Cranberry Apple Fruit Salad

I mentioned I was working on a lot of new things for myself this year. Balance, being one of them. I hate to admit that after a year of doing fairly well, I threw it all to the wind after our family vacation in September. After that, our meals just became horribly unbalanced. You know the ones – too many carbs, not enough veggies.

I’m out to change all that and get us back to a happy medium of protein, carbs, fruits and veggies and I would just love to share this process with you. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see me start to feature recipes we’ve tried, meal plans we’re actually using and some fun stuff that you will hopefully find well, … helpful.

I would love to hear about what your family is doing right in these regards and even areas where you still have room for improvement. I’m a helper by nature, so if I can help you out at the same time I’m helping myself, my chances for success will increase ten fold. Seriously, hit me with you best shot. Kids not eating meat or veggies, husband who is diabetic or gluten intolerant. Don’t worry, I can take it.

Ok, skipping ahead here. Another word I’m focusing on this year is, Courage. I’m hoping to gather up as much of that as possible and maybe even publish a few of my own personal recipes too. Seems I am a bit shy about some things, food photography being one of them. Still, I have a great arsenal of tried and trues and figure I should help but them in your arsenal too.

Until then though … here’s a fun recipe I made with the kiddos. Baby steps folks, baby steps.

I saw the recipe just before Christmas, Cranberry Apple Fruit Salad and knew I had to try it. I had never even eaten a real cranberry, but the colors were so gorgeous and that little fella of mine loves to whip up just about anything in the kitchen so this seemed like a winner.

those eyes

I was right. It was devine.

Cranberry & Apples

Just look at all that color. And as if Apples & Cranberries weren’t enticing enough …
Cranberry Apple Fruit Salad

There were Marshmallows!!! plus Pecans & Vanilla Yogurt. Yes, I realize I punctuated early, but I said marshmallows people, marshmallows!!! (There I did it again just for good measure)
Cranberry Apple Parfaits

Sure, it was great as is. But we like to “Parfait” around these parts (I bought the .99 cent glasses and everything), so I layered in some Multigrain Cheerios added a dollop of whip cream and called it breakfast – complete with a side of Cranberry Pomegranate juice.
Kid Tested, Mom Approved

[Insert Obligatory Kid Smiling Photo]

Balanced? Maybe? … I see dairy, fruit, nuts & other – oh, and I added whole grains! Maybe not? Depends on your definition of the word balanced .. but it was delish and fun for everyone. and that’s all that really counts right?

Check out the full recipe here

Psst, dont forget to tell me about your personal struggles or achievements with feeding your family a balanced diet.

Caramel Apple Breakfast Bars

Whole Wheat Applesauce Cake

adapted from recipe by Trainer Momma

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cup applesauce
3/4 cup caramel bits
3/4 cup chopped peacans
1 cup mini marshmallows

Mix it all together and pour it in a 9×13 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes (or until the knife comes out clean)

The original recipe was for Whole Wheat Applesauce cake. It appeared in my reader one morning and I jumped up to make a batch right away. I was stoked for something wholesome and simple and new to feed the kids in the morning, but alals I was out of chocolate chips. I ended up creating my own very different version and noticed later it had all the ingredients of a caramel apple. I’d love to try using bits of real or dried apple in this as well.

You can add just about anything to this mix to make your own version of breakfast bars – we’ve since tried peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, raisins, and craisins. The perfect accompaniment to a berry smoothie in the morning and they held up so well I think I’ll make some to take with us on a VERY LONG road trip I’ll be telling you about real soon.

The base of this recipe was so tasty I’m going to try making some banana bread out of it too.

The kids & I baked this together so it is a very kid-friendly recipe and just in time for back to school. Oh yeah & speaking of back to school, I’m guest posting over at Simply Modern Mom today with a ton of ideas on what to pack for school lunches. I hope you’ll head over and check it out, it’s my first guest post and I’m a  little nervous. :)

National S’mores Day!

Ok, I’m a little late since National S’mores Day (August 10th) was actually yesterday. But hey, when you’re talking about s’mores its never to late, am I right?

I heard the news right before dinner, scoured my pantry and whipped up this super simple S’mores pudding.
S'mores Pudding

Instant Sugar Free Chocolate Pudding + Mini Marshmallows + Chocolate Chips + Cinammon Toast Crunch Cereal + Toasted Coconut
= S’mores Puddin
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Little Tested – Little Approved!

