The BEST Gluten-free Pumpkin Brownies (GF, DF)

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!

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I’m not sure about any of you but when Fall comes around, I am most definitely in my kitchen making anything and everything PUMPKIN and it makes me so, so happy. Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin muffins, you know what I’m saying.

Since I am basically obsessed with the brownies (they are BY FAR my favorite sweet treat) - I figured “why not turn a classic childhood favorite into a classic childhood Fall favorite?!”

Enter these lovely, deliciously chewey Gluten-free Pumpkin Brownies.

I was attempting to turn my favorite flourless brownies into pumpkin flourless brownies but because of all the moisture I had it to add a little bit of gluten-free Cassava flour. Cassava flour has been my new recent addition to the pantry and I have really enjoyed baking with it so far. Coconut flour and I have not agreed so well in the past but cassava flour seems really easy to replace in many baking recipes.

Other than the pumpkin, I use almond butter and coconut oil to make these little guys perfectly moiste, the way any good brownie should be. Trust me, this comibnation is brownie perfection.

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So buckle your seatbelt get ready for the most delicious and moiste pumpkin brownies you will ever taste.

Don’t worry, the pumpkin doesn’t give them a weird flavor or anything. Actually, come to think of it, you can’t really even taste it at all.

Made with just a few simple gluten-free, dairy- free ingredients, you will most definitely make your kids happy and YOU will be happy too knowing that you fed your children a deliciously healthy guilt-free treat!

Here’s how to make these guys!

Makes 24-25 brownies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes

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Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 8x8 square baking pans with parchment paper for easy brownie removal.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the almond butter, the eggs, the agave, the pumpkin puree and the coconut oil. Use an electric mixer or an electric hand blender to combine the ingredients well.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. The cassava flour, the baking powder, the sea salt and the cacao powder. Combine well.

  4. Once the dry ingredients are combined well, fold them into the wet ingredients and combine all the ingredients well using an electric mixer or hand blender.

  5. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and stir.

  6. Pour the batter into both pre-lined baking pans and use a spatula to flaten and spread out the batter evenly. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top.

  7. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes or util they pass the toothpick test.

  8. Let the brownies set for 10 minutes before enjoying!

Made with love,

-Ashley

Turkey Veggie Egg Roll Bowls (GF, DF, Whole-30)

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!

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I’m not sure about you, but every once in a while I crave a darn egg roll like it’s nobody’s business! I mean who doesn’t crave all that delicious, greasy, salty goodness from Chinese takeout every now and then?

But since egg rolls are made with a handful of mysterious ingredients, I pretty much avoid them.

Some of their mysterious/not so healthy ingredients (in case you were wondering): Enriched wheat flour, soy, milk and often MSG. I am sure that homemade Chinese food doesn’t include all of these mysterious ingredients, but Chinese takeout certainly does.

So yeah, I pretty much avoid them unless I’m absolutely desperate! And why should I have to feel so darn desperate if I can make something that tastes just as good as Chinese takeout at home with real nourishing ingredients?

My promise to you is that these Turkey Veggie Egg Roll Bowls won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on takeout Chinese food and you’ll feel good afterwards too!

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I started to make these Turkey Egg Roll bowls by sauteing a TON of fresh vegetables together in one pan. In this dish we’ve got spaghetti squash, onion, garlic, ginger, carrots and cabbage. That’s 6 veggies in one bowl!

I know, I can’t even believe it myself.

Then I added in some ground turkey (instead of the typical pork) and seasoned them up with my favorite soy alternative and some other asian spices to make it nice and authentic tasting.

My husband, whose always requesting that I make something new loved these bowls and said they were definitely a keeper so that’s why I decided to share em with ya! (Apparently he’s giving the stamp of approval these days).

You could totally add this mix to a base of white rice but I served it grain free and it was very filling on it’s own (and also Whole-30 compliant!)

So what are you waiting for, really?! Let me show you how to make it!

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Ingredients:

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  • 1/2 medium yellow onion

  • 1/2 medium spaghetti squash (halved and seeds removed)

  • 1/4 green cabbage (shredded)

  • 1 3-inch cube of ginger (peeled and shredded)

  • 3 medium carrots (shredded)

  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)

  • 1 lb ground turkey

  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (plus more for serving)

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

  • 1 tsp fish sauce

  • 2 1/2 tsp coconut oil

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp ginger powder

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • sesame seeds for serving

Serves: 2-4
Prep time: 35 - 40 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Instructions:

  1. First, set the oven for 425 degrees and cut your squash in halve. Note: this is not an easy task, be careful! Remove the seeds with a spoon, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the half of the squash face up on a roasting pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. You may want to do this step ahead of time as a prep for the meal, since it does take a while to roast.

  2. When the squash is finished roasting (it should be soft and tender and not crunchy) use a fork to scrape out the spaghetti squash strings or “noodles” into a bowl and set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, chop, mince and shred all your other veggies.

  4. In a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat, add the coconut oil. Once the oil is heated, add the ground turkey and cook, breaking the turkey up with a spatula. Once it is beginning to brown, add the onions and garlic and saute for about 7 minutes. Add the onion powder, ginger powder and garlic powder.

  5. Remove the turkey and onion/garlic mix off to another plate and set aside.

  6. In the same pan, add some additional coconut oil and begin to saute your cabbage, carrots and ginger. Add in your coconut aminos, fish sauce and sesame oil and cook for about 6-7 minutes or until veggies begin to soften.

  7. Add in the spaghetti squash and the turkey onion mix and stir the mixture together a bit. Cover with a lid for about 2 minutes on low heat to let all the flavors combine.

  8. Season with salt, pepper and any extra coconut aminos as you seem fit.

  9. Serve in a bowl or if you’d like, you can serve it over rice. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Enjoy!

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Made with love,

-Ashley

Green Superman Pancakes (GF, DF, Vegan)

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!

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Oh my goodness you guys, I have been on a mission to create a gluten-free pancake recipe with GREENS for forever and a day and today I finally did it! These Green Superman Pancakes are filled with so much nutritious goodness but they’re also DELICIOUS and easy to make too, which is what matters what the most.

I made these in my Vitamix blender believe it or not! So in love with that darn blender that I’m not sure how I ever lived without it in the first place.

I started with an oat flour base. I added a banana, some almond milk, a date, some spinach and some extra super green power from some barley wheat grass flour. I blended all the ingredients together and fried them in my cast iron skillet and they were sweet green perfection.

With rushed school-day breakfasts and packed lunches coming right around the bend, I thought it would be a perfect time to share them with you all.

You can double the batch to make extra and freeze them for school lunches or quick school-day breakfasts on the go.

So if you’re wondering what the heck to pack in your kiddos school lunch this year that you know they’re going to love and will keep them fueled with nutrition, these Green Superman Pancakes are your guys!

Here’s how to make them.

Makes 6-7 pancakes
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In your Vitamix or high speed blender, add 1 cup of gluten free oats. Blend until the oats turn into a flour.

  2. Next, add your almond milk. Start with 1/2 cup and blend until smooth.

  3. Then add the date, the banana, the baking soda, cinnamon, spinach and barley grass powder. Blend until smooth. Use the extra almond milk if you need to make the batter smooth. (Side note - the batter will be rather thick. That is how it should be)

  4. In a cast iron skillet, add a few glugs of coconut oil and turn the burner on medium heat.

  5. Once the skillet is hot, add the batter, cooking about 3 smaller pancakes at a time. If you need to, use the back of a spoon to flatten out each pancake because the batter is rather thick and will take a longer time to cook if its too thick.

