Here is my new video! A huge thank you to all of the wonderful readers who said these kind words.
Peanut butter is my go-to ingredient for protein snacks! So many of you have let me know that you use it as much as I do and told me about the different flavor combinations you put together to make your own delicious treats. I decided the work off some of my previous recipes like this one, this one, and this one, and make another delicious, easy snack that has different flavors, textures, and the right amount of savory-saltiness to taste great but not add a lot of extra sodium. These bars are perfect as a snack, a power or energy boost, a great dessert to share, or even as a quick on-the-go meal. Even better, these bars can be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months or stored in the refrigerator for 5 days or a week.
The crust is so simple to make with mini pretzels or use sticks or rods. Allow the parchment paper to overhang the edges so you can easily lift out the cooled, baked product so it can be cut into small or large squares (or any shape you wish- try triangles or circles too). These bars are dense so using a serrated knife to cut them is best. Like my other recipes, these bars can be changed up simply by adding dried fruit, different chocolate or using different peanut butters or brands of peanut butter. This recipe easily doubles–and these bars do not last long, especially at a party. They’re perfect to bring as a gift or to any gathering.
Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars
Makes 16 large or 25 small squares
- 3 cups mini pretzels (unsalted best)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, divided
- ¼ cup peanut butter (smooth or creamy works best)
- ¾ cup peanut butter chips
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8×8 or 9×13 baking dish with vegetable spray. Line the sides and bottom of the baking dish with parchment paper, allowing the edges of the paper to overhang.
- Prepare the crust: Add pretzels to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they become fine crumbs (or use a re-sealable plastic bag and crush the pretzels with a rolling pin or heavy can until crumbled). Add in the butter and sugar and pulse until combined (or add the crumbs to a bowl and stir until combined).
- Press the pretzel mix into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Press firmly, using your fingers or the back of a measuring cup, so the crumbs get compacted into the bottom and corners of the baking dish.
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- In a microwave safe bowl, combine half the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. Microwave on high 20 to 30 seconds (or more if needed), stirring often until mixture is smooth.
- Spread half the coconut flakes onto the cooled pretzel crust, followed by half the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips if using.
- Pour the peanut butter mixture over the top then repeat with layers of coconut, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips if using.
- Drizzle the remaining condensed milk across the top.
- Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Once cooled, use the parchment paper to lift the cooled mixture out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to cut the mixture into small or large bars.
- Store in an air-tight container for 5 to 7 days or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Freeze bars up to 2 months.
Featured photo by Silviu Beniamin Tofan
As I mentioned, some fish is safe to eat during pregnancy. One of the easiest and most versatile fish to cook is salmon. It holds up well to grilling, broiling, baking, or saute. The one rule with fish is to cook it properly and thoroughly–eating raw fish is not recommended for pregnancy. What makes this dish unique is the protein it packs from both the salmon and the avocado.
The meal also has simple ingredients. Instead of the bruschetta topping bread slices, the mix is spooned over the warm, grilled salmon and takes on a creamy, delicious texture that enhances eat bite of the fish. The touch of balsamic vinegar adds a lightly sweetness that brings out the sweetness of the garlic. The bruschetta on top of the warm salmon is a wonderful contrast that makes this meal perfect for a simple dinner, a main course when entertaining, or an ideal meal for dining outdoors, at the beach, or as an easy lunch.
Grilled Salmon with Avocado Bruschetta
- 4 wild salmon filets (about 6 to 7 ounces each)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 4 Roma or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 medium avocado, pit removed and diced
- Make bruschetta: In a small bowl, combine red onion, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add chopped tomatoes, garlic, onion mixture, and additional salt and pepper if needed and stir gently to combine. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat an outdoor grill, broiler, or a grill pan over medium heat.
- Rub the salmon filets with extra virgin olive oil to avoid the fish sticking to the grill or pan. Season all sides with salt, pepper and paprika. If preferred, remove the skin.
- Grill over low heat, under the broiler or in a grill pan for 3 to 4 minutes per side (if keeping skin on, grill the skin side first then flip).
- Remove from the grill, broiler, or grill pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Add diced avocado to the bruschetta mixture and stir to combine. (Or, sprinkle the avocado on top of the bruschetta after its spread on top of the salmon filets for an additional creamy texture and taste).
