Simple Coconut Chocolate Bars


Sweet Pea had a coconut allergy for two years that she outgrew last June.  Practically every company has jumped on the healthy coconut bandwagon, without being required to label for coconut as an allergen.  It was the worst of all of the allergies so far, sending us to the ER twice.  We were so happy to say goodbye to yet another allergy, and hello to coconuts again!

Do you like coconut?  These bars from The Paleo Mom are awesome!  Mini chips are key in this recipe as they disperse themselves throughout the bars, keeping them moist and delicious.  We like Enjoy Life Mini Chips because they are free of the eight most common allergens (note: the bar in the photo has chocolate chunks because I’m out of mini chips!).  Let’s Do Organic shredded, unsweetened coconut works great in this recipe without adding any sugar — and it’s organic.

With only four ingredients, you can throw these bars together super fast.  We usually make Coconut Chocolate Bars twice a month.  When you cut them into long bars, you can eat them instead of grabbing a granola bar.  They make a perfect snack at school and hold up well in a coat pocket for ski days. 

Simple Coconut Chocolate Bars
Yields 8
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Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
22 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
22 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  2. 2 pastured eggs
  3. 1 tsp vanilla
  4. ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk egg and vanilla together in a small mixing bowl.  Add coconut and chocolate chips. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Line a 8X8 square baking pan with parchment paper.
  4. Scoop mixture into prepared pan. Flatten out and pat down with the back of a wooden spoon or pasty roller.
  5. Bake for 22 minutes until edges turn golden brown.  Let cool.
  6. Cut into bars and enjoy!
Adapted from The Paleo Mom
Adapted from The Paleo Mom
Under the Monkey Bars
 Cómelo todo! 

Meatballs and Sauce with a Twist

My friend Christine taught me how to make her mother-in-law’s homemade meatballs and sauce when Sweet Pea was in preschool.  We went to her house one day after school with a big pot and a grocery bag filled with all of the ingredients.  Chris and I cooked while the kids played.  She learned to make the meatballs and “gravy” by asking a lot of questions over the years.  I jotted down some notes that day and have made a few tweaks to the recipe.  What’s the twist?  I add 1/2 cup of veggies to the meatballs and use breadcrumbs combined with almond flour for a healthier, more nutritious meatball.

I typically start cooking meatballs and sauce at 2 p.m. before I pick up the monkeys at school.  If you’re short on time, put all of the sauce ingredients on the counter next to the stove the night before.  You can also throw all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl, massage together, and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the sauce later in the day.  If you prep everything, it only takes 30 minutes to make the sauce, meatballs, and combine!  


Meatballs and Sauce with a Twist
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For the Sauce
  1. 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  2. 2 26-oz. box of chopped tomatoes
  3. 1 26-oz. box of strained tomatoes
  4. 3 TBSP of olive oil
  5. 3 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
  6. Generous salt and pepper
For the Meatballs
  1. 1 lb ground grass fed beef
  2. 1 lb ground pastured pork
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  5. 1/4 cup almond flour
  6. Handful of fresh chopped parsley or 1 TBSP dried parsley
  7. 1/4 cup shredded kale, optional
  8. 1/4 cup shredded carrot, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for your meatballs.
  2. Put the oil and garlic in a large, cold pot. Then turn your burner to high.
  3. Don't let the garlic brown! Sizzle on high for 30 seconds.
  4. Immediately add the tomato paste and turn the heat down to medium.  Stir for 45 seconds and break up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the 3 boxes of crushed and strained tomatoes.
  6. Bring the burner heat up to high for the sauce to get hot. When you see steam, turn the heat down; you don’t want the sauce to boil.
  7. Now make your meatballs. Massage all ingredients together until fully blended.
  8. Roll into balls that are even in size. You should have between 20-24 meatballs.
  9. Bake on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet at 350 for 6-8 minutes, until barely red. Bigger meatballs will take longer. I make mine big so I typically bake them for 8 minutes.
  10. Immerse each meatball in the sauce with a serrated spoon.
  11. Cook uncovered for at least 2 1/2 hours to flavor sauce, stirring occasionally. If you need to go out for a short time, partially cover the pot and turn off the burner.
  12. Serve over your favorite pasta with a kale salad or green vegetable.
Adapted from my friend Christine's Mother-in-law
Adapted from my friend Christine's Mother-in-law
Under the Monkey Bars

