I'm a dietitian and mom. Welcome to my no-judgments zone all about feeding kids! I began this blog in 2009 to reassure fellow moms that it's okay to not be perfect, not have all the answers, and have kids who prefer mac-n-cheese to mushroom risotto.
Summertime: when life gets a bit more laid-back, schedules get a little looser, and meals get a whole lot simpler. Nobody wants to be spending time over a stove or preheating the oven. Besides, warm weather means cravings for light, fresh, healthy food.
Cue the Summer Snack Board!
Snack Boards are your all-purpose, no-cook, crowd-pleasing solution. And you can build amazing and affordable Snack Boards with ALDI.
Whether you’re serving them to hungry teens as an afternoon snack or as a light, simple family meal on the patio, Summer Snack Boards are a perfect way to use what you have in the fridge and satisfy everyone’s tastes.
To build a Summer Snack Board, start with lots of fruits and vegetables. They’re so nutritious, and there are so many in peak season during the summer months. ALDI has a wide selection, including lots of organic options.
Here’s what I used:
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Southern Grove Dried Cherries
Include some grains for dipping into spreads and pairing with meats and cheeses. For gluten-free eaters, ALDI has a line called liveGfree that includes crackers, bread, and pretzels. (It also recently earned the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval!)
To make your Summer Snack Board satisfying, be sure to add some protein-rich foods like meats, cheeses, seafood, nuts, and cheese. Slice up leftover grilled meats, pull some pre-cooked shrimp from the freezer to defrost, or pile on some deli meat. Vegetarians can munch on nuts and seeds, hummus, and cheese.
(Keep in mind that some products may be seasonal or not available at all stores. There are also nearly 100 new ALDI Finds each week that are only available for a limited time. There will always be fun options to include!)
You don’t need a fancy platter for your Summer Snack Boards. I used basic rimmed baking sheets here. You can also display your snack board on a tray, cutting board, or large plate.
No need to get fussy over Summer Snack Boards–the point is to feed your crew AND make life a little easier for yourself in the process!
Visit ALDI to learn more about their store, the weekly specials and ALDI Finds, and to find a store near you.
Your kids will love baking (and eating!) these soft, chewy Chocolate Granola Bars, from the cookbook Super Simple Baking For Kids.
Are boxed granola bars in heavy rotation at your house? Wish you could replace some of those with a simple, homemade version–and even better, with a recipe your kids could make themselves?
Charity Matthews has you covered. These Chocolate Granola Bars come from her new book Super Simple Baking For Kids, which is full of fun recipes that kids can bake themselves (or with your help) for everything from cookies and cupcakes to pizza dough and soft pretzels. Charity is founder the site Foodlets, and all of her recipes are tested and approved by her four kids.
If your kids are already pros in the kitchen, hooray! If they’re not, baking is an easy way to get them creating something they can’t wait to eat, like Cookies And Cream Cupcakes, which was the first recipe my son chose to make from Super Simple Baking For Kids (and they were swoon-worthy).
Since so many of you ask for snack ideas, I thought I’d share this particular recipe, with Charity’s blessing.
How to Make Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars
These granola bars are soft and chewy, not hard or crumbly. And they come together so easily! First, mix together oats, coconut, flaxseed (or wheat germ), and walnuts in a bowl.
Melt chocolate chips, butter, honey, salt, and vanilla together and pour it over the oats mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula until it’s all coated and covered.
Then spread the mixture evenly into a square baking pan lined with parchment. Press it down firmly with the spatula, your hands, or the bottom of a measuring cup until it’s nice and flat.
Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. After the granola cools in the pan (and you press down on it one more time to really pack it tightly), lift it out and cut into rectangles or square bars–whatever works for your gang.
Charity says these bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperatures for up to one week.
Here’s a little peek at some of the other recipes in Super Simple Baking For Kids, like Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake…
Customize your own granola bars with this recipe! From raisins and peanuts to dried cranberries or M&M's, there's no limit to the flavors you can create. Add up to 1 cup of additional mix-ins when you mix the dry ingredients together.
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line the baking pan with enough parchment paper so the edges reach over the sides of the pan. (You'll pull up on the paper to remove the bars from the pan when they're done baking.)
