Don’t you just love it when one of your always-on-your-grocery-list items is in season?
It’s that time of year when almost all of my favorite fruits and veggies are in season, which is great news for parents going through baby-led weaning, like me!
My baby girl LOVES bananas! I call her Banana Girl. So, I pick up a few bananas every time I pop into the grocery store.
The double score? My husband LOVES banana walnut chocolate chip muffins.
So, you can guess what’s being consumed on a daily basis in our house right now…yep, bananas.
Whether they’ve been rolled in rice cereal, mashed into a muffin, or blended into my smoothie, everyone is eating bananas.
As most of my go-to recipes, this is one that came together after trying a few I’d found on Pinterest after my husband’s first request for banana walnut chocolate chip muffins. He thinks they’re great for breakfast as he’s running out the door to work, and I think they’re great with a cup of afternoon coffee!
Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium-size bananas (or 1.5 large bananas)
1/8-1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (per personal preference)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, flaxseeds, and salt.
Combine egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
Stir the wet ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients.
Mash up your bananas with a fork in your now empty wet bowl. Add your chocolate chips and walnuts. Then fold them into your batter.
Grease your muffin tin or drop in muffin tin liners. Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 min or until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
Enjoy for breakfast, like my hubby, or for snack time, like me!
Do you have an always-on-your-grocery-list item that everyone in the house eats but in different ways? Comment below! I’d love some inspiration to give my grocery list a little more versatility!
Once upon a time, Trader Joe’s carried a very special and unique boxed muffin mix. Like many of Trader Joe’s unique items, I nor anyone I knew, had ever seen or heard of this kind of muffin before. And once you whipped up a batch of them, you never wanted any other kind of muffin ever again. Because no muffin could compete with a homemade green tea muffin- well, no muffin could compete with a Trader Joe’s green tea muffin.
The Quest to Copycat Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffins
One day, a little over 10 years ago, I showed up on a Sunday afternoon to my sunny Trader Joe’s in Buckhead, GA to complete my weekly grocery shopping and to my horror couldn’t find the green tea muffin mix. I asked an associate, in his happy Hawaiian shirt, if there were any in the back of the store. But to my dismay, he told me they didn’t have any, and he was pretty sure they’d been discontinued.
So, I purchased a boxed banana muffin mix instead, drove home to my little apartment, opened my laptop, and found the Contact Us link on Trader Joe’s website. Oh yes, I did. Hopeful, I asked if there were any stores anywhere in the United States that were selling the boxed mix since mine wasn’t anymore. A nice guy from Trader Joe’s quickly emailed me back with the sad news… No, there weren’t. The product had been pulled and wasn’t available for sale anywhere, and it wasn’t likely they’d be bringing it back.
And so my quest began- I had to recreate that recipe. After several miserably failed attempts, I gave up. I hung my white flag and resolved that green tea muffins would just be a college memory of sorts.
The Quest Rekindled
But then, a few weeks ago, while shopping at my local Kroger, I saw a cute little container of Matcha and was inspired to give it one more go.
Maybe my baking skills have just improved or maybe I finally found the right kind of Matcha to give my muffins that unique green tea flavor, but whatever it is, I figured it out. I’ve finally recreated Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffin.
Extra Secret Ingredient!
It gets better. The recipe I’m about to share with you is not only packed with the health benefits that green tea has to offer, it also has ZUCCHINI in it!! (Insert praise hands!) I’m giving you all the good stuff here people. And if that wasn’t enough, these muffins are also toddler approved. My 2 year old loves them.
So here it is, the recipe for Copycat Trader Joe’s Green Tea Muffins:
1.5 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large zucchini (pureed)
2 tsp Matcha powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Puree zucchini.
Mix wet ingredients (including pureed zucchini) except egg.
Add dry ingredients (except Matcha). Mix together. Add egg.
Mix together. Add Matcha. Mix together.
Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with muffin liners. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 with batter.
Bake for 20-22 min. Enjoy!
And try not to eat them all as soon as they come out of the oven!!
Do you have a favorite food you’ve managed to create a copycat recipe for? I’d love to hear about your journey to mastering it in the comments below!
(Lindsay Tip: My 2 year old and I LOVE all of the homemade muffins we bake, so to avoid eating all of them in one day, as soon as the muffins have cooled, I put them all in gallon-size freezer bags and put them straight into the freezer. Whenever someone wants a muffin, I just microwave it for 20 sec, and wa la! Easy for snacks and easier on the waist line!)
