Friday, May 27, 2011

Green Smoothies

I’ve already shared a few ideas for enjoying yogurt, and here’s a popular idea that adds to the nutritional value of yogurt even more: green smoothies.

Start with plain yogurt and add any combination of fruit (fresh in season or frozen), juice, sweetener (just a taste!), supplements (flax-seed oil is typically my choice), wheat germ, etc. Top off with a handful of greens (fresh or frozen spinach, kale, etc.).

This week I found some blueberries in my freezer from last summer’s picking, mango, and frozen spinach. I had honey on hand just in case, but the fruit made the smoothie sweet enough.

Eyeball your amounts and adjust to taste as you go along. I used approximately 1 1/2 cups of yogurt, a cup of spinach, a cup of blueberries, and a handful of mango.

Blend until you’re happy with the consistency, adjusting ingredients as needed.

Note: for those who may object to greens in their smoothies, a dark fruit like blueberry or raspberry is good at masking the color.


This little guy kept proclaiming he didn’t like spinach while he gulped down two glasses!

Yogurt: A Powerhouse

In my opinion, yogurt is a “power food.” Loaded with probiotics, calcium, and protein it’s my favorite go-to for a quick pick-us-up.

Yogurt is also one of our favorite foods to “doctor” for snacks and meals. There are so many options! Yogurt is delicious on its own, in smoothies, with fruit, as a dressing, marinade, dips or garnish!

Since we’re talking about snacks this month, let’s focus on that for today.

First, you need to choose your yogurt. I make my own every week or so, but if you’re buying yours, go for the simplest choice out there: plain (full fat is best, and choose low-fat options carefully).

Avoid yogurts geared especially for kids (packed with sugar, artificial flavors and colors) as well as most fruit-flavored choices and “light” yogurts. Remember that while these sound appealing in terms of calories, the real food is replaced with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, dyes, preservatives, and the fat is sometimes replaced with fillers to help the taste.

Be aware that even organic yogurt products still have thickeners, sugar, and some form of coloring, even if it is more “natural.”

Read your labels! The ingredient list should say “milk” and “active cultures.” Nothing else!

It is far better to have a serving of plain, yogurt you sweeten or otherwise enhance yourself !

I can hear your protests now, however, about the convenience of single serve yogurt and the moans about pickiness from kids. I know! The ideas I have below are very simple, however, and something should appeal to everyone!

  • If you must, you can find plain yogurt in single serve containers. You can start there and add your own fruit or a dollop of honey.
  • Make your own single serve containers! I always keep my eyes open for small 1/2-1 cup containers. There are options out there in plastic or glass.
  • If you aren’t a fan of whole fruit in your yogurt, puree yogurt and fruit (fresh in season or frozen if not) and pour into containers. (Add a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup if you need to). This only takes a few minutes every time you do it and you are ready for snacks or lunches.
  • You can also freeze portions of your fruit/yogurt combo. I freeze in ice cube trays for babies and young toddlers and in freezer pop molds or Dixie cups for older kids. Sure to delight on a hot day!
  • Mix a little fruit juice with yogurt and serve immediately or freeze for another popular treat.
  • Yogurt and granola is, of course, a classic combination. I haven’t found my perfect granola recipe yet, so please share if you have one!
  • If you’re interested in branching out, goat’s milk yogurt is one of my favorite indulgence. It’s delicious on its own, but can also be served with fruit, nuts, or cereal.

There are dozens of ways to dress up plain yogurt. Get creative then come back to share your ideas!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homemade Wheat Thins

I have a confession: I love Wheat Thins. The ingredient list contains some questionable items, however, and includes the always delectable BHTin the packaging material.” For an everyday snack cracker that’s healthy, this recipe is quick and simple and does taste like “the real thing.”

Wheat Thins (from


1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons butter

2/3 cup milk

salt or other dried herbs for sprinkling


1. Preheat the oven to 325.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Blend in the milk slowly, using only enough to form a dough that will hold together in a ball. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions for rolling.

