5 Kid-Friendly Spring Break Ideas for Los Angeles Families

Holidays, Lifestyle, Travel

Hello, fellow LA families! I don’t know about you, but I’m already over our SoCal’s so-called “winter” and daydreaming about all the fun to be had when the temperatures warm up this 2023 Spring Break! I’m so excited about Spring Break that I’m sharing these 5 kid-friendly Spring Break ideas live on CBS-LA (KCAL; Channel 9) on Saturday, Jan. 28 during the Weekend Morning Show! If you miss it live, check back here after it airs to see the recorded version of the segment!

I know it’s only January, but as a classic Type A personality, I’ve already been planning our family’s activities and road trips for this year’s Spring Break for weeks. I’ve been researching across the internet and chatting with local event and travel experts to find the very best Spring Break ideas in March and April for Los Angeles area families. When planning my family’s Spring Break, I’m always on the lookout for the four E’s — Engaging, Entertaining, Enriching and Educational — and I’ve pulled together a list of five fabulous ideas that meet all of these! From local camps and theme parks to memorable nearby hotel stays, be sure to book one of these adventures for an unforgettable Spring Break!

5 Spring Break Ideas for Los Angeles Families:

1. Super Nintendo World Opening at Universal Studios Hollywood

The newest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood is Super Nintendo World, opening February 17, just in time for families to explore during their Spring Break! What makes this SUPER (pun intended) exciting is that this is Super Nintendo World’s United States debut! The original is located at Universal Studios Japan, so it’s pretty rad that the first U.S. location is here in our backyard at Universal Studios Hollywood!

The new Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge ride at Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood

According to Universal Studios’ press release, this all-new, dynamic land will be a visual spectacle of vibrant colors and architectural ingenuity located within a newly expanded area of Universal Studios Hollywood. Super Nintendo World will feature the groundbreaking “Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge” ride complete with augmented reality (AR) goggles, as well as many thrilling and interactive activities designed to engage the entire family within the captivating Mushroom Kingdom. Along with themed dining at the Toadstool Cafe™ and shopping at the 1-UP Factory™ retail store, Super Nintendo World will be an inspiring, game-changing addition to the world-famous theme park.

Sneak Peek at Super Nintendo World!

When I read about the new Super Nintendo World, I got instantly excited while reminiscing on the old days of playing Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart with my brothers and friends! The whole family will love exploring this new land within Universal Studios Hollywood!

Super Nintendo World is included with regular admission to Universal Studios. Visit universalstudioshollywood.com to purchase tickets.

2. Spring Break Camps: Kidspace Children’s Museum and YMCA of the Foothills

Camps are perfect for families whose children’s caregivers can’t take off work while their children are out of school or who want their children staying physically and socially active during Spring Break, and I have two outstanding options that will keep your children engaged and learning with their community!

Camp fun at Kidspace Children’s Museum

First, Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena is hosting a garden themed Spring Break Camp, April 3-7 from 8:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily, for ages 5-8. Children will explore the world of soil, plants, and the worms, bugs, and other creatures who love them. Price is $575/week for general audiences, $550/week for members (members receive $25 discount plus 2 weeks of priority registration – camps tend to sell out!). Visit kidspacemuseum.org to register and follow @KidspaceMuseum on social media to keep up to date with registration openings.

Playing in the Arroyo Stream at Kidspace Children’s Museum Spring Camp

March and April are also Kidspace’s annual Butterfly Season where families enjoy exploring the lifecycle of butterflies. You can adopt a caterpillar, help nurture the museum’s community garden, go on a bug safari, and costume play with beautiful butterfly wings. There’s so much to explore at Kidspace in the springtime! My kids love Kidspace’s current Muddy Boots Farm exhibit where they pretend to garden with mini hoes and wheelbarrows, then weigh and sell their bounty at the farm stand. We’ve also made lots of great memories in the museum’s Arroyo stream where the kids splash, play and get messy! Don’t forget to bring a spare pair of clothes!

Kidspace’s annual Butterfly Season

Another wonderful camp option is the YMCA of the Foothills, which is hosting two Spring Break Camps: the first for Glendale Unified School District, March 13-17, plus a one-day camp on Monday, March 20, and the second camp for LAUSD, April 3-7. Camp is from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You do not have to be a YMCA member to participate! Campers will be swimming, playing organized games, creating arts and crafts projects, participating in STEM activities and sports such as soccer, dodgeball, basketball and so forth on daily basis. New to camp this year is on-site adventures, like a reptile party, magic show and canvas painting. Camp is held at the Verdugo Hills campus in Tujunga, located at 6840 Foothill Blvd., for grades K-8. Price for Family Memberships is $270 and non-member program participants pay $300. Go to YMCAFoothills.org to register. What I love about the YMCA is that they will never turn away a family because of their circumstances. Financial assistance available, please contact Aazizian@ymcafoothills.org to apply.

3. The Seabird Resort in Oceanside

For me, there’s nothing more relaxing than a beach escape, and I love a destination that caters to families like The Seabird Resort in Oceanside. Newly opened in North County San Diego, The Seabird Resort was designed with families in mind, with grand coastal architecture, breezy living spaces, private balconies and stunning Pacific views that give off the vibe of a family beach house. The resort boasts an expansive pool deck, multiple dining options to watch the sunset, Sunny’s Spa for parents to relax and rejuvenate, and the famous Top Gun House right across the street (which my husband is stoked about!).

Surf lessons at The Seabird Resort

The Seabird Resort is ideal for kids with its Little Seabirds programming, offering year-round activities for your smallest travelers to enjoy during their stay, from building stuffed animals to craft hour and an art scavenger hunt, as well as surf lessons. The resort also offers a Little Seabirds Eat Free package that’s ideal for families, including a meal at Piper and a Seabird stuffed animal (for children 12 and under, limit two meals per child). Call the resort 855-413-7573 and mention that you saw this CBS LA segment and they’ll also throw in free parking!

The Seabird Resort Pool

The Seabird Resort is perfect for my beach-loving family, as its set directly on Oceanside Beach – close enough to see the surfers paddling out in the morning and hear the crash of the waves as you sip cocktails with the setting sun. The Seabird also has a vintage Beach Rambler set up right on the Oceanside strand, offering complimentary beach chairs, towels and umbrellas for a relaxing day soaking up the sun.

Making family memories at The Seabird Resort

Oceanside is easily accessible from Los Angeles by both car and train, with rail service from Los Angeles available on Amtrak and Metrolink. The Seabird Resort is conveniently located near the Oceanside Transit Center.  From The Seabird, Spring Breakers can also enjoy accessible attractions across the region, including Disneyland, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND, Knott’s Berry Farm and more.

Nightly rates start at $299. Visit theseabirdresort.com for more information.

