Kids Clean Up! Magic Shell


This week the family experimented with cleaned up versions of Magic Shell recipes, so I am sure my mom-of-the-week prize is coming soon, because the little people were very happy with me and the results. This one was a definite winner for hitting the mark (looked, tasted and acted just like Magic Shell), being easy to make and pretty darn cheap. I like that it made plenty for the four of us to have a lot on our homemade ice cream with a little leftover, but not so much that it will sit around for sixth months like the bottle of Magic Shell usually does.

So here’s what we are replacing: Hershey’s Shell. The ingredients are: sugar, palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa, soy lecithin, artificial flavors, salt. I took a photo of the ingredients, but I should really make sure I get a focused photo when I’m doing my grocery store detective work. So you’ll just have to trust me that these are the ingredients!

Hershey's Shell And here is what we are replacing it with: coconut oil, cocoa, honey, vanilla and sea salt gently warmed together in a saucepan and then drizzled over said cold item for the “magic” hardening to happen. This recipe comes from The Coconut Mama, a great blog dedicated to real food, natural living and coconut love. :)

Recipe: Magic Shell


The kids enjoyed their Magic Shell poured over the top of their ice cream – the classic style, if you will.  The grown-ups enjoyed mixing it in to create a chocolate swirl in our ice cream. It was DEE-licious!

If you are looking for a non-dairy clean ice cream recipe… be sure to check out my post on Clean Treats, linked here. We used banana for the fruit in the recipe which paired beautifully with the magic shell.

We are cleaning up kids processed food, one recipe at a time!

Weekly Tip: The Snack Pack

snack pack

It happened again this weekend. The family is traveling along the freeway, heading home – less than a two-hour drive – and my daughter announces she is hungry. Of course she is. She is my grazer, never one to eat enough during a meal time to sustain her more than an hour. And suddenly we all seem hungry, because hungry is apparently catching, like a cold.

As we pull into a fast food drive thru to order food that will fill our bellies, but with minimal nutrients and maximum chemical additions, I think to myself, it is time to get serious about the Snack Pack. My definition of the Snack Pack is a go-to bag of snacks that can survive outside temperatures, be banged around, and be completely ignored for days until it is celebrated for saving the day.

There are times in our lives when we are awesome about packing snacks. For example, back in the days when my kids were babies and toddlers. No one wants to be caught away from home with a hungry toddler, plus we are already carrying around a 25lb diaper bag, so in goes a bunch of tantrum-stopping (delaying?) snacks. Or on long road trips, we pack up a bag or cooler with food for the road, desperate to be able to go more than 50 miles without needing to stop. We plan ahead and save ourselves time and money.

But what about these day-to-day times when we are racing out the door to get someone somewhere by sometime and then run a few errands, and all of a sudden everyone is famished and grumpy and in need of something now. This is when we need the Snack Pack. I’ve packed mine up and placed it by my purse. Where I go, it goes!

Here are some things that pass the Snack Pack criteria:

  • Oranges
  • Apples (in the fall and winter)
  • All kinds of nuts
  • Raisins and all dried fruit
  • Lara Bars
  • Pretzels
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Individual packets of peanut butter
  • Empty water bottle(s) (to be filled up at drinking fountains everywhere!)

Obviously there would be lots more options if you were packing this up each day and had a cooler, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen, so this works as a back-up. It would have saved us $17.00 and a load of junk in our systems if we’d had this in the car on Sunday. Lesson learned.

snack pack ingredients

What do you think? Do you have a Snack Pack? What else could go in there?


Kids Clean Up! Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Welcome to the first of many of a new segment we call Kids Clean Up! It is here that I research, attempt and review clean recipes for all the foods our kids are begging for that are full of gross chemicals, additives, colorings, flavorings, fake food products.

Up first is a tasty item that my kids ask for all the time. They want to be like everyone else and have chocolate milk. I have to admit, I very fondly remember squeezing the chocolate sauce bottle into my milk as a kid. Pouring it in until my mom hollered “that’s too much!” Then stirring it up until the white milk turned that pretty tan color. When I asked my kids if they’d like to help me make chocolate syrup for chocolate milk, they about fell over. It was worth getting off the couch!

I also chose chocolate syrup because it’s a pretty easy clean recipe, and I don’t want to psych any of us out with labor intensive duties right off the bat. We’ll save that irritation for making clean Twinkies some other time. And chocolate syrup is so versatile! I mean we are going to need this component to tackle banana splits one of these days.

