piranhas cherubs have been in school for two weeks now.
Now, all my kids do cross-country running (a couple of them, quite seriously), and one does karate as well, so we have daily practice sessions. I’ve had to double up on snacks to send them so they can last all the way to dinner time without eating their friends, their coaches, or each other.
Because when they haven’t eaten, I don’t want to be the one going into The Cage …
So! I took a minute this week to pick through my once-thriving snack basket and freezer, and here’s the snack-wise damage:
- My fruit leather stocks have been decimated.
- I’m still doing okay on snack bars (mainly because I made double batches of three of my favorite recipes just before classes started).
- We’re doing alright on apple chips, because I had the awesome forethought to
threaten the kids with hard laborcoax my angels into replenishing the stores themselves earlier this week. God bless their sweet, coaxable hearts.
- I’m desperate for smoothie pops. We are completely out, and you don’t understand how important they are. Like, if I throw them in the general direction of the horde when it approaches after cross-country training, I MAY have enough time to escape with my limbs intact – particularly because they will have just run for the last hour and a half, so I have a bit of a head start. But I really need more smoothie pops.
Long story short, this may be the time to take three minutes to evaluate your own snack bins, and make a quick list of anything you want to replenish. Because running to the store ten minutes before school starts for goldfish crackers, or sending a raw potato in a lunchbox … that’s a rough way to start a day.
And realize that my list of snacks is actually very VERY quickly (and easily!) replenishable, if all you’re doing is snacks and no lunch entrees. The dehydrator and the Food Processor practically make’em for you, because they’re awesome like that. (As a matter of fact, I’m urging my food processor to run for president next term. I think its chances of winning are excellent.) And, unlike the lunch entrees themselves, you can expect to produce an entire set of several batches of snacks to last you a month, in well under an hour.
So here’s a reminder of the snacks we’ve seen so far, and a glimpse at what I just did yesterday to keep me out of The Cage …
- Clear-Our-Your-Cupboard Snack Bars
- Ridiculousy Easy Cinnamon Apple Chips (from Round One)
- Strawberry Fruit Leather (From Round Two)
- Strawberry Smoothie Push-Ups (From Round Two)
- Mushroom Chips (From Round Three)
- Bagel Chips (From Round Four)
- Chewy Dried Pears (From Round Four)
I also posted my recent menu … “A Week in the Lunch Trenches”.
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 peaches
- 1 banana
- 1 Tb chia seeds
- Blend ingredients together, and pour into silicone molds - each mold holds about 1/3 cup, and don't forget to leave a good 1/2-3/4 inch space at the top for the smoothie to expand before popping the cap on.
- If you're nervous, you can freeze upright, but I haven't had one leak on me yet, so don't worry if you've sealed the pops well and need to lay them on their side.
- Yield: about 12 smoothie pops, depending on your fruit
- (Because Greek yogurt and chia seeds have protein, and chia-seed protein is much better than Mommy-arm protein)
To send to school, use a double ice pack and lay pops between packs. Enjoy, you awesome ice-cream-in-your-lunch-packer, you!
The Easiest, Most Foolproof Fruit Leather You Will Ever Try
Autumn Sweet Potato-Apple Fruit Leather
I’m not even kidding. If Fruit Leather intimidates you, or if you’ve EVER had a bad experience with a mushy batch, THIS is the one you want to try. The sweet potato-and-apple base is far less “wet” than other blended fruits, super easy to spread (and therefore, easier to keep consistently at the same thickness). It’s also takes much less time in the dehydrator, so not necessarily an all-day project – I made my batch this time after work, easy peasy.
Plus, there are two super easy shortcuts to go about doing this:
a) The first is premade apple sauce. You can literally throw a jar of premade apple sauce on your dehydrator tray, and call it a day, if you like. Now, this isn’t typically what I do, because of the second easy shortcut …
b) The Instant Pot. I put two sweet potatoes and a handful of apples that had seen better days in there (with all the last stone fruit of the season being so delicious, the apples in our produce basket haven’t been getting nearly the love they will in a month or two). Within ten minutes (fifteen, including pressurizing), all of the above are ready to throw in the Food Processor, and five minutes after that, my trays are loaded and set to make a huge load of idiot-proof Fruit Leather. Which is awesome, because sometimes I can be a major idiot.