4. Mar Monte Hotel in Santa Barbara

Our family adores the quaint city of Santa Barbara, just a short drive north of LA. My husband and I were actually married there, so it’s a wonderful nearby escape to reminisce on our wedding and create new family memories with our children! I love the beautifully reimagined Mar Monte Hotel because of it’s Spanish-Colonial inspired decor blended with forward design and cutting-edge amenities. But, I think the hotel’s top selling point is it’s location, location, location!! Mar Monte Hotel is a short walk from the award-winning Santa Barbara Zoo, where families can enjoy hundreds of exotic animals, play areas for children, exciting exhibits and more. The hotel also is just steps from East Beach, which offers a beach playground for your little ones to let out their wiggles! If you’re looking for more to explore from Mar Monte, take a short drive or bike ride to the famed Stearns Wharf and Downtown Santa Barbara, where you’ll find the interactive MOXI Museum, dozens of restaurants, diverse shopping options and more.

Mar Monte Hotel’s fabulous location in Santa Barbara

The hotel’s ocean view rooms with balconies are perfect for families, and you’ll enjoy dining at the two on-site restaurants – costa Kitchen & Bar and Café Lido – and spending time in the heated outdoor pool. Families can enjoy the complimentary beach cruiser bikes and resort games, such as backgammon, checkers, chess, tic-tac-toe, bocce ball courts and a giant Jenga. You can also rent beach equipment and toys for an awesome day at the beach.

An ocean view room with balcony at Mar Monte Hotel

For Spring Break, I recommend booking Mar Monte’s Day at the Zoo Package on their website – MarMonteHotel.com – under their special offers page. Book by March 31 to get (4) free zoo admission, train rides, and giraffe feeding which equals a $150.00 value! The hotel’s average nightly rates start at around $350. For booking and more information on Mar Monte Hotel, visit MarMonteHotel.com.

Mar Monte Hotel Pool

5. Ojai Valley Inn

It’s amazing to think that Angelenos have been escaping to the iconic Ojai Valley Inn, located 70 miles north of LA in the secluded and scenic Ojai Valley, for 100 years! That’s right, the world-class luxury resort is celebrating its centennial in 2023, commemorating all the multi-generations who have enjoyed the idyllic retreat! 

Scenic Ojai Valley Inn

I love that Ojai Valley Inn has something for all ages to enjoy. The resort recently reopened Camp Oak, its fabulous kids’ camp that invites young guests (ages 4-12) to participate in outdoor adventure, arts & crafts, and learn about the region’s rich history through storytelling and science projects. Available for full days (9am-4pm), half days (9am-12pm), and night camp (5pm-10pm) Camp Oak kiddos enjoy immersive themed programming curated to the Ojai experience, such as science experiments, scavenger hunts throughout the resort grounds, and daily themed lessons such as Space Camp, Color Wars, Critter Connection, Around the World, and themes surrounding the Chumash Native American traditions and culture that define the region. Lunch, snacks, and dinner are included based on the camp package selected, so parents can sneak away to the spa or enjoy a romantic dinner while the kids are having fun! That’s my kind of vacation!!

Camp Oak at Ojai Valley Inn

The resort has additional family-friendly programming for a memorable Spring Break: Family craft hour at the Artist Cottage, moderate group hikes that are fit for most ages, in-room game night baskets for the whole family to enjoy, including popcorn, a picnic pack, Jacks, a classic card game, charades, Connect 4, Sorry, an in-room movie, and more. There’s also golf and tennis for a day of family sports, or for when mom and dad want to improve their game while the kids have a blast at Camp Oak!

Family s’mores at Ojai Valley Inn

For Spring Break, Ojai Valley Inn is offering a Spring Family Fun package that includes breakfast at The Oak, a picnic lunch from Libbey’s Market, and DIY s’mores roasting around a communal fire table. This package is available during select dates in March, April and May, and book soon before they sell out!

Family pool day at Ojai Valley Inn

Average nightly rates start at $689. For booking and more information visit ojaivalleyinn.com.

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Which of these Spring Break activities and/or trips would you like to do with your family? Any guesses what our family will be doing? I’d love to hear what your plans are for Spring Break in the comments below. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more family and lifestyle ideas!

xo Maggie

DIY Ugly Christmas Sweater Ideas

Holidays, Lifestyle

‘Tis the season for festive parties! And, if you have an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party coming up, I’ll be on CBS-LA today sharing 5 easy do-it-yourself ideas! Here’s a sneak peek at the tacky sweaters I’ll be sharing!

It seems that the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” theme gets more popular every year! I love that its a bit of a comedic relief from a season that can sometimes come with a lot of stress and buttoned-up holiday attire. Plus, if you decide to create one yourself, there’s no pressure to make it perfectly cute… It’s called UGLY for a reason! Another bonus to ugly sweaters? They’re inexpensive to make! You can use a lot of holiday decor and materials that are already found around your home. Or, check out your local dollar store or Michaels for affordable craft supplies!

Check out this fun holiday stocking sweater I shared on Instagram using all materials from Michaels craft stores:

Below are instructions for creating five easy ugly holiday sweaters – I even included a kids’ sweater and Hanukkah sweater! Feel free to adapt these sweaters to what’s easiest for you and what materials you may already have at home!

5 UGLY HOLIDAY SWEATER IDEAS:

Kids Christmas Tree Sweater

Your children will have lots of fun creating an ugly Christmas sweater with you, and this simple Christmas tree sweater idea is so easy for little crafters!

Materials Needed:

  • Red sweater/sweatshirt
  • Felt – green and yellow
  • Tacky Christmas decor, like mini jingle bells, bows, mini ornaments, etc.
  • Old craft supplies like mini pom poms, glitter, beads and buttons
  • Needle and thread – the thread should preferably contrast with red sweater and tree, like a bright yellow!
  • Black fabric paint
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

DIY Steps:

  1. Cut a large Christmas tree shape out of the green felt and a star out of the yellow felt. Sew onto red sweater with needle and thread. It doesn’t have to be perfect – remember, this is an “ugly” sweater!
  2. Let your child take it away with Elmer’s glue and décor items! Add glitter, bows, buttons and pom poms to the tree! Parents can help with hot glue gun for the heavier décor, like jingle bells and ornaments
  3. Use black fabric paint down the arms to create a “string” and add colorful pom poms to resemble Christmas lights.
  4. Allow to dry for 6-12 hours before wearing.

“Christmas Vacation” Tree Sweater

This sweater is perfect for fans of classic Christmas movies! Friends will get a hoot out of the fake squirrel climbing the Christmas tree, just as it terrorized the cast in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” movie.

