Almond oatmeal chocolate Cookies (my favorite!)

I fully realize that I probably shouldn’t be posting about a decadent cookie recipe when I have 20 postpartum pounds to lose…but I just couldn’t keep these from you any longer!  These Almond Oatmeal Chocolate cookies are hands down my most very favorite cookie of ALL time.

Where do I even begin?? They are everything I’m always looking for in in a cookie: chewy, crunchy and chocolatey.  And the best part of all? They pair perfectly with a bowl of ice cream, or even made into ice cream sandwiches! You can thank me later.

NOTE: If you have a WinCo near you, check out their bulk section for roasted chopped almonds – they’re perfect for this recipe!  They also sell the bittersweet chocolate discs you see in the pictures, which I melt down for the chocolate topping.   If you’re impatient like me, you’ll be happy to know that I often don’t chill these and they turn out fine.  But if you’ve got the time to stick them in the fridge for a couple hours, I think it really improves the texture (you can also roll dough into balls before chilling to speed things up a bit).

Almond Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies
Yields: 24 small cookies

Cookies:

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. Vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup rolled oats
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ toasted almonds, chopped

Chocolate topping:
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 Tbs butter

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer) cream butter and sugar until creamy and light in color. Add egg and vanilla and mix until blended.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Stir or beat into butter mixture, then mix in almonds.

Chill dough in the refrigerator for several hours.

Roll into 1” balls and place on a cookie sheet (I always use Silpat liners on mine; parchment paper also works well). Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes and then cool completely before removing.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over low heat (you can also do this in the microwave very carefully! Heat chocolate for 5-10 second intervals and stir between intervals).

Once cookies are cooled, spread chocolate on tops of cookies and chill until chocolate is set.

 

(Recipe slightly adapted from an old book I tore the page out of years ago.)

Healthy Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SameSilkySmoothTaste #CollectiveBias

Busy moms rejoice!  Check out these 4 make-ahead healthy breakfast ideas that your kids will love.

Hey all!  Life just keeps getting crazier and crazier up in here as we’re heading into the last month of this pregnancy.  Lots to do and get ready and not enough time or energy to do it all! (Seriously, someone please just come get me off the couch.)

In my effort to eat better this new year, I’ve put together a list of my 4 favorite quick and healthy breakfast ideas; they also happen to be approved by kids!  These are easy to make ahead of time and inhale in a flash or while running out the door.

NOTE: These are all dairy-free which means they’re perfect for any of you who struggle with an allergy or intolerance or who are trying to eat a more plant-based diet.  Liam’s still avoiding lactose due to his chronic stomach pain so these work perfectly for us!

Silk Almondmilk is one of my favorite substitutes for dairy milk since it has no cholesterol or saturated fat and the kids love it.  I was also excited to see Silk’s non-dairy creamers – the perfect plant-based alternative for your coffee or my personal fave: hot cocoa!  You can find all of Silk’s non-dairy products at Walmart in the refrigerated dairy cases.  Look for the new packaging coming out this month!

  1.  Homemade granola
    This is one of my all-time favorite breakfasts!  I make this granola (or a similar version) every other week and store it in an airtight container.  My favorite way to eat it is like cereal with Silk Almondmilk and sliced bananas or strawberries on top.
  2. Overnight Oats
    This is one of my healthy eating secret weapons!  I love oatmeal but don’t always have the time or inclination to make a whole pot of it. Instead, I mix the following in a glass or bowl the night before and then store it in the fridge:
    1/3 c rolled oats
    1/3-1/2 Silk non-dairy yogurt
    1 Tbs chia seeds
    1/2 banana (mashed or sliced)
    sprinkling of cinnamon
    pinch of saltIn the morning I give it another stir and then add any other toppings like nuts, nut butters, fruit and a bit of pure maple syrup or honey.  (This recipe feeds one hungry mom but can easily be multiplied to feed the whole family.)
  3. Sweet Potato & Chorizo Hash
    While this breakfast takes a little longer to make, I love making a huge pan of it for dinner or on a Saturday morning and then storing the leftovers for whenever I need something a little heartier during the week.  It’s been a breakfast obsession of mine this pregnancy!4-5 large sweet potatoes
    1 lb good quality chorizo (or other sausage)
    4-6 eggs (depending on how many people you’re serving)

    Chop sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces (you can peel them ahead of time but it’s not necessary) and spread them over a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and a couple tablespoons of liquid coconut oil and roast at 400 degrees until soft (about 20-25 min).  Meanwhile, fry chorizo on the stove, stirring and scraping the pan until cooked through and caramelized.  Add sweet potatoes to chorizo and stir to combine.  Crack eggs over the hash and cook until whites are firm.  You can also season with rosemary and other spices.


