Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pineapple Bliss Cupcakes

I found this recipe for Pineapple Bliss Cupcakes last week and couldn't wait for a chance to try it out. The ingredients list is short and sweet: 

1 yellow cake mix
1 20 oz can of crushed pineapple

Click here for instructions.
We topped our pineapple cupcakes with simple cool whip, although the frosting recommended in the recipe looks wonderful!

The cupcakes are delicious. The only change I'll make next time is to try spraying my cupcake liners with baking spray. The cupcakes stuck to the liners, making them a bit difficult to remove. It didn't affect the taste however! Delish! 

Each cupcake (no topping) has 93.5 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. Can't beat that! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Simple Lunch

Sometimes I'm less than inspired to make a good, hot lunch for my kids. Today is one of those days! I kept it simple & quick, but it's still healthy. If your kids like those refrigerated cracker & cheese packages (like Lunchables), then this should be a hit!

Sliced cheese
Whole wheat crackers
Low fat sliced ham
Baby carrots
Ranch dressing
(also, not pictured but I gave them a bowl of grapes, so we hit all 4 food groups with this one)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nacho Salad

This is one of my kids' favorite ways to enjoy lunch.  

On a plate, layer: 
tortilla chips
ground turkey, browned and seasoned with an envelope of taco seasoning
shredded cheese
shredded lettuce
reduced fat sour cream

You can also add any other toppings you enjoy on a taco salad: Olives, guacamole, onions, sliced tomatoes, corn, or black beans would all make a great addition. 

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up! 

I didn't figure the calorie count on this one, but it's easy to control fat and calories in this by choosing low fat ground turkey and lower fat cheese and sour cream. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chicken & Veggie Pasta

Easy as Pie Chicken n' Veggie Pasta

There's really not much to explain here, but this is an easy to prepare lunch that's healthy to boot. 

1 box of cooked tri-color vegetable pasta (it has a full serving of veggies in each serving of pasta! 
some chopped, cooked chicken
half a jar of spaghetti sauce

And top with some shredded parmesan cheese. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Snackin' Mix (the healthier version)

Combine in a large bowl: 
2 cups of mini-marshmallows
4 cups of pretzels
1 can of mixed, unsalted nuts
8 ounces reduced fat cheese crackers
6 ounce bag of dried cranberries

Stir gently or use your hands to mix the ingredients and that's it! This makes about 35 servings. I bagged pre-measured servings (approximately 1/3 of a cup) into ziplocs to make it easy for the kids to access (and to portion out properly).

This snack mix contains 123 calories and 5 grams of fat. I think it's a little healthier than my usual snack mix because the fats come primarily from nuts instead of canola oil. It's also a lot lower in sodium! The marshmallows are a real treat for the kids, but with only 5 or 6 mini-marshmallows in a bag, they aren't getting a ton of sugar.

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up! Their favorite part: marshmallows, of course!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Turkey Sloppy Joes

The last couple of weeks have seemed a little disorganized. I'm not exactly sure why, but most days we've either been having leftovers or a simple sandwich for lunch. Nothing blog-worthy. I figured I'd share today, though. Gavin fixed lunch for us today--Sloppy Joes made with ground turkey.

Here's how to make them:

Brown a pound of ground turkey breast along with some chopped onion.  (Our grocery store sells two varieties of ground turkey with one containing about 19 grams of fat and the other containing less than 2 grams of fat. There's a price difference of close to $2 per pound, but the difference in fat count is definitely worth it!)

To the browned ground turkey add:

1/2 cup of ketchup
3 tablespoons of barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon of mustard
2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce
pepper to taste

Simmer for a few minutes and then serve on wheat buns.


Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mexican Chicken Wraps

Yesterday morning before church I put Mexican Chicken (aka Tex-Mex Chicken) in the slow cooker so we'd come home to a nice meal without a lot of work. This recipe makes a large batch of Mexican Chicken so we had enough left to make another meal today.

To your slow cooker add:
4 large chicken breasts
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can corn, drained
1 package taco seasoning
1 jar of salsa

Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Just before serving shred chicken and add 1 cup of reduced fat sour cream to the slow cooker. Serve over rice.

Today we used the leftover Mexican Chicken on some whole wheat, high fiber, tortillas. They were delicious! 

I know that rising grocery costs are probably a concern for most families right now, as they certainly are for us. But this dish was especially economical. 

