Tuesday, October 29, 2013

White Pizza Casserole

I love a good casserole!  The main reason I love casseroles is that they feed my family for two nights!  I also love that casseroles take at least 30 minutes in the oven...which gives me time to get some other stuff done!  We eat a lot of Mexican inspired casseroles because we like spicy flavors, black beans, and corn!  But I wanted to create something a bit different...leaning towards Italian!  I had chicken in the fridge, so I put together this casserole...both John and I agreed that it tasted like White Pizza!  So that is where the name comes from!  It was wonderful, and I can't wait to eat the rest of it tonight!

Here's What You Need to Make the White Pizza Casserole:

  • 2 or 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 10 ounces button mushrooms, sliced 
  • 10 ounces whole wheat penne pasta (about 2/3 of a 16oz box)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4-10 cloves of garlic (depends on how garlicky you like your food) 
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups Italian pizza cheese blend (mozzarella & provolone)
  • handful of freshly grated parmesan 
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon each parsley and thyme (fresh...use way less if you are using dried spices) 
Now Let's Make the White Pizza Casserole:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 casserole pan 
  2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook penne pasta according to the package directions - drain and set aside
  3. In a skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil.  Add in garlic and stir for a few seconds.  Then add in chicken (I salted and peppered the chicken before adding it to the skillet), parsley, and thyme and cook until chicken is cooked through (no pink!  This may be the only time that pink is a bad thing!)
  4. Remove chicken from skillet and add mushrooms to the skillet.  Cook until nicely browned.
  5. Combine the cooked pasta, cooked chicken, and cooked mushrooms
  6. In a large pot, whisk together minced garlic (I used about 4 cloves here) with the 4 tablespoons of butter - add salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk in the flour until bubbly.  Add in four cups of milk.  Whisk together flour mixture and milk until fully incorporated and the mixture becomes visibly thicker.  Once the mixture is bubbling, add in three cups of the pizza cheese blend and stir until melted.
  7. Add the pasta, chicken, and mushrooms into the pot with the milk/cheese mixture.  Stir to make sure that all of the food is coated and then pour into prepared casserole dish.
  8. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup pizza cheese blend and freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top
  9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until casserole becomes bubbly and slightly brown
  10. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving! 

I had no idea how this was going to turn out (I think John was a bit skeptical when I was describing it to him), but it was so good!  It was rich and filling...a perfect cold weather comfort food.  It also reminded me so much of white pizza that the next time I make it, I will definitely be putting some broccoli florets in there too!  It will go perfectly with the flavor, add a bit of color, and an extra veggie never hurt anyone!  I hope you enjoy this casserole! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mommy Mondays - When All Else Fails, Put it in a SMOOTHIE!

I have said it before, but I am so blessed that my older daughter Lacie is not a picky eater at all (that little Blakely is another story...).  Out of all the things that Lacie eats, she does not like two very healthy foods:

  1. Avocado
  2. Milk
I don't know why she has an aversion to either food, but my solution is to put these items in a smoothie...and it works like a charm!  Kids love smoothies because they get to drink through a straw and it is a "big kid" or an adult type of drink!  Lacie gets super excited when she hears my blender turn on! 

Last week's Mommy Mondays post was about creating a healthier snack!  Homemade smoothies (without added, refined sugar) are a great way to make snack time easy and healthy!  In last week's post, I shared a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Smoothie!  It is the go-to smoothie that I make to get a nice full cup of milk into little Lacie.  You can find the recipe here, but it is essentially 1 cup milk mixed with 1/2 cup canned pumpkin and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice!  Easy, delicious, and tastes like fall! 

Another great way to get fruits and veggies in is by making a Green Smoothie!  I make them a few times a week, and that is how I get Lacie to eat avocado!  

Lacie's Green Smoothie
  • 1/2 of an avocado, diced (I wrap the other half tightly with saran wrap and use it for the next day's smoothie)
  • 4 large strawberries
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water (depending on desired thickness)
  • ice cubes
Whip It Up: 
  1. Place all ingredients in your blender and puree until smooth!  It's that easy!  
  2. Double or triple to serve all of your kiddos (and yourself too)
She loves drinking out of this "big girl" cup! 

