Dye-Free Cake Decorating

Star Wars Angry Birds birthday cake with naturally dyed frosting.

For our family, the most challenging times to eat dye-free are holidays and birthdays.  We’ve been conditioned to think brighter is better.  More colors = more fun.  I think that’s the main reason people think our kids are missing out on “the fun of childhood” when we turn down artificially colored things.

But here’s one of the great things about kids – if it’s sweet, they think it’s a treat.  🙂

I LOOOOOOVE birthdays.  And holidays.  And basically any occasion for which you could throw a party and celebrate something with loved ones.  Decorating, baking, organizing, friends, family.  All the things I love!  Naturally, I had to figure out a way to continue to incorporate some colors into our celebratory foods.  Especially the kids’ birthday cakes.

I want to share with you my tried and true natural food dyes for frosting, fondant, and batter.  They’ll work on any of them. Keep in mind the colors will not be as bright as artificial colors, but I’ve never heard a complaint about the shade of these natural dyes.

This is the basic vanilla buttercream frosting recipe that I always use.  It’s quick, easy, and you can even make flavor variations like orange, almond, and cinnamon if that’s how you like to roll.

If you haven’t yet tried making marshmallow fondant, I highly recommend it.  It’s really not that hard.  Stacy, my sweet friend and owner of The Welch Cupcakery, has a great Marshmallow Fondant Tutorial.  She graciously walked me through the process before she had the tutorial. Check out her blog, and learn from the master.  She has tons of great tips on cake making.  🙂

Marshmallow fondants colored with raspberries, carrots, turmeric, and chocolate.

Prepared marshmallow fondants chilling in the fridge.  I love things you can do ahead of time!

Used the fondant to make Star Wars Angry Birds cupcake toppers for my son's birthday party.  Not too shabby for winging it.  :)

Used the fondant to make Star Wars Angry Birds cupcake toppers for my son’s birthday party. (Please don’t judge my artistic skills too harshly. The kids thought they were cool…)

List of Natural Food Dyes

RED/PINK – Raspberries or Beets.  (I think beets can leave a bit of an odd aftertaste, but some people don’t notice it.  Probably depends on how much you’re using, but I prefer raspberries.  You won’t get a deep red using these natural colorants, but you’ll get a pinkish red if you use a lot.  Use a little and you’ll get a nice light pink color – perfect for princess cakes!)

How to: Raspberries – Put a handful of fresh or thawed raspberries in some cheesecloth and squeeze the juice out into a bowl.  If you don’t have cheese cloth, you can squish your berries up in a bowl and stir in a little hot water, or heat the berries in some water in a saucepan on the stove.  Try to filter out any chunks of berry before adding it to frosting or fondant.  Beets – Same as raspberries.

ORANGE – Carrot Juice.  (Usually found with all the other health juices, like Naked Juice, Bolthouse Farms, etc.  Since it only comes in larger bottles, and I don’t care to drink it straight, I usually freeze what’s left in ice cube trays and store it for next time.)

How to: Pour it straight into your frosting/fondant/batter a little at a time until you reach the desired color.  Too much juice may make buttercream frosting a little chunky.

YELLOW – Turmeric.  (Found with the spices.)

How to: Sprinkle a little turmeric directly into your frosting/fondant/batter.  A little goes a long ways.  Too much will give it a strange aftertaste, so err on the “light” side.

GREEN – Avocado, Matcha Tea Powder, or Green Health Juice.  (Matcha can be expensive and vary in color. Yours doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but just make sure you’re not buying a brown one.  Or, obviously, your food won’t turn green.  Personally, I dug the avocado frosting I made, but my husband wasn’t a huge fan.  My favorite thing to use is Green Juice, like Naked Juice’s Green Machine.)

How to: Avocado – Smash it up until it’s a very smooth consistency, then add it a little at a time to whatever you’re coloring. I used about half an avocado to color a batch of buttercream frosting that covered about two dozen cupcakes.  Matcha – Add the powder directly into your frosting/fondant/batter.  It tasted a little like tea, but nobody seemed to mind it.  Green Juice – Pour it straight into frosting/fondant/batter.  Too much juice may make buttercream frosting a little chunky.

