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back to school time

Back to School Time!

 

It’s that time of year again!  Our boys started school last week and so our school routines have been dragged out from the back of the closet along with the backpacks and lunch boxes.  Today I am sharing a few quick tips that help us survive the back to school madness and still eat healthy at the same time!

 

At the charter school where our boys attend school, there is no school cafeteria and so there are no options for buying lunch at school.  This is actually totally fine with us since we like to feed our kids healthy food and that is so much easier to do when the only option is what’s packed in your lunchbox that day!  We recognize that, eventually, our kids are going to grow up and make their own choices about what foods go into their body but, for now, we are going to enjoy the opportunity to choose what they eat during the school day!  

 

back to school - snack boxesEvery night before a school day, after cleaning up the dinner dishes, we work together in the kitchen to pack 3 snack boxes and 3 lunch boxes for the next day of school.  We love our metal snack boxes, which come with 4 small compartments.  We typically pack these sections with fruits, veggies, nuts, cheese, meat, or muffins.  We try our best to use seasonal and local ingredients wherever possible.  We also enlist the help of the kids to shop for and prepare these items so that they will be more likely to eat it when they find it in their snack box or lunch box!

 

 

 

back to school - lunch boxesWe also use metal lunch boxes and these have either 2 or 3 compartments each.  We usually pack dinner leftovers in one section of their lunch bin and fill the other side with more fruits and veggies.  If there are no leftovers from dinner, or if the dinner doesn’t lend itself well to a packed lunch, we might go with another option like meat and cheese rollups with crackers and hummus.  We also include a joke of the day written on a sticky note and attached to the top of their lunch bin.  This gives them something to look forward every day and hopefully makes them laugh 🙂

 

Packing the snacks and lunches the night before can make the school mornings so much less stressful for all of us.  We also love to use overnight breakfast options during the school year to make our mornings run more smoothly. 

 

And one last tip for calming the back-to-school craziness is to use the slow cooker as much as possible for making dinner!  I used slow cooker meals for 3 out of the first 4 days of school so that I could dedicate the after-school hours at home to my kids and I could be totally focused on them instead of in the kitchen preparing dinner. 

 

Here is a favorite slow cooker recipe in our house.  I hope that you love this recipe as much as we do and that you are all surviving back-to-school time in your house!

 

Slow Cooker Fish Chowder
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless flounder, cut into 1-inch pieces
  2. 2 cups tomatoes, diced (can be canned or fresh)
  3. 8 ounces clam juice
  4. ½ cup onion, chopped
  5. ½ cup celery, chopped
  6. ½ cup carrots, chopped
  7. ½ cup dry white wine (I usually use Chardonnay)
  8. ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  9. 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (or ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary)
  10. 1 teaspoon salt
  11. 1/3 cup light cream
  12. 3 tablespoons wheat flour
  13. 3 tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except cream, flour and butter in a slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.
  2. One hour before serving, combine cream, flour and butter. Stir into fish mixture. Continue to cook until soup is slightly thickened.
Notes
  1. Makes: 4 servings (this recipe can be doubled and still fit in a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker)
  2. This recipe can be made gluten- and/or dairy-free by skipping the last step of thickening the soup. The end result is more of a stew than a chowder but still delicious!
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/
Healthy Eating on Vacation - a romantic dinner prepared in our cabin kitchen

Healthy Eating on Vacation

When we go away on vacation, we naturally want to be able to forget about the daily grind back at home.  And for those of us who are used to preparing food at home, this can include cooking meals.  We would love to go away and have someone else take care of our every need, from cleaning and cooking to scheduling and providing entertainment.  And for some people, maybe that is even possible.  However, if you are someone who requires a specific diet – maybe because of food allergies or sensitivities or just because your body responds best to healthy, non-processed foods – or if you are trying to minimize expenses while away on vacation, it probably makes the most sense to plan ahead and prepare some or all of your own food. 

 

In our family, we’ve gotten to the point where we only look for vacation rentals that have a kitchen available for us to use while we are there.  Then we stock up on our local favorites…meats from our local butcher, fresh eggs from our chickens, raw milk, cheeses and yogurt from a local dairy, veggies from our CSA, fruits from a local orchard, homemade granola and bread and muffins, a homemade dessert or two and lots of our favorite snacks.  I also usually do some research into the area where we are vacationing and map out some local farm markets or healthy grocery stores, as well as one or two farm-to-table restaurants so we can go out to eat at least once while we are away.  [TIP: localharvest.org is a great resource when it comes to scoping out local farms and restaurants at your vacation spot!]

 

True, this can add some extra stress to the planning and packing stages of vacation, and it will certainly take up more packing space in the car, but we’ve been vacationing this way for years now and it’s definitely the best way to go for our family. 

 

A few years ago, Joe and I went on a big getaway to Puerto Rico while the kids spent the week with family.  I had visions of it being like a second honeymoon…care-free, romantic, and relaxing.  Because we were flying so far away, we didn’t pack anything other than a few emergency granola bars in our carry-on bag.  After a few blissful days spent in the rainforest, I started to develop a very uncomfortable stomachache that ended up lasting for the remainder of the trip.  We did nothing but eat out at the restaurants where we were staying both in the rainforest and then later at the beach.  The menu was limited and there were virtually no healthy options to be found.  And my poor digestive tract did not enjoy our vacation at all.  So, from that experience, I’ve learned that romantic getaways must include a kitchen and homemade food. 

 

I’ve found that this can be romantic and enjoyable in itself.  Joe and I love to cook together and rarely get the chance to do so at home.  Cooking on vacation gives us a chance to bring back an old favorite activity and then enjoy the fruits of our labors together.  The picture at the top of this post is a delicious dinner that we prepared together on a recent tenth anniversary trip to the Finger Lakes in NY.  We brought the pork chops and salad ingredients from home, purchased from a local pig farm and our CSA.  Then we picked up the corn and apples at a local farm stand down the road from our cabin.  We grilled the pork chops, apple halves, and corn in the husk on a grill outside our cabin.  And the wine was from a local Finger Lakes winery.  Here are a few pictures of other meals we prepared and enjoyed on our vacation… 

 

 

Healthy Eating on Vacation - homemade omelets and fresh coffee

Breakfast – omelets and fresh coffee made in our cabin kitchen

 

Healthy Snacks on Vacation - crackers and cheese from home served with local grapes purchased at a farm stand near our cabin and wine from a local winery

Healthy Snacks – crackers and cheese from home served with local grapes purchased at a farm stand near our cabin and wine from a local winery

 

Healthy Breakfast on Vacation - yogurt and homemade granola both from home topped with local pears

Breakfast – yogurt and homemade granola both from home topped with local pears

 

So, if you are planning a family vacation or a romantic getaway for this summer, maybe consider looking for a place with a kitchen where you can bring along all of your favorite foods and prepare them in a (mostly) stress-free environment.  You might be surprised how much you enjoy the experience and I promise that your body will thank you!