10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes

These easy, healthy recipes are baby- and kid-friendly and perfect for baby-led weaning. They can also all be made ahead and stored in the freezer for meal-prep convenience. 

These easy, make-ahead baby-led weaning recipes are freezer-friendly and perfect for meal prep. Healthy meals for your babe in minutes!

No matter how much I want to flex my recipe creativity muscle and make cool, irresistible adult food, it’s been hard to ignore the fact that there’s a HUGE need out there for more baby-friendly and baby-led weaning recipes. There seem to be a lot of other mamas out there looking for healthy recipe inspiration for their little ones and I want to help!

I’ve got quite a few of my own baby-led weaning recipes I’ve been working on perfecting for all of you mamas out there – which you’ll be seeing soon – but, in the meantime, I reached out to some of my other mama blogger friends for their favorite baby-friendly and baby-led weaning recipes.

I’ve also put together a list of my favorite baby-led weaning essentials in my Amazon shop, so be sure to check it out!

Disclosure: We chose to follow baby-led weaning when introducing our now 14-month-old to solids and couldn’t be happier with the results. If you’re unfamiliar with the method and want to learn more, I highly recommend reading Gill Rapley’s book, Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods — and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Healthy and Confident Eater. [*affiliate link]

That all being said, here are 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes!

1.Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes
Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by CaliGirl Cooking
2. Sweet Potato Lentil Tater Tots
Sweet Potato Lentil Tater Tots | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Haute and Healthy Living
3. Salmon and Veggie Balls
Salmon and Veggie Balls | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Kidgredients
4. Chickpea PancaKES
Chickpea Pancakes | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Healthy Little Foodies
Broccoli Tots | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by White Coat Pink Apron
Oat Milk Chia Pudding with Blueberry Orange Compote | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by CaliGirl Cooking
Savory Beet Zucchini Bread | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by MJ and Hungry Man
Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by CaliGirl Cooking

by The Belly Rules the Mind

Baby's First Pancakes | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Eat Real Live Well

My Fit Pregnancy

Happy Labor Day!!

I hope you all have been enjoying the long weekend and are up to something super fun today. Since you’ll likely be out and about enjoying the weather (rather than sitting in front of your computer all day) I thought it would be fun to mix things up and bring you another pregnancy post. Today, I’m going to be talking all about my fit pregnancy!

My strength training routine has changed from high intensity with both heavy and light weights to lower intensity and more reps, sometimes with just my body weight!

Although my focus here on the blog is mainly around food, if you follow me on social media you’ll know that working out is just as important to me as eating delicious things. I am all about balance, after all, and I make sure to work out almost every day because (a) it makes me feel good, mentally and physically, and (b) then I can eat all of the delicious things and not feel bad about it!

I’ve always known that I wanted to continue working out as much as possible once I became pregnant, but I knew I’d have to mix things up a bit. Well, my workouts have DEFINITELY changed, but I’m really grateful for how much these new ways of getting a sweat on have opened my eyes to some different types of exercise that I actually really enjoy.

What I most definitely didn’t plan on was not being able to work out for a good portion of my first trimester. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m diving into TMI territory here, but I feel it’s important for me to tell you why so others out there who may be experiencing the same thing don’t feel so alone.

The hubs and I had planned on starting to try for a baby in the beginning of February, right after our 6-month “incubation” period passed from having been in Belize for our honeymoon. Belize is one of the areas that has been hit by the Zika virus, and the current recommendations from the CDC are to wait at least 6 months before trying to conceive to ensure that, if you happened to contract Zika while abroad, it had passed through you and your partner’s system.

I had been on the Pill since I was in high school (originally going on it for terrible periods), and my OB had recommended going off it a few months before we planned on starting to try so that my body could get back on track with normal periods. So, according to “the plan,” I went off of it in December and we started using alternative forms of birth control.

Starting in January, I began experiencing REALLY heavy periods. We’re talking heavier than I had ever experienced when I was in high school and had originally gone on the Pill in the first place. At first, I shook it off, telling myself it was just my body getting used to not having the constant flood of hormones from the Pill, but when I got another heavy period just 21 days after my first one, I decided to talk to my OB about it. I wanted to make sure there was nothing we needed to worry about since we were going to start trying soon!

Continuing to work out during pregnancy (although modified) has been HUGE for me. It makes me feel so much better!