  6. Cook each pancake about 5 minutes on each side and flip.

  7. Enjoy!

-Made with Love, Ashley

Child Constipation - What to try before Meds

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!
**Disclaimer: This information should be used for informational purposes only and should not be taken as direct medical advice. Always consult with your physician first before beginning and new supplements.

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Did you know that frequently and regularly moving bowels is one of the best indicators of a child’s overall health and wellness? That’s because the immune system literally resides in the gut!

Regularly moving the bowels is evidence that food is being broken down, digested and that the vitamins and minerals a child consumes in their food are being absorbed and assimilated properly. Besides nutrient absorption, emptying the bowels every day helps to remove excess toxic waste from the body.

And since our immune system resides in the digestive track, its so important to have an abundance of healthy living bacteria present here too.

Many children are missing this beneficial bacteria in their digestive tract as a consequence of antibiotic over-use within the first few years of life. The over-use of antibiotics reduces the numbers and diversity of commensal bacteria, which can allow pathogenic or parasitic microbes an opportunity to thrive in. (6)

Healthy gut bacteria feeds a healthy immune system, but there’s something even more incredible about the digestive system; the presence or absence of healthy bacteria in the gut can directly affect and modulate a child’s affect and mood!

You heard me right, a healthy and robust gut bacteria ecosystem = a happy and healthy child.

The Gut-Brain Connection

New research coming out over the last several years has discovered how intricately tied the digestive track is to the central nervous system (CNS). We have learned that neurotransmitters that are responsible for modulating our mood (like GABA which calms the nervous system and serotonin which gives us a sense of well-being and happiness) are created right inside the gut lining itself! Isn’t that incredible?!

The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. (1)

Simply put, the state of a child’s gut directly affects a child’s mood and emotions via many different physiological pathways.

To put all of this into perspective for you, Ill give you a few real life examples of how this bidirectional Gut-Brain-Axis communication works.

  1. Did you know that upwards to 95-98% of the brains feel good neurotransmitter serotonin is made in the gut lining?

  2. Or did you know that chronic stress (a neurological/psychological symptom) can cause altered intestinal permeability??

Those are just two examples of the bi-directional communication between the gut and the central nervous system (CNS). There’s also the role of the vagus nerve, the Neuroendocrine (gut hormone) signalling, Production of Microbial Metabolites and many others which you can read more in-depth about here.

Three main pillars that encompass a healthy gut:

So to put it simply, there are really three main pillars that encompass a “healthy gut”

  1. Intestinal cell wall integrity:
    This is how tightly bound the cellular membrane junctions in the gut lining are. If the gut cell membranes have been compromised, food proteins easily seep into the blood stream causing over-reactive immune responses and consequently, food allergies.

    Signs and symptoms of “leaky gut” syndrome are: diarrhea, constipation, weak immune system, nutrient deficiencies, brain fog, fatigue, food allergies, autoimmune conditions, skin rashes like eczema acne or rosacea.

  2. Higher ratio of healthy to unhealthy bacteria:
    The ratio of healthy to unhealthy bacteria significantly impacts neurological function as well as well as immunological function. Although gut bacteria isn’t all that simple (being that there are billions and billions of bacteria in our gut), we want more beneficial bacteria than harmful bacteria. Overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut like candida and clostridium are common in children today, especially those who have experienced over-use of anti-biotics.

    Signs and symptoms of bacteria over-growth or candida are: oral thrush, recurrent urinary tract infections, skin and nail infections/fungus, digestive issues, fatigue, mood disorders like anxiety, depression irritability. itchy ears or severe seasonal allergies and strong sugar, dairy or refined sugar cravings.

  3. Regularly moving the bowels:
    As I stated previously, regularly moving the bowels is a good sign of proper food break down, nutrient absorption and waste and toxin removal. If your child isn’t moving their bowels at least once a day, this is not considered “normal.”

So if your child isn’t moving their bowels regularly, its definitely something that needs to be addressed. But don’t panic! There’s so many natural ways to help a child’s digestive system other than resorting to medications.

How Common Is Constipation?

Constipation in children is a common health problem affecting 0.7% to 29.6% children across the world. (2) The prevalence of GI symptoms in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is even higher, ranging from 23% to 70% (3).

Constipation in children can be defined as fewer than 2 or 3 bowel movements a week, also commonly associated with painful or labor intensive bowel movements. Children who struggle with chronic constipation can also deal with fecal compaction, a more dangerous situation that may require hospitalization.

Problems with the Standard Treatment Protocol

The most common treatment protocol for a child with backed up or impacted bowels is to start polyethylene glycol or PEG 3350- also known as MiraLax, to alleviate constipation symptoms.

The biggest red flag I see with using MiraLax is that the FDA has not approved long-term use of PEG3350 in children aged younger than 17 years of age, but the laxative is used off-label widely in clinical practice. Aside from that, its very common for parents to use MiraLax regularly, even though it was only ever recommended for and studied for its short term use.

Furthermore, the FDA received numerous reports of adverse events including neuropsychiatric symptoms in children taking PEG 3350, which included tics, anxiety, rage, paranoia, phobias, mood swings and depression. Some children may be more susceptible than others to experience adverse events to PEG 3350, especially in cases of younger children who are using it at high doses for long-term use.

In response to such a high volume of adverse neurophsychotic events, a citizen petition from the public to investigate and re-evaluate the safety of PEG 3350 was submitted to the FDA. In 2008, the FDA conducted a study to test for impurities. The most concerning conclusion from the safety testing were finding trace amounts of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) in all 8 batches tested, which are ingredients found in antifreeze and pose neurotoxicity to children. (7) In 2011, a report from the FDA (4) also concluded that neurphsychotic events were noted in MiraLax users, but stated "no action is necessary at this time based on available information."

Due to citizen push-back and the influx of adverse neuropshycotic events, there is a multi-center research group effort being conducted to study the adverse events reported to the FDA regarding MiraLax. Additionally, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is currently conducting an NIH-funded study to monitor its long-term affects on pediatric patients as well. (8)

Regardless of all of this information, many physicians still recommend this product to young children.

I believe the jury is still out on whether to use MiraLax to safety treat constipation in young children.

While I can’t give an answer as to why we are so quick in the medical field to prescribe, I will share with you a few less-invasive, more natural, root-cause fixes you can try with your child who is chronically constipated.

I guarantee there is something on this list that is going to positively impact your child’s digestion one way or another.

Reminder: This information should not be taken as direct medical advice. Always consult with your physician first before beginning and new supplements.

Child Constipation: What to Try Instead of Miralax

  1. Add in ground flax and increase volume of fibrous fruits and vegetables:

    Start by offering a fruit and a vegetable at every meal and snack. Your child may or may not eat them every time, but offering them frequently is what is important. Smoothies in the morning are such a great way to get in a bulk amount of fiber first thing in the morning (when the digestive track needs it the most). Spinach, a daily greens powder (I like this one the best which also includes a probiotic and enzymes which help with food breakdown), frozen blueberries and frozen broccoli are all great places to start with adding fiber to breakfast smoothies.


