Category Archives: Recipe

Valentine’s Day Cookie Cake Using Boxed Cake Mix

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

I’m going to show you the easiest way to make a Valentine’s Day cookie cake using a box of cake mix and two other ingredients. Your family is going to love this!

Hey Mommas! Valentine’s Day is only 2 days away.  TWO DAYS!?! Where has February gone? Heck, where did January go? I feel like we’ve been moving in warp speed lately. I feel like I’ve barely had time to breathe lately with all of the studying, working, being a Mom, and a wife that’s been happening over here.

I’m not complaining though.  You see, the truth is, I love being busy.  I cannot stand to have nothing to do.  Even when I was a kid I would bring home extra books on the weekends just to make it look like I was super busy – I never actually studied more or longer than I had to, I just wanted to look important.  Well these days, there’s is no pretending to our busy schedule.

I guess that’s what I get.

Well this past weekend I headed out of town for a review prep course for my upcoming exam, so I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to do anything sweet for the two boys in my life.  So I opted for a simple Valentine’s Day love cookie cake.

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

J’s dessert of choice (well the only dessert he’ll actually eat) is chocolate chip cookies, so of course that made my decision super easy on what to make.  I did a little baking magic to turn the cookie cake into a heart, but I’ll show you that down below.

We wanted to keep this Valentine’s Day budget friendly.  We’ve been working extra hard lately to stick within our budget (no one’s perfect and neither are we).  I realized I had just about everything we needed to bake a cookie cake on hand, except chocolate chips.  Someone got a little chocolate craving one night and finished off the small bag we had in the freezer – oops!

I’m pretty proud of myself on this surprise though because J totally did not see it coming, which never happens! I’m the worst at keeping secrets from him.

Here’s how I created this sweet Valentine’s Day cookie cake:

Here’s what you need:

1 box white cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Buttercream Icing or canned icing
Red food coloring

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, pour into greased pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

Valentine’s Tip: To make a heart shaped cookie cake, I used one circle and one square pan.  I did not double my recipe, but you could.  I just opted for thinner cookies and started checking if they were done at around 15 minutes.  Once the cookies are fully cooked, pop out of the pan. 

Shaping the heart is really simple!  All you have to do is take the round cookie cake and slice it in half.  Then place the two circles on the square edges. You can take some icing to help hold it together. 

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

For the icing I used my buttercream recipe and just used red food coloring to make it more Valentine-y.  You could also always use store-bought icing as well.

Valentine's Chocolate Chip Cooke Cake Using Cake Mix
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Ingredients
  1. 1 box white cake mix
  2. 1/2 cup butter, melted
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 3/4 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  6. Buttercream Icing or canned icing
  7. Red food coloring
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Pour batter into a greased pan (one circle and one square if making a heart). Bake for 15-20 minutes.
merelynne http://merelynne.com/

Frozen Waffle Recipe

easy freezer waffle recipe, freezer waffle recipe, waffle recipe, easy breakfast ideas, meredithrines, merelynne

When I was little my Mom would make breakfast for dinner.  It wasn’t often, but it sure was special.  My sister and I never knew when our favorite dinner was coming, but when she would utter those magic words “we’re having breakfast tonight” our eyes would light up.  It was the best!

As an adult, I’ve realized those were the nights my Mom was exhausted.  It must have been a long day at work and I’m sure having two kids, a house to clean and laundry to do didn’t make it any easier.  But she cemented my love for a flip-flop meal.

Now that I’m older, my love of breakfast hasn’t changed.  Breakfast food is my jam.  My all-time favorite breakfast food is waffles.  I’m not crazy about buying the store-bought kind because they always have extra ingredients that our bodies don’t need.  Plus they cost a ridiculous amount! I just don’t want to spend that kind of money on a monthly basis to feed my waffle habit.

freezer waffle recipe, waffle recipe, easy waffle, easy breakfast, freezer waffle, homemade waffle, meredith rines, merelynne

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Honestly, waffles are a staple for busy mornings. I pop them in the toaster while I get our son’s diaper bag ready for the sitter. Then he can eat on the way if we’re running really late or he can eat while I finish getting ready.  Either way – they aren’t really messy.  He doesn’t get syrup with them, so as an on-the-go type option, it’s perfect. 

Then the idea of making homemade waffles each morning was just too much to handle. Who has time and who wants to make the time? I sure don’t.  

So I found a good compromise.

A homemade frozen waffle recipe. Yep! I found a freezer waffle recipe then adapted it.  Which means I can have homemade, not junk-filled waffles each morning.

