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Healthy Sesame Seed Chicken

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sesame seed chicken

The other night I was craving sesame seed chicken for some reason (well probably because I’m 4 months pregnant and cravings are hitting me all the time). I didn’t want take-out because we all know that bloated, gross feeling after eating chinese take out. I decided to make my own. I used this recipe with a little wheat-free tweaking and came up with a delicious, easy and nutritious alternative to the MSG and sugar laden sesame seed chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken thighs OR 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces OR I used a pack of 5 organic chicken drumsticks since they were only $3!
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder OR talc-free corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives (optional)

Combine arrowroot powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl, add chicken and stir well to coat. Once chicken is thoroughly coated add coconut oil to a non-stick pan on medium heat and cook chicken until done throughout (roughly 5 minutes per side).

Transfer cooked chicken to a plate. Mix soy sauce and sugar in saucepan, if using, over low heat. Once sugar, if using, is mixed well into the soy sauce add sesame oil, sesame seeds, chicken and chives, if using. Mix together and serve immediately.

This dish goes well with green beans topped with toasted almonds.

Simply steam green beans over a couple inches boiling water. Melt one tablespoon of butter and add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves to cook about 3 minutes. Pour butter mixture and garlic, 1/2 of a lemon (juiced), salt, and pepper over the green beans. Top with toasted almonds. Now, you have a healthy, delicious meal you feel good about feeding your family!

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First signs of Spring means Garden time!

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garden plot

Here in the South, we are starting to see the first signs of Spring. Although we had snow a week ago, the following week was sunshine and then snow again, spring is fast approaching. All of that to say, we finally took the first steps to get our garden going! A few weeks ago, my husband cleared out a spot of land on the side of our yard that gets full sun for most of the day. The picture above is our daughter playing in the future garden plot. The area is very large, but we are going with a 10 x 25 foot garden this year. Honestly, we will probably only use half of it at most, but I’d rather start creating good soil on more space than we need than not have enough.

We are using a raised row no-till method that I’ve been following from the blog Old World Garden Farm. I found them after searching for an easy to follow, low cost gardening method. I need a step-by-step guide since I am very new to the gardening world, and they provide that! The advantage of the raised row method is that you don’t waste any space, water or compost. They recommend raised row beds 18″ wide and 10-12″ high in the center with a gradual taper off the side. There is plenty of walking space in between the rows as to not step on and weaken the root structure of the plants.

The first step in any garden is making sure you have good soil. So, their no-till method simply calls for a 3-5″ layer of chopped leaves or straw, cover with a thick black tarp and let sit over the winter or shorter depending on the time of year and how fast it decomposes. We have LOTS of leaves around us since we live in the woods, so we went with that option. They recommend chopping the leaves for faster decomposition time, but we don’t have a lawn mower (since we have no grass, just woods and pinestraw – kinda nice!) so ours weren’t chopped. I will let you know how long it takes to decompose, but I’m thinking probably more on the 2 month side.

leaves for garden

Once the leaves are down on your designated area, simply place a tarp on top of the leaves and secure with large rocks, bricks or in our case heavy wood pieces. We ended up turning the long pieces of wood sideways, but as long as the tarp won’t fly up it’s fine. This method eliminates all the grass underneath and allows for a fresh start to your garden.

tarp for gardenWe will give you an update on the garden plot after a month or two and let you know how things are looking. Next update to be on the lookout for is our composting efforts!

Are you planting a garden this Spring or Summer? Are you new to gardening or a long time pro? What’s in your garden?

Quinoa Pizza Dough

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photo_4As you’ve noticed, I’ve been a little absent in the blogging world lately. I do have a very good reason for that … for the past few months, food has not sounded appealing to me. I know, so sad. This is not normal for me, but since I’m pregnant (yep, 15 weeks along now!!) the first trimester was an attack on my taste buds. I have now entered the second trimester, my appetite has fired back up and I’m craving so many yummy things.

Right now, as with my first pregnancy, I am seriously craving tomatoes. Anything tomato: plain, sauce, diced, straight out of the can, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti (with spaghetti squash), etc. Although, I would like to tell you I ate perfectly primal during the first trimester, that is not the case. I definitely had my moments of weakness when a processed saltine cracker, piece of toast or wheat noodles with my pasta was all that sounded appetizing. However, now that I’ve entered the second leg of the pregnancy journey, I am making sure my body and my baby are getting adequate nutrition – and heck, the taste alone of real food is worth it!

