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.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:90]




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.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:88]




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]

 




Perfect White Cupcakes with Honey Buttercream Frosting

This has been my little secret for 2 years now. Every time guests try the cake at my kids’ birthday parties, they rave about how moist and perfectly flavored it is. I’m sorry I haven’t been in the sharing mood. I’m over that now and ready to tell the world how to make perfect white cake-and this specific recipe is for cupcakes!

It started with unrealistic goals. I wanted a gluten free, dairy free birthday cake for my kids. I didn’t mind if it had white sugar in it because as a family we are okay with that for birthdays. I’ve tried numerous gluten free or dairy free cakes at weddings and events, but nothing ever tasted good enough for me to want seconds. Birthday cake needs to be impressive. Special, just like the kid’s whose birthday it’s for! For that matter, any big event needs to have equally amazing food. That’s only my opinion, but food can really be the “cherry on top” of a great party, or the reason people don’t stick around after the candles are blown out.

I’ve searched Pinterest looking for cakes claiming to be “the best” birthday cake recipe and found nothing within my specifications. Finally, I turned to creating something of my own. I started by reading measurements commonly used for cakes. Then I toyed around with certain gluten free flours that were white in nature. Almond flour was out and so was coconut flour-simply because of the overpowering flavor.

Oat flour, tapioca flour and brown rice flour won out. I tweaked the recipe until I had the right proportions. Then, I exchanged milk for almond milk. The results were incredible. Using egg whites helps keep the cake the right color as well.

For those that follow Sweetest Lemonade because of our reputation for using natural sugars low on the glycemic index, I suggest using coconut sugar or honey instead of white sugar. It will drastically change the color of the cake, but the flavor is still incredible.

How cute are these mini cupcakes? We have a big event coming up this weekend and we’ll be giving out samples of our favorite dishes during cooking demos. I love the pairing of our perfect white cupcakes with a honey buttercream frosting. Honey is such a different kind of sweet, and it is well balanced with the other sugars in this recipe.

Want to know what else you could do with this cake? I’ve made homemade fondant to make fun themed cakes for my kids and this cake holds up really well underneath fondant.

Check out last year’s cakes here! My boys wanted Minions and Minecraft for their “brother” birthday. This year looks like it will be Pac-Man and Pokémon. It’s so fun watching them grow and change their interests.[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:80]




Pomegranate Strawberry Trifle

This is a modern twist on a classic layered dessert. You’ll find links to homemade options for the pudding, angel food cake and whipped cream. This is a great make a day ahead treat. Prepare the layers separately. Make sure you assemble the trifle right before serving!

Step One:

Prepare the angel food cake. This cake can easily be purchased at your local bakery or grocery store. I made an angel food cake from scratch and it was magnificent. This recipe makes the cake slightly more dense than your normal angel food cake, which allowed it to hold together when the layers were poured on. Cut your cake into small 1-inch squares. This will be your first layer for the trifle.

Step Two:

Make the pudding. Here is a link to an amazing homemade pudding. Or you can buy the box at the store. Let the pudding set in the fridge while preparing the other layers.

 

Step Three:

Either make or buy the whipped cream. I personally like homemade whipped cream and used this recipe. If buying the whipped cream, you will most want to buy the kind in a tub, not a can.

 

Step Four:

The berries. I used raspberries and strawberries. You can use any berry you like. I soaked the raspberries in 2/3 cup of pomegranate syrup to make almost a “preserve” layer. The strawberries were sliced to go on the sides of the dish.

Assembling The Trifle Layers

Now for the fun part! If you have kids, this is a fun part to include them in.

  1. Begin with the angel food cake. I used 12-15 pieces of cake each layer.
  2. Next layer 1/3 of your pudding on the cake pieces.  Add in the sliced strawberries around the sides.
  3. Pour 1/2 of the berry mixture on top. If you are wanting clean-cut layers, I suggest draining the berries from the sauce. The sauce runs into the layers.
  4. Get a thick layer of whipped cream on top. I used about 1/3 of my batch for this layer.
  5. Now repeat! Angel food cake, pudding, strawberries, berry sauce, whipped cream.
  6. This recipe makes 2-3 layers depending on your portions per layer. Enjoy!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:68]

 

 




Crazy Nana’s Caramel Cakes

I do my best to be a zero-waste kind of gal. Especially when it comes to food. I hate the idea of throwing away food that could have been used. I created these “Crazy Nana’s Caramel Cakes” for those days when you don’t want to throw away your bananas, but also don’t want to make the same banana bread again.

Bananas are precious in our house. We buy 2-3 bunches a week and usually go through them fast. Every once in a while though, the kids slow down in their banana eating craze and I end up with fruit that’s browning past the point of eating. I used to freeze them and make banana bread.

Not anymore!

Why The Crazy In The Nana

Crazy Nana’s Caramel Cakes will not only knock your socks off, but give you a break from the classic banana bread too. They are “crazy” good, especially when you look at how few ingredients there are!

Plus, this recipe uses 4 bananas, when your typical banana bread uses 2-3 bananas. Use more, waste less!

