Smoothies!

Smoothies are a mom’s best friend! I’ve always loved breakfast smoothies for myself for many reasons: they are so easy, I never run out of the ingredients, they give me energy and fill me up without weighing my down at the start of the day, and did I mention they are easy – just to name a few!
When I became a mom to toddlers, my love for smoothies only increased. With our first little guy J, I couldn’t fill him up! He was constantly hungry and he had a problem with chewing which had my Heimlich maneuver on standby at all times – not to mention my nerves a wreck when he ate anything close to age appropriate bites. Snacks in particular were an issue because I couldn’t just give him a snack to eat; I’d need to be watching. Then with our second baby, JoJo, we had the opposite issue of her never wanting to eat. Bring on the patience, sister!
So anyways, I needed to get creative. I have to credit J for the idea because he’s the one that originally asked to taste my green smoothie and why I hadn’t thought to let him try it before is beyond me! HE LOVED IT!! So this is where our “smoothies for toddlers” got its start!
I wanted to share a few of our family’s favorite recipes with y’all. A few sweet friends have asked me recently to write a post on this so here goes:
** Note: We only drink coconut milk for our milk so that’s what I’m writing on these recipes, but any kind of milk is totally fine – it substitutes equally. I also will use coconut water. Regular water works to but I like the added benefits of the coconut milk/water.
Blend all ingredients in each recipe until smooth, add a fun straw, and ENJOY!
Just Peachy
8 – 10oz coconut milk
1C kale
1C spinach
1 banana
1/2C frozen peaches
Tropical Greens
8 – 10oz coconut water
2 C kale
1 banana
1 C frozen pineapple
big splash of orange juice
Berry Blast
8 – 10oz coconut milk
1 C kale
1 C spinach
1 ½ C frozen mixed berries
juice of half a lemon
Peanut Butter and Banana
8 – 10oz coconut milk
½ C spinach
2 frozen bananas
2 TBS peanut butter powder (our favorite is by Just Great Stuff)
Greek Goodness
8 oz coconut milk
¼ C (2oz) Greek yogurt
1 C spinach
1 C frozen berries
1 banana
1 TSP chia seeds
Peanut Butter & Jelly
8 – 10oz coconut milk
½ C spinach
2 TBSP peanut butter powder
1 C frozen berries
Mighty Green Toddler
8 – 10oz coconut water
½ cucumber
½ C spinach
1 green apple, cored
1 frozen banana
1 heaping TBSP hemp seeds
The best part about these recipes – you don’t need to measure exactly and you can make “smoothie packs.” These have saved me SO much time. Prep your portioned out fruits in zip lock bags and freeze (you can add the greens in, I just prefer to portion greens and refrigerate separately). Then you can grab two bags in the morning, add you milk or water and blend. Literally a 30 second meal or snack!
Fun goodies to add: hemp seeds, chia seeds, or honey are some of our favorites!
(If you have any different recipes that your kiddos, or you, love leave the ideas below! I’m always looking for easy and fun new recipes!)

 

Mexican Chicken Quinoa Skillet



Cooking is an act of love.
My mama used to tell me this all the time. She cooked every night and I carried this desire with me into my marriage… then kids came. It’s not that my desire changed. The task of cooking and preparing a meal just became more difficult. I eventually had a heart-to-heart with myself and decided I had to come up with a game plan to cook meals for my husband and family.
This happened in two steps:
1  menu planning & meal prep
2  one pot meals
Let’s be honest – getting to the grocery store, prepping the food, and then cooking the meal is half the battle. Clean up is the worst part! With one-pot meals, the cleanup is a breeze, and this really speaks to my heart. Not only do I get to serve my family by way of cooking them dinner, but I also get to spend all that “would-be clean up time” with them! Win-win in for the mama books!
I used a skillet to cook this dish. You just need a pot or pan deep enough to hold the liquids that will eventually be absorbed by the quinoa. I’ve also made this recipe in a Dutch oven – my go-to for all things one-pot.

