4 ingredient chocolate brownie bites

Oliver is currently telling me he "need more brownie"....done!  These chocolate "brownie" bites contain protein, healthy fats and no refined sugars making them an ideal snack or breakfast.

I know we've all seen a million recipes for this kind of "ball", but I really like this recipe from Fit Foodie Finds (check out all her great recipes and ideas).

Here's why I like them:
1.  They require only 4 ingredients that I already had in my pantry and are easy to make in about 5 minutes.

2.  The dates give a nice balanced sweetness, but they're not too sweet.  Plus, the dates provide lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals that sugar lacks.  I used organic pitted deglet noir dates.

3.  My husband and kids love them.  While Oliver will pretty much eat anything, the other two are picky!

4.  They satisfy my never-ending need for a quick and easy healthy snack for all of us.


back to school breakfast: protein packed granola is a great alternative to store bought cereal

I have a love-hate relationship with cereal.  I love it because it's easy- my 4 year old can make it himself and my kids really like it.  And I hate it because it lacks real nourishment: it's typically low in protein, processed, and high in sugar.  It also goes right through my kids leaving them hungry 30 minutes after eating.  I've spent my fair share of time in the cereal aisle and have yet to find anything that's a great choice.  Sure, there are some fine choices, but nothing that comes anywhere close to this recipe for real nutrition and staying power!

This recipe for Nut Butter Granola is super nutrient desnse...here's the breakdown:

  • 15 grams of protein and only 6 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup serving!  
  • healthy fats including omega-3s and lauric acid to boost immunity
  • 1/2 cups meets the recommended daily amount of zinc and magnesium for young children (2 nutrients most kids AND adults don't get enough) 

And here's the recipe:

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup butter (ideally grass fed, like Kerrygold)
1/2 cup nut butter
1/4 cup real maple syrup (plus or minus depending on your family's taste preferences)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 cups oats
1/2 cup pistachios*
1 cup cashews*
1 cup pumpkin seeds*

1. Combine the oil, butter, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a sauce pan and heat on low until combined
2. Pulse the cashews, pumpkin seeds and pistachios lightly until some are broken up but some remain whole (I only do this because my 2 and 4 year old prefer the nuts to be broken down).
3. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir adding cinnamon and salt
4. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and cook at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until it begins to dry (the timing may vary depending on your oven and taste preferences).

* You can use any nuts and seeds that you like but I use these because they're some of the highest in protein, magnesium and zinc.


Read more about why zinc and magnesium are such important nutrients for our kids and ourselves here.

the best vitamins and supplements for children

Do you give your child a multivitamin?  What about other supplements?  Since school is back in session and we have less control over what and who our child is exposed to (aka less than ideal food and germs), it's a good time to consider your child's diet and potentially supplements.

Most children don't eat perfectly balanced diets most days (if any).  In fact, less than 20% of kids get the required 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.   Additionally, a child's diet, appetite and affinity for healthy food can change daily- every day is different around here!  So when I'm asked if I give my children a vitamin and if I think it's necessary, my response is "most of the time it can't hurt, and can really help."

So what is the right multivitamin for kids and what other supplements do kids need?

1. Multivitamin with minerals:
*look for something with minerals added as many kids' vitamins don't contain or lack sufficient amounts of minerals, specifically those listed below.  These nutrients are particularly important because they tend to be lacking in a typical child's diet:

  • magnesium- magnesium helps maintain muscles, bones and nerves and is essential for preventing metabolic syndrome.  Processed foods contain little magnesium.  Pumpkin and sunflower seeds as well as cashews and black beans are good sources.  Another great way to get magnesium in your child is through salts in their bath.  I add 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1-2 cups of epsom salts to their baths at least 1x per week.  
  • chromium: Chromium is important for metabolism and blood sugar control.  There is a loss of this nutrient when foods are refined, so the more processed one's diet, the greater the risk of deficiency.  In fact, the american diet is more deficient in chromium than most other diets due to our affinity for processed foods!

*Look for a vitamin/supplements that are non-GMO

*Avoid the gummy: not only are they bad for a child's teeth, valuable B vitamins are often removed to make them taste better.

* We've been using ChildLife Multi-Vitamin and Mineral and the boys really like it.  I found it at Whole Foods (pictured above).