My OB wasn’t too worried, but she recommended that I get an ultrasound done, just in case. At the end of February, after my second heavy period had passed, I went in to get the procedure done. What the radiologist saw came as quite the surprise – there was a little something that looked like it could be a cyst, which could have been causing some of my problems, but…..there was also a fetus! And since there was a detectable heartbeat, that meant that I was already about 6 weeks along. You can imagine how stunned and surprised I was with that news!!

Even though we were elated to find out we were already expecting, unfortunately that was not the end of my bleeding, and I continued to have heavier-than-normal spotting about once a week until I was just over 10 weeks along. You can imagine the fear and terror we experienced every time it happened, wondering if I was having a miscarriage, if something was wrong with the baby, etc. but luckily every time it happened and I went in to get checked, baby girl looked perfectly happy with a strong heartbeat. Nevertheless (and the moral of the story that I am finally getting to), I was ordered to take it easy and not work out while all this was going on…I couldn’t even go for walks! Which, as you can imagine for a lifetime athlete, was not easy for me.

The good news is, ever since the first trimester, this pregnancy has been smooth sailing for me (knock on wood, still have 8 weeks to go!) and I have been able to figure out a workout routine that works for me and baby. So, without further ado, here’s all that I’ve been doing (and what I’ve changed) during my #fitpregnancy!

First, to give you some context, here’s a little look at what I was doing before pregnancy:

  • Sweat with Kayla App five days a week, which includes three high intensity strength workouts, two LISS (low intensity steady state) workouts and two to three rest and recovery workouts.
  • Occasional beach volleyball games on the weekends
  • Occasional hikes on the weekends
  • Always at least one (sometimes two) days off

Swimming has been my favorite pregnancy workout! It feels so good on my aching joints, and baby loves it too. Plus, you can get such a great cardio workout without the impact!

Here’s what my workouts looked like once I was cleared to work out again, up until about 28 weeks (so throughout my second trimester):

  • Two days of swim workouts – about 40 minutes per day of medium intensity lap swim. I must say, if there’s ANY way you can get in the pool, DO IT! It feels amaaaaaazing and I feel like I get my best workouts in this way. The water is my preggo body’s new best friend!
  • Two days of light weights and non-impact cardio – One day upper body and one day lower body, switching to lifting at a much lower intensity than my Sweat with Kayla workouts, lighter weights and higher reps. Each light weight lifting session (about 25 minutes) was followed by 20-25 minutes of medium- to low-intensity cardio such as elliptical, walking on the treadmill at an incline or stationary bike.
  • One day of Prenatal Yoga – I tried out a few different studios that offer Prenatal Yoga in my area and got a feel for what style I liked best. I highly recommend going to a class rather than trying to do it on your own with YouTube videos, etc. because you get the chance to meet other preggo mamas in your area and hear about their experience/what they are going through and share how you are feeling as well. However, if you’re in a crunch and don’t have the time (or budget) to make it to a studio, free online videos are certainly better than nothing. Having never been a passionate “yogi” before, I must say that I feel my current practice is really preparing me to have an easier, more mindful labor and delivery and I have learned a lot about how different stretches and poses will help.

Prenatal Yoga has taught me so much about slowing down and remembering to take the time to stretch. It's such a good preparation for childbirth!

Now that I’m in my third trimester (and finally feeling huge), I’ve refocused my workouts to really take it easy on my body and further prepare myself for the birthing process. Here’s what I’ve changed in the last few weeks:

  • Still doing two days of swim workouts (about 40 minutes a day at medium intensity) and trying to sneak in a third one whenever I have the time because it feels soooooo good.
  • Cut back to just one day in the gym doing about 20-30 minutes of strength training (now combining lower and upper body on the same day, still doing more reps with less weight) followed by about 30 minutes of lower intensity cardio, such as elliptical, walking on the treadmill at an incline or stationary bike.
  • Increased to TWO days of Prenatal Yoga per week to really help stretch out all my sore muscles and prepare myself as best as possible for the birthing process.

I do also want to add that, ever since we’ve gotten our little fur baby, we usually go for about a 20-minute walk every night after dinner. Not only is this great for my digestion, it’s a great time for the hubs and I to connect and to tire out the pup so she sleeps through the night!

Walks with our red golden retriever puppy have been one of our favorite ways to get some extra exercise throughout my pregnancy.

