School Incentives – Rewards

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State testing in our school district is currently happening.  The girls came home last week with a sheet of paper with the words “Incentive Program” at the top.  As I began reading through this sheet of paper, I suddenly started to feel frustrated and kinda angry.  Why do kids need incentives for doing something that is standard in their school curriculum?

There are 10 bullet points on this sheet of paper and EVERY single one of them is a reward for how the students score on their state testing performance!!!  Seriously, is this for real?   Am I just over reacting on this or looking at it from a different perspective?  I don’t agree with the pressure put on students for state testing, let alone the testing and I don’t feel it is an accurate display of a child’s abilities. Just seems so backwards to helping kids learn life skills for when they are out in the world.

Of course I want my children to perform well and succeed in what they work for.  I also want them to fail.  They must learn how to solve, navigate and overcome many obstacles in life. If they are rewarded for every step along the way,  I am failing as a parent.  But that is neither here nor there and a completely different post.

There are a couple incentives listed that are not food related, thumbs up for that!   For example, “Every student who scores Met Standards or Exceeded Standards in English and Math will be able to keep their elective”.   I think it means, if you do not take the test there will not be a score, therefore you will not get to keep your elective. It is unclear of the meaning behind it.



Encouraging and supporting these students is great, I am all for that. With the way society and world is lately, we all need that extra positive nudge in our lives.  I also understand some need a little more than others.  Incentives to receive rewards can work but are not always the best choice, especially when it comes to food/candy (read past post).  Kids DO NOT need to receive a reward for EVERYTHING they do and accomplish.  Correct me if I am wrong, this is not how it works in life later on. 





Gnawty By Nature

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Sinful, maybe.  Decedent, maybe.  Heavenly, maybe.  Down right freakin amazing, heck YAASS!

Most of all, these nut butter bombs are healthy and nutritious.  They are rich, gooey, sweet and salty (if you use it for a topping) and the ideal treat to keep stocked in your freezer for banishing those sweet tooth cravings. Not to mention, one of the easiest treats to make.

When it comes to treats, there has to be dark chocolate!   It is a requirement for whether a treat is made or not. Not always, but pretty darn close. Lol!  I don’t receive too many “no thank you’s” from the family or friends either HaHa!   When smooth, creamy nut butters and chocolate are combined, you feel like you can conquer anything!  Throw in a fiber rich, potassium filled,antioxidant power house date, and you’ve got a chocolate and caramel combo that just makes your eyes swoon and your mouth drool.


Need I say more…



Dates (pitted)
Almond Butter or nut butter of choice.  I do not use any with salt and oil and suggest to avoid any added ingredients.
Optional toppings, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sea salt or cayenne.
Dark chocolate of choice, I use Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chips




A plate to place the dates on. You can line with parchment paper.
Choose the amount of dates you want.
Slice down one side of the date.  If there are pits, be sure to remove them.
Spread in your choice of nut butter.  We prefer almond butter, but if you like peanuts, peanut butter tastes divine as well.


Place them in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
Melt dark chocolate or chocolate of choice.  I used a microwave setting and it works fine.
Pull out the dates from the freezer and begin pouring the melted chocolate over the nut butter filled dates.


The chocolate will start to harden.  At this time if you want to sprinkle some chia seeds, hemp seeds, sea salt or cayenne, now is the time.
Once they are all covered, place back in the freezer for another 10 minutes or so and then enjoy!

I stored these in a glass sealed container in the freezer.  I would guess about 4 days is good, but they never last long enough to find out :)


Kale Salad with Spicy Cilantro Dressing

This is a post from a couple years ago, and it’s just too good of a recipe to not share again.