Halloween Then and Now
Being nearly four weeks postpartum after delivering my daughter, pulling on a pair of pajama pants I’d purchased nine years ago (in high school) that FIT was an exhilarating feeling! After doing a little happy dance in my bathroom, I couldn’t help but giggle thinking about why they’d been purchased to begin with. Halloween that year fell on a Sunday, so my youth group (which met on Sunday nights) held a costume contest. That very same weekend was my turn to take home the robot baby in my child psychology class. I named him Stewart, and he and his crying timer were essentially attached to me from the end of the school day on Friday to beginning of the school day Monday.
Because Stewart would be going to youth group with me, I figured my costume needed to incorporate him somehow. So, I dressed up as a toddler with my costume consisting of a gray and pink PJ set, pigtails, slippers, and my robot baby Stewart. This Halloween, nine years later, I think I just might dress up as a toddler again, and pass out candy to our trick-or-treaters with my living baby on my hip!
I grew up in a church and city where Halloween was a very safe, community-centered holiday. But soon after my husband and I moved out of state, I learned that the Halloween we grew up with isn’t the Halloween many communities in our country experience. And when it comes to the Christian community, even broaching the topic of Halloween feels a lot like talking about gun control these days. For some people, Halloween equates to a day of violence and fear. For others, it’s confusing since some people choose to use the holiday as an excuse to glorify the enemy.
To Trick-or-Treat Or Not?
So, where’s the line? Should believers celebrate Halloween? Or should we ignore the holiday altogether?
One of my favorite perspectives on Halloween comes from Ray Comfort who challenges believers to turn “the most evil night of the year into the most evangelistic.”
Does this mean pass out gospel tracts instead of candy to your trick-or-treaters? Sure, you could do that. But I challenge you to consider taking advantage of the opportunity this holiday brings to accept the second greatest commandment Jesus gives us–to love our neighbors. (Mark 12:31)
Six Ideas to Shine Your Light on the Darkest Day of the Year
1. Get to know your neighbors!
Is there a local fall festival, a haunted house at the clubhouse, or maybe a parade in your neighborhood? Go and strike up conversation with someone you don’t know. You don’t know where a simple, “Oh my goodness, your child’s ladybug costume is so cute!” comment can go. If there isn’t a local activity like this in your community, organize one and give your neighbors and their kids a safe place to attend where they can mix and mingle and play during the light of day.
2. Have some deadly conversations.
Every year in October, Hollywood releases at least a couple scary movies. Why? A. Because people will pay to go see them. Thus, the movie studios will make money. B. Because people have a fascination, whether they realize it or not, with the spiritual realm. Don’t believe me? How many TV shows/movies have there been in the last five years about zombies??? Mmm hmmm… FASCINATED. Now, thanks to social media, the commercials for these scary movies are literally everywhere you look, not just on your TV. By the time October 31st rolls around, people are PRIMED to talk about the afterlife. It’s not a weird, out-of-the-box topic to casually bring up in conversation.
Is there a neighbor, co-worker, or classmate you’ve been wanting to share your faith with? Well, the fact that these scary movies are coming out gives you the perfect opportunity to start that conversation.
You: “Hey Jane, have you seen the commercials for that movie coming out about the haunted house with that actor from that superhero movie in it?”
Jane: “Yes. Creepy! (or) Definitely going to see it!”
You: “All these movies always get me thinking about the afterlife, you know? Where do you think you’ll go when you die?”
And there you have it. Satan didn’t realize he was setting up conversations about Jesus when he planted the seeds for horror films to be made! (Check out LivingWaters.com for how you can answer questions that might come up during the rest of this conversation.)
3. Spread some cheer by “boo-ing” your neighbors.
This was my favorite Halloween tradition growing up. One very special neighbor starts it by taping a white piece of paper with the word BOO printed on it in a big font on the front door of someone else’s house. On the front step, they also leave a small bag of candy with a note. The neighbor who has been “boo’d” then has to go and “boo” two more neighbors. The goal is to “boo” the entire subdivision by Halloween. It was so much fun to see the entire subdivision participate as day after day more houses would have BOO’s on their front doors! Do you know a family with a child who might usually not feel included? Boo-ing their house is a great way to fix that!
Seriously, just kick it off in your neighborhood, and you’ll be surprised at how excited all of the kids get. Next year, they’ll be chomping at the bit waiting to be BOO’d! And don’t limit it to just families with kids. The goal is to include EVERYone! (Download these free printables and start this tradition in your subdivision!)
