April 26th, 2016
Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite holidays to get friends together and celebrate, but with kids… well, it’s not quite the same. Instead of sipping a margarita (or two), I’m home with the boys doing our nightly thing. Fun in its way, but not quite a party. That doesn’t mean that I can’t still indulge in a Margarita, though, especially if it’s this Margarita Mocktail!
Given how simple Margaritas are, a mocktail version is pretty much just sweetened lime juice, which is boring—not to mention tricky. Calling a limeade a Margarita is like calling carob chocolate. I’m sharing this recipe because it’s more. Not more work, but more flavor thanks to a special ingredient that gives this mocktail a taste much more reminiscent of the real-deal cocktail.
April 19th, 2016
Earth Day is coming up and while, yes, I know, everyday is Earth Day, I find that making a point one day a year is a helpful way to stress the importance of our relationship with the environment for young kids. One of the ways that I’m celebrating this year is by focusing on plant-based eating that day, this week, and moving forward.
Serving up a delicious plant-based snack (hello, vegan chocolate peanut butter pudding) is a great reminder to the kids—and myself—that eating a plant-based diet can be easy and delicious, even for us bacon-loving folk. And when I serve it along with other vegan goodies this week, I’ll also be sure to make a commitment to the kids to make these treats more in the year ahead, not just this week alone.
Well, except for the vegan Salted “Caramel” Dip. We already eat that like crazy.
April 13th, 2016
One of the things that stresses me out most is when my kids haven’t had veggies all day and I have to throw together a dinner that gets in all of their daily servings. Talk about pressure! And for them as much as for me. After all, by dinner, we’re all tired and hungry. Nobody wants to force—or be forced to eat—veggies.
One of my favorite tricks for avoiding this is to pack plenty of vegetables in school lunch. I purposely use a lunch container with 4 compartments so that I can always pack a main, a fruit, a veggie and a snack—and the veggie is usually raw cut up carrots, peppers, cucumbers, radish, etc—but then sometimes, I add veggies to the main, as well.
April 5th, 2016
I often pack avocado toast for my boys for school lunch and, whenever I share the pic on my Facebook page (where I share tons of school lunch ideas, by the way), I get the same question. . . over and over:
How can you pack avocado toast without it getting mushy and brown and plain yucky.
Well, here’s how.
March 29th, 2016
I realize that there are places around the country that have great produce all year around and, if you live there, well, lucky you. But for me, springtime means big, fresh, green salads. Finally.
To start the week off right, I’m sharing my 5 favorite salad recipes for spring. Put these in heavy rotation through the season and be a happy camper. And, yes, there are salads here that are especially kid-friendly. Even ones that are great packed in school lunch.
March 24th, 2016
How is it possible that Easter is around the corner?! If you’re just as surprised as me (*cough* procrastinators unite) and are having people over or are going to someone’s house and don’t want to show up empty handed, I’ve got a slew of recipes that are easy to make, even at the last minute. You can whip these recipes up in between putting together those Easter baskets (which are totally not done either—ahhh!). Because, yes, they are simple enough that that you can do that..
March 22nd, 2016
You know what I love? Sticky rolls.
You know what I don’t love? (Or, at least, what I don’t have time to enjoy.) Baking sticky rolls from scratch.
With Easter coming up fast, I wanted to find a way to make sticky rolls for brunch without having to spend tons of time in the kitchen. I’d just worked on a recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls when it occurred to me that I could use another store-bought shortcut, puff pastry, to make sticky rolls.
Not only did these come out great—great enough for a holiday brunch—but they are even easier to make than I anticipated. As in, now sticky rolls don’t have to be a once a year treat.
March 17th, 2016
Over the last year, while working on my book, Make It Easy: 120 Mix-and-Match Recipes to Cook From Scratch—with Smart Store-Bought Shortcuts When You Need Them (which is available for pre-sale, by the way!), I’ve been thinking a lot about how to, well, help make it easy for busy parents. If you’ve been following along for long enough, you know that I was once a hardcore scratch cooking advocate. But several things have brought me to the middle, where I am today.
First off, I wrote that book and got busy. Really busy. Because at the same time, I also helped launch Cool Mom Eats. Oh, and all of that coincided with our baby sitter of years moving on, so I’ve also been sole primary caregiver through it all. Even though I’ve always been a busy work-from-home mom, I was able to prioritize cooking until all this happened at one time. Once I realized what it felt like to not be able to do cook every night—a feeling I know many (many) parents live with—I started to better understand the compromises that family cooks have to make. And also how frustrating it is that nobody makes those compromises easier by giving parents the info they need to make them healthfully.
I came to see that family cooks need an advocate who is a champion of scratch cooking, but also nonjudgmental and flexible enough to know that scratch cooking is not always an option, and when it’s not, someone who is willing to guide them towards the healthiest, smarted shortcuts that the supermarket has to offer. From that, my book—and recipes like these easy, customizable Wonton Crackers—were born.
