The Blog: Recipes & More

Fruit & Pepita Chocolate Squares {Recipe ReDux}

February 22nd, 2015

Um, how you could not love this month’s Recipe ReDux challenge?

Favorite Chocolate Matches
Does your chocolate need a friend? This month’s posting will be after Valentine’s Day, so you may have a bit of extra chocolate around. What’s your favorite chocolate match? Be it traditional peanut butter or something more exotic like cayenne + chocolate. Show us your favorite healthy chocolate combo recipe.

Fruit & Pepita Chocolate SquaresI could pretty much eat chocolate–especially dark chocolate–with (or following) anything. For an afternoon snack, I sometimes grab a dark chocolate square with a few dried apricots or a small scoop of dark chocolate chips with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. So, naturally, my brain thought of these foods as my favorite chocolate pairings.

These Fruit & Pepita Chocolate Squares were inspired by this recipe in Nutrition Action (December 2014), but I made mine nut-free. You can use dark chocolate chips, milk chocolate bars or any leftover chocolate you prefer. They are tasty and elegant and super easy to make.

Fruit & Pepita Chocolate Squares {Recipe ReDux}


  • 4-5 ounces nut-free dark chocolate, chopped (I like Enjoy Life dark chocolate bars)
  • 1/4 cup lightly roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried mixed berries and/or cherries


  1. In a double boiler, heat chocolate over hot water until chocolate melts and is smooth. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin seeds, dried fruit and melted chocolate. Spread onto a baking sheet with parchment paper. Allow to cool to room temperature and cut into squares.


PLEASE SHARE: How do you use your favorite leftover chocolate? What is your favorite chocolate pairing? Please share. I’d love to hear from you.

And, don’t forget to check out recipes from fellow Recipe ReDux’ers below. You’re sure to find some seriously yummy recipes that will inspire you to get into the kitchen and mix up some chocolate goodies!


Dining out with food allergies: A teaching moment

January 30th, 2015

Last night, I led a food allergies and nutrition workshop for newly-diagnosed families. With the exception of two families, all of the other families (moms, actually) were not newly diagnosed. Like all of us, they were still trying to find their way with some aspect of feeding a food allergic child.

One thing that echoed in the room was the sentiment that many mothers are paralyzed with fear when it comes to introducing new foods and going out to eat. One of my children has food allergies, and I get it. I feel fear every time she eats something new, whether it’s at home, someone else’s house or at a restaurant. There are varying levels of fear, and usually I am silent about my fears and just study her face every few minutes to make sure she’s not showing any signs of a reaction. But, I also know these are the moments to teach her about her food allergies and how to manage them… wherever she chooses to eat.

Family Enjoying Meal At Outdoor Restaurant

Not surprisingly, a survey conducted by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) found that dining out in restaurants in the #1 aspect that negatively impacts the quality of life for food allergic families. And, 1 in 5 families surveyed reported not going out to eat at all.

Yes, it’s not easy to eat out in restaurants when food allergies are involved. But, eating out is a part of our culture and just a part of our lives. And, taking our food allergic children out to restaurants presents us the opportunity to be a role model for our children, not just in table manners and how to choose healthful foods but how to talk to restaurants managers and wait staff directly and openly about food allergies.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of dining out with food allergies:

  1. Call ahead to speak with the manager, as Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) recommends. Describe your child’s allergens and ask if the restaurant can properly accommodate your family.
  2. ALWAYS identify your child’s food allergies once you arrive at the restaurant. Let the wait staff and manager (even if you called beforehand) know about your child’s allergens. Be explicit that your child could become very sick or have a food allergy reaction if his or her food touches the allergenic foods.
  3. Choose to dine before or after the “rush.” If possible, dine out either before or after the crowds, when wait staff are likely to be more receptive and attentive.
  4. Bring a FARE chef card with you. These cards are awesome. It just reinforces the point you made vocally, and can be helpful for the wait staff to actually show the cook staff and manager.
  5. Just avoid riskier places… buffets where spoons have been used in who-knows-which-dish, bakeries, ice cream shops (shared scoops), restaurants serving cuisines that typically use the food allergen (like people with tree nut and peanut allergies may want to avoid Asian-style restaurants, which tend to serve a lot of nut-laden foods).
  6. ALWAYS carry your child’s medication. Enough said.
  7. Be prepared to walk away. If the restaurant staff don’t seem interested in meeting your child’s needs or aren’t willing to work with you, walk away. Who really cares if you leave a glass of water and unfolded napkins on the table? When in doubt, walk out.

