With rare exception, I pack my daughters’ school lunches. We usually use soft insulated lunch bags and all food inside it is either in a container or wrapped in cling wrap. Still, I worry about how germy the inside of the bag might get. I don’t imagine that my 8-year-olds are particularly cognizant of cross-contamination. I’m certain that they’ve picked at the meat in a sandwich and touched the inside of their lunch bags without thinking about it.
I wash the bags as often as I do laundry, usually about every other day. On days that they don’t get a full wash, I still wipe all surfaces of the bag thoroughly with a disinfecting wipe, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then go back over it with a clean wet rag. I also have extra lunch bags for all of us to be sure that there are always enough clean ones available.
I’ve heard that a lot of people don’t wash their shopping bags because they simply don’t think about all the grime that builds up in there. Do folks treat their kids’ (and their own) lunch bags the same way?
My daughters and I don’t make a habit of eating out, so when we do go, it’s a treat. We have a relatively limited list of places we frequent, mostly because M is very particular about what she’ll eat.
When I mentioned to my 8-year-old twins that I’d been invited to a Schlotzsky’s blogger event to sample their new Italian menu items, my daughters cheered, very loudly. Very, very loudly. They both absolutely love the sandwiches there, and it doesn’t hurt any that Schlotzsky’s also serves Cinnabon buns. We’re lucky to live in the Austin suburbs, a reasonable drive to Schlotzsky’s flagship location. Our usual location is across the driveway from the autoshop where I go for oil changes. A Schlotzsky visit is part of our monthly car maintenance routine when eating out is within our budget.
At the promotional event, we got to sample everything new on their menu, the Viva l’Italia line. I have to admit, it was hard to limit myself to just a taster’s bite of each dish. Any one of them would have made a delicious and satisfying meal. With these Italian offerings, including oven-baked pastas, pizzas and more, Schlotzsky’s is going well beyond the local sandwich joint we’ve known and loved. I’d now consider it a bakery café. Of course, this being a promotional meal, Schlotzsky’s put their best foot forward, but the food spoke for itself. My daughter M, the picky child, had three servings of the tomato basil canestrelli. She quite literally scraped her plate and told Chef Paul that she’d be coming back to order it again. He’s a member of the team that created these dishes, and his passion for quality was clearly quite as deep as his affection for children. M immediately adored him, although J was too busy chowing down to notice. While J joined me in sampling everything, M would try only one of the ciabatta sandwiches. (Oh my, were they good!) The Tuscan had avocado: “Yucky, mommy.” The Caprese had tomatoes: “I only like ketchup of tomatoes.” She consented to eat the Sicilian, but deconstructed, so as to get at the shaved ham, pepperoni and salami, while bypassing the provolone, roasted red bell peppers, balsamic onions, olives, pepperoncini, field greens and tomato. Usually, stock photos from restaurants bear little resemblance to the real thing, but our sandwiches looked just like these. See? So, M wasn’t sold on the sandwiches, although J and I were. The pasta, though? She loooooved the pasta. (So did I. There was this Andouille sausage and goat cheese pasta that makes me drool to just think about.) I’m tempted to keep going on and on about the pastas and the pizza and the desserts (Austin only), but I know you probably want to get to the gift card, so I’ll hold back.
Note that Schlotzsky’s has locations in 35 of the 50 states, in addition to Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Please make sure that you have a local location before entering.
Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the giveaway. You could win a $25 Schlotzsky’s gift card. If you feel like using all the options, go for it. If you just want to put in the simplest possible entry, just leave us a comment on this post telling us about your favourite Italian food. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, tweet about this giveaway, or leave a comment here or on another HDYDI post.
Please don’t forget to let us know in Rafflecopter which you’ve done so that your entries count!! In bocca al lupo e buon appetito. (Hey, two years of Italian in college is finally useful beyond listening to my favourite operas!)
We have a pretty diverse diet around here, but I’ve felt like I’ve been revolving around the same tried and true meals for the last while: spaghetti and meatballs, rice and beans, hummus and chips, tacos, pancakes and sausage, macaroni and cheese, soups, all with fresh fruit or salad on the side. These are all balanced and healthy meals, quick to make and minimally processed (except the sausage), but I hadn’t felt the joy of creating something new for quite a while.
