In my humble option, the best foods are always served in bowls.

A luscious, savory bowl of cheese and potato soup, creamy bowls of ice-cream topped with chocolate sauce and a cherry. Bowls of pasta brimming with chunky, spicy tomato sauce, and my personal favorite, a big bowl of chocolate Chex drenched in plenty of ice cold milk.

Did you know there is a bowlful that is equal parts nutritious and delicious? If you haven’t already caught on to the acai bowl craze, let me introduce you to this versatile, lovely snack. All you need is a blender, a couple packets of frozen acai berry blend, a handful of toppings, (sliced strawberries, bananas, blueberries, granola, shaved coconut…) and you’ll be well on your way to a guilt free, bowlful of bliss!

Since it’s the end of  the school year, I feel like I need to make a confession.

Are you ready for it? Ok…. Here I go…

I do not make school lunches for my boys!!! Not a single one! Ahhhh, that felt good.

Once upon a time (about 6 months ago) I did pack their lunches. Every morning I would slap together 4 turkey (or pb & j) sandwiches, throw some pretzels or sliced apples in a bag, and top it all off with a juice box. I don’t know who hated those lame-o, uninspired, riddled with exasperation school lunches more, my boys or I? I continued to dutifully fulfill my mom obligation day after day, until I found one of those terrible school lunches tucked into the outside garbage, totally untouched. Did I get mad? No. Did I blame my oldest son for not wanting to eat a meal that didn’t want to be made in the first place? Nope. Did I stop making boring school lunches, and instead fill our fridge and pantry with fun and easy ingredients for my boys to make their own lunches with? Yes! Allowing my boys to have complete authority over what they eat for lunch has given them a new found confidence in the kitchen, in themselves, and a deeper appreciation for the meals I do make them.

Because of this bold decision I figured I would step up our after school snacks, just in case one of their lunches fell short that day. Smoothies that are filled with spinach and chia seeds, but taste like chocolate and peanut butter help to fill any nutritional void that may happen when a 9 year old is allowed to pack his own lunch. Cheese crackers, chocolate milk, and an apple sauce? Yes Ewen, that looks like a wonderful meal. Yikes!

A few weeks ago my youngest asked why I didn’t make smoothies in the winter time. Good question, I thought! During the warmer months I love throwing all kinds of healthy stuff into my blender and watching my boys drink to their health. It makes even more sense to whip up healthy concoctions during a wicked cold and flu season, doesn’t it? Leave it to a six year old to say the most obvious thing. Totally off subject, but my husband and I can not believe that our youngest just turned 6. Our house that was once full of babies is now officially a house full of big boys. Wow, that went by fast.

Back to the subject at hand! Since the best part of a smoothie is the seasonal fruit and goodies, I decided to incorporate pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into this mix. Did you know that pumpkin is full of vitamin C, which helps keep the sniffles away? It also has tons of vitamin A and magnesium in it, which keeps our kiddos teeth and bones strong. That’s a good thing, because in my recent experience I’ve noticed that kids grow up fast. The better we feed them now, the happier and stronger they will be later on!

Let’s talk about the difference between opportunities and obligations.

An opportunity is a chance you are either given or take in order to accomplish something. Opportunities are usually pretty exciting because of the possibilities they can create. For example: If the opportunity to have lunch with a stranger arises, take it! Especially if that stranger is a person that you’ve been wanting to get to know better. Chances are you’ll leave that lunch totally inspired by her (or his) story, and excited to have made a new friend. Mission accomplished if you ask me!

An obligation on the other hand, is something you have to do. Obligations are not nearly as fun as opportunities, and more often than not they are kind-of a bummer. Example: Sometimes eating vegetables can feel like an obligation, especially when all I want want to eat is ice-cream!

Here is the funny thing about obligations, with a little imagination they can almost always be turned into opportunities! Example: I want my kids to eat fresh vegetables everyday. Some days this feels like a huge struggle (obligation), as some of boys will happily eat their veggies and some of them will not. On the flip side all of them love to eat popsicles. So what if I crammed as much spinach as I can into a smoothie, and then make that smoothie into a popsicle?!

Is it me, or do the best opportunities usually start out as the worst obligations?

I hope all my talk about health and granola hasn’t scared you away from this place. My intention here has never been to discourage or make you feel guilty about what you’re eating, but instead to inspire and encourage you to cook for yourself and for those around you. I also always want to be 100% honest with you about what I am currently feeding my own family. Yes, on occasion we order pizza, go through drive-thrus, and treat ourselves to Taylors milkshakes and hamburgers.

So just because I am constantly sharing ways on how to add more spinach to our diets, or trying to figure out how to make healthy snacks for my boys doesn’t mean I don’t love junk food every now and then! The thing that I don’t love about junk food is the way it makes me feel. Sluggish, tired, and all around blah. So when it comes to junk food I have two choices, 1. Eat/enjoy the fast food and don’t complain about the stomach ache it might give me. 2. Figure out how to make the junk food minus all of the funky ingredients that make me feel kinda gross.

Notice I didn’t say a word about making these treats less caloric or “skinny”? Sometimes diet substitutes are just as bad for you! I don’t indulge my junk food habit everyday so when I want to dive into a basket of animal style fries, a big plate of nachos, or a crispy, sweet funnel cake it better be the real thing!

