Summertime Activity with Simple Strawberry Shortcake

I asked one of my friends who I consider healthy if she had a strawberry shortcake recipe. It is one of my favorite summer desserts, and I had never baked it from scratch!

Her recipe entailed store bought angel food cake, smothered in Cool Whip, and decorated with strawberries. I will admit it, I have also created strawberry shortcake this way and it is delicious and a time saver! However, in honor of National Strawberry Shortcake Day (honestly, who declares this?), I figured I would bake it from scratch for a fun afternoon activity with my kids (I could not go to the park or get in a pool again today)!
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While I have always considered this dessert a healthier choice, as I researched recipes, it is loaded with sugar and butter! Here is my version (which I simplified and healthified (and made up a word)) to celebrate this beloved summer dessert!

My daughter loves her Strawberry Shortcake Doll and was excited to bake! My son wanted to know what superpowers Strawberry Shortcake possessed and was disappointed that she does not shoot berries or have super strength; however, he was not disappointed in the fun mess we made (and baking this entertained them for an hour)!

When I served this dessert, my guests could not believe I baked it from scratch or that it was healthier than other strawberry shortcake. My daughter enjoyed the shortcake without topping it with whipped cream or sweetened strawberries. I divided my recipe into three simple steps. Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

Simple Strawberry Shortcake Recipe:

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The Strawberries:

16 oz fresh strawberries- hull (slice off tops) and cut into cut into pieces

2 tbsp white sugar (measuring utilizes math skills)

The Shortcake:

1/3 cup white sugar

2 cups white flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

2 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

¼ cup cold unsalted butter- slice into the batter

¼ cup applesauce

1 cup low fat milk

1 tbsp lemon juice

The Whipped Cream (this part is MAGICAL to kids):

1 cup heavy cream (make sure the cream is cold, it will whip better- thanks for this tip from my friend who is a pastry chef!)

2 tbsp powdered sugar

1.)  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.)  In a bowl, toss cut strawberries with 2 tbsp sugar. Set aside.

3.)  In a mixer, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in butter pieces, milk, and lemon juice.

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4.)  Sprinkle flour on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat dough flat onto parchment paper (warning- dough is sticky) and form a giant rectangle.

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5.)  Thoroughly sprinkle white sugar over dough.

6.)  Bake 22-25 minutes or until golden around the edges. Allow time to cool before slicing.

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7.)  If you are ambitious and want homemade whipped cream, it is SUPER EASY and kids find whipping cream magical! In a mixer combine cream and powdered sugar until peaks form (this means your whipped cream is ready!).  *If short on time, Cool Whip is a pretty darn good substitute but don’t tell my pastry chef friend that!

8.)  Slice the shortbread into servings. My batter produced about 12 big pieces. When ready to serve, layer with whipped cream and sweetened strawberries.

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Raspberry Pistachio Crusted Chicken

My daughter’s favorite fruit is the raspberry. Her birthday cake was filled with fresh raspberries and raspberry butter cream frosting! When we go to the supermarket, she has to eat them immediately from the container (Gross! I don’t even get to rinse them!). With summer around the corner, raspberries are abundant at grocery stores and farmer’s markets (and they are cheaper and taste better in season).

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One food that my daughter does not particularly like is chicken. I created a chicken recipe to appeal to her love of raspberries, and it worked! My raspberry pistachio chicken recipe is easy, delicious, and healthy (pistachios have been shown to help support a healthy heart and provide an excellent source of protein and fiber)!

My son had fun mashing the raspberries (utilizing his hand eye coordination), and everyone in my family gobbled up this berry delicious dish! Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

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Raspberry Pistachio Crusted Chicken Recipe:

1 lbs chicken breast cutlets (I prefer thinner chicken when baking it. If your market does not sell cutlets you can split the breasts easily using cooking scissors or pound the chicken breasts)

1/3 cup or about 10 raspberries- mashed

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs

2 tbsp pistachio nuts- crushed or pieces

1 tsp dried parsley

sea salt

pepper- freshly grinded

1.)  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.)  In a separate bowl, mix together raspberries, mustard, and lemon juice until smooth.