$4.91 for Chicken Breasts (I used bone-in breasts because they were on sale at Kroger this week)
$0.69 for black beans
$0.79 for corn
$0.35 for taco seasoning
$1.99 for salsa
$0.99 for sour cream

Total Cost: $9.72 (not including the rice) and this meal fed my family of 5 for two meals and we still have leftovers for my husband to take to work for lunch one day this week. 

This meal also fits into a low calorie plan with ease. The Mexican Chicken has 196 calories per serving. 

Edited to Add:
Kid Rating: This one gets a 6 thumbs up! They liked it best on wraps, but it was great on rice as well. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Presentation is Everything: Chicken Salad Scoops

This presentation of ordinary chicken salad turned what would have been a boring lunch into an exciting one. The idea for this came from Luci's Southern Living For Kids cookbook. 

Chicken Salad

2 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

To assemble the Chicken Salad Scoops, put a lettuce leaf in the top of each ice cream cone and then top with a scoop of chicken salad. I used my ice cream scoop to make a nice round scoop. 

I served this with baby carrots and some snack mix I made this weekend.

Luci and Ben were completely smitten with this new take on chicken salad. Gavin appreciates chicken salad on its own merits, but thought the cone was a nice addition anyway. 

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The last couple of days we have been eating leftovers from a weekend of surplus.

Saturday evening Luci cooked Peanutty Chicken and Pasta for her visiting grandparents and uncle. We doubled the recipe since we were feeding five adults and three children. A single recipe makes four servings, so this doubled recipe made eight servings and even with some having a second helping, we still had plenty leftover.

Sunday afternoon I had plans to make a pot of Tortellini Soup, however, a power outage in the middle of cooking the soup caused us to regroup. We picked up Subway sandwiches instead and when the power came back on a couple of hours later the soup resumed cooking.

So, yesterday was Tortellini Soup and today was Peanutty Chicken and Pasta. I love microwave-reheat-and-eat days!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Veggie Beef Soup

A pot of soup is a quick and easy way to have a hot meal ready come lunch time. This is an easy basic recipe for a vegetable beef soup.

1 lb of lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 qt. of beef broth
2 cans of stewed tomatoes, undrained
5 ounce can spicy V8 juice (regular would be fine, spicy is all I had. It really didn't add any spiciness to the soup)
Frozen veggies (I used a bag of frozen green beans, a bag of frozen corn, half a bag of frozen lima beans)
Season to taste (for us, all the soup needed was a little Italian Seasoning)

Combine all of these ingredients in the crockpot and simmer on low for a few hours. Put this on in the morning and it'll be ready by lunch time :) It makes about 10 servings of soup, so it's great for having leftovers on another day.

Today, I served the kids a bowl of soup along with some cheese toast triangles and a half a banana with Nutella spread on it.

Kid Rating: 4 Thumbs Up on the soup; 6 Thumbs on the banana with Nutella!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fish Sandwiches

Today we had Tilapia Sandwiches. There really isn't any remarkable recipe here, but in just a few quick steps and not much time at all you can have a fantastic fish sandwich. I bought the individually wrapped and frozen tilapia filets from my local grocery store's freezer. The smaller package, 12 ounces, has 4 filets. They'll thaw quickly, about 15 minutes, if you put them in some cold water in a pan. Or you can thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. I seasoned them well on both sides with Old Bay Seasoning and then cooked all four filets in about a tablespoon of olive oil.

I served them on whole wheat buns with whatever condiments (mayo, mustard, cheese, etc...) the kids preferred, some fresh veggies and hummus for dipping. These fish sandwiches are delicious, quick & simple, and very healthy! The baby carrots and grape tomatoes aren't too bad either :)

Luci's tomato and carrot butterfly :) 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Menu 2/12

It's been a crazy week here at my house. My daughter has been sick all week and it's thrown us for a loop. I posted my menu last weekend and we've mostly stuck to that menu with few exceptions, however, most days I've forgotten to take pictures and didn't take time to sit down and write. Next week should be better! Anyway, here's our menu for the coming week, with links where applicable:


  • Fish Sandwiches and a Green Salad
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches and Soup
  • Wraps with fresh veggies and hummus for dipping
  • Hamburger Soup
  • Leftover Do-Overs
  • Braised Balsamic Chicken (this was from last week, but I didn't get to make it because I ran out of chicken), brown rice, steamed broccoli
  • Tangy Slow Cooker Pork, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus
  • Chicken & Dumplings, green beans (Luci's meal--if she's up to cooking)
  • Turkey Burgers, turnip greens, oven fries (Gavin's meal)
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken with brown rice and garlic steamed broccoli (Ben's meal~Sweet and sour chicken is Ben's all time favorite meal. He loves the sweet, slightly sour, sauce and the pineapples that go with it. However, my go-to recipe for this meal is especially high in fat and calories so I've been searching for a tasty, healthier alternative. Hoping this will be the one that gets his seal of approval!)
  • White Chicken Chili

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pizza Roll-Ups

This recipe comes from and was a hit with the kids. With the tasty pizza sauce and melted mozzarella taking center stage, I don't think they even realized they were eating spinach!

Pizza Roll-Up

Ingredients per serving:
1 whole wheat tortilla
2T pizza sauce
12 leaves of baby spinach
3 T shredded mozzarella

Layer the tortilla with the pizza sauce, spinach leaves, and mozzarella. Microwave for about 45 seconds to melt the cheese and then carefully roll up the wrap. The EatingWell recipe indicates to let it cool and then cut it into slices. I cut them in half and let the kids eat them warm.

This recipe has 217 calories and 7 grams of fat. I served this with a piece of fruit, some fresh veggies and ranch for dipping.

Kid Rating: 5 Thumbs Up!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tortellini Salad

This recipe is inspired by a Tortellini Salad that I had the pleasure to enjoy recently at a small church gathering. I'm not certain of the calorie or fat content in the original recipe, but I set out to make this a healthy version.

9 ounces frozen cheese tortellini, cooked and chilled (I ran mine under cold water for a few minutes to cool it off quickly)
8 ounces of 2% cheese, cut into cubes
10 ounces of turkey breast (I had the lady at the deli cut me a thick slice--about 3/4 of an inch--of turkey breast, which I cut into chunks)
olives (I used about 15 olives--use more if you love olives, less if you hate them)
15 grape tomatoes cut into halves
1/3 cup of light Italian dressing (I used Kraft Light House Italian)

Combine all ingredients, give it a gentle toss, and enjoy :)

I used to calculate the nutritional info on this one. The recipe makes about six 1 cup servings. Each cup has about 320 calories and 18 grams of fat. It was a little higher in fat than I expected, I think next time I'll figure out how to cut it down even further. I enjoyed it, but my kids had mixed feelings. They really didn't like the saltiness of the olives.

Kid Rating: 3 Thumbs Up

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Menu Plan

Lunches (weekday lunches only)~

  • Pizza Roll Ups with fresh veggies and fruit
  • Deli Flats pizzas and a side salad
  • Peanut Butter & Apple sandwiches
  • Turkey & Pasta Salad
  • Leftover Do-Over Day
Dinners (Friday through Thursday)~
  • Friday: Tortellini Soup
  • Saturday: Slow Cooker Marinara Chicken & Veggies, served over whole wheat spaghetti
  • Sunday: Super Bowl Fare: wings, rotel dip and tortilla chips, vegetable tray, Rootin' Tootin' Fruit Salsa (Southern Living for Kids), and deviled eggs
  • Monday: Luci's Night ~ Tacos, Mexican Rice (Southern Living for Kids), and a green salad
  • Tuesday: Gavin's Night ~ Jambalaya, Green Beans, and Garlic Bread
  • Wednesday: Ben's Night ~ Oven Fried Chicken, carrot fries, broccoli
  • Thursday: Braised Balsamic Chicken Breasts, Brown Rice & Italian Green Beans

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snackin' Mix

One of the sweet 4th grade boys in my and Brian's Sunday School class gave us this glass canister filled with a delicious snack mix as a Christmas gift this past December. It was adorably dressed with a pretty ribbon and gift tag. (You might want to keep that idea in mind for next Christmas!) Since the holidays finished I've been replenishing this each week with a snack mix that I've been making. I started with a basic recipe from Luci's Southern Living Cookbook, but have modified and changed it each week I prepare it.

The seasoning for the snack mix consists of 1/2 cup canola oil, an envelop of ranch dip mix, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. The red pepper flakes are completely optional though.

You can really use whatever you like in this snack mix, so long as your using about 5 or 6 quarts of assorted crackers, pretzels, cereal, or nuts. I've been varying it each time according to what's on sale at my local grocery store.

There's no cooking involved, just stir together the oil, ranch mix and red pepper flakes and then, using a very large mixing bowl (I find my giant roasting pan works best) combine the oil mixture with the assorted crackers, pretzels, cereal, or nuts.

