Instant pot chicken and artichoke recipe 

Wow. I just made a variation of my friend Erin’s crockpot recipe that she posted, but I did it in my Instant Pot. This dinner was so easy, very fast to prep, and only took 15 minutes on the poultry setting. It was also very light, but the flavor was delicious and very satisfying.  It’s a perfect meal for summer nights when you would rather be outside with the kids than inside cooking dinner.
Feel free to use this as a crockpot recipe like my friend Erin from http://www.erinhopkinshealthandfitness.com does. Or if you have an instant pot and want to make this meal super quick, just do it on the poultry setting for 15 minutes.
My 3.5 year old and 10 month old also enjoyed this meal. For them I served it with pasta. My husband and I enjoyed it over spinach. Either way was delicious.

Let me know what you think about this super yummy, light and healthy instant pot chicken and artichoke recipe!

Ingredients:
1.5 – 2 lb organic chicken thighs
2 cans artichoke hearts in water
3 oz sundried tomatoes
1 onion
1 lemon
Salt, pepper, dried thyme to taste

Method:
Slice the onion. Place slices in instant pot or crock pot.
Place the chicken thighs on top of the onions and season with salt, pepper and thyme to taste (or about 1/4 teaspoon of each).
Top with 2 cans of artichokes (with the liquid), the juice of one lemon, and the sundried tomatoes.
Set the instant pot to the poultry setting for 15 minutes and then do a natural release, or the crockpot high for 4 hours or low for 8-9 hours.

Thanks again to my friend Erin!!  I love getting new recipes from friends who also strive to make healthy and nutrient rich food for their family.  I appreciate it!  And anything I can make in my Instant Pot is always a HUGE plus.  I am so obsessed with that thing!

Instant pot spaghetti and meat sauce 

Like guys. My mind is blown over this instant pot. I am obsessed with it. As a working mom of 2, it is a serious game changer for dinnertime. We make spaghetti and meat sauce or baked ziti a lot in my house. It’s so delicious, quick, and I can keep it healthy and organic when I have control over the ingredients. But one downside is all the dishes. Usually I have to brown the meat in a skillet, then boil pasta in another pot, and drain it in a colander. And if I’m making ziti, I usually bake it in a Pyrex for a while too. That’s a lot of dishes to clean up. I made the most delicious ziti tonight and I only had to clean my stainless steel bowl from the instant pot. Freaking AMAZING. 

Ingredients:
1 lb ground organic turkey or beef 
1 lb organic pasta (I used penne but you could use ziti or whatever you like)
1 25 oz jar organic spaghetti sauce 
25 oz water 
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning 

Method:
Turn the instant pot on sauté mode. Brown your beef with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. 


Once the meat is browned, add the sauce. Then fill up your sauce jar with water and pour that in. 


Then add your pasta and make sure the pasta is all under the liquid. 


Turn the instant pot off and then back on on steam and set the time for 5 minutes. 
After the time is up, do a natural release for 5 minutes and then carefully do a quick release. 

To make this into baked ziti, top each individual bowl with 3 tablespoons of ricotta and 2 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Mix the cheese while the pasta is hot. 

If desired, top with Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes! 

Shopping for clean beauty products 

A friend today asked me about how I find non toxic bath and beauty products. I told her that actually just today I purchased some shampoo, conditioner and mascara. Whenever I shop, I usually look for natural products that don’t have a lot of “toxic junk” that could harm me or my family. So many beauty products are filled with hormone disrupters and carcinogens and I try very hard to keep those out of my home. 
I told her that while I was in the store I googled a couple of the products that I saw with “EWG” after the name of the product. The Environmental Working Group is a non profit organization whose goal is provide information to the public about dangerous toxins in our environment. I depend on them when buying shampoo, lotions, makeup, toothpaste, deodorant, baby lotions, diaper cream, etc.  They break down the ingredients and tell you what could be harmful and how harmful it is on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s so user friendly and has made shopping for my family so much easier for me. 
Today I ended up with these items. Here are the screenshots from my phone so you can see what I saw when I did my quick search. 
If you are just starting out and feeling overwhelmed on how to find healthy products that aren’t toxic or harmful to yourself or your family and friends, I highly recommend that you use EWG as a resource.  

21 Day Fix Baked Ziti 

One thing I really love about the 21 Day Fix diet is that you can be creative and eat the things you love. I grew up in an Italian family who loves to cook and eat together. Baked ziti was always a staple. I love making meals like this that allow me to stick to my plan, but also taste delicious and my family doesn’t even notice it’s my “diet food”. 

