Monday, July 31, 2017

5 Ingredient Banana Pancakes + Baby-Led Weaning

This healthy breakfast recipe for 5 Ingredient Banana Pancakes will start your day with spinach, bananas and protein. This recipe also works well for babies starting solid food with baby-led weaning.

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I used to LOVE green smoothies. I have posted several smoothie challenges on this blog, where I had a smoothie every morning for weeks on end to increase the greens in my daily diet. When I was pregnant last year I stopped craving smoothies for some reason and I have only had a handful for breakfast since. I eat yogurt bowls or healthy muffins in the morning instead of a smoothie.

I'm adding green pancakes to that list for the rest of the summer. This pancake recipe includes a few key ingredients from my green smoothies {bananas and spinach} as well as eggs, white whole wheat flour, and cinnamon. I think this is a more filling way to start your morning. If you think spinach in pancakes is odd, I promise you can't taste it! The key is to mix the batter in a food processor. Make sure to process the batter long enough that you remove any chunks of spinach. I processed mine for ~1 minute.

I cooked these pancakes in unsalted butter on my large skillet and topped them with a splash of maple syrup and nut butter.

I serve these pancakes to baby C plain, cut into pancake strips so it's easier for him to eat.

We started baby C on solid foods around 6 months, following baby-led weaning. This is not a new idea but it has gained traction in the past few years in the U.S. as an alternative to traditional weaning. I was given this book by a friend and I learned so much from it: Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods. Essentially, parents' following baby-led weaning {BLW} skip purees and rice cereal and begin offering solid foods around 6 months, once the baby can sit unassisted for at least one minute.

Babies following BLW are never spoon fed by adults, nor do they eat pureed food that is not naturally in that form {for example - BLW babies eat applesauce and yogurt but not pureed carrots}. Babies are given foods cut into finger-sized shapes, to encourage picking up and tasting food on their own. Offering foods through BLW gives babies the opportunity to explore different textures and learn how to chew/mash food with their gums and teeth as they come in. Foods that can't be cut into finger shapes can be smashed {such as blueberries and chickpeas} or offered in smaller pieces {such as quartering strawberries}. Some babies eat a lot from the very beginning, and others take awhile to consume much more than the occasional bite. Baby C is somewhat in the middle - but he seems to love experimenting with and trying new foods. We know this because he is the most talkative while sitting in his high chair! His favorite foods so far are broccoli, sweet potatoes, apricots, Cheerios, and these pancakes. Without the maple syrup, that's for me ;)

5 Ingredient Banana Pancakes
Yields: 14 small pancakes*

2 large handfuls of spinach
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon

*Add spinach, bananas, eggs, flour, and cinnamon to a food processor.
*Process until you get a pancake batter consistency {approximately 1 minute}.
*Add pancake batter to a skillet on medium-low heat. Flip when bubbles start to form.
*The pancakes are done cooking when the top is lightly browned.

Note: I used 1/4 cup of batter per pancake.

If you're interested in learning about BLW, I recommend joining the Facebook group "Baby Led Weaning for Beginners." Here are a few helpful articles about the topic:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

BLT Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls

This easy recipe for BLT Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls includes the best parts of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich without any bread. I used spiralized sweet potato noodles and added avocado to make this fast and healthy dinner. This recipe can be made gluten free, paleo, or Whole 30 compliant.

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I finally started using my spiralizer for something other than zucchini. I can't get enough of these vibrantly colored sweet potato "noodles."

Spiralized sweet potato noodles bake fairly quickly {30 minutes} and are almost as fun to eat as curly fries. I admit my digestion feels much better after eating the sweet potato version.

K and I have been making simple recipes for dinner lately, to maximize our time with baby C and recover from the inevitable sleep deprivation. C has been a champion sleeper but the 8 month sleep regression is no joke! Thankfully this recipe takes only a few steps to put together.

I baked a pan of nitrate-free turkey bacon and spiralized sweet potatoes while prepping the other ingredients. Halved cherry tomatoes, crunchy romaine lettuce, avocado and a simple dijon vinaigrette dressing is all you need.

