Clean Lunch menu for April Week #4

my girl at last fall's District Cross country race.

my girl at last fall’s District Cross country race.

A full school week ahead, and an even fuller week of activities!  The most exciting thing this week, the school track meet is this Friday.  While for most kids, it is just an adventure outside the classroom and for some, they would rather stay inside the classroom, for my daughter, this is a day that requires a plan.  She is keen to make it all the way to the District meet, which is three meets away, and requires qualifying not only out of the school meet, but then out of the Zone meet.  This week, she told me, “I really want to go to the District meet.”  So, I said, “Then you need to have a plan, and a vision.  You know you can run fast.  You know you are strong and you know your body can do what you need it to do.  So now you need to make sure your mind knows what to do.”  That has been her work this week.  Getting that picture in her head of crossing the finish line first, at the school meet, and then doing it again at the Zone meet, and finally, seeing her name on the list of athletes going to the District meet, and feeling herself running fast and strong and confident.

Having a goal and a vision, is what turns dreams into reality.  Those visions keep us focused on what is important to us and where we want to go.

And my contribution to the goal?  Putting good fuel into that little gas tank!  So I have planned a menu that should take all of my kiddos to the top of their game.  Lots of healthy lean protein, veggies and fruit, complex carbs for great energy.

Packable

Monday: Wild Rice Salmon chowder, raw broccoli and carrot sticks,  fruit salad and cottage cheese, oatmeal pecan cookie

Tuesday: White bean and Tuna with kale salad, raw veggies with yogurt dip, banana and granola bites

Wednesday: Chicken and spinach wraps, apple, avocado chocolate pudding, carrot and celery sticks, cheese cubes.

Thursday: Turkey Hamburger soup, pear and grapes, cottage cheese, oatmeal pecan cookie

Friday: Chicken and tomato and feta wraps with yogurt, apple, yogurt with berries, dark chocolate coconut protein bars

Daycare Lunches:

Monday: Turkey Hamburger soup

Tuesday: Tuna sandwich with cream cheese and raw veggies

Wednesday: Chicken and brown rice with spinach

Thursday: Clean peanut butter and “jam” sandwiches, and Quick tomato soup

Friday: Salmon and veggie pasta salad. (I use yogurt and a teaspoon of honey rather than light mayo)

Happy and Healthy packing!

Make a great week!

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Meals Made Ahead

…Make life easy!

I love the satisfaction of looking in the freezer and seeing enough meals to take us through a week.  It takes at least one thing off my daily to-do list.  It also means that a busy week won’t derail health eating.

Making Meals ahead of time (in the tradition similar to the Big Cook), helps in a number of ways:

1. Saves you time in the long run: Taking something out of the freezer and warming it up in the oven or on the stove top.  No other prep to do.  Yes, you may have to devote the majority of a day to making meals, but if you plan things right, you can get yourself set up to make double batches of 4 or 5 meals that will feed your family with great, healthy clean meals.

2. Less waste: Making meals right away after you have shopped means that fresh ingredients don’t get forgotten and then have to be thrown away.

3. Saving you money: you can buy larger quantities of vegetables or meat (fish, poultry) if you are making a variety of meals using similar ingredients (like onions, carrots, peppers, ground beef or turkey, etc).  It will also prevent those daily trips to the grocery store.

4. Keeps your meals (and your family!) healthy: If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Taking your meal planning to the next step by cooking and prepping some meals for the coming week, helps prevent using processed foods (or the drive thru!) as a fall back.

Things to keep in mind in preparing for make ahead meals:

  • know how much certain containers hold (use a measuring cup and water to determine quantities)
  • have an assortment of containers on hand (large Ziploc freezer bags are great for some things, but you may want to have 1 cup and 4 cup containers, or even 12 cup ones)
  • label containers with how many meals they hold (ie “for 4 people” or “12 cups of spaghetti sauce”). You can even go so far as to label things with days of the week on them.  This can be especially helpful if there are others in the house who are responsible for preparing the meals (Wednesday is chili, not spaghetti sauce!)
  • watch store sales, to get the most bang for your buck.  If peppers are on sale, don’t plan for making pea soup.  If ground turkey is on sale, then switch up your normal ground beef recipes for turkey for a change.
  • Batch your prep work.  If you will need onions for all of your recipes, then prep all of your onion at the same time
  • Make the best use of your tools at hand.  I typically use the oven for one, the stove top for one (or two) and the slow cooker for one (or to prep beans or meat for another day)
  • Check in with a friend: maybe you can make double batches of two recipes and a friend can make double batches of two different recipes, and then you can trade.  Then you each have four different meals for the week.