Take this frozen peanut butter, chocolate, pretzel pie for example. Yes, there is a whole stick of butter in that crust. There is a thick layer of chocolate ganche, and and even thicker layer of whipped cream, real sugar, and peanut butter on top of that buttery crust. Did I know what I was getting myself into when I cut myself a nice big slice for desert? Oh yes, and every bite was worth it because I knew exactly what was in this creamy, frozen slice of heaven!

Apr 23

Funnel Cake

My experience competing in the Mrs. California pageant was nothing short of amazing.

No I did not win the crown, Miss Congeniality, or even best gown. Not to take away from any of those accomplishments, (or the amazing women that did win!) what I chose to walk away with has been more valuable to me than any title or sash.

First there is the bond we contestants created during the three full days of rehearsals, photo ops, and backstage pep talks. Opposite of what you see on pageant reality shows these women were encouraging, kind, helpful, and prayerful. It was a lot like summer camp, but instead of hiking boots and bug spray we wore high heels and spray tanner!

Then there is the memory of my family cheering me on all weekend long. Thanks to my sweet husband and boys I was fed, emotionally stable, and felt like a million dollars every time I walked on stage. I love cheering my family on with all of their endeavors, but along the way I had forgotten that I also need that kind of support from my family and friends. This was not an adventure that I could have braved on my own. Because I let my guard down and accepted help I was reminded that I am deserving of that kind of attention and support. Hearing my boys cheer me on is a sound that I will treasure for life.

Lastly, because of this pageant something inside of me has come alive and I have no choice but to be obedient to what has been uncovered. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. All I can say is that I feel as if I have finally found my light and now all I need to do is learn how to shine.

This funnel cake is dedicated to all of the sweet and hardworking women I met a few weekends ago. I hope you have been enjoying your post pageant pig outs we all talked, dreamed and drooled about! I know I have!!

I’m just going to tell it like it is and let you know that there is nothing new or exciting about this banana bread recipe. While it is an incredibly moist, delicious, dark chocolate filled loaf of banana bread, it is not anything that you haven’t seen at least one million times before. I know what your thinking, “So if this banana bread isn’t some kind of kooky, super healthy, low calorie, apple sauce and blueberry version why are you insisting on telling me about it?”

I’ll tell you why. This banana bread, like all run of the mill banana breads, was the perfect vehicle on which to slather the most amazing, unique, game changing, peanut butter glaze on.

This glaze and this glaze alone is what makes this particular loaf of banana goodness worth taking a second look at in a world filled to the brim with awesome banana bread recipes.

So how do you feel about one more holiday treat recipe?

What if I told you that there will be zero baking involved?

What if I said that you could give these away as last minute gifts to your neighbors and friends?

Hold on! I almost forgot to mention that these are super fun to make with your kiddos!

Still not buying it? Hmmm…

Dark chocolate, creamy peanut butter and salty pretzels.

Ha! I knew that would getcha!

You know me, I’m not a baker.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy baking every now and again, it’s just not the kind of cooking venture I often feel called to. Up until a few Sundays ago I was more than happy to purchase a grocery store cake for my boy’s birthdays. I loved picking up a beautifully decorated sheet cake with their name and new age artfully written in frosting. I loved unveiling it at the birthday party and snapping photos of our birthday boy blowing out the candles on his race car, dinosaur or Transformers themed confection. But what I really loved was cutting into this cake, serving it to our friends and family and enjoying a little slice of sugary heaven with those we love the most.

This love for grocery store cakes came to a screeching halt at my son’s 5th birthday party. Yes the cake was beautiful but that’s where it ended. I could taste the freezer burn in the cake itself and the raspberry filling was nothing more than a red gelatinous mess. The overly sweet buttercream frosting was slightly gritty and I got more “no thank you’s” vs “yes please’s” when cake time rolled around. After that birthday party I vowed to never again torture my family with a kind-of expensive, super gross grocery store cake ever again. While my cakes will never be the perfectly airbrushed (stale) works of art found at the bakery department they will most definitely be fluffy, moist and deliciously made with love!

Sounds like I have a new birthday cake calling and this simple vanilla bean sheet cake with candy cane buttercream frosting was a good place to start.

Almost a year ago a childhood friend of mine gave the editor at Sacramento Parent magazine my name and contact info in response to a question she had asked on Facebook. The editor at the time wanted to know if there was anyone out there that would like to submit a recipe to the magazine for mother’s day and my friend thought of me! Soon after that I was emailed and asked if I was interested in putting together a piece for them. Of course my immediate thought was “Yes!!!” My second thought was “Wait….No. Who the heck do I think I am ?! A magazine?? I don’t write for magazines, I’m a blogger and a small time one at that.”

I am so thankful that I told my second thought to go pound sand. I am also super grateful to my friend for giving the editor my name, and I can not thank that editor and the magazine enough for giving me a chance (and for not laughing at me.) Since that mother’s day recipe I have whipped up a Skillet Apple Crisp, and a Roasted Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup, just to name a few of the almost dozen dishes I’ve created for them.

What did I have up my sleeve for them this month? These pretty, chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside Molasses Spice Cutouts. My family fell in love with these spicy, full of holiday cheer cookies the minute they popped out of the oven. And I’m thinking a certain man in a jolly red suit will love them too!