All Posts by Kendra Peterson

17 crustless broccoli and cheddar quiche muffins

Crustless Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche Muffins

Need another way to reuse leftovers? 

crustless broccoli and cheddar quiche muffins

Here at MOMables, we are all about using leftovers or making extra dinner ingredients to repurpose for lunch! Not only are these quiche muffins a great way to use up extra veggies and cheese, they do double-duty! They make a great grab-and-go breakfast, or a lunchbox-friendly addition! Need more ideas to fill those lunch boxes? Come check us out!

I usually make these when I’m making quiche for dinner. I add extra veggies and eggs to my quiche mix, then make muffins with the extra that doesn’t fit in my pie pan. They freeze really well (see details below) making it easy to save them for later. So it doesn’t feel like we are eating the same thing day after day!

crustless broccoli and cheddar quiche muffins

Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche “Muffins”

crustless broccoli and cheddar quiche muffins
  • Author: MOMables.com
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Breakfast, Lunch
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked broccoli florets, chopped small
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • Butter or oil for muffin pan

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. (If you don’t have extra cooked broccoli handy, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, then add the broccoli florets and cook for 1 minute. Drain, blot dry, and chop).
  3. Butter or grease 6 to 8 muffin cups (you can choose to skip this for silicone cups). Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cheese and broccoli. (Option: Divide the cheese and broccoli evenly into 6 to 8 portions and place in greased muffin cups instead).
  5. Ladle the egg mixture evenly into the muffin cups. Leave at least 1/4 inch of space at the tops. (If using a silicone muffin pan or silicone cups, place on a baking sheet first.)
  6. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.

Notes

For different taste combinations, you can add 1/2 cup chopped grilled or sauteed onion, or 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped green onions or chives.
You can substitute other leftover or extra veggies for the broccoli, or use a combination. Chopped spinach, zucchini, peas, or cauliflower also make great kid-friendly alternatives, and mixing in chopped carrots and tomatoes can create a fun twist. But really, anything works if it’s something you’d enjoy with eggs!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 muffin
  • Calories: 125
  • Fat: 7
  • Carbohydrates: 2.7
  • Protein: 11.8

These can also be made ahead and stored for later! If you’re not eating them all right away, let them cool for 15 to 20 minutes before putting them in an airtight container in the fridge. They should last 3 to 7 days that way.

Related: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

To freeze, divide into pairs (or whatever serving size you want) and put into freezer bags. (To save on high-cost freezer bags, I use cheaper small baggies for individual servings. Then put THEM into a larger freezer bag. I can usually keep re-using the outer bag, since it doesn’t get dirty touching the food!) The night before you want to eat them (or 2 to 3 days before) place them in the fridge to thaw.

To reheat, microwave thawed muffins for 2 minutes per pair.

Looking for more ideas to make your mornings easier? Check out these great MOMables breakfast recipes!

easy kale dip

Easy Kale Dip

What else can you use kale for? How about dip?

easy kale dip Whenever I add greens to our food, I make sure to name the dish after a favorite green character, like “Kermit Dip” or “Monster Mike Macaroni and Peas” to make it more kid-friendly. There are plenty of green superheroes, talking trains, tinkering pixies, frog princesses, and other fun cartoon characters to choose from to entice any child to give this yummy dip a try!

easy kale dip

A lot of the time, parents have some challenges sneaking extra veggies into their kid’s diets, but MOMables is here to give you tons of ideas and tricks to help with just that! Come check it out!

Easy Kale Dip

easy kale dip
  • Author: MOMables.com
  • Yield: 12 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (5 to 6 ounces) roughly torn kale leaves (removed from stems)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel, softened
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or favorite herb mix)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (the acidity helps reduce the green flavor of the kale)
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or milk

Instructions

  1. In a food processor or blender, chop the kale leaves. Put in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cut the cream cheese into small chunks and put in the food processor. Add the seasoning, onion, and salt, if using. (If dipping with veggies, you might prefer a little saltiness, but if dipping salted chips or crackers, you may not need any salt in the dip). Blend well.
  3. Add the Greek yogurt and blend until smooth.
  4. Add the chopped kale, lemon juice, and half-and-half. Blend well. You can add more milk if needed to get to the consistency you prefer.
  5. Dip veggies and enjoy!

Notes

Instead of cream cheese, which is at least 33% fat (roughly 80 grams of fat per 8-ounce block), I prefer to use Neufchatel cheese, which is naturally lower in fat without adding weird chemicals, fake colors, or extra sugars (around 23% fat, so only 48 grams of fat per 8-ounce block). Both kinds contain roughly 16 grams of protein per 8-ounce block. (Ingredients and nutrition information will vary by brand.)