Mix the dry ingredients. In the mixing bowl, use a rubber spatula to combine the oats, coconut, flaxseed (or wheat germ), and walnuts. Stir well.
Melt the chocolate. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the chocolate chips, butter, honey, salt, and vanilla. Stir continuously, about 1 minute, until the chocolate has melted.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the oat mixture. With a rubber spatula, stir until all the oats are coated. (Use your hands if you like, but ask an adult first to make sure the chocolate isn't too hot!)
Press the oat mixture into the pan. Transfer the oat mixture to the prepared pan and, using your hands, spread it out so it's flat and even.
Bake. Place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake the mixture for 20 minutes, until the edges are golden.
Let cool. Remove the pan from the oven. Let the granola cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Cut the bars. Using your hands, press down on the granola one more time to ensure it is packed tightly. Holding the edges of the parchment paper, transfer it to a cutting board. Using the sharp knife, cut into 8 rectangles. Granola bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
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These Kid-Friendly Tofu Buddha Bowls are full of plant-based protein and the veggies your kids like best. Let everyone build their own!
If your kids don’t eat tofu, have they met crispy tofu tossed with peanut sauce–in a meal they get to assemble themselves?
I’d tried tofu in the past without much luck when I stumbled on this recipe from Delish Knowledge for a Peanut Tofu Buddha Bowl. Being perpetually late to every food trend party, I was new to the “bowl” concept–and quite frankly, I suspected my gang would be poking around their bowls, wondering where the meat was.
To my surprise and delight, it went over well. So well that I served it again and again and again, making some tweaks along the way.
Whenever I include Tofu Buddha Bowls on the Real Mom Menu I send out in my weekly message (sign up for my weekly message here!), I’m asked for the recipe I use–so I wanted to share exactly what I do.
How to Make a Tofu Buddha Bowl
Tofu can be squishy and weird to some kids. So you’ll want to take some steps to make it more appealing. First, choose extra-firm tofu (not silken, which is very soft and better suited for sauces or this amazing Chocolate Tofu Pudding).
Then press out excess moisture. Some people use an official tofu press. But I do it DIY-style with a plate and a cast-iron pan. Here’s what my set-up looks like:
Place the block of tofu on a plate between paper towels (or clean kitchen towels) and put something heavy on top (I use a cast iron pan) and let it rest for at least an hour, draining away the moisture. This leaves your tofu a little drier (and less squishy).
Then cut the tofu into pieces. I think small cubes are a good place to start with kids who are new to tofu.
Baking the tofu instead of stir-frying also removes some of the squish-factor. I find that tossing the tofu in some cornstarch before baking gives it an even crispier texture.
Arrange the cornstarch-coated tofu cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Chop the veggies your family likes best into pieces and toss with olive oil. My gang likes broccoli, carrots, and sweet potato. You can also include veggies that only some of your family likes (for our family, that’s mushrooms and Brussels sprouts) since everyone gets to choose what goes in their bowl.
Spread the veggies out on another lined sheet pan.
If your oven can handle two baking sheets at once, bake both sheets at 400 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes or until veggies are done and tofu is lightly browned and crispy around the edges. (We like our veggies crisp-tender, so they still have a little crunch. If you like your veggies very soft, add an extra 10 minutes of cooking time.)
A few notes about roasting veggies:
Be sure to cut veggies into uniform(ish) pieces for more even cooking.
If preparing hard root veggies like sweet potato, cut into small dices so it cooks faster.
More delicate and quick-cooking veggies like mushrooms, bell peppers, and asparagus don’t require as long to cook, so toss those onto the sheet in the last 10 minutes of baking time.
Toss the baked tofu together with a couple spoonfuls of Peanut Sauce in a small bowl. Then create an assembly line with a pot of brown rice, the sheet pan of veggies, the tofu, Peanut Sauce, and any garnishes like crushed peanuts and green onions.
Let everyone create their own bowl!
Here’s what a pint-sized version of this bowl might look like. You can serve the peanut sauce on the side. Or if it feels more familiar and comfortable, serve with soy sauce (that’s how my younger son, who is still reluctant to try peanut sauce, eats his!).
