Cooking with Kids

I had one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks mom moments this week. You know, the kind that makes you wish you could freeze time. That moment when you look at your kids and think ‘They are growing up so fast! Make it stop!”

My girls were helping make breakfast before school. Breakfast at our house most school mornings consists of a Shaklee 180 smoothie or eggs. This morning, Riley made the smoothie,

brooke riley smoothie    and Reagan made the eggs.   brooke reagan eggs

As they stood at the kitchen counter, braver than I ever was at that age, it hit me just how far they’ve come, how far I’ve come. I thought about the path of my life and the choices I decided to make to improve our lives that were really uncomfortable in the beginning.

Most of you all know that I used to be paralyzed in the kitchen! (You can read my whole story here)

But where I was the weakest, the Lord truly showed His strength in me! It wasn’t easy or fun at first, but I powered through FOR my health and my family! The fact that I have recipe books, teach cooking and nutrition and enjoy making meals today is truly a miracle from the Lord up above!

I love seeing my girls taking ownership of a healthy meal. I have found if you get your kids in the kitchen with you, they are more likely to eat what they make. Plus it’s a natural way to introduce new foods. They won’t like everything but at least, they’ll try it.

My girls helped me make Happy Tummy Lasagna earlier in the week. It’s an easy recipe to try with kids. It’s filled with a hearty grass-fed beef and tomato sauce but it uses zucchini instead of traditional pasta.   

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Look at Reagan using the mandolin to cut the zucchini ‘noodles’.  

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That white dome is a guard so she doesn’t cut herself. Safety is especially important when your kids are in the kitchen. Make sure you show them how all the equipment works. You might need frequent reminders at first about what they can and can’t touch. 

It was so fun watching the two of them recreate one of my most popular recipes.FullSizeRender (37)

Then they started getting really silly and acting like they were doing a cooking show. I just had to grab my phone.

I had to laugh because they were talking to the camera like they’ve seen me talk on TV! Our kids do listen to us! This was a totally unplanned moment.

Those unplanned, spontaneous moments of fun and discovery might be one of the best parts of cooking with your kids. It is truly quality bonding time that will leave you both with memories for a lifetime! I’d much rather they spend time goofing around in the kitchen with me than plopping themselves in front of the tv or being on their phone.

Cooking with kids goes beyond setting a foundation for healthy eating. It can help them apply the math they are learning in school. It’s a way to practice reading and following directions.

Do yourself a favor though and don’t try to cook with your kids when you are in a hurry. It’s a lot easier to answer their questions and let them truly help when you aren’t trying to get dinner on the table fast.

I’d love to hear about your experiences cooking with your kids. Where do you struggle? What do your kids want to learn next?

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Granola Two Ways: for picky eaters

 Kids are very much “grab and go” creatures. They love to grab a snack and keep going; doing whatever activity they are doing in that moment. Granola bars are a perfect snack for those moments!

The problem is many bars are loaded with added sugars, contain hydrogenated oils, and have very little whole grains, protein, or fiber in them. Seriously, have you ever looked at the ingredients in packaged granola bars? They claim to be healthy but the chemicals and additives are scary! There are some natural and organic granola bars out there that have limited ingredients but those tend to be more expensive.

Making your own granola bars using the recipes below will not only help you on your budget, but give you peace of mind that your kids are putting good nutrients in their growing bodies!

My girls have 2 different tastes, one has quite the sweet tooth and the other has more of an earthy, salty tooth! I’ve provided you with 2 different versions of Go, Go Granola Bars.

Go, Go Granola Bars—Earthy Version


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp Shaklee protein powder

Go, Go Granola Bars—Sweet Version


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp Shaklee protein powder
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup organic dark chocolate chips
  1. Gather your ingredients. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a ceramic or glass 9X13 inch baking dish.
  2. Mix oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cranberries (Earthy version), flax seed meal, and almonds together in a bowl. Spread mixture on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Return mixture to your bowl.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine salt, almond butter, honey, olive oil, Shaklee protein powder and coconut palm sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and immediately remove from heat. Pour over oat mixture and combine until all ingredients are evenly coated. If you chose to add chocolate chips, add those at this time.
  4. Pour mixture into a baking dish and press down into the pan. Bake for 10 mins on 350 in oven or 15 minutes on 350 on the Convection setting.*
  5. Let cool for up to 2 hours, cut, and serve.

Once sliced, you can put them into individual ziplock bags. Just recently I started using a Food Saver to package each granola bar. This makes it easy to toss these into a basket or bag to take along in the car.

*Oven times may vary, so check your bars regularly during your first time baking these.

