Tag Archives: kitchen tips

Lunch Box: Frozen Sandwiches

Attention Moms with school aged kids!

Preparing school lunches turns into a dreaded chore for Moms, especially during the morning rush.  A couple of years ago, one of my Mom friends mentioned that they freeze sandwiches.  Pull a sandwich out of the freezer when packing lunches in the morning and by lunch time the sandwich is perfectly thawed.  At the time I didn’t think much of it, but I also only had one lunch to prepare.  Now that I have two kids in school – I totally get this idea!  Of course I have two kids that have their own preferences – one like cheese, the other doesn’t – one likes mayo, the other prefers mustard.  How can I keep track??!!

Lunch Box

This is a great way to save time preparing your kid’s lunch box!  Now I make it part of our Sunday night routine.  The kids prepare clothes and backpacks and I make sandwiches for the week.   Sandwiches can be stored in plastic storage bags or plastic wrap, but I am trying to make an effort to reduce waste and especially at school.  I use an air-tight food storage container that will fit sandwiches in layers, using a Sweet Stackers tray to separate each kids lunch.  One kid’s sandwiches are layered on the bottom and the other’s layered on top – this way I can keep track when I am packing them.  Since, I am not storing the sandwiches for a long period of time, there are no problems with freezer burn or the bread drying out.  The kids love them and they do not get soggy.  Plus I like that the sandwiches are kept colder longer preventing deli meat or spreads to spoil.

Many Moms have asked, “What type of sandwiches do you make?”.  I do prefer to use whole grain breads, but I noticed that my kids get bored with the same sandwich.  All kids are different, but changing up the “traditional PB&J” can be fun and a good change for them!  This week I am making ham and cheese sandwiches using Hawaiian dinner rolls and peanut butter and Nutella on whole grain Raisin Bread.

A couple of tips:

  • Do not freeze lettuce, tomatoes or other similar toppings on the sandwich.  Pack these items separately on the side.
  • When making PB&J, smear peanut butter on both sides of the bread (at least a thin layer) to prevent the jelly from touching the bread.  Jelly will make the sandwich soggy.
  • Bento style storage containers (with dividers) are fun for the kids to store sides, dips, crackers, fruits & veggies.  (We found some neat ones in the dollar section at Target!)
  • Make your own Uncrustables – there are tools that will seal and cut the crust off.
  • Shaped sandwich cutters (or cookie cutters) are a fun way to remove crust and cut into cute shapes.

 

Do you have any great tips to share?

 

 

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Bubble Cookies & The Taste Test

My niece turned 2 and she was celebrating with a Bubble Guppies tv show theme.  She is already recognizing her letters, so I wanted to make small bubble shaped cookies spelling out “Bubble Guppies”.  I thought she would enjoy that.  The rest of the cookies were bubbles!  They were glazed with pastel colors pink, blue and white.  These would be cute & easy for any spring or summer theme too!

…and now for the taste test!

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The Taste Test

My theory was put to the test!  During the decorating process, cookies should be stored in an air-tight container to keep them fresh.  I have heard many people say that they leave their cookies out of their kitchen counter top to let the cookies dry completely.  Hence, my taste test.  I reserved a few extra cookies to leave them out to dry overnight.  With the large batch of cookies, I followed the instruction below.  As there is success with safely letting the icing dry, the cookies also dry out during this process.  First thing in the morning, I tasted a cookie that sat out all night and a cookie from the container.  The overnight cookie had a crunchy texture and a slightly different taste.  Definitely not a fresh, soft texture like the one that was stored in the air-tight container!

