Make Ahead Lunches (Subtitle: Why I Sometimes Don’t Eat Lunch – Part 2)

I won’t bore you again with the details of how the planets must align perfectly in my planning and prepping if I’m going to eat lunch on a daily basis, but if you’re interested in reading more, you can find it HERE.

Here are some of the things I make ahead (and package in single servings in the fridge) if I want to eat on a regular schedule….I’d love to see your ideas for great make ahead lunches too – please share!

Make Ahead “Hot Lunches”

I love to make these meals in a batch, and then store them in single servings in the refrigerator (sometimes I throw one or two in the freezer to stock me up for weeks I don’t have time as well).  Bonus when I can just reheat from the same container (read HERE for the containers I use).

  1. Turkey Taco Bowls; 
  2. Black Bean, White Bean and Beef Taco Chili;
  3. From skinnytaste.com, Honey Balsamic Chicken and Veggies – I also add a half cup of brown rice to each serving;
  4. White Chicken Chili (this is delicious with some fresh baby spinach wilted in as you reheat too, if you need to up those greens – and who doesn’t?);
  5. Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice Soup; 
  6. From The Girl Who Ate Everything (I feel like she and I would get along really well), Cheater Korean Beef (or chicken, or turkey….I find this delicious with any of them!).  I serve this with brown rice, and usually add some veggies while cooking.  I also cut the amount of sugar in half, but don’t tell my kids that.

Mason Jar Salads

Mason jar salads are great for a quick lunch.   You just grab them, shake them, and pour them on a plate.  Or eat them right from the jar.  I do that sometimes when I’m really rushed, or eating out and about!

  1. Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa Mason Jar Salads
  2. Chopped Chicken Cobb Salad in a Mason Jar
  3. Shrimp Mason Jar Salads with Lemon Vinaigrette
  4. Caprese Mason Jar Salads with Broiled Chicken
  5. Mason Jar Chicken Salad with (Not Really Caesar) Lemon Dijon Dressing

Snack Boxes and Homemade “Lunchables”

Sometimes it’s easier just to have some “snack” style lunches ready to go.  No cooking or heating required!  I love yumboxes for this.  They come in a lot of sizes and colors, and it’s possible I have almost all of them.

  1. I like to fill the Tapas Size one with a combination of cut up veggies, hummus or guacamole, almonds, olives and a cheese stick and a hard boiled egg for lunch on the go.
  2. I also like to make my own “lunchable” style lunch with whole grain crackers, organic cheese, uncured lunch meat, sliced apples or strawberries and some cut up veggies.  I use that cute little circle in the middle for my chocolate fix.  It holds one square of chocolate perfectly!
  3. My kids get yumboxes for school lunches too!  They like picking one category of food for each compartment (fruit, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy).

What’s on your lunch plate this week?

 

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Posted in Easy Lunch, Freezer meals, Leftovers, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, salad, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I Prep Lunches Ahead (Subtitle: Why I Sometimes Don’t Eat Lunch – Part 1)

Wow.  I started this one so long ago, I’m not totally sure what I was going to write about. You know how there are all those studies about kids taking too much time off in the summer and losing the education they got the prior year?  I’m pretty sure summer break eats away at my brain cells too…..

I was talking with a friend today, and I was telling her how I’ve finally just resigned myself to the fact that lunch has to be all of the following things for me to actually eat it during busy days ever.  Basically, if does not meet all of the following criteria, I either don’t eat lunch or eat something from a drive through.  Or just have more coffee.

Very Important Lunch Criteria:

  1. Already made.
  2. Already in a container that only contains one serving of exactly what I should be eating.
  3. If reheating is required, must be done from said container.

Seriously.  If it is made, but not portioned out.  Too much effort.  If it is in a container and needs to be transferred to be reheated.  Too much effort.  6 servings in one container?  FORGET IT.  Open fridge.  Pull out.  Insert in microwave (optional).  Eat.  That’s apparently all I can handle.

As I have developed this annoying and ridiculous lunch process and criteria lovable little personality quirk over time, I’ve developed a container problem amassed a set of tools that allows me to eat lunch daily most of the time.

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Container problem?  I don’t have a container problem….