I have to help her tilt the cup when it gets to the bottom so that she doesn't spill it! Yes, she drank that entire travel cup full of green smoothie!  Look at that bright green nutritious color! 

Me and my sweet girl at Sesame Place over the weekend!  

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Best Pumpkin Cake You Will Ever Eat

We are a bit pumpkin obsessed in our house!  I love pumpkin (along with all of the other fall flavors), and this year John really jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon!  Yay!  We have been enjoying pumpkin donuts, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee, and pumpkin muffins.  I am trying to get in as much pumpkin flavor in my baking before fall comes to an end!

I always see recipes for poke cakes - where you bake a cake and poke holes in it.  Then you pour either sweetened condensed milk or pudding over the top.  I knew I had to make one of those poke cakes with delicious pumpkin flavor!

This cake is my very favorite alternative to pumpkin pie!

Here's What You Need to Make the Pumpkin Cake:

Yes, the actual cake part of this recipe is only 3 ingredients!!!
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 (15oz) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling just plain canned pumpkin)
  • 1 generous tsp pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have this in your spice cabinet, you can make your own by combining cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice) 
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • whipped topping (I made my own whipped cream using 1 pint whipping cream and 1/2 cup powdered sugar...but you can sub cool whip or whatever you like)
  • cake garnish - I used chocolate shavings, heath bits, and caramel sauce (just the kind you buy next to the ice cream)

Now Let's Make the Pumpkin Cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease (I used PAM) a cake pan  (I used my Le Creuset Classic Baker, which is 12x9 but you can just use a standard 13x9 as well)
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cake mix and the pumpkin pie spice - this will incorporate the two ingredients and break up any cake mix lumps
  3. Stir in the can of pumpkin
  4. Spoon into your prepared pan
  5. Bake for 30 minutes (adjust the length of baking depending on the size of your pan)
  6. Allow cake to cool completely in pan
  7. Once cool, use the back of a wooden spoon to poke holes in your cake - all over the top of the cake...don't worry about it looking pretty, you are covering it up
  8. Pour your can of sweetened condensed milk over the top of your cake, making sure to fill the holes - use the back of a spoon to spread the milk around evenly
  9. Allow the condensed milk to soak into the cake by chilling for one hour or more in the fridge
  10. After an hour, frost your cake with the whipped topping - I combined 1 pint of whipping cream with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in my kitchen aid mixer and beat on medium high speed for about five minutes
  11. Put cake back into fridge until you are ready to serve
  12. Before serving, garnish with whatever other topping you want...I used chocolate shavings, heath bits, and caramel sauce
  13. Store any leftover cake in the fridge (but honestly, there won't be leftovers)
I sprinkled the chocolate shavings all over the top of the cake.

Then, I garnished my piece to look like this!!!  Seriously don't you wish you could jump through the screen and eat this! 

If you make nothing else from my blog, go make this!  It is so easy!  And so delicious!  It's the perfect fall dessert!  Happy Friday and Happy Eating! 

The Le Creuset Baker that I use:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Healthier Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie

In case you can't tell from previous posts, we love cookies in this house!  John has been practically begging me to make another batch of these delicious Red Velvet Fudge Bars everyday for the past five days.  But unless you are blessed with a fantastic metabolism (and neither of us were) you can't eat those cookie bars on a daily basis.  So I came up with a fun cookie recipe for all those days in between...the days when you want something sweet but don't need the overindulgence!

These cookies are allergy friendly - no peanuts, no tree nuts, no eggs, and no dairy (just make sure to use dairy free chocolate chips)!

Here's What You Need to Make the Healthier Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies:

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar (you could use brown or white)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
No eggs in this batter!  Let your kids help! 

Now Let's Make the Healthier Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a small mixing bowl combine the mashed banana, applesauce, sugar, vanilla extract, and extra virgin olive oil.  Set bowl aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl combine whole wheat flour, rolled oats, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon (use a whisk to combine evenly)
  4. Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and mix well with a large spoon
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips
  6. Use a cookie scoop to drop batter onto prepared sheet (16 medium sized cookies)
  7. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes
  8. Allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely
  9. Store in an airtight container for up to five days

Enjoy!  You will love these cookies!  More importantly, your kiddos will love these cookies (and you can feel good about giving them one...or two)!