So there you have it, everything I’ve been up to workout-wise for the past 8 or so months. And, in case you’re curious, I’ve gained about 23 pounds so far, which puts me in the healthy range of what doctors recommend you gain during an entire pregnancy (25-35 pounds for someone who started out with a normal BMI.)

I’m looking forward to continuing my workouts as long as possible, but I’m trying to be really aware of listening to my body and giving it what it needs on any given day.

Listening to my body and giving it whatever sort of workout it needs has been really big for me in keeping up my #fitpregnancy.

Tell me, what are your favorite ways you’ve stayed fit during a pregnancy? Is there anything I’m missing??

Finding My Balance

This has been a long time coming. I’ve been sitting on it for a while and I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been scared to share it or because I fear that straying from my usual recipe posts will lose my readers’ attention. But you know what, I realize that’s a silly thing to think, because I think it’s soooo important that you know where I came from and how I got here, and why I want to help you find the same balance that I’ve been able to find within myself. My hope is that it doesn’t take you as long as it took me to be at peace with food, and you can learn (as I have) to appreciate it, love it, and use it to make yourself your best “you.”

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Let’s start from the very beginning, because looking back, I realize that my struggle with food was seeded at a very young age.

It probably won’t surprise you that I grew up a dancer. I started taking lessons when I was five and was doing competitive tap and jazz by the time I was eight. Although dance is a stunning, beautiful, graceful art, we all know that it comes with its stereotypes. Soon after I started competing, I realized that my body did not look like most of the other dancers’. I was never “fat,” but I certainly had some baby chub still hanging on. It had never been an issue before.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking
Yep, wasn’t I just the cutest?

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

By the time I was nine, dancing had taken over a significant part of my life. I was still attending public elementary school, but I was heading to the studio every single day after class and competing or performing in some way at least a couple of times a month.

I remember my “turning point” distinctly, and it remains a question to me whether I had a real medical issue or if it was just my silly mentality that I had to start looking like a prima ballerina.

Every year when I was little, my family would take an annual trip to San Francisco to see the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker. It was a trip I always looked forward to. We usually caught a matinee and then went out to a fancy dinner afterwards before making the almost two-hour drive home.

The year I was in fourth grade (I remember this so clearly) we had once again headed to the city for our annual tradition, and I ordered an indulgent ice cream sundae for dessert. About a half hour later, as we were in the car heading back to Santa Cruz, I was overcome with the most intense nausea. I literally felt like I could be blowing chunks at any moment and was doubled over in the back seat with my eyes closed, trying to keep it together, for the whole ride home. The thing was, nothing ever came up. Maybe it was because I HATE throwing up (I take after my dad in this respect) or maybe it was because it was all mental, but it was the weirdest thing to experience such wooziness and pain and then have nothing happen. My dad mentioned maybe the dinner and dessert had been a little too rich for me, and I headed to bed, waking up in the morning feeling like almost nothing had happened.

But something had happened. I got it stuck in my head that I NEVER wanted to go through that feeling ever again. I began obsessing about how much fat I was consuming, and tried to limit myself to 15 grams of fat for every single meal (don’t ask me why or how I came up with that number, I’m not sure it had any sort of solid foundation, it just sounded good to me at the time.) Of course, we’re talking about the mid-90’s here, when “low-fat” diets were all the rage and avocado toast hadn’t even made its official debut.

The thing is, I soon started trying to keep my fat intake as low as possible for every. single. meal. I was still dancing at least five days a week (more on competition weekends), so the weight kept falling off. By the time my fourth grade year came to a close, I was a “skinny Minnie” and so much more in-line with what my ideal vision of a “professional dancer” was.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

By the time I was in sixth grade, I had added basketball and volleyball to my extra-curricular resume. Once seventh grade rolled around, I was dancing, playing volleyball and basketball, running track and swimming. Don’t ask me how I did it all…I’m not so sure myself! With all of this activity, it’s no wonder that I got thinner than I had ever been before. But I was eating enough to get me through the day, and that’s all I cared about at that point.