I’ve also been waiting for the right moment to try some sun baked s’mores with the kids. Um, I’m guessing no moment would have been better than yesterday … Oh, well. To try it with your kids, break up some graham crackers, add some marshmallows and chocolate pieces and wrap neatly in aluminum foil. The same way you would cook veggies or fish in foil packets. Then just leave to bake in the summer heat. (I have no idea on how long – I haven’t tried it yet. It all depends on the outside temperature – just check it every 10 minutes until its gooey enough to eat out of the foil with a fork or spoon)

And finally, what would National S’mores Day be without a list of creative & new ways to try s’mores.

Gourmet S’mores from Sunset Magazine
S’mores Cupcakes from Annie Eats (omg, these look fantastic!)
S’mores Cheesecake
S’mores Cookies from Coconut & Lime
S’mores Nachos (I suggest you swap Stacy’s Cinnamon Pita Chips for the Graham Crackers)
S’mores Stuffed Brownies from the Picky Palate
S’mores Brownies
S’mores Pie found in the Pioneer Woman’s recipes
Oatmeal S’mores Cookies
Raspberry S’mores from Real Simple
S’mores Bars
S’mores Bars 2

You better believe I marked this day on my calendar for next year. I’ll never be caught unprepared for s’mores AGAIN!

Crumbles, Cobblers and Breads, Oh My

Hot off the press – Three summer recipes for your dining pleasure. These were all made with the peck of peaches we picked from Vogel Orchards (see last post). Nothing like a little fresh from the vine fruit action to kick off a lazy summer weekend at home. I’m not much of a recipe follower so all of these are my own creations, I must warn you though – I’m also not much of a recipe notetaker :) I tried to recall all my steps to the best of my ability, the combos are so good though we really can’t go wrong.

Maple Pecan Peach Crumble

Peaches:

~ 2 cups sliced fresh peaches
~ 1 cup mini marshmallows
~ 2 tablespoons brown sugar
~ 2 teaspoon cinnamon
~ 1 teaspoon vanilla
~ 1 tablespoon maple extract

Crumble:

~ 1 cup granola (I used Cascadian Farms Maple Brown Sugar cereal)
~ 1 cup Old Fashioned Oats
~ 3 tablespoons brown sugar
~ sprinkle of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 385 degrees F.

Place the sliced peaches in the dish and combine mini-marshmallow, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and maple extract. Bake for 10 minutes. Mix granola and oats together, add sugar and cinnamon. Remove peach marshmallow mixture and pour on your topping. Bake for 20 minutes. (Check around 15 to make sure the oats aren’t getting too toasted on top. (I don’t remember how long I cooked it and I don’t want yours to burn. Really, your just trying to get it nice and crunchy) Eat plain, with whip cream or with ice cream. :) It would even be great for breakfast served with yogurt.

If you’ve never combined marshmallows and fruit before, then you are in for a real treat. They melt to create an ooey, gooey sweetness like nothing you have ever tasted. Peaches & Marshmallows in the summer our my families favorite. :) Maybe they will be yours now too.

Homemade Peach Cobbler

Peach Filling:

~ 4 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches (pop in boiling water for 30-45 seconds, then the skins peel easy)
~ 3/4 cup brown sugar
~ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
~ 1 teaspoon vanilla
~ 1 tablespoon flour

Crust:

~ 1 cup flour
~ 1 teaspoon baking powder
~ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
~ 3 tablespoons brown sugar
~ 2-3 tablespoons cinammon
~ 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
~ 2/3 cup buttermilk (or milk + lemon juice if you don’t have any on hand – see below)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Smear butter all over the bottom of a shallow baking dish (mine was 1 1/2 quarts). Place the sliced peaches in the dish and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and flour. Mix gently and spread evenly again. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile combine all dry ingredients for cobbler crust in a bowl. MIx in the butter with your fingers or a fork. Add buttermilk and stir to form a soft dough. (If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, squirt some lemon juice in the bottom of your measuring cup then add regular milk)

Remove fruit from oven and drop rounded spoonfuls of dough on top. Sprinkle with last tablespoon of brown sugar and return to oven. Bake until fruit is bubbly and crust topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Nothing mind boggling here, just a classic southern cobbler. Best straight out of the oven, smothered in whip cream or even better, vanilla ice cream.