A few tools that I use to make these cookies:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mexican Chicken and Rice Casserole

I love love love to make casseroles!  I love that I can make assemble a casserole during the day and then pop them in the oven when John says he is on his way home from work!  I love that I can pop a casserole before the girls' bath and bedtime routine, and the casserole is ready and waiting for me when I say "goodnight" to the girls.  I love that one casserole feeds my family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) for two nights!  I love that casseroles are always so warm and comforting!  They are the perfect dinner meal for fall and winter!

John and I eat a lot of Mexican inspired food.  We love anything that has a spicy kick and incorporates black beans, cheese, and corn into the recipe!  I make a lot of mexican inspired casseroles, like this enchilada casserole or this taco pasta bake!  This casserole is a great way to use what you have, especially if you have leftover chicken and rice!

Here's What You Need to Make the Mexican Chicken and Rice Casserole:

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 or 3 chicken breasts (about 1 pound) cooked and shredded
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup salsa (I used a "medium" for the level of spiciness)
  • 1/2 cup taco sauce (again I used medium)
  • 3 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided

Now Let's Make the Casserole:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 casserole dish
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked chicken, cooked rice, black beans, and corn
  3. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the greek yogurt, salsa, taco sauce, and 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese
  4. Pour sauce mixture into the larger bowl with the chicken and mix until everything is evenly coated
  5. Spoon mixture evenly into prepared casserole dish
  6. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese over top of casserole
  7. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes until cheese is melted and browned around the edges
  8. Remove from oven and allow to sit 5 minutes before serving

As always, use what you have and make substitutions to fit your needs and taste buds!  You can definitely kick up the spiciness with a hotter salsa or dial it down by using a mild salsa!  If you don't have or don't like greek yogurt, you can use cream cheese or sour cream in it's place!  White rice instead of brown works just fine, and you can put in any type of beans you like!  Enjoy!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mommy Mondays - A Better Snack

A long time ago (and by long I mean well before I had babies) I was watching Dr. Oz talk about healthy eating...specifically feeding children healthy.  He said that crackers were the worst snack that well meaning parents feed their kids!  He explained that crackers are a filler food, providing no nutritional value.  They actually fill up teeny tiny tummies so much that there is no room for nutrient dense foods!  He wasn't saying that crackers are bad, they are just not good!  Don't ask me why but this information really resonated with me and it something that I always think about when I plan Lacie's snack.  Getting anyone to eat healthy is a challenge, but we can do so much better then grabbing a handful of goldfish crackers when we make a snack for our kiddos!

The kid-friendly version of wine and cheese is grapes and cheese!  It's a favorite in our house!  You will see that the grapes are cut up nice and small to prevent choking (something that really scares me from all my years working as a teacher).

Why do we give crackers?  They are easy and liked by most children.  With a little creativity, you can make easy and likable snacks that pack a much greater nutritional punch.  Like meal time, you shouldn't stress too much about snack time.  Similar to last week's Mommy Mondays post It Doesn't Have to be a Meal, snack time does not have to be fancy.  There are plenty of grab and go items that are healthy and provide a good nutritional punch!  It is also super easy to whip up something healthy, like a smoothie, for on-the-go snacking!  Lacie is a great eater but doesn't love to drink her milk.  I have been offering her this fall smoothie about twice a week to get in that extra calcium!

Lacie's Pumpkin Pie Smoothie:

Three Easy Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin, like Libby's - do not use pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk but you can use whatever type of milk you have on hand)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have this seasoning mix just use some cinnamon)
Whip It Up:
  1. Place all ingredients in your blender, add in a few ice cubes, blend until smooth
  2. Pour into a cup and serve (or you could just blend it in a single serve cup like I did)
How easy is that?!?!

Yes, this teeny tiny 2 year old drank that entire smoothie! 

Still looking for more snack inspiration?  Below I listed a few easy snack choices from the 4 groups I use to make a meal - fruit, veggies, protein, and whole grains.  Pick one item for not so hungry kiddos and mix and match two items for those with bigger appetites!

