Beat the Heat with Healthy Sparkling Fruit Water

It’s been so hot here, and every day my kids and I are trying to come up with new ways to keep cool. I decided to freeze some pomegranate juice and blueberries and combine it in sparkling lime-flavored water to create this super refreshing and healthy Sparkling Fruit Water. It’s so easy!

No-Bake Nutella Oatmeal Cookies

I made these No-Bake Nutella Oatmeal Cookies a few weeks ago, and they were too good to be true. Not only are they a “No-Bake” cookie recipe, but they are filled with my favorite ingredients: Nutella, peanut or almond butter, dark cocoa powder, oats and almond milk. These are an ideal afternoon gluten-free snack or dessert. I think I definitely need to make a batch for Mother’s Day.

Gluten Free: Grain-Free Granola

One of my food weaknesses is definitely granola so I thought I would develop a recipe for a Grain-Free Granola for all of those who can’t have grains, are gluten-free, are following the Paleo Diet or are watching their carbohydrate intake. This recipe for Grain-Free Granola is super easy to make, and it’s full of my favorite seeds and nuts. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand as all of the nuts and seeds are easily interchangeable. This granola makes a great breakfast idea stirred into nonfat Greek Yogurt or with almond milk. It also makes a great afternoon snack, a healthy sweet to put in your children’s lunch, or a wonderful dinnertime dessert served with fruit.

Buttermilk Pancakes & Guest Post by “Today’s Nest”

I am so excited to announce that my post today is by Sam Henderson of Today’s Nest, one of my favorite sites. Please be sure to check out his site and his incredible talent! I am honored to have him share his incredible work with you for National Hot Breakfast Month. Take it away, Sam….

Pancakes are an American staple and go by many names–flapjacks, hot sales, griddle cakes, etc. The breakfast standard has a long history and is even surrounded by a bit of folklore. Perhaps you have read the story of Paul Bunyan and his love for flapjacks. Some say it took nearly 20 men to make enough pancakes to satisfy him.  I sometimes feel as though I could use a little help getting enough for my crew. They seem to disappear from the plate faster than I can flip them. We used a box mix for a long time until we discovered we could make better cakes on our own.

There is no magic in box pancake mix.  The ingredients  are, for the most part, already in your pantry. The only exception here is that many pancake mixes require just water to be ready to go. If you desire the taste of true buttermilk pancakes, you will be required to keep some buttermilk on hand.  The good news is you can make some Homemade Butter or purchase some and keep it for other purposes.

Sam’s 10 Pancake Tips:

1. A word about syrup… I believe in saving money where it is sensible and doesn’t compromise good taste (in every sense of the word). REAL Maple syrup is not a meaningless purchase. Buy REAL Maple Syrup.

2. As a nice gift, double the dry ingredients and place them in an airtight jar.  Tie a card around the top with the recipe written inside.

3. When you pour in the wet ingredients, mix quickly and just until moistened.  That’s all.  There may be some lumps, but it won’t be evident when your light and fluffy pancakes are served.

4. If you have the time, allow the batter to rest before using.  Even after an hour the results are better.

5. Pancakes should be flipped only once.  Pull up the side to see if the bottom is the color you want and then flip it gently.  The second side should only take half to three quarters the time it took for the first side.

6. If you are using a non-stick pan or griddle you should not need any additional butter or oil.

7. I find a griddle much easier to manage for pancake making.  I don’t have to struggle with the side of the pan and I can cook many more at a time.

8. I use an ice cream scoop to measure out my pancakes.  Ours holds exactly 1/4 cup of batter, and I am able to maintain consistent results.

9. Freezing pancakes is simple.  Place cooled cakes on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Top with another sheet of parchment and another layer of pancakes.  Continue until all are single layered between parchment sheets.  Place in freezer until frozen.  Remove frozen pancakes from parchment and store in a sealable freezer bag.

