Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage- or a plain yogurt without added sweeteners)
Half can of canned pumpkin
Vanilla Protein Shake (I prefer Arbonne's- vegan certified, low in sugar)
Almond milk (I prefer unsweetened Simple Truth or homemade)
Vanilla Creme Stevia (made by Sweet Leaf)
Granola (I prefer homemade or Nature's Path Coconut Chia or Pumpkin Seed variety)
As soon as there is a crispness in the air and the leaves start to change, I start to crave certain seasonal foods. From chai tea, to pumpkin anything, to cinnamon, I just can't get enough. It's hardwired in.

Having craved some pumpkin deliciousness lately, and enjoying eating foods that are healthy and yummy, I decided to throw something together for a special Halloween lunch for my girls. Utilizing the things I had in my fridge and pantry, I decided to make a seasonal Greek yogurt with some protein shake in it or added protein.

In my blender, I put a little bit of almond milk (unsweetened) in first. Then, I dump spoonfuls of Greek yogurt in (I prefer Fage). I used about half of my 35.3 oz container to make enough for 3 people. Next, I added about 3 scoopfuls of vanilla protein shake followed by about half a can of canned pumpkin. Last, I added in about 3/4 tsps of Pumpkin Pie Spice (added 1/4 tsp at a time until the taste was just right) and about 4 or 5 droppers full of vanilla creme stevia.

I mixed all the ingredients up well and added a lit bit of chopped ice so that it would be cool but not too cold. I added a little more pie spice and stevia until the flavor and sweetness was just right. Then, I poured the yogurt into bowls and garnished it with some granola.

When buying granola, yogurt, or any foods for that matter, I always look at the ingredients. I don't buy foods that have a lot of added sugar. It's also important to see what the source of the sugar is by looking at the ingredients. If it has High Fructose Corn Syrup, I almost throw it back on the shelf. Not really. That would be rude, but I definitely do not buy it! Whenever I can, I make my own foods that are sweetened with natural sources like Stevia that doesn't add any calories.

This yogurt was delicious and a special treat for the girls. If I hadn't had all this yogurt that I needed to use, I probably would've made pumpkin pie protein shakes. Either way, you can't go wrong. Yummy and healthy- a great combination!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Ingredients: broccoli (2 or 3 crowns), chopped red onion (half), apple cider vinegar (4 tbsp or more), Greek yogurt or mayonnaise (1 cup), Sweet Leaf liquid stevia extract
Optional ingredients: chopped carrots, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, crumbled bacon, dried fruit (craisins, raisins, blueberries, etc.), chopped apple
Note: I chop my ingredients into small pieces because I have small children. 
Step 1: Rinse broccoli. Break up the crown into small bite-size pieces and chop the stems into small pieces. Put them into a large bowl that will hold the finished broccoli salad.

Step 2: Rinse carrots. Then, chop the carrots and add them to the large bowl.

Step 3: Chop red onion and add it to the mixing bowl.

Step 4: Make the dressing mix in a separate bowl. Mix 1 cup of Greek yogurt or mayonnaise*, 4 tablespoons (or more) of apple cider vinegar, and 1 dropper full of Sweet Leaf stevia extract.
Note: Taste the mix and adjust the taste and consistency to your preferences.
* This salad is definitely healthier using Greek yogurt. You could do a little of each until you transition to all Greek yogurt if you want. When using Greek yogurt, I also include about a tbsp of fresh lemon juice.

Step 5: Add in any extra ingredients like the sunflower seeds or Craisins. After mixing in all of the ingredients, cover the bowl, and put it in the fridge until it's time to serve.

Note: I think this salad tastes best after it has cooled and sat for several hours. I've definitely served it after making it fresh when I didn't have time to make it in advance. But, we do prefer it cooled.
This salad is a favorite in my family. My husband has always loved it. In fact, when it's in the fridge, he'll snack on it throughout the day. Since the sweetener has zero calories, it's pretty healthy (depending what mayonnaise you use).

While I chop the ingredients, my girls like to munch on the veggies. I definitely don't feel bad about them snacking on veggies though.

This recipe is sure to please. It has a twang and sweetness that satisfies any sweet tooth along with fulfilling the need to crunch.

Regardless of who you are and what types of foods you like to eat, we all like to munch on foods that crunch. There's something innately satisfying about the crunch factor. Unfortunately, so many of the crunchy foods that people eat are unhealthy and just add inches to their waistline.

One crunchy treat that I love to eat is granola. Now, all granola is not made equally. There are many granolas that are actually quite junky.

You may be asking what makes a granola junky? There are two categories to consider when picking out a granola- sugar and carbohydrates. In fact, sugar and carbohydrates are really pretty much the same category.

It's not to say that all sugars and carbs are bad because they aren't. They are not all created equally. For my granola, I like to have all nuts and seeds to maximize the protein content and use sugars that sweeten it naturally without drastically increasing the glycemic index.

