I even think the flavor enhances with time!

Print Recipe
5 from 15 votes

Spring Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp butter, ghee, or olive oil to cook in
  • 1 russet potato cubed
  • 4 bunches of spring onion chopped, including whites and greens included)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 quart bone broth
  • 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • Garnish with cheese of your choice, or dollop of sour cream or coconut yogurt

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium high heat, and add the potatoes with a big pinch of sea salt. Cook until the potatoes start to slightly brown and crisp. This will take a good 5-10 minutes depending on how big you cubed your potatoes.
  • Add the spring onion and garlic, stir, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant and the spring onion wilts and the whites soften.
  • Pour in the wine, scrape up any bits at the bottom of the soup pot, and lightly simmer for one minute.
  • Add the bone broth and spinach and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, blend the soup with your immersion blender or regular blender, and then sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste.
  • Top the soup with your choice of cheese or a dollop of sour cream.

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Spring Instant Pot White Bean Soup :: Stovetop Directions Included!

March 28, 2019

Light and refreshing spring flavors, creamy and comforting without being heavy, this Instant Pot White Bean Soup is your answer to cool spring days!

We had our feet in Lake Michigan this weekend!

Well, let me rephrase that…my Michigan born and bred kids had their feet in the “just starting to thaw” Lake Michigan waters that were registering in at an invigorating 32 degrees Fahrenheit 🙂 I enjoyed my thermos of coffee from ashore in my winter boots! They are like a moth to a flame to this beach, and I love watching them enjoy it in every season!

Cool spring days meals

Spring has a way of really messing with us here along the lakeshore. We see that sun finally peeking out, and most Michiganders trade snow boots for beach flip flops at a mere 40 degrees. The girls saw the slightest bit of water thawed at the lake, and their boots and socks were off faster than I could say “barley thawed.” The sun is deceiving with chilly air still hanging around, so warm meals with spring freshness has become a bit of an expertise of mine.

The key to warm spring meals…

Despite the cool air, our body clocks definitely still shift in the spring. So the key for me has been to invite those fresh spring flavors into light spring soups. We enjoy spring Nettles and garlic in this roasted asparagus and garlic stinging nettle soup. We make fresh skillets of spring veggies, and this spring I’ve been using my Instant Pot a bit more since, well…life, right?! I created this Instant Pot leek asparagus soup with fresh lemon that we have been literally guzzling by the mug full weekly – it is so addicting! And this week, we enjoyed this lighter version of bean soup.

More…soup?!

Ummm yes, because, at least where I live, March is notorious for spring colds, the last of the flu viruses, and various other bugs that kids like to pick up. Packing nourishing, healing bone broth based soups in our lunchboxes for school, or soup bowls for dinner is vital at this time of year. If you have never made bone broth before, please check out how easy it is to make with these recipes either in your Instant Pot OR slow cooker!

Creamy and comforting bean soup without the heaviness…just in time for spring!

Because I really do feel the shift from winter to spring – while we crave those heavier comfort foods during the cold winter months, our bodies shift in the spring to the desire of refreshing spring food. This brothy soup is light and airy, with a bit of creaminess to the broth for comforting and amazing texture. Kids tend to like soups with a creamier feel, and this one will not disappoint. The spring dill and bright lemon juice finish at the end is fantastic.

Instant Pot OR Stovetop!

Because I’m hearing from more of you on my last IP post that stovetop is still your main cooking jam, and I *big puffy heart* love that! You are my people! I love my stovetop cooking, and while my Instant Pot has made it’s way to a permanent spot on the counter, if I have the time, I will choose the stovetop every time. Please see the Stovetop directions below to adapt this recipe to how you cook!

Print Recipe
5 from 18 votes

Spring Instant Pot White Bean Soup :: Stovetop Directions Included!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry navy beans
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3-4 tbsp butter to cook in bacon grease, olive oil, ghee, or other cooking fat of your choice will be fine
  • ½ large onion diced
  • 1 large carrot or parsnip peeled and diced
  • 1 large celery stalk diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • A pinch to 1/4 or more tsp of red pepper flakes depending on your heat preference this amount leaves the soup with a very mild kid friendly heat.
  • 1 ½ quarts bone broth
  • Juice of ½ lemon about 1-2 tbsp
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale de-ribbed and chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