Kid-Friendly Tofu Buddha Bowls
These Kid-Friendly Tofu Buddha Bowls are full of plant-based protein and the veggies your kids like best. Kids will love to build their own bowl!
2 cups uncooked brown rice ((or white, use what your family likes))
1 block extra-firm tofu
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup each raw, chopped vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 batch Easy Peanut Sauce
crushed peanuts and sliced green onions (to top bowls, if desired)
Press tofu for at least an hour to remove excess moisture. Place tofu between paper towels (or a clean kitchen cloth) on a plate. Set a heavy object, such as a cast iron pan or heavy pot, on top.
Prepare brown rice according to package directions.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Once tofu is pressed, cut into cubes. Toss cubes in cornstarch and arrange in a single layer on one of the baking sheets.
Chop vegetables into uniform pieces, toss with olive oil, and arrange in a single layer on the second baking sheet.
Bake tofu and vegetables for 20-30 minutes or until tofu is lightly browned and crisp around the edges and vegetables are crisp-tender (or desired doneness). If your oven can't cook two sheets evenly, rotate them between racks halfway through cooking time or bake them separately. Keep in mind that root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes will take longer to cook, followed by broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Add more delicate quick-cooking vegetables such as mushrooms and peppers in the last ten minutes.
While tofu and vegetables are baking, whisk together ingredients for the Peanut Sauce.
Place a portion of rice in each bowl. Top with tofu and vegetables, drizzle Peanut Sauce on top. Top with crushed peanuts and green onion if desired.
Something interesting has happened since I became a dietitian nearly 15 years ago: Weight has become a very touchy subject.
Back when I got my degree, emerging research about obesity was a red-hot topic. I wrote a lot of magazine articles about weight loss, and my master’s thesis was a survey of people who had undergone gastric bypass surgery. One of my first jobs as a dietitian was working at a local rec center doing counseling and leading small groups for people interested in losing weight.
I decided that weight management wasn’t for me—and that I much preferred tackling the subject of feeding kids—but a whole lot more has changed since then.
A growing number of dietitians are pivoting their businesses away from weight management and toward helping people trust themselves around food through intuitive eating. There’s also a growing emphasis on Health At Every Size, an approach that emphasizes physical and emotional health while accepting and respecting all body shapes and sizes.
I’m thrilled that messages of body positivity are spreading in our culture. I love seeing women with different body types in catalogs, shapelier mannequins at Target, and even a greater diversity of bodies walking the runway. I want to stand up and cheer for actresses who speak out about airbrushing and the idiocy of “body after baby” pressures.
Yet, there’s a dark side too. I’m seeing dietitians shamed on social media for talking about weight loss or sharing their experience trying things like intermittent fasting. When I made a joke on Facebook one day about pining for my 20-something metabolism, someone implied that I was promoting diet culture.
But I wanted to spell out exactly how I feel about the issue of weight to make sure it’s clear. So here’s what I believe:
I believe you have the right to be happy about your body and weight and not want to change it, no matter what a scale, BMI chart, magazine, talk show, friend, family, doctor, commercial, celebrity, billboard, or society says.
I believe you have the right to want to change your weight. If you want to lose weight, that doesn’t mean you have bought into diet culture, have low self-worth, or are part of the problem. While someone may be satisfied and happy with their body at a certain weight, someone at that same weight may not feel satisfied and happy. Your body is yours, and you decide.
I believe that you should never be shamed for your weight. I also believe you shouldn’t be shamed for wanting to gain or lose weight. Your body is your business.
I believe that dietitians are trained and uniquely able to help people manage their weight safely, unlike celebrities, nutritionists (a term that often means very little), or those who position themselves as experts because something worked for them. I also believe dietitians should not be judged or shamed for helping a client lose weight if it’s what that person wants to do.
I believe that different ways of eating work for different people. Some people thrive on low-carb, some wither. Some love being vegan, others wouldn’t dream of giving up meat and dairy. If you’ve found a way of eating that makes you feel good, I’m happy for you.
I believe that you have a right to try different ways of eating, including but not limited to counting macros, intermittent fasting, keto, counting points, Mediterranean diet, cutting out dairy, going gluten-free, eating more fiber, reducing sodium, intuitive eating, or none of the above. How you eat is up to you, and you shouldn’t be criticized or ridiculed for it. If you ask my professional opinion, I will give it to you. If you don’t ask, I will stay out of your business. (It may go without saying, but if you’re engaging in disordered eating behaviors, your family, friends, dietitian, and doctor also have the right to be concerned and want to help you.)