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How to Help Kids Build Healthy Habits


One of the hardest things a parent can do is let their child make their own decisions. The best we can do as parents is lay a foundation so that when the time comes our kids make the right choice. Of course, we know that won’t always happen. That goes for simple choices like what to eat, to much more complicated ones like choosing the right person to date and even how they are going to handle peer pressure on other topics. Because my girls are still 10 and under, I can’t even think of that one yet!

So let’s stick to the eating healthy one. Laying the foundation for a healthy lifestyle for your kids isn’t always easy. There are temptations everywhere like at sporting events and school birthday parties. Even my kids, who should know better, have to learn to navigate the choppy waters of sugar filled treats and tempting fake foods. 

I do what I can to help guide them. We don’t keep anything in the house they shouldn’t eat. Don’t get me wrong. I keep healthier treats in our pantry but nothing with artificial colors and dangerous dyes. I try to explain to my two girls that we only get one body. It’s not about being skinny or fat (don’t ever use those words!) It’s about being healthy and strong. It’s about how we feel.

There are several ways you can teach your children how to live a healthy lifestyle and help them develop habits that will last a lifetime.  [Read more…]

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Just say No… to artificial colors

Food is good. Beautiful food is better. At least that’s kind of how our brain processes it. A beautiful spread of food at a cookout makes you want to eat it. The same goes for all those online pictures we spend hours drooling over while we look for a new recipe to make. That’s why Pinterest boards are full of pictures of pretty food or why a friends picture on Facebook of what they had to eat at restaurant makes you want to go there.

We eat with our eyes first. In fact, how food looks is one of the first sensory criteria that we use to make decisions about the food we eat. That’s why processed food manufacturers try to make the food look more appealing with artificial colors.

Unfortunately, those synthetic dyes and chemical compounds are made from coal-tar or petroleum derivatives to enhance the color of food. Needless to say, neither of those are naturally occurring in our food. What’s worse is they add absolutely nothing to the value of the foods we eat but do carry some serious risks!

By now you’ve probably read that artificial colors and dyes are linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity, and headaches. If you’re a parent, you should also know that these chemicals are linked to or can contribute to hyperactivity, ADHD, ADD, visual and learning disorders, and nerve damage in children. Studies are now showing that these substances are both toxic and carcinogenic.

The good news is with a little know-how you can make food look good without the artificial colors!

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I just made a great new treat with all the sweet but none of the artificial colors or flavors with my girls. Try these homemade watermelon popsicles. They are so good your kids won’t miss all that other stuff and you can feel good about giving it to them.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to color our foods naturally. Check out my Pinterest page  for some inspired creations like a recipe for raw sprinkles I found that is simply dried raspberries and the zest of oranges, lemons and limes.

brooke raw sprinkles 

More companies are getting the message about the dangers and opting to find another way to make their food more appealing. General Mills, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Panera, Kraft Foods and Subway have all announced they will phase out artificial flavors and colors from their food.

It’s a good start, but the problem is bigger than that. Artificial colors aren’t just in our food supply. They are often used in Vitamins, pet food, cough syrup, toothpaste, shampoo, even some make up.

Unfortunately, until EVERYONE makes the decision to remove artificial colors you still need to read labels.

Here are a few to AVOID.

Blue #1 and Blue#2

are banned in Norway, Finland and France but you can find them in the U.S. in candy, cereal, soda and sports drinks. Research has linked them to brain cancer and inhibiting nerve-cell development.

Red #3 and Red #40.

Red #3 wasn’t deemed safe to be used topically but the  FDA says can still eat it! What? I have no idea how that even makes sense? Red #40 isn’t much better. In the UK it is not recommended for children. In the U.S you can find it in ice cream, fruit cocktails, cherry pie mix and other bakery products. I believe this is completely unacceptable.

Yellow #5 and Yellow #6                                                                                                                                                                                                            

They are two other dyes allowed here but banned in Norway and Austria for containing cancer-causing compounds.

Now, you know I would never depress you with the sad state of our food then leave you without any hope. There is always hope. You can use all kinds of foods to naturally color your food in baking. I’ve listed several options in My Healthy Lifestyle Guide along with some amazing swaps that will help you eliminate foods with artificial colors like, using Cascadian Farms Fruitful O’s instead of Fruit Loops.  

                        brooke health lifestyle guide cover

Look, we all have to help each other find better ways. If you have a great natural swap or way to enhance the color of food naturally I’d love to hear from you! You can find me at [email protected]


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Nutty for Nut Butters? Try This!

