Sweet Potato, Kale and Cranberry Citrus Salad

Guys, it’s cold outside. I mean really, really cold.  Hello January!

But just because it’s cold outside does NOT mean salad isn’t worth your time. This salad is very much worth your time. It’s adapted from Gimmie Some Oven because I didn’t have all the ingredients (and I’m taking it easy on grains) to make their Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale and Cranberry Couscous Salad.  With just a few tweaks for what I did have on hand and the omission of the couscous, this was a perfect addition to our main course tonight.

……And I can’t wait to have it for lunch tomorrow!

kale salad pic

Sweet Potato, Kale and Cranberry Citrus Salad

  • 2 small sweet potatoes, boiled whole until tender, cooled, cubed
  • 4 cups chopped kale leaves
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, rehydrated
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 ounces plain goat cheese, crumbled
  • easy orange vinaigrette (recipe below)

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste



  1. Prepare the sweet potatoes. I chose to boil mine whole because it’s just easy to do while I prep everything else. The skin comes off very easy this way too. Once they are fully cooked, set them aside to cool. Peel and cube the flesh. (I could not wait for this step. So I went ahead and prepared them while still warm. Therefore, they fell apart. STILL GOOD!)
  2. In a small bowl, combine cranberries with just enough water to cover the tops. This plumps them up a bit.
  3. Place chopped kale, cranberries (drain the water off them and spoon into the bowl), cooled sweet potatoes, almonds, goat cheese, vinaigrette, and toss to combine.
  4. Serve and enjoy!


  1. Whisk all ingredients together until combined.  Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.



Meals Plan Ideas for 9/22-10/3

While I can’t say I do this every week/two-weeks without fail, I usually sit down on Sunday afternoons and peruse my Pinterest boards to inspire my menu planning. Today was a lovely Indian Summer day to do just that. I usually cook 3/4 times per 7 days and sometimes I reinvent leftovers, so here is my Pin-spiration for our bi-weekly menu. I hope it inspires you too!


Dijon Chicken Linguini with mushrooms-A little on the heavy side, I’ll have to save this for a day I work out!

Indonesian Pork with rice- I have a 4-pack of boneless pork shoulders I picked up from Costco. They are so versatile I really enjoy having them around for a change. I’ll be subbing one for the tenderloin in this recipe. I also do not have mango chutney, but what I do have is a lovely preserve that is Orange, Mango and Apricot (also from Costco). It should be yummy in the crock pot!

Beef Stew with Mashed Potatoes-I’ll be using the crock pot for this recipe too. I’m intrigued by the olives….

Chili with Cornbread-ok, I don’t follow a specific recipe for this. In fact, my chili probably tastes a little different every time I make it. I brown 1-lb of ground turkey breast, dump it in my crock pot with the big cans (28-oz) of diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, 1 can of red kidney beans, 1 can of Bushs best chili magic chili starter AND an envelope of generic chili starter/seasonings.  Sometimes I add onions, sometimes I add tomato paste, sometimes I toss in other beans/extra beans.

Pork with Peppers-this is PW’s skirt steak recipe but I will be subbing pork and serving it over rice instead of noodles.

Turkey Meatballs-these are nice because I can make a lot of them and if there are leftovers, I’ll freeze them, then put them in my tortellini soup for nights I don’t feel like making dinner.

Crunch Broccoli Bake-a yummy new side idea I think I’ll make with something like fish

Roasted Yellow Squash with onions-my kids will moan and wail and whine but it’s ok with me 🙂

Sweet Potato Coins-What a smart idea!

Buffalo Wing Pretzel Sticks-I am so excited to make these for a Saturday football snack!

Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms-another fun Saturday football snack item I can’t wait to try

The obligatory breakfast-for-dinner, ground turkey tacos, random pasta toss together (with tortellini), and various soups will be in the mix too if I need a quick fill in! What have you been pin-spired by lately?

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

This is one of my most favorite side dishes I’ve found via Pinterest. It gives you that potato casserole taste and feel but it’s squash! So yummy and fallish. Try it!

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin
Serves 6

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like it spicy
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ cup light sour cream
½ cup light shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Poke the whole squash all over with a sharp knife, then place the squash on a plate and put it in the microwave for 10-12 minutes. Remove the squash from the microwave and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds, then remove the squash from the shell using a fork to scrape the insides.  Transfer to a small bowl.  (*If you do not own a microwave, you can absolutely bake this in the oven for one hour at 350 degrees.  It will take significantly longer so I recommend making it the day before or early in the morning. You can cut the squash in half and bake or bake whole.)

