Monday, August 22, 2016

School lunches

Well today was my first full day with 4 out of 5 kids at school!  I miss them but I have to admit it was a little awesome :)  I got so much done and all the stuff I did stayed done for more than 5 minutes!  Woohoo!

One thing I did today, that I've wanted to do every year, is make school lunch bins.  The kind where I prepackaged produce, sorted out sweet and salty snacks, and got ready for lunches ahead of time. Now that I'm sending four lunches to school each day I decided I needed to be better prepared.  My kids love to take leftovers for lunch and they are pretty good about eating different sandwiches too so I'm usually set on the main course/protein part of the meal but my kids are also supposed to have two snacks for morning and afternoon snack time which can sometimes leave me scrambling to fill in the gaps of their lunch. So I finally decided it was time to prep! I decided to make one fruit/veggie bin, a dairy bin, a savory snack bin, and a sweet treat bin. It didn't take very long and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty fun too!  (Which tells me that I probably need to get out more!) So if you've ever thought about giving it a try here are some tips/ideas that I had while doing it.

 First, here are some benefits of sorting out lunch items ahead of time:

1) It saves money! The pre-portioned snacks are so much more expensive than buying in bulk but they are so much more convenient.  I usually buy the small applesauce packs and go-gurts for lunches and buy a big jar of applesauce or container of yogurt for home.  By putting them in lunch bins it makes the snacks last longer because my kids know what is off limits after school! To save even more money you can pre-portion your own snacks.  Bag your own pretzels, gold fish, etc. or buy a big thing of yogurt and put it in little containers yourself.

2) It's easier to keep the pantry and fridge stocked!  No more thinking the pantry is full when in fact half the boxes are secretly empty.  This makes it so much easier to see what I have and what I'm running low on.  It also helps keep things rotated.  And helps me make sure that the produce all gets used up in time.

3) It helps give the kids a chance to pack there own lunches.  I can just tell the kids to pick one thing out of each bin and then I know they have one fruit or veggie, one dairy, one carb and one sweet treat.  Plus when my kids feel like they are picking their own lunch there is a lot better chance they are actually going to eat it when they get to school!

4) It saves time. Instead of having to open a ton of packaging, washing produce, etc every morning it's already done ahead of time when you aren't frantically trying to catch a bus.

5) It just looks cool! Seriously, it makes the pantry look so much nicer.  I feel happy every time I look in there.  Instead of 100 boxes crammed on top of each other and ripped open by kids I just have a few bins with lids on.  It makes me feel like one of those  organized people I hear about on pinterest :)

Next, I want to share some of the things my kids like to put in their lunches:

Fruit/Veggie ideas:
mini carrots
mini sweet peppers
cut up melon
raisins (yogurt covered)
dried apple rings (I make these in the dehydrator with a little cinnamon)
dried mango
cucumber slices (sometimes I use tiny cookie cutters to make these into stars or hearts)

Dip ideas (to go with produce):
ranch dressing
peanut butter
fruit dip (I just do little cups of cool-whip mixed with strawberry yogurt)

Dairy and Protein ideas:
cheese sticks
baby bell cheese
cheese cut into fun shapes
trail mix
flavored almonds
protein bars
yogurt parfaits
pepperoni wrapped around cheese
ham wrapped around cheese
sargento balanced breaks (cheese, almonds and craisin packs)

Savory snacks:
gold fish
beef jerky
cheese crackers
peanut butter crackers
mini rice cakes (my kids love the rasberry yogurt or cheddar kind)

Sweet treats:
breakfast bars (my kids love the trader joes kind)
fig newtons
jello w/fruit cups
fruit snacks
fruit leather
granola bars
mini muffins
fruit cocktail cups
teddy grahams or graham stix
banana bread
dole peaches and cream cups

Lastly, I'm always looking for new ideas of what to put in my kids lunches so let me know what you like to pack in lunches in the comments! It's always fun to think of new things or learn about new products that are out there :) Happy lunch making!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Cheese Steak Sandwiches

So, I've had a major food aversion to meat this pregnancy but the other day I just really wanted a steak! I knew I probably couldn't actually tolerate eating a whole steak so I opted for these cheese steak sandwiches.

