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Last Monday our power went out and Juliet and I got locked out of our house (I didn’t have the front door key and the garage door wouldn’t open). We were both hungry and needed dinner asap so we stopped at Panera. Let’s just say I’ve never seen Juliet eat so much or so fast as when I witnessed her have Panera mac and cheese. Whoa. I was like, “slow down honey! Chew good!”, I was worried she would choke she was shoveling it in so fast.

I had a few bites too and damn, it was good. But pretty salty. I hoped I would be able to find a recipe to re-create at home, but with much less salt and any extra unnecessary additives.

Luckily with a little help from Pinterest I was able to find an awesome recipe.

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Banana chocolate chip donutsI know it’s the New Year and I think that means I’m supposed to be talking about green smoothies but instead I’m talking about donuts. Don’t worry, they’re baked.

Like most, I’m ready to take a break from the indulgences that the holidays bring. But instead of launching into a super strict New Year’s diet I’m trying out basic moderation for a change. Which means I can eat donuts. In moderation. And besides, these donuts are actually pretty healthy. They are made with bananas and yogurt. Well and sugar, but only moderate sugar.

Juliet adored these donuts. She took one bite, gave me a huge smile and yelled “YUMMY!”. To me, that equals baking success.
Banana chocolate chip donutsI baked mini donuts because they are damn cute and it helps with portion control.  Banana chocolate chip donuts Banana chocolate chip donutsBanana chocolate chip donuts (recipe adapted via Janie’s Kitchen)

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use organic whole plain yogurt)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet mini chocolate chips)

Topping (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the mashed banana, sugar and yogurt. Mix until combined.

Add in the melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix until incorporated.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix just until combined (be sure not to over-mix).

Fold in the chocolate chips using a spatula.

Fill a large ziplock bag (or a piping bag if you have one) with the batter and close. Snip a small piece off the corner.

Grease a donut pan (I used this mini donut pan from Wilton) and pipe 3/4 full with batter in each mold.

Bake 11-13 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

For the sugar topping, brush the top of each donut (one at a time) with butter and dip in a bowl with the sugar. I love the extra sugar topping because it makes each donut sparkly and pretty and extra sweet. But, they certainly taste great without and for little ones that don’t need to get hyped up on sugar, it would probably be best to omit this step.

Makes about 35-40 mini donuts.

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Top 2013 toddler recipesI am ending the year with a post on toddler snacks. Because really, 2013 was all about my toddler Juliet, and making food from scratch for her made both of us happy.

At the beginning of the year, I had a baby. Juliet turned 1 in February and toddler hood took over from there. She went from eating limited, soft-only solids to a full-fledged adventurous toddler that munches through raw carrots with a huge smile. I really love these toddler recipes because they are healthy (and some of them don’t have sugar, flour or eggs) and taste great (for adults and kiddos both!). And they all have the approval of my almost 2 year old.

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Panko-crusted fish sticksChristmas was a lovely time spent with family. We enjoyed great food, quality family time and experienced the joy of tearing into present after present through the eyes of our daughter (I posted a couple Christmas photos on Instagram). The day after Christmas was spent hanging out with Juliet, taking a nap (when she napped, the best) and meeting my mom and brother for lunch. I love having laid back, relaxing days after the holidays.

I am off work until January 2 and I’m beyond ecstatic about this. I’m not sure I’ve ever needed a break from work more. It’s just been a busy past 6 months and having a toddler and working long, stressful hours…oh man, it’s tough. But that’s what time off is for; rejuvenating, recharging…so that you can return to the office happy, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

These fish sticks were a random, what should we have for lunch meal last weekend. Erik and I always have tilapia fillets in our freezer. Tilapia is a mild, white fish that you can spruce up in a 20 minute meal. And it’s an affordable fish as well. So after a quick tilapia fish sticks search online, I found this great recipe.
Panko-crusted fish sticksThis may just be my new favorite way of serving tilapia. It’s super easy to prep and the breading is so crunchy and full of flavor. The herb dipping sauce adds freshness with lemon and herbs. These were a hit with Erik and Juliet. She loves anything that comes with a “dip dip” and these fish sticks were no exception. And I love that they are so much healthier than prepared, in-the-box fish sticks.

