Super Easy Trail Mix

Is there a trail mix that isn’t easy??

Which brings me to my point. WHY would you spend the money on pre-packaged trail mixes that are full of preservatives and junk when you can easily make an economical and healthier mix yourself?

What I love about trail mixes is that they fit into any lunchbox and can be used as a side, a dessert, or just a pick-me-up snack. Trail mixes offer energy and protein, and there are so many options in mixing them up that you’ll never get bored.

Today’s trail mix is rather standard. I wanted something that both the boys would like, that I could tailor serving sizes with. But there are no real rules to a trail mix. You just put whatever you like in them. Below the recipe are some other simple additions that can easily go into a trail mix, but not a complete list by far.

*Note there are no measurements because you put what you want into it.

trail mix

Trail Mix

Honey roasted peanuts

Chocolate chips

Yogurt-covered raisins

Orange flavored dried cranberries (Trader Joe’s)

Pretzel snaps

Other options: almonds, cashews, walnuts, other nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruits, M&M’s, goldfish crackers, cheddar nips crackers, Cheerios or other cereal, granola chunks, roasted edamame, banana chips, yogurt/chocolate covered pretzels, coconut flakes, wasabi peas, rice crackers, and rye chips (Gardetto’s style).

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Pizza Sushi & Healthy, Fun Lunch Box Ideas

This year I am trying to make the boys’ lunches more interesting and fun while maintaining a degree of health and nutrition. I absolutely love all the great bento lunch ideas I see all over the net, and even though my kids are (almost) 12 and 16, they can still appreciate and tote gourmet lunches in school without feeling like a little kid.

My lunch ideas are not all that original so I’m sure you’ve seen a million other blogs posting lunch box ideas. But I will say this- if you haven’t gotten on the bento wagon yet all it takes is a little bit of prep time and you can do it. Here are a few tips for preparing and packing awesome lunches for anyone in your family.

1) Cook extra at dinner and use leftovers for lunch. This could mean extra rice or potatoes or pasta, which you could make salads from, or extra meat. I like to cook extra chicken to make chicken salad with.

2) Get the kids involved. Number One is easy to please so I just ask him what he’s in the mood for (I don’t always pack the same thing for the boys), but for Number Two it’s best if he’s got an interest in what’s coming in his lunch box. Some things I know he’ll like, other things I know he’ll like more if he helps prepare it. I also ask him ahead of time what he’d like the next day (if there are options. If not I just go by the meal plan.)

3. Skip “kid” foods. There is no such thing when looking at your grocers options in terms of nutrition. I’m talking about Lunchables (you can easily make your own), Crustables, and pudding cups, etc. These conveniences are the absolute worst things you could be feeding your kids. Give them real food. They will eat it.

4. Pick your battles. If your child says he/she didn’t like something you packed, trust them and move on. I love the idea of my kid happily munching away on bell pepper sticks at lunch, but I know that’s not going to happen. It’s better to save the veggie battle for dinner time when you can be there to model good eating habits and encouragement.

5. You might get “But he gets lunches like….” complaining. Just stick with your plan, use the great lunchbox ideas that are everywhere, and get your kid(s) involved. You’ll see the struggle wane soon enough when your child realizes that other kids want what he’s got.

6. Menu plan. If you work outside the home this may seem like extra work for you, and I agree. But in the event you are planning your dinners already (as you should be. Trust me, your life will get so much easier!) it really won’t take too much extra time to plan a few extra things. This could include baking a batch of muffins or breakfast cookies while you’re already in the kitchen preparing a meal, or perhaps just taking a little time over the weekend to prepare and freeze some things. Other things like wraps, veggies, fruit, chips, and trail mix can be pre-bagged for the week ahead so they’re all ready to go.

pizza sushi

Ready for the pizza sushi? I adapted this idea found in a Rachael Ray magazine, as well as many of the tips above. It’s a fun lunch for the kiddos and super easy to prepare. Below is also a few options for mixing and matching simple roll-ups and dips.

