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Party Plan: Get Ready for the School Year!

Get prepped for back to school with these fun recipes and helpful tips.

Summer’s end brings the start of a new school year, and we’ve got the right recipes to get you ready. Start the school day with delicious options like Cheddar Bacon Muffins, Ham and Egg Mini Frittatas and Breakfast Quinoa with Fruit. When it’s time to pack a lunch, Turkey Cheddar Pinwheels and Chicken Quinoa Salad offer a great alternative to the norm. You’ll want plenty of Snack Mix on hand as well for an after-school treat.

Back to school dinners work best when you plan ahead! Make this Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon Stew recipe and enjoy it for days. Penne and Meatballs and Unbreaded Chicken Parmigiana are delicious dinner options, and can be frozen for future meals as well. You can even try some Banana and Apple Pops for a fun and easy dessert!

We’ve also got tips for keeping students on track. Hassle-Free School Supply Shopping makes picking up the essentials easy, while Homework Help organizes study time around the house. Form a Morning Routine to help the day run smoothly, and organize a Snack Station for hungry students when they get home!

Chicken Quinoa Salad

Chicken Quinoa Salad

An easy to make healthy meal packed with quinoa, chicken, greens and fresh lemon flavor!

Hands-on Time: 15 min. | Total Time: 20 min. | Serves: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 chicken breasts (about 1 lb.), flattened and cut into 1” cubes
  • ½ cup red bell peppers, chopped
  • ½ cup green bell peppers, chopped
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup sweetened dried cranberries
Directions:
  1. To make the cilantro lime dressing, combine cilantro, 3 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper in small bowl and whisk until blended. Set aside.
  2. In 1 quart saucepan, cook quinoa by mixing quinoa and chicken broth. Let simmer. Turn heat to low. Cook until chicken broth is absorbed. Fluff quinoa with fork.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a 12” non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken for 7-10 minutes turning them until chicken has a light brown sear. Continue cooking for about 6-8 minutes longer or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Set aside.
  4. In same skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, onion and garlic; cook stirring frequently for 4-6 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.
  5. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and add chicken, vegetables, cranberries and cilantro-lime dressing. Combine well.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 450, Calories from Fat 160, Total Fat 19g (29% DV), Saturated Fat 2.5g (12% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 55mg (18% DV), Sodium 1090mg (45% DV), Carbohydrates 40g (13% DV), Dietary Fiber 4g (16% DV), Sugars 9g, Protein 33g, Vitamin A 20%, Vitamin C 100%, Calcium 4%, Iron 15%.

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Snack Mix

Snack Mix

A perfect after school snack for kids that is super quick, easy and fun.

Hands-on Time: 5 min. | Total Time: 10 min. | Serves: 9 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups Kroger Rice Bitz
  • 1 cup popped popcorn
  • ½ cup pretzels
  • ½ sweetened dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chocolate morsels
  • Muffin paper liners
Directions:
  1. In large bowl, mix all ingredients.
  2. Spoon mixture into paper muffin liners.
  3. Store in airtight container.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 410, Calories from Fat 50, Total Fat 6g (9% DV), Saturated Fat 2g (10% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol < 5mg (1% DV), Sodium 390mg (16% DV), Carbohydrates 84g (28% DV), Dietary Fiber 5g (20% DV), Sugars 30g, Protein 7g, Vitamin A 45%, Vitamin C 40%, Calcium 2%, Iron 60%.

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Turkey Cheddar Pinwheels

Turkey Cheddar Pinwheels

These easy to prepare pinwheels have a nice combination of flavors and colors that everyone will simply love.

Hands-on Time: 10 min. | Total Time: 12 min. | Serves: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas (6”)
  • 8 slices deli turkey
  • 8 slices sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. cream cheese (or flavored cream cheese spread)
  • 8 Bibb/Romaine lettuce leaves
Directions:
  1. Spread cream cheese evenly on tortillas. In center of tortilla place 2 slices of deli turkey.
  2. Cover the turkey with sliced Cheddar cheese.
  3. Layer in leaves of Bibb or Romaine lettuce to cover the Cheddar cheese.
  4. Carefully roll up the tortillas, as tightly as you can. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes.
  5. When ready to serve, unwrap the rolls and cut each one into fourths.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 270, Calories from Fat 140, Total Fat 16g (25% DV), Saturated Fat 8g (40% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 55mg (18% DV), Sodium 710mg (30% DV), Carbohydrates 19g (6% DV), Dietary Fiber 2g (8% DV), Sugars 2g, Protein 14g, Vitamin A 60%, Vitamin C 6%, Calcium 30%, Iron 8%.