– Use a cast iron pot because the acidity of the tomatoes will react with metal.  Sauce will not taste as good in a stainless steel pot!  I learned this trick from Chef Jane.
– Tomatoes also react to the metal in cans, causing harmful chemicals like BPA to leech into your food.  I use boxed non-GMO Pomi tomatoes.  The only ingredient is tomatoes, unlike many other brands.
– We like the flavor of Gillian’s gluten free bread crumbs combined with Honeyville blanched almond flour.  You can try substituting any combination of bread crumbs and flours to fit your dietary needs.  This recipe can be gluten free and paleo, but obviously not vegetarian.  Sorry friends!
– I use kale and carrot pulp from my juicer to add extra nutrition to the meatballs.  When I juice, I remove the discarded pulp individually and freeze it in 1/4 cup portions.  I bake with the juicer pulp as well.  Stay tuned for juicing recipes! 
– We love to eat our meatballs and sauce over zoodles or spaghetti squash
– For gluten free pasta, we like Jovial Organic brown rice pasta and Andean Dream organic quinoa pasta.  I don’t buy gluten free pasta if it contains corn or soy.  
– I prefer not to touch raw meat, so I use food service gloves to make meatballs.  Just one of those things…
– Freeze the leftovers!  You know the drill: only in glass containers.
– Buy local and organic ingredients whenever possible.

Cómelo todo!*



*Translation :: Eat it all!
When I studied abroad in Madrid during college, my Señora Encarna would say, “Cómelo todo!” when she brought dinner to the table.  I sometimes say it to my monkeys at dinnertime with a smile, remembering that incredible experience.  You can expect to see “Cómelo todo!” at the end of my recipe posts as a tribute to the lovely lady who made sure I was well fed all those years ago in Spain.

Easy Back-to-Back Dinners

I love my crock-pot.  We’ve been inseparable since the first time it had a hot meal waiting for me after work years ago.  Simple stews and soups are my go-to recipes for my magic pot.  I’d never cooked plain old chicken in there until I found this recipe for Crock-Pot Chicken from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.  It’s a healthy, easy way to prep cooked chicken for any recipe.

One of our family’s favorite dinners is Against All Grain’s Leftover Chicken Soup with Roasted Vegetables.  It’s a stove top recipe and you know I love my crock-pot.  The first time I made the soup I used chicken that I had roasted the day before, and it just wasn’t enough meat.  My crock-pot brain started thinking…I could make the chicken for the soup in the crock-pot using Lexi’s recipe.  Serve Crock-Pot Pesto Chicken Salad one night, and Leftover Chicken Soup the next.  It’s such a great weeknight back-to-back dinner combination.  Both recipes are naturally gluten free, paleo, dairy free, and can be made vegan (yes, I know they are chicken recipes but keep reading).

Here’s what you’ll do….

Wednesday morning: Do you have chicken in the freezer?  You can totally make this tonight!  Follow Lexi’s recipe for Crock-Pot Chicken.  Use a lot of chicken breasts so that there’s enough for both recipes;  this will depend on your family size (I use 6 for the 4 of us).  When it’s cooked, take the chicken out and pour the broth through a mesh strainer to remove the onions from the broth.  Discard the onions and SAVE the broth!  It’s much more flavorful and nutrient rich than the broth you started with and you can use it again (my home made crock-pot broth recipe coming soon!).

Wednesday night’s dinner: Follow Lexi’s recipe to make the Pesto Sauce.  We like raw cashews but you can use almost any kind of nut.  I double the pesto ingredients and add a little water when I throw it in the blender.  Shred half of the chicken breasts and mix them with the pesto sauce.  This dish can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  My girls like their “green chicken” served over risotto with sautéed peppers, but the possibilities are endless.  If you’re vegan (and you’re still reading), the pesto would be delicious tossed with pasta.