4. Go trick-or-treating with your kids
Be sure to knock on the doors of the elderly in your neighborhood. There’s always at least one house in every neighborhood that belongs to the elderly man or woman who rarely comes out of their home. Aside from the mailman or door-to-door salesman, there might not be many people who come to call on them each year. Go ring their doorbell. Odds are they have a whole bowl of sugar-free candy ready to pass out, and they’re eager to see all of the bright, cheery faces of little ones at their front door.
Want to take it a step further to really bless their socks off? Take an afternoon before Halloween and make homemade “Happy Fall” cards with your kids for them to pass out to each house they visit trick-or-treating. For individuals without grandchildren or poor relationships with their children/grandchildren, not only will receiving a handmade card touch their heart, it might encourage them to reach out to the kids in their life with whom they need to foster a closer relationship.
5. Go trick-or-canning!
Have kids who are really too old to be trick-or-treating? Trick-or-canning is a phenomenal opportunity for older children or teens to give back to their community while having fun. It’s simple: instead of asking for candy, have your older children/teens dress up in appropriate costumes and go door to door like they’re trick-or-treating. Instead of “trick-or-treat,” have them say, “trick-or-can” and ask for a couple canned goods that will be donated to a local food pantry.
If your neighborhood has a monthly newsletter, ask the newsletter’s editor to include a little blurb giving homeowners a heads up to have a couple canned good items ready by the front door. (Another tip: You might want to slowly drive behind them in your car or a golf cart – cans are a whole lot heavier than candy corn!) Want to take it a step further? Have your kids’ friends come trick-or-canning with you! Then, wrap up the night of trick-or-canning with a chaperoned costume party at your house. All in one night, you’ll be providing an awesome and fun community service project for all of them to participate in as well as a safe gathering place for them to party in their costumes.
6. Pass out candy.
Don’t have children at home who are old enough to go trick-or-treating? Or maybe you aren’t up for walking the neighborhood? Turn on all of the lights in your house, unlock the front door, and pass out candy. On October 31st, dozens of families will come to our home, and we have the opportunity to not only show our face to them but to also love on their kids simply by giving them candy and complimenting their taste in costumes. We don’t know if the kids who come to our door have life spoken into and over them. Our compliments and genuine interest in their creativity and choice of costume might be the only affirming thing they hear all week.
Satan’s Epic Failure
Considering all of these opportunities to love our neighbors, I can’t help but wonder if Satan realizes his epic failure with Halloween. He thought he had claimed October 31 when people started using Halloween as an excuse to glorify evil. That on this day, people would honor him and subsequently fall into states of confusion and fear and loneliness. Has this and does this happen? Heartbreakingly, yes. But when we choose to reclaim the day, the lonely will be visited by children. Friends and co-workers will courageously enter into eternity-impacting conversations. The needs of the needy will be met. Life will be spoken into the spirits of little ones. And neighbors will feel like they belong–whether it’s because someone stuck a piece of paper on their front door or because a new friend was made at the fall festival.
So, where’s the line on Halloween? It’s up to you. Are you going to let Satan have the day? Or will you redeem it as a day the Lord has made–a day filled with opportunity to shine the light of Christ by loving our neighbors.
Be encouraged by these posts as well!
What to do with leftovers?
Do you ever feel a bit like a catfish when it comes to leftovers in your house? Not so much that you’re a bottom dweller, but that the task of consuming leftovers falls mostly on you?
Being a work from home mama, I can feel this way a lot. Especially since I’m incredibly grocery budget conscious and hate to throw leftover food into the trash.
When I plan our weekly dinners, whether or not they will portion out enough for leftovers to make lunch the following day for me or my toddler is a consideration. Especially if it’s a meal that requires me to buy an ingredient solely specific to that meal.
Spaghetti squash is a prime example.
I’m not a big pasta eater, but pasta and meat sauce is easy and fast. It can be made super healthy if you buy the right kind of pasta. And I can even sneak extra vegetables and fiber into my toddler’s diet without so much as one thrown rotini noodle. So, we have it for dinner at least every other week.
But instead of pasta, I serve a generous portion of cooked spaghetti squash onto my plate. The tummy is much happier!
Since I’m the only one who eats spaghetti squash, I’m left with a decent amount left over for the following day, even if the squash was a small one. If there’s any leftover meat sauce and pasta, my toddler gets that for lunch.
So, what to do with all this spaghetti squash?
On my grocery budget? Without buying some extra ingredient just for one or maybe two lunches?
I feel a little bit like the contestants on Food Network’s show Chopped staring down at my basket of ingredients.