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They are delicious!  The best part?

They go instantly from freezer to toaster!

What? No thawing required?  That’s right!  You just pop these bad boys right into the toaster when you’re ready.

I like this recipe a lot because it makes enough waffles for 

a few weeks.  This recipe yields about 20-24 waffles, depending on how much batter you need to fill your iron.  

Here’s how to prep homemade frozen waffles:

First, turn on your waffle iron to heat up.

Then combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.

When the iron is nice and hot, shoot it with a quick spray of cooking spray to prevent any of the recipe from sticking.

Place a scoop of the batter onto the waffle iron.  For my iron, it’s about 3/4 cup.  I have this handy ladle that is exactly 1/4 cup so it’s what I use to scoop.

Cook until nice and done.  About 5 minutes.

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To Freeze:

I then placed my waffles, single layer on a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer.  You will need to flash freeze the waffles for about 20-25 minutes.  Place in a gallon-size freezer bag and place back in the freezer.

To Reheat:

Take straight out of the freezer and place directly into your toaster.  I like mine on a medium-to-dark setting, just because I like mine nice and toasty.  One cycle is usually enough in the toaster, too.  If they’re too thick for your toaster, then you can easily reheat in the microwave.

Easy Frozen Waffle Recipe
Yields 20
A delicious waffle recipe that you can freeze. Go from freezer to toaster, no thawing needed. These are tasty and healthier than the store-bought recipes!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 1 3/4 cups milk
  4. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  5. 1 tablespoon white sugar
  6. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. 1.) Preheat waffle iron.
  2. 2.) Combine the ingredients in a large bowl (leave out the cooking spray).
  3. 3.) Spray preheated waffle iron with cooking spray and fill with 1/4 cup batter.
  4. 4.) Close iron and cook for about 5 minutes or until done.
  5. 5.) Remove finished waffle and continue until batter is gone.
To Freeze Waffles
  1. Place waffles on a large cookie sheet to “flash freeze” by placing in the freezer for 20-25 minutes or until waffles are completely cooled. Place the waffles in a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag and freeze. Will last up to three months.
To Reheat Waffles
  1. Reheat frozen waffles directly in the toaster.
Adapted from All Recipes
Adapted from All Recipes
merelynne http://merelynne.com/

Easy Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

Easy Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes, thanksgiving dessert, easy dessert ideas, dessert recipes, meredith rines, merelynne

This year, I’m all about taking back the holidays. No more self-induced stress over a dinner or worrying about something that is out of my control. 

I started this laid back attitude around Halloween. I choose an easy DIY NASCAR driver costume for our little man to wear and I decided not to dress in a coordinating outfit. I knew I didn’t have time to put something together and realized the night before Halloween I wanted sleep more than anything else. I opted for a camo shirt and called myself a fan. Ha!

Next I realized Thanksgiving could get a little stressful and chaotic for me. Work is usually a little busy this time of year and with J back in school I knew he would have finals coming up. I knew his school and my career were more important than a perfect Thanksgiving. 

Luckily my family agreed and we decided to have a potluck type dinner. Everyone agreed to bring a dish or two to help out so it wasn’t all on one person. I usually volunteer to bring stuffing and a dessert to family dinners. J’s family has an amazing stuffing recipe that is usually a knockout. So he makes that all on his own… Well the one year I offered to help ended with me shredding a wooden spoon in a blender with the food inside. So we had to start over and ended up being late. Oops! Now he makes that one all by himself.

I end up making a dessert or two to being over. This year I’m keeping it simple and opting for a classic recipe.  One I’ve made hundreds of times and know it always works. I usually like to experiment with a new one, but this year in honor of keeping my stress minimized I decided against it.

Here are some of my favorite go-to desserts I’m thinking about making:

Copycat Pizza Inn Chocolate Chip Pizzert 

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Skinny(ish) Apple Pie with Cinnamon Roll Crust

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Red Velvet Crackle Cookies

red velvet cookie recipe

Easy Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread

pull apart bread recipe

How To Save Extra Tomato Sauce

Save Extra Tomato Sauce, how to Save Extra Tomato Sauce, tomato sauce, freeze food, how to freeze tomato sauce, how to freeze tomato, meredith rines, meredithrines, merelynne

Friends,

I have a confession to make. I posted this dinner tip to my youtube channel awhile back and I totally forgot to share it on my blog (shame on me!). So I figured today was a good day to do that.

Do you ever create a dinner to look over and discover extra tomato sauce, pasta sauce, tomato paste leftover? Well we do and it happens way too often. I just hate throwing good food away (which is why we have a weekly leftover night). It just bothers me.