BLT Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls
Yields: 2 servings

2 sweet potatoes
4-6 slices turkey bacon
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 avocado
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon Hatch chile powder

Dijon Vinaigrette:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Spiralize two sweet potatoes. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. I also added a few shakes of Hatch chile powder. Bake for ~30 minutes.
*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add bacon to a cookie sheet/pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes.
*Make dijon vinaigrette by whisking the ingredients in a small bowl until combined
*Top sweet potato noodles with bacon, halved tomatoes, chopped lettuce, and avocado.

Looking for more spiralizer recipes? Try:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Tart Cherry Cobbler

This summer dessert recipe for Tart Cherry Cobbler is delicious warm or cold, with a slightly crunchy cake topping and almond glaze frosting.

Phrases I searched this morning = "what is a cobbler?" I wanted to make sure I was naming this dessert appropriately. The answer: A cobbler is a dessert consisting of fruit baked in a deep dish with a thick, cake-like crust on top. Thanks Google.

I can't think of a better fruit to use in a cobbler than tart cherries, especially those harvested in Door County. I actually made this dessert at the beginning of summer for a friend's barbecue, using a jar of my favorite Door County cherry pie filling from Bea's Ho-Made Products.

I waited to share this recipe until the start of cherry picking season in Wisconsin, which began mid-last week in southern Door County. Cherry season in Door County is typically from mid-July to mid-August. Around 2,000 acres of montgomery tart cherries grow in Door County. Click here for a map of orchards.

I used cherry pie filling since I made this before the start of cherry season. The filling I used was purchased from my favorite jam store in Door County, and only lightly sweetened - not the gloopy, "pie in a can" that you usually find.

I think this cobbler would be even more delicious using fresh tart cherries instead of pie filling.

I rarely make desserts like this for K and I to have at home. It's much better to wait and share the pan with friends and family. This also helps me avoid dipping my spoon in for one last bite before bed!

Tart Cherry Cobbler
Yields: 10-12 servings

32 ounces tart cherry pie filling or pitted tart cherries
1 cup all-purpose white flour
3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar + 3 Tablespoons
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Almond Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon milk

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Add flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, eggs, melted coconut oil, milk, vanilla extract, and salt into a bowl. Gently mix with a fork until the ingredients start coming together and finish by mixing the dough with your hands. Be careful not to over-mix the dough.
*Add cherry pie filling to a 9x13 inch cake pan or baking dish. Add the dough on top of the cherry filling in small clumps.
*Sprinkle the extra sugar {~3 Tablespoons} evenly over the dough.
*Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
*Prepare the almond glaze while the cobbler is cooling. Whisk powdered sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and milk until you achieve the desired consistency. Add milk one Tablespoon at a time, if needed.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Outdoor Favorites in Door County, WI

My family of three spent a few days in Door County, Wisconsin over the 4th of July holiday. For the past three years, we have traveled up north for a short vacation with family. July 1 marks the beginning of high tourist season in Door County and Independence Day weekend is a great time to visit. The best activities in Door County involve being outdoors - today I'm sharing three of my outdoor favorites from our trip.

Hiking in Peninsula State Park

We visited Peninsula State Park for a morning outdoors and a picnic lunch. Peninsula is located between Ephraim, WI and Fish Creek, WI in the northern half of Door County. The park includes beautiful views of Green Bay and feels like an enchanted forest on the hiking trails with birch, aspen and evergreen trees. Peninsula offers biking, hiking, beaches, camping and a golf course.

Baby C and I finished a two-hour hike with my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and three nephews, starting on the Sentinel Trail. The men of the family rode on Peninsula's bike trails. Baby wearing can be quite a workout:

We packed peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and Lorissa's Kitchen protein snacks for our hike. Thank goodness we had snacks because we took a wrong turn and ended up on a second and third trail. What should have been a 1 or 1.5 hour hike ended up at 2 hours, but we had a great time!

We all loved the Korean Barbeque flavor - especially the spicy kick at the end. I appreciate that Lorissa's Kitchen snacks use 100% grass-fed beef with no preservatives or nitrates! Buy them yourself here.

Europe Bay Beach

Europe Bay Beach is located in Europe Bay Woods, between Europe Lake and Lake Michigan in northern Door County. I love this beach because the water is calm and the area is almost entirely undeveloped. The beach is perfect for relaxation and is extremely quiet compared to other beach areas in Door County.

