All Posts by Kendra Peterson

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Veggie Bird Nest

Have a picky eater? Need more lunch ideas where you can sneak in veggies?

Veggie-Bird-nests

My oldest daughter is very visual and very picky. If I ask her if she would like green beans for dinner, I get an “Ewww! YUCK!” But when I offer “butter beans,” I get “What are those?” “Green beans with butter and seasoning.” “YUM! YESSS!”

And I’ve learned if I call something savory a muffin or pancake, it will get rejected unless it’s sweet, since she associates those words with sweet items. So instead of “Veggie Pancakes,” I call these leek-cabbage-potato latkes “Veggie Birds Nests.” Win!

These are also great packed inside a lunch box and eaten at room temperature. My daughter loves them with MOMable’s homemade ketchup.

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

Leeks are a great source of vitamin C, iron, and fiber. Cabbage is a good source of beta carotene, vitamin C, and fiber. And potatoes (with the skin) contain every nutrient we need, except vitamins A and D. Man can survive on potatoes and milk alone! But potatoes with leeks and cabbage are pretty tasty too.

For the leeks, you can cut them a variety of ways, but the least labor-intensive is to slice down the middle lengthwise and then cut up across the stick, making a bunch of little Cs. But these are shorter than the cabbage and potato sticks, so I usually compromise and cut one leek the easy way, and one leek the hard way (into straight sticks, lengthwise.)

The Easy Way

The Hard Way

2 leeks, cut into matchsticks

1/4 cabbage, chopped into matchsticks (around 3 cups after cut)

4-5 medium potatoes with peels, cut into matchsticks (around 3-4 cups after cut)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons (or less) olive oil or oil spray

1. In a large bowl, toss the cut leeks, cabbage, and potatoes to combine. Squeeze firmly 5 or 6 times to slightly wilt them. You may also choose to squeeze them over a colander to drain excess liquid, otherwise, it will pool up in the bottom of the bowl.

2. Add the eggs, flour, salt, and pepper, and mix until well coated. (I’m lazy and just toss the eggs right in, and mix them in with my hands, rather than getting a bowl dirty beating them first.)

3. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and drizzle on enough oil that you can roll it around to coat the bottom of the pan (or spray generously.)

4. Working in batches, drop around 1/3 cup of the mixture into the pan, spreading it a bit to be around 4 inches in diameter. Do as many as you can fit into the pan without letting them touch. Cook for around 4 minutes, then squirt or spray a little oil on each one before flipping and cooking for another 4 minutes. They should be tender and a deep golden brown. Or black, depending on whether you’re a crappy cook like me.

 

Makes approximately 24 Mini Birds Nests.

MOM Tips:

Since sticking around to flip or scoop 3 to 4 “Birds Nests” every 4 minutes can be time-consuming, a large electric griddle or stovetop griddle pan make this go by faster, if you have one!

If you don’t like all the extra stuff in cooking sprays, or don’t have olive oil spray, using a cleaned condiment squeeze bottle is a great way to squirt a bit of oil on the pan between batches, and right before flipping.

Chopping a bajillion thin little veggie sticks and hanging around your stove to be on-call every 4 minutes takes some time, so these are best prepped and made when the kids aren’t hanging on you. (HA! As if!) You can cut these the night before though. Maybe after they’re in bed, and have had their extra story, and oh, yeah, bathroom, and can I have some water please? and are finally asleep.

Make this batch and freeze after you cook them. To use, simply thaw, reheat, and enjoy! Download a Printer-Friendly Version.

 

Healthy Homemade Lunch(able) with Smoothie

Want a healthy version of the popular store-bought Lunch(able) with Smoothie? Check this out!

Healthy Homemade Lunchable with Smoothie

This lunch, like many of our school lunch ideas from our menus, allows YOU to control the ingredients of what your kids eat, while making them a nutritious and fun lunch for school.

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

Several times, I’ve had fellow lunch-packing mamas complain that their kid had asked for the dreaded “L” word… you know, those boxed lunches!

In my opinion, it’s nothing but a wasteful little box full of wrappers plus highly processed ingredients, not to mention a more-expensive option than packing your own!

I definitely see the “kid” appeal in a boxed lunch though. They are full of colorful foods, and kids get to assemble the lunch!

Thanks to MOMables, I can not only stave off requests for the meat and cheese with crackers and the DIY pizza ones, but I can make them healthier, more visually appealing, and fun! MOMables Cracker Stackers and “Pizzables” are two of my go-to favorites!

It’s very empowering for kids to have all the ingredients laid out separately, where they get to pick and choose and assemble themselves. Maybe they want to eat the cheese by itself. Or build a triple-decker cracker. With a “MOMable,” they still have that sense of freedom and control, but with foods you can feel confident about.

When I questioned my kids further however, it turned out that what each kid really wanted was the smoothie they had seen hyped up in the commercial.

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t “give in” and purchase the L-box. Need a few? Overly processed ingredients, preservatives, artificial colors, cross-contamination with top 8 allergens, high in saturated fat…

smoothiebles3

The best thing about packing your own Smoothie lunch is that you get to select the quality of the ingredients and are able to adjust for food allergies.