Feel free to substitute spinach or other greens (leaves only, no stems) for the kale!

I personally prefer this with 2 to 3 teaspoons of garlic instead of the onion, and I usually add some rosemary and extra salt as well. Either way, it’s a big hit at family get-togethers!

For some more kid-friendly veggie dip recipes, check out MOMables Creamy Avocado Dip and Creamy Herb Radish Dip!

4 watermelon pizza

Watermelon Pizza

Do you need a light yet sweet and juicy snack or dessert idea?

watermelon pizzaWhile this treat makes a nice afternoon snack or a fun party food for a picnic or potluck, offering fresh fruit as a dessert option teaches kids that it doesn’t have to be filled with added sugar to still be a “treat!” MOMables has tons of great fruit-as-treats ideas!

MOMables doesn’t just stop with amazing ideas, but we also provide you with a fantastic weekly meal plan that gives you step-by-step directions and even pictures to show you what the finished product should look like! Interested in getting some extra help? Join us here!

Dessert pizza!

First, slice a watermelon into roughly 1-inch-thick round slabs. Then slice the desired number of slabs like a pizza, into 6 to 8 triangular wedges each.

Then mix and match as many toppings as you’d like for a treat that’s sure to please! Try mint, sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sliced or halved grapes, sliced banana, shredded coconut, raisins, dried goji berries or cranberries, thinly sliced peaches, plums, or pears—so many yummy flavor combinations!

For an added Summer-y twist, you could even add chopped frozen berries and bananas instead! What a great way to cool off on a hot day!

watermelon pizza partyMake it saucy!

You don’t need a “sauce,” but if you’d like to include one, some great options are honey or agave syrup, honey glaze (honey mixed with a little water to make it more spreadable), plain nut or seed butter, plain or flavored yogurt, yogurt mixed with a little honey, or yogurt mixed with some peanut butter or other nut or seed butter (any ratio you’d like)!

Add some crunch!

Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, poppy, etc.), whole or chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, macadamia, walnuts, etc.), granola, and/or whole-grain small or crushed cereal (rice puffs, corn flakes, O-shaped cereals, mini ball-shaped cereals, etc.) make great and healthy additions to your fruity “pizza!”

Sweet and savory!

Don’t be afraid to try savory toppings as well! You can try a “Greek Salad Pizza” with some basil, Feta, red onions, and kalamata olives! Or just mix and match a mild cheese (crumbled Feta, ricotta, or mozzarella) with kalamata olives or basil. Or use ingredients from your favorite watermelon salad!

watermelon-pizza-savoryWith a protein (yogurt, cheese, or nut butter) and a whole grain (cereal or granola), this could even make a great breakfast option! You could do most of the prep the night before and store your slices in a covered casserole dish in the fridge. If you want them to stay crispy and chewy, just save the “dry” ingredients like coconut, cereal, and raisins until you’re ready to serve!

For some more easy fruity treat ideas, try MOMables Frozen Fruit Kabobs, Fresh Fruit Yogurt, Banana Split Bites, Watermelon Pops, Fruit Ice Cubes, Chocolate-Covered Banana Bites, and Fresh Fruit & Lemonade Popsicles!

4 how to keep veggies fresh longer

How to Make Veggies Last Longer

Do you find yourself throwing away veggies because you can’t use them fast enough?

how to keep veggies fresh longer

The easiest way to keep produce fresh longer is to buy only what you need every few days. But that isn’t always feasible. So here are some other tips on keeping your weekly shopping bounty fresh longer!

Luckily, the MOMables meal plan already helps you make the most of the produce you buy by featuring the same food in more than one recipe each week, or using a whole bunch/package for a dinner idea with leftovers for lunch!