INSTANT POT METHOD

  • Put the 2 cups of dry navy beans and sea salt in a medium bowl with warm water to cover by 2-3 inches. Let the beans soak for 8-10 hours, then rinse and strain and set them aside until they are ready to add to the IP.
  • Turn the Instant Pot on to “Saute,” add the butter to melt, and then add the onion, carrot, and celery with a pinch of sea salt. Saute for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and soft.
  • Add the garlic, paprika, dill, and red pepper flakes, stir and saute for 1 minute. Turn the IP to “Off.”
  • Pour the drained beans and bone broth into the IP, stir to combine, put the IP lid on, and turn the valve to closed.
  • Turn the Instant Pot on to “Soup,” and leave the time at 30 minutes. The Instant Pot will automatically turn on, and will take about 10ish minutes to come to pressure (depending on how cold your broth is) before counting down the 30 minutes. When the time beeps that the 30 minutes is done, turn the Instant Pot “Off,” and leave the valve closed and lid on to naturally let the pressure release. This gives the beans time to finish cooking and locks flavor in. After about 15 minutes, you can open the lid.
  • Ladle out about half the soup, puree it in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender, and return the pureed soup to the pot. Add the lemon juice and kale to the soup and stir. The heat from the soup will wilt the kale, and you can season your soup with salt and pepper to your taste.

STOVETOP METHOD

  • Put the 2 cups of dry navy beans and sea salt in a medium bowl with warm water to cover by 2-3 inches. Let the beans soak for 8-10 hours, then rinse and strain and set them aside until they are ready to add to the soup.
  • Warm a soup pot over medium heat, add the butter to melt, and then add the onion, carrot, and celery with a pinch of sea salt. Saute for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and soft.
  • Add the garlic, paprika, dill, and red pepper flakes, stir and saute for 1 minute. 
  • Pour the drained beans and bone broth into the soup pot, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer until the beans are cooked and tender. This will take 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally and check the beans for done-ness.
  • Ladle out about half the soup, puree it in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender, and return the pureed soup to the pot. Add the lemon juice and kale to the soup and stir. The heat from the soup will wilt the kale, and you can season your soup with salt and pepper to your taste.

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Sheet Pan Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets :: Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Grain Free & EASY Prep (NO Breading or Dredging!)

March 21, 2019

Fuss free, fast prep, freeze-able, and {oh so!} kid friendly in taste sheet pan gluten free chicken nuggets!

Glimpses of spring…

We can almost taste it! It really is melting! We are seeing consistent SUN, and sweet friends, spring is so close we can hardly stand it. Our beautiful frozen Lake Michigan beach is thawing out, and we can hardly wait to get our feet into it’s powdery sand.

Spring BUSY

As we started coming out of winter hibernation mode, and spring activities started blooming (<– see what I did there! 🙂 ), I had a panic moment looking at the rest of March, April, and May and had to take a minute! While those toddler and baby years were…a LOT…it really has nothing on tween years with a couple of school aged kids on the side. I know I’m totally in for it when they are all in their teens, but I’m loving that I get to ease into that one kid at a time!

Prep ahead goals

I will be the first one to admit that I literally live for standing stove side to cook. I know that isn’t everyone. It is therapy for me. I do make a point to get my “therapy” cooking into my schedule at least once a week, but a little #RealLife for you…I can’t do that every day. I decided to play around with a little idea I had for nuggets that I could make ahead for the freezer for busier school activity evenings, and make it as fuss free as possible. Bonus if they were simple enough to batch up and throw into lunchboxes too!

Fuss free kitchen time

The first day that I had planned to make these nuggets my day completely fell apart. It happens right?! I originally was going to do the typical “breading” for these nuggets, “dredging” them in something grain free, and decided to scrap that whole step all together because I was short on time. Big time bonus – they turned out even better with out that time consuming step, so this prep truly is fuss free.

No skimping on nourishment here!

Even though my goal was to make something that could be easily prepped for the freezer, for dinner, or lunchbox add-ins, I didn’t want to create something with empty calories. These busier months before summer break at school require big time fuel for growing and active kids. They need real food that packs a punch. I bulked up these chicken nuggets with a load of sweet potato for slow burning energy to fuel those growing kids. It also helps the meat budget when you can pack in some veggies and make the meat stretch.

The perfect texture!