2. Omega-3s:
*If your child doesn't eat much fish, eggs or grass-fed meat or consumes a lot of processed foods, he or she may not be getting the right omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio.  Low levels of Omega-3s are associated with skin conditions, anxiety, ADD and speech delays to name a few.

*We use Nordic Naturals Omega 3 with Vitamin D lemon flavor (in liquid form as it's most bioavailable and effective).  I give them 1 tsp a few times per week.  Serving wild-caught salmon 1-2 times per week is another great way to get the omega-3s in!

*Fermented cod liver oil is another great choice but my kids don't love the taste...I can hardly blame them.  The one thing that helps is combining a bit of the liquid vitamin mentioned above with the cod liver oil.  Even a little bit is a good start.

3. Probiotics:
*Gut health is essential to boosting your immune system, especially with school starting and the introduction of new germs.

*Supplements are a good choice (I like Garden of Life and Biocult but there are many good brands out there).

* Fermented foods like Bubbies pickles, kefir, miso, kimchi and kombucha are also great choices and don't add the additional expense.  My kids love kombucha and pickles!

4. Vitamin D:
* Being in school all day with limited recess time and shorter days means kids get little sun exposure.

* Aim for 1000 IU Vitamin D/day for children 3+.  Our omega-3 supplement has vitamin D or you can get it on its own.

5. Nourishing Food:
Finally, the very best way to get vitamins, minerals and other nutrients is usually from FOOD.   Here are a few kid-friendly ideas to increase the nutrients your child might be lacking:

  • 1 cup greens (spinach or kale), 1/2 cup each pineapple, mango and cucumber, juice of 1/2 lime and a little water or ice.  Add 3/4 cup plain, whole fat yogurt if you wish to increase the protein. 
  • Or this Toddler-friendly green smoothie

*Trail Mix
  • 1 cup each cashews and pistachios, 1/2 cup each pumpkin and sesame seeds, 2 Tbsp each organic raisins and dark chocolate chips

*Grass-fed beef taco bowls
*cashew ranch dip
*Salmon patties with dip 

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that no one and no diet is perfect.  Don't sweat the small stuff, just try to make good choices most of the time, avoid processed and packaged foods as much as possible and introduce your children to all kinds of foods and experiences.

And PS, this article, Demystifying the Diet by Kelly Dorfman discusses the prevalence of gluten and dairy allergies and low zinc levels and their manifestations in children.  I highly recommend reading it.

Getting ready for baby

Preparing for the arrival of a baby is exciting!  Your life is about to change in a major way whether this is baby #1 or #6.  I've found there are a few unique things you can do for yourself, your family and your home that will make the last few weeks of pregnancy more relaxing and help you survive and even thrive in the days after baby comes home.

1.  Get a chair massage (aka take time for yourself):  
Chair massages have been such a great treat for me these last few weeks.  A full prenatal massage is also a great option if you have the time, can find someone with the right table and have the funds, but for me, a 20 minute chair massage once a week has helped me relax and feel "treated" without disrupting my schedule or bank account too much.  I also suggest getting your hair and nails done :)

2.  Practice Yoga:  
Maybe it's because I'm not getting any younger, but this 3rd pregnancy has been tougher on my body and I've been crabbier than ever. Yoga has helped with both the body and mind issues of late pregnancy.  And it's a nice little escape from the rest of the world.

3.  Consider your gut health via probiotics:
When a child is born and when you hold him in those first moments, the baby's gut is colonized with your bacteria so it's important to do your best to make it healthy.  Also hospitals are nasty, germ infested places.  Having a healthy gut helps you to be equipped to fight any bug you might encounter.  Here are some ideas for how to get your gut healthy with probiotics.

4.  Get in the water:
Similar to yoga, being in the water has felt great on my joints.  And there's just something about being in and near water that makes you feel refreshed.  Who doesn't need a refresher after 8-9 months of pregnancy...

5.  Have a "bringing home baby" outfit for yourself:
There will be lots of photos in the first few days and weeks, and most of them will be of the baby, but have someone take some photos of your new family on the day baby comes home.  A nice shot at the hospital or in front of the house is a great keepsake.  Find something you can breastfeed in (if you're choosing to breastfeed) and something loose fitting....there will still be a bump (the Duchess of Cambridge had one, and you will too).  Here are some ideas for cute and comfortable postpartum style.