    Another thing to consider is to add ground flax seed to your child’s menu. Flax seeds are not only an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but they also function to lubricate, clean out and normalize the digestive tract. Some ways to offer flax seed is: ground in oatmeal/cereal, mixed into apple sauce, 1-2 tsp added to a breakfast smoothie.

  2. Add a daily probiotic:

    A daily probiotic is crucial for healthy immune and digestive health. It can also be a pathway to overcome a case of yeast of bacteria overgrowth like candida or clostridium. This is my favorite probiotic that my kids and I both take every day. Start with one tablespoon a day and work yourself up to a higher dose if you need to.

  3. Increase water intake by 2-fold:

    Go ahead an increase your child’s fluid intake by double. Use a rubber-band around the water bottle to encourage your child to drink more. Ex. “Can you drink all the way to this line?”

  4. Supplement with Magnesium:

    Magnesium plays a crucial role in digestion. Muscles within the digestive tract, including the intestinal wall, are relaxed by magnesium, which improves digestion. Magnesium also helps to counterbalance stomach acid and advances stools through the intestines.

    This is my favorite magnesium supplement for kids. My kids take one a night, as magnesium aids in sleep as well.


    Another less invasive option to increase magnesium levels in children is to do a daily epsom salt bath. The minerals in the epsom salt bath absorb transdermally (through the skin). This is my favorite epsom salt brand.


    A third option for getting in magnesium in babies and children under the age of 4 is this baby and kid safe magnesium lotion.

  5. Remove conventional dairy:

    Many children find relief from constipation when they eliminate or reduce conventional dairy and add in fibrous vegetables. Conventional dairy can be inflammatory to the bowel system in many cases. Because the homogenization and the pasteurization process kills off the enzymes, healthy bacteria and vitamins in milk, this makes milk difficult for the body to recognize and digest.


    This is a simple fix that can yield amazing digestive results. If your child eats a lot of dairy, it can be difficult at first so start slow. Start by simply reducing the amount of dairy your child eats and then gradually switching to more dairy free products.

  6. Remove gluten:

    Even if your child doesn’t have celiac disease, their digestive system could still benefit from reducing or eliminating gluten. In many people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart the tight junctions holding your intestines together (aka “leaky-gut”). You can read more about gluten’s affects of the digestive tract here.

    It can seem overwhelming at first to start a gluten-free diet with a child. My advise is to start very slowly. Switch to very similar products your child likes but look for gluten free options until you find one you child enjoys. Small changes at first as to not overwhelm the child and the cargiver are always best. I used to find it overwhelming to think about going totally gluten free. But now I find their are so many gluten-free options out there that I find a lot of freedom in that, and my kids do too!

    Here are some of my favorites gluten-free products:

  7. My favorite gluten free bread

  8. My favorite gluten free pasta brand (made out of quinoa)

  9. My favorite gluten free cauliflower pizza crust

I hope you found this article helpful and insightful! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments in the comment box below.

-Ashley


Sources:

  1. Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.

  2. Rajindrajith, S., & Devanarayana, N. M. (2011). Constipation in children: novel insight into epidemiology, pathophysiology and management. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility, 17(1), 35–47. doi:10.5056/jnm.2011.17.1.35 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042216/)

  3. Chaidez, V., Hansen, R. L., & Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2014). Gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, developmental delays or typical development. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 44(5), 1117–1127. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1973-x

  4. FDA Adverse Event Report: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/fda-adverse-event-reporting-system-faers/potential-signals-serious-risksnew-safety-information-identified-adverse-event-reporting-system-aers-1

  5. https://www.drug-injury.com/drug_injury/2018/01/miralax-study-projected-to-be-completed-this-year.html

  6. Rege & Graham. The Simplified Guide to the Gut-Brain Axis – How the Gut and The Brain Talk to Each Other. <https://psychscenehub.com/psychinsights/the-simplified-guide-to-the-gut-brain-axis/>

  7. The Use of Polyethylene Glycol in the Pediatric Population Report by the Department of Health and Human Services. https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-FD-14-088.html#_Part_2._Full

  8. NIH PEG 3350 Study: https://heuckeroth.research.chop.edu/peg-3350-study


Dark Chocolate Zucchini Banana Muffins (GF, DF)

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!

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With school just around the corner, I am back at it with the muffin recipe developing. I love showing my kids how baking can be healthy!

Even more, I LOVE involving them in the kitchen when I’m adding in all sorts of healthy things to their food so they can taste and see that good food can not only taste delicious but make you feel good too!

These Dark Chocolate Zucchini Banana Muffins are gluten-free, dairy free and make a great lunchtime packable or breakfast on-the-go type situation for busy school mornings.

The truth is, I used to have a love-hate relationship with baking. I have never been one to follow the rules, especially with cooking, so I got easily frustrated when I added a few too many scoops of this or that and the baking situation turned out to be a flop. But lately, with lots of practice and patience, I have been having more baking wins than flops and this one was a true winner on all levels in my book! My kids ate these for basically breakfast lunch and dinner for three days and qualified them as “after dinner dessert” too! Whichever meal you want to serve them at, they’ll do the job, trust me on that!

I started with a base of eggs, zucchini and some smashed banana and then for the flour I decided to do a mix between almond flour and buckwheat flour (anyone else find it wild that buckwheat flour is gluten-free?!). I added cacao to make them even more superfoody and some chocolate chips on top just to make it look more like a desert than a healthy veggie filled muffin. (But they are totally sweet enough inside to taste like a desert, anyway.)

They turned out so wonderfully moist and satisfying, they’ll definitely be getting a re-make around here, if you know what I mean. Get ready to see these guys in lots of lunchbox shots in the near future!

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I won’t make you babes wait any longer, here’s how I make these chocolately delights!

Ingredients:

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Makes: 18-20 muffins
Cook time:
20 minutes

Instructions:

  1. Line your muffin tin with muffin liners and set the oven for 350 degrees F.

  2. Shred your zucchini and make sure to use a towl or paper towl to squeeze out all the liquid.

  3. In a large mixing bowl add the eggs and beat them very well before adding the banana and zucchini and cinnamon. Smash your banana thoroughly with the back of a fork until bumps are removed.

  4. Add in the agave and ghee and then combine all the wet ingredients well.

  5. In a separate bowl, add all the dry ingredients together - the buckwheat and almond flour, the baking soda and the cacao. Combine thoroughly.

  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture about 3 minutes to sit (to allow the ingredients to react with each other) before pouring the batter into the muffin tins.

  7. Add batter a little more than halfway full into each muffin tin and sprinkle the chocolate chips right on top.

  8. Place them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 16 minutes or until the top begins to slightly brown. You will need to make two separate batches.

-Enjoy!

Made with love,
-Ashley

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My Favorite Non-Toxic Lunchbox Gear for Fall

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!

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Well mama’s, believe it or not, fall is just around the corner, which means school will be staring in just a few short weeks! So use up those last few sweet summer days doing something FUN with your little ones. Whether you just lay around all day and actually spend some quality time with them reading or playing or decide to take a fun outdoor adventure with them, make these summer days count.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of staying home with the kids all summer, but not if you set your mind to actually ENJOYING this time with your kids. Every day is a gift with your kids. Say it. Repeat it. Every day.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve got a little one starting school for the first time next year (insert many tears here) so I’ve been scouring the internet researching to find the most durable and non-toxic lunchboxes on the market. And since I wouldn’t keep all of this information from you all, I of course had to share with you what I came up with!