3.)  In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, pistachios, and parsley.

4.)  Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breast.

5.)  Dip seasoned chicken first into the berry bowl and then into the crumb/nut mixture until completely coated.

6.) Place coated chicken onto a baking sheet line with aluminum foil and bake for 32-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Crispy Kale Chips

Undoubtedly, the second we get in the car and I turn the key, my daughter asks for a snack! I always have healthy snacks on hand like apple or cucumber slices, but sometimes all she wants are the adorable processed cheddar bunnies or goldfish! I crave salty snacks every now and then too, so she comes by it honestly!

For a fun surprise this morning at yoga, my friend handed me over a bag of fresh kale from her mini city garden. She said she had too much and did not know what to do with all her kale! I have so many fantastic and delicious ideas. One of them being, roasted kale chips. So yummy, crispy, and salty! The best part, they are super easy, and my kids helped bake them!

Processed snacks, step aside! Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

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Healthy, Easy, and Crispy Roasted Kale Chips Recipe:

1 bunch kale- rinsed with cool water (my son can play with water for hours, I let him rinse!)

2 tbsp olive oil

about 1 tsp sea salt

about 1 tsp pepper- freshly grinded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1.)  Once kale is rinsed, pat kale dry with paper towel. (This is entertaining for kids. Let them pat it dry.)

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2.)  Pull off bottom stems and rip apart kale into bite size pieces.

3.)  Place kale pieces on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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4.)  Pat kale dry again with paper towel (getting the kale as dry as possible is key to crispy kale).

5.)  Drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper.

6.)  Bake kale 16-20 minutes or until desired crispiness! ENJOY!

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake

Happy Early Mother’s Day!

While my daughter napped this afternoon, my son and I baked my easy, delicious Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, this simple, scrumptious, and pretty cake is the perfect sweet touch for a Mother’s Day brunch, lunch, or dinner! Kid bonus- my son utilized his math skills while measuring the ingredients (he eats the chocolate chips and practices subtraction)! Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

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Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake Recipe

baking spray

1 package yellow cake mix (I bought Pillsbury Classic Yellow)

1 3.4oz vanilla instant pudding

4 eggs

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup 2% Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

¾ cup chocolate chips

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1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Grease Bundt pan with baking spray.

3.) In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. My son had fun measuring, pouring, and stirring.

4.) Pour batter into Bundt pan and bake for 36-42 minutes or until the fork test comes out clean.

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Cinco De Mayo Pre-Party

This Saturday is Cinco De Mayo which commemorates the victory of Mexico over the French. It is celebrated more in the U.S. then it is in Mexico (Americans love a reason to drink margaritas and eat Mexican food)!

Yesterday a wise woman advised me that my blog was doing more than providing healthy recipes but bringing families together. The benefits of a family cooking and eating together go beyond a healthy diet. Fun family time in the kitchen fosters a happy family environment, which is seen at work, at school, and in confidence.

Tonight after my son’s Kung Fu lesson he raced into the house practicing his moves on his sister. Their sparing gave me time to throw my precut squash into the oven. After working up an appetite, my children wanted to know what we were cooking for dinner! They seasoned and smashed the cooked squash while I caramelized onions. My son devoured his quesadilla with lots of cheese, my husband ate his quesadilla with guacamole and hot sauce, and my daughter ate the squash and bean filling. Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

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Butternut Squash Black Bean Quesadillas

2 tbsp olive oil

olive oil cooking spray

1 large butternut squash or I bought two 12oz precut Green Giant Butternut Squash bags

1 15oz can black beans- rinsed and drained

1 yellow onion- diced

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

sea salt and pepper to taste

4-6 tortillas

1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.) In a 9×13 dish, spread out butternut squash and drizzle on olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper and toss with a spoon. Bake for 40-45 minutes. When squash is done roasting, set aside.

3.) In a sauté pan, on medium high heat, spray olive oil spray and add onion. Sauté until onion caramelizes, about 6 minutes. Then add black beans to onions for 1 and 1/2 minutes. Stir.