BLUERed Cabbage.

How to: Boil sliced up red cabbage leaves in some water for about 15 minutes.  Strain out the leaves, then let it boil down (reduce) until it is a syrupy consistency.  It will be purple, and you can use it as is for purple dye.  To make it blue add in tiny pinches of baking soda until it turns blue.  I’ve heard if you put in too much baking soda it’ll turn green, but I haven’t tried this myself (plus too much baking soda seems like it might taste weird).  You don’t need much of this syrup to make a good blue.  The rest can be frozen in ice cube trays and used another time.

PURPLE – Blueberries or Red Cabbage.

How to: Blueberries – Same as raspberries/beets under RED. Red Cabbage – See approach used in BLUE.

BROWN – Chocolate Powder.

How to: Stir chocolate powder into your frosting/fondant/batter a little at a time until you reach your desired shade of brown.  Don’t be afraid to go dark….there’s no such thing as too much chocolate.  😉

WHITE – Add nothing.  Buttercream frosting is off-white, and marshmallow fondant is bright white.

BLACK AND GRAY – Activated Charcoal Powder. (Sounds gross, but doesn’t really taste like anything.  And it is totally safe to eat.)

How to: Break open a capsule of Activated Charcoal and pour it into your frosting/fondant/batter a little at a time until you get your desired shade.

 

India Tree makes some great dye-free sprinkles.

India Tree makes some great dye-free sprinkles.

If you are looking for an easy way to add color, or maybe just a little extra flair, to your cakes you should try these dye-free sprinkles from India Tree.  We’ve had ours for two years now and still have about half a jar of each left. They seem kind of pricy at first, but they’ll last you a long time.  Some dye-free luxuries are worth it.  We use them on cupcakes, cakes, ice cream, and even our homemade yogurt.  Sprinklesssssss!

Have fun playing with your natural food colors!

Advertisements

Quick and Comforting: Crème Brûlée

Comfort foods.  We all have them.  And as long as it’s done in moderation, I am all about them.  I mean God gave us tastes buds for a reason.  If food’s sole purpose was nourishment, why make so many different tastes and aromas and textures?  Because He wanted us to ENJOY it!

Food can be an almost spiritual experience.  Our favorites can make even our worst days feel instantly better.  If I’m having a rough morning and you bring me a mocha or some cheesecake, we’re pretty much going to be BFFs for life.  That’s how food works for me. Let’s get real, that’s how food works for most of us.

comfort food quote

That’s why I’m going to share this ridiculously easy recipe for crème brûlée.  This along with bread pudding and homemade salsa are my husband’s favorite comfort foods.  If I know he’s having a bad day, I try to make sure he’s at least got a delicious dessert to look forward to after the kids go to bed.  One secret to a happy marriage: know your partner’s comfort foods.  Nothing builds relationships like the giving of tasty foods.  Okay, maybe there are a few other important things that help build relationships, but treat giving should definitely be on that list!  🙂

I wish I had known 20 years ago how quick and simple crème brûlée is to make.  Mind you the whole process takes a few hours, but the parts that involve you actually doing stuff  is only about 15 minutes all together.  I think we all have 15 minutes to devote to creating this indulgence.  Totally worth it, I promise!

Most of the store-bought crème brûlée mixes I’ve seen have caramel coloring in them (plus a lot of extra junk that is completely unnecessary).  It’s also not a whole lot faster.  So this is a dye-free version you can safely enjoy with the kids. If you feel like sharing with your kids…I’ll be honest, we usually don’t. We might be terrible parents.  Jury’s still out.

Anyway, sharing or not, all you need are these four ingredients: heavy cream, vanilla, egg yolks, and sugar.

creme brulee ingredients

This recipe is for two (because, like I said, it’s usually just for us), but can be easily doubled or tripled if you like.  Crème brûlée is an awesome dish to whip up for dinner guests.  It keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days (just save the caramelizing step for when you’re ready to serve it).  So make it ahead of time and then impress the heck out of your friends with dessert.  They’ll love you for it.  You’ll love you for it.  Everybody wins.  Yay!  Now, on to the recipe.