Going along with my tomato craving, who doesn’t love a good pizza every once in a while? The only thing that doesn’t love pizza is my body a couple hours later. So, I went on a search to find a pizza dough alternative and came up with quinoa pizza dough. Although quinoa isn’t a staple food for the primal person, it is a good alternative when wheat will not cut it anymore. It took me two tries as the first time I tried to use pre-cooked quinoa (since I already had leftovers in the fridge), but this did not take. The dough was too sticky and did not solidify well. I still got my tomato fix, but had to eat it with knife and fork. However, the second attempt was primal pizza perfection! I got the general recipe here and did a little tweaking of my own.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa 
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or combination of basil, garlic and oregano
  • fresh shredded cheese (I used kerrygold grass-fed)
  • tomato sauce (with a little added salt and italian seasoning)
  • toppings as desired: tomatoes, peppers, meat, olives, onions etc.
  • *** This makes about 2 servings or one personal pan pizza. I doubled the recipe for my husband and I and we were sufficiently stuffed afterwards.

Directions

To do ahead of time: First step is to soak the quinoa for 8 hours. Very important!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. When the quinoa has been soaked for 8 hours, drain it through a small mesh strainer.

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Pulse drained quinoa, water and seasonings in a blender or magic bullet. The consistency should be like that of pancake batter.

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Pour batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet or pie pan, about 1/2″ thick (I didn’t have any parchment paper so I used well buttered aluminum foil lined in a pie pan). The next time I will make the dough a little thiner as it is very filling! Make sure not to make it too big as you will have to flip it halfway through – another mistake the first go around.

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Bake pizza dough for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Then gently flip and cook on the other side for 10 additional minutes.

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Top pizza with additional toppings and bake until cheese is melted. Mine, pictured above, was tomato sauce, kerrygold cheese, lightly cooked onion, ground beef, basil and tomato. As you can tell, I wasn’t going for presentation, but the taste was phenomenal.

Now you can have your primal, gluten free, wheat free delicious pizza – enjoy!

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Quinoa with Greens, Red Onion and Sweet Potato

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Quinoa

I LOVE quinoa. Cold or hot, it doesn’t matter to me. The texture is desirable to many who have cut out wheat and grain products and offers nutritional qualities that make it a good option. Quinoa is technically not a grain, but a seed related to the family of beets, spinach and swiss chard. It is a complete protein and offers a good helping of all nine essential amino acids.  Although high in protein, quinoa still clocks in around 53 on the glycemic index which is why it’s not a regular staple at our house, but a great alternative to rice or pasta. Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple also offers this caution for those who may be more sensitive to gluten.

Quinoa is technically gluten free, [but] it does contain a protein substance that has been known to cause digestive reactions in some.

I was inspired while at Trader Joe’s when my friend pointed out a frozen bag of quinoa with sweet potatoes that sounded amazing enough for me to put my own twist on. I’ve been using sweet potatoes a good bit, like the Frittata I posted recently or mixed in with some veggies and scrambled eggs, so I thought I’d give it a try in quinoa. I love when my food looks like a rainbow (it’s also a great way for my 16 month old daughter to eat it) so I added sauteed red cabbage, red onion and kale. To add a little fat, I cooked the veggies in coconut oil and added a couple tablespoons at the end for an extra bit of coconut goodness.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked in homemade chicken or beef broth if available
  • 1-2 tablespoon coconut oil for cooking vegetables + 2 tablespoons to stir in at the end
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 – 1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale or other leafy greens (collard greens, mustard greens, swiss chard, or spinach), stemmed, washed and chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • Add coconut oil to saute pan and cook red cabbage for a couple of minutes then add sweet potatoes and onions and cook until tender. If your pan is large enough, you can add the chopped and washed greens to the pan of veggies and cook until tender. If there’s no more room in your pan simply transfer vegetables to another bowl and cook greens, about 10 minutes (you will probably need to add a little more coconut oil). 
  • Simply mix vegetables with cooked quinoa and stir in a couple more tablespoons of coconut oil and salt and pepper to taste. 

This is a great and filling meal on it’s own for a meatless night, mix in ground beef or turkey, or use as a delicious side.

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Sausage, Swiss Chard, and Sweet Potato Frittata

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Frittata

I’ve made many crustless quiches and frittatas, but none as hearty and tasty as this. If you are looking for a breakfast to fuel you for your busy morning, a brunch, or an easy dinner, you’ve got to try this. This frittata is packed with protein, good carbs, and nutritious leafy greens to get your day going and fill you up. My 15 month old daughter loved this too!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sausage, cooked (I used mild sausage from our local farm)
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, washed, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced OR I used 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, cut into small 1-inch pieces
  • 8-10 eggs
  • fresh grated cheese (optional – I did not use any and it was great!)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the sausage thoroughly in a large skillet. Once cooked, remove and set aside in a large bowl. Leave any remaining fat in the pan for use in cooking the sweet potato and swiss chard (I added about a tablespoon more of coconut oil). Place sweet potatoes in the pan and cook for about 5-10 minutes until potatoes are almost done, then add swiss chard. Don’t worry about overcrowding the pan, the swiss chard will cook down quickly (3-4 minutes).