4.) Take black bean and onion mixture and transfer it to squash dish. Season with nutmeg, cumin, and cinnamon.

5.) With a fork, mash the butternut squash and beans together.

6.) In a separate pan, heat the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side and add squash mixture to one half of tortilla. Fold over the other half of the tortilla and heat until tortilla turns golden brown and crispy. Cut tortilla in half.

7.) Serve additions according to your family’s taste: guacamole, salsa verde, salsa, Mexican cheese, and hot sauce.

Painted Honey Mustard Chicken

Last year an article from Parents Magazine made an impression on me. The article discussed “the witching hour,” or in other words, the hour before dinner when kids and both stay at home parents and working parents are tired and hungry after a long day, creating a scary combination.

One reason I encourage my children to cook with me is because they are more likely to eat the food we prepare together. A healthy bonus! Another reason my children cook with me is because it is the witching hour and it keeps them happy! Less tears and whining- happy parents!

Tonight’s witching hour activity included seasoning and painting chicken! Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

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Honey Mustard Chicken Recipe:

olive oil cooking spray

4 6oz chicken breast cutlets (I prefer thinner chicken, if you use a breast and not a cutlet, you will need to bake it longer)

¼ cup honey (enough to cover the chicken)

¼ cup German mustard (enough to cover the chicken)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp pepper

1.)  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.)  In a baking dish, spray with olive oil cooking spray.

3.)  Place chicken breasts side by side in dish.

4.)  On the chicken breast side facing up, sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

5.)  On the seasoned side of the chicken, first brush on honey and then over the honey paint on mustard.

6.)  Bake for 32-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

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Nutty Questions

Happy Passover and/or Happy Easter!
I haven’t figured out why my comments section under each post is not working!  People have been sending me questions via texts, emails, and Facebook messages instead.  For everyone to benefit from these terrific questions, here are some recent ones:
1.)  Can I use natural crunchy peanut butter for the healthy and easy Peanut Butter Cookie recipe (posted last week)?  YES

I do not like natural peanut butter with a pool of oil floating on top, however, I have discovered a natural peanut butter that is simply peanuts, a touch of honey, and salt.  Parkers Honey Creamy is heavenly for spreading on apple slices or a piece of whole grain toast.  For baking, their plain Crunchy bakes best. You can find all their flavors at Whole Foods in the refrigerator section.

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2.) When people ask me to bring a salad over for holidays or dinner parties, I usually bring my Adventure Salad.  On Friday, I was asked how I created such a delicious and healthy salad.

Here is my secret healthy tip.  I use finely diced walnuts (I have tried hammering walnuts into tiny bits before and it was not pretty).  I like Diamond’s Finely Diced Walnuts, which I buy at Target in the baking aisle.

Adventure Salad Recipe

4 big handfuls of mixed greens

2 broccoli bunches- chopped

1 red pepper- chopped

½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes- use what is in season

3 long carrots- chopped

1 cucumber- peeled and chopped

¼ cup walnuts- finely diced

4 tbsp dried cherries- Target’s brand Archer Farms sells delicious and good priced dried cherries ($2.99)

3 tbsp goddess dressing

Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl and toss.  I let my kids throw all the ingredients in and toss away! Get messy!  Have fun!  And eat healthy!

Pasta Party

Tonight my husband danced through the front door singing, “pasta party!”  Our kids jumped up and down chanting, “pasta party!”  That is how tonight’s healthy meal started.
I rummaged through my pantry (which desperately needs to be reorganized) and found my favorite multigrain noodles and marinara sauce.  Now that you are starting to know me, I needed to add a healthy twist.  My son knew exactly where to turn.  Yesterday we received our Door to Door Organics box.  He thinks the local farmers send us a present every week!  He went into our produce drawer and pulled out carrots and broccoli.  Brilliant!

