One Megacoolmama…

…with fun and healthy ideas for kids!

Dark chocolate chia seed pudding

dark chocolate chia pudding

I generally eat very healthy, but sometimes I will get a craving that just cannot be ignored!  Since I started living a more “clean eating” lifestyle, I have found some ways to satisfy my cravings, yet still stay away from nasty ingredients and chemicals in processed food.  One of those ways is by whipping up a batch of my Dark chocolate chia pudding every once in a while!

This dark chocolate chia pudding is SUPER easy to make and tastes amazing!  Once you try this, you will never want to go back to the icky Jell-o pudding stuff!  And, you are getting the superfood benefits of chia seeds–omega 3’s, antioxidants, protein, and fiber…not to mention tons of vitamins as well!

Try this dark chocolate chia seed pudding the next time you have a sweet tooth or the next time your kids ask for a snack.  You will love the gooey crunchiness of the chia seed and the dark chocolate flavor.  Plus, you won’t feel bad after eating it!

Ingredients:

-1/4 cup chia seeds

-1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other milk of your choice)

-2 tbsp. organic coconut sugar

-2 tbsp. dark chocolate cocoa powder

Directions:

1.  Mix the coconut palm sugar and cocoa powder together in a small bowl until there are no big lumps.

2.  Add the chia seeds to the bowl and mix well.

3.  Pour in the almond milk and stir until blended.

4.  Let sit for five minutes and stir again.

5.  Repeat the stirring and sitting process for about 20 minutes.

6.  Either enjoy right away or refrigerate for later!

Makes one large serving or two smaller servings.

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“Super Bowl” of Chili- Beef, Turkey and Vegetarian Recipes

Super Bowl time in Chicago is synonymous with cold weather and heartier meals.  If hosting a party at your place, here are a few versions of a hearty and healthy classic chili recipe that you can make ahead and keep warm until kickoff.  The use of an all-natural slow cooker sauce made entirely of vegetables and seasonings speeds up prep time considerably. Using lean ground beef, turkey or all vegetables ensures a low-fat delicious meal! Take an extra 25% off Jesben Slow Cooker Sauces at Abe’s Market with code SNOWDAY until 2/1!

Super Bowl of Chili, Three Ways!–Beef, Turkey and Veggie


SLOW COOKER SUPER BOWL OF BEEF CHILI
Ingredients
1-2 lbs lean (90%) ground beef
1 jar (24 oz) Jesben® Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs Slow Cooker Sauce
1 can (approx. 15 oz) red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can (approx. 15 oz) pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
3 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin

Instructions
1.  Place meat in slow cooker.

2.  Add beans.

3.  Sprinkle spices over beef and beans.

4.  Pour entire jar of Jesben® Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs Slow Cooker Sauce on top of meat, beans and spices.

5.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours or until meat is fully cooked.

6.  With large spoon thoroughly stir cooked chili, breaking up ground beef into chunks and then into smaller pieces with back of spoon.

Serve in bowls and enjoy!
Makes 8-10 servings

SLOW COOKER TURKEY CHILI
Ingredients
1-2 lbs ground turkey
1 jar (24 oz) Jesben® Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs Slow Cooker Sauce
1 can (approx. 15 oz) black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can (approx. 15 oz) yellow corn kernels (rinsed and drained)
3 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin

Instructions
1.  Place turkey in slow cooker.

2.  Add beans.

3.  Sprinkle spices over turkey and beans.

4.  Pour entire jar of Jesben® Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs Slow Cooker Sauce on top of turkey, beans and spices.

5.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours or until meat is fully cooked.

6.  With large spoon thoroughly stir cooked chili, breaking up ground turkey into chunks, and then into smaller pieces with back of spoon.

Serve in bowls and enjoy!
Makes 8-10 servings

SLOW COOKER VEGETARIAN CHILI (My favorite!)
Ingredients
1 lb chopped portobello mushrooms
1 lb diced extra firm tofu
1 jar (24 oz) Jesben® Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs Slow Cooker Sauce
1 can (approx. 15 oz) cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can (approx. 15 oz) dark red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
3 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin

Instructions
1.  Place mushrooms and tofu in slow cooker.

2.  Add beans.

3.  Sprinkle spices over veggies and beans.

4.  Pour entire jar of Jesben® Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs Slow Cooker Sauce on top of vegetables, beans and spices.