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Banana and Apple Pops

Banana and Apple Pops

A fun snack for kids that is yummy and easy to make.

Hands-on Time: 5 min. | Total Time: 15 min. | Serves: 6 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 4 wooden craft sticks with rounded ends
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, cored and sliced into 1” slices
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced into 1” slices
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal, slightly crushed
  • 1 cup honey nut cereal, slightly crushed
Directions:
  1. Spread each slice of apples and bananas with a light layer of peanut butter.
  2. Roll half of apple and banana slices in crushed crispy rice cereal, and the other half in crushed honey nut cereal.
  3. Insert the craft sticks into the apple and banana slices.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 450, Calories from Fat 190, Total Fat 21g (32% DV), Saturated Fat 4g (20% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg (0% DV), Sodium 420mg (18% DV), Carbohydrates 61g (20% DV), Dietary Fiber 7g (28% DV), Sugars 27g, Protein 13g, Vitamin A 25%, Vitamin C 30%, Calcium 20%, Iron 60%.

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Unbreaded Chicken Parmigiana

Unbreaded Chicken Parmigiana

A chicken Parmesan recipe with no breading, lots of flavor and just 5 ingredients.

Hands-on Time: 15 min. | Total Time: 45 min. | Serves: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1½ lbs. chicken breasts
  • 1½ cups chunky pasta sauce with garlic & basil
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 4 slices fresh Mozzarella cheese (about ¼” thick)
  • 2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
  • ⅓ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Heat oil in a 12” non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place seasoned chicken with salt and pepper on pan and sear 4-5 minutes turning once.
  3. Place chicken breasts in 8”x8”x2” glass baking dish. Pour pasta sauce onto chicken and top each breast with a slice of fresh Mozzarella. Add Parmesan cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake 30-40 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F.
  4. Remove foil, add parsley, and serve immediately.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 490, Calories from Fat 250, Total Fat 28g (43% DV), Saturated Fat 10g (50% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 140mg (47% DV), Sodium 480mg (20% DV), Carbohydrates 9g (3% DV), Dietary Fiber 2g (8% DV), Sugars 5g, Protein 47g, Vitamin A 20%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 30%, Iron 10%.

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Penne and Meatballs

Penne and Meatballs

A make-ahead freezer-friendly recipe delivers delicious pasta and meatballs to your table in no time.

Hands-on Time: 15 min. | Total Time: 50 min. | Serves: 6 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 1 12 oz package penne pasta (about 4 cups)
  • 2 cups frozen meatballs
  • 1 24 oz. jar pasta sauce with garlic and basil
  • ¼ cup beef broth
  • ¼ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup shredded four cheese variety
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Cooking spray
Directions:
  1. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. Drain and let cold water run through to cool down.
  2. In large bowl, mix pasta sauce and broth.
  3. Spray an 11”x7” glass baking dish (about 2 quarts) with cooking spray. Add pasta, meatballs, sauce mix, olives and cheese to baking dish. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 350°F. Bake pasta dish covered 35-40 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 380, Calories from Fat 120, Total Fat 14g (22% DV), Saturated Fat 5g (25% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 20mg (7% DV), Sodium 590mg (25% DV), Carbohydrates 43g (14% DV), Dietary Fiber 6g (24% DV), Sugars 7g, Protein 22g, Vitamin A 20%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 20%, Iron 20%.

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Slow Cooker Bourguignon Stew

Slow Cooker Bourguignon Stew

A make-ahead recipe for a tasty, easy and tender beef stew packed with flavor.

Hands-on Time: 15 min. | Total Time: 9hrs. 15 min. | Serves: 4 to 6 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1½” chunks
  • Dash salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 cups small red potatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves
Directions:
  1. Heat 12” non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add seasoned beef with salt and pepper and cook turning frequently until all sides are seared. Work in batches, if necessary.
  2. In a 3-4 quart slow cooker, place vegetables, meat, broth, wine and thyme.
  3. Cook 8-10 hours on low heat.
  4. Spoon into serving platter. Serve warm.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 520, Calories from Fat 340, Total Fat 38g (58% DV), Saturated Fat 16g (80% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 105mg (35% DV), Sodium 140mg (6% DV), Carbohydrates 15g (5% DV), Dietary Fiber 2g (8% DV), Sugars 4g, Protein 29g, Vitamin A 100%, Vitamin C 10%, Calcium 4%, Iron 20%.

