Mason Jar Southwestern Chicken Salads with Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing


  • 2 romaine hearts
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 oz cilantro leaves
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 c corn
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 oz each)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 limes
  • 4 oz/.5 c nonfat, plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 avocados


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together chili powder, cumin and paprika in a small bowl.
  3. Line baking pan with parchment paper, and toss corn and black beans (after draining and rinsing) with 1 tsp of olive oil and 1/2 of the seasoning mix.  Roast in 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until corn is slightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. While corn and beans are roasting, heat remaining 2 tsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat until shimmering.  Season chicken with remaining spice mix and cook in pan, 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Remove from plate and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, then chop roughly.  Allow to cool.
  5. To make dressing, roughly chop cilantro, zest half of one lime, and add zest, cilantro, juice of 1 and 1/2 limes, greek yogurt and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper (optional) to a food processor or blender and process/blend until smooth. Cut remaining lime in 4 wedges and reserve for later.
  6. Halve romaine hearts lengthwise and thinly slice leaves crosswise.  Halve tomatoes.
  7. Once beans and corn and chicken are cooled, layer salad ingredients in 4 mason jars (affiliate link) in the following order (bottom to top): dressing, beans and corn, romaine and tomatoes, chicken, lime wedge.
  8. Seal jars and store salads in refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  9. Immediately prior to serving, slice 1/2 of an avocado, plate salad, and top with avocado slices.

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Posted in Easy Lunch, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, Meal Plans, meal prep, Southwestern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to School (Lunch) Survival

I know all the moms are thrilled with back to school season!  Or maybe that’s just me….but the routine, the extra hours to try to get some work done etc.  Yay school!  But, with 3 kids to get out the door at 8:05 every morning, some prep and organization is required!

A lot of my meal prep (especially breakfasts and lunches) is focused on me, what I’m going to eat, making my life simple, it’s just how I take will power and effort out of the equation for the week – they are finite after all, why use them up on figuring out breakfast and lunch daily?  But last year one of my children made the mistake of inviting invited me to dine in the elementary school cafeteria. Up until that day, I had let them eat the school cafeteria food, every day if they wanted, only occasionally packing a lunch (I mean, they seemed to like it, and it was no work for me, so why not).  I figured it was an elementary school cafeteria.  Surely there were nutritional rules, right?  Surely it was balanced and healthy?  Hahahahahaha.  Apparently I was an idiot completely uninformed.  If I had time for a soapbox, elementary school cafeterias would be it.  The food is awful.  They sell brownies and Pop-Tarts.  Pop-Tarts.  Pop-Tarts.  Okay, I got a little fixated on the Pop-Tarts.  Anyway, that day I learned I didn’t want those lunches to be the only nutrition food my children got from when they got on the bus at 8:24 am until they stepped off at 3:27 pm.  I also started to understand by they were so hangry when they got off the bus every day.

Since we started packing lunches 4-5 times/week (I allow them 1 day of cafeteria food, if they want it – but honestly, 2 of my kids almost never opt for it anymore, because they like the packed lunches we’ve come up with, and we’ve created a system that works for us.


  1. A protein selection is required.
  2. One fruit and one veggie OR 2 veggies is required.
  3. You can have input on that week’s lunches, but only if it is given in a timely fashion to the head cook and grocery shopper before or during grocery list making.  After that, you’re stuck with what we have.
  4. You put your own lunch items in the lunch box, mom adds the ice pack and approves the selections.
  5. You may not grab the lunch stuff and use it as snacks at home (we’re working on this one), because doing that means more prep has to be done!


  1. Once you’ve got your healthy, balanced lunch packed, you can pick a treat (fruit snacks are my big compromise here – a small pack of fruit snacks somehow seems better to me than a giant brownie or Pop-Tarts.  Did I mention the brownies before?)
  2. I buy chocolate milk and juice for lunches.  At least this way I control the type of chocolate milk and juice they get (they also take giant water bottles to school, and thankfully the school has filtered fountains at which to refill them).
  3. You can eat cafeteria lunch one day a week, if you’d like, but you can’t buy a brownie or a Pop-Tart.