The snack mix pictured here contains:

1 cup of dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1 large box of reduced sodium oyster crackers
1 box of Ritz Munchies Pretzel Crackers
1 box of Multi Grain Cheerios
1 box Wheat Chex

Some other things I've used so far:
Sesame Sticks
Goldfish Crackers
Wheat Thins

I haven't used almonds yet, but I plan to give them a try next time.

Mix and match to your heart's content :) There's no wrong way to do this!

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

This morning I dropped three medium sized individually frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker and let them cook until done, about 3 hours. I love using my slow cooker during the school day! It's a huge time saver!

At lunch time I shredded the chicken and poured on some barbecue sauce for barbecue chicken sandwiches. The total prep time for this was about 10 minutes.

I used 100% whole wheat buns for the sandwiches and served them with pickle spears and grapes.

The BBQ Chicken sandwiches have about 272 calories, including the whole wheat bun.

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Leftover Do-Overs

While I don't have photos to share today, I will let you know that today was a leftover do-over day for us. I had two pieces of cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, some leftover brown rice, cooked carrots, and a few cups of chicken broth.

I turned one of the leftover breasts into a chicken salad by shredding it and mixing it with a little olive oil mayo (love that stuff!), pickle relish, chopped celery, and shredded 2% cheese. I wrapped some of the chicken salad in Flat Out Healthy Grains Wraps along with some salad greens. We love these Flat Out Wraps! Served these chicken salad wraps along with some baby carrots, grape tomatoes and green grapes.

I chopped up the other chicken breast and combined it with the leftover brown rice (about a cup), the carrots (chopped up) and the broth to put together a quick chicken and rice soup. For a cold day like today, the warm chicken soup hit the spot!

Each member of the family picked what they wanted for lunch and everyone was happy :)

I didn't do the calorie counts on these meals, but I'm certain it was well within a healthy range. It was also an economical meal when you consider that I used 2 chicken breasts to feed five people!

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chicken & Black Bean Salad

Years ago I found a recipe for a black bean salad that involved layering salad greens, black beans, corn, salsa, bacon, shredded cheese, and ranch dressing. I've used that as a basis for many salads since then, modifying it each time. Today, I had some leftover rotisserie chicken so I incorporated that into our salad. The result, a tasty chicken & black bean salad.

I layered a bag of salad greens, about a cup of shredded chicken, 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 cup corn kernels, 2T real bacon bits, halved cherry tomatoes, and 1/2 cup 2% shredded cheese. I topped each serving off with some reduced fat ranch dressing (our favorite is Light Done Right by Kraft). This makes about 6 servings.

I used the Spark People recipe calculator to figure the calories on this. It has 225 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Kid Rating: (still minus one kid in my ratings, poor thing is still sick with the stomach bug) 4 Thumbs Up!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cooking with Luci: Peanutty Chicken & Pasta

I've mentioned before that when it comes time to make our weekly menu and plan the grocery list, I sit down with each of the kids one-on-one and they plan one meal. Mondays are Luci's days and her plan this week was:
Peanutty Chicken & Pasta
Steamed Broccoli

Peanutty Chicken & Pasta is a recipe from her Southern Living for Kids cookbook. We are steadily working our way through this wonderful collection of recipes!

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2T coconut milk
2T creamy peanut butter
1/4 t sesame oil
8 ounces uncooked pasta
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 green onions
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Luci got all of her ingredients prepared before cooking. This meant chopping veggies and measuring some of her ingredients. 

The first step in the recipe is to whisk together the first four ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Luci had a little difficulty getting the peanut butter to whisk into the soy sauce mixture, so I had to help a bit. 

After the mixture has been whisked together and set aside, it's time to cook the pasta (according to package directions, omitting salt and fat). 

When the pasta is tender, drain and place in a large bowl. Add  sauce, chicken, carrot, green onions, and bell pepper; toss gently to blend. 

Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  This recipe makes 4 servings. 

This recipe has 453 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving.

(Note: For this recipe I only had 2 kids giving me their 'kid rating'. One of my kids was sick with a stomach virus.)
Kid Rating: 4Thumbs Up!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Taco Chili

Some people call this Taco Soup, others call it Taco Chili...I guess it depends on how thick it is. This one would probably be more like a chili in it's thickness. I like to make up a big pot of this and it feeds us for a couple of days.

