Weeknight Dinners

Greek Salad & Grilled Pita

What. A. Week.

It’s Sunday and a new week is about to begin. The show must go on!

You may see some repeats on here from last week, we had some last minute changes due to a tummy bug that invaded our home. Fingers crossed we are done with that exciting experience for a long, long time.

One thing is for sure, we learned a lot.  One moment that stands out in my mind happened on Friday, when my son was not doing well. He was having a hard time when he told me that he was going to “just breathe through it Mamma.” He learned the skill of finding his breath by practicing yoga often at his Preschool.  He made me so proud of his ability to cope with a very uncomfortable and stressful situation. He continues to amaze me and we are so grateful for his school and the support we received last week. From friends, family and co-workers, the phone calls, meals, and kind words were all appreciated.

My daughter and husband were also a huge help in so many ways I can’t even count, they were an amazing team, but one of the ways they love to help is in the kitchen. And for this week, we are excited to try this twist on one of our favorite Panera Salads! The Greek salad, of course!!!

P.S. if you have nut-allergies, NOTHING AT PANERA IS SAFE FOR YOU TO EAT. And that is why we are making this Panera re-make.

Before you read this and think “that sounds like too much for a week night” – hear me out, it’s not bad, you just need a giant fry pan or grill pan and few ingredients. You’re going to grill the pepper + pita then make a dressing and combine it all. It’s not bad. And the more you make a recipe, the easier it gets.

 

Greek Chopped Salad & Grilled Pita

Ingredients

  • cooking spray
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/8 tsp  salt
  • 3 whole wheat pita rounds
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups chopped English cucumber
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 oz feta, crumbled

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat (you can also use your grill, or a large frying pan with high sides, you just wont have the fancy grill marks if you use a regular pan).
  2. Coat the grill pan with cooking spray.
  3. Remove the seeds and membranes from bell pepper and cut into quarters.
  4. add the bell pepper to the grill pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until its charred and tender.
  5. Remove bell pepper from pan and cut into bite size pieces for your salad.
  6. Combine 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp oregano, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl. Brush oil mixture evenly over both sides of the pita bread.
  7. Add the pita bread to your grill pan and cook 2 min on each side. Cut into 6 wedges.
  8. Combine the remaining 3 tbsp oil, vinegar, juice and mustard in a large bowl and stir with a whisk.Stir in 1 tsp oregano, salt, pepper, charred bell pepper, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, beans, and toss well.
  9. Divide among 4 plates and top with cheese. Serve with pita

On IG, I promised some back-up meal ideas. Well, here you go:

  1. Snack dinner.  <——-click on that to see what we usually do.  I love the left-overs from this meal, we snack on it all week and it’s easy to refill and pop back into the fridge. Tupperware makes a good dish for this with a resealable lid.
  2. Campbells Soup Starters   We are huge fans of these easy meal starter kits. They aren’t homemade by they do the job and the kids like ALL of the flavors. Currently, there are 4 in my pantry. Oh, and my Dad works for Campbell’s Soup, so I know the allergy information is 100% accurate!
  3. Dino Nuggets. Need I say more? Find these little friends at Target.
  4. Benvenutos DELIVERS!!! And they are SO on top of allergies, I love them.
  5. Happy Meals. If it’s been a week….McDonalds is happening. McDonald’s Allergy information is beyond amazing.

 

Weeknight Dinners

Roasted Root Vegetables + Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage

Are you in your back to school routines yet? Going crazy? Drinking too much coffee? I’ve got a time saver recipe for your weeknight eats that will have everyone clearing their plates….if they are OK with roasted vegetables. Which, if you haven’t roasted your veggies before, you SHOULD. They taste SO MUCH BETTER. This recipe is Kid approved!

20170906_170337.jpgIf you have random almost expired vegetables in your fridge, this is a good way to use them all up and make a fairly healthy meal at the same time. I love roasted root vegetable night. Usually I choose 3-4 different vegetables, one whole onion, and a sausage of some sort. The recipe below is one that I just made up tonight and we had clean plates all around. It’s very easy and fast, perfect for weeknight cooking.

Roasted Root Vegetables + Sweet Turkey Italian Sausage

  • 1/2 cauliflower cut into small pieces
  • 1 bag mini carrots
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and cut approx. same size as your carrots
    • parsnips are friends of the carrot – if you haven’t had them, you’re in for a real treat. They literally roast up to taste like sweet candy. Literal candy. Not lying. they are gobbled up every. single. time. Do it. Buy them + roast them.
  • 1 package / pound of sweet turkey Italian sausage, sliced into mini rounds
    • I chose Applegate turkey/chicken sausage in the cold case section, and they tasted amazing + they are NUT-FREE! You can find them at Whole Foods, and most other grocers organic/healthy eating sections.
    • Brats also work for this if you have them on hand, so do hot-dogs. Really, any type of sausage works. And it can be fresh/raw. It roasts for so long, it doesn’t matter.
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt + pepper
  • non-stick spray

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425*
  2. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick spray
  3. Arrange your vegetables how you like them on the trays
  4. Roast for 30 minutes, check on your stuff, flip around and roast for approx 15-30 more minutes, depending on how crispy you like it.
  5. Tonight I left mine in for a full hour since I like it a tad crunchy.