Oh that texture you guys! It was one of the first things the girls mentioned when I started trying this recipe out – and I don’t have “picky” eaters. Nugget texture matters – these are not dry, have the perfect chew, and the flavor is out of this world. There is a slight sweetness from the sweet potato without adding any sugar or even honey, and they don’t taste like sweet potato. The secret is adding a bit of fat (coconut oil) to make up for the leaner chicken or turkey, and soaking up the moisture from the sweet potatoes with a little coconut flour. The result is a great chicken nugget texture that even the pickiest toddler nugget connoisseur will enjoy.

Freezer Tips

There are 2 ways you could freeze the chicken nuggets – choose which works best for you!

  • Your first option is mixing the meat mixture, form it into nuggets, and freeze flat on a baking sheet. When the nuggets are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag to store in the freezer. You can bake them off from the frozen state for dinner adding an extra 5-10 minutes.
  • OR you can mix and bake the nuggets fully, and then freeze them already baked off. I can see myself doing this for easy lunchbox add-ins. They are already cooked and you can toss them in to lunchboxes frozen – they will thaw by lunchtime.
Print Recipe
5 from 18 votes

Sheet Pan Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets :: Egg Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free, Grain Free & EASY Prep (NO Breading or Dredging!)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey or chicken I pick up organic ground turkey at Costco
  • 2 tbsp room temp coconut oil
  • 2 cups finely shredded sweet potato I just use my box grater. This ends up being 1-2 sweet potatoes depending on the size
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Everything into a medium mixing bowl and combine well.
  • Scoop small portions of the meat mixture (size of ping pong ball), roll into a ball, and then flatten onto a Silpat lined or parchment paper lined baking sheet. You can make the nuggets any size (and shape) you want. The nuggets do not spread out or puff up, so make them the size/shape/thickness you want.
  • Bake the nuggets for 12-13 minutes, flip them over using tongs, and then bake another 11-13 minutes depending on the size of your nuggets. Let them cool a few minutes before serving.

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Instant Pot Spring Leek & Asparagus Soup :: Gluten and Dairy Free!

March 7, 2019

Instant Pot leek & asparagus soup pulls the best flavors of spring with a quick pressure cook prep time!

Snow Day number 7,458…

Another lake effect snow storm, polar vortex, whatever you want it call it…is in the books! In March. It’s Michigan…I get that. By March I’m definitely over it, and I’m so ready to bring you some bright, fresh spring recipes! Since it is so cold here, we’ll start with spring produce in soup form to keep us warm, m’kay?!

Whatever state is sending us spring produce…THANK YOU!

We adore you. No really we do. Because we won’t see fresh Michigan asparagus until almost May, and I just can’t go that long without some spring in my life! When I saw the first asparagus sale from at the store a couple weeks ago, I snagged what I could and to the girls’ complete delight we had roasted asparagus with dinner that night – something other than winter veggies! They were in heaven! Leeks and lemons are such a bright and fun spring addition to this smooth and creamy soup too – it’s like spring in a bowl!

Flavors that will blow you away

It is just so good. This soup – you will want cup after cup after cupful. The mild leeky onion allows the rest of the veggies to really shine through, and that tangy bright lemon and yogurt put it over the top. Once you try the little hit of lemon in your asparagus soup, you’ll never go back. This soup would be a great appetizer or soup course item for Easter brunch or dinner. Your guests will be wondering what it is that is making the flavor so amazing, and it is really that combination of the perfect balance of sweet veggies, tangy finishes, and delicious herbs. It will vanish before their eyes!

Instant Pot quick!

I cannot wait to make this soup all spring long! If you happen to snag a great in season deal on asparagus this spring, you can really stock up your freezer with asparagus soup. Shopping veggies in season is defintely how to keep your real food budget in check. And since we can make the soup easily in our Instant Pot, the though of making it all season long doesn’t sound daunting! If you have the 8 quart, I bet you could double this recipe!

The perfect, kid friendly (and not so veggie loving person friendly) soup!

I made this soup on the “soup-ier” side so I could drink it from a mug easily, and so my younger girls could easily use a straw for their school lunch thermos. When my girls were older baby and toddler ages, they really loved eating soups like this with a straw. Between the pressuring cooking time and the blending of the soup, I promise there are no asparagus “strings” left and it is super kid friendly in texture. While I absolutely believe in making sure kids are exposed to every food texture, I understand how those bigger asparagus spears can be kind of stringy. The texture of this soup is soup smooth and creamy – perfect for kids and adults alike!

Freezer Friendly!