Other than product-specific tricks, you can try to integrate these general tips into your routine:

  1. If possible, shop for produce locally. Farms, farmers markets, CSA shares, etc. The less time they spend in storage and transit, the longer they’ll last for you—I’ve had farm-fresh cabbage last for months before!
  2. When at the store, instead of buying produce first, save it for last. That way, instead of your foods wilting and getting smooshed while you’re selecting the rest of your groceries, you’re taking them home as “fresh” as possible!
  3. When designing your meal plan, try to use the foods that spoil faster (like mushrooms, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and corn) first, and leave the sturdier ones (carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions) for the end of the week! (Use up spinach and greens, peppers, zucchini and summer squash, and cucumbers somewhere in the middle).
  4. Since many fruits release ethylene gas, which can escalate ripening and spoiling of nearby vegetables, keep them segregated.
  5. In most cases, store your veggies in their original packaging. They’re stored and sold that way for a reason!
  6. Excess moisture can also accelerate decay, so wait to wash until you’re ready to eat, or dry thoroughly after washing before storage.
  7. Before storing any vegetable, remove all ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends (leave an inch or so to help keep the vegetable from drying out). And make sure any plastic bags have a few holes poked in them to let them “breathe.” Pack them loosely in the fridge, to allow some air flow.

Storage Tips for Lettuce, Spinach, Cabbage, and Greens:

For best results, trim a little off the bottom of the stem(s) and soak in water for an hour before storing in the fridge (crisper drawer is best). Greens and lettuces should be washed before storing, as long as you dry them thoroughly. If you get pre-washed greens, be sure to cull any rotting leaves before storing in the fridge.

  • Lettuce leaves should be separated and bathed in several changes of cold water (a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to add crispiness is optional) before spinning the leaves dry or air-drying on a towel. Then wrap and store the leaves in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer. You can also layer them between paper towels before storing in the bag, which will help them last even longer!
  • Cabbage should be stored whole in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Greens (collard, mustard, kale, chard, etc) can be prepped and stored like lettuce, or stored in a “bouquet” with an inch or so of water in a jar in the fridge. For the ones with thick stems (like kale) you can revive wilting greens by soaking them for an hour in water before drying and storing again.
  • Spinach should be rinsed and dried thoroughly before storing on top of a dry paper towel in a plastic bag or lidded (or plastic-wrap-covered) container in the fridge. Remove any yellowing or slimy leaves as you find them.

Storage Tips for Roots:

  • Potatoes, onions, shallots, and garlic should be stored out of the refrigerator in a cool, dark, dry place. The “root cellar” was created for a reason. But pantries and cupboards work pretty well too.
  • Vidalia onions, on the other hand, should be wrapped in paper towels and then foil or a plastic bag before being stored in the fridge.
  • Carrots, radishes, turnips, beets, etc. need to have their greens trimmed immediately (you can save the greens and use them like you would mustard or collard greens or kale!). Wait to peel them until ready to use, and store in the fridge (crisper drawer is best) in plastic bags.
  • Another option for carrots, if you have the space, is to store them in a covered container filled with water. They’ll last quite a long time this way.
  • Sweet potatoes should be stored in the pantry with potatoes and such, but used much sooner, within a week.

Storage Tips for Shoots:

  • Celery does best when the ribs are wrapped in damp paper towels and then foil or a plastic bag and stored in the crisper drawer. You can revive wilting celery by slicing a thin layer off the bottom and soaking in a glass or vase of water for about a day (in or out of the fridge).
  • Scallions and green garlic/scapes do best stored in a jar or vase with an inch or so of water. Cover the whole thing with a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge, and they should last about a week. Or wrap the bottoms in a moist paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Leeks should be stored in the crisper drawer, preferably wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. Store them unwashed and untrimmed, and they should last 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Asparagus should be stored in the fridge (crisper drawer is best) either with a moist paper towel around the stems or stood up in a glass of cold water with a damp paper towel wrapped around the tops to keep them crisp. But use them fast; they’ll still only be good for a day or two.

Storage Tips for Savory Fruits:

  • Winter squash (the ones with the thicker hulls, like butternut squash and pumpkins) should be stored outside of the fridge, in a cool dark place. Cupboards and pantries work well, or even on the counter (in most climates) will do, short-term.
  • Tomatoes need to be kept at room temperature, and I’ve heard that they last longer when stored stem-side-down.
  • Eggplant should be used within a couple days of purchase and stored in a dark cool area (outside the fridge is best) or in the fridge in the warmer areas (front of upper shelves and door). Avoid sealing in a plastic bag.
  • Zucchini and summer squash should be stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Do not wash until ready to eat.
  • Cucumbers should actually be stored at room temperature, like tomatoes! They are sensitive to temperatures below 50F. If you must refrigerate them, or have a partial one left over, store them for a limit of 1 to 3 days, and try to keep them in the warmer parts of the fridge (front of upper shelves and door).
  • Peppers (bell and sweet) should be stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Green peppers will usually stay fresh longer than other colors.
  • Chile peppers should be used as soon as possible, but you can wrap them in a dry terry cloth towel inside a paper bag in a cool dark place (pantry or cupboard) or fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Storage Tips for Other Veggies:

  • Mushrooms vary. Wild mushrooms should be removed from their containers and stored in a paper bag on a shelf or the crisper drawer in the fridge. They might dry out a bit, but are still great for cooking. Commercial mushrooms should be kept sealed in their original containers and should last about a week. If you only use part of the package, wrap the container in plastic wrap, poke a few holes in it, and store it in the crisper drawer. You should either wait to clean them until ready to eat, or dry carefully after you individually clean them with a damp paper towel or a mushroom brush.
  • Corn should be placed in a wet paper bag or paper towel, wrapped in a plastic bag, and placed in the front area of the fridge and used within a day or so of purchase. If you can’t eat it right away, corn loses its sweetness and becomes starchy. So your best bet at that point is to slice off the kernels and freeze them and microwave steam or use in soups and salads.
  • Peas should be stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer or the front area of the fridge (rather than  the colder zones in the back of the fridge). Use within a couple of days.
  • Broccoli heads should be misted and wrapped loosely in damp paper towels before heading to the crisper drawer. Do not store in a sealed plastic bag, but a loose or perforated one is okay. Use within 2 to 3 days.
  • Cauliflower should be stored loosely wrapped in plastic in the crisper drawer and will last up to 2 weeks. You can also cut the cauliflower into florets and store them sealed for up to a week.
  • Green beans are best stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer and used within a few days. 
  • Brussels sprouts should be removed from the stalk (if you’re lucky enough to find them sold that way!) leaving the outer leaves alone, and store them in a bowl or un-lidded container in the fridge. The outer leaves will shrivel, but just remove them before cooking.

You can also freeze veggies, but that’s a post for another day! But here are some MOMables tips on freezing veggie puree!

If you do find limp or wilting veggies, they’re still good for soup and veggie stock!

2 How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally

What do you use to dye Easter Eggs?

how to dye easter eggs naturally

Here at MOMables, we like to help you make healthier versions of certain favorite foods. And while we might make all-natural healthy meals for our families, we still trot out the petroleum-derived artificial colors to dye Easter eggs, and fingers, and parts of the egg whites when the shell cracks.

Well now you can take the fake and harmful ingredients out of Easter, too! Use real foods and ingredients to make dyes for your Easter eggs, and feel secure that you and your family aren’t accidentally exposed to any harmful petrochemicals while having your holiday fun!

We know your family’s health is important and you want to do anything you can to keep them eating healthy! This is a big goal of MOMables, to give you creative ideas to fill your lunch boxes that your kids will love and keep them happy! AND if you need to know how to make the perfect easy-to-peel hard-boiled egg, then just go here!

Here are some ways to make popular Easter Egg dye colors:

Red/Pink:

Beets: Take 1 or 2 beets, roughly chopped, and combine with 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain beets and reserve the liquid.

Beet juice (light pink): Mix 1 cup strained beet juice from canned beets with 1 tablespoon vinegar.

Orange:

Yellow onion skins: Take the skins from 6 yellow onions and simmer in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. Add 3 teaspoons of white vinegar and strain, reserving the liquid.

Carrots (juiced): Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup carrot juice.

Paprika (faint red-orange): Add 2 tablespoons paprika to 1 cup boiling water. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar.

Yellow:

Turmeric: Add 2 tablespoons ground turmeric to 1 cup boiling water and stir well, until turmeric dissolves. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar.

Carrot scraps: Simmer 4 ounces of chopped carrot tops and peels in 1 1/2 cups water for 15 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons vinegar. Strain, reserving the liquid.

Green:

Red onion skin (jade green): Peel the skin from 6 red onions and simmer in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and strain, reserving the liquid.

Spinach (juiced): Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup spinach juice.

Blue:

Red cabbage (purple): Shred 1/2 head red cabbage and boil with 2 cups water, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar. Strain and reserve the liquid.

Frozen blueberries (bluish grey): Mix 1 cup frozen blueberries with 1 cup water. Let soak for a while, until room temperature, then strain, reserving the liquid. (Or boil 1 cup fresh berries with 1 1/2 cups water for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain and reserve the liquid.)

Purple:

Grape juice (lavender):  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup purple grape juice.

Blackberries: Mix 1 cup frozen blackberries with 1 cup water. Let soak for a while, until room temperature, then strain, reserving the liquid. (Or boil 1 cup fresh berries with 1 1/2 cups water for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain and reserve the liquid.)