Materials Needed:

DIY Steps:

  1. Wrap tacky tinsel garland around green sweater and hot glue into place.
  2. Wrap LED lights around garland and secure light bulbs to sweater with hot glue. Make sure your string of lights is long enough to wrap around the sweater and the battery pack can fit into your back pocket.
  3. Hot glue mini ornaments around the sweater to make it look like a Christmas tree.
  4. Hot glue a toy stuffed squirrel on the sweater. I preferred to glue it on the sweater’s shoulder.

Tacky Hanukkah Sweater

Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so this tacky Hanukkah sweater is perfect for our Jewish friends!

Materials Needed:

DIY Steps:

  • Cut a menorah out of silver glitter iron-on vinyl paper. Iron the menorah onto the sweater.
  • Cut 9 candles out of white felt and 9 flames out of yellow felt. Hot glue onto the sweater.
  • Hot glue gold sequins to the flames.
  • Stick or hot glue foam letters to spell “Happy Hanukkah” on the sweater.

Festive “Stranger Things” Sweater

Great for a Hollywood Christmas party filled with Netflix binge-watchers, this “Stranger Things” sweater feels festive with its LED lights while celebrating a favorite TV show.

Materials Needed:

DIY Steps:

  • Iron on the alphabet in three rows, as seen on the wall in “Stranger Things,” onto the shirt
  • Hot glue mini colorful LED lights above the letters to resemble the wall in “Stranger Things.”

Easy Stocking Sweater

This easy DIY sweater also makes a convenient pocket to hold your wallet, phone, keys, or better – a bottle of wine!

Materials Needed:

  • Green or red sweater
  • Sturdy stocking
  • Tacky flair, like bells, pom poms, bows, glitter
  • Elmers glue
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

DIY Steps:

  1. Hot glue a sturdy Christmas stocking to the center of the sweatshirt
  2. Use Elmers glue and hot glue to add tacky flair to the sweater, like glitter, bows and bells

Let me know if you go to an Ugly Sweater Party and what you plan to wear in the comments below! Or, connect with me on Instagram and TikTok where I share more lifestyle and family tips. Merry Christmas!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Holiday Must-Haves Featured on San Antonio Living

Holidays, Lifestyle

I’m wrapping up my second year doing lifestyle product TV segments, and I couldn’t be happier to finally be featured on a show in my home state of Texas!

I partnered with some fabulous brands to share several “holiday must-haves” on San Antonio Living which airs on San Antonio’s local NBC News affiliate (WOAI, channel 4). Watch the two segments below for ideas to make your season bright!

Holiday Must-Haves on San Antonio Living

December 14, 2022

World Vision’s Celebrity Ambassadors’ Handcrafted Gifts

By giving a handcrafted gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog, you’ll be helping vulnerable communities worldwide create lasting change for themselves and empowering artisans who receive fair-trade wages to support their families. Products featured in this segment include:

Santa Clausthaler

Santa Clausthaler will make your holidays merry and bright. Clausthaler is the pioneer in non-alcoholic beer, going back more than 40 years and this limited-edition holiday beer features Clausthaler original with cranberry and cinnamon. Serve ice cold, just as it’d be at Santa’s home at the North Pole.

I Love Ice Cream Cakes

Need the easiest, best dessert idea for the holidays? Surprise your family and friends with an Ice Cream Cake! Just go to ILoveIceCreamCakes.com to see all the cakes you can find at your local grocery store.

Holiday Must-Haves on San Antonio Living

November 23, 2022

Quilling Card Greeting Cards

Quilling Card offers Verified Fair Trade quilled greeting cards handcrafted by highly skilled artisans using the intricate paper art form of quilling.

DAX Hair Wax & Pomades, USA Made

DAX hair products have been proudly made in the USA since the 1950’s, a fitting era to introduce their wax pomades.

Current promotion: code TEX2022 will score you 20% off your order + free shipping

Jergens Shea Butter Body Lotion

Give your skin the moisture it needs with Jergens Shea Butter Lotion! It refreshes, conditions and revives dry skin, leaving radiant skin! Infused with Shea butter, this formula conditions and soothes skin, leaving a pleasant and comforting scent.

Be on the lookout for more fun lifestyle TV segments from me in a city near you in 2023!

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more lifestyle and family tips and to see where I’ll appear on TV next!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

Cooking, Holidays

I’ll never forget the year I slaved over creating a gourmet Thanksgiving feast for my family and my 2-year-old son only ate a crescent roll. The audacity! Didn’t he know that I had been Pinning recipes for weeks, woke up at the crack of dawn to properly season and dress the turkey, and my cherry chorizo stuffing is the best ever?! Of course not — he was only 2!

Despite being a bit miffed at my son’s lack of interest in our Turkey Day meal, it made me rethink how I should prepare Thanksgiving moving forward. I realized he had no idea the amount of preparation that went into Thanksgiving. He didn’t yet know the traditional foods. How could I expect him to love green bean casserole when he doesn’t even like regular green beans? Right then and there, I decided I would involve my children in preparing our Thanksgiving meal next year, and I’d introduce more kid-friendly recipes!

Below are six kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipes that the whole family will love! These recipes give kids confidence in the kitchen and encourage picky eaters to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal. These delicious recipes are so easy that both kids and parents have stress-free fun in the kitchen, plus they have the joy of indulging in their scrumptious Thanksgiving meal together.

Be sure to scroll to the end for additional Thanksgiving meal preparation tips!

6 Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes The Whole Family Will Love:

Veggie Turkey Plate with Healthy Veggie Dip

The best way to get my kids to eat veggies is to introduce them first and make it fun! A veggie plate appetizer shaped like a turkey is sure to get your kids interested! Arrange cucumbers, carrots and celery for the turkey feathers and use bell peppers to create turkey wings and face. I like to pair veggies with my favorite Healthy Veggie Dip, which is so easy to make! Go to Favorite Family Recipes for tips on how to create the veggie turkey here.

Make Ahead Creamy Mashed Potatoes

What kid doesn’t love mashed potatoes? Make this elevated version of mashed potatoes using Cacique Oaxaca Cheese, Crema Mexicana, Pork Chorizo and bacon for a side dish that the whole family will love! Cacique brand makes my favorite hispanic foods, including their high-quality, authentic Oaxaca Cheese which has a mellow, earthy flavor with a superior melt. It’s the perfect cheese to add a special spark to your favorite dishes like classic mashed potatoes. My children love helping sprinkle the shredded Cacique Oaxaca Cheese as the final touch on the casserole, and my 4-year-old is great at mashing potatoes! Another thing that’s fabulous about this mashed potatoes recipe is that you can assemble it the day before Thanksgiving, then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes when you’re ready to serve. This makes the day easier to enjoy relaxing and visiting with family instead of stressing out in the kitchen. For more information about Cacique, including mouth-watering recipes made with authentic ingredients, head to www.CaciqueFoods.com. You can find this Make Ahead Creamy Mashed Potatoes recipe here.