In terms of durability and non-toxic materials, I truly feel that stainless steel lunchboxes are the absolute BEST bet. They are dishwasher friendly, last forever and a day and definitely not going to seep out any toxic chemicals onto your kiddos food when you wash them. Definitely not going to break a few weeks into the school year, like some of the other plastic lunchboxes I’ve used in the past. Nope, not these two.

And you can’t beat that these toxin-free, stainless steel lunchboxes are eco-friendly! Good for beautiful mother earth and good for your bank account too, since you likely won’t have to buy a new one next year because of how durable and high quality they are.

Another requirement I have with lunchboxes is space and compartments. Lots of compartments and lots of space for different food varieties for my little guy and gal. I picked one slightly smaller one and one larger option, depending on the quantity of food I’ll be packing for my little on that given day. Both of the options have enough space for a very decent sided lunch!

So without further ado, I present to you my two absolute favorite non-toxic lunchbox picks for the new school year!

Lunchbox Favorite #1: Planetbox Rover

Oh my goodess you guys, I am just in love with this darn lunchbox. Is it weird to be in love with a lunchbox? I’m pretty sure it is but whatever. This lunchbox has it ALL in my book. It has 4 large compartments plus a little area to leave a little something sweet for your cutie. On top of that it comes with so many bonuses! It comes with 1 large stainless steel container for lunches that you’d like to stay warm or be warmed up (pictured above with the noddles) and 1 smaller container for dips and dressings. I just absolutely love it. On top of those wonderful containers, it also comes with the cutest magnets ever for your little to customize their lunchbox to their liking. My little gal chose mermaid magnets to decorate hers. The decorative magnets are removable and they include an area to write your little ones name on it too. They’ve got all sorts of designs to choose from - sharks, rockets, mermaids, animals, dogs, cats, etc.

Yes, it does cost A LOT more than your average lunchbox. But that’s because its basically luxury VIP in comparison to all other lunchboxes on the market. The only downside is that the shape of the box is rather large and you’ll most likely have to buy one of their cute carrier bags to fit it.

bonus containers make it worth the extra penny

bonus containers make it worth the extra penny

The cutest custom magnets

The cutest custom magnets

Oh, I forgot to mention that Planetbox has a 25% off storewide coupon going on right now until September!

Okay, moving on. Get ready to hear about another tried and truth stainless steel favorite of mine!

Lunchbox Favorite #2: Lunchbots Medium Trio

At the incredible price of just 24.99, the Lunchbots is definitely another one of my stainless steel lunchbox loves. What I love about this one is that even though it is slightly smaller, I can still add more than enough food for my little guy or gal. So to summarize why I love it- its still great quality stainless steel (this is my second year using it and its still going strong), the price is literally incredible and its got more than enough space. I packed my sons lunch in it all last year and never once felt like I needed more room for anything. I also love that you don’t have to buy a special sized lunchbox to fit these Lunchbots, because they will pretty much fit in any standard lunchbox container.

They offer lots of different styles with different numbers of compartment (1 compartment all the way up to 6 compartments and they do have the option of having a cute little colorful topper too, that makes opening and closing a little bit easier on your little. The only trouble I’ve had with it in the past is leaky liquids in between compartments. If you pack dressing or hummus, make sure to put it in a small sealed container, like these leak-proof dip containers.

If you’re worried about leaking, these stainless steel-leakproof containers are an add-on option

This one has 4 compartments, if that’s your thing!


Okay guys, there you have it. My favorite non-toxic lunchboxes for kicking off the new school year. Now I just want to tell you about a few of my favorite snack and lunchbox gear goodies that make mealtime with my little guys just a little more exciting and enticing!

My Favorite Lunchbox Extras

I get asked often where I get these two favorite lunchbox gadgets of mine. I love them so much and here is why.

#1: UpChef’s Bento Sandwhich cutters, Food Picks & Fruit and Veggie Shape Cutters

Okay guys, these have definitely made lunchpacking a whole heck of a lot more fun AND these fun food picks and sandwich cutters have enticed my little’s to try out so many fruits, veggies and new foods I would have never thought they would.

These food picks are so great for sensory food play with kids who are hesitant to touch or try new foods. I use them all the time, mostly because they’re so darn cute. But if you’ve got a child with sensory needs or if he/she is hesitant to try new foods, these food picks are going to be your new BFFs.


#2: Reusable Colorful Silicone Cupcake Liners for Dividing Foods

I absolutely adore these reusable silicon cupcake liners. They make packing lunch more fun and make the perfect lunchbox divider. They are also great for baking muffins and you’ll never have to buy paper muffin tins again!

Happy lunchboxing mama!

-Ashley

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Creamy Ranch Steak & Arugula Salad (GF, DF, Whole-30 friendly)

Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission. The commission is paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for your support!

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Whether you’re dreaming of extending summer just a little bit longer, or you’re just forced to embrace the heat a little bit longer like me here in Miami, this delicious Creamy Ranch Steak & Arugula Salad is going to be your new best buddy to enjoy with your loved ones.

Its simple, creamy, satisfying in every way and so, so healthy! You’re gonna love it.

I started the base off with a big ol’ bed of arugula and romaine (50/50 mix), threw in all the veggies, pan fried some grass-fed skirt steak and then added my DIY Healthier Herby Ranch Dressing and then died and went to heaven. There is just something about ranch dressing that is so savory and satisfying so its so nice to know all the ingredients are wholesome so I don’t have to eat it feeling guilty whatsoever.

You’re definitely going to want to make extra Herby Ranch Dressing and save it for salads or leftovers throughout the week, trust me on this one. My kids dip their raw veggies in it and think its the best.

My husband, a big steak fan, declared this to be one of his new favorites so I naturally did a little victory dance inside. My kids liked it too, for the most part, though they requested that I chop their steak up into super tiny pieces for them.

The best part about this whole meal (for me, anyway) is that its grain-free, dairy-free, all the things free but still ridiculously nutritious!

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Disclaimer: I do not eat Whole-30 100% of the time, that’s for sure. But my sister and mom are doing a 30 day Whole30 challenge and I’ve been sorta trying to join in with them. I can’t live without fruit though. Or quinoa, or the occasional gluten free bagel. I just wanted to be 100% honest here, so there’s that.

Moving on…

So the best way to make this salad is to first prepare the dressing, which will take about 10-15 minutes. You will need a small hand blender or a food processor. This is, hands down, my all-time favorite kitchen tool right here. It does everything you could ever want. I make my morning matcha latte with it, smash potatoes with, make dressings, etc. You name it and I use my hand blender to do it. Best kitchen gadget around IMHO.

After that, you want to season and start to pan fry your skirt steak. While the steak is cooking, you will chop your vegetables up and start assembling the salad.

