Packing Lunch the Easy Way – And a Giveaway!

When this school year started, we didn’t have a need for lunch packing. We homeschool, so lunch usually means pulling leftovers from the fridge. In years past, we’ve had various classes around town that would make packing lunch a necessity. But that wasn’t the plan for this year.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that is. Things don’t always go the way we plan them, do they? After a lot of planning, detouring, praying and plotting I finally stumbled on a program that works great for my kids.

We’re still homeschooling, but we’re doing it with the addition of some classes that they attend two days a week. However, they don’t go on the same days. Isaac is out of the house on Mondays and Wednesdays and Mia goes Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Did I mention that it takes about 45 minutes to drive over to the classes? Yep. My own personal seat is becoming shaped like the car seat. But it’s all worth it!

This change also means that at least one lunch is getting packed each day. So when Applegate HALF TIME™ asked me if I wanted to try their new Applegate Organics’ HALF TIME™ Lunch Kits I jumped at the chance.

Each lunch kit is made up of the trusted Organic and Natural brands (Applegate, Stonyfield & Annie’s). The kids like these brands, so lunch is a treat for them. (And no bringing home half eaten sandwiches complaining of soggy bread. Do your kids do this?)

Applegate HALF TIME™ lunches come in three varieties – Turkey and Cheese, Ham and Cheese and Bologna and Cheese. The meats are all humanely raised with no preservatives, nitrites or nitrates. You can find HALF TIME™ lunches at Target, BJ’s, and Safeway. A product locator can be found here.

Giveaway!

One winner will receive an assortment of Applegate HALF TIME™ products, including:

· All three varieties of HALF TIME™: Turkey & Cheese, Ham & Cheese, and Bologna & Cheese

· A draw-your-own lunch bag

· A set of permanent markers

· Coupons

· Activity book

To enter: Leave a comment letting me know which variety you think your kids would like best.

You can find Applegate on Facebook and Instagram.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Applegate via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

15 Minute Meal Series – Honey Lemon Pepper Salmon

honey-lemon-pepper-salmon

 

Fish generally makes for a fast meal.  It doesn’t require much cooking time at all.  If you keep the other ingredients simple, you can have dinner on the table quickly.

This Honey Lemon Pepper Salmon couldn’t be easier.

A drizzle of honey and butter.  A sprinkle of lemon pepper seasoning.  A quick trip in the oven.

And done!

You can find the recipe for Honey Lemon Pepper Salmon by clicking here.

This recipe is part of our 15 Minute Meals series.  Find the other recipes and tips in this series here.

15 Minute Meals for Back to School

15 Minute Sweet and Sour Chicken

15 Minute Sweet and Sour Chicken

 

I have a number of Sweet and Sour Chicken recipes on the blog.  This one uses popcorn chicken along with a homemade sauce.

The sauce comes from this recipe, which is one of our all time favorite meals.  It’s also a meal that makes me feel like I’ve really been cooking.  And it makes the kitchen look like a lot of cooking has happened!

This 15 minute version is so much easier and faster.  Admittedly, it isn’t quite as good as the all homemade version.  But 15 minutes is easy to do on a plain, old weeknight.

Here’s what you’ll need:

[Read more...]

3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – September 29

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

1.  Cooked, frozen chicken

I feel a little like a broken record, but truly – having cooked meats in your freezer ready to be added to recipes is a HUGE time saver.   This week I made fried rice and instead of cooking the chicken in the pan, I used cooked chicken from our last chicken party.  Doing so makes Fried Rice a super quick meal.    It’s pretty quick anyway, but this shaves the time down to the 15-20 minute range.

fried rice new pic

 

Side note – when I write “chicken” on paper by hand, I always write “chix”.   My hand-written editorial calendar is full of “chix”.

2.  Made a meal from a previous Weekly Meal Plan.

I print one of the Weekly Meal Plans each week, but I don’t always get to cook all of the meals.  We change things up sometimes, and I create new recipes too.  This week I finally got around to making the Baked Spaghetti.  The ground beef was in the freezer and the rest of the ingredients are pantry ingredients.  Minus the cheese, of course, but that holds for a while in the fridge.

I love the flexibility of the meal plans.

This is one of our favorite meals.  It was a recipe my mom used to make when I was young.  The leftovers hold up well too, which is a bonus.

baked-spaghetti-done-this-one

 

3.  Used cooked ground beef from spaghetti to make pizza

One of the meals on the menu this week was Pesto Tomato Pizza.  I love this!  But my boys beg for meat.  So I made one pizza using the extra ground beef I had browned out a few days before when I made the spaghetti.