In a small skillet over medium heat, add the butter, onions, red pepper flakes and thyme and cook until the onions are slightly brown in color; remove from heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine the squash, onions, sour cream and (1/4 cup) half the cheese together and mix well.  Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Place into a 375º for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown on top.

**If you will be serving this to children who do not like heat/spicy foo,  omit the red pepper flakes in the dish and put them as a garnish on top of the adults serving of the dish. The red pepper flakes really make the dish!

Natural Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

C’mon,…if you have ever made a red velvet cake from scratch and seen how much red dye is in there, you know it’s a little frightening. But it tastes oh so good! I have done a little research about Red Velvet Cake’s history, why it’s red and to see if all the red dye is necessary; sadly, it is (due to our modern baking products).

But a few times I have come across recipes that use beets as a substitute for all that red dye. I was so curious about this method that I really couldn’t wait for an opportunity to try it out. Wouldn’t you know, my friend JUST had a baby and her favorite cake is red velvet. She eats a mostly plant-based diet, so I knew she wouldn’t mind being my guinea pig in an effort to rid her of Red Dye #40. Thanks Ashley!

Just beet it

Just beet it

So here you go; my science experiment for an all-natural Red Velvet Cake! (And several notes about this recipe are at the bottom.)

1 can fancy beets in juices, pureed
1 Cup coconut cream
1/3 Cup coconut oil (melted)
1 & 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 & 1/4 Cup AP flour (unbleached)
1/4 tsp salt
2 & 1/2 Tbsp Natural Cocoa Powder (NOT Dutch Processed)
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder


1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; grease 2, 9″-round cake pans. **I use Baker’s Joy. It is a non-stick spray with flour in it and it seems to do an even better job than greasing and flouring the pans separately.

2) Puree beets IN their juices and combine with coconut oil (melted), sugar, vanilla and coconut milk until well incorporated. Set aside.

3) In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.

4) Alternately whisk wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

5) Pour batter evenly into pans. I like to tap mine on the counter one time before I place them in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes (test for doneness). Allow to cool and frost!

While the traditional frosting for a Red Velvet cake is a roux-based, cooked variety called “Ermine Frosting”, my friend prefers Cream Cheese Frosting. So here is the Cream Cheese Frosting and a link to the Ermine.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 brick of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 & 1/2 Cups confectioners sugar

1) Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth

2) Stir in confectioners sugar, then beat on high for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir again until well incorporated.

3) Frost and enjoy!



Notes on this cake:

  • Q: Does the cake taste like beets?
  • A: There is definitely a beet taste in this cake. It is NOT overpowering and some will completely miss it, never taking notice. Some will swear they can really taste it. I personally think that the earthy-ness of the beets combined with the cocoa make the cake simply lovely and balanced. The coconut milk and the coconut oil do help to curb that beetiness as well. I would say think of the exchange much like you would if you utilized applesauce in place of eggs in another recipe. The flavor is there but not overpoweringly so. Also, the original recipe had a tartness to it due to the buttermilk. I personally felt that I could taste a tang and I like that. Again, not overpowering, but just right.
  • Q: Is this cake really red?
  • A: No, it is not going to be that big bottle of fake red dye crimson red. You can see from my pictures what the coloring is like-sort of a rusty, iron-oxide color. That should be what your cake looks like. A lovely pinkish-brown. If you mess with the ingredients or their amounts, you may very likely get different coloring.
  • Q:There are no eggs in this cake?
  • A: Correct, there are no eggs in this cake. The coconut oil and the baking powder give the cake a lovely amount of lift. See photos.
  • Q: Does the cake taste like coconut?
  • A: No

Chocolate “Pudding”

I found this post on Pinterest for a Chocolate Pudding made with only avocado, bananas and cocoa. What??? I realized pretty quickly that I already had everything I needed on hand to make this. So, why not try it out? I whipped it up in less than 5 minutes, added a drizzle of honey just to help it out a little, and then whipped it in the mixer just to fluff it up and really get all the chunks out.

I handed the chilled cups to my 3 kids (9, 5, & 2) after dinner a few hours later. Only one of my three took a bite and looked at me suspiciously. The others devoured it. And the one who asked me what was in it still ate it when I divulged my secret to him. I was really sold when the child of mine who is the least likely to try new things asked me the next night if there was any more “pudding” to eat.