To get the rest of the recipe click HERE

Sweet Kid-Friendly Treats

I started making these sweet treats when Ryan and I were first dating. They’ve evolved into one of our family favorites! Super easy and even fun to make with the kids!
I normally keep a bunch in the fridge and by the end of the week we’ll be ready to make more.
Butter Balls
(I don’t know why we call them this because
there is no butter in the recipe, but anyways….)
20 small marshmallows
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup honey
1 ½ – 2 cups dry milk
1 cup (or more) of topping for rolling

1.    Mix the peanut butter, honey, and dry milk in a bowl to create a dough-like mixture. The dough should be somewhat dry so when you roll it in your hands it should stick together to form a ball. If the dough is too moist, add more dry milk.
2.    Scoop a tablespoon of mix and flatten with your fingers. Place a marshmallow in the middle and roll the dough around the marshmallow.
3.    Roll the ball through your topping (we used crushed heath bar – see below for topping ideas)
4.    Line all the butter balls on a plate or in a container and refrigerator for 1 hour. They will last in the fridge for at least a week.
YUMMY TOPPING IDEAS// heath bar, crushed mini M&M’s, chopped peanuts, chopped cashews, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, chocolate shavings

VARIATIONS// you can also use other nut butters, you just need to adjust the dry milk accordingly. The nut butter and honey should always remain proportional.


My Top 5 Kitchen Gadgets

I am obsessed with my kitchen! This is probably because I love to cook…
Over the last few years I’ve added to my kitchen collection of gadgets so I’m going to list my top 5 favorites for you!
1.    Teavana holds my heart. I love a great cup of tea and as far as I’m concerned they hit it on the head with two pieces I can’t live without (I know I said 5 things but these two go hand in hand!). I love their PerfectTea Maker (when making tea for myself only) and the Breville One Touch Tea Maker (when making a few cups at a time). These two pieces do essentially the same thing, just in different quantities. For the Perfect Tea Maker I can make a big glass of iced tea or a cup of hot tea for myself. The Breville maker makes a much larger quantity. The Breville also boils the water, whereas the Perfect Tea maker needs you to boil before hand. Both are amazing pieces I use regularly!
2.    My Le Crueset Dutch Oven. This was the first major thing my husband bought me when we were dating. It is still one of my most used pieces in my kitchen. I have since then invested in many different Le Crueset pieces but I use my dutch oven at least 3 times a week… and it’s a piece that will outlive me so it’s fun to think my babies will cook with it one day!
3.    Our juicer. When I first thought about investing in a juicer I did a ton of research! I talked to friends, searched the internet, and browsed William Sonoma and Sur la Table until I was confident I found one I liked. My mother in law bought a slow juicer and I knew I didn’t want one of those (see my reasoning why here) so I finally decided on the Breville Juice Fountain Duo. It was quite an investment but I’ve used it religiously for a few years now and it works like a champ! I’m so happy with this purchase!
4.    Our Le Creuset Grill Pan. Seriously ladies we all need this! I refuse to grill (if you do grill, I strive to be more like you!) but I love grilled food. I am a stay at home wife for the most part so I feel that it’s the least I can do to have both a clean home, and dinner prepared when my husband gets home. This means no grilled food for us… until I bought this piece. I cook everything from veggies to fish to meats on it and best of all it transfers from the stove to the oven so I don’t have to dirty any more dishes! This pan does it all and I have been so impressed at how much it will do for me.
5.   Our Stacking Bowls. My mother in law gave this collection to us at one of my bridal showers and it is the most useful bowl set ever! It literally has every size you’d ever need and because it’s a set it all fits together perfectly making storing the set a breeze! I think this is just a staple for all kitchens.

