Easy and Quick Meal Solutions

This post is sponsored by Fresh and Easy.  These easy and quick meal solutions are all mine.

My tips for making meals that are fresh and easy.

My easy and quick dinner solution is tacos. You can buy everything pre-prepped and just throw them together. My tip is to broil them to get the cheese melty and keep the store-bought shells crisp. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comMy mom makes my all time favorite tacos.  All time.  She takes corn tortillas and fries them, using two forks to shape them in to taco shells.  Then she uses the most delicious spiced beef, fresh lettuce that she lovingly cuts by hand, and hand-shredded medium cheddar cheese.  Once each taco is filled, she puts the whole lot of them in to an oven to melt the cheese and slowly dry out the shells keeping them super crispy.  They are crazy good.  But.  There is no way I would ever put that much effort in to making tacos.  I like to keep things easy and quick.  With our busy family schedule, even if I wanted to spend more time in the kitchen doing more of the prep work, our schedule just doesn’t allow for it.  So the way I’m able to get tacos, which can be a pretty healthy meal, on the table, is using pre-prepped items.  Most of the time convenience means processed.  And since I am really trying to take processed foods out of my family’s diet I was starting to feel like I wasn’t going to have to the option of fast tacos.  Then I found these ready-to-go taco shells from Fresh and Easy which are just corn flour, coconut oil and water.  Yeah!  I didn’t know that Fresh and Easy puts a focus on providing fresh, wholesome food that doesn’t include artificial flavors, colors transfats, high-fructose corn syrup and other gross things.  And that they do everything they can (like have almost all self-checkout) to keep it affordable.  THANK YOU!  My fast tacos can continue!  Which is awesome since it is one of the only meals I make that my oldest son actually says he enjoys.

Salsa is a great side option for a taco dinner. I look for one in the refrigerated section for a fresher flavor. And chips, in moderation, are always a good idea. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comWhen I can, I make my own salsa but this pre-made version is a really great alternative.  Salsa from the refrigerated section usually means that the ingredients are fresh and the flavor will be vibrant.  It is the perfect thing to go along with the tacos.  It can be used as a condiment or for chips.  Luckily my kids enjoy salsa so I know they are getting in some good nutrients from the tomatoes and I love that there is no extra sugar added.  I don’t have a Fresh and Easy store close to my house so the other day I headed to the next town to see what they had to offer.  I was pleased that although the store is small in size, you can find everything you need to put good, healthy meals together.

Caprese salad makes an easy and healthy snack. Add some pasta or chicken to make it more of a meal! #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI’m kind of addicted to basil.  You’ve probably noticed that I’ve used it in the last several food or drink posts.  One of my favorite snacks is a bite sized caprese salad.  The fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are just perfect altogether.  Sometimes I skip the cheese and just do the tomatoes and basil for when I’m really trying to keep away from dairy.  These ingredients are super versatile and you can make them in to more of a meal by adding a bed of arugula.  Or take it up one more notch, even, by adding in some shredded chicken.  A light drizzle of a good olive oil, maybe a little aged balsamic vinegar and some Maldon Sea Salt and you are set.  This is a perfect dish to take on picnics or even your kid’s baseball practice when you need to eat on the go.  Cherry tomatoes are a good snack for kids as they tend to be really sweet and it seems like kids really like sweets.  They might not really enjoy the basil but it is important to get them to try it again over time.  I find that my kids will finally give in and decide to like something after months of saying they hate it.  So don’t be discouraged if they turn their nose up at the basil at first.  Basil is a great bold flavor and you can use it in more than just a caprese.  Add this to your turkey sandwiches in place of lettuce, and tossed in with your normal salad greens for a pop of flavor.  I have a little basil plant in my kitchen that I can pull from which makes it really easy to keep around.

My go-to salads have lots of nice protein to keep me feeling more full for longer. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comAnother great idea is to purchase pre-made salads and then modify them to suit your dietary needs or flavor preferences.  Fresh and Easy has great options of pre-packaged meals, some organic like the salad above, that you can easily add to your meal plan.  This salad would work great as a lunch for myself, or I could share it with my family as a side dish for dinner time.  Don’t be afraid to use items in different ways.  Although it is packaged as a salad for one, consider how you might be able to use the ingredients separately or what you can add to make it more your style.  