Stuffins

Stuffins = stuffing muffins!! My kids always love making muffins with me, so why not make stuffing muffins! These are easy for little hands to eat and perfect for dipping in gravy or topping with mashed potatoes. I also love that stuffing in muffin form makes sending home leftovers easier. Just pop one of these in a to-go bag! Now you can eat one of everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving side dishes on-the-go! These stuffins are sure to be a big hit with the whole family! Find the full recipe from Forkly here.

Cranberry Crescent Rolls

This is the easiest recipe that combines two traditional Thanksgiving sides – Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and cranberry sauce! Simply add a spoonful of cranberry sauce to your crescent roll dough and roll up as usual. Your kids will love helping you assemble these Cranberry Crescent Rolls! Our family always looks forward to a night when we serve Pillsbury Crescent Rolls with dinner, and the cranberry sauce makes this dish feel more festive. You can even serve these as an appetizer! Find the full recipe from Beauty From Imperfection blog here.

Healthier Pumpkin Pie

I have two priorities when cooking for my family: make it easy and make it healthy-ish. I’m not a dictator about removing sugar from our house, but I do try to cut back where ever I can. That’s why I love Truvia Sweet Complete Monk Fruit Sweetener to replace sugar in baking. It’s a 1:1 replacement, so no additional measuring when following your favorite recipes for cookies, cakes, brownies and pies. Speaking of pie, Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe is our go-to because, well, it’s easy as pie! My children help combine and stir the ingredients in a big bowl, then I pour it the filling into a pie crust and place in the oven. Voila! Traditional pumpkin pie without all the sugar!

Turkey Handprint Cookies

How adorable are these handprint cookies? Trace your child’s hand on card stock and cut out the handprint. Use it as a stencil as you cut handprint cookies out of sugar cookie dough. Your children will love decorating the turkey feathers with colorful chocolate covered sunflower seeds. These cookies are perfect to give to our dinner guests! Set them at each place setting for a thoughtful take-home treat! I got the idea for these Turkey Handprint Cookies from Stephanie over at Somewhat Simple. Find the full recipe here.

My Thanksgiving Meal Prep Tips:

Use the best cookware! As someone who loves to cook, I’ve learned that the quality of your cookware makes a huge difference! Le Creuset has been my favorite cookware brand for years because of its superior quality, versatility, and its beautiful! Their dishes are crafted from the fineest quality stoneware to ensure excellent heat distribution for uniform browning and even cooking with no hot spots. The dishes are finished with a beautiful glaze that is virtually nonstick for easy cleanup. This Thanksgiving, I’m using the Heritage Rectangular Casserole to make the Make Ahead Creamy Mashed Potatoes, but the dish also is perfect for making comforting casseroles, marinating meats, broiling fish and more. I love that it comes with a stoneware lid that locks in moisture and heat while baking and makes it easy to transport and serve dishes at a holiday buffet or potluck. For my pumpkin pie, I’m using Le Creuset’s Pumpkin Casserole to create a perfectly even-cooked pie, plus its so festive with its pumpkin shaped lid! My favorite Le Creuset glaze color meringue, and you’ll be happy to know the glaze is non-porous, non-reactive, scratch-resistant, and resists stains and flavor absorption! Le Creuset really is the best with its unmatched thermal resistance for temperatures ranging from -9°F to 500°F, and it’s safe for the freezer, over, microwavem broiler, dishwasher and metal utensils. These are dishes that you will use and treasure for a lifetime! Check out all their fabulous products at http://www.lecreuset.com.

Cook the day before Thanksgiving. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving Day to make your meal or else you’ll be miserable trying to balance cooking and entertaining guests. I always make my stuffing, potatoes and dessert a day or two before Thanksgiving, and save the vegetables and turkey for the actual holiday.

Enlist help! If you can get a guest to bring a dish, do it! I usually have family visiting from out-of-state for our Thanksgiving, so it can be challenging to ask them to bring a dish when they can’t cook in their hotel rooms. However, I solicit them to bring easy items, like wine or a pre-made appetizer or dessert from a gourmet grocer like Bristol Farms.

Set your table the night before. One less thing to do on Thanksgiving Day! The worst is when all the food is ready and you’re rushing to get the table settings out. I like to do a full tablescape with florals, poppers, formal napkins and china. It makes for a beautiful space for guests to take photos throughout the day, too!

What are your best recipes and tips for hosting Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments below! For more recipe ideas, parenting and lifestyle tips, follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE:  This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors. Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

How To Limit Kids’ Sugar During Halloween

Lifestyle, Thoughts

It’s getting spooky out there, folks. Ghosts and skeletons are hanging from neighbors’ trees, the seasonal decor aisle at Target is empty, and children are already donning costumes around town. The big trick-or-treat night is upon us, and if you’re like most parents, you’re likely dreading all the SUGAR that comes with Halloween night.

BoredPanda, one of the internet’s most light and fun-loving news sites covering viral content, recently reached out to me asking for tips to help parents keep their children’s snacks healthy this Halloween. As a mom of two young kids, I was delighted to share my experience on how we’ve navigated this sugary time of year.

Below is the article from BoredPanda, and you can read the full article here.

My kids favorite Spider Crackers

Tips To Limit Kids Sugar Intake During Halloween:

  1. Prepare healthy snacks with your kids – I’ve noticed my children are always more likely to eat healthy food if they help me prepare it. Kids love being little helpers in the kitchen! This way, they’re exposed to all the sensory experiences of their food prior to seeing it on their plate for the first time. They also feel really proud of what they’ve created, which encourages them to taste it. My kids especially love stirring and mashing! Guacamole is one of our favorite healthy snacks to make, because they have lots of fun mashing the avocado! We also love making healthier breads, pancakes and muffins by adding shredded zucchini to the batter.

2. Create festive healthy food – Kids are so visual! No wonder they love candy’s colorful packaging! If your healthy food looks fun, your children may think it will be fun to taste, too! Try getting creative in the kitchen with festive-looking healthy snacks, like spider crackers or fruity ghosts and pumpkins. For more ideas, I shared 6 healthy Halloween treat ideas on KTLA-TV here.

3. Sneak in veggies – In an effort to cancel out the potential increase of sugary treats during this time of year, I’m always trying to find ways to sneak in extra veggies into my kids food. Spinach and zucchini are two great vegetables that hardly have any taste when blended or cooked into food. I always add spinach to my kids’ smoothies, and I’ve recently started shredding zucchini into all breads, muffins and pancakes. Check out how I add zucchini into an easy Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix on Instagram here.

4. Make it fun and pressure-free – Hype up those fruits and veggies! Talk with your children about how healthy food is “growing food.” All young kids are so excited about growing! Eat healthy food with them! Your their best role model. And, let your kids play with their food! That’s right, I said it… Allow them to PLAY with their food! Let them make their bell pepper stick into a train or build a house out of watermelon cubes. The more they touch their food, the more likely they’ll eat it. The more your pressure them, the less likely they’ll eat it. Their little brains want to know that they’re in control of their bodies, so the more you force certain foods, the more power they’ll desire to reject it.