And when it comes to kids…
I believe parents have the responsibility to create a physically and emotionally healthy environment around food and weight. That means access to nutritious foods, grown-ups who model healthy attitudes and behaviors around food, and lots of opportunities for activity and exercise. It also means parents shouldn’t criticize their own bodies, talk about dieting or “bad” foods, or withhold foods like sweets as a punishment.
I believe no child should be shamed, singled out, or “put on a diet” because of their weight. A healthy home environment is important for kids, mentally and physically. But if changes are made in a household, like cutting back on soda or serving more vegetables, they should be made for everyone’s health, not for certain family members based on their body size or weight. Children come in all sizes and shapes, just like grown-ups do.
Wondering if MSG is safe and whether you should avoid it? Get the facts on how MSG got a bad reputation–and where things stand now.
It’s a frustrating fact that certain foods, ingredients, and nutrients seem to fall in and out of favor among health experts, depending on what the latest science says. So what does it all mean for you and your family?
This is the fourth post in my blog series Nutrition Flip-Flops. I’ll give you the lowdown on what we used to think, what we know now, and what YOU should do. Read the other posts in this series:
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is popularly known as “that stuff in Chinese food that gives you a headache”. But what’s the truth?
MSG: The Backstory
MSG is a seasoning made from sodium and glutamate, an amino acid that’s found naturally in the body and in some foods like tomatoes, soy sauce, and aged cheeses. Glutamate was discovered as a flavor enhancer in 1908 by a Japanese professor, who pinpointed glutamate as the substance that gave his favorite seaweed broth its rich, savory taste. Glutamate is unique because it hits the fabled “fifth taste” called umami (Japanese for “delicious”), a savory and meaty flavor. The professor filed for a patent to produce MSG, and it became widely used to season food.
In 1968, a letter appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine from a doctor claiming he experienced heart palpitations and flushing after eating in Chinese restaurants. He chalked it up to MSG in the food, and the editors of the journal dubbed it “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”.
Anecdotal reports started swirling about MSG and the symptoms it supposedly triggered, from headaches and nausea to tightness in the chest. When I asked about MSG on my Real Mom Facebook page, some people mentioned MSG side effects like a racing heart, insomnia, and swelling of the hands and feet.
Though there were plenty of anecdotal reports about MSG, scientific evidence was thin. So in the 1990s, the FDA asked an independent scientific group to investigate. The group concluded that MSG is safe, though they said some sensitive people might get short-term symptoms like headache or drowsiness if they consume 3 grams or more of MSG (a typical serving of MSG in food is less than .5 grams).
The FDA classifies MSG as “generally recognized as safe”, the same designation they give ingredients like sugar and baking soda (but, to be fair, also the same designation they give additives that haven’t been tested by the FDA for safety). The FDA says the body metabolizes MSG the same way it does the natural glutamate found in foods like tomatoes and cheese.
Does MSG cause headaches?
A 2016 analysis of studies published in the Journal of Headache Pain concluded that there’s no proof of a cause-and-effect relationship between MSG and headaches. It’s also worth noting that in 2018, the International Headache Society removed MSG from its list of headache triggers.
Does MSG cause weight gain?
MSG has been studied for a possible connection with weight gain. One explanation is that MSG makes food taste better–so you may eat more of it. Another is that the additive may disrupt hunger-fullness hormones. In one study of more than 10,000 Chinese adults published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who ate the most MSG were 33 percent more likely to be overweight after five years compared to those who ate the least amount. But other research doesn’t show this effect–or shows the opposite.
MSG: What You Should Do
If you believe you have a sensitivity to MSG, by all means continue to avoid it. Although there’s no scientific evidence of a sensitivity, every person is different. Just because science doesn’t prove something doesn’t mean it’s not happening to you.
Where is MSG in food?
