Asian Cabbage Salad

At this point, summer might not end. We’ve hit the “endless days of summer” mode, but mostly because of the heat; not the quickly arriving school schedules. The next two weeks are projected to be 109° straight on through. I know, not quite the way I wanted to envision my summer either. Northern California has so many perks, but one major downer. The heat is not only long lasting, but incredibly dry.

I’m typically in the kitchen cooking meals, snacks or prepping for the next few days as a normal part of my routine. Lately, I’ve been wanting to hide from the kitchen. The heat is just too much. I’d rather keep the house nice and cool! To avoid heating up the house, we’ve switched over to barbecuing and salads as much as we can.summer salad recipe

Our New Favorite Salad

A new favorite of ours is this Asian Cabbage Salad. I’m a huge fan of cabbage instead of lettuce. First off, cabbage has more vitamin c than an orange. Isn’t that crazy? We hear so many things generalized about fruits and vegetables, when the full truth is so different. Yes, oranges are still good for you, but please don’t eat them solely because of their vitamin c. Another fun tip about cabbage is it stays crispy longer than lettuce. For me this means I can make a salad for dinner and eat it the next day for lunch without getting the soggy salad taste in my mouth.😕 So gross by the way.summer salad recipe

This salad is loads of fun for kids as it’s colorful and full of flavor. All three kids eat it, but I will say two of them still pick some ingredients out. I’m super cool with this because it’s all forward motion to eating real food as a lifestyle. Total honesty here, I’m also that mom who throws the picked out pieces of her kid’s meal back onto her plate. I hate wasting food! You don’t like green onions? Sweet- more for me!

So stay cool and whip up this amazing salad for dinner or bring it along on your next hike! We are going hiking this weekend and I have a feeling this one might come with us😉summer salad recipe

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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]




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!

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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.

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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]




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!

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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.

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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!

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Gluten Free Pulled Pork Sandwiches

This recipe goes out to my first born Josh. He’s been requesting pulled pork sandwiches for months! Josh is a huge fan of meat & anything that can go into a sandwich. He’s a bit like his dad in those regards. I haven’t met a food combo yet that my husband won’t at least try to turn into a sandwich.😉

There is a right way and a wrong way to make pulled pork sandwiches. If this is news to you, don’t worry. I am here to help! Please don’t buy shredded pork, throw some bbq sauce on top and call it good. There is a method to this classic entre!

Step By Step Pulled Pork

First, buy a pork roast. Pick one with a good amount of fat on it. I know, I know. You probably have some silly idea that fat is bad for you. Animal fat is great for you. All in moderation of course, but this is a good fat! For more info on why animal fat is good for you read my post on bone broth. Buy from the butcher if you have one available to you. We have a friend who raises pigs and we get all our pork from her. It’s amazing.

The bone will literally come out clean!

Second, prep your crock pot by spraying it with olive oil.

Place the pork in the crock pot in the morning and set it on low. “Low and slow” is the name of the game for this recipe. Let it cook about half the day, say from 8am-1pm before adding the other ingredients.

While the pork is cooking, make your homemade bbq sauce. The recipe I linked is easy to set up and simmers for 30 minutes.

At the half-way point of cooking, add in the onion slices.

Once the pork has been cooking for 7 hours on low, add in the bbq sauce. Cook on low for another hour.

Shredding the pork takes seconds!

Then begin shredding the pork. It should be really easy to do. I like using two forks and gently pulling in opposite directions from the place I started.

Set the crock pot to warm and assemble the other ingredients. I use gluten free buns (Udi’s is my go-to brand) and top the pork with Salt And Savour Sauerkraut. My current favorite is the Horseradish and Mustard Seed. The flavors collide in a beautiful outpouring of zip and tang with a hint of sweet.

You’ve never tasted pulled pork quite like this!

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Banana Pecan Muffins

“Mom – she touched me!”

“Well he wouldn’t stop looking at me!”

“That’s because you won’t play with me.”

“I don’t wanna play with you. I’m not a baby anymore!”

“Mom – she called me a baby!”

Crying. Whining. Yelling. Don’t forget the fiery darts coming out of your child’s eyes.

If only whining could be neutralized. Will there ever be a cure?!?

I know what you truly want for Mother’s Day. It’s not breakfast in bed or a bouquet of roses. None of those little coupons promising dishes will be done for a week. You don’t want jewelry either. Okay, I should say you don’t want just jewelry. Sweetest Moms Tip: Don’t ever say no to jewelry.

What you really want is for your children to get along. To stop whining, nagging, tattling and everything else in between.

People, I’ve figured it out. It’s not a séance or new video game that teaches manners either.

There is something you should know. This recipe will calm your kids down. Mellow them out. Create a peaceful environment where everyone can hear themselves think. Can you picture it? I’m still in the stage of not being able to use the bathroom by myself- so you can imagine why I created this recipe.

The Trick

Muffins are a friendly enough food to kids at any age. From toddler to teen, a muffin is a welcome sight.

I’ve disguised these muffins to appear normal, slightly sweet & delicious. Kids will ever know your plan to keep them calm for an afternoon.

Cardamom is a natural anti-depressant and helps reduce muscle spasms. It’s also used for heart issues and stomach pains. Bottom line, by using this spice, you are taking care of multiple things that can make kids cranky. Have you ever experienced the horrors that come with a child having growing pains? Not fun. Or he ate too much at lunch and now everything is making him angry due to gas or a bloated stomach? My son has actually come home sick from school only to find the problem was an upset stomach from lunch time.

Cloves will surprise you. I use ground cloves quite often. Did you know cloves are an amazing remedy for headaches? So whether the whining is causing a headache or the result of one, cloves are important for calming the situation.

Pecans have a wealth of vitamins and nutrients. Possibly lesser known is that nuts have been proven to lower anxiety. No matter what started the whining sound, a lower amount of anxiety will definitely help!

Bananas are simply the best. The can level out your metabolism and be the perfect go-to snack when you’re on the run as a typical banana is only 90 calories. They are high in potassium and have natural occurring sugars in them.

 

So give yourself a treat, make some muffins and put the whole family in a better state of mind. This will be the best Mother’s Day yet! 😉

I am siting Organic Facts for the information listed above about spices and foods.[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:85]