Absolutely fill your freezer with at least a couple quarts of leftover soup when you make it! When late fall and middle of winter hit your home, it is SO nice to pull out a jar of spring flavors to change up your menu! To freeze the soup, I like to cool it to room temp, and then fill BPA free freezer quart containers. If you freeze in glass jars, just be sure to leave the lid off for 24 hours in the freezer so it has room to expand and not break your jar. You can put the lid on once it freezes completely.

Print Recipe
5 from 21 votes

Spring Leek & Asparagus Soup :: Gluten & Dairy Free!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbsp friendly fat to cook in I prefer the flavor of a combo of butter and olive oil. Ghee is lovely too.
  • 2 large leeks ends and green tips removed, sliced into rounds and rinsed of sand (Use the white and light green part. If you don’t have leeks 1 medium onion or a couple shallots would work well.)
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled (no need to chop – it will all get blended up in the end)
  • 2 bunches of asparagus woody ends removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small/medium yellow potato cubed
  • 1 ½ quarts bone broth
  • 1 tsp dried dill if you have access fresh use about 2-3 tbsp
  • ¼ cup full fat coconut yogurt regular yogurt, crème fraiche, or sour cream (you can use raw milk or coconut milk if you don’t have these, but the tang of the fermented creams is lovely)
  • Juice of ½ lemon use about 1 tbsp
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Turn the Instant Pot to “Saute,” and melt the butter/oil. Add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes until fragrant, soft, and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, and then turn the Instant Pot “Off.”
  • Add the asparagus, potato, bone broth, and dill, stir to combine, and put the lid on the Instant Pot. Be sure the valve is closed, and turn your Instant Pot on to “Soup.” Bring the time down to 10 minutes. (The IP will start automatically from here. It will take about 5-10 minutes to come to pressure depending on how cold your broth was, and then will start counting down the 10 minute pressure cooking time.)
  • When the 10 minutes of pressure cooking is done, release the valve and take the lid off. Blend up the soup using your immersion blender or regular blender until it is smooth.
  • Stir in the yogurt and lemon juice, and then taste for salt and pepper. You can sea salt and pepper the soup to your taste, and serve.

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Healthy Salty and Sweet Trail Mix :: No added sugar!

January 22, 2019

From lunchbox additions and afternoon pick me ups, to game day munchies and movie night snacks, this salty and sweet trail mix is the perfect healthy choice!

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.

Lunchbox ruts…

Dear momma, I am so feeling you! Halfway through the year, and that lunchbox rotation is starting to look a little blurry, the kids are bored of the same thing, and you are just squinting your eyes at any glimpse of summer break on the horizon 😊

Even real food bloggers need a fresh idea!

Because I’m human too. And I have a full schedule, 3 completely different kids, and seriously those lunchboxes don’t pack themselves! My youngest started asking for “trail mix” in the last few weeks, and I had an idea of what she was asking for. Usually I just take the easy route and pack the girls a hand full of nuts or seeds with a few pieces of raisin and call it “trail mix,” but my youngest was referring to a trail mix she fell in love with a while ago…

A healthier take on an old stand-by…

A year or so ago, Costco carried this cleaner than most trail mix that I had grown accustomed to having in my rotation for the girls’ morning school snacks, or as a quick lunchbox addition. Like Costco seems to be so good at doing, right when you get into a rhythm of using something of theirs that you love…they take it away! Amiright?! To be honest I didn’t love that the dried fruit in the mix had sunflower oil, but for the most part the mix was pretty clean, and it was nice to use once a week as a quick snack or lunchbox filler. Really this mix isn’t that hard to duplicate! I decided to grab a cleaner, healthier fat to make the trail mix feel rich, and make it fun with different pieces of dried fruit for the sweet, and a hit of sea salt for the salty – that makes for a fun snack!

Let’s break it down!

You can really swap the nut/seed/dried fruit combo for anything that you have in your pantry. I love having a big variety to take advantage of all the different vitamins and minerals that nuts and seeds have to offer, without overdoing it on one particular kind. If you are nut free, just use all seeds, and if you can’t have something on the list, simply swap it out. And as far as the dried fruit goes, the sky is the limit as long as it doesn’t have added sugar in my book, so go for it! I can hardly wait until strawberry and blueberry season so that I can dry some of those out to add to the mix!

Speaking of the fruit…

Dried fruit is super sneaky. You have to really look at the ingredient labels and be sure you aren’t getting sunflower oils and added sugar. Just be careful – I’ll add a link to each of the dried fruit elements that we love using here, and I’ll add a few more that I think work great too. All of these are oil and added sugar free! For the most part, I get the dried fruit between Costco and Amazon.

