Caprese Salad

It never fails. My family will always eat more of a meal if I present it well. Setting the table, using real plates, arranging the food in a creative fashion, all of that. “Tablescapes” are a real thing! While there are definitely days I grab the paper plates and throw some chicken and rice on a plate, most of the time we are purposeful with our meals.

This salad is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. If I had coarsely cut the mozzarella, tomatoes & basil only to throw it in a large bowl- my kids would have looked the other way. Instead, I sliced and plated in a way that made everyone at the table go “ooh and ahh”. Even my pickiest friends tried caprese salad!

Layering the mozzarella and the tomato really makes this simple salad ridiculously good looking. (anyone get that reference, anyone??)

For dinner I paired the salad with bbq chicken (click here for the bbq sauce recipe), grilled veggies and watermelon.

We served 9, so portions were pretty big and we even pulled out some pre-cooked brown rice from the night before to give more options. I love having tons of people over for meals. It makes my heart so happy!

Try this caprese salad, and see if your family likes it presented in a fancy way😉 Top it with this Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing for a real treat![amd-zlrecipe-recipe:95]

The Joys of Tee Pees

You know that excited feeling when you’re in on a secret for someone else? Try 3 someones. My kids had no idea when they came home from school this Friday that an amazing tee pee would be waiting for them! I’ve been holding in my excitement all week. They guessed what was inside the box and had a few ideas, but none this cool!

Every mom’s dream. A great new imagination tool that is easy to set up and take down. I can fit this right in my closet when we’re done and bring it back out for a rainy day! Total honesty here, I laughed out loud in complete joy when I read the tag that all cloth parts are machine washable. That’s the kind of mom I am. If it can be washed normally, I get the feels.Check out the little window with roll-up panels. Sooo cute! I’ve been wanting a little space in our house for reading and creative play. This tee pee came with a soft mat and 4 pillows to go inside. Right away my kids had to rearrange the little pillows and make themselves a “nest”.

So far the tee pee has been a book nook, camping tent, puppy house, snuggle bungalow, Peter Pan’s secret lair, and probably more I haven’t witnessed.

This is such a fun way to expand your children’s imagination. We at Sweetest Lemonade have partnered with Joy Tee Pee to give you an exclusive $20 off coupon. Simply enter sweetestlemonade20off at checkout!

Click here to see the cute patterns they have too!

Clean Carrot Cake

I love a good challenge. The kind that scares me slightly, makes me question my capabilities and forces me to do my best. It might sound ridiculous, but that’s what this cake did.

I love a good carrot cake, but a good carrot cake is hard to come by! I don’t quite understand it myself, but many carrot cakes turn out very dry. I also want to taste more than just carrots in my cake. There are so many flavors that compliment carrots. A carrot cake should be creative and fun!

I chose ginger and pineapple as my two complimenting flavors. The ginger leaves a tiny bite at the end of each mouthful. The pineapple draws out the natural sweet in the carrots and creates a soft textured “crust” underneath the cake.

This cake can stand alone without frosting. That was really important to me simply because it’s hard to make a cream cheese frosting without cream cheese, and a lot of people have a hard time with dairy (myself included). So while the cake can be frosted, it doesn’t have to be. How neat is that?!?

Biting into this cake, you’ll notice the consistency is spot-on for a regular cake. I love the idea of a cake that can bring people to the light-which is that eating real food doesn’t have to be gross. It can be delicious and nutritious! This cake is gluten free, dairy free and butter/oil free. I used apple sauce instead of any kind of fat. That also helped get the right moisture for a carrot cake. A carrot cake should be moist throughout, but hold itself well while cutting into it.

Invite some friends over, sway them to the dark light side of life and indulge in some carrot cake! This is a great starter dish for those skeptical about a healthy lifestyle. As always, I linked some of the ingredients to Amazon for quick purchasing. Enjoy!


Pomegranate Sherbet

The heat was horrid. The kids and I were trying to make do, but we’d had enough. Every time the front door opened I could hear myself calling out, “Shut the door, you’re letting the heat in”. My husband was going through 6 gallons of water a day to keep from becoming dehydrated. The water in the pool was so hot we couldn’t even swim!