Juicing continued…

Juicing continued…
So as I mentioned yesterday I love juicing! I’ve noticed some major health benefits to juicing which makes the sometimes long process of juicing so incredibly worth it!
When I first started juicing, my mom was fighting cancer. I woke up every morning and made us both a big green juice. She loved it! She felt better throughout the day, was able to keep the juice down, it was easy for her to drink, and it was delicious even when chemo altered her taste buds.
During the last 2 weeks my mom was alive, these benefits changed to me as now it was about the only thing I could keep down. Juice is packed with so many nutrients and you will feel that benefit indefinitely! 
So rewind to the first week of my juicing adventure! I bought our juicer the day before I started a new position at work (which had nothing to do with me buying the juicer I just remember the timing). The first morning I juiced I felt great… then the next day came. I literally came down with the worst “cold” of my life. My poor mom had to wear a mask in the house because I literally looked like a small train ran my over! It was awful! Then comes the next day… I wake up with a million pimples. I have always had extremely dry skin and I’ve never dealt with acne so this was surprising to say the least. I didn’t even know what to do with a zit! At this point I’m still thinking I caught this awful monster from work or something but I would soon figure out my body was literally detoxing. At this time of my life I was running 6-10 miles a day and was in great shape so if someone looked at me they’d think I was really healthy. What they wouldn’t know is up to this point I had dealt on and off for many years with an eating disorder. I’m not going to get into this too much right now but I had a horrible body imagine and was about as unhealthy as could be. In fact my doctor told me to stop running because all things combined I’ll probably have a heart attack.
So after my gross phase of monster cold finally faded my body literally felt healthy! I could feel my energy level rise, my skin looked way better, and I had better hunger/satisfaction in my diet. Another thing I noticed was little things like achy joints, dry eyes, bloated tummy, swollen fingers all were greatly reduced! This was huge for me!

There is no way to possibly consume as many veggies and fruits through whole food as you do through juicing. On average, I will juice 5 zucchini, a bunch of chard, a bunch of kale, 2 cups of spinch, 2 apples, ½ grapefruit, and ginger (which is amazing for your tummy) all in one day! If I tried to eat all this I would be eating all day! Plus it tastes amazing! If you have any good recipes pass them along!


Juice, Juice, Juice

I love juicing! I started juicing after visiting with a friend who made an delicious juice for me and I have nothing but amazing things to say about it! I bought our juicer during my mom’s battle with cancer and started seeing the health benefits immediately. During the last few weeks my mom was alive I pretty much lived off of juice alone. It was the only thing I could keep down at the time and I was happy knowing I was at least getting some good nutrients.
I’ve tried 3 different kinds of juicers and am completely pleased with the one we bought. You can find the link by clicking here. My mother-in-law bought a slow juicer so I experienced that method of juicer from her and I’ll tell you the difference. The slow juicer had a difference consistency than our juicer did and my husband in particular was not having it. If you are one to like pulp you might not mind it so much, just remember that orange pulp and kale pulp are different and kale pulp is not for me! Some people argue that slow juicers give more nutrients and all I have to say to that is whatever floats your boat. No matter the difference, you are receiving SO very many nutritional benefits by juicing tons of yummy greens that if it’s easier for you to consume less pulp and more free juice I say a regular juicer is for you! But hey! To each his own!
Over the last past couple of years I’ve narrowed down my favorite juices and I’ll list some simple and yummy recipes below! I’m going to list them in single serving amounts but when I make juice I typically make enough for 3-4 glasses. I’ll post one big recipe (my go-to) at the very bottom. Cheers and happy juicing!
*Keep in mind: You can make some delicious fruit juices just remember the more fruit you add the more sugar you are consuming. Sometimes this makes for the perfect treat, but adding more greens than fruits makes for some delicious and extremely healthy juices. It’s all about balance!
Summer Beauty
1 bunch kale
2 handfuls spinach
¼ pineapple
2 apricots
1 small green apple, cored
½ inch ginger
The Basic Green
1 bunch kale
2 large handfuls spinach
2 stalks green chard
1 green zucchini
2 small green apples, cored
¼ inch ginger

Sweet Orange
1 orange
1/3 pineapple, peeled and cored
2 carrots
½ lemon, without the rind

Dance to the Beet
1 medium green apple, cored
2 small beets, cleaned thoroughly
3 large carrots
½ inch ginger
handful spinach
(Beets are tricky to juice, I strain my juice before serving to make sure its pulp free!)
Cheerful Cherry
3 large kale leaves
2 large leaves of romaine lettuce
1 green zucchini
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot
1 medium green apple, cored
handful cherries, pitted
½ peach

Family Sized Greens
4 green zucchini
1 large bunch (about 7-8) rainbow chard
2 bunches kale
3 cups spinach
4 stalks celery
5 small green apples, cored
2 peaches, seeded
½ large grapefruit
1 ½ inches ginger

*When storing fresh juice, store in glass jars (I used Mason jars) and fill to the tiptop so NO air is left in the jar. Seal with a lid and refrigerate up to a few days.

