Healthier Options for Packaged Foods

This post is a little different from most, there’s no recipe, but instead I’m going to share a few foods you can buy at the store that are better for you than most. I’ve shared others in the past, so this is just adding to some of those other favorites (like Ak Mak crackers, rice cakes, triscuits, Lara Bars, Naked Juice when I’m traveling without my blendtec and need a green smoothie etc).

Our four oldest kids went back to school this week so it’s just me and the baby left at home all day(and by baby I mean she’s 4, but still our baby), which means it shouldn’t be as hard to get a post on here each week, like it was in the Summer when we are all home working and playing together! But I did it; I kept this up even though it was challenging, yay for me! The summer flew by and we made lots of memories: with family, on trips, camps, at the pool and with friends. Our oldest daughter who is 12, did her first mini triathlon this summer, with me and Scott (hubby/daddy). I placed third for women which was rewarding🙂.  And our 10 year old son ran his first 5k race! These races don’t just all happen on one day, but they were training several days a week with me or Scott for months, which gave us some special time together. We encourage our children to be active each day through our words and example and we hope they will continue to do that throughout their lives. We remind them regularly that the foods we eat (and how we sleep) directly affect our level of activity, so we need to put good fuel in our body and not junk foods that are not nutritious like white flours/sugars, fried foods, processed meats, etc so that we can perform to our best abilities. They have experienced this for themselves and know it to be true, but reminders are good🙂.

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This, by the way, is one of my favorite snacks to have during a long run (longer than an hour):

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My sister-in-law, who is an amazing runner, introduced me to these last year. They sell these waffles gluten-free or not, I get both, and the ingredients list is mostly organic and whole grains, though their is a little cane sugar. They have all different flavors and I’ve loved each one so far. This is so tasty that I actually look forward to my long runs just because I know I’ll get to eat this part way through🙂. I have found these at running stores, on amazon, at Sierra Trading Post and health food stores by the power/granola bars. The cheapest I’ve found them is $1/each(at Sierra Trading Post), and they go up to around $1.50.

The week before school got out my Mom and brother came for a visit from Washington and New York, and we attended BYU education week together which was awesome. My mom shared a couple of foods with me that I loved and am passing along to you! These Mariani Honey Bars are made with all whole foods, nuts, fruit and honey and that’s it! No preservatives or refined sugar. My mom found them at Safeway in Washington but so far I haven’t been able to find them locally, but you can order them on amazon here. They run about $1.60/bar on amazon, which is about right for this healthier type of granola bar, and honestly, besides Lara Bars, there’s not much else out there that is this natural. And I personally like the taste of these more than Lara Bars, and my kids definitely do, too! The kids favorite flavors were Sweet and Salty and Granola. I liked all of them.

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We found these Van’s Simply Delicious waffles at Walmart (also at Sprouts and other whole foods stores), and they make them gluten-free or not. They have a couple choices that are sweetened with 100% fruit juice which I think is great! It will state it right on the front of the box if that’s the case, like the box below, otherwise they’ve got some added sugar. Our Sprouts had them on sale, buy 1 box, get 1 free, so we got a few🙂.

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These really are ‘simply delicious’! Notice I topped mine with a little peanut butter, pure maple syrup and fresh strawberries! So yummy!

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So if you don’t have time, like I sometimes don’t, and can’t make your granola bars or waffles from scratch, these will be great options for you. Have a wonderful day!

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Filed under Snacks/Sides/Appetizers

Whole Wheat Cottage Cheese Pancakes

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I think I’ve mentioned before that I have each of my 5 children help me make dinner one day a week. That way I get some special time with that child and they’re learning to cook at the same time, plus cooking with someone makes it seem more fun! It’s great! This time we were making Sunday morning breakfast and it wasn’t really anybody’s turn but both my 12 and 6 year old daughters wanted to help.

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I know we have a couple of pancake recipes on this blog already, but each recipe is so different(all so yummy though!) and produces a different result, and these are just fabulous so I had to share!

We got this recipe for Cottage Cheese Pancakes from a good friend of mine who loves them, and since it uses less flour (lots of flour  tends to make me feel bloated), I thought we’d give them a try, and we loved them! They aren’t as wheaty and they are more white in color, even though they also only use whole white wheat flour, because there is less flour and an addition of cottage cheese. These pancakes are light and filling and they are great as leftovers.

You can use any sugar in this recipe but I either use pure maple syrup (substitute 1:1) or coconut sugar.

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These kids love helping in the kitchen which I love! Great bonding time.

