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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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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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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Roasted Brussel Sprouts From Heaven

Brussels from heaven?!? Some of you are skeptics, I know. Taste buds have mixed with a few kid shows you watched growing up, which led you to believe that mini cabbages are gross. They’re not okay? In fact, my roasted brussel sprouts are frickin’ delicious.

This week I was drifting between the “work hard for your money” mentality and the “be the kind of mom who stops whatever she’s doing to be with her kids” concept. It wasn’t working. Especially when just coming off of Christmas break and getting two boys back into routine. I would sit down to email a client and suddenly my daughter wants me to take her doll potty. Next my son asks me to make him a snack. I got distracted in the kitchen cleaning. Before I know it, I’ve lost an hour of office time without really spending quality time with my kids.

Social media can really fool you. All of these moms out there claim that working from home is a complete joy and “fixed all their problems”. I still have a work schedule and I find my time is better spent working in one direction at a time.

The thing is I actually have an amazing time management system and 90% of the time I’m able to spend plenty of time with kids and plenty of time with work.

This week was just not that week for me.

Enter Brussels From Heaven

Being an ex-emotional eater, some recipes just get me. These brussels legit made my day. The way they caramelized, the strong flavor, and the perfect crispy outside with a tender inside. You’ve got to try these. Look at the ingredients list and pick them up at the store. Wait this week for a day when you need to be cheered up. Let this side dish calm you own from the inside out.

Heaven in a bowl.

My husband likes adding them to a wrap. He’ll toss in some grilled chicken, lettuce, beans, the brussels, and a hummus or salsa. Talk about a power house meal full of vitamins! Brussel sprouts are high in vitamin C, K and B. For those of you who are gluten free, it is really important that you find a way to get enough Vitamin B on the daily. Brussel sprouts are one of the veggies that can do that for you!

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Cranberry Balsamic Green Beans

It can be a real struggle to think of a recipe everyone in your house will love. To be honest, I have a harder time caring about what others want when it comes to food. Do you do that too? I don’t want to constantly try to please 5 different taste buds. Not to mention when we have company!

I think secretly I just want everyone to adhere to what I like to eat. Life would be so much easier! I could cook my favorite dishes, and the kids would all say thank you and maybe even offer to do the clean up. While my kids are great about helping around the house, we are not quite to that stage of parenting. Having your child volunteer to help around the house? That’s the dream!

I digress. These green beans may not have won the hearts of my 4 and almost 2-year old, but the rest of us loved them! I know Sam and Rori will come around. They just don’t like so many flavors thrown into one meal. It says a lot about this dish that my 8-year old loved them though. I’m sure there are plenty of you moms out there who would love to have some veggie recipes your kids request over and over. That’s the dream too.

Pin this, share it, whatever you need to do to get the ingredients to your grocery list.

What I love about these flavorful green beans is how simple it makes the rest of your meal. Pair this with grilled chicken and red steamed potatoes. Or try my honey sesame pork chops over a bed of brown rice with these veggies. Not only will you have a complete meal, but a quick one too. Making real food doesn’t have to take hours, and no one really has that extra time either.

I’d much rather spend my time reading with the kids or finishing up the dishes for the evening than slaving over the stove. Not to mention the horror of what happens when dinner takes too long and you have “hangry” kiddos. That’s the worst. I’m not much better than the kids so when this mom gets “hangry” I find myself much more snappy.

Do yourself a favor and make these green beans. Sit down to a nice family dinner and look at the wonderful family you have. People are a gift. Enjoy them and enjoy this side dish!

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Holiday Popcorn Three Ways

Do the holidays have you stressed out? Feeling like your awkward neighbor’s family photos turned out better than yours? Did your elf on the shelf idea turn into the elf falling into the toilet while trying to strategically place him pooping out peppermints? And no, that’s not my idea. I can’t take credit for that level of evil genius.

I’ve got it. You thought it would be cute to get the whole family in the car with some hot cocoa to look at Christmas lights. Only problem is little Jimmy waited until you were 10 minutes into the drive to tell you he had to pee. Jenny said the hot cocoa was making her want to puke. Then Tommy said he would rather be at home watching TV. Exhausted and not in the “Christmas spirit” anymore you scroll over to fb on your phone to find 4 of your friends doing the same thing-but their version looks so much more peaceful.

These days social media can make you feel less than the incredible person you are. Without meaning to, we get stuck comparing our lives to others, instead of blissfully living the great one we’ve got!

Pull up a chair. I need you to calm the elf down. If social media didn’t exist, you still would. Your family would still be there. You’d probably still have friends too. Holidays would still be awesome, and you’d possibly still have creative ideas for making wonderful memories. I’m all for Pinterest -so long as it doesn’t turn me into a she-monster trying to crazy glue the kids together just so I can craft in peace.

What you need is simple-yet beautiful. I’m talking about Holiday stuff that you’ll actually enjoy with your kids. Here. I made this for you.

Popcorn you want to dive into!