4. On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll the crackers thin, 1/16 to 1/8 inch.

5. Lightly sprinkle the tops with salt and gently roll over the dough with your rolling pin. (Be careful, it’s very easy to over-salt these!) With a sharp knife, cut the crackers into 2-inch squares. I also made half this batch into circles.

6. Transfer them to an ungreased baking sheet. Prick each cracker in 2 or 3 places with the tines of a fork.

7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crackers are lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Ready for cheese-and-cracker snack time!

These crackers will obviously not last as long as their packaged counterparts, so try to eat them up in a few days. Once you taste them, however, I don’t think that will be a problem!

Chocolate Graham Crackers

Today I’m passing along two cracker recipes. These are a bit more time intensive than the granola bars I shared last week, but they are both worthwhile additions to your “snack rotation.”

My mom gave me this recipe that she clipped from a magazine years ago. I’ve made a change from the original, but I’m including both options below.

This is a delicious recipe! I’m not sure any chocolate cracker recipe can be called truly “healthy,” but these are more wholesome alternative to conventional chocolate graham crackers or Teddy Grahams. They hit the spot when you want a little sweet, and with some peanut butter (no sugar added, please!) they make a to-die-for snack.

Chocolate Graham Crackers


1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

2 oz. chocolate chopped (bittersweet or semi-sweet)

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter


1. In a small saucepan combine the milk, honey and chocolate. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Cool 15 minutes. Add vanilla.

2. In a food processor bowl combine the all-purpose or pastry flour, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

You can also mix dry ingredients in a bowl then cut in butter using a pastry blender.

3. Add chocolate mixture and pulse (or stir as I did since my food processor is very small) until just combined.

4. If necessary, knead dough gently to form a ball.

5. Divide dough into fourths. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.

6. Preheat oven to 350. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of the dough at a time to 1/8″ thickness. The dough can be a little “touchy”, but as you work with it, it loosens up and becomes easy to roll and form. Cut into 3-inch circles, squares, or into another shape.

7. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove and cool completely on wire rack. Makes approximately 4 1/2 dozen crackers.

I think these are even tastier after they have “aged” for a day. Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chewy Granola Bars

Granola bars or cereal bars are often a staple in a snack rotation. However, they are also typically filled with ingredients and fillers such as high fructose corn syrup, red dye #40, and butylated hydroxytoluene (also known as BHT).

Here is a homemade alternative. You can make these on the sweet side or the strictly healthful side. Skip conventional vegetable oil, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. A few swaps and these are much healthier and twice as tasty!

I promise that these can be put together in about five minutes. Grab and go for an easy snack!

Here’s our “dessert” version with raisins and organic dark chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Chewy Granola Bars


1/2 cup natural peanut butter (no sugar!) or Sunbutter
1/3 cup honey (local honey is best, maple syrup also works)
1/4 cup coconut oil (this time I used a more neutral sunflower oil)
1 cup oats
1 cup total of any combination of sesame seeds, coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, dried fruit (go sugar free!), chocolate chips (the darker the better)


1. In a medium sized saucepan, melt together peanut butter, honey and oil.

2. Remove from heat and add one cup of oats. Choose your favorite combination of coconut flakes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit and mini chocolate chips, to equal a total of one cup. (I just got out my one cup measuring cup and poured in the ingredients until the cup was full.) Pour in and stir well. (I recommend letting the mixture cool a bit first if you’re adding chocolate chips. Otherwise they’ll completely melt. Of course, that’s yummy too!)

3. Stir well, then spread mixture into a 8×8 or 9×4 pan.

4. Chill for two hours, then cut into bars.

Another favorite is Awesome Oatmeal Bars. This is another flexible recipe. Get creative and make it your own! You’ll never reach for store-bought again!

Healthy Snack Choices

For the remainder of the month I’m going to be sharing a few of our go-to snacks. These are all very quick and very simple ideas.