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Place all your ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

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You can either mix it with a hand mixer, in your blender or with a whisk. We mixed vigorously with a whisk for less than a minute until it was well blended and the big chunks of cottage cheese were broken up, but little chunks remained.

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Should look something like this:

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Then we used a 1/4 measuring cup to measure out the batter and we placed it onto a hot pancake griddle, preheated to around 300 degrees. Once they get bubbles on top and the underside is golden, flip them (about a minute or tw0), and then cook again until that side is also golden in color (around a minute)and it’s done.

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Top with whatever you like on your pancakes. We love peaches and cream, peanut butter or butter, pure maple syrup, fresh fruit and sometimes whipped cream! Yum!

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THE RECIPE:

Cottage Cheese Pancakes
*feeds 6-8

2 c Cottage Cheese
8 eggs
1 1/2 c whole white wheat flour
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp coconut sugar (or pure maple syrup)
1/8 tsp sea salt

Toppings(choose whichever you like):
natural peanut butter
butter
warm maple syrup
sliced fresh strawberries
blueberries
whipped cream
Peaches and Cream Topping

Heat a pancake griddle to 300 degrees. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously for a minute, or combine in blender and blend until most chunks are gone. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to measure the batter and pour onto hot griddle. Repeat spacing pancake batter out about an inch apart (or more). Flip once the pancake batter begins to bubble on top and the bottom is golden. Cook another minute or so, until golden on both sides. Serve immediately or place on a cookie sheet and keep in a warm oven (200 degrees), until ready to serve (but serve within half hour). Store leftovers in fridge or freezer for longer term storage. We love these pancakes topped with peanut butter or butter and pure maple syrup, fruit and whipped cream.

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Pasta Salad and Dressing Recipe

We eat a lot of different salads for dinner during the summer; it’s nice to have something cool to eat on a hot day. I’ll typically add whatever veggies I have on hand in my fridge at the moment, so it changes from week to week, and in the pasta salad pictured below we have tomatoes, celery, bell pepper, cubed cheese, white beans and onion. Sometimes we’ll add nuts or serve some chicken or pepperoni on the side for the meat lovers in our house.

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I will sometimes use an Italian salad dressing or something similar for convenience, but I actually love homemade dressing so much more; it really makes the salad. So if I have 5 minutes, I’ll whip this up.

Here are your ingredients for the dressing:

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Whisk it all together in a glass measuring dish and stick it in the fridge while you cook your pasta.

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We use various shapes but one of our favorites is the bowtie, and it’s fun when we get a pasta with a little color. We cooked up a bag of costco pasta which is just over a pound, drained it, rinsed it with cold water as I swish the pasta around with my hand (to help quickly cool it down…we don’t want our cheese cubes melting onto our pasta), then transfer it to a large mixing bowl, add the dressing, stir it to combine and then you can serve it from there or transfer it to a pretty bowl. If you’re not going to eat it right away, you can store it in the fridge for at least a day.

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Pasta Salad:
*serves 6-8

1 lb uncooked pasta (we love to use bowtie)
Topping Ideas:
bell pepper, chopped
grape tomatoes, halved
celery, chopped
red onion, chopped
1 c cooked and drained white beans
1 c cubed cheddar cheese
1 c cubed chicken, or pepperoni quartered

Pasta Salad Dressing:
*makes enough to cover 1 lb pasta

1/2 c mayo
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c  olive oil
1/4 c plain yogurt (or sour cream)
2 cloves minced garlic (1 tsp)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sea salt

Combine all your pasta salad dressing ingredients into a glass measuring dish and whisk to combine. Set aside, in fridge. Follow package directions for uncooked pasta, bringing water to a boil and cooking until done. While it’s cooking, chop up any combination of veggies/cheese/beans/meat you like and place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.  Dump pasta into a strainer over your kitchen sink, then rinse with cold water as you move pasta around with your hand (be careful, it’s hot). Once pasta is cool, add it to your veggies in the large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over top. Stir it all together to combine. Serve right away or cover and store in fridge.

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Filed under Dinner, Lunch, Salads, vegetarian

Peaches and Cream Pancake Topping

Just about every Sunday we eat breakfast for dinner, or at least while we have 9am church, which is for the year of 2016…after that we will probably go back to making a big breakfast for breakfast🙂.  This past Sunday I went onto my blog to find this peaches and cream topping recipe and it wasn’t there! I ended up finding it in my binder of favorite recipes and then I took a couple of pictures as I made it so I could share it with all of you, and so now it’s online, for my own convenience.