It is our job to keep our children as safe as possible. And, it is also our job to help prepare our children to become self-sufficient adults who dine out safely, responsibly and confidently.

PLEASE SHARE: Does your child have food allergies? If so, how do you help keep your children safe and/or teach them how to order when dining out? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

Nut-free Kale & Basil Pesto {Recipe ReDux}

December 22nd, 2014

This month’s Recipe ReDux challenge is “Grab a Book & Cook.”

It’s the end of the year and we’ll take a moment to reflect: ReDux has been around for 42 months! To celebrate, we’re playing a little party game this month: Grab your nearest cookbook and ReDux the recipe on page 42 or 142. We can’t wait to see the books you’re cooking from these days–and how you make that recipe healthier.

I love cookbooks. You could even say I hoard cookbooks. And, I especially enjoy ones with mouth-watering photos.

NF_Pesto_best_no spoon_12 14

A few years ago, I won a Vitamix (yes, everything you’ve heard about this blender is true), and I’ve been trying to use this magic little blender for more than just smoothies. So, I’ve had the Vitamix cookbook, Create: Inspiring recipes for every day of the week, on my counter for weeks. After reading this month’s theme, I picked up the cookbook and flipped to page 142: Kale and Basil Pesto.

Kismet? Probably not. But, I was nonetheless excited to see this recipe because–as an adult–I have grown to love pesto, and I have been craving it lately. Alas, prepared pesto contains pine nuts (a no-no in our house since my daughter’s tree nut allergy diagnosis earlier this year). And, I just haven’t had a chance to create my own sans nuts version.

Until now…

NF_Pesto_ingredients_12 14_final

This Nut-free Kale & Basil Pesto is delicious and mildly reminiscent of spring. Deep green, fresh and garlicky, this pesto imparts just the right creamy-to-crunchy ratio. To amp up the nutrition factor (and lower the calories), I added some white beans and used a little less olive oil and Parmesan cheese than the original cookbook recipe calls for. I ate a little right away, and froze most of it for later (see freezing tips below). Bon appetit!

NF_Pesto_best_12 14_final

Nut-free Kale & Basil Pesto {Recipe ReDux}


  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 2 cups kale leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup white beans, drained and rinsed


  1. Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until well-mixed and desired consistency is reached. Makes 1.25 cups. Use immediately or freeze (see note below).

To freeze your pesto: NF_Pesto_freezing_12 14

Divide pesto evenly into ice cube tray. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of each compartment (to prevent browning). Cover tray with plastic wrap, pushing wrap down on top of each compartment. Place in freezer overnight. Remove pesto cubes from ice tray and place in freezer-safe baggie. Label and date baggie (pesto stays good in freezer for up to 6 months). Each compartment holds about 2 Tbsp.


PLEASE SHARE: How do you make your pesto more nutritious? If you make a nut-free pesto, what ingredients do you use? Please share. I’d love to hear from you.


And, don’t forget to check out recipes from fellow Recipe ReDux’ers below. You’re sure to find some seriously yummy recipes that will inspire you to get into the kitchen!




{MyFoodFix} Top 5 Holiday Treats

December 19th, 2014

There’s just no getting out of desserts this time of year. They are EVERYWHERE!


In the spirit of tasty treats AND a desire to keep calorie intakes from going through the roof, I compiled a list of my NEW top 5 favorite nut-free and dairy-free holiday treats. Oh, we’ll still make traditional sugar cookies, but these top 5 are my go-to recipes for toting along to parties and indulging a holiday sweet tooth.

Fruit & Pepita Chocolate Squares Chocolate fruit pumpkin squares_stack_final
Inspired by this recipe in Nutrition Action (December 2014), I made a nut-free version. These elegant little chocolate squares are delicious!