I made them the size of a silver dollar, because in my house changing one little thing makes it fun. My kids feel the same way when I use the leftover batter to make one huge pancake. They love it!

Since they look like pancakes but aren’t, I thought why not change up the syrup too. I made my homemade caramel sauce to drizzle on top. Crazy Nana’s Caramel Cakes are great by themselves, but really standout with the caramel sauce.

I used raw local honey from Chico Honey Company to slightly sweeten the batter. Bananas are a very sweet fruit, so they don’t need much added to them.

We ate these as a dessert, but I’m sure they’d be a fun treat for Saturday morning breakfast! Even my husband who does NOT like bananas ate 7 of these little guys. 😯

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:74]




Skillet Apple Dumplings

Good Lord. This dish is ah-mazing. It reminds me of going to little diners as a kid and ordering the apple pie. For some reason nothing tasted better than diner apple pie. These skillet apple dumplings are now king of the castle, bumping that diner apple pie right off its pedestal.

Skillet Apple Dumplings: Tasty Meets Real Food

I’m constantly torn between the world of tasty food, and real food. I want to offer my kids something they’ll eat more than one bite of and come out thinking that was actual dessert instead of Mom’s healthy recipe gone bad.

This recipe is definitely going into our “kid approved” dessert category. I used coconut sugar to sweeten the apples slightly and then added a bit to the dumpling dough. They resemble little bites of pie crust. Yum!

Serving dessert in a skillet makes life that much more exciting. I loved watching my family’s faces as I presented this skillet to them all fancy-like at the dining table.

Everything good starts with butter!

For an extra special treat, we made some homemade coconut whipped cream to top them off.

Fry the dumplings BEFORE adding the apples.

Oh, what’s with the beautiful skillet you see? I’m glad you asked. This beauty came from Cleverona, one of the smartest Kitchen Goods company around. They design their items around real life.

I get so annoyed when it’s time to wash my pans and they won’t entirely fit into the sink. Cleverona solved that problem. The handle is detachable! How cool right??

I also love the simplicity of using my pan at the table without the handle. It changes the pan into more of a serving dish.

Try these Skillet Apple Dumplings and let us know what you think. We love feedback!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:70]

 




Angel Food Cake

It’s been raining for days here in Northern California. Days and days. While there are plenty of practical things I could be doing, the rain always makes me want to bake! The tastiest angel food cake came from this past week’s weather.

Looking for a light, airy cake? This is it. Slightly more dense than the original angel food cake, this one with hold together well when topped with whipped cream, puddings, fruit, etc. Most angel food cakes get soggy once a topping is added. Not this one! I made this cake and put it into a trifle. Even with all the layers, the cake held its form. How cool is that??

Sifting gets any lumps out.

This recipe is gluten free and dairy free too. Not so common with angel food cakes.

Blend the egg whites on high until frothy and thick.

Next I want to try it as a strawberry short cake!

Mmmm, just out of the oven!

Enjoy this sweet recipe and tell me what you think. I love feedback!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:69]

 

 

 




Vanilla Pudding From Scratch

Parenting hit me hard today. The laundry literally looks like it could eat me due to its sheer volume. The living room floor has crackers ground into it. My children seem to have forgotten entirely how to hear me. I can’t even focus on what dinner will be tonight. Enter vanilla pudding.

Calm Down, Vanilla Pudding Is Here

Everyone loves vanilla pudding. It can be mixed into so many different dishes or served all by itself. Pudding has sort of a calming effect on me. I have to slow down to really enjoy it. My favorite way to snack on pudding is with my homemade graham crackers. Those things are downright amazing.

My  kids somehow heard me when I mentioned the pudding was ready. The laundry miraculously fit into the washer, and my 4 year-old vacuumed up the crumbs for me. Heaven came down to earth.

We had a little moment. All of us squished around the kids table in the kitchen. Rori, 2 years-old, had a hard time keeping the pudding on her spoon. That pudding kept flopping around and landing on her face and clothes. It was so adorable I didn’t mind the mess.

Why Make Vanilla Pudding From Scratch

I know what you’re thinking. “Mandi, why would I make vanilla pudding from scratch when it’s so easy to buy from the store?” I’ll tell you why. That cute little box in the store, while a time saver, isn’t real vanilla pudding. There is a whole world of flavor out there you’re missing out on every time you pick up a box instead of try a recipe. This one takes about 10 minutes to make, and sets for 2 hours.

Need a moment of serenity? Make some vanilla pudding. Whip it up in the morning so that when things get a little chaotic, everyone can simmer down with one of the best snacks ever invented.

I made this recipe dairy free and with only natural sugars. That’s why you’ll notice it’s a little darker than normal. It’s the coconut sugar and honey. But man, does it taste ahh-mazing. If you have no issue with dairy, feel free to make this with heavy whipping cream instead of almond milk. I suggest keeping the sweeteners the same, simply because they are measured out to perfectly complement the vanilla flavor and not overpower it.

 

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:66]