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.

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

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.

Tips for Last-Minute July 4th Entertaining

Holidays, Lifestyle

Even if you love entertaining, last-minute parties can stress out even the most seasoned hostess. Believe me, I’ve been there!

This is how it typically goes…

We’re days away from a holiday, a weekend, or some other fun reason to celebrate. While being so busy in our day-to-day grind, my husband and I realize we don’t have much plans to celebrate but get an itch for some extra fun. We take a day to chat with friends and realize others are in the same boat. We decide last-minute to host a party at our home. Sometimes the party is small, but other times, we’ve had 30+ people come to our house! No matter the size, we’re always scrambling last-minute to make the party a success! After doing this a few times, I’ve found the perfect combination of retailers to help with hosting a fabulous last-minute bash: Bristol Farms, Michaels and Target! These are my trusty go-to’s for food, drinks, decor and entertainment to keep you sane and your guests happy! Incorporate these retailers with a few no-fail hosting tips (mentioned below), and your short-notice soiree is sure to be a hit!

As July 4th is just a couple days away, I have outlined all the tips you need to host a star-spangled Independence Day celebration on short notice with the help of Bristol Farms, Michaels and Target, below! I also secured a couple batch cocktail recipes from the lead bartender at Hotel Amarano, Burbank’s chicest hotel, to make serving drinks a tasty breeze!

But, first, let’s go over my top tips to make hosting a last-minute party a success…

Tips for Hosting a Party Last-Minute:

Keep It Simple! – A last-minute party is not the time to try that new recipe you pinned or get fancy in the kitchen. Cook something you know. When in doubt, serve what you would normally be serving to your family but just zhuzh it up a bit with presentation, dipping sauces, additional sides, etc. For example, we were hosting a brunch party and our family normally eats eggs and bacon on the weekends. I made an egg-and-bacon casserole with different salsas on the side and served some high-end pre-made pastries and fruit on the side. So easy, yet so crowd-pleasing!

Presentation is Everything – Nice platters and dishes immediately elevate a party. Beautiful presentation gives off the impression that you’ve been planning your party for days — even if you simply take store-bought food out of the plastic containers and add it to porcelain platters! Elevate your drinks, too! Simply adding sliced lemons and limes to a pitcher of water easily adds a sophisticated vibe.

Shop Your Home – Before you rush out to the store to search for items that fit your party’s purpose or theme, first, take a look around your home to see what can be easily repurposed. For example, if you’re hosting a July 4th party, pull out the red napkins from Christmas and tie a white and blue ribbon around them for your table setting. Walk around your garden to pull flowers and greenery that could look beautiful in a vase or scattered throughout your table. Do you have a mini chalkboard, felt letter board, or other type of signage? Add a festive message, like “Home of the Brave” or “God Bless America” for a July 4th party, and you immediately have party decor!

Enlist Help – Last-minute parties should never be done alone! If a guest offers to help, take it! Ask them to bring an appetizer, dessert, or ice. It’s a fact that a party can never have too much ice. That seems to be the first thing that always goes! Tap a close friend to show up early to help set up. Don’t let it all fall on you. You’ll be surprised how many people truly want to help!

How to Host a Last-Minute July 4th Party

Food & Dessert: Bristol Farms Ready-to-Go Meats & Sides

Thank goodness for Bristol Farms, California’s gourmet grocer, to elevate any party with their easy catering and pre-made deli to-go options. For July 4th, they have a large variety of ready-to-go meats that are perfect for a cookout. Take the Bristol Farms Big Time Tri-Tip, for example… marinated for 6 hours and cooked to perfection. If you ask any of the Bristol Farms butchers, they will tell you that the tri-tip is their favorite cut of beef. This USDA Choice cut is part steak, part roast, and totally delicious – with just the right amount of marbling for maximum tenderness. Your guests will be so impressed! And, there’s the Smoked Baby Back Ribs — my personal favorite! They are fall-off-the-bone delicious! Bristol Farms helps round out your BBQ with all their gourmet ready-made sides, too, like Grilled Summer Corn Salad, Spinach Pasta Salad and classic Potato Salad.

If you’re in the mood to grill, there’s nothing more patriotic than the classic July 4th burger cookout, and let me tell you… Bristol Farms kills it in the burger patty game!! Not only do they have the most high-quality classic burger patties made with all-natural Choice ground sirloin that they grind daily, they also offer impressive STUFFED patties that you can easily pick-up and take home to grill, like a Bacon Cheddar Burger, Black and Bleu Burger and Black Bean Veggie Burger. My favorite way to elevate burger cookout is to offer a “DIY Burger Bar.” Simply offer several types of patties and set-out some really cool fixings, like caramelized onions, hummus, bleu cheese, gourmet pickles, etc. You also have to offer the classic mustard and ketchup, of course.

Finish your meal with an adorably festive ready-made dessert from Bristol Farms. Not only do these desserts taste divine, they are the perfect patriotic piece on your July 4th tablescape! On the July 4th holiday, you’ll be able to pick up the Tiered Patriotic Cake, Patriotic White Cake, and Red, White, Blue Star Pie!

