By Sylvia Britton
Crisp autumn days bring along hearty
appetites, so be ready for the change of pace with some delicious
time-conscious recipes and
That word brings thoughts of shopping for pencils and notebooks, the wonderful
smell of a new pack of crayons, ordering the new curriculum and hungry children
right in the middle of the day when you are at your very busiest! There is no
reason to miss out on these fun-filled, gorgeous days because you're busy
preparing something healthy to eat. However, it does take some planning on your
part to have more variety, more nutrition and less stress at lunch time. After
home schooling for 10 years you'd think I'd have all the answers about busy day
lunches. Well just when I think I have them all, situations change and I have
to start all over in my planning. Your situation may be like that too.
The addition of a family member, move to a new house, starting to home school
or other big happening in your family can really change how you plan and
prepare meals during the week. So, if you are ready for some new ideas and
recipes for those busy fall days, read on...
It is quite helpful to make a weekly menu for all your family's meals. You will
need a calendar, pencil and paper and all your recipe books and cards. Count
the number of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals you will need for the week and
make a note of that on your paper. Next, decide if any of these meals are
special occasion meals and note that as well. Finally, search your recipes and
find those recipes that your family really enjoys. Mark those recipes and note
the book name and page number on your paper. Write down the day of the week and
the meals that you want to prepare on that day. Do this for each day of the week
and using this information, make your grocery list. Copy the menu and post it
where you can see it readily every day. Check your list every morning and
evening. You will be able to see what foods you need to start early in the day
and what foods you may need to remove from the freezer or place in the
crockpot. You will also be able to see what snacks your family needs and be
able to prepare more healthy snacks instead of reaching for the potato chip bag
when they are hungry in the middle of the day. Some Moms prefer to write a
different menu on each of 8 or 10 index cards. Then they choose which menus to
use that week and grocery shop accordingly. The index card menus are placed in
a conspicuous spot so that Mom and everyone else can see what's on the menu for
Start the Day Right
Let's take a moment to think about breakfast. You've often heard it said that a
BIG breakfast is what you need to get your body going and be at your best all
day. It makes more sense to have a GOOD breakfast -- not necessarily a huge
amount of food but healthy foods that give our bodies energy. I have found that
a hearty breakfast means that the children aren't hungry before lunch time and
we're not diverted from school by snack time so often. I like to make breakfast
a warm, inviting time. We eat on the covered porch of our home at breakfast
time when the temperature permits. Baskets of fruit and whole grain muffins,
jars of home canned preserves and plenty of butter and sorghum makes our
mornings satisfying. We enjoy Baked Oatmeal for breakfast when the weather gets
cooler, as well as fruit cups and toasts, an occasional omelet and now and then
biscuits and sausage. But you don't have to be a traditional breakfast foods
lover to eat a good breakfast. A very healthy, energy filled breakfast is toast
with nut butter. Either almond, cashew, or peanut butter is delicious on toast
and most children appreciate it very much. Another good toast spread for the
a.m. is honey, or honey-butter. Honey butter can be easily made in a blender or
food processor. Use 1 cup honey and add butter till creamy and smooth. I
usually end up adding 5 or 6 tablespoons of butter. Try my Baked Oatmeal
for a very hearty, very fast breakfast:
1/2 c butter melted
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
3 c quick oats
2 t baking powder
1 c milk
1 t salt
Cream together the first 3 ingredients.
I have found that I can make homemade biscuits
and sausage and freeze them for mornings when we are running behind or taking a
trip and need a fast breakfast. I put the biscuits and sausage together, wrap
with plastic wrap, then with foil and freeze. To thaw, take off the foil and
place in the microwave for 1 minute. This time may vary with your own
microwave. Pancakes and waffles can be frozen successfully too. I was skeptical
about this until I actually tried it. I made up stacks of pancakes, cooled
them, wrapped them in plastic and then in foil and froze them. To use them,
take off the foil, remove the plastic and replace them in the foil. Add 1
teaspoon water to the foil packet and seal it. Place in a warm oven (250
degrees) for about 30 minutes or until the pancakes are hot and soft. Eat as
usual. Frozen waffles are prepared the same way. Breakfast Burritos are a
great way to serve a good breakfast. You can prepare all the components for
the dish except for the egg any time during the week and then put them together
at breakfast time. Cook up sausage and crumble it, sautee chopped green peppers
and onions and shred cheese. Store in covered containers in the refrigerator
until you are ready to make the burritos. Either make or purchase corn or flour
tortillas. Prepare some scrambled eggs on the morning you are having the
burritos. Each child can prepare his own burrito by layering some of the
prepared ingredients on a tortilla, rolling it up and heating it in the
microwave till warm. We like to heat salsa and pour over our breakfast
Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well.
Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish.
Turn the mixture into the dish and bake
at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. This can be prepared
the night before and baked the next morning.
Serve with milk and fruit if desired.
Serves about 6.
Don't forget your crockpot... when thinking about hot cereal for breakfast.
Oats, millet, and other grains can be prepared in the slow cooker at night, and
it's ready to eat in the a.m. Our family enjoys oats cooked with dried fruits
and water. Muffins make a wonderful breakfast. There are healthy muffin recipes
abounding and I often make a batch and freeze them for breakfasts. To make sure
they stay separate while freezing, place the muffins on a cookie sheet and
place in the freezer. When they are firm, transfer them to a ziptop freezer
bag. To thaw them simply open the bag and microwave till warm. Or, you
can place them in the refrigerator overnight, remove them from the bag and warm
them in the oven the next morning. You can make a basic bran muffin recipe and
add a variety of other ingredients such as dried or canned fruit, chocolate or
carob chips, coconut, and even pie fillings. Here is one of our favorite muffin
recipes, Pumpkin Chip Muffins. Feel free to add 1/2 cup coconut and 1/2
cup pecans to this recipe and make bars instead of muffins!