Of course, you can always nuke your sweet potato if you’re using jarred apple sauce and don’t want to pull out the Instant Pot. You can also bake the sweet potatoes AND apples if you want to go from scratch but don’t own an Instant Pot. Whatever works for you!
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 5 small apples (I have six in my photo, but only used five)
- 1/2 cup water (if using Instant Pot)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- Peel and core apples (your spiralizer attachment, if you have it, can do both of these and still leave your apples intact!), and chop into large chunks.
- Place into trivet in Instant Pot with 1/2 cup at the bottom of the pot (not touching the fruit), and place sweet potatoes in pot as well.
- Seal pot, select Manual setting for 8 minutes, allow to pressurize and cook.
- Carefully open valve to depressurize when done, and throw all the apples into your Food Processor. Slip the sweet potatoes out of their skins (which will be easy now that they're cooked), and slide them into the Food Processor as well.
- Add spices, and puree until smooth.
- Spread onto dehydrator trays as evenly as possible, about 1/4-inch-thick (if you are a little heavy handed on one or two trays, put them toward the top of the stack, close to the heating element).
- Run dehydrator at 135 F for 4 hours, and check. Leather should be completely dry to the touch, and should peel off easily (here's where it's important not to have lighter areas when spreading the fruit, because they will flake and stick more).
- Yield: 12 trays
A WORD ON FREEZER SPACE
I admit, I have a lot of freezer space. I live with four adult-sized appetites, and one healthy child-sized one, and I tend to freeze and pack 20 weeks’ worth of food for all the kids at a time. Plus, once upon a time, I used to do this regularly for dinners as well as lunches.
So, I have a freezer upstairs for regularly-used items, then a downstairs freezer for frozen lunches, and a separate chest freezer for when I’m feeling particularly go-getter-y (or for when I make Thanksgiving meals ahead of time because I have the stupid schedule). I call the chest freezer my Sexy Beast, and I make my hubby apologize to it if he doesn’t treat it with an appropriate level of tenderness.
The FDA does specifically say that a closed, full freezer will maintain its temperature for 48 hrs without power (a half-full one will maintain it for 24 hrs), so food does not need to be thawed or refrigerate or transferred anywhere, as long as you kee the doors closed. So even if your power goes out Saturday, your lovingly-prepared lunches should be safe till Monday when the repair guy comes! Just sayin’ …
Now, you certainly don’t have to have this. We’re going to work on how to maximize your packing strategies in order to best use your space, and we’re going to use flash freezing and labeling techniques that make my heart skip more than Ryan Gosling (who, for the record, has NOTHING on vacuum sealing). But you should plan on being able to fit two jelly roll pans or large cookie sheets into your freezer at once at any given time during your prepping. If you can’t do that, it may be worth it for you to take a look at getting yourself a separate freezer – not necessarily your own Sexy Beast, but maybe something a bit smaller and inconspicuous, that can still guard your hard work (and only cost you an extra $0.75 or so per lunch if you hold 4 months’ worth of meals for one person in it, right?).
STILL NEED HELP PACKING LUNCHES?
Check out my feedback on how to pack the lunches, with reviews and discussion on cold foods, hot foods, beverages and lunchboxes! But if you don’t think you can take another second of wading through my never-ending drivel, and just want to cut to the chase to know what my absolute preferences are, here’s the short list:
- For hot foods, Funtainer Food Jar or Stanley Food Jar (sorry, you do need to make this decision yourself based on the details).
- For the rest of your lunch, and cold entrees, EasyLunchboxes system: containers, lunchbox, and mini dippers. Close second: PlanetBox.
- Funtainer water bottles (Doc McStuffin, Wonder Woman).
Sometimes, I come across good deals and want to share them, but I don’t want to send you unwanted emails. If you’d like me to email you when I find something really good (like the Instant Pot that went on sale last week for $69.99) you can sign up for those emails here. These would probably be once or twice a month.
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