Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

Coconut Shrimp

Did you know that the FDA classifies coconut as a tree-nut; therefore, every time we use coconut we need to check on the manufacturing facility? Thankfully, Hy-Vee has a wonderful service department always willing to answer my allergy questions, as soon as possible. This time, they called me back in 4 minutes. Outstanding. The news they gave me about the Hy-Vee brand coconut made my week. The coconut distributor that they work with to put the Hy-Vee brand name on, is only made in a facility with other coconut products, no tree-nuts. The Hy-Vee brand was THE ONLY brand at the store that was NOT MADE IN A FACILITY WITH OTHER TREE-NUTS. Thank you, Hy-Vee.

This was the first time I’ve made coconut shrimp. My husband does not like the texture, so I made sure to make plenty of lightly panko breaded shrimp for him + the kiddos.

I would consider this recipe a weekend recipe, unless you are able to make the salsa and sauce ahead of time. It took me 15 minutes to prep the shrimp, 15 minutes to prep salsa + 15 minutes to make avocado sauce. An additional 15 minutes of baking time, this recipe took me a full hour to make. This did not include the 30 minutes of clean up. With kids.

This recipe is adapted from Cara Clark Nutrition.

Coconut Shrimp Tacos + Mango Salsa and Avocado Cilantro Sauce


  • 1 pound medium wild shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed (to quickly thaw frozen shrimp, remove the total amount from your freezer bag, put into colander, put colander full of shrimp under cool tap water in your sink. Should take about 5-10 minutes. While you’re prepping the assembly line, the shrimp will continue to thaw.)
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp. water, lightly beaten in small bowl
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • salt and pepper


  • 1 cup diced mango or pineapple
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • I also added 1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro (if you don’t like cilantro, try fresh parsley)


  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
  • 1 /3 cup water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1 medium lime
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • pinch cayenne (or any pepper for that matter)
  • sea salt + pepper to taste

For serving: small gluten free corn tortillas or lettuce cups (bib lettuce) and sliced avocado + purple cabbage.


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place a wire baking rack on top of a large baking sheet, coat with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the coconut, paprika, salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg.
  4. Make an assembly line with the shrimp lined up next to the egg wash, next to the coconut mix, next to the baking sheet with baking rack. Dip the shrimp in egg wash, then dredge in coconut, lightly shake off excess.
  5. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
  6. While the shrimp are cooking, make your salsa + sauce (you can also probably find these two items to buy in your local produce section of big store made fresh, in case you need a short cut).
  7. In a medium bowl, add all the ingredients for the salsa, chopping everything around the same size and set aside + refrigerate.
  8. add the ingredients for the sauce to a bowl. Either use a food processor or immersion blender to puree. save sauce in bowl with air tight cover. Refrigerate.
  9. Remove the shrimp from the oven. To assemble tacos, place 4 shrimp on your tortilla with cabbage, salsa, avocado and drizzle sauce over the top.

Local Flood Caused by Spring Green Soup

Sort of, not really. More like my entire counter top was covered in pea soup looking liquid.

If you follow me on insta, you saw the beautifully posed food, food-porn-like photo-shoot, that I so proudly (hahaha) displayed showing the array of GREEN loveliness that would soon nourish my cleansed + detoxed soul. Are you laughing yet? I hope so.

Shortly there after, it erupted.

The last step of the recipe told me to put the entire soup into a 12 cup food processor. I did that. What I didn’t know was that I put too much in (batching the soup is better), it was hot, and it needed to breathe. Thus, soup was spewing everywhere from the food processor. I’ve never had this happen to me before. I was considering NOT processing the soup down to a puree since I already drank a meal (breakfast smoothie. I have teeth, and enjoy eating, actual food.) But against my better judgment (I’ll fill you in on my “toothpaste” soup another time) I did it.

It is Monday. The busiest day of the week in our household. Right now, at 9:13, is the first time all day I have had a chance to sit (besides in my car, but that doesn’t count). This meal needed to work. It had to work. I was making it work. Chloe has Little Gym class at 6:30, so we needed to lave the house by 6:15, putting shoes on at 6:00, and having our last bites of dinner at 5:50 (you know this routine, you’ve been there). My eruption happened at the wrong time. Oven pre-heating for emergency pizza was not happening. Chloe needed dinner before class.