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Breakfast Quinoa with Fruit

Breakfast Quinoa with Fruit

The best part about this breakfast quinoa is that you can mix and match the fruit and yogurt!

Hands-on Time: 10 min. | Total Time: 30 min. | Serves: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • ½ cup quinoa seeds (uncooked)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1½ cups almond milk
  • 2 tsp. honey or turbinado sugar
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt, any flavor
  • ½ cup any fresh fruit
  • ¼ cup walnuts or salted almonds, chopped
  • ¼ cup chocolate morsels, shredded coconut, walnuts, almonds or granola (if desired)
Directions:
  1. To cook the quinoa: In 1 quart saucepan combine water, ½ cup almond milk, honey and quinoa seeds over high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low; simmer, covered, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Let cool.
  2. In large bowl, mix cooked quinoa, 1 cup almond milk, honey, flavored yogurt and fruits of your choice.
  3. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator if not serving immediately.
  4. When serving, top with chocolate morsels, shredded coconut, walnuts, almonds, or granola (if desired).
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 240, Calories from Fat 90, Total Fat 10g (15% DV), Saturated Fat 2.5g (12% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol < 5mg (1% DV), Sodium 80mg (3% DV), Carbohydrates 31g (10% DV), Dietary Fiber 3g (12% DV), Sugars 14g, Protein 8g, Vitamin A 6%, Vitamin C 4%, Calcium 25%, Iron 10%.

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Cheddar Bacon Muffins

Cheddar Bacon Muffins

Cheddar and bacon pair beautifully in a scrumptious savory breakfast muffin.

Hands-on Time: 10 min. | Total Time: 30 min. | Serves: 12 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Dash pepper
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place paper liners in muffin tins. Spray with cooking spray each liner.
  2. In a large bowl, combine milk, melted butter and egg.
  3. In another large bowl, place flour, bacon, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper; stir in cheese. Mix with fork.
  4. Add milk mix to dry ingredients and mix batter until it is just combined (the batter should be thick and lumpy).
  5. Spoon batter into muffin tins (buttered or paper-lined), filling each about two-thirds full.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.
  7. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 210, Calories from Fat 130, Total Fat 14g (22% DV), Saturated Fat 7g (35% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 45mg (15% DV), Sodium 270mg (11% DV), Carbohydrates 15g (5% DV), Dietary Fiber < 1g (2% DV), Sugars 3g, Protein 5g, Vitamin A 6%, Vitamin C 0%, Calcium 20%, Iron 4%.

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Ham and Egg Mini Frittatas

Ham and Egg Mini Frittatas

These fragrant, simple, and delicious frittatas will brighten your morning.

Hands-on Time: 10 min. | Total Time: 35 min. | Serves: 12 | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 slices ham
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Dash of pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Place ham inside muffin tins making sure ham does not go above tin size or edges of ham will burn during baking.
  3. In small bowl mix eggs heavy cream, green onions, salt and pepper.
  4. Fill muffin cups with ¼ cup egg mixture to just below the edge.
  5. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes or until eggs are completely set (and center does not wiggle when moving tray).
  6. Remove and let cool, then arrange on a plate and serve.
  7. Refrigerate leftovers.
Nutrition Analysis:

Per serving: Calories 100, Calories from Fat 70, Total Fat 8g (12% DV), Saturated Fat 4.5g (22% DV), Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 120mg (40% DV), Sodium 190mg (8% DV), Carbohydrates 1g (0% DV), Dietary Fiber 0g (0% DV), Sugars < 1g, Protein 5g, Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 2%, Calcium 2%, Iron 4%.

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Loaded Carnitas Nachos

Loaded Carnitas Nachos

By: Lauren Brennan, Lauren's Latest

The only thing better than nachos are Loaded Carnitas Nachos! With a few helpful tricks, you can have this amazing, homemade appetizer on your table in minutes!