Fruit Snack Ideas:

  • banana (whole or sliced)
  • grapes (please please please cut these up for younger kiddos...they are a choking hazard)
  • apple slices 
  • strawberries 
  • any type of fruit that you have pre-diced in the fridge...
  • fruit smoothie - homemade 
  • fruit pouches - yes the ones in the baby food aisle!  Older kids love to eat this as well.  Just twist off the cap and hand to your child to "drink."  No mess!  You can also find them next to the applesauce!  Get organic if possible!

Vegetable Snack Ideas:
  • Kale Chips
  • carrot sticks (for older kids)
  • celery sticks
  • peas (cooked but served cold from the fridge)
  • pepper slices (use different colors for a fun colorful plate)
  • green smoothie (a spinach or kale based green drink)

Protein Snack Ideas:
  • hummus (homemade or store-bought) 
  • organic string cheese (a Lacie approved favorite) 
  • beans - black, kidney, white, pink, etc
  • edamame 
  • sunflower seed butter, soy butter, nut butter, or peanut butter (just not in our house)
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt 
  • a hard boiled egg or an egg cupcake

Whole Grain Snack Ideas:
  • slice of sprouted grain bread
  • a whole wheat muffin like these "sunny days" muffins
  • homemade granola bars
  • whole grain cereal 
  • whole grain crackers (I know I said no crackers but I was really talking about things like goldfish and saltines...there are definitely healthy cracker options just read the labels)
  • slice of homemade bread like pumpkin or banana

Some Mix and Match Snack Ideas:
  • apple slices with sunflower seed or nut butter
  • hummus and pita chips
  • cheese and grapes (the child friendly version of cheese and wine)
  • homemade trail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisons, other dried fruit, mini chocolate chips) 
  • greek yogurt with diced fruit
  • celery sticks with sunflower seed butter and raisons

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Dessert That Started It All!

Happy Friday Everyone!!!  Friday is always Dessert Day in our pink house!  And this weekend's dessert is a special one!  In order to honor the anniversary of John asking me to be his wife (Monday October 21st will be 6 years since his special proposal) I am making the dessert that started it all:

Heath Bar Crunch

October 21, 2007

On the day I met John - June 3, 2006, I had made a batch of this amazing dessert for a party!  He ate some at the party...Then, I sent more home with him...He ate it and thought it would be a great idea to find me, call me, and ask me out on our first date one week later!  This is the dessert that made John fall in love with me!  Make a batch and you may just meet your soulmate! 

Now, this is not my own recipe.  I don't know where this originated, but I'm sure that you have had it somewhere.  In addition to the name Heath Bar Crunch, I have also heard of it under the name "Christmas Crack," which is very fitting because it is super addictive.  So even if you don't think you have eaten it, you will probably make it and taste it and then recognize the taste.  These little candy pieces are simple to make and are guaranteed to be LOVED by all!  

Here's What You Need to Make the Heath Bar Crunch:
  • 1 sleeve of salted saltine crackers (you may need a few more if some are broken...and please don't use unsalted crackers)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter (again don't use unsalted...you want the salt!)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used light but dark is fine too)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate will work in a pinch also)
  • foil and cooking spray
Now Let's Make the Heath Bar Crunch:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray it liberally with cooking spray (like PAM)
  3. Arrange saltine crackers in a single layer, covering the entire pan (you may need to break pieces to make them fit)
  4. In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter and mix in brown sugar
  5. Stir occasionally until the butter and sugar are thoroughly combined
  6. When the mixture starts to bubble, continue to stir for exactly 2 minutes (seriously set your timer)
  7. After the 2 minutes is up, add in the 1/4 tsp of baking soda and stir constantly for exactly 1 minute (the mixture should get lighter and bubble higher)
    Like This! 

  8. Working quickly, pour mixture evenly over crackers and put in oven for 7 minutes
  9. Take pan out of oven and sprinkle entire bag of chocolate chips evenly over pan
  10. Allow to sit one minute (chocolate will begin to melt) and then use the back of a spoon to spread into an even layer
  11. Place pan in freezer until set (at least 30 minutes to 1 hour)
  12. Remove from freezer, using foil remove from pan and peel off foil
  13. Break into bite size pieces and serve or store in freezer (you can store it in the fridge too it will just be a bit softer - I eat it right out of the freezer!)

