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Midweek Pick-Me-Up: Smoothie Bowl

Looking for something new to try in the morning? We have the perfect fix for your Wednesday blues! This filling smoothie (pictured in a bowl for something different, but you can also have it the traditional cup and straw way) is sure to give you a burst of energy to finish out your week. Eat this like you would soup, and be sure to mix all of the toppings up before serving.

Super Smoothie Bowl

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Ingredients

HUGE handful of organic kale

1/4 cup of organic pineapple

1 whole organic banana

1/4 apple

1/4 cucumber

4 organic baby carrots

1/2 TBSP fresh ginger

6 ice cubes

3 TBSP egg whites
1/2 -1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 TBSP ‘Superfood Smoothie Mix-Antioxidant Acai & Goji’ made by Essential

living foods (Found it at TJ Maxx)


Toppings

Organic unsweetened shredded coconut

Hemp seeds

Goji berries

Granola

Chia seeds

 

Combine all ingredients (except for toppings) into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl, and top with the extras. Stir and enjoy!

Special thanks to Andrea Valente for the picture! 

 

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Healthier Homemade Blueberry Nutrigrain Bars

Sure, Nutrigrain Bars sound healthy, but they’re loaded with sugar and a bunch of other things I can’t pronounce. And of course my kids love them. So I did some research on the internet to find a healthier homemade recipe for nutrigrain bars. I looked at recipe after recipe and was surprised that so many of them still used a lot of sugar and butter. After pulling from a ton of recipes, I think I came up with a pretty healthy version of my kids’ beloved nutrigrain bars. I even let them help me measure ingredients and run the blender. Give them a try and see what your kids think!

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Strawberry Banana Oat Muffins

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I just baked my last batch of muffins in my current kitchen. It’s unreal to me that we are moving in less than 2 weeks. Moving is always a little bittersweet – this was our first house, this is where we started our family, and this is where all of our boys’ “firsts” took place. It’s a little sad to leave it all behind, but I’m also excited to make new memories in a different house and to start cooking in my new kitchen. Luckily I was able to bake my family’s favorite muffins one last time before moving on.

I mentioned last week that I had a hankering for strawberry banana bread but that I couldn’t make it because I had packed away all my baking pans. Luckily I still had a muffin pan and my food processor in the cabinet, and I still had a hankering for strawberry banana SOMETHING. I decided to put another spin on my old trustworthy banana muffins by adding pureed strawberries and some oats. They turned out to be another winner. We’ll see how long this version lasts…

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Blackberry Lime Sauce

I decided to make a special breakfast this morning after I saw a few blackberries sitting in the refrigerator and immediately felt the need to have them with pancakes. I cooked them down with some lime juice, water, and just a tad of agave to create a pourable sauce. I’m sure the sauce would also be delicious spread on some toast, stirred into some greek yogurt, or poured over some vanilla ice cream. In fact, I’m quite sure it would be delicious poured over some vanilla ice cream. Don’t have any blackberries sitting around? Try another berry – any type would work.

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Quick & Easy Weeknight Frittata

We’ve been eating a lot of breakfast for dinner lately.  Last week it was pancakes, this week it’s eggs.  We have about a million and one things going on right now, including packing to move, so I seem to have zero time to cook an elaborate meal, or go to the grocery store for that matter.  We’ve also been spending most of our time outdoors since the weather has been cooperating, so I consistently lose track of time and realize that it’s time to eat dinner and I haven’t even thought about what we are having.

It would be easy to resort to frozen processed foods in a time like this, but instead I prefer to turn to a frittata.  You can use whatever you have in your refrigerator, and it doesn’t require you to spend an hour in the kitchen.  Plus, we all remember the health benefits of eggs, right?

EASY WEEKNIGHT FRITTATA

My frittata was kind of Italian themed: quinoa, spinach, orange & yellow peppers, red onion, garlic, fresh rosemary, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and mozzarella cheese.  Tomatoes would have been a great addition, but like I said, I haven’t had much time to go grocery shopping.

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Again, this isn’t really a recipe, but more of an outline.  You can add as much or as little of the filling, spices, and cheese as you would like.

Serves 4 to 6 (depending on how hungry you are!)

  • Any veggies, grains, or meat leftover in your refrigerator
  • Fresh herbs and/or spices
  • Shredded cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Sautee your filling until veggies start to soften (remember to season them with salt and pepper), then spread them out in an even layer over the bottom of an oven-safe pan.  A cast iron skillet comes in handy here…

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Top the filling layer with cheese.

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Whisk eggs and pour evenly over filling and cheese, cooking for a few minutes until the edges begin to set.

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Finish by baking in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until eggs are set.  I immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen them, then let the frittata cool for a few minutes before slicing.

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Serve with a salad and fruit and you have a quick, nutritious dinner!  “Egg Pizza,” as my oldest son calls it.