I discovered something amazing after doing an experiment one night. You can freeze all that leftover sauce and tomato paste. Yep! It’s amazing.

All you do is distribute the leftovers into an ice cube tray or a muffin tray then place directly in the freezer. By next morning you’ll be able to pop them out of the tray and place in a freezer bag. Just label and you’re good to go.

Perfect.

Now if you really want to help with dinnertime you can even season the sauce before freezing. If you typically use the sauce with the same spices then go for it.

You can watch my quick video online or below:

 

Avocado Chicken Salad – Keto Lunch Idea

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Lunch is the hardest meal to plan for – I get so bored with the usual lunch ideas.  I have been thinking long and hard about new recipes that are simple to prepare.  

I came up with this easy avocado chicken salad the other day and I love it.  I may or may not have made it a few times since that day, too.  

This avocado chicken salad is even keto friendly, which is great since I’ve been trying to eat more of a ketogenic diet (some days are better than others!).  All you need is a bowl, fork and 5 ingredients to make this yummy dish.  

Check out this quick video of how I made it!

Avocado Chicken Salad
Serves 2
A delicious keto friendly lunch recipe.
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Large can of chicken or 2 cups cooked chicken
  2. 1 Ripe Avocado
  3. 2 Tablespoon Sour Cream
  4. 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  5. 1 teaspoon lime juice
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
merelynne http://merelynne.com/

Avoid the Lunch Burnout

How To Avoid The Lunch Burnout

Now that we’ve survived our first No Eating Out Challenge, it’s time to shake things up a bit.  Every time we try to pack lunches we do so good for the first week or so and then we start slipping.  I know it’s because we’re getting bored with what we’re bringing.  The same thing (or variation of the same meal) every day can get old.  

We have been working hard to avoid the lunch burnout and have found a few recipes that we rotate.  I wanted to share these quick lunch ideas that you can take to eat cold OR heat up.

egg roll in a bowl

This egg roll in a bowl has been one of my favorites to make.  I typically will make a big recipe on Sunday and then measure it out to last all week.  I’ve eaten it warm and cold, and either way is tasty.  

This turkey club roll-up is a great low-carb idea.  I tend to add a little more avocado since I like it so much.

Justin even made this Big Mac salad and it was prefect.  All you have to do is brown the hamburger on Sunday or one evening during the week.  You can even pre-make the dressing and store in a container until you’re ready to eat.

fried chicken salad

One of the easiest meals to make is this fried chicken salad.  You can make it super simple by buying fried chicken from the store to use or even make your own.  Since switching to low-carb we’ve made these yummy chicken tenders that work perfectly.  

whole30, avocado lime salad dressing recipe

I’m also a huge lover of salad so I’ve been known to make this Avocado Lime dressing to top mine, too.  It’s easy to make and can keep in the fridge all week.

What are some of your favorite lunches to avoid the weekly burnout?  Leave a comment letting me know!

Keto Recipe – Parmesan Peas

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What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Have you heard of it before?  I hadn’t until about March when one of my favorite podcasters started talking about all of these health findings.  She was talking with doctors and experts on the affect our diet was having on our bodies, our brains and our overall health.  Something clicked because I needed to know more.  I had to know more and I was willing to give it a try.

I was tired of being tired.  It was exhausting feeling sick all of the time.  I know some of it was working full time, trying to build my brand and having a toddler to take care of, but it just felt more than that.  I looked around and was so unhappy about my body, my diet and my activity level.  I knew I needed to change.  Once I heard about the keto diet, I decided I needed to research it.

Because, though I love Chalene Johnson and trust what she says and her experts, I needed more.  I needed my own research.  Maybe it’s the financial specialist inside of me, but researching something just makes me feel better before starting.  So here are some interesting bits about the ketogenic diet:

disclaimer:  I am not a doctor so this is just from my research and my opinions.  Before starting any diet, you should talk to your doctor.

Keto is short for ketosis.  Normally, your body burns carbs and sugars (known as glucose) for energy; however, in a ketogenic state your body burns fat (ketones) for energy.  The ketogenic diet eliminates glucose from the body and causes it to burn its own fat.  A benefit can be rapid weight loss, even when consuming enough calories during the day.  

I’m not going to lie the rapid weight loss part caught my attention first.  Because when you’re overweight and tired of being heavy then that will always stand out.  Now once I heard that benefit I kept reading and researching to discover more.

Let’s talk more benefits of the ketogenic diet.

It can help prevent cancer cells and may even kill cancer cells.

