Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meals for Week of August 16, 2010

Back to School Shopping
Summer has quickly flown by and many kids are returning to school this month. I wanted to share a few ideas for back to school lunches and products that can help you. Actually, this info works just as well for the adults in your house who are packing a lunch practically every day. It’s less expensive than eating out and much easier to eat healthy when you pack a lunch than be tempted by restaurants near work. I’m sharing some links to several different things that can help you with packing lunches.

Reusies- Eliminate or reduce your use of plastic sandwich or snack bags. These cute bags are food safe and clean easily and over time you will reduce your garbage and the amount of money you spend on plastic baggies.

Easy Lunch Boxes- I’ve shared links to other styles of lunch box systems in the past, but this one is less expensive and very easy to use. Like they say, they are in between high end bento style lunch containers and cheap disposable storage containers. I spent $30 including tax and shipping for a set of 4 boxes plus a cooler bag for my husband. The kids’ lunch boxes will fit them. These are compartmentalized and the lid seals the compartments. They are not completely leak free when packing dips or yogurt, but their website has some ideas and ticks that can you do to still pack those sorts of things. What I like about these is you can still fit it in your child’s beloved lunch box and it reduces the number of little containers you have to pack. (and then wash!)

Land’s End backpacks and lunch boxes- Highly recommend the back packs and lunch boxes from Land’s End. They really hold up well throughout the school year. Shopping tip- Land’s End has a department within many Sears stores and they offer more sales and clearance of the products than the online store and catalog. They also sometimes provide display models of items that are catalog only so you can see and touch them before ordering.
Some quick lunch and breakfast ideas-
  • Leftovers can work for kid’s lunch too- A thermos that can be popped in the microwave for 2 minutes while you’re getting dressed in the morning will keep warm until lunch. You can pack leftover taco fixings with a tortilla or a baggie of tortilla chips.
  • If you have one of the little bottle bags that sometimes comes in a diaper bag, don’t toss it out when you’re done with bottles! Heat a burrito, quesadilla or hot sandwich, wrap it in foil, stick it in the bag and then pack that in your lunch. It keeps the warm food separated from whatever else you’re packing.
  • Sometimes it’s more fun for kids to have a lunch full of snacks than just a sandwich. A little container of peanut or almond butter with crackers, apple slices and cheese slices can be filling. Or baby carrots, ranch dip, salami or ham slices with crackers and cheese is great. It’s like your own version of the popular Lunchable but with something like the Easy Lunch Box, you save a lot of money and make it healthier.
  • Make breakfast burritos ahead and individually wrap them to microwave and then eat on the go. They freeze well, or on Sunday make up some to keep in the fridge for the coming week. 

Cooking Tips
  • To avoid overcooked vegetables, be sure to remove them from the heat when they are slightly underdone from your desired doneness. There is carryover heat that will continue to cook them, so turn the heat off and let them sit for a couple minutes for serving.
  • The larger the zucchini, the more water content. Even though it’s neat to grow an enormous zucchini, your better tasting ones and the ones easiest to prepare will be ½ lb or smaller. If you need zucchini to put out less water in a dish (like a casserole or lasagna) sprinkle slices with salt, let it sit and then gently squeeze or use a paper napkin to blot them and remove the water.
  • If you have overripe bananas but don’t have the time to use them right away, place them in a plastic zip bag and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready, they will thaw quickly ready for use.
  • Pre-cut bagged lettuce or salad greens only seem convenient when you are going to use the entire bag at once. Moisture is the enemy with those things. Plus they are more expensive when compared to just a regular head of lettuce. But yet buying whole heads of lettuce (like the 3 pack of romaine hearts) lasts longer when I wash, cut and spin dry then place in a sealed container in the fridge. You can even add sliced cucumber and mushrooms to have a salad ready, but I only recommend that if you’re going to eat it all within a couple days. You can also place a paper towel over it and then the lid and that helps fight moisture.
This week I have recipes that I hope will be easy for those first few days of getting back into a routine with the return of school. I’m a little heavy with the chicken meals, but it’s a nice variety of chicken recipes along with a few meatless recipes. Please be sure to come back and post to share how your meals turned out or email me any feedback at

Meals for the Week of August 16, 2010

Orzo with Chicken, Corn and Green Beans

Roast Chicken- There are A LOT of methods for roasting a chicken and many are good. If you love a flavorful and slightly salty but crispy skin, this one is for you. A roast chicken is perfect for the weekend and if you have leftovers, I’ve got a few other quick weeknight meals you can make with it.

Easy Baked Penne-*COOK’S NIGHT OFF*- Perfect for back to school and busy weeknights. I like their suggestion of mixing in shredded chicken or ground turkey if you don’t want to keep it meatless. I try to keep marinara sauce on hand in my freezer so I can put something like this together when I’m short on time.

Orzo with Chicken, Corn and Green Beans- If you don’t want to make soup with a leftover roasted chicken, make this instead. Fresh green beans are great and looking good right now. But I also recommend the frozen haricot verts green beans from Trader Joe’s as well as their super sweet organic white corn.

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad- Not a copy-cat of the California Pizza Kitchen salad, but in the same spirit. I love main dish salads like this one.

Chicken Parmesan- This is my version of chicken parmesan. It’s not breaded, so it can be low carb if that’s important to you. It includes a very easy recipe for homemade marinara sauce. My weekly personal chef client has asked me to make it 3 weeks in a row.

Kung Pao Chicken- A restaurant favorite, you can have this easy version at home. And it’s surprisingly low calorie too.

Sweet Potato Slow Cooker Chili- If you’re in the mood for chili, give this a try. Unique flavors, but it all works. Plus it’s got good vitamins and healthy nutrients.

Curried Chicken with Mango Salad- A great low-calorie dish, mango is the perfect combination with the curry. Keep it healthy and serve with brown basmati rice. If you like Indian food, then you should get garam masala curry, which is actually not hard to find. Once you have that you can make curry dishes like this anytime.

Flank Steak with Lime Marinade- I try to keep a flank steak stocked in my freezer because it’s inexpensive and versatile. It’s also a lean cut of beef which makes it nice to have beef now and then without consuming tons of calories. But it does mean it needs a marinade like this recipe to tenderize it and it should be cooked to medium rare. This recipe is easy and tastes great.

Chicken Pesto Panini- If you’re in the mood for a sandwich and salad meal, try this. Panini is like the fancy grilled cheese. If you have a George Forman grill, it’s perfect for making paninis.

Breakfast/Side Dishes

Best Banana Muffins- I highly recommend these muffins. My kids love them and they don’t even realize they are healthier than your usual banana muffin. I make them on a weekend and then they have them for breakfast on the way to school throughout the week.

Salad with Goat Cheese Pecan Balls & Raspberry Dressing- Nutty cheese with sweet and tangy fruit is a fantastic combination. Fix this salad for a change of pace from the usual green salad.

Crispy Brown Butter Artichoke Hearts- Do you ever see those packages of small baby artichokes at the store? This is a recipe that you can use to fix those. Because it’s all about the heart inside, the outer leaves on the baby artichokes aren’t worth it. Or, skip all that prep and try using the frozen artichoke hearts you can get at Trader Joe’s.

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