If you’re avoiding MSG, how do you know if a food contains it? According to the FDA, food with added MSG must list it in the ingredient panel as “monosodium glutamate”. You may find added MSG in foods like:
MSG occurs naturally in certain food ingredients too, including:
hydrolyzed vegetable protein
If you’re staying away from MSG, you should avoid products with those ingredients too. (You’ll see those ingredients named on the ingredient list, but manufacturers aren’t required to state that the product contains MSG unless it also contains the monosodium glutamate seasoning specifically.) If you eat a diet that’s overall low in highly processed foods, you’ll naturally consume fewer of those ingredients.
You can also look for the package claims “No MSG” or “No added MSG”. Any food that contains MSG either as monosodium glutamate or via one of the ingredients listed above cannot make those claims. The FDA also says MSG is not allowed be listed as simply “spices and flavoring” in the ingredient list.
How to use MSG
There are upsides to using MSG if you don’t think you are sensitive to it. MSG increases flavor and adds depth–but it has two-thirds less sodium that regular table salt. And you don’t need very much to boost flavor. According to Ajinomoto, which makes MSG seasoning, you only need a half-teaspoon to enhance the flavor of a pound of meat or up to six servings of veggies or soup.
If you want to try the seasoning for yourself, you can find it in the spice aisle under names like Accent. Sprinkle a little bit into a casserole or batch of soup and see if you like the way it makes your food taste–and the way it makes you feel.
In my opinion, it’s much better to know the facts and try things firsthand than to rely on rumor.
Chickpeas are a great source of sustainable protein for your family. Here are 29 different ways to serve chickpeas to your kids.
(This post is NOT sponsored, but I did receive samples of Biena snacks, which inspired this post because we loved them!)
Welcome to my new series, “Let’s Try!”
I’ll be featuring different healthy foods and all kinds of kid-friendly ways to serve them. First up: Chickpeas!
Are Chickpeas Beans?
Yes! Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans, and people have been eating them since ancient times.
Are Chickpeas Healthy?
Absolutely. Chickpeas are a great source of lean, sustainable protein and fiber. A one-half cup serving of chickpeas has six grams of fiber, about a quarter of what kids need in a day. Chickpeas contain iron and zinc, two minerals kids need for growth. And like all “pulses”–peas, lentils, beans–they’re also linked to health benefits such as a lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and perhaps even less risk for some kinds of cancers.
There are lots of new bean-based snacks on the market–and I’m all for it! Chickpea “puffs” and even chocolate-covered chickpeas are a nice baby step toward the whole food, especially for reluctant kids (and grown-ups). Are puffs the same as eating the whole chickpea? No, but they may help chickpeas seem less intimidating and more acceptable when they’re presented this way, like a bridge toward the real deal.
Are Dry or Canned Chickpeas Better?
Though both dry and canned beans are pretty economical–and a downright cheap source of protein compared to meat–dry typically costs less. But canned are ready to be tossed into recipes ASAP, with no extra time needed to cook them. And according to Bon Appetit, canned chickpeas are actually the best canned bean around.
How Do I Cook Chickpeas?
Canned chickpeas are cooked and ready to go. If you decide to opt for dry chickpeas, here’s a guide to cooking them on the stove, in the slow cooker, and in the Instant Pot.
Chocolate-covered chickpeas (we like the ones from Biena)
Chickpea Puffs (ditto on Biena!)
Chickpea bars & brownies (see recipes below)
If you’re looking for some healthy chickpeas recipes, I’ve collected a bunch. Some of these come from my dietitian friends. I also asked Real Mom readers on Facebook for their kids’ fave chickpea recipes, and those are marked with an asterisk.
This Creamy Greek Yogurt Poppyseed Dressing mixes up in minutes and has a tangy-sweet flavor that’s perfect your favorite leafy greens.
When it comes to salad dressings, are you Team Creamy or Team Vinaigrette?
I was Team Vinaigrette all the way, eating my near-daily bowl of leafy greens with a dressing I boldly dubbed the Everyone Loves This Vinaigrette (Because seriously? They do! Make that dressing for a dinner party and someone WILL ask you for the recipe, I swear.)
But change is a good thing. And salad dressing burn-out is real. So now this creamy poppyseed dressing is a fixture in my fridge.
This poppyseed dressing recipe uses a base of mayo plus plain Greek yogurt. The yogurt and apple cider vinegar give this dressing a nice tangy flavor, but there’s also some honey for sweetness. It’s perfect on spinach or any sturdy green such as kale.