5.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

6.  Stir thoroughly and keep warm in slow cooker until ready to eat.

Serve in bowls and enjoy!
Makes 8-10 servings

Note: If you prefer less heat or will be serving this to the little ones, chili powder can be reduced in any of these recipes by 1 tablespoon. On the other hand, if you like your chili hot, add a dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste. Also, feel free to get creative with your ingredients!  I like to add squash or pumpkin puree to the chili once it has been in the slow cooker for about an hour.  I have also added cocoa powder to give the chili a deeper taste.

**TAKE 25% OFF YOUR ENTIRE PURCHASE AT ABE’S MARKET WITH THE COUPON CODE SNOWDAY UNTIL 2/1!**

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Sneaky Quinoa Banana Pudding (with spinach!)

quinoa banana spinach pudding

Since I started in my quest to have my third baby eat what we eat as a family and not buy baby food, I have been experimenting in the kitchen.  This recipe is a product of my baby’s love for quinoa and bananas (though usually not together), and my obsession with coconut oil.  And, sneaky mama that I am, I always try to fit in some veggies whenever I can.

This recipe for Quinoa Banana Pudding with Spinach has so many benefits:  quinoa, a supergrain and the only complete plant protein; banana, an original super food; spinach, packed with vitamins and minerals; and coconut oil, digestion aid and immune system booster.  It’s simple, delicious, and a recipe you can give to the whole family!

photo 1 (4)

Ingredients:

-handful of chopped baby spinach

-1/4 cup cooked quinoa

-one large banana

-1 tbsp. extra virgin unrefined coconut oil

-cinnamon to taste (optional)

 

Directions:

1.  Sautée baby spinach in a pan with coconut oil on medium high for about four to five minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, mash banana in a small to medium bowl.

3.  Add cooked quinoa and cinnamon to smashed banana while spinach cools.

4.  Add spinach (making sure all of the oil makes its way into the mixture) to quinoa banana mixture and stir to combine all ingredients.

5.  Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it has a smooth creamy texture.

 

You can serve this right away or cool it in the fridge.  It makes enough for a couple small servings or one bigger serving.  My baby and I loved it!  My older two kids and the hubby aren’t big pudding fans (since I never buy it), so it will take some convincing to get them to try it.  Let me know if you give it a shot!

 

*Use organic ingredients if possible to get the most possible health benefits.

 

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Simple ideas to reconnect with your kids

RECONNECT WITH YOUR KIDS

 

I know as a working mom that every once in a while I just need to take time to sit down and reconnect with my kids.  I am very lucky to be able to have the weekends at home with them and most evenings as well.  However, most of my time at home is spent doing meal prep, taking care of the baby, grading or preparing for classes, cleaning, and just simply trying to keep up with the chaos!

I try to take special time every week at some point to do at least one of the activities mentioned below with each one of my kids.  There are times when I know my oldest son need more of an “invisible string” kind of day (see below).  Maybe another day my daughter will prefer to listen to her birth story and read.  No matter the activity, as long as I am taking time to simply “be” with them and do nothing else for that short amount of time, they are happy.  And, that genuine happiness that comes from a place of just wanting to spend time with mommy is priceless.

Below are some things that I do to reconnect with my own children. Take these ideas and copy them, make them yours, twist them completely until they fit your lifestyle and your kids’ personalities.  The point is to spend uninterrupted time with your child doing something that makes them feel important.

1.  Read two books with your child- one he/she chooses and one you choose.  Both of you explain why you chose the book you did and share your favorite parts after reading.   Click on the images to check out a few of our favorite books.

            

 

2.  Tell them their birth story*.  And, no, I’m not talking about the gory details.  We are going to focus on the parts that won’t give your child nightmares here!  Narrate to your child how you felt when he/she was born and what the first thing was that you noticed when they were placed in your arms.  For my oldest son, it was his big, brown eyes.  For my daughter, it was her head full of black hair.  And, for my baby boy, it was his perfect little nose.  Tell about how you felt at that time and how in love you were with that little bundle of joy! I also like to include how we prepared at home for their arrival and who was there when we brought them home for the first time.  I tell them all of the details, down to the outfit they were wearing! My kids LOVE listening to their birth stories; I feel like it gives them a sense of knowing that they always have been wanted, important, and loved, even from before the time they were born.