Thankfully, spaghetti squash is pretty versatile. While I’ve thrown together some leftover lunches using spaghetti squash and whatever random things I found in my fridge, what I’m about to share with you is my favorite leftover lunch combination. The basic recipe leaves a lot of room for foodies who have more time to construct a lunch than I do most days to elevate it to something really fancy. (Let’s face it–if I have to cut up more than one thing and use anything other than the microwave or toaster oven to prepare lunch, it’s a NO GO.)
I call it Warm Spaghetti Squash & Spinach Salad.
1 spaghetti squash
1 can of garbanzo beans
5-6 cherry tomatoes or 1 Roma tomato
1 heaping cup of raw baby spinach (a good handful for you non-measuring people like me)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
Red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black peppercorns (to taste)
*See farther down for elevated ingredient ideas.
Directions to Cook the Spaghetti Squash:
Remember, this is a leftover, so for lunch I’m just pulling it out of the fridge already cooked and shredded. But, if you want to cook one just for this recipe, here’s how I cook mine.
Fill your stock pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.
Use your biggest, sharpest knife (a chef’s knife will do the trick) to cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.
Once your water is boiling, very carefully place each half into the stock pot.
Boil for 15-20 minutes, depending on how big your spaghetti squash is. You should be able to pierce it without resistance with a fork.
Once it’s cooked, I very carefully pour everything out of the stock pot into a colander which I’ve placed in the sink.
Once the halves have cooled down enough for you to handle them, use a fork (or two) to remove one of the halves from the colander and place it on a plate on your counter. Use a fork to scoop the seeds out of the squash.
After boiling, but with seeds still intact.
You’ll pull some of the squash with it too, and it will feel a lot like cleaning out a pumpkin at Halloween, only hotter. Discard the seeds.
After scooping the seeds out.
Now you’re ready to shred your spaghetti squash. Just use two forks and scrape the top of the flesh. It will scrape off like little “spaghetti noodles.”
Transfer your “noodles” to a bowl (preferably glass or ceramic since they’re going to be hot). Repeat with the second half.
The finished “noodles.”
Directions to prepare the salad:
If you’re building your salad straight from here, ladle out at least a cup’s worth of spaghetti squash into a microwave-safe bowl. Next, drain and rinse your garbanzo beans. Add 1/3 cup to your spaghetti squash.
Next, quarter your cherry tomatoes lengthwise, or dice up a roma tomato and add it to the squash.
Add a heaping cup of baby spinach (or a generous handful) on top of the tomatoes.
Finally, squirt your lemon juice, drizzle your EVOO, and splash your red wine vinegar on top.
Pop your bowl in the microwave for one minute on high. This will soften your spinach and tomatoes and reheat your spaghetti squash if you started with cold leftover squash.)
Carefully remove from the microwave and adorn with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black pepper.
Voila! Lunch is served!
Now, this was the basic version using things you probably already have in your pantry or fridge.
Here are some ingredients you could add to elevate this dish. (Do I sound like a Chopped judge or what?!)
Toasted pine nuts
Goat cheese or feta cheese (instead of parmesan cheese)
Finely chopped red onion
Greek vinaigrette (instead of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and EVOO)
My favorite thing about this lunch is how easy yet healthy and economical it is. As work from home or stay at home mamas, we don’t have to always eat what our kids eat or adopt a catfish mindset when it comes to our lunches. With a little creativity, you can feel like you’re eating something prepared at a bistro! If you can tune out the Daniel Tiger songs that may be playing in the background, that is.
Do you have a dinner time leftover ingredient that you transform during the following day’s lunch? I’d love to know what it is and how you use it in the comments section!
Find some delicious recipes in these posts as well!
At my daughter’s baby shower, we received a fabulous storybook Bible from a dear friend. My daughter is now eighteen months old, and every night we read one story before she goes to bed.
In the mornings, we usually spend about an hour in her room doing what I call “quiet play” after our morning routine. If I have forgotten to put the storybook Bible up on her shelf and out of reach, she’ll grab it and sit in her little reading chair with it. I love that she already has a hunger for more of what’s in that book.
As a parent, I love reading it too. Some nights I sit and marvel at how simple and yet impactful and life-changing the takeaways are when Bible stories are simplified to a child’s level. Stories I’ve heard (or even shared myself) a hundred times over I think about in a new way.
Parable of the Prodigal Son
The other night, we came to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). As soon as I saw the title, I immediately surprised myself by exclaiming to her, “This is one of my favorite Bible stories!”
Huh? The prodigal son? Since when?
I’m an Esther girl.
And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
And the day of Pentecost with all the flames.
