dairy free

Soft Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies

I've been loving having this moist, healthy chocolate chip blondie around when less healthy options are staring me in the face.

There are a couple things I love about this recipe:

1. The list of ingredients.  Chickpeas, peanut butter, a few healthy sweeteners, no flour, and your choice of chocolate chips.  That's it.

2. These blondies can be made up in one bowl (the food processor bowl) and thrown in the oven in literally minutes.

3. They are low carb, vegan, dairy-free + sugar-free (based on your choice of chips), and an awesome alternative to sugary blondies.  

4. They are soft, moist and gooey in the center!  

5.  These are awesome treats to make for your kids if you're trying to wean them from sugary treats, for after a workout, or bagged up for your purse to enjoy at a social outing when you want to control what you're eating.  (Check out the nutritional facts in the recipe below!)

(Recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen's blondies.)

Soft Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies

I'd love to hear what you think of this recipe.  I served these squares of blondies to the kids along side some whole milk plain yogurt for breakfast.


Don't be afraid to EAT the way you WANT to eat--it just means being prepared with healthy alternatives in your home and for when you're out and about and sugary-cravings or less nutritious options tempt you.   

Be HEALTHY for you.  Help your kids be healthy.  And LIVE BOLDLY.


Nicole Shiffler




fudgy black bean protein brownies


My kids love black beans with sour cream for lunch every so often.  And I love baking healthy versions of sweet treats for our family.

When I tasted these fudgy black bean brownies out of the oven I was absolutely amazed that they were loaded with black beans and tasted like the fudgiest brownie I'd ever eaten!  My biggest critics--my kids--devoured them with a glass of milk one night having no clue that they were not the gluten-filled, super sweet, traditional flour brownie.  (That was our movie night "treat" recently when we watched Paddington for the first time--loved the movie!!!)


I like this recipe because you can tailor it to your dietary needs.  You can make it an awesome brownie with some traditional sweetener in it (which is still only 15 net carbs--not an extreme sugar rush like most brownies) or make it relatively sugar free, low carb (based on how you sweeten it).

It's an excellent recipe to play around with, too, by switching out chip flavors, using chocolate protein powder instead of the cocoa powder if you want more protein, etc.

Here's to chocolate + good health!


Here's another protein recipe you might like....

healthy frozen yogurt bark (1)
healthy frozen yogurt bark (1)

My frozen yogurt bark!

Happy and healthy eating to you and yours.

the sleepy time gal

greco-italian salad

Here's an incredible new salad for you to try for lunch:  my Greco/Italian salad.  If you've never tried a balsamic glaze (we use [amazon_link id="B005UMR80I" target="_blank" ]Blaze[/amazon_link]) in your cooking, you will be amazed how it enhances entrees, sides, and today, salads.

The combination of flavors in this salad is amazing: a bit tangy from the dressing and balsamic glaze with more intense flavors from the kalamata olives, marinated tomatoes, red onion and goat cheese.   The crunchy toasted walnuts add the perfect bite while the chicken strips and pepperoni bulk up the salad for a very satisfying, protein-rich meal.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  It is hard to believe we are more than halfway through February!  And a few weeks away from the end of daylight savings.

Happy Friday friends!


celebration skillet cookie

Did you have a special Valentine's Day?  I really hope you did.

I love making special "celebration breakfasts" for my family.  Over the years it has naturally become a tradition and something the children anticipate on special days.  I am always so eager to start preparations and table settings that it is always the last thought on my mind when I go to sleep the night before.

I've had an idea for this particular Valentine's Day breakfast I've been excited about: a healthified skillet cookie with a bit of a surprise inside for the kids.  I had seen this over-the-top giant cookie and wanted to make something fun like to but much healthier.  I adapted a skillet cookie recipe that was primarily almond flour and unsweetened shredded coconut and knew the texture and chewiness would be perfect.  It was a great place to start...

Although I may be a low-sugar baker at home for my family, I knew those bright red and pink valentine M&Ms would totally make my girls' Valentine's Day morning.  So, I incorporated their little festive treat into the healthified skillet cookie: double win.  

That is important to me as a mother; to prepare and teach about healthy food for my kids while still letting them be kids during these special times.  It is a challenging but thrilling task.