Brown:

Coffee: Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup strong coffee.

The stronger colors, like beets and turmeric set pretty quickly, but you’ll want to keep the others soaking longer. Your egg colors won’t be as vibrant as the fake ones, but you also aren’t risking neurological and other harmful side-effects from the petroleum-derived food colors. Which is a big win in my book!

Feel free to mix and match foods and colors to make different shades, too! Red cabbage water plus turmeric water mixed together look brown, but make a nice green egg as well!

easter egg dye

After the Eggs

Worried about wasting all that food? You don’t have to! The carrot and spinach pulp, as well as the purple cabbage, beet, and berries can all go into smoothies. If you want to use all the food waste, be sure to add the vinegar after straining, instead of before.

You can even save the “dye” water to color the eggs themselves, or add to food later, too! Just heat the colored water to a boil, then drop the shelled egg in and let soak for a few minutes. When you’re done making eggy art, freeze the colored water in ice cube trays so you can use as much or as little as you like for various dishes, to spread out all that vinegar flavor!

Vinegar is a great substitute for lemon juice in smoothies to cut the “green” and “earthy” flavors from spinach and beets. So toss a few beets, carrots, cabbages, spinach, or juice water ice cubes into a smoothie. You can even toss in a cube of turmeric water while you’re at it!

The acidity of tomatoes will also mask vinegar, so you can use the onion or cabbage water to boil noodles or rice for a tomato sauce dish like MOMables Baked Pasta or sub for some water in a soup like MOMables Hearty Vegetable Soup or a minestrone that will have tomatoes in it!

6 gluten free wheat thins

Gluten-Free Wheat Thins

Do you need a new allergy-friendly snack recipe?

gluten free wheat thins

I am always on the lookout for healthy, tasty, kid-friendly gluten-free crackers to add to our lunches. MOMables Cracker Stackers are an easy go-to staple around here, but they can get kind of expensive for a $5 store-bought box of gluten-free crackers, with only 12 unbroken ones.

I’m a somewhat mediocre baker (and by “mediocre,” I mean “incompetent”) and so anything homemade has to not only be tasty enough to bother with again, but easy enough that I’m willing! These crackers definitely fit the bill!

What is so great about MOMables is that you don’t have to be a master chef to produce wonderful snacks and lunches. Just like these gluten-free wheat thins, all of MOMables recipes are made for the working parents who want to provide fun and exciting yet nutritious lunches and snacks for their children without buying all that processed stuff. Join us here to get started with the weekly meal plan that gives you real food ideas! You can also sign up for our FREE weekly newsletter for even more ideas sent straight to your inbox!

gluten free wheat thins vertical

Gluten-Free “Wheat” Thins Crackers

gluten free wheat thins

This 1-bowl recipe is easy to make and easy to roll and cut, but hard to stop eating!

  • Author: MOMables.com
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, or 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil*
  • 35 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Mix the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and then add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in between, until a dough forms that will hold together when gathered into a ball. (You can start mixing with a spoon, but you’ll want to knead with your hands at the end to make sure you won’t need to add more water.)
  3. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper and cover it with another piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough until about 1/8-inch thick.
  4. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut into squares, or use a cookie cutter to cut shapes. (You can take rough edges and scraps and roll them out again to make more shapes.)
  5. Transfer the parchment paper with the crackers to a baking sheet. For a more toasted look, lightly brush or spray the tops with melted butter or oil. Sprinkle extra salt over the tops if desired.
  6. Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes or until they begin to turn golden. Turn the oven off, and leave the crackers in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

*You can substitute butter with coconut oil OR palm shortening, which will give them a slightly different flavor. Or I prefer to use 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil instead, and add an extra tablespoon or two of water (for 4 to 5 tablespoons total).

These have that slightly sweet and salty taste I remember from the brand-name crackers, but are very pasty-white looking, even with the brown rice flour. You can experiment with adding ground brown flax seed meal for some wheaty-looking flecks, or subbing in partial amounts of darker gluten-free flours. (You can also check out our regular wheat thins recipe here.)

But a cracker savory enough to use in Cracker Stackers, and sweet enough for Monkey Ice Cream Sandwiches make this recipe a regular must-have for gluten-free lunches!

Inspired by a recipe from Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

10 valentine

Real-Food Valentine’s Day Snack Ideas

Need real-food Valentine’s Day snack ideas? Here are 10 easy ones your kids will love.

