Where did summer go?? The first day of school is just around the corner for most of us and fall sports schedules are slowly trickling in. To parents and teachers, it seems September is just as or more important than January. In this “New Year” we all hold our breath, cross fingers, or say a little prayer that our kids’ schedules all don’t fall on one particular day of the week (always Wednesdays for us!). We might set goals for them (academic, personal, etc.) and we certainly set them for ourselves (I will say “no” more often or at least give my best “yes” to school committees and other community events). I can also feel myself tense up just a little at the idea of early mornings, packing lunches, and busy weeks ahead. But even with all the busyness of the start of another school year, as a teacher and now a parent, it’s still my favorite time of year.
This week, we’re thinking about getting back into routine and on a school schedule. I’m thinking about dinner and how to feed my family without the craziness – whether it occurs at the dining table, kitchen counter or in the car. To help with the busy days ahead, two of the recipes below would be great to double and freeze for another day. I also included a muffin recipe that our family loves and are great for a quick breakfast or school snack. They also freeze beautifully so you better believe I’m doubling this recipe and freezing at least half. I hope you enjoy the recipes below. Thank you for all your comments and feedback on the previous recipes- it means a lot!
This has been a staple in our home for over 10 years. When the kids were little I began by making a deconstructed Cobb salad for them- basically putting chopped up hard-boiled egg, bacon, avocado, tomatoes and chicken right on their high chair tray. As they got older I’d make little piles on their plates (no foods touching each other, of course) and finally graduated into tossing all the components together with the lettuce and dressing and they gobbled it right up. I always left the crumbled goat or blue cheese on the side for anyone that wanted it. I tried to always stick to a rule that when we were eating tossed salads, stir fry, or other foods that had many ingredients all mixed up, that they could pick out one ingredient but had to eat the rest. I do believe this helped them to eat or at least try new foods when they would have otherwise turned their nose up to it. This trick might have ended up with food being thrown from a high chair or booster but for the most part it was a successful rule!
For this salad, I try to prep some of these ingredients on the weekend, in the morning or at least in the afternoon so that putting it all together in the evening is a piece of cake. You’ll need the following components:
Chopped romaine lettuce, sliced hard boiled egg, chopped tomato, crumbled bacon, diced rotisserie chicken, sliced avocado, and crumbled goat or blue cheese. Toss in a large bowl with the dressing below or a store-bought vinaigrette.
2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider, champagne, red wine or balsamic)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sugar or drizzle of maple syrup or honey
¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground pepper
½ tablespoon mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Shake ingredients in jar or plastic container with tight fitting lid.
Fresh Cream of Tomato Soup
I know what you’re thinking… hot soup in the summer? Yes, and for two reasons. 1) I live in CA by the San Francisco Bay and it’s just not that hot. 2) With fresh tomatoes and basil, it’s like summer in a bowl. I haven’t made it yet this year and I’m so glad I looked back on my previous summer meal calendars and found it on there many times! It’s a good one to double and freeze in mason jars to enjoy when fresh tomatoes are long gone. Although it has some cream in it, I’ve never had any trouble freezing, defrosting and reheating it. Sometimes we eat soup with a simple green salad, but everyone is a lot happier if I serve the soup alongside a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Choose your bread (we love sourdough), choose your cheese (very fond of white cheddar), but always use salted butter. It makes all the difference. I learned that from my mama and she’s so right.
**I use an immersion blender or my Vitamix to blend this soup. I actually prefer the immersion blender (stick blender- cheap and super useful for many soups I make) because I like the soup to have a bit of texture.
Beef and Cheddar Hand Pies
My kids go crazy for this! In fact, my 11 year old just walked by my computer and cheered that it was on the upcoming meal calendar. It’s a little bit naughty with buttery puff pastry, but I serve it with a side of roasted broccoli, maybe push a little harder on my workout that day and feel just fine about this delicious dinner. I also double it and freeze the hand pies uncooked in freezer bags with parchment paper in between. The best part? You can cook them frozen directly from the freezer on a busy night!
No recipe here, but we switch between grilled chicken/ground beef or turkey with soft flour tortillas and all the fixings (cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, salsa and sour cream) and grilled cod/sole (on a piece of foil) with some chili powder/lime seasoning in corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, lime and sour cream mixed with the adobe sauce from canned chipotle peppers. Chips, salsa and guacamole are always necessary and sometimes some refried or black beans, too. Yum!
*Short on time? Frozen Breaded Cod from Trader Joe’s are perfect to keep in your freezer for this easy weeknight dish- while they are in the oven, prep toppings and dinner is on the table in less than 20 minutes, I promise!
Grilled, Korean Style Steaks with Spicy Cilantro Sauce
We don’t eat red meat very often around here but when we do, it’s got to be really flavorful! This recipe fits the bill… it’s full of spicy and bright flavors, though not super kid-friendly, ours eat a fair amount of spicy foods and can tolerate this dish. If yours don’t, make this anyway and throw some chicken apple sausages on the grill for those that don’t want the spice. I like to grill zucchini, red onion, and eggplant on the side as well as some couscous or jasmine rice. The best part about this is the leftovers! The next day, take a toasted roll and put some grilled veggies, sliced steak and sliced mozzarella on top. Drizzle with the spicy cilantro sauce and you have yourself a delicious steak sandwich.
** Use low-sodium soy sauce and be sure to not marinate for much longer than suggested or it can be a bit too salty.
Blueberry Bran Muffins
Easy, yummy, freezes nicely and my kids love them. Enough said! Wheat bran is not super easy to find, but Bob’s Red Mill makes an 8 oz. package and I buy several of them and put them in my freezer. Locally, Molly Stone’s and Whole Foods carries this product. Sadly, Safeway and Trader Joe’s do not. If you get a chance to make these, you won’t regret it!
**The first ingredient in this recipe is vegetable oil but it doesn’t tell you the amount until you get to the directions below- I almost made a mistake this morning making this recipe. Also, I often use pure maple syrup instead of honey. I buy it at Costco and it just seems easier to use than honey.