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A Busy Mom’s Extra Green Pesto Pasta

I know I’m not alone when I have that “UGH” moment after a long day at work when I’ve just arrived home and I’m about to let out a sigh of relief when I can finally put on my comfy clothes and let the stress of the day fade away BUT then I remember that I haven’t made a plan for dinner yet. The worst. Exacerbated by the hungry faces asking me what’s for dinner.

This is usually when my savvy mom skills kick into gear and I get creative with stuff that’s in the fridge, however, one of these instances has led to one of my favorite meals that’s perfect for when you’re busy with returning back to work after the holidays and still wanting to stay true to the cutting back on takeout and unhealthy foods resolution.

Cue: A Busy Mom’s Extra Green Pesto Pasta!

SO easy! So realistic after a busy day! With the help of some go-to grocery store items, this dish is ready in the amount of time it takes to boil some pasta.

Ingredients:

1 package of pasta (Willow loves bowtie but any work!)

1 jar of pesto sauce (my favorite is from Trader Joe’s)

1 handful of fresh cherry tomatoes (feel free to add in more! They’re extra sweet and juicy after being warmed from the pasta!)

1 bag of spring lettuce mix

3 tablespoons of salt (for boiling water)

Half a lemon

Parmesan cheese & favorite Italian spices to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring pot of water + 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil
  2. Throw in pasta & follow cooking instructions on bag
  3. In the meantime, cut cherry tomatoes in halves
  4. When pasta is al dente, strain and place back in the pot
  5. Add pesto and Italian spices to pot of pasta
  6. Add fresh cherry tomatoes and squeeze lemon juice on pasta
  7. Stir! (This is the hardest step ;))
  8. Serve on a bed of fresh spring mix lettuce and add parmesan if you’re inclined for some cheese
  9. Enjoy the happy faces and well fed family!
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Christmas Morning Recipe

Every one has their favorite Christmas memories while growing up. I still remember mine as a little girl waking up early to peek down at the tree lined with presents and smelling breakfast waiting for me. I now try to instill some of those same traditions and memories with my family. One of my favorite things on Christmas day that has become a family favorite are my breakfast cinnamon rolls. It may be a simple recipe but with a few extra ingredients these rolls take on a holiday twist that will sure become a winner in the household.

Ingredients: (makes about 4 dozen rolls)

11 to 12 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

3 teaspoons salt

3-1/2 cups water

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

Filling:

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup raisins

Frosting:

1/4 cup butter, softened

3-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

3 to 4 tablespoons water

Directions: 

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine 8 cups of flour, sugar, yeast and salt.
  2. In a saucepan, heat water and oil to 120°-130° and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until it is all incorporated and moistened. Then add the eggs and mix until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  3. On a hard surface knead the dough until smooth and elastic for about 5-10 minutes. Then cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. After turn the dough onto a hard surface again and divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a 24 in. x 15 in. rectangle. Brush it with butter and combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the dough. Roll it up jelly-roll style and pinch seams to seal.
  4. Cut dough each into 24 rolls. Place the rolls cut side up in a 13×9 in baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.
  5. Bake at 425° for 18-22 minutes until golden brown.In a small mixing bowl, combine frosting ingredients. Spread over warm rolls. Cool on a tray.

The aroma of the rolls will fill up the entire house and make you want to bake another batch!

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#AskAbby: What cookie recipe did you make with Cat Cora?

I’m so happy chef Cat Cora gave me her recipe to share with all of you! We had so much fun making it on Facebook live! Make sure to keep your eye out for more cooking videos!

Lemonade Sugar Cookies 

Makes 4 dozen cookies

1 6-ounce Can of Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
½ Pound Unsalted Butter (2 sticks) (Softened)
1 Cup Sugar (Plus extra red and green colored to sprinkle over the cookies)
2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest (Finely Grated)
2 Large Eggs
2½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/8 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Fill a large bowl with warm water and plop in the unopened can of lemonade to thaw while you mix the cookie dough.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer. Add the lemon zest, if desired. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is light and creamy, 4-5 minutes, then set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the thawed lemonade and set the rest aside. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Stir, then add about one third of the 1/2 cup lemonade. Continue adding the flour and lemonade alternately, stirring after each addition, until the mixture shows no streaks of flour. Beat on low speed with the mixer just until all the ingredients are combined.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake the cookies, checking them after 8 minutes. When the edges are just starting to brown, remove the cookies from the oven. (The centers will still look soft.) Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the top of each cookie very lightly with a little of the remaining lemonade concentrate, then lightly sprinkle with the colored sugar. Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow them to cool completely.

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Healthier Hot Chocolate

Most of the country is being drenched in snow right now while California is still enjoying 80 degree temps! Though the warm weather is always pleasant… sometimes it can be hard to get into the holiday spirit when you still have your beach gear out!