Setting aside my personal disgust at one of the commercials, which implies that having a home-packed lunch is something to dread, sending a smoothie in your child’s lunch is a totally doable thing.  And can be quite healthy too, if you make it yourself! Might as well turn this “You got a SMOOTHIE?!” hype to your advantage!

ready-to-grab-and-go

MOMables Turkey Cheddar Sub with SMOOTHIE Lunch

  • 1 whole grain bun, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1-2 slices cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 slices turkey deli meat (preferably uncured or no nitrates added)
  • 2-3 teaspoons mayonnaise (or condiment[s] of choice)
  • Treat (the boxed version includes two “Double Stuf” sandwich cookies)
  • 1 pre-made smoothie in reusable pouch

MOM Tips: If you freeze the smoothie pouch the night before, it can act as an ice pack in the lunch bag and keep itself cool and fresh until lunchtime!

You can use any kind of whole grain bun or roll, even a hot dog or hamburger bun. I doubt any kid is going to be too upset if it doesn’t match the one in the box exactly. “Who cares about the smoothie?! I wanted the one with the SUB BUN!” said no one, ever.

Check out our post on how to make and pack the smoothies in the reusable pouchesPouches we use: Little Green PouchYummi PouchSquishy Snak Pak, and Squooshi.

 

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Homemade Fruit Pouches / Smoothies for School Lunches

Are you tired of spending money on little squeezable fruit pouches for school lunches?

DIY Smoothie Pouches 2Those little pouches of squeezable fruit or smoothies are all the rage lately, but it’s hard to justify the expense.

Most have added sugar or other ingredients you might not want your kids to eat (like high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial colors).

Lucky for us, you can now purchase reusable pouches! Finally! A way to make homemade fruit puree appealing again! Bonus: This is a great way to sneak some veggies into their smoothies!

My preschooler loves my smoothies so much, she chooses them for dessert! When the ice cream truck rolls around, she asks for a smoothie frozen in an ice pop mold instead.

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

I am happy to give her one because my smoothies are made with fruit, unsweetened yogurt or non-dairy milk, and vegetables. With my reusable pouches, I’m the best mom ever when I send a “dessert” smoothie to school with her lunch or for a snack!

smoothielunch1

Below is my recipe. Of course, you can fill the smoothie pouches with your favorite smoothie, apple sauce, or puree. At the bottom, you’ll find links to all the pouches in this post.

Sneaky Strawberry-Banana Smoothies
Makes 8 servings (4 to 5 ounces each)

  • 2-2 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 bananas
  • 1-2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen) [2-3 cups fruit total]
  • 4 cups torn kale leaves, stems removed (or 2-3 cups fresh spinach leaves, lightly packed)
  • Juice from 1/2 lime or lemon (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • Milk, juice, or water (optional)

you-select-the-ingredients

Toss everything into a blender and blend until well mixed. I get best results if I start with the kale (or spinach) and lime juice, then add in the fruits, and add the yogurt a dollop at a time until I’m happy with the consistency. Feel free to taste-test as you go to make sure it’s just right!

MOM Tips: If you have browning bananas (or abandoned half-bananas!), cut them into chunks into a freezer bag and freeze until you need them for smoothies (or MOMables “Ice Cream” Sandwiches!)

Red (purple) cabbage or kale look more like berry bits in a smoothie, for those kids who refuse to eat green.

The citrus juice helps to reduce the “green” flavor from the kale or spinach. Orange juice works as well and can add a little sweetness instead of using sweetened yogurt.

If you aren’t making your smoothies in advance and storing them in the fridge to chill, use frozen fruit. That way you don’t have to water them down with ice cubes. Or save the drained water used from boiling vegetables for dinner and freeze that in ice cube trays for some added nutrients in your smoothie ice!

smoothiepouches8

You can adjust the thickness by adding more Greek yogurt to make it thicker, or milk (or non-dairy equivalent,) no-sugar-added juice, or water to make it thinner, or use half regular yogurt and half Greek. The thicker smoothies are fairly easy to extrude by squeezing while sucking on the pouches, but if you’re using a cup or jar, they’re harder to suck through a straw. The pouches are also messier to fill with a thicker smoothie because you need to do it with a spoon or pouch-filling device. It’s too thick for a funnel!

If you have pickier kids, you can start off using sweetened honey, vanilla, or strawberry-flavored yogurt to make it sweeter and get your kids used to enjoying these, then slowly reduce the amount of sweetened yogurt and increase the plain over time. (Another option is to add more fruit. It should have all the sweetening you need!) Eventually, you’ll have no sugar added, and your kids will still love them!

smoothielunch5

You can freeze the smoothie pouches—they’ll act as their own ice pack, and should thaw by lunch! If you use a freezer jam jar, thaw in the fridge overnight first and send with an ice pack. Or send frozen with a sturdy spoon for breaking up any still-frozen bits.

 

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20 Easy Summer Camp Snack Ideas

Do you need easy summer camp snack ideas? Here are 20.
20 summer camp snacks MOMables.com

Not only do our lunch menus help parents year-round, but we also have lots of healthy snack ideas for you to try, all in our members section.