10 valentine

Here at MOMables, we like to keep things simple and healthy. But once in a while, it’s okay to spend the extra time to make it fun! All you need are a few inexpensive and easy-to-find tools, and you can easily make a meal or snack fancy for Valentine’s Day! Need more lunch ideas and just a bit (or maybe a lot) of help getting school lunches planned? MOMables has you covered, come check it out!

Tools You’ll Need:

  • Small heart-shaped cookie cutter(s)
  • Toothpicks, food picks, or uncooked spaghetti noodles
  • Heart-shaped ice cube mold

You can use a small cookie cutter to make heart-shaped mini sandwiches (made with whole-grain gluten-free bread and MOMables Sunflower Nutella), and sliced cheese, chewy granola bars, cucumber and bell pepper bites, and blood orange slices, and to help shape and remove the stems from strawberry halves. A small cookie cutter is a fun way to cut the core from apples sliced horizontally. Check out these tips on how to keep apples from browning.

You can cut baby carrots at an angle, then flip them and secure them with uncooked spaghetti noodles (after starting the hole with a toothpick). Or just use a toothpick or thin food pick, if the eater can be trusted with them!

A healthier alternative to frozen juice is using a heart-shaped ice mold to make your own Fruit Ice Cubes! Fun, healthy, and delicious!

What About the Scraps?

Other than just eating them on the spot, feeding them to a toddler or family dog, or tucking them under the shapes when you serve them, there are plenty of uses for scraps made from cookie-cutter cuteness.

Veggie scraps work great in a salad, sandwich wrap, or tossed in a soup or stir-fry. Fruit scraps can also work on a salad, or you can save them for a smoothie!

For sandwiches, I like to cut the bread first before adding the sandwich fillings so I can save the scraps for meatloaf, homemade bread crumbs or croutons, (1 cup torn scraps equals 1 slice of bread), or MOMables Frugal French Toast Sticks.

And meat and cheese scraps are still yummy in a quesadilla, grilled cheese pocket sandwiches, sandwich wraps, or on top of pizza!

Some Other Heart-y Ideas!

For the cookie cutters, any firm fruit will do. Apples, melons, and mangoes work well. And any vegetable wide enough for the cutter. You can slice larger carrots into vertical slabs to get large enough areas for a small cutter. You can even turn the heart-cored apples into MOMables apple sandwiches for a fun twist.

Any small oblong fruit or vegetable works well to turn into hearts, too. Grapes and small oval tomatoes can be sliced horizontally and secured with a toothpick or noodle to make hearts as well!

Bread for toast (broil on a pan in the oven for a few minutes on each side), pancakes, and waffles all work well with a cookie cutter. Heart-shaped crackers make a great snack (Gluten-Free Lunchbox Crackers and Homemade Cheese Crackers work well). Or make your own fun Cracker Stackers with heart-shaped deli meats and sliced cheeses!

Other healthy uses for the ice mold include Frozen Yogurt BitesFrozen Cloud Bites, and frozen smoothie bites (check out these Chocolate Green Smoothie and Easy Strawberry Smoothie recipes from MOMables!)

The best part about holidays such as Valentine’s Day is that they give our family the opportunity to get in the kitchen together and have fun. There is nothing quite as cute as seeing my little ones get creative with their food. Their smiles are all I need!

chocolate

Chocolate-Dipped Oranges

Orange you glad that this is the perfect dessert for kids (and you)?

chocolate

Okay, so I know you spend tons of time fretting over healthy lunches, dinners, and breakfasts for your kids, and of course you do an excellent job, but it’s okay to treat yourself and your kids to a little something sweet every once in a while! Here at MOMables, we are all about having fun with healthy and delicious foods; gotta’ keep it entertaining, right?

Why should the terms “treat” or “dessert” only apply to sugar-filled stuff? I love turning something healthy into a treat instead! Subscribe to the MOMables e-newsletter to have healthy ideas like these delivered right to your inbox!

These chocolate-covered orange segments are the perfect treat—yummy and EASY!