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Let me tell you how to make this delicious summer salad that’ll keep your husband asking for seconds of!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 1 + 1/2 head of romaine (rough chopped)

  • 1 bag of arugula

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin

  • 2/3 medium cucumber, chopped

  • 1 + 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped in two

Steak:

  • 1 to 1.4 lb grass-fed skirt steak (remove any excess fat) and cut into 4 even pieces

  • 2 tbsp grassfed butter or ghee

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • salt and pepper

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Herby Ranch Dressing:

  • 1 cup extra light olive oil

  • 1 large egg

  • two handfuls of fresh herbs (I used basil, dill and cilantro)

  • the juice of 1 + 1/2 limes

  • 2 cloves garlic, skin removed

  • 6 tablespoons avocado mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • salt and pepper to your liking (about 1/2 teaspoon of each)

Instructions

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  1. Start by making your ranch dressing. In a tall mason jar or inside of the food processor, add the olive oil, egg, dijon mustard, lime juice and salt. Blend well with your hand blender or with the food processor (I linked my favorite one here).

  2. Add in the remaining ingredients: the basil, cilantro and dill, the garlic avocado mayo and salt and pepper. Blend until very smooth and creamy.

  3. Second, you want to prepare you steak. Start by removing any excess fat or tendons if you need to. Cut into 4-5 even fillets. Season generously with salt and pepper.

  4. Dice your garlic cloves very finely and press with the back of the knife to expel the juices.

  5. In a stainless steel pan, heat a tablespoon of grass-fed butter or ghee over medium heat and add the garlic for about 30 seconds.

  6. Make sure the pan is nice and hot before adding your steak fillets, cooking 2 of them at a time. Fry them each for about 3 minutes per side for medium rare and 5 minutes per side for medium. Cook the remaining fillets the same way.

  7. Transfer them to a plate and let them rest while you prepare your salad.

  8. Chop up the romaine, the red onion, the cucumbers and tomatoes. Add in the arugula and mix well.

  9. Slice your steak nice and thin and serve in individual bowls, drizzling the ranch dressing right on top.

Enjoy!

-Made with love, Ashley

DIY Healthier herby Ranch Dressing (Dairy-free, Kid Friendly, Whole-30 approved)

Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission. The commission is paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for your support!

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Oh my goodness, this Healthier Herby Ranch Dressing is an absolute game changer! For two reasons! One, a game changer if you’re trying to eat healthier and two, a game changer for you kiddos to entice them to eat more vegetables.

I promise you once you start making your own ranch dressing at home, you won’t want to go back to store bought. Because it tastes better and you’ll realize how simple it is.

My kids polished off almost this entire plate of raw veggies when I put this dip out, not even joking!

Dips and yummy dressing always seem to help my kids, and myself, eat more veggies. Because dips and dressings are so darn tasty and sometimes veggies need a little bit of pazzas, you know what I mean?!

All you need to make it is some extra light olive oil, an egg, some fresh herbs, a lime and some avocado mayonnaise.

It’s super simple to make too! If you have an electric hand mixer, you can make it in a large mason jar or in the food-processor attachment.

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Here’s how to make this delicious veggie delight! Try putting it out with a tray full of cut up raw veggies for you kids and see what kind of magic happens!

Another thing you can try with this amazing dressing is my Creamy Ranch Arugula Steak Salad.

Makes: 1 1/2 generous cup
Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup extra light olive oil

  • 1 large egg

  • two handfuls of fresh herbs (I used basil, dill and cilantro)

  • the juice of 1 + 1/2 limes

  • 2 cloves garlic, skin removed

  • 6 tablespoons avocado mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • salt and pepper to your liking (about 1/2 teaspoon of each)

Instructions:

  1. In a tall mason jar or inside of the food processor, add the olive oil, egg, dijon mustard, lime juice and salt. Blend well with your hand blender or with the food processor (I linked my favorite one here).

  2. Add in the remaining ingredients: the basil, cilantro and dill, the garlic avocado mayo and salt and pepper. Blend until very smooth and creamy.

  3. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Side note: The addition of mayonnaise is optional for this recipe. You can make the dressing without it, but it adds a whole lot of creaminess!

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Made with love, Ashley

Simple Gut-Healing Bone Broth Recipe (Instant Pot or Crockpot friendly)

Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission. The commission is paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for your support!

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere the past five years, you are bound to have already heard about the powerful gut-healing properties of bone broth.

If by chance, you may have missed it, I have written an entire article dedicated to sharing all the health benefits of drinking and consuming bone broth here.

Let me just summarize for you why you should be drinking bone broth on the regular.

Bone Broth Benefits:

  • It heals and seals the gut (a compromised gut-lining is the hallmark sign of auto-immune diseases, which are so common today)

  • It improves digestion

  • It provides important vitamins, minerals and amino acids to the body

  • It acts as a natural cold and flu remedy

  • It’s collagen content gives the hair, skin and nails a boost

  • It helps to stabilize blood sugar levels

  • It benefits arthritic pain

  • Its a very nourishing pregnancy drink and has been known for its ability to increase fertility

  • It’s a wonderful immune and digestive support for kids (and helps kids with digestive troubles regulate)


I have been drinking bone broth for years. I make it about once a week. It is so nourishing and so healing and so delicious in a mug to be sipped alone. It’s also great in my homemade family style chicken soup that the kids love.

The great thing about homemade bone broth is that it is SO incredibly simple and to make at home, especially in a Instant pot or Crockpot. So don’t waste your money buying the expensive brands at the grocery store (unless you really really don’t have one hour to do this simple method at home - in that case I recommend Kettle and Fire Brand and you can use my discount code HELPINGHANDS10 to receive a 10% discount at checkout)

So here is the deal on how to make your own bone broth, it is SO SIMPLE and affordable!

You will need a leftover chicken carcass (and as a bonus you can add either 1-2 beef marrow bones or 1-2 chicken feet bones)

So normally I make a whole chicken that I roast or cook in the Instant Pot for an easy weeknight dinner and then I save the bones of the chicken to make broth afterwards. I also save the butts of the carrots and celery and onions in a freezer bag and I just throw that in with the bones to give it some flavor.

Make sure to use bones only from organic animals, as toxic buildup can be present in the bones of unhealthy animals.

In an Instantpot, you can make broth in two hours (um, hello gorgeous!!). In a crockpot, it will take 24 hours.

Honestly, investing in an Instant pot was the best investment I ever made! I make dinner atleast 3 nights a week in it and you can’t beat dinner that’s ready in 15 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic chicken carcass (chicken meat removed)

  • optional (add in 1-2 marrow bones or 1-2 chicken feet, chicken feet provide more gelatin)

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vingegar

  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped

  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped

  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • enough filtered water to cover the top of the bones and other ingredients

  • You can add whatever spices you’d like! I like to add turmeric and ginger sometimes to give it another nutritional boost but those are totally optional!

Instructions:

  1. Place your bones in an Instant pot or slow cooker.

  2. Place your onions, carrots, parsley and celery right on top of the bones.

  3. Add the apple cider vinegar (this helps to extract nutrients)

  4. Cover the bones and vegetables with enough filtered water to cover the top.

  5. In an Instantpot, seal the top and set on high pressure for 120 minutes. When it finishes, you can self-release the pressure or allow the instant pot to release its pressure independently over the next several hours. When its finished, season it with salt and pepper.

  6. In a slow cooker, cover and set it on low heat for 24 hours. Check the water level periodically and add more if needed. When its finished, season it with salt and pepper.

  7. You can store your broth in a freezer bag in the freezer to use later in soups or you can enjoy it in a mug by itself.

Enjoy!