Pizza Sushi

6 inch tortillas

turkey pepperoni

cream cheese

marinara or pizza sauce

Other options: Mozzarella cheese, roasted red pepper, olives, etc.

Assembly is pretty basic.  Just spread the desired amount of cream cheese onto the tortilla (you can even mix a bit of ranch mix into the cream cheese!) and top with pepperoni slices and anything else you’d like. Roll it up and slice into even sizes. Pack it up in your lunch box with a smaller container of dipping sauce on the side.

Other roll-up options: Really, you can take any kind of sandwich concept and put into a roll-up- though I usually leave out the condiments because I’ll put a dipper on the side. You see it all the time now with all the wrap options offered in restaurants. For example, Number One isn’t going to want pizza sushi in his lunch so he gets a more manly wrap with hummus, lettuce, roast beef, turkey meat, and two kinds of cheeses. Also I use a larger tortilla for those kinds of sammies. Number Two likes all kinds of roll-ups so I can take any kind of meat and cheese combo and simply roll it up, and either leave it whole or cut into sushi-style pieces. He likes the smaller pieces best so he can dip them into ranch, honey mustard, salsa, pizza sauce, etc.

lunch box rollups

I especially love the all natural-nitrate free bologna from Trader Joe’s.

Lunch box sides: One of Two’s favorite things to snack on are carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter. Now you can buy easy to pack  peanut butter to go cups. They are single serving size and perfect for lunches. Even better now is an all natural option. So to round out a healthy lunch I like to add carrots or snap peas, grapes, blueberries, or some other fruit or veggie I know he likes and maybe add a dip if there’s one that’ll go with it well. Dips include hummus, ranch, peanut butter, or chocolate flavored peanut butter (those are available in single size too). Other sides can simply be a pickle or some olives. Whatever you like- there are no limits.

Additional dip options are salsa, ketchup, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, pizza sauce, or any kind of dressing.

Additional dip options are salsa, ketchup, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, pizza sauce, or any kind of dressing.

Another option are salads such as pasta or potato. Number Two has a thermos and likes to have macaroni and cheese sometimes. I buy Annie’s organic microwaveable single serving mac & cheese and just whip it up real quick and put it in the thermos. Lunch is ready in three minutes!

Lastly are the “chips” and “desserts”. This doesn’t mean I include something from every category in every lunch. It really just depends on what I’m packing for that day. But these are some other things I will put in their lunches because sometimes you really want the crunch of a chip. I don’t buy regular chips because personally I think they’re junk, but I do buy and eat pita chips (Stacy’s naked chips are awesome and go great with my hummus!), corn tortilla chips, pretzels, pretzel chips, Veggie Smart chips and straws, and popcorn chips. Also making your own crackers is super easy (I’ll be posting a recipe soon), and it’s way better alternative to buying prepackaged crackers that are full of chemicals.

I know it was a long post- I hope you read through it all and enjoyed it anyway. Stay tuned for my healthy, energy-packed trail mix! It’s a perfect addition for any lunch box, picnic, or snack :)

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Mushroom Ravioli

Recently I was watching a cooking show and they made some homemade butternut squash ravioli and it gave me quite a hankering for my favorite mushroom ravioli. I could not resist trying to make some of my own right away and luckily I had some mushrooms in desperate need of use.

I used a GF all-purpose mix for this, but you can easily swap it out for regular flour, or even just go buy some pasta sheets that are ready to go. These turned out well enough for my first try, the mushroom filling especially, but I will definitely be working on perfecting the pasta recipe.


Mushroom Ravioli

8 oz. mushrooms (any blend you like)

1 shallot, diced (or onion)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp thyme

2-3 T fresh parsley, chopped

3-4 T ricotta*

1 T parmesan

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 T white wine*

pinch of salt

1 egg


Chop up the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms. Heat some EVOO in a hot skillet and add the shallots and garlic. Let it sweat and soften. Add the herbs and mushrooms and saute until soft. Allow to cool in pan then add the ricotta and parmesan. *I didn’t have any ricotta so I put in about 1/4 cup of parmesan.