In case you’re wondering, ClickList is an online grocery ordering service through Fred Meyer (a Kroger store) and it is glorious. Basically, I order groceries from my bed late at night and then I go pick them up the next morning. Read: I don’t have to get out of the car! They bring all my groceries to me and they load them up. For all you busy ladies and gents out there, this service is 100% for you! I will always do my grocery shopping between 10pm and 1am.

So, I use ClickList 1-4 times a week and I’m not ashamed about it in the least. I order my groceries between 10pm and 1am and I usually schedule to pick up around 11am the next morning.

Prep Time: 12 min. | Cook Time: 8 min. | Total Time: 20 min. | Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
  • 16 oz. container Kroger Carnitas Seasoned Pork
  • 9 oz. bag yellow corn tortilla chips (I used Simple Truth Organic)
  • 1 16 oz. bag Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese (I used Kroger)
  • 15.25 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15.25 oz. can sweet corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 large red onion, finely diced
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • sour cream and guacamole, for serving
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Start heating Carnitas according to package directions.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread entire bag of tortilla chips in one even layer. Sprinkle half of the cheese overtop of the chips. Add the black beans and corn.
  4. Shred warm Carnitas, discarding any fat as you go. Add Carnitas to the top of the nachos and then sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. While nachos are cooking, prepare fresh toppings.
  6. Once nachos are finished baking, sprinkle with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, lime wedges, sour cream and guacamole. Serve immediately.

View Party Plan: Get Ready for the School Year!

Hassle-Free School Supply Shopping

Hassle-Free School Supply Shopping

Shopping for school supplies is easier when you know what you’re looking for. Let our lists below—broken down by school year—give you an edge.

  • Heading to preschool? There’s likely little your kiddo needs for class, but you can set kids up for success by establishing a “homework” station even at this young age. Simple worksheets and craft projects may be all they’ll do at home, so make this easy and fun with a collection of sharpened pencils, crayons, paper, glue sticks and kid-friendly scissors. Organize supplies in a desk or closet lined with shelving so your student can easily grab what he or she needs. (And put it back when done!)
  • Elementary school encompasses just-entering kindergartners all the way up to ready-to-graduate 5th graders, so there’s a wide range of needed supplies. Most schools provide lists of exactly what’s needed. Print this list as soon as it becomes available on a school’s website, sometimes even as early as mid-summer. Plan for sales and get started as soon as you’re able; waiting until last-minute may mean limited selections and possibly being out of something your child needs that first day. You can also save time by narrowing your shopping down to as few stores as possible. Also remember to buy lunch bags, snack containers and a thermos.
  • Middle schoolers transition from elementary school’s single classroom to multiple periods in a day. Again, you’ll receive specific class supply lists from your district, but at this age kids may want more say in what helps them move between classes as efficiently as possible. Color-coding each subject’s notebooks and folders (purple for history, blue for math, etc.) can help students quickly grab what they need from their locker. Encourage them to keep a homework folder (3-ring binder with multiple pockets and dividers works well) so they can bring home just what’s needed for each subject.
  • Locker accessories are popular with middle schoolers. Plastic shelving can help keep students organized and small white boards with dry-erase markers and magnets are good for written reminders.
  • Cell phones will also become important in middle school and are good for keeping in touch with your student as needed.
  • Once in high school, students may only need notebooks and folders for most classes. Let your kids tell you what they’ll need if your district doesn’t provide lists. Much of what worked in middle school (color coding, homework folders) works now, too. Lanyard wallets are a good way to keep identification cards, money and keys close at hand. As well, a new travel mug and a gift card to a favorite coffee shop can help start their year on a positive note!
  • Shopping for a college student ups the school supply ante. You may be looking for big-ticket items like dorm fridges and other furniture. Bedding will likely be needed as may be basic kitchen equipment. Needs will depend on your student’s living arrangements.
  • On the academic side, be sure to load the collegiate set up with plenty of paper, pencils, pens and the like. They may not know exactly what they need until classes start, so help them prepare by sending them off with a few gift cards for their new local discount and grocery stores.

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Homework Help

Homework Help

Homework is part of daily life during the school year. If you make it as pleasant as possible, you can help improve your child’s attitude about schoolwork. This is where the homework caddy comes in.