I'm not sure where this recipe originated, but I've been making this for at least 8 years and over time I've modified it to this version.

Taco Chili
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
1 qt chicken broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Rotel Tomatoes, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup frozen corn

Brown ground turkey in a 5 qt. pot and then drain off any excess fat. (With the 99% fat free ground turkey that I buy there is never any excess fat.) After browning the turkey, add remaining ingredients to the pot and stir gently to combine. Simmer until heated through.

Alternatively, you can assemble this in your slow cooker and let it cook on low for a few hours.

I usually serve this with a sprinkle of shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a few tortilla chips on the side. Today, I used reduced fat cheese, reduced fat sour cream, and baked tortilla chips in order to lower the calories and fat.

The chili itself has 320 calories in a very generous 1 1/2 cup serving.

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up. They love this each and every time I make it and they ask for it again and again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Confess

When I started this blog one of my intentions was to increase accountability in my efforts to provide more nutritional, healthy lunches for my kids.

So, here I am, being accountable, and confessing that my kids had Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli for lunch today.

The only reason Chef Boyardee was in my pantry to begin with was that it was part of our "emergency" supply of canned goods.

In my defense, it contains a full serving of vegetables and is not extremely high in calories.

Also, in my defense, I was sick all day yesterday with a stomach virus, which destroyed my plans for having leftover chicken to use in preparing today's lunch.

Ironically, of all the things I've made in the past couple of weeks, this scored the lowest on our kid rating. My oldest said that the healthy food just tastes better now. I say that's an accomplishment!

Kid Rating: 2 Thumbs Up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thai Chicken Wraps

These wraps can be ready in about 15-20 minutes, excluding the time to marinate the chicken, and they are delicious! This recipe comes from Luci's Southern Living for Kids cookbook (a great cookbook, by the way!).

Thai Chicken Wraps

3 4-oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
7 T sesame ginger 30-minute marinade (Lawry's is recommended, but I used our local store brand)
2 t vegetable oil
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
4 whole wheat flour tortillas
1/4 c. pineapple preserves
1 1/3 c. shredded iceberg lettuce

1. Place chicken in a zip-top bag and add 4 T of marinade. Seal and turn to coat chicken. Marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Remove chicken from bag, discard marinade. Cook chicken in hot oil in a nonstick skillet until done. Remove from skillet and let cool slightly. Cut each chicken breast diagonally into 1/4 inch slices.

3. Stir together peanut butter and remaining 3 T of marinade in a small bowl. 

4. Spread  peanut butter mixture on one side of tortilla, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Spread 1T pineapple preserves over peanut butter mixture. top with 1/4 of the chicken and 1/3 cup lettuce. Roll tortilla up tightly. Do the same with the remaining ingredients. Makes 4 wraps.

Note: we wrapped ours in parchment paper so they'd be easy to handle when eating. Just fold the paper as you go. You could use wax paper too.

These Thai Chicken Wraps have 355 calories each. My younger two ate just half of a wrap, while my 13 year old had a whole one. 

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich are lunch time favorites among lots of people! I gave it a healthier kick by making a few changes. I substituted 2% milk for the cream in our favorite tomato soup recipe, used a 100% whole grain bread and 2% cheese for the grilled cheese. I also added some fresh veggies and some ranch dip.  The dip is made using greek yogurt and reduced fat sour cream, an idea from Kris at Eclipsed.

Here's our super simple tomato soup recipe:

1 can Campbell's tomato soup
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup 2% milk

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until heated through. Enjoy!

This lunch - 1 cup soup, 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich, and some fresh veggies with dip - comes in at 350 calories.

Kid Rating: 4 Thumbs Up -- Considering I have one who hates cheese (unless it's on pizza) and one who hates soup, I guess this is pretty good.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken Soup

Leftover chicken? This soup is a great way to use it up.

In a Dutch oven saute some chopped veggies (celery, carrots, onion & garlic) in a tablespoon of oil until tender. Add 2 32-oz containers of reduced sodium chicken broth, 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken, and a  dash of dried thyme.  Cook for about 15 minutes. Add a cup of pasta (I used Barilla whole wheat pasta) and cook an additional 8 minutes until the pasta is tender.

This one takes just a little more time, but doesn't require a lot of attention once you get it going. This was ready in about half an hour and has less than 120 calories per 1 cup serving. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich or some crackers and cheese along with a piece of fruit. This makes enough soup that you'll have leftovers for tomorrow!