 

3.  Create an “invisible string”.  I always tell my kids that there is an invisible string that connects our hearts no matter what.  In order to “recharge” the string, we have to hug for 20 seconds (the amount of time that a hug should last in order to get the “feel-good” boost of oxytocin hormone going).  That string then can never be broken, no matter where any of us may be, so we are always connected.  This tactic always helps if my son has had a particularly rough day.  This is great for those parents who have to send their kids to daycare or who are away from their kids for an extended amount of time.

 

4.  Go through old family photos together.  Kids love looking at pictures and start to become more interested in their family history around age six or seven.  As you go through the pictures, be sure to include any funny and pertinent stories in order to make the people in the pictures more real for your children.  They also may find they have a special connection with a certain relative!  This activity has been especially important with my children since all of my grandparents and a couple of my favorite uncles all passed away before my children were born.  It’s such a great way to keep the family history alive and provide your children with those roots.

 

5.  Cook together. Give your child the choice between a couple of recipes that are easy to prepare and yummy favorites for them.  Let your child measure out the ingredients and do some simple preparation, such as washing fruits and vegetables and putting ingredients in a bowls or blender.  Make a vow NOT to the let the mess bother you just this one time, and ask your child to help clean up afterward.  Serve your family your kitchen creation.

           

How fun would these plates be for serving dinner?

 

Whichever activity you choose, enjoy it and relish the time spent with your little ones.  They grow up way too fast!

 

*I fully realize that not everyone’s birth story will be a positive experience and in no way intend to make light of serious physical and emotional issues that arise for many parents.  I simply included this because my own experiences have been very positive ones.

 

 

 

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Make your own baby food: easy cinnamon apples

 

My baby after his cinnamon apples are gone!

My baby after his cinnamon apples are gone!

I will admit that when I was a first time mom, I bought into (quite literally) the pre-made baby food in the supermarket, since that is what I thought babies were “supposed” to eat.  I never realized how simple and how much healthier making my own baby food could be until I started experimenting with my second child.  Currently, with my third child, I rarely buy any packaged puréed baby food in the supermarket, with the exception of some Plum Organics pouches that I will mix in with some homemade organic quinoa or oats to give it more texture.  He enjoys the foods that we eat as a family, only in smaller, more manageable pieces for his little hands.  Not only is making his baby food fun for me, but I feel good knowing exactly what is in it and where it came from.  I started preparing this easy cinnamon apple recipe a couple months ago when he was nine months old.  He already had six teeth by then, so I felt safe giving it to him.  My baby loves it, and I hope yours does too!

Ingredients:

-one small to medium organic apple (I used the Gala variety)

organic ground cinnamon

 

Directions:cutting the apple

1.  Wash and slice about half of an apple into wedges.

apple wedges

 2.  Cut the peel off of the apple wedges.

apples in microwave

3.  Microwave the wedges for about 30 seconds on high.  Test when they come out to see if they have softened up enough.  If not, put them back in at 10-15 second intervals until they come out how you want them.  They should look like this:

soft cinnamon apples

apples with cinnamon

4.  Next, coat the softened apples with cinnamon and toss them with your hands to coat all of the pieces evenly. Note:  You will want to wait about five minutes, until they have cooled.

cutting cinnamon apples

5.  Chop the cinnamon-coated soft apple wedges into little chunks.  I make them about 1/2 inch, but you should decide what size is best for your baby to manage.

storing cinnamon apples

6.  Store chopped cinnamon apples in glass storage containers.  These will keep well in the refrigerator for about three days.  Freeze leftover apples.

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Organic Valley giveaway and coupons!

Image taken from organicvalley.coop

Image taken from organicvalley.coop

I love Organic Valley, since it is one of the only brands that provides great quality organic products that we can find around here.  They are giving away 100 samples a day of their new Organic Balance shakes– click here to enter.  Even if you don’t win, you will still get a couple of nice coupons to use!

Do you buy organic dairy?  If so, have you tried Organic Valley?  Please comment below with your favorite organic dairy products– I am always on the lookout for new products to try!  Thanks!

Refer A Friend

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Healthy (-er) Pigs in a Blanket

I am constantly looking for new ways to make classic versions of snack and party recipes (or any recipe, for that matter) in a bit healthier way.  Now, am I saying that by eating this you are going to get skinny?  No.  What I am saying is that I personally research every ingredient at my disposal before I make a recipe, and I make sure that it has as many natural, organic and non-gmo ingredients as possible.  I fully realize that this is more work.  However, since I have already done the work of researching which foods are the best available, I am hoping that you will be inspired to make a switch to cleaner eating. 🙂  Your body (and your kids’) will thank you!