In ninth grade, I had to make a choice and decide what sport/activity I was going to focus on for my high school years (and beyond.) I was lucky enough to get noticed by an amazing volleyball coach, and I soon decided that this was going to be the path I was going to take. I played on the Junior Varsity team my freshman year, but by the end of the season I was told I’d most definitely be moving up to Varsity the next year. I spent the off-season playing club volleyball in San Jose, making the 45-minute drive to practice two to three times a week, with tournaments all over Northern California on the weekends.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Because I was so active (and so happy with how volleyball was going for me), I slowly realized that I could get away with eating a little more, and became what I would say is a healthy-looking athlete. Never fat, but not quite so afraid to have a grilled cheese sandwich every now and then.

By junior year I was getting scouted by Division I college volleyball programs, and the summer before my senior year I committed to play at the University of the Pacific. I felt GREAT. My grades were good, and volleyball was even better. I had gotten a full-ride scholarship to a Division I, private institution and didn’t have to worry about the whole application process during my last year of high school, which left me more time to focus on volleyball and getting to know my future coaches and teammates.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking
Baby-faced at college with some of my teammates.

Things kept getting better once I started at UOP the next fall. I busted my butt, and by mid-season I had earned a starting spot as a freshman. Then, it happened. It was one of our last home games of the year, and we were doing hitting lines during our warm-up. Our setter set me a slide (it’s similar to a lay-up, where you take off behind the setter on one foot) but it was just a little tight to the net. Since this was warm-ups, and I had no block up against me, I decided to go for it and really show off. I ended up hitting the pole on my way down from my jump, which caused me to land off-balance. My leg gave out from under me the moment I came down. We soon found out I had torn my ACL, and that the impact from that ligament going out had also caused sprains of both my MCL and LCL, and multiple stress fractures from the bones crashing together at impact.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Luckily, I had access to the best doctors and athletic trainers and, although the recovery process was long and hard, I worked incredibly hard and was cleared to play again just six months after surgery (which is pretty quick for a complete ACL replacement.) I came back at the end of my freshman year spring training season, and surprised everyone with how fast and strong I was, even after just coming back from such a severe injury.

I had high hopes going into my sophomore year, but it seemed that things had changed. Despite me continuing to show strong results in all of our strength and speed training drills, I was sitting on the bench during games and playing on the “B” team during practice. I was crushed. I had worked so hard to come back, pushing myself to my limits, yet it seemed that, despite my quick recovery, my coach had given up on me and pushed me to the back of her mind.

This feeling of inadequacy quickly started taking its toll on me. I didn’t know what else I could do to prove myself at practice, and I began questioning myself and all that I had worked so hard for the past six years. Had I really worked this hard and come back from such a big injury to just be sitting on the sidelines?

The feelings of desperation and low self-worth quickly started making their way into my eating habits. If I couldn’t control whether or not I was getting time on the court, I could at least control what I was putting into my mouth. Although it eventually got blown out of proportion, I think my initial thought process was that, if I wasn’t playing in games, then I didn’t need to be eating as much as my other teammates who were playing all the time.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Looking back, I realize how silly this was. Our games were just 5 hours out of our week. Our practices took up at least 18 hours a week, sometimes more. We were practicing at least three hours a day, often at a very high intensity, with weight training and conditioning mixed in. How foolish of me to not be giving my body the proper fuel it needed.

Eventually, my coaches took notice of my weight loss and signed me up to go see the campus nutritionist. I went to my appointment, but seeing as I wasn’t suffering from anything extreme (I was still eating, so I wasn’t anorexic, and I wasn’t throwing up my food, so I wasn’t bulimic) they told me how many calories I should be consuming each day at my current activity level and sent me home.

I look back now and realize that what I was probably suffering from what we now know as “orthorexia,” but that didn’t exist back then. As you can imagine, the sort of “treatment plan” I was given was pretty easy to ignore and toss aside. If I wasn’t going to be a star on the volleyball court, I was at least going to make sure I didn’t gain any weight.

After my junior year, still not seeing any significant playing time, I decided to put in my resignation and finish off my last year at college as just a “regular ol’ student.” I couldn’t take the feeling of failure any longer, and I wanted to focus more on what I was excelling at, which was academics.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking
My public relations classmates and I getting ready for a night out at our annual conference.

But the feeling of failure still lingered. If you know me, you know that I’m a perfectionist, and I hate when something I work so hard for doesn’t turn out. In my mind, I had failed at volleyball. And because I was no longer practicing or playing over 18 hours a week, I decided I needed to eat even less and be in the gym at least two hours a day to maintain the “athletic” body that I had created over the past few years.

The summer between my junior and senior years, I took an internship with an event production company in Honolulu. I packed up a couple of suitcases and relocated my entire life to Hawaii for three months, staying with some family friends for my short time there. For the first time, not only was I away from home, but I had no one else looking out for me. My parents weren’t a short drive away, and I didn’t have any friends, roommates or teammates around, and I took that as a sign that I could really start minimizing my food intake and working out as much as I could. Who was there to tell me I shouldn’t?

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Back in school for my senior year, everyone commented on how thin and tan I looked, and of course this made me feel just great about myself. I continued to thrive in academics, and used my newfound free time on nights and weekends flexing my entertaining skills, hosting wine tastings in my off-campus apartment or making dinner for the men’s volleyball team with a couple of friends before we’d go watch the women (my old teammates) play. On the days that I had big entertaining plans for the evening, I would literally starve myself the entire day so I could eat (and drink) whatever I wanted to that night. Of course, I realize now that this was CRAZY and so unhealthy, but it just seemed like what I had to do at the time to maintain my “physique.”

When I graduated, I found myself moving back to Honolulu to work full-time for the event management company I had interned with the summer before. The work was intense. On top of the normal 9-5 hours during the week, I’d sometimes find myself working 12- to 18-hour shifts on event days, on my feet for essentially the entire time.

At first, I tried to keep up my minimal eating habits, but soon I realized there was just too much delicious food that I was missing out on (we worked with many of Hawaii’s celebrity chefs, such as Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong) to NOT be eating it. Plus, I would be famished by the end of the night (I usually squeezed in a workout BEFORE I headed to my long event shift), just in time for all of the leftover food to be sitting in the back kitchen just waiting to be eaten by all of us staff members.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

About a year into my time in Hawaii, I met a guy, which eventually turned into a long-term relationship. Although I can’t say I completely loosened the reins on my eating habits at the time, I was happy, and it became harder for me to justify my crazy ways when I was frequently responsible for feeding another human being. I became a bit more lax, and settled in to a fairly comfortable routine. I gained a little weight, but by no means was I in danger of getting anywhere close to “chubby.”

It was thanks to my job at the event production company that my passion for delicious food and drink slowly came to light. I was exposed to amazing, world-renowned chefs, and got to taste their food on the reg. I also began to realize how much food and wine play off of each other, and how pairing the two in different ways can truly transform a dish.

Eventually, I decided to leave the rigors of the event production job and explore this new passion. I enrolled in culinary school on Oahu and got a part-time line cook position at a local French bistro. I also began studying for my Level One Sommelier exam. Pretty soon, every waking hour was devoted to food and wine. Although my calorie and fat consumption was still always in the back of my mind, it became harder and harder for me to justify the rigorous guidelines I had previously been imposed on myself.

About three years after I moved to Hawaii, I could no longer shake the continual homesickness I had felt since I moved there, and I decided to move back to California. My passion for food and wine continued to grow, so naturally I started looking for jobs in the Napa Valley. Shortly after my move back, I was hired at a historical, prominent winery and thus embarked on this new Wine Country chapter of my life.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

It is truly this chapter that I credit for being the biggest help in breaking me of my disordered eating habits and helping me find my balance. I mentioned how infatuated I was being exposed to all of the celebrity chefs in Hawaii, now multiply this by, oh, one thousand, and you have what I experienced once I moved to Napa.

We all know that Napa Valley is THE mecca for award-winning food and wine. When you live there, and especially when you work in the industry, you are literally surrounded by it 24/7. Networking events are held at wineries (with complimentary food and wine, of course), you go out to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants on just any old day, your front door is literally steps away from The French Laundry garden, and on any given night your friends might text you to say that they have a case of opened 2007 Napa Valley Cabs that need to be drank TONIGHT. No joke. This is real life.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

No way was I going to survive on my old eating habits while living here (and if I tried, well, life would just be miserable.) I soon realized that, if I fueled myself with all of the delicious fresh produce that was grown here (right next to the wine grapes) MOST of the time, I could afford to attend that industry mixer or go to that delicious dinner that I would be lucky to ever have the opportunity to get invited to again.