Panko-crusted fish sticks with herb dipping sauce (recipe via Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs tilapia filets, cut into strips
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (see note)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Place egg in a wide, shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, combine the panko, Old Bay Seasoning and olive oil.

Dip tilapia strips into egg, shaking off excess, then into the panko mixture, pressing to adhere. Place onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake until lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, parsley, mustard and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

Serve fish sticks with sauce.

Note, I didn’t have fresh parsley so I substituted 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill, which worked well.

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I took Monday off this week and spent the entire day hanging out with Juliet. It was awesome momma/daughter time and I couldn’t have asked for a better day with her. I was so busy at work last week, and even though I had a whole weekend with no work, I felt I needed another day to spend with my girl. Fortunately, I have the vacation time to use and it was a perfect day to take off (no major meetings, no major deadlines.) It may be the last day I can take off in a while. And so I took full advantage.

I could tell Juliet really enjoyed having me all to herself all day. She was so content all day long. So was I. We had a lazy morning and then headed to a splash pad/water park with my mom. The weather was great and Juliet squealed with happiness at all the splashing/dripping/spraying water. She LOVED it.

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The other day my sis-in-law, Nikki and I were emailing back and forth about how challenging it is to get dinner on the table during the week with an active toddler on our hands. And really, the only thing we want to do when we walk in the door from work is scoop up our babies and play with them every second until it’s bedtime.

But…that’s not realistic because dinner needs to be made and people need to eat. And eating together as a family is really important. I remember sitting down to dinner with my family every single night growing up, that family time is really invaluable.

So the goal is to find the easiest, quickest meals that are still healthy and taste good. My strategy is all about planning ahead as well as making the most out of leftovers. Erik and I (but mostly me) decide what meals we want to eat that week and we prepare a grocery list. Then one of us does the shopping (I shop more but he’s pretty good about doing it when I need a break).

Typically I cook two meals during the work week, then we eat leftovers two nights and on the last night we opt for convenience (frozen pizza, paninis, quick salads, etc). That way, I am only cooking two nights during the busy weeknights. I’d love to get to the point where we don’t have that last day where we just eat whatever is convenient (we don’t eat fast food ever…but frozen pizza isn’t healthy either). Juliet always eats what we eat, with the exception of frozen pizza, those days I’ll make her a hummus and Applegate turkey sandwich with veggies and fruit or something else that is simple but nutritional.

When I saw this Easy Korean Beef recipe on Pinterest the other week I thought it looked awesome. It fit the criteria I listed above and best yet, we always have ground beef in our freezer because we get it from Erik’s uncle who has cattle in North Dakota.

This recipe was super easy, had a lot of flavor and is overall pretty healthy.  It may not be the prettiest dish around, but when you’re feeding a toddler and a hubby who would be happy with boneless wings for dinner…well, presentation is the last of your worries. I will definitely be adding this to the list of 20 minute meals that make my weekdays easier.

Easy Korean beef with kale (recipe via The Girl Who Ate Everything blog)

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce (I always used reduced sodium)
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced 
1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I omitted this because Juliet hasn’t had spicy foods yet)
Bunch of kale (or bag of pre-washed kale, I prefer baby kale)
salt and pepper
1 bunch green onions, sliced (optional, I didn’t use these)
Instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the ground beef in the sesame oil. Add the garlic towards the end of browning and cook for a couple of minutes. Drain the fat.

Add the kale and stir to wilt.  
Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, salt and pepper and red pepper. Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Serve over brown rice. I use Trader’s Joes brown rice that comes pre-cooked and frozen. It just takes 3 minutes in the microwave.  

This recipe is a bit nostalgic, it totally reminds me of a meal my mom used to make when I was growing up. Her dish had ground turkey, spinach, soy sauce and probably a few other ingredients. We ate it over white rice (we had white rice every single night). It was totally delicious, just like this easy korean beef. 

Juliet gobbled this meal up, she really loved it. It’s funny how happy something like this can make me. 


I’d love to hear what your go-to weekday meals are. Please comment and share and bonus points for links to the recipes! 
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