Homemade Mac n Cheese

Kids and picky eaters can be tricky to please from our home kitchens, and they don’t always get as excited about nutritious dinners as we moms do! This super-easy homemade mac n cheese side dish will please both mom and picky eaters, and you'll do it in only 15 minutes!

It happens to be a lot of grownup’s favorite side dish too. In our house, we enjoy this side with fish entrees, chicken fingers and meatloaf.  

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How to make it:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 box whole wheat elbow or gluten-free elbow noodles
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4-6 oz shredded cheese

Instructions

1. Saute the uncooked noodles in a drizzle of oil for about 2-3 minutes, stirring to avoid burning them. (This step is optional, and gives the noodles more of a "crispy" texture once cooked, rather than mushy.)

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2. Boil the noodles in several cups of water in medium saucepan over medium heat until just done (takes about 8 minutes.)

3. Drain noodles in strainer, add them back into the saucepan.

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4. Over low heat, stir in shredded cheese, almond milk, butter and olive oil.

5. Continue stirring until just melted, then remove from heat and serve immediately.

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For those of you curious about the other dish pictured here with our Homemade Mac n Cheese recipe...it's Coach Bess's Salmon and Quinoa Patties. Just click here for that recipe!

Orange Chutney Chicken Cutlets Recipe & How-To

With a fancy name like “Orange Chutney Chicken” one might mistakenly guess that this simple chicken cutlets recipe is too complicated or stressful to prepare.  

Be assured, it’s as easy as 1-2-3! 

For even quicker prep, prepare the cutlets ahead of time, or use a commercially baked chicken. This delicious dinner is a wonderful dish that the whole family will enjoy, and ask for again!

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Here's how to make it:

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/4 cup chutney (or same amount orange marmalade)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange, segmented
  • 8-12 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, pre-baked plain or with panko coating in the oven at 375-400 degrees for 8-10 minutes
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Instructions

1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the sliced garlic cloves and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring for 30 seconds more.

3. Add in the chutney and orange juice, cooking until melted.

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4. Gently stir in the segmented orange and remove from heat.

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5. Serve the sauce drizzled over the chicken cutlets, over a bed of brown rice or pasta, or a FRESH Salad.

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This dish is another piece of  proof that comfort-food dinners CAN BE made healthy! They are good-for-you and can be made over, just switching out a couple ingredients as items from the old favorites aren't always the best.

Follow along with us as we introduce many new dishes on this blog - to help you keep comfort food on your family’s dinner table! It’ll just be the nutritiously delicious kind!

Members of the FRESH Start Online Community get recipes, cooking tips, support & more!

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Healthy Fried Chicken Tenders {Picky-Eater Approved!}

What mom isn't looking for the perfect “picky-eater-proof" recipe for a fresh and easy dinner?

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This is the topic of discussion OFTEN in our {FREE} FRESH Start Online Community as we help each other find solutions daily! This recipe is a life-saver & so EASY - takes just a couple ingredients and only 20-30 minutes to prepare, start to finish.

This Healthy "Fried" Panko Chicken recipe can also be cooked ahead of time, refrigerated for up to a couple days, and reheated (or even served chopped cold!) for a great-tasting quick dinner solution the picky eaters in our lives will actually LOVE and eat!

Here's how to make Healthy Fried Chicken Tenders for your family!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenderloins (or handcut tenders)
  • 1 package (about 1.5 - 2 cups or so) of panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • salt and cracked pepper
  • olive oil

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil.

3. Place the panko breadcrumbs in one shallow dish, stirring in the Italian seasoning, and pour the almond milk in another shallow dish.

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4. Set a medium fry pan on medium-high heat and thinly drizzle olive oil over the pan.

5. Once oil is heated, begin dredging the chicken tenders in the almond milk, then immediately in the breadcrumbs. Shake off any excess crumbs from the tenders, then place carefully in the hot pan.

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6. “Fry” the tenders for only 1-2 minutes per side, then place them on foil-lined baking pan.

7. Once all tenders are “fried” crispy (they won’t be cooked through, this step is to give them the “fried” taste only!) place the pan into the pre-heated oven.

8. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through. (Time will vary with difference in ovens.)

9 Once cooked, serve plain or with low-sugar or homemade dipping sauces, and alongside ANY veggie dish!

Nutrition NoteBy using almond milk, we've eliminated dairy in this recipe. This healthy fried chicken recipe can EASILY be adapted to be gluten free as well by using gluten free crumbs.

Notes

*~*FRESH Prep Tip*~* This dish also works as a great protein center to pre-bake, then refrigerate and use later in the week over salads, in pasta dishes or served with creative and tasty sauce combinations, like in our Orange Chicken Chutney recipe OR our popular Spinach Chicken Parmesan recipe

After you've added this recipe to your repertoire, let us know how you use it…as a piece of a delicious and simple meal, or served alongside tasty FRESH sides. We’d love to hear your ideas!