4-5 ounces nut-free dark chocolate, chopped (I like Enjoy Life dark chocolate bars)
1/4 cup lightly roasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried mixed berries and/or cherries

In a double boiler, heat chocolate over hot water until chocolate melts and is smooth. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin seeds, dried fruit and melted chocolate. Spread onto a baking sheet with parchment paper. Allow to cool to room temperature and cut into squares.




Marshmallow Pops Marshmallow pops_final
This recipe was inspired by dreidel pops in Parents magazine (December/January 2014). You can color these in blue and silver sprinkles for Chanukah (and top with a Hershey’s kiss) or roll in green and red sprinkles for Christmas. For a quicker version, use pre-made icing as the “glue.”

10 large marshmallows
10 pretzel sticks (have extra pretzels on hand because they will break!)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. rice milk
Colored sprinkles

Insert pretzel sticks into one end of marshmallow. Set aside. Mix powdered sugar and milk to make a paste. (You may need to add more powdered sugar or more milk to reach a sticky consistency.) Roll marshmallows in icing “glue” and then roll in sprinkles.


Chocolate-Dipped Apricots Chocolate apricots_final
This is a another elegant and simple chocolate dessert. You can also use this chocolate dip for other dried fruit or fresh fruit, like oranges, strawberries or cherries.

25-30 dried apricots
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Melt chocolate in double boiler until smooth. Using tongs or toothpicks, tip apricots into melted chocolate. Cover 1/2 to 2/3 of apricot. Set on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, until chocolate has hardened.


Caramelized Popcorn Caramel popcorn_final
The brown sugar-cinnamon glaze transforms air-popped popcorn to a sweet treat! This recipe double easily.

2 Tbsp. dairy-free margarine
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
4 cups air-popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Put popcorn in a medium-sized bowl. Heat margarine and honey until mixture is thinned. Add spices and salt and mix. Slowly drizzle honey-brown sugar mixture on top of popcorn, shaking to evenly distribute sauce. Pour onto baking sheet and cook 5 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool.


Yogurt Pretzels Yogurt pretzels_bowl_final
My children love yogurt-covered pretzels. But, I’ve found it difficult to find yogurt pretzels made in a nut-free facility. So what’s a mom to do but try to make her own? I adapted this recipe from Stonyfield Organic’s website. These were better the second day. If you use a Greek-style yogurt, the pretzels will have a tangy taste. And while I normally choose nonfat yogurt, I suggest using a 2% or reduced fat yogurt, which makes the yogurt mixture a little thicker.

2 cups mini pretzels
1.5 cups 2% or reduced fat yogurt (choose flavor of your choice)
4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Using a hand or immersion blender, mix yogurt and powdered sugar. Refrigerate yogurt-sugar mixture for 1 hour. Using tongs, dip pretzels into the yogurt mixture and place onto baking sheet. Place baking sheet into oven and turn off oven. Open oven door and let pretzels sit in oven for 1-2 hours. Remove baking sheet and place pretzels onto wire cooling rack to prevent pretzels from getting too soggy. Place wire cooling rack into oven and leave oven door slightly open. Let pretzels stay in oven for another 2 hours.


PLEASE SHARE: What are your favorite modified holiday treats? Please share! I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday!



52 Moms Talk Food: Heidi in Lindstrom, Minnesota

December 18th, 2014

Getting kids to eat takes creativity, patience and, sometimes, a bit of luck. 52 Moms Talk Food is my exploration of how inspiring moms make it happen.

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated my 52 Moms Talk Food series, but I am so excited to post my 52 Moms chat with Heidi, a wellness coach and organic gardener in Minnesota. She and her husband have a toddler. Heidi took a few minutes to share with me some tips on how she gets her daughter excited about eating a sustainable and local diet.

52Moms_Heidi_Minn_12 2014

Heidi and her daughter (2.5 yo)

Q: What are your favorite tips for getting nutritious food on the table?
Heidi: We are very committed to eating sustainably-produced food, so we tend to eat seasonally and organically. We have a large garden, and I spend a lot of time chopping, stewing, freezing, canning and drying all types of produce to last us through the winter and spring. In the fall, I do a lot of freezing and dehydrating to use up our harvest, which helps us throw healthy meals together quickly during the cold Midwest winters. I do spend a few mornings each week making larger batches of soups and casseroles to eat later in the week or freeze for those hectic days. We keep fresh, frozen and dried fruits, granola, yogurt, cheese and whole grain crackers on hand for snacks, and enjoy eating–and making–most of our meals at home.