7 Make Ahead meals and sides ideas and links:

1. Soup: one of the easiest and economical way to make a meal ahead of time, that freezes well.  One of the many I like to have on hand is Homemade tomato soup. It makes a great addition to any meal.  Another favourite in our house is Hamburger soup.  And my personal favourite to have on hand: Chicken and black bean soup.

2. Sauces: Making your own spaghetti sauce for pasta, spaghetti squash or using as a base for shepherd’s pie, is always a great alternative to the store bought option.  Using your big roasting pan in the oven allows for you to free up the top of the stove for making soup.  Double up your own recipe or try mine.  Another great make ahead sauce to work with lots of meal options is a simple Marinara Sauce.

3. Quick Simple “Fast food meals”: Homemade quesadillas cook up quickly and usually satisfy even fussy eaters.  You can make simple ones with just salsa, chicken and cheese.  Make the quesadillas with the fillings of your choice, wrap individually and freeze, then when you are ready to use them, just cook them up in the oven or a non stick pan, and serve with Greek yogurt and salsa, and a side salad for a complete meal.  Our favourite recipe is a Clean Eating one: Spinach, chicken and ricotta Quesadillas.

Beef and Vegetable Penne Casserole

Beef and Vegetable Penne Casserole

4. Casseroles: Classic Shepherd’s pie is always good, especially when it is made with extra lean ground beef, or change it up and use mashed yams instead of the standard mashed potato.  Or use spaghetti sauce as the base, or a mild lentil dal. Another favourite in our house is Beef and Vegetable Penne casserole, I have made it using turkey as well and it is wonderful.  So much so that I usually make two!   A yummy change from pasta for casseroles is quinoa: here is a great recipe we use often too (omit ham for a great vegetarian dish) : Quinoa, Cheddar and Zucchini Bake 

5. Partially prepared meals: Not everything has to be made completely, often I will make ahead part of a meal, to allow for things to march along more quickly, or in anticipation of marinated.  BBQ chicken is a great option: when the butcher has chicken breast on sale (I use bone in for this recipe), I will buy a whole whack of it and then create meal ready packs with the right number.  For BBQ chicken, I make the sauce (find the recipe here) and pour it into the container, and then layer the uncooked chicken into it and freeze it in the BBQ sauce.  Then you are ready to roll just by thawing the chicken and cooking it either in a 375 F oven for 35-40 minutes or on the BBQ over indirect heat for 45-55 minutes.

Another partially made item we use sometimes: quick and easy pizzas: slice veggies (we use peppers and mushrooms), and bag, shred two cooked chicken breasts and bag, slice some left over baked ham and bag, put it all into a container with a package of whole wheat pitas, label one jar of marinara sauce “Pizza” and you are all set except for the cheese.  Some folks freeze cheese, but I usually just grate it at the time.

6. Some non freezer make aheads: Most salads made with vinegar type dressings can be used over a few days.  Coleslaw made with a vinegar dressing (you can chop your own cabbage or buy one of the ready made coleslaw type bagged salads, like broccoli slaw), can be a great side with BBQ chicken, or great in wraps.  Our favourite (as you probably know!) is Santa Fe salad: one day one, we use it as a side dish, day two it goes in wraps and day three, it gets cooked and put into rice and makes a nice spicy Rice and beans dish.  Cut up raw veggies are great to have on hand for snacking as well as making for a quick stir fry.

7. And it wouldn’t be fair to leave out a treat, now would it? Some great things to keep on hand in the freezer for easy breakfasts or for lunches include a new favourite in our house: Blueberry coconut pecan breakfast cookies.  Great to grab for breakfast or for a healthy morning snack.  Another great one for the freezer: Egg White Muffins.  And of course, Multigrain Cherry chocolate chip cookies.  