The MOMables team values healthy options. Which is why the team makes menus for lunches year-round! Just because school is out doesn’t mean you’re done packing healthy foods for your kids. Most all-day and half-day summer camps ask for a snack sent from home.

Why waste the money (and add to landfills) with little single-size servings of chips, when you can send appealing, fresh, healthier options from home?

Plus “mini bentos” are usually easier for little hands to open, and faster than ripping open multiple sealed store-bought packages!

Think of how special they’ll feel knowing you put in the extra effort to pack something that is good for them. These snack ideas are great sides to a homemade MOMables lunch from our MOMables menus.

I like to send a special dessert-y treat once a week, as a reward, plus I’m often stumped for ideas and just plain tired of packing snacks by then! So we have “Friday Treat-Day!”

20 summer camp snacks week 1

Top to bottom, left to right: strawberries, homemade kale chips, gluten-free cheese crackers; root chips (sweet potatoes and beets), cinnamon sugar popcorn (Friday Treat-Day!); strawberries, carrot coins, edamame, cheese puffs; apples, MOMables breakfast cookies; cheese assortment (sharp and mild cheddars, Colby Jack, mozzarella,) apples.

 20 summer camp snacks week 2

Popcorn, carrot coins, pomegranate arils; Greek yogurt (sweetened with honey,) nut-free berry granola; corn tortilla chips, guacamole; chocolate-peppermint wafer cookies (Friday Treat-Day!), mini cheese round, apples; cheese puffs, strawberries, apples.

20 summer camp snacks week 3

Left to right, top to bottom: Cheddar, grapes, cheese puffs; crackers, carrot sticks, ranch dressing; yogurt tube, tortilla chips, salsa; homemade kale chips, roasted salted chickpeas, apples; donut hole (Friday Treat Day!) popcorn, sugar snap peas.

20 summer camp snacks week 4

Top to bottom, left to right: Apples, chocolate-covered pretzels (a little treat); grapes, seasoned sunflower seeds; root chips (sweet potatoes and beets) cheese; Chobani Champions Yogurt tube, crackers, guacamole; cracker sandwiches with sunflower seed butter spread (nut-free!) strawberries, vanilla wafer cookies.

MOM Tips: Remember to include an ice pack, or freeze more perishable items (like yogurt, meats, and cheese) the night before, so they stay fresh in the summer heat and thaw by snack time! You can even freeze guacamole and hummus. By freezing, it acts as an ice pack for the rest of the snack! Be sure to send a drink as well! Water in a reusable (insulated) water bottle is your best option for staying hydrated and healthy!

Summer Camp & School Lunch Idea: Pizza Dippers

If your kids love pizza, and you need new ways to send it to school in their lunch, you are in the right place. MOMables is filled with school lunch ideas your kids will love—finger foods, easy for mom to make, and quick to assemble are all part of the school lunch menus.

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

Laura, the Chief MOM, reminds me constantly that I should eat my leftovers, but I often don’t know or can’t think of new ways of revamping what I already have. Sound familiar? You are not alone.

Thanks to MOMables School Lunch Menus, I’ve been able to save money on wasted food and a lot of time and “thinking headaches.” I mean, the plan has 5 easy recipes, prep-ahead tips, instructions on how to pack the food, pictures, and a shopping list! It’s just what this busy mom of two needs!

When I tell you that I’m not a fan of leftovers, I mean, I don’t like eating them. I just had that a few nights ago, right? The key is to creatively use leftovers in ways the entire family will enjoy—my kids included. 

But how to make leftover pizza fun? Since most schools have “pizza days” on their cafeteria menu, it’s nice to pack something fun and pizza-y on those days, so your kiddo doesn’t feel so left out if you make them take a lunch due to allergies, dietary restrictions, or other reasons. Cold, soggy pizza isn’t nearly as appetizing as the hot (okay, warm) cafeteria pizza the other kids are eating.

One way to zing it up is by making MOMables Leftover Pizza Swords! But some schools prohibit picks, or you might not have all the extra toppings on hand. Or you might just be in a rush because you realized you forgot to pack lunch the night before (who, me?)—no, not me.

Enter the Pizza Dippers!

By cutting the leftover pizza slice into “fingers” and adding some extra sauce in a dip container, I not only hide the fact that it’s the wrong kind of pizza, but I’m also making it more fun than what the other kids are having! Plus it doesn’t matter that it’s cold, or maybe a little soggy or chewier. Dipping makes everything taste better! That’s a scientific fact!*

I also included some extra olives. In case she noticed that it was the wrong flavor after all!

*Not really. More of a MOM-entific fact. Kids are suckers for dip!

I try to use homemade veggie-filled “tomato” sauce (tomatoes, random bunch of greens, plus whatever other appropriately “hide-able” veggies I have at the time. Probably a parsnip or turnip or something.) Or in a pinch, I’ll steam up a bunch of greens or a head of cabbage, puree it, and add to jarred sauce! Since I immediately portion out and freeze any sauces, I tend to mix homemade with store-bought for dipping, so the texture and color are closer to “normal” looking!

 

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