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Bring a pint of heavy cream and a teaspoon of vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  When it has just started bubbling (usually takes 6-7 minutes), remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down for around 10 minutes.  For the record, I do other things like dishes, dealing with kids, etc during these in-between waiting times.  It makes it feel like a quicker recipe when you’re not just standing at the stove waiting for stuff to happen.

simmer cream and vanilla creme brulee

While the cream is cooling, whisk together 3 egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar.  If you want to flavor your crème brûlée (with orange, lavender, lemon, cinnamon and so on) add what you want to this mixture now.  One of my favorite variations is chocolate; just mix in a half tablespoon of chocolate powder.

whisk yolks and sugar creme brulee

If you’re still waiting for your cream to cool, you can go ahead and prepare the ramekins and water bath.  Lightly grease a couple ramekins with coconut or olive oil (6 to 8 oz ramekins work well for two servings).  Place them in a glass baking dish, then fill the dish about half way up with hot water.  If you get it too full, it will be difficult not to spill as you move it in and out of the oven.  You want the water to be at least a third of the way up the side of the ramekins, like mine pictured below.

water bath creme brulee

Next, mix your cream and egg mixtures together, stirring until well blended.

mix cream and eggs creme brulee

Pour this mix into your prepared ramekins, and put the whole water bath in the oven.

water bath creme brulee

Bake it for about 40 minutes.  You want it to be set, but still a little jiggly in the middle.  When it’s done, take the water bath out of the oven.  Let the whole thing cool to room temperature (about an hour) before you remove the ramekins.  They look like this when they’re done.

cooked creme brulee

If you like your crème brûlée warm, then serve them now.  If you want it to really set up and chill properly, then cover the ramekins with saran wrap and stick them in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight if you’re making it ahead of time).

That’s all there is to it if you want it plain (and yeah, sometimes we do, because we just can’t wait!).  But, after all, crème brûlée means “burned cream” – and it’s just not the same without that caramelized sugar to top it off.  Now, you can get all fancy and buy a mini blow torch or a tiny branding iron to do this part, or you can do it the not-cool way (like me) using the broiler in your oven.

Cover the surface of your crème brûlée with sugar.

sugar caramelize creme brulee

Stick it in the oven about six to eight inches away from the broiler.  It doesn’t take long for the sugar to caramelize, only two or three minutes.

broiler caramelize creme brulee

Keep a close eye on them, and turn the dishes if necessary so they caramelize evenly.  I doubt that truly “burned cream” tastes very good; so take them out when they start to look burned, don’t leave them in long enough to actually be burned.

caramelized sugar creme brulee

**Important note** If you had your ramekins in the fridge, let them warm up on the counter for at least 30 minutes before you put them under a broiler or they may crack.

comfort food creme brulee

There it is.  You worked hard for it (well, hard for like 15 minutes, right?).  Dig in!  You deserve it.  🙂

Celebratory Cafe Bread Pudding

I call this dessert “celebratory” because we only have it on special occasions.  That said, sometimes our special occasion is simply that I remembered to buy all the ingredients and our kids are resting long enough for me to make it.  Hey, no one said you had to wait for a birthday or a holiday to celebrate something.

There’s a restaurant in our town that makes to-die-for bread pudding.  My husband drools just thinking about it. He raved about it so much that I felt it necessary to try to recreate it at home.  But my first few attempts fell short.  Like, WAY short.  Not surprisingly, the restaurant had a policy of not sharing their ridiculously amazing secret recipes (I can’t say I blame them; it’s gotta be a huge money-maker).  So I resorted to interrogating the waiters about the ingredients every time we went.  Piece by piece I managed to put the recipe together.  Once I perfected it, my husband warned me I should only make this on “special occasions” or he’d be putting on a lot of unwanted pounds.