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I first came across this recipe, or a similar one, years ago while I was watching Chef Brad on the BYU channel. He used agave, and Freekah flour (another whole grain), but I’ve substituted a raw sugar and whole white wheat flour in it’s place.

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This peaches and cream topping takes about 5-10 or so minutes to make, so it’s pretty fast and easy, and the consistency is not as thin as syrup, but not as thick as gravy, just in between.

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After my kids were full from their pancakes with peaches and cream, they asked if they could have a little more of the peaches and cream on the side, just to spoon into their mouths from the plate🙂, so even the kiddos like it!

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THE RECIPE:

Peaches and Cream Topping– adapted from Chef Brad’s recipe
*serves about 8

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1 frozen peach, thawed (or 1 can of sliced peaches, drained, cut in half)
1 c whole milk (heavy cream or half and half work too)
1/3 cup raw sugar or agave (I used turbinado, you can use any granulated sugar)
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp sea salt

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and lightly toast wheat flour to create a rue. Add milk/cream and whisk together for a couple of minutes as it thickens. Add sugar/agave, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Whisk again a couple more minutes until thick and add peaches and stir. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles. This should not be gravy thick nor watery thin; if it’s too thick add more milk/cream.

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High Altitude Snickerdoodle Cookies

My ten your old son and his friend came in today and asked if they could make cookies so they could have a bake sale in our front yard. I reminded them that it was 100 degrees outside, and that they might not get any cars that pass by because we don’t live in a high traffic neighborhood, but that didn’t deter them a bit. So we pulled out our tried and true high altitude, ‘healthified’ snickerdoodle recipe (because we live in Utah and cookies bake different in high altitude; but this will also work great at lower altitudes as well), which has a wonderful flavor and soft, chewy texture, and the boys went to work, making cookies, with minimal help from me!

We used whole white wheat flour in these cookies, but also some white flour, otherwise you compromise the texture, which I didn’t want to do. We also used a less refined sugar, but any granulated sugar works.  I know, I know, we are cooking with sugar and white flour, which is something I usually try to avoid, but I’m also not a fanatic, and this is what the boys wanted to make so we went with it, and like I mentioned, it wasn’t all bad because this is a recipe I’ve tweaked and ‘healthified’.  The boys ended up making some money, almost $6, which surprised me, until I found out that most of that came  from one place, our next door neighbors🙂.

Start out by creaming together your softened butter, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and mix.

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Form into a large ball, in your bowl, and  chill about 10-20 minutes, until the dough is easy to handle. While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, put your other ingredients away, and mix together your cinnamon and sugar on a dinner plate, preferably one with a little bit of a rim so the sugar doesn’t fall off the plate. Using a cookie scoop(or a Tbsp), form dough into  balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

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You can bake them on an ungreased cookie sheet, or use one lined with parchment paper for super easy cleanup.  They bake for about 10-11 minutes or until golden and firmed up a bit.

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This recipe makes about 3 and 1/2 dozen cookies. You can freeze them once they’ve cooked and cooled on a baking sheet, in freezer ziploc bag, for another day.

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High Altitude Snickerdoodle Cookies
Makes about 3 and 1/2 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c turbinado sugar (or other granulated sugar)
2 eggs
2 c unbromated white flour (or any white flour)
3/4 c whole white wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt

Cinnamon and Sugar Topping
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and eggs.  Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and mix. Form into a large ball, in the bowl, and  chill about 10-20 minutes, until the dough is easy to handle. While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, put your other ingredients away, and mix together your cinnamon and sugar on a dinner plate, preferably one with a little bit of a rim so the sugar doesn’t fall off the plate. Using a cookie scoop(or a Tbsp), form dough into balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet (or one lined with parchment paper for super easy cleanup)  for about 10-11 minutes or until golden and firmed up a bit. Makes about 3 and 1/2 dozen. Can freeze after cooked and cooled, in freezer ziploc bag, for another day.

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Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats

We moved last week and so things have been crazy busy around here! We didn’t have internet for several days and even my iphone internet was spotty with the cellular data, which is why there was no post last week. But I think we are getting back into the swing of things around here now that we are mostly unpacked…I’m actually a crazy person and unpack and organize everything within the first couple of days, but there are a couple of boxes in the garage I need my hubby to go through and decide where he wants to put things. Anyhow, I haven’t done much cooking over the past month besides the quick and basic essentials: daily green smoothie, crock pot black beans, quinoa, spaghetti and yeah that’s about it🙂. Tomorrow I intend to make my granola that we always like to have on hand and hopefully I’ll get some real cooking and experimenting time in over the next couple of weeks.

