almond butter + oat + chia protein bites

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there are often days when i am dragging like crazy in the afternoon. days when i did not get that second cup of coffee in the morning and by 2 pm all i want to do is go crawl back in bed and go to sleep. usually i try to snack on something packed with protein for a pick me up, whether it’s a hearty homemade granola with loads of chia and flaxseed (on a good day) or a huge spoonful of peanut butter with an apple (on a normal day).

for a few years now, i have been a huge fan of juice plus complete protein powder. it is a staple in our home and we go through it super fast. it’s one snack that i can get in my kids’ tummies that is easy AND good for them (how rare is that?! well with MY kids it is…). we make shakes daily and i add it to a lot of things, including smoothies and snack recipes, like this one. use your JP complete, or if your family uses a different brand of protein powder, you can sub it in this recipe (as long as it’s vanilla). the egg white is optional, if you want to make the bites vegan – but they add an extra punch of protein (and i like the glossy finish it gives the bites 🙂

almond butter + oat + chia protein bites
makes 12-14 balls

ingredients

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup almond meal (or we love guiltless superfoods’ new flour)

1 scoop (1/4 cup) juice plus vanilla complete powder

1/2 cup nut butter (almond or peanut butter are our favorites)

1 tbsp chia seeds

2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 heaping tsp vanilla bean paste)

1 tbsp local honey

1 egg white (optional)

directions

  1. mix all ingredients well in a bowl with a spatula or your hands. roll into 1-inch diameter balls (packing them as you roll so they hold their shape). place on a small plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before eating so they can firm up. transfer to an airtight container – will keep for about a week in the fridge.
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cheddar & saltine cracker baked chicken tenders (with quick & easy aioli dipping sauce)

cheddar and saltine cracker chicken tenders via she likes to eat
there are a few basic recipes that i am constantly looking to better or to perfect and chicken tenders have long been one. lately i have been making them more often, since we have a preschooler and a toddler running our lives these days and they are a great go-to for easy & healthy meals. i much prefer making them myself when i can, instead of the freezer chicken tenders & nuggets that truthfully scare me a little. every chicken tender i have made in the past has been just ok, “neither here nor there”. i’ve made some with breadcrumbs and some with panko. i’ve tried lots of different ways to bread them – with buttermilk, with whole milk, or with eggs, breaded once or twice… but i still had not found my favorite tenders that were perfectly crunchy, yet moist, and held their breading all over without falling off during baking. and i still had the problem of the breading getting mushy on the underside.

well, after many tests & tastings & tweakings i can safely say i am forever free from chicken tender mediocrity!
i have finally mastered the elusive perfect homemade chicken tender.
(and the crowd stands up and cheers like crazy:)

i used a mix of ground cheddar crackers and saltine crackers as the breading, which gives it the perfect flavor and crunch on the outside. i also baked the tenders on all-metal drying rack (used mostly for cooling cookies or pies) on top of a baking sheet – this ensured no soggy business on the underside of the tenders. (this was the most exciting part of my week. seriously.)

as for the dipping sauce: i have 2 all-time favorite aioli recipes in my arsenal – the recipe below is my super quick and easy version that uses ingredients i always have on hand. aioli is my favorite dipping sauce for chicken tenders and complements these really well. if you can stand to turn down the ketchup, i promise, it’s worth it.

cheddar & saltine cracker baked chicken tenders
adapted via just a taste
serves 4-6

ingredients

1 3/4 lbs chicken tenders (or chicken breasts, sliced into tenders)

3 cups cheez-it crackers (or similar cheddar cracker), or make them homemade

1 cup oyster cracker/soup-style saltines (or broken up regular size saltines)

3 eggs

3 tbsp dijon mustard

3/4 cup flour

olive oil cooking spray

directions

1. preheat oven to 475. position rack in lower third of oven.

2. place an all-metal drying rack on a large cookie sheet. spray or brush drying rack with olive oil.

3. in a food processor or blender, grind cheddar and saltine crackers until finely ground then place in a wide & shallow bowl. in another bowl, whisk the eggs and dijon mustard. then place the flour in a third wide & shallow bowl.