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Now, if only packing was as easy…

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Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Pancakes

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My kids love breakfast for dinner, so when they requested “PANCAKES!!!” tonight I obliged, making them a slightly healthier and more nutritious version.  These Whole Wheat Sweet Potato pancakes aren’t overly sweet, which makes them ideal for dinner.   Topped with just a drizzle of maple syrup and served with fresh fruit, these pancakes were a huge hit!  Not to mention my kids certainly didn’t object to eating their sweet potatoes tonight…

WHOLE WHEAT SWEET POTATO PANCAKES

Recipe from The Food Network

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (I substituted agave)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 teaspoons melted butter, plus more for greasing skillet
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 sweet potato, cooked until tender, peeled and pureed
  • Maple syrup, for serving

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Cook batches in skillet on medium high temperature until bubbles form on the surface, then turn over and cook until dark golden brown.  Serve with maple syrup.

*I omitted the pecan butter the original recipe calls for.

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Banana Pear Muffins

I’m not a morning person (my husband will confirm this).  I could use an hour or two of quiet time after waking up to ease into the groove of the day.  My kids, on the other hand, shoot out of bed like firecrackers the second they open an eye and starting running, playing, yelling, laughing, and fighting with each other.  I usually lay in bed for a minute thinking about the diapers and clothes that will need to be changed and the breakfast that will need to be made and think to myself “is it bedtime yet?”  The thought of coffee eventually drags me out of bed and leads me downstairs to the chaos of the kitchen and demands for milk and food.

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day despite the fact that I’m not a morning person.  I usually go the savory route with eggs.  I don’t love sweet breakfasts (there are exceptions, of course) because I don’t feel satisfied afterwards.  From all the delicious breakfast options out there, what do my kids usually choose?  TOAST!  Such an exciting breakfast, huh?  Toast with fruit and yogurt is usually on the menu for them.  My youngest and middle sons like oatmeal, but I don’t always have time to make it because it seems like we’re always rushing to get out the door in the morning.

To break up the monotony of toast and still provide a speedy, healthy breakfast option I’ll often make something early in the week for them to eat for breakfast for a few days.  Something like MUFFINS!  Who doesn’t love muffins?  Especially these muffins.  They pack a double punch – they are relatively healthy because they aren’t loaded with tons of sugar or butter AND they are so, so tasty.  I’m not a huge baker, but after many trial and error batches and pulling ideas from multiple muffin recipes, these muffins have made me somewhat of a rock star around my house.  They are super moist and continue to get better the second day.  I would say they are good on the third day, but a batch never lasts that long in my house.  My kids gobble them up quickly, which is always a plus in my book considering my oldest son can nibble on a single piece of toast until lunchtime.

What’s even better about these muffins is that this recipe is more of a “base” recipe.  You can make whatever version you would like by switching up the spices and substituting the 1 cup of fruit with another ingredient.  Don’t feel like making banana pear muffins?  How about pumpkin, or pumpkin banana, or blueberry, or… the options are endless.  I’ve tried all that I mentioned and they’re all delicious, but this version seems to be my family’s favorite.

BANANA PEAR MUFFINS

Makes about 24 mini muffins

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)*
  • ½ cup agave (or light brown sugar)
  • 1 ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ t ground ginger
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • 1 c mashed banana & pear
  • ½ c applesauce
  • ½ cup coconut oil (heat to liquefy)
  • 1 T vanilla

Whisk dry ingredients together.  Whisk wet ingredients together.  Add wet to dry and mix together.

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Use a small cookie scoop to drop batter into mini muffin pan.

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Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.  Remove muffins from pan immediately and allow to cool on rack.

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*NOTE:  The 2 cups whole wheat flour version seems to taste a little “too healthy” for my husband.  The muffins are certainly a little moister when you use 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.  My kids love either version.

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Easter Carrot-Pineapple Smoothie

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The calendar may say it’s Spring, but Mother Nature clearly didn’t get the memo.  Instead of temperatures in the 50’s or 60’s, we are experiencing temperatures in the 30’s with the chance of flurries in New Jersey!  For those of us still pulling out the winter coats, gloves, hats, and scarves, let’s turn up the thermostat, pretend it’s a balmy 75 degrees, and celebrate Spring’s arrival with a smoothie.  For the rest of you lucky enough to have abandoned the heat in your homes, be sure to enjoy your smoothie outside in the sun and know that we are very envious.

Smoothies are a great way to pack in the vitamins and are a surefire hit with the little ones.  Bonus?  You’re not even hiding the fruits and veggies from them!  I found this recipe for a carrot-pineapple smoothie and thought it would be the perfect simple Spring snack or addition to Easter breakfast.  Not only does it look festive and include the Easter Bunny’s favorite root vegetable, but it also contains plenty of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6 and fiber.  Hopefully your little bunnies will enjoy this smoothie as much as the Easter Bunny himself would.

So sit back, think warm thoughts, and enjoy.  Just try not to get a brain freeze.

Carrot-Pineapple Smoothie (recipe from Real Simple)

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  • 1/4 cup carrot
  • 3/4 cup pineapple
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (I used orange-mango juice)
  • 1/2 cup ice

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth and frothy.