5. Don’t worry, it’s temporary! – Halloween is one time of year. Just because your child ate four Snickers and an unlimited amount of Skittles on one night does not mean that this is their new normal. If anything, it’s valuable for your child to participate in Halloween and learn how a sugar overdose affects their body. When the night is over, ask your child to describe how their body feels. They may complain of tummy aches, headaches, or being tired the next day. It’s a good opportunity to speak with them about how different foods affect our bodies. Instead of withholding candy from your child (which will likely make them resentful toward you), utilize the holiday as a teachable moment.

Green Goblin Smoothie Bowls blended with spinach and berries and topped with dried fruit and nuts for faces!

Do you have any tips to get kids to eat healthier? Share below in the comments!

For more easy recipes and fun ideas for the family, be sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Healthy Halloween Snack Idea: Fruit Ghosts and Pumpkins!

Cooking, Health & Wellness, Kitchen

What’s scarier than ghosts on Halloween? Kids overdosing on sugar!

A hot topic every Halloween season is how to limit our kids’ candy intake. That’s why I love getting creative in the kitchen to make healthy food fun! For example: Cutie Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts! These fruity treats are so easy to make and fun to eat! They’re the best sweet and spooky after-school snack, or they’ll look fabulous on your table at your Halloween party!

Cutie Pumpkins: Peel clementines and cut celery into small sticks. Have kids add the celery sticks to clementines as stems to make pumpkins!

Banana Ghosts: Peel bananas and cut in half. Have your children add mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth to create ghosts!

If you’re looking for more healthy Halloween snack ideas you can make with your kids, check out my segment that aired on KTLA-TV last year, below, or read my blog post here.

Watch me share healthy Halloween snacks on KTLA in Los Angeles!

Use these tools to create a fun fruit platter for your Halloween party:

 For more easy recipes and fun ideas for the family, be sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Easy Halloween Snack Idea for Kids: Healthy Spider Crackers!

cooking, Cooking, Health & Wellness, Kitchen

I shared these easy Spider Crackers on KTLA-TV last year, along with some other healthy Halloween treats for kids, and they were such a hit that I had to post them on my blog again this year!

Easy, festive and healthy Spider Crackers!

I love these Spider Crackers because:

(1) They’re easy! You only need 4 ingredients, and most of them you probably already have in your pantry!

(2) They’re customizable. Can’t take nut butter to school? Make these with sunflower seed butter or cream cheese instead! Don’t like raisins? Try currants or mini chocolate chips! Want a healthier cracker? Opt for whole wheat instead of regular Ritz crackers. Any round cracker of your choice will do!

(3) Halloween is often the kickoff to a holiday season filled with non-stop sugar, so it’s nice to create a savory festive treat for a healthy change! As a parent, I really try to limit our kids’ sugar intake where we can this time of year!

(4) They’re festive and versatile! Make these with your kids for an after-school snack, drop them in lunchboxes, or serve them at the class Halloween party!

(5) Your kids will love making these with you!

If you’re looking for more healthy Halloween snack ideas you can make with your kids, check out my segment that aired on KTLA-TV last year, below, or read my blog post here.

Watch me share these Spider Crackers along with other healthy Halloween snack ideas on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles!

Spider Crackers Recipe

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Spread nut butter, seed butter, or cream cheese on two crackers thick enough to hold pretzels
  2. Break 4 pretzels in half
  3. Place the 8 half pretzel sticks around one cracker to resemble spider legs
  4. Top the cracker with the second cracker to secure the legs and make a sandwich
  5. Dip 2 dried fruit pieces in the nut butter or cream cheese and stick them to the top of the spider cracker sandwich to resemble eyes
  6. Enjoy! Store in an airtight container for up to a week
I used regular peanut butter and raisins for this Spider Cracker, but you could also try cream cheese and mini chocolate chips!

Let me know if you try these Spider Crackers and what ingredients combination you choose to use! For more easy recipes and fun ideas for the family, be sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Best Cozy Weather Crock Pot Recipes

Cooking, Kitchen, Lifestyle
Ready to put together my favorite Tuscan Chicken from Easy Family Recipes

While it doesn’t feel much like fall weather in Southern California yet, my autumn-loving bones tell me a leaf is falling somewhere in the Northeast and its time for all things cozy!

Cozy Shackets…

Cozy Blankets…

Cozy Shoes…

And the BEST…

COZY COOKING WITH THE CROCK POT!!!

My Crock Pot Story

I’ve been a fan of the Crock Pot ever since I was a little girl helping my mom make dinner for our family. Growing up in the South, I was always impressed by the cook-and-carry crock pots that made appearances at tailgates, church picnics and neighborhood potlucks. I thought those ladies were smart cookies. Not only did they serve delicious meals, they could easily transport their yummy food and keep it warm without dirtying another dish!

Fast forward 20 years to when I moved in with my boyfriend, who’s now my husband. My mother often told me the Southern women’s classic saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” and while that’s probably viewed as outdated now, I took no chances and started cooking us lots of meals. When stocking our new apartment’s kitchen with cooking tools, the Crock Pot was one of the very first appliances we purchased because it’s so versatile and can create complete meals in one pot! You don’t need a full set of pans when you have a Crock Pot! Plus, the single pot makes cleanup a breeze!

After we got our Crock Pot, I remember the first dinner request my boyfriend (now husband) had was beef pot roast. I had conflicting emotions over this request. On one end, I was excited to make my first meal in our brand-new Crock Pot. Beef pot roast was meal that my mother made us every Sunday after church for YEARS. On the other end, I dreaded eating the meal that my mother made for YEARS! While my mother made a delicious beef pot roast when I was a child, I had sworn off that comforting beefy goodness for the rest of my life! There’s just some things you can never eat again after having it over and over and over again! Alas, I made the pot roast… and he LOVED it! It made so much food for the two of us that we had dinner leftovers the next night, and he took the rest of the pot roast to work for lunch for a week! And, I have to admit, it tasted GOOD! Despite my reluctance to make the pot roast, I was really pleased with how it turned out. Plus, it felt really good making a meal for someone I loved and cared about. A meal that made him so happy! I was hooked on this Crock Pot! And my boyfriend was hooked on me! We married three years later.

Since that first Crock Pot meal in 2013, I’ve used my slow cooker hundreds of times. I love the “dump it and forget it” aspect of the Crock Pot. When I was busy working a strenuous job with a long commute, I’d put all my ingredients in the Crock Pot before leaving for work and adored coming home to my kitchen smelling of a delicious prepared meal. No one wants to cook after a dreadfully long day, and the Crock Pot was GOLD for that time of my life! Then, when I was pregnant with my second child, I made several crock pot freezer meals to have on hand those first few weeks with the new baby so I could pull together delicious, easy dinners with little effort. Nowadays, I use the Crock Pot for busy weeknight meals for our family or when I’m craving one of my favorite slow cooker recipes.

