Tag Archives for " meal planning "

5

Lunch Packing for 2, 4, or 28. Here’s How!

Would you get overwhelmed if you had to pack lunches for 28? Don’t worry, I don’t pack this many every day, but I’m going to show you how easy it is to pack lunches for 2, 6, or 20!

I recently volunteered to make lunches for a school that is in the poorest, most-diverse neighborhood in the entire county.

The thought of making 28 lunches could seem daunting, but I’m here to tell you, with a little preparation and helpful ideas from the MOMables menu plan, it went very smoothly!

My daughter and I always bake together on the weekends.  This allows me to be prepared and have ready-made snacks and breakfast items that will suit her gluten-free diet.

We baked up a batch of chocolate chip mini zucchini muffins. They were perfect for a treat in the lunches for the school!

A small amount of time baking = easy, healthy treats for desserts, whether for just your family for the week or to share! Not to mention the bonding time in the kitchen, as well as it being educational teaching fractions and how to read recipes.

We also made MOMables-style Pinwheels for the lunches. A flour tortilla, cream cheese, oven roasted deli turkey, and roll! Little Miss and I prepared these the night before because they are simple to make.

Tip #1:  Set up an assembly line for each step.  Instead of making each individual pinwheel, make all of them at the same time. 

By spreading all the lunch boxes out on our dining table, we were able to quickly fill the EasyLunchBoxes containers with Veggie Straws, fruits, and carrots with dip.

Tip #2:  Sandwiches, wraps, pinwheels, and many other items are easier to slice cleanly after chilling for at least an hour—or until the next morning.

Thanks to my MOMables subscription, making lunches every day for my daughter takes minutes! If I can do it for 28 people, anyone can do it for their family! Having a plan, a shopping list, and a make-ahead tips section saves a lot of time!

Tip #3: Make lunches ahead of time.  Most menu items give tips on keeping the items fresh and reheating suggestions. If you’re able to prepare your menu items, say Sunday afternoon, it can save you time and energy during your busy workweek!

Tip #4: Incorporate leftovers. Another reason MOMables saves me time and money is because they tell me in the menu if I will need chicken, rice, or pasta for a menu item. I can easily cook it at the same time I’m making dinner for my family!

Healthy lunches for 1 or 28, it all comes down to planning! Let MOMables help you get the most out of your time and energy so your family can have the lunches they deserve.

Tip #5: Plan year-round.  Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your kids aren’t eating lunch!  Even with hectic summer schedules, fresh is still best.  Between June 25th and August 10th, MOMables will share three fresh dinner ideas and two lunch options your family will love.

Planning during the summer helps avoid costly convenience foods and unhealthy drive-thru meals. As always, your weekly download will be filled with prep-ahead tips, five meals and a convenient shopping list.

3

Chicken Parmesan Cups

One of the challenges in family cooking is finding a recipe that everyone will eat and can be adjusted to the proper portions.  This Chicken Parmesan Loaf was a hit with my family.  Rethinking the whole portion-control thing, I made this recipe in a muffin pan for perfect individual-size portions.

This recipe is simple to make without the breading, coating, and frying of traditional Chicken Parmesan recipes.  Zero hassle and 100% authentic tasting.

These individual cups make a great meal for the entire family. Oh, and let’s not forget that leftovers are perfect for lunches too, MOMables style!

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

Chicken Parmesan Cups

Recipe yields 12 cup-size portions. Tip: For this recipe, silicone or foil muffin liners will work best in lieu of paper liners.

  • Author: MOMables
  • Cuisine: Lunch

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with Italian herbs (oregano, basil, & garlic)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat muffin liners lightly with cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, egg, bread crumbs, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. Mix with your hands, just like a meatloaf.
  3. Place the mixture into each cup, leaving enough room to add sauce on the top.
  4. Top each cup with 1 to 2 teaspoons of sauce.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 165F.
  6. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on each cup. Place back in the oven until the cheese has melted.
  7. Remove from the oven, and allow each cup to rest before removing the liners, if serving immediately.
  8. Make-ahead tip: This recipe can be frozen after mixing and dividing among the lined cups. Just thaw, top with sauce, and bake following the directions above.

 

15

Easy Crockpot Cheesy Potato Soup

This cheesy crockpot potato soup is one of those one-pot wonder soups that hits the spot! Bonus: the whole family will love it!In many parts of the country, springtime is full of rain and fluctuating weather. One day it’s 70 degrees, the next it can be in the 40s.

On those cool, rainy days, there’s nothing we love more at our house than a bowl of soup. Especially when I can cook it in my beloved crockpot!

Slow-cooker meals are my favorite—there’s something so great about being able to throw the ingredients in, walk away for a few hours, and BAM! Dinner is served.

What else is convenient about soup? It packages great for lunch in a thermos! The MOMables™ lunch plans have many—although they are mostly in the winter months.

Related: Top 5 Thermos Containers We’ve Tested

Below is an easy crockpot recipe for this cheesy potato soup. Ditch the canned stuff, and let’s get real!  You can jazz it up by adding real bacon bits and chives (or dill as pictured).

