Cooking, Family

8 Dairy-Free ( & Toddler-Approved) Snacks

Happy first day of SUMMER!  Can you believe we’re already halfway through the year?!

I wanted to talk about something I feel parents are always looking for: new healthy snacks.

Ben is ALL about snacks… He’s his Mama’s boy, for sure!

Several times a day, he asks for “snaaaaaacks!” and will proceed to hand me anything that can hold some treats– cups, bowls, even building blocks turned upside down.  My boy sees opportunity in anything!  He isn’t picky at all, and his only request is for a food he can feed himself.  He’s already so independent in that way.

Ben’s happiest when food is involved!

I, on the other hand, am a little pickier when it comes to what he eats.  He still doesn’t handle dairy very well, so his snacks must be dairy-free– NOT an easy task in the land of convenient toddler snacks of cheese crackers and yogurt bites.  I prefer for him to have snacks low in sugar (but still allow him to have an occasional treat, of course), the more natural, the better, and convenience is definitely a plus!

I’ve made a list of my 8 favorite dairy-free (& toddler-approved) snacks that will hopefully inspire you with some new healthy ideas for if your kids are as snack-obsessed as mine is!

  1. Fresh fruit will always be first on my list.  Not only does Ben love them, but fruits like clementines/oranges, watermelon, and bananas are inexpensive, full of nutrition, and are a quick grab-and-go, all-natural treat. Image result for fresh fruit
  2. Dairy-free yogurt is a newer one on our go-to snacks, but now that I know how much Ben loves them, I try to always keep a few in the fridge.  They are a wonderful source of protein and are becoming more popular all the time, so the variety of choices is becoming greater.  Our favorites are the SO Delicious CoconutMilk flavors!Image result for so delicious dairy free yogurt
  3. Kirkland Signature Organic Animal Crackers were among the first things we purchased with our new Costco Membership. They come in a gigantic container (seriously, it’s huge!), which means we run out less often.  I usually throw a handful in a container for my purse or car, and Ben loves that they’re just the right size for his little hands.  You can also purchase them on Amazon if you aren’t a Costco cardholder.Image result for kirkland organic animal crackers
  4. Oyster Crackers are also always in our cabinet as a convenient grab-and-go snack.  They’re filling, and the Savoritz brand I buy at Aldi are inexpensive ($.79/ 10 oz bag) and have the smallest list of ingredients I’ve seen in any oyster crackers. Image result for savoritz oyster crackers
  5. Organic Raisins are Ben’s current most-requested snack lately.  He’s been going through so many that I’ve started purchasing them at Costco, too (but can again be found on Amazon)!  Since grapes are on the dirty dozen list, we feel better buying these organically.  Image result for sun maid organic raisins
  6. rX Kids Bars are a little more of a splurge snack, but Brandon and I love knowing exactly what’s in them and being able to count the list of ingredients on one hand.  Ben thinks they’re delicious and loves being able to feed them to himself. Image result for rx kids bars
  7. Aldi’s Little Journey Organics Pouches are the best! What kid doesn’t love a pouch, and what parent doesn’t love the convenience of squeezable organic fruits and veggies?!  These are great to keep Ben from having a hangry meltdown when we are at a restaurant waiting for our food.  When he was younger, we would squeeze them out on a spoon for him, but now he loves being able to drink them himself.  They are a fantastic deal and have a variety of flavors without added nonsense. Image result for little journey organic pouches
  8. Chex Cereal was always a favorite of mine as a kid (heck, I still love them!), and Ben loves them now. We can pour a few into a cup or bowl and they are a great size for a handheld snack.  Image result for chex cerealI hope this list will help you out of perhaps a boring snack slump.  My son and I approve of them, so I’m sure you and yours will too!  Do you have any dairy-free snack ideas your family loves?  We are always looking to try new things!  Have a great week, everyone! 
Cooking, Family, Health

My Favorite Dairy-Free Snacks (& treats)

Happy Monday!

Brandon left for a work trip early this morning, which leaves me at home in chilly January with a wild little toddler!  We wanted to go with him, but since he was only going to be gone for 5 days, spending the money on a flight, rental car, and to board our dog didn’t make sense.  We are a little sad, but trying to make the most of it!

Saturday, I went to my mailbox to find a care package from a lady I met a few weeks ago.  She was asking if anyone had any extra breastmilk they would be able to donate for her twin granddaughters coming into town from out of state for the holidays.  I am very thankful to be able to produce enough milk for Ben plus enough for our freezer, in case of emergencies.  As our breastfeeding journey continues, I haven’t needed to dip into the stash very much (and he prefers getting his milk from the tap!), so I’ve been able to give it to (now) 4 babies that also need it.  It brings me so much joy to be able to do so.  Anyway, this care package was unexpected, but included a kind thank you note, a photo of the adorable little babies, and a roller of an essential oil mix that she called, “Happy Mama”.  It smells so pretty and I’ve been using it to help me relax while he is gone.  It really does make me feel calmer, and knowing how much they appreciated my milk makes my heart smile so big!  I love nothing more than unexpectedly showing true gratitude.  I could tell she genuinely appreciated the gift when she came to pick it up, but this gesture went above and beyond, making my whole week.