Speaking of my favorite slow cooker recipes, I’ve compiled my top 10 Crock Pot recipes below! These recipes are tried and true – easy to pull together and delicious! Perfect for busy weeknights or for when you simply want a tasty low-effort meal!

Top 10 Favorite Crock Pot Recipes:

Chicken Crock Pot Recipes:

Cream Cheese Crack Chicken Chili (Plain Chicken) – There’s a reason this recipe is called “Crack” Chili — it is so addicting! Creamy cheese, juicy chicken, and salty bacon make this recipe irresistible, and the subtle heat from the diced tomatoes and green chilies kicks this flavor up a notch! This is one of my family’s favorite meals and probably the Crock Pot recipe I make the most, mostly because the kids love it, too! Grab the full recipe from Plain Chicken here.

Honey Garlic Chicken (Family Food On The Table) – The best Crock Pot meals are the ones where you don’t have to do anything but dump it and forget it! No chopping, no searing of meat beforehand, no additional ingredients halfway through cooking. This Honey Garlic Chicken recipe is just that! Plus, it’s only five ingredients! I love to serve this over Asian rice and vegetables then top with green onions and red pepper flakes!

Tuscan Chicken (Easy Family Recipes) – This recipe is easy, delicious and loaded with veggies! Sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, spinach and diced onions make this Tuscan Chicken a healthy Italian favorite. Serve over mashed potatoes, cauliflower rice or your favorite pasta to make a complete hearty meal. This is another recipe that’s on repeat at our home because it feels like a different meal every time I switch up the sides. I also like to use the leftovers in a salad, wrap or sandwich!

Chicken Burrito Bowls (The Kitchn) – We do “Taco Tuesday” every week at our house, and while I adore tacos, I need to change it up sometimes. That’s when I look for other Mexican-inspired recipes like this easy Chicken Burrito Bowl from one of my favorite foodies sites The Kitchn. I love creating a build-your-own station for the family to create their perfect bowl with their choice of a variety of toppings, like cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, jalapeños, chives, etc. I collect hot sauce (seriously!), so this is my chance to sample one of my many spicy sauces!

Asian Peanut Chicken (Sweet Peas and Saffron) – This was one of the recipes I made and freezed for an easy dinner when my second baby was born! I love this Asian Peanut Chicken’s flavorful sauce, and the sweet potatoes in this dish make it a warm hearty meal.

Pork Crock Pot Recipes:

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Sauce (The Recipe Rebel) – I love to serve this Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Sauce during the holidays because it looks and tastes like a fancy recipe, but in reality it’s SO EASY! Sever over mashed potatoes with a side of veggies or a salad and you’re dinner guests will be so impressed!

Baby Back Ribs (Spend With Pennies) – This baby back ribs recipe is one of my husband’s most favorite meals! The ribs come out of the Crock Pot fall-off-the-bone delicious! This recipe calls for creating your own rib sauce with BBQ sauce, chili sauce and ketchup, but I’ve tried only using our favorite BBQ sauce instead and it’s turned out great!

Tacos Al Pastor (Gimme Some Oven) – This taco meat is so juicy and delicious, you’ll think its from an authentic upscale Mexican restaurant! This Tacos Al Pastor recipe takes a bit more prep work at the beginning with chopping onions and pineapple and blending the sauce ingredients in a food processor, but I promise you its worth it! I like to use a big pork shoulder so we can eat on it all week making tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches and salads.

Beef Crock Pot Recipes:

Beef Gyros (365 Days of Crock Pot) – Greek food is one of my favorites, and this Beef Gyros recipe is so tasty and so easy! This includes an additional recipe for tzatziki sauce, but I like to make dinner even easier by purchasing pre-made tzatziki at the store. Serve beef in pita folds or with roasted Mediterranean vegetables!

Beef Pot Roast (Hamilton Beach) – This is the first recipe I ever made in my Crock Pot — the same recipe I mention at the top of this blog post that I could credit for turning my boyfriend into my husband! It’s so easy but so flavorful! Perfect for a warm and cozy meal in winter or a perfect Sunday family supper.

I hope my list of favorite Crock Pot recipes gives you inspiration for your next family meal! Let me know which of these recipes you want to try in the comments below! For more recipe ideas, parenting and lifestyle tips, follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

5 Tips to Keep Your Child Healthier This School Year

Health & Wellness

We’re back to school, and parents might already be experiencing what I call the “back-to-school plague” where your child has picked up a cough, some extra sniffles, or maybe even conjunctivitis (a.k.a. pink eye) like we recently experienced with our preschooler. With all the exposure to new people, places, and germs, our kids’ little immune systems take quite the beating the first few weeks of school!

While it may seem inevitable that your child will get sick the first few weeks of school, there are proven ways to help combat the “plague!” I shared five tips to keep your child healthy this school year on KTLA Morning News with Anchor Lu Parker – watch below!

Here are the 5 products I featured on KTLA Morning News about keeping kids healthy this school year:

1. Teach proper hand washing with SoaPen

SoaPen is a hand soap pen for kids (that easily fits into a backpack or lunchbox) that encourages kids to wash their hands by coloring all over them! How genius is that?! When SoaPen co-founders learned that 50% of infectious diseases that lead to fatalities among kids under 5 can be avoided by the simple act of washing hands with soap, the duo sprung into action to create a solution. Simply have your children use the SoaPen to color red, blue or green all over their hands to apply the soap. I love this, because kids can easily see where they’re placing the soap and if they’ve missed a spot. The color takes at least 30 seconds to wash off, so it’s the perfect tool to help kids create proper hand washing habits. Don’t worry – the color won’t stain clothes! You can find SoaPen in a 3-pack on Amazon here.

2. Stay healthy and hydrated on-the-go with LARQ PureVis Water Bottle

Drinking enough water helps prevent infections, delivers nutrients to cells, and boosts brain function – just a few of the many important reasons for your little one to stay hydrated! But, have you ever been concerned about the quality of water your child is drinking? Look no further than LARQ PureVis water bottle, which is the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle and purification system! You no longer have to worry about what’s in the water your child is drinking when they’re filling up their bottle from the hallway water fountain. Every LARQ Bottle utilizes PureVisTM purification technology to eradicate up to 99.9999% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Proprietary UV-C LED technology uses 270-275 nanometer of UV-C light to neutralize germs, triggering a photochemical reaction that destroys their DNA. Powerful PureVis™ technology activates at the touch of a button and cleans water in 60 seconds. The water bottle also self cleans every 2 hours to eliminate harmful bacteria such as E. Coli. This means no more stinky bottles! I hate when my other reusable water bottles get funky. I’ll clean them over and over again, and they still easily get yucky! Thankfully, the LARQ PureVis self-cleaning system keeps yuck away!