I make an easy and quick store-bought salad feel more homemade by putting it in a bowl and using a little bit of my favorite olive oil and a fresh squeeze of Meyer Lemon juice. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI’m really watching what I put in to my body at the moment so I knew I wouldn’t use the caesar dressing that came with this salad.  I grabbed a large bowl and started transferring the pre-made salad in to it.  By doing this I was able to really see what was in the salad and take out when I didn’t want.  I left the sun dried tomatoes which added a nice flavor even though they were probably packed in oil at some point.  Then I removed some of the parmesan cheese so I felt like it all balanced out whatever oil may have been left over.  To make this more to my liking, I added a drizzle of my most favorite olive oil and squeezed some fresh Meyer lemon juice all over it.  I gave it a quick toss and then added some fresh ground black pepper.  So good!  I have to say that the ingredients in the salad were some of the best looking and freshest that I’ve ever seen in a prepackaged salad.  It surprised me.  I should have grabbed a few more of these! 

Boom Chicka Pop popcorn for a fast and easy snack. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI mentioned before that I can’t quit the popcorn right now.  I usually pop my own in the microwave but it is nice to have a bag ready to go in the pantry with no extra ingredients.  Fresh and Easy has tons of great products with their name on it but they also carry other brands as well.  I was delighted to see so many great, healthy options throughout the store like this popcorn from Angie’s.  Popcorn has really helped me get over my after dinner snacking habit.  The crunch is just what I need to feel satisfied.  And I add a ton of fresh ground black pepper for flavor.  I’m almost as addicted to black pepper as I am to basil! 

Always fun to peruse the wine aisle of a new grocery store. Especially when you don't have your kids.  #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI love a good wine aisle and was so excited to be able to take my time and check it all out.  I don’t know about you, but while I don’t always love to do the grocery shopping, there is something super relaxing about shopping alone.  And I feel like wine is one area where a lot of the makers really go all out on label design.  It is fun to look at the labels and see what brands different stores carry.  On this day I didn’t have my kids with me so I could take my time and really browse.

I heart CA wine from @FreshandEasy. I adore the colors and label design. Fingers crossed it tastes good too! #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comFresh and Easy has a store brand wine in a ton of varieties.  I decided to pick up a bottle of the I Heart California Sauvignon Blanc to see if it tastes as good as it looks.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.  But for now it looks cute in my wine rack.  And if all else fails, you can elevate any meal you are serving just but serving a glass of wine along with it.  My best friend’s parents growing up used to do this.  And while I am sure that they were not trying to instill a life lesson, I totally remember them getting out the red wine to drink with their meatloaf.  There are nights when your quick and easy meal is not going to be glamorous.  So open a bottle of wine and roll with it.  

Look for @freshandeasy stores for great easy and quick meal solutions! #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comYou should absolutely be sure to check out a Fresh and Easy store in your area (stores are located in CA, NV and AZ).  I think I will make monthly visits so I can check out even more of their store-brand products…I will tell you, there were tons of amazing looking ice creams in their freezer section that I will happily check out when I fall off my healthy eating wagon.  I SO wish this store was closer to my house!  In eating more fresh fruits and vegetables I find myself at the store quite a few times a week.  My normal grocery store is so large and has so many options that it takes forever to navigate around.  Fresh and Easy stores make it quick and easy to get in, and get out and get right back to being with your family.

*Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Cupcakes and Cutlery going.  All opinions are always my own.

 

 

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Acai Bowl for Breakfast

I'm currently obsessed with acai bowls and decided to make them at home.Obsessed.  Totally obsessed.  I am obsessed with acai bowls for breakfast and afternoon snacks.  Or sometimes lunch.  And maybe after dinner.  Have you ever had one?  They are pretty easy to find now, like at Juice it Up or Nektar.  But I just got a Ninja and decided it was finally time to start making them at home.