6.  Buy baskets:
Babies have so much stuff.  Keeping a few extra baskets around the house helps keep that stuff organized.  Toys, dirty clothes, clean clothes, diapers, pads, etc. etc.  Put it in baskets and help keep your sanity.

7.  Prepare for the pain:
You'll be sore after birth.  A former colleague introduced me to the idea of soaking pads in witch hazel, wrapping them in foil and putting them in the freezer.  This will feel great for the first few days home after baby...trust me!  And on that note, there are serious uterine contractions even days after the baby is born, especially when breastfeeding and especially with each subsequent baby.  Stay on top of your pain meds (if you're taking them) or brace yourself and your family.  I didn't realize this with my second and was wailing on the couch the first night home...thank goodness my mom was there.

8.  Buy gifts for the other children from the baby and vice versa:
My 4 year old has been talking to my belly requesting his new toy for weeks.  The baby will take a lot of their attention away, but they also need to accept that and learn to give and welcome this new little member.  I can't wait for the gift exchange in the hospital!

9.  Think about food and water.
Prepare a few extra meals for the freezer, stock up on trail mix, bars, good cheese, smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, frozen fruit and veg for smoothies etc.  Most days when you're the only adult in the house, you won't sit down to a meal but maybe grab a handful of trail mix, an apple and some cheese.  And regarding water, your thirst level if nursing will be out of control.  Treat yourself to an extra large glass or stainless container with a straw.  It will be your new best friend!

10.  Consider placenta encapsulation:
If you're worried about postpartum depression, low energy or low milk levels, placenta encapsulation might be a good idea for you.  I've read about this a lot lately and a friend and acupuncturist just told me that she did it and it helped her immensely with energy levels and balanced emotional health.  It's touted to help ward off postpartum depression, balance hormones, increase milk supply and replenish nutrients lost during birth.  I haven't tried this before but am considering it this time around.  This article about placenta encapsulation on For The Love Of is very informative.

Good luck and ENJOY!!!  This will truly be one of the most amazing experiences of you life...soak it all up!

Also, the power of touch: skin to skin contact 

How to get a healthy gut: probiotics

affordable and comfortable style after baby: the mom uniform

Style after baby (especially in the first few weeks and months) isn't typically glamours, but that doesn't mean it can't be sometimes.  Here are a few stylish, affordable and washable mom uniform looks that you can breastfeed in anywhere, anytime and still feel a little cuter than you do in your yoga clothes -without sacrificing the comfort.  Just add an oversized scarf and/or favorite cardigan and you're all covered...literally :)

Loft * J.Crew * Zara * Madewell * EverlaneShopbop * Bloomingdales

And what I'll probably be wearing most days: a favorite oxford or denim shirt (PS, try J. Crew, Old Navy or Gap boys department) black jeans or leggings and of course dark sunglasses!

And if you're still dressing the bump, check out Maternity Style, Best Dressed Bumps

One-On-One Time with Your Children

When you have multiple children, there's probably few opportunities to spend real, quality time with them individually.  Sure, there's the time when the older one is at school and you rush to the grocery store, doctor and park quickly before pick-up time.  But what about real quality time?  We recently had the opportunity to spend 4 full days and nights with our 22 month old while our 4 year old was away with his grandparents.  Here's what happened...

1.  I identified my weaknesses as a parent:
Many of the frustrations I was feeling with both of my children had to do with time management,  and specifically not having enough time to do the things I felt I "had" to get done and also my need for alone time.  So I learned that I need to make more time, get up earlier, get more day-time sitters and schedule less.  I'm a better mom when I have fewer expectations of the way the day is supposed to go and I take a little time to enjoy my kids and spend some time alone.  I also had the time to really pay attention and notice what makes Oliver laugh, what makes him frustrated, when he's overwhelmed (and thus likely to lose it) and how he engages with his toys.  I think those observations will help me appreciate him more... and they say gratitude is a key to happiness.