Thursday night’s dinner: Use the broth you saved from the night before plus the extra chicken to make Leftover Chicken Soup.  Try roasting some extra veggies when you make this soup.  Roasted veggies are perfect for lunch!  You could also set aside some of the pureed veggie mix for the baby (if you have one, of course).  I made most of Bean and Sweet Pea’s baby food, and would have loved this recipe so that they could eat what we were having.  If you’re vegan, try making the soup with vegetable broth and omit the chicken all together.


The Leftover Chicken Soup can be frozen.  Use a Pyrex 6-Cup glass container for the family, or mason jars for individual portions (no plastic!).  Have you tried heating up left overs in your crock-pot?  It is so easy.  Thaw the container in your refrigerator over night.  In the afternoon (2:30pm-ish), put the half frozen soup in the crock-pot on warm and it will be ready at dinner time.

If you haven’t poked around on Lexi’s Clean Kitchen or Against All Grain, I highly recommend both blogs.  I’ve made many of their recipes and we always love them.  Add the ingredients to your grocery list and give these two recipes a try!

Cómelo todo!*

For the Pesto Chicken Salad recipe, go to Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.

For the Leftover Chicken Soup recipe, go to Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain.


*Translation :: Eat it all!
When I studied abroad in Madrid during college, my Señora Encarna would say, “Cómelo todo!” when she brought dinner to the table.  I sometimes say it to my monkeys at dinnertime with a smile, remembering that incredible experience.  You can expect to see “Cómelo todo!” at the end of my recipe posts as a tribute to the lovely lady who made sure I was well fed all those years ago in Spain.

Sour Cream Pancakes


Apple pancakes

Breakfast is one of the most difficult meals when you go gluten free.  My monkeys absolutely love pancakes — and so do I.  But I won’t buy a box of pancake mix at the grocery store because I made a commitment to my family that I would cut out processed foods.  

I adapted these Sour Cream Pancakes from Edna Mae’s recipe, lowering the sugar, mixing the syrup right into the batter, and switching to oat flour.  Sour cream pancakes are a great transition pancake if you are removing gluten from your diet because they look and taste just like regular pancakes.  They are so light and sweet that they don’t need butter or syrup!  We serve our sour cream pancakes with sautéed apples or a quick berry sauce (see notes below).  They hit the spot during the snowstorm yesterday!



Sour Cream Pancakes
Serves 4
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  1. 2 Large Eggs
  2. 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
  3. 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  4. 1/2 cup Oat Flour
  5. 1 Tablespoon Coconut Sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  8. 1 cup Sour Cream, Greek Yogurt or Creme Fresh
  9. Butter to grease griddle
  1. Heat your griddle or skillet on medium-low. Melt the butter in a small pot.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, syrup, and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the sour cream to the dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined. Whisk in the egg mixture.
  4. Brush the griddle with butter (I paint circles where I plan to drop the batter).
  5. Drop batter by the tablespoon onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until lots of bubbles form on the surface. Flip to the other side and cook for another 45 seconds then remove to a platter. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  1. To keep the flavor and consistency, you can try using other smooth, light, non-gritty flours like rice or wheat (if you can tolerate gluten).
  2. These pancakes spread out when they hit the griddle. I find it easier to flip them when you use a small amount of batter.
  3. Freeze in a single layer; defrost in the toaster for a quick breakfast.
  4. Use organic ingredients whenever possible. I like Kerrygold butter and Celtic Sea Salt.
  5. Oat flour is high in protein and fiber with a great consistency. I like Gluten-Free Prairie Toasted Oat Flour because it’s made with non-GMO oats in Montana from a Celiac owned/operated family business.
  6. Coconut sugar is unrefined with naturally occurring nutrients like magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, B vitamins and amino acids. Try it 1:1 as a replacement for white sugar.
  7. I prefer Grade B maple syrup because it’s produced later in the season and has a darker color, which means more minerals including manganese, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
  8. I avoid dairy because of my reoccuring sinus infections and dust allergy; however, I can handle this small amount of dairy cooked.
  9. Topping idea: Sauté chopped apples (leave the skin on for extra fiber) before you start making the pancakes. Throw the apples in a pan with a pad of butter and some cinnamon or apple pie seasoning. Let them soften while you make the pancake batter.
  10. For a quick berry sauce, throw any combination of frozen strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries into a small pot. Add about a tablespoon of maple syrup, teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, and a pad of butter. Mash the berries as they defrost. Simmer on low until your pancakes are ready.
Adapted from Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Under the Monkey Bars