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Tonight’s family fun messy meal was Multigrain Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, & Carrots 

Multigrain Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Carrot Recipe
three quarters of a 14.5oz box of multigrain pasta (my family prefers Barilla Plus spaghetti noodles)
olive oil cooking spray- enough to cover the entire pan
1 pound chicken breast (use cooking scissors to cut the chicken into bite size strips- cooking scissors are a MUST in your kitchen)
2 long carrot sticks- chopped
2 broccoli bunches- chopped
1 cup marinara sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I always use freshly shredded.  If you don’t own a grater- buy one!  So fun for kids who are old enough not to cut their fingers on it!)
salt and pepper to taste
1.) Boil noodles according to package directions.  Drain, rinse, and set noodles aside in pot (you will use it again).
2.) In a sauté pan, heat olive oil spray on medium high heat for 1 minute.  Add chicken strips, season with salt and pepper while in pan, and sauté for 6-8 minutes or until chicken turns golden in color or is cooked through.
3.) In the pan with the chicken, add 1/2 cup marinara sauce, carrots, and broccoli and stir for 5 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
4.) Back to the pot with the cooked noodles, mix in 1/2 cup marinara sauce, chicken and veggie mixture, and Parmesan cheese.
5.) Put pot on medium heat for 3 minutes and blend.
My husband had two helpings, my daughter’s face was covered in red sauce with a smile, my son said his spaghetti was worth putting Curious George on pause for, and I cooked one healthy meal tonight!  Get messy!  Have fun!  And eat healthy!

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This morning I attended a school function for my son (it was fabulous until the teacher announced that the kids did not need to finish out the school day – it was 10:30am!!).  While at school, several moms approached me telling me how much they liked my blog🙂  THANKS!

They also asked what I planned on cooking for dinner tonight.  I had to think fast and strategize!  I was not sure what I had in the refrigerator, I now have both kids with me all day, my daughter’s nap to consider, my son’s basketball class later this afternoon, and I wanted to run for 30 minutes.

With all this on the itinerary today, tonight’s healthy family dinner is whole grain breaded tilapia with steamed broccoli on the side.  After naptime and before basketball, we took a field trip to the local fish store!  Going to the fish store is always a fun activity.  My kids love watching the lobsters and crabs swim in the tank and the sleeping fish on ice (I don’t have the heart to tell them the truth about the fish).  My daughter walked out of the fish store whispering, “nighty night.”
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Ingredients for a family of 4:
Here is my Whole Grain Breaded Tilapia Recipe.  My family LOVES this delicious, fast (literally 15 minutes from start to finish), easy, and healthy recipe.

1 ½ lbs tilapia (have the store take off the skin and cut the fish into 4 filets)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp pepper- freshly grinded right onto the fish

1/3 cup whole grain bread crumbs or panko crumbs

2 tbsp olive oil

      1.) Season both sides of tilapia with salt and pepper.

      2.) In a medium bowl, pour breadcrumbs.

      3.) Dip fish into breadcrumbs and cover completely.

      4.) In a large frying pan, heat olive oil on medium high heat and add fish for 3 minutes on each side or until the fish is completely cooked through.

My son loves to dip the filets in the breadcrumbs. Get messy!  Have fun!  And eat healthy!
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Easy Baked Halibut with Pesto

I wasn’t sure how my kids were going to take to fish tonight but not only did they both eat it, I almost fell off my chair when my son asked for seconds! I took them to the local fish store with me this afternoon, and they enjoyed watching the live lobsters. We chose halibut to bring home for dinner.

This recipe is super easy, quick, and healthy. More importantly, everyone liked it! Get messy! Have fun! And eat healthy!

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Baked Halibut with Pesto

4 4 oz skinless halibut filets- patted dry with a paper towel before putting in dish (ask them at the fish counter to remove the skin)

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice or 1 lemon fresh squeezed

¼ tsp salt and pepper

¼ cup pesto (I bought prepared but feel free to make your own.)

Directions:

1.)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9×13 inch baking dish.

2.)  Arrange fish side by side in dish.

3.)  Salt and pepper the top of the filets.

4.)  In a small bowl, combine oil and lemon juice. Pour mixture over each piece of fish.

5.)  Bake until just opaque in center, about 10 minutes.

6.)  Lightly spread pesto on top of each piece and cook another 2-3 minutes or until fish is cooked through.