Our Weekend in Texas

Ryan and I decided a couple weeks ago to make a road trip to Texas (more on that reasoning later). We knew it would be a quick trip but the timing with his work just wasn’t working out. At the last minute this week he was told he could have Friday off so we planned to leave Thursday night. Now in a perfect world this would have had us arriving in Dallas about 1pm Friday afternoon, give or take. Well we’d soon find out we were giving more than taking! I called our amazing dog sitter to see if she could stay the weekend and she was free so we rented a car and headed out!
I’ll admit we didn’t leave on time on Thursday. We left around 8 pm so we thought, okay, we’ll be there in time for dinner and can do a few things Friday before heading to our B&B.
*Side note: We love staying at B&B’s. This is for a couple reasons. First of all they are so welcoming and feel like staying at a home (duh because you are!). Secondly, we love to support small businesses! And thirdly, you always get a yummy home cooked breakfast. Well this B&B exceeded our expectation, but more on that later! If you’re traveling to a new place, I highly encourage checking out bedandbreakfast.com to see if there are any great places to stay. It will through you into the area charm much more than a regular hotel room and 9 times out of 10 they are way cheaper and are cozy and romantic!
So anyways, back to our drive. I knew it would be a hard drive since Ryan and I are usually in bed by 9/9:30 and we had 19+ hours ahead of us! Well tough was an understatement. I have really bad vision (yes I have contacts and glasses, don’t worry!) and driving at night, or in “weather” only point out that problem to me more. Driving through Arizona and New Mexico wasn’t bad as we were just trying to find a good system for switching off. About ¾ the way through New Mexico the sun began to rise and that was such a special time because, lets be honest, we don’t typically wake up to watch the sun rise, which judging by the beauty of that morning, is a shame. There is something so powerful about the sun rising and starting a new day. It was gorgeous. So I wanted to stop and take a picture, which is when I got my fist glimpse at what 20 degree weather felt like, holy moly bur!


The next few hours where uneventful. We stopped at Krispy Kreams and Starbucks, which was amazing, then continued on our way for the next few hours. We started to notice snow on the ground a few hours into Texas which got worse as we drove on. I’ll spare you the details of the next few hours because there wasn’t much going on just two sleepy people wanting to make it to Dallas! THEN IT HAPPENED! It was about 4:30pm and according to our GPS we had about 2 hours, give or take, left and we hit traffic. I’m not taking a little traffic, I’m talking turn off your car, you aren’t going anywhere traffic. Which is what we did, turned off our car, thanked God that my Papa and step mom were wise enough to remind us to bring plenty of snacks, water, and blankets, and sat there… For 8 hours! Yes you read that right, 8 hours!


We met some new friends as we were all just stuck in one place. We were so grateful we had just filled up on gas because some people were starting to run out. We did notice one positive thing (which after that many hours you need to find some good in the situation!), which was the willingness for others to help in crummy situations. For us, Ryan let a few people borrow our cell phones to make calls to worries family members as well as helped broken down cars move to a place they could be helped. For others it was letting people share a seat in a warm car to avoid everyone running out of gas. It was really a cool experience, plus we met a bunch of Texans ready to tell us all the great aspects of the state! And remind us this never happens!
Our car was full of frost!


So, fast forward 8 hours, it’s now the middle of the night, the roads are insanely slippery with a coat of ice on top, and we are again, on our way. I seriously spent a combined many hours in prayer as we saw so many incredibly horrible accidents. It felt unreal, like we were watching a bad movie or something. We’ve seriously never seen so many overturned semi trucks, smashed cars, and crying people at one time. It was horrible and my prayers go out to those families and the fire and rescue teams that responded in the 12-degree weather.
Scraping the windshield with a credit card!    

FINALLY!!