Well this 98+° weather we are having here is leaving me with little motivation to cook in the kitchen, especially with an air conditioner on its last breath. Easy, cool, crisp and delicious is what I am going for during these next few days of heat. The fridge has been stocked with lots of fruit, greens and easy fixins to toss in a bowl for when it’s time to get our munch on. I have some dressings made but am always looking for new ones to try. Shannon at The Glowing Fridge is such a bright light and makes the most delicious recipes, and this is one I have been wanting to try and I had just about everything but some I modified for what I did have. If you like spicy hot (but doesn’t leave you sweating) and bursting with flavor, then this is one I recommend trying.


putting the fixins together

Recipe Inspired by: The Glowing Fridge

Serves: 4


6 cups de-stemmed chopped kale (I used half kale & half spinach)
1 cup of quinoa (I didn’t use this in the first batch that is why it is not in my picture)
1/2 red onion or 1 shallot, chopped (I chopped about 5 green onions as that is what I had and it tasted fine)
1 can black beans
1 cup organic sweet corn

Spicy Dressing:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup hot sauce of your choice (I used Franks Hot sauce)
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1 generous teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cumin
sea salt and pepper to taste

spicy dressing (2)



Cook quinoa according to directions if not already cooked. (I did not use warm quinoa)

In a large bowl add the kale and the onion.

Once the quinoa is done cooking, add in the black beans and corn to the pot with the quinoa and mix it up. Add the quinoa mixture to the bowl with the kale and mix.

Prepare the dressing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl.

I added chopped avocado and cherry tomatoes, but you could add any vegetables you’d like.

Note: I had pre cooked quinoa in the fridge so I used that and did not heat any of the ingredients and it tasted great. I also used both kale and spinach and it was delicious. Also depending on if you want a warm or cold salad, you can’t go wrong. The dressing can be modified to how hot you like by adding less or more hot sauce.


PB & Yay!

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For the longest time I have been making Kinda Like Muffins for the kids. They are the ultimate grab-n-go snack and always stocked in the freezer.  Over time they have evolved into other creations by changing up the ingredients, but always using the dates, bananas and oats as the base.

Ava had been asking me to add peanut butter to them and I was being lazy and not doing it.  So, I finally added peanut butter and chopped peanuts and YAY! they taste better than I thought.  In fact, they resemble a peanut butter cookie. Of course, I much prefer keeping these in the house than peanut butter cookies.  Needless to say, I had a very pleased child who now has her stash in the freezer!



With all the activities our family is involved in, the back and forth and extra kids these have been a saving grace. They are loaded with energy fueling nutrition, the kind your body can digest.  I always double the recipe and store in the freezer.  The kids take them out and eat them as is or pack them in their lunches.  They taste amazing warm!



Makes about 18-20 depending on how large you want them


2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup soft dates (to soften, soak for about 15 min in warm water and drain)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oats
1/4-1/3 cup peanut butter (no added oil)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 tablespoon hemp seeds
1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups rolled oats, divided
3-4 tablespoons non-dairy dark chocolate chips




Preheat oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add the peeled bananas, pitted dates, and vanilla into a food processor.  Process until smooth.

Add in the cinnamon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and baking powder and process again until combined and smooth.

Add in 1 1/2 cups of the rolled oats and process for a few seconds, just long enough to roughly chop the oats and combine the mixture.

Take the remaining oats and pour them into a medium sized bowl and add the mixture from the processor to the bowl.  Add the peanut butter, chopped peanuts and chocolate chips and stir until mixed in.

Spoon dough onto the parchment paper. Do not press down on the dough to flatten, they do not expand when cooking so you can place them close together.  They will look like mounds of the mixture.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 10 minutes.

Immediately transfer onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


Nature’s Candy Apples

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Alrighty, by now you have figured out that I like treats and I do my best to avoid using granulated industrial sugars of any kind.  I do use pure maple syrup and honey in some recipes and I am doing my best to reduce and eliminate those ingredients.  It is still sugar no matter how you perceive it, but a better alternative to industrial sugars. Dates are what I focus on using for added sugar.  These bites of heaven do more than satisfy a sweet tooth (and one does the trick!) they are packed with fiber, potassium, carbohydrates and magnesium that the body can digest easily.  They are great for sports, biking or running for a long duration.



Most people choose sugar in a form that is from a package and not from the produce section in the store. Sugars that are not from whole foods  provide nothing more than an empty void of nutrition, in an addition to it, long term health issues. Most people also associate carbohydrates as bad because of the choice of carbs they consume and not realizing that it is the sugar that hooks you. The rapid release of opiates to the brain and the molecules that rush into the blood stream, give the blood sugar a spike, then suddenly drops.  That creates an addiction to the body from the brain saying ‘give me more’, since the sugar is concentrated in calories. There are no other valuable calories/nutrients the body gets to feel full.

