If my kids had their way our pantry would be loaded up with spicy chips, frozen pizza snacks, noodles with freeze dried whatever – packaged in a Styrofoam container, cream filled sandwich cookies, and fake meat packaged in plastic with a piece of candy on the side. They see their friends eating this stuff, so why can’t they? My general response, “because it’s crap”. End of conversation.
I spend a lot of time trying to come up with snacks that can not only be a wonderful addition to their lunch box, but can also satisfy hunger pangs or a sweet tooth craving. Having healthy options both in the cupboards and the fridge allows my kids to make smart choices. Ice cream is only in the house if I make it (and usually for a special occasion), and chips have been almost omitted completely. We still like these with our tuna or just on their own.
What I do keep on hand are nuts, all kinds of nuts. Raw cashews, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios can always be found in the freezer. Turning them into a sweet and spicy snack is something I love to experiment with. Not only are they delish on their own, but they great in baked goods, salads, and sprinkled on top of my morning oatmeal.
I have been really, really hard to eliminate sugar from my diet. So hard. These vegan date nut truffles are helping me overcome my addiction. The kids love them in their lunch box and they seem to be the perfect afternoon pick me up. Chocolate sauce can always be found on the door of our fridge, cocoa hazelnut spread is a house hold favorite, and these fruit skewers are so cute that no one can resist them.
When my kids get home from school they want a meal. After greeting me when they walk in the door with a kiss and a hug, the first words they utter are, “I’m STARVING”. I can’t always whip up a meal, especially since dinner is simply 2 hours away, but I can offer them dips, savory hand pies, and an occasional grilled sandwich. Salsa, hummus or white bean dip, guacamole, and homemade pizza sauce translates into a welcome savory snack.
With snacks like these in the fridge, I rarely get the “there’s nothing to eat”. In addition, having granola bars, frozen homemade tater tots, and lots and lots of sweet and savory nuts like these, fills their bellies up with something nutritious without ruining their dinner appetite.
5 Key Tips to taking the Stress out of Weekday Meals:
• Nuts can be very, very expensive. I have found that purchasing nuts in bulk, at the local Persian markets, gives me a lot of bang for my buck. Middle eastern markets are a great resource for not only nuts, but basic pantry staples like lentils, rice, alternative flours, and legumes. If you have one in your hood, I suggest you get over there, STAT!
• I often open a can of tomato paste simply to use one tablespoon in a recipe. Tomato paste can only last a few days in the fridge before becoming moldy. Freeze the rest by placing 1 tablespoon mounds onto a wax paper lined, small baking sheet. Freeze and then place the 1 tablespoon mounds of paste into a freezer safe container. Use within 3 months.
• Ice cube trays are one of my favorite kitchen tools. Ingredients like buttermilk, red wine, pesto, vegetable stock, pizza sauce, and left over canned tomato sauce are ideal candidates for freezing small amounts. When Eli wants a sandwich packed in his lunch, I will take out 1 cube of pesto the night before and it’s the perfect compliment to any sandwich. It’s much easier to defrost a cube of liquid than it is a whole quart of something and besides, it’s super cost effective.
• My kids love Schnitzel (pounded and breaded chicken breasts). I will sometimes pan fry a huge batch and freeze the rest for a 2nd or 3rd meal. It also allows for great variety. It can be made into a good chicken Parmesan, picata, or simply cut into strips and dipped into either marinara or BBQ sauce.
• I don’t know about you, but when the kids get home from school between 3:00 – 4:00 p.m., I have put in a full day (rising at 5:30a.m.) and I am in desperate need of a catnap. Often, I make 90% of my dinner in the morning, right after I usher them out the door on their way to school. You would be surprised how liberating this is.
Maple Glazed Almonds
14 ounces | 396 grams | 4 cups raw almonds
2 ounces | 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
pinch (or two) Cayenne pepper (optional)
• preheat oven to 300*.
• line a rimmed half sheet pan with foil. lightly brush coconut oil on foil. set aside.
• in a large bowl combine maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, Celtic sea salt, and cayenne (if using). mix well. add almonds and mix to coat.
• spread on prepared baking sheet. bake for 30 – 40 minutes (my oven runs a little hot, so mine cook closer to 30 minutes). Half way through the cooking time, mix nuts to avoid burning the underside.
• remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan.
• store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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