A few tips that will help the baking process go smoothly!  Preheat your oven before you start!  Also, clear off a spot in your freezer before you start!  Have all your ingredients ready because you will have to move quickly with this recipe!  And that baking soda this recipe calls for...make sure it is fresh!  If you can't remember the last time you replaced your baking soda, it is too old.  Get a new box before you make the Heath Bar Crunch!  It is important! 

You will love this!  Now you know I am a big fan of "use what you have" but that's not really the case with this recipe!  The ingredients are very specific other than your choice of light or dark brown sugar!  If you don't have the ingredients on hand, you can also try making a batch of my Heath Bar Crunch Cookie Bars.  They are fantastic as well! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Crockpot Pulled Pork Tacos

It seems like so many people that I know love pulled pork.  They love it because it's a crockpot meal and it's easy!  I never liked pulled pork because...I don't like BBQ sauce (I know terrible, right).  But I wanted to try making a pulled pork that both me and the hubby could eat and enjoy!  And I wanted it to be easy!  I also needed to be able to throw it in the crockpot and not do too much fussing!  So I turned to my good buddy Pinterest and found lots of pulled pork recipes that did not call for BBQ sauce!  I mixed and matched a few recipes to come up with my Crock Pot Pulled Pork Tacos!

And they are delicious!  I made them once, then twice...and now they get made about every three weeks!  It couldn't be more simple!  There are really two required ingredients and well, then, you can put in whatever else you want and serve it however you like!  That makes this the perfect use what you have recipe!

John and I enjoyed these crockpot pulled pork tacos for our own little Taco Tuesday date last night after the girls were asleep!

Here's What I Use to Make the Pulled Pork Tacos:

  • 1 pound of boneless, thinly sliced pork chops
  • 1/2 to 1 entire bottle of Taco Sauce (it will depend on the size of the bottle but the goal is to just cover the meat with the sauce...you don't need it swimming in sauce)
  • 1 tbsp garlic - powder, minced, sliced...whatever kind you have at home...just don't use garlic salt because the sauce has plenty of sodium 
  • 2 tsp cumin 
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • taco fixings - tortillas, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream, diced tomato, etc.
Now Let's Make the Pulled Pork Tacos:
  1. Place the pork in the bottom of your crockpot
  2. Pour sauce into a Pyrex glass measuring bowl with a pour spout
  3. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder to the sauce and mix well (you can add in any other seasoning that you like in Mexican dishes I just like this combo on top of the taco sauce flavor)
  4. Pour sauce on top of meat
  5. Cook on your crockpot's low setting for at least 6 hours (up to 10)
  6. About 1 hour before you plan on serving, open the lid of the crockpot and shred pork using 2 forks, close lid and leave for at least 30 minutes but an hour is best
  7. Serve however you like tacos
This was what was left after we ate!  I didn't remember to take a before pic because we were starving! But you get the idea of what the meat will look like when shredded as well as how the sauce darkens and thickens! 

We enjoy these tacos in small flour tortillas topped with mexican cheese and shredded lettuce!  If I was serving this to guests I would put out bowls of sour cream, diced avocados, and diced tomatoes to make it fancier...but when it's just John and I we are really pretty simple! 

If you love onions (or just have one that you want to use up) you could add diced onion to the crockpot!  If you had a can of diced green chilies in your pantry, that would be a good addition too!  

Have fun!  And enjoy eating this new spin on Taco Tuesday! 
You can find my Crockpot Here:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mommy Mondays - It Doesn't Have to be a Meal!

Happy Monday blog readers!  Last Monday, I introduced my first Mommy Monday Post!  I will be posting something mommy related every single Monday!  The first 4 weeks of Mommy Mondays will be focusing on healthy eating.  Getting my girls to eat healthy foods is a main focus in my house!  Every mom has that "thing" or "things" that they are super passionate about and this is one of my "things."  Last week was all about getting in a vegetable at breakfast, before your kiddos are even awake enough to realize what is happening!  You can read about that (plus find a really great recipe) here!

Mommy Mondays Healthy Kids Tip #2 - It doesn't have to be a meal! 