Since I am rather choosey about what I want in my granola, I choose to make my own. it is fairly cheap and easy to make your own granola, which makes the decision a no-brainer for me. You can follow this recipe or you can tweak it to include some of your favorite ingredients.

I love to crunch on granola by itself, put it on top of my Greek yogurt fruit blends, use it as a homemade cereal, and add it to muffins or breads.
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 25-35 at 300 degrees
Ingredients: 5 tbsp coconut oil, 6 droppers full of vanilla creme stevia, 2 egg whites, 1 tbsp of vanilla extract, 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp sea salt, nut mixture: 2 cups almond meal, 1 cup walnut pieces, 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
* Note: This mixture can be adjusted accordingly. You really can't mess it up. Put in what you like and make it your own.

Warm the coconut oil by submerging the jar in a bowl of warm water. After it becomes a liquid, measure out 
* Make sure to wait to add the oil until you are ready to pour the liquid mixture into the solids. When the oil cools, it will become a solid.

The almond meal can have fine bits that is more like flour and bigger chunks. Mix in the sea salt, ground flax seed, and cinnamon.

Break the walnuts into chunks. I tried sticking them in a food processor but it doesn't give the nice chunks like you see here. I'd rather take a couple minutes to do it myself than have it ground into a pulp.
* I saw a cooking show that had some apparatus for this purpose. I can't remember what it was called.

Mix the egg whites, vanilla extract, vanilla creme flavored stevia extract, and last the coconut oil in a bowl.
* Note: Make sure to add the coconut oil just before mixing in with the dry ingredients so that it doesn't change back to a solid.

Next I added the chunky stuff to the almond meal before I added the liquid mixture. I added some of my favorite nuts and seeds- pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts (broken into small chunks).

Now, mix in the liquid mixture until it is throughly mixed.

Last, take the mixture and lay it on a parchment paper that is on top of a pan. You can make a small empty hole in the middle so that it dries well as it cooks.

After it's cooked, store it in an airtight container or tupperware to keep it fresh and ready for your next yogurt treat, bowl of cereal, garnish in some bread or muffins, or just to snack on and fulfill that need to crunch. Enjoy!

Orange Delight Soup
Cook time: 15-20 minutes (or 6-10 minutes if no steaming)
Ingredients: Carrots (15 baby carrots), 2 Roma tomatoes, 1/4 cup shredded cheese, 1 tbsp of Vidalia onion, 1/4 tsp dried basil, 1 clove of garlic, 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup filtered water
Optional ingredients: avocado, meat such as chicken
When I make recipes, I want recipes that use ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. I do no like what I refer to as high maintenance recipes. At least, I don't like making those kinds of recipes. Eating them I'm fine with.

I had a hankering for some tomato soup and I had fresh roma tomatoes on hand that I needed to use. But, I didn't want just plain tomato soup. I wanted to spruce it up a little without making it complicated (not to mention to make it so that my daughter who has a thing against tomatoes would eat it and love it).

I just threw this recipe together and it was a hit- big time! Even my picky daughter ended up loving it, though it did take some convincing to try it (there were bribes involved). Once she did try it, she loved it.
First, I gently steamed the baby carrots in a steamer. The cook time is supposed to be 12-15 minutes. I did not want them fully cooked (because I wanted to retain more nutrients).

I steamed them in my Black & Decker steamer/rice cooker for 9 minutes. They were a little soft but still had some crunch to them.

* The second time I made this soup, I threw the carrots in raw and it turned out great, and the added benefit is less nutrients lost in the cooking process.

While the carrots were steaming, I put the vegetable broth into the blender. I was making this soup for a family of four and wanted some extra on hand. I put in about 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of filtered water. We like our soup to be thick and creamy. If you like your soup to be more watery, you can always add more water.
Next, I washed and cut up two roma tomatoes into quarters. I added them to the blender. 

I then added the steamed carrots when they were finished cooking.

Last, I added the extras- some steamed Vidalia onions (probably about 1 tbsp), about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese (I used Mexican because we almost always have it on hand), 1 clove of garlic, some basil (about 1/4 tsp).

When I served it, I added some chunks of avocado, sprinkled a little cheese on top, and tore up a little bit of grilled chicken that was fresh off the grill.

Of course, you can add other spices or alter it to suit your tastes or even what you have on hand. This soup was delicious and everyone was begging for more, which is why I made sure to have extra on hand (hubby went back for seconds).

Tips to mothers of young children/babies:

  • My baby loves to eat soup. I give her a straw with her little bowl and she drinks it. I have to help her a little with tilting the bowl as it gets low in the bowl, but I can do this and eat myself too. She definitely doe not want me to soon feed her (and I don't want to either).
  • My older child is in the picky eater stage. She started out by dipping her chicken into the soup. I don't know about your children, but mine will eat pretty much anything if they can dip it. Once she liked the soup as a dip, I then tore up chicken and put it in her soup, along with some crushed tortilla chips (an extra special treat). I didn't add much at all, but it only took a little bit of tricks to trick her into liking it.