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Instructions for Storing Decorated Cookies

  • Once the cookies cooled completely after coming out of the oven, they were placed in an air-tight container until I was ready to decorate.
  • During the decorating process, I placed 12 cookies in the bottom of my container and 12 more on each Sweet Stackers tray.   I glazed the cookies with a thin layer of icing (mixing 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and 1-2 tablespoons milk). 
  • Place the risers carefully in between the cookies and lower each tray into the container.  I was able to fit 36 – 2.5″ cookies in one 9×12″ container in three layers without the cookies touching each other.  Placed the lid on the container to dry.
  • After drying, I then embellished with a thicker combination of icing.  Piped the dots to imitate the reflection of light on each bubble.  Then piping the letters in blue.  Again, placing the layers of cookies back into the container and sealed to keep them fresh!

Sweet Stackers are for more than just cookies!  Visit sweetstackers.com to get more ideas on how to use them.

 

 

 

 

The Key to Baking Great Tasting Cookies!

The key to making the best rollout cookies is how you store them.

Have you ever tasted sugar cookies that are beautifully decorated, but really don’t taste great because they are hard and crunchy?  Mostly likely this occurs when the cookies are not stored properly while decorating the cookies.  Decorating can be a long tedious process that requires the cookies to sit out and dry to prevent the icing from getting ruined or smudged.  Many decorators will leave them dry on their kitchen countertops overnight.  Usually this results in dry, crunchy cookies because they weren’t stored in an air-tight container.

I have been using the same sugar cookie recipe for years and found Sweet Stackers to be a baker’s best tool for cookie storage.  Once the cookies come out of the oven, they are immediately set on a cookie rack to cool.  When completely cooled, they can be decorated or stored in an air-tight container until the decorating process begins.  While icing the cookies, it is possible to keep the cookies fresh and stored safely in an air-tight container!  The cookies can be placed in the bottom of a container or on the Sweet Stackers trays as they are being iced.  The risers can be carefully positioned in between the cookies and the stackable trays can be lowered above a layer of cookies without touching them.  The cookies can finish drying in the air-tight container and this will produce soft, buttery cookies for days to come! IMG_3411

Sweet Stackers allowed me to get 36 cookies in a 9 x 12 x 3 inch container without the cookies touching each other and getting smudged.  Sweet Stackers come in 4 different sizes made to fit a variety of major brand food storage containers.  Great for storing food items like iced or jelly topped cookies, dessert bars, bite-sized appetizers and transporting them to a party without a mess.  No need for those over-sized, pricey cupcake and cookie carriers.  Sweet Stackers are reusable and versatile – a great food storage tool for any baker!

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Visit our Product page for more information about tray sizes and the containers they fit.  Currently, Sweet Stackers has a spring promotion on our Etsy Shop using coupon code SPRING14.  Stop by our shop to check them out – https://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetStackers

French Toast Casserole using Leftover Bread

Do you have kids who don’t eat crust of their sandwich?  I do…and honestly it drives me nuts to see all of the wasted bread!  Funny thing is that my youngest at 12 months old was eating her entire sandwich and now at 18 months old she observes her older sisters leaving the crust on their plates.  Of course she does the same thing now.  I think they truly don’t mind eating it, it has just become a bad habit.  So why not turn a bad habit into something good?

When I am making a PB&J sandwich for my kids, I start by cutting off the crust or using a cute little shaped sandwich cutter.  The unused bread or crust gets placed into a gallon size freezer bag and thrown into my freezer.  It took me exactly one week to fill it!  Yikes…all of that was wasted?

Here is an idea for the leftover bread and crust…make an overnight French Toast Casserole!  Here is a recipe that you can feel good about.

Healthy French Toast Casserole

  • Leftover whole wheat bread, ends and crusts cut into 1 inch cubes (I used about 3/4 of the gallon size bag worth of bread)
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups lowfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons maple-flavored syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Grease 9 x 13 baking dish.  Place bread cubes in the dish.  Whisk eggs, yogurt, syrup, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Pour the mixture over the bread evenly until covered.  Place plastic wrap over the dish and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Top it with maple syrup, powdered sugar, fresh fruit or berries.

Leftover Brown Rice Pudding

Do you ever have leftover rice that just seems to sit in the fridge waiting to be forgotten about?  This seems to happen often…I keep meaning to make fried vegetable rice and sometimes it just never happens.  Well, why not turn that rice into a special treat?