Easy Crockpot Cheesy Potato Soup

  • Author: MOMables
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Ingredients

  • 1 32-ounce bag Southern-style potatoes (diced potatoes), thawed
  • 32 ounces low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced (about 2 ribs)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Optional garnishes: real bacon bits, chives, dill, or green onion

Instructions

  1. Coat the crockpot with cooking spray.
  2. Add in the potatoes, chicken stock, water, onion, and celery.
  3. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. One hour prior to serving, in a small bowl, mix together the flour and milk. Whisk until blended, then add to the pot, and stir.
  5. Change the crockpot temperature to high, and let it thicken for 20 to 30 minutes. It will look cloudy. After the 20- to 30-minute period, the soup should be thickening.
  6. Return the temperature to a low setting. Add the Cheddar, and stir into the pot.
  7. Let the soup cook for an additional 20 minutes. The cheese will melt, and the soup will continue to thicken.
  8. Serve hot, and top with garnishes, if using.

 

26 Easy to make veggie macaroni and cheese made with carrots

Homemade Veggie Mac and Cheese

Do your kids love macaroni and cheese but can’t get enough veggies in their diet? If so, this Homemade Veggie Mac and Cheese recipe is for you.

Easy to make veggie macaroni and cheese made with carrots
I want to share with you how I began adding an extra serving of veggies to my veggie-averse son’s macaroni and cheese. At first, I read about adding the pureed carrots directly into boxed macaroni and cheese. But what about those of us who don’t want to use boxed mixes?

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

Eventually, I settled for the ricotta and sharp cheddar combination because it resembled the creaminess texture my son loves.

I love ricotta cheese because it packs on the calcium and protein he needs to grow (he’s not a big milk drinker either). After much experimenting, I began creating larger batches to freeze ahead. I love knowing I can just go to the freezer and pull out a serving to make an entire dinner!

I will tell you that this doesn’t taste like traditional macaroni and cheese. Sharp cheddar cheese is essential to creating the sauce because it intensifies the cheesy flavor and tones down the sweetness from the carrots.  Medium cheddar won’t cut it and you’ll have a very sweet tasting sauce.

For more creative ways to feed kids veggies, check out our meal plans.

For a homemade traditional version of stovetop macaroni and cheese, check out this recipe.

Better Than Boxed: MOMables Veggie Macaroni & Cheese

  • Author: MOMables
  • Yield: 1
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Ingredients

  • 1 cup steamed carrots or,
  • 1/2 cup carrot puree
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup cooked pasta

Instructions

  1. Peel and wash the carrots. Cut into pieces. Steam until tender in the microwave or stovetop.
  2. In a blender/food processor, add steamed carrots, ricotta cheese, sharp Cheddar cheese, and milk.
  3. Pour cheesy veggie sauce over 1 cup cooked pasta.

How to Store and Use Leftovers

Do you know how to use leftovers and store them for later?

How to store and use leftoversWhether it’s a large family gathering or a weekday meal, we often find ourselves with uneaten food. Have you ever found yourself not knowing what to do with it, or how long you can keep it before throwing it all out?

My husband doesn’t like to eat leftovers, so it’s up to me and the kids to finish them off, and I usually end up throwing out several containers at a time, long after they’re okay to eat. It’s wasteful, and costly. The smarter thing to do would be to save those leftovers and reuse them in different ways so my husband wouldn’t notice! Sneaky, I know.

In order to try to eliminate some of the wastefulness, save money, and prevent food borne illness, I’ve put together some “leftover guidelines,” compiled from eHow and What’s Cooking America.

  • Never leave food out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours from the time it’s cooked. It’s safer to cool it in the refrigerator than on the counter, so as soon as you’re done with the meal, put it away.
  • Leftovers containing meat should be used or thrown out within 3 days. Other foods will last up to 5 days in the fridge.
  • If you must store leftovers in the original pan or dish, cover them tightly with foil or plastic wrap. A better solution, though, is to divide the dish into smaller, shallow containers. They will cool faster, and you’ll be more likely to eat them or use them in another dish if they’re in individual servings. For example, pasta is an easy lunch to reheat the next day, if it’s already in a a grab-and-go portion size.
  • Try to switch up the meals made from leftovers. Turkey or chicken can easily be tossed into fajitas, wraps, quesadillas, even enchiladas. Ham is perfect for dicing up and cooking into a breakfast casserole. Rice is great for stir-fries or fried rice. Think outside of the box—you’re more likely to use up your food if you’re not eating the same thing over and over and over. Love Food, Hate Waste has a great recipe index for using leftovers of all kinds.
  • Don’t overload the fridge. Food needs to stay between 35 and 40 degrees F, and  packing too much in the fridge will inhibit the cool air from circulating effectively. Spread the containers out as much as you can.
  • Label everything! Write the date on the container or on a removable label so you never have to question how long it’s been in the refrigerator.
  • When you reheat the food, make sure you heat it to 165 degrees F, instead of just warming it up, and stir the food to ensure that it is all reaching the appropriate temperature. Leftover liquids, such as sauces, gravies, and soups should be brought to a boil before being eaten.
  • When you’ve had a chance to relax a little (or even before you cook your meal in the first place), plan what you’ll use the leftovers for. Having a meal plan ahead of time is the easiest way to make sure you eat the food instead of throwing it out.

My family OFTEN passes sicknesses to each other (especially between all of the kids), but unlike a cold or the flu virus, food poisoning is preventable! And hey, I’m a busy mom. The less food I need to buy, and the less I have to cook, the better.  Reusing leftovers can save us time and money!!

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