Sunday, October 16, 2011

little trick i've learned

One of the things i've learned is to ALWAYS make the lunches for the school days the night before.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is that a balanced, healthy breakfast in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

Blargh.....It is 7am, you are tired (coffee is still brewing), the kids are hungry, and you have to make lunches, feed them breakfast and get the whole goat rodeo out of the door at a horrible God-forsaken hour. For some folks this is a breeze, others, not so much- me being in the 'not so much' category. In my case, we have no school buses, and my children's school is almost a 20 minute drive, one way. We have to leave no later than 7:32 (yes, I really know the actual minute) or the tardies will start mounting. I have been known to rack up for my kids a whopping (and embarrassing) 15 tardies in a quarter (that is my personal best). But I am getting off track here....Let's go back to feeding the kids breakfast.

Getting kids out the door with an awesome breakfast in their bellies can be daunting. I mean really, how flippin' easy is it to open the cabinet, grab the Tastee-Ohs out and splash some milk in a bowl? Don't get me wrong- cereal has its place-no judgement here-I have probably about 13 boxes of cereal in my cabinet. But we should make sure that the kids' breakfast doensn't stop at their cereal bowl- let's add a banana or apple for them to munch too. The cliche is right- breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So what can we do as crazy, sleep deprived moms to make sure they have a balanced breakfast that won't leave them hungry by 8:30? And are quick and easy for YOU?!?! I have a few ideas below to help.

1. Add a piece of fruit to eat alongside their bowl of cereal or oatmeal. A ton of simple carbs and a half cup of milk won't fill tummies with lasting power. Isn't it funny how almost every box of cereal shows their product in a bowl with fruit added to it? And then in little letters it says "serving suggestion." I like to believe that this is because they know that cereal doesn't provide a balanced, filling breakfast all on its own. My kids won't eat fruit IN the bowl with the cereal, but will gobble down a banana or apple, no problem.

2. Peanut Butter and Jelly Waffles. This is my 5 year olds favorite breakfast. She puts both waffles together and eats it as a sandwich. If you have a PBJ fan, I bet they will ask for this daily like mine does. And you can change it up with different flavors of waffles and/or jelly. Even pancakes will work! I personally pick up mulitgrain or whole grain waffles, and I use unsweetened PB, and an all-fruit type jam. Another option is to use raisins or cranberries on top of the peanut butter.

3. Homemade "Fast Food" breakfast sandwiches. I love doing this. It makes me smile when I open up my freezer and see my McPruitt muffins smiling back at me. This is my favorite breakfast! My suggestion is to purchase your favorite english muffin or biscuit product and sliced cheese. Then take a few eggs, scramble them, cook in a large skillet. Then cut into to english muffin/biscuit sized pieces. Either fry bacon, or cook sausage patties (I mash them into thin, muffin sized patties). Make sure all items are cool, and then take all of these ingredients and assemble your sandwiches. Wrap them individually in zippered storage freezer bags. Pop them in the freezer! To reheat, take the sandwich out of the bag, wrap up in a paper towel, and heat in an 1100 watt microwave for 1.5 minutes at half power. Turn over sandwich and cook on full power for an additional minute. Item will be very hot- allow a minute or 2 to cool. ENJOY!

*these can be lightened up (as I do) by using whole wheat light english muffins, egg beaters/whites, 2% cheese, turkey sausage or ham. Your kids will NOT know the difference! PROMISE!

4. Make a breakfast casserole. This is such a wonderful dish to have on hand for a whole week's worth of breakfasts. And if your children love a hot breakfast, it is easy to reheat in the microwave for about the same time as it will take to fill that cereal bowl. Assemble this recipe on a Sunday afternoon, and bake it. You will be so happy that you don't have to worry about breakfast!

Here is a great recipe for a breakfast casserole:

2 cups of frozen shredded hashbrowns
9 eggs
1 lb. ground sausage
1 small can green chiles (optional)
half of a small onion (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar, jack, or colby cheese

Spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Spread hashbrowns on the bottom of the pan. Brown sausage with green chiles and onions. Drain. Scramble the 9 eggs. Pour a little more than half the eggs into the cake pan. Layer sausage on the eggs. Layer the cheese on top of the sausage. Pour the rest of the eggs over the top.

Bake at 350F degrees until the top is brown and the eggs are cooked.

This can be cooked in a sealable pan, placed in the refrigerator and then cut a piece every morning for breakfast. Or you can slice it and freeze in zippered bags.

It's great re-heated!!!! Enjoy!

Note: You can easily double the size of this recipe if you want to

I hope these ideas will help you feed your family! Have a great morning!

Mel :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So you wanna be a Crockstar......

Or alternately titled, "How I learned to love the Crock." If you don't have a Crock-pot, stop reading this right now and go buy one. I am totally serious. A busy mom hath no better, or more reliable, friend than the Crock-pot AKA slow cooker. I literally plan at least 2 meals a week out of the crock (usually more). It makes dinner a total no-brainer, and everything always turns out delicious. And the beauty of it is that you can set it on low, go about your day or go to work, and have dinner ready when needed. What could be better? Forget all the new fangled crap on infomercials- the Crock-pot rocks!

I learned to love the crock pot as a child. Some of my favorites from mom were crock pot dishes- beef stew, little smokies, etc...I always looked forward to mom's crock pot meals. And in general, it is easy to make kid friendly items that are healthy, while sneaking some veggies in too.

