It’s Chef Jess

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Back to school time is bittersweet. Sadness that the summer is coming to an end but excitement for new milestones and the return to a more structured schedule. Ease your way back into routine after the summer fun with some quick and easy recipes designed to save time and satisfy the family!

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day. As someone who skipped breakfast entirely most of my young adult life, I am trying to make habit of providing my kids with a healthy and filling first meal of the day to get things started. We rotate several good choices, the most frequent being “Overnight Oats”. Not only are these oats delicious, they are prepped the night before, even days before, and are completely customizable. My tribe usually sticks with the basics – oats, peanut butter, honey, cinnamon and those seeds i sneak in when no one is looking! Other fillers i personally love are berries, dried fruits and pecans. Again, completely customizable, so get creative!

Overnight Oats

½ cup Quick Oats

1 cup Almond Milk (sweetened or unsweetened, personal preference)

2 tablespoons Peanut or Almond Butter

1 tablespoon honey

Sprinkle of Cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a seal-tight container. Stir or shake until mixed. Let rest in refrigerator overnight, serve warm in the morning. 

If your kids are anything like my early birds, they will be hungry again in no time and ready for a snack. I like to keep a stock of easy to grab, healthy snacks that my kids can help themselves to while we’re heading out the door in the morning, or as brain fuel coming in after school and getting started on their homework. Keeping prepped veggies and fruits handy will encourage kids to make healthier choices in the snack department. I love making my own granola bars and trying out new and different varieties. Our go to is peanut butter chocolate chip. Duh, chocolate! Those mini chocolate chips are so cute and oh so irresistible! Several other favorites include adding white chocolate chips with a little dried cranberry and shaved coconut!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

2 cups Oats

1 cup Peanut Butter

½ cup Mini Chocolate Chips

¼ cup Honey (or more)

Dash of Cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until fully incorporated. If granola mixture is too dry, add more honey to desired consistency. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper and form granola into pan. Place in freezer for at least 45 minutes. Remove from pan, cut into bars and enjoy! 

When lunch time rolls around, I enjoy getting creative and my littles enjoy chowing down on the creativity. Bento style lunches have been a huge hit lately and totally save you from serving that same PB&J sandwich to that five-year-old who would gladly eat one everyday! This type of lunch ensures variety and encourages kids to try new and different things, ultimately broadening their palate. The options for presentation are quite fun and exciting for kids too! Cool tin lunch boxes, muffin tins or ice cube trays, there are lots of interactive ways to get kids excited about lunch, including vegetables! 

By the time dinner rolls around, we are desperately searching for a quick, easy, and tasty meal for our families. The options are plenty, however choosing something that kids and adults alike will love, can get a little tricky. Transforming the classic toddler fave, chicken nuggets, into an adult friendly protein that both will enjoy, looks a lot like Panko Baked Chicken Tenders in our house. These tenders are just that, tender and also crispy at the same time. The panko allows the chicken to maintain a crisp breading without being fried. The buttermilk moisturizes the chicken, keeping it tender and the egg binds the breading to the chicken, skipping the three step breading process formerly known as “flour, egg, breadcrumb, repeat…” Quick and easy without skimping on the flavor!

Panko Baked Chicken Tenders

3 Chicken Breasts

1 ½ cups Panko Bread Crumbs

1 cup Buttermilk

2 Eggs

Salt and Pepper

Slice chicken breasts into tender size, generously season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine tenders, buttermilk and beaten eggs. Let set for at least 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix Panko bread crumbs with salt and pepper. One at a time, dip marinated chicken tenders into seasoned bread crumbs until completely coated. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Continue until all remaining tenders are breaded. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce!

     By implementing several staple recipes throughout the week, meal prepping when possible and keeping a small stock of snacks to fill in the gaps between meals, transitioning from summer days to school days will be a breeze! I know your family will love these recipes as much as mine! See you soon!

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