I also love that LARQ’s full charge lasts up to a month. Who needs another thing to charge every day, right?! Other great qualities are that the LARQ Bottle features double insulated walls, keeping it hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours. It’s chicly powder coated in five subtle colors, so it looks good at school, at the office, on a hike, or wherever your travels take you. Grab one for your child and one for you here.

3. Destroy air pollutants with Molekule Air Pro and Molekule Air Mini+ Purifiers

Did you know that indoor air quality can sometimes be worse than outdoors? That’s so alarming to me, especially when we spend so much of our time indoors! When researching a solution to purify our home’s air, I found Molekule products, which have been FDA cleared for medical use, including in the home, for the destruction of viruses and bacteria in particular. Molekule has been proven in lab settings to destroy 99% of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 1 hour! Also, peer-reviewed testing has demonstrated Molekule’s ability to inactivate the H1N1 flu virus by up to 99.99% in single-pass experiments. This is PHENOMENAL! Molekule sets the standard for the air purifying industry!

Molekule’s purifiers work by using Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO; sounds like Pee-Koh) technology. PECO uses oxidation to break down pollutants at the molecular level, which can destroy chemicals like VOCs, ozone, mold, viruses, bacteria and more. PECO — the technology inside all Molekule air purifiers — was developed over the past two and a half decades as a unique and innovative way to mitigate indoor air pollution. Instead of trapping organic pollutants within the unit like other air purifiers, PECO destroys them at the chemical level.

For large spaces in our home, the Molekule Air Pro cleans up to 1,000 square feet. Air Pro is equipped with a robust suite of sensors that destroys pollutants including viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and mold, while also detecting relative humidity, and CO2. We also can track air quality trends with a retroactive view into the air quality of the space. Called Expanded Air History, this feature gives Air Pro users the ability to see which pollutants are affecting the indoor air quality over the past day, week, or month.

For smaller spaces in our home, like the children’s bedrooms, the Molekule Air Mini+ cleans up to 250 square feet. I love that it is lightweight and easy to carry from room to room. Air Mini+ has a particulate matter sensor designed to detect particles in the air like dust, dander, VOCs, mold, bacteria and viruses. It also is equipped with Auto Protect mode, which automatically adjusts the device’s fan speed based on the particulate matter it senses. With Auto Protect Mode, Air Mini+ responds in real-time to reduce the amount of particles in the air like pollen and dust, while also capturing and destroying other indoor air pollutants. This compliments what the PECO filter already provides the device, ensuring the capture and destruction of the widest range of pollutants in the air. 

I honestly didn’t think too much about indoor air quality until I had children and learned research shows that children breathe more pollutants than adults per body weight, meaning they’re more susceptible to health complications from pollutants, like mold in classrooms and gasses from school buses. Similarly, the EPA notes that almost one in 13 children suffers from asthma, one of the leading causes of student absences. Poor indoor air quality affects everyone, but especially children – making Molekule air purifiers an important line of defense! Find Molekule air purifiers here.

4. Reduce stress and anxiety with Zenimal Kids guided meditation audio player

According to a report by the American Psychological Association, long-term stress weakens the responses of our immune system. Our kids are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at school and sports, and repeated stress could really affect their bodies’ ability to fight off infections. Help your child destress with Zenimal Kids guided meditation audio player. My favorite thing about this device is that it is screen free! There is no app, subscription, or pesky pairing to manage which gives kids full autonomy over their meditation practice. It was designed by a mom who wanted her own children to have something they could control to build their wellness skills.

From A to Zen, the portable audio player comes with 9 meditation tracks for sleep, relaxation, breathing, creativity, stillness, empathy, gratitude, and feelings, ranging from 3-15 minutes long. Many children may find that they love using their Zenimal as a sleep aid. Simply turn on one of the peaceful tracks and your child will fall asleep the all-natural way, calmed and peaceful, without the use of medications or melatonin. Kids can also use it at school during challenging times since the device has a headphone jack. It’s also a great tool for in the car or school bus on the way to school to center the mind and body first thing in the morning. The rechargeable battery lasts 7 hours and the food-grade silicone cover is removable and washable. If you’re like me and want one of these Zenimals for yourself, the brand also makes a version for teens and adults, called Zenimal+. I’ve always thought that meditation apps on my phone ruined the idea of a peaceful meditation practice (personally, I want to put my phone AWAY when I’m trying to relax and reconnect), so I love that I finally have a screen-free tool to guide me in calming my mind! Zenimal Kids is great for children ages 5-12, and Zenimal+ is perfect for ages 13 to adults.

5. Get quality sleep with the adjustable MLILY JAMA Pillow

According to an article from Mayo Clinic, studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. Help your child get their best sleep possible with the MLILY JAMA Pillow, an adjustable foam pillow specially designed for children and their growing bodies, ergonomically shaped and sized for kids ages 3+. Its unique feature includes three foam layers individually wrapped – two flat layers to adjust the height as their body grows and one top layer contoured to support the head and neck for proper spinal alignment. The modal fabric is soft, breathable, hypoallergenic and made from 100% biodegradable material derived from beech tree pulp. The removable cover is machine washable and features a hidden zipper design that conceals sharp edges. Plus, your kids will love the 90s aesthetic and bright purple and teal colors!

I love a product that has a good give-back component, and MLILY gives a portion of proceeds from every JAMA sold to Special Spaces, a not-for-profit organization that creates dream bedroom makeovers for children ages 2-19 who have cancer. MLILY JAMA pillows are available to purchase here.

Which of these products would you like to try to help keep your kids healthy this school year? Do you have any other favorite products to boost your child’s immune system I should know about? Let me know by commenting below!

I often share top products and easy recipes for young families that help make their lives simpler and healthier, so be sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for my latest posts!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars: Nut-Free and Gluten-Free!

Cooking, Kitchen, Lifestyle

Chewy chocolate chip granola bars were one of my favorite snacks growing up, and now it’s one of my children’s favorite foods!

The current back-to-school season brings me so much nostalgia for these nourishing granola bars, as I vividly remember reaching for these bars in between school and sports practice or being excited when I found one in my lunchbox packed by my mother.

Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars taste better than the packaged name-brand bars!

As I got older, I phased out on snacking on them and eating most pre-packaged snacks in general for the health benefits of eating more whole foods.

When I became a mom, my kids starting requesting for me to buy more granola bars at the grocery store. I was happy to see them delight in the same snack that I loved when I was a kid, but I couldn’t help but be curious about the ingredients in them. I was shocked to see that our favorite chocolate chip granola bars have around 26 ingredients listed on the wrapper, including tons of processed ingredients like sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sorbitol, soybean oil and “natural flavor” (whatever that is!).

Determined to create my own homemade version of our favorite chewy chocolate chip granola bars, I found this recipe from Love and Lemons that uses only seven simple ingredients! I took it a step further and made this recipe with nut-free ingredients, so my kids can easily take them to school!

Not only do my kids love these granola bars, my husband and I enjoy snacking on them, too! I actually think they taste better than the brand-name packaged bars! They’re so chewy and naturally sweet! These bars have become our easy go-to for after-school snacks and quick breakfasts when we’re short on time!

Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Scroll to the bottom of the page for this easy Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars recipe!

What You Need to Make Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Tools & Equipment:

  • One 8×8 baking pan or pyrex dish – You’ll use this baking pan or dish to set and cool the granola bars in the fridge. A baking pan is preferred, but I’ve used pyrex dishes, too. If you use a pyrex dish, the granola bar mix may not all lay flat and the edges may turn up.
  • One large mixing bowl – I used my largest glass mixing bowl to stir all the ingredients together.
  • Measuring cups – Specifically, you’ll need 1 cup (250 ml), 1/2 cup (125 ml), 1/3 cup (80 ml), 1 Tbsp (15 ml) and 1 Tsp (5 ml).
  • Parchment Paper – I cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit the size of my 8×8 baking pan for setting and cooling the granola bars.
  • Cling wrap – Cover the granola bars as they cool with Glad Press’N Seal Wrap. You can also use the cling wrap to cover the granola bars to keep them fresh for the week. I’m obsessed with Glad Press’N Seal and use it in my kitchen all the time.
Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are made with only 7 simple ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • Natural Sunflower Seed Butter – I didn’t discover sunflower seed butter until I had to find an alternative for peanut butter for my son’s PB&J sandwiches for school. Most schools these days are nut-free. My son is such a picky eater and basically only eat PB&J sandwiches, so I was very nervous about whether he’d like the new seed butter. I’m happy to report that this SunButter sunflower seed butter is a hit! He’s never mentioned it tasting any different compared to regular peanut butter. In fact, I think he likes it more than peanut butter! For this recipe, make sure you use the natural sunflower seed butter because it’s more runny. The runnier the seed butter, the easier it will be to mix!
  • Honey – Almost any honey will do, but I prefer organic, raw and unfiltered for health benefits. Target’s Good & Gather Honey is good.
  • Vanilla Extract – This is a staple in my kitchen, as I use it for so many recipes! Rodelle Pure Vanilla Extract is a great, sustainable brand with only 3 ingredients and no sugar.
  • Sea Salt – Another easy staple in my kitchen! Can’t go wrong with classic Morton’s Sea Salt.
  • Rolled Oats – I discovered Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Organic Rolled Oats after I had children and started making more oatmeal, muffins and cookies from scratch. There’s no better brand! I’ve even started mixing them in smoothies to add more nutrients to my kids’ diet!
  • Mini Chocolate ChipsEnjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips are the best to use if you’re concerned about nut and gluten allergies. My kids love them, so I’ll sneak a couple plain ones in their lunchboxes for a sweet treat.
  • Pepitas or Pumpkin Seeds – Pepitas are a type of pumpkin seed that I love tossing in salads, smoothies and granola. These Target brand pumpkin seeds are delicious and nut-free, so they’re school-friendly! I also like to buy the raw pepitas in bulk at Whole Foods, which would work perfectly for this recipe.

How to Make Nut-Free, Gluten Free Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

With the appropriate kitchen tools and ingredients on-hand, any novice chef can make these simple homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars! Here’s what to do:

  1. Prep your pan: Line your baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Stir wet ingredients: Combine the seed butter, vanilla extract, honey and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir very well!
  3. Mix dry ingredients: Fold in the rolled oats, mini chocolate chips and pepitas. The mixture will appear very dry, but keep stirring until it’s well combined.
  4. Make the bars: Scoop the mix into the parchment-lined dish and firmly press to the sides of the pan. Add another piece of parchment paper on top of the mixture and use the back of a large measuring cup to continue to flatten the top of the bars.
  5. Chill the bars: Cover the bars with cling wrap or foil, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for one hour. It’s very important to let the bars fully chill for at least one hour; otherwise, they won’t stick together!
  6. Enjoy: Remove bars from the refrigerator, slice into bars, and enjoy! Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to snack on these bars all week!
This is what the granola bar mixture will look like before adding to the pan!

Tips and Suggestions for Better Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

These homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are already so easy to make, but here’s some tips to make whipping up a batch of these bars even easier:

  1. Use natural sunflower seed butter – The natural butters are usually the runniest, which will make stirring so much easier!
  2. Don’t cut the chill time short – I know you’re eager to taste these yummy treats, but please keep them in the refrigerator at least for one hour so you’re able to properly slice the bars without crumbling apart.
  3. Store in fridge or freezer – Because these bars are made with simple, natural ingredients, they need to be kept in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh and from crumbling. I like to store them in an airtight container separated by parchment paper so they don’t stick together. You can eat them right out of the fridge. If you’re packing them for school, it’s best to add a cool pack in the lunchbox. If you’re storing them in the freezer, allow them to thaw for about 20-30 minutes before eating. The bars will keep for one week in the fridge and two months in the freezer.
  4. Only use mini chips – Regular sized chocolate chips are too large for the mixture to stick together. If you can’t find mini chocolate chips at the store, cut the regular sized chips into smaller pieces.
  5. Try other nut butters – If you’re concerned with allergies or prefer nut butters, you don’t have to use sunflower seed butter! This original recipe from Love & Lemons is made with natural peanut butter, and it’s very delicious!
  6. Switch up your mix-ins – We keep it simple with mini chocolate chips and pepitas, but feel free to swap in your favorite ingredients! Raisins, dried currants, dried cranberries, crushed peanuts or crushed almonds are really great options! For a sweet swap, trade the mini chocolate chips for mini white chocolate or dark chocolate chips, or try peanut butter chips! Yum!

Below is the simplest recipe for Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars! Don’t forget to save this recipe to Pinterest!

Recipe: Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (Nut-Free and Gluten-Free)

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Line 8×8 baking pan or pyrex dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter, honey, vanilla extract and salt.
  3. Mix in the rolled oats, mini chocolate chips and pepitas. Stir until well combined.
  4. Press mixture into baking pan. Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of mixture and use a large measuring cup to press the mixture firmly to the pan and flatten. Cover pan with foil or cling wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  5. Remove from fridge, slice into bars and enjoy! Store bars in refrigerator for one week or freezer for two months.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know if you tried other mix-ins, like crushed peanuts, raisins or white chocolate, too!

For more easy recipes and lifestyle tips, be sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

XO Maggie

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