Freeze Your Oatmeal

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Oatmeal is an excellent breakfast for both kids and adults. It’s nutritious, provides an entire morning's worth of energy and has amazing flavor. Instant oatmeal is quick, but low on the nutrition scale, however steel cut oats might take 45 minutes to prepare. How can you fit the nutritional benefits of oats into an already-packed early morning schedule? Make it ahead in a large batch and freeze it!

Here’s how to cook and freeze a large quantity of steel cut oats. This recipe can easily be doubled for larger families.

You’ll need:
3 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
Pinch of salt

In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stir in oats. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Shorter cooking times will result in crunchier oats. When done, remove oatmeal from the stove and let cool.

You can also use these same proportions and cook the oats overnight. Bring water, salt and oats to a boil in a large pot. Let boil on high for one to two minutes. Leave your pot on the burner, but turn off the heat. Cover. In the morning the oats should be perfectly cooked. For those of you at higher altitudes, cook on medium-high for five minutes before turning off the burner.

Steel cut oats are also great when cooked in the crock pot. With this make ahead method, you'll want to use a little more water, maybe 3 1/2 to four cups. Cook overnight for yummy, ready to eat oatmeal in the morning.

Freezing oatmeal is easy. For individual portions you can freeze oatmeal in ice cube trays, small silicone muffin baking cups or any other freezer container. Lightly grease the trays or cups, fill with oatmeal and freeze for four to five hours. When frozen, pop the oatmeal out of the container and store in freezer bags. These make ahead bags will keep for two to three months. For adults, about three-fourths to one cup is a good portion size. Young children will enjoy about a half cup portion and just a few tablespoons will suffice toddlers. You can remove as many portions as you need when you are ready for a healthy, quick breakfast. Get out your measuring cup to test your tray/cups in advance to determine how many cubes or portions will be the right amount.

Adding all sorts of ingredients to the oatmeal before freezing will give you variety and interesting flavors. Some ideas to try include brown sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut or finely ground or chopped nuts. Fruit also works well. Add finely chopped apples, dried or fresh banana, blueberries, chopped dates, raisins, craisins and dried apricots or cranberries. Try some wheat germ or flax seeds for a boost of nutrition and fiber.

Frozen oatmeal thaws well in the microwave. Or, use the energy saving method of setting out the amount you'll need for breakfast the night before. It’ll be thawed enough for a quick reheat in the morning.


Smoothies…for Now and Later

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For working mothers, it can be difficult to find the time to prepare healthy meals with enough variety to keep the family happy. However, you can make ahead smoothies that have endless combinations. They are a quick way to provide a nutritious breakfast for the family. The following recipes are for one serving. However, the amount of ingredients can be increased for a larger batch. Make sure to store and freeze the rest of the batch until next time. Here are two starter recipes, one with a milk base and one with water.

First, prepare half a cup of blackberries. Both frozen and fresh blackberries work for this recipe. Also, prepare two ripe peaches and make sure to clean out the pit in the center. You'll need half a cup of low fat milk. Use nonfat for a low calorie count or 2% for full flavor. If you would like some extra sweetness, you can also use a teaspoon of honey. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

The second recipe is a strawberry non-dairy drink that is water-based. Prepare one cup of strawberries, a quarter cup of water, four ice cubes and a tablespoon of honey. Add the water and strawberries in the blender first with the honey and ice cubes added last. Start off blending the mixture slowly while increasing the speed of the blender gradually to high until the mixture is a red, smooth liquid. Continue to blend on high for an additional 30 seconds.

You may also add 4 to 5 ice cubes to chill the drink if you want to serve it immediately. Using chilled or frozen ingredients usually eliminates the need for ice cubes, though. Freeze the rest of the batch, but it would be best not to add ice cubes to the rest as it will water down the flavor of the drink. When the rest of the frozen smoothie batch is ready to be served, just defrost it until it can be put into a blender. Then you can blend the frozen mixture until it is smooth.

You can experiment with different types of fruit according to your family's tastes, and even sneak in a few spinach leaves they'll never know are in there. Or even try an apple and spinach smoothie. 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt are great additions to most smoothies, and boost the calcium. Avocado will also add creaminess with some good vitamins. Blueberries add great color, flavor and antioxidants. Also, if you break a banana into a few chunks and freeze it, it makes a great thickener and can replace ice. Because busy mothers can make them ahead of time, these healthy beverages are a great way to ensure that the kids are getting their fair share of daily fruit.


Easy Freezer Hash Browns…and a Quick Panini Press Tip

I always buy potatoes in bulk at Sam's Club because it's far more cost-effective to buy a huge bag there than a smaller one at the local grocery store.  However, I always seem to have too many and they start to sprout before I have the chance to use them.

Last night, I decided to use up the rest of my massive bag of potatoes with a quick and easy freezer trick.

Simply shred the potatoes using a grater or food processor.  Place the ones you aren't using on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place the potatoes in the freezer and "flash-freeze" them for a few hours.

Freezer Hash Browns

Then, break apart the frozen potatoes into meal (or individual size) portions, label them and freeze them for future use.

Family Portions

...and another quick trick...

If you have a panini press you can cook your hash browns with little effort.  Simply grease your press (well) and place the "bricks" on the on it.  Within 10-15 minutes you'll have crispy hash-browns without flipping them.  Mine turned out AMAZING this way..although my photo didn't.  😉

Panini Hash Browns



Handheld & Healthy: 5 Breakfasts You Can Send Your Child Scurrying Out the Door With

Do you find it difficult to roll out of bed some mornings?  Me too.  Even worse is rolling out of bed..(usually late) - wiping my eyes, fumbling for coffee while trying to come up with a quick and healthy breakfast for my kindergarten & 1st grader.  Let's just say that if I haven't cooked a healthy breakfast ahead of time...they dine on cereal.

That's why I like to make breakfast in the afternoons when I am somewhat alert and when I actually enjoy cooking.  Here is a collection of great "handheld" recipes that you can serve your child quickly (or send them out the door with).

All of the following recipes are freezable and microwaveable.  I like to make 10 or so "handhelds" at a time.  I package them by twos or fours (depending upon the portion size)  in freezer ziplock bags and then again in a larger freezer bag with a label on it.

With a little afternoon / evening effort - this will streamline your morning routine and allow you to feed your child a protein-rich, healthy breakfast that you can be proud of.

Handheld Breakfast Pies

Bacon Egg and Cheese Cups

Bacon Egg & Cheese Sandwich

French Toast Sticks

Breakfast Burritos

OAMC or "Make Ahead" French Toast

12 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 slices bread, cut on the diagonal

Grease 9 x 13" shallow baking dish, set aside. In large bowl, beat
together all ingredients except bread. Arrange bread slices so they
overlap. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover, refrigerate overnight or freeze for later use.

When ready to serve, defrost toast and  preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35
minutes, until golden and fluffy.