I ended up saying, “Surprise! Dinners ready.” And scooped the remaining soup out of the food processor, added some milk, boiled it with some salt and pepper, and the kids miraculously ATE IT ALL. I’m not sure if they saw my face and decided that Mom just needed to catch a break, or if they were ravenous hungry from eating fruits and vegetables all day.

Here’s the recipe. It tasted OK – I’ll put my tweaks below too.

Spring Green Soup

  • 3tbsp evoo
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 bundle asparagus
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 15oz can of cannellini beans
  • 2 cups unsweetened nut milk
  • 1.5 cups low sodium and preservative free vegetable stock/broth
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 nutritional yeast


  1. Preheat oven to 425. Toss asparagus (asparagus should be trimmed, and to trim, I mean bend the asparagus, where it snaps is where you trim off. I just snap all of my asparagus by hand, the woody ends are not enjoyable.) and shallot with 2 tbsp. evoo and season with salt and pepper on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. While asparagus is roasting, heat a dutch oven or stock pot over medium hi heat. Add 1 tbsp. of evoo. Add the garlic, more shallot if you have some, and cook for 1 min.
  3. Add the peas, beans, milk, broth and thyme. season with salt and pepper. bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, chop up the asparagus into 1 inch pieces – add them to the pot.
  5. This step is optional – I ended up NOT doing it, and it tasted just fine. Use immersion blender and puree the soup or transfer to a blender or food processor. Add nutritional yeast and top with fresh thyme.

Notes:  I added a few extra herbs because rosemary and oregano are best friends with thyme (fresh, or dried). Next time, on a non-meatless Monday day, I’ll also add some sweet Italian sausages, crumbled. Some whole milk or heavy cream would also go very well in this dish. An extra shallot or two is also great – I added shallot to the asparagus, and then to the soup. My shallots were really small, so it worked well. The nutritional yeast in my store is made in a facility with tree-nuts, so it’s not allowed in our house. We garnished with parmesan (take the block of cheese and use a potato peeler to get some nice long pieces of cheese over the top). Also had Triscuits with it for some carbs. MMM. Carbs.

We ate it. It was nice for meatless Monday. Next time, no food-processor. Cleaning that up was not fun.

Have a great week – tomorrow is coconut shrimp tacos with mango salsa and avocado cilantro sauce. Hope it turns out….I’ll post a pic first on insta.



Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

Spiced Lentil Soup

A phrase that is so rarely uttered in this house at meal time, I did a double take. Day 3 of CCN healthy eating challenge is going well – the dinner recipes are what I really enjoy making. The smoothies for breakfast (why we shouldn’t drink all of our calories later*) and snacks aren’t my favorite, but keeping lunches simple with salads is easy and delicious.

Last night was Lentil Soup + tonight we had Crockpot Chicken Tacos. The kids and husband LOVED both. This rarely happens, and I feel as though I’ve recently won the lottery, despite this darn head cold. The meals were SO easy to make, just about 20 minutes of prep time each. I can handle that.

Spiced Lentil Soup

(adapted from Cara Clark Nutrition)


  • 1/4 C evoo
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 (28oz can ) diced tomatoes, BPA-free, non-gmo, organic
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils (CHECK YOUR PACKAGING, some are made in facilities with NUTS).
  • 4 C low-sodium vegetable broth, non-gmo, organic
  • 2 C water
  • 1 tsp sea salt + fresh pepper
  • 1 C fresh greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Optional Ingredients

  • 2 bay leaves
  • extra carrot, peeled and chopped
  • two stalks of celery, chopped similar size as carrot
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • parmesan rind
  • applewood smoked chicken sausage


  1. Warm the evoo (extra virgin olive oil) in Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped onion, carrot and cook, stirring often, about 5 min.
  3. Add garlic + spices. Cook until fragrant. (If you’re adding the “optional ingredients,” do so now)
  4. Pour in the lentils, broth, and water. Add 1 tsp salt and a pinch of red pepper flake. Season with ground pepper.
  5. Bring to simmer and cook for 30 min.
  6. You can also use in immersion blender to make this a bit creamy. I chose not to.
  7. Lastly, add the greens (I left mine out and ate as salad).
  8. Serve with lemon
  9. Yield 6 = Enjoy!