Lunchbox Treat: Chocolate-Dipped Oranges!

chocolate
  • Author: MOMables.com
  • Yield: 3 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or chunks (or a 34 ounce chocolate bar, broken into rough chunks)
  • 12 teaspoons shortening or coconut oil, if needed
  • 3 mandarin or satsuma oranges, peeled and separated

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  2. Melt your chocolate. You can use a double boiler, a fondue pot, or the microwave. To microwave, heat in a small microwave-safe dish for 1 minute, then in 30-second intervals, stirring in between. If the chocolate seems too thick, add 1 teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Add more if necessary.
  3. Dip each orange segment into the chocolate, rolling to coat both sides if your chocolate is too shallow. Coat one-half to three-fourths of the way up each slice. Let some excess chocolate drip off, then place on the prepared baking sheet, separating them at least 1-inch apart so that their chocolate puddles won’t touch.
  4. If the chocolate cools before you’re finished, you can re-melt it as above.
  5. Place the tray in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, then serve or store refrigerated in an airtight container.
  6. They will start to dry out, but can last a few days in the fridge and still be tasty!

Notes

Most chocolate bars already contain an emulsifier, so you usually won’t need added oil or shortening. Chocolate chips and candy melts tend to be very thick, so they may not cover all three oranges without added oil to thin.

 

For some other healthy foods-turned-to-treats, check out these MOMables recipes:

1 how to freeze veggie puree

How to Freeze Vegetable Puree

how to freeze veggie puree

Whether you “sneak” it in or not, adding vegetable puree into other dishes is a great and easy way to amp up the nutrition! But roasting a squash to add nutrition while cooking noodles and tomato sauce is a lot of work all at once! A better way is to prep a bunch of puree and then freeze it for when you need it!

What else do you need to know to make your kitchen life easier? MOMables has the answers, join us here!

What Veggies Work Best?

The best veggie candidates for cooking, mashing, and freezing in advance are squash (any kind,) sweet potatoes/yams, beets, cauliflower, and carrots. But feel free to try something else!

Portion Sizes

Depending on what your plans are for each veggie, there are different serving sizes you’ll want to freeze them in. I usually do 1 to 2 cups for squash, since they’re my dairy-free macaroni and cheese base. Sometimes I just need 1/2 cup to sub for the oil in a recipe or to add to pancake batter.

The easiest way is to cook and puree your chosen veggie(s) or veggie blend and then scoop 1 cup into a small zip-top baggie. Suck out the excess air with a straw, mark the portion size with a permanent marker, and then place that in a larger freezer bag. Once all your puree is prepped this way, label the outer bag with the contents (e.g. “SQUASH puree”) and freeze. Boom! Done!

Another option is to freeze in ice cube trays or muffin tins.

Most ice cube slots are approximately 1 ounce, and most muffin cups are 1/3 to 1/2 cup. I recommend silicone for this, versus plastic or metal. It’s much easier to remove frozen cubes or pucks to place in the larger freezer bag! And keep in mind that the lower the sugar content, the more it will stick!

To freeze using this method, portion out your puree into the cube trays or muffin pans and place in the freezer for about an hour. Then pop the frozen puree out and place in a large freezer bag. Try to lay them evenly in a single layer if possible. This prevents them from slightly thawing and re-freezing together (every time you open the door, stuff starts thawing!) Plus as an added bonus, a flatter bag stores more easily!

I Have A Freezer Full of Puree. Now What?

Some uses for veggie puree include adding to tomato saucesadding to macaroni and cheese sauce, or using as a dairy-free “cheese” baseveggie nuggetsCauliflower Bites, or Cauliflower Pizza Crust, and substituting for oil or adding to pancake, bread, cookie, or cake batter (chocolate cake and brownies are especially good at hiding veggie flavors!

Check out this MOMables Chocolate-Beet Cupcake recipe! And we love our sweet-potato biscuit cookies!

Check out these MOMables posts for more ways to prep and freeze ahead to make mealtime easier!

4 how to freeze pasta

How to Freeze Pasta

how to freeze pastaEven though pasta tends to cook fairly quickly (boiling for 8 to 10 minutes), it actually takes longer than you’d think to complete it from start to finish. It often takes 10 or more minutes just to bring the water to a boil in the first place! Having pre-cooked noodles at the ready can not only save time, it also saves you from washing the same pot night after night and avoids having multiple pots going at once! Laziness pays off once in a while! Ha!

Plus, having cooked pasta in the freezer can help make lunch packing quicker and easier! Be sure to check out these MOMables tips for using frozen pasta dishes in lunches, and you can even sign up here to get menus delivered straight to your inbox!

Freezing Noodles 101

Step 1: Cooking the Noodles

When cooking noodles you plan to freeze, be sure to undercook slightly. Al dente is best and helps prevent mushiness when re-heating.

Step 2: Prepping the Noodles

After the cooked noodles are drained, be sure to toss with a little oil to prevent them from clumping up and sticking together.

