Banana Bowl

sliced banana - almond butter - chia seeds - shredded coconut - mini chocolate chips

sliced banana – almond butter – chia seeds – shredded coconut – mini chocolate chips

You wouldn’t believe how many bananas I buy each week. One time, the woman scanning my groceries asked me if I had monkeys at home. Actually I do! And one of them has a birthday today. Happy 7th Birthday to my Sweet Pea! 

Back to the bananas. I’m obsessed with anything in a bowl lately, probably inspired by my favorite lunch spot. One night after we got the monkeys to bed, Don and I were both starving. We each cut up a banana and added a few things to our bowls. The Banana Bowl was born!

A Banana Bowl is a healthy banana split. It’s a quick snack for any time of day — or even breakfast if you’re in a pinch. No need to measure. Just throw in what you have, mix it up, and enjoy! It’s so easy that little monkeys can even make a Banana Bowl themselves.

Here are some ideas to customize your Banana Bowl:
– Nut butter or sunbutter
– Fresh chopped berries
– Drizzle of honey or maple syrup
– Nuts: hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts
– Seeds: sunflower, hemp, chia, pumpkin
– Chocolate chips or a broken up chocolate bar
– Cinnamon
– Granola or Paleonola (Have you tried it?!? Mmmmm)
– Shredded coconut or Dang

I love that bananas are such a controversial fruit. It’s the sugar and carbs that give bananas a bad rap. But they are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins B6, and vitamin C. And we LOVE them. Bananas are so easy to take on the go. And cheap! When we went gluten free, we joked that bananas were our new granola bars. So great to balance energy levels after a work out too.

How do you eat bananas? Try a Banana Bowl this weekend!

Mediterranean Ratatouille

Mediterranean Ratatouille - Under the Monkey Bars

Ratatouille is a French dish loaded with succulent Mediterranean vegetables. Think juicy tomatoes fresh off the garden vine, giant zucchini ready to split, and of course shiny purple eggplant.

This is an easy weeknight meal that makes a giant pot full of yum. I can practically promise you leftovers. Serve Mediterranean Ratatouille in a bowl on its own, with crusty bread, over risotto or even lentils. Maybe add a side of grilled chicken or make it a Meatless Monday! Ratatouille is super heart healthy, high in fiber, and low on the glycemic index. How could it not be with all of those veggies!

Speaking of veggies, do you have a CSA? We have been getting lots of eggplant with our weekly Boston Organics deliveries and I’m so glad I remembered this recipe. Save it for when you have more eggplant and zucchini than you know what to do with!

Ratatouille is a fantastic recipe for anyone with food allergies or sensitivities because it’s naturally gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, soy free, and nut free. That’s a long list!! Keep this Ratatouille recipe in mind for your summer cook outs too. Or pair it with the Disney movie movie and maybe the monkeys will be more apt to eat it!

Bean will devour two bowls of Ratatouille whereas Sweet Pea asks for a small bowl without eggplant. I make a few dishes with eggplant and occasionally she will eat one or two pieces but she’s not a huge fan of the texture. I’ve always been flexible with the foods that the monkeys don’t like. However, I continue to serve them and never leave them out of a meal. I firmly believe that you have to try a food at least 10 times before you can say you don’t like it. And that’s not just for kids! Grown-ups too. Our palates change over time and you never know – you might surprise yourself!

Cómelo todo!

Mediterranean Ratatouille
Serves 6
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil
  2. 2 large onions, finely chopped
  3. 4 cloves garlic
  4. 1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
  5. 3-4 medium peppers, cut into 1" chunks
  6. 4-6 small zucchini, cut into 1/4' slices
  7. 5-6 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon coconut or date sugar
  10. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  2. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Add the eggplant and peppers and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the zucchini, tomatoes (with juice), salt, sugar, and oregano.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot or cold.
  1. - Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
  2. - Cooks beautifully in my dutch oven.
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Under the Monkey Bars
Note: If you’re in the Boston area, definitely look into Boston Organics. We’ve been a customer since last year and have been impressed with the convenience and quality. I absolutely love choosing what we don’t want to receive for produce week to week; the “No List” is the best. Use this code for 10% off your first delivery: 8319bob6jc.

Chalupa: A Weeknight Winner

Chalupa Crock-Pot Recipe

If there’s one thing we’re all lacking, it’s time. I’m always searching for recipes that I can throw together for a no-fuss weeknight dinner. Chalupa fits the bill and is really inexpensive to make. It takes five minutes to put in the crock-pot in the morning and cooks all day without stirring.