 

Below is an example of a recipe that I have “healthy-fied”.  My son LOVES the classic Pigs in a Blanket.  We have had these at parties before, and he has begged me to make them for him.  So, I used the same ingredients as you would in the traditional recipe, only different brands that are MUCH healthier!  Here is how I do it:

Healthy (er) Pigs in a Blanket

Healthy (er) Pigs in a Blanket

 

(1)The ingredients–>and why they are better than the traditional brands:

-one package of Applegate Organic Uncured Beef Hotdogs–>traditional brands have nitrates=shown to be a carcinogen

-few slices of Organic Valley Mild Cheddar cheese (more or less according to your taste)–>traditional brands use milk that comes from cows injected with hormones=not good for a cow, not good for a human

-one container of Trader Joe’s crescent rolls–>traditional brands use hydrogenated oils in their rolls=clogged arteries and inflammation.

 

The recipe:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-(2)  Take hotdogs out of package and make a slice, starting about half an inch in, lengthwise, down the hotdog.  Take about 1/3 slice of cheese and fold it to stuff it into the slice.

-(3) Open the crescent rolls and wrap one around each hotdog.  Try to stretch it a little so that it covers as much of the hotdog as possible.  Situate hotdogs with rolls wrapped around them with the cheese side facing up on the cookie sheet*.

-(4) Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes, depending on oven strength.  They should be a light brown on the outside.

-(5)  Let cool and then cut into thirds.  Stab with toothpicks and serve!  The perfect party food or fun snack!

 

*I use Crate and Barrel cookie sheets–they are amazing, and I almost never need to spray them with nonstick spray, no matter what I am cooking!  Love them!

 

**Though this recipe is a healthier version of the classic, I still make it sparingly.  Avoiding any kind of processed meat is best for your overall health (but Applegate is by far one of the best brands out there if you are going to eat it)!

 

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Super foods for your little ones!

 

Free E-Book of Superfood Breakfast Recipes

 

It seems that with little ones, we are always trying to fight off some sort of cold or flu.  To help your kiddos boost their immune systems and stay healthy, make sure they are getting plenty of the following foods in their diets (preferably organic).  Each food, according to Parenting magazine, is a “Super food” that will help your kids’ immune systems be at their strongest!  I have provided my take on each food and ideas for incorporating them into your family’s meals.  Super foods = super healthy!

  1. Cage-free eggs- these offer protein, which helps kids feel satisfied longer after eating breakfast.  They are also a natural source of Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.  My daughter likes her egg fried a smidge of nonstick coconut oil spray with a little sprinkle of herbs on the top.
  2. Oatmeal- high fiber + whole grains = a winning breakfast and good combination for helping kids focus in school.  I really like this Cherry Chia oatmeal (with the added bonus of chia!).
  3. Fruit- any kind is an integral part of a child’s diet, but a variety is best in order to get all of the nutrients the different kinds of fruits provide!  In my household, my kids and I make fruit smoothies  together- a fun and nutritious way to get all that fruit in!
  4. Nuts- good source of healthy fats, which help with growth and brain development.  This is great for a little burst of energy in the morning or for part of an afternoon snack.  Also, walnuts are packed with lignans, which have been shown to fight off free radicals that cause disease.
  5. Milk- provides protein and calcium- need I say more?  We like Trader Joe’s organic milk, and occasionally we will drink Organic Valley organic milk.  Milk is one of my main products that I buy organic in order to try and avoid exposure to the hormones that are used to process non-organic milk products.  My daughter is the only one in the house who actually drinks dairy milk at this point–my husband, son and I are all almond milk drinkers!  And the baby?  Well…:)
  6. Blueberries– provide antioxidants, help protect against heart disease and diabetes, and fight build-up of visceral belly fat!  Serve as a side of fruit, in yogurt, on top of oatmeal/cereal, or on top of a stick of celery spread with cream cheese.
  7. Organic Tofu- excellent source of lean protein and gives potent anti-cancer benefits
  8. Tomatoes- have lots of lycopene, which has been shown to protect against many cancers.  Try this recipe  for my healthy pasta in order to help give your kids their serving of tomatoes!
  9. Low-fat Greek yogurt- contains bacteria that boost immunity and help with digestion for your little one’s tummies.  It also has three times the protein and much less sugar than your typical yogurt.  Add a drip of honey or maple syrup to the yogurt to make it more palatable for the kiddos.
  10. Cabbage- contains phytonutrients that help lower the risk for cancer and also aids in digestion.  Shredded cabbage is fun to throw over soups as a garnish or even to use in a cole slaw recipe.
  11. Salmon- has lots of healthy omega-3 fats, which help in brain development and act as an anti-inflammatory.  This can be a tricky one for kids to eat, but my little ones like a bit of healthy breading on the outside (Trader Joe’s sells some good salmon fillets that can be baked).
  12. Cocoa– has high concentrations of flavonoids, known to promote good heart health and improve blood pressure.  Hot cocoa…need I say more?
  13. Black beans- great source of protein, fiber, and calcium.  They help guard against heart disease and high cholesterol.  Use these as just a plain side dish, as part of a “Make-your-own-fajita night”, or smash them and mix with some lemon juice and cumin for a quick veggie dip!
  14. Basil- who woulda thought?  This herb is packed with antioxidants and can help aid in digestion.  Use it as an ingredient in my pasta recipe (linked in the tomato section above)!
  15. Cinnamon– can help regulate blood sugar and helps with circulation.  Sprinkle this on cereal, oatmeal, toast, yogurt and in any baked goods that you whip up!