Instead of only cooking 1 pound of meat that was needed for the spaghetti, I cooked a large package and froze the extra.  Once again, pre-cooked meat stashed in the freezer comes to the rescue.

I’m not usually a fan of ground beef on pizza, but this one turned out really good.  And it made the guys happy too.  Win win.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

Fun movie, fall clothes and podcasts – Saturday Stuff

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 1.13.40 PM

 

Jim and I went on a date night a couple of weeks ago and saw The Hundred Foot Journey.  It’s a fun foodie movie.  We enjoyed it.  It reminded me of some of the independent films we’ve watched on Netflix.  It also made me want to go to France.  Be sure to have Indian food either before or after.  Or during, if you wait and catch it on video in a few months.

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 1.28.54 PM

 

Back in the spring, I stumbled on the site, Get Your Pretty On.  Alison was launching her first 21 Day Fashion Challenge.  I signed up on a whim and I’m so glad I did!  I’ve since done her summer challenge and I’m signed up for the fall one too.

Alison sends a shopping list of items and follows that up with 21 days of outfit ideas that combine those items.

It’s like the Weekly Meal Plans and grocery lists for clothes!  Since I hate to shop, this is perfect for me.  There are options for every price range.  Lots of people even hit up thrift stores for various finds, as well as sharing sale prices (the private Facebook group for these challenges are wonderful!).

Want to join me?  Click here to register.  Regular registration is open through Oct. 2 and the shopping list comes out on Oct. 3. The outfit ideas will be sent each day Oct. 12 – Nov. 1.  It’s going to be a lot of fun!  I love having the outfits planned out for me, with ideas that I can rotate through the rest of the season.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 1.38.00 PM

 

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car driving lately.  Our new school routine involves classes that the kids take two days a week. Except they each go on opposite days, so that means I’m driving four days a week.  Two 80-90 minute round trips each day.  Yes, that’s about 2 1/2 – 3 hours in the car each day.

To pass the time, I listen to podcasts.  I like a few business type ones, but that can get old after a while.  Lately, I’ve been bingeing on The Joy the Baker Podcast.    It’s like chatting with old friends.  Except I don’t know these ladies and I’m not chatting, just listening. But it passes the time and it’s entertaining.

I’d love to find some more good podcasts to listen to.  If you’ve got recommendations, let me know!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

 

Fall has always been my favorite season.  Probably because my birthday month is September.

But also because the weather gets so nice and there are so many fun things to do outside.  This year, I’m determined to finally go to a corn maze.  I’ve wanted to do that for years, but we’ve never followed through.

I found one nearby that has a more reasonable price than some of the others I’ve seen.  They even offer a “matinee” price for Saturday afternoon.  Going in the afternoon could be a little hot, but that’s okay.

We can come back to this Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream!  Pumpkin Piescream.  Pumpkin Spicecream.

I love all kinds of ice cream, especially if it’s homemade.  If you’ve never tried Pumpkin Ice Cream, make this your year to do it!  If you like pumpkin things, you’ll love this.

It’s perfect for early fall, when the weather’s still warm.

We had scoops of the ice cream with my birthday cake.  And I’ve eaten it in a bowl by itself.

I’ve also dolloped a small scoop into coffee to make a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

pumpkin spice latte with ice cream

 

And it goes great with chocolate, so bake up a pan of brownies and top them with Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream.

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream on a Brownie

 

The recipe is so simple, with just a few ingredients and no cooking required.  McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice makes it really easy to get great flavor in this recipe.  Here’s what you’ll need:   [Read more...]

Skillet Chicken and Dressing Casserole – 15 minute meal series

15 Minute Skillet Chicken and Dressing Casserole

 

This is one of my favorite casseroles, but the traditional version takes about an hour to bake.

I speeded things up with this version by using a skillet that can take a quick trip under the broiler.

Pair this up with Skillet Apple Crisp, which only takes about 20 minutes.  Together, they make a great combo!

Find the recipe for Skillet Chicken and Dressing Casserole here.

15 Minute Meals for Back to School

This post is part of our new series on 15 Minute Meals.  You can find the other posts in the series linked here.

Grilled Ham and Apple Sandwich with Chutney plus other grilled cheese and panini ideas – 15 Minute Meals

Grilled Ham and Apple Sandwich with Peach Chutney

 

The title of this post is so long, it kind of makes you wonder if I really need to write any more.

I actually do have more to say about this sandwich, grilled sandwiches and keeping dinner simple.

