Tropical Green Monster Smoothie.

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As most of the U.S. is now covered with yet another polar vortex (I cannot tell you how much I despise that phrase), my kitchen is springing me forward with thoughts of warmer weather.  I’ve been inundating myself with tons of fresh fruit (even frozen) for my smoothies and they totally give my body a much needed Vitamin C boost and fool my tastebuds into thinking of spring and even summer.  Mangoes are priced so low at the grocery store, I can’t stop buying them and eating several per day.  The color, the flavor… undeniably good and great for you!

Channel your inner tropical and travel to a tasty tastebud vacation… so necessary after a super long winter!  I will give you a few options below in the recipe.  I made this tonight as an immune booster as two of the five members of my family are sick and prefer to stay on the healthy team.

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— Knead to Cook

Crock Pot Vegan Bean Chili.

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Chili is one of those super comforting meals for me and I have many, many recipes for different versions.   To me… it’s the perfect Monday meal – I have no idea why… probably because I can fix it and walk away.  I love dinners that are ready when you are with little fuss.  Yesterday I woke up thinking it was Sunday -admittedly, this was NOT good as it was Monday and the start of the week.  I lost a weekend day because Sunday our swim team hosted the longest Championship meet (or what seemed to be) and it was just draining after months of preparation.  

So yesterday was Meatless Monday and I was really craving a big bowl of chili.  Monday was also our very first night since September that we didn’t have swim practice or commitment so it was lovely to make dinner, do homework and just chill out for the night.  Tonight we celebrate our freshman swimmer at her high school banquet and her earning her very first letter  and once again, off we go.  Very thankful we have leftovers from last night!  This recipes yields about 10 servings.  

This recipe can easily be adapted if you wish to have it with meat by adding ground turkey or beef (cooked) to it.  It is already protein-packed with beans and was so filling that you honestly won’t miss the animal protein if you go that route.  This recipe took me about 8 minutes to prepare and I let it slow cook in my crock pot for 4-6 hours and just served it up once everyone was home.  Also makes great leftovers.

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— Knead to Cook

KIND Granola Bars.

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I’m always whipping up granola bites, balls or bars in my kitchen.  I really dislike the store-bought versions chock full of preservatives and chemicals that I can’t pronounce.  The fine people over at KIND sent me some granola to create with and that’s just what I did. They turned out quite tasty and with all of the different varieties they offer, the flavors can be customized to your preference.  I used vanilla blueberry clusters.  

These took only minutes to make and chilled up in the fridge in about 30 minutes.  Great on-the-go breakfast, snack, post workout treat, after-school snack or dessert idea.  My kids love granola and it’s a great way to pack in some healthy ingredients.  You can use whatever granola or trail mix you prefer. You can also add mini chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit, nuts etc.  Totally customizable!

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— Knead to Cook

Wheat Berry Stuffed Bell Peppers. Vegan. Vegetarian or Meat Lovers.

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The count in my family is now 2 vegetarians and 3 carnivores.  I have to admit, somedays its just hard enough getting one dinner on the table versus two different options to satisfy everyone’s needs/wishes.  This dish works really well because you can prepare the base and use that for the vegan/vegetarian option and add your protein for the meat lover versions.  You can make as many as you need working essentially between the two dishes.  This dish can easily be prepared ahead of time as well and then just baked/broiled right before serving dinner.  Plus it’s packed with protein and vitamins to keep you humming along healthy and happy! 

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— Knead to Cook

Very Veggie Marinara Sauce.

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Happy President’s Day!  This week will be an absolute blur for me – too many meetings, a very special 15th birthday, her party, and our swim team is hosting a very large, all-day swim meet that I’m on the board for… lots of planning on tap this week.  I’m very happy to have a post ready to go today.  It’s actually our dinner for tonight and I’ll admit that I’ve eaten a bowl of this sauce already (you know, quality assurance).  It’s perfect for meatless Monday!  And if you puree it – it makes it kid-proof so they can’t pick out veggies or even detect them AND it thickens the sauce up nicely so your most voracious carnivores get the same thick, meaty sauce feeling in their mouth that will fill them up sans the meat.  

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— Knead to Cook

Black bean and sweet potato bake in the crock pot.

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This was our dinner from Monday but after a week of pure madness with the weather again, I’m finally sitting down to blog about it.  My husband has now embraced the vegetarian lifestyle (for the moment) and I’ll admit, it’s becoming a balancing act between three carnivores and two vegetarians for dinner.  I’m having flashbacks of when my kids were younger and everyone wanted something different for dinner.  Moms out there know exactly what I’m talking about!  So Mondays are strictly Meatless Mondays here now. It helps me out a tremendous amount – taking the guesswork out of what’s for dinner and my kids know not to look for the elusive meat choice of the night.  Plus one night without meat won’t kill them, despite what they think.