Then, a few weeks ago, my 8 year old J served herself some ice cream for dessert, with my permission. The next morning, I discovered that the freezer hadn’t quite been closed all the way. Nothing was warm, but everything was in some state of being defrosted. I would need to cook everything in the freezer.
There were pepperoni and chicken hot dogs in there, and shrimp. Together with rice, tomatoes, and spices I had on hand, I made a fine jambalaya. That was lunch at work for me for a week! The no-longer-frozen veggies were cooked up with fresh sauteed onion and garlic, cumin and turmeric into a rather nice curry. The squishy strawberries went into a pie. The spinach was stirred into my from-scratch spaghetti sauce. The thawed homemade chicken stock formed the base for a nice bean, vegetable and noodle soup.
The only thing I couldn’t save, other than the guilty ice cream, was the fish sticks. I tried to invent a hash brown and fish stick casserole, with cream of chicken soup, milk, and onions mixed in with the potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, but the texture of thawed fish sticks is beyond salvage.
My daughters liked every single thing I served them, with the exception of the curried vegetables. I didn’t even bother trying the fish stick concoction on them. Through what could have been a disaster, I also was reminded of how much I enjoy cooking… which is a good thing, since rescuing the contents of my freezer took a full Saturday!
This foodie post is centered around a nutritious, filling smoothie recipe that a three year-old can make – and drink – on the porch.
The days I am able to pick up Mister and Missy early from daycare, we try to do something fun. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that we’d make smoothies with the Magic Bullet once we reached home. We’ve done it before, and they love to throw ingredients in the mini-blender which is perfect for little hands, and help to mix it under close supervision.
Well this fine day M&M asked if they could play outside. Not wanting to leave them unattended while I made the smoothies myself, an idea struck. Why not bring the smoothie ingredients, which were already set aside, and the Magic Bullet onto the porch and make it out there? Sure the neighbours may think I was bonkers but then again they may just think the sound of the blender is a lawnmower or something.
So in the time it took M&M to choose their sidewalk chalk colours for drawing on the driveway, I was able to bring out all the ingredients. We were making 2 smoothies today based on ripening fruit in the fridge: one strawberry-vanilla and one vanilla-date using those sweet treats left over from a month of fasting in Ramadan. I combined two recipes for date smoothies from the Internet: Creamy Date Shake and Vanilla-Date Breakfast Smoothie to make this recipe.
Keep in mind the vanilla-date smoothie may need a stronger blender to mix than the Magic Bullet. Since we were on the porch, I used the Bullet for portability. Below is a picture of the ingredients for the date smoothie, which included honey, vanilla, yoghurt, milk and pitted dates. Luckily all the ingredients (minus the dates) were also used in the strawberry vanilla smoothie.
Vanilla-Date Smoothie ½ cup dates (pitted) – I used the big, juicy kind that originate from Iran or Saudi Arabia, found at specialty Middle Eastern supermarkets
½ cup whole-milk yogurt
½ cup whole milk
1 cup crushed ice (use more for desired smoothness)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Missy was in charge of the vanilla-date smoothie. Here is how it went down:
Step 1 – Set out all ingredients and plug in blender
Step 2 – Place pitted dates in blender cup
Step 3 – Pour milky into blender cup, add honey and other ingredients as per recipe
Step 4 – Blend, shake, blend, and enjoy!
Tips: With the dates being naturally sweet, you don’t need very much honey. For a low-fat version, substitute whole milk and yoghurt for skim, or use almond milk.
A couple of years ago, a fellow twin mama published this granola recipe on her blog. I make it frequently. In fact, my kitchen feels a little empty if we don’t have something in the granola container.
My girls always help me make the granola, and I actually let them measure everything. My sense is that the measurements don’t have to be super precise, which is a good thing with a couple of littles in the kitchen.
Here’s the recipe the way I make it (more or less):
4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (uncooked)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or wheat germ
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp. (or so) of cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 250. Mix oats, coconut, and wheat flour/germ. Dump in butter and honey (enough to make it moist but not super sticky…add more honey if necessary). Toss mixture in a greased 9×13″ glass baking dish. Bake for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until golden brown.
I’ve never added anything else, but if you’d like dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries, or chocolate chips in your granola, add them after baking.
If I’m making this just for our family, I usually make 1/2 a recipe. We LOVE this over Greek yogurt in the mornings. (And this mama loves it over ice cream — with a little chocolate syrup — after the girls are in bed!) This also makes a great gift (and looks super-cute in a pretty mason jar).
MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.
Ah, feeding toddlers. One of my 19-month-old fraternal twin boys will eat anything, and lots of it. The other lives almost exclusively on fruit and meatballs. One thing they both love is Carrot, Broccoli, and Cheese Orzo* – known around here as More-zo, as everyone in our household asks for more than one serving.
Aside from substantial yumminess for folks of all ages, this dish has several key benefits:
Veggies are built right in.
The consistency makes it easy for forks or fingers.
It’s even tastier when heated up the next day.
Carrot, Broccoli, and Cheese Orzo
You will need:
A food processor
1 cup broccoli
1 cup carrots, peeled (or baby carrots)
1 small shallot
1 glove garlic
1 cup orzo
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Heat butter or olive oil in a large pan. Chop garlic, shallots, carrots, and broccoli in food processor, scraping sides occasionally to make sure all the pieces are thoroughly chopped. Place vegetables and raw orzo in pan, add salt, and stir over medium heat over 4 minutes. Add water and chicken broth, simmering for 15-20 minutes until the orzo is tender. Stir in cheese (I sometimes add more cheese to taste).
We serve it with meatballs or salmon. I often double or triple the recipe to have some leftovers.
Our weeknight hours are very limited. We get home between 6:30 and 7:00 and bedtime is 8:30. I try to squeeze as much quality as I can out of that time. My twin 7-year-olds and I talk about our days, discussing academics, relationships, and the international news. If I’m lucky, the girls will have liked the dinner served at childcare and I can put off my own dinner until they’re in bed. Sometimes, though, they come home without having eaten and I have to scramble to feed them before bath time.
I have a number of weeknight quick meals in my repertoire: hummus, chips and fresh fruit; turkey and cheese sandwiches with baby carrots; whole grain mac and cheese with frozen sweet corn. I can’t plan for these meals since I never know when the girls will decide that dinner at the YMCA is yucky.
On occasion, the girls will ask for dessert, and our default is ice cream. Last night, however, we had fresh-baked apple crumble. While I make a fine apple-cranberry pie in the winter, there’s no way I could whip one up in during the evening rush. Instead, on weeknights, I make a super-quick version of apple crumble
This is no healthy dish. It’s loaded with sugar and butter. However, I believe that giving in to hedonism every now and then is a good thing. I’m teaching my girls to indulge in moderation. And, as J put it the first time she tasted my apple crumble, “This is so good! The ingredients say it should taste like apple and sugar, but it tastes like love.”
Usually, when I share recipes, I at least pretend that I measure my ingredients and give measurable quantities alongside my ingredient list. You won’t get that here. Part of the way I keep this reasonable for weeknights is to minimize dishes that require washing. No measuring spoons. One mixing bowl. I pop the crumbles in the oven when I pop the girls in the bath and we eat them once the children are dry and dressed.
With no more ado, here’s my recipe:
Frozen single-serving pastry shells
1 medium Granny Smith apple per 2 shells
Handful of brown sugar
2 handfuls of all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Teensy touch of nutmeg
1 handful of granulated sugar
Chunk of butter
(Optional) Handful of oats
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Place your pastry shells on a baking sheet. If you think they need extra support, a muffin tin should help.
Peel and core the apples. Dice into small pieces. We like the pieces tiny, but feel free to do as much chopping as you have time for.
Place apples, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and one handful of flour in a bowl. Mix. The mixture should glisten. If it looks watery, throw in some more flour.
Divide the apple mixture between the pastry shells. Not enough apple? Mix up some more… or just make some extra crumble topping to fill it up.
Mix the remaining flour, sugar and oats (if you’re using them). I just use the apple bowl because I’m lazy like that. Rub the butter into the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs or you run out of time, whichever comes first.
Divide the crumb topping between the apple-fixed shells.
Bake for about 20 minutes. They’re done when you start to smell them. The apple mixture should be bubbling and the topping lightly browned.