Sometimes getting children to eat (and eat healthily) is a huge challenge.  It can be even harder if you are focusing on cooking a "meal" that your child will like and eat.  As adults, we tend to have a mindset that certain foods belong together and put those foods together to make a "meal."  We combine foods that we believe taste good together:  fish and chips, spaghetti and meatballs, steak and potatoes, eggs and bacon, etc.  Children have no concept of "meals" or foods that go well together!  Just like in last week's post when I stated that kids don't think of vegetables as only a dinner and lunch food, kids also don't think of putting together a meal with specific foods that complement one another.  Even though I do create "meals" for my girls to eat, I am also just as likely to put 4 healthy items on a plate and present it as breakfast, lunch, or dinner!  And guess what?!?  This method of making a non-meal is so much easier and requires minimal planning!  It is also a great way to use what you have in the fridge/freezer/pantry!

Here's what you are going to do - buy a cute sectioned plate and fill it up with a fruit, a vegetable, a protein, and a whole grain!

I see plates like this everywhere!  I found this specific one at Pottery Barn Kids but I have seen them anywhere from the grocery store to Target!  They are cute and give you an awesome starting point for creating a non-meal!  

This was Lacie's dinner last night!  She ate:
  • Fruit - 1/2 organic pear diced small with the skin still on
  • Vegetable - diced butternut squash with cinnamon
  • Protein - organic black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • Whole Grain - 100% whole wheat cinnamon raison bread (that she helped mommy make in the bread maker) 
This was so easy!  She ate every bite and just loved her non-meal dinner.  She doesn't know that this wasn't a "meal" or that these foods don't necessarily go together.  She just knew that it was all things she likes to eat.  And I knew that it was healthy! 

Another sample Lacie Non-Meal:
  • Fruit - 1 clementine cut up small
  • Vegetable - organic sweet peas (a favorite)
  • Protein - organic turkey breast (from the Deli at Wegmans)
  • Whole Grain - a spelt flour, sweet potato pancake torn into bite size pieces (otherwise she eats it in about 2 bites)
See this plate does not seem like a meal (it is certainly not something that your average adult would eat for dinner), but it still provides plenty of healthy nutrition for my busy two year old!

Happy Non-Meal Planning! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Red Velvet Fudge Bars

Happy Friday and Happy Dessert Day (if you are new to my blog, Friday is always dessert day at our house)!!!  I love love love red velvet!  I love it almost as much as the color pink!  John also loves red velvet, so when he called me yesterday sounding exhausted from working so much overtime, I knew I had to make him a special treat for when he got home.  I made these delightful bars, and he absolutely loved them...in fact he ate 8 of them!  I thought he was exaggerating when he said that he had 8.  But then I looked at the plate, and he was clearly not kidding!  So I know that they were a hit!  Since last night, I may have enjoyed one three bars myself!  

Here's the thing about these Red Velvet Fudge Bars!  They are a cross between a cookie bar and fudge.  They have a nice cookie texture around the edges, top, and bottom while maintaining this soft fudge-like middle!  Make them this weekend.  I promise you will not be disappointed!  I used a Red Velvet cake mix as the base for this recipe.  If I am making Red Velvet cake or cupcakes, I always make it from scratch using this fantastic recipe!  I do not think the mix tastes as good as homemade when you are trying to make a cake or cupcakes.  However, when you are making a treat like this, the mix is the perfect shortcut!  

Here's What You Need to Make the Red Velvet Fudge Bars:

  • one box red velvet cake mix
  • one stick butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Now Let's Make the Red Velvet Fudge Bars:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan
  2. In a large mixing bowl stir together cake mix, melted butter, and eggs until well combined 
  3. Fold in the white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips
  4. Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan
  5. Bake in oven for 20 minutes
  6. Remove from oven (you will see that the mixture is cooked but "puffy").  Use the back of a spatula and press down the bars evenly - making them flatter and more dense
  7. Put back into oven for 5 minutes
  8. Remove from oven and press down with spatula one more time
  9. Cool in pan completely
  10. Cut into even squares and store at room temperature 

If you have read any of my other cookie bar or fudge bar recipes (like these chocolate caramel fudge bars) you will already know that I use this spatula method outlined in steps 6-8 often.  I just think it makes the bars perfect!  It creates a crisper outside and a softer inside!  In other words, it is what makes these bars perfect!  Try them and see for yourself! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Easy Pumpkin Muffins Part Two

Fall weather is back where I live!  We were having a bit of a heat wave for awhile here...I actually had to turn my AC back on!  But last night, both girls were back in their long sleeved PJ's, the AC got turned off, and I made some more Pumpkin Muffins!