-Made with love, Ashley

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Here’s a picture in my Instagram bone broth highlight, which shows how I pretty much throw in whatever random ingredients I have laying around. Make it your own!

Flourless Almond Butter, Oatmeal, Pumpkin Seed & Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan)

Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission. The commission is paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for your support!

I’m not sure about you, but I love a good peanut-butter cookie. I just love the taste of anything with peanut butter in general (I could eat it by the spoonful) but I especially am addicted to the peanut butter and chocolate combination. I’m sure you may have figured that out by now already, considering I’m always sharing combos of these two on the blog.

Take a look at my 5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars or my Chocolate Chia Sunflower Seed Cups and you’ll see how deep this affinity for this combo runs around here.

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Ironically, I don’t really buy a lot of peanut butter though (at all really.). I use mostly almond butter or sunflower seed butter. Almonds and sunflower seeds provide a much more robust nutritional profile than peanuts do and taste just as yummy so that’s the real reason why I use those two in all of my recipes vs. peanut butter.

Pumpkin seeds have more nutrients in them like iron, zinc and magnesium, just to name a few.

You can add these healthier nut butters to sprouted bread, oatmeal, muffins or throw them into a delicious cookie recipe, like I did here! Nut butters make a great fat and protein source and help to keep you full due to their high fat content.

Dietary fat from foods signals the release of the satiating hormone, leptin, which signals to our brains that we are full.

Fat is your friend people! Chocolate too, chocolate is your friend too.

So I added some nut butter, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips to my favorite Gluten-free oatmeal and made a cookie that your kids will keep asking for!

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Anyhow, I won’t make you wait any longer for this deliciously simple and addicting cookie recipe. You and the kids are going to love them!

Makes: 17 cookies
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup natural almond butter

  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar

  • 2 tbsp agave

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup gluten-free oats (I use this brand)

  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips

  • 1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds (a few extra to sprinkle on top)

Directions:

  1. Set oven for 350 degrees.

  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla, agave and almond butter. Combine well.

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, baking soda, coconut sugar and pumpkin seeds (save a few pumpkin seeds to garnish the tops with.) Take care to combine the baking soda well so that the cookies rise the way they should.

  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine well. Fold in the chocolate chips and give it a good stir.

  6. Make small 2-inch dough balls and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared parchment paper.

  7. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the bottom just begins to crip (you want the top to stay moist). They will need to set for a few minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

-Ashley

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Easy Peasy Sweet Potato Chips Your Kids will Love

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Raise your hand if you love sweet potatoes and you’re obsessed with guac!

I will admit that even though I am an enormous chocoholic and I love baking healthy treats, I would pick a bag full of chips over a cookie any day of the week. With a side of guacamole or queso. Definitely a chip girl, anyone else?!

Since I make these little guys so often and have used them in so many different varieties, I decided it was definitely time for them to get a recipe spotlight.

If you love sweet potatoes as much as I do and you are looking for a quick and easy side to any dinner or snack, look no further. These Easy Peasy Sweet Potato Chips are your guy(s). I love to pair them with my 5 Minute Guacamole for a crowd-pleasing party appetizer or to make my kids happy for a snack any day of the week. I also make them at least once a week as an easy dinner veggie that I know my kids will never turn their noses up to.

You can load these bad boys with guac, use them to make a bunless burger or if you really want to die and go to heaven, you can use them to make my Thai-Style Sweet Potato Sliders.

However basic or fancy you want to get with them, I know once you try them they will be in your life for a long time. Just think of them as your new best friend.

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Besides how well they pair with everything, they are darn idiot proof to make. They are seriously so simple. You cut up a sweet potato or two in thin layers on some parchment paper, spruce them up a bit with some oil and spices and then bake them until they’re crispy!

Ok guys, here you go. The easiest recipe you’ll ever make! You’re welcome.


Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and cut into very thin slices

  • avocado oil spray or coconut oil spray

  • salt and pepper

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Set oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Wash and dry 2 sweet potatoes. Cut them into very thin slices, about 1/3 to 1/4 inch thickness (thicker if you want to use them as buns for sliders, thinner if you want them to be crispier.)

  3. Arrange the potato slices on the baking sheet, leaving 1/4 inch space in between each one (this helps them to get crispy).

  4. Lightly spray each side with a bit of avocado oil (or coconut oil). Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to each side.

  5. Bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown but at the halfway mark, flip them to ensure they brown evenly on both sides.

  6. Wait 5 minutes before serving them with your favorite dip or dinner.

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No Bake Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars (Gf, Kid-friendly)

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If you’ve hung around my site for any length of time, you know by now I’m a chocolate fiend. I add chocolate or cacao powder to pretty much everything, including even my morning smoothie.

But something you might not know is that as a child I was obsessed with Reese’s peanut butter cups (and still am, frankly). I’d say I’m pretty much obsessed with the idea of mixing chocolate and peanut butter together. I mean how much better can life possibly get than enjoying these two amazing things as a combo?!

What I’m not obsessed with, however, is the ingredient list on just one those those little Reese’s peanut butter cups. Just to name one shady ingredient on this childhood favorite, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (like palm oil) contain trans fats, which are not only particularly bad for your heart health, but are also known for causing inflammation in the body and interfere with the metabolic processes at a cellular level.

Ok, I’ll try to not go all preachy on you. To sum it up, if you read an ingredient list that includes partially hydrogenated oils, avoid that product at all costs.

And why eat something so bad for you when you can easily make something that tastes just as good, if not better AND is actually good for you?!

Its a no brainer in my book. I’m on a mission to teach my kids the joys of eating and enjoying healthy sweets but just making them in a way that nourishes our bodies.

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So I’ve made several different versions of these, including my Healthier Chia Peanut Butter Cups, but nothing has turned out quite as ridiculously satisfying of my chocolate peanut butter cravings as these No-Bake Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.

Oh and did I mention they’re not bake? They are so easy to make, 10-15 minutes from start to finish and include only a handful of wholesome ingredients.

And yes, your children will be as obsessed with them as you are. Try them out, guys, you deserve this mama!

Here’s how to make them.

Ingredients (Peanut Butter Layer)

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2 cups creamy organic peanut butter, I use this brand
1 tablespoon agave
1 cup almond flour, I use this brand
1 cup coconut sugar
2 scoops of collagen powder (optional) I use this brand

Ingredients (Chocolate Layer)

1/3 cup coconut oil
1 + 1/2 cup enjoy life chocolate chips
1 + 1/2 tbsp agave

Serves: Makes about 12-15 bars
Time: 15 minutes

Instructions

  1. Line a 9x13 glass baking pan with parchment paper on the bottom.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the peanut butter layer ingredients and combine well.

  3. Spread the peanut butter layer evenly in the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

  4. Heat the coconut oil in a stainless steel saucepan over medium-low heat. Once heated, add the agave and chocolate chips and stir quickly, being careful not to overheat or burn.

  5. Pour the chocolate mixture atop the peanut butter layer and then spread evenly with a spatula.

-Made with love, Ashley


Superman Spinach + Superfood Muffins (GF, DF, Kid-friendly)

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If I am being completely honest with you guys, I have tried this recipe about 762 times before finally getting it right. The thing about baking is that you have to be very precise and there’s a science behind it all (which, I am still learning by the way.) My point is that I don’t like being precise, I like to add it random superfoods here and there (just like I do with cooking) and unfortunately that’s just not how baking works (hence the 762 tries).