This is a dessert recipe I’ve had for awhile and which we’ve made several times. They are a healthy version of a peanut butter rice crispy treat, which are kinda like my no-bake peanut butter rice crispy bars, but there are a few small differences like less peanut butter, no oats, and different natural sweeteners. Give them a try, they are delicious! And they’d be great to serve to friends at a gathering or to sell at a bake sale.

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I find this cereal at health food stores like Sprouts or Whole Foods. There are a couple of different brands that work well, just make sure it’s the ‘brown rice crisp’ cereal and not the ‘puffed brown rice’.

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THE RECIPE:

Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats (vegan, gf)
*makes 1, 9×13 pan, about 12 squares

1 box brown rice crisp cereal
1 c honey (or can use brown rice syrup in place of honey and maple syrup)
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1/8 tsp sea salt
3/4 c natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
1/4 c carob or chocolate chips

Pour rice cereal into a large bowl. Heat the honey and syrup, with a pinch of sea salt in a saucepan over low heat. Add the peanut butter and stir until well combined. Pour over the rice cereal. Mix well with wooden spoon. Once cooled to room temperature, stir in chocolate chips. Make sure it’s cool or the chips will melt. Turn the mixture onto a 9×13 baking dish. Wet your wooden spoon lightly and press the mixture evenly into the pan, or lightly wet hands and press into pan. Let chill for an hour in fridge before cutting into squares and eating (if possible :)).

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Filed under Desserts, gluten-free, vegan

Eating healthy while traveling 

We are currently driving home from Washington, where we travel each year to visit my family. It’s about a 14 hour drive from our house, one way, without stops. We don’t stop much, just to fill up the gas tank at which time we use the restrooms, and maybe we’ll get one meal at a gas station (subway or something similar) and that’s about it. But even then, that’ll still add about 1-2 hours time when 7 people need to use the bathroom🙂. 

Because we mostly don’t stop for meals, and because I don’t want us to feel gross when we arrive from eating  junky snack foods, we have learned to pack some healthier foods that we enjoy  and that travel well. 

First off, the only thing we drink is water, unless I also pack a little green smoothie for myself if we’re leaving super early in the morning. Everyone has their own water bottle, plus we bring a gallon of water for refills. 

Sometimes we will pack pb&j sandwiches (whole wheat, natural pb, fruit sweetened jelly) for something more substantial, but since we just drove to Grand Canyon the week before, and that’s what we brought then, the kids were kinda done with sandwiches, so instead I packed some protein bars I know they like, which we don’t buy often because they’re not really a whole food with their many ingredients, some of which are hard to pronounce which means it’s not really a food, but it’s okay for sometimes😉. If we had more time, I would’ve made some granola bars or muffins, but as we are moving soon, time is hard to come by and some of my kitchen stuff is already packed; but that would be another good option (if you need recipes, search under the snacks heading on my recipe tab). 
There are several of us in the family that get motion sick, and I’ve found that snacking on Cheerios (and/or smelling an orange essential oil, and keeping my gaze directed forward) helps to settle my stomach. Now, you can find better Cheerios than these with less ingredients, but we were in a time crunch and didn’t want to travel to a health food store and these are still better than most, so we made do. 

If you, like me, get the munchies on road trips, blueberries are perfect. I’ll eat a handful or put some in a plastic cup and slowly snack while we drive.

If you like roasted seaweed sheets, those are another perfect munchies food. They’re not filling, they’re good for you and super low calorie so you could eat a whole package and be fine. Apples are another fruit we always bring because they travel so well. Bananas on the other hand, get soft and bruised pretty fast so I only bring those if I know we will eat them within the first hour or so. 

These Aussie bites are another more substantial snack. I will usually eat one or two at a time and am good for a bit. Most of the ingredients on the Aussie bites are really good, they are filled with lots of different whole grains. And Scott and I think they’re very yummy; we find them at Costco. 
Rice cakes are another good traveling food, as are cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds (the shelled ones help my Hubby stay awake  when driving) all nuts really, grapes and the kids always enjoy it when we pack some gum. It’s nice to pack some fun things, but it’s also nice to feel well when we travel and when we arrive and these foods have worked well for us. I hope this helps you as you get ready for your travels! 