 I am a huge fan of nut butters but let’s face it, they can be expensive! Not only that,  but some nut butter brands have added salt, sugars and preservatives.  But if you buy your own raw nuts and spend a little time and love, you can make your own nut butters for your family! Believe it or not, nut butters are very easy to make. And in an era when more kids are restricted from taking peanut butter to school due to allergies, nut butters are a great option.

My favorite is almond butter. It contains a higher amount of essential fatty acids. Uh oh, does the word ‘fat’ freak you out a bit? Don’t worry, it’s unsaturated fat which is heart healthy. Almond butter also has the most fiber and 8 times the amount of calcium as peanut butter.

All you need is a little sense of adventure and a high powered blender. Here’s how I do it. [Read more…]

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Healthy Hands Cooking Classes for Kids

This year, I became a Healthy Hands Cooking Certified Instructor because I love to see children learn how to cook in the kitchen with their families and learn how and why to choose healthy foods. These classes are not only impacting the kids, but the parents also love seeing how their children’s nutritional educations grow! [Read more…]

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Unjunk After Sports Snacks

If you have kids that play sports, then you are probably faced with bringing snacks to the game for your little ones or taking turns for the entire group.  I want to make you aware of some harmful ingredients that you may not realize are having an adverse effect on our children instead of FUELING them pre-game or post-game.  This truly hits home for me because I have two daughters that are 6 and 9 that play sports, and we’re faced with these typical snacks on a weekly basis.  [Read more…]

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Celebrate BIG! Riley’s Fall Birthday Bash!

Happy 6th Birthday Riley!

Happy 6th Birthday Riley!

Every year that my daughters have a birthday, I am reminded of how thankful I am to be their mom and also how far I have grown as a person by being their mom. There are so many things that I never thought I could or would do that get me out of my “comfort zone”, but when I do them, the feeling I get is so rewarding.  And, I always want to encourage other moms out there that may have been where I was. [Read more…]

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The Thomas’ Top 3 Favorite Fall Comfort Foods

Brooke with Reagan and Riley at the Pumpkin Patch

At the pumpkin patch with my girls after hiking Grandfather Mountain

We all love Fall, right? Or is it just me? I love the changing of the weather and the leaves. I grew up in Florida where I really didn’t get to see Fall the way the beautiful colors and leaves change here in North Carolina. This is one of the reasons I love living here so much!  When the weather starts to change and become crisp or even on rainy days when the  leaves are so full of color, all I want to do is cook comfort foods and turn on the fire. I always want my comfort foods to warm the heart and soul, and of course be healthy! [Read more…]

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Wonderfully Raw Coco-Roons

Wonderfully Raw Coco-Roons CEO and Macaroon Maven, Sequoia Cheney and Brooke at the Natural Products Expo East

Wonderfully Raw Coco-Roons CEO and Macaroon Maven, Sequoia Cheney and Brooke at the Natural Products Expo East

I get so excited when I hear about companies that are founded by passionate people with a desire to create products that not only taste incredible, but are helping to build health in our bodies.  While at the Natural Products Expo East in September 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Sequoia Cheney, CEO and Macaroon Maven, of Wonderfully Raw Coco-Roons.  This women is amazing!   She has given so much of herself to others through the arts and through holistic healing. Always passionate about food (and maybe not always the healthiest food), Sequoia found herself in a health crisis when she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  She knew she had to make some serious changes to heal herself. [Read more…]

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Healthy Grab-N-Go Snacks for my Girls

Brooke with Back to Nature's Anthony Raucci, SVP of Sales and Mike McVey, Director of Sales - East

Brooke with Back to Nature’s Anthony Raucci, SVP of Sales and Mike McVey, Director of Sales – East

I’ve been a fan of Back to Nature snacks for a while now.  My girls loves their whole grain cookies, crackers and trail mixes.  I like that I can pour Back to Nature snacks in a bowls, and my daughter’s friends never know that they are eating healthy snacks.

I was able to meet Anthony Raucci, SVP of Sales and Mike McVey, Director of Sales – East from Back to Nature, and we had a very thorough conversation about their products, packaging and upcoming product offerings.  I suggested they try to make more nut-free seed mixes for children with nut allergies. [Read more…]

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Happy Family Organic Superfoods

Happy Familys SE Regional Sales Manager, Sunny Hunt with Brooke at the Natural Products Expo East

Happy Family’s SE Regional Sales Manager, Sunny Hunt with Brooke at the Natural Products Expo East

Moms everywhere can get excited about Happy Family Organic Superfoods for children!  I met with Sunny Hunt, SE Regional Sales Manager at Happy Family Organic Superfoods when I went to the Natural Products Expo East in September 2013.  I asked Sunny detailed questions about their products, and I also found out their story. [Read more…]

