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!

 

Start Easter Dinner Now

Serving Easter table with tasty dishes close-up

With Easter quickly approaching, even the most astounding chef is beginning to feel the stress. Instead of racing to get everything prepared the Saturday before, try some recipes that can be made ahead of time, frozen and then defrosted on Easter Sunday.

Gather Your Appetizers

Before diving into the main meal, your guests like to enjoy appetizers. Purchasing ones that are already frozen is one way to cut down the amount of cooking you have to do. For this holiday, you could also make some meatballs in cranberry sauce or Easter bread in advance. If you opt for the braided Easter bread, don't make the eggs until the day before, or on, the holiday.

Warm Soup

As we go more and more into the spring, you are less likely to crave soup, so this holiday might be one of your last chances to enjoy a warm bowl of it. Whether you want to have one last round of butternut squash soup or you'd prefer something lighter like chicken vegetable, soups tend to freeze very well, so you just need to reheat after the appetizers.

Have Some Pizza

On Easter Sunday, many families like to eat a variety of breads, and pizza may be on that your family enjoys. You could make an Easter pizza by rolling the dough into the shape of an Easter basket, an Easter wreath or, if you are really creative in the kitchen, an Easter bunny. You'll have to consider which toppings you want to decide if that portion is make ahead or not. Try to keep it lighter since this is not the main course, and make the crust thin.

Any Italian Dish

Depending on the cultural background of your family, having a full course of Italian food before the leg of lamb may be traditional. Fortunately, most Italian food is make ahead friendly. Baked ziti, lasanga, stuffed shells, meatballs and sausage in sauce, ravioli and manicotti are just a few of the ideas. Sauce freezes well too, so you can make a big tub of it.

Main Course Ideas

Cooking the lamb or ham before and then reheating it is a possibility, but you are unlikely to have as flavorful of a piece. Instead, prepare the lamb/ham the night before, so you just need to pop it into the oven on Easter. It will need time to cool and rest a bit, so you can bake side dishes then. Look for side dishes that are easy to make such as vegetable casseroles, mashed potatoes and pre-made rolls.

Infusing at least some of these ideas into your Easter dinner recipe will make for less of a hassle this year.

 

Cornbread with Flair

slices of fresh cornbread with blueberry on cutting board

Cornbread is one of those side dishes that can easily compliment any meal. However, this make ahead recipe is not your usual plain cornbread recipe. It uses whole corn and herbs to give it certain flair. What is so great about this recipe is that it makes two square pans filled with a delicious corn bread in about 30 minutes. Use one pan tonight for dinner and freeze the second pan to use for a later time. This make ahead recipe can also be used as the cornbread in your stuffing for the holidays.

Double recipe ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar - more sugar may be added if sweeter bread is desired
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ cups cold buttermilk
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp chives
3 Tbsp thyme
1 cup corn  (if using frozen corn, thaw prior to use)

Step one
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare the two 8 X8 pans with cooking spray.

Step two
In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper.

Step three
In another bowl combine the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and eggs.

Step four
Once the wet ingredients are combined, add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is moist. The batter will still be lumpy.

Step five
Fold the corn and the herbs into the batter.

Step six
Divide the batter equally between the two square pans. Use a spatula to spread the batter out evenly in the pan.

Step 7
Bake the cornbread for 25 to 30 minutes. The top of the bread will be light brown in color and it will begin to pull away from the side of the pans. Use a toothpick to check the center of the bread if you are unsure that it is baked completely through. Overbaking will make for a drier cornbread.

Step 8
Allow to cool and serve or freeze to use at a later time. Cornbread will last about 6 weeks in the freezer.

This is an easy make ahead recipe that can easily be frozen to use for a future dinner. The herbs and the corn give it a certain flair that most corn breads do not have. It would be easy to change the herbs, add sharp cheddar cheese or even substitute chopped broccoli or shredded carrots for a different variation. Add blueberries and more sugar for a sweeter treat.