Q: What’s your feeding philosophy? How do you get your toddler to eat her fruits and vegetables?
Heidi: Our food philosophy: Offer healthy foods at all times. Our daughter doesn’t always want these foods, but they are always available to her. This summer, she happily ate peas straight out of the pod and raspberries off the brambles. One of the advantages of having a garden is getting to see where your food comes from, and this has encouraged our toddler to eat well. We have very few processed foods in the house (though we do like Annie’s organic graham crackers and Annie’s organic cheddar bunnies), and I continuously remind myself that if she doesn’t eat something today, she may like it tomorrow or in 3 months. I tend to believe that by surrounding a child with wholesome and real food, they will (eventually) come to appreciate the value of eating in a way to support their health and the earth.

Thinking back on my childhood, I vividly remember a time when I wanted nothing to eat but cheese bagels and boxed mac and cheese. Since my parents were also committed to eating sustainably and seasonally, I imagine that they were not thrilled with my diet choices. But, I believe their choices and the environment they created are the main reasons why I eat the way I do now, and why I am committed to providing the same for my child.

Q: Between working, gardening and raising a toddler, how do you find balance in your life?
Heidi: My husband does the bulk of the shopping–usually with our daughter in tow–while I’m at work. We share household tasks… I do most of the gardening and cooking, he does most of the wood chopping and home maintenance. Sharing responsibilities and being open to doing things differently when needed is essential to finding that balance for everyone in the family. I get up early–always before everyone else–and go for a bike ride, practice yoga or work in the garden. This alone time helps me stay grounded and cultivates excitement about the day ahead. I am very intentional about what I allow to dictate my days, and I do my best to keep healthy boundaries and commit only to things that truly mesh with my values.

Check out Heidi’s blog RedBrushFarms about her farm and garden (she provides some yummy recipes!), or her regular contributions at enough..


MY TAKE-AWAY: Healthy living and eating whole foods are in Heidi’s DNA, so it’s no surprise that she is raising her daughter to have a healthy and wholesome appetite. I love that Heidi grows her own food (she’s an inspiration to this wanna-be gardener!) and that she spends a little up-front time early in the week to prepare meals for later in the week. That is KEY to eating healthy meals, and preventing the what-do-we-eat-tonight dilemma. Two other things Heidi does that help to encourage healthy eating… she continues to offer vegetables to her daughter even if she doesn’t like them the first time and she keeps mostly whole, minimally-processed foods in her house. That’s another key that’s important for the whole family… don’t keep foods in the house that you don’t want your kids (or yourself) to eat. Oh, and I’ll be trying her recipe for Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (see below) tonight!



One of our 2 year old’s favorites is Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. I usually assemble the casserole in the morning and then we bake it in the evening for dinner. You can also freeze the baked casserole. As for the squash, I bake several squash after they are harvested (roast cut side down in a shallow baking dish until you can pierce skin with fork) and freeze the puree into 1 cup zip lock bags for later use.

8-12 ounces whole grain pasta shapes (spirals or penne work well)
1-2 cups chopped veggies (any vegetable that you have on hand)
1 cup pureed butternut squash
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
½ cup cheddar cheese
Panko or breadcrumbs
½ cup mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Add vegetables (if using raw) to the pasta pot a few minutes into cooking.  When noodles and veggies are tender, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in the flour to make a paste.  Gradually add the milk, whisking as you add.  Continue to stir occasionally until the sauce thickens (about 10 minutes).  Add the butternut squash and cheddar cheese and stir until incorporated.

Combine all ingredients, mixing well, and place in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with panko or breadcrumbs and top with the mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Remove foil and broil for a few minutes to crisp the top if desired.


SEEKING MORE MOMS (AND DADS!): Do you have some great ideas to share with other parents? Or, want free family nutrition advice? Share your story and I’ll offer you a free nutrition consult!

So, if you’d like to be featured in 52 Moms Talk Food, please drop me a line at