The Blog: Recipes & More

Chocolate-Cherry Granola Bars {Recipe Reduxe}

August 22nd, 2014

Bars are popular in our house. The kids would eat them every day, if they could. But, there are a lot of inherent problems with bars… they tend to contain a lot of added sugars, few whole grains or–worst of all (for us)–nuts (to which my daughter has an allergy). I have been meaning to make granola bars from scratch, but just haven’t yet.

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So when I saw this month’s Recipe ReDux theme Bars & Bites for Brown Bags, I immediately thought… GRANOLA BARS!

Whether you pack your lunch in a bento box, a brown bag or a retro cartoon character lunch box, don’t forget the bars and bites. Small squares or round bites can pack nutrition into a sweet or savory taste. Show us your favorite way to jazz up any type of lunch box.

Chocolate cherry granola bars_bowl_rec reduxe_08 14I leaned heavily on old-fashioned oats and lots of flavorful items, like mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips), dried cherries, sunflower butter, coconut* and pumpkin seeds (I used allergen-free SuperSeedz salted pumpkin seeds). The kids couldn’t get enough of these bars (which were perfect for today’s lunchbox!), and I noticed the hubby taking a baggie of these bars to work today, too.

Feel free to play around with different seeds, dried fruit and nut or seed butters. Perfect for breakfast-on-the-go, brown bag lunches or after-school snacks, these bars are also delicious crumbled into a bowl of skim milk.

Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars {nut-free}

4 cups old-fashioned oats
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
½ cup spelt or whole wheat flour
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup mini chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. chopped dried cherries (or other favorite dried fruit)
½ cup salted pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp. sunflower butter
½ cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup honey

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Mix oats and coconut on baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add oats and coconut mixture. Put parchment paper on baking sheet. Spread mixture evenly on top of parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Cut into bars or squares with serrated knife.

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*My daughter does not have an allergy or reactions to coconut, so I use sparingly in baking. However, the FDA recently added coconut to its list that those with food allergies with tree nuts should avoid, although some allergy experts say that those with tree nut allergies do not have a greater likelihood for developing a coconut allergy. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), “Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to you allergist before adding coconut to your diet.”

PLEASE SHARE: What is your favorite homemade lunchbox treat (for kids or adults)? I’d love to hear from you!

Also, be sure to check out recipes from my fellow Reduxers below.

Healthy Beach & Pool Snacks {MyFoodFix}

August 1st, 2014

There’s still over a month of summer left, so now is NOT the time to undo those healthy summer habits you’ve created!

This week on Fox8 WGHP’s monthly segment, I talked about healthy snacking at the beach and pool. When summer time is ticking and the water is calling, it’s tempting to grab fast food en route or rely on pool-bar snacks. But these foods tend to be higher in calories, fat, sodium and price than food brought from home. And, my snack suggestions below are so easy and quick that you’ll be in the water in no time.

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Simple Summer Snacks & Drinks

1) Popcorn — This ol’ standby is a favorite for a reason… tasty and fun with multiple personalities. This gluten-free whole grain can be dressed up spicy with chili and garlic powders, sweet with a cinnamon-sugar mix or savory with Parmesan and a little sea salt. Air pop your own or pop in a little olive oil on the stovetop. Fox8_07 28 14_beach bag_crew

2) Trail mix — Forget the pricey store-bought trail mixes and make your own. Combine your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruit. If you’re feeling wild, throw in some whole grain pretzels, rye bagel chips, dry cereal or cheese crackers. A handful of Goldish pretzels and crackers are a fun beach-themed addition. In my nut-free trail mix recipe (below), I used dried cherries and apricots, pretzels and favorite seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and hemp.

3) Frozen grapes — An antioxidant-rich refreshing treat. Enough said.

4) Wraps & sandwiches — Half a wrap or sandwich makes a perfect snack. Double it up for a poolside lunch. Hummus with veggies on a whole grain tortilla, nut or seed butter with apple slices on a mini whole wheat bagel or tuna-guacamole salad on mini rye bread.

5) Water, water, water — It’s easy to forget fluids when you’re playing in the water, but we especially need to stay hydrated when we’re under a hot summer sun. Fill a carafe with water and fruit slices or mint and cucumber, lemonade mixed with sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea with berries. Not interested in lugging around a water bottle? Check out the water aisle in your supermarket… there are many non-caloric drink choices these days, like canned or bottled sparkling waters, fruit-infused waters or unsweetened teas.