Where as foods like pasta, fruit, potatoes and beans release sugars slowly into the body.  However, the release isn’t the only aspect to consider, what you put on all of those foods (cheese, butter, oils, sour cream, etc.) plays a huge role in how your body absorbs and uses the nutrients. Toppings like those, will add fat calories that make people feel as though it was the carbs that made them gain weight.  Next time you grab a snack pastry, bowl of cereal, a sports bar/drink or juice, or chocolate treat, read the ingredients and count how many forms of sugars are in there, you’ll be surprised at where those grams of sugar come from.

I realize I went way off topic, but any information that I have learned that I can share is my passion and what gives me the feelz.  There is so much, it is very difficult to start.  So I just start and see where it goes.

Caramel apples or candied apples are not something my kids ask for, but they are a desired treat for most kids around certain times of the year. It just seemed like there are better options than the dairy, sugar filled layer that goes on something beneficial for your body,  But if you like the real deal, then go for it, it all comes down to choices and really, just eat what makes you feel good.  Don’t ever punish yourself for eating something that wasn’t good for you, just know that it happens and you learn from it.


Here is the quickest, easiest, most simple recipe of what took you here to begin with!


Apples: If it is just you, probably 1 apple.  You be the judgement of that :)
Dates: I use Medjool as they have been what I prefer. 1 date per four slices of apple seems reasonable.


Slice apple into slices of preferred size.  Slice dates in fourths.  Slightly press the dates onto the apple slices and enjoy!


I highly suggest reading some doctor based research such as Dr. Neal Barnard “Breaking the Food Seduction”, Dr. Greger’s immense resource website , watch documentaries like Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Eating You Alive or check out Dr. Colin Campbell’s library of articles.  You will not only find the bad of what you are eating, you will find all you need to know about the benefits of consuming more fruits, veggies, legumes and starches.

The Vegan 8’s Life Changing Pancakes

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Whoa Nellie!!  Back it up, whip these up, and let’s just sit and mow these bad boys down!

Somehow it has become a life goal to figure out how to make a variety of pancakes, because the kids LOVE them.  But, sometimes I just don’t always feel like trying to create something edible, so I search for something that has already been created.  I recently shared a super easy blender pancake recipe that we make often. If you like bananas then it is a great one to make.  However, not everyone is a banana lover (we think they’re kinda weird – just kidding)

WHA-LA!  Brandi at The Vegan 8 has a pancake recipe that is Life Changing!  Hence, the recipe is called Life Changing Pancakes.  She has been a huge contributor to our meals and she has some incredibly delicious recipes she shares. So get to her site and plan away! – after you read about her recipe!

What I love about these pancakes is that she uses sweet potato and sweet potatoes are full of nutrients our bodies need. They are loaded with Vitamin A, Potassium, Fiber and provides carbohydrates that your body can digest and use.  Sweet potatoes also provide protein for those who are hung up on the protein trend, as well as healthy sugars because it is a whole food.  So in general, sweet potatoes are pretty awesome. There is more about these pancakes that are flippin fantastic!  They are oil free, no added sugars and there are only 8 ingredients!!

Now before you start gathering all your ingredients to make these, be sure to read through the directions.  You need to be sure you measure and follow Brandi’s recipe or you’ll end up with a not so fluffy pancake. I did not have a cookie cutter to use, and they turned out just as fluffy and quite round.

The kids enjoy these with peanut butter and syrup.  I tried them with toppings, but seriously prefer them plain. These will be an ideal snack for school, work, on the go sports and other physical activities.

Here is the recipe: Life Changing Pancakes



Carrot Noodle Salad

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Tossing a bowl of chopped or spiralized raw veggies with fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice, vinegar and a few shakes of some spices, turns into a flavorful dish. I usually just add a little of this and that, and taste until I like the flavor. Sometimes the juices will be a bit to tart/sour so I will add a little honey or pure maple syrup to balance it out. The family tends to go through phases of eating lots of raw ingredients and then cooked, mostly due to the season but we definitely need to include more raw into our meals. I have become a huge lunch/dinner bowl muncher by mixing up what ever vegetables, fruits, grains or legumes that are in the fridge and tossing them into a bowl. It seems to be the most satisfying and easy meal. Plus it cleans out the fridge!