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up! (Even my husband raved that this was wonderful Chicken Soup!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuna Salad & Veggies with Dill Dip

My kids like to 'dip' their foods so this lunch is perfect. Multi-grain crackers are perfect for 'dipping' in tuna salad and this dill dip makes a great dip for fresh veggies.

The tuna salad is made with canned chunk light tuna, light mayo, dill relish, and a little salt & pepper.

Here's the recipe for the dill dip:

1 8-oz container light sour cream
1 cup light mayo
2 t dried parsley
1 t dillweed
2 t dried minced onion
1/4 t seas. salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Makes approx. 2 cups of dip.

Kid Rating: 4 Thumbs Up (I have one who professes to hate tuna, although she did eat it all)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jumpin' Jack Jambalaya

Ben and I sat down one day last week and looked through the Southern Living for Kids cookbook together so he could plan a meal to prepare. He picked Jumpin' Jack Jambalaya (with a little influence from his brother). 

1 2/3 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
8 green onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cups chopped ham
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 14 oz can chicken broth
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp creole seasoning
  • Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt.
  • While rice cooks, heat oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; saute until tender. Stir in ham, sausage, broth, tomato sauce, and Creole seasoning. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in hot cooked rice. Makes 8 servings.

He was excited to help and really wanted to do everything on his own. He chopped all of the veggies and meats using one of Luci's new nylon knives for kids. (We made just a couple of modifications to the recipe: we used smoked turkey sausage to reduce some of the fat and calories, and we replaced half of the diced ham with chopped chicken in order to reduce the sodium.)

 Ben did nearly all of the cooking on his own while I stayed by his side supervising. The only thing I had to help him with was moving the rice from the rice cooker to the pot with the meat/veggies. 

This photo looked way better on my iPhone than it does here!

One of the best parts of having the kids in the kitchen is that they are more likely to eat what they've cooked! This was gone in no time! 

The Jambalaya has 449 calories when made according to the recipe. I'm not sure how many calories we saved by using turkey instead of regular sausage and by replacing half of the ham with chicken, but I'm sure it made a difference. This meal definitely comes in under 500 calories!

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up! (Although on this one they wished they had more than 2 thumbs each!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wrap up the Week With a Wrap

Friday's are often busy days and this one was no exception. Grocery shopping, homeschool bowling, karate test, and a meeting just out of town left me with little time for fixing lunch. But, that's still no excuse for not eating healthy.

I had some leftover roasted chicken breast and 4 whole wheat, fiber-rich, tortillas. Perfect for wraps. I spread each tortilla with some light ranch dressing, then topped it with chicken, barbecue sauce, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, and a tiny amount of bacon bits.

Served aside some baby carrots and a clementine, this was a great lunch and came in under 350 calories.

(Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this one.)

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cold Day Warm Soup & Food Pyramid

Brrrrr, it's cold out! For lunch today I put together a big pot of soup for the family. This hearty soup is full of chicken, veggies, and pasta. It's really simple to make, even kids could tackle this one with a little supervision. And with less than 150 calories for a generous bowl of soup, it fits easily in a healthy diet.

To about 6 cups of boiling chicken broth I added the following:

  • 1 cup of frozen lima beans
  • 1 cup of frozen green beans
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta 
  • 1T italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash onion power
  • dash of garlic powder
Then I let it cook a few minutes until the pasta was cooked through and the veggies were cooked. Then I added:
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • can of tomato puree
  • small can of sliced carrots (if you have frozen or raw carrots just put them in sooner)
It took about a half an hour to make this soup and the best part is you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. To round out this meal you could add cheese and crackers, a grilled cheese sandwich, or toast, along with a glass of milk.

Kid Rating: 5 Thumbs Up!

I'd also like to share a resource I found this morning to help in teaching my kids about healthy eating. The USDA website offers several printables that you can share with kids. Today we talked about the food pyramid (click here) and I gave them their own MyPyramid worksheet to complete throughout the day so they can see how they are fulfilling their daily dietary needs. I believe you can also have these items mailed to you, but I haven't tried that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creamy Black Bean Quesadillas

Before I go any further with this new blog, I have to confess (or you might have guessed already) that I am no food photographer. If you are looking for great photos of food you might want to look at The Pioneer Woman.

Quesadillas are a great way to use up leftovers! Leftover chicken, veggies, beans and rice all make great fixings for a quesadilla. Today I used black beans, leftover brown rice, and about an ounce of reduced fat cream cheese.