Crockpot Chicken Tacos


  • 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 C organic unsweetened fresh salsa
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 (15oz reduced sodium) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of corn kernels
  • for serving: boston bibb lettuce, diced avocado, black olives and fresh cilantro


  1. Combine all ingredients in crockpot. Cover and set to cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 7 hours.
  2. Serve over chopped romaine or inside the bibb lettuce like a cup. Top each serving with avocado, black olives and cilantro.
  3. Yield 6 = Enjoy!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED the fact the kids got into this recipe tonight. My little guy, who is only 2, could eat the meal like it was an actual taco because the boston bibb lettuce (my all time favorite buttery lettuce) was SO easy for him to hold, and eat. Much easier than a taco shell, or soft burrito. Plus, it was so healthy for them. So glad this worked out. Hope it works for you, too.

Tomorrow I’ll be trying a new smoothie recipe with some frozen bananas and spinach and berries. It’ll be posted here if I like it 🙂

*I enjoyed this link from US News Reports about eating calories, not drinking them, and the milk analysis rocks!

Eat your calories, don’t drink them.




Creamy Breakfast Smoothie


Creamy  Berry Smoothie

  • 1/2 frozen banana (remove the peel before freezing bananas, I learned the hard way, that was rough)
  • 1/2 c frozen berries
  • 1 stalk celery
  • handful of greens, spinach, kale, etc.
  • 1 tbsp. cashew butter (I substituted this with sunbutter/soynut butter)
  • 1 tbsp. hemp hearts (no idea what this is, didn’t use it.)
  • 1 tbsp. maca powder (no idea, didn’t use it)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 uncooked rolled oats (couldn’t find nut-free, so used quick oats. the difference is the processing, quick oats are more processed than a whole/rolled oat)
  • 8 oz of unsweetened coconut milk
  • ice

Mix it all up – drink it.

If you follow me on insta, I posted a lovely photo of the Verry Veggie Egg Muffins. They LOOKED amazing. I had a hard time eating them today, they smelled horrible after microwaving and there was NO WAY I was eating them cold.

Very Veggie Muffins

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 cup chopped veggies
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Preheat oven to 350. coat muffin tin with oil or muffin liners. Fill each cup 2/3 full of egg mix using an ice cream scooper.
  • Serving is 2 muffins. plus a cup of fruit.



I Fell For Good Marketing, My Own Profession.

I’m on day 1 of a new 30 day good eating challenge. It starts with a “cleanse” and “detox” – two words used so freely now that they are practically meaningless.

Lets back this up – what is detoxing? It is, “that ubiquitous, yet amorphous term that refers to various dietary regiments that supposedly clean you out, give your body radical reboot, and help you drop weight fast (UC Berkeley Study).”

Detox has become a catch all term for any number of non-traditional diets. It claims to remove any unwanted pounds and toxins from your body. Toxins are defined as substances created by plants, animals and microorganisms.

Guess what? Our bodies are DESIGNED to get rid of toxins naturally.  Do you have a colon, kidneys, liver? Well then you’re in luck! Those things are cleaning you up 24/7.  The body is amazingly efficient at detoxifying itself. We don’t need to do anything special. Eating nutritious fruits, vegetables, healthy protein/meats, dairy and carbohydrates is what makes the body run efficiently. If you have a bad weekend of over eating, don’t go out of your way to eliminate key nutrients/meals/good groups to try and “detox” – this is not necessary. Your body already did this. Plus, studies have shown that these “cleanses” and “detoxes” that eliminate food groups, or have you drinking just juice and flavored water do more harm than good. This is just another fad.

Everything in moderation, right?

I’m going to be honest – the way I feel right now is not cool. I’ve been following the detox rules for about 7 hours, and I feel tired and sluggish, like I am lacking calories. I stopped my run on the treadmill 15 minutes early because I’M SO HUNGRY.

If you have nut allergies in your house, the recipes I’m making will not work for you. Most of the smoothies and salads have some type of nut in them, making it difficult to try and stay full by eliminating just the nuts. I’ve substituted nuts for chick peas and I’m ravenous. If we could have almonds in our home, this would probably be a little easier.  I also had a hard time finding oats for my smoothie that were not made in a facility with tree nuts or peanuts. The figs that I needed to make the chocolate truffle energy bars were also challenging to find.

I’ll continue to eat SUPER HEALTHY for the next 29.5 days with all these SUPER HEALTHY ingredients that I’ve purchased. But it turns out, I wasn’t doing that bad to begin with. My body LOVES meat. My body LOVES carbs.  My body LOVES to eat salad every day for lunch. I just need to eat them in moderation, along with exercising on a regular basis.

There is no get healthy fast solution. Slow and steady does the trick. I will be posting some recipes tonight though because there are some really tasty ones that I’m excited to try.