  4. Protein Smoothie
    Green smoothies are THE best on-the-go breakfast or snack.  We often make them ahead of time or store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days; I store them in quart-sized mason jars and screw on these plastic lids.  Shake well before drinking and it’s just as good as the first day!  Below is the recipe for one of my favorites…

    Blend the following in a blender for 1 minute:
    3-4 c Coconut water, Silk non-dairy milk or plain filtered water
    2-3 c spinach, kale or other leafy green
    1 c raw almonds (even better if they’ve been soaked overnight)Then add:
    1 c strawberries
    1 ripe banana
    1/2 c mango
    1/2 c pineapple

    Blend again for about 90 seconds, until smooth.  This makes a TON of smoothie and completely fills my big blender, so you might have to scale down if you have a smaller one 🙂  We often add flaxseed, chia seeds or hemp seeds on top for added nutrition.  YUM!  Let me know if you try any of these or if you have go-to healthy breakfast faves at your house that I need to know about!

Healthy Kid-Friendly Kitchen Swaps

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Do you guys struggle with feeding your kids healthy as much as I do??  With each new addition to our family, the stress level at mealtime increases and my desire to make a big elaborate meal (that 87% of my children won’t eat) DEcreases.  So instead, I stock my house full of healthy-ish packaged staples so that we always have something easy to fall back on.

I want to feed my kids healthy, whole foods but I also want to stay sane!!  And cooking everything from scratch is just not always an option.

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Below are a few of my favorite family-friendly healthy kitchen products and a few other tips to get whole foods on the table quickly.  I hope they help your mealtime rush!

  1.   Know what ingredients to watch out for.  It’s amazing what kind of preservatives and garbage you’ll find in packaged foods: from pancake and cake mixes to processed meats and cheeses.  It’d be impossible for me to list all the bad stuff out there but I generally go by the rule of trying to only purchase items with 5 ingredients or fewer.  We do our best to avoid hydrogenated fats and oils of any kind (did you know this is in Cool Whip??), High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG…shockingly still in lots of stuff!), nitrites and nitrates (in bacon and lunch meats) and added sugar.  
  2. Pick 3-4 favorite from-scratch recipes for each meal and store them in a book.  Always keep your kitchen stocked with ingredients for these favorites.  Some of our breakfast favorites include this waffle recipethis GF muffin recipe and this granola recipe.  Cereal has been hard for us to kick (and we still sometimes splurge) but it’s really just processed wheat and sugar for breakfast and I know I feel like crap when I eat it!  Yes, it takes a little extra time to make meals from scratch.  Yes, sometimes I just wanna dump milk in a mix or pop in some frozen burritos…but with a little planning ahead, it’s easy to whip these out and store them for future meals (homemade pancakes, waffles, burritos and muffins all freeze wonderfully!).  And I rest easy at night knowing exactly what I’m putting in my little ones’ bodies.  

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3.  Stock your kitchen with whole-food staples like the ones in the picture above!  This post is not sponsored in any way, these are just some of my favorites:  

*pure maple syrup from Costco: yes it’s expensive, but I’ve taught my kids to only use a small amount and it’s better than the HFCS-laden big brand syrups
*unsweetened Greek yogurt: I realize that kids love yogurt but the stereotypical kid yogurts are chock full of dyes and sugars…some have more than 20 grams!!  We prefer to buy unsweetened and then add some berries or honey.
*natural peanut butter: most pb’s have hydrogenated oils added, simply so you don’t have to stir them.  No thanks!  It took us some experimenting to find a brand we love but this “Adams” brand from WinCo comes in creamy and crunchy and is delicious!
*whole wheat bread with no sugar: I buy ours at the Alpine Valley factory near our house but they sell this bread at our local Costco as well.  Once I tried to buy bread at our local big grocery store, and I couldn’t find a SINGLE loaf without added sugar in it plus a billion other ingredients.  Alpine Valley uses honey and only about 5 ingredients.  And it’s super good!
*Natural applesauce: my kids eat this stuff like candy!  We like this Motts variety with no added sugar.