A few weeks ago, I shared a recipe for Easy Pumpkin Muffins.  This recipe is the same idea with one less ingredient!  I like this recipe a bit better because the spice cake mix provides a deeper fall flavor!  Of course, I will just make whichever one based on the ingredients in my pantry on any given day!

Here's What You Need for the Easy Pumpkin Muffins Part Two:

  • one can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling just regular pumpkin like Libby's brand)
  • one box Spice Cake Mix 
  • about 1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (more or less depending what time of day you plan to enjoy eating these delights - but I always opt for more)
Now Let's Make the Muffins:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and use paper liners or grease 15 muffin cups (this will not make 24 muffins like the mix normally would because you are not using the eggs/oils/water called for on the box)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine canned pumpkin and cake mix until thoroughly mixed
  3. Fold in chocolate chips
  4. Spoon evenly into your prepared pan
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until tops spring back to the touch
  6. Cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Then remove and cool completely on cooling rack

These muffins are a fast and easy grab-and-go breakfast!  They also make a perfect sweet treat for dessert!  No raw eggs in the mix means that your kids can help make them and lick the spoon!  You could also try baking this recipe in different shaped pans!  But for me, I like to make muffins because that means I can eat them for breakfast!  Which is exactly what I did this morning, with a delicious cup of pumpkin coffee on the side!  Enjoy! 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Mommy Mondays - Veggies for Breakfast

Starting today, I am going to be featuring "Mommy Mondays" every single Monday on my blog!  The posts will be about anything mommy-relatesd, from kid crafts to kid recipes to discipline and everything in between!  Being a mommy is the most important role in my life!  I'm not a mommy expert, I'm only two years into this life-long journey, but I think I have learned some important things so far!  I can't wait to share them with you!

My first 4 "Mommy Mondays" posts are going to feature something that I feel super passionate about!  And that is making sure your child is a healthy eater!  Let me start with why this is so important in my life as a mommy....I was the world's pickiest eater!  Seriously, my mother could tell you stories about how I used to make myself gag at the dinner table.  I have the best mother in the entire world, and eventually she did what any loving (and exhausted) mother would do...she stopped making me suffer and cooked me a separate dinner.  Plain pasta or boxed mac and cheese...at least 5 nights out of the week!  My mom did nothing wrong, she did what so many parents do!  The pediatrician actually told her to just let me eat whatever I wanted because I was a healthy child and it would make dinnertime more peaceful!  Seriously, most parents just want to make their kids happy and make sure that they get some sort of food in their tummy!  But even though this never affected my health, as an adult I really had to force myself learn to try new foods.  And I am still pretty picky (and I hate it).

My own experiences as a picky eater made me determined to have non-picky children!  Now I totally believe that all kids have their own palate, and that means some children are just born "picker".  I can already see the differences between my two kiddos!  Lacie eats almost anything and Blakely is a bit more picky...despite my introducing them to the same homemade baby foods in pretty much the same order!  BUT even though kids may have a predisposition to be picky there are so many things you can do to help them become healthy, well-rounded eaters!

Mommy Mondays Healthy Kids Tip # 1 - Give them at least one vegetable for breakfast!!!!

I know that you are probably cringing, and believe me when I tell you the thought of broccoli for breakfast makes my stomach turn!  But you know what?!?!  You child does not know that it may be weird to eat a side of peas with their morning yogurt.  A two year old does not know that pancakes are breakfast food and sweet potatoes and chicken are dinner food.  So give them veggies for breakfast before they get old enough to know that it is weird!

We are not perfect eaters in our house but I do try to give my girls a serving of vegetables for breakfast at least four or five days out of the week!  Except of course on Saturday when I'm whipping up a batch of these whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes!

Don't know how to start incorporating veggies at breakfast?  Here's a simple recipe that features THREE veggies!  It is called Egg Cupcakes (you could also call it Egg Muffins - but you know your kids will love the fact that they are eating a "cupcake" for breakfast)!  And don't worry, it's not just for the kiddos!  It is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for busy mornings!

