If your garden is anything like mine, there are still plenty of fresh tomatoes to enjoy before the chill of fall settles in. No garden?  Head out to your local produce stand and sample the heirloom varieties that are becoming popular. Why not have a simple TOMATO SALAD for lunch or dinner?     Eat them alone or with some crisp cucumber slices.

summer saladAdd just a drizzle of olive oil, salt and basil leaves (if desired).  I like it at room temperature to get the best flavor from the tomatoes.  You can also dice them and make a fresh SALSA by adding diced onion, diced green peppers (it’s up to you how hot you want them to be), and some chopped cilantro.

Celebrate nature’s bounty and enjoy TOMATOES!

Here’s a great picture book about tomatoes: LITTLE YELLOW PEAR TOMATOES  by Demian Elaine Yumei



Back to School Tips + No Fuss Breakfast Pudding.

It’s always hard for me to think of school when it’s still warm outside and the beach is calling…

But, another school season is upon us.  That means readjusting our schedules  and getting back into a routine.  I know how hectic mornings can be, so here are some tips to make things a bit smoother for those Back-To-School days.

Have kids pick out their own clothes and set them out the night before.  That includes socks and underwear –  then there is no last minute struggle to find the “perfect” outfit.  It doesn’t matter if colors clash or things don’t match.  If your child is happy and excited to be wearing the outfit…it’s a winner.

Keep a box of extra scrunchies, headbands, change, pencils, crayons and emergency “supplies” near the door so it will be easy to locate a needed item on the way out.

Have lunches/backpacks prepared the night before as well.  Sandwiches will keep just fine in a plastic container in the fridge.  You can cut up fruits/vegs the night before and put them in zipper bags.  They will be fresh and delicious the next day.

Check some of my previous posts for MORE back to school ideas.  Also check out:  http://www.readbrightly.com/know-didnt-read-last-summer/?cdi=2AEB03AD52D94BE9E0534FD66B0A7FAD&ref=PRH0563577803&aid=randohouseinc13256-20&linkid=PRH0563577803


Here’s a recipe for some amazing CHOCOLATE BREAKFAST PUDDING you make the night before as well.  The kids can mix this up themselves once you show them how.  It really is best to let it blend overnight, so you get the full flavor.


Chocolate Breakfast Pudding.

Chocolate Breakfast Pudding.

Mix Together: 12 ounces of plain Greek yogurt, 12 ounces unsweetened almond milk, 3 T cocoa powder, 1/3 C chia seeds, 1/4 C maple syrup.  Stir until blended.  Refrigerate overnight.  Stir before serving.  Makes 6 servings.  This is great with toast, waffles or fruit.  No fuss and a yummy, nutritious treat your kids will love.

Easy, Refreshing Summer Salad

As summer winds down, you may be wondering what to do with the abundant harvest of greens and tomatoes still left in the garden.  There are still enough warm days to enjoy a SUMMER SALAD as a main course for lunch or dinner.

summer saladFor this salad, have the kids wash and layer an assortment of fresh greens. I used romaine, arugula, spinach, purslane (look it up if you’re wondering), and radicchio.  Then I added sliced cucumbers, yellow beets, black olives, sliced grapes, and yellow tomatoes.  Then I sprinkled on a 2 oz. packet of salmon, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, slivered almonds, and grated Parmesan cheese.  Top with your favorite dressing and you’re all set.

You can easily substitute the following to make it your own: diced, cooked chicken, cooked salad shrimp, tuna, dried cranberries, walnuts or pecans, pineapple chunks, shredded carrots, apple slices, orange segments…the list goes on.  It’s delicious, filling and nutritious as well.   Why not pack a smaller version of this  for school lunches?  Serve with some whole grain crackers for added crunch.

What are your favorite salad add-ins?

Back to School Treats

 It’s that time of year again.  Back to School.  And, back to trying to figure out how to make kids lunches that are healthy and will be eaten.  Here are some simple and nutritious recipes for back to school lunches and snacks.  The Peanut Butter Dip recipe is one I’ve adapted through trial and error.  Unless you’re allergic to PB – in which case you can substitute another nut butter – It has been a hit with all the children I’ve served it to. Adults like it as well since it is not too sweet.  It keeps well in a lunch box with a cold pack and can also be spread on a bagel or other bread in a sandwich with sliced bananas or other fruit of your choice.


 1/4 C creamy peanut butter                   3 ounces cream cheese

2 T of orange or apple juice                1/2 t. cinnamon

1/8 to 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce

  1. Combine peanut butter, cream cheese, juice and cinnamon in a food processor or mixer. (Be sure to have an adult assist with this part)
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add applesauce, a little at a time, until it is the desired consistency for a dip.
  4. Chill before serving.