What do you think?

Does this healthy fried chicken recipe sound kid and picky-eater approved to you?

Remember, you can very easily make up a double batch and refrigerate this healthy version of fried chicken pieces for future dinners too. Batching cook or prep-cooking is one of the favorite tools of cook-at-home healthy-minded folks. 

In our {FREE} Community we often share tips and strategies for getting through our super busy lives with our sanity intact WHILE ALSO meeting our healthy-living goals. There is a big difference between struggling alone and having a winning team on your side!

Join our growing, vibrant, encouraging exclusive and FREE group today!

Chicken N' Avocado Bagel Sandwich

Are you tired of trying to figure out what to have for a quick meal?  Why not make it super simple?  

Here is a bagel sandwich loaded with protein that you can make for your family when they need a nutritious dinner in a hurry! 

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Combine it with some tortilla chips and a  salsa or hummus dip from our selection here and you will have a complete meal in minutes.  

Here's how to make this easy sandwich!

Ingredients

  • Leftover grilled chicken breast pieces
  • Alfalfa sprouts or any other microgreens
  • Avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Whipped cream cheese
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Whole wheat bagel (toasted if you prefer - we use mini-bagels to keep carb/calorie count lower!)

Instructions

  1. Spread whipped cream cheese on bagel.
     
  2. Add the chicken breast, 2-3 avocado slices, red onion strands, and microgreens.
     
  3. Filling, rich in protein, fiber, and nutrients – this sandwich is a winner every time!
     
  4. Just multiply these ingredients for the amount of sandwiches you desire to make.
     

Nutrition Information:  One cup of chicken has 231 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 43 grams of protein.  It's low in sodium and is a good source of B6, phosphorus, niacin, and selenium.

Chicken & Spinach Melt Recipe

This healthy version of a classic favorite will have your family asking for more! 

It's a great balanced meal served with either gluten-free or whole grain pasta, (or with spaghetti squash, like in this pic!) It's filling with or without more sides.

Chicken & Spinach Melt Recipe 

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How To Make IT:

Ingredients:

•    8 small chicken breast (boneless, skinless) cutlets
•    1 cup Panko bread crumbs
•    1/4 cup olive or canola oil
•    1/2 cup homemade marinara sauce (recipe here!)
•    2 cups baby spinach
•    1/4 - 1/2 cup grated or sliced soft mozzarella or real Parmesan cheese

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Instructions:

  1. Coat the chicken cutlets in the bread crumbs, pressing the chicken gently into the crumbs to help them stick to the breast. 
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  3. Place the breaded cutlets into the hot oil, and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to rest. (Or save time by using pre-made cutlets from this recipe.)
  4. Spread 1/2 the homemade marinara over the bottom of a lasagna dish, and top with the cooked cutlets.  Place the spinach over the chicken, and the rest of the marinara over that. 
  5. Then top the dish with the cheese.  Broil for 3-4 minutes on high, or until the cheese begins to brown.
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Try this simple, affordable 20-minute recipe, then let me know what your family thinks of it in the comments below! 

You can always post your healthy cooking questions or suggestions in our free online community as well!!!  Come join the lively, ongoing conversation!

Easy, Healthy Vegetable Side Dishes You Can Cook

Do you ever find yourself perusing the fresh foods section of the grocery store, wondering what the heck you’re to do with all those great-looking veggies? 

You know you are supposed to eat more of them, you hear about the benefits to that all the time, but just don’t know how to fix them?

Today, I’m going to give you a few ideas on how to make easy and fast veggie sides for dinner.  No, not the pop-in-the-micro kind!  Those can be a great backup plan, but let’s explore these dishes and let you decide which ones sound truly delicious to you!

Here are a few ideas to try

Greens Made Easy

Cooking greens used to intimidate me, but after a couple practice tries, this dish is now a constant go-to in this house! 

Besides being rich with benefits, like iron, antioxidants, and minerals, collard greens are also very tasty and filling. I even get a couple of the kids to dig into this one!

How to make them:

Ingredients:  

  • 1 head collard greens,
  • half fresh lemon, squeezed over the greens
  • ready-made real bacon bits
  • ¼ sweet onion, diced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Slice up the greens in thin ribbons of about ½ inch thick, and 3-4 inches long, set aside. 
  2. Place large sauté pan or wok over medium to high heat, add oil to pan.
  3. Add onions, garlic to hot oil, sauté for about a minute.
  4. Add in the greens and bacon bits, allowing the greens to wilt for about 2 minutes. 
  5. Squeeze the fresh lemon over the wilted greens, stir one or two more times, remove from heat. Serve!