I started making this Chalupa recipe years ago — even before we went gluten free. It fits every diet except vegan and vegetarian (obviously!). We’ve served this dish for picky friends who have scraped their bowls clean. The topping bar is such a hit! Kids can add their favorite veggies by the spoonful, making their own unique creation.

Here's Sweet Pea's cheesy bowl of Chalupa. She likes her toppings on the side.

Here’s Sweet Pea’s cheesy bowl of Chalupa. She likes her toppings on the side.

Seven simple ingredients make up this rustic meal. I always recommend using organic ingredients when possible. I buy bags of 365 organic beans at Whole Foods (don’t trust the bulk bins if you have food allergies). The recipe calls for pinto beans but I only had kidney beans when I first made it. We loved the rich pinkish broth, so I kept making it with the kidney beans until recently. The pinto beans create a different flavor with a earthy brown broth. Now I alternate between pinto and kidney, usually letting my monkeys choose.

I stock up on cans of Hatch diced green chiles at Whole Foods because the ingredients are cleaner than the mainstream brands at the grocery store. Buy local pock chops at your Farmer’s Market or try Whole Foods for organic. Frozen pork chops work really well in this recipe. I rarely remember to defrost the chops in advance and the dish comes out the same either way.

Chalupas are traditionally Mexican served in a fried shell, but this recipe is not spicy. You could definitely add a hot pepper for a kick. With its rustic flavor, a bowl of Chalupa is perfect for any season. Chalupa tastes even more delicious with fresh cilantro, tomatoes from the garden, and corn scraped right off the cob. We’re looking forward to some Chalupa nights on the patio with friends this summer!

Serves 8
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 2 pounds boneless pork chops
  2. 1 pound dry pinto or kidney beans (soaked overnight)
  3. 1 teaspoon oregano
  4. 1 tablespoon cumin
  5. 1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  7. 1 can of green chiles
  8. filtered water to fill the pot, about 5 cups
Topping bar ideas
  1. avocado
  2. fresh cilantro
  3. grated cheddar cheese
  4. chopped tomatoes
  5. chopped peppers
  6. chopped red onion or scallions
  7. organic corn
  8. sour cream
  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. Drain the beans and put them in a 6 quart crock-pot.
  3. Add filtered water to cover beans plus 1 inch more.
  4. Add spices and green chiles. Top with pork chops. The chops don’t need to be totally covered with water. It will create more liquid as it cooks.
  5. Cook in crock-pot for about 8 hours on low.
  6. Before serving, shred the pork chops.
  7. Serve with your favorite toppings.
  1. - If you serve with corn chips, you may always have to serve with corn chips. Little monkeys have good memories!
  2. - This recipe feeds my family of four plus 6 cups of leftovers that go straight into the freezer in a glass container.
  3. - I use garlic powder so that my fingers don't smell like garlic at 8am. Fresh chopped garlic tastes great too.
Under the Monkey Bars
Cómelo todo!

German Pancake Two Ways


I’ve been dying to tell you about our new favorite weekday breakfast, but I had to perfect the recipe first! Everyone loves pancakes, but it takes time to flip all of those little silver dollars. What if I told you that you could make a pancake in the oven? Introducing the German Pancake — two different ways!

When we stayed at Stowe Meadows last month, Erich made us the most delicious German Pancake for breakfast. I had never heard of it before! After the trip, I found a recipe from Real Simple and have been tweaking it ever since. I’ve made German Pancakes for breakfast every week, and the monkeys have been cheering! I’m not a fan of using a gluten free flour mix. There’s always weird ingredients that I would never normally eat, so why would I eat them now? I prefer to keep things simple and natural. I like to know exactly what’s in my food.

I’m excited to share two variations of this German Pancake with you. If you don’t have food sensitivities or allergies, you can follow the original recipe or try mine with your choice of flour. My recipe below is gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free, soy free, and really good! And how easy is an oven pancake for Mother’s Day brunch? It’s coming up, people. Let’s get our recipes in order.

If you’re gluten free and/or nut free, use 1/4 cup of oat flour and 1/4 cup of rice flour with your milk of choice. For a paleo German Pancake, use 1/4 cup of coconut flour and 1/4 cup of almond flour.

