Before kids, I really enjoyed cooking. Now? It is one of my least favorite parts of the day. With two young kids close in age, I often times feel like I don’t have the time or patience to whip up something healthy and good to eat. I unapologetically admit that my kids eat their share of easy mac, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs. Why? It’s easy. It’s fast. They eat it. Also? I often collapse at the end of a long day without eating dinner—because I’m too tired to cook. I have been trying implement make ahead meals for about a year now—both meals for the kids or quick lunches for me to eat while they snooze. I’m going to share some of my favorites today. Additionally, I’ll also share a sweet and nostalgic way to save those favorite family recipes.
Fruit and Spinach Popsicles
I started making popsicles with my son about a year ago when I was having a particularly hard time getting him to eat. You can buy popsicle molds at most grocery stores and Amazon has plenty to choose from. I don’t have an exact recipe for this—and you don’t really need one. Just choose a yogurt, milk, favorite fruits, and spinach or kale—and you’re good to go. James will usually have one of these for breakfast in the summer, and they make great snacks. He thinks he is being tricky because I’m “letting” him have a popsicle. I’m pleased because he gets a good filling of fruits, veggies, and dairy.
Handful of spinach or kale
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 Tb honey
3/4 cup greek vanilla yogurt
Blend all ingredients and pour into molds. Freeze.
Egg Bake Muffins
Do your kids eat eggs? Mine don’t, so this makes breakfast for me. I whip these up at the start of the week and eat them all week. You can, of course, substitute different ingredients for ones you like. Don’t like broccoli? Add peppers. I don’t care for bacon, but that would be another great thing to add. Two eggs with a side of fruit keeps me full for hours. I usually use one egg per muffin tin. So to make a full pan, I use a dozen eggs.
3 to 4 cups broccoli
1/4 to 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 tsp olive oil
seasonings to taste
Steam broccoli for about 5 minutes and cut into small pieces. Mix with olive oil. I season with salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder. Spoon into muffin tin. Mix eggs and cheese. Pour over broccoli until tins are about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Store in the fridge. To reheat, pop in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds.
Overnight Strawberry Oats
Have you guys jumped on this bandwagon? I’m always pleasantly surprised each time I try a recipe. Feel free to tweak to your liking. This is one of my favorite make ahead meals. A lot of the time my kids ask for spoonfuls from my bowl too. My husband prefers to eat this heated up in the morning, but I usually prefer it cold.
1/2 cup oats
4 oz almond milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tb chia seeds
1 tsp honey
4-6 strawberries, thinly sliced
Mix all ingredients and store in mason jar in fridge overnight.
I found this recipe just a few weeks ago, and it has been my lunch pretty much every day since! I make these on Sunday and eat one each day over a handful of spinach. They are easy to make ahead meals and very tasty. I might try another version of this by swapping the feta cheese for goat cheese.
I made this recipe in huge batches when I was pregnant with each kid to set myself up with quick and easy lunches after they were born. I still make them in double or triple batches. My husband loves them, I love them, and my kids eat them too. The directions say to heat with a skillet on the stove, but I prefer to microwave them. I flip them every 45 seconds or so for about 3 minutes.
This recipe comes from one of my favorite food bloggers. I discovered her recipes about 5 yeas ago and have never made a bad meal when cooking from her books or site. This is one of my families favorite make ahead meals. It literally takes about 2 minutes to prep. MOM WIN! I either serve this over rice or chips, and I think it would even be good over small pasta. Incidentally, I don’t have an instant pot (yet), but I’ve heard that is a fool proof way to make rice. I hate making rice on the stove! Trader Joe’s has really good freezer brown rice that heats up in 3 minutes to perfection. Find short cuts that work for you. This is one of mine. Another break I give myself? I order groceries online for grocery pick up. My local Kroger and Walmart do this and I cannot recommend it enough. Shipt provides a great option for having them delivered to your home too.
There a hundreds of versions of this online. This is a great meal that I prep in the morning, stick in the fridge, and pop in the oven for dinner. You can even make a double batch and freeze some for a later date. My kids love it, and so do I. Bagged side salad and some garlic bread, and dinner is served. I usually add minced garlic to the meat while it cooks. You can even add some fresh spinach to cook down and hide some greens in their dish.
Organizing All Your Recipes
The year Justin and I got married, I came up with the idea to start putting all our favorite recipes in a picture book. I added pictures of that year throughout the book. Now, six years later, we have a half dozen cook books with family recipes and pictures. I love looking through these books for recipes and browsing through all the pictures. It is fun to see how our family (and eating!) has changed, and my kids love to flip through the books while we cook. I think it is a really great way to get them involved early on in the kitchen. I do my best to add a recipe as soon as we have tried it and deemed it good enough to keep. That way, at the end of the year, I simply order the picture book during the inevitable Christmas sale!