First, think location. Pay attention to where your kids do their best work. Can they concentrate on homework hunkered down on the couch? Do they need to sit at a desk? A table? Wherever they’re happiest and most efficient is where you’ll want to set up their homework caddy.

Caddy specifics will vary from student to student. What helps your child focus and work best? Caddies can be a desk organizer purchased at an office supply store or a cleaning or tool caddy. You can also combine different containers and trays you already have on hand. A vertical file with labeled folders gives different subjects a home. Stacked in-and-out trays will keep homework and other papers in place, while slots for sharp pencils, pens, markers and highlighters are helpful as well. Older students will have calculators and possibly protractors and other math tools. You can also keep a small section of the caddy full of gum or mints, which have been shown to help increase focus and concentration. Your children will know exactly what they need to do their best work, so have them help fill their caddies.

The caddy itself will be portable, so homework location can change as needed. But designating one homework spot offers consistency. You can hang a white board or bulletin board in this area and ask your student to use it to track homework due, test dates, upcoming activities, field trips, sporting events and the like. They can use it as checklist of sorts to track their progress and you’ll have a visual for what is coming up and still needs to be done.

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Lunchtime Combos Made Easy

Lunchtime Combos Made Easy

Sending lunch to school in a multi-segment box container means no more ho-hum lunches and no lunchtime rut for your student. Keep it healthy and fun with any of these combos:

  1. Cucumber-Avocado

    Difficulty Level: Easy

    Fill a whole-wheat pita half with sliced cucumber, avocado and tomato and place in the box. Fill the other compartments with pitted Kalamata olives and salted almonds.

  2. Chicken Quinoa Salad

    Difficulty Level: Medium

    Toss together diced cooked chicken, cooked quinoa, diced bell peppers and sweetened dried cranberries, then mix with a lime-cilantro dressing. Place alongside compartments filled with strawberries and baby carrots.

  3. Tomato, Cheese and Celery

    Difficulty Level: Easy

    Alternately thread grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese cubes and sliced cucumber onto small bamboo skewers. Serve alongside compartments filled with celery sticks and ranch dressing.

  4. Goddess Combo

    Difficulty Level: Easy

    A Greek-style salad can be as easy as combining diced or sliced zucchini, sliced cucumbers, crumbled feta cheese, diced tomato and toasted walnuts. The smaller compartments can hold the green goddess dressing and grapes.

  5. Sandwich and Kiwi

    Difficulty Level: Easy

    Make a half-sandwich of tomato hummus and cheese served between slices of toast, then package alongside kiwis and pretzels.

  6. Cheese, Egg and Prosciutto

    Difficulty Level: Easy

    Cheddar cheese cubes and a peeled hard-cooked egg can be slotted next to a compartment containing fresh strawberries.

  7. Quesadilla-Cucumber

    Difficulty Level: Easy

    Make a quick quesadilla by sandwiching small flour tortillas around slices of deli ham, a favorite cheese and tomato. Serve alongside compartments filled with cubed fresh mango and toasted walnuts.

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Morning Routines

Morning Routines

Once school starts, those lazy summer mornings are history. To ensure that weekday mornings run smoothly, it’s best to have a plan. Here’s a list to get your kids out the door with everything they need for a great school day. Once they’re on board, you’ll be rewarded with a moment to catch your breath as well.

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. No sense procrastinating tasks easily done the night before. Ask your kids to choose their outfits and set them out, ready to wear. (Some kids do even better planning a week’s worth of clothes.) Make sure those backpacks contain completed homework and signed permission forms. Lunches and snacks can be waiting in the refrigerator to grab just before leaving the house.
  • The best planning in the world only goes so far when folks are overtired. A consistent and reasonable bedtime routine (for both you AND your kids) will set you all in motion when the alarm rings.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with healthy and quick breakfast foods, then make a plan on Sunday night for what will be served through the week. Popping whole-grain waffles in the toaster makes for a quick breakfast, as does scrambling an egg and wrapping it in a tortilla. You may not have time to play short-order cook, but anyone can fuel up when you have good foods within easy reach.
  • The traditional chore chart is mostly aimed at the younger set, but older kids can benefit from a list of home duties as well. Teenagers might respond better to a morning text reminding them of a.m. tasks: making beds, dirty clothes in the laundry, floor picked up, breakfast dishes in dishwasher. Kids of all ages will feel good about being able to check items off their list. A week’s worth of completed chores might earn them extra screen time or a fun weekend outing.
  • Speaking of screen time, it’s not always our first choice for how we want our kids to spend their time, but used correctly it can be solid incentive. Should chores be completed, breakfast consumed and your kids ready for school with time to spare, let them decide how to spend that time. If they want to play a game on their tablet, stream a bit of a favorite show or chat with a friend online, they’ve earned it!