Our goal in our house is avoid as many packaged foods as we can. We strive to eat whole foods and homemade as much as possible. I recently read a startling article about just how many preservatives and food dyes many people consume, even when they are eating “healthy” foods.

Here’s a snippet:

Based on the anecdotal information I see in my client’s food journals, people eating processed and packaged foods are taking in exorbitant amounts of artificial ingredients and additives. Typically, a client will say something like, “I eat a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk, have yogurt for a snack, and a Subway sandwich for lunch.” While this sounds relatively harmless, here’s what it might actually look like based on some popular “health food” items:

  • One serving of Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Antioxidants Berry Yogurt Crunch contains more than 13 different additives, preservatives, and food dyes, including Red 40 and Blue 1, which are known to cause allergic reactions in some people and mutations leading to cancer in lab animals. It also contains BHT, monoglycerides, and cellulose gum. In addition, conventional milk often contains residues of artificial bovine growth hormones, known endocrine disruptors as well as antibiotics used in industrial milk production.
  • Dannon Light & Fit Peach yogurt contains more than 11 different additives including Red 40, aspartame, potassium sorbate, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium.
  • A Subway sandwich of turkey and cheese on nine-grain bread with fat-free honey mustard, peppers, and pickles contains more than 40 different additives, preservatives, and dyes. The pickles and peppers have yellow 5 and polysorbate 80, the bread has ten different additives including dough conditioners, DATEM, and sodium stearoyl lactylate, and the turkey contains ten additives as well.

The person in this example has consumed more than 60 food additives eating breakfast, a small snack, and lunch alone, to say nothing of dinner, dessert, further snacking and drinks. Consumers Union’s Dr. Hansen told me, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it were up to 100 additives or more that people are taking in on a daily basis.”

Scary, no?

It’s important to keep in mind that when real food is substituted for low-fat, low-sugar, or packaged, you are losing nutrients– to say nothing of taste– and those good things have to be replaced with something else. Unfortunately, that sometime else is usually a dye, a preservative, or some other unsavory by-product. (MSG with your 1% milk, anyone?)

Now I can hear all of you busy readers (work! kids! home!) saying, ‘I have NO time to make everything from scratch.” Well, you’re right. Maybe not everything. However, over the next several weeks or month, I’m going to share quick and easy snack ideas and offer alternatives to conventional snacks when the inevitable, “What can I eat now?” comes from our kids (or our own tummies).

Later this morning, I have two granola bar recipes to share that you can make in the time it takes to wash a sink full of dishes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}


~ Capturing the context of contentment
in everyday life ~


Finally-- blossoms!


Cousins at the zoo. The elephants were supposed to be off-exhibit, but they weren't! Three were out!


What is it with kids and swinging on their bellies?


We love our new climber, but it sometimes it makes Mom "real" nervous!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vermont Maple Wheat Bread

I had intended to move on to a new topic for the month of May, but I couldn’t resist sharing two more bread recipes first!

This Vermont Maple Wheat bread is a “quick bread” that is very easy to make and is the perfect complement to any meal. It comes from my mother via A Vermont Cook Book. This is a slight variation on the original, which calls for graham and bread flours.

Vermont Maple Wheat Bread


1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or make your own with lemon juice or vinegar)

2 tablespoons melted butter

2/3 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups wheat flour

1 1/3 cups white flour


Mix in the order given. Bake in a greased tin at 350 for 45-50 minutes.

That’s it! Easier than pie and almost too delicious to believe!

The other recipe I want to share is one of my very favorites. This bread is almost a cake, and we certainly eat it as a treat in our house! It comes from Tammy at Tammy’s Recipes: Triple Chocolate Quick Bread. Visit Tammy for pictures and directions. When I make this, I substitute whole wheat pastry flour for white, skip the glaze, and add peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips. Yummy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Standing Boy!

Our little guy started pulling himself to his knees a few weeks ago, and in the last few days he has finally made it to his feet!

Look out, world!