This recipe takes seconds to get together and put in your slow cooker/multi cooker/crock pot.  I’ll admit, not a gorgeous dish but it rocks your tastebuds!  I’ve been eating the leftovers and it just gets better every day.  Plus it’s loaded with beans for protein and great vitamins!  A good friend of mine dropped off some of her special Indian rice and we served this over that.  All I can say is HEAVENLY!

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— Knead to Cook

Brown Rice Krispy Treats. Clean Eating.

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Valentine’s Day is this Friday and I’ll admit, I don’t get caught up in all of the pomp and circumstance like I used to.  I know that sounds really lame but I like to think that I show my husband and family love throughout the year and not on one special day.  Please no hate emails!  I will make a special dinner at home, quiet and low key.  I found the cutest gifts for my girls in January that I’m actually excited to give to them and my husband… my rock!  I got him several pieces of Lululemon summer shorts/tees on sale and already gave it to him.  Ha.  I’m pathetic- yes I know.    

With Valentine’s ready to go to school for my youngest, I did want to whip up a fun treat for my family to enjoy without tons of junk in them.  So I thought of what was gooey and sticky and would work to grab ahold of these fun X and O sprinkles I had on hand.  Rice Krispy treats!  Perfect!  Also, with the frigid temps we have… they would set up in seconds outside… and that’s exactly what they did!  My daughter gobbled two down on the way home from school.  Super cute!  Super yummy and PROTEIN packed!  Now there is something to LOVE {swoon}.

Customize these to your holiday or event.  Would be perfect shaped like eggs for Easter, with green sprinkles for St. Patty’s Day.  Let your mind go wild with fun ideas!

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— Knead to Cook

Pineapple Cilantro Green Monster.

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If you’ve been following my blog over the last 14 months or so, you have noticed a shift in my cooking and overall eating.  I’ve become very passionate about what I put into my body – avoiding refined sugar and processed foods.  My husband has recently stopped eating meat and fish and has become a smoothie master in my house.  He loves the Vitamix!  Creating fun and tasty smoothies is so easy and this recipe was a home run!  This smoothie was whipped up after my workout at the gym and was a welcome kick-start to my refueling.

Did you know that drinking your greens will actually help you radiate health from the inside out.   Please just look at that color?!  How can you not be illuminated by such a beautiful green smoothie!  Yeah, yeah… think I’m kidding.  I’m not!  Plus it will provide a boost of vitamins that your body craves to keep your engines humming along.  You don’t taste the spinach – I promise!  You can also omit the jalapeƱo if that isn’t your style.  I just like the heat.

Trying to be healthy – start with a smoothie.  It’s a fantastic way to incorporate more veggies into your diet.

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— Knead to Cook

Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Soup.

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Oh the snow.  Oh the ice.  I have to admit, I grew up in Pennsylvania and fully expect snow and ice in the winter but this winter!  This winter has been like no other – our kids haven’t been to school for a solid week of school since before Thanksgiving 2013!  Craziness.  So yesterday was just like all the other days… a delay then a cancellation.  My husband decided to stay at work overnight because he works an hour away and with an ice storm it was just safer.  Blessed with our power not impacted, unlike many of my friends, I got cooking.  I whipped up some fun treats and made a big pot of roasted tomato soup and added some chickpeas.

Okay, why chickpeas?  I know, chances are you’ve never heard of anyone adding them to tomato soup but with my vegetarian lifestyle – I try to find opportunities where I can add fiber-packed foods, I do it.  This wonderful combination pairs up beautifully together and keeps you full for hours.  Perfect winter food to warm your soul too, which we all need with this crazy winter.

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— Knead to Cook

Dark Chocolate Chia Pudding.

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I’ve been a chocolate aficionado for a very long time.  It’s definitely one food passion of mine that I refuse to give up.  I’ve curbed back and definitely avoid sugar-laden desserts with my cleaner eating over the past 15 months so changes had to be made.  I needed to find better options to satisfy my love of chocolate.  My kids are the same.  They love chocolate.  One loves milk the other follows my passion for deep, dark, rich chocolate.  I’m not a fan of store-bought puddings filled with tons of sugar and other preservatives.  My option:  Make my own!  I’ve been making chia pudding for several years now.  In fact, way before the chia seed popularity took the world by storm.  My farmer’s market that I go to year round sells bags of chia for a great price and I began experimenting with it after reading about how nutritionally packed it was – how couldn’t I?

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to New England twice in only a few months and popped by King Arthur’s crazy fabulous store (both times) and my friend Jenny suggested I buy this deep, rich dark cocoa powder because it was the best.  I bought several bags and I concur, Jenny, my friend – you were right!  It makes this pudding over-the-top delectable.  My kids eat it for breakfast with a mashed banana mixed in.  It is so good and it curbs all of those chocolate-crazed moments in our lives (and yes, we all have many of them DAILY!).

I’ve also made this pudding with some powdered peanut butter mixed in as well for a peanut butter cup type of pudding.  I’ll add that suggestion below.

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— Knead to Cook