Using a fork, mix and mash the three ingredients in a small pan until the cream cheese is soft and the beans are slightly mashed. Spray one side of a whole grain tortilla with butter flavored cooking spray and place it sprayed side down in a skillet. Spread 1/4 of black bean mixture on to one half of the tortilla and fold the other half over it. Cook for a minute or two on each side, until nice and golden. There's enough bean mixture to make 4 quesadillas.

To round out this meal I added some green beans and a small handful of raisins.

This lunch was under 300 calories and was high in fiber.

Kid Rating: 4 1/2 Thumbs Up

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Boy Can Cook

Have you seen the new show on Food Network, Worst Cooks in America? The premise of the show is based on bringing together 16 of the 'worst' cooks in America to be taught by two Food Network chefs. And they really did go out and find the worst cooks they possibly could. Watching their clumsy attempts in the kitchen is almost painful. From the recruit who couldn't tell the front of a chicken from the back (and called the breast the 'boobs') to the recruit who set a fire with her green beans, it would be comical if it weren't so sad!

I don't want my children, even my boys, to be nearly so incapable in the kitchen as these adults. I've been cooking with my kids fairly often since they were old enough to stir or sprinkle. Lately though, I've taken it a step further and am teaching them to plan a healthy meal. I guess you could call it our home economics course.

This evening was my oldest son's turn to cook. Gavin will be turning 13 years old next week (if you hear loud sniffling and snobbing next Monday, the 17th, that'll be me bemoaning the onset of the teenage years). Because he's older and has had plenty of experience in the kitchen, Gavin can pretty much tackle a meal on his own now. Tonight he chose to make Pan Chicken Parmesan which he served with whole wheat pasta and Italian Green Beans, both recipes from

Pan Chicken Parmesan was a pretty simple dish to prepare. Cook salted and peppered chicken in a lightly oiled skillet. 

Top it with spaghetti sauce, mozarella cheese, and a few herbs. Pop it under the broiler briefly to melt the cheese and it's done.

The Italian Green Beans were a cinch to make as well. Gavin cooked and drained the green beans (we started with a frozen bag) and then tossed them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a packet of Italian dressing mix.

The Chef

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Nuggets

Today's Lunch: Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Nuggets (adapted from a recipe by with fresh veggies and Ranch Dressing

We skipped the blackberry mustard suggested in the recipe and opted for some ranch dip instead. I had a little help from my 9 year old son in making this. He coated the chicken nuggets in the salted and peppered cornmeal and I cooked them up in a lightly oiled pan.

To round out the meal, and in keeping with the 'dipping' theme, we added some raw broccoli and carrots.

Best thing about this meal: the nuggets cooked up really quickly. I had this meal on the table in about 15 minutes. (I'd really like to have made my own ranch dressing instead of relying on the bottled stuff.)

Kid Rating: 6 Thumbs Up!

Welcome to The Homeschool Cafeteria

Recently my kids and I set a few goals (New Year's Resolutions if you prefer that term). I was taken aback a bit by one of my oldest's goals. Topping his list was this: Eat Healthier. Now, coming from anyone else that's just a lofty goal and I'd wish them the best. But coming from one of my own children, well, that just hits hard. As the primary "cook and bottle washer" around here it's my job to help him realize that goal. As a homeschool family we can easily get in a rush and our meals, especially the mid-day meal in the middle of a school day, reflect the use of highly processed, high fat, high calorie meals. We get in a rut and things like frozen corn dogs and boxed macaroni and cheese just seem easier and faster.

The long-term effect on my children's health, however, is just not worth the extra 10-20 minutes that it might take to prepare something healthier. My goal in starting this blog is two-fold: 

  1. I want to increase the accountability factor. By sharing daily what I'm feeding my family at lunch time I'll be "putting it all out there." The good and the bad. I also enjoy cooking with my kids and will from time to time share what they are cooking for the family for dinner. 
  2. Because I know that there are many other homeschoolers who struggle day to day with what to put on the table for lunch, it is my hope that this blog might offer ideas for feeding your own family. When applicable, I'll provide recipes and/or photos. 
I'd love to have others join me on this journey. If you have ideas or recipes to share please leave them in the comments section. If I use your ideas I will be sure to credit you when I blog about it. 

Thanks for joining me in The Homeschool Cafeteria...Bon Appetit!