For the pillows, mix flour and salt together. Add egg and wine. *I found that using a GF flour required about 2 tsp more wine. Knead dough by hand for 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough very thin, but not so thin you can’t pick it up. I noticed with the GF dough that it broke quite easily once I put the mushrooms in and started shaping the pasta pillows. I cut out large squares, put a spoonful of mushroom filling on half of them, topped them with the remaining squares, then used a glass to cut the circles, which helped seal the edges.

Get your pan over medium heat, extra mushroom mixture and juices. Add a T of butter and let it brown gently. Add a splash of white wine and deglaze the pan. You should have a nice buttery sauce.

Boil the ravioli for about 3 minutes. Drain just for a moment because water does get into the ravioli as they cook. Then gently place in the pan with the browned butter. Give it a quick saute to heat them through and make the outsides a little bit browned.

Plate the ravioli and top with pan butter and remaining mushroom mixture. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over it all. Enjoy!


Here is another recipe using pasta flour:

200g (7.5 oz) pasta flour*

1 egg

1 egg yolk

pinch of salt


This is where a kitchen scale comes in real handy. The recipe uses metric measuring, which I am not familiar enough with to convert to cups. But 200 grams does come out to about 7.5 ounces, give or take, which is .88 cups. So you can see how once you convert to ounces it’s just time to stop converting and start measuring. Scales are extremely handy to have and you can buy a good one at any kitchen store for under $20.

Place the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center. Add the salt, egg, and egg yolk, and then just a little water. You can add more water in very small amounts as needed. Mix together to form a dough and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.



Homemade Eggrolls

I love eggrolls. It is the only time I will knowingly and willingly put pork into my mouth. But I’ve wanted to make my own for some time now, and I’ve found that truthfully it’s just not that hard.

Eggroll wrappers can be found in the produce section of just about any grocery store. It’s usually next to the tofu and über expensive glass jars of salad dressing. After I made my Cannoli Tarts I had plenty of wrappers left over to try this experiment with. I was not disappointed and I don’t think you will be either.

This recipe calls for water chestnuts, which I do not like at all, as well as ground beef. You could easily brown up any kind of ground meat or even dice up some chicken finely and add it in. I went strictly carrot and cabbage and didn’t even bother with the celery, which would have been a fine addition.

This recipe yields a lot of eggrolls; about 26. Adjust the measurements to your desire.


Homemade Eggrolls

3/4 lb. ground meat

1 large head of cabbage

1 small celery rib

1 medium carrot

1/8 cup water chestnuts, optional

2 packages eggroll wrappers

1/8 cup soy sauce

1 tsp onion powder, divided

1 tsp garlic powder, divided

1/2 tsp sesame oil, always optional but always divine

3/4 cup water

eggroll & sopapia 002

1. Brown the ground meat; drain well. Season with half the garlic and onion powders. Add sesame oil and half the soy sauce. *If you are not using any meat, still use the sesame oil in your veggie mix. You won’t regret it.

2. Shred the cabbage, celery and carrot. *Or cheat like me and buy shredded bagged cabbage and carrot match sticks. Chop the water chestnuts. Add remaining seasonings and water. Cook in a large pot until cabbage wilts down and is fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings, salt, or pepper to taste. Add the ground meat and combine well.

3. Cool mixture in refrigerator or freezer to at least room temperature.

4. Follow directions on package on how to roll the eggrolls. *I do this near the sink where I can wet my fingers as I work. On a cutting board or other clean surface, lay out each wrapper and gently wet all over. This will make it a bit more pliable. Just don’t get them too wet.

5. Use about 1 heaping spoonful per wrapper. Pull up bottom corner, roll once, pull in each side, careful not to tear the wrapper, moisten the top and finish rolling. Seal the edges with a bit of the water.

6. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towel and serve with soy sauce.