July 4th Desserts from Bristol Farms

Drinks: Batch Cocktail Recipes from Hotel Amarano & Ashland Hard Seltzer

The key to hosting a successful last-minute party is great drinks. When it comes to cocktails, I prefer to serve a couple batch cocktails in a pitcher. This way, no one is playing bartender and it keeps the mess at a minimum. When planning my July 4th cocktails this year, I tapped Norm Downs, the lead bartender at Hotel Amarano, to give me some tried-and-true crowd-pleasing recipes. For some background, Hotel Amarano is the most upscale hotel in Burbank and has long been known as a popular haunt for entertainment industry insiders. The hotel recently underwent a major renovation and has the chicest vibe. You don’t have to be a guest to visit. Locals love to hang out at FYC Bar + Kitchen for the relaxed yet glamorous atmosphere and consistently great food and cocktails.

FYC Bar + Kitchen at Hotel Amarano | Photo Source: Hotel Amarano

Here’s the two tastiest summertime drinks Hotel Amarano’s lead bartender suggested to make in pitchers to serve to July 4th party guests:

Summertime Cucumber Basil Tom Collins (makes about 8 servings)

Photo Source: Reddit.com

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups Hendrix gin
  • 1.5 cups sweet and sour
  • 3 cups club soda
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 bunch basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Fill a 90 oz. pitcher with ice and add sliced cucumber and basil.
  2. Pour gin, sweet and sour, and club soda into pitcher and stir.
  3. To serve, pour into a glass filled with ice and garnish with a cucumber slice.

Classic Margarita Pitcher (makes about 10 servings)

Photo Source: Liquor.com

Norm tells me he prefers Hornitos Plata when making margaritas, and I completely agree! It’s inexpensive and a good tequila for mixing. However, feel free to use any tequila you wish!

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. tequila
  • 5 oz. triple sec
  • 15 oz. Bristol Farms Housemade Margarita Mix

Directions:

  1. Pour tequila, triple sec and margarita mix into a large pitcher and stir.
  2. To serve, salt the rim of a chilled glass (optional). Pour margarita over ice and garnish with lime.

Another festive pitcher cocktail that’s perfect for July 4th is my Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz. It’s so easy to put together and the red and blue berries make it a very patriotic sipper.

If you want to keep drinks extra simple, all you have to do is serve your favorite selection of beer, wine and/or seltzer. For my party guests, I’m obsessed with Ashland Hard Seltzer! It’s made right here in California and crafted with all-natural ingredients for outstanding taste and purity. Ashland Hard Seltzer is 99 calories, 5% alcohol with no sugar, no fat, zero carbs, malt-free and gluten free. It’s variety pack includes several fun flavors for any summer BBQ, like watermelon, blackberry lemonade, mango strawberry and pineapple. There’s even a special edition Bellinger Bomb, a collaboration with Cody Bellinger from the Dodgers, that’s reminiscent of the Bomb Pop popsicle -– the can is red, white and blue, so it’s perfect for July 4th! Ashland Hard Seltzer is available almost everywhere you buy alcohol including Ralphs, Target, Sprouts, Total Wine and more.

Decorations: Michaels

I’ve been going to Michaels for as long as I can remember, and I’m always perusing the store’s aisles for upcoming parties, decor, crafts, children’s activities, and gifts! When it comes to prepping for any celebration, Michaels is my first stop!

For July 4th, Michaels has the best selection of Independence Day decor with their exclusive red, white and blue décor collection, Lady Liberty​. This year, I scored platters, plates, buckets, tabletop decor, and so much more to make our July 4th party extra festive!

If you want to get creative, they have so many fun and easy craft ideas on their website and app! My kids and I created these simple craft stick American flags, which can add flare to a tablescape or look cute in a flower pot. I love shopping their floral department and getting creative with new ways to make holiday decor. Check out my “MOM” sign I made for Mother’s Day in my KTLA TV segment here.

One amazing and admirable thing to note about Michaels — If you’re military, you get 15% off your entire purchase! This discount is available all year long — not just on July 4th!

Entertainment: Target Sun Squad Backyard Games & Activities

Would I be a “modern mom” without recommending something from Target?! While perusing my multi-week pit-stop, AKA Target, a couple years ago, I discovered their amazing in-house brand Sun Squad. This brand has EVERYTHING for a fun summer outdoors with your friends and family at an affordable price. Jump over to Target right now to explore what can make your last-minute July 4th bash a fun time for guests of all ages. If you have young children attending, grab these large Bubble Wands – every little one LOVES bubbles! A great game for the whole family is the Giant Tumbling Tower or Giant Connect Four. If you have a pool, the Inflatable Cornhole is a fun twist on the classic lawn game. They seriously have everything — lawn games, beach towels and mats, pool floats and rafts, water and beach toys, and more! You’ll use your Sun Squad gear all summer long! You also can take advantage of Target’s convenient same-day services like Drive Up, Order Pickup and Same-Day Delivery with Shipt. Target makes it so easy to prep for a last-minute party!

If you like these ideas, be sure to tune into KTLA-5 Morning News on the morning of July 4th at 11:45 a.m. to see me share more ways to host a last-minute July 4th celebration! The segment also will be posted online at KTLA.com!

If you’re looking for more July 4th party ideas, check out these related posts, linked below!

  • Easy July 4th Trifle – This dessert is so easy, it’s scary! Perfect for a last-minute party or if you simply hate to bake!
  • July 4th Fruit Skewers – The cutest little treat that your kids will have so much fun making with you!
  • Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz – An easy, festive cocktail that will not only taste great but will look beautiful on your party table!

The Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz is one of my favorite party cocktails! Here’s a little how-to video:

How to make Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz!

Do you have any great last-minute hosting tips? What are your plans for July 4th? I hope you’ll share in the comments below! For more entertaining and family-friendly ideas, follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

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.