Other Considerations:

My kids don’t get enough time to eat in my opinion.  It’s a 20 minute window, and that includes lining up, walking to the cafeteria, being seated, eating and cleaning up.  So we’re looking at about 12-14 minutes to eat at best.  When we first started this, a lot of stuff came home uneaten.  So I try to offer options that can be eaten quickly (my 11 year old likes applesauce, and we switched to those pouches instead of cups, because he can eat one quickly).  This might not be the case at your kids’ school(s), but it’s something to think about.

I also think the more input they have (from which foods are shopped for, to helping prep, to selecting their own each morning) makes them more cooperative and more likely to consume their lunch.


  1. After getting any input, I shop for and  prep the lunch items for the week (sometimes they help, but honestly, it’s just part of my weekly routine, as you know if you’ve read this blog before, I find Sunday meal planning and prep with a glass of wine to be relaxing).  All of the prepped items go in refrigerator bins (affiliate link) placed on a shelf that all the kids can reach.
  2. Protein: I hard boil eggs, divide deli meats (or leftover chicken) and cheeses into single serving baggies or containers (I know we use too much plastic, and I’m looking for ways around it, but honestly, they can’t take glass…..I use as much as can be used over and over as possible) and measure out hummus (unless I have the little containers), we also have string cheese (kid 3’s favorite).
  3. Fruit: I wash grapes and wash and cut any other fresh fruit we are using that week (strawberries and watermelon are favorites here).  We try to use the cut fruit within 3 days, as it seems to go bad after that.  The grapes last longer, and my Thursday and Friday backups are fruit cups packed in 100% fruit juice (not always easy to find!  So many of these are full of sugar or artificial sweeteners anymore).  We also have the applesauce squeezes.
  4. Veggies: These usually consist of baby bell peppers, cucumbers and carrots, because those are the only 3 that all 3 of my kids will consistently eat.  We try to use the cucumbers first, they have the shortest shelf life.
  5. Miscellaneous: in addition to all this, I also line up chocolate milk and 100% juice boxes in the fridge.  In the pantry we have the carb and the treat (mostly little bags of fruit snacks) choices.  The carb choices are in reusable containers: pretzels, pita chips, gold fish crackers, whole grain crackers, whole grain cereal,  and anything else they’ve asked for and I’ve agreed to that week.


In the morning, we line up the open empty lunch boxes and they each fill theirs for my approval.  Occasionally my oldest son will make a sandwich with deli meat or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (because at the cafeteria the PB&J is those uncrustables that are not me approved), the other two do not like sandwiches.  My youngest usually still uses her Yumbox (affiliate link) bento, but the older two prefer more food now.

Once I’ve approved, I toss in an ice pack, they zip them up and into the backpacks they go.  With the prep work done, this takes about 2 minutes tops, and we don’t argue a lot less in the mornings.

Posted in Easy Lunch, Lunch, Make Ahead, Meal Plans, meal prep | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Crack an Egg….now with bacon!

A few months ago, I discoved the “Just Crack an Egg” product in the grocery store, and bought some.  But they are a little expensive, and I figured I could make my own.  My kids love these, it’s a great way for them to actually eat a complete breakfast!

I initially prepped the varieties HERE, but this week we tried and love these!

Prepped Ahead Egg Scrambles with Potatoes, Bacon and Peppers…..Just Crack an Egg! (Makes 4)

  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced (I used one red and one yellow, but any color will work
  • 8oz of potatoes, cubed and cooked (I actually just microwaved mine this time, let it cool, and then diced it up)
  • 2 slices of bacon (thick cut), cooked and crumbled
  • 8 TB shredded cheddar
  • 8 eggs


Get 4 wide-mouthed, pint sized mason jars (affiliate link) ready.  I like to use these plastic lids (affiliate link) rather than the metal.

Divide the diced bell peppers and potatoes among the 4 jars.

In separate containers that will fit inside the jars, divide the bacon and the cheese.  I use these – after I eat the olives – because they fit in the top of the jars and the lid seals them in.  I just like olives.  I wash them and reuse them….lots of things come in these cups though.  Mandarin oranges, fruit cocktail, applesauce….you can use any container or baggie that fits though.