What I now like to call the “80/20” way of eating (because I hate to use the word “diet”) was actually incredibly easy in Napa. The agriculture and produce industry in the area is second to none (why else do you think it produces such perfect grapes for winemaking?) and there is always delicious fresh produce, bread, meat and dairy right at your fingertips. The farm-to-table movement is strong here, and there’s no other way you’d want to be eating.

Although I was incredibly happy with my Napa Valley life and all of the friends and connections I had made there, my heart was itching to get a taste of one of my other favorite areas of California, Santa Barbara. I was soon given an incredible work opportunity, packed up and moved six hours south to another part of CA Wine Country.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

When I got to Santa Barbara, I realized that it was quite the interesting combination of Napa Valley living and its close neighbor to the south, Los Angeles. Although your friends aren’t necessarily going on juice cleanses every week, they are a lot more health-conscious and fitness-minded than what I had experienced up north.  On the other hand, the liquor industry does incredibly well here, day-drinking on the weekends is the norm, and there are plenty of delicious restaurants to explore (albeit perhaps not Michelin-starred.)

I found this dichotomy interesting, and it took me a year or so to “find my footing” in the diet and exercise world of Santa Barbara. I continued to enjoy as much fresh produce as I could (it’s certainly bountiful here as well) and my daily activity level actually increased (thanks to the prevalence of amazing beach volleyball and access to incredible hiking trails.) But I also continued to enjoy good food and drink, not afraid to enjoy a cheese platter with dinner or have a mimosa at brunch on a Sunday morning.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

I like to credit my time in Santa Barbara with helping me truly realize that my body tells me what it needs, what it likes and doesn’t like. Do I completely abstain from packaged potato chips or warm, fudgy brownies? No, but I notice the difference in how my body feels after eating something like that as opposed to digging in to a huge, healthy salad. I still do it, but I’ve learned that I just don’t like the way I feel after eating the more processed, unhealthy stuff. Given the choice of a superfood bowl or a burger from In ‘n’ Out, I’d honestly probably choose the superfood bowl.  Because it makes me FEEL good.

On a related note, I try not to “never” eat something or tell myself I absolutely cannot have a certain treat. You will never find me calling myself gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free or anything else –free. By not imposing any restrictions on myself, my self-control has improved by leaps and bounds. Sure, we keep ice cream in our freezer and an open bottle of wine in the refrigerator, but because I don’t restrict myself, I never feel the urge to binge on any of these not-as-good-for-you things. If I want ice cream, I’ll have a scoop and I’ll be done. If I want wine, I’ll have a glass (maybe two) and I’ll be done. And, you know what? I don’t hate myself the next day. Life was meant to be LIVED!! There’s no other way to do it.

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

So what do I hope for by sharing this story with you? I hope that, if you’ve practiced restrictive eating, you find the strength to forgive yourself and take a step towards balance. I hope that, if you’ve experienced similar struggles in the past, you find the strength to share your story (with me, or with someone else) and find the support and encouragement you need. I hope that, by reading this blog, you realize that there is a healthy middle-ground, both in eating and in life. Overall, I hope that it empowers you to live the life you were meant to live, and that you enjoy it to the fullest.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story, and I hope it was helpful for you in some way. As always, I’m here for you if you feel like chatting or telling your story.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my little corner of the blogosphere, it’s that there are a lot of us out here that have gone through the same or similar experiences, and we’re all here to listen, talk and give advice. Remember…

Finding My Balance | CaliGirl Cooking

Super-Hydrating Recovery Smoothie

This tasty Recovery Smoothie is a healthy, refreshing breakfast or snack complete with coconut water and loads of anti-inflammatory superfoods.

Recovery Smoothie | CaliGirl Cooking

I’ve lightly touched on the topic here and there recently, but with our wedding now just a few short months away, I’ve been kicking it up a notch with my workouts and the fiancé and I have been focusing on even more balanced eating than usual. Luckily, the two go hand in hand. I can definitely tell what a difference it makes in my workouts when I’m putting the right fuel into my body!

It’s quite fitting that I stumbled across my new favorite coconut water, Amy & Brian, in the midst of this transition to higher intensity workouts and healthier eating. Even more fitting, I learned after the fact that their motto is “Be Better™” and they have dubbed 2016 the “year of improvement.” I am so on board with this! Especially with the wedding on the way, now is more of a time than ever for me to really focus on who I am and how I want to be transitioning into this new phase of my life.