 

One of our favorite ways to help get ready for the holidays is with some classic holiday treats! Everyone in the family LOVES hot chocolate but the powdered pre-made stuff is never as satisfying as the real deal… and even better… it’s super easy to make your own hot chocolate that is A LOT healthier than traditional recipes. Dairy-free makes this hot chocolate easier on tummies and minimal sugar is useful when Willow wants some at night.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups  Your favorite almond milk – plain/unsweetened vanilla works! (Better yet, you can also make your own! See my post on how to make your own almond milk HERE)

1 tbsp Unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp Semi-sweet/dark chocolate

2 tbsp Raw sugar/stevia/honey/maple syrup  

¼-½ tsp Vanilla extract/peppermint extract (or a candy cane/cinnamon stick if you’re going crazy!)

 

Directions:

  1. Warm almond milk in a small saucepan (you want it hot but not boiling)
  2. Melt in the chocolate while whisking
  3. Whisk in cocoa powder, the sweetener, and extract
  4. Optional: place in blender or coffee press and blend or pump (this should be done quickly to mimic a blender) until frothy

 

Notes: Hot chocolate is super customizable so feel free to add/detract ingredients depending on how you and the family like it!

 

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How To Throw An Easy Friendsgiving

This year I planned a Friendsgiving for some of my close girlfriends, and after sending out the invites I was having second thoughts. Preparing a whole meal for 6 people while pregnant was starting to feel quite stressful, and let’s just say I am not the greatest cook! I was definitely looking for some cooking hacks that would help me out in preparation for the big feast.

I found a Farmer John Gold Wrapped Whole Ham that comes pre-cooked and is easy to heat in the oven. I added a brown sugar-agave glaze to it just before it was done cooking and it was perfection (I was pretty proud of myself that I didn’t burn it or myself!). See the simple recipe here:

 

FARMER JOHN® Whole Ham  (instructions also come printed on the wrapper…so easy!):

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 325°F (my ham was about 20 pounds so I increased my temperature to 350 degrees).
  2. Remove ham from package and discard the bone guard.
  3. Place ham cut side down in baking pan and cover ham with foil.
  4. Place ham in oven and heat for approximately 15 minutes per pound until warm. Do not overcook. (I cooked mine for a little over 5 hours until a food thermometer inserted into the ham read temperature of 140°F).
  5. With 30 minutes left pour glaze over ham (simple recipe below) and continue cooking 30 minutes more, basting at least twice with the drippings to ensure the ham does not burn.  
  6. Allow for the ham to stand covered for 5-10 minutes before carving.

 

Brown Sugar Agave Glaze:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups packed, light brown sugar
  • 1 cup agave

 

Directions:

  1. Combine the brown sugar and agave in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and the brown sugar has dissolved.
  3. Pour the brown sugar glaze over the ham and continue cooking 30 minutes more, basting at least twice with the drippings to ensure the ham does not burn.  

 

The ham came out beautifully and was a favorite among my guests! Now, I am definitely a sides kind of girl, but recently I’m really into the desserts (it could have something to do with these twins!). I went for a non-traditional pie this year, and did a dark chocolate brownie cake topped with FARMER JOHN® All-Natural Bacon bits. Pro Tip: You can totally cheat and use a boxed brownie mix like I did for this!!

Dark Chocolate Brownie Cake

Ingredients:

 

Directions:

  1. Follow instructions on boxed brownie mix and cook as directed.
  2. While brownie cake is cooking, cook about 5 slices FARMER JOHN® All-Natural Bacon until well done. I like them crunchy.
  3. Let brownie cake cool, then, ice with dark chocolate icing.
  4. Chop bacon, sprinkle chopped bacon bits onto icing.
  5. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

*This post is sponsored by Farmer John, but the opinions and excitement are all my own!

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Spaghetti Squash Recipe

This recipe is a MUST HAVE for Mom’s looking to feed the whole family a super healthy meal but don’t have a lot of time for labor intensive meals. It’s also a crowd pleasing dinner that sneaks in veggies where heavy carbs usually are. A win-win for parents and the kids!

Wash the outside of an organic spaghetti squash. Pierce the skin with a knife several times.

Put 1/2-1 cup water in the bottom of a crockpot.

Place squash in crock pot and set on high for 2 hours.

Prior to squash being done sautée turkey meat in skillet. Heat marinara sauce in sauce pain until hot. Mix sauce with turkey meat.

Remove squash from crockpot, let cool. Cut into 4’s. Scrape out seeds from center.

Add salt and pepper to taste, along with butter.

Use a fork to remove squash from skin and into plate. Cover with marinara sauce and turkey. Sprinkle with cheese.