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Everyday Oatmeal

I love the simplicity and speed of oatmeal and I love that it’s inexpensive, filling and a great whole foods breakfast or lunch! I buy my rolled oats in bulk from Costco or Sprouts so they are super cheap. The recipe below is the way we most often cook our rolled oats and it’s so yummy and it only takes about 5 minutes…and they’re not even the quick oats, just regular rolled.

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Measure your oats and water and put it in a medium saucepan and turn it up high. Once the water starts to boil, stir and turn off the heat, keep stirring and remove from heat once it’s thickened. Add in your milk, ground flax and pure maple syrup (or whatever sweetener you choose) and stir to combine. Pour into individual bowls and serve while warm. We like to dip a piece of whole wheat toast in our oatmeal too! Yum!

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THE RECIPE:

Everyday Oatmeal
*serves 2

1 c regular rolled oats (quick oats work too)
2 c water

3 Tbsp ground flax
1/4 c pure maple syrup (more or less depending on how sweet you like it)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c unsweetened almond milk

In a medium saucepan combine oats and water and bring to a boil. Turn heat off and stir until it thickens, about 1 minute, and then remove from heat. Stir in syrup, flax, cinnamon and milk and serve warm in individual bowls. We love to dip in a slice of whole wheat toast.

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Filed under Breakfast, gluten-free, vegan

Almond Butter and Apple Rice Cakes

My kids are on week 2 of summer break and we are loving all of our free, non-scheduled time. We have a couple of things still going, like piano is year-round for our 4 oldest kids, and our ten year old son is doing flag football, plus we have a couple vacations planned, family visiting, cub scout camp, girls camp, swimming lessons later in the summer and our move (just locally, but still, a move is a move and it’s a big deal when you’re packing up and moving 7 human beings). After writing that out, it doesn’t sound very unscheduled anymore but it still feels better when you don’t have school on weekdays. We are currently visiting Bryce and Grand Canyon, doing some hiking and camping in a tipi🙂. Aren’t I good for posting this while I’m on vacation?! No, I don’t bring my computer on vacations, I actually wrote this post last week and scheduled it to post today, which is something I do when we have a lot going on, which seems like always🙂. Anyway, let’s get onto our recipe for the day which is a super fast, simple and nutritious snack food that I love and eat regularly.

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Plain rice cakes, the ones where the only ingredient listed is, ‘whole grain brown rice’, are one of those foods that I always have on hand. You can buy a pack for $2-$3 and it comes with 14 cakes which is pretty inexpensive.

I like to cover my rice cake with a tablespoon of almond butter (my kids use peanut butter) and then top it with either some carob chips or very thin apple slices, which is something my little sister recently taught me(and I’ve heard banana slices are good too). I love the salty/sweet combination along with the crunchy rice cake. I often have this for a late afternoon snack, or in the morning if I’m going for a long run (more than 6 miles…otherwise I just drink water and make my green smoothie when I get home). I’ve even started making my own almond butter since I got my new Blendtec Twister jar, and it’s super easy and fast. It literally take less than 1 minute to make your own nut butter and that time includes getting the nuts out and grinding them up. But I’ll save that recipe for another post🙂. I hope you enjoy this fast, simple, and tasty snack!

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THE RECIPE:

Almond Butter and Apple Rice Cakes
*serves 1

1 brown rice cake
1 Tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)
4 thin apple slices

Spread 1 Tbsp almond butter on a rice cake and top with 4, thin apple slices. Enjoy!

*this is a great snack or pre/post -workout food; I eat this before a long run

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Filed under gluten-free, Snacks/Sides/Appetizers, vegan

Roasted Beets

I eat a lot of salads in the summer but they can get boring after awhile if you don’t mix things up. Roasted, sliced beets make for a nice addition. Roasting the beets is super simple: just cover in tinfoil and bake in a hot oven for about an hour. Once that’s done, slip the skins off and slice the beets into quarters and then slice those quarters thin and throw them on any green salad. I like to pair my beet salad with a vinaigrette, poppy seed  or sweet/fruit dressing along with some sunflower seeds and sliced onion. By the way, beets will make your hands dark pink, along with everything you’re using to prepare them with (cutting board, knife etc), so handle them with care and try not to get it on your clothes.

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Roasted Beets

2 medium beets
tin foil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and roast for 40-60 minutes or until you can pierce them easily with a fork. Allow the beets to cool a little and then slip off the skins and slice the beets into quarters and then into thinner slices if you like.

I love to add these to all different salads. One of my favorites is romaine lettuce and spinach, sunflower seeds, sliced red onion with these beet slices and a fruity or vinagrette dressing to top it off.

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Filed under Salads, vegan, vegetarian