General Recipes

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/
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake

When we have a family dinner or get-together, we all like to contribute something to the menu.  My grandmother often volunteers to make or bring a dessert (she’s got quite a sweet tooth!).  At one family dinner, she showed up with these Mexican Hot Chocolate Mini Brownies from the bakery section of our local grocery store.  They were delicious!  So of course, I looked at the ingredient list (which was about a mile long and contained things that I couldn’t pronounce, let alone identify) and decided that I wanted to find a way to make a homemade version on my own!

 

After some online research and a few test batches, I’m excited to share a version that is just as delicious as the ones that we tried at our family dinner but uses whole wheat flour and maple syrup (you could also substitute honey) in place of refined flours and sugars and does not contain any added flavors or preservatives.  Win!

 

The idea behind a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake is that you take the flavors from a Mexican hot chocolate (which is traditionally made with cinnamon and some sort of hot pepper to kick it up a notch) and bake it into a very moist chocolate cake.  My version also contains coffee so I guess it’s sort of a Mexican Mocha Cake. 

 

During my online research, I happened upon the idea of baking cake batter in pint-sized Mason jars so that you can serve them as individual servings.  I thought it was such a fun idea, especially when serving kids!  One night, when we had an extra kid sleeping over at our house, we made a batch of these cakes and all enjoyed them on the sofa while having a movie night.  Fun! 

 

[You could also make this recipe in a traditional cake pan but, to be honest, I didn’t try that out during my recipe testing so you’ll have to let me know what time and temperature you use if anyone tries it at home.  I would recommend keeping a lower temperature than most cake baking so that it stays moist.]

 

UPDATE: We made this recipe in a 9×13″ pan for family vacation earlier this month and it turned out great!  We baked it at 325°F for 40 minutes.  Still nice and moist! 

 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake in a Jar
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  2. ½ cup cocoa powder
  3. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  7. ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 ½ cups maple syrup
  10. 1 cup buttermilk
  11. 1 cup coffee, at room temperature
  12. ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  13. 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk, coffee, coconut oil, and vanilla.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a third at a time, whisking to incorporate in between each addition.
  5. Arrange ten 8-ounce or pint-sized Mason jars on a baking sheet and carefully pour ½ cup of the batter into each jar. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool slightly so that you can safely handle the jars. Hand out the jars and some spoons and enjoy!
Notes
  1. Makes 10 individual cakes.
  2. (*TIP: put 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and add milk to the 1 cup line and let sit for 5 minutes to make your own buttermilk from scratch!)
  3. (If desired, this recipe can also be made in a 9x13" pan. Follow recipe as described and pour batter into greased 9x13" pan. Bake at 325°F for 40 minutes. Enjoy!)
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/