Speaking of celebrating, yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary.  Woohoo!  So it was clearly the perfect time to whip up some bread pudding.  As the old saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  And, because I love him so, I wanted his heart to be full.

My bread pudding only takes seven ingredients – 1 cup half and half, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 large croissants (or 5 King’s Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls), and some berries (not pictured, but either fresh or frozen will do).

bread pudding ingredients

A note on the ingredients: If you don’t have heavy cream or half and half, milk works too.  It just won’t be as rich or creamy.  Also, store bought croissants are generally not dye-free.  You can make croissants at home, but it is somewhat labor intensive.  A local bakery may have fresh croissants, just double check that they’re really dye-free.  The ones in my picture have a tinge of yellow dye.  A huge bummer, but since we have it so rarely (and it was just for us, not the kids) we decided it was worth it. King’s Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls work fabulously too, and are dye-free.

You’ll want to start this at least 90 minutes before you want to eat dessert.  It doesn’t take long to prepare, but you have to factor in cooking and cooling times.

Bring your half and half and heavy cream to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool.

simmer

While you’re waiting, grease your serving dishes (I use coconut oil in some ramekins).  Then layer in pieces of the croissants (1 croissant, or 2 1/2 King’s Hawaiian rolls, per ramekin) and berries.

Croissants.

Croissants.

Blackberries.

Blackberries.

More croissants.

More croissants.

More blackberries.

More blackberries.

Whisk together your eggs, sugar, and vanilla.

egg mix

Once your milk mixture has cooled for a few minutes, slowly stir it into the egg mixture.

milk egg mix

Pour this egg-milk mix over your bread and berries, and push the bread down so every piece is fully covered.  Then sprinkle a little sugar on top.

soak bread pudding

Let them soak for at least 15 minutes while you prepare a water bath and let your oven heat up to 325.

bread pudding water bath

Carefully put it in the oven on a middle rack.  Try not to get your water bath too full or it’ll be hard not to spill.

bake bread pudding

Let it bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and puffed.

cooked bread pudding

When your bread pudding is fully cooked, let your serving dishes chill out on a cooling rack for a while.  They are oh so delicious warm, but if you eat them straight out of the oven you will get burned.  Trust us.  We were a little too impatient once…

cool bread pudding

Now keep in mind, there’s a reason this recipe makes two large servings: you will NOT want to share.  I purposely made this recipe so you won’t have to.  Now go have an indulgent time celebrating with someone you love.

husband

My husband doesn’t like having his picture taken, but I managed to sneak a shot of him happily finishing off his anniversary bread pudding.

***UPDATE***
I tried the recipe with King’s Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls and it tasted amazing! You can find King’s Hawaiian at Target, Wal-Mart, and most grocery stores. So glad we found a cheap, dye-free alternative to croissants! Woohoo!

Fabulously Fast French Toast Casserole

Ahhh, cinnamon.  We all know it smells amazing.  But did you know it’s really good for your brain too? Just a whiff has been shown to boost your memory, attention span, and visual-motor speed.  I don’t know about you, but after a long day with the kids I could sure use some help in those departments.  Truthfully, with an infant in the house, some days I need help all day.  We’ll sprinkle it in our coffee grounds or on our oatmeal in the morning to help us wake up.

And that’s just the smell.  Now if you actually eat cinnamon you get even more health benefits.  It has amazing anti-viral and anti-microbial properties (traditional Chinese medicine has long claimed ingesting cinnamon is one of the best ways to ward off a cold).  It also helps control your blood sugar levels by making the stomach empty more slowly after meals. That means your blood sugar won’t spike so dramatically; in fact, some studies have shown it to be more effective than certain diabetic medications.

Pretty neat stuff, that cinnamon.  Hey, want a quick little recipe you can just pack full of as much cinnamon as you can stand?  I got one.  We’ve been eating it weekly around here this winter.  It’s easy to throw together for dinner, and it’s fantastic for feeding a crowd at breakfast when you have house guests.  (P.S. Kids devour it!)