Fruity Pumpkin Trail Mix {nut-free}

½ cup dried apricots, diced
½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
¼ cup pumpkin or pepita seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup dry cereal or pretzels
1 Tbsp. hemp seeds

Combine all ingredients. Makes 4 servings.

PLEASE SHARE: What are you favorite healthy snacks for a day at the pool or beach? Please share!


July 22nd, 2014

Summertime smoothies… what could be more refreshing than a blend of frozen fruit, your favorite “milk” and maybe some wheat germ or chia seeds?

My family and I just got back from a week at the beach. Sand castles, early morning walks, dolphin watching… it was glorious!

Now back in the grind, I am so missing the water, the languid time and the calm. So, I whipped up a taste of the beach for this month’s Recipe ReDux post. July’s theme is A Spirited ReDux.

From plain Jane vanilla extract to fancy-pants elderflower liqueur, we like to keep a little liquor in the kitchen. Show us how you like to cook, bake or mix-it-up with spirits, extracts and other alcohols. A splash of vodka makes summer sauces shine – and liqueurs brighten desserts: What’s your healthy recipe with spirit?

Edisto Island, SC

Edisto Island, SC

While a taste of the beach with spirits is much more fun, I chose COCONUT EXTRACT as my spirit of choice. Don’t get me wrong… a taste-of-the-beach drink with spirits is quite enjoyable. But, I made a nutritious version my kids can enjoy alongside me as we sit on our deck and reminiscence about last week.

Thanks to the pineapple and banana, this drink is loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C. My kids love yogurt, so I used that as the protein base. And I added a little wheat germ to “up” my kids’ vitamin E intake, since we’re a tree nut-free house.

If You Like Pina Coladas Smoothie
1 frozen banana
1 cup frozen or fresh pineapple, diced
1 cup “milk” of your choice (I used skim milk)
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp. coconut* extract
2 tsp. wheat germ
3-4 tsp. orange juice

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with wheat germ. Add straws and fruit for garnish. Serves 2.

*Although coconut is a fruit and not a tree nut and the risks of an allergic reaction to coconut is unknown, the FDA lists coconut as a food for those with tree nut allergies to avoid. Some allergy experts say that those with tree nut allergies do not have a greater likelihood for developing a coconut allergy. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), “Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to you allergist before adding coconut to your diet.”

PLEASE SHARE: What is the spirited drink that transports you to your favorite vacation spot? I’d love to hear from you!

And, be sure to check out recipes from my fellow Reduxers below.

As the first and only recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians, The Recipe ReDux aims to inspire the food lover in every healthy eater and inspire the healthy eater in every food lover. Thank you for visiting. We hope you enjoy!

(Please note that this is a closed link-up for Recipe ReDux posts only. Any links added to this collection for non-ReDux posts will be deleted.) 

52 Moms Talk Food: Hilary in San Diego

July 11th, 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.

DJ Mom Hilary

DJ Mom Hilary

A popular deejay in Southern CA, Hilary is one busy mom. I’m so excited to share Hilary’s tips and tricks for feeding her 7-year-old daughter.   

Q: You are BUSY! What are your tricks for getting good food on the table?
Hilary: Cooking from scratch is one of my favorite things to do, but it was also one of the first things to go when I became a mom. And once I went back to work? Forget about it. I let go of the guilt early on and became one with my local Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmer’s Market.

I’m fortunate that my daughter eats a variety of healthy foods, but variety is key. For lunches, we do baby carrots, sugar snap peas or cucumber and whatever fruit is in season and a sandwich or dinner leftovers. And, her hot lunch program at school rocks: whole grain breads and pasta, hormone-free local meats, local organic produce. As for dinners, we eat a lot of lean ground turkey tacos or burgers, rice pasta with marinara, veggie lasagna. We snack on brown rice cakes with honey and sunflower seed butter, frozen bananas, frozen acai bowls. And, I nixed the juice early on… she drinks a lot of water and sparkling water. Not every day is perfect, but—for the most part—I feel good about what we eat.

Q: What is your food philosophy?
Hilary: We try to aim for balance, and we talk a lot about food as fuel and how it gives us energy. Treats are “once in a while” foods. If my daughter refuses something, it’s usually a new (or newly prepared) food. So, we do a “thank you bite” to just try it… she’s usually game for one bite. We never force anything, but we do set limits.