4. with each chicken tender, dip it first into the flour, shaking off excess. then dip into egg/dijon mixture and then into the cracker mixture, pressing crumbs onto the tender making sure it’s evenly coated. repeat with remaining tenders. place the tenders an inch or two apart on the metal rack on the cookie sheet (see picture above).

5. bake for 14-16 minutes, until they are beginning to golden. serve warm with aioli dipping sauce.

 

quick & easy aioli dipping sauce
makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise (duke’s is my favorite)

2 cloves finely minced garlic

1/2 tsp worcestershire

1/2 tsp lemon juice

directions

mix all ingredients together with a whisk until completely incorporated.

enjoy!

banana, date, and almond butter smoothies

banana date almond butter smoothies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
i seriously have no clue where march went.
we have been traveling a lot and have had so much on our plates during the last several weeks, i feel like it came and went before we knew it. because of all of the traveling i confess i haven’t cooked much at all lately, making me miss time in the kitchen both on my own and with the little she.

during those months when we are stuck inside so much because of the cold outside, we often find ourselves making smoothies to go with nearly every lunch, the kind that are super thick and creamy. this one was our favorite of all our new concoctions this year, and pretty good for you too. dates have high levels of folate and vitamin A, while almond butter is rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

if you have a high-speed blender, like a blend-tec or vitamix, A} i am super jealous of you, and B} they’re perfect for this smoothie because of the chopped dates. if you are able to completely puree them, all the better. if you don’t have a high-speed blender, you’ll have little bits of dates in the bottom of your smoothie, which i still kind of love.

banana, date, and almond butter smoothie
makes 2 smoothies

ingredients

1.5 cups milk (whole, 2%, almond, or soy)

1 frozen banana, halved

3 tbsp almond butter

2 pitted dates, chopped

1/4 tsp vanilla

1 cup ice

directions

1. blend all ingredients completely in a blender, until ice and dates are completely blended.

enjoy!

arancini mac & cheese

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arancini is a masterpiece of italian cooking, and is one of those divine things we get to experience in life on earth.
in italian, arancini means “little oranges”. they are small fried balls of oozy, cheesy risotto with a gorgeous, crispy outside.
as glorious as they may be, they are a rare thing i will not make in my own kitchen. i don’t really fry anything and these babies take a LOT of time & effort to make. so whenever i am at an italian restaurant that makes arancini for me, i order them as fast as i can.
my gift to you: easy arancini deliciousness that you can whip up on a regular weeknight. AND you don’t have to boil the pasta!
it’s especially kid-friendly and with the addition of the salty pancetta, it was a big pleaser for the man in my house. with your fork, you gently crack open the crunchy panko topping and it gives way to the beautiful, stringy mozzarella cheese hiding underneath.
try not to eat the entire dish.

photo (21)

arancini mac & cheese
adapted from alexandra cooks

ingredients

7 tbsp butter, divided

1/4 cup flour

3 cups milk (whole or 2%)

3 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 oz pancetta, diced

3/4 lb (12 oz) elbow pasta (or other small pasta), uncooked

5 oz parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup panko

1/4 cup italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

8 oz mozzarella (fresh mozzarella “pearls” are perfect for this recipe, but pre-shredded works fine too)

directions

1. preheat oven to 400 degrees. melt 4 tbsp butter in a large (2 quart) saucepan over medium-high heat. add flour, whisking constantly for about 1 minute. add milk & water, whisking to scrape all flour-butter mixture off the bottom of the pan. bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. add salt and pepper. simmer until mixture begins to thicken a bit, about 10 minutes. remove from heat.

2. meanwhile, in a small skillet, crisp the pancetta over medium heat until nicely browned. pour uncooked macaroni pasta into an ungreased 9×13 baking dish, and grate parmesan cheese evenly over the top. once the pancetta is done, sprinkle on top of pasta & parmesan. add remaining 3 tbsp of butter to pancetta pan and melt over low heat. place panko in a medium-sized mixing bowl & pour melted butter over top, and add in chopped parsley. using your fingers, mix to combine. season with just a pinch of salt & pepper.

3. pour milk mixture over pasta in baking dish (it will feel like a lot of liquid, but it will be fine – this cooks the pasta). cover dish with foil and carefully transfer to the oven. bake for 20 minutes.