I first made this recipe a couple of years ago and I'm surprised I haven't already shared it here on the blog actually! It's super easy and yummy and 3 out my 4 kids even eat it. :)

Here are a few notes on this recipe: 1) Don't cheap out on the bread.  Get a good baguette to put this on! Something that will hold together but also taste delicious. 2) if not everyone is in agreement about mushrooms you can always saute them in a separate pan and people can add them as desired! 3) Some people like them with just the meat and cheese but I find it a little dry.  We add chipotle mayo to our and it is yummy! I've included it as optional in the recipe.  We just use Kraft brand but there are also some fancier looking chipotle sauces at the store or you can make you own! 4) Before slicing the roast get the meat really cold.  You can put it in the freezer for about an hour or leave it in the back of you fridge for a day before you make the recipe. This will help you slice it thinner and the thinner you cut it the more tender it will be in the sandwich.

Cheese Steak Sandwiches
2 lb. eye of round roast
olive oil 
1 green bell pepper (sliced into strips)
1 sweet onion (sliced into strips)
4-5 white mushrooms (sliced)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
6-8 slices provolone cheese
chipotle mayo (optional) (we use Kraft but you can make your own)
6  hoagie rolls or baguettes

Slice cold meat as thinly as you can.  Break up slices into bite sized strips.

In a large frying pan, heat 1-2 T. olive oil and add bell pepper, onion and mushrooms. Saute until softened.  Remove from pan.  Add 1-2 more T. of olive oil, meat, salt, pepper and wocestershire sauce to pan.  Heat over medium heat, draining frequently, until meat is cooked through.  I drain my meat throughout the cooking process so that the meat gets a little crispy on the edges instead of getting tough. You can also use your cooking utensil to kind of break the meat up into bite sized pieces. Add veggie mixture back to the pan and mix together with the meat.

Turn off heat.  Cover entire pan with sliced provolone cheese and allow to melt.  Dish up meat and cheese mixture onto each of the hoagies.  Top with chipotle mayo if desired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Buttermilk Pancakes (and Strawberry Syrup)

Forgive my super bad picture that I snapped really fast Christmas morning!  But I promise these are delicious!  Maybe I'll have to make them again so that I can get a better picture ;)

When my Grandma passed away I inherited her old Betty Crocker cookbook along with her recipes for homemade dog food and beer.  Since I don't need dog food or beer I decided to flip through her cookbook and see what I could find.  One recipe that has definetely stood out is this buttermilk pancake recipe! Delicious!  They come out perfect and fluffy every time.  My favorite part is that you just mix it all in  one big bowl. No combining dry ingredients and then mixing in wet ingredients or anything like that.  Just dump it all in and stir.

This Christmas I paired them with homemade strawberry syrup and it was a success.  Sugar on top of dough will do that ;)  I included the syrup recipe at the bottom of the page.  Give the pancakes a try with or without the syrup.  Easy and worth it!

Buttermilk Pancakes
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup milk (plus extra if needed)
4 T. vegetable oil
2 T. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl beat the egg until fluffy.  Beat in all other ingredients just until smooth.  Add extra milk if batter is too thick. Pour about 3 T. of batter onto a hot griddle until puffed and cooked around the edges.  Turn and cook other side until golden.  Continue with rest of the batter.

Strawberry syrup
1 bag frozen strawberries
1 T. lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1-2 T. cornstarch
2 T. water

Put strawberries in a medium saucepan and begin to heat over low heat.  As strawberries thaw, crush and chop slightly with a potato masher.  Increase heat to medium high. Add lemon juice and sugar and bring to a boil.

Combine and cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir until smooth.  Add cornstarch mixture to the strawberries and continue to cook until thickened.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Smoked Sausage and Potato Bake

Pictures coming soon!

Smoked Sausage and Potato Bake

3-4 red potatoes (parboiled and cubed)
1 smoke sausage ring (sliced)
½ cup chopped onion
2 bell peppers
3 T. olive oil
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. apple cider vinegar
1.5 T. Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon thyme
¼ tsp. black pepper
5 strips bacon- cooked and crumbled

Freezer Meal Prep Instructions:
Par boil potatoes for 5-10 minutes or until slightly tender. Remove from boiling water and place in ice bath for 1 hour or allow to cool overnight. (this step has been done for you!)

Cube potatoes, onion and peppers and slice sausage. Toss potatoes, sausage, onion and peppers in oil.
Place in the bottom of a gallon sized freezer bag. 

In a small bowl combine brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, thyme and pepper.  Pour over sausage and veggies.  Close bag.  Place crumbled bacon in a small freezer bag and seal.  Place bacon bag and veggie bag in another gallon sized freezer bag.  Label and freeze.

Cooking Instructions:

Defrost in fridge overnight.  Arrange veggies and sausage evenly in a 9x13 baking dish.  Top with bacon crumbles and bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.