2. Once sweet potatoes and swiss chard are cooked, add the garlic clove if using and saute another 1 minute.

3. Let cool for about 10 minutes and pour into bowl with sausage and mix well. Add in 8-10 beaten eggs, salt & pepper and stir. I ended up using 10 eggs and it filled my pie pan to the tip top.

4. Pour into a pie pan or other oven proof container and cook for 30-45 minutes, depending on container and oven. I used a pie pan and it took about 40 minutes.

This is great by itself for a hearty, quick breakfast OR add almond banana pancakes for a healthy brunch or dinner. Enjoy!

Soaked Oatmeal

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oatmeal

Despite what you may hear from some paleo or primal influences, it is true, our ancestors did eat whole grains. However, they did not consume them as presented in our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas and other quickly prepared casseroles and concoctions. They always soaked or fermented their grains before eating them. As Sally Fallon from Nourishing Traditions explains below, grains can be harmful to your body if not prepared correctly.

All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer of the bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

Many people believe that consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran (anyone eat FiberOne lately?) will improve colon health, and while it does improve transit time at first, it may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and more adverse effects longterm. Soaking grains, allows important enzymes like lactobacilli to break down and neutralize the phytic acid. Soaking in warm water with an acid base for as little as 7 hours can vastly improve the nutritional benefits of these grains.

Soaked oatmeal is not a primal food. However, in our family as I’ve mentioned before, we use the primal diet as a framework and leave a little room for grains that have been improved through soaking, fermenting or cooking in bone broth.  Soaking partially breaks down gluten and other difficult to digest proteins into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption. If you have allergies to gluten, I would stay away from grains even if soaked because there are still traces of gluten present even after the soaking process. However, if you need a little change in your breakfast routine, soaked oatmeal can add a different and nutritious boost to your day. We usually have this breakfast once a week.

oatmeal soaking

Soaked Oatmeal (serves 4, scale up or down as needed)

  • quart sized mason jar, or other tightly sealable glass jar
  • 1 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 cup warm water, enough to just cover the oats
  • 1 tablespoon acid medium (whey, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk OR if you are dairy intolerant lemon juice or vinegar)
  • walnuts, almonds (optional) I like to add a handful of walnuts as they also contain phytic acid and benefit from the soaking process. When cooked the next day, they still retain their crunchy texture.

For the highest benefits oats should be soaked overnight, a minimun of 7 hours and maximum of 24.

Once soaked spoon out into a microwavable bowl and add milk or water until you have the consistency you desire. I like a more porridge texture, so I add a good bit of milk to mine. I also mash half a banana before I place in microwave which adds just the right amount of sweetness. Cook on the stove for 5 minutes or in the microwave for 1 and half to 2 minutes and top with desired toppings. Quick and easy breakfast!

Optional toppings:

  • ground flax seed
  • chopped apples, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, etc.
  • dried dates, raisins, cherries
  • dried coconut
  • butter
  • honey

Fermented Foods: How to Make Whey and Cream Cheese

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whey and cream cheese

I’ve written about the benefits of fermented foods and how I’m trying to incorporate more into our diet. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially when you really don’t know what you are doing, like me, so I am going slowly. Our first step in the fermentation process: Whey and Cream Cheese.

Whey is the liquid left over after milk has been curdled and strained. It is the starter for many cultured and fermented foods, so I thought it would be a great starter for me. Whey has been an ancient remedy for upset stomachs to aching joints for centuries. Since you simply leave the raw milk on the counter, there’s really no way I could mess it up!

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This is day one. It’s been sitting for about an hour and you can notice a layer of cream on the top about an inch thick – yum. This is why we buy full fat raw milk. You actually can’t use pasteurized milk because commercial milk spoils. However, the raw milk curdles and then turns into something you can actually eat! Nature knows what it’s doing. If you live anywhere in the North Georgia area, I know of a great farm here that sells raw milk (for pets, since it’s illegal to sell for human consumption in the state of Georgia – crazy). If you live elsewhere, visit realmillk.com to find a good source near you.