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Snack Stations

Snack Stations

Kids are often hungry when they walk through the door after a long day at school. With varied lunchtimes, children are usually ready to fuel up once they get home. Lets’ make it easy for them to enjoy good-for-you snacks by creating an After-School Snack Station.

First step: make it fun. Find an attractive tiered cake tray, sectioned picnic caddy or other food storage or display container. Generously fill it with any combination of the healthy snacks listed here or others that you know your kids enjoy. Be sure to include napkins, small plates and silverware as needed.

  • Whole fresh fruit (apples, bananas, pears, etc.)
  • Boxes of dried fruit such as raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, etc.
  • Dried fruit strips
  • Cheese sticks
  • Yogurt cartons or tubes
  • Fresh veggie sticks (cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, celery) along with a favorite veggie dip
  • Whole-grain crackers and sliced cheese
  • Whole-wheat pitas and hummus
  • Tortilla roll-ups filled with lean turkey or ham and cheese
  • Graham crackers or pretzel sticks served with nut butters for spreading or dipping
  • Baked potato or tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
  • Granola bars
  • Muffins
  • Small bags of popped popcorn
  • Single-serving portions of breakfast cereal or granola
  • DIY snack mixes containing nuts, dried fruit and cereal
  • Small cookies
  • 100% juice boxes or pouches
  • Small shelf-stable cartons of milk or non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or soymilk

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4 Easy DIY Back-To-School Plant-Based Meals

4 Easy DIY Back-To-School Plant-Based Meals

By: Margaret Chapman, The Plant Philosophy

Back-to-school lunches are here! I’m so excited to be sharing content geared towards vegan kiddos, however adults can have a little fun and make these for themselves too. Really this is perfect for all ages because you can modify each as needed. A little meal prep never hurt anyone.

  1. Mini Gluten-Free Pizza Bites
    • Vegan Gluten-Free Mini Pizzas with a side of Natural Fruit Roll-Ups and an easy to peel Tangerine for balance. For the kid that keeps it real. I made it gluten-free by using my absolute favorite English Muffins from Food For Life Baking Co. You can find them in the gf freezer section. I recommend defrosting first and toasting them before topping with sauce and vegan cheese. Then bake/broil until crispy and melty on top. Feel free to add veggies and/or omit the vegan cheese and replace with a cashew based version.
  2. Rainbow Rice Paper Salad Rolls with Homemade Peanut Sauce and Simple Truth Banana Chips
    • You can make these very quickly and if you wrap them tightly with plastic or parchment, they can stay fresh for a few days. Otherwise they’ll dry out, be sure to keep them wrapped and in an air-tight container. If the texture isn’t your favorite, try baking them and changing the filling for an Asian noodle style combo.
  3. Vegan Cheese & Hickory Tofurky Crackers Lunchable
    • Vegan Cheese, Tofurky & Gluten-Free Crackers with Natural Fruit Roll-Ups and a Tangerine. The second Lunchable combo I’ve veganized and it’s also gluten-free too! Using Daiya Cheddar Cheese Slices and Tofurky Slow-Roasted Hickory, cut into circles with a small cookie cutter. I actually used one that perfectly fit the Simple Truth Gluten-Free Black Pepper Crackers I used to pair with it. You can also make these by using any combo of vegan cheese, mock meat and/or crackers you like best. These just happen to be my favorites and they’re always accessible at my local Kroger grocery store.
  4. Almond Butter & Chia Jam Banana Wraps
    • Wrapped in a Simple Truth tortilla with a generous layer of Simple Truth Almond Butter (no sugar or oil added!), with Homemade Chia Jam, this batch was peach, and a ripe banana. Roll and cut into bite-sized pieces, or cut in half and eat like a wrap. Paired this with a side of Simple Truth Carrot sticks and a mix of raisins and sunflower seeds.

View Party Plan: Get Ready for the School Year!

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