I did what any mom with 3 melting children would do. I put them in a cold bath and made sherbet.

Sherbet is great because it doesn’t require an ice cream maker. You can simply freeze it! This recipe makes excellent sherbet by freezing in 3 stages. First, you pour the blended liquid into a freezer safe Tupperware container. After an hour, use a fork and whisk it. This keeps the fat from separating with the sugar. In another hour to hour and a half, repeat this process. The sherbet will be mostly thick now, almost a thick milk shake consistency. Let the ice cream freeze for another 2 hours and serve! It scoops nicely right out of the container.

I just love the color of this sorbet too. The pomegranate flavor is cool and refreshing.

Try it yourself! Feel free to use this recipe in an ice cream maker if you have one, or just use your freezer.


My Momtra

You’ve probably run across this issue before. It took me the first 2 years of my son’s life to figure out, and now that I’m 9 years into motherhood, I feel like I’m getting it down to a rhythm.

I’m talking about my momtra. What I stand for. Which battles I’ll pick and which I’ll let by. Who I am now that I’m a mom. What I want my kids to see in me.

Have you thought about it? It’s kept me up at nights, and caused lots of over-thinking. I used to worry about it. Mostly because I realized I was a mom before I really thought about what it was to be a mom.

I Thought I’d Come Up With Everything To Prepare For My Firstborn

  • Crib
  • Baby registry
  • Decorating the baby’s room
  • Choosing of names
  • The washing of newborn clothes before he came home
  • Perfect rocking chair
  • One million baby blankets (just in case)
  • Cloth diapers
  • Books on sleeping patterns
  • Books on what to expect
  • Enough baby clothes to cover every inch of my house

That and more was done to get ready for him. What I didn’t think about was me. I remember clearly going to a friends house when Josh was 5 months old and listening to her talk about her parenting style. The topics were wide. They spanned from if she would homeschool or public school, whether her baby was advanced or not, if she was going to allow processed food near her child, and much more.

I felt like all I could do was listen, because I hadn’t thought of any of that. I had gotten as far as keeping my baby safe, playing with him and trying to talk to adults once a day. Even that was a challenge. Especially at 5 months when babies are mobile!

That’s when I realized there was much more to being a mom than keeping them alive. I had decisions to make. Big decisions that could effect my little guy’s entire future. As an already avid list lover, I began researching and writing. Making goals, talking to my husband about what was realistic and asking the hard questions about our baby’s future.

My Momtra

I searched my heart and came up with what I now call my “momtra”. It’s what I believe has helped me not only survive motherhood, but thrive while I’m in it. And boy, am I in it. Now 3 kids deep, I’m so thankful for these simple truths that make me who I am as a mom.

  1. Children are a JOY.
  2. It is impossible to OVER-communicate. Keep trying!
  3. I will teach my children that fear is not a part of their DNA. Being fearful and being wise are two different things. We will be wise in our decisions.
  4. Work is good. It feels good to work hard. Laying on the couch watching TV is not the goal, but a simple way to rest after hard work. (this is for me AND my kids)
  5. I will do life with my kids. They are not excluded from activities with me (such as housework, errands, cooking, they’ve even come to business meetings from time to time).
  6. My children have feelings and opinions that are as important as mine. I will not belittle them. If we cannot do what they want to do, I will take the time to explain why. If they are upset, I will not tell them they can’t feel them or that they aren’t justified in that feeling. I will acknowledge them and help them to move passed that feeling or emotion.
  7. No deal is too big, no event too grand. If my children need me, if there is ever a crisis or emergency- I will be there for them. There is no age limit to this. I don’t care if they are 45 and need me- I will be there.

That’s it. I know, nothing was said about what kind of school I’ll put my kids in or how I will discipline, but that’s sort of the point. Those things are decided and they are important, but they aren’t the MOST important. They never will be. I’ve noticed that those things can change with each child too. I discipline my three kids in different ways, because they are different people. My momtra is what stays constant.

