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]

 




Mushroom Cheesy Rice

Traditional dishes turned healthy make me smile. This side dish screams flavor and is nutrient dense as well.

We’ve all had a version of creamy mushroom cheesy rice before. Undoubtedly it has included cream of mushroom instead of real mushrooms. Hang on tight, because this recipe is a game changer. Fresh mushrooms locally sourced are a huge flavor improvement from your typical rice recipe. We are lucky enough to have Mushroom Authority right here in Northern California. Not only can you buy a wide variety of mushrooms from them, but you can purchase mushroom kits and grow your own!

Mushrooms are high in Vitamin B as well as Vitamin D. However, when you pour out a can of cream of mushroom, you’ve sadly lost a lot of the nutrients that were in the mushrooms to begin with.  

We paired sresh shiitake mushrooms with local cheese from Pedrozo Dairy. They have an outstanding gold cheese that has won the hearts of the kids. My husband is what I like to call a “cheese snob”. He cares very much about what kind of cheeses enter our house and this one passed with flying colors.

 

Pair this with our honey sesame pork chops or homemade chicken nuggets for a complete meal!

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Honey Butter

As a mom, I cherish the moments when I can be in my child’s class. Getting to know the other kids and the classroom dynamic really opens my eyes to my child’s world. I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at my son’s preschool. The teachers asked me to bring in an art project about honey and a honey-based snack. Here’s what we made!

First and foremost, you should know I started and directed a preschool back before I had 3 kids. I had one little guy who joyfully came to work with me every day. That being said, I absolutely love messy projects. I’m a firm believer that the messier the better. In my eight years of teaching, I saw countless students gain a better understanding through play and textured learning.

For my son’s class, we made bees by painting bubble wrap yellow and “stamping” them onto paper. I pre-cut the bubble wrap into wing shapes. Here is a link to the craft I based this off of.

Next we sampled honey butter with bread. Yum! So simple, so delicious. I laughed watching a few of the kids get confused and trying to stamp the honey butter onto their bee picture. Whoops! 😂

Whether you’re looking for a fun lesson about bees for your kiddos or have been dying to try honey butter, this recipe is for you!

We made honey butter in one of our cooking demos at the Honey Festival last week. It’s so good, we were asked multiple times if we sold honey butter in jars! For now, you’ll have to be satisfied with making this recipe at home. I will add though that you can now purchase our Elderberry Gummy Kit at Saltea Herbs. We paired our love for cooking healthy food with their love for herbs, spices & teas to create this kit. The kit includes a gummy mold, dropper, elderberries, gum Arabic and of course the recipe! You can check out the recipe here.

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Immunity Kicker Elderberry Gummies

With seasons changing comes “lovely” runny noses and head colds. Trying to avoid sickness with 3 kids in the house can feel like an uphill climb. I need some defense! Elderberry Gummies are simple and fast. These will get those immunities stronger and the kids love them! Honestly, I love them too😘

Start by steeping dried elderberries in very hot water. I used my tea kettle to get the water nice and hot.  Simply pour the hot water over the berries in a medium sized bowl like the one pictured here. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Steeping the elderberries releases their healing properties into the water. Elderberries are amazing because they are high in both Vitamin C and A. They are known for being a healing agent for multiple respiratory issues.

Once done steeping, strain the berries out of the water and pour in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium-low, then add in the honey and lemon juice.

As the juice heats, sprinkle in the gelatin and Arabic gum. Whisking is a great way to keep the sauce from clumping. Stir continuously for 5 minutes or until sauce begins to slightly thicken.

I LOVE using little syringes to get the juice into the molds. These can be purchased online here or simply use a clean medicine syringe – easy to get if you have little kids.

Don’t you love these gummy bear molds??!? I found them here for a steal!!

Allow the gummies to set for an hour or overnight if you prefer. Once set, they pop out of the molds easily. Store in an airtight container for 3 days or refrigerate if you want them to last longer. Keep in mind that eating real food means no preservatives, so these little gummies will not keep for months in your cupboards like store-bought ones do.

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Pineapple Lime Jamaican Tacos

Parenting is this fierce beast that loves to prove I know nothing. I’m constantly thinking “I’ve got this” only to run into a situation that leaves me on my face wondering why God gave me 3 kids. Luckily, grace came in the form of tacos today. Pineapple Lime Jamaican Tacos to be more specific.

Nap time was a dance between my little girl crawling out of her bed to put EVERY.SINGLE.STUFFED ANIMAL. in with her and me naively thinking I could put her to bed and she’d go to sleep right away. I had planned on being so productive during her nap time. Alas, I was only productive at walking into her room in shifts saying the same things over and over again. “Rori, it’s nigh-night time. Lay down and go to sleep.” Three seconds later I could hear little feet running over to her toy box to see if she could sneak any more dollies into bed. Giggling the whole way. I love her joy, but man alive I needed her to sleep!

She finally passed out on the floor with stuffed animals all around her. Don’t judge-this is real life here. Toddlers are not meant to be controlled. There is no way I was going to attempt putting her back in her bed. Sleep won out, and that was all she needed.

Taco Inspiration

I entered the kitchen starving, hoping for something quick. While perusing my fridge I remembered the pineapple sitting on my counter. Immediately creative thoughts flowed and before I knew it tacos were happening.

What is it about new ideas that grab us like a bear hug and a shot of espresso all at once?

Lime was in hand, being freshly squeezed over grilled ham and black beans with a few red bell peppers tossed in. The notion to turn paleo mayo into more of a crème flew in my brain like a train I just had to jump on. My blender started up and diced pineapple was thrown in with more lime and some wild seasonings that just “felt” right.

The only thing better than a new idea is trying that new idea. Eating these tacos eased my frustration with stuffed animals and the notion that my daughter is against me when she doesn’t sleep. I know that’s not true. She never does anything at me, things just affect me because we are family. But emotions are funny things and they can sway me away from truth if I’m not careful.

Look at these tacos. Fresh, clean, and beautiful. Just like the new idea that birthed them.

As if you needed another reason to make these- they are amazingly healthy for you. Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and 100% nutrient dense. This dish will fill you up and let you move on with your day more focused and liberated. If you’re going through our meal plans, this one is perfect for the 5-week plan. It’s a great blend of healthy, while re-introducing a few foods too.

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