Remove children from bath and serve. Serve the crumbles to the children, that is, not the other way around.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.
Recently my long-time friends and I were sharing an email thread describing our shortcoming when it comes to getting a healthy dinner on the table during the work week. We are three intelligent ladies living in different areas of the US, each with different daytime duties and schedules and yet we all have one thing in common: we feel like we are failing when it comes to seamlessly feeding our kids at the end of a long day. I’m no expert, but I did come up with a list of ideas that have made my weekdays easier. Maybe some of these ideas will help make your dinners easier too:
Instead of trying to plan out five meals to cook during the week, pick three. I have found that five is too many to put together and you can usually float two meals between leftovers and schedule changes that come up as the week goes on.
Make (at least) three of the same things every week. You can switch up little things like the starch and/or the veggie side dishes (and you can change your three meals monthly if you fear you will get board) but making the same basic things during the week will save time and will help you get into a groove.
Don’t make elaborate dishes. I’m not sure about your kids, but mine really like individual foods. Chicken legs, broccoli, avocado, rice. Done. Hamburgers (no bun because they really don’t eat constructed sandwiches at this age), sweet potatoes fries, veggie. Done. Red meat sauce and pasta, side veggie, yogurt. Done. Rice, lightly seasoned black beans, avocado, pork, done. Pizza with whatever topping we have left in the fridge. No chicken pot pies, no stews, no chili, limited soups. I love the thought of them, but my children don’t eat them as well as individual foods, and they take too much time and effort for little return on investment.
Prep SOME things on the weekend. I have been cutting up a batch of onions, sweet potatoes, washing greens and cutting up broccoli on Sundays. Then I just grab and go from there depending on what meal I am constructing.
Make some grains on the weekends. Make a batch of rice and cook some noodles or quinoa to have ready to go with any meal. You can construct a lot of meals under pressure if you have these things cooked and in the fridge ready to use. Refill your stock of one grain on Wed.
Make ONE of your weekly meals on Sunday (the one that takes the longest to cook). Roast a chicken, cook a giant package of chicken legs, cook a pork shoulder (I cook my pork shoulder completely plain then season it for other meals later e.g. pulled pork (add bbq sauce) or tacos (pan cook it with taco spices), burrito bowls (reheat the meat with Mexican spices add it to a bowl of roasted veggies plus rice and avocado, cilantro, fresh tomato). Cook this beef, chicken, pork, item relatively plain then add spices later to make it work for whatever you are doing.
Anything you make a batch of (e.g. chili, soup, red sauce), freeze half immediately to be used for another meal. I found that we get board of leftovers and I was consistently throwing some foods away. Having one meal in the freezer from a previous cooking adventure can be more helpful in the future.
Frozen peas can be added to any meal to round it out
Those are my helpful tips and how I have managed to keep meal time somewhat sane. Feel free to add any insights that have helped to get healthy meals onto your table.
I’ve been rather obsessed with making different types of energy bites or energy balls lately for middle-of-the-night nursing snacks. As much as I like them though, I will be THRILLED when we don’t need nighttime nursing snacks anymore!!! (Please tell me that some day our triplets will sleep through the night!!) I started making these little balls of goodness a couple months ago after seeing a recipe on Pinterest but have since done a lot of experimenting with various flavor and ingredient combinations. In general, I am a “just wing it” type of cook who likes to look at recipes for inspiration but then just throws things together. Measuring is not really something I do, which is why baking isn’t really my strong suit. The great thing about these little energy balls is that they are “no bake” gems that are very forgiving to imprecise measuring. I’ve only made one “I bet this would be good in here” batch that flopped and the rest have been pretty tasty. These little energy balls are pretty quick and easy to throw together, which we MoMs know is clutch because “free time” tends to come in short bursts! I’ve made many a batch of these wearing a baby or two.
Because you now know how much I despise measuring, I hope you will appreciate the effort it took me to actually measure and write down this recipe for you! I would catch myself about to just toss something in and then remember that I needed to measure it so I could pull this recipe together. But for those of you out there who are creative cooks like myself, please feel free to add “ish” after all these measurements! I’ve also added notes about substitutions that would work nicely if you don’t have these things on hand.
