Real Fruit Popsicles

Fruit ice cream isolated on white

Homemade Treats

Instead of serving store-bought Popsicles to your family, make homemade ice pops from nutritious juices and fruit. Summer is a great time to make freezer pops at home because it is easy and inexpensive to find many varieties of fruit at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores. Throughout the summer months, moms can prepare different recipes of ice pops to freeze for use in the autumn. Once you know the basic recipes for the bases of ice pops, it is easy to puree or chop fresh fruit and make a large batch for future use.

Food Processors

Toddlers often prefer eating smoother textures of foods due to having fewer teeth, leading to using pureed fruit to make homemade ice pops. Pureeing blueberries, nectarines and bananas is simple with the right equipment such as a food processor or blender. You can even make natural fruit juices by using a juicing machine. One of the main purposes of making ice pops at home is using organic produce grown without pesticides. Because popsicles bought at a store contain high levels of corn syrup and artificial flavors, moms can control the ingredients in the homemade versions while still providing a delicious treat for their families.

Avoid Sugar

Several cups of fresh fruit such as strawberries or watermelon will reduce in amount as it is pureed and strained. Straining is vital to remove seeks and fibers that many children do not like. Most ripe fruit is naturally sweet, allowing you to avoid adding sugar. Taste the fruit first for tartness to determine if a small amount of sugar is necessary. You can always use alternates such as coconut sugar or honey. Oranges, limes and lemons make delicious ice pops but usually require a sweetener to make the snacks more enjoyable. Older children may want to have more texture in their ice pops, so you can add small chunks of fruit to the ice pops.

Flavor Combinations

To freeze homemade ice pops, you need containers that are easy to fill with juice and fruit. Special containers are available at stores, or you can improvise with small cups (paper Dixie cups are best) and wooden sticks (or even small plastic spoons). You can use one or more types of pureed fruit and juice to make this delicious treat. Great combinations include orange juice mixed with banana chunks or pureed raspberries mixed with lemon juice. If you have a child who is reluctant to try a new fruit, then add it to their favorite flavor of ice pop. Also, try blending in some plain or vanilla yogurt for a more creamy pop without using ice cream.

 

Quick Snacks

Homemade Popsicles

Quick Snacks for on the Go Families

It can be challenging to eat healthy when on the go. As a busy family, you're probably consumed with running around for sports and dance practices, school, work and entertainment with hardly any time to prepare a healthy meal. Forget the drive-thrus and prepare an easy frozen snack that you can make ahead of time. If you have a couple of go-to recipes you can fall back on when preparing frozen snacks ahead of time, you're all set. All you have to do as you head out the door is microwave these treats or just eat them as is. If you plan ahead, you can leave them out on the counter for a bit to thaw.

Veggie Muffins

OK, you may want to change the name so your kids will actually eat them, but these to-die-for baked goods are perfect for grabbing on the way to school. They're single serve, too, so take one, or take a bunch. Kids can toss a frozen one into their lunch bags and it's thawed by morning snack. These muffins are packed with vegetables as well as applesauce and orange juice for a kick of sweetness.

You'll need an egg, 3/4 cups OJ, 1/2 cup applesauce, just a 1/4 cup sugar (sweet!), one cup each of white flour and whole wheat flour, one tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt to taste, one tsp. cinnamon, one cup each of shredded carrot and zucchini, and 1/2 cup raisins. Simply beat the egg in a bowl, add the juice, applesauce and sugar, followed by the blended dry ingredients and the fruit. Mix until moist, then fill cupcake pans 2/3 full. Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Freeze individually, and thaw as needed.

Peanut Butter Pizzazz

For a healthy frozen snack you can make ahead, go for peanut butter for a punch of protein and fiber. Mix peanut butter with your kid's favorite yogurt, add some raspberries and place in pop-shaped plastic containers to store in the freezer. Need a quick snack? Grab a pop and go. Protein, calcium and fruit all in one!

When incorporating frozen snacks into your daily routine, keep in mind that organizing and labeling is key. Mark the date on the frozen treats you make to ensure their utmost freshness. Stack neatly in the freezer or throw them in the ice bin, depending on the size and space. You won't mind when your kids help themselves to these snacks!

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

Chicken Rice Casserole

Nothing is more satisfying than putting a hot, healthy, homemade meal on the table for your family. Make ahead meals are a great solution for busy moms. Cook once and have dinner twice!

Plan your shopping to include items for meal preparation for two weeks or more at a time. One morning spent preparing and freezing nourishing meals for the family will give you more quality time through the busy weekday evenings, and will lower your stress level.

What foods freeze easily and will reheat quickly? Consider one-dish meals or fillings for hot, savory sandwiches that can be served with a cold side dish. Here is a chicken broccoli rice casserole that is easy, delicious and freezes well! Notice that frozen or fresh broccoli can be used. And try some changes now and then:  use different vegetables (or a combo) and try using 2-3 cups of cooked pearl barley in place of the same amount of rice.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

•5 cups cooked rice, either white or brown
•2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
•2 cups chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen, lightly cooked
•1 can cream of chicken soup
•1 can cream of mushroom soup
•2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
•salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, and divide in half for two freezer meals.