Cómelo todo!*

*Translation :: Eat it all!
When I studied abroad in Madrid during college, my Señora Encarna would say, “Cómelo todo!” when she brought dinner to the table.  I sometimes say it to my monkeys at dinnertime with a smile, remembering that incredible experience.  You can expect to see “Cómelo todo!” at the end of my recipe posts as a tribute to the lovely lady who made sure I was well fed all those years ago in Spain.

Super Chili + Cornbread

cooking chili

Chili and cornbread go hand in hand with football.  Check out these killer recipes that are sure to please any Super Bowl crowd.


We have been making this recipe for Turkey Chili with White Beans from Epicurious for years.  The girls call it “Chocolate Chili” and they are always part of the Clean Plate Club when I make it.  The chocolate elevates the flavor, complimented by cinnamon and chili powder.  This chili comes together quickly, especially when you measure the spices into prep bowls.  We decided to make it for the blizzard, but our local farm and grocery stores were out (turkey must be up there with bread and milk!).  Luckily, ground beef was just as tasty.  It’s a versatile recipe and a real crowd pleaser – especially for your gluten free and paleo friends.


When we went gluten free, I couldn’t believe that most cornbread recipes call for wheat flour.  Shouldn’t cornbread be made of corn?  It took a few recipe fails until I found this keeper.  Toss your old cornbread recipes and replace them with Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s recipe for Old Fashioned Gluten Free Cornbread.  It is super moist and reminiscent of what cornbread should taste like.

No matter who you’re cheering for this Super Bowl, you will cheer for this yummy combo.  We will be rooting for the Pates (as Bean called the Patriots when she was three).  GO PATES!

 Here are my notes on the recipes:

Turkey Chili with White Beans

  • Vegetable oil is not good for you.  Try olive oil for this recipe.
  • We absolutely love the flavor of the turkey in this chili.  However, you can substitute beef or whatever ground meat you have on hand.
  • Use raw cacao powder instead of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Raw cacao is a good source of fiber and contains minerals like potassium, iron, and calcium.
  • Chopped tomatoes are easier than whole.
  • Add one yellow or orange pepper after you sauté the onions.
  • Chili freezes great.  Use a Pyrex glass storage container for the family, or mason jars for individual portions.  Please no plastic!
  • For this paleo and gluten free chili recipe, go to Epicurious.

 Old Fashioned Gluten Free Cornbread

  • Local raw honey makes a difference in taste and flavor for this recipe.
  • I use Stonyfield whole milk plain yogurt and Kerrygold butter.
  • Definitely use organic cornmeal because most corn is genetically modified (GMO).  I like Arrowhead Mills.
  • Crisp up leftover cornbread with some butter in a pan.  Serve with eggs, veggies, and meats for breakfast.
  • It’s gluten free, vegetarian, and has no refined sugar.
  • For the cornbread recipe, go to Gluten Free on a Shoestring.

Cómelo todo!*


*Translation :: Eat it all!

When I studied abroad in Madrid during college, my Señora Encarna would say, “Cómelo todo!” when she brought dinner to the table.  I sometimes say it to my monkeys at dinnertime with a smile, remembering that incredible experience.  You can expect to see “Cómelo todo!” at the end of my recipe posts as a tribute to the lovely lady who made sure I was well fed all those years ago in Spain.