Today is a rainy one, so we have decided to stay in our jammies and spend lots of time snuggling while Dad is gone.  Ben takes after me in his love of snacks, which I’ve stocked up on for this week!  Dairy unfortunately upsets Ben’s belly, so we have cut out snacks and treats with butter, milk, and cheese from both of our diets, since it travels through my breastmilk to him. It was a little tough to remove dairy from my life.  I’ve ALWAYS enjoyed milk, cheesy/buttery meals, ice cream, yogurt, and milk chocolate.  You don’t realize how many things contain dairy until you start looking at labels.  The good news is that it has gotten significantly easier.  I have found so many dairy-free and vegan treats that I have found to taste similar, or even better, to their COWnterparts (get it?).  Since so many people I know have babies with sensitivities like Ben, or are realizing the adverse effects of dairy and are adapting to the dairy-free lifestyle like me, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my favorite snacks and treats that contain zero dairy (and SOY)!

SNACKS

  • LÄRABAR has been a favorite of mine since before Ben came around!  They have over 20 flavors with minimal ingredients, are all natural, and are individually packaged, making them super convenient for diaper bags and purses.  I always have one with me!

Image result for larabar

  • Nuts are another great, natural treat.  My husband’s favorite are the mixed assorted nuts from Aldi.  They are perfectly salted and contain lots of healthy fats and some protein.  I keep a little container of them in my car while I’m running errands so my hunger doesn’t get the best of me and lead to bad decisions (I see you, Chick Fil-A!).

Specially Selected Deluxe Mixed Nuts with Sea Salt

  • Apples seem like such an obvious choice, but I have a new appreciation for an organic apple, sliced, with a little peanut butter.  Sometimes, I’ll put the slices on a plate, sprinkle them with cinnamon, and will warm them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.  It tastes so much like apple pie without all the added sugar!  Bonus: Ben loves them too!
  • I came across THESE Maple Walnut & Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins from Healthy Life Redesign when I was looking for a healthy snack for our vacation last summer.  I made them for hiking snacks, and Brandon and I devoured them all!  They are totally amazing and provided us with a lot of much-needed energy to hike with our 6 month old in the mountains along The Blue Ridge Parkway, and didn’t come with any guilt or a sugary crash later on.  I’ve made them several times sense, and they never last long!

 

TREATS

  • Theo Peanut Butter Cups are my newest obsession!  Reeses are made with milk chocolate and lots of added chemicals I don’t want to consume.  These guys are organic, vegan, fair trade, and are shaped like hearts (which I’m totally convinced makes ANYTHING taste better!).  They are the perfect treat without being too indulgent.

Image result for theo peanut butter cups

  • SO Delicious Dairy Free Bars are also so incredible.  It’s so difficult to find a treat to satisfy my sweet tooth that doesn’t taste really coconut-ty or contain dairy or soy.  For the times you want to totally indulge, these are perfect and creamy.  SO Delicious has several flavors of treats I can’t wait to try, but these double chocolate ones are my favorite!

Double Chocolate Delight

  • “Nice Cream” is what I call the dairy free ice cream I make at home that is so healthy and yummy!  I peel a few ripe bananas (the more ripe they are, the sweeter they will be), break them into 3 or 4 pieces each, and pop them in the freezer.  When you are ready for a treat, take them out of the freezer, put them in your blender or food processor (I have a Ninja chopper that does a perfect job), add a little almond or cashew milk, and blend!  I’ve also made this with cocoa powder and peanut butter powder to make different flavors, depending on my mood, but it’s so good as is.  My picky husband wasn’t sure he’d like it, but when I gave him a bite of mine one day, he ended up finishing the whole bowl!
  • Chocolate chip cookies are one of my all-time favorites.  But with all the butter in the usual recipe, I can no longer enjoy them like I’d like.  I found THIS recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron on Pinterest and have made them many times.  Not only are they dairy and soy free, but they are gluten free and low in sugar, as well.  No funky chemicals here.  When made with dairy-free chocolate chips like Enjoy Life brand, you can enjoy a few after dinner without the guilt!  I’ve made them as stated and also as double chocolate by omitting the cinnamon and adding cocoa powder.

I’m always looking for healthy and yummy treats for Ben and I to enjoy.  Do you have any favorites I should try?  I’d love to hear what you think about these ones!

Cooking

Awesome, Easy French Onion Soup

I have some fantastic co-workers with some fantastic ideas.

This is definitely one of them.

At a soup potluck, someone brought in French Onion Soup in a Crock Pot.  I like French Onion Soup, but it is usually not my first choice.  Restaurants usually make it too salty, with not very much flavor.  No, thank you!

One bite of this and I was hooked.  I had to have the recipe.  I never would have guessed it would be so EASY.  Seriously!  I love making it on Sundays before the football game.  It is cozy and makes as much or as little as you want it to, and by keeping it warm in the Crock Pot, you can keep going back for more and more.

