September 15, 2014

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix Bars

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix Bars are a cross between an oatmeal cookie and a granola bar, featuring fun trail mix inspired ingredients like pretzels, chocolate chips, raisins and nuts.

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix Bars made with pretzels, chocolate chips, raisins and nuts.

My daughter loves sweets.  Just about every night she asks me or her Dad if she can have "the D word" (code for her 2 year old brother won't understand).  And she doesn't wait until after dinner to ask.  It's usually before we even sit down to eat.

The girl plans ahead.  She's pretty serious about her dessert.

We eat sweets in moderation in our house and lately when we want something sweet I've been trying to prepare homemade treats as opposed to buying chocolate donuts, candy bars, or ice cream, which are all my daughter's favorites.  While she'd love it if I did, I don't let her have all the chocolaty sugary stuff every night.  Sometimes it's yogurt, sometimes it's unsweetened applesauce and sometimes (insert my 5-year old's melodramatic sigh of disapproval here) we skip it altogether.

September 8, 2014

Make Ahead Mason Jar Salads

Make Ahead Mason Jar Salads are a convenient way to prep salads ahead of time in glass mason jars, dressing and all, where the lettuce and vegetables stay fresh and crisp...even after days in the fridge!

Make Ahead Mason Jar Salads are a convenient way to prep salads ahead of time in glass mason jars, dressing and all, where the lettuce and vegetables stay fresh and crisp...even after days in the fridge!

I could eat a salad for lunch every day of my life.  I'll usually eat them at least 4 days a week.  The only drawback about eating a salad at home every day is the prep.  Washing, chopping, takes a lot more time than PB&J, for sure.  Even if I prep the veggies ahead of time, taking out a bunch of tupperware containers of veggies and assembling it all is kind of a pain.

With these mason jar salads I can have my fave lunch every day without all of the work!  Well, there's the work of assembling them all in the first place, but then I can just grab one from the fridge and dump it all out of the jar and the salad is done in seconds.

September 3, 2014

Granola Breakfast Cookies

This post is sponsored by Nature Valley™.  Granola Breakfast Cookies are soft, thick, protein-packed cookies that are studded with chocolate chips and dried fruit.  They are a delicious and healthy way to start the day, made with no flour, no eggs, no butter, and no oil.

Granola Breakfast Cookies | A healthy way to start the day, made with no flour, no eggs, no butter, and no oil. | | #ad #NatureValleyGranola

Breakfast options that are nutritious, delicious and convenient for weekday mornings have been on my mind lately.  Our morning schedule is busy, busy, busy as we adjust to our new school-day routine.  That routine includes getting myself, my kindergartner, and my boisterous (almost) 2-year old fed, dressed and on the road earlier than we're even used to getting out of bed in the morning.

Challenging, to say the least.

September 2, 2014

All Fruit Super Smoothie

This All Fruit Super Smoothie is made by blending together just four fresh and sweet fruits: banana, mango, papaya and pear...that's it!

All Fruit Super Smoothie made with bananas, mango, papaya, and pear | #healthy #cleaneating #snack |

I've been buying a ton of fresh fruits lately and the kids have been loving it.  My 5-year old daughter would eat fruit all day long.  The little guy, my almost 2-year old, has been exploring the world of eating fruits whole.  Up until a little bit ago, I had cut all of his food up into little pieces.  Now that he does really well feeding himself, we've moved onto whole bananas. whole, pears, whole apples.  He hates when I cut them up now!

I came up with this smoothie a few days ago when I saw a pear in the fridge that my son had taken two bites out of and then decided he didn't want.  The kids were ready for a snack, but no one wanted the already-gnawed-on pear.  Can't blame 'em.

Then it hit me....smoothie!  The kids will always take a smoothie.  I also had a bunch of papaya that my Mom had given me that needed to be used like yesterday.  Then I remembered the mango I had tucked away in one of the drawers.  I knew the frozen bananas we had in the freezer would be the perfect thing to tie them all together.   A few zips in the blender and we were good to go!  So yummy!

Why is this smoothie super, you might ask?  Tons of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, the list goes on and on...just look at the gorgeous colors of the fruit!  So much goodness going on!

August 30, 2014

Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

This Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake is a creamy and cheesy pasta casserole made with chicken, fresh spinach and tomatoes.

Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake |

When I found this recipe it was one of those nights where I turned to the fridge and the pantry to help me decide what was going to be for dinner.  We had chicken breasts, but we've done a LOT of grilling this summer, so I wanted to switch it up from the norm.