The beauty of the slow cooker is that it is almost fool-proof. Even if you are a total disaster in the kitchen who can't even make a frozen pizza without burning the hell out of it, you can manage to make a wonderful meal with very little effort. And just about any baked/stovetop dinner recipe can be adapted to the slow cooker. Just follow these simple guidelines:

(taken from Fix-it-and-forget-it)
· Low (in a slow cooker) = 200º in an oven, approximately
· High (in a slow cooker) = 300º in an oven, approximately
· In a slow cooker, 2 hours on Low = 1 Hour, approximately, on High.


So get googling to find a perfect recipe that your family will love and become a Crockstar!

Here is one of my family's favorite slow cooker dishes:
1 bag of Reame's homestyle noodles (in the grocer's freezer)
2 cups of chicken stock
12 oz chicken breasts, cubed, raw
1 cup chopped carrots
1 rib of celery, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

throw in everything except the noodles, and cook on high until chicken is cooked through. If the liquid is all gone, add another cup of stock (or more depending on desired consistency). Add frozen noodles and cook for another 1-1.5 hrs, or until noodles are firm, not raw. When the noodles are cooked through, stir the pot for a few minutes to thicken it up (the flour from the noodles will get activated to make a nice thick sauce)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to stress less about mealtime

Welcome! As I think of how to compose this first post, I am snuggled up in the recliner with my youngest daughter, who is full and satisfied. That makes this mama very happy. I actually managed to make a meal that all of my kids would eat, and I did it with little to no stress. I have pieced together several strategies that are working in my family of five, and I only wish to share these ideas with others. I am not a supermom. My house isn't spotless. I yell at my kids. I may not shower every day. I fall short in many aspects of parenting, domesticity, and partnership. But one thing I have figured out is that we can all help each other improve in these areas by sharing what works for us. I am a firm believer in taking what works and making it my own. There ain't nothing new under the sun as they say, and the things I present here may be very simple and obvious, but if you are like me (crazy busy/slightly stressed), then sometimes you just need someone to tell you to take Advil when you have a headache, or how to cook dinner for your family.

My first piece of advice to share is the making of weekly dinner menus. Not everything we discuss here will be pertaining to mealtime, but it is a great centering point, as nothing can really fall into place if you don't know what the hell you are making for dinner. It makes the whole day run smoother. I promise. And this is true no matter what your mommying reality is- SAHM, WAHM, or WOHM. Food is the lifeblood of being a mom. It consumes us all day long, and nothing can be zen if the kids are pulling on our shirts, tripping us up, and hungry for dinner. And why submit to stressing about it when you don't have to? Aren't there enough things that stress us out that we can't control? We have ultimate control over meals and what to feed the family. Here are a few steps to take in beginning to make dinner menus, and thus, making your life just a wee bit easier.

1. Take inventory of what meats/proteins that you have on hand in the freezer. Take note of what meats/proteins are on sale in your grocery ad (if saving $ is important to you). These items are going to be the cornerstone of how you put your menu together. I find it far easier to plan my recipe selections based on the protein instead of the other way around, like finding some great recipe and pouncing on it. You will save money this way to, as you won't be wandering the grocery store buying random ingredients and then figuring out what to make with them. Make sense?

2. Based on your available proteins, make a short list of favorite recipes you can make with these items. Secondarily, take inventory of the cabinets. If you are making your menu on the cusp of the new week, take a gander at the fridge too. This doesn't really work in the long run though because then you are cutting it too close for doing your additional shopping. Keep that in mind for your next menu efforts. I like to make my menu about 4 days ahead of it's start day. So, say I start my M-Sun menu planning on Wednesday or Thursday of the week before. This allows for shopping time and changes if need be. Doing it the day before doesn't reduce your stress an awful lot. Of course, pick whatever shopping day/start day/planning day that works best for your family. I personally shop on Thursdays for the next weeks ingredients.

3. Ask your kids what they might like to see on a dinner menu. My kids love helping with this. It empowers them and makes them feel important, and dare I mention without completely cursing myself and ruining it from ever happening again, makes them more apt to eat what you put before them because they helped in the process. I include them in the cooking and prepping as well. They freaking love that.

4. Gather these dish ideas together in a list in no certain order. Take into account which recipes may be more time consuming and ear mark them for Saturday or Sunday, or whichever nights you seem to have a little more time. Try to space out similar meals. Put meals with perishables earlier in the week to be sure you foods are still fresh. A mid week trip to the store for more veggies is something else to plan for if need be. I tend to use frozen veggie mixes later in the week to avoid another trip.

5. Assign a night to each of these meals. If you cannot come up with enough meals, consult one of the many great recipe sites out there and plug your available protein into their search bar. Try something new! I love, personally. Another tip: if routine is really needed, and searching for recipes is too daunting without a little more framework, try this organizational tip that my dear friend Carrie shared with me recently. She has a nightly theme that repeats every week, and then she just plugs in the appropriately themed dish to that particular night, i.e., Mexican night, Italian night, ball park night, meat and potatoes night, etc... GENIUS!

6. Post your completed menu on the fridge and beam with pride in the fact that you just did a totally awesome thing for you and your family. And don't forget to post it all over Facebook and make everyone think you are totally organized. That is what I do!

thanks for reading,