Baby C enjoyed his time in the beach tent, watching his cousins play:

While Kristen and I spent 90 minutes kayaking on Lake Michigan.

After our kayak experience, we shared Ginger Teriyaki meat snacks. It can be hard to think of creative, non-perishable food items for a warm day at the beach but these snacks were perfect.

Sunset at Sister Bay Marina

K and I missed the fireworks show this year to put baby C to bed, but we went on a walk along the lake first to catch a glimpse of sunset. Sister Bay Marina offers an amazing sunset and Lake Michigan views, with boats and the beach in the background.

We also shared a meal at my absolute favorite place, Door County Creamery, for an impromptu anniversary dinner a few days late. I love my boys:

For more on Door County, check out these posts:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

5 Reasons I Love Chicago in the Summer

Today I'm sharing five reasons why I love summer in Chicago - my city home for almost 10 years.

It's hard to believe I have lived in Chicago for so long! I miss my family and friends in Iowa, but moving here has fulfilled my life in ways it's hard to fully describe. In my time here I have held four jobs, lived in four apartments, met wonderful friends, got married, bought a house, and had a baby.  I love living in this city and I think summer is the best time of year to enjoy it.

If you're considering a move to Chicago or the "Chicagoland" area, check out to learn more about cities and neighborhoods. is an apartment rental listing service with lots of information about Chicago and other cities. I think the conclusion that Chicago combines the big city with the Midwest mindset is the perfect way to describe living here.

1: Millennium Park

Millennium Park has an amazing outdoor music venue, Pritzker Pavilion, that hosts concerts and events all summer long. A few of my favorites include the National Public Radio taping of the popular show Wait Wait Don't Tell Me; weekly {free} music performances; and the annual outdoor opera highlights concert in September. The park also hosts free outdoor workouts during summer months, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.

2: Chicago Parks

Within the 77 neighborhoods of Chicago, there are 535 parks totaling more than 8,000 acres. I love spending time in Chicago parks on summer days. Two of my favorites are Lincoln Park {pictured below} and Horner Park. Lincoln Park includes the free Lincoln Park Zoo and weekly Saturday Green City Market farmers market. Horner Park includes many baseball fields, a 1 mile loop for running, walking or biking; one of the few running hills in Chicago; and a small Saturday farmers market during summer months.

3: Breweries

Chicago is a beer city - there are 65 breweries in the city limits and 110 in the Chicagoland area {see The Hop Review - The Comprehensive Brewery List of Chicago}. That number is second to Portland, Oregon. K and I still have many breweries to visit but I'll mention two of our favorites in this post. The best brewery to take friends to on the north side is Half Acre in North Center. It's cozy, they have a tap room and store, weekly tours, and a new dining menu. The best destination brewery is Lagunitas Brewing Company in Douglas Park. They have a large tap room/restaurant, an amazing tour and it's literally Willy Wonka themed as you walk through the main entrance. Two summers ago we took a long bike ride there with friends, ending with lunch and beer flights. Their beer circus event can't be missed, if you can get your hands on tickets.

4: Lake Michigan Beaches

One of the most amazing things about Chicago is the fact that all of the beaches on Lake Michigan within the city limits are public. While reading an article on little known Chicago beach facts, I learned the first public beach opened in 1895 {see 10 Things About Chicago Beaches You Might Not Know}. Today there are 27 beaches along the lakefront. Pictured below is Montrose Beach on a quiet morning before sunbathers arrived.

5: Neighborhood Races

Chicago is a great city for running. There are amazing running groups {two examples: Three Run Two and Chicago Area Runners Association}. Fleet Feet Sports also offers frequent group running events - check out their running calendar here.  There are also races scheduled on most weekends in the city and suburbs. I usually run at least a handful of races in the summer. I haven't signed up for any races in July or August yet {here's why} but there are a few I am considering:
  • Bastille Day 8k - July 14
  • Big Ten 10k - July 24
  • Humboldt Park 5k - August 14 {2015 race recap}

Here's to another 10 years Chicago :)

Have you visited or are you considering moving to Chicago? Check out the local Chicago guide here!