Cheers!

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Sarah’s Rainbow Yogurt Parfaits

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! I’m not Irish, but I certainly love celebrating any holiday with the kids and creating fun and festive food for them. Since corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and green beer aren’t really for the little leprechauns in our lives, how about making them a rainbow yogurt parfait complete with gold coins instead?

Simply chop up rainbow colored fruit (I used strawberries, oranges, pineapple, kiwi, and blueberries) and layer in a clear jar with some vanilla greek yogurt. Top with some multigrain O’s cereal for the gold coins and garnish with a kiwi shamrock. These parfaits are definitely much healthier (and cuter) than a bowl of Lucky Charms!

Hope you have a happy St. Patrick’s Day! Don’t forget to wear green…

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Sarah’s Homemade Bread

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 10.29.04 AMIf you’re anything like me, you have a drawer full of recipes printed off the Internet and a cabinet full of cookbooks dog-eared with recipes to try. The problem is that I rarely get around to trying these new recipes. I also started a folder in my Gmail account for new recipes which I do dip into every now and then. See, I don’t like to follow recipes. I much prefer to fly by the seat of my pants, taste and adjust to my liking. Over time I’ve learned that it’s more important to learn a cooking technique than to follow a recipe word for word, which is why I’m not the best baker. I simply don’t understand the whole science behind baking. I know that if you don’t add enough of this your cookies won’t rise or if you add too much of that your muffins will turn into hockey pucks, but it’s all just too technical for me. I like to look at a dish and add something if it’s lacking in color or taste a dish and add more spice if needed. This approach doesn’t work in baking, at least not if you actually want someone to eat your baked goods.

My whole view on baking changed a bit after I had kids. Obviously kids love cookies, cakes, muffins, cookies, cookies, cookies, and more cookies, so I figured I better put on my mom pants and get to baking to please my crowd. Just like anything else you cook at home, homemade baked goods allow you to control what’s going into them and make healthier versions of what you would buy in the store. For example, you can swap some whole wheat flour for all purpose flour, substitute mashed banana for butter, and substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil (to name a few) and feel a little better about giving sweets to your sweeties. My view on baking also had to change after I received my Christmas gift from my husband this past year. Behold, the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series Stand Mixer. I feel like everyone I’ve ever met has a KitchenAid story – “It will change your life!” people rave.

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My husband finally picked up on all the hints I had been dropping over the past year, but I didn’t expect him to buy the top dog of KitchenAid mixers. This baby can mix up to 14 cups of flour. I’m not sure when I’ll ever need to mix that many cups of flour at one time, but hey! At least I know I can should the occasion arise. I figured I better start breaking this thing in, and what better way than by baking bread?

Have you ever read the label on the bread you buy at the grocery store? Sure, the first ingredient listed may be enriched wheat flour, but what about all those additives and preservatives? It’s certainly not natural for a loaf of bread to last a week without going stale or getting moldy. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that we’ve had hot dog buns (yes, my kids do eat hot dogs on occasion) sit in a drawer for over a MONTH without getting moldy. I mean, what the heck is in those things? So I decided to take a stab at making my own bread free of additives and preservatives, and I didn’t have to look much further for a relatively healthy recipe than the instruction booklet that came with my mixer. Fancy that! Now, obviously a fresh loaf of bread isn’t a last minute thing you can whip up in the morning when you realize your bread box is empty, but making a couple loaves for the week is totally doable if you plan in advance, especially when a stand mixer does all the hard work for you.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Recipe from KitchenAid instruction and recipe manual (I mean, I certainly couldn’t come up with a bread recipe on my own!)

• 1 ½ cups water
• ½ cup honey
• 1/3 cup butter
• 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I used ½ all-purpose flour and ½ whole wheat flour)
• 1 cup quick cooking oats
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 packages active dry yeast
• 2 eggs
• 1 egg white
• 1 tablespoon water
• Oatmeal (for topping before baking)

Place water, honey, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat until mixture is very warm – 120 to 130 degrees F (I used my meat thermometer to check the temperature. I’m sure that’s probably not acceptable in the baking world, but…)

First place oats, then 5 cups flour, salt, and yeast in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 15 seconds. Continuing on Speed 2, gradually add warm mixture to flour mixture and mix about 1 minute. Add eggs and mix about 1 minute longer.

Continuing on Speed 2, add remaining flour (I only had used 1 additional cup), ½ cup at a time, and mix about 2 minutes, or until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

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Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

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To my surprise, it actually rose!

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Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape your dough into loaves (here is a great tutorial). Place in greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ baking pans. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

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Beat egg white and water together with a fork. Brush tops of loaves with mixture. Sprinkle with oatmeal. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

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Oh my gosh, you guys, I baked bread! And it’s good! What is better than warm bread fresh out of the oven with some wild blueberry preserves? Not much. It may not be perfectly shaped, but I think it turned out pretty well for my first attempt at baking bread.

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Give it a shot and let me know what you think. If I can do it, anyone can do it! Do you have any bread baking wisdom to share?


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