Alright, let’s get cookin’ on this delicious, dye-free, cinnamon-filled French toast casserole.

Preheat your oven to 375, grab a 9″x13″ baking dish, and gather your ingredients: bread, milk, eggs, butter, berries, vanilla, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.

ingredients

You’ll need somewhere between a third to half a loaf of bread.  Any bread will do.  French toast was originally developed for using up stale bread, which you can usually get super cheap at grocery stores and bakeries. (Midwest friends, Jimmy John’s day old bread is only 50 cents a loaf! Yum!)  I usually use whole wheat sandwich bread, because it’s what we have on hand.

Tear up your bread into roughly square inch large pieces.  Put the bread into your greased baking dish.  You want it to be full to the brim, but not much higher than that since it will puff up a bit while baking.

bread

Next, whisk 6 eggs with 2 cups of milk until well blended.  Stir in a 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (you can adjust this amount depending on how strong a taste you want), 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

whisk

Pour your egg mixture over the bread.

pour

Now press the bread into the egg mixture (I use the side of a measuring cup or a spoon so my hands don’t get dirty).  You just want all the bread to be wet.

press

Let the bread soak in it’s little egg bath for at least 10 minutes.  While you’re waiting you can put on the topping.

Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of sugar and about two teaspoons of cinnamon evenly over the top of the casserole.

topping1

Then dot the whole thing with little pieces of butter.  If you use a spreadable butter for this (versus a stick of butter) it’s much easier.

topping2

Finally, shower on some berries.  Fresh or frozen.  Any kind you like.  They all work.  Or you can omit the berries.  Or use nuts instead.  Or use both berries and nuts.  Get crazy!

topping3

You can do all this the night before if you’re making it for breakfast.  Just make sure you let the dish sit out on the counter for at least half an hour, so it can warm up a bit before you throw it in the hot oven to bake.  Otherwise it may crack.

Once your oven is hot and your casserole has had adequate soaking time, pop it in the oven.  Let it cook for about 40 minutes.  It should puff up a couple inches above the brim of the dish, and the sides will be a nice golden brown when it’s done.

french toast casserole

golden edges

Serve it while it’s nice and hot.

french toast casserole 2

This dish smells SO good!  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  Plus, your house will smell wonderful and everyone in it will get a little brain boost to defeat that late afternoon drag.  Win-win-win.

A couple tips and tricks for my fellow busy mamas:

I try to get the egg mixture made and the bread torn up during nap time.  Just keep the egg part in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the rest.  Saves some time.  You can even go ahead and make the whole thing during nap time and put it in the fridge until later.  As I said before, just remember to let your dish warm back up a little before you put it in the oven.

My favorite side for this dish (okay, for anything) is bacon.  What’s handy is I realized that if you bake your bacon on a foil lined baking sheet at 375, it is done in roughly the same amount of time as this casserole.  It was meant to be.  To cut out the nitrates in bacon, get an uncured kind.  I buy Farmland All Natural Uncured Bacon (Hy-Vee) and Simply Nature Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon (Aldi’s).  Both are great….but is there really such a thing as bad bacon?

bacon

If you’re feeling especially nice and/or fancy, adding a little whipped cream is always a crowd pleaser around here.  I’d say I was doing it for the kids, but I’d be lying.  I’m pretty sure we want it more than they do!  🙂

french toast casserole whipped cream

Bobby Flay Would Never Hire Me: How to Cook an Omelet

Think your eggs are adequate?  Bobby Flay would probably tell you to think again.  In fact, he’s said that he won’t hire anyone at his restaurants who can’t make a good omelet.  That’s how basic and essential a cooking skill he thinks it is.  I felt so ignorant.  Here I was thinking I was a decent cook.  I had no idea just how poorly I was making my breakfast until I saw him make an omelet.  Holy cow!  Talk about a game changer!