When I saw that the 21 Day Fix counted ricotta cheese a protein, I was like OMG – quick!!! Get the store immediately so I can make baked ziti!!! I do have the containers, but when I’m cooking I like to just look up the measurements and use measuring cups. 
For this recipe, tomato sauce counts as purple and I used 1 cup. Whole grain pasta counts as yellow and I used 1/2 cup. Ricotta counts as red and I used 2/3 cup. This is a bit much if you don’t really love Ricotta like I do, so feel free to back it off to 1/3 cup and only count it for 1/2 a red container. Lean ground beef counts as red and I used 2/3 cup. You could also use ground turkey, chicken, beef, bison, or venison here. And shredded mozzarella counts as blue and I used 1/4 cup. I also used all organic ingredients. All of these together is one serving and would count as 1 purple, 1 yellow, 2 red and 1 blue. 
You have the option of scooping these ingredients into individual bowls (or Tupperware containers for lunch the next day) or into a larger baking dish and diving up the portions. I like doing it both ways. 

Try this out and let me know what you think! 

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground beef (or other ground meat – very lean, >95%) 

Whole grain pasta – about 1/2 lb

Container of light ricotta cheese

Shredded mozzarella cheese (about a bag)

Method:

1. Brown ground beef with salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried thyme. Set aside to cool off. 

2. Boil pasta according to instructions on the box. Set aside to cool. 

3. Measure your portions into a bowl or larger baking dish. If using a baking dish, duplicate the measurements by 2 or 3. If baking, mix all ingredients together and top with a little mozzarella. 


Tomato sauce – 1 cup (purple)

Whole grain pasta – 1/3 cup (yellow)

Light Ricotta cheese – 2/3 cup (red)

Lean ground beef – 2/3 cup (red)

Shredded mozzarella cheese – 1/4 cup (blue)

4. Microwave your individual bowl to desired temperature (I like 30-45 seconds).  Or if baking, bake at 375 for 20 minutes.


Let me know what you think about this 21 Day Fix friendly baked ziti. 

Fish tacos recipe 

This fish tacos recipe is a super quick and healthy meal that the whole family will enjoy. As a working mom, I am always looking for super easy and fast dinners, but I don’t want to compromise on providing nutrition like vegetables and protein. This was a delicious and light meal which felt summery and was perfect for this random 70 degree day in February!
Also, a couple notes about ingredients…. try and use organic if possible. Organic tortillas can be hard to come by. My local health food store (MOMs organic market has these – both brands I love). Sometimes you’ll have better luck looking in the frozen section. 

But you can also get them at Target!! Their simply balanced brand has organic tortillas. I highly recommend buying organic if you can especially for tortillas because so many brands are full of processed junk and preservatives. You don’t want that in your body. It’s way too hard to break down and will stick to your hips and butt – YUCK. 
Also, try to find wild caught fish too! So many farmed fish these days are fed GMO food. When I think about what I’m putting into my body and my family’s bodies, if we are eating fish I want it to be fish how they are supposed to be – from their natural habitats!
Try this easy fish tacos recipe for a super quick and healthy weeknight dinner. Let me know how you like them! 

Makes about 6 fish tacos. 

Ingredients:
Wild caught cod filets (about 1 lb) 
1/2 head of green or purple cabbage, shredded 
1 bunch cilantro (about 1/4 cup chopped)
1 lime
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 tsp honey 
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, plus more for garnish 
Organic tortillas 
Spice mixture for fish:
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon chili powder 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

Method:
Preheat oven to 400. 
Combine all ingredients for spice mixture in a small bowl and stir. 

Coat boat sides of the fish filets with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the spice mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. 

While the cod is baking, put cabbage and chopped cilantro in a large bowl. 
Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tsp honey and the juice of 1/2 a lime into a small Tupperware container. Shake vigorously and then pour over the cabbage mixture. Season with salt and pepper and mix with tongs. Put the bowl in the fridge for about 10 minutes. 

Give the slaw another toss and the liquid will settle at the bottom in the refrigerator. Assemble your tacos with slaw and cod on your tortillas. Optionally you can top it with some hot sauce if you like a kick. 

Homemade almond butter recipe

This homemade almond butter recipe is INSANELY easy, fast and delicious. I make a batch every week and keep it in the fridge to go on my morning bagel (or sometimes just on a spoon directly into my mouth). My homemade almond butter doesn’t separate like most store bought almond butters do. I absolutely love the consistency and I love being in charge of how much salt goes in the recipe. 

With all of the peanut allergies that are around these days, it’s really nice to have an alternative nut butter on hand and this homemade almond butter recipe is perfect for that. My daughter and son both love this homemade almond butter too so it is definitely kid approved! 