For mix-ins, we love both cinnamon apples and blueberries in our German Pancake. Get the apples going before you start mixing together the batter. I slice up a whole apple and throw it in a pan with a generous pad of butter and some cinnamon or apple pie spice. If you choose to use frozen blueberries, leave them in the freezer until you add them or the batter will turn blue — unless of course you’re going for a Cookie Monster Pancake!

We love bacon with pancakes. I’ve timed it perfectly with this recipe for a fast, filling weekday breakfast. Bake some Applegate turkey bacon in the oven at 375 for 8 minutes while you’re making the batter. Then increase the oven temperature to 400, flip the bacon to cook for another 5 minutes, and at the same time put the skillet in the oven to melt your butter. When you take the bacon out, the German Pancake goes in the oven and you’re at the table in 18 minutes. Voila!

German Pancake
Serves 4
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Cook Time
18 min
Cook Time
18 min
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1/4 cup oat + 1/4 rice flours OR 1/4 cup coconut + 1/4 cup almond flours
  3. 1/2  cup almond milk OR milk of choice
  4. 2 teaspoons of coconut OR date sugar
  5. 1/4   teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR almond extract
  7. 2  tablespoons butter
  8. pure maple syrup for serving
  1. thinly sliced apples sautéed with butter and cinnamon
  2. 1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to combine. Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add the milk, salt, sugar, and vanilla and mix until incorporated; set aside.
  4. Put the butter in a cast-iron skillet. Transfer to oven until the butter melts.
  5. Add your mix-in of choice to the batter.
  6. Remove skillet from oven and quickly pour the batter into the hot skillet.
  7. Return to oven and bake until the pancake is puffed and golden, about 18 minutes for a 8-inch skillet, or 15 minutes for a larger skillet.
  1. - The almond extract really compliments the almond flour when baked with blueberries.
  2. - If you choose to mix-in apples, add some cinnamon on top.
  3. - We prefer coconut sugar with the coconut/almond flour combo and date sugar with the oat/rice flour blend.
  4. - After you pour the batter into the skillet, swirl the top of the pancake with a knife to combine the butter that reaches the surface.
Adapted from Real Simple
Adapted from Real Simple
Under the Monkey Bars
Cómelo todo!

Black Bean Chia Brownies


You read it right. Yes, I put black beans in our brownies. Crazier things have happened in my kitchen!

When Bean was a toddler (what seems like ages ago), I used to bake with Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook to sneak veggies onto her picky plate. I still think it’s a great idea even without toddlers in the house. Never miss a chance to eat more nutrients and whole foods!

Black Bean Chia Brownies have a fudge consistency, but unlike regular brownies, they are high in protein, folate, iron, and fiber. You can’t taste the black beans at all! These brownies are gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, and paleo friendly with no refined sugar. You don’t need a high speed blender for this recipe. I made these brownies before I got my Vitamix and they came out just as tasty.


If you’ve never had cacao nibs before, I’d recommend adding them to half of the brownies to start. Peeled and crumbled from whole cacao beans, nibs have a pure (not sweet!) chocolate flavor and are crunchy (read: hard), which is why I recommend pressing them into the brownies. Cacao nibs are a rich source of antioxidants, iron, magnesium, and fiber. If you like them, go for the 1/4 cup.

I found this recipe in my grocery store’s monthly magazine (Nature’s Market Basket), and this isn’t the first! So many great health tips and recipes in that little freebie. Definitely ask if your grocery store has a magazine or health flyer.  They seem to be popping up more and more.


Black Bean Chia Brownies
Serves 9
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Cook Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
  1. 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  4. 1/3 cup coconut oil at room temperature
  5. 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  6. 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  7. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  8. 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  9. 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a food processor or high speed blender, combine black beans, eggs, coconut sugar, coconut oil, cacao powder, chia seeds, and vanilla. Process until smooth.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Level with a spatula. Sprinkle with cacao nibs (or other topping) and press lightly into mixture.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Lift brownie out of pan using parchment paper and let cool on baking rack.
  7. Cut and serve!
Adapted from Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting by Joy McCarthy
Under the Monkey Bars
– Buy organic ingredients whenever possible.
– 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.
– We like Enjoy Life Mini Chips because they are free of the eight most common allergens.
– I buy these black beans. The cans are BPA free and the beans are organic: win-win.
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.
– I use parchment paper a lot for our gluten free baking. It makes for a much easier clean up too!

Cómelo todo!