Total honesty, there are still days I’m just trying to keep them alive, but this is my goal. That my children grow up to be amazing humans. That they work hard for what they love. I want to see my children enjoy kids around them and even have kids of their own someday (I hear grandkids are the best!). I want them to know their worth, and know beyond a show of a doubt that their mom has their back. I want to see them charge ahead towards exciting new ventures, without letting fear hold them back.

So, that’s my momtra. What’s yours? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you’re new to our Sweetest Moms Community, be sure to check our some of our top read posts Fighting Screen-Time Zombies, The Art of Caring, and The Conductor of the Potty Train. 

Join The Sweetest Moms Community On Facebook! We are a kind, fun group of moms who definitely don’t know what we’re doing all the time.😉

Strawberries in Balsamic Yogurt Sauce

Today I’m celebrating. Coffee in hand, kids at school, and complete silence are my party decorations. Something incredible happened this weekend. Our little family of 5 went hiking.

Hiking by itself is nothing new for my crew; what’s new is how we hiked. Minimal planning, and minimal child-holding on the hike. My kids are now 9, 5 and 2 1/2. As you can imagine, the last few years of parenting have come with lots of planning and LOTS of child-holding in order to maintain the life we love. That hike was magical. Our two boys hiked the whole way with no complaining. Our 2 1/2 year old daughter rode in the hiking back pack and only complained because she wanted to walk too. We let her down whenever we stopped to swim and that made her very happy.

My husband and I have been pretty ruthless in keeping what we love regardless of the kids. Meaning, we haven’t stopped hiking, going to concerts, camping, road-tripping, and all around adventuring. We’ve gone into countless activities with the attitude of “this is going to be even better than last time” as opposed to “we’ll just try to cope because the kids are with us this time”. This has become our life mantra.

Sweetest Lemonade was actually named after our intense focus to make not just lemonade out of lemons, but the sweetest lemonade. Life doesn’t have to be “less than” when kids enter your world. Or even when things start to turn sour for that matter. When life gets hard, you still have the choice to make it the best out of what you have.

Parenting is hard, and complaining about it is the easy way out. I choose to live every day enjoying my kids, my messy house and my knack for cooking.

That brings me to today’s recipe. A simple, surprisingly sweet yogurt balsamic sauce dolloped over strawberries.

Plain Greek yogurt gets a bad rap because of its strong tangy flavor and complete lack of sweet. I wish we weren’t all so addicted to sweet (myself included) and could appreciate foods that have other flavors. But, that topic is for another day.

I love the clear red color of this balsamic!

This twist on yogurt is superb. No one would guess a white pomegranate balsamic and a little bit of honey could transform plain Greek yogurt into a snack even your kids will request!

The best part is, this recipe is only 4 ingredients, and perfect for summer![amd-zlrecipe-recipe:91]

Honey Caramel Sauce

Ah, honey caramel sauce. The caramel flavor everyone loves with a light, airy taste. Honey can be used for a variety of things, not just food. I use raw, local honey in all my recipes. This stuff is too good to make into some sort of face mask or hair removal treatment. Some things simply must be eaten.

I am in love with raw honey. The taste alone gets me, but the way it holds its own in recipes has me sold out. I am not new to cooking with honey. When I used to buy generic honey from the store (gasp) I had no clue what was missing. The flavor wasn’t nearly as prevalent and the texture was slightly different.

Getting the ingredient portions right for this recipe was tricky, but definitely worth it. My kids hardly complained about “bad batches” either.😉

Uses For Honey Caramel Sauce

Honestly, I haven’t found a dud, but here is what I know works!

What do you love to do with caramel sauce? Whatever it is try this honey caramel sauce instead of your regular one. Looking for a darker caramel flavor? Click here to read about our caramel sauce using coconut sugar.


Gorgeous Gluten Free Soft Pretzels

I’m sorry. I did that thing again. The thing where I made something so delicious, you decided you’d rather move in with me than try to make all this food on your own. I get it. I used to be that person too. While I have contemplated the pros an cons of having a huge piece of land my friends can all live on, for now you’ll have to look at these pictures long enough to convince yourself to make them.

Pretzels are incredible. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like them. If that’s you, maybe just don’t tell me. I’m not sure I could handle that.