The ingredient list for the classic Hershey’s Syrup – “Genuine” Chocolate Flavor is well, gross. Ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Cocoa, Sugar, Contains 2% or less of Potassium Sorbate, Salt, Mono- and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 60, Vanillin, Artificial Flavor


So let’s not eat that any more, okay?? I chose to try the clean recipe “Real Food Chocolate Syrup” from Hands On Learning 4 All because it is do-able with a short ingredient list. But did it work? Was it good? And did the kids approve?

Chocolate Syrup Ingredients

Recipe: Clean Chocolate Syrup

Just cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla thinned with a little water! [For exact measurements the Hands On Learning 4 All people have requested that you click onto their site (you can do that through the recipe link).]

We found the recipe makes a little over a cup of syrup. Two teaspoons of syrup in 8 – 12oz of milk was the right amount for our chocolate milk. Any kind of milk can be flavored (rice, almond, soy, coconut)! My only recommendation would be to serve it chilled.

CLEAN CHOCOLATE SYRUP IS A GO!! This recipe is a total winner! It was absolutely as good (better?!) than the Hershey’s original (if memory serves) and SO easy to make. This is a great place to get some nasty chemicals out of your kids’ little bodies and still allow them a treat.

ADULT MAKEOVER: You could kick this syrup up a notch by adding in a few drops of almond extract or peppermint extract. Just think of the cocktail/mocktail possibilities of clean chocolate syrup.


What’s next? So many things to choose from! I’ve got a clean “Magic Shell” recipe queued up for this weekend – if it works, I will be a rock star mama around here for a while. I think in honor of summer we might take on s’mores soon. That’s going to be more work, but we get to learn to make marshmallows, and that is just RAD!

Feel free to let me know the foods your kids are begging for, so we can clean them up!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Take an awesome zucchini bread recipe from SmittenKitchen, tweak it up to make it fit my preferred ingredients, and – boo-ya – a super delicious bread emerges that disappears from the house in a day. We all celebrate around here when we find something that every member of the family likes (feels like a short list sometimes). This bread is on the list!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread


  • 2 Eggs (you can substitute 2 “flax eggs” to make it vegan)
  • 1/4 cup Applesauce
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 cup Zucchini (grated)
  • 1t Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour (I use sprouted whole wheat)
  • 2t Cinnamon
  • 1/2t Nutmeg
  • 1/2t Baking Soda
  • 1/4t Baking Powder
  • 1/2t Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Pecans (chopped)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in applesauce, coconut oil, coconut sugar, zucchini and vanilla.
  4. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and pecans.
  5. Stir this into the egg mixture.
  6. Pour into the loaf pan.
  7. Bake loaf for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Let sit cooling for 15 minutes before removing from loaf pan and slicing.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8


Zucchini Bread

Embrace What the Garden Gives You

Garden Produce

Or someone else’s garden or your farm box – you get the picture! This time of year the tomatoes, zucchini and peaches start showing up in office lunchrooms with a note that says “take me.” Or a neighbor leaves town and begs you to pick and take home whatever you can while they are gone. Or your CSA is filled to the brim with the season’s bounty.

And sometimes it goes to waste. Because we are busy. Or tired of it. Feeling uncreative. And Staring at us (ok, me). So what should I do?

This week’s tip is to make it happen. Embrace the magnitude of produce overtaking kitchen counters, gardens, office lunchrooms… And do something – many somethings in fact!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take inventory. What do you have, how much and how ripe?
  • Prioritize. Figure out things to do in order of ripeness.
  • Place fruits that need to be eaten quickly in a special bowl on the table or include it on your Kitchen Counter Challenge Plate.
  • Think outside the box or the time window. Think preservation.
  • Utilize your freezer. Chop up super ripe fruit and freeze for smoothies or ice cream. Puree overly ripe fruit and freeze for smoothies or baking. Chop up herbs and freeze them in an ice-cube tray.
  • Make jams, chutneys, salsas, pestos, sauces.
  • Grate squash and use it in dishes and baked goods.
  • Slice tomatoes and stone fruits and dehydrate them.
  • Make big salads.
  • Make big pots of veggie soup and freeze what you don’t eat in family serving sizes.
  • Put together amazing berry-licious desserts.
  • Search the internet by ingredient for recipes (for example: green bean recipes).
  • Ask a friend for ideas. Ask all your Facebook friends for ideas. Buy a seasonal foods cookbook. Have your kids pick a recipe.
  • Celebrate the bounty with a fancy evening meal – “Zucchini Four Ways.” Print out a Prix Fixe Menu for each place setting and use fancy linens.
  • Add eggs and make an omelet, frittata, quiche or scramble.
  • Make lots of something and share with friends, a person in need, a potluck group, the office.
  • Learn to can. Learn to ferment. Learn to juice.
  • Plan your meals around what you have.