Chocolate Pretzles

You might be thinking this is too simple to be a real post, but nobody ever said a recipe had to be difficult for it to count. Sure, you can just go buy some Flipz for that prepackaged and processed junk your body loves and will thank you for (not), or you could satisfy your sweet tooth with a litte homemade chocolate dipped pretzles of your own.


Since Christmas we have seriously cleaned out the junk and as promised I have not made any desserts so far this month. But that didn’t stop me from craving something chocolate and there was nothing in the house that would do. Then it came to me during one of my staring-into-the-fridge moments. I had leftover Ganache (believe it)! All I had to do was heat that up and submerge a few pretzles into it, place them on a sheet of waxed paper, and set them in the fridge to harden.



I will say this however, unless you’ve got extra ganache laying around the house, don’t bother. A package of chocolate bark would do an even better job (though then you’d be dealing with preservatives and addtives…so there’s that).

Another idea is to sprinkle holiday-themed candies on them before the chocolate hardens. Since Valentine’s Day is around the corner some cute little pink, white, and/or red sprinkles would be darling. Hey, I think I may just do that :)



Reindeer Cookies

Gifts in a Jar idea

This is my Christmas version of the Cowgirl Cookie Mix in a Jar.  I certainly am not claiming any ownership here because I am sure this has been done before. But what’s so great about this cookie mix is that it is so versatile – all you have to do is change the color of the M&M’s. And lucky for us the M&M Company keeps us all in holiday colors :)

Reindeer Cookie Mix in a Jar

1 & 1/3 cup flour (1/2 unbleached & 1/2 whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup quick oats

3/4 cup M&Ms

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar (I used organic)

13 – 1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Get your other ingredients measured and ready.

2. Layer the ingredients like this:

First: Flour mixture

Second: Oats

Third: M&Ms

Fourth: Chocolate Chips

Fifth: Brown Sugar

Sixth: Regular Sugar

Seventh: Chopped pecans

2. Make sure you really pack each layer down.  If for some reason it doesn’t all fit, it’s better to leave out the nuts than something essential like sugar. The ingredients should go all the way to the top of the jar.

3. Decorate the jars with a handmade label (or a label made using a desktop publisher), some fabric and ribbon or cord. Here I used some craft paper cut about 6 inches square, some double-sided tape to hold it in place on the lid, and some pipe cleaner garland with Christmas bells. There really is no wrong way to decorate your jars.

4. Make sure your labels include the directions for baking. They are as follows:

Add 1 slightly beaten egg, 1/2 cup butter (melted in the microwave), and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. It’s a tough batter to incorporate all the ingredients at once so you may need to use your hands.

Roll the dough into 1 -inch balls (I use a 1-inch scooper/melon baller). Place on parchment paper-covered baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Yield: about 3 dozen cookies.

So if you have a special occasion coming up or just need a cute gift for someone, consider customizing this cookie mix, layer it in a quart-size bell jar, and wrap a ribbon around it. Don’t forget to include directions because your recipient will need to know what wet stuff to add.

Here are a few ideas:

Pink M&M’s (Breast Cancer Awareness – Usually found around October) for girls birthday, bridal shower party favors

Purple or other dark colors (M&M’s puts out dark colored shells in dark chocolate) for boys birthday, groom’s party favors

Pastel M&M’s (Found around Easter) for baby shower, Easter-time, child’s birthday

Red & Blue M&M’s for 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, or as a gift to someone in the Military (or a Vet)

Red  and/or Pink M&M’s for Valentines Day, Sweetest Day, or an anniversary

Green M&M’s for St. Patrick’s Day

Orange and Brown Reese’s Pieces for Halloween

As you can see there are lots of possibilities and occasions for a gift like this.

Sweet ‘n Spicy Brown Sugar Body Scrub

Gifts in a Jar idea

This was super easy to make, and I had all the ingredients on hand so it only took a few minutes to put it all together. All you need to finish this last-minute gift idea is a jar, some ribbon, and some kind of label to stick or tie on.