As with anything, make ahead takes planning and prep.  Start by choosing one weekend in the month that works for both the groceries as well as the day of meal preparing.  Plan to make one thing in the oven (doubled, so two), one thing on the stove (doubled so two) and if you have a slow cooker, you could make a third thing in the slow cooker.  Or better yet! make supper in the slow cooker, so after you have spend all day cooking, you don’t have to start again and make supper!

Happy Packing!

Kim

 

 

Clean Lunch Menu for April Week #3

Another week…Oh my goodness, we are just 10 days left until May, which means 2 months  left of school.  Really?  Is another school year almost over?  Where did that time go?

I have spent some time over the last month, digging around looking for a little inspiration for those lunch boxes.  I hope you like what I found!  Baked Chicken and brown rice wraps happened by chance in our kitchen when I was packing picnic lunch for us to take to the West Coast (of the Island) on Easter Weekend, a day that blessed us with gorgeous 20C and clear blue skies (in all the years of going to Ucuelet and the West coast of the Island, I don’t think it has ever been there when it has been 20 degrees!).  I tossed some homemade maple mustard vinaigrette with the brown rice, and added some lettuce and chicken and a new favourite was born.

Long Beach 2013

I came across this fun article by Jennifer Tyler Lee at Huffington Post, that was so full of ideas and great links, that I kept going back to it again and again.  Jennifer is the creator of a game called, “Crunch a Colour“, that I am going to get for our Home Daycare.  There were so many ideas at the Healthy Lunch Challenge that I finally just bookmarked the page!

So, check out our inspired menu for this week!

Happy Packing!

Packable:

Monday: Baked Chicken and brown rice wraps, chocolate chip spelt bars, cottage cheese and 2 mini apples

Tuesday: Pizza Dip: Whole wheat pita cut in quarters, marinara sauce for dipping, baked ham slices, low fat mozzarella squares, sliced bell peppers, pear, blueberry breakfast cookie

Wednesday: Tortellini Vegetable soup with rye crackers, mini apples and blueberry spelt muffin

Thursday: Chicken BLTs on sprouted whole grain bread, orange slices, steamed edamame in the shell, yogurt with frozen berries

Friday: Baked pasta with roasted veggies, fruit skewers, yogurt and blueberry breakfast cookies.

Daycare:

Monday: Chicken and “fried” rice with steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Pizza Dip (see above)

Wednesday: Tortellini vegetable soup with rye crackers

Thursday: Chicken sandwiches with Steamed edamame in the shell

Friday: Baked Pasta with roasted veggies.

Enjoy!

Kim

7 days of 400-600 calorie suppers, when it’s not your turn to cook

If you are the primary person in charge of meal planning and preparation in your house, then you have control over what gets made, and what goes into it, and how it gets made.  But what happens when it isn’t your turn to cook?  Does it turn into take out pizza, or pasta with a jar of sauce? Do the salad ingredients get left in the fridge?  That happens at our house, although it can be perogies and chicken legs with frozen peas.

The first part is, what comes into the house.  If your pantry, fridge and freezer are stocked with healthy options (brown rice, barley, whole wheat pastas, canned beans, and cans of tuna or salmon packed in water, fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit, chicken breast, low fat pork chops, homemade stocks and vegetable based sauces), then you are well on your way.  But you still might be faced with those who are left in charge not knowing what to do with all of it, or any of it!

Step one: Teach your children (or your partner!).  Even your 5 year old can help get things going in a positive direction.  They can wash and tear lettuce or spinach for a salad.  They can set the table, to help ensure the family sits down together.  They can drain and break up canned fish for either pasta or salad.  The biggest plus here is that they are also more likely to eat the food that is being prepared if they are part of the process.  Older children can prepare salad or raw veggies, or steamed vegetables like broccoli or bok choy.  In our house, regardless of whether it is Dad or Mum preparing supper, it is the kids who are responsible for preparing the salad and the vegetables.

Step two: Make preparations easy.  I buy chicken breast and pork chops at the butcher, where they can be had individually wrapped.  This means that they are easy to get at, and you only use what you need (helps avoid over eating).  Sometimes, I also season meat ahead of time and store it in it’s own container in the freezer or fridge.  This means that a container of chicken breast or pork chops once thawed, can be ready to go on the BBQ immediately, without having to worry about what to season them with so everyone will eat them.  Keeping a couple of jars of homemade vinaigrette in the fridge helps too.