So when I finally got these green superfood muffins right, I did the biggest victory dance of all time.

Sure, I could have just used someone else’s green muffin recipe and called it a day. But I’m extremely picky and very persistent. I didn’t want just a regular green muffin recipe (I have tried many of those too!) I wanted one that was packed with nutrients for my littles.

That’s why I added spinach, flax seed, seed butter and barley grass (just to name a few of the add-ins).

“What the heck even is barley grass and why would you add them to muffins?”, one might ask. Oh don’t you worry guys, I will fill you in. Barley grass contains vitamins A and C, as well as B vitamins and minerals iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It also contains contains 20 amino acids, including 8 of the essential amino acids that body can't produce itself.

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Enough already about the arduous recipe developing story behind these little guys.

Just trust me on that they are delicious, your kids will love them and you will feel as victorious as I did for feeding your kids spinach and barely grass for breakfast!

Here’s how I made them.

Makes: 17-18 muffins
Time: 35 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups oats (gluten free)

  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 2 tsp barley powder (optional)

  • 2 bananas (very ripe)

  • 2 eggs (room temperature)

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach

  • 1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1/4 cup agave

  • 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter

  • 1/4 cup almond milk

Instructions:

  1. Set oven for 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

  2. In a high speed blender, blend up the oats until they are a nice fine powder. Add in the flax seed, baking soda, cinnamon and barley powder and mix together. Pour the dry ingredients out of the blender into a separate bowl.

  3. Now add the wet ingredients to the blender. The eggs, almond milk, vanilla, agave, sunflower butter, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and spinach. Blend until smooth.

  4. Add back in all the dry ingredients. Blend until smooth.

  5. Let the mixture set for about 10 minutes (if you can) before pouring them into the muffin tins. This helps the apple cider vinegar and baking powder to mix and react together so that the muffins will rise more nicely.

  6. Pour each muffin tin about 3/4 full and bake for 25 minutes (or until they begin to slightly brown around the edges).

Enjoy!

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Simple Steps to Transition from a Bottle to Cup

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Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link.  If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission.  The commission is paid by third parties, not by you.  I only recommend products that I genuinely love.  Thank you for your support!

So what do you really need to know about transitioning baby from a bottle to a cup?

The whole concept may seem daunting at first (especially if you’re a new mom) but I promise it’s not as complicated as you may think.

You can start teaching your baby to learn to drink from a straw and an open cup a little before or around the age of one year. It will just take some practice, a lot of repetition and a good role model along the way, too.

Firstly, whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, please know that your child doesn’t need a transition period on a sippy cup in between breastfeeding/bottlefeeding and drinking from an open cup. That might come as quite a surprise to many parents, since sippy cups are such a mainstay in our toddler society today. Clever baby product marketers have convinced today’s generation of parents that transitioning from breast or bottle to the sippy cup is just part of the developmental process. However, from a therapists perspective, sippy cups are both completely unnecessary and also counter-productive to the development of strong oral motor skills.

Just to clarify, a sippy cup is a toddler cup with 3-4 tiny holes used as liquid spouts, that were developed sometime in the 1980s (by an engineer, mind you) to prevent toddlers from spilling their milk. They were never developed to teach a child any sort of skill. They were developed to keep parents floors clean.

“Why say no to a sippy cup?” you might ask?

  1. They Promote Oral Motor Passivity
    Well, for starters, sippy cups teach children to use their mouths passively and not actively (in other words, they almost have to do nothing to obtain liquid from the sippy cup) which both weakens and provides no oral motor input to the mouth. Oral motor input from a straw, an open cup or even from food can provide “awakening” sensory input to the mouth for better speech and language as well as feeding, chewing and swallowing skills. To the contrary, with sippy cups, a child is essentially doing nothing with their mouths and receiving little to no sensory feedback.

  2. They Can Promote Poor Oral Motor Habits
    Besides teaching children to not actively participate in the drinking and swallowing experience, they also teach the child to propel their tongue forward into a forward resting posture, which negatively impacts speech and swallowing skills. In a child who also uses a pacifier very frequently past one year, combined with frequent use of a sippy cup, this forward resting posture of the tongue can definitely become an issue with either feeding or speech.

If you occasionally use a sippy cup, I don’t think it should be a problem. However, if your child uses it every day and also constantly uses a pacifier, these issues I mentioned above can definitely become an issue.

So, what should I use instead?

Well I’m sure glad you asked, friend! There are SO many other great cups for toddlers out on the market today that will teach real life drinking and swallowing skills and wont interfere with speech and language development at all.

Don’t worry, some of these cups are spill proof too!

Here’s the two main pointers to look for in a good cup for your toddler:

  • Look for cups with either a straw or those that promote an open-cup drinking pattern

  • Look for open cups that are are good fit for the size of your toddlers hands

  • Avoid spouted cups at all costs

    Here are just a few of my favorite cups that I recommend below. Click on the image to purchase.

My favorite activities to teach drinking skills

  1. Teach your child the art of pronation/supination (flipping the wrists up and down - a skill necessary for bringing a loaded cup to the mouth and drinking from it). Here’s how: In the bath, give your child two cups (different colored cups work best). Model to them how to pour water from one cup to the next and say “pour, pour,” while you do this. This will help your toddler to learn that holding the cup upright keeps the water in. It also helps to stabilize the muscles in the wrists for cup drinking.

  2. Teach your child how to carry an open cup and not spill it by practicing outside with a loaded cup. Fill up a bucket with water and give your child a cup. Have them dip the cup into the bucket and fill it with water and then carry it to another location to pour it out. This teaches your child all of the skills mentioned above.

  3. Teach your child how to drink from a straw. You can do this by cutting a small straw in half, dipping it into water and placing the tail end into your childs mouth and slowly releasing. This will teach your child that water comes out of a straw. After they have mastered this passive skill, its time to practice it actively. Model straw drinking for them and show them how you close your lips around the straw and suck. When you drink some water up, make a refreshed sound like, “Ahhh.” (kids love games like this.) Have them continue to practice closing their lips around straws and sucking and keep on practicing. Larger straws work best at first, as baby is still learning the art of lip closure.

  4. Vibration input prior to practicing drinking can be helpful for younger babies or kids with low muscle tone. You can use a vibrating toothbrush for this. Simply touch a vibrating tip of a toothbrush to your childs mouth prior to drinking or eating or you can hand your toddler the brush themselves and let them explore it with their mouth independently. This will help waken up the mouth prior to feeding or drinking for better oral motor skills and awareness of the mouth in general.

  5. These honey bear cups are amazing for teaching straw drinking skills.
    You can find them here.

-Ashley





Broccoli + Mushroom Breakfast Fritters (Gluten-free, Kid-friendly)

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I’m not sure about you, but I absolutely love anything that resembles a dang hashbrown. Luckily, my kids do too because I love turning anything and everything into a fritter.

But better than a regular old run of the mill hashbrown, these little guys I dreamed up have all the veggies you could ever dream of, with more flavor to boot!

I used portobello mushrooms, broccoli, onions and garlic in these delicious fritters and the kids gobbled them up and even asked for more! (Veggies for breakfast -can we say “mom win?!” Insert virtual high five here)

I served these veggie fritters with some fried eggs and some blueberries and called it a day.