Acai bowls are a great healthier breakfast ideaYou can buy the acai packets at Costco (thanks for the tip, Genette!) and then you just need a few other ingredients.  I followed this recipe here.  The only problem is that my youngest son always tries to share with me.  But this – mama doesn’t want to share.  Do you make them at home?  What do you put on yours?

 

Healthy Snacking and Meal Tips for Kids

Motts logoboys-hanging-outThese boys excel at snacks.  Put a plate of food in front of them and they won’t touch it.  But give them smaller quantities of things that are individually wrapped and they will eat them ALL.  It is something that I struggle with especially because I want to make sure they are eating healthy foods.  But if you look at most diet plans, they suggest snacking in between meals can be healthy.  That just means that I need to make sure I keep healthy snacks that the kids will eat in the house at all times.

oat-banana-smoothieMy boys love sugary cereals and convenience foods in the morning.  And I can’t blame them.  I love them too.  But they also love smoothies.  So I try to make sure that they have smoothies whenever we have time for them.  This Banana Oat Smoothie is a favorite and helps to keep them full for quite a while.  Any time I can get fruit in my kids before lunch I call a victory.  We usually use yogurt for protein and little to no sweeteners in our smoothie so I feel really good about them having a large serving.

keep-healthy-snacks-lowI still have my littlest home with me two days a week.  I have learned to keep the healthier snacks lower in the cupboard, easily in his reach.  While there might be cookies higher in the cupboard, he knows that if he can’t reach it, it is unlikely that he will get it as a snack.  This also helps me out when I’m right in the middle of something and can’t stop to get it for him.  He has also been taught that he can’t just go get something whenever he wants just because he can.  He still has to ask.  (Did you have to do this?  I have a clear recollection of being in high school and standing in the kitchen thinking, I can totally reach the snacks, I don’t really have to ask any more…)  More often than not, he will grab a Mott’s Snack & Go pack.  They come in a variety of flavors, which is awesome since my sons rarely like the same flavors.  They don’t require him to get a bowl or spoon and he can take care of it all by himself.  Kids love that, don’t they?

strawberries

Once the kids are home from school, I let them pick out a snack.  This can be pretty much anything, (their lunches are a sandwich, fruit and veg – pretty healthy) a cookie even.  But if they still need another snack before dinner it has to be a fruit or veggie.  While my mom freaks out about them eating a snack so close to dinner, I feel like this is the prime time to get something healthy in to them.  They think they are getting an extra snack and I know that they are really getting something good for them.  Please nobody tell them.

have-kids-pick-dinner-one-night-a-weekSomething happens when it is time for my kids to sit down at the table.  Suddenly they hate food and don’t want to eat.  Or they suddenly they don’t like the meal that used to be their favorite.  So now, I ask each child and my husband to pick a meal for me to cook each week.  When they have picked it themselves they eat more and take ownership of it in a way.  This also helps with the menu planning burn out that I often get.  It’s hard to come up with meal ideas all the time.  This has been working out great.  And I totally lucked out because the meal my husband asks for it SUPER simple.  Thank goodness.

brussels-sprouts-and-mushroomsSomething else I try to do is mix something the kids like with something new or that they aren’t sold on yet.  My oldest recently began to love mushrooms.  I try to make them for him often.  But I also try to mix them in with other types of veggies and flavorings so he can try more things.  It doesn’t always work (for instance, he prefers his Brussels sprouts with bacon) but is worth a try.  It is also a great way to work in some leftovers if you don’t have a ton of one thing.

snacks-for-hiking

Weekends might be the hardest time of all for snacking.  Since my boys are always hungry, I always make sure to have snacks with me.  There is nothing worse than being out on an errand and having only whiney children with no food for them.  However will they make it through?  Mott’s® Snack & Go applesauce packs are the perfect thing!  They are easy to take with you and are pretty much mess free.  I always have these in my purse.  I’m so grateful for these snacks!

Mott’s® Snack & Go is the nutritious applesauce kids love in a squeezable pouch they can take with them wherever they go.  Mott’s is also the only applesauce brand with Box Tops for Education, helping to support kids’ schools.  Visit motts.com to learn more.

*Disclosure:  Compensation was provided by Mott’s via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mott’s.