Back-to-school meals in minutes

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Oh yes, I'll admit it.  I was more than ready for my darlings to pack up their backpacks and head back to school last week!  However, I wasn't ready for the daily grind of getting kids fed and out the door on time.  It didn't get much better after school, either.  With only a little time between the school bell and hockey practice, I was back in the kitchen again trying to create fast, healthy and tasty fare for my family. 

Did I mention that I really dislike balancing the clock with my kids' picky taste buds?  In fact, it is the least favorite part of my day because the pressure is on me to cook up something good in mere minutes.  So, I tried a few really simple recipes that any manic, but managed mom can put together in 20 minutes or less.  So read on and don't feel guilty if at times you do end up racing through a fast food drive-thru to get them there on time.  You do what you have to do, but hopefully a few of these ideas will keep your life on schedule and on a budget!

Breakfast Food Fast
When it comes to kids, expect the unexpected.  Stress-filled mornings will come and go and on those days, filling a belly fast can be a challenge.  A couple of ideas….

*If you know you are in for an extra busy morning, make fun fruit sticks the night before.  Instead of filling a baggie with pieces of fruit, go with an environmentally friendly fruit shish kabob stick.  Simply fill a stick with cantaloupe pieces, grapes, strawberries any other favorite fruits.  Be sure to get sticks without dangerous pointy edges.  I use the wooden ones, but I cut the sharp end off to smooth it out.  I also don't recommend this for little kids, but older school-age kids like the sticks and should know not to poke each other.  Easy to grab on the go and kids think they are fun to eat.  Plus the sticks can be recycled.  Fast, frugal with no more plastic baggies filling your trash and littering our landfills.  A win win for all.

*Blend up a 3 ingredient shake like one I found called the Soy Banana Smoothie from the book, "Smoothie Heaven" by Wendy Sweetser.  I changed her recipe just a tad.  In a blender, I combine 1 1/2 bananas with 1/2 tablespoon smooth peanut butter and 1 cup of 2% milk.  Then blend for about one minute and you have a fresh smoothie ready for your sweeties to sip on the run.  If your child has a dairy intolerance, the smoothie book says that soy milk works great.  Banana provides potassium and fiber, while the peanut butter gives a protein boost along with the calcium in the milk for strong bones and teeth. This is always a favorite quick mix in our household.

*Homemade oatmeal is best, but if you are crunched for time, I found an instant one with less sugar that my kids actually like. Erewhon Organic Instant Oatmeal contains only 4 grams of sugar or less in their packets which include apple cinnamon, maple spice and added bran flavors.  Ingredients that include organic rolled oats, organic dehydrated maple syrup (instead of sugar for sweetener), organic spices and sea salt make up the maple spice variety.  I love products that have only a few ingredients listed and are items that I can actually recognize and pronounce.  I found the Erewhon brand at Sprouts Farmers Market.

3 Ingredient Dinner Ideas
So you survived the morning rush, and now it is late afternoon and once again, your family has only a small window of time to dine.  Between the end of the school day and the beginning of practice, the clock is ticking and stomachs are growling.  Here are some tried and true Harris Home recipes that are not culinary masterpieces by any means, but will satisfy hungry tummies quickly so you can get out the door and on to the next thing.

*One surefire staple for a healthy quick meal is a can of black beans.  Rich in antioxidants and loaded with fiber, these beans are good for you and your kids.  Simply heat the beans and then put a spoonful in one whole wheat tortilla along with a bit of grated cheddar cheese, wrap and heat and you've got a healthy black bean burrito.    I heat mine in a little hand grill called the Big Boss Grill that I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $50.  Although that is pricy, the grill comes with 15 pieces and can quickly make sandwiches, waffles, pancakes and even donuts.  I like it because I can do the same tortilla trick in the morning for breakfast. Instead of warming up beans and cheese, I fill it with eggs, cheese and tiny little veggies that I sneak in the breakfast burrito.  My little grill is my go to item when I have to cook quick!

*My tried and true super fast healthy side dish items include a veggie tray and fruit.  So, after I'm done preparing the black bean burrito, I put out a big veggie tray that I buy weekly at Safeway and a bowl of fruit.  With the carrots and broccoli in the veggie dish, along with the fruit and the burrito, my kids get a complete and healthy meal that I made in minutes.

*Out of everything?  Try what I call Parm Pasta.  My emergency recipe that I threw together in a panic one day was to simply prepare a bag of whole grain egg noodles and then throw in some half and half cream with parmesan cheese.  I just eyed the portions and tasted it until the flavor was right. I think it works best with 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of half and half and about 1 cup of parmesan cheese, but you can judge how much you like of each ingredient as you go along and taste it.  I also put in a dash of pepper.  The next time I made the Parm Pasta, I added grated cheddar cheese and my family really liked the pasta that way, too.  You can also throw in some rotisserie chicken and broccoli and you've got a complete meal in minutes that keeps your family on time.

Hopefully one of these ideas will save the day the next time you find yourself in a time crunch.  Balancing that ticking clock with our stressful schedules is truly tricky for us moms.  And if you have a quick fix recipe idea, share it here in the comments section.  Because one thing I have learned when it comes to keeping a busy family organized is that sharing ideas with other Moms is one of the best resources around.  And that helps to keep our beauty and life on a budget.