I had a giant pot of spaghetti noddles left over from the other night, too. So we had that as a side. I warmed up the following:

  • Plain noodles
  • 1/4 cup of Kim Crawford
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP olive oil,
  • Salt, pepper,
  • 1 TBSP Italian seasoning
  • a few grates of Parmesan.

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Rice also works as a side. Other things that you could roast include:

  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplant
  • Brussel Sprouts (slice in half)
  • White onion
  • Mini potatoes
  • Red potatoes
  • Turnip
  • Kohlrabi

The key with roasting is you want to make sure the stuff is approximately the same size and density. For example, tonight I had bigger stuff on one tray and smaller stuff on another because I knew the cooking times would vary slightly on each of those. Just like cooking Dino Nuggets and Tater Tots, the Dino Nuggets always finish first, so different baking sheet.

The bummer part of roasting is that everything generally looks the same color. If you don’t care about plate presentation, this is not a big deal. I felt “off” with having a lot of brown/white stuff on my plate, so I added a green salad and red tomatoes. Made me feel a little better. Crazy lady, I know.

Have a great week – I’ve got a busy little Thursday and Friday at the kid’s schools and hopefully a fun weekend with a move and mini-golf! New recipes next week and I’ll post menu board inspo to Instagram, nutfreemomblog.

Cheers!

Weeknight Dinners

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Two kids in bed by 7:30, Bad Mom’s on HBO, and getting a chance to blog about tonight’s easy dinner that the fam loved…I’d say I’m having a pretty good little Tuesday here in suburbia!

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Chicken Tortilla Soup is a great pantry meal to have on hand this fall + winter. It’s a soup, so there’s no real measuring and you can usually throw in whatever you have in your crisper drawer (half rotting) and it works.

I’m sharing the recipe from Food.com that I used as a template, then I’ll also add what I did and substitutions to make your weeknight cooking that much faster + easier. I’m all about semi-homemade meals, so I’m also including what you can just plain buy instead of make to pull this all together.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • or butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 TBSP onion powder as substitution
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 TBSP garlic powder as substitution
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped
    • I used a red bell pepper… if you use jalapeno and you have kids/spice sensitivity, make sure you seed the pepper – not with your hands especially if you wear contacts, use a knife and a teaspoon.
  • 1medium green pepper
    • I didn’t have this tonight, left it out….no big deal
  • 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • Short cut, have a rotisserie chicken on hand and roughly shop it up and throw it in.
  • 2 cups frozen corn
    • I didn’t have frozen corn, I had canned corn with peppers, that works, or corn on the cob – or no corn at all. whatever works.
  • 1cup dry white wine or 12 cup water
    • Of course, KIM CRAWFORD – and BTW, you should be drinking some right now, and while you’re making this recipe.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
    • or just two boxes of your favorite chicken stock, Rachael Ray is nut-free
    • better than bouillon also works, so just keep that in your fridge
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
    • or fresh if your garden is going nuts.
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
    • I didn’t have this, so I used tomato paste and mixed a little water with it….
  • Extra stuff I added:
    • 2 cans of black beans
    • chopped green chiles
    • guacamole – Sabra brand is nut-free
    • chips – Tostitos Brand is nut-free
    • cheddar cheese
    • limes

Directions

  1. Sauté onion, garlic, jalapeño and green pepper with olive oil in a large pot until soft.
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. After about 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and shred.
  4. (Two forks work well to pull the chicken apart!).
  5. Return shredded chicken to the pot and simmer an additional 45 minutes.
  6. Serve, topped with crushed tortilla chips if desired.
  7. Yield: 8-10

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Quick Tips

  1. You can freeze this meal for up to one month. Just add the chicken breasts and all fresh ingredients + spices to a gallon zip top bag. When you’re ready dump the contents into a crock pot or dutch oven.
  2. This is also a slow cooker meal if you’re really short on time. Pre-chop your ingredient the night before and store in zip top bag. Place the raw chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and place all other ingredients around it. Cook on low for 6 hours, or until you get home.
  3. If you’re making this during the week, use a rotisserie chicken, set out all of your canned ingredients in advance, dump your spices into a small zip top bag the night before so they’re ready the next day. I hate our spice cabinet, there are soooooo many things in there right now so finding the silly cumin can take me 10 minutes! Gar!
  4. If you’re making this during the week and your chicken is half frozen, like mine usually is, don’t panic. Half frozen chicken is the BEST – if you like perfectly cut cubes of chicken in your soup. Just make sure your knife is very sharp and your chicken is slightly thawed (microwave defrost function works great) and cube it, add it to the soup as you normally would. Frozen chicken is not a deal breaker.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I think the pendulum has swung too far in the food + meal prep direction. We don’t need expensive pre-packaged, pre-made meals. You just need a few simple basics to make a good meal. A great knife and few YouTube videos on mincing garlic and chopping onion go a LONG way when cooking. Fresh onion and garlic make almost ANY meal feel super homemade + flavorful. Keep it simple!