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4.  Cut out most prepackaged snacks.  I feel a little bad for our babysitters when they peek in our pantry looking for a treat cause we ain’t got nothing: no chips, no cookies, no crackers, nada.  We weren’t always this way but over the years, I’ve figured out 2 things:
1.  my kids don’t eat real food if snacks are available.  Having fishy crackers or granola bars available is a surefire way to make sure my kids won’t eat lunch.
2.  When packaged snacks aren’t available, my kids will snack on fruits and veggies.  Seriously!  I always keep a bowl of fruit out on the counter and when they’re hungry between meals, that’s where I send them.  My kids also love carrots and cucumbers and sometimes baby bell peppers with hummus.

**If you gradually make it a goal to stop buying these, you’ll be surprised how quickly you don’t miss them!  And I’m always happy when my kids are hungry at mealtime.  If you have snacks that you yourself can’t live without, hide them!  Maybe you’ll break some bad habits too!

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5.  Take a little extra time at the store one day and find 4 or 5 prepackaged meals (or easy to prepare ideas) that fit the tips above.  I love to have a couple frozen options that I know are relatively healthy and will rescue me on nights when there’s no time for real dinner.   Some of my favorites are:

*frozen bean & cheese burritos from Costco with no preservatives (sorry, I can’t remember the brand!)
*using frozen pita bread to make quick pizzas with bottled sauce and mozzarella cheese
*leftover frozen waffles (just stick them in the toaster!)
*rotisserie chicken with yummy french bread and good cheeses
*blending up a quick soup with roasted veggies (butternut squash & cauliflower are favorites)
*whipping up some tacos with leftover meat and veggies.

It takes a little preparation and ingenuity but eating whole, unprocessed foods tastes so much better, it’s totally worth it!

Lest this post makes you all think we’re perfect over here…right now we’ve got Lucky Charms, nutrigrain bars and fruit snacks hanging around (what happens when dad does the shopping) but we try to make that kind of junk an occasional treat.  I use my best judgement when buying packaged foods for my family and just do the best that I can.  I think that we moms often get freaked about all the stuff we’re not doing right, that we forget about how far we’ve come!  The trick is just to improve, a little at a time.  Good luck, mamas!

 

Spiced Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

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A Day Around Town: East Valley Phoenix

Recently several friends have asked for eatery recommendations and things to do in my neck of the woods, so I’m sharing my favorite ways to kick it outside of my house (even though staying home with a passel of crazy little minions is my jam).

Phoenix is a great place to live!  We have lots of great sports teams (including Spring training for the Chicago Cubs), great weather (er, minus the heatwave in June-August), an amazing food scene and beautiful mountains and desert landscape.

The east valley (Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe and Chandler) is my favorite, though, because it’s where I live!  If you’re local or planning a visit, I hope this gives you some ideas.

FOOD

chelsea kitchen

Chelsea’s Kitchen – This is one of my favorite date night restaurants.  With a really simple but flavorful menu, I’m always thrilled with whatever I choose.  There’s usually a wait on weekends and other peak times, but the salted chocolate chip cookies they offer to those waiting for a table makes it well worth it!

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Lemon Blackberry Cheesecake Bars with Ginger Cookie Crust

 

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You GUYS.  Every have one of those culinary experiences that is just magical??  An unexpected combination of flavors that just blows you away?  

That was me the first time I tried a lemon, blackberry, ginger dessert pairing.  It was in the form of this parfait recipe from a Bon Appetit magazine that I made for the first time several years ago and I dream about that sucker regularly.  Well, the other day my sister (the one with the culinary arts degree) and I were trying to come up with a perfect Sunday night treat and we remembered this phenomenal combination.

We invented this bar version and we are in love!  Easy, fairly quick to throw together and just a heavenly mash-up of flavors.

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Deliciously healthy blueberry muffins

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These little puppies may not win any beauty contests but their taste will blow you away!  Especially after you see how healthy they are.   Whole wheat, with healthy fats and no refined sugars, all without tasting like dirt!  In fact, they taste like the exact opposite of dirt:  Heaven.

My kids are generally indifferent about muffins: they’ll eat them if they’re starving but certainly don’t crave them.  My first batch of 12 of these babies were gone before lunchtime.  I may or may not have eaten 4.  Hot, with butter.