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 Onions
  • 1-2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 container of Beef Broth (you could use the beef cubes, but this is much faster and simpler)
  • Ground Pepper (optional)
  • Croutons
  • Mozzerella or Provolone Cheese
  1. Cut onions into large slices. 
  2. Sautee in heated butter on medium heat until soft and golden.  This is where you could add the pepper, if you would like.French Onion Soup
  3. Add sauteed onions to Crock Pot and pour beef broth over.  Heat on low for 2-4 hours or high for 1-2 hours.
  4. To serve, scoop soup into oven-safe bowl.  Add croutons to top and cover with slice of cheese.  Heat in broiler until hot and bubbly.
  5. Enjoy!

This is a great recipe for holidays, get-togethers, pot lucks, and game days.  What is your favorite large group recipe?

Happy December!

 

♡e.pospisil

Cooking

Brilliant New Pumpkin Cupcake Recipe

It’s ALMOST Halloween!

Brandon, Jackson & I are going to a costume party tonight and we can’t wait.  We are going to dress up as zombies!  (I will be posting about super cheap, easy, and really fun DIY costumes later.  Wait until you see them!)

Like most of you, I have been really feeling pumpkin-y since the start of September.  This craze has inspired me to try some new creative recipes, such as the pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin spiced cream cheese frosting that I made last night! 

I found the recipe on Pinterest (of course), posted by Skinny Taste (gina’s recipes) and the pretty picture caught my eye.  Once I read the recipe and instructions, I couldn’t believe you didn’t need ANY eggs or oil!  It sounded not only delicious, but slightly more healthy than the cupcakes I usually make.

To make the cake, I used a box of yellow cake mix, slightly less than 1 cup of pumpkin puree, water, and pumpkin pie spice.  Yes, that’s it.  Once mixed for about 2 minutes, the batter was full of moisture and fluff.  I filled some adorable pumpkin cupcake liners 2/3 full and popped them in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350* F.

While the cupcakes were baking, I started making my frosting.  For some reason, cream cheese frosting is always so much better to me.  We even used it on our wedding cake, and it was delicious.  To make it, I whipped an 8oz block of cream cheese with pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  After whipping it up, I got the brilliant idea to add a teensy bit of powdered sugar.  It was a good choice.

I took the beautiful cupcakes out of the oven and let them cool.  I couldn’t wait to frost them (I am reallllly impatient when sweets are involved), so I set them outside (where it was the coldest night we have had in Ohio yet this year) and brought them in after about 3 minutes.  I generously added the cream cheese mix to the top of each one, added the clear sprinkles for some shimmer, and a dash more of pumpkin pie spice.  Here is how they turned out:

 

 

cupcakes

 

cupcake

 

I can’t wait to take them to the party tonight!  I think they will be a hit, along with the pumpkin roll I made with the leftover pumpkin puree I had!  I was able to make 18 cupcakes.  (It would have made more, had we not eaten so much batter.  Mmmmm!  It was egg-less!  Not sorry! (:  )Try it out for your next get-together, family dinner, or just-because baking day, and let me know how they turned out!

Cooking

Favorite Weeknight Dinners

I have always loved to cook.  I had my own little studio apartment in 2011, and I was so excited to have my own kitchen.  I loved experimenting with new foods and recipes, but between school and work, I was never home.   And when I was home, Ramen, cereal, or Taco Bell sounded good and was easy with little clean-up, since I had no one I had to impress.

When Brandon and I started living together last September, I had someone to cook for.  We love cooking together and have been trying new recipes– and those handed down to us– ever since.  Brandon is a great critic.  He can taste something and instantly know what it needs more/less of to make it taste perfect. This has helped to modify our favorite recipes to help them taste better, make them healthier, or both.

Our very favorite recipes, I have found, are the simplest ones that are made up of mostly ingredients we keep around the house.  (Oh, and ones with cheese.  Those never fail.)

I have put together a list of five of our favorite recipes, most of which I have found on Pinterest, with the links for you to view them.  These are the ones we go to frequently when making our weekly menus.  They are BRILLIANT, easy, cheap, and delicious.  You will notice that many of the recipes I will post are Crockpot recipes.  As a busy lady, I LOVE my slow cookers.  I have 2, and they are the reason we are able to eat so healthy and cheap, as compared to grabbing takeout or pizza on the nights we are busy.  (We still do that occasionally, but not nearly as often.)  If you don’t have a slow cooker, I highly, highly recommend one!  (More on that in a future post.)

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

CrockPot Corn Chowder

Spaghetti Bread

Tuna Noodle casserole

Cheesy Chicken Pasta

I challenge you to try one of these each weeknight this week.  They will ALL leave you with happy bellies and plenty of leftovers for lunches.  Also, make sure to check out the other recipes on these blogs/websites.  I’d love to hear what you think of these, so leave me a comment!

What’s for dinner at your house tonight?

♡e.pospisil