  • Raisins
  • Dried mango (to use these in the trail mix, just chop them up into bite sized pieces)
  • Dried apple (to use these in the trail mix, just chop them up into bite sized pieces)
  • Dried goji berries
  • Dried apricots (to use these in the trail mix, just chop them up into bite sized pieces)
  • Prunes (to use these in the trail mix, just chop them up into bite sized pieces)
  • Dates (to use these in the trail mix, just chop them up into bite sized pieces)
  • Dried bananas (Sometimes called banana chips – I use these as snacks with pouches of Justin’s almond butter for lunches too!)
  • Figs (to use these in the trail mix, just chop them up into bite sized pieces)

To bake or not to bake?

If you are short on time, this mix truly does just come together to toss without the cooking fat and sea salt, and you’re good to go. Many of you with toddlers in the house can start out this way! As the kids get older and their palates mature, having that salty/sweet combo with the richness from a little butter makes a handful of trail mix go from good to amazing! When the girls got their hands on this, they literally thought we were having a treat. I’ll be packing this up in little containers for a popcorn swap the next time we visit the movie theater because it definitely is a nice salty and sweet snack. While I think butter or ghee has the best flavor, avocado oil or olive oil would work the same way. Use what you can!

Soaked/Sprouted Nuts and Seeds

All of the nuts and seeds that I use in this trail mix have been soaked and dehydrated (with the exception of the shelled pistachios). When I first started learning about real food years ago, I learned about the process of soaking in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook as something that our ancestors would have done. The soaking takes the phytic acid in the nuts and seeds down a few notches, making them easier to digest. If that feels outside your real food comfort zone just yet, don’t work yourself up over it. Just use what you have or buy and make this fun recipe! If you are a traditional foodie, you will want soaked or sprouted nuts/seeds. My process to make the soaking process simple and fast, is that when I buy the bags of organic nuts/seeds from Costco or Amazon, I soak and dehydrate them right away. They stay in containers in my pantry so that I can take a quick handful for lunchboxes, or scoop them out for a recipe like this!

Other fun add-in ideas

You can really dress the trail mix up for whatever you are using it for! This basic framework is great for everyday, if you are going to have a bowl of it out at a party or on game day, add in some healthier choice chocolate chips is fun (this does have added sugar just fyi if you have to watch that). I also think coconut flakes are a fun addition and when I have those around I like to add those in with the baking process to make them crispy like chips.

A quick note about saving money and where to shop

Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can be super pricey if you aren’t careful. We want to have good stewardship with our real food budget, and so I suggest shopping around diligently to find your best priced source. For where I live, it is really between Costco and Amazon, though there are a couple of items with better pricing at our local grocer, such as the dates listed in the dried fruit above. In the links below in the recipe card, any of the nuts that you see with the “Kirkland” organic brand linked, I get at Costco. The rest of the nuts/seeds I buy on Amazon to save money. These items come with a lot, so build up your stash a little at a time, and you will be able to have more variety in your trail mix with time! 

Print Recipe
5 from 18 votes

Healthy Salty and Sweet Trail Mix

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
  • Pour the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit right onto a baking sheet (NO Silpat or parchment paper for this recipe), and then toss with the melted butter and sea salt so that everything is coated evenly.
  • Divide the trail mix between 2 large baking sheets, spread the trail mix out, and bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir the trail mix around (I just shake the pans a bit!), and then bake another 5-7 minutes.
  • Let the trail mix cool completely and then store in an airtight container.

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Instant Pot Cauliflower and Kale Soup :: Stovetop Directions Included! :: Gluten and Dairy Free!

January 4, 2019

Make super smooth and creamy cauliflower and kale soup in a fraction of the time with your Instant Pot!

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

Winter hikes, and warm bowls…

At this point in the year, my little Michigander children expect snow…and lots of it! Every once and a while we experience a “barely white” Christmas, and this year was one of them. With the last 2 weeks off from school, they’ve been less than impressed with the lack of fresh powder, but thankfully that leaves roads clear enough to visit some of our favorite hiking places to move around. We warmed up with warm bowls of this super smooth and creamy cauliflower and baby kale soup after a hike this weekend, and the rest will be saved for school lunchbox thermoses, and momma’s breakfast.

A mind-blowing breakfast revelation….