Step three: Make a plan.  Create a menu and then post it where everyone can see it.  Label it with names to that everyone knows ahead of time who is doing what, to participate in the creation of the healthy meal.  I even go to the extent of posting what might be for dessert.  (Fruit, yogurt, granola is typically what is available).  We keep everything balanced around the weekly schedule, so you know who is home and how many are eating, and when everyone else will be home.

Yes, all of this means some planning and preparation, but doesn’t everything?  A friend shared a quote this morning: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”  and we all know how hard those days are when we have failed to plan!

And if you are always the one to prepare the meals in your house, then you can also use these tips to create healthy, inexpensive meals even when you are pressed for time, or for planning for the days when you know you will be too tired to cook.  Knowing that your meals are easy, makes clean healthy eating even easier!

7 days of Healthy Meals when it’s not your turn to cook

Day 1: Baked Yam rounds with grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli  (season your chicken breast ahead of time so they are ready to go out of the freezer, use leftover broccoli for Day 5)

Day 2: BBQ Pork loin chops with spinach salad and brown rice (brown rice can be cooked in the morning while you are getting ready, then it just requires a microwave to heat it up in the evening, make double batch of rice and cook 2 extra pork chops for Day 5))

Day 3: Baked Salmon fillets (seasoned with salt and pepper and a tsp of dried oregano, baked in a 375F oven for 15 minutes, make 2 extra salmon fillets for tomorrow supper) with mashed potatoes and green salad

Day 4: Salmon wraps (leftover salmon with left over green salad in whole wheat tortillas), raw veggies and fruit salad for dessert

Day 5: “Fried” rice with pork and veggies (using leftover brown rice, pork chops and broccoli, add frozen mixed veggies and two green onion, cook rice in skillet with a TSP of grape seed oil and a 1/4 cup of chicken broth, add 1-2 tsp soya sauce to taste.  Add one-two scrambled eggs or egg whites if you want)

Day 6: Mini homemade pizzas with raw veggies (whole wheat pitas, homemade marinara sauce or low sodium tomato sauce, grated mozza and parm cheeses with left over chicken, or some chopped ham, sprinkle of dried oregano if using plain tomato sauce and chopped green onion)

Day 7: Greek salad, grilled chicken breast and baby potatoes.  (I think this is my favourite meal of all time, and since once upon a time, my hubby was shy to cook baby potatoes, I used to make them in the morning or the night before, and then he would just have to saute them for a minute or two in a couple of tsp of olive oil and sprinkle them with oregano).

Enjoy!

Clean Lunch Menu for February Week #1 – Wraps

Hello!  I am sorry that this is a bit late this weekend!  We have been so busy since Friday, for now we are 6!  Our newest student has arrived to join our family until the end of June.  So, with that and all the other activities that normally fill the weekend, unfortunately, this got bumped.  However, here it is and hopefully, not too late for most of you!

I had some helpers this week.  It is always great to get the eaters involved in pulling together the menu for the week.  When I asked for suggestions, I got “Wraps, wraps and more wraps.”  “Unless there are leftovers!” piped my 11 year old.

Wraps became very popular in our house around the time my daughter went to grade 1 (she is now in grade 4).  She doesn’t really like standard bread (well, she would I suppose if her mother bought white bread), but loves flatbreads.  To prep your pantry for wraps, you want to think of a few things: flatbreads, first of all, or tortillas: choose whole grain ones.  You can usually find them in two places in the grocery store: the bread aisle, and also in the refrigerator case.  I used to think they only kept the corn ones in the cold area, but then I took a closer look and realised that the organic, no additive ones are also kept there.  Hmmm.  By the way, if you pick up these ones, keep them in the fridge once you bring them home as well.

Next, your fillings: you want lean protein and some sort of veggies.  My hubby’s favourite wrap is made with leftover curry chicken and rice.  I always find it a bit odd that carbs are wrapped around carbs, but it is his lunch!  Filling wraps is a great way to use up leftover salad.  My favourite is leftover chicken breast, with Greek salad and a little bit of tzatziki.