When ready to cook and eat, mix the cheese and bacon into the other ingredients, crack two eggs over it all, mix, and microwave for 1 minute on high.

Remove from microwave (be careful of hot jars), stir, and cook again for 1 minute.

Be careful, as the jar does get hot!


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2018 Monday Meal Plan: Week ?? (August 6 through August 12, 2018)

Week ???

I don’t know what week it is, that’s how many weeks of meal planning and prep I’ve missed.  Somehow, every year, I forget how hard summer break is.  I need to make myself a big sign and bedazzle it or something.  It should say something along the lines of:

Dear Amy, it’s going to be June and July soon.  You aren’t going to get anything productive done.  Why don’t you just go ahead and plan the meals now.  If you’re smart, you’ll even draft some blog posts.  Maybe make some food and freeze it.  P.S. get ahead on that FIT4MOM work stuff too, because….well, summer break.

Maybe in giant purple letters surrounded by a lot of glitter?

Anyway, did I mention school started this week?  Did your kids go back yet?  How are you celebrating?  Me, I’m just trying to find the bottom of my inbox over here….oh and meal planning and prepping!


Breakfasts –

Monday I had my typical avocado toast topped with an egg, but we made a special back to school Stacy’s Mom’s Puff Pancake for the first day of school on Tuesday.  Then I made the  Make Ahead and Freeze Black Bean and Cheese Burritos (except with pinto beans this time) for the rest of the week.

Lunches –

I pulled lunches out of the freezer because I needed to create some space.  Most of the things I pulled out are listed in this prior blog post: Make Ahead Lunches (Subtitle: Why I Sometimes Don’t Eat Lunch – Part 2).

Dinners –

Monday –  Crockpot Chicken For Tacos, Taco Salads, Nachos and more!  Everyone just builds their own tacos, salads or nachos with the chicken and cheese, lettuce, peppers, salsa etc.

Tuesday – Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts roasted with bacon.  I just realized I’ve never typed up my meatloaf recipe, so….to come!

Wednesday – LEFTOVERS.

Thursday – Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings (serves 4-6).


Saturday – We are getting a box from Plated this week, and one of the meals is Szechuan Style Beef.

Sunday – we host a summer office party, which is catered, so the food from that!

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, Meal Plans, meal prep | Leave a comment

Stacy’s Mom’s Puff Pancake

Like the song says, Stacy’s mom has got it going on, because this is one of the most delicious breakfasts I’ve ever eaten!  My friend Stacy told me about this recipe a while back, and I’d been meaning to try it.  It’s super easy, but it looks like you did something special, so it was our “back to school” breakfast this year.  It’s more eggy than your usual pancake (maybe a little more like french toast?) and is delicious with fresh fruit and a drizzle of syrup or sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Stacy’s Mom’s Puff Pancake (Has Got It Going On)

Serves 4-6.


  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 4-7 TB butter (I used 4)
  • Maple syrup or powdered sugar and fresh fruit of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 395 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Beat together eggs, milk and flour until smooth.  An immersion blender like this Cuisinart one (affiliate link) works great for this.
  3. Melt butter in a large baking dish (or a cast iron skillet if you have one!) in the oven.
  4. When butter is melted,  pour batter into hot pan, return to oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Cut into pieces, top as desired, and eat.

We ate this so fast, I didn’t get any great pictures.  Here’s about half of it left after my kids had plated theirs up.

Puff pancake 1


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2018 Monday Meal Plan: Week 23 (May 28-June 3, 2018)

I know, weeks 21 and 22 are missing.  What can I say?  Life got busy.  We had no plan.  I just reverted to survival mode, quick dinners, a little too much takeout, and pulling stuff from the freezer on a whim daily.  The last 2 weeks of school does me in every single year.  I should remember that for next year and prep ahead!  Back at it this week.



Who doesn’t love a BLT?  This one is without the bread, in salad form, with some egg and spinach in addition to the usual BLT ingredients.  Plus a tangy, slightly sweet vinaigrette that I can practically drink it’s so good.