Cheers + thanks for stopping by. It’s been the most Mondayest Tuesday ever!

 

Weeknight Dinners

Build Your Own Tostada

Tostada night is a common one around here. We enjoy it because:

  1. It’s Mexican food, and Mexican tends to be easy for nut-allergies
  2. You get to make your own
  3. Beer pairs well
  4. Easy + fast

Tostadas are just like tacos, except they are giant, round, crunchy, corn tortillas that you eat like New York style pizza. Messy yet delicious.

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I like to have plenty of options, so for last night, we went with:

  • McCormick taco seasoned chicken
  • Spiced black beans
  • Shredded cabbage from the garden
  • Lime wedges
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes from garden
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • LaBanderita Tostadas

If you’re purchasing these tostadas, they can be found just about anywhere, even Target. To note, they come in a giant sleeve; I haven’t been able to find a smaller size. So, either plan on having tostadas a few times in a short period of time, have friends over, or find a good way to store these. I haven’t found a super good way to store em, so we had tostadas like 3 times in 2 weeks. The kids don’t mind and they also taste great with ground beef, beans or firm, pan fried tofu.

And since I’m a marketing-minded person, PRESENTATION!!! It’s half the battle to getting kids to eat. So make it look good, you’ll feel good about it too!  I like using these Sur la Table prep bowls an extra dish or two to rinse out isn’t that big of a deal when it comes to making your serving station look pretty.

Have a happy and safe holiday weekend – we will be enjoying one more time at the pool. Cheers and stay tuned for next weeks abbreviated menu board!

 

Weeknight Dinners

Quick Green Chicken Chili

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One of the best parts of traveling is trying new food. And then taking that idea home with you and recreating it in your kitchen. I haven’t always been adventurous with creating delicious food. And I’m probably even more cautious now with a nut-allergic child. However, I still try to sample things I normally would not.

Like Green Chicken Chili.

I had a spicy version of this when we were in Chicago a few weeks ago. Technically, I consider myself a chili connoisseur. If a restaurant has chili, I try it. It’s a quest to find the BEST CHILI EVER!

After we got back from vacation, I was flipping through this months Cooking Light Magazine for meal inspiration that would work well for our family. The recipe below comes pretty darn close to what I had in Chicago. And after talking to the chef, it’s also 100% nut-free!

This recipe makes 6 servings. It’s good for dinner + easy lunches. It’s super fast because it uses tasty rotisserie chicken (I swear, my little guy could eat an entire rotisserie chicken all by himself!) Hy-Vee and Metcalfes are my favorite in Madison.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided (I like Rachael Ray, her salt level is perfection)
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 (4-oz.) cans mild chopped green chiles, drained (or if you have them in your garden, fresh is OK, too. Just seed them first)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken breast, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sliced radishes
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup brown rice

Directions

  1. You’ll need to get out your dutch oven, or large kettle, and a small sauce pan for your rice.
  2. First, make your rice in your small sauce pan. I like jasmine rice or brown rice. They are made the same way – just follow your package instructions. 2.5 cups of water + 2 tbsp evoo and a pinch of salt over high heat. Add the rice, bring to a boil. Boil for about 3-4 minutes until the water line is just below the rice. Cover the pot and don’t touch it for 15 minutes.
  3. Next heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in cumin and chiles; cook 1 minute. Add beans and chicken stock, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and salt; bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes. Stir in juice.
  5. Remove your rice from the heat and fluff – using an ice cream scooper, plop the rice into your bowls.
  6. Divide chili among 4 bowls; top with radishes, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Birthday Parties, How to be Nutfree, School Safe List, Snacking, Uncategorized

School Safe Treat Box

20170818_150058.jpgIt’s back-to-school time! If your child has food allergies, now is the time to be pro-active and get your plans and snacks in place. Here’s how we prepare:

  1. Contact the school nurse/office and keep an EPI-PEN on file at the front desk.
  2. Make sure all medical forms are filled out and complete with the front office.
  3. Know your school’s allergy policy. Make sure there is an allergy policy.
  4. Make contact with the child’s teacher (s) and make sure they all know about your child’s allergy, and what the steps are to keep him/her safe. Keep it simple here.
  5. Talk to your child about saying “no” to all classroom treats. This is tough, but it’s the ONLY way to stay safe at school.
  6. Use an allergy bracelet for your child.
  7. Keep an EPI-PEN inside your child’s backpack at all times so it is easily accessible. I like to keep ours in an AllerMates case – it has our phone number and contact information inside.
  8. Build the treat box and have fun with it. We decorated ours with stickers, and I made a special trip to the grocery store with just my daughter so she could take her time choosing treats. They better be good, after all, they are replacing classroom birthday treats! That’s a big deal!