So we finally made it to our B&B at 5am! (Mind you, when I said short trip I meant we planned to drive home Saturday night and by now its already Saturday morning… Insert tears here). When we pulled up to our B&B I was instantly in love. It was absolutely gorgeous and the snow just added to how beautiful the old home looked.
Obviously we were exhausted but I have never slept in a more comfortable bed in my life. There was a big fireplace in our room and overall it was the perfect atmosphere and all that we’d gone through to get there was so worth it… even for the fact we were only there for 5 hours! We were meeting with some friends to check out the area at 10:30am so we slept, enjoyed breakfast, then got back in the dreaded car. Thank goodness the car we rented was super comfortable because that could have made a bad situation worse.

We had a blast checking out Dallas/Fort Worth and, because of the weather, not too many people we out so we didn’t hit any traffic driving around the city. We ate at The Rustic in downtown Dallas which was THE best food we’ve ever had. We loved this restaurant! We really appreciate restaurants that buy local, organic, good food. I loved that their meats lived a good life and you could taste the difference in their food. We can’t wait to go back!

*Side note about the food… Guys, this place is seriously amazing! We’ve been talking about it ever since we left! I had a wood grilled turkey sandwich and Ryan had the rustic burger. It was the most flavorful and perfectly cooked meal I’ve ever had. We had the double drip appetizer which was their smoked chips with corn queso and onion dip. Then, my sandwich had wood grilled turkey, texas gouda, and smoked ham on it topped with slaw and apple butter. I also subbed the chips for their avocado salad which I’m already trying to remake tonight! I’m hooked! Ryan’s burger was topped with chopped house brisket, white cheddar, green chili, grilled white onion, and their burger sauce. Then, to top it all off, the manager brought out a slice of their peanut pie. They said it’s for us to have for visiting Dallas and it was amazing. We took most of it home because we were soo full from the food but every part of the meal was incredible. We don’t typically drink alcohol (wine not included!) but in the spirit of celebrating our trip we both ordered a drink, which was delicious, and I could go on about the food for days. It was definitely a place we’ll visit any time we are in Texas! The atmosphere is great, the service was wonderful, and the food was out of this world! We miss it already!

Sadly, after we ate, we headed back along our 19+ journey home to California. We already have a list going of things we want to do next time we visit. We didn’t get to check out McKinney, which I was most looking forward to, but it’ll be great to plan our next trip (in which we plan to FLY). It was a great time overall though. We had fun with each other and made the most out of the situation we were in! Thank goodness driving home was pretty uneventful! We hit rain once driving through Palm Springs until we got home but we couldn’t wait to kiss our babies and judging by their cries and wagging tails… they missed us to!
Until next time Texas… We’ve fallen in love with you!


What We Eat

Nothing bothers me more than wasting food. It’s like throwing money right in the trash and 9 times out of 10, the next time I go grocery shopping, I’m rebuying that wasted food!
The other night I really wasn’t prepared for dinner and thought I’d end up making a meal I had in the freezer plus a salad but I realized I had some squash and a potato on their last leg and needed to make them that night. As much as I love veggies, Ryan is not going to appreciate a meal consisting of just a bunch of different vegetables and frankly, I probably wouldn’t like the meal these items were heading for either.
So after combining a few recipes I’ve seen I came up with the perfect dish to use up all my veggies at once. It was super easy and really could have added a ton of different vegetables if I had others I wanted to use. Very versatile recipe as far as ingredient go!

Ingredients
1 yellow onion
1-2 zucchini (I used two small and has a couple pieces unused)
1-2 yellow squash
1 medium potato
1 tsp minced garlic
Italian cheese blend
dried thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil
*tomato would be a yummy addition to this dish if your family likes tomato or any other round vegetable you need to use up.
Instructions
1.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2.    Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Saute in a skillet with olive oil until softened.

3.    While the onion and garlic sauté, thinly slice all the vegetables into equally as thick rounds.

4.    Prepare an 8×8 baking dish (I used coconut oil spray). Spread the onion mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish. Place the rounds in alternating order until the dish is full.

5.    Sprinkle salt and pepper and thyme. Add shredded cheese as desired.


6.    Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are about done. Uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
7.    Enjoy!

*This recipe is also great reheated the next day! Depending on how fresh our veggies are will determine how long the dish will keep.
** After thought: If I was going to the store to deliberately make this recipe I would try to find vegetables a little closer in size as our potatoes took longer to cook.