10. Reheat frozen pancakes covered with a damp paper towel in a microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Leap Year Discoveries and $75 Visa Giftcard Giveaway

It’s so cool that this year is a Leap Year. It’s like we have an extra day on the calendar (I know I could use one :)). I am so excited to partner with Quaker on their “Leap Day Delightful Discovery Campaign” and to be able to introduce their new flavor variety of Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Honey Nut Quaker Oatmeal Squares. In honor of Leap Year and this fun campaign, I have an awesome giveaway. One winner will win a $75 Visa gift card to put towards something new for you in celebration of an extra day this year as well as the full product line of Quaker Oatmeal Squares. To enter, do as many of the following and leave a comment letting me know you did. Winner will be drawn on Sunday, February 19th at 2 p.m CST.

1. Leave me a comment telling me what you would like to discover with an extra day on the calendar year.  Is it a hobby? recipe? more quality time with friends or “me time”?

2. Join the Quaker Oatmeal Squares Facebook page. Those who join the page will also receive a free sample of the new Honey Nut Variety of Oatmeal Squares to try for themselves.

3. Join Ingredients, Inc. Facebook page

4. Follow Alison Lewis on Twitter 

5. Follow Quaker on twitter

6. Follow Alison Lewis on Pinterest

7. Subscribe to Ingredients Inc by email

This post is sponsored by Quaker, but all opinions of this post are my own.

Valentine’s Day Trail Mix

Valentines is almost here, and I thought I would share my latest healthy idea of what you can snack on at home, in the office or at your kids’ class parties. This Valentine Trail Mix is filled with healthy nuts, yogurt covered pretzels and raisins. Feel free to add your favorite nuts and dried fruits. Top it off with a small amount of regular or peanut M & M’s, and you’ll have a winning Valentine’s Day treat that is fairly healthy too.

Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Cranberries and Mint

Quinoa is one of my favorite Super Foods of 2012. I talked a great deal about quinoa this weekend at my nutrition/healthy eating seminar including how to pronounce it, purchase it and cook it. I had a lot of wonderful questions regarding this gluten-free grain. One serving of quinoa provides all 8 essential amino acids, and it is high in protein and fiber. It’s also a wonderful grain for those on a gluten-free diet, and it works wonderful for breakfast, a side, in soups and salads. I recommend buying the rinsed version to make your life even easier. I developed this recipe for Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Cranberries and Mint for Thanksgiving for Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms Turkey. It makes a great side dish or salad, and my kids absolutely loved it. Add grilled chicken or shrimp if you wish for a main dish salad.

Almond Butter-Flaxseed Pancakes

Since I have been obsessed with almond butter for quite some time, I thought I would try my hand at making these Almond Butter Flaxseed Pancakes. You combine almond butter with your favorite homemade or store-bought pancake mix, flaxseed meal (which can be found at most local groceries), banana and even nonfat Greek yogurt. My kids went nuts over these, and I felt great serving them such an incredibly healthy breakfast. They called them, “Banana-Nut Pancakes” which was a great name. These pancakes taste great reheated, and they make a great healthy afternoon snack. Enjoy anytime of the year, but they are perfect for a healthy Christmas break, New Year’s or weekend breakfast.

Peppermint Dark Hot Chocolate Mix

Okay…my kids are obsessed with Peppermint Hot Chocolate. The past few weeks we have been visiting Starbucks more than often to savor their craving. Since I have been working on my Christmas list, I decided to create my own homemade version of Peppermint Dark Hot Chocolate Mix that will make the perfect holiday food gift. I used dark chocolate instead of milk or semisweet chocolate, but feel free to use your favorite. It has been said to lower blood pressure, work as a powerful antioxidant and even help release endorphins to boost your mood. It’s super easy and inexpensive to make, and everyone loves it.

Date-Pecan Bread with Greek Yogurt

This Date-Pecan Bread with Greek yogurt is my newest favorite healthy, quick bread recipe. I used whole wheat and all-purpose flour, flaxseed and nonfat Greek yogurt to create a flavorful, moist bread. My kids were skeptical at first, but shortly after they tried it, they were gladly helping themselves to seconds. Perfect for breakfast, dessert, an afternoon snack or holiday gift, this recipe is a cinch to prepare (no mixer needed). I bought my dates at Costco, but you can find them at any local grocery store. Dates are filled with so may health benefits. They’re full of fiber, Vitamin B, Vitamin, A, Vitamin C, Iron and potassium. They are an excellence source of energy and work wonders for the digestive system.