BL(S)T Breakfast (or Lunch!) Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette


Trying this recipe for Harissa Chicken for the first time.  I made it in my Instant Pot (affiliate link), and I find that fresh, unfrozen chicken breasts are done in 12-13 minutes at high pressure, vs. the 20 she suggests, but your results may vary!  I am serving mine over brown rice with cucumbers and peppers and some tzatziki sauce on the side.

Easy Shredded Harissa Chicken

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Monday – No recipe, but we are having teriyaki chicken kabobs.  I marinate chunks of chicken in teriyaki sauce, and then alternate with chunks of bell pepper on skewers and grill.  Brown rice and a veggie tray on the side.  If pineapple looks good at the store, maybe that too!

Tuesday – My favorite grilled flank steak recipe with some roasted red potatoes and asparagus on the side.

Grilled Rosemary Flank Steak

Wednesday – Leftovers.

Thursday – The kids have a swim meet in the evening, so leftovers or takeout.

Friday –  Cheeseburger Pasta Bake and a veggie tray.

Saturday – Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken Thighs, tomato and cucumber salad and roasted sweet potatoes.

Sunday –  Leftovers.



Posted in Baked Pasta, Breakfast, casserole, chicken, Dinner, Easy Breakfast, Easy Lunch, Instant Pot, Leftovers, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, Meal Plans, meal prep, Quick Breakfast, Repurposed Leftovers, salad, Slow Cooker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BL(S)T Breakfast (or Lunch!) Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Salad, for breakfast?  Why not….it’s a great way to get those veggie servings in early in the day, and fuel your activities for the day.  For me, personally, as it heats up in Arizona, I find hot breakfasts less appealing many days.  This is one I came up with last summer, but never wrote down until now.  It also makes a great lunch, and if you have some fresh avocado to dice and add right before serving, do that too!

These instructions are for making the salads ahead in mason jars (affiliate link), but you can use any container that works for you, or just prep the ingredients and assemble right before eating as well.

Makes 4 servings.



  • 1.5 TB honey
  • 1.5 TB dijon mustard
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced (around 1/4 cup)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 7 stalks of celery, sliced thin
  • 16 oz container of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cups of baby spinach (around 1/2 of a 6 oz bag)
  • 6 cups of romaine, sliced
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs


  1. Make dressing by blending all ingredients except salt and pepper thoroughly.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  If prepping salads ahead, divide dressing among 4 quart-sized mason jars (affiliate link).  Otherwise store in a tightly sealed container until ready to serve.
  2. If making ahead, layer ingredients in jars bottom up, in the following order: dressing, celery, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, bacon.
  3. When ready to serve, shake jar and dump contents onto a plate, top with sliced hard-boiled eggs (and avocado if desired!).  Enjoy!

Processed with VSCO with e4 preset


Posted in Breakfast, Easy Breakfast, Easy Lunch, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, Meal Plans, meal prep, Quick Breakfast, salad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Monday Meal Plan: Week 20 (May 7-13, 2018)

It’s a crazy week after a crazy weekend.  Have you ever read that blog by Jen Hatmaker about being the worst end of year mom ever? She has competition.  And that competition is me.  I’m barely hanging on here surviving the last 3 weeks of 4th grade.  Feeding anyone anything is a challenge, much less 3 healthy meals a day.  We got a taste of summer break early here in Arizona, and frankly, we liked it.  I mean, obviously, ten days into it for real I’ll be ready for school to start, but right now, I’ve deluded myself into believing those slow easy mornings and long days will be amazing (side note: they won’t.  There will be lots of whining, begging for electronics, and forcible removal from the house to attend camp so mom can work, but for now, I’m living in a grass is greener dream land……)

And on that note, here’s what we are eating this week:



Making it easy on myself with Mixed Berry Banana Smoothies  and hard boiled eggs.


Skinnytaste Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Lime Cilantro Quinoa


Monday – Takeout.  What can I say.  I failed to plan over the weekend, and I’m typing this post at 6:02 PM.