If you don’t have access to a good source of raw milk, you can use full fat organic plain yogurt or make homemade yogurt and simply start with the straining process. Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own. Homemade yogurt is my next goal. I’ve tried a couple times and I think because it was winter and we keep our house fairly cool, it didn’t work out for me. It needs a steady temperature – I’ve learned the hard way.

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Day 4. Here you can see that it has separated. The instructions were to let it sit 1-4 days until it separates. I knew mine would probably take on the longer side since we keep our house pretty cool (65-67 degrees fahrenheit).

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Next, I simply used a glass bowl with a strainer over the top and a thin clean dish towel and poured the mixture over the towel and let it sit for about 3 hours. The juice that is dripping down is the whey and the top part will be the cream cheese!

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Here is a peak at what it looked like right when I poured the fermented milk into the towel. Thick, almost like yogurt and a little chunky. Not too appetizing – yet. It actually looked very similar to this when it was finished.

whey picNext, I tied up the towel with a rubber band and hooked it on the cabinet knob and let the remaining whey drip into the bowl until it completely stopped dripping. You can also tie it to a wooden spoon over a pitcher and let it hang until the dripping has stopped.

After I let this finish dripping for a while (it took about 3 more hours) I simply poured the whey into a mason jar and stored the cream cheese in one as well (note the first picture). The “cream cheese” is more like yogurt consistency, but I think it will make a great base to a veggie or fruit dipping sauce!

I filled a quart jar with raw milk which yielded about 1 1/2 cups whey and 1 cup cream cheese.

Sweet or Savory Cream Cheese Spread (Taken from Nourishing Roots):

Sweet: Mix in 1 cup homemade fruit jam, OR 1/2 cup raw local honey, OR 1/2 pure maple syrup. You can spice it up with cinnamon, nutmeg, or get creative!

Savory: Mix in 1/4 cup finely chopped chives, 1 tablespoon onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. OR an Italian version of 1/4 cup finely chopped basil, 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

The whey will last in the fridge for about 6 months and the cream cheese for about 1 month. My first use for whey is sauerkraut. It’s been sitting on the counter for 1 day, so it has a couple more to go – stay tuned!

Have you ever made cultured or fermented food? What is your favorite?

Almond Banana “Pancakes” Revisited

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pancakes

Originally published June 27, 2012

Have given up wheat and grain, but still have cravings for those delicious breakfast treats that you know are really cakes, but can’t resist the nostalgia? Then I have the perfect recipe for you. Or, if you just want some variety in your breakfast, you will love these. These have become our Saturday morning tradition. I even try to keep a few of these in the fridge for my 15 month old daughter as a great on the go snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • Toppings: butter, berries, walnuts, coconut flakes, honey, 100% pure maple syrup

Directions

1. Heat a skillet until it sizzles when a drop of water hits it.

2. Mix all ingredients together while skillet is heating. I’ve found it’s easiest to mash the banana with a fork first, then add almond butter, then egg.

3. Melt a little butter on the pan and cook like pancakes! (note: it does take a few more minutes to cook than regular pancakes)

Eat them plain or top with butter, berries (I have Costco’s organic frozen ones on hand at all times) or drizzle honey or pure maple syrup on top. This recipe makes about 4 pancakes, so I do one recipe per person eating.

Variations:

I usually add a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon.

I’ve also made pumpkin pancakes by adding half pureed pumpkin and half almond butter – great Fall treat!

Another trick a reader told me about is to separate the eggs and whip the egg whites until they form firm peaks then fold them in. She said it made them more fluffy like regular pancakes. Haven’t tried it yet, but can’t wait to. Thanks Christy!

 

2 Minute Healthy Hot Chocolate Revisited

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hot choc

Although we have changed many things about our diet and lifestyle in the past 2 years, sometimes I still love a little something sweet and chocolate. With this hot chocolate, you can feel good knowing you are fueling your body with nutrition instead of chemicals. And since it’s so simple, you can make it any time of the day. Sometimes I need a little relaxation between lunch and dinner during my daughter’s nap or sometimes it’s a nice end of the night treat. So here is my 2 minute hot chocolate revisited.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups full fat milk (we drink raw)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I like dark cocoa)
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Honey, sugar to sweeten to taste
  • coconut cream for topping (optional)

Heat milk and rest of ingredients in saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until ingredients are well incorporated and you can see steam coming from the pan. Add sweetener at the end if desired. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Alternatively, if you are in a hurry you can heat milk in a mug for about 1 minute. While heating place cocoa powder in a bowl and once milk is heated pour milk into the bowl and whisk milk and cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla together until well incorporated. Place back in microwave for another minute and add sweetener if desired.