There are three different ways to freeze them. The best way is to spread them flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet and “flash freeze” for 30 to 60 minutes before portioning into zip-seal baggies. (For longer noodles, pile them into small nests on the parchment-lined baking sheet.)

You can also portion the noodles into muffin tin cups, which works especially well for longer noodles.

The third option is to just put them into the baggies straight from the pot, but reheating them evenly is hardest when using this method. Try to spread them flat within the bags before freezing, rather than bunched at the bottom.

Step 3: Reheat

Noodles that were frozen spread out on a baking sheet can be tossed into skillet meals and such without any microwaving needed.

To reheat on the stovetop, bring enough water to cover the noodles to a boil (you won’t need as much water as used to boil them initially.) Drop in the frozen noodles, and cook for 30 seconds and check. If not thoroughly heated, cook in 15-second increments until done, and then drain. Do not overcook.

When reheating in the microwave, be sure to lay them in the container flat, to heat as evenly as possible. Cover the container lightly. You want the moisture to be retained, but you also need it to be able to vent a little. Cook for 60 to 90 seconds, rotating the dish halfway through if your microwave doesn’t have a turntable. If not warmed thoroughly, keep cooking in 15-second intervals until done.

If using in lunches, you can just pack the frozen noodles and some sauce or mix-ins, and they’ll thaw by lunchtime. Yum!

Do you use gluten-free noodles? Freezing gluten-free noodles has mixed results. They barely refrigerate and reheat well. Rice noodles do best, especially Tinkyada brand, and you’ll want to be sure to cook them just to al dente, maybe 2 minutes under the recommended cooking time. Then rinse with cool water when draining to halt the cooking process, and toss with a little oil, same as wheat noodles. To thaw, toss into boiling water just long enough to heat, then remove them immediately.

Gluten-free noodles frozen mixed with sauce tend to have the best results.

For more tips on what to do with leftovers or extras designed to be eaten over several meals, check out these MOMables tips on How to Store and Use Up Leftovers.

1 how to freeze rice

How to Freeze Rice

how to freeze rice


I’m pretty lazy—I mean “organized,” and find that having staples like rice pre-cooked and ready to go makes it easy to throw together a greater variety of healthy meals in a hurry instead of relying on packaged or fast foods.

I usually do one big batch every other weekend, then freeze it and pull some out as needed. Frozen rice is good for roughly 30 days, so if you had the time and the freezer space, you could even do it just once a month.

Subscribe to the MOMables menu plan for more ways to prep foods and dishes ahead to make lunch-packing easier!

Step 1: Cook the Rice

I usually do a blend of rice(s) and quinoa for a more nutritional punch (and I add the proper water ratio for the amount of each grain I’m cooking, and cook according to the instructions for the ingredient with the longest time). But for just regular rice, check out this MOMables post on How to Make Perfect Rice!

Step 2: Let the Rice Cool

Either in the fridge or *cough cough* in the pot forgotten and left on the stove until after the kids are in bed. Warm or hot rice tends to freeze into a big clump, and if you like your rice fluffy, you’ll want the granules to freeze separated.

Step 3: Portion and Freeze the Rice

I tend to portion into both snack-size and sandwich-size zip-top baggies, for both single-serve and single-meal-size options. Since those baggies are not freezer-safe, I then put those into a larger freezer bag. But don’t be afraid to portion into serving sizes right for your family.

Or when I’m feeling particularly frugal and eco-friendly, I portion and freeze the rice into a silicone muffin pan, and then put those pucks into a larger freezer bag. (I use silicone because it’s easy to get the frozen pucks out. No promises on metal ones.)

Either way, be sure to use a straw to suck out as much excess air as you can from all the baggies, and label at least the outer bag with the contents (including serving size[s] if applicable) and the date.

Step 4: Thaw and Reheat the Rice

Here are some MOMable tips on using frozen rice for school lunches.

I try to keep a baggie thawed in the refrigerator ready to go any time, but on days when I need a larger amount, or just plum forgot to grab a new one out of the freezer when I used up the last one, there are a few ways I thaw and cook the rice.

When I want the rice to add in a dish, I submerge a baggie of frozen rice in warm water, and let it sit, refreshing the water a few times when it gets too cold.

If I just want hot rice, I put it in a microwave-safe container, add a splash of water, and reheat it in the microwave, loosely covered. I cook it in 30-second increments, breaking apart and stirring between cooking, until hot.

For more tips on what to do with leftovers or extras designed to be eaten over several meals, check out these MOMables tips on How to Store and Use Up Leftovers.

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