This dip is great served with apple slices, carrots, banana slices, celery sticks, graham cracker sticks, or broccoli pieces. You can also try mini rice cakes, pretzel sticks, and other fruits or veggies. If you let the kids make the dip, they will taste it and want to dip all sorts of fruits and vegetables.  It’s a better option than fat laden sour cream dips and salad dressings.

You can also try Hummus with veggies as well.

Try different ingredients in a soft tortilla.  I like spreading the tortilla with hummus, shredded carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.  OR you can roll them up with lunch meat and cut them into spirals for “fun” shapes.  Tortillas also make a fun way to enjoy the traditional PB and J sandwich.

Whole grain crackers no longer taste like cardboard.  Kids will enjoy cracker “sandwiches” they can make themselves with various fillings.

Don’t forget fresh fruit.  If you want kids to eat it, make it kid friendly and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Crisp, fresh apples are a welcome sign of fall.  To make it easy for your kids to enjoy these treats, slice and core the apple as shown.  Then, use a rubber band to reassemble it and hold it together so it won’t turn brown.    See photo:   apple 1

Check out the previous postings on this site for more lunchbox friendly recipes kids will enjoy such as soft pretzels, Krispie Treats, and homemade granola.


Enjoy the last days of summer knowing that back to school lunches are covered.

Light and Easy Cream of Asparagus Soup

Spring is the perfect time to make a pot of Asparagus Soup since the vegetable is found in abundance this time of year and is also quite economical.  This recipe is so easy and perfect for kids to make.  It will impress any guest and add an elegant touch to a lunch or dinner.  There is also a GLUTEN FREE OPTION.  See below:

Light and Easy Cream of Asparagus Soup
3 C sliced asparagus – about 1 pound
1 chopped leek or medium onion
2 C of chicken or vegetable broth
¾ t. thyme
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T flour (note: for a GLUTEN FREE option, eliminate flour and dice one potato to add as thickener)
2 C low fat milk
Dash of nutmeg
2 t. butter
Salt to taste.

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat. (If using potato instead of flour add it to the above. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
2. Place mixture in a blender and process until smooth.
3. If using flour to thicken, add it to the pan and whisk in the milk until blended. Return pureed asparagus mixture to the pot and add nutmeg. Stir to combine.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in butter and salt to taste.      Garnish with asparagus tips if desired.               asparagus soup

Variations: Substitute 2 C baby carrots for asparagus for Cream of Carrot Soup. OR, substitute 2 C leeks and 2 C diced potatoes for Leek and Potato Soup.

For another excellent recipe using asparagus try: Asparagus Flan with Maltese Sauce.  Here’s the link:




It’s National Chocolate Chip Day…Got Cookies?

National Chocolate Chip Day is Wednesday May 15, 2013.  What better way to celebrate this tiny bit of heaven than to have a cookie baking party. You can find some recipes at: http://www.familycircle.com/chocolatechipcookies  or try this healthier version using oats and whole wheat pastry flour as well as canola oil to replace some of the butter.  You will NOT sacrifice taste.  While you’re at it, bake some extra and help end Childhood Hunger.

http://www.greatamericanbakesale.org inspires millions of bakers to donate the money from sold baked goods to help fight childhood hunger by contributing to SHARE OUR STRENGTH’S NO KID HUNGRY campaign fund.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 C white flour      3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour     1/2 C rolled oats      1 tsp baking soda

1 stick softened butter     1/2 C canola oil    1/2 C granulated sugar    1/2 C brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla         2 lg eggs      2 C chocolate morsels      1 C chopped walnuts or other nut of choice

1. Heat oven to 375.  Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

2. Beat butter, oil, sugars and vanilla in large until creamy.  Add eggs and beat until blended.

3. Gradually add dry ingredients and nuts. Mix until combined.                  cookies

4. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.  Remove from pans to cool.

These cookies freeze well and can be jazzed up with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries or whatever other dried fruit you enjoy.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Celebrate the chocolate chip!  Happy eating.

A Taste of the Tropics

If you’re looking for a healthy dessert or side dish that you can bring to a pot luck, buffet or picnic, try making this version of AMBROSIA using tropical fruits.

To make the fruit salad pictured you’ll need the following:  One cored, peeled and cubed pineapple (canned will work as well), two cans of whole mandarin oranges, one ripe, diced mango, two peeled and sliced kiwi fruits, dried cranberries for color and shredded coconut to sprinkle on top.  Mix all the fruit in a large bowl. Chill and serve.

You can also try a citrus version using                                                  tropical fruit salad

pink and yellow grapefruit, oranges,  and mandarins. Try toasting the coconut for a slightly different flavor.