All I’m saying is, what have you got to lose? 

Not. A. Thing.

It’s seriously good.

Sneaky Chocolate Pudding:

  • 2 bananas (I used some “just right” bright yellow/no spot fruit because I didn’t want the banana flavor to overpower the taste)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons Hersheys special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional-try it both ways!)

Ugly Muffins (Spiced Banana Muffins)

Banana bread can be so tricky (in my opinion). There are a million recipes out there and it seldom fails that I forget what recipe I liked best (or least) the last time I made it.

spiced banana muffins (with pumpkin and coriander)

Spiced Banana Muffins with Pumpkin and Coriander (and a cinnamon sugar topping!)

But this recipe….oh my lanta is it a winner! I know these “look” ugly but, they taste out of this world! I made these muffins and they were gone in 3 days flat. I had very little guilt about them too as the ingredients are healthy and the sugar fairly low. (Though I’m going to experiment and lower it even more!)

The recipe is from the thriftyhippie blog by the way! Here is the basic recipe.

  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar* 
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 3 Bananas, Mashed well
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

*denotes my change in the recipe

Heat oven to 350.  

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, sugar, allspice and nutmeg.  

In a separate bowl, beat together the bananas, vanilla, milk, egg and coconut oil until well incorporated.  

Add the dry to the wet and mix until it just comes together, try not to over mix the batter.  

Fill your lined muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter (1/4 cup).  Top with a cinnamon sugar mixture before baking to add a delicious crunch to the top of the muffins.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Remove from the tin and cool on a rack.

My family ate these warm out of the oven with some fresh salted butter (which immediately melted) and we all swooned over how delicious all the flavors were together! Enjoy these tasty babies!

I wanted to try a little switch up on these muffins just for fun, so here is the “Less Sugar Pumpkin and Coriander” version!

  • 1 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup honey
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (or butter)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 2 Bananas, Mashed well
  • 1/2 Cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Same gig as above and remember to top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar!

This Week’s Meal Plan 8/11-8/17

Red Beans and Rice-this may end up looking a little different than the recipe. But this is the base I’ll use. I think I have an extra large can of diced tomatoes that I’ll use anyway and I know I want okra and chopped green chilies in there. I do not have a green pepper so I’ll improvise!

Grilled Honey Salmon-I have two fillets and while this sounds and looks delightful, I might put BBQ sauce on one fillet and this recipe on the other. Just for fun and diversity!

Stuffed Peppers-My husband was shocked at how good these were last time I made them. I have garlic and herb goat cheese and baby spinach to go in these this time. Yum!

Vegetable Soup-This is a good base for a vegetable soup however, I’ll probably use it as a guide and add my own flare. I prefer to do my own thing with what I have on hand and this is just such an excellent way to use up my veggies that are in need of being used before they are lost!

Thai Lettuce Wraps-I love that I won’t need a special lettuce for these-mostly because I always have romaine on hand. Can’t wait!

Tacos or maybe These Tacos-We usually use lean ground turkey when we have our taco nights. I often add in my own taco seasoning (as this recipe recommends and provides) and dab a bit of salsa in for added depth. However, the other tacos I linked to are delightful for a fun twist. Especially if you have limes, cilantro and corn tortilas at the ready. (I add lots more green chilies to my version of the recipe!)

Egg Sandwiches-2/3 of my children like eggs…but I’m going to keep presenting them! They just haven’t tried them enough times I think!

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Waffles-we already ate these and they were DIVINE! I used coconut oil, added 1 tsp of vanilla and upped the milk a bit (say by 1/3 extra cup) for this recipe.

Lemon Chicken-we already ate this and I loved it! Just the right amount of lemon flavor came through.

Rethinking What, How and Why We Eat…

One day, while perusing my library account for my next read, this book popped up as newly available and recommended to me. I was pretty intrigued from the start because I just adore French culture. I’ve always been attracted to all things French; from a desire to speak their beautiful language, to the serene country of France, their renowned chefs throughout the region and all that is in between. But this book also touched on a sensitivity and concern I have for my family: Buy it here http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062103296/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1S8W4XXT525HJEAB4ED2&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846

You see as many North American moms, I see some poor eating trends/habits in my children. I started a long journey roughly 7 years ago, towards eating more healthy and especially towards cooking in a more healthy way just for myself. My main motivation was my own appearance in the beginning. But my love for food and cooking seemed in contrast to my new found goals. I grew up in a Hamburger-Helper, Condensed Soup Casserole based family. I was an overweight preteen and struggled off and on with my weight throughout my life. So, I basically had to re-learn how to shop, eat and especially how to cook. I wanted my food to taste good and I wanted to be able to eat what I wanted, so I had to rethink and redo what I had always known and seen done.