Since when has the prodigal son been a favorite? And why?
But bedtime stories are not the place for Mama to be asking herself deep questions. It’s time to read stories in all the voices. So we read, and by the time we were done, I realized why I love this story so much.
I’m Not the Prodigal Son…Am I?
If you read my testimony recently, you know I don’t have some wayward story. I never got into trouble or ran away from home or did anything even remotely “bad” by today’s standards. I’m by no means “the prodigal son.” And neither are either of my siblings. And my daughter is eighteen months old and too young to even repeat the word “inheritance.” So, the story of the prodigal son isn’t exactly personally relatable–on first read.
Now that I’m a parent, even though my daughter is only eighteen months old, I understand unconditional love in a way I never have before. When we finished reading the story, I told her, “Daddy and Mommy love you this way too. We will always love you no matter what you do.”
God Loves Me–No Matter What!
Knowing that God’s love is so much bigger than mine–for her, for me, for my husband, for our son who is due next month–is an incredibly humbling comfort. No matter what I have done or what I will do, God loves me.
Also, this story is an encouragement and a challenge to be this kind of parent to my kids. It’s one thing to say, “I’ll love you no matter what.” It’s another thing for my kids to know that no matter how they mess up, they can always come home. And when they do, they’ll be met with open arms.
Like I said earlier, my siblings never went astray. There was never a need for an intervention, for the car keys to be taken…shoot, we didn’t even have curfews! We never had a moment when a sibling repented to our family, or a moment when the others selfishly asked, “Seriously? Why not celebrate the fact that we’ve been doing things right all along?”
But do I ever catch myself thinking about another person, “Why him and not me?” Am I envious when someone receives a blessing while I’m barely making it? Do I ever think someone needs a good slice of humble pie and not feel sorry for them when they get it?
Mindset of the Older Brother
Those of us raised in church and who stayed on the straight and narrow can quickly fall into a holier-than-thou mindset. It’s a lot like what we hear in the words of the older brother in the parable. We read the parable of the prodigal son, but we don’t see ourselves as the prodigal son. Therefore we relate more to the older brother, even if we don’t realize it.
In fact, while we might have the same subconscious mindset as the older brother, we are also the prodigal son.
You don’t have to run away out west, make a HUGE mistake, shame your family, find yourself thinking dog food looks good to eat because you’re so destitute, or fill in the blank to be the prodigal son.
You are already him.
Because, in case no one’s ever clued you into this, big sin = little sin. They are the same in God’s eyes.
Before you came to know Christ as your Savior, you weren’t at home with your Father. You were off squandering your inheritance, even if you were only seven years old.
Celebrating the Return of the Prodigal
Some of us who came to know Christ at an early age were also baptized at an early age. Between those two experiences and now, no one has necessarily “celebrated” our coming to Christ. Because we didn’t go away and then come back.
I have plenty of people in my life who were raised in church, accepted Jesus as their Savior when they were in elementary school, were baptized, and then wayward they went. You imagine it, they probably did it—or are doing it.
When things like that happen, we all pray for their return, for their repentance. And although in this day and age, we’re probably not going to throw a party when they come back, their testimony will be celebrated. And the rest of us may feel inadequate because our story isn’t as spectacular or celebratory as someone who deliberately turned their back on Christianity and then chose to repent and return.
Repentant Hearts are Worth Celebrating!
But when someone returns to Christ with a broken and contrite spirit after going astray, it is reason to celebrate! Some may clap, some may cry, but a repentant heart is always worth rejoicing!
And you know what? When you repented and gave your life to Christ, maybe no one down here gave you a hug or clapped and cried with joy, but the angels in heaven threw a HUGE party. In fact, it carried the same level of grandeur when you were just an itsy-bitsy seven year old as the party the angels threw for those who repent and confess Jesus at an older age.
God’s arms were opened just as wide for you then as they are for each and every prodigal when they return to Him.
That’s why I love this story so much.
It reminds me that God’s love for all of us is the same. Whether we’ve grown up in church or whether we’ve come to faith after a life of prodigal living, God always rejoices when one of his children comes home.
And you know what else that means? If I mess up terribly and run away from Him, His open arms and forgiveness are still there waiting for me to receive them. No matter what.
What a love. What a peace!
It might have been a message presented to me in a child’s storybook, but it reminded me of something so profoundly simple: God’s unfailing love, the magnitude of forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit’s faithfulness to always remind us of where our home is and whom we belong to.
Have you ever read or heard a children’s Bible story that hit you in a new way like never before? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.