On the most rushed of days, eating can feel like priority Z. But it doesn’t have to. Here’s how to handle those days.
“Mommy, I signed up for cooking club. You need to pick us up late on Thursdays for the next two weeks,” my 7-year-old daughter Paige told me the other evening.
She’s been waiting to participate in cooking club, a sought-after activity in my kids after school program. My son participated in the first round of the club, which just wrapped up. Even though it means I can’t pick them up until later, I am so glad she gets to do it now.
It feels like this is the trend for us these days: earlier mornings, later evenings, later dinners, less time at home, more things to do. Not that it’s bad. I love that my kids are pursuing their interests and taking advantage of learning opportunities everywhere. Their lives are rich with fun, interest and excitement.
It just means that getting food in their bellies takes a little more finessing.
When Campbell’s sent me two of their new Pace and Prego Ready Meals, I was immediately interested. Ready in about a minute, these meals are quick, easy and nourishing when we don’t have time for home cooking (seriously, even I can’t whip up a meal this fast!). Simply heat, tear open and eat (well, once it cools a little). Though they can be eaten straight from the convenient package, we prefer them in a bowl — or a thermos.
Hint: Use my technique for keeping soup warm in lunch boxes when sending these meals in them. It will keep them perfectly warm for lunchtime.
My daughter, who opted to try the Pace Ready Meals Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla meal for lunch one day, was happy to see that it didn’t have tomatoes slipped in — an apparent no-no for rice dishes like this.
These packets are good for those unexpected moments — like when mornings seem to rush by faster than expected and you need to get something in the lunch box five minutes ago or when you realize that in your rush to help the kids study, finish that project and get showered, you didn’t factor in cooking time.
Of course, this is just part of her lunch (or any meal).
When packing lunches and snacks for school, I always include at least one (but option two or three) fruits and veggies, along with a dairy (yogurt or a mozzarella cheese stick) and a small treat. It’s important to me that my kids get as many fruits and veggies into their bellies as possible each day.
If I was to serve these at dinner time, it would be with a big salad — one that can be whipped up in just a few minutes and is packed with veggies of all hues.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.