Sweet Potato “Fries”

A favorite at our place, and we were so glad to discover that sweet potatoes are a super-food, packed with many healthy benefits! 

Carotene (which is Vitamin A and gives the potato it’s orange color), and minerals like magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron give this great-tasting treat it’s superpower! 

We love it many ways, but the oven-roasted “fries” are a fave of the pickier eaters around our place!

Ingredients:  

  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes, sliced into thin strips (1/4 inch by 2-3 inches)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Himalayan pink salt (or ANY salt to your taste)
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Instructions: 

  1. Roll the fries in the olive oil until coated gently
  2. Salt and pepper them, then roast at a high heat (375-425 degrees, depending on your oven) for about 10-15 minutes, or until crispy and done. 

    Too easy, too delicious, very healthy as a side dish or snack!

Black Bean & Sweet Corn Salsa

Over time, corn (esp sweet corn!) has gotten a bad rap in the health-eating industry ... but you may be happy to know, it is STILL healthy (as is most every other God-made food!)

Because it is a veggie higher in sugar content, it is better to eat it it in small amounts.  We mainly enjoy corn as one ingredient in a dish instead of the main dish.

Corn contains many health benefits for your body, like lutein (which fights macular degeneration in our eyes!) as well as several vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and phospherous.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sweet corn (you can use frozen, just allow it to thaw)
  • 1 can rinsed and drained black beans
  • ¼ sweet onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp Italian dressing OR 2 fresh limes, squeezed & stirred into mixture

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Refrigerate for two hours or more before serving for flavors to mix and blend.

Hopefully you are encouraged now to try these yummy, easy and yes, healthy dishes in your own kitchen. 

Healthy veggies sides can (and should!) be vibrant, easy and enjoyed by the whole family!  Let me know what you think of these helpful ideas in the comments below.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread Recipe

If you love banana bread as much as I do, but worry about if it's good for you, worry no more! It's full of nutrition when it's made right, and I've got the perfect recipe for you that you're entire family will love!

This recipe is made with HALF the sugar, with whole wheat flour, and you can't even taste the difference! If you feel the recipe is too heavy, it may need more moisture to lighten it up a bit.  In this case, use 1 extra banana, or 1/4 cup canola oil, or 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce. Try this healthier take on a family favorite (this recipe suggests making muffins out of it) and let us know what you think!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread Recipe

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How To Make IT:

Ingredients

•    1 cup whole wheat flour
•    1 tsp baking soda
•    1/2 tsp salt
•    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
•    2 eggs
•    1/2 cup sugar
•    1/2 tsp vanilla
•    3 ripe bananas

Instructions

  1. Sift flours, soda and salt in medium bowl, set aside. 
  2. Whisk eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, set aside. 
  3. Prepare a muffin pan OR bread pan while the oven is preheating to 350 degrees.  You can spray the pan with an oil spray, or just use paper muffin cups.
  4. In another medium bowl, mash the bananas well, then set them aside. 
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Combine the egg mix with the sugar and butter mixture, and stir together. 
  6. Add the bananas, stir. Finally, add the flour mixture and stir it all together.
  7. Place the mixture evenly in a 4-5 mini bread pans OR a full-size pan OR 12-count regular muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are done.  Yummy!

This recipe makes such a great make-ahead dish, and freezes easily. Just remove from freezer when you're ready to eat. You can either microwave to make them warm again, or just let them thaw to room temp. 

Either way, I guarantee this will be a new family favorite!

What's your favorite quick bread to make for your family? 

Vegetable Detox Broth Recipe

Detoxifying your body is a simple process, one that your body does naturally and does well! IF it's given the necessary ingredients to do it! Just drinking enough water (and lemon water in the morning) is a detoxing and naturally purifying habit!

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It is NOT necessary to include deprivation or "juice-only" plans to cleanse your body.

Along with targeted supplements, and eating the clean, wholesome foods God gave us, you can properly detoxify your organs, gut and entire immune system.

I provide much more information on how to do this in my coaching, but you can also find much more on this topic from Dr. Mark Hyman at his website and in his books.

ONE WAY TO DETOXIFY is TO remove offensive, sludge-building "foods" from your diet

...and feed yourself plenty of vegetables, fibrous foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats instead.

This broth recipe is only one way of many to add in the rich nutrients from those foods, and provides an easy "to-go" way to do that. Make the whole recipe, then let it set to room temp. After it has cooled, refrigerate in a closed container and reheat each serving to just warm before drinking.

{This broth recipe is from Coach Bess' detoxification program, but makes a nutritious, power-packed addition to any dietary plan. It alkalizes the system, making it easier to detoxify, lose weight, and feel great!}

Enjoy 1-2 cups of this broth daily for optimal results. 

Ingredients

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 sliced carrots
  • 1 cup of daikon or white radish root and tops*
  • 1 cup of winter squash cut into large cubes (i.e. butternut, acorn, etc.)
  • 1 cup of root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, rutabagas)
  • 2 cups chopped greens (kale, parsley, collard, mustard, cilantro, chard, etc.)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1/2 cup seaweed* (nori, dulse, wakame, kelp, or kombu)
  • 1/2 cup cabbage
  • 4 - 1/2 inch slices of peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of whole garlic (not crushed or chopped)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • {If available, you can add dried shiitake or maitake mushrooms - powerful immune boosters}

    *This item is not necessary, but is a plus if you can find it! If it is difficult to find any of these items at the store, just make the broth with the items you can find – it is best to include the garlic, ginger, and greens every time you make it!

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients at once, and place pot on low boil for approx 60 minutes – could take a little longer. (Or put it all in the crock pot and forget it for a couple to few hours!)
  • Simply continue to boil to taste.
  • Cool, then strain out the veggies, and toss them.
  • Keep the broth in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge.
  • Heat broth gently and drink at least 1-2 cups a day.     

 

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps {Just Like the Restaurants!}

Hubby and I are cheap-skates when we go out to eat ... we're always on the lookout for deals and steals for our date nights! So we were thrilled when we discovered happy hour for appetizers and small plates at a local restaurant (with food we actually enjoyed!) ... and even more ecstatic when I figured out how to duplicate this dripping-with-flavor dish at home!

A few alterations later, we created this beautiful dish...

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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Here's how to make it!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup teriyaki sauce (make homemade or use low-sodium version)

  • 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy is our fave choice!)

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled & finely grated or minced

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground chicken (I use the mild Italian one in grocery store - you can also use ground turkey)

  • 1/2 cup green onion, diced

  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained and finely minced

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)

  • 1/2 block firm tofu, drained & briefly seared, then diced into small pieces

  • 1/2 cup fresh Baby Bella mushrooms, roughly diced

  • 1 head living or butter lettuce

Garnish:

  • Shredded purple cabbage

  • Diced green onions

  • Shredded fresh organic carrots

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in bowl, whisk together and set to the side.

  2. In a large, deep, skillet over medium heat, brown ground chicken in tsp oil. Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and drain. Set aside for now.

  3. Using the same skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, water chestnuts, pine nuts, tofu and mushrooms together and saute for about 2 minutes.

  4. Add the chicken back in, and pour ½ the sauce mixture over the meat and vegetables. Cook all of it together, uncovered, for about 3 or 4 minutes.

  5. Serve the mixture in the “lettuce cups” and garnish with the shredded fresh veggies.

  6. Use the remainder of the sauce as a dipping sauce,  or to drizzle to taste over the lettuce cups!

 

What about you friend? What restaurant favorite have you enjoyed and then tweaked in your own kitchen at home? Tell us about it HERE, and maybe we'll feature it (and YOU!) on this blog! 
 

This recipe was originally found on Favorite Family Recipes (www.favfamilyrecipes.com) and changed in a few ways to reflect the FRESH Start-style!

Jicama Slaw

Looking for a healthy side dish for that next gathering (to replace a maybe-not-so-healthy-choice!) or just to add as a filling and tasty side dish to your grilled chicken or fish? 

This beautiful, super-easy side salad is a perfect pairing to any FRESH entree! Try it and then tell us it's not your new favorite!

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Here's how to make this easy side dish:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium Jicama Root, grated with a cheese grater
  • 1/2 finely diced orange, yellow or red bell pepper (or you can use mini-sweet bells, too!)
  • 1/2 de-seeded cucumber, diced finely
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced (less if it's a strong one! You don't want the flavor to overtake the slaw!)
  • Handful FRESH Cilantro, minced lightly with sharp knife (so as not to bruise it!)
  • 1/2 to 1 large lime, squeezing the juice directly into slaw mixture (to taste)
  • 2/3 of small can of Mandarin Orange Slices, diced (add just 1-2 Tbsp of the juice, but not all of it!)

Instructions:

Stir all the ingredients together, adding or tweaking anything you'd like to your unique taste (such as 1/2 fresh jalapeno, diced, for heat.) 

Refrigerate mixture for about 1-2 hours then stir thoroughly again and serve!

Enjoy as a FRESH and healthy side dish that everyone loves! At potlucks and gatherings around our house, this dish gets wiped clean!

Easy Beef and Broccoli Recipe {How To}

When the "takeout craving" for beef and broccoli hits, what to do, healthy eaters?