This life lesson came about one afternoon when all three of my boys were miraculously napping at the same time.  I put on a random episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown (I love cooking shows!) while I sat down to eat some lunch.  Initially, when I saw it was about omelets, I thought it was going to be lame.  But then I saw him make an omelet. That’s not how I made my omelets…  His looked incredible.  It couldn’t be that easy.  Since I had some free time, I gave it a shot.  AMAZING RESULTS!  I was hooked.

So I just had to share it with you.  In case you too are longing for a better breakfast.  A special thanks to Bobby Flay (who will likely NEVER see this) for the life changing lesson in cooking!

Let’s get to it.  Turn your burner on to medium-low heat.  Grab a pan and grease it.  I use butter because, yum, it’s butter.

butter

Crack open some eggs.  Lately I’ve been doing three, but I’m nursing a baby so I’m extra HUNGRY.  🙂

crack eggs

Whisk up those eggs so the yolks and whites are fairly well blended.  (You can also do this in a bowl and then pour it in the pan if you want an even fluffier omelet, but I don’t like making extra dishes.  I don’t even use a whisk, that’s how much I hate getting extra things dirty.)

whisk

Let it set a bit until the very bottom starts turning white.  While you’re waiting, it’s a good time to sprinkle on some salt and pepper if you’re into seasoning.

wait

Don’t let it get too firm.  The next step is to scrape the cooked eggs and mix them around with the uncooked parts.  Almost the way you would if you were going for scrambled eggs.  What you’re wanting to do is push up the firmer parts and redistribute the uncooked parts onto the bare pan to cook.

scramble

Let the eggs cook until they aren’t very jiggly anymore (yep, super technical terminology here).  Then slip your spatula around the edges to loosen it.

cook

Now flip it.  Bobby likes to do a fancy throw in the air to flip his omelets, but for the rest of us a regular old spatula flip will do the trick.

flip

Let it cook another minute or two until the eggs are cooked through.  You can lift and check the underside if you aren’t sure on the timing.  While you’re letting it cook, throw on your fillings.  I used bell peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella in this guy.

filling

When the eggs are cooked and your cheese is melted, gently fold it in half.

fold

Slide your omelet onto a plate.

plate it

Now dig in!  Cut up some fruit, grab a handful of nuts, steal some of your kids’ Bunny Grahams, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful meal.  And a tasty, healthy, filling one at that!  🙂

breakfast

If your eggs already looked like this, you’re awesome (and light years ahead of me in life skills).  But if your eggs look less appealing than this, I challenge you to try it the Bobby Flay way.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Here’s the episode I watched via Amazon Instant Video: Bobby Flay Throwdown: Omelets.

If you want to see the master at work, here’s a YouTube video of Bobby making an omelet.  He does it a little differently and at a higher heat than he did in the throwdown, but both ways work.

Go make yourself some eggs!

Feeding the Kids: Easy Dye-Free Lunches

Other stay at home mamas will feel me on this one.  It’s 11:45 AM, you’re going about your morning doing all your usual mama stuff (folding laundry, wiping butts, splitting up fights, picking up toys, making appointments, feeding the baby, washing dishes, answering your 100th “why” question of the day, possibly even getting ready yourself).  Suddenly you’re bombarded with urgent cries of I’m hungry! When are we going to eat??

Yep, it’s lunch time.  How does it always sneak up on me like that?  I never have anything planned.  Shoot….  BUT, the beauty of going through all the work of creating a dye-free kitchen, is that anything I dig out and throw on a plate for the kids is going to be safe for them to eat.  Saves a lot of time and worry if you don’t want your kids to have food dyes.