When things don’t have to be reheated, I am a big fan of plastic.  I know many people have eliminated it, but you can’t beat it for durability (or frankly, disposability) and price.  I recently found these 3 compartment divided plastic containers on Amazon for a great price.  Also, they came with sporks.  Who doesn’t love a spork?  I’m using these for cold lunches. I don’t have any high hopes for them surviving more than a few hand washes, but for the price, I can live with that.

On the other hand, when I want to reheat things, I have a glass preference.  I just always worry about the plastic melting or giving off toxins or something.  Since I have no actual science to back this up, you should definitely not just go along with what I say, but if you like glass containers, some of these are great:

3 compartment containers.

2 compartment containers

Single compartment containers

Pyrex round containers

Mason Jars (quart sized)

Mason Jars (pint sized)

Mason Jar Lids (wide-mouthed)

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What are your favorite lunch prep tools?  I’d love to hear!

Posted in Freezer meals, Leftovers, Lunch, Make Ahead, Mason Jar Meals, Meal Plans, Repurposed Leftovers, salad, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey Taco Bowls

Turkey Taco Bowl Blog Cover

I have returned from summer vacation, and dusted off the kitchen.  I like to ease back into things, and the leaches are still home with me 24/7 my children are still off school until next week, so I needed an easy make ahead lunch to get me back in the swing of things!  Also, I learned while on vacation that at least one person actually really enjoys my food and meal planning.  One is enough to keep me going – thanks Carol.  🙂

In Arizona, for some stupid reason no one has ever adequately explained to me, despite the fact that summer is not going to be over for at least 3 more months, unlike civilized parts of the country, where they wait until after Labor Day, schools are either already back in session, or starting in early August.  So we are transitioning from the unstructured days of summer break back into the schedules and activities of the school year.  I hope this one helps you meal plan and prep, whatever stage you are in in your part of the world.

Turkey Taco Bowls/8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 5 c. cooked brown rice (you can use white too, I won’t tell your trainer or dietician)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 bag of frozen peppers and onions (like these from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 lb of ground turkey, 93% lean (or whatever ground meat you like!)
  • 1 c frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 can of rotel
  • 1 1/2 c. of black beans, cooked from dried, or 1, 14.5 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1, 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 2 TB taco seasoning
  • 2 tsp dried cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Sliced green onions (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Add bell peppers and onions and saute, until heated through and softened, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, divide cooked rice evenly among 8 containers.  I really like these Pyrex dishes, because I can freeze them, keep them in the fridge, remove the lids and use in the microwave and so on.  I used both the 4 c. and the 2 c. size for this recipe because, well, when I started making it, I thought it would make four lunches, but it made 8.  And I only have 4 of each.
  3. Once peppers and onions are cooked, divide among the 8 containers.
  4. Using the same pan, brown the ground turkey, breaking up into small pieces until cooked through.
  5. Add taco seasoning, and stir to coat turkey evenly.
  6. Add corn, black beans, diced tomatoes, rotel and cilantro and stir to blend.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes so that flavors can blend.
  7. Top rice and peppers and onions with the turkey  mixture.  Garnish with green onions and lime wedges if desired!
  8. Eat right away, or store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.  I’m planning to freeze a few of them as well!
  9. You can also add the usual tacos garnishes before serving, if desired: cheese, salsa, maybe a few chips to convince the kiddos it’s good.

 

 

 

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5 Ideas for easy, healthy and fast breakfasts

For me, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It sets my tone for the rest of the day, and honestly, when I don’t eat one high in protein, with a little healthy fat and a few carbs, well, let’s just say you don’t want to approach me too suddenly talk to me be around me at all before I’ve had lunch.  Some of these can be made ahead, entirely, or partially, some are just quick and easy the day of!

Egg White Breakfast Tacos – protein, fat, carbs….this one has it all.  Chop the veggies in advance, and it’s ready in a snap!

breakfast tacos

Blueberry and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait – packing a big protein punch, this parfait and be made ahead for a few days in mason jars or other sealable containers for a quick breakfast at home or on the go.

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Denver Omelet Egg Muffins  – you can customize these make ahead egg muffins with any ingredients you like and have on hand!  An easy way to make breakfast for the whole week.