Pumpkin Chip Muffins
1 c fructose*
1 can (16 oz pumpkin)
1 1/2 c oil
2 3/4 c plain flour
2 c unsweetened carob chips or chocolate chips
2 t soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt
Beat the fructose, eggs, oil and pumpkin
Combine soda, flour and salt and add to pumpkin mixture.
Stir well. Fold in chips. Fill paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 400
degrees for 24 minutes.
*To use sugar instead of fructose, use 2 cups sugar and use 1/4 c more flour.
Makes about 12 muffins
Now let's talk about lunches specifically. It's so easy to slap a sandwich
together and set out a glass of milk for the children. But I know that you want
to make more nutritious meals for your children and that you want to give them
some variety. There are ways to get that variety, nutrition, and heartiness in
a meal without using up 1 to 3 hours of your day to do it. When you have a
weekly lunch menu, and you have grocery shopped for the items you will be
needing, half the battle is done! Get the staples in your weekly menu cooked
and refrigerated and you are on your way to an easy-cooking week.
Timing is Everything
To help out with streamlining and making your lunch time meals more convenient
I recommend cooking all of your weekly staples on one day. Package and
refrigerate them and use them as needed throughout the week. The staples
include ground beef, chicken pieces, noodles and other pastas, beans, rice, and
other grains. After these are cooked, they can be stored in individual meal
sized packages or simply stored in a large plastic bowl or bag. You can take
out what you need each day. Here are two examples of goods dishes that can be
prepared using precooked macaroni and ground beef:
Tomato Soup with Macaroni
1 1/2 cups cooked macaroni
1 Can tomato soup or 1 pint home canned
1 can rich milk, soy milk or cream
1 Tablespoon butter or better butter (optional)
small pinch soda
salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, heat over medium heat. Serve with
crackers and fruit.
1/2 # cooked ground beef
2 C cooked macaroni
1 small chopped onion
1/2 # cubed Velveeta or other cheese
1 C milk
salt and pepper to taste
Place in a greased casserole. Bake at 350
degrees till bubbly. OR cover with plastic wrap and cook in microwave till
bubbly. Serve with bread, cornbread, and a lettuce wedge.
Often in the fall we will have a filling breakfast, a late afternoon
"tea", and then a snack of cheese and crackers in the early evening.
Our Tea can consist of small sandwiches, soup, fruit, raw vegetables and
wholesome cookies. We serve tea, milk and water to drink. Not only is it a
delicious, good-for-us meal, it's loads of fun for the children to have a
"tea" every day. They enjoy getting out the cups and saucers and
setting the table. They try to have good manners and be so polite during their
meal. It can be a great teaching tool for homeschoolers. Tea Time can be
a good substitute for one meal each day. If you schedule your tea time in the
early after noon, it can serve as a late lunch or early dinner. Sometimes we
move our tea time outdoors and have lunch with nature. We carry everything on
trays and in baskets and enjoy the cool, crisp weather as we eat. One of our
favorite Tea Time foods is Homemade Graham Crackers. A cup of warm tea, homemade
grahams spread with peanut or cashew butter and an accompaniment of fresh
veggies, we feast among the falling leaves.
Homemade Graham Crackers
makes about 6 dozen crackers
4 c. wheat flour
1c. brown sugar
1c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. white flour
Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla.
Sift flour. Measure and add salt, soda, and
baking powder. Sift again. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk.
Mix thoroughly after each addition. Chill dough overnight. The next morning,
turn out on a floured board and roll as thin as possible. If you have a pasta
press, use it! Cut in squares. Place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.
When All Is Said and Done....
It's you who knows the eating habits of your family and how and if they
need to be changed. A hearty, nutritious lunch is a good thing for all of us,
especially if we aren't active after the evening meal. Only you can determine
what changes you are able to make in your home school routine. I encourage
you to make those changes which save you time and worry. Include all the
family in preparations and in clean-up time-many hands make the work go by faster.
When looking for lunch recipes, look for those which take little pre-planning,
little pre-cooking and lots of nutrition. Look for recipes that have
ingredients which you can prepare ahead of time, all on one cooking day. Set
aside one day a week on which you pre-cook some of your family's usual lunch
foods or your staple foods such as pasta and rice; wrap them up well and store
them in the refrigerator. Use all the tools you have at your disposal such as
crockpots and pressure cookers. You will be rewarded by happy, well-fed
children and time on your hands to enjoy your Autumn and Winter school days!
Sylvia Britton is a homemaker and author. She and
husband Mark have been married 22 years. They have 5 children and this is their
ninth year of homeschooling. The Brittons live in Kentucky Amish country and own a bakery and
general store called Grandma's Cupboard. You can find them online at: www.grandmas-cupboard.com.
Sylvia also operates the web site The 21st Century Homekeeper which is a place
of encouragement, Instruction and Help for Christian Homekeepers. Visit The
21st Century Homekeeper at: www.christianhomekeeper.com
Originally appeared in Fall 2002. Used with
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.