It typically does not raise cholesterol and may actually reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, especially in those who are obese.

It has been used to treat and even help reverse cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer’s symptoms.

It can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetics wishing to reverse their condition.  When I went to the doctor in early March I was prescribed metformin which is a diabetic medicine.  It was a huge eye-opener for me.  That’s what started me on this crusade to change my health without medicines.

I had tried so many different diets over the years, they would work at the time, but one slip and it was a downward spiral for me.  One of the programs that worked the best for me was Weight Watchers.  I joined in college and lost quite a bit of weight in just over a year.  I am a huge fan of Weight Watchers and love what their program offers. I even worked as a leader for a few years in college after I lost close to 60 pounds. But now things are a bit different in our house. We’re really working on paying down debt, cutting our spending and sticking with our budget. So an extra monthly expense (even if for health) wasn’t an option.

That’s why I’m so glad I found the keto diet.  Because I just made simple changes at home and saw results.  Not just weight loss (though I did lose about 15 pounds in the first 4 weeks, which I met with my doctor to make sure all was okay), but my headaches were gone and I could focus so much easier while at work.  It was this weird mental clarity that hit me and I liked it.  Work became easier, having a million things to juggle because simple and I was sleeping so good at night!  

Let’s be honest, it can be scary when you tell someone you eat low carb, high fat foods.  I strive to be about 5-10% carbs, 70% fats, and 20-25% protein on most days. Some days are better than others. When I want ice cream or a cupcake at a party then that’s what I’m going to have, it’s no more of this all or nothing mentality.  I now know what works for my body and what foods make me feel no so good. 

I’ve gotten pretty creative with our dinners and lunches, too.  I love simple recipes and especially since it’s Summer I love having J grill most of our food.  Now for side dishes you can keep it simple.  I created this three-ingredient keto friendly recipe in under 5 minutes.  

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These Parmesan peas were amazing.  You can use fresh or frozen peas, which ever you have on hand.  You can even use fresh or bagged Parmesan cheese, too.  

Parmesan Peas (Keto Friendly Recipe)
A delicious easy to prepare keto recipe.
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
4 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
4 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 2-4 cups of frozen or fresh peas
  2. 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  3. 1 T. grass-fed butter (or any butter will work)
Instructions
  1. Boil a pot of water on the stove. Once boiling add the peas.
  2. Fresh peas cook for 3 minutes. Frozen peas cook for 1 minute.
  3. Drain the water.
  4. Place cooked peas back into the pot, add butter and cheese.
  5. Stir until butter and cheese is melted.
merelynne http://merelynne.com/
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Ranch Chicken and Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

Tasty Ranch Chicken in the Slow Cooker, chicken crockpot recipe

Want to know a little something about me?  I could eat chicken pretty much every single day and be happy.  My go-to favorites at any restaurant are the chicken dish or a nice big salad.  Now if you put chicken on that salad that’s always going to be my choice.  Always.  Well… let’s be honest if sushi was an option then my choice would be sushi – hands down.  Since we are living on a budget I don’t get to have sushi everyday.  But I digress…  

Add a little bit of ranch dressing to the mix and I’m in heaven. Now J on the other hand could take it or leave it with the chicken. I think it’s my fault you see we have some sort of chicken dish about 3-4 nights a week in our house.  He gets it too often and he’s burned out.  But this weekend I cooked the meals which means I got to pick what I wanted.  And I wanted an easy chicken dish.  I found this recipe and fell in love.  I adapted it for what I had on hand because of course I didn’t have everything.   I’m going to be a 100% honest with you I ate this chicken on Saturday when I made it, Sunday for lunch, and then I plan to eat it again Monday for lunch and dinner.  It is that good! So maybe it’s not a bad thing J doesn’t love chicken because it means there was more for me.  

Keep reading for the recipe for my Ranch Chicken and Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

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All you have to do is place the potatoes in your slow cooker (I use this one) top it with the chicken.  Then mix the cream of chicken soup, ranch dressing and other ingredients together then pour over the top.  You can cook it on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.  I topped mine with a little more ranch dressing because I have a problem.  It was delicious!

ranch chicken potatoes, easy slow cooker meal, chicken slow cooker recipe

Ranch Chicken and Potatoes in the Slow Cooker
Serves 4
An easy to prepare ranch chicken and potatoes meal in the slow cooker
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Total Time
8 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
8 hr
Total Time
8 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 boneless chicken breasts
  2. 1 can (10.75oz) cream of chicken soup
  3. 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  4. 8 baby red potatoes
  5. 1 packet dry ranch mix
  6. 1/2 cup milk
Instructions
  1. Wash the potatoes and then place in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Place the chicken in the slow cooker on top of the potatoes.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the soup, broth and ranch mix together.
  4. Pour mixture over chicken and potatoes.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
Adapted from Life in the Lofthouse
merelynne http://merelynne.com/

Easiest Dinner Ever – Pizza Meatballs in the Crockpot

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Do you ever have one of those mornings where you’re about 10 minutes late on everything? You finally get the baby up, breakfast in his belly and your face put on just to realize your evening is going to be just as crazy. You need to go ahead and plan dinner – if you have dinner ready before you even get home from work that’s bonus points.