Hey, milk, is that you over there? I’m so sorry for all those mean things I said to you before. Get over here so I can gobble you up! GET IN MY BELLY.



My Food Babysitter

A few months ago I started following Cara Clark Nutrition (CCN) on Instagram.  She is a Midwestern native from Ohio, and a mom of 4 kiddos. She resides in California with her husband and is a nutritionist. I love that she incorporates science into her menu suggestions, kind of like the female version of Alton Brown, but less nerdy. For example, her blood sugar stabilization chart would have come in handy during my freshman year of college.

  1. Never eat a carbohydrate alone. Always pair with protein, fat or both.
  2. Eat a meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours. Never go more than 4 hours without eating.
  3. Never skip meals.

Mostly, her healthy eating sounds like stuff I already make, so I understand her methods. There are no fillers, no “buy my protein powder” gimics. It’s all REAL FOOD. ALL FOUND AT YOUR LOCAL GROCERY STORE. She just explains how to eat it right.

She turned me on to smoothies + a few new recipes, so naturally, I think we’re like BFFs.  When she started to offer 30-day food challenges, I backed off, thinking, eww. I can’t do that. And food challenge, who the heck does those? I don’t believe in “cleanses” – that’s just a feel-good term health nuts use to lure you in.

Guess what? I signed up to do her 30-day food challenge. It starts Monday, April 18, and I’m scared as hell.

I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater. Then I started reading her approved menu items.

  • Maca berry smoothie
  • Turkey taco bowls
  • Salmon and corn salad

These are things I would NEVER eat. And there’s more. Lots more. Lots of the menu items contain nuts; pistachios, cashews, walnuts, etc. We’re a nut-free household. So my frustration and stress are just through the roof at this point. I signed up to eat healthy, not to reinvent a menu and follow someone else’s stupid rules!!  I hate rules, btw. Grumpy face ensues.

I had to sleep on it – it’s already paid for. $60 for someone to babysit my eating + exercise.

This is just what I need.

All day long, I’m at home. Do you know how easy it is for me to eat a Starcrunch, Nutty Bar, York Peppermint Patty + healthy salad for lunch? Three of those things don’t belong, but I have no problem justifying them (oh, I had a hard morning with the kids. Or, oh, I run around all day long, I’ll burn it off. Or, OH this popcorn is organic and non-GMO, I can eat a whole dump truck full!). Not. Just because it is organic or whatever, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

I’m going into this with an open mind. Trying to, anyway. I’m definitely NOT going to be making turkey tacos, (hey, I’m from Wisconsin, and most of my food groups look like carbs, beer, carbs, beer, cheese and wine.) Maybe I’ll make shrimp tacos or crispy tofu tacos. But the thought of ground up turkey is **BLECH** disgusting.

The shopping list is intense. Definitely going to have to up my game, big time. Have you ever had hemp seed? I’m going to have to make sure we don’t have an allergy to that one. And all the nuts in salads and granola – going to have to find substitutes for those. Also, looking for a substitute for homemade granola….have yet to find one nut-free in the store that’s safe for us.

Anyway, I’ll stop whining and try it. The exercise part should be easy. The eating portion is where I will struggle. So, if you’re interested in joining me, I can certainly send you some recipes. I’ll be blogging about the nut-free food challenge experience, so stay tuned.

On the bright side, I am looking forward to the blueberry breakfast smoothie, chocolate truffle energy balls, and homemade hummus.

Like with anything – this will take a lot of hard work (new recipes take EXTRA time in the kitchen, blah, blah, blah) and patience.

Hopefully, this 30 day experience wont be as hard as I’m thinking it will be, and the kids and hubs will get some enjoyment out of it too. Otherwise, I’ll be wishing I bought those cute new espadrilles from DSW.

Enjoy your weekend – it’s going to be beautiful!


What’s a Modern Day Village?

I remember thinking in 2009, as a newly-wed, how wonderful it would be to start a family.  How nice Sunday family dinners would be, the entire house packed full of family and friends, laughing at old memories around the table.

We started a family in 2011. And what a wake-up call. It’s not 1980. My family is not next door, there is not free help around. No cousins to play with. No school to walk to. In fact, our family is an hour and a half away from us. My husband landed a great job in a city 90 miles away from our family, that’s just how it worked out. In fact, almost 15% of American families do not have close family members living within an hour of their home (Pew Research Poll, 2008). Advanced degrees, and other reasons, take us to different types of jobs that aren’t necessarily where we grew up, where family is.