In my house? We make this easy, 15 minute one-pot dinner recipe - Easy Beef and Broccoli. It has quickly become a fast family favorite! Since it's made of ready-to-grab pantry ingredients, it's enjoyed often around here.

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Today I'm sharing the version I have adapted for my family's tastes from one of my fave food bloggers, Chungah of damndelicious.net. (Check out her blog for more FRESH recipes using whole ingredients!)

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional - depends on how thick you want your sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound lean steak, thinly sliced 
  • 2 head broccoli, cut into florets

Instructions

Stir together soy sauce, chicken broth, honey, vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, cornstarch, hot sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup water and place to the side.

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Start a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the steak slices and cook, flipping once, until browned, about one minute on each side. It's ok if meat is still pink, it will be tender and cook to perfection later on.

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Stir in broccoli florets and sauce mixture and cook until tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 3-4 more minutes. Serve immediately over brown rice or rice noodles.

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Note: You can easily turn this recipe vegetarian by using tofu or nuts in place of the beef. I make it with "toasted tofu" for my hubby and he loves it!

How do you make YOUR Beef and Broccoli? Have you ever tried cooking it at home? Tell us your fave way to enjoy this popular dish in the comments below!

How to Make Homemade Hummus {That everyone LOVES!}

Ahhhh hummus.

Most people either love it or do NOT (it's a strong taste and not for everyone, for sure!) 

But for those of us who DO, I'm sharing my awesome (and EASY!) recipe with you right here. If you want to save money and taste a better batch of hummus (homemade really is the BEST!) then read - or watch - on as I share with you

How to Make Homemade Hummus {that everybody loves!}

Hummus can get expensive when you're buying it in a convenient ready-to-go container at the store, but can be a great backup option. No judgy-judgy for store bought hummus here! You'll even occasionally find some in my fridge! If you're ready to taste a fresh hummus that is far and above the store bought version, here you go...

How to Make It

Pretty easy, right? Tahini is the "hummusy" ingredient that turns a grainy ground chickpea mix into a silky smooth hummus dip. It's quite expensive (around $8 a jar) but that one jar will last you through DOZENS of batches of hummus, so in the long run, it's much cheaper still to make this homemade than to pay $3-$5 per batch at the store.

and here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) rinsed and thoroughly scrubbed with hands to remove the loose hulls
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic (less or more to taste)
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) tahini paste
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • sprinkle of salt

Instructions:

Put all of this PLUS a tiny amount of water (start with 1/4 cup and then slowly add more until you get desired consistency) into your blender or food processor (I use my Nutribullet!) and blend, then scrape, then blend, then scrape until you get the desired "feel" of your hummus!

You can serve immediately, or store the hummus in the fridge for up to a week!

We enjoy our hummus with toasted Naan bread, or raw cucumber and bell pepper slices, or our Gluten-free seed crackers. It also makes a GREAT "spread" for wraps and sandwiches!

How to Make Cha Cha Cha Chiata! {Or Chia Pudding, FRESH Start style!}

So I have to confess...

I really thought all the hoopla about Chia Seeds was maybe just another "health food fad" ... but then I kept reading about the energy that people were getting from this miracle seed! And since that was something I so desperately needed to increase in my life, I decided to give this tiny little seed a chance in my diet! Oh boy, am I glad I did!

Energy increase, anyone?

Yes, Chia Seeds increase your energy, and I'm living proof!

But don't ask me, let's look at the long-time use of this miracle seed in other cultures to see how it works!

  • Chia seeds grow natively in South America, since as early as 3500 B.C.
  • They were eaten by the Aztecs and Mayans and used as energy-sources for them, as well as a property of some medicines!
  • Modern day chia seeds are now grown in other parts of the world, including US and Australia!
  • Only 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds produces 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 9 grams of healthy fat! 
  • This same amount also gives your body 30% of it's necessary magnesium and manganese (2 minerals we're often deficient in!)
  • 2 Tbsp of these seeds also delivers 18% of your body's daily need for calcium!

Have I convinced you of the powerhouse these little seeds are?

I was convinced! Now to try them for myself...

I wanted to use chia seeds simply - but found that putting them in my smoothie BEFORE blending just created a texture to the whole smoothie that I was not loving! (I'm texture sensitive, so that's a big deal to me! Anyone know what I mean?) So now, sometimes I add into the smoothie AFTER I've blended it up!

My favorite way to get my daily Chia Seeds though, is by making Chia pudding (or in our case, Cha Cha Cha Chiata!)

I've seen plenty of recipes for Chia Pudding, but again, because of my "texture sensitivities" I found that I didn't really enjoy it made  that thick. So I've created one I absolutely love and look forward to "drinking" as a powerful addition to my energy-meals daily!