Free E-Book of Superfood Breakfast Recipes

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Annie’s Homegrown Coupons!

I had to share…one of my favorite companies for healthy kids’ food, Annie’s Homegrown, is offering up some coupons for a little money off some of their snacks!  Our favorites are as follows:

 

Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies

These are great to put in lunches or to throw in a snack bag on-the-go.  Much healthier ingredients than Goldfish, and the kids love the little bunny shape!

Annie’s Homegrown Chocolate Bunny Grahams

 

These are another fun and portable snack.  My daughter LOVES chocolate, so this is right up her alley.  I actually like having them with some almond milk as a treat, too!

Annie’s Homegrown Shells & White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

My kids would eat mac and cheese every night for dinner if I let them!  I do allow them to indulge about once a week or every two weeks with some of this mac and cheese.  I try to mix my hidden vegetable pureés in there too, so I don’t feel as guilty about giving them mac and cheese.  This doesn’t have any of the junk that traditional mac and cheeses have, so I’m totally fine with letting the kids partake every once in a while.

Do you have a favorite Annie’s Homegrown snack or recipe?  Please share in the comments below!

 


 

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Healthy snack idea for kids for July 4!

Are you looking for a kid-friendly healthy snack idea for July 4?  Well, then you have come to the right place because I have a little example to show you of what I did with my little ones!  Honestly, what I did was very simple, but sometimes it takes someone else to point it out before we realize the ease with which we can actually do something healthy.  Here is the patriotic snack that my kiddos and I made:

Yum!

 

What you need:

-fresh strawberries

-fresh blueberries

-celery sticks

-mini snack crackers (or regular size will work…I used the Trader Joe’s mini snack crackers)

-light whipped cream cheese

-kid-safe knife (I use and LOVE the IKEA brand of tableware for the kids.  The knives are safe and excellent for little hands that are just learning to cut and spread!)

 

What to do:

1.  You will need to wash the strawberries and blueberries first.  Then, cut the tops with stems off of the strawberries and toss them.

2.  Next, slice some of the strawberries width-wise (so that they make nice circular shapes when sliced) and some length-wise (so that the slices are longer and narrower).

3.  Then take the snack crackers and spread a bit of cream cheese on each one.

4.  Top each cracker with one circular strawberry slice and one blueberry.

5.  Evenly spread some cream cheese on to each celery stick.

6.  Top the celery stick with the long strawberry slices and two to three blueberries.

7.  Enjoy!

 

What the kids can help with:

-washing of the fruit

-taking crackers out of the box and counting them

-spreading the cream cheese on the crackers and celery sticks (with a kid-safe knife or spatula)

-placing the strawberry slices and blueberries on top of the crackers and celery

-EATING THEM!

 

Come back and let me know if you and your little ones did this!  Also, this would be a great snack/appetizer to serve at a Fourth of July BBQ!  That is what we will be doing!  🙂  Happy Fourth of July!

 

 

 

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