What We Eat

We have a couple staple food item in the fridge at all times. I find we eat healthiest if we have quick meals already prepared. I’d much rather grab something fresh and homemade than eat out if we are in a hurry. Usually Sundays and Wednesdays are my days to make sure all our staples are freshly stocked. Sometimes I’ll use them as a side for dinner if I didn’t have time to prepare a full meal, other times I’ll add them to Ryan’s lunch or eat them myself of course!
I found a set of stacked bowls in 4 sizes from Costco last year and absolutely love them. They always contain the same things in our fridge. My brother and sister in law bought us another set we asked for for Christmas so I use one at all times and have the other either in our trailer or use it for leftovers, etc. I always have one full of quinoa. I love quinoa and it’s great because it can be eaten cold or warmed up.
Another key thing we have is the salad below. I love this salad because it’s so simple to prepare and is super filling. It affectionately has been named the garbage salad because I can basically add any extra veggies from the week’s dinners inside it if they need to be used up! I’m always munching on it and there is nothing bad about it! I sometimes add feta in but even still this salad is super healthy and delicious. It’s also husband approved!
Disclaimer: I make this salad in a large quantity because I want it to last us a few days. If you want less, just adjust the recipe, as you desire. This salad doesn’t last long in our house, but it will keep for at least 4 days in a container depending on the freshness of the veggies being used.
Ingredients
3 cucumbers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
1 red onion
1 large can garbanzo beans
feta cheese
olive oil
red wine vinegar
oregano
salt



Instructions
1.    Chop all your veggies into about equal sizes and toss in a salad bowl. Add beans and feta.
2.    Add a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil so veggies look slightly coated. You want enough to taste but you don’t want the salad to look too wet or have any liquid sitting at the bottom of the bowl. The salad won’t keep as well.
3.    Sprinkle with oregano to taste. Add a pinch of salt.

* I also like to add olives, artichoke hearts, or tomatoes if I need to use it up from another recipe or if I’m just being a little fancy! This salad tasted amazing with quinoa for a little added substance.


What We Eat

One of my favorite feelings is trying a new recipe and it coming out great! As I’ve mentioned before, I find cooking for others an act of love. Whether its for friends, family, or just my hubby and me, I think its such a wonderful act to turn a bunch of individual ingredients into a yummy meal for others. Plus it’s definitely an act of serving… especially as you do the dishes!
Anyways, I made a new recipe for our family this week and according to Ryan it was the second best thing I’ve ever made (Jerk Chicken is still in the lead! Get that recipe here).

Ingredients
1 package futtuccine pasta or linguine pasta
1 yellow bell pepper
8-10 small sweet peppers (I buy the bag of mini peppers from Sprouts)
1 yellow onion
2-3 sausages of you choice (I use spicy chicken sausage)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup pasta water + 3-5 bullion cubes
1 tbsp chopped garlic
*I found “Better Than Bullion” from Sprouts and prefer this over cubes. It has a ton of flavor and made a difference in this dish. I have since seen it at a few different markets and its definitely worth a try. If you use this, you only need about 1 tbsp. You can also just use broth.
Instructions
1.    Prepare your ingredients. Cut peppers into small rounds and bell pepper into small pieces. Chop onion to equal size pieces as other veggies.
2.    Add olive oil to your pan (I started with a large pan and eventually moved to my dutch oven. Looking back I’d just use a dutch oven… Way easier!). Saute oinion, sweet peppers, and bell peppers in the pan until about ¾ done. Add sausage to the pan and cook until done.

3.    Remove sausage from the pan and cut on a diagonal. Return to pan.

4.    Meanwhile, cook pasta to package directions.
5.    Add pasta water + bullion and combine until mixed. Add the mixture to the pan with the peppers and sausage.
6.    Add the cream to the pan as well. Stir to combine. Mixture will begin to thicken.


7.    Add cooked noodles, parsley, and garlic to the pan. Toss to combine.
8.    Serve hot!


*We don’t like tomatoes but adding some halved cherry tomatoes would be good. We topped with shredded Italian cheese blend.