{We call it "Chiata" because my Latino hubby says this drink reminds him of his "horchata," a popular drink in his culture! Only this "chata" has chia - hence the new name CHIATA!}

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Here's how to make it FRESH Start style!

Cha Cha Cha Chiata

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chilled almond or coconut milk (or any other unsweetened plant-based milk)
  • 1.5 to 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds (if you want thicker consistency, add a little more)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (or just eye it and drizzle)
  • 1/2 tsp pure maple syrup (try it first without and only add if you need extra sweetness)
  • quick shake of ground cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Using a small mason jar, shake all ingredients together for a minute or two. Then place in fridge and enjoy within a few minutes or hours later. 
  2. The chia seeds will swell up, absorbing the liquid and become easily ingested either by using a spoon or drinking straight from the jar.

I dare you to replace one of your current choices for energy drink in the morning or afternoon with this delicious chiata from ingredients you can find anywhere! You'll never miss the ups and downs of the other drink, but will truly enjoy the steady, ongoing energy you get from this drink!

Did you like this recipe? Get plenty more right here!

Then let us know how YOU make YOUR Chiata in the comments below!

Easy Oven-Baked Chicken Thighs and Rice

In our seemingly-endless search for gluten-free options for one very picky eater in my home, I have resorted to super basic dinners these days. 

So I was excited to create this easy recipe to add into the family recipe round-up:

easy oven-baked chicken thighs with my homemade rub, and served beside brown rice steamed up in low-sodium chicken broth...

quick, affordable and the whole family enjoyed them!

Several of us also had a luscious green salad taking up the other half of the plate (not pictured) ... but I can only get my super picky eater to eat a salad about once or twice a week. (True confessions of a health coach!) This is why we add smoothies into her breakfast routine as often as possible - to get those fresh fruits and veggies into her body that way.

oven baked chicken thighs branded.jpg

Back to dinner - so here's how to make this simple fare...

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on (you can pull it off after cooking and the meat will still have the flavor from the rub and juices)
  • TO MAKE THE RUB - stir together 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 2 Tbsp onion powder, 2 Tbsp paprika, 1 tsp chili powder, sprinkle of cumin, sprinkle of crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, fresh grated black pepper
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

MEANWHILE FOR RICE: Place rice and broth in a rice cooker and cook until fluffy and done. OR if you don't have a rice-cooker - place broth in a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, and allow to begin boiling. Add rice, then turn the heat to low-medium, simmering the rice, covered, for about 30-40 minutes. Fluff with a fork, remove from heat, and keep covered.

MEANWHILE FOR THE CHICKEN: Place aluminum foil over a cookie pan, and pat the chicken thighs dry, then place on pan. 

Sprinkle the dry rub generously on the thighs.

Place in oven, uncovered, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken is 180 degrees with a meat thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the pan with tongs and place on a paper towel to drain. Serve with the rice and a vegetable or green salad on the side.

Did you like this easy dinner recipe? We are sharing 7 more + an entire week's worth of family-friendly meals in our FREE 7-Day Get-Started Guide!

Sweet Green Smoothie Recipe

This smoothie recipe is close to my heart as a crunchy mama, because it's the first smoothie recipe I could get my uber-picky 9-year-old daughter (now 13!) to eat and actually enjoy.  She swears by it to all her friends now, and loves the fact that she is getting a serving of veggie in every glass (but can’t taste it!)

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1.5 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • 3 ounces low-sugar Vanilla Greek yogurt (1/2 small container)
  • 1/2 green apple, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup water (or to taste)
  • Drizzle of honey (if needed for sweetness)

Instructions

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend them on high until smooth (usually about 1-2 full minutes in a regular blender). Serve with a dallop of canned whipped cream on top for a fun extra to this healthy and nutritious smoothie!

Easy to make, no added sugar, and protein-rich for a quick, healthy breakfast option.  You just can’t go wrong with this family-friendly smoothie recipe!  

Weight loss tip: Drink down 8-12 ounces of this smoothie at mealtime for a fabulous weight loss meal replacement that keeps you feeling satisfied.

Got picky eaters in your house like me? Try this healthy green smoothie with them, then let us know...did they like it? You can post here in the comments or over in our free FRESH Start Online Community on Facebook.

If you liked this recipe, we think you'll enjoy these as well:

Berry Nutty Smoothie (Our signature smoothie)

Healthy Homemade Pizza

How to Cook Quinoa + Recipes

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS NEWEST POWER-GRAIN ON THE MARKET YET?

I had heard of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAA) in all the "health food" circles, but had never tried it for myself.  Now, though, I've tried it several different ways, and I LOVE the simplicity of this grain, the numerous and incredible benefits all packed into one tiny seed, and the variety I can use in preparing it! 