We had to change our thinking once our daughter was born.  We couldn’t do it alone, and I certainly needed a break from being with baby all day! Along with how our world has dramatically changed (would you trust your neighbor, who you just met on the elevator to watch your kid? Me neither).

We needed to think about who was going to be our village?  Who was going to be our help?

Usually, it’s family, because they are your family, duh. And to our wonderful families credit, we all do an AMAZING job of getting together, planning outings ,and sleepovers and great meals together. However, its the day-to-day items that I’m talking about here.

Right now, we’ve just  begun. We have a 5 and 2 year old. I stay at home full-time with the kids. Our oldest is in a wonderful 4K program, so that is very nice to have her in an activity 3 days per week, meals included. My husband works a ton of hours at work, then usually has something after he comes home. Usually a conference call, net meeting, is on-call with the hospital, and is trying to eat, spend time with the kids, and help put them to bed. By 9pm, we’re exhausted.

Here’s what I’ve implemented as our modern day village to help us out. Please don’t judge.  Everyone’s situation is different – and we have  a lot to maintain on a daily basis. If you have kids, you know how crazy the household can get by just trying to keep things going: meals, dishes, grocery shopping, reading a million allergy labels, paying bills, cleaning, laundry, laundry, laundry, car pools, kid activities, time with spouse*, etc.

  • Housekeeper comes twice a month on Thursdays.
  • Thursdays that the housekeeper does not come, we clean as a team (our kids WILL know how to keep a clean home, and scrub a toilet)
  • Pick-up and delivery dry cleaning service for husbands work clothes (I don’t have time to iron. Seriously?)
  • Lawn service that comes 1 time per week
  • Pool service that comes 1 time per week (secretly, I’d love to fill it in with dirt.)
  • Babysitter every Wednesday daytime (for volunteer work) + Thursday night for date night with the hubs (LOVE this time)
  • Other mom friends
  • Swimming classes, little gym classes, preschool
  • Amazon.com + my delivery peeps at UPS, USPS, and FEDEX
  • Occasional grocery delivery from Metcalfes or HyVee

These services are my village, and they know it. I rely heavily on them.  When our nanny of 5 years moved last year, I cried. For 3 days. These are the people that we rely upon to keep us going, to take some of the intense stress away from juggling so many things at once.

When the kids are a little older, we will be able to drop some of these services, but for now, with how crazy life is with little ones, this is what works. So thankful to be able to have the help that we do.

As much as I’d like to “go back to the way things were” in the 1980s, it’s not possible. Our world is a different place. Our neighborhood isn’t full of young kids to play with, so its up to us to have some fun options for our kids, like swimming, gymnastics, dance, parks and rec, soccer, etc.  There are different worries, stressors, environmental things to consider now that we have young kids in 2016.  I have a child with severe nut allergies, so naturally, my stress level about her independent play time is a little higher than normal.  But we deal with it.

We are more knowledgeable as a society and information is at our fingertips.  In many ways, this is more difficult because we know so much. I think being a kid in the 80’s was great because ignorance was bliss. Our news only came on 1 time each day, there was no such thing as the 24 news channel. TV turned off at midnight. Now we know too much.

Our world is changing every day, all the time. Whether we want to or not, we need to adapt to keep swimming (Finding Nemo, love that little guy).  This is how I’ve adapted to where we are living now. It works for us.  Maybe it will help you too.  Hopefully you don’t think I’m a spoiled princess by now. I probably am a little bit. Ok, a lot, but I am thankful and always remember my ROOTS.


*Spouse – That person you married because you were so madly in love with them. Remember that day? It was magical, wonderful, full of family and good times. Don’t let the day-to-day stress ruin it. Don’t let the splattered breast milk all over the night stand ruin it, even though you’re crying and covered in spit-up, dried milk, probably poop and little pee, oh and Spaghettios because that’s all you had time to make for dinner.  Don’t let the magic marker on the wall ruin it. Even though you have another project to do now. Don’t let the little boy peeing all over your new rug ruin it, even though you want to scream. There is a reason you chose this person. They HAVE YOUR BACK. THEY LOVE YOU. Don’t shit on them by being in a bad mood when they get home from work. Love each other. Make time for each other.  Keep date night alive. The rest of the stuff can wait. Without the two of you in love, there would be no family. KEEP IT GOING. Be a good example of what a good marriage looks like.