March 15th, 2016
If you’ve been reading a while, you know that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t my gig. It used to be that I hated the throngs of drunk people who would swarm the city as I tried to make my way home (or to the bar where I’d try to quietly meet up with friends), but those days are long over. (After work drink—ha!) Now the issue is—get ready for it—dyed green food and drink. It annoys me, because gross.
Yes, seriously. It grosses me out enough that I’m writing about it.
It’s not that I don’t like green food (spinach rocks!), it’s that I don’t like green food that isn’t meant to be green—and is very green thanks to artificial food color. Like I said: gross. But naturally green food? I’m not a total scrooge. I can get down with it for St. Patrick’s Day! And the best way to make things green the honest way is to add matcha green tea powder. Because then it adds flavors, too. Natural color, a fitting flavor: See how that all works out?
March 8th, 2016
Mango is one of our favorite fruits. It’s totally delicious and nutrient dense, perfect for smoothies (Coconut Mango Smoothie), salads (Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad), salsa (Tropical Pico de Gallo), school lunch (Mango Fruit Sushi), and so much more, including just plain. But, oh, how to cut one!
You don’t need an expensive mango cutter to get it right (and, okay, they aren’t particularly expensive, but they only do one thing!). You also don’t have to randomly hack, which is annoying and often ends up leaving fruit on the pit. (Boo food waste!) Instead, you can follow these 5 easy steps for how to cut mango like a pro.
Because who doesn’t want to be a mango cutting pro? I mean, right?
February 23rd, 2016
Ever since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trying to eat better an exercise more. I know: It’s so cliche and boring, but I’d truly gotten off track after a crazy 2015 that culminated in a holiday season of excess. You know, to treat myself for how hard and busy life had been. And then I just didn’t feel good.
Eating healthfully is not hard for me. Other than a splurge here or there, I don’t eat junk food and leaving dessert behind just means not making dessert. Easy enough. What’s not easy, though, is eating smaller portions (ugh) and finding that 3 pm snack option that’s satisfying, can tide me over until dinner time, and feels like a treat—because I truly deserve one by 3 pm—without destroying my efforts to eat better.
The only thing I’ve found that accomplishes this without fail is this fresh, delicious Pico de Gallo, which I can vary several ways and also eat with several things, from a handful of tortilla chips or Triscuits to carrot and celery sticks.
So, basically, this recipe is saving my ass. Literally.
Two other great things about pico de gallo: The kids love it and it’s easy to vary—and the kids love the variations, too. Is that three great things? Oh! Make it four great things because all three variations—Classic Pico de Gallo, Tropical Pico de Gallo, and Pico Guacamole—are made with nothing but fresh produce. So this isn’t a lame skinny snack dip full of weird low-fat ingredients, but rather it’s vegetables that everyone will crave. How can you beat that?
February 16th, 2016
Pasta is so often a busy family cook’s lifeline—it’s quick cooking, versatile, and beloved. Kids might even gobble up all their veggies when they’re mixed with everyone’s favorite carb. And with gluten-free pasta getting better and better, it’s even a staple in gluten-free homes. The best part, of course, is that pasta is easy to cook. Anyone can do it well—right?
Right. Sort of.
Though the technique for cooking pasta perfectly is easy, it’s not the brainless boil-until-it’s-soft approach that so many home cooks take. In fact, with just a little bit of technique, you can cook pasta like a pro and it will taste even better.
Yes, pasta can taste BETTER.
February 12th, 2016
Ahhh! Who else is working this Valentine’s Day gig at the last minute like me?
I’ve had a (very) crazy week that you probably wouldn’t believe even if I told you. So I won’t tell you. Because you’ve probably had a crazy week, too. But fret not: Just because we haven’t planned, doesn’t mean that we can’t pull of making Valentine’s Day special this year. We can. We will! Thanks to this easy, super-duper cute Valentine’s Day breakfast recipe for Lacy Heart Pancakes.
January 30th, 2016
Super-healthy Turkey Taco Salad recipe (that can transform into a meal for even the pickiest eaters).
Age old problem: The kids like tacos, but you want salad.
New, go-to solution: This super-healthy Turkey Taco Salad.
That’s right people: This easy, fresh dinner is the answer and it’s delicious and healthy, too—even if the kids pick around the greens. It’s truly an adaptable meal that you can cook once to feed everyone.
January 19th, 2016
Maybe I’m late to the party (it wouldn’t be the first time), but I just recently learned that microwave popcorn is full of chemicals. Like a lot of them. It’s not just the flavors and additives, but also what’s used to line the bags. We all draw different lines with how pure and all-natural we want to keep our family’s diet, but honestly, by all accounts, microwave popcorn is pretty toxic stuff. And the weird thing is that I’m not sure why given how easy it is to make microwave popcorn with nothing more than kernels, oil, and a paper bag.
Yup: Three simple ingredients, all low cost and available at the supermarket (if not already in your cupboards), turn out microwave popcorn that you can flavor any way you like in all of 5 minutes. With this easy DIY tutorial, store-bought actually becomes a waste of money. And making and flavoring this is pretty much my kids favorite kitchen project ever.