I prefer to buy the almonds already roasted just because it’s a nice time saver, but if you can’t find them or prefer to roast them yourself, that’s always a good option too. I also (as always) use all organic ingredients!  You’ll also need a good quality food processor or blender. 


Ingredients:
12-16 oz unsalted roasted almonds 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Method:
Empty almonds into food processor. Turn on and blend for about 4-5 minutes. 
When the almonds reach a consistency that looks like this, turn it off and scrape down the sides with a small spatula. 

Let the food processor run until you reach the desired consistency. It should take about 2-3 minutes. You are looking for it to be completely smooth and it will have a sheen to it. 

Once you reach the consistency you want, add the salt and vanilla and blend for another 10-15 seconds only. DO NOT OVERBLEND with the vanilla added. It will ruin the consistency. 

Give this a try and let me know what you think! It will only take you 10 minutes or less to make. 

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon and Spinach

This shrimp pasta with lemon and spinach recipe is so easy, fast, and absolutely DELICIOUS. I’ve been making some version of it for the past few weeks at least once a week because it’s so easy and fast, my entire family (toddler and baby included) will eat it, and it’s healthy and sticks to our current diet plan. 

I really love using sautéed shrimp in weeknight recipes because it’s so fast and can take on any flavor you pair with it. Even though lemon, shrimp, and spinach remind me of a summery dinner, I love it because it’s light and we are having a very healthy month since it’s January and we are trying to kick off the new year right! 

I always buy wild caught shrimp because the farmed ones are YUCKY. Trust me, you don’t want to eat what they are feeding the farmed shrimp. Get shrimp from their natural habitat – THE OCEAN. Always keep an eye out for deals on frozen wild caught shrimp. Whenever I see a good sale, I grab a bag or two to keep in my freezer. That way, I can run the shrimp under cold water in my sink for about 5-10 minutes in a colander to thaw them out and dinner is ready in a flash! 

Ingredients:
1 lb wild caught shrimp (if you can find it already peeled and deveined, I usually pay the extra couple bucks for this because with a baby and a toddler – I think it’s worth it!) 

6-8 oz organic pasta of your choice. Lately we have been using a lot of spelt pasta

1 lemon 

3 large handfuls of organic baby spinach 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

Salt, pepper, garlic powder 

Method:

1. Thaw out your shrimp by running cold water over them in a colander in your sink. Or if you’re thinking ahead, thaw them overnight in your refrigerator. Then dry them with paper towels. Season both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder. 

2. Boil water for pasta and cook according to the instructions on the box. 

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes on one side and an additional 1-2 minutes on the other side. When the shrimp start to curl up and become pink, they are done. Transfer cooked shrimp to a bowl and set aside. 

4. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. It’s okay that it’s still dirty from the shrimp. It will all ended up married together later anyway. Add spinach and allow to cook down for about 5 minutes or until it’s all sautéed to the same consistency. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. 

5. In a large bowl or your pasta pot, combine your cooked pasta, cooked shrimp, sautéed spinach, the zest and juice from one lemon, and your last tablespoon of olive oil. Stir together carefully and check for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper and garlic powder if needed. Your shrimp pasta dinner is coming together!

I have been experimenting with all different kinds of pasta lately. We loved this spelt penne too:

 

If you have any other ideas for quick weeknight dinners, please share in the comments below!  Also, try out this shrimp pasta with lemon and spinach recipe and let me know what you think.

Vegan buttercream frosting 

Now that the holidays are over and I’m on a sugar detox, of course I’m dreaming of all the yummy things I ate the past month. These delicious (toddler decorated) Christmas Cookies and this birthday cake come to mind…. as I snack on these baby carrots. I made a vegan buttercream frosting on both that was just divine. 

One of my best friends, a self proclaimed meat eating vegan, has given up dairy and eggs this year to continue breastfeeding her son who has severe food allergies.  We celebrated her baby’s first birthday and had a Toddler Christmas Cookie decorating party in December. And since that sweet little boy is one of my favorite kids on earth, I made sure the toddler cookie party was completely vegan friendly. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, but my friend called me after the party and said she was so incredibly thankful that everything was vegan friendly because there was no other cookie party on earth she could have gone to and not had to worry about what crumbs her 1 year old was finding on the floor.  

For the sugar cookies I used the Minimalist Baker’s sugar cookies recipe and they honestly turned out AMAZING. The binder in them is puréed pumpkin and I was so impressed with how they turned out. 

For both the sugar cookies and the birthday cake, this is the butter cream recipe I used. Earth balance vegan buttery baking sticks worked like a charm and everything tasted delicious. Like so delicious that people didn’t know it was all vegan until we told them. And no one missed the dairy or eggs! Try it out and and let me know what you think. 