In addition to the chicken, I had some fresh spinach that I had no plans for and a bunch of spaghetti from when I stocked up on a recent buy one, get one sale.  And of course I always have cheese.  I'm a cheeseoholic.

All of the ingredients that I had on hand screamed casserole to me, so I turned to good ol' Google and entered in chicken and spinach pasta casserole and voilĂ !  I found the perfect recipe.  I tweaked it a bit to suit our tastes and the what I had in the pantry...a little more garlic, more tomato, and spaghetti for the pasta selection.  It came out so good and we loved it!

This recipe was pretty similar to my Spinach & Artichoke Chicken Casserole that uses marinated artichoke hearts and egg noodles.  Both are totally yummy and are great variations of a creamy chicken casserole.

This one's going to be perfect to make this fall.  Total comfort food!

August 22, 2014

Healthy Lunchbox Inspiration and a Rock the Lunchbox Giveaway!

Get some healthy lunchbox inspiration with five fresh and creative lunchbox ideas featuring products from some of my favorite organic and natural food brands! Don't forget to enter my giveaway while you're here so that YOU can Rock the Lunchbox, too!  Keep reading for the details.

It's that time, folks.  Summer break has come to a close and the kids are heading back to school.  In my case, it's not back to school.  This week we had our very first ever full school day.  That's right, my oldest started kindergarten.  We did have VPK last year, but this year is the full monty...five days a week, all day long.

Lord help me.

While I try to refrain from breaking down in tears at the thought of it, I'm doing my best to make sure that my little lady is prepared for all of the new and fun experiences that await her when she walks through the school doors.  As much as my heart ached to be a fly on the wall during her very first big day at school, I had to trust that I have instilled in her the confidence, drive and heart to be the best that she can be in my absence.  I have no doubt that she'll do great and bring smiles to the faces of her teachers and new friends.

That's just the kind of girl she is.

August 13, 2014

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing uses thick and rich Greek yogurt combined with a mixture of herbs and spices to make a healthy version of classic ranch dressing.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing |

I am a sucker salad dressing.  What's funny about that is that when I was young I wouldn't touch it.  I ate dry salads for years.  Crazy, right?  But now I like them all.  I'm particularly fond of the creamy, thick, rich ones like caesar, ranch, and parmesan peppercorn.  Yum, yum and yum.  

It's a little disturbing when you actually start reading labels and realize that the dressing you are putting on your salad has more fat and calories than the actual salad itself.  No bueno.  Kind of defeats the purpose of trying to eat a healthy salad when you load it up with fattening dressing!

I've recently started making my own dressing at home, like simple vinaigrettes and this Avocado Cilantro Dressing.  I've tried a couple versions of homemade ranch mix and I'm thrilled to say that I finally found one that I LOVE.

I used a Greek Yogurt base and a mixture of herbs and spices to make this super simple, healthy and delicious version of ranch.  Of course it doesn't taste exactly like store-bought bottled, nothing ever tastes exactly the same when you aren't using chemicals and stabilizers that make them shelf safe.  I think it actually tastes better than store bought.  Will you love it, too?  Only one way to find out!

August 11, 2014

Pearl Onions, Peas and Bacon

Pearl Onions, Peas and Bacon are combined in this simple and delicious side dish that is seasoned with smoked paprika and brown sugar.

Pearl Onions, Peas and Bacon |

Many of the dinners in our house consist of a protein, a veggie and a salad.  If we're out of fresh vegetables for a side dish, I'll turn to the freezer where I try to keep a couple of bags of frozen veggies to use in a pinch.

The night that I made this recipe was one of the nights that my back-up freezer vegetables came in handy.  I was out of fresh, so I listed off the frozen options that I had on hand to my husband to see what he preferred.  He wasn't feeling any of them. To be honest, I wasn't really feeling plain old peas either.   I also had some frozen pearl onions that I had no plans for.

I decided to combine the pearl onions and peas and then dress them up with some bacon.  The smoky paprika and the sweet brown sugar transformed the ordinary veggies into something special.  The whole family scarfed them down!

August 5, 2014

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Stuffed Pepper Soup is an easy to make, hearty and family-friendly soup that features all of the flavors of classic oven baked stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Pepper Soup |

When I was thinking about what I should make for dinner the other night I knew that I had to come up with a recipe that would use up some of the bell peppers I had in the fridge.  We're growing them in our garden and we have tons of green, orange and red ones that are on their way out.