This celebration skillet cookie turned out so good.  It was warm and chewy with crispy edges from the butter and oh so hearty as more of a meal than just a sugary dessert.  Bobby was amazed by the flavor.  And without the candy, each slice is just 3 carbs unlike 45 carbs per slice, oh say, of Chili's skillet cookie.

 A few tips for baking healthy:

  • a touch of molasses really adds to the depth and flavor of natural low glycemic/sugar free sweeteners--it creates a brown sugar flavor
  • the coconut in this recipe adds incredibly to the texture and chewiness without the cookie tasting like coconut
  • I love the combination of butter and coconut oil in my baking: they create a crispy, flavorful baked good when used together

 *This recipe is slightly adapted to All Day I Dream of Food's Low Carb Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie.

I'm excited to try the celebration skillet cookie with our regular bittersweet chocolate chunks + walnuts.  The sky is the limit though!  Choose your favorite toppings, mix in and sprinkle on top.  This will be fun with not only a little valentine candy and halloween candy, but with festive red and green Christmas candy as well.

(The kids were happy to have their own little pouch of remaining candy for Valentine's Day.)  

After all of the berries and quiche were eaten, tummies full from the filling skillet cookie, I went ahead for another piece...  It was a great Valentine's Day. ;)


bunless crispy turkey club

I love it when my daily menu reads, "lettuce wrapped sandwiches" for lunch.  It means I can create any style sandwich I want: Italian, Greek, BLT, turkey club, tuna salad, leftovers-turned-into-a sandwich, etc., based on what produce + deli meats/cheeses I have on hand.

Sometimes we have some low carb tortillas on hand for this turkey club but honestly, I prefer the bunless, lettuce wrapped version of this incredibly flavorful sandwich.   Why?  Because the crispy lettuce adds something amazing to the experience of crunching into the variety of flavors.  You skip the bland tortilla flavor/overload of bread in your mouth and head straight for all of the turkey-club goodness.

And yes, these are portable...

Sometimes I eat the turkey club without the lettuce top (as seen above) but if it is really full of yummy goodness I like to add the two-lettuce-leaves top.  Then I can slice it and there is a top and bottom to help me make the club find its way into my mouth.

And you can make these clubs and store in a sandwich bag (I stack them on top of each other and make sure the sandwich bag stays upright if possible) or with a toothpick through each club half stored in tupperware.  Either way, I love bringing this club as lunch when I'm out and about.  It's like I just spend $8 on a cafe-style club without paying for mostly bread.


Do you have some new sandwich variations for me to try??  I'd love new ideas.

Have a delicious weekend.


the ultimate peanut butter power bars

I've dedicated this week to a bit of a sugar detox for me after the holidays from the pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll, and other treats I've indulged in this past week.  To be honest with you, I felt pretty miserable over the holidays from overeating and eating foods I seldom eat.  It feels good to get back to balance in my eating and discipline.  Once I get back into the swing of eating healthy, my body doesn't miss the junk.  I love how that works.

These Ultimate Peanut Butter Power Bars have become one of our most favorite recipes in our home.  I can't even begin to tell you how flavorful, hearty, satisfying, and satisfyingly-sweet (in a mildly sweetened way) they are.

These are primarily sweetened by the 1/2 chocolate chips.  You can go super dark for a less sweet bar or semi sweet for a bit of a treat packed with protein or for a post workout boost.

I'm telling you though, these are honestly better than any grain granola bar I've ever eaten.  The mix of salty and slightly sweet with the variety of nuts, seeds, and coconut (which becomes toasted in the baking process) come together for something unbelievable.

These are excellent as a substantial snack, on their own for breakfast, or packaged up as a gift for a gluten free friend.  

It's simple:

Mix all ingredients together.

Press into parchment-lined pan.  Bake.

The result is absolutely amazing.   Trust me folks.  Amazing. 

Feel free to use whatever nuts or seeds you have on hand as well.

I'd love to hear if your family loves these bars as much as we do.   Try 'em out.

And happy, healthy holiday eating this season folks.


apple turkeys

I remember making these apple turkeys when I was a little girl.  Back then my mom would buy spice drops for the turkey feathers and now that I think of it, I don't think any of my siblings cared for them.  But it didn't matter: mom was actually buying bright-colored candy.  Period.

The concept for apple turkeys when I was little was pretty basic: marshmallow head, raisin eyes, and toothpicks holding all of those spice drops in place.