First, let’s talk Grilled Ham and Apple Sandwich with Chutney.  The idea for this sandwich came while we were in Disney World.  We stopped in Norway in EPCOT for dinner one night and ordered several sandwiches to share.

One of my boys is pretty picky.  He will eat no mayo.  Nor will he let any fruit touch his lips.  To accommodate him, I ordered a toasted club sandwich.  It had bacon, so I felt like I was in safe territory there.

But no.  He spied mayo listed for that sandwich on the menu board and he refused to try it.  So I gave him the Ham and Apple sandwich, cringing as he peeled off the apple.  Somehow I forgot that the sandwich also had chutney on it.  Chutney is a definite no-go with him.

He’s getting older, so he didn’t say anything about the chutney at the time. He did switch sandwich choices at that point.  And his retelling of how he handled the event was hilarious.

Grilled Ham and Apple Sandwich with Chutney “recipe”

I hesitate to call this a recipe.  Basically, you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich that involves these ingredients:

  • Cinnamon swirl bread
  • Deli ham
  • Thin sliced apple (I like granny smith)
  • Swiss cheese
  • A bit of chutney (I used Slow Cooker Peach Chutney)

There’s no secret method to this.  Just assemble the sandwich and toast in a skillet.

The great thing about this is that picky eaters can have grilled ham and cheese.  You can eat the good stuff.  Everybody’s happy.

Grilled Cheese Ideas

Sandwiches make for quick dinners.  Weeknight family meals don’t have to involve elaborate recipes.  Sometimes, it’s best to keep things simple.  But it is fun to change up the sandwich occasionally.  Try something new!

Here are some ideas of things to include on your grilled sandwich.  Or drag out your panini press or George Foreman grill instead of a skillet to change up the cooking method.

  • Brie and Apple
  • Bacon
  • Several types of cheese on one sandwich: provolone, American, Swiss, Cheddar etc
  • Cream cheese
  • Laughing Cow cheese spread
  • Tomato
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Onion or red onion
  • Sauteed onion
  • Banana peppers
  • Green chilies
  • Pickles

What do you like to put on your grilled sandwiches?

 

3 Things that Worked in the Kitchen This Week – September 22

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

1.  Speeding up a slow cooker recipe

spicy chicken soup done

 

I originally wrote this recipe as a slow cooker soup.  But last week, I wasn’t on my game and it didn’t go in the slow cooker.  I did have all the ingredients though, plus cooked chicken in the freezer.

The onion and bell pepper cooked in oil on the stove top, then I added the other ingredients.  The whole process took about 30 minutes, start to finish.

This Spicy Chicken Soup recipe post has ideas for varying the ingredients for what you have on hand.  But it also works to vary the cooking method so it fits better with your day.

2.  Breakfast for dinner

Jim was out of town one night last week.  That often inspires me to make pancakes for dinner.  But this time we were in more of a French toast mood.  I did make Apple Cider Syrup to go with it.  Yum!  And bacon on the side too.

3.  Easiest grocery shopping ever

IMG_4953

 

Two steps to making your grocery shopping super fast:

1.  Print off your color-coded meal plan and grocery list from Weekly Meal Plans.

2.  Send it with your son to do the shopping.  Peter was off on Friday, so I sent him to do our groceries.  I crossed out the things we didn’t need and added a few extras.  Extra scribbles courtesy of younger sibling.

Peter came back with all the groceries for the week.  Boom!

A huge bonus of Weekly Meal Plans is being able to have someone else do the shopping.  I don’t hand off this job often, but at times it’s really nice to let someone else handle it.  And it’s no problem since it’s all listed there in pretty colors.

What worked for you in the kitchen this week?  

Easy Side Dishes – Beyond Steamed Veggies – Rounding out 15 Minute Meals

I have a tendency to focus on the main dish and forget the sides.  Until we’re nearly ready to sit down.  And then it’s time to quick thrown some veggies in a pan to steam or pull together a salad.

32 Simple Side Dish Ideas

 

This is a post I wrote last year with side dish ideas that go beyond steamed veggies.

These are all easy ideas though.  Some have a simple recipe. Others don’t require a recipe at all.

All of them will help round out your weeknight meals, but still keep it fast.

Click here to see 32 Easy Side Dish Ideas.

Think simple for sides.  Here are a few other ideas that work well:

  • Raw veggies – carrots, celery, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers etc.
  • Fruit (especially good with breakfast for dinner meals)
  • Cheese slices (with soup)
  • Crackers
  • Popcorn – healthier than chips, but great with sandwiches

What are your go-to quick side dishes?

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