My daughter has a life-threatening allergy to cashews and pistachios, which adds an entirely more complex (and scary!) dimension to eating. We keep her epi-pens near her at all times, no matter where she is. We have to read all food labels and be really careful about cross-contamination. She eats at the nut-free table at her school and summer camps. And, we’ll continue to educate her, her friends and their families (and ourselves!) about tree nut allergies all the time.

Q: With a dream job, lots of work commitments and an active kid, how do you find balance to stay sane (and healthy)?
Hilary: I don’t think I have found balance! I’m still chasing it. I do food shopping on Saturday mornings before the supermarkets get busy so we are set food-wise for the week. Sometimes we’ll hit the farmer’s market on Sunday morning. We used to have an awesome organic garden with broccoli, tomatoes and strawberries before we moved. One of our favorite activities is to walk to school with the dog. It’s about an hour round-trip, so we try to do that 3-4 times a week during the school season and walk the dog at a nearby canyon on the weekends. And, we try to get to the beach as much as possible, which is always good exercise—and fun!

Wanna’ see Hilary in action? Check out Hilary’s pics and Tweets at

MY TAKE-AWAY: Not only is Hilary rockin’ at getting nutritious food on the table, but she’s helping her daughter develop healthy eating habits. She offers nourishing foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, but doesn’t sweat the occasional treat. She’s fortunate that her daughter’s school system offers such healthy foods, which helps when she’s pinched for time. While navigating cashew and pistachio allergies can be challenging, Hilary is doing a great job empowering her daughter to be healthy and learn how to eat safely.

MOMS (AND DADS) WELCOME: Do you have a story to share? If you’d like to be featured in 52 Moms Talk Food, please drop me a line at

My Food Fix: Picnic Tips & Super Salads

July 3rd, 2014

July is National Picnic Month!

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The fun part of Picnic Month? Dining al fresco, enjoying a meal with family and friends, less clean up(!). The not-so-fun part of Picnic Month? Increased risk of foodborne illness, which is usually caused by improper handling of food.

As I shared on Fox8 WGHP this week, there are four simple steps which can help ensure that your picnic and BBQ is remembered for the tasty food and good conversation, not because everyone got sick.

Four tips to help keep your picnic and BBQ safe:

  1. Toss the (dish) towel. Yes, dishtowels are an eco-friendly alternative to paper towels, but using the same towel while handling raw meat and then during (or after) cooking is ripe for cross-contamination. Use paper towels while handling meat and save the dishtowel for drying clean dishes.
  2. Washing rules. We KNOW to wash our hands before, during and after handling food, but sometimes we just forget (or get lazy). Seriously, folks, hand-washing could help prevent nearly half of all foodborne illnesses. If you don’t have running water, reach for the sanitizer. It works as a back-up.
  3. Keep your cool. Every time we open a cooler to grab a drink, the temperature in the cooler rises. Pack drinks and other frequently accessed food items with ice packs in a separate cooler from meats, chicken, fish, salads and other perishable foods. And, keep coolers out of direct sunlight, if possible.
  4. Forget the 2-hour rule. Kudos to you if you use the 2-hour rule–toss items that have been sitting out more than 2 hours. However, on hot days (days close to and above 90-degrees), stick to the 1-hour rule. Set your phone timer or alarm to alert you when food’s been out for an hour and then pack it up.


Now, for the fun part of picnics and BBQ… the FOOD!

Pack some fresh fruit, a salad or two (see my salad recipes below!), a protein-rich dish (fish kebabs, chicken breasts, BBQ tofu steaks, veggie or lean beef burgers) and some fruit-flavored water or unsweetened tea for a simple and portable meal. Here are two salads that take less than 20 minutes to make and pack a big nutrient punch!

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Quinoa & Avocado Salad
1.5 cups quinoa, uncooked
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup frozen corn, thawes
1 carton chopped tomatoes, drained
½ cucumber, chopped
2 avocadoes, cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook quinoa according to instructions (using broth instead of water). While quinoa is cooking, mix cilantro, olive oil, vinegar and lime juice. Mix black beans, corn, tomatoes and cucumber. Cool quinoa and add to veggie mixture. Top with oil-vinegar dressing. Top with avocado. Makes 4 servings.

Broccoli-Raisin Coleslaw
Bag of broccoli slaw
½ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup golden raisins
Light Goddess or Poppyseed dressing, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix slaw, carrots and raisins. Add dressing, as desired. Toss well, and add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

PLEASE SHARE: What are some of your favorite picnic dishes? I’d love to hear from you!