This was a delicious and healthy dessert that will have your kids asking for more.  Very tasty, served warm or cold.

Rice Pudding

Leftover Brown Rice Pudding

adjust ingredients based on the amount of rice that you have leftover (1 part rice, 1 part milk)

2 C leftover brown rice

2 C milk

1 TB sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 C raisins

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over high heat until the milk comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 15-20 minutes, stirring often until the mixture thickens.  The pudding mixture will be creamy and the raisins are plump.  Leave to cool, then serve or refrigerate.

What do you do with your leftover rice?

Muffin-size Spinach Lasagna

See, I really have been addicted to my muffin tin lately for two reasons!  It makes dinner fun-sized for my youngsters.  For me, I personally love it because it definitely helps with portion control, especially when it comes to a favorite food like lasagna.  I was excited that I got a new vegetable into my kid’s meal without a revolt or even whining.  This recipe turned out to be a real hit and it didn’t take long to make:  10 minutes to boil noodles, 20 minutes to bake, plus assembly time.  The great thing is that it could be easily altered by adding cooked meat or different veggies to change things up.

Muffin Tin Spinach Lasagna

Muffin-size Spinach Lasagna

Make 12 medium muffin size portions

12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

2 C pasta sauce

15 oz container ricotta cheese

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Shorten the noodles, by breaking off a quarter of the uncooked lasagna noodles and boil according to the package.  While the noodles are cooking, prepare the muffin tin by placing a tablespoonful of pasta sauce in each cup.  Mix the ricotta cheese with the spinach in a small bowl.  Drain the noodles and lay flat to separate so they don’t stick together.

To assemble, take one noodle and slice it lengthwise, down the center into two strips.  Take one strip and place in the cup letting the noodle overhang, take a small spoonful of ricotta and spinach mixture and place in the noodle.  Take the other noodle strip and lay it criss-cross in the other direction, then place another small spoonful of mixture on top.  Fold the flaps of the noodle one by one placing a small amount of ricotta and spinach mixture to hold it in place.  Continue to fill the remaining cups.

Spoon another tablespoonful of pasta sauce on top and sprinkle a little mozzarella cheese on top.

Imagine doubling the recipe and freezing in a muffin tin?  Once solid, pop out and place in a freezer safe container.

Bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

Have you tried muffin-size lasagna?

Fruity Baked Oatmeal – Muffinsize

My oldest baby girl jumped on a school bus this morning for her first day of Kindergarten.  Getting ready this morning was actually very exciting, calm and organized because of all of the hype and planning that comes with the first day of school.  But I know that in a few weeks, it will be tough getting out of the door on time.  I came back home from the bus stop to a message from the Snack Girl Blog about a healthy, comforting and satisfying breakfast idea…baked oatmeal.  Sounds delicious and this would make a quick breakfast if made ahead of time.  I thought I would try her recipe with a twist of my own – baking it in a muffin tin.  I have been pretty big on my muffin pan lately because they create the perfect size meal for kids (and adults alike).

Baked Oatmeal Recipe

(12 muffin size helpings)

2 cups old fashion oats

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 C chopped fresh fruit or berries (I used 1 C plums and 1 C frozen fresh blueberries for this recipe)

1 cup milk

1 cup plain yogurt

2 eggs

1/4 cup brown sugar (maple syrup, honey, sugar could be substituted)

Spray a 12 count muffin pan with non stick spray and preheat the oven to 350°.  Mix all of the ingredients together and divide evenly filling up to the brim of each muffin cup.  Bake covered with foil for 20 minutes and uncovered to brown for 10 minutes.

I am going to refrigerate the oatmeal in an air tight container.  Then zap them in the microwave to warm them up and serve them with a little milk poured over.  A yummy homemade breakfast made in a snap!

So what do you think we will be having for breakfast tomorrow?