When the weather warms up this salad bowl is just so refreshing. IT can be a great side dish, starter dish, lunch or straight up dinner. I have found that this salad is best soon after it is made and the next day.  I recommend that it does not be stored in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. So without further ado, this quick fresh salad bowl will tantalize your taste-buds!


raw chick pea salad #2



1 can of organic chickpeas or 2 cups
2 large carrots (2-3 depending on size)
1 large organic cucumber (cut in fourths – slice in half, then slice again in half and chop)
1 cup chopped bell pepper (optional)
1/4 cup organic edamame (optional)
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds or sesame seeds

Ingredients for the first dressing:

2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/8-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Ingredients for the final dressing:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons local honey


raw chick pea salad



Pour and whisk all the ingredients for the first dressing in a small bowl.

Using a medium sized bowl, add the chickpeas, onion, chopped cilantro, bell pepper (if using), and the chopped cucumber.  Pour the dressing into the bowl, mix thoroughly and set in the fridge.

Using a spiralizer or gadget of choice, curl the carrots and remaining cucumber into noodles and set aside.

Using the small bowl from the first dressing, whisk together the rice vinegar and honey.

Pull out the bowl from the fridge and add in the noodles and pour the final dressing and mix well.  Top with chia seeds or sesame seeds and enjoy!


Blender Pancakes

Since some mornings can be more hectic than others, who is a fan of anything quick to make and easy to clean up?  ME! ME! ME!…

With most meals, I am always looking to change things up. Breakfast is one of those meals that tends to get stagnant because the kids are responsible for getting themselves fed in the mornings.  However, if I am ready and make time to prepare something for everyone, then they eat that.  But that doesn’t happen too regularly.  Breakfast is a meal that needs to be balanced and substantial to help us get started on our day. Both girls have a sport activity 4 out of the 5 days each week, so it is imperative they have a nutritious breakfast to get through the start of their school day. Their minds and bodies are still growing. Breakfast for the kids usually consists of a smoothie and something else like oatmeal, toast (with nut butter and fruit) or quinoa bowl with fruit. If I make it for everyone then it is usually breakfast potato/veggie burritos, chickpea scramble or pancakes.  We get creative sometimes, but the start of the day is crucial to our mind and body function for the day.

The kids always ask for pancakes, and on a very very rare occasion I will get a premix pancake mix and adjust the additions to make them. However, I am eliminating as much packaged pre-made food from our home so finding ways to make pancakes has been quite the priority lately (and I have another one to share soon).  These rounds of goodness are a favorite to eat and to make.  Everything goes into a blender.. SCORE!!  If we have leftovers made, I wrap them up and the kids either take them to school for a snack or their sports or heat them in the toaster oven for a snack when they get home from school.

ready to blend


1 flax egg (place 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed into blender and add 3 tablespoons of water) and let sit for a few minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.
2 average sized bananas (not very large) and put it in the blender
1 cup almond milk
1 generous tablespoon of pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 generous teaspoon of cinnamon
little shake of turmeric
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups of rolled oats (you can use gluten free option)
1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips OR blueberries

pouring pancakes


Get the flax egg started if you haven’t already and while you’re gathering your other ingredients, it will form into a egg like texture

Depending on what you are cooking them on, get the pan heated and ready

Add everything EXCEPT the chocolate chips or blueberries and then blend until smooth, like a pancake batter.  Once blended smooth, add your chocolate chips or blueberries and stir in by hand.

Begin scooping the batter out with a tablespoon, about 2 tablespoons per pancake as it keeps them fluffy and cooking thoroughly.  Flip when bubbling around edges starts to pop, depending on how your pan cooks it may be sooner. A couple minutes on each side.

After done, top with your favorite toppings: ours are usually consumed plain as the kids like them just as they are. Peanut or almond butter with chopped strawberries and bananas and a drizzle of syrup are favorites as well.  Get creative, make them into sandwiches or top with nuts, share your favorites with us.