2.  I noticed how I can help better one of my son's weaknesses:
As the second child, Oliver will probably benefit from us sitting down and talking to him more often without the distraction and background noise of his older brother, TV, music or chores.  And I should probably be reading him more books!  All of these things seem to have helped with his speech delay in just 5 short days!

3.  I was able to really pay attention to who Oliver is right now:
Oliver, or "Crash" as my husband calls him, is probably the one who starts more of the trouble than I thought.  He's all boy.  He would probably love a more active day than he's getting lately as he's being shuffled from doctor's appointment to Sam's camp to the grocery store etc.  He also did great playing on his own which he doesn't get a lot of time to do with big brother in the house.

4.  It's good to shake up the routine: 
I don't mean changing up nap time or bedtime, but just looking at the day with a different perspective can be refreshing for everyone and a fresh learning experiences for kids.  Some simple ideas: eat breakfast outside, take time to let your child wonder down the street and pick up sticks, stop to watch the trains go by, throw coins in the fountain and take a long walk after dinner.

5.  It's a nice break for your marriage:
Let's be honest: fewer kids can mean less work which means more time and energy for your spouse.  My husband and I went to brunch, watched movies, chatted and cooked with fewer distractions and enjoyed our younger son together.   Obviously I wouldn't wish for any fewer kids, but every once in a while...

And with all this being said, I also realized how much I love them as brothers and how great it is that they have each other.  When Sam got home he gave me a quick hug and raced to find Oliver!  Sam is so thoughtful and cares so much for Oliver and Oliver looks up to Sam and follows his every move.  It's such a joy to watch their relationship grow and see how much they really do love and enjoy one another....most of the time :)

And to help foster that relationship, check out this great article by Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo about Sibling Rivalry, 5 tricks and tips.

And a few more thoughts on parenting...

Roasted Eggplant Spread Recipe: A healthy & tasty summer alternative to hummus

Wondering what to do with that eggplant?  You should turn it into a super simple and delicious healthy roasted eggplant spread.  I used farmer's market fresh ingredients to make this adapted version of Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Eggplant Spread Recipe.  She uses red peppers but I didn't have any so I used the peppers listed below.

Here's what you'll need:
1 medium eggplant
1 jalepano (seed and ribs removed to take the heat down)
2 sweet banana peppers
2 small red onions
2 cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste (I've been using the Bionaturae organic brand in a glass jar to avoid the BPA found in cans and it's great!)
Salt & Pepper

For cooking directions, head over to see Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Eggplant Spread Recipe

photo courtesy of Girl By The Lake

This spread reminds me of Tarantino's eggplant spread/dip they bring you when you sit down out at Tarantino's Italian Restaurant in Lincoln Park.  It's great with veggies, on bread or crackers or even on its own.


how to feel sexier (even while pregnant)

What makes you feel sexy?  What about when you're pregnant?  While there are so many beautiful things I love about being pregnant, there are some things that make me feel less than, well, sexy.  But I'm trying to focus on the positive, so here are a few things I've found (or think I need :) to add a little skip to my 32 week pregnant step.

how to feel sexier (even while pregnant)

Bright nail polish: 
I'm not usually one to get a manicure often, but this summer I can't get enough coral and orange red (Essie Clam Bake is a nice option).

A simple and slight gold ring (or 2, 3, or 4): 
With the bright polish and a little tan...love!  These gold rings by Jennifer Meyer  are on my wish list!

A lacy bra: 
Besides the baby, there are 2 other benefits of gaining pregnancy weight ;).  This Luxe The Label bra is so pretty, comfortable and priced right!  I especially love it under a white tank.

Big bold earrings: 
It's hot, hair is up and there's something so fun about oversized earrings in the summer.  I've had my eye on this pair of J.Crew of tassel earrings.

Cute yet casual summer shoes:
My husband's cousin was wearing the cutest orange pair of Swedish Hasbeens over the 4th holiday and she looked so effortlessly stylish and darling.  Supposedly they're really comfortable too...a must while pregnant!

Rosy cheeks:
RMS beauty lip to cheek makeup is my favorite makeup I've bought in years.  It's the secret to the J.Crew model glow and is now available to the rest of us via RMS beauty.  I use it for both lips and cheeks and instantly feel better and brighter when I put it on.  And it's coconut oil based, organic and free of harmful chemicals.

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