Our treat box is filled with:

  1. Simply Balanced fruit leathers from Target
  2. Hostess Ding-Dongs
  3. Little Bites Brownies
  4. Little Bites Party Cakes
  5. Enjoy Life Chocolate Candy-Bars

Our treat box will be kept inside the classroom for the entire school year. These snacks will replace Birthday treats, holiday treats, party treats and any other time a treat or snack is brought into the class. We used the same size last year and only had to fill it one time. At the end of the year, we had about 6 treats left over.

I also like to reference this website to help prepare for the school year. It can be especially helpful if your school doesn’t have a comprehensive allergy policy.

Food Allergy Resource Center  – I thought this article below was a good reminder, too.

Food Allergy Tips for Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs).
Today, one in 13 children has food allergies, and nearly 40 percent of these children have experienced a severe or lifethreatening reaction. Many of these reactions happen at school. Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) are a vital part of the school community, providing an organized family and community component.

As a PTO or PTA leader, you can be a powerful voice for your children and other children, advocating for their health, safety, education and overall well-being.
Children with food allergies need your support to ensure their safety and inclusion. From classroom parties, to school family nights, to after-school fundraisers, keep in mind that all students in the community should be able to participate safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published National Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools, available at http://www.foodallergy.org/CDC. The recommendations below are a few examples of recommended
practices to help ensure students with food allergies are safely included. We encourage you to review the complete list of the CDC’s Recommended Practices, on pages 41–43 of the guidelines available at http://www.foodallergy.org/CDC.
• Avoid the use of identified allergens in class parties, holidays, celebrations, crafts, snacks or rewards.
• Use non-food incentives for prizes, gifts, awards, and fundraisers.
• When possible, avoid ordering foods from restaurants because food allergens may be present, but unrecognized.
Have ingredient information readily available for all pre-packaged and/or catered food items.
• Do not exclude children with food allergies from events or extra-curricular activities.
• Make sure that food allergy policies and practices address foods available during fundraisers, class parties, at
athletic events and during after-school programs.
• Have rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors in cases of emergency and train staff to use them.

Did you know?

Food allergies may constitute a disability under the law. Children with food allergies are entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in all school programs and events including extra-curricular activities. This usually applies to activities held by groups such as PTOs and PTAs. (See Section 5 of the CDC guidelines for more information on federal laws that pertain to food allergies.)

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Sun flowers are so important to us nut allergic families. Sun butter is our alternative to peanut butter.

Have a great first day back to school. I hope your preparations put your mind at ease a little.

 

Mom Things, Travel, Uncategorized

Vacation Preparation Tips

Did you know that using hand sanitizer does NOT remove allergens from your hands or any other surface? It basically moves the allergen around. The only way to remove an allergen is by washing it away with soap and water or by using a sanitizing wipe.

I’ve started to think about what we’re going to be doing on our vacation and the types of bags I’ll be carrying around with my kids. For day-time I’m going to be doing a lot of walking with them, so I usually pick a light-weight cross body bag so that my hands are free to hold theirs (awwwwwwwe).

If we’re going to be out all day without any stops, I may use a backpack or light weight tote/catch-all to carry some emergency snacks, books, and a change of clothes for them.

Today, we stocked up on safe snacks that are purse friendly. Here’s a classic stand-by for us that I’ll be using on vacation.

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  1. Epi-Pen twin pack
  2. Chewable Benadryl
  3. Individually wrapped anti-bac hand WIPES (I carry a lot of these)
  4. Luna Bar LemonZest flavor is made on a dedicated nut-free line. It also has a lot of good vitamins in it, so I don’d mind if we sub this for a meal/snack.
  5. Mom essentials, lip gloss, cards, keys + phone. This purse has a separate built-in space for credit cards, etc. It’s one of the reasons I chose this bag, it fits all of my Mom Essentials + Allergy Meds and a snack.

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Our trip starts off with a short car ride, no snacks needed. Then we take a train, which will be super fun for my little guy. For the train, we’ll eat some pre-packed snacks before checking into our hotel. Our hotel is aware of our allergies and is quite accommodating. Since we’ll be in a bigger city, our food options should be OK with allergies, although I never take any chances, and will have a full array of stand-by snacks and alternate restaurants to choose from.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something!