Turns out, this tasty super food isn't new at all, as it was enjoyed by the Incas in ancient times, and other native South Americans, where they dubbed it the "mother of all grains!"

One of the reasons I held off in trying quinoa was because of all the fuss in the foodie circles about the "high cost" of it compared to rice and other more common household grains.  I've got a solution for that, too!  With some careful planning and watching, I get quinoa at the neighborhood health food markets for as little as $3 a pound.  You just have to watch for it to go on sale and buy more of it then.  It is usually cheaper sold in bulk, instead of prepackaged.

(Update: Costco is a great place to get it at a lower price in bulk as well!)

HERE'S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Prepare quinoa by boiling 1/2 cup of the grains with 3/4 to 1 cup of water or broth (for extra flavor!)  It only takes about 12 minutes, with the pot covered, and at a soft boil, for the grain to be completely cooked. 

It stays a wonderful slightly crunchy-chewy consistency for even up to a few days after cooking!  I try to cook enough for another meal or two after the first one where I serve it fresh.  It is so tasty leftover, added to a fresh salad as a protein-rich topper.  (One of the top benefits of this grain is the high amount of lean protein found in it - 8 grams in a cup of it!)

Here are two ideas for quinoa recipes you can try for your own family:

ORANGE & ALMOND QUINOA RECIPE

orange & almond quinoa edited.jpg

Ingredients

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 fresh orange (peeled, separated into bite size sections)
handful toasted, sliced almonds
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
garnish - sliced green onions

Instructions

Cook quinoa and fluff. Add almonds, orange sections, salt & pepper. Toss together. Squeeze 1/4 cup fresh orange juice over and toss again to coat.

CILANTRO LEMON QUINOA RECIPE

Ingredients

1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 fresh lemon
handful toasted pine nuts
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions

Cook quinoa and fluff. Squeeze lemon juice over grain, and stir in pine nuts and cilantro. Toss together with sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste.

These dishes make a wonderful side to fish, chicken or as a vegetarian main dish with steamed or sauteed vegetables on the side.

HERE ARE A FEW MORE RECIPES WE THINK YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

One-Pot Summer Salmon Dinner

Asian-Inspired Grilled Chicken Thighs

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Quinoa makes such a great part of a healthy (and easy!) dinner meal plan for the week, so use this make-ahead recipe often as a great grain for family meals. To help you create the meal plan a little easier, download these totally free printables from us! Let us know what's on your meal plan this week in the comments below.

Honey Garlic Chicken & Veggies in a Crock Pot

There's definitely a trend happening around my kitchen these days - I am looking for easy, delicious, FRESH meals that can be made in ONE POT or all together in the Crock Pot! This way, it's less mess and fills up the hungry tummies around here AND does it with plenty of nutritious foods!

Here is another one-dish dinner to make eating FRESH easier!

Seriously you guys, when you know you're feeding your family "right" and yet you do it in ONE POT, with only a few minutes of prep and a few dollars of ingredients - it's a busy-mom win! Who's with me? 

Here's how to make this simple dish the whole family will love.

Ingredients:

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs (can remove skin or cook with it on for flavor and then remove before eating)
  • 1 lb baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 lb organic carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lb organic green beans, trimmed

    For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce or Bragg's Aminos 
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (I buy the low-sugar variety)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • sprinkle crushed red pepper (if you like a little heat)
  • fresh ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Whip together all the sauce ingredients, and set aside.
  2. Place the chicken thighs into the crock pot, set it to high heat (to be done in 3-4 hours) or low heat (to be done 7-8 hours)
  3. Lay the potatoes and carrots on top and around the chicken. Drizzle the sauce over all of it.
  4. Cover and leave it be for desired time. Remove lid and spoon the juice inside the crock pot over the top of chicken and veggies a couple of times during cooking.
  5. In last 30 minutes of cooking, add the green beans in. Baste the whole dish.
  6. Serve immediately with chopped fresh parsley over the top, if you like.
Honey Garlic Crock Pot Chicken MAINpic.jpg

If you prefer the chicken skin on, try this delicious trick - put the oven on broil, place the thighs and some of the veggies on a cookie tray, and broil for about 3 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the sauce is caramelized!

Tell us what you think in the comments below - is this a good recipe to try to round out your easy FRESH meal plan at home?

This recipe was originally found on one of our FAVE blogs for FRESH eating - http://damndelicious.net/. It has been "remodeled" a bit, as we like to cut down on sugar and sodium as much as possible in cooking for our family and testing recipes out for YOU! 

Healthy One Pot Stroganoff

Growing up in sweet corn farm country in the Midwest, you know comfort food dinners were a regular event in my childhood farmhouse kitchen. These days, even though my family and I live in the desert southwest, they are still a favorite way to show my love through my cooking to my family. And...