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Gluten and Dairy Free Fruit and Nut Butters

Kolat and BrookeSeveral of my recipes on 360YourLife include almond butter, and I even love eating it plain.  I recently found an incredible company that makes the most delicious almond butter infusions!  Kolat Superfood Fusions makes almond butter with a kick.  They infuse flavors like cherry and vanilla, blueberry and cinnamon, dark chocolate and coconut, and espresso and hazelnut to make some of the most delicious nut butters I have ever tasted!  I was pleased to meet the Founder and CEO of Kolat, Jess Goldstein, at the Natural Products Expo East in September 2013. [Read more…]

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“Neat” Vegan Meat Replacement

Sometimes I think I’ve seen it all, and then a product like Neat comes along and I am blown away!  At the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, I met an insanely smart young couple, who out of a need to find other vegan food options for their family, experimented and came up with an all natural, gluten free vegetarian meat replacement made out of pecans, beans and organic cornmeal.  It is the first shelf-stable meat replacement on the market. [Read more…]

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Diet POP! Gourmet Flavored Popcorn

Brooke with Tony Little with Diet Pop! Popcorn

Wow!  I was fortunate enough to meet America’s Personal Trainer, Tony Little at the Natural Products Expo East in September 2013! Tony is such a nice person, and guys, he STILL HAS IT!!!

Tony is still very focused on healthy living, and he’s teamed up with David Israel, the founder of POP! Gourmet Popcorn, to create a new popcorn called Diet Pop! This popcorn is NON-GMO, Gluten Free, Kosher and air popped with zero trans fats or cholesterol.  It comes in two flavors:  White Truffle (Yum!) and Sunflower Oil and Sea Salt.  Perfect for a light, healthy snack. Oprah loves POP! Gourmet Popcorn, and she listed the White Truffle Bliss as her favorite in O, The Oprah Magazine in Feb. 2012. [Read more…]

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“Simple Squares” of Goodness

I love the simple, uncomplicated, grab-and-go, whole food snacks made by Simple Squares.  Nuts.  Honey. Vanilla.  Sea Salt.  Herbs.  Just 5 ingredients – that’s it!  Simple!

Brooke with Simple Squares founder Kimberly Crupi Dobbins

Brooke with Simple Squares founder Kimberly Crupi Dobbins

Kimberly Crupi Dobbins, founder and “chief square” of Simple Squares, created flavorful organic snack bars that are savory and sweet and infused with herbs and honey for a uniquely satisfying treat.  I was able to meet and talk with Kimberly at the Natural Products Expo East in September 2013, and she is not only adorable, but she is passionate about changing grab-and-go snacking from processed with preservatives to whole foods. [Read more…]

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Caveman Cookies

Caveman Cookies

“Just like your great, great, great, great, great….grandmother used to make!”

Brooke with Caveman Cookies President and Founder, Stephanie Lester

Brooke with Caveman Cookies President and Founder, Stephanie Lester

There is so much to love about Caveman Cookies!  I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of Caveman Cookies, Stephanie Lester, at the Natural Products Expo East in Sept. 2013.  Stephanie used to be an attorney in NY, but she grew tired of working in an office environment.  She had also decided to eat a Paleo diet, and after feeling so much better, she left her job to start a business that focused on healthy living and wholesome eating.  That’s my kind of girl!  Stephanie believes that we should eat foods that early humans were able to eat – nuts, honey and berries.  She tied all of these ingredients together into simple and fabulously healthy cookies, and she offers them in five delicious flavors: [Read more…]

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Food for Life, my favorite breads and tortillas

Ezekiel Bread image Genesis Bread image I love Ezekiel 4:9 and Genesis 1:29 sprouted grain breads because the products are developed based on Bible verses that remind us that we were made to eat bread that was whole and pure, not processed.  I can trust the ingredients in these products because Food for Life, the baking company that makes Genesis and Ezekiel breads, won’t use any GMOs (genetically modified organisms), preservatives, shortenings or refined sugars. [Read more…]

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Grab-N-Go Quinoa Energy Bites

eat Keenwa Krunch pic

What an incredible idea to take quinoa and turn it into a healthy, satisfying energy bite! I got to meet the founders of eat Keenwa Krunch, Paul and Blake Niemann at the Natural Products Expo East in Sept. 2013.  These brothers were always very active in outdoor sports.  They loved how quinoa made them feel during their workouts and everyday activities, and they wanted to take their quinoa with them wherever they went.  So, they created a portable, easy-to-eat snack for people with busy lifestyles who also want to eat healthy.  Their products are designed to give you great energy and power your spirit without eating preservatives or “junk”.  The brothers also have their own social mission called The Keenwa Cause where they donate resources to fight against world hunger and to support the development of quinoa as a sustainable crop.  Love these guys! [Read more…]

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Raw, Organic Foods from Around the World!

Earth Circle Organics - Brooke and Seth Dresser2

Brooke with Seth Dressel from Earth Circle Organics

I am in LOVE with this company!  When I went to the Natural Products Expo East, I had the pleasure of meeting the awesome people at Earth Circle Organics, a raw and organic food company that sources its products from all over the world.  I especially loved their chocolate that comes from Bali! [Read more…]

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Bean Chips for Healthy Snacking

Creamy Cado Dip with Beanitos Black Bean Chips

Creamy Cado Dip with Beanitos Black Bean Chips

During my Charlotte Today segment called “Healthy Halloween Treats”, I displayed Beanitos black bean chips along with my Creamy Cado Dip inside of an orange bell pepper. These chips are SO delicious, and they were the perfect compliment to my dip!!!  The crew at Charlotte Today fell in love with Beanitos Black Bean Chips. [Read more…]

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Awesome Non-GMO All Natural Hummus!

You’ve got to try Cedar’s Hommus!  It tastes incredible and more importantly, it is certified NON-GMO with all natural ingredients!

I was able to meet some of the awesome people at Cedar’s Foods while at the Natural Products Expo East in September, and I got to sample all of their hummus flavors, their black bean wraps, Mediterranean salads, dips, and so many other healthy Cedar’s products. [Read more…]

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Tree Hugger All Natural Bubble Gum

Tree Hugger Gum held by Riley Reagan

My girls and their Tree Hugger Bubble Gum!

My girls love to chew bubble gum, but it is hard to find a brand that I feel OK about.  When I attended the Natural Products Expo East last month, I found a great All Natural Bubble Gum that contains NO artificial colors, flavors, BHT, or preservatives.  Plus, it’s gluten free, nut free and dairy free!  Tree Hugger All Natural Bubble Gum comes in several different flavors:  tangerine, bubble gum, lemon-lime, orange, berry, pomegranate, lemonade, wildberry, and watermelon.  There are so many to choose from! [Read more…]

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Healthy Gluten Free/Nut Free Brownies

I love making healthy treats for my girls.  These Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies are so quick and easy to make you will love this recipe.  I love that every ingredient actually has a health benefit, so I’ve listed those for you below my recipe.  Here are three ways to enjoy this great “healthy treat” without the guilt:

1.)  On the weekends, it can be a breakfast muffin.

2.)  During the week, it can be an after school snack.

3.)  You can use it in place of cupcakes along with my Dairy and Gluten Free Frosting for birthday parties!

Also, you can also make this recipe into Brownie Pops or Brownie Cut Outs.  These are great ways to get the kids involved!

Brooke’s Gluten Free Brownies
Just 9 healthy ingredients! You can also make this recipe into Brownie Pops or Brownie Cut Outs. These are great ways to get the kids involved!
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  1. 1 can black beans, drained
  2. 1/2 c. cocoa
  3. 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin coconut oil
  4. 1/2 c. coconut palm sugar
  5. 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  6. 3 large free range eggs
  7. 1/2 c. Shaklee’s Instant Protein Mix
  8. 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  9. 1/4 c. water
  1. Just add the ingredients and blend. I like using my Blendtec blender.
  2. Add chocolate chips if desired for a more chewy chocolate flavor.
  3. Be sure to mix the chips in by hand after blending the other ingredients.
  4. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.
Brooke Thomas 360 Your Life™


Health Benefits of Ingredients:

Black Beans are a satisfying protein and do not contain any of the saturated fats found in other protein sources, like red meat.  They also have more antioxidants than blueberries!

Cocoa is high in magnesium which is important for heart health.

Extra-virgin Coconut Oil lowers cholesterol as well as abdominal fat, and it helps to restore normal thyroid.  Plus, it is good for our skin and hair.

Coconut Palm Sugar is a rich, unrefined brown sugar with a deep caramel flavor produced by tapping the sweet nectar from the tropical coconut palm tree flower and drying the nutrient rich juice.

Organic Vanilla Extract alleviates anxiety and reduces free radicals.

Free Range Eggs are not only incredible sources of high quality protein and fat, but they are also very high in nutrients.

Shaklee Instant Protein Mix contains Leucine, an amino acid found in lean meats, legumes and egg whites, that helps to build lean muscle and contributes to healthy, long-term weight loss.  Shaklee Instant Protein Mix also includes 9 important amino acids.

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