Egg Muffin Freemium

Cherry Chocolate Overnight/Refrigerator Oats – you can substitute your own choice of fruit and other ingredients to these.  Just start with the base of 1/3 c of oats, 1 TB of chia, 1/3 c greek yogurt and 1/3 c of almond or other milk, and play around!  These can be made quickly for breakfast all week.

oats freemium

Mixed Berry Banana Smoothie – for a quick breakfast you can take on the go, while also starting your day with fruit and veggies.

smoothie freemium

 

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Mixed Berry Banana Smoothie

The Greek yogurt gives this smoothie its 15 grams of protein, you can add to that by using protein powder, if desired. This is a great way to start your day with a serving of green leafy vegetables as well!

Ingredients:

  • 1 c spinach, fresh
  • 1 c vanilla unsweetened almond milk (or the milk or other liquid of your choice)
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 1/2 c of nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 c frozen mixed berries
  • Optional: protein powder or smoothie starter (I love this vanilla one from Kura
  • Optional: honey (1 TB) or chopped pitted dates (1-2), if desired for extra sweetness

Directions:

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until desired consistency, adding ice or more liquid if necessary.

Make Ahead Tip:

You can place the spinach, berries and 1/2 banana in freezer bags ahead of time, and just pull one out for each day!

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Blueberry and Yogurt Breakfast Parfait

Not so much a recipes as a quick, healthy breakfast idea!  With around 350 calories, this breakfast provides around 27 grams of protein and the healthy fat in the almonds will also help you stay fuller, longer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c nonfat greek yogurt, plain
  • 1 c fresh blueberries (or the fruit of your choice)
  • 1/2 oz of raw almonds, chopped or slivered
  • 1/2 to 1 TB of honey or maple syrup (optional)

Directions:

  1. Layer half of each ingredient in either a bowl or other container.
  2. Finish with a second layer of each.
  3. Can be made ahead and stored for a couple days in a sealed container.

parfait freemium

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Egg White Breakfast Tacos

Ever had one of those weeks months periods of time 17 days long or so?  You know the ones.  Someone is sick.  School projects are due.  Sports are in full swing.  You open your planner and somehow you still have the page market set sometime in March and tomorrow is May?

Somehow you blink, and it’s been weeks, and you barely remember what you cooked or fed anyone.  That’s the kind of April we had in our house.  And that’s okay.  We all survived.  A little too much takeout was consumed.  It is my goal to make May a different month here in our household.  Do you have goals for May?  Step 1 for me was doing some prepping and planning this week – that always starts with breakfast for me.  So I made up a batch of Denver Omelet Egg Muffins for the week, and also chopped veggies for these on other days.  Because really, I could eat tacos three meals a day.  Also: I could eat eggs three meals a day.  Oh?  And avocado?  I could eat avocado at all three meals a day.  Every day.

Egg White Breakfast Tacos

This makes 1 serving, 2 tacos (kids could probably split it!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive oil (or other cooking oil of your choice)
  • 1 diced bell pepper (I diced up 3, so I have more for another day!)
  • 1/2 c egg whites (or, if you prefer, 2 whole eggs, beaten)
  • 2 TB of pico de gallo (or you could chop up tomatoes, onions, cilantro etc. on your own…but since Safeway already did it…..)
  • 2 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1/2 small avocado, diced

Directions:

  1. Sauté the bell pepper in oil for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Add egg whites, stirring frequently to scramble.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until cooked through.
  3. Add pico de gallo and stir/scramble, cooking another minute, or until heated through.
  4. Top each tortilla with 1/2 of the mixture, then top with the avocado.
  5. Fold or roll and eat!
  6. If you want to go low carb, skip the tortillas and eat on a plate with a fork!

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Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa Mason Jar Salads

Oh, I have a blog.

Apparently I forgot for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, on occasion, I get so busy being a mom, running FIT4MOM Phoenix Scottsdale, and just living, that the planning, the prepping, and even the pouring get forgotten.  In other words, my family is super sick of Chick Fil A and rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  I am equally sick of existing on chocolate mint builder bars, raw almonds, clementines and gummy bears.   After 5 days on the road, part of my reintroduction to polite society today involved breakfasts and lunches for the next few days.

Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Mason Jar

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 c. quinoa (measured before cooking), prepared according to package (I used a multi-color variety and cooked it in the rice cooker with vegetable broth and some lime juice), cooled
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 c. frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 can of rotel, cilantro and lime variety (or you could just use fresh tomatoes and cilantro, but let’s be honest, any of this was a stretch today for me)
  • 4-5 sliced green onions
  • 1 diced green pepper (or whatever color you want!  I had green)
  • 1 large avocado, diced and tossed in lime juice
  • 4 cups of shredded romaine

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3 TB olive oil (I used a chile lime variety)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1-2 tsp of taco seasoning (I used my homemade), depending how much spice you want to add
  • 1-2 tsp of honey, depending how much sweet you’d like

Directions:

  1. Combine all salad ingredients other than avocado and romaine.
  2. Blend salad dressing ingredients together.
  3. Toss salad with dressing.
  4. Divide among 4 wide-mouthed, quart sized mason jars.
  5. Add avocado to jars.
  6. Finish with romaine.
  7. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 4-5 days.  Immediately before serving, shake to mix, and pour into a bowl or onto a plate.
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Chopped Chicken Cobb Salad in a Mason Jar

This recipe makes 4 large salads, perfect for lunch or dinner!  They will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salads:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced, tossed with lime juice
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked, cooled and chopped
  • 16 oz of cooked chicken breast, cubed or shredded
  • 4 TB blue cheese crumbles
  • 4 cups of thinly chopped romaine lettuce

Directions:

  1. Whisk dressing ingredients together until blended thoroughly.  Divide evenly among 4 quart sized mason jars.
  2. Add 1/4 of the remaining ingredients to each jar, in the order above (starting with tomatoes, ending with lettuce).
  3. Seal jars tightly (I like these plastic lids) and store in refrigerator.
  4. When ready to eat, shake jar, dump on a plate or into a bowl and serve!

Cobb salad1

 

 

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Make Ahead and Freeze Black Bean and Cheese Burritos

When things get really busy, and I haven’t prepped and planned enough, one of my on the go favorite foods is Amy’s Burritos.  While these aren’t the worst choice I could make, they obviously are pretty processed and full of sodium (and the ingredient list isn’t short either).  I decided to try my hand at my own this week.  I like these for breakfast or for lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb dried black beans, rinsed and soaked
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp dried crushed jalapeno (optional)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1, 14.5 oz can of no salt added petite diced tomatoes
  • 15 tortillas or wraps (large-sized/burrito sized)
  • 8 oz shredded cheese (I did some with cheddar and some with pepper jack)

Instructions:

  1. Place soaked beans, onion, garlic, salt, cumin and jalapeno (if using) in 8 cups of water in a large pot on the stove.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, semi-covered, for 2 to 2.5 hours, or until beans are cooked to desired consistency.
  2. Remove beans from pan and drain off excess water, if any.
  3. Heat oil in pan over medium heat, and return beans to pan.  Using a potato masher, mash beans to desired consistency (I like to leave some whole beans and chunks, but you may like a smoother consistency).  Add tomatoes (undrained if you need a little more liquid, drain first if not).  Stir and cook, uncovered, for 4-6 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust any seasonings, as necessary.
  5. Allow bean mixture to cool to room temperature.  If your tortillas are refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature.
  6. To assemble each burrito:
  • Lay the tortilla on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Place the cheese on the tortilla, then the bean mixture.
  • Roll the burrito up.  Here’s a video showing how.
  • Wrap the burrito in the foil.

Freezer storage:

  1. The vast knowledge of the google indicated that I should then freeze them all individually, then remove them to gallon zip lock bags together.  Instead, I placed each burrito in a smaller zip lock bag and tried to get all the air out, sealed, and froze that way.
  2. Google also tells me these should be good in the freezer for 3 months.  At the rate I am going, mine will not last that long.  But then I needed to eat them this week so I could experiment with reheating!

Reheating instructions:

  1. Toaster or regular oven: I removed the burrito from the zip lock bag and popped it in my toaster oven in the foil at 375 degrees for around 30 minutes and it was good to go!
  2. Microwave: remove burrito from all wrapping and place on a microwave safe plate.  Microwave for around 2.5 minutes (this may vary depending on the microwave).

 

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