G'Morning Peach Bread

This is the same recipe as the cobbler, only I increased the flour by 1/2 a cup (I used 3/4 c wheat & 3/4c white for this one) and added 1 egg. I just mixed the whole thing together (after I baked the peaches for 10 minssee recipe above) and poured it in a pie pan. It was delicious with my chai tea and a big dollop of whip cream .:)

Added to Tasty Tuesdays

Tropical Oatmeal

I’ll be making a big announcement next week, an announcement that has a lot to do with the better food choices I’ve been making for my family this year. We’re eating foods that are better for us and finding ways to make them taste better than their sugar loaded alternatives. I’ll be sharing some of our favorite meals with you over the coming months, but I thought I would start you off with one of our favorite breakfasts, Tropical Oatmeal.

Tropical Oatmeal

This one is a hit with everyone in my house, which is saying A LOT. Hopefully it will be a big hit in your home too.

Tropical Oatmeal

3 cups Oats (We use Quaker Old Fashioned but any kind will do)
3 1/2 cups Water
1 3/4 cups Light Vanilla Soy Milk (can sub. milk if needed)
2-3 tablespoons Butter
Pinch of Salt (Optional)
1/3 cup Brown Sugar

Top With:

Blueberries
Dried Fruit (We like Sunmaid Tropical Trio)
Additional Toppings: Granola, Slivered Almonds, Toasted Coconut, anything goes really

This recipe makes 6 servings but you can modify it to your families needs. Stick to the instructions on the Oatmeal container, substituting 1/2 of the water for Light Vanilla Soymilk or Milk. This makes the oatmeal have a different consistency and makes it a ton more filling and healthy. I add the brown sugar to the oatmeal while it’s still in the pot because it’s a lot less fuss than sweetening each individual bowl. This recipe will give you just a touch of sweetness (perfect for toddlers) but you may need to add some more sugar to suit your own tastes. (I try to use the toppings as a way to sweeten to my liking instead of adding any more sugar) Finish by garnishing each bowl with a few handfuls of blueberries, a handful of dried fruit and whatever additional toppings you choose. Sit back and enjoy this surprisingly exotic comfort food.

~ Happy Friday!

Almost Homemade …

I’ve been making an effort this year to feed my family less packaged and processed foods [fun new recipes and how-tos coming soon], BUT in an effort to transition our lifestyle in the most frugal way possible, I have been slowly phasing out our existing stock of pantry items.

I made this version of Blueberry Muffins with a Semi-Streusel with the kids this morning and they were such a hit, I just had to share them with you. When I finally perfect my healthy, homemade version, I’ll post an update for everyone. In the meantime, enjoy this super simple version you can have on the table in just 20 minutes.

You’ll Need:

Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffins

x2 (makes 12)

+

YoPlus Blueberry Acai YogurtX1

- Follow Muffin Mix Directions on package, add in a carton of YoPlus+ [We LOVE the strawberry kind too] Blueberry Acai yogurt

- Pour batter into Muffin Tin

To make the Streusel Topping: Mix 1/3 cup of oats, with 2-3 spoonfuls of brown sugar, sprinkle in some cinnamon sugar to taste. Then sprinkle this topping on each of the muffins

Bake for 17-21 minutes (whatever the package dictates), mine were perfect after 18 minutes.

And enjoy!! These babies are tasty enough to fool guests and in-laws and hit the spot on a weekend morning when you want to surprise the family with something a little special.

Almost Homemade Blueberry Muffins

If you try these, stop back by and let me know what you think. If you’d like me to feature more recipes in the future, take a moment and tell me that too. I thrive on feedback :)

We’ve been busy baking

Busy Little Baker

There’s been a lot of baking going on in our home this holiday season as we take a moment to show our friends and family how much we care by giving them something homemade & covered in chocolate. I’m so thankful my children have a generous nature and giving attitude as they bake each batch with love knowing they’ll be going elsewhere and not staying at home with us. {Except for the one bite they get from each batch ~ I’m no Scrooge you know}

Snowman Sugar Cookies

We’ve made Snowmen Cookies ~ An Advent Fun Activty

Christmas Treats

Sugar Cookies & Candy Bites

To Make Your Own Candy Bites:

You’ll need 3 ingredients & about 10 minutes! Yep, they’re that easy

Snyders Square Pretzels
Hugs, Kisses, or Rolos
M&Ms

Place the pretzels on a flat baking sheet, Put a kiss on top of each one, Bake at 170 degrees for 4-5 minutes, Then add an M&M to the top of each one, Let cool, Then pop in the fridge to set {Warning: These are incredibly addictive warm, but hey, somebody has to eat the ugly ones ;-) }

Cookies 4 Santa

And personalized Snowmen cookies for Santa too, ALA 4 year old

Sweet Little Turkey Cookies

These incredibly easy-to-make cookies are the perfect activity to get kids excited about Turkey Day. There’s no need for perfection, so let your kids have a ball creating wonky turkeys and cross-eyed fowl. There’s even time for a quick lesson in Giving and more than likely, you won’t even need to play Teacher. When I made these cookies with my toddlers this afternoon, they asked if we could make some extras to take to their soccer coach, Nana & Papa, Aunt Mel and Uncle Birdie {they like to get creative when naming their relatives}. Be still my heart, I’ve raised a pair of Good Samaritans.

Sweet Little Turkey Cookies

~ Sugar Cookies
~
Chocolate Icing
~
Candy Corn
~
White Chocolate Chips
~
Orange Decorating Gel

To make your own sweet treats: Bake sugar cookies from your grocery store (less fuss), spread a layer of chocolate frosting along the top of the cookie, smoosh candy corn into the icing, use decorating gel as glue to attach white chocolate chips as eyes, then use the gel to draw a V-shaped beak and pupils. Voila, instant whimsy and loads of fun. I apologize in advance for the sugar rush that follows …

Idea Adapted from Pilsbury

Sweet Treats and Tasty Tricks

Sweet Treats and Tasty Tricks // Cute Fun Foods For Halloween

As Halloween inches nearer and nearer, I find myself dreaming of all sorts of sweet treats to make for the kids. Since this is my first year being able to go All Out for Halloween in many years, I’d love to make this special night something my kids will remember for a long, long time. Fortunately for me, there are a TON of super-cute and easy to recreate (two of my absolute MUSTS for any craft and/or recipe) ideas all over the web.

Here are a few of my faves: (Clockwise from L-R): chocolately witch hats, pretzel spider cupcakes, Bakerella’s trix spiderweb cupcakes, monster madness cupcakes, scrumptious Halloween smores

Update: The witch hat link no longer works, but this is such a simple project you don’t need a link. It’s a Fudge Striped Cookie turned upside down and a hershey kiss. Use some orange icing to glue the two together and loop around the edges and end with a bow. My 3 & 4 year olds did this on their own and loved it. I’ll see if I can dig up any photos.

I get the feeling, the tons of Halloween candy we collect will be the least of our sugar-laden worries. Nonetheless, I’m planning a fantastic Happy Haunting party. Sure wish all of you could stop by …

Autumn Almond Bark

Autumn Bark

Autumn Almond Bark

Nothing says Hello to Fall quite like a decadent, autumn inspired almond bark. Take this one for instance, it’s chock full of dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, honey roasted almonds, and white raisins.

Cranberry Apricot Almond Bark

You’ll never believe how simple this indulgent treat was to make! My 3 year old actually helped me create this fun snack for a Mommy & Me playdate. First, we microwaved a block of Almond Bark in 30 second intervals until it was nice & smooth. Then, we poured the bark onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Next, we took turns drizzling all of our toppings onto the treat. {Use whatever you have lying around the pantry, anything goes here} Voila, that’s it!! That’s all we did. Finally, we let it cool in the fridge and then I broke the bark into fun, disheveled pieces.

Note: Be sure to press your toppings into the bark to keep them from falling off easily after the bark cools

Wrap a few pieces in some fancy tissue paper, wrap with a colored ribbon and bring it along to your next potluck dinner, baby shower, or brunch. You’ll be sure to turn a few heads, but no one has to know the final product took less than 5 minutes to make … Easy, Peasy. And our little secret :)

If you like this idea and would like to see more fun & easy recipes you can Wow your friends with and create with your kids. Leave a comment and let me know, I have tons more ideas like these just waiting to be published.