...One pot dinners made healthy? Even better!

When I found this could-be Healthy One Pot Stroganoff recipe, I just knew I had to re-make it, FRESH Start-style! (Whole foods, lean meat, healthier "sauce") It is getting easier to do that these days - after a few years of "cleaning up" favorite recipes to be healthier you just get quicker at making ingredient switches and change-ups.

finished better.jpg

So here is my Healthy One Pot Stroganoff recipe - betcha won't even miss the other stuff once you've tried it! 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (we use Baby Bella)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 lb thin sliced steak (we use sirloin or another lean choice)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 cups beef broth (low-sodium)
  • 8 oz whole wheat or gluten-free egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt, plain (or sour cream)
  • fresh parsley for garnish
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot or deep pan, heat stove to medium-high and drizzle olive oil in bottom of pan. 
  2. Once oil is heated, add steak slices to pan for about 2 minutes. 
  3. After the steak has browned on one side, turn them over. (Should only be about 2 minutes tops!) Add mushrooms and onions into pan with the steak slices, and cook until mushrooms brown and onions are translucent. 
  4. Stir in paprika, beef stock and noodles and bring pan to boil. Then cover pan, bring heat down to medium and simmer for 12-15 minutes (for al dente noodles, may be less time.)
  5. Lower the heat to warm and stir in greek yogurt or sour cream, then turn off heat and let pan sit for a few minutes, covered.
  6. Sprinkle parsley over dish and serve.

Too easy, right? Comfort food for dinner in under 30 minutes, prepared in only One Pot, and with so much nutrition in it, too! What is your favorite one-pot comfort food dinner? We'd love to hear your FRESH idea in the comments below!

Oh So Healthy Egg Roll in a Bowl

I stumbled on this beautifully easy recipe a few weeks ago, and now I make it entirely too often around here! It is ridiculously easy, and is another healthy one-pot dinner I can rotate through the meal plan fairly regularly without complaint from my "needier" eaters! 

What busy mom doesn't need more of this kind of recipe in her life?

The original recipe I tried called for pork sausage, but since we're trying to move away from pork in our diet, we found that lean ground beef or turkey works just fine as well. I'm also going to try it soon with shrimp as the protein center. I'll let you know in our free support community on facebook how that goes!

Here's how you make this entirely-too-easy family meal...

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of shredded slaw or veggies (I use the super food shredded mixes)
  • 1/2 to 1 lb lean ground meat (your choice, amount to taste)
  • 1 thumbnail-size fresh ginger root, minced or grated
  • 3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • drizzle sesame oil
  • drizzle low-sodium sauce or liquid aminos
  • sprinkle of crushed red pepper (only if you like a little heat)
  • sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
egg roll in a bowl prep.jpg

Instructions:

  1. Place a large, deep pan over medium to high heat. Add ground meat and chop it up while it browns. Once browned and almost done (about 4-5 minutes) add in the fresh garlic and ginger.
  2. Add in slaw or shredded veggies, stir occasionally for about 3 minutes or so.
  3. Drizzle both the sesame oil and soy sauce, and add crushed red pepper.
  4. It's DONE! Place in a bowl and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds if desired.

Here's what I love most as a health coach about this recipe - there's NO need for a fried shell like a traditional egg roll. What I love most about this recipe as a mom? Way less mess, since there's no frying and it only uses one pan!

The super food slaw I use? I found it at my local Walmart and it cost less than $2. My family and I are getting a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber from this dinner and we're staying on budget! Win-win. 

Tell us what you think of this recipe in the comments below after you try it with your own hungry loves. For more FRESH recipe makeovers to add into your healthy meal plan, have a look-see in the recipe box here on the site

 

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

There are many health benefits in this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie, and it is easy to make!

This little smoothie is jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamins because it's made with sweet potatoes. Yes, you heard it here first- baked and mashed sweet potatoes make a terrific smoothie! In addition to the yummy flavor of a sweet dessert, sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamins C, D, and B6, along with providing good amounts of iron and magnesium.

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

The nutritional benefits found in this great-tasting healthy snack will improve your skin health, immune system, and your heart muscle! As if that's not enough reason to dig into this smoothie, the kids will love this creamy treat, too!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large sweet potato, baked until soft
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • Topping: Whipped cream, sprinkle of cinnamon

Instructions

Blend all ingredients together in blender for about 2 minutes, or until smooth.

The Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie will make a great addition to your breakfast (or snack!) rotation - it's superfood on the go! 

You can try any one of our other delicious smoothie recipes in our FRESH Start recipe box! Smoothies are an easy & fun way to make healthy food for your family, so we love to help you find FRESH new ways to do that! 

Tell us what you think of this recipe in the comments below or in our LIVE Facebook Online Community here.