Here's What You Need to Make the Egg Cupcakes:

  • 18 sweet potato puffs (I used Alexia brand - found in the freezer aisle)
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced (the smaller the dice the better for reluctant veggie eaters)
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 6 eggs (use 5 if they are extra large)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used a Mexican blend) 
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional) 
  • extra virgin olive oil for sautéing the veggies
Now Let's Make the Egg Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray or grease 6 cups of a cupcake pan (or use paper liners for less clean up)
  2. Defrost the sweet potato puffs for about one minute in the microwave and place 3 puffs in each cup or liner
  3. Smash down the potato puffs to create a "crust"
  4. In a small sauté pan, heat your olive oil.  Add in diced red peppers and cook until slightly soft.  Toss in spinach and cook for about a minute until spinach is wilted
  5. Spoon red peppers and spinach evenly into each cupcake cup
  6. In a bowl with a spout, lightly beat eggs.  Add s&p to taste.  Pour evenly into each cup until almost full 
  7. Top each cupcake with a sprinkle of cheese
  8. Bake in oven for 25 minutes
  9. Remove from oven and cool in pan 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on rack
  10. Serve once cool enough to eat or cool completely and store for 3 days in fridge or up to 2 months in freezer...reheat and serve when desired!
*if you used paper cupcake liners, make sure to remove them before storing in the freezer*

Now you know I love to use what I have, so you should feel free to change the recipe to use what you have on hand at the moment!  I used red peppers and spinach because I had those two veggies in the fridge.  I also chose that combination because Lacie loves spinach but is not quite so in love with peppers.  By giving her at least one veggie that she loves, I knew she would be willing to give it a try!  She tried it and she loved it!!!  You can almost put any veggie in here that goes well with eggs...broccoli, mushrooms, etc.!!!  Have fun with these egg cupcakes and get one serving of veggies into your child's tummy before they even start their day!  You can also double or triple the recipe depending on how many hungry mouths you are feeding!  

Success!  Lacie ate every bite of her egg muffin, even the red pepper!  And now I have 5 cupcakes waiting in the freezer to pull out on a busy morning!  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

John's Banana Bread

I am a terrible patient!  All this sitting around my house with my feet up and watching other people play on the floor with my kiddos is driving me crazy!  Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful for the help!  And I know that I am very lucky to be home from the hospital minus one very infected appendix... but still!  I am ready to be recovered!  This afternoon during naptime, I could take it no longer.  My kitchen MISSED ME!  Seriously, it was calling me, "Lindsay get off the couch and bake something...there are 3 overripe bananas in your fruit bowl waiting to become bread!"  Now maybe it was the pain meds, but honestly I just had to get off my butt and bake!  So I did!  I am resting again now :)

In this post I shared my family's love of bananas, how we always have bananas in the house, and how I love to bake with bananas!

One Overripe Banana = Healthy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Two Overripe Bananas = Sunny Days Muffins 
Three Overripe Bananas = Banana Bread

Well, today there were three bananas!

My husband loves banana bread!  He will eat almost an entire loaf to himself.  When we got married, I started baking a banana bread recipe out of one of my many cookbooks.  And it was delicious, but unhealthy - think white flour, a whole stick of butter, white sugar and brown sugar, etc.  So I decided to take what I knew about baking and bread making and create a simple and healthy banana bread recipe!  There is no butter or oil in my recipe!  I use whole wheat flour!  There can also be no refined sugar if you choose to leave out the chocolate chips, but I always put in the chocolate...life's too short!

Here's What You Need to Make the Banana Bread:

  • 3 very ripe bananas 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional) 

Now Let's Make the Banana Bread:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 one pound loaf pans
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine bananas, applesauce, eggs, and honey
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until combined (do not over mix)
  5. Fold in chocolate chips
  6. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans
  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (until top springs back when touched)
  8. Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes
  9. Turn bread out onto cooling racks to cool completely
Sweet B's First Taste of Banana Bread

I have no words!  She loved it!  She is in the bathtub as I type! 

Enjoy this bread with a nice cup of coffee!  Your family can eat one loaf and you can share or freeze the second loaf...or you can do what we do and eat both loaves so fast that it will be gone within 3 days!!!

I use two of the Gold Touch One Pound Loaf Pans (below) from Williams Sonoma to make this bread (and all of my quick breads).  I swear by these pans, and the bread comes out perfect every time!  


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