So if your little guy or gal isn’t a big mushroom or broccoli fan, but is a fan of hashbrowns, this might just be the dish to win them over to the other side of the rainbow. Not that you should hide the fact that there’s veggies inside (that’s always a little too suspicious). You can, however, get the kids involved by having them place the veggies into the food processor with you, so they can see how they’re made and feel that mixted texure on their hands a bit before mealtime.

My five year old had a great time helping me make fritter balls and then squish them into pancakes (I had to help him put them into the frying pan.)

Getting kids hands and eyes on the meal before the meal is served always works in your favor.

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The hardest part about this recipe is waiting for them to fry up, that does take some time. But if you work them in larger batches, things will move a lot quicker.

Here’s how to make them.

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Ingredients:

2 medium russet potatoes (shredded)
2 heads of broccoli (steamed and dried with a towel)
1 cup of mushrooms
1/3 cup red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
1 cup almond flour
coconut oil (for frying)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder


Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 4-5 (about 25 fritters)


Instructions:

  1. Remove the stem and steam the broccoli until soft and tender. Squeeze dry with a towel and place in a food processor.

  2. In the same food processor, add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, eggs and almond flour. Pulse until it's all one even texture.

  3. Wash and shred the potatoes and place the shredded potatoes in a large bowl.

  4. Add the processed mixture in with the shredded potatoes. Mix them well with the potatoes and season with extra salt and pepper.

  5. Heat the oil on medium heat.

  6. Make small 1 1/2 inch balls, then smash into a small pancake and fry about 5-6 in the pan at a time. Use the back of a slitted spatula to smash them down flat. Fry for about 5 -6 minutes on each side, or until slightly brown.

  7. Fry them in batches and place them on a paper towel to catch any excess oil.

-Made with love, Ashley

Chocolate + Avocado Nut-butter Shake (Dairy-free, Kid-friendly)

We are gearing up for summer over here and I’ve been trying to remind myself of some tried and true classics for keeping us cool in this Miami heat. 

Since I’m already at it, I thought I might as well share with you all one of my kids’ all time favorite (and most requested) shakes:  Chocolate Avocado Nut Butter Shake.  This is the one my kids always ask for when I ask them “what kind of smoothie should I make today?”

It’s creamy, its dreamy, chocolately & healthy too!  I think it tastes like a healthy version of a frosty from Wendy’s!

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Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

2 frozen bananas (in chunks)
2 tablespoons nut butter of choice
1 tablespoons organic cacao
1 tsp hemp seeds
4-5 small frozen cauliflower heads
1/2 avocado
2 tbsp agave
pinch of cinnamon
2 cups nut milk of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Place bananas and nut milk in first into a high speed blender.  Then add all the other ingredients.  Blend until smooth and creamy and enjoy!

-Made with love, Ashley

 

Ready for Summer 5-Ingredient Mango Papaya Popsicles

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As the end of the school year approaches, I ca’t help but get excited for summertime.  No more early morning rushing, late night lunchbox packing, shlepping kids in the car all day, etc etc etc.  To say the least, I am ready for this school year to be over. 

It’s also so ridiculously hot already here in Miami that I am resorting to pool days and home-made popsicles pretty much on the daily.  This easy as pie mango-papaya popsicle recipe only has 5 ingredients and will help your kiddos stay cool in that blazing summer heat! They also make after-dinner treats nutritious and delicious!

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I always look at deserts, especially something as easy as popsicles, as another way to add in a little nutrition. Who ever said desert can’t be healthy anyway?! I want to teach my kids that sweets can be both good and good for you and I want to teach them the difference between something made with real food ingredients and something fake that was made in a lab.

These popsicles are high in vitamin C, have a dose of healthy fat and as a kicker papaya is great for boosting digestion, something we could all use a bit more of after dinner.

Speaking of digestive health, did you know papayas are chalk-full of digestive enzymes that help us to break down our food and turn it into energy (so much so, that they use papaya to make digestive enzyme supplements)? They also have known benefits for liver health, hormone balance, healthy skin and are full of antioxidants. It really is one of my favorite fruits for those reasons but also because I just find them very refreshing.

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Ok enough already about my love for papayas…. Here’s the easy recipe for these delicious summer-time treats I’m sure your kids will love!

Makes 10-12 popsicles
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large papaya (seeds removed)

  • 1 medium mango

  • juice from 1/2 lemon

  • 1 tbsp raw honey (not for kids under the age of 1)

  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (alternatively you can use kefir or full fat yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Remove the seeds and scoop out the fruit into a high speed blender with a spoon.  Add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth (add additional coconut milk if needed)

  2. Pour into popsicle molds and wait 4-5 hours until completely frozen.

Made with love,

Ashley

 

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (Kid-Friendly, Dairy-free, Gluten-free)

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I am a big fan of Indian food and spice for that matter. However, my kids aren’t big fans of spice and that’s a problem for me sometimes, since we all eat the same meal as eachother around here.

Luckily, Chicken Tikka Masala is a very mild dish and I made this version even more mild for all kiddies at the table. If you’ve never had Tikka Masala, its a tomato-based creamy buttery dish and it’s a really great dish to introduce children to Indian cuisine since its so mild. Also, I love that the parts of it can be deconstructed into different compartments for kids. We put the rice in one area, the chicken in one area and the sauce in another for dipping.

Another selling point for this meal is that it is ready in legitimately 20-30 minutes from start to finish so its a great call for busy mom’s like me!

If there is one piece of advice I would give for busy working moms who are trying to eat healthy, it would be to GET an INSTANTPOT!! It will save your life and your sanity. Dinner in 15 mnutes, what could be better for a busy working mom?! Plus they are on sale right now on amazon for $69.95 so what are you waiting for??

You can make this dish in the crockpot or the Instant pot and it is so good and so simple! Great for making ahead of time for left overs throughout the work week as well.

I paired it with some white rice with basil and parsley and some broccoli and it was perfect!

Here’s how to make it.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the chicken + sauce:

  • 2 packs organic chicken thighs

  • The cream top from 1 organic full fat coconut milk

  • 2 cloves garlic (shredded)

  • 1 thumb of ginger (peeled and shredded)

  • 1 + 1/4 6 oz cans of tomato paste

  • 1 yellow onion diced

  • 1.5 tbsp garam masala

  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1/2 tsp paprika

  • 2 tbsp ghee (this is the brand I use)

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (to saute)

  • salt and pepper to taste

For the rice:

  • 1 cup white rice

  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

  • 1 tbsp chopped basil

  • 2 tbsp extra olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the rice ahead of time. Add the herbs and oil right on top. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  2. In the instant pot, add the coconut oil and turn on the saute feature. Once heated, add the chicken and saute for 5-7 minutes. Then add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute for a few minutes together with the chicken (about 3 minutes)

  3. Turn the saute feature off. Add all the remaining ingredients (the coconut cream, the tomato paste, the ghee and all the seasonings) for the chicken and combine well. Turn on the pressure cook setting for 15 minutes and seal the instant pot.

  4. While the chicken is cooking, steam your broccoli for 10-15 minutes or until slightly tender.

  5. When chicken is finished, serve it over the rice with some broccoli and enjoy!

Made with love,

-Ashley