Now that this apple turkey tradition has been continued with my kids, we've added a few more options: clementine wedges halved and red grapes halved.  We've replaced the raisins with golden raisins for the eyes (since those are the only raisins my girls like) and JujyFruit Heidi candies for the spice drops.

I slice a few red JujyFruits into thin strips for the kids to moisten with a dab of water and stick to the turkey's marshmallow head.  The raisins can simply be cut in half and the moist inner raisin is moist enough to adhere to the marshmallow for eyes.

It's a delicate process, can't you tell??

{While some girls finished turkeys at the counter the others ran around downstairs, outside, and ended up gabbing right here.  I love happy commotion in my house.}

Interestingly, the oldest girls loaded their turkeys up with fruit and the younger ones...

Well, they tried fitting one clementine in there.  Great job, Annabelle.

I didn't dare want the eight girls to eat their turkey right away--goodness sake--at least let your moms see them first! So I made a coconut sugar caramel + apples turkey platter.  A very sad looking turkey that is.

Each apple turkey was so unique (some added tails and head feathers) and all of them were absolutely adorable.  All of us were pretty pleased with our colorful, pleasant turkeys on the counter.  And somehow, this little tradition never gets old.  Even when you're a mom.

And that's the tail of our story.

What pre-Thanksgiving family traditions do you have?


flourless peanut butter + chocolate zucchini brownie tart

One of my favorite recipes I would make as a young wife and mother when I knew guests would be stopping over was Barefoot Contessa's Brownie Tart.  It was simple to make, quite indulgent, and looked so pretty in my white ceramic fluted dish.

That love for chocolate is still strong in these older bones of mine.  But so is my conscious effort to bake things with more sustenance and nutrition than the super sugary/sweet treats I once baked and filed under the category of "good housewife/good mother".  Not necessary I now know.

And if baking for your kids and enjoying a healthy + exciting snack for yourself is your goal, this Flourless Peanut Butter + Chocolate Zucchini Brownie Tart is your ticket to a happy and healthy family treat.

Come check it out.  You'll be amazed by the ingredients...

As you know, my goal with baking is to incorporate good, nutritious ingredients that will build our bodies instead of tear them down.  I think you can still eat fun things--sweet things--but do it balancing out the whole ingredient list so you feel well, filled, and nourished.

This brownie tart is so moist from the zucchini, rich + creamy from the peanut butter, and just the right sweetness from the chocolate chips.  It is absolutely divine!  And after everyone of my girls had seconds, even my non-sweet tooth husband and son both had two slices.

Why I love this brownie tart and can eat it (and serve it to my kids) guilt-free as a snack:

  1. High in protein--double the amount of Contessa's tart slice: builds stronger bodies and is a million times more filling than a standard sugar-laded brownie
  2. Packed with zucchini
  3. Safe for many diets: gluten free, grain free, dairy free, paleo, primal, low carb friendly. (If you are peanut sensitive or Paleo, switch out peanut butter for almond butter.)
  4. Only 201 calories a slice compared to Barefoot Confessa's tart slice at 510 calories a slice!
  5. Only 11.3 net carbs per slice compared to Contessa's slice at 60 carbs a slice.
  6. It's filling and satiating like a granola bar but feels like a treat.



beach cookies

As tradition, we made a special beach cookie before we left for our trip to the Outer Banks.  It's something that both the girls and I look forward to because 1) we love coming up with some creative, unique cookie each year and 2) we seldom make decorated sugar cookies around here and the process is really quite fun.

The Cookie:

The first task: how to make a healthier sugar cookie.   I chose to use the very versatile sugar cookie recipe from the cookbook [amazon_link id="1936608367" target="_blank" ]Against All Grain[/amazon_link].  It creates a wonderfully flavorful sugar cookie that can definitely stand alone and stand up to a traditional flour sugar cookie.

Because of the almond flour called for in the recipe, these are nice and substantial cookie.  These protein-packed cookies are filling enough after one, maybe two, which I love.  And they are nicely sweetened with honey which adds to the layers of flavors.  Excellent base cookies for any special occasion. (I'm thinking of possibly making these in place of Rowan's second birthday cake since he doesn't care for cake or cupcakes... maybe he'll eat a cookie??)