I have the easiest dinner ever for you. Pizza Meatball Subs. Watch the video below to see just how simple this family-loved dinner is. You can use the meatballs in spaghetti, make sub sandwiches, put on top of a pizza, or eat just as they are.

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All you need is a bag of frozen meatballs, jar of pizza sauce or pasta sauce, extra spices and a slow cooker.  Here’s the slow cooker (it’s even on sale!) I use and talk about in the video.  I love the fact it has a timer that kicks off the cook feature and automatically turns on the keep warm capability. 

Easy Clean Up Tip

If you haven’t seen these slow cooker liners then you’re missing out! You can get them on Amazon (because Amazon is Mom’s best friend!) for pretty cheap. I won’t use my slow cooker without them because clean up is a breeze. Just grab the bag and throw away the mess. No washing, no scrubbing!

There you have it, friends the easiest dinner ever! 

No lie!  I like simple, mistake-proof dishes that take little time to prep and even less time to clean up.  These pizza meatball are so versatile and if you don’t want pizza flavored then you can use pasta sauce or make your own tomato sauce with some yummy spices.  Really the variations are endless.  You can even make meatballs using BBQ sauce and grape jelly.

 

How to Make a Healthy Baby Smoothie

healthy baby smoothie

Our little guy went for his 9 month check up not too long ago.  We were almost a month late on his wellness appointment thanks to scheduling issues and a double ear infection.  Anyway, we go there and our little guy is growing so good!  He’s still a small guy compared to some of our friends’ and family’s babies, but I think he’s perfect.  The doctor said he’s right on track with everything he needs to be then she started talking about his feeding. I realized that we need to up our game when it game to solids.  We needed to make sure he was snacking and getting the right nutrients each day.  

Now I know that for at least the first year most of his nutrients will come from his formula, but it doesn’t hurt to up our game in the solids department.  Honestly, I was terrified (and still am) about choking.  I hate the thought of him not eating something perfectly pureed, but I know he needs to learn about textures and how to eat on his own.  I’ve started to work past my fear and give him more and more finger foods.  

So far he has really enjoyed these baby cookies I made the other day.  I love them because there isn’t any added sugar, he loves them because of the taste and the fact he can feed himself.  We’ve also given him some lentils and beans that were a huge hit.  Literally… he would hit his trays and beans would go flying! HA!

how to make a smoothie for your baby

healthy smoothie for baby

Let’s see… we’ve also given him some pieces of fruit like pears and mangos…. and a few more.  I just make sure to cut them into smaller pieces so he can pick up and stick in his mouth.  He loves avocados and bananas that are smashed a bit.  Those are the messy dinners!

Since he doesn’t have the greatest hand-eye coordination yet, I want to make sure he’s getting enough nutrients through out the day.  I found this post about a baby smoothie and fell in love with the idea.  Something he could carry around, drink on through out the day and fill his tummy with nutritious foods.  I used what I had on hand to make one and he loved it.  At first he wasn’t so sure, but then he was spinning around backwards in his walker drinking it up!

snacks for baby

Here’s what you need for the perfect baby smoothie:

1/2 package of veggie filled baby food
1/2 package of fruit filled baby food
1 T. baby cereal (more or less)
1/2 juice from a fruit cup (packed in 100% juice)
1/2 banana, mashed
1/2 pieces of fruit from fruit cup
water, as needed

Add all of the ingredients into your magic bullet or blender, blend until combined.  Add water (make sure it’s drinkable for baby!) and keep blending until the desired consistency is reached.  You want it to be easily drinkable from a sippy cup.  

baby smoothie

Now these ingredients for this baby smoothie are interchangeable.  Use what you have on hand.  If you make your own baby food, like I do sometimes then use that!  Whatever works.  The banana and added fruit help take away from the veggie taste of the baby food so it’s more desirable to your little one.  The first time I made this I didn’t have any baby cereal on hand so I left it out.  It still worked great.  Super easy!