Recovery Smoothie | CaliGirl Cooking

Not only is Amy & Brian’s motto so in line with where I’m at right now mentally, but their coconut waters have  also proven to be fantastic for me physically. As a competitive volleyball player growing up, I sometimes had long, grueling practice days. Unfortunately, I was not always in such a great place with my eating habits back then, and I would often get severely dehydrated. We’re talking migraines, nausea, the sweats….yuck. Back then, the only solution I knew of was to lie in bed with the lights off and try to keep down as much Gatorade as I could to replace all of the lost electrolytes.

When coconut water started having its “moment” a few years ago, I was thrilled to learn that the all-natural drink was loaded with electrolytes and minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and chloride. I immediately started grabbing it up at the grocery store for not only my bouts with dehydration, but for any occasion where I felt I needed a natural jolt of all of these healthful components. (Long day of volleyball at the beach? You betcha!) My diet is much more on track now than it used to be, and I rarely experience dehydration anymore, but I’m so glad to have found a natural solution that helps me Be Better™.

Recovery Smoothie | CaliGirl Cooking

Speaking of being better and natural solutions, did everyone know that this Friday, April 22 is Earth Day? Do you have any exciting plans? Any ambitions of how to make our world “better” in the coming year?

We actually celebrated Earth Day this past weekend, since Santa Barbara puts on a HUGE Earth Day Festival every year and it just happened to fall a weekend early. Did you know Santa Barbara is the birth place of Earth Day? That’s right, folks. Earth Day was inspired by the 1969 massive oil spill here in sunny SB. An unfortunate incident, but at least now we can thank it for a reason to celebrate this lovely world we live in!

In addition to my #lifegoals and #marriedlife goals listed above, I’m also going to make more of an effort to conserve resources whenever possible (especially water) and use less of the products that fill up our landfills (Ziploc bag obsession right here – need to break this.)

But I digress. The reason we are all here today is to find out what’s so special about this Recovery Smoothie, right? Well, let me tell you. This smoothie is a spin-off of my original Power Protein Smoothie (just ignore the horrible photos), but it’s loaded with even more nutritious ingredients that help our muscles recover quickly and get amped up for our next workout.

Recovery Smoothie | CaliGirl Cooking

Of course, the star of the show is Amy & Brian Coconut Water – with Cinnamon! You read that right, folks. Not only do Amy & Brian make straight up, good ol’ fashioned plain (and high pulp) coconut water, but they also make fun, flavored coconut waters like Lime, Grape and Cinnamon. I chose to use the Cinnamon flavor because not only has the spice become a favorite of mine to add a pop of flavor to my daily smoothies, it also has anti-inflammatory properties due to the high level of antioxidants it contains and has proven effective at controlling blood sugar and increasing metabolism. Awesome!

We already mentioned the potassium we get from the coconut water itself, but of course we also have bananas to thank for giving this smoothie even more of the mineral to aid our cramping muscles. We also throw in maca powder for increased energy, an extra hit of Vitamins B, C and E, and improved stamina. Finally, we add some turmeric to the mix for even more anti-inflammatory properties and faster recovery.  Oh, and we’re also getting plenty of protein from Greek yogurt, whey protein powder and almond butter to really help those muscles grow!

Recovery Smoothie | CaliGirl Cooking

I know it sounds like a long list of ingredients, but I’ve made it easier to find a lot of the spices/supplements by providing links to them all on Amazon (whatever did we do before Amazon?) AND, the most exciting part of this post…

I’M HOSTING MY FIRST GIVEAWAY! That’s right, one lucky reader will receive a mixed case of all of Amy & Brian’s delicious coconut waters.  Simply enter by using the Rafflecopter box below (yes, you can have multiple entries!), and good luck! Giveaway closes at 12AM PDT on Wednesday, April 27. Giveaway is only open to US residents and winner will be notified by email.

Recovery Smoothie | CaliGirl Cooking

As always, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and tag #caligirlcooking in all of your CaliGirl Cooking creations!