The Icing:

The icing was experimental and, as experiments can go, I won't do it again the next time.  Being low on a variety of my sweeteners (ZSweet, coconut sugar, etc.) I tried making royal icing using Splenda.  It definitely allowed us to flood the cookies and acted like a decorating royal icing but it left an aftertaste.

The Decorating:

This year we knew exactly what our beach cookie would be after a few weeks of researching: this playful beach-themed cookie.  Johanna had requested and watched this video enough to have the whole process memorized when it came time to make them. And how proud I was of the girls for each of the cookies they decorated!  I especially loved their hearts drawn in the sand with a tooth pick.  I helped here and there but they truly owned these cookies.

And as tradition, we packed up our beach cookies and drove them the whole day to the beach and brought them out to share with the kids' cousins our first full day at the beach.

And there you have it: this year's beach cookie.  And now we can move very happily into fall...

Wanna see our favorite beach cookies?

seashells cookies

lighthouse cookies

Have a great weekend friends.


no-bake chocolate cookie balls

I have two things to write about this rainy morning: how to snack and the reason behind these no-bake chocolate cookie balls.

First, snacking.  It is a fascinating thing once you’ve changed your diet like I have you really don’t “need” to snack like you did your whole life.  Your brain (or gliadin from wheat and wheat snacks) isn’t telling you to eat more every few hours.

I read this snippet this morning (when recipe researching) and loved it by The Nourished Caveman:

To snack or not to snack?!

One of the great benefits of a low carb, ketogenic diet is that you do not need to snack, even on low carb snacks!

While dietitians will talk themselves hoarse repeating that you have to eat 5 meals a day, snack every 3 hours etc etc, that concept only holds true when your body is burning Glucose for fuel.

When your metabolism runs on fats instead, the picture is quite different.

First of all that well-known feeling of hunger disappears. You  can easily skip a meal without even noticing, once you are keto-adapted. (Which means that your body has successfully made the switch from glucose to fat metabolism).  Your blood glucose levels become wonderfully stable, and you do not experience the “hangry” feeling anymore.

One small caveat here: As a woman, even the healthiest woman, you are still somewhat victim to the whims of your hormones! Of course that happens to different degrees, depending how healthy and stable your hormonal levels are.

Body VS mind

And there comes a time in a woman’s month, when the physical sensation of hunger and the need for a food treat become two complete different entities!

Heck, it can happen to anybody, pretty much anytime.

Sometimes you just feel like a snack, or a treat…

My sentiments exactly.

Which brings me to telling you about these No-Bake Chocolate Cookie Balls.  

I loved when my dear mother would make us a batch of no-bake cookies growing up.  (We giddily called them poo-burgers.)  You know the standard recipe: butter, cocoa, loads of oats and sugar mixed together over heat with peanut butter as the binder.  You’d then plop the mixture down on waxed paper and wait for them to cool and solidify a bit.

I loved eating these.  And when I became a mother, I’d made them from time to time for my young girls.  They were intensely sweet, I remember, and happily addicting back then.

Times (and nutrition) have changed and I’m really glad for that.  Recently on a quiet afternoon (quite rare indeed!) I opened up my mom’s no-bake chocolate cookie recipe and stared at it.  I knew there was a way to enjoy so much of the recipe without encouraging the grain/sugar addiction for me (a recovering addict) and my kids.

I’m pretty thrilled to share the newest “family” recipe for no-bake cookies.  And no worries, mother would approve.  (She’s gone grain-free/low carb-high fat and is feeling amazing.  Way to go mom!)

These bite size no-bake cookie balls are rich in chocolate, peanut butter goodness, and have an awesome bite since they are loaded with seeds, pecans + shredded coconut.  They are nothing like the empty calorie distant relative no-bake cookie.  These cookie bites brag of 2.7 grams of protein a piece and only 2.4 net carbs!  And for 128 calories a piece, you can guiltlessly enjoy a few for an afternoon pick-me-up.  But the best part, they won’t leave you with a sugar rush or cravings in an hour but will actually restore and nourish.  Isn’t that how we should be snacking anyway??


Nutrition per cookie ball:

128 calories

2.7 grams protein

2.4 net carbs

Compared to traditional no-bake chocolate cookie:

120 calories

2.4 grams protein

18 net carbs

Tell me what you think: Are you a big no-bake cookie fan as well?  What combination of seeds/nuts would you make?