Having fun trying out various sizes!

Back in the day I worked at the gift shop in the mall. The pretzel place was the closest to me so naturally when on my breaks, I frequented it. I might also add that I was just over 300lbs at the time…. If you didn’t know that part of my story, you can read about it here.

Needless to say I generally stay away from pretzels because I love them too much. Until this recipe happened. Gluten free pretzels that only use coconut sugar. They’re dairy free too!

The Pretzel Process

Begin with by mixing the warm water and yeast. Then add in the dough mixture. Cover and let rise for 60-70 minutes.

Roll out the dough onto parchment paper. I sprinkled my parchment paper with brown rice flour to keep the dough from sticking.

Transfer the pretzels from the paper to the hot water bath. They only need to be in the water for 3-5 seconds, not much.

Olive oil is the key for these savory pretzels. Most recipes finish with a butter glaze, but I wanted a different zing-zing flavor. I used Buckeye Creek Farm Olive Oil for this recipe. Brush the olive oil on the tops of the pretzels. Sprinkle the rosemary and kosher salt on top. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

One batch can make 12 medium pretzels, or 6 large pretzels.

Dip them in your favorite sauce and enjoy!


Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake

Did you know that 78% of American families are cooking 5 or more times a week?  For a “cook real food at home” enthusiast like me this is so encouraging! I hear so much about families eating out more and more, or that traditional cooking at home families are dying out. So no true!!

We eat out once a week, depending on what’s going on in our lives. The rest is completely at home, and 90% or more is made from scratch. This lifestyle sounds like a lot of work to some, but it’s really simple! I strategize by cooking a few things ahead of time on Sunday afternoons. Grilled chicken, brown rice and hard boiled eggs are just a few that get made once a week to save time during the week. To read more about meal planning, check out this blog post.

Coconut oil is a great way to prep cake pans.

I’ve learned the beautiful art of cooking with real, whole ingredients and allowing for time in my day to do so. Part of what had to happen is I needed to slow down on the “rush” mentality. The idea that we need everything now- and can’t wait more than 5 minutes for our meals to be ready to eat. I now enjoy the methodical time it takes to create an amazing dish, and how simple it can be in the process. I’m convinced that anyone can cook – and I’m not just talking about chicken nuggets and tater tots😉

These little chocolate cakes are the perfect example. I made these a few times to get the ingredients and baking time just right, but I enjoyed the whole process! My kids had no complaints about the multiple batches either.

Warm chocolate pudding cakes are a great for a coffee date or a decadent dessert. They are gluten free too! The presentation is so fun to see. I made them in 2 different pans. One is a ramekin, which is a small little oven safe dish. When you flip the cakes out of the ramekins, the pudding on the bottom stays in liquid form and pours perfectly oven the cake. I found a great price on a set of ramekins here. I also used a pan of mine that makes little cakes in batches of 6. They look like mini bundt cakes, but without the hole in the middle. When making the recipe in this pan, the pudding layer cooked through, giving a 2-tone affect when the cake is flipped over. Here’s the pan I use for the mini fluted cakes. 

Perfectly baked on top, with the pudding still in liquid state underneath.


Asparagus Salad

Salads for dinner are a sign that summer is on its way. I love the idea of keeping the house cool by making a quick salad for dinner. Not to mention the additional perk of extra time to be outside.

I have these friends. Let’s call them skeptics. They love the idea of healthy living, but claim that it’s just not realistic for their lifestyle or budget. My friends love coming over to eat whatever food I’ve been making, but say they could never have the time or patience to cook regularly. Whelp. Today I’m busting them. I’m proving that dinner can be fast, healthy and affordable.

This salad is ahhhh-mazing and only 4 ingredients. Seriously.

It’s simply the right food paired together and drizzled in a sweet tangy pomegranate balsamic.

I whipped this up in under 3 minutes. Yes, I timed it. That’s how stubborn I am. You can ask my skeptic friends. They’ll testify. If this 3 minute salad is too easy for your level of cooking, then try making it as a side with Garden Variety Herbed Pork Tenderloin. I’m going to make it teamed up with Italian Lemon Turkey Burgers next!