If you’re new to dye-free living, hopefully this will give you some ideas.  You might notice that some of the things we eat for lunch overlap with my list of dye-free snack foods.  That’s because I’m literally just grabbing whatever we have on hand and putting it on a plate.  We have lots of snacky foods on hand.  🙂

Here’s a sample of what my kids have been eating the last couple weeks.

lunch

Turkey (Simply Nature uncured turkey from Aldi’s) and provolone with mayo, carrots and strawberries, Annie’s Chocolate Bunny Grahams, and almonds.

lunch

Turkey and salami (Hormel’s uncured hard salami), carrots, cherry tomatoes, a strawberry, ranch dressing (Marzetti organic ranch veggie dip from Hy-Vee – no MSG like most ranch), mixed nuts, and Simply Cheetos white cheddar puffs.  We also had some Greek yogurt on the side.  If you manage to arrange their food into a weird face or picture, even better.  My older boys are 5 and 3, and they think this is hilarious.  So if you want to impress your young ones…. 🙂

lunch

Hebrew National hot dog with ketchup (we use the Hunt’s brand without high fructose corn syrup), cherry tomatoes, a clementine, some pecans, and a handful of Parmesan Goldfish.  Again, we had Greek yogurt on the side as well.  (We go through a lot of yogurt!)

lunch

Turkey, Ritz crackers, almonds, carrots, blueberries, and some cottage cheese.

lunch

Peanut butter and jelly, salami (because they LOVE it and always ask for “just one piece!”), a clementine, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, and some Stauffer’s animal crackers.

lunch

Alright this lunch was from the weekend, which is why it’s a little (but not much) more time intensive than our other lunches.  🙂  Van de Kamp’s fish sticks, cantaloupe, mixed nuts, and a Nature Valley Oats N’ Dark Chocolate granola bar.

lunch

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yes, again…it’s easy!), a mozzarella cheese stick, a clementine, and a bunch of mixed nuts.

By now you’re probably getting the general pattern of what I throw on a plate for the boys.  Nuts, fruit/vegetables, a sandwich or some meat, usually something from the dairy group as well for protein.  They may not be fully balanced meals, but I think overall they’re healthy.  My kids also have a mid-morning snack with fruits and nuts and proteins, so their lunches aren’t usually huge.

lunch

This was our Valentine’s Day lunch.  A heart shaped Nutella and raspberry jelly sandwich, heart shaped bananas, strawberries, mozzarella cheese stick, almonds, a Fit & Active fruit strip (from Aldi’s), and some Brookside dark chocolate candies.

I don’t have a picture of it, but my kids really like having scrambled eggs for lunch.  It doesn’t take too long to cook some up.  So if you’ve had PB&J a few days in a row, you can always give eggs a try.  🙂

I know it’s nothing revolutionary, but I see that as a good thing.  Just more proof that going dye-free doesn’t have to be complicated.  Anyone can do it.

Dye-Free Discovery: Thai Soup

I just had to share this.  It was too good not to share.  I’m talking about Swanson 100% Natural Thai Ginger Broth.

I happened across this new dye-free convenience food while grabbing some beef stock for my French Dips the other day.  My husband lived in Thailand for a while, and is obsessed with the food.  So I had to give it a try.

I promise this is not an ad.  I am in no way affiliated with Swanson’s or Campbell’s.  🙂  I just genuinely LOVED this soup.  And it really is all-natural as advertised.  Check out the ingredients list for yourself.

ingredients

My husband, being the Thai food connoisseur of our household, was a bit skeptical that it would taste authentic.  We tried it tonight.  He gave it a big thumbs up.

Even the kids liked it, though they complained that it “hurt their tongues” a little at first.  It was spicier than most other foods I make, but I wouldn’t categorize it as spicy.  Had just the right amount of heat to it.  They still ate it, and even said they liked it afterwards.  So good job, Campbell’s.

It was also really easy to prepare.  I happened to have all the ingredients on-hand, so that worked out nicely.  Plus it was an excellent way to use my leftover shredded chicken.

ingredients

Took about 20 minutes altogether to prepare.

Sorry for the slightly blurry picture. Oops...

Sorry for the slightly blurry picture. Oops…

Here it is in all it’s delicious goodness.  Mmmmmm…I can still smell it.

thai soup

If you’re not in the mood for soup, you can use this broth to make other recipes too.  The Campbell’s Swanson website has more recipes.  Apparently, they also make two other flavors: Mexican Tortilla, and Chinese Hot and Sour.  Looking forward to trying those.

If you like Thai food, give this one a try.  It made a great dye-free dinner for us.  🙂