Vegan Buttercream Frosting
Easy vegan buttercream frosting that can be used to decorate cakes or cookies.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup softened Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks (leave them out on the counter overnight)
  2. 3 cups powdered sugar
  3. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  4. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 3 tablespoons rice milk (or any other milk alternative you prefer - almond, coconut, hemp, flax, etc)
Instructions
  1. Beat softened "butter" in your stand mixer at medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes until creamed.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and start the mixer on low speed and then gradually move up to medium speed as it incorporates in.
  3. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer off. Add the vanilla, salt and milk in the bowl. Then then the mixer back to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. These measurements have always worked for me, but if your frosting seems too thick, add a little more milk. If it seems too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
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Vegan buttercream frosting
Ingredients:

1 cup softened Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks (leave them out on the counter overnight) 

3 cups powdered sugar 

1/4 teaspoon sea salt 

2 tsp vanilla extract 

3 tablespoons rice milk (or any other milk alternative you prefer – almond, coconut, hemp, flax, etc) 
Method:
1. Beat softened “butter” in your stand mixer at medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes until creamed. 

2. Add the powdered sugar and start the mixer on low speed and then gradually move up to medium speed as it incorporates in. 

3. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer off. Add the vanilla, salt and milk in the bowl. Then then the mixer back to medium and beat for 3 minutes. 

4. These measurements have always worked for me, but if your frosting seems too thick, add a little more milk. If it seems too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. 

Soft Boiled Eggs

My best friend Natalie and her sister Melissa introduced me to prepping soft boiled eggs for the week. For the last several months, the three of us always send snaps of our SBE’s (soft boiled eggs) to each other on snapchat. Yes, we are tools. But they are soooooo good!!! My husband and 3 year old love them too. I make a big batch of them on Sunday night and then we have them ready to go in the mornings for breakfast. 

I go through phases with eggs. I think because I avoided runny eggs when I was pregnant, now I am making up for lost time. Sometimes I love them, sometimes not so much. I’ve been in love with these SBE’s lately and I love that it’s a super convenient source of protein for my family. Also my 3 year old loves peeling them. Actually it’s a big problem if I try to peel it for her. Three year olds are very calm and rational people. 

Side note – did you know that super healthy chickens that eat organic and frolic around in the sun have SUPER yellow yolks? I’ve gotten some from local farms where the yolks are so yellow it’s almost orange. I LOVE IT. Honestly since I started eating almost all organic, conventional eggs taste and look gross to me. If you haven’t tried them yet, do yourself a favor!! I really think it makes a difference. 

Ingredients:

Organic eggs – from a local farm if you can! You can use any amount that you need. It just depends how many will fit in your pot. 

Method:

1. Boil a pot of water. 

2. When it is already boiling, with a large spoon, carefully cradle the eggs into the pot with the spoon. 

3. Set a timer for 8-9 minutes. 8 minutes is about the perfect SBE. I usually do 9 minutes if sharing with my toddler. 

4. While the eggs are boiling, prepare an ice bath. Put about 10 ice cubes into a large bowl and fill with cold water. 

5. When your timer is up, carefully spoon the eggs into the ice bath. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes or until cool. 

6. Dry the eggs off with paper towels. They will stay fresh in your fridge for about a week. I like to pack 2 in sandwich bags to grab easily for breakfast during the week. 

Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies are my absolute favorite Christmas cookie. They are slightly spicy from the ground ginger, warm from the cinnamon and cloves and they are SOFT. They are super easy to make and they are very fast. You could easily make these in about 20 or 30 minutes start to finish. 

These molasses cookies are also great for kids since they are so soft. I actually brought these in for my daughter’s birthday treat at her preschool because the teacher told me that they all just lick the icing off of cupcakes anyway – ha! The kids LOVED them! 

I also like to use blackstrap molasses which has lots of vitamins and nutrients from the sugar cane plant that are lost in the process of making sugar. Actually when my daughter was anemic, I used to give her a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses every morning to boost her iron. 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup melted butter 

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1 egg

1 cup brown sugar 

2 1/4 cup flour

2 tsp baking soda 

1/2 tsp kosher salt 

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger 

1 tsp cloves 

3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar 

(Use all organic ingredients if possible!)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. 

2. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and blackstrap molasses. 


3. Add in flour, baking soda, and spices. Mix well. You’ll end up with a really smooth brown dough. 



4. Put your granulated sugar in a separate bowl so you can roll the cookies in it before baking. 


5. Form small (about 1 or 1.5 inch) balls and roll them in the sugar before putting them on the cookie sheet. 


6. Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool completely before moving the cookies. They come out looking like this. 

These are what Santa will be getting this year!! Hope he likes them!