- Spoon a generous portion of the bruschetta on top of each salmon filet. Serve alongside a green salad, roasted green beans or three bean salad, or toasted pita triangles.
Featured photo by Natalie Walters
In the last decade, most modern restaurants have had some version of a taco on their menu. Taco Tuesday has grown to into tacos on almost any day of the week! I’m not surprised–tacos are the perfect easy, comfort food. The premise is perfect: take multiple, fresh ingredients that pair well together and place them into a crunch or soft tortilla to add extra taste and texture. Sprinkle on some favorite toppings, and you have a perfect meal.
But most of the seasonings for tacos are not the friendliest to pregnant women. Some can be spicy or too pungent despite the depth of flavor they provide. I think tacos are still an ideal meal for any woman or her family with a little modification.
My recipe focuses on using lean chicken as the main source of protein, but but you can also use salmon instead of chicken. The seasonings are subtle and can be tweaked depending on your tastes. Instead of dried spices, you use natural, fresh flavors. And it’s low in sodium, fat and cholesterol and high in protein.
This recipe can be doubled–or tripled!–and leftovers reheat perfectly for a lunch or another satisfying dinner another day. You can make a whole tray of these and keep them frozen for a later date. They’re also perfect for a party as an appetizer. Try this recipe with chicken, salmon, turkey, or lean pork and beef. Change up the seasonings however you wish--the possibilities with this recipe are endless!
- 1 pound thin sliced chicken breast, cut into strips (or use salmon, lean pork, or lean beef)
- 2 limes, juiced and divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- 1 teaspoon paprika, divided
- 2 Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 4 multigrain tortillas
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine chicken, half the lime juice, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon paprika in a bowl. Marinate for 10-30 minutes.
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, sauté tomatoes, onion, ½ teaspoon lime juice, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon paprika until onion is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer chicken mixture to a second non-stick skillet. Sauté over medium high heat until chicken is no longer pink, about 5-10 minutes.
- Layer tortillas between slightly moistened paper towels on a microwave safe plate. Heat until warm, about 10-20 seconds.
- Spoon chicken and vegetable mixture onto tortillas. Top with cilantro, lime juice squeeze, and a scoop of Greek yogurt or sour cream onto top. Serve alongside fresh green salad, yellow rice, or a bean salad.
Featured photo by Emily Simenauer
Pesto is a wonderful sauce that complements so many types of food. Originating in Italy in the city of Genoa in the 16th century, pesto was a sauce that was made by crushing garlic, basil and pine nuts then tossing it with Parmesan cheese and olive oil.
Not much has changed since the 16th century. However, the term “pesto” has become a phrase associated with any kind of sauce that’s made by grinding herbs down in a blender. To me, pesto is only made with fresh basil and garlic.
But pesto can be a problem for some people, especially pregnant women. The garlic and basil, or sometimes the nuts, can be too bitter or spicy and cause heartburn. Too much Parmesan cheese makes it too salty and the wrong amount of olive oil makes the sauce too runny. I think I’ve come up with just the right balance of ingredients to keep the pesto tasting fresh and herbal but without the strong bite or after taste of the garlic.
Ways to eat pesto
- Over your favorite pasta as a quick dinner
- As a spread for sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
- Tossed with shrimp
- Spread lightly over roasted chicken
- Added to roasted vegetables like roasted potatoes or broccoli
Ways to change up the classic
For extra sweetness, try tossing in ½ cup of thawed, cooked, or leftover peas. In the spring or summer, add in fresh mint leaves from the garden to create a smoother, sweeter taste. Pesto’s possibilities are endless!
- 2 cups fresh basil (leaves only, stems removed)
- ½ cup fresh spinach (leaves only, stems removed)
- ½ cup thawed green peas
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
- 2 medium garlic cloves peeled
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or walnuts
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan (avoid using commercially-packaged grated Parmesan. Fresh works best!)
- Combine basil, spinach, peas, mint and nuts in a food processor. Process until finely minced.
- While the processor is running on low, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the cheese and process on low for 30 to 45 seconds to combine.
- Store in the refrigerator up to one week, or in the freezer for up to two weeks.
- Serving suggestions: Toss with your favorite pasta or use as a topping for grilled or baked chicken, pork, salmon, or shrimp. Works great as a spread for sandwiches as a healthier alternative to mayonnaise (for example, with these Turkey Pesto Roll Ups!)