A holiday treat that keeps you grounded and on your feet. ( I should write poetry!) This is for that party you have to go to next week. Bring this to the kid’s classroom the day before school lets out. Make these for your family Christmas movie night. Feel festive without the stress. It feels better than a bath- I promise.

Holiday Popcorn Three Ways

First let me introduce you to the Peppermint Chocolate Popcorn. Ringing in at 6 minutes to make, this recipe couldn’t be easier. Plus-it’s delicious.

Pepermint Dark Chocolate Popcorn

Next up is my personal favorite: Hot Cocoa & Honey Popcorn. Guys, this stuff disappeared before it made it to movie night. I can honestly tell you I didn’t mean to eat the whole bag. It’s that good.

Hot Cocoa & Honey Popcorn

Last but not least is my healthy twist on a classic- Caramel Popcorn. I used my caramel recipe and drizzled it all over those puffed little kernels. I customized this one so you can decided what level of caramel you want for these.

Caramel Popcorn

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Rubies, Rice & Everything Nice

Yowzer. I didn’t mean to make the world’s most addictive rice dish. Honest. But here is it none the less. Rubies, Rice & Everything Nice was born out of a blah day that ended in stupendous victory-in the form of a side dish. This rice dish will turn your day around too.

There are days when my creativity juices just aren’t flowing. I’m tired, the kids made me feel like a robot stuck on repeat with the phrase “Listen the first time every time”, and my outfit is far from cute or even remotely acceptable for being seen in public. I’m talking about the shirt that has kid stains in all the wrong places and the mom jeans that make my booty look like a double-wide. That’s right. You know exactly what I’m saying. Don’t pretend I’m the only one here who owns clothes like that. Even my husband has “home only” outfits.

I was settling in to make my homemade chicken nuggets with rice as the side dish. As I started cooking the rice and thought to myself, what do I do when I want the rice to have flavor, but I don’t want to turn it into a main dish?

I looked through my cupboards for inspiration. The most random stuff is in my cupboards. Seriously, you would have laughed if you’d seen what I picked out. I stared and the now full counter, trying to find some kind of ruby hidden in the mess.

The Rice Epiphany

Then it happened. It was like my brain went into turbo drive (sorry that’s from a show my boys watch) and I picked out the items like it was predestined or something.

The first thing I did was grill the cooked rice in ghee. That’s right-ghee, as in clarified butter. I heated it on a large skillet and flattened the rice on top like a huge rice cake. Then I flipped it once.

I added some dried cranberries and pecan pieces over the rice and stirred it in.

Waiting just a couple minutes really gets the flavor out of the cranberries and pecans. They soften a bit too. About this time my 8 year-old came into the kitchen and swooned over the smell. “What are you making??” he said in that little boy hangry sound. “Only the best rice you’ve ever had!” I was really on a roll now.

Next was the pomegranate balsamic glaze. This stuff is good on everything in my opinion. For this recipe though, even a little went a long way in flavor. Finally, I added in fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Like I said earlier. Yowzer.

Farm To Table

I’m a huge believer in buying directly from the farmers making the glorious food we eat whenever possible. That’s why I used SacValley Rice for this recipe. Not only is it local, but it is freshly milled too! Did you know rice that we buy from the store can be bagged for 4 years before it gets placed on store shelves and purchased?😳 As someone who’s always striving to eat healthy and fresh food, this unnerved me.

I didn’t even get the chance to turn this one into left overs for the next day. My husband only got a spoonful when he came home from work.

What are you still doing here? Get in the kitchen and start cooking!

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“Simple -n- Sweet” Sweet Potato Fries

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam. I just thought orange meant yam. It wasn’t until my dear friend sat me down to tell me that sweet potatoes are white…..and orange.

Shock & awe folks.

Shock & awe.

Now that you’re here reading this, I think it’s best I explain it all to you. Just in case you have thought the same thing.

A sweet potato is white and looks like a potato (wha….) It can also be orange. In America, we tend to call orang sweet potatoes yams. Just for funzies, I suppose.

Elephant Foot Yam

Wild Yam

A yam is actually a white tuber found in  Africa,  Asia, Latin America and even the Carribean. There are a few varieties of yams such as the elephant foot yam and the wild yam. There are also many varieties of sweet potatoes.

 

 

Nutritionally, a sweet potato that is orange has more Vitamin A (beta carotene). They are very similar in carb count and both very low in fat. Sweet potatoes also are high in amino acids.

 

So the next time you’re at the store, know that you are most likely going to see signs for yams that are actually orange sweet potatoes. Don’t freak, just choose the kind you like best and get cooking!

Traditional Sweet Potatoes
Traditional Sweet Potatoes

Here is a basic sweet potato fries recipe. I’ve used it on white and orange sweet potatoes. I like them both! The white sweet potatoes go over better for my kids. I think that’s simply because the color reminds them of what they know as normal fries.

Tip: These pair well with my homemade bbq sauce. I like to make them on the nights I’m grilling up my turkey burgers too. Yumm!

sweet potato fries
Sweet potato fries before baking.

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