As a result, my family and I had a lot of food battles specifically over their passion for processed, sweet and fatty foods. While I educated myself more and more on the importance of healthy food and good choices, how the things I eat (and don’t eat) affect my mind and my body, I felt powerless to get my children (and my husband) to understand and be convinced enough to join me in my journey. I was passionate about my goals but extremely frustrated with getting my family to make better choices because they WANTED to, not just because they were FORCED to.

Reading this book was tremendously encouraging to me as I continue on my journey with a new focus on bringing my family along with me. I have seen so much improvement in both my husband and my children! In fact, my husband has been a wonderful team player in his own efforts to change his palate. But even more so, I have found encouragement for the long-haul. This book gave me even more evidence and statistics proving that if we stick with the path, the end result will be exactly what we desire-true change. I’ve been inspired to make nutrition a conversation that is open, fun and even whimsical!

The step-by-step explanations of how this North American mom instituted the new norms in her family, the authenticity and honesty with which she shares her stories of how her children responded (both the good and the bad!) and the helpful recipes and tips she gives throughout the book, gave me so much new-found enthusiasm. It reminded me to stick with it and to make the table a place of family bonding and connection time.

My husband and I are not advocates of attachment parenting. In fact, our family parenting style is very different from most of our peers. We feel that our children are a blessing and we love them deeply, however we do not allow them to have control of our home. This book does talk a LOT about the vast differences in Americans love for their children to have CHOICE and how the French have a much different perspective on the matter. I say that only because the suggestions this author made were very easy for our family to pick up because we were already doing many of them to begin with. (By the way, this is the same author of the popular book, “Bringing Up Bebe”, which explains a lot.)

While I haven’t been asked to review this book, I’ve loved it so much I couldn’t not recommend it! It has helped and encouraged me in my journey to encourage my family to embrace and love food with high quality nutrition. This book has gone from a book I borrowed from the library to one that is on my bookshelf permanently. If you are frustrated with food battles in your home and ready to have your cultural norms challenged, I hope you’ll get this book and read the WHOLE thing before you dismiss it.  “A táble!” might be your kids’ new favorite phrase before long!

Healthy Broccoli Salad

You know that summer staple at many St. Louis barbecues? The broccoli salad with sunflower seeds, grapes, red onion, bacon and mayo? It’s good yeah, but what if I told you I found one even better and better for you?

Last summer I actually winged my own version of that salad by making a vinaigrette for the dressing. I’m trying to cut calories and that mayo based stuff just isn’t flying.  Enter in this salad from Six Sisters Stuff. Oh my lanta! It’s so good! It’s got this tremendous bite to it thanks to the key ingredient; raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Bragg                               Apple Cider Vinegar                , 16.0 Ounces , Liquid If you have never purchased this stuff, it will revolutionize your recipes. It has amazing flavor!

I tweaked the recipe a bit for what I had on hand and what sounded good to me. So here it is! Try it at your next summer gathering and tell me people don’t beg for the recipe.

healthy broccoli salad


Healthy Broccoli Salad


2 tablespoons of honey (my change!)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

6 tablespoons raw,unfiltered apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon EVOO

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 dash salt

2 heads of fresh broccoli, coarsley chopped

3 apples, chopped

1/4 cup pecans

In large bowl, whisk together sugar through salt. Add broccoli, toss well. Add apples and onion, toss again.

Cover, chill at least 2 hours (It is my favorite when it sits overnight)

P.S. I have been eating this for lunch lately! I put the recipe into my fitness pal figuring 8 servings per recipe. It is 92 calories!

Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Tonight I made a super yummy salad dressing just by tossing a few ingredients I had on hand together. It was so creamy and delicious! I have mentioned recently that I am not keeping store-bought/pre-made dressings in the house these days. I’m trying to make them all from scratch! Here are the ingredients:

Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/4 Cup EVOO  

2 T balsamic vinegar 

1 T honey

1 T dijon mustard

dash of sea salt

I shook it up in a container with a tight fitting lid, then gave it a stir (to make sure the honey was off the bottom for sure) and then shook it a second time. It was delightful!