This post was created in partnership with Amy & Brian Coconut Water. Although I did receive free product as compensation, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I truly LOVE Amy & Brian Coconut Water and am honored to work with such an amazing company!
Recovery Smoothie
A healthy, refreshing smoothie complete with coconut water and loads of anti-inflammatory superfoods.
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 cups kale baby kale or spinach
  • 1 ½ cups frozen mango
  • 1 ½ cups frozen pineapple
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup Amy & Brian Cinnamon Coconut Water
  • ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve in two large cups, Mason jars or Blender Bottles.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winter Kale Salad

New year, new me.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

Isn’t that what we all say? Yes, it may be cliché, but I do think the start of a new year is a great time to perhaps not necessarily make “resolutions” but rather goals or aspirations for the next twelve months.

This year I splurged and bought myself one of these planners to help map out my life and my goals for growth in 2016. Last week I sat down and started writing out all of my intentions, and I must say it was such an inspiration for me and the great way to end 2015. Even if you don’t use a Day Designer like I’ve decided to (although I highly recommend it), I encourage you to take a moment and write down what you hope to accomplish in three, six, nine and 12 months and put it all on a calendar, so it’s there for you to see every single day.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

I am so excited for this next year, not only for what I believe it has in store for this little blog of mine, but because I also get to marry my best friend. As soon as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, Chris and I looked at each other and said “We get to get married this year!” We’ve been planning our special day since May, so it’s exciting when the calendar finally turns to the actual year in which the big day happens.

Because our wedding is this summer, we decided that the turn of the new year would be the perfect time for us to start cleaning up our eating habits a bit and focus on becoming as healthy as we can be for not only our wedding, but to start out our lives together as a married couple. We generally eat fairly healthy (with a strong focus on whole, homemade foods rather than packaged foods riddled with extra preservatives) but we all know what havoc the holidays can wreck on those habits. I mean, you just can’t turn down holiday M&M’s or all of the baked goods that get thrust upon you in the last month of the year.

Our goal for the New Year is to simply limit our guilty pleasures (I’m looking at you, cheese) and focus on creative recipes incorporating clean and tasty foods. Hence, the reason I am sharing this incredibly taste Winter Kale Salad with you today. When I lived in Napa, one of my chef friends (hi, Izzy!) taught me a great template for making a kale salad bursting with flavor, and not one that tastes like you’re chewing on cardboard.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

The main techniques that make this particularly taste kale salad are:

  • Making it at least a few hours (and even better, a day) in advance to let the dressing really marinate the kale and soften it up.
  • Including a combination of strongly flavored ingredients such as shallots and fresh herbs.
  • Chopping everything up into bite-sized pieces makes it easier to get the perfect balance of flavors in every bite.

As you can see, the outline is basic and you certainly do not have to stick to all of these EXACT same ingredients every time you make a kale salad. I used a variety of winter vegetables (mainly root vegetables) for this version, but come spring, summer and fall I’m sure I’ll be bringing this recipe back and sharing some other variations with you.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking


I brought this Winter Kale Salad over to my brother’s house last night and let me just say it was devoured. There is a perfect balance of flavors: a slight sweetness from the roasted beets, a crunch from the slivered almonds, and acidity from the lemon juice to name a few.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

If there’s a particular vegetable you’re not too fond of, by all means substitute in something else. I love kale salads because they are hearty and can be made in advance (as I mentioned, they even get better with time, up to a point.) They can hold up to quite a bit, and are a great showcase for so many different herbs and vegetables. This Winter Kale Salad is great with a warming soup for a light and healthy dinner, or just add some grilled chicken or other protein to the salad itself and you have a filling lunch to take to the office.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

Do you have a favorite winter salad recipe that you love to kick off the New Year with?

Here’s to a healthy, happy 2016 and to realizing all of our goals and intentions!

Winter Kale Salad
A tasty and refreshing kale salad with winter vegetables and fresh herbs.
  • 1 golden beet peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch kale chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 watermelon radish peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 shallot thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • ½ cup sliced almonds toasted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a small jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray or coconut oil spray. Place diced beets on pan and drizzle with olive oil or spray with more coconut oil spray. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
  2. Place beets in oven and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until you can easily poke a fork in them. You may want to check on them about halfway through and give them a little stir for more even cooking. Remove from oven when done and let cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add all of the vegetables, fruit and herbs. Squeeze on lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over top. Toss to coat and then add salt and pepper to taste. Place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.
Recipe Notes

Wine Pairing Notes: Because of the fresh and yet hearty qualities of this salad, it would pair equally well with a light Pinot Noir as it would a grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Winter Kale Salad | CaliGirl Cooking

I feel the healthiness just looking at it!