Last thing: how do you pack it?  If the wraps are not too messy (unlike the ones I have just described above), you can roll, cut in half and put both halves side by side in a standard sandwich box.  Sometimes I tuck some veggie sticks in beside to keep them from rolling around.  Messier wraps require a bit more planning: use wax paper or parchment paper, large enough to cover the wrap (I estimate about 6 inches longer than the flatbread, and I always have lots).  Then using a slightly smaller piece of aluminum foil.  Put the parchment on top of the aluminum, place the wrap in the middle of the parchment, diagonally.  Bring one corner over the wrap and tuck it under.  Then continue rolling until the parchment is fully around the wrap (being careful as some of the filling will fall out the top).  Twist the bottom of the parchment.  Fold over the other end.  Repeat with the foil, only do not twist the foil, fold it up at the bottom and at the top.  By the way, this is a great way to pack wraps for the freezer.  But I only do that with ones that have cooked veggies in them, never fresh ones.

Happy Packing!

Packable:

Monday: Roasted veggie and hummus wraps, cottage cheese, apple, cranberry oat bran muffin

Tuesday: Tuna salad wraps (put the tuna into a lettuce leaf first, to keep the wrap from getting too wet), 3 bean salad, cheddar cheese blocks, orange slices, ginger cookie

Wednesday: BLT wraps with chicken, mini blueberry muffins, veggie sticks, kiwi

Thursday: Santa Fe salad wraps with Salmon, frozen berries, vanilla yogurt, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, apple

Friday: Spinach salad wraps with lentil soup, rice cakes, fruit salad (frozen strawberries, peach and pineapple), apple

Daycare:

Shepherd’s pie

Tuna wraps (lettuce cut up small, so it is easier for little teeth)

Turkey sausage, with peas and brown rice

Lentil soup and cheese sandwich

Peanut butter and banana roll-ups with vegetable soup

 

Enjoy!

Kim

Roast chicken

Roast chicken is Sunday supper this week.  I like to take a cue from my paternal grandmother when it comes to meal planning.  Shop once, and then cook and have the whole week follow, so that there is less waste and less thinking required.  So if Sunday is Roast chicken (and brown rice, with broccoli and salad), then Monday lunch will mean Chicken and brown rice soup, with veggies (who knows, maybe that will be broccoli…), and Monday supper will be a yummy rice bowl, with left over chicken.

Your menu for the week doesn’t have to begin with chicken, or even meat.  If you have fish for supper (like we will next Sunday because there is one last Salmon in the freezer), then the next night could be fish tacos, or a chowder.  If you are vegetarian, then you could have Spinach or Kale with white beans or a Chickpea and Cauliflower curry, with rice or potato, and then a side of Roasted veggies.  And move on from there, making sure that when you do the roasted veggies, you have enough for two meals.  Always helps to cut vegetables one night for two meals.  Raw veggies or a veggie platter sets you up nicely for stir fry the next day.

Planning what to do with your leftovers ahead of time helps in so many ways:

1. It helps you create a healthy, budget minded meal plan.

2. It cuts down on waste.

3. It keeps you out of the drive thru or from ordering take out.

So how do you start?

Begin with your Sunday meal (or Saturday meal if you work Sundays, or Monday if that is your day off, whatever works for you and your family).  Then decide what you will make.  I like to see what is on sale or what is in the freezer.  For us, both this week’s meal and next Sunday’s meal, will come from the freezer.  So, Chicken.  A couple of months ago, our local butcher had non medicated, Roasting Chickens on sale.  So, we bought three of them.  This will be the last of the three tonight.

Roast chicken ( a large one) will provide us with supper for 6, plus left over chicken for soup and one supper meal (in this case, Rice bowl).  The carcass will be used to make chicken stock, which will be enough for soup plus one litre (or so) for the freezer to use for another meal.  I will also do enough brown rice tonight for tomorrow night’s rice bowl supper.  For vegetables, there will be steamed broccoli (leftovers will go into the soup), and then a large salad (leftovers of which will likely go into Taco salad for Tuesday night supper).