4. remove from oven, uncover, and gently stir. scatter mozzarella evenly over the top of the mixture. top with panko mixture. bake for 15-20 minutes more – uncovered – until top is golden brown and macaroni is bubbling. let dish sit for about 10 minutes to cool before serving.

enjoy!

homemade chewy granola bars


the little she loves them.
i have been craving them like crazy (pregnancy does that to you, apparently).
but store bought granola bars have so much unwanted junk in them, i wanted to make my own version. and when it comes down to it, it is WAY more cost effective to home-make your own.

so of all the versions i entertained, this one was my favorite. you can make this recipe super simple & basic or you can have a little bit of fun with it. the vanilla & the cinnamon are both optional and the nuts can be replaced with more dried fruit. the options really are endless!

this recipe is from king arthur flour, via the smitten kitchen. (it is a super flexible recipe and if you go to her site, you can find a few more ideas on making it lots of different ways.) 



homemade chewy granola bars

ingredients
1 2/3 cups oats
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness like store bought bars, less for a mildly sweet bar.)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats processed until finely ground in food processor)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 – 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10-15 ounces; also, i ground the nuts a bit in the food processor, since kids would be eating them)
1/3 cup peanut butter or other nut butter
1 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp water

directions
1. preheat the oven to 350. line  a pan (one 8x8x2 or 2 bread loaf pans; i actually used a 9×13 rimmed cookie sheet – depends on how thick you want your bars) in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed part of the pan with butter or cooking spray.
2. stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruits & nuts. in a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, honey, and water. toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if using) until the mixture is evenly crumbly (see this “mixing with your hands” cooking tip). spread into prepared pan, pressing mixture in firmly to ensure they mold to the shape of the pan.
3. bake the bars for 20-35 minutes – depending on the thickness of your bars (mine, being pretty thin, took about 25 minutes) – until they are brown around the edges. don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops. they’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan, but don’t worry, they’ll set once completely cool.
4. cool the bars on a cooling rack for 20 minutes, then use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars from the pan and cool another 10-15 minutes in the parchment on the rack. transfer back to the pan or cookie sheet and put in the fridge to cool further, about 30 minutes. this will help the bars set completely and not be as crumbly. once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares or rectangles. to store, wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge (they do best in the fridge instead of out on the counter).

suggestions for fruit & nut mixture:
dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, raisins, pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pepitas, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, dried apples, rice krispies, wheat germ, chocolate or peanut butter chips.
enjoy!
(first photo via)

best ever blueberry muffins


these are the perfect blueberry muffins.
these gorgeous little pieces of heaven are STUFFED with fresh, not frozen, blueberries. overflowing with them.
they are thicker, more like a biscuit and on top, a sprinkle of sugar creates this crunch when you bite into them.
i have had more than my share of blueberry muffins in my lifetime and i think these are the best.
definitely the best recipe for them that i have come across.

this recipe is from gwyneth paltrow’s cookbook and are her mother’s famous blueberry muffins. you will soon know why!

blythe’s blueberry muffins
(makes 12)

ingredients

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted & cooled

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (2 – 6 oz containers)
directions

1. preheat oven to 375. line (one 12 cup or two 6 cup) muffin pans with paper liners.

2. whisk the butter, eggs, and milk together in a large bowl. in another large bowl, whisk together the flour, the 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt. combine the dry and wet ingredients. then fold in the blueberries. divide batter among the 12 muffin cups and then sprinkle tops with the remaining teaspoon of sugar.

3. bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. serve warm & with butter.

enjoy!


homemade pedialyte


it seems like everyone around town is getting sick these days.
and it’s a bug that’s super dehydrating, especially for the little ones.
i just passed this recipe, from my toddler 411 book, on to a dear friend who has a sick little guy who can’t keep anything down and doesn’t have any of the hydrating solution on-hand.

when you have a sick little one, the last thing you want to do is go to the store, so hopefully this comes in handy for you and your family this winter season!

homemade pedialyte

ingredients

4 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp jell-o powder

directions

mix all ingredients well.
pour into sippy cup.
get well.