To make a simple spinach salad like I show here, top a bed of baby spinach with sliced strawberries, chopped nuts such as walnuts or pecans, and a soft cheese like goat or feta. Add a spoonful or two of this Creamy Greek Yogurt Poppyseed Dressing and toss well.
This moist, sweet banana bread with chocolate chips is made using whole wheat pastry flour. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch boxes, and snacks.
Everything is better with chocolate chips. That seems to be a family motto of sorts around here. When there are overripe bananas lingering in the fruit bowl, they’re either frozen for smoothies or mashed into a loaf of this easy banana bread. And when I ask my boys their preference, they always choose adding chocolate chips.
This banana bread with chocolate chips is super moist thanks to the addition of unsweetened applesauce. Using brown sugar instead of white also lends more moistness–and I love the caramel flavor and deeper hue it gives too.
What is Whole Wheat Pastry Flour?
This banana bread recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour. If you’ve been baking your cookies and muffins with regular whole wheat flour, this switch will rock your world. Whole wheat pastry flour (also called graham flour) is made from a lower-protein wheat than regular whole wheat flour, so your baked goods will be softer and more tender. It’s best for baked goods like cookies, muffins, and pie crust but NOT yeast breads.
What Kind of Pan Should I Use for Banana Bread?
Light-colored metal pans (such as aluminum) are generally recommended for quick breads like this. Darker metal pans tend to absorb too much heat, and you may end up with bread that’s burnt around the edges. When I tried this recipe using a glass loaf pan, the bread stuck horribly on the bottom despite generous greasing and flouring. Yet some people swear by glass pans for baking breads. If you decide to go glass, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
As extra insurance, no matter what kind of pan you use, I recommend cutting a piece of parchment to fit just the bottom of the pan. Place it in the pan after greasing and flouring. No more worries about your loaf sticking to the bottom. It peels right off after baking.
Your loaf may also come out neater and cleaner if you allow it to rest in the pan for 15-20 minutes after baking before turning it out.
Yes! To make muffins from this recipe, allow batter to sit for 15 minutes (your muffins will rise up higher). Line a muffin tin with paper liners, or grease and flour compartments well. Bake muffins at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Butter/grease and flour a metal baking pan. For extra insurance, cut a piece of parchment to size and place just on the bottom of the pan after greasing and flouring. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine mashed bananas, eggs, canola oil, unsweetened applesauce, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and stir well.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and stir well.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until combined (but don't over-mix). Fold in 1/4 of the chips into the batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup of chips. Bake on center rack for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let loaf rest in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Invert bread out of pan and set to cool. To store leftovers, store (cooled) bread in a ziplock bag or container with a lid and use within three days–if keeping any longer, refrigerate.
Forget packaged frozen pizza bites! These Homemade Pepperoni Rolls are a fun dinner, satisfying snack, or easy lunch box item and are made with just five ingredients.
Last week I waxed poetic about the peanut butter bars I grew up eating in the Midwest (read: Peanut Butter Quinoa Bars). Now it’s time for another regional goodie: Pepperoni Rolls! Google tells me they hail from West Virginia. I grew up eating a version in Pennsylvania, where the schools even sell them for fundraisers. They’re that good!
These are actually a smaller version of the Pizza Bread recipe I posted a few years ago. I was inspired by my sister-in-law, who makes this mini version for her teens and his friends (and even sends them with his team for away sports matches–hello, Best Mom Ever!).
My kids have been loving these (cold) in their lunch boxes. I’ve also taken some out of the freezer for “Scrounge Nights” when we’re eating out of the fridge and freezer.
I make these pepperoni rolls with frozen bread dough. I use packaged dinner roll dough from the freezer section, but you can certainly make your own dough too!
This pepperoni roll recipe makes one dozen, but feel free to double or triple it. Scroll down for instructions on freezing them.
How to Make Homemade Pepperoni Rolls
Defrost the rolls according to package instructions.