A little planning can go a long way to staying on track with both healthy eating and keeping to the budget.  We all have days when we say, “Oh Man!  I have no idea what we are going to eat…” But these days can become less with a little bit of planning.  Sometimes, I even plan the “I don’t want to cook” nights into our weekly family supper menus.  It used to be Fridays, but over the past few months, I have noticed that it really tends to be Thursdays.  On Fridays, I find I feel rejuvenated with the thought of the weekend coming up, and will get down to business and get cooking.  (altho I do like it if I plan something easy, that requires kid help, like making salad).

I hope you have found this helpful!

Happy Packing!

Roast Chicken for Sunday supper:

Preheat oven to 375F.  You will cook the chicken for about 15 minutes per pound.

One large roasting chicken 5-7 lbs.; 1 medium onion quartered; one lemon quartered, 2 tsp olive oil Your choice of seasoning for your bird: I use thyme, sage, parsley and smoked paprika (sweet or bittersweet)

Rinse bird and pat dry (remove the neck and any giblets if there are any inside the cavity).  Place in large roasting pan, elevated slightly on roasting rack or assorted quartered veggies (onion, carrot, potato, or leeks, cut in half lengthwise). Rub olive oil on bird and then season with your choice of seasonings (as little or as much as you choose, I typically use about a tsp of each and then 2 or 3 tsp of Paprika).  Place bird in your preheated oven.  Cook until chicken reaches temperature (taken in the thigh) of about 150F.  Remove from oven and let sit (under tented foil) for about 15 minutes.  Remove bird to to large cutting board, or if bird is stable in the roasting pan, you can carve it from there.  Remove skin from main part of the bird (not legs and wings) and begin carving (and I won’t even begin to tell you how to carve a chicken, since we usually end up massacring ours).  But Better Homes and Gardens website has great instructions for carving a chicken or a turkey.

If you are planning to use some of the chicken for other meals, my advice is to remove that chicken immediately before you begin serving.  I have been left stuck when I haven’t done this and my hubby has gone back for seconds.

Thanks for stopping by!

Clean Lunch Menu for January Week #2

Hello!

Last week, we had one big hit in this house, and it was the chicken strips (and the chicken strips used in wraps with lettuce, tomato and yogurt dip, even my picky 11 year old who prefers to only eat broccoli, cucumber and carrots in the vegetable department).  The loser in our house was the pizza muffins, even my daycare sweeties didn’t really care for them.  So if anyone out there has a great recipe for pizza muffins, please share!  I would love to try again.

Here is the lunch menu for week #2 of 2013: Check back this week for recipes for Black Bean and Chicken tortilla soup, and whole wheat macaroni and cheese with peas and roast chicken.  There will also be a great Rice bowl recipe (with origins in the White Water Cooks, for anyone familiar with the Ski Hill or the cookbooks) for supper that you prepare in the morning and then at supper time, your family builds their own bowl.

Enjoy!

Packable

Monday: Chicken and Brown Rice soup with whole wheat naan and hummus, raw veggies, banana cinnamon muffins, apple and pear

Tuesday: Turkey and Cream Cheese and Veggie pinwheels, chocolate chunk banana bread, applesauce and orange slices

Wednesday: Black Bean and Chicken tortilla soup with some Que Pasa Blue Corn chips on the side and salsa for dipping, vanilla yogurt with frozen berries, and a pear.

Thursday: Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese with peas and Roast chicken; ginger cookies, raw veggies and orange slices

Friday: (at my daughter’s request): Homemade Tuna snackables: Small tupperware container of canned tuna seasoned with honey mustard, raw veggies, and two wasa bread crackers (or other whole grain crackers).  Banana Cinnamon muffins, fruit salad.

Daycare Lunch:

Mostly the same as the big kids, except for Wednesday and Friday

Monday: Chicken and Rice soup with Naan

Tuesday: Turkey and Cream Cheese pinwheels with raw veggies

Wednesday: Homemade Chicken Strips with brown rice and broccoli

Thursday: Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese with peas and Roast chicken

Friday: Homemade Tuna Snackables

Homemade Tuna snackables came about because my 9 year old was asking me to buy the Tuna snacks she spied at Costco.  I said no, but that we could instead make our own (with the 6 cans of tuna we had just put into our basket).  She agreed with me that she might not like the dressing that came with the pre-made Tuna Snacks.

See you soon!

Kim