Those of you that follow my Instagram much in the last few years know that soup is on my breakfast plate most days of the week – especially in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring. Years ago a nutritional therapist that I was working with opened my eyes to just how many more vegetable minerals and vegetable fiber our bodies need on a daily basis, and one of the ways I have figured out to get veggies into this not-so-smoothie-loving girl’s plate is to use soup.

A new breakfast favorite!

Ever grab a head of cauliflower at the market only to forget about and find it a few days later with the beginnings of those little brown spots on it? Just me?! Well, it happened to me a couple months back in the thick of the beginning of the holiday season, and I decided to use the whole head up in one shot so it didn’t go to waste. I used what I had in-house, and this delicious soup was the result – and became my breakfast for the rest of the week! It has been a nice change up from my typical breakfast soups, which also means veggie nutrient variety for my body, and that is always a win.

What I eat with my soup for breakfast

When I eat soup for breakfast, I like to have it with sides of just about anything! That keeps things interesting, so you don’t get bored. Fried eggs or sausage, a healthy muffin or breakfast cookie…even dinner leftovers will work. Leftover soup warms up quickly, and can go with you in a to-go mug too.

Ok, breakfast soup for mom, but will the kids eat it?!

Well devour it is more like it in my house, but yes, this soup is super kid friendly. If your kids aren’t big soup for breakfast eaters, pack it along in their school lunchbox thermos, or serve it with dinner. It’s a great way to get in more veggie variety with an easy to eat, flavorful soup. The texture is super smooth which most kids prefer, and the flavors are pure and delicious versus super complex. Your toddlers/babies can use a straw if they want to do it themselves. Veggie soup purees were some of my girls’ very favorite first foods, and because we started out young, they crave these mineral rich soups!

Kale? But why?!

The baby kale (or baby spinach if that is what you have) just adds more nutrients to the soup without changing the flavor. Baby kale/spinach is super mild and wilts right into hot soup – I add it to many of my soups because it is an easy way to get those dark green leafies in! It obviously changes the color, but its nice to add more nutrients without any fuss to the flavor. You can certainly leave this ingredient out if you don’t have it around, or if the kids are going to complain about the soup being “green” 🙂

The key to amazing flavor from the Instant Pot

Get those veggie basics down into some flavorful fat on the “saute” feature first. You’ll be so glad you did because the difference in flavor is very different than if you were to just toss everything in and go. Pulling the sweetness out of the carrot and onion builds the flavor in the soup which is why it is so tasty without a bunch of complex seasonings.

Chop and GO!

One of my favorite parts about soup purees, is that the veggie prep is really carefree. You don’t need a fine, perfect dice on your veggies. It all ends up getting pureed in the end, so just a quick, coarse chop will do.

Some for now, and some for later

This cauliflower and kale soup freezes great. This batch was eaten for lunch after our hike, I packed a serving away to have for my breakfast the next day, and I packed a quart away into the freezer for another time. That is probably the only true meal planning tip you’ll ever hear from my end! Whenever I make veggie soups, I always pack a quart away into the freezer for another time. I pack thermoses for the girls twice a week, and having soup in the freezer helps with that!

Print Recipe
5 from 17 votes

Instant Pot Cauliflower & Kale Soup

Ingredients

Instructions

INSTANT POT METHOD:

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, and press “Saute.”. Put the ghee into the pot to melt, and add the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt. Cook the onion and carrot on the “Saute” function for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and sweet. Add the garlic, stir in, and then turn the “Saute” feature “Off.”
  • Once you turn the “Saute” feature off, add the cauliflower and bone broth, and put the Instant Pot lid on. Turn the valve to closed, and press the “Soup” button. Bring the time down to 10 minutes. The Instant Pot will automatically turn on, taking about 10 minutes to come to pressure before counting down the 10 minutes of pressure cooking time.
  • When the Instant Pot is done pressure cooking, release the valve to let the pressure out, and take the lid off the Instant Pot. Add the coconut milk and baby kale, and use your immersion blender to puree the soup until it is smooth. Add sea salt and pepper to your taste after you puree the soup.

STOVETOP METHOD:

  • Melt the ghee in a large soup pot, and add the onion and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt. Saute the veg until it is soft and sweet.
  • Add the cauliflower and bone broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is soft, and then turn the heat off.
  • Add the coconut milk and baby kale, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it is smooth. Add sea salt and pepper to your taste after you puree the soup.

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