Whatever you do, don’t despair! This is a wonderful challenge to have and one we will all be dreaming about this winter. Say “YES” to any and all offers for fresh, local, nutrient-rich produce this summer. Then remember that summer is a time for play, so use this as a chance to play with your food!

Let me know, what are you working with and what are you doing to do with it?

Join us on the Facebook page – I’ll be posting links to recipes and preservation methods to help us all out!

Recipe: Lots of Red, White and Blue Quinoa Salad

Red White and Blue Note to self: Quinoa does not photograph well. But it sure tastes delicious!

This is my ode to independence. Bringing together many flavors for some sweetness and nourishment. Together the ingredients meld while still maintaining their independent awesomeness. Blueberry, beet, cherry and feta cheese flavors bursting in celebration of their authentic natures. What do you think? Is this metaphor working at all?

This salad would be a lovely base for a pork chop or a topper for a green salad. It’d be great for a picnic. It is a unique and strong flavor profile so I’d recommend serving it in smaller amounts as a side. And if you don’t like beets, just leave them out!

Recipe: Lots of Red, White and Blue Quinoa Salad


  • 1 cup red quinoa made according to package directions with stock or water, cooled
  • 2 boiled beets, peeled, cubed and cooled
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 3/4 cup cubed or crumbled feta


  • 1T olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped cherries
  • 1T balsamic vinegar
  • 2t Dijon mustard
  • 1t salt
  • 1/2t pepper


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Cool.
  2. Boil beets until a fork goes into them smoothly. Cool.
  3. Heat oil/butter in small sauté pan over medium heat.
  4. Add cherries and sauté until softened.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and saute for a few more minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper. Sauce will be very salty. Cool.
  7. Toss everything together in a large bowl and chill in refrigerator.
  8. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8


Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone! Here in Northern California it’s scorching hot, so remember to hydrate.

Weekly Tip: Stretch Culinarily

pickle fail

That’s right, I said “culinarily.” It’s probably not a word, so I’ll give you my definition… as of or pertaining to all things culinary (you know, cooking related). This week I’m encouraging you to stretch (expand, grow) yourself in the kitchen. Do something bold and different that you’ve always thought was super bad ass. No matter where you are on the culinary spectrum, there is always something beyond your comfort zone that sounds really great but has so much possibility for disaster. Due to the disaster possibility we often don’t even go there. How sad is this?! We eat food so often that you have a lifetime of opportunities to try and fail and then some day succeed with that new dish.

This week’s tip is to pick one culinary thing that fits this category and make it happen. Fail supremely or succeed surprisingly, but just do it. Could be a new type of cuisine (pho soup, maybe) or a cooking method (fermentation, perhaps) or a special dish (soufflé, possibly).

I know it will take brain power, new ingredients and, of course, time. So why do it? Here are some reasons why:

  • Some part of you wants to do it! Don’t be a food victim.
  • Take back your food power (YOU decide what ingredients to use) and feel connected to what goes in your body.
  • Food you prepare yourself is not filled with questionable chemicals like colorings and additives.
  • New foods break up “the same ol’ thing” routine that many of us get into. They help us discover new favorites and build our palates for new flavors.
  • Attempting new challenges builds character and makes you more awesome.
  • I figure, in the end, you’ll either have real respect and appreciation for those who have mastered your culinary stretch (if you fail) or a new item in your own toolbox/lunchbox (if, no -when!!- you succeed).

In honor of walking my talk, this week I stopped talking about wanting to ferment my own food and I just did it. My pickles were a supreme salty FAIL. And yet I got more out of it than I could have imagined. The whole process was demystifying and exciting and I’m one step closer to having a gut friendly pickle one of these days.

The past few years of my life I have truly lived by Thomas Watson’s wise words, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” I have started at the beginning and learned to cook. It has often been daunting, but if you check your ego at the door, you’ll be amazed by how fun cooking can be and how much people want to help you along the way! You just might end up with a beautiful soufflé or a clean butter cake not from a box or heck, even pickles.

A friend left some pickling cucumbers from her garden on my front porch today. A sign – if ever there was one – to Keep Calm and Pickle On!


How are you going to S–T–R–E–T–C–H??? Report in everyone!