Tuesday –  Chicken tacos or salads (build your own) using this Crockpot Chicken For Tacos, Taco Salads, Nachos and more!

WednesdayKorean Rice Bowls.  Yeah, I know.  We eat these too much.  But the point is, everyone actually eats them….

Thursday – Leftovers or takeout.

Friday – Leftovers or takeout.

Saturday – the good news is, in the business of this past weekend, I forgot to cancel my Plated Box this week, so 2 meals!  I didn’t even have to think of them.  Saturday is Cuban Rice Bowls.

Sunday – thank you again to Plated (well, actually thank you to me, for not remembering to cancel, and for paying for it)!  Pan Roasted Chicken with Warm Farro Salad.

I hope your week is amazing and that (if applicable) you are still capable of being a most excellent end of the year school mom!

Posted in Breakfast, chicken, Dinner, Easy Breakfast, Easy Lunch, Korean, Leftovers, Lunch, Make Ahead, Meal Plans, meal prep, Slow Cooker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Monday Meal Plan: Week 19 (April 30 through May 6, 2018)

My planning and prepping is more crucial than usual this week – trying hard to keep myself on track with the kids unexpectedly out of school…we are so proud of and grateful for our teachers who are out fighting for education funding in Arizona!  #RedForEd!

It’s hot already here in Phoenix – as usual for this time of year – so I’m making a transition to cold lunches for the week, and moving away from soups and stews for a while.


Breakfasts –

I prepped the second version of these for the week.

Just crack an egg….

Lunches –

Layered mason jar salads for the week.  In the following order (made 5 salads):

Lime vinaigrette:

  • 2 TB lime infused olive oil
  • 3 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • Fresh cracked pepper and sea salt

Chopped veggies:

  • carrots
  • celery
  • bell peppers

Chopped romaine lettuce

Chunks of broiled chicken (marinated in greek yogurt, lime juice and salt and pepper before broiling)

Blue cheese crumbles

Dinners –


We will use up the last of last week’s leftovers.


Slow Cooker Italian Beef as sandwiches on whole grain rolls, with a veggie tray.


Pesto Parmesan Chicken, pasta with marinara, roasted broccoli.


Crab Cakes (except I bake them instead of frying in oil), coleslaw and oven baked fries.

FridayCheeseburger Pasta Bake, veggie tray.

Saturday: Leftovers for the kids, the adults are going out.

Sunday: Leftovers or takeout.

Posted in Baked Pasta, Breakfast, casserole, chicken, Dinner, Easy Breakfast, Easy Lunch, Freezer meals, Italian, Leftovers, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, Meal Plans, meal prep, Quick Breakfast, salad, Slow Cooker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Monday Meal Plan: Week 18 (April 23 through 29, 2018)

The year is continuing to speed by fast than the sound of light……the end of April in Arizona means the beginning of hot summer weather, the last month of school, and the frantic planning of summer vacations and summer camps and childcare while the kids are off school. I was going to say it’s a very busy time of year, but I’m starting to realize that with 3 school-aged children, they pretty much all are!


Breakfasts –

Egg White Breakfast Tacos

Lunches –

Chopped Chicken Cobb Salad in a Mason Jar

Dinners –

We have some leftovers to use up from this weekend and last week (homemade chicken nuggets and spaghetti), plus the following:

Monday –  Leftovers

Tuesday – My Take on Korean Rice Bowls and cucumber salad.

Wednesday –  Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings.

Thursday – Chicken Tortilla Soup with a veggie tray.

Friday – Leftovers for the kids and spouse, moms’ night out for me!

Saturday – I’m going to try this Skinnytaste recipe for General Tso’s Chicken, as it is a takeout favorite for all of us.  Maybe we can find a way to keep it healthier!

Sunday –  Leftovers

Enjoy the last week of April (yep, already!).

Posted in Breakfast, chicken, Dinner, Easy Breakfast, Easy Lunch, Freezer meals, Korean, Leftovers, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, Meal Plans, meal prep, Quick Breakfast, Repurposed Leftovers, salad, Slow Cooker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment