bess blanco

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

There are many health benefits in this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie, and it is easy to make!

This little smoothie is jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamins because it's made with sweet potatoes. Yes, you heard it here first- baked and mashed sweet potatoes make a terrific smoothie! In addition to the yummy flavor of a sweet dessert, sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamins C, D, and B6, along with providing good amounts of iron and magnesium.

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

The nutritional benefits found in this great-tasting healthy snack will improve your skin health, immune system, and your heart muscle! As if that's not enough reason to dig into this smoothie, the kids will love this creamy treat, too!


  • 1/2 large sweet potato, baked until soft
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • Topping: Whipped cream, sprinkle of cinnamon


Blend all ingredients together in blender for about 2 minutes, or until smooth.

The Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie will make a great addition to your breakfast (or snack!) rotation - it's superfood on the go! 

You can try any one of our other delicious smoothie recipes in our FRESH Start recipe box! Smoothies are an easy & fun way to make healthy food for your family, so we love to help you find FRESH new ways to do that! 

Tell us what you think of this recipe in the comments below or in our LIVE Facebook Online Community here.

One-Pot Summer Salmon DinneR

Here is a simple one-pot summer salmon dinner, and it takes no time to prepare - 20 minutes start to finish! 

It is a well-rounded dish, with whole-grain pasta, gently sauteed summer veggies, and steamed (you could also grill it) salmon - all in one pot!  It is a beautiful and tasty dish, filling for every member of the family.  Even the busiest mom has time to make this one! 

Here's how to make the One-pot summer salmon dinner:

Step #1 - Put a medium pot with 3 quarts water on to boil for the pasta.  When the water is boiling, add pasta, cook it for 7-8 minutes (for al dente pasta).  Meanwhile, chop and saute fresh summer veggies like broccoli, yellow squash, red onion, and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.  (I like to use my wok!)

Step #2 - Cook the salmon, either in a pan (with a lid) or on the grill.  (Either way, it only takes about 7-10 minutes.)  I flavor the salmon with garlic, olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, and sea salt.  Once it is fully cooked (It will flake easily with a fork), then cut into pieces.

Step #3 - Drain the al dente pasta, and add it to the gently sauteed veggies in the wok.  Toss in the salmon pieces, add a tablespoon olive oil, some cracked pepper, sea salt, and stir together.  Dress the dish with a small amount of grated Parmesan, and serve!  That was easy as 1-2-3!

Fresh Bean Relish

This FRESH Bean Relish is easy, Delish, and full of natural fiber! 

Our family enjoys this quick dish often with grilled chicken or as a side to fish. 

Hint: It turns out best with all the ingredients rinsed and completely drained, and then refrigerated overnight.  It’s one of those dishes that just gets better with time!

This recipe has helped our family eat more beans, which are rich in fiber and other nutrients for the body.  I personally have never enjoyed beans, but this dish has a way of hiding the “bean taste” in the goodness of the overall dish, and I have enjoyed it often now.

Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Bean Relish


•    1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas
•    1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
•    1½ cups frozen sweet corn, thawed & drained
•    1/2 cup chopped onion
•    1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
•    1 (4 ounce) can mild green chiles
•    1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
•    1 cup Italian-style salad dressing
•    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


1.    In a medium bowl, combine black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, onion, green bell pepper, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes.

2.    Season with Italian-style salad dressing and garlic powder - mix well.

3.    Cover and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors.

If you prefer fresh tomatoes, substitute 1 3/4 cup for the canned diced tomatoes.  For a spicier relish, switch out the mild green chiles for jalapeno peppers, either fresh diced or canned!

Mexican Grilled Chicken Salad

We just made this salad at the Healthy Changes Cooking Class we held Monday evening - mmm mm good!  I thought it would be great to share this delicious recipe with you!

Salads are still healthy – very healthy – IF they are loaded with rich greens, raw veggies, and lean proteinThis salad is exactly that, full of all the right ingredients, and super tasty.  Just squeeze a little lime over the top, and if using dressing, you only need a tablespoon drizzle.  The salad itself is so tasty, you don’t need much dressing for taste!

mexican grilled chicken salad.jpg

Mexican Grilled Chicken Salad Recipe


•    Bed of greens – spinach, romaine, or other greens
•    15 oz. can black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
•    Medium avocado, sliced lengthwise
•    1 cup frozen or fresh corn, slightly toasted over medium heat until blackened
•    1 mango, sliced lengthwise
•    2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced in long strips
•    Red onion, sliced thin and long
•    Queso fresco, crumbled as topping
•    If desired, zesty tortilla strips as topping
•    Chopped cilantro, lime for dressing


Toss all ingredients together for a flavorful, healthy treat! You can chill ahead of time or serve immediately. Enjoy!

Enjoyed this FRESH dish? Get recipes for more delicious ideas right here in our Recipe Box!

Easy, Healthy, Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

After finding that most pre-made spaghetti sauces are loaded with sugar and other additives, I have begun making a great-tasting homemade sauce instead!  Don’t worry, it is still time-friendly, using canned tomatoes and quick and easy fresh flavors like garlic and herbs.

Easy, Healthy, Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe


•    1-large can of crushed tomatoes (low-sodium, if you can find them)
•    1-small can of either tomato paste or sauce (depending on how thick you prefer your sauce – paste thickens more than sauce)
•    1-small can of chopped mushrooms or fresh mushrooms, sliced small
•    3-4 smashed cloves of garlic
•    1 tsp thyme
•    1 tsp oregano
•    1 tsp sea salt
•    1/2 medium onion, diced fine (optional)


Place the crushed tomatoes in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce or paste and the mushrooms. Stir in the garlic, thyme, oregano and sea salt and onions. Cook until onions are transparent, or simmer sauce on lowest heat for at least 30 minutes.

If I’m making it a meat sauce with it, I like to add the sauce into the sausage/ground meat as I sear it - it brings out the delicious scent and flavor stronger! 

Fresh flavors, easy fixing – this sauce is a winner every time. 

So flexible for any way of eating - it can be meatless if you are vegetarian, or just add in lean ground meat for a more filling and protein-packed dish!

Serve over whole grain pasta, or a cooked spaghetti squash – garnish with fresh parmesan cheese, and you have an easy, healthy sauce without the sugar and calories!

Mini Peanut-Chip Cookies

Everyone loves the classic chocolate chip cookie, so we've been on a search for a low-sugar variety that still tastes good.  On our quest for sugar-less desserts that are still yummy and satisfying, we found this little gem. 

Little is the correct descriptive, but these pint-sized cookies still pack a sweet tooth fixin’ crunch!

Mini Peanut-Chip Cookie Recipe

mini peanut chip cookies


•    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
•    1 tsp baking soda
•    1/4 tsp salt
•    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
•    1/2 cup peanut butter
•    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
•    1/4 cup sugar
•    1/4 cup milk (Soy)
•    1 egg
•    1 tsp vanilla extract
•    1/3 cup mini chocolate chips


1.    Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium bowl, whisk together first three dry ingredients, set aside.  In large bowl, beat peanut butter and butter on medium speed 2 minutes, or until creamy.  (I hand beat it – and it turns out creamy enough.)  Add brown sugar and sugar, beat 2 minutes.  Beat in milk, egg and vanilla.  Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.  Stir in chips – chill dough for 15 minutes.

2.    For each cookie, roll 2 tsp dough into a ball and place on baking sheet 2 inches apart.  With floured fork, flatten each ball into a round, making a crosshatch pattern.

3.    Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned around edges.  Let cool on sheets 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling.

*Original recipe found in Family Circle – "Coach Bess" altered for sugar content.

Napa Cabbage Chicken Salad Recipe

The tasty greens and protein in this Napa Cabbage Chicken Salad are always a hit at our house!

This easy dinner recipe is a family (and guest!) favorite – we never get tired of throwing this easy, fresh dish together for a light dinner. 

Even though it's a salad, you might be surprised at just how filling it is just served by itself for a meal. The chicken and cabbage combination delivers lots of tasty nutrients, which help keep you full longer than most salads, yet it doesn't feel heavy on your stomach. 

Even the kids like it, and ask for this crunchy entrée often!

Here's how to make the Napa Cabbage Chicken Salad for your own family:

Napa Cabbage Chicken Salad Recipe



  • 3 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
  • 1 Head Napa Cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced
  • Handful chopped cilantro
  • Crunchies for topping:
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 package ramen noodles, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce


  1. Combine the shredded cabbage, green onions, and cilantro in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, adding the ramen, sesame seeds, and almonds to the pan. Toast the mixture for about 3-4 minutes, or until browned nicely. Make sure not to burn them.
  3. To make the dressing, set a small saucepan on high heat, and add in all the ingredients together. Stir frequently, until the mixture comes to a quick boil, then immediately remove the pan from the heat. Let the dressing cool to room temp.
  4. Toss the salad mixture, crunchies, chicken, and dressing together just before serving for this quick and delicious dinner!
small pic napa cabbage chicken salad.jpg

Cabbage really is an under-rated superfood - rich in many nutrients, but most notably Vitamin C.  Did you know that cabbage is actually higher in vitamin C than oranges?  This salad is also a delicious source of potassium, sulphur, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E!

I would love to hear how you liked the Napa Cabbage Chicken Salad after you make it! Share your food pics and happy faces in our (FREE)  FRESH Start Online Community on Facebook or you can post a comment right here on this blog!

How-to Make Falafel

Here is a fun picture tutorial on making falafel.  I am always looking for quick and easy bean recipes to add variety to our twice-weekly meatless routine, and this one is perfect!

So for vegetarian night, whip out the legumes, and get some health on your table!  

Here are the simple instructions:  

how-to make Falafel


•    1-15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
•    1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
•    1/4 cup finely crushed baked tortilla chips
•    2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
•    1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
•    1 large egg white
•    2 tsp olive or canola oil

Avocado Spread

•    1/2 mashed peeled avocado
•    3 tablespoons finely chopped tomato
•    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
•    1/8 teaspoon salt

Remaining ingredients

•    4 pita pockets
•    4 thin red onion slices, separated into rings
•    Alfalfa or spicy sprouts


1. To prepare patties, place pinto beans in a medium bowl; partially mash with a fork. 

2. Add cheese and next 5 ingredients; stir until well combined. 

3. Shape bean mixture into 4 oval-shaped patties that are about 1/2 inch thick. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add oil.

4. When oil is ready, add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until patties are browned and thoroughly heated.

5. To prepare spread, combine avocado and next 5 ingredients (through salt), stirring well. Place 1 patty in each pita half. Spread about 2 tablespoons avocado spread over patty in each pita half; top with onions and greens.

What do you think?  Will you make this healthy recipe in your kitchen? 

Tell me about YOUR favorite falafel recipe, and what you think of this tutorial here in the comments or over on our Facebook community today!