Deliciously Healthy Blueberry Muffins

1/4 c coconut oil (or butter)
1/4 c buttermilk OR plain yogurt (I prefer a full-fat Greek variety)
2/3 c pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c oats, quick or regular
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup milk, non-dairy milk or buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin tin with coconut oil.  (These also make perfect mini muffins!  Just cut cooking time in half and watch carefully)

In a large bowl, mix oil, buttermilk and syrup together (if using butter, you’ll need to beat with a mixer).  Add eggs and mix again.  In a food processor (or blender), process oats until ground.  Add flour, baking soda, salt to oats and pulse until combined.  Pour dry mixture into wet and lightly mix; add mashed bananas.  Stir in milk and vanilla and then gently fold in blueberries.  Spoon batter into muffin tins.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let rest for a few minutes in the pan and then roll them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.   Pair with a smoothie for a phenomenal breakfast.

Recipe adapted from this one at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Enjoy!

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Best granola on the planet

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Breakfast is hard.  I wake up to cranky kids who are starving and needtoeatrightnow and while I’m still rubbing sleep out of my eyes, they’re digging through cupboards and probably fighting over that last ounce of $4 chocolate bar I was saving for my next emotional crisis. 

Enter: This granola.
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I’ve tweaked two of my favorite recipes (one utterly caloric and delicious, the other uber nutritious but less yummy) to make one fantastically healthy and delectable breakfast that every last one of my children begs for.
The magic of making your own granola is that you have ultimate creative license.  Hate almonds? Use pecans.  Coconut allergy?  Skip it.  Totally up to you and your tastebuds.  Go create your own concoction and have fun messing with it!

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This recipe makes a pretty large batch (about 11 cups).  It lasts our family (of 7 people with molars) about a week if I patrol the pantry and don’t allow it for snacks.  Excepting myself, of course.  I’m kind of a hypocrite like that.

Best Granola on the Planet

7 c rolled oats (not quick)
4 c nuts and seeds (I like sunflower seeds, pepitas, chopped pecans, almonds and hazelnuts in any combination!  I also love shredded unsweetened coconut)
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom (optional)

1/2 c honey
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1/2 c coconut oil*
1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 c dried fruit, such as blueberries, cherries, raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix dry ingredients together well in a large mixing bowl (oats through spices).   Add sweeteners, oil and vanilla.  If honey is very thick or oil is solid, heat briefly on the stovetop or in the microwave until pourable.  Mix all ingredients together well.  Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners (very important!  Otherwise you’ll be scraping sticky oats off those pans until the end of the world) and spread granola equally on both pans. 

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Watch carefully towards the end as honey tends to brown rather quickly.  Remove when golden brown and fragrant.  Let cool completely and add your choice of dried fruit, if desired.  Stored in airtight containers, it keeps for about 2 weeks, although it’s never lasted that long at our house!

* You can also substitute with olive oil which, suprisingly, is pretty fantastic.  There is some concern about baking with olive oil and the release of free radicals, FYI, which is why I use coconut.
We love this as cereal with almond or rice milk but it’s also divine on Greek yogurt with honey.  I even snack on it plain with my favorite dried fruit!

Easy-peasy Egg Breakfast Cassrole

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I looooove breakfast.  It’s my very first chance to eat every day and I SO look forward to it!  In fact, I’d have to say that I’d rather eat out for breakfast than any other meal.  And as if deciding on a great morning meal isn’t hard enough, I’m equally in love with both savory and sweet breakfasts!

I came up with this easy meal after scouring the internet looking for the perfect Christmas morning brunch.  It’s great for holidays (or any other lazy morning) because it can be prepped the night before. (see note) 
It can also be made even healthier by adding more veggies: fresh spinach, leftover zucchini or asparagus, bell pepper, you name it!

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Egg and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

20 oz package of frozen hash browns (or made from scratch)
1/4 c olive oil
10 eggs
1/4 tsp parsley
1 tsp garlic salt
pepper to taste
1/2 tsp herbes de provence (can substitute oregano, or Italian herbs)
4-5 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 c provolone and muenster cheese, grated*
1/4 c milk (dairy or non)

*I used a random combination of these cheeses because I was using up leftovers and it was delicious!  Feel free to substitute any other flavorful cheeses of your liking.

Spread frozen hash browns in 13×9” pan and drizzle olive oil on top; mix until hash browns are coated.  Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and spices together well.  Add bacon, tomatoes, cheese and milk and mix to combine.  Pour egg mixture on top of cooked hash browns and bake at 350 degrees for 25 min. 

Note: If making the night before, cook hash browns as directed.  Allow to cool slightly, then continue with recipe until egg mixture is poured on top of hash browns.  Cover with foil and refrigerate until needed.