 

Photo credit: Kate Hauschka Photography

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How To Make Almond Milk At Home

We stopped drinking dairy milk in our household quite some time ago. In our family we found that dairy wasn’t so easy on the tummies, so we incorporated almond milk into our diets. I usually bought the in-store almond milk, but always wanted to try to make my own. So with a little trial and error I ended up with an easy recipe that the whole family loved.  Its simple and quick, plus it is a great activity to do with the kids.

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds

2 cups water (if you like a thinner consistency add more water, for thicker consistency add less)

1 tbsp agave

1 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment:

Blender

Bowls

Cheese Cloth

Strainer

Measuring Cup

Measuring Spoons

Instructions:

Pour one cup of almonds in a bowl, cover with water. Cover the almonds with a cloth and soak the almonds overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Drain and rinse the almonds under cool water.

Add almonds to blender (I use a Vitamix) along with water.

Add agave and vanilla extract.

Blend on high for 2 minutes.

Pour the almond milk through a cheese cloth into a bowl.

Press the almond milk from the almond meal inside the cheese cloth. You should get about two cups of almond milk.

Bottle almond milk, refrigerate for up to two days and enjoy!

Photo Credit: Kate Hauschka

The Perfect, Kid Friendly Guacamole Recipe

Does your household celebrate taco Tuesday? Turkey tacos and guacamole is a constant in our house. One of my biggest cravings that I had when pregnant with Willow was avocados. It’s no wonder that she also loves them! As a Mom, I really appreciate finding easy recipes that I know the whole family can enjoy. I snagged this 5 minute recipe from one of my best girl friends, India and it has remained a favorite for the last several years. You can really make it two ways, one for your children to enjoy and one with a kick of jalapeños that really gives it a spicy kick.

Gather your ingredients:

4 Ripe Avocados (press them gently, they should give a little)

1/4 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 vine tomato, finely chopped

1/2 lemon

salt

 

Instructions:

  1. Cut Avocados in half, remove the pit. Score the inside of the avocado with a knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. I mash the avocado just a bit, as I really like it stay chunky.
  2. Add chopped onion and tomatoes, mash again to mix.
  3. Squeeze half a lemon to add juice to guacamole and salt to taste. Mash again to mix.
  4. Serve immediately with your favorite chips, raw vegetables, or as a topping to your tacos! Enjoy!

*To make the spicy adult version, I add a 1/4 of a fresh, chopped jalapeño to step 2.

Photo Credit: Kate Hauschka Photography

 

The Easiest Turkey Chili Recipe

So during football season and throughout the fall I have a serious obsession with cooking Turkey Chili. I make it for my family and friends at least once a week (if not more), and it is a perfect way to feed a large amount of people if you are hosting. I found this recipe years ago on All Recipes and doctored it up a bit to make it my own. It is seriously delicious! See the ingredient list and cooking instructions below:

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1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 cups chicken bouillon (the original recipe calls for water, but I think the bouillon adds more flavor)

1 (28 oz) can organic crushed tomatoes

1 (16 oz) can organic tri-blend beans, crushed (the recipe calls for kidney beans)

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I tend to leave this out if children will be eating)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Garnish: avocado (cubed), shredded cheese, sour cream, jalapeños (sliced), and tortilla chips

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Place turkey in the pot, and cook until evenly brown. Stir in onion, and cook until tender.

Pour chicken bouillon into the pot. Mix in tomatoes,  beans, and garlic. Season chili powder, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

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Photo Credit: Kate Hauschka Photography

My Favorite Tips for Healthy Snacking

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Oh My Gosh! Can we just talk about what a disaster my diet turned into when I had my daughter and time seemed to go flying out the window. I literally would find myself skipping meals, and eating Willow’s leftovers. Let’s just say my diet consisted of a lot goldfish, puffs, blueberries, applesauce, pasta…I mean I would eat whatever was left on the plate. I like to call these mishaps “snaccidents”. So recently I have really focused on getting my diet and my life (lol) together so that I am making healthy choices for myself.  I really love these Fiber One Coconut Almond Protein Bars which I purchased from Walmart. I like to pair them with fresh fruit like apples or almonds throughout the day to help me stay on track. They also really curb my cravings for sweets. Here is how I plan ahead to ensure healthy snacking throughout the day:

  1. I plan snacks for the day, the night before. I tend to put my Fiber One bars in a baggy with my fruit so they are already to go.
  2. I carry snacks with me when I am on the go. This keeps me from buying unhealthy food.
  3. I try to not wait too long in between eating. I usually eat every two hours to ensure my blood sugar doesn’t crash which usually jump starts my cravings for things like potato chips or chocolate.

Tell me what your #fiberoneflavor is that helps you stay on track with your healthy eating. You can buy Fiber One bars from @walmart.

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