Notice the lack of label on mine? Yeah. Stupid printer.


Sweet ‘n Spicy Brown Sugar Body Scrub

1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup EVOO

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ginger

2 tsp nutmeg

1. In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Break up any lumps in the brown sugar. I used my mixmaster to do my mixing. It’s also best if your spices are all powdered and not granules. This mixture will fill a 16 oz. jar.

2. To use: place a tsp or two in your hands and gently massage in circular motions on skin. Leave on for several minutes. Scrub will tighten the skin. Rinse thoroughly. Apply a bit of soap to remove extra oils.

DIY Gift Jar Round-Up

We’ve all seen the wall pics and posters and advertisments all over the place that talk about buying LOCAL for Christmas instead of shopping at big stores that carry items made in China. In fact, I even discussed this in a post called Birth of a New Tradition. No Chinese, Please last year around this time. Here’s a refresher:

Most of them seem pretty simple. You go out and get some gift certificates to a local restaurant or hair salon, etc. (And in this tough economy people truly do appreciate gifts like these.) But for the crafty, DIY-type gifts, you my be feeling, well….not so crafty. But these are super easy to put together and can be (and should be) made in bulk so that you have enough handy for those moments when a small something is needed such as a hostess gift, Secret Santa, teacher gifts, or as party favors. For a bigger, more personal gift, try creating a basket with several different jars.

What I love about the gift jars is that there are no rules, so it doesn’t have to be food related. You can make a yummy brown sugar body scrub and pair it with a body brush, or make a sewing kit (yes, I’ve seen those- so cute! Click here for that one.) So here are a few ideas:


I made a bunch of these for my church bakesale. It was super easy. I created my own labels/directions using a desktop publishing CD. Add a little ribbon and you’ve got something gift-worthy.

Dry Cream Soup Mix by The Home Heart

  Cowgirl Cookies @ Bakerella

These Marshmallows are the perfect addition to a steaming mug of hot chocolate. What else possibly signifies the winter season better? Package in cellophane bags and tie with a cute, festive ribbon, and you’ve got a great gift. Pair it with some cocoa and you’ve got a gift basket.

Cocoa Candy Cane Marshmallows @ A Field Journal

Cinnamon Honey Butter @ Tidy Mom

Peppermint Stick Cocoa @ My Recipes

Friendship Soup @ All Recipes

Chcoclate Chip & Oatmeal Quickbread @ Sunset

Cinnamon Vanilla Sugar Scrub @ Tidy Mom

S’more Kits @ Twig & Thistle

Polka Dot Pumpkins

Each year I buy different kinds of pumpkins to decorate my front porch or steps or what have you. In our last house we had great big steps that led up to the door and a small flower garden in front of the porch, so I took mini pumpkins and gourds of all sizes and colors and created a small pumpkin patch. Sorry I don’t have any pictures to share though. This picture below is a simple stack I did this year.

In years past I’ve done the cliché bale of hay in the yard (I still think this looks good if done right), decorated with pumpkins and Mums and even a scarecrow or something cute. And I often get great decorating ideas from magazines, my favorite of which is Better Homes and Gardens.

Now I’m not a real big DIY person. Mainly because I just lack the skills and when I do a DIY craft it usually looks cheesy like I’ve done it myself. But about 7 years ago I found a super cute way to dress up moon pumpkins and it was really easy. It has become one of my favorite and standard decorating ideas and I’m sharing it with you today.

What you’ll need are at least three different colored pumpkins and an apple corer, and possibly a hammer to help get the corer through tougher pumpkin skin. Make as many holes as you want, but take care not to mess up your dots. Also make sure that you’ve made the same number of holes in each pumpkin and then divide the dots evenly between each pumpkin, filling up the holes as you go.

The ones I did this year are fairly simple, each with only about 6 dots, but you could do as many as you like- the entire pumpkin if you want. But remember that these pumpkins will rot much faster, especially if the weather is still pretty warm, which it is here in NC.

Cute, right?! :)