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!