What is your favorite chocolate treat?

Our Primal Baby is a Toddler

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Eating

It’s been a while since I’ve updated on our primal baby, now 15 months. Wow, time really does fly by! She is walking/running everywhere and developing the sassiest, cutest little personality. She would live outside if we’d let her. She constantly has a “tick” (aka stick) in her hands (both of them) at all times. I love watching her learn new things. The newest is that I realized she can kind of hold a pen, so I finally got some crayons to let her express her “artistic side”. Seeing her draw her first picture/lines was such a proud mommy moment (I know, so cheesy).

Because I love this little one so much, I do not accept the conventional way of the “kid’s menu”. Who decided that a kid’s menu should include grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers, french fries, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot dogs. That is a list of straight processed carbohydrates! Where are the vegetables? How did our current thoughts about what “kid” food is stray so far from our ancestors (our grandmothers even!)?

Feeding ourselves, and our children, the traditional way is against the grain of our culture, but I’ve found that it’s really not that hard once you develop the right mindset, priorities, take a few breaths and slow down. There’s no reason why one in three children born in the U.S. should develop type II diabetes in their lifetime. That is astonishing and certainly not something our grandparents had to deal with. So, what has changed in America in the past 50 years? The way we eat. The way we feed our children. Convenience and cost has become the number driver in the American market. While I understand the motivation behind this, I think it’s time to step back and re-prioritize. What’s more important, saving a few dollars or saving yourself or your child an illness down the road? So many of the “foods” that are “FDA approved” haven’t even been on the market long enough for us to know the chronic effects on our health and our children. As I’ve mentioned before, eating real, whole foods costs more. You will be in the kitchen more (you may even enjoy it). So, here’s what I’ve been doing in the kitchen for our little 15 month old…

She has gotten a little more picky when it comes to food. I say picky, but she still eats real, whole food. However, I have learned that trying, trying and trying again will pay off. I have an abundance of whole food options for her and after going through several, or ten, we are bound to come to happy ground. It is so fascinating to watch her eat because one day she will love peas and a few days later she will have nothing to do with them, but gobbles up the broccoli. Recently, she has been loving beef. Ground beef, stew beef, chuck roast – it doesn’t matter. She shovels it in like someone is going to steal it if she doesn’t get it in her mouth immediately. Her favorite is when I make Beef Stew with Homemade Bone Broth.

I would give you a list of foods that she is eating, but she really just eats whatever we eat. It makes it simple and she learns to love her vegetables as she watches mommy and daddy eat them. I will give you some ideas of her snacks since I’m always looking for more ideas there!

Dried Fruit (She would eat this constantly if I let her. Not that I’m against dried fruit, but it is packed with sugar in concentrated form, so I at least try to limit her intake to once a day)

  • Apricots
  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Prunes

Avocado

Banana with Almond Butter

Buttercup Bars – I don’t usually give her the top chocolate part as it’s a little too hard, but I will break a piece off the almond butter/coconut oil part and she LOVES this. It’s one of my favorite snacks as well :).

Nourishing Protein Bars 

Frozen peas or mixed veggies – Sometimes, she just wants the comfort of a snack so I started offering her frozen sweet peas or frozen veggie mix (that I’ve thawed) and she loves it. I especially do this if this is her second snack and don’t really want to give her a whole box of dried fruit. We all know what that does to diapers too, yikes.

Green Smoothie 

Homemade Popsicles or Frozen Real Yogurt – During the hot summer months, these are great. Post coming soon about how to make these and our favorite recipes!

Baby Food Vegetable and Fruit Pouches – When time is of the essence, but I still want her to eat real foods, these are a lifesaver.

Real Cheese (although my little one doesn’t seem to be interested in this anymore – right now anyway)

I’m sure there are many more real foods you could add to this list and I’d love to hear your suggestions. And as always, primal living is a lifestyle. There will be times when you are running out the door and to be a good mommy or daddy in that moment is to just give your child something to eat. I’ve had those times when I ran through Chick-fil-a for some nuggets to give her for lunch because I realized I forgot to get it together (although I try to limit to once a month, if that. Makes me more accountable for my own nutrition that way too). Our goal is to think before we eat and before our kids eat. Some questions I ask whether on the road or at the grocery store: “Where did this come from?” “How natural is it really (because we all know the word “natural” means nothing on labeling)?” “How will this food nourish my child’s body?” Doing this takes time but who knows, you might find out that you actually enjoy being in the kitchen – that was a surprise for me!

What does your tiny tot love to eat right now? What are some of your favorite snack ideas?