I thought about making stuffed peppers or fajitas, but I decided I'd try a recipe I'd never made before.  I remembered seeing Stuffed Pepper Soup on Pinterest, so I googled it and found the perfect recipe on Skinnytaste.

Yes, I made soup in the middle of summer.  I'm a year-round soup kind of gal.

I had all of the ingredients on hand (always a plus), it came together in no time, AND my husband and my kids scarfed it down.  Win!  I am happy to add this family-friendly soup to the meal planning rotation!  If you're looking for a stuffed pepper recipe that's not a soup, check out my Simple Stuffed Peppers, a family favorite!

July 30, 2014

Almond Cherry Granola

This post is sponsored by McCormick.  Almond Cherry Granola is a sweet toasted granola recipe made with almonds, cinnamon and dried cherries.  It is perfect for breakfast or snack time.

Almond Cherry Granola |

In our house, I'm the one who comes up with the meal plan.  I'll  usually ask my husband and kids if they have any recipe requests before I go shopping and then I fill in the blanks making sure that we have plenty of options lined up for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Although food is totally my thing and I'm one of those odd ducks that actually enjoys grocery shopping (I seriously can spend 3 hours in the store and it feels like 5 minutes), it's sometimes hard to come up with fresh meal ideas that my whole family will love.

Personally, I love almost anything.  That, however, is not the case when it comes to my husband.  Over the years he has become more open to trying new foods, but he's still pretty particular about proteins.  He's not a fan of most seafood, with the exception of lobster.  And although I would love it if it did, sadly my budget doesn't allow for daily lobster indulgences.  He also doesn't love it when I cook pork.  Pork!  Ugh, it pains me to say that, because I love pork.  

Then there's the kids.  Luckily, the 5-year old will try most anything, but I have to keep in mind the fact that 5-year olds and spicy foods don't usually mix.  Same goes for the little one who is 1 1/2.  Spicy anything is a no-go.  Otherwise, he's like most other toddlers out there...anything that ends up in his tummy and not on the floor is what I consider a success.

July 21, 2014

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes are fresh tomatoes that are slow-roasted until the flavors are intensified and they are beautifully caramelized.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes |

My garden has been a little wacky this summer.  My first year growing was last year and, surprisingly, much more productive than this year.  I've already pulled 4 of my 8 plants and I've about to dig up the others, too.

I can honestly say that I think my success, or lack thereof, isn't completely my fault.  Well it kind of is, but I've come to realize gardening is all about trial and error.  See, last year I got tomatoes that were all the same variety.  And apparently the variety I chose was great for my tropical growing conditions.

This year I thought, I have obviously magically developed a green thumb because of last year's plentiful crop.  So this year I'll get all fancy and grow a bunch of different varieties.  Mix it up and get all exotic.  I do, after all, have a green thumb, like I said before.

So I planted yellow tomatoes, plum tomatoes, grape tomatoes, big boys, and one or two others.  I planted them...and they grew.  And I did get some tomatoes.  But this year I got nowhere near the amount that I harvested last year before they were struck with all kinds of sad tomato illnesses.  Out of the 8, only 2 plants really did well.  Sigh.  Live and learn.

So anyhoo, from what I did harvest, I was able to make some great fresh tomato sauce, top plenty of cream cheese bagels, and throw together several batches of fresh salsa.  I also made these oven-roasted tomatoes that have a deep intense tomato flavor.

They were absolutely irresistible right off the pan and didn't last a day in our house.  You won't believe how rich and full of flavor these little beauties are.  So, if you're lucky enough to still have tomatoes rolling in, make these!  You will not be disappointed!

July 18, 2014

Zucchini Chips

Zucchini Chips are thin, crispy, oven-baked slices of zucchini that make the perfect healthy snack.

Zucchini Chips |

My very favorite indulgent snack is chips.  Wavy, thin, kettle cooked, flavored...I love them all.  Of course I'm talking about potato chips.  Potatoes are my favorite food any way you cook them. I love them and, as I've said time and time again, I'm a salty snacker appetizer kind of girl.

So yeah, potato chips and me?  We're like peas and carrots.

I never, ever, ever thought that I would eat a chip made from a zucchini that would fulfill me like my beloved potato chips.  I mean really, a zucchini?  Baked into a chip? In my mind there was no way, no how, a zucchini chip would ever work out as a satisfying replacement for my potato chips.

Friends, I.WAS.WRONG.
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