The easiest storage is to use zip-lock bags and freeze flat, making sure all the air is out of the bag. To serve, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Prepare a greased 8x8 casserole dish. Have some extra cheese on hand to sprinkle on top before baking.

Serve with crusty bread and fresh fruit for a well balanced meal.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until heated through.

This recipe makes around 10 servings, and each freezer bag serves 4-5 people.

The chicken broccoli rice casserole is budget-friendly, filling and easy to freeze. A good tip for your make ahead meals is to flatten your freezer bags so they will stack easily and save room in your freezer. Place bags on a baking sheet until frozen to help freeze them flat. Don't forget to label with the dish and date!

Don’t let busy schedules prevent your family from enjoying special times around the dinner table. A homemade dinner can be a memory maker, so take time to prepare great, nutritious meals ahead, and serve them to the most important people in your world – your family!

 

Mac & Cheese Spirals

Gratin with macaroni, meat and cheese

Mac and cheese is a simple, yet satisfying main dish for family members of all ages. The perfect comfort food on a chilly day, or a quick meal after your children's after school activities. This is an ideal casserole for moms who always seem to be on the go. If you have some of your children's friends or relatives show up for a surprise visit, this recipe doubles very efficiently without compromising taste and appeal. With added butternut squash, this recipe adds a vegetable into this dish to boost both nutrition and taste. Cook this casserole in your crock pot for perfect make ahead meal goodness. Be sure to prepare and freeze an extra batch of this delightful dish, so you can have an easy, effortless make ahead meal.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs Ground beef
2 boxes spiral pasta
2 boxes of frozen butternut squash, thawed
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb other cheese- Monterey jack, muenster, Swiss...your choice
(or a combination of cheeses)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbs. cornstarch
tsp. water
Tbsp. butter or margarine
Optional:  goldfish crackers, any flavor, crushed for topping

Directions: 

-Cook ground beef in skillet on stove.
-Cook pasta on stovetop until tender.
-Drain grease from ground beef. Also, drain water from pasta.
-Add both to crock pot. Mix them together.
-Put milk and butter into a pan.
-In a small dish, mix cornstarch and water. Be sure to stir until cornstarch is completely dissolved into water.
-Grate cheese and set aside (this is good to do a day or two ahead, to save time - or buy shredded cheese)
-Thaw butternut squash in the  microwave or on stovetop in a separate pan.
-Turn on burner and heat milk and butter mixture on low.
-Stir. Add grated cheese and thawed butternut squash.
-Turn up heat. Stir continuously as you add cornstarch and water mixture.
-Cook until sauce begins to thicken.
-Add completed sauce to crock pot with ground beef and pasta. Stir to combine all ingredients.
-Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
-Keep on warm for as many hours as you need to.
-Scoop out a portion to cool and then freeze in freezer-proof container for a second meal. For your second meal, when ready, add to crock pot to warm and you will be ready for quick goodness on another night.
-Serve casserole with crushed goldfish crackers on each individual portion for your family members who like a little topping on their Mac and cheese. Enjoy!

 

Morning Oatmeal Muffins

Apple Cinnamon Muffin Topped With Granola

If you’re a busy parent looking for a quick, nutritional and tasty morning snack that everyone will enjoy, consider these fantastic oatmeal muffins. Besides being a breeze to prepare, these tantalizing and filling muffins freeze well and thaw out quickly, so they are readily available whenever you need them.

Since this particular recipe yields 8 large or 16 small muffins, consider doubling this recipe to keep plenty on hand. If you don’t, you may regret it! You can make your muffins even more exciting by adding optional ingredients such as nuts and dried or fresh fruit. So say goodbye to expensive granola bars, donuts and other sugary breakfast foods that don’t give your children the energy they need, and show them you care with these fun and delicious treats. You’ll be glad you gave these morning oatmeal muffins a try.

Morning Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients:
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (this can also be made by adding 1 tablespoon vinegar to regular milk)
1 cup quick oats or old fashioned uncooked oats
¼ cup sugar
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
3 Tablespoons melted shortening
¾ cup raisins, cranberries or other dried fruit (optional)
¼ cup nuts, such as chopped pecans or sliced almonds (optional)
1 cup chopped fruit, such as apples or peaches (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease muffin tins or use parchment backing cups. Pour buttermilk over rolled oats and let stand a few minutes.

In the meantime, sift together the dry ingredients and add to the rolled oats mixture with the optional ingredients such as the raisins, nuts and/or other dried fruit.

Then add in the beaten egg, stirring lightly and fold into melted shortening.

Fill the greased muffin pans 2/3 full (or use paper liners) and put in the preheated oven for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the muffins. Top with additional chopped nuts, oats and/or fruit, if desired.

To save the leftover muffins for the week, you can store them in a sealed container on the countertop or in the refrigerator. To freeze, place them into separate freezer bags or containers, and keep in the freezer for up to three months. To thaw frozen muffins, just reheat each one individually for about 20 seconds in the microwave, or simply let them sit out overnight on the counter top or in the refrigerator. Enjoy!