Press or roll dough balls into circle that are at least 1/4-inch bigger than the diameter of your pepperoni (for me, that was about a 4 1/2-inch circumference). Try to avoid using flour on your surface, which will make the dough edges harder to seal. Mix beaten egg with Parmesan and spread a heaping teaspoon of the mixture over each circle, leaving at least 1/4-inch around all sides. (I have tried these rolls without the egg/Parm mix and they just don’t taste as rich and yummy.)
Top each with a slice of deli pepperoni and two squares of sliced mozzarella (not shredded–that’s too tricky to work with here!). Sprinkle with a bit of oregano for an extra kick of flavor.
Roll each one tightly.
Tuck in ends, and press all edges tightly with your fingertips until well sealed.
Place rolls seam-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or cold with pizza sauce for dipping.
Can I Freeze Pepperoni Rolls?
Yes! Just let them cool and transfer into a freezer bag. Take them out as you need them and reheat in the microwave or toaster oven. Or defrost them overnight in the fridge to put in lunch boxes the next morning.
These Homemade Pepperoni Rolls make a fun dinner, satisfying snack, or easy lunch box item.
12 frozen dinner roll dough balls (defrosted according to package directions)
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 slices deli pepperoni
3 slices mozzarella cheese, cut into four squares each ((not shredded!))
oregano (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Press or roll dough balls into circles at least 1/4-inch bigger than the diameter of your pepperoni (for me, that was about 4 1/2-inch circumference). Try to avoid using flour on your surface, which will make the dough harder to pinch closed.
Mix beaten egg with Parmesan and spread a heaping teaspoon of the mixture over each circle, leaving at least 1/4-inch around all sides.
Top with pepperoni and two squares of mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano.
Roll tightly, tuck in ends, and press all edges tightly with your fingertips until well sealed.
Place rolls on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or cold with pizza sauce on the side for dipping.
These No Bake Peanut Butter Quinoa Bars are a more wholesome twist on the classic Midwestern Peanut Butter Bars and make a healthy snack or dessert.
If you grew up in the Midwest or live there now, you know about Peanut Butter Bars.
They typically consist of a mixture of peanut butter, powdered sugar, and graham cracker crumbs spread on the bottom of a 9×13 pan and topped with a layer of melted chocolate. My mom made them and called them Peanut Butter Gems, and my high school cafeteria served a version dubbed Peanut Butter Confections. Whatever you call them, they’re an addictive crowd-pleaser. They’re so quintessentially Midwestern that they featured prominently in the novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest (which I named in my list of favorite books I read in 2015).
While I occasionally make my mom’s recipe, I wanted to create a version with more wholesome ingredients. This bar fits the bill and still lives up to the Midwestern Peanut Butter Bar hype. One of our 11-year-old house guests ate one and said it “tasted like a Reese’s Cup”, which I take as the highest compliment.
Combine oats (either old-fashioned or quick oats), cooked quinoa (see recipe for instructions), natural peanut butter, dry milk powder, and honey in the bowl of a food processor.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can also mix the ingredients by hand in a bowl. Your bars will be chewier, but just as tasty.
If using a food processor, blend until the ingredients come together in a ball.
Press mixture at the bottom of a square baking pan, lined with parchment paper (the parchment paper lining allows them to be easily lifted out to cut.
Top with melted semi-sweet chocolate and either freeze or refrigerate until firm. Remove from pan to cut into squares.
How to Store These Peanut Butter Bars
The bars will slice more neatly when slightly softened (cutting bars are straight from the fridge or freezer will result in cracking) . I recommend taking them out of the freezer or fridge and letting them rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes or until softened. Then slice these quinoa bars into squares, place in an airtight container, and keep refrigerated.
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed (equals 1 cup cooked))
2/3 cup water
1 cup oats ((quick or old-fashioned))
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Combine quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Add oats, peanut butter, powdered milk, honey to the bowl of a food processor. Add cooled quinoa and process until it comes together into a ball. (f you don’t have a food processor, you can simply mix these ingredients by hand!)
Line a square baking dish with parchment and then pat mixture into pan until evenly pressed into pan.
Melt chocolate chips in microwave on 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until fully melted. Spread melted chocolate over mixture in pan.
Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Cut into slices (to avoid the tops cracking, set bars out at room temperature about 30-60 minutes or until softened, then cut into square). Place bars in an airtight container and keep refrigerated.