We love having these for nighttime nursing and since they’re chock full of oats I think they’re good for our milk supply. They also have a little protein to help them stick with you. And the best part is that they are delicious! I’ll grab one from the fridge and it feels like sneaking a bite of cookie dough without the guilt!
Chocolate Peppermint Energy Balls
1 cup cashew meal (I find this at Trader Joes. Almond meal also works great)
2 cups oats (I use gluten free oats from Trader Joes, but any will do)
1 cup oatbran (if you don’t have this you could sub oats or more nut meal)
1/2 cup cacao powder (standard cocoa powder works fine too)
1/2 cup finely diced dates (not tightly packed)
1/4 cup maple syrup (can subagave or honey)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 Tbs chia seeds
1/3ish cup hot water
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips but was out when I made this batch)
Instructions: Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Put chia seeds in a measuring cup and then add water up to about the 1/2 cup line and let rest for a few minutes. When you come back to your chia seeds they should have absorbed the water and be pretty thick and gel-like. Add maple syrup and peppermint extract to the chia and water mixture and stir that and the dates into the dry ingredients. It can take a bit of work to fully distribute the dates and wet ingredients. The “dough” will be pretty dry and crumbly looking. Mix in chocolate chips. This is where it gets messy. Now grab a small handful of “dough” and smush it together. Some recipes say to “roll” the bals, but in my experience it’s really more of a smushing than rolling to get them to stick together. This recipe will make approximately two dozen balls about an inch in diameter. Usually about halfway through making the balls my hands are so sticky that the balls aren’t smushing well. So I just wash my hands and come back for another round of smushing. For those of you with older kiddos this would be a great job for your kiddos to help with!
Other flavors I’ve made include chocolate peanut butter, almond joy, chocolate almond, and honey peanut butter banana. I’ll try to find the time to measure out the ingredients for these recipes and post them on our blog therrientriplethreat.blogspot.com.
Our three year old twins are at the fun age where they want to help out around the house, and they can actually do things in a helpful way! Yesterday after picking them up from daycare, I decided to get them involved in preparing a side dish for dinner: a vegetable stirfry. Taking some of the week’s leftover vegetables like broccoli, baby carrots, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, I chose to make it Asian style with a mix of ingredients for the sauce.
Missy was in charge of washing the cherry tomatoes and zucchini while Mister took care of the broccoli and carrots. Both took their little stepstools to our double kitchen sink and washed their veggies (with some help from Mama) in their respective bowls. As an added bonus, a bunch of the cherry tomatoes and baby carrots ended up in their mouths.
The tricky thing about the actual cooking part was to make sure both kids are safely away from the flame while I was cooking and had a task to do at all times. I would keep the knife well out of reach on top of the counter and helped them to add ingredients to the pan from a safe distance. Also, I was within arms reach of them at any point, whether they were hovering around the stove, or at the kitchen sink, or rummaging around in the pantry. Lucky for me they stayed together so I wasn’t chasing anybody around the kitchen.
Mini Chefs at Work
In the spirit of teamwork, Missy opened the cupboard I asked her to while Mister retrieved the big plastic bottle of olive oil and even helped pour it into the pan. I searched the fridge and pantry for different base ingredients to use for the sauce like soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic & ginger paste to name a few. When I asked for ‘masala’, M&M ran to the pantry to grab some spices. Missy chose the red pepper flakes and Mister got the parsley flakes.
We also added onion flakes, sesame seeds and flax seed (yes, flax seed!) to the stirfry. With every ingredient, I would place some on the palm of my hand and let them taste it. Another playful way to sneak in some fibre without them realizing it! Good thing they were tasting throughout the process because when it came time to eat the finished product, they weren’t interested!
Here are the instructions for this easy-peasy 5 minute stirfry. You’ll notice there are all approximate measurements. Since I allowed Mister and Missy to shake in the spices, a lot of the ingredients just got sprinkled or poured in!
2Cute lives in Ottawa, Canada and is mom to 3 year old fraternal boy/girl twins. She and her hubby are quickly learning the benefits of utilizing child labour to get the simple yet mundane household tasks done. She blogs at 2cute.intiaz.com and tweets at @2cuteblog