I see from friends’ photos on Facebook and around the blogosphere that many schools around the country are already back in session. Here in New York, however, we don’t go back until after Labor Day. I’m starting to get organized for the new school year, and I find that pre-printed School Notes are an invaluable time and sanity saver. With three kids in school, you can only imagine how often I have to send in a note about a bus change or a dentist appointment. By using these handy notes, I can just jot down the important info, check a few boxes, and voila! It streamlines the entire process.
In the past I have used cutesy notes that other generous bloggers have designed. But this year I decided to make my own because with the boys getting older (5th grade and 8th grade), I didn’t want to embarrass them with anything that might be considered too childish. I thought this design was a good compromise.
The other reason I wanted to design my own is because I prefer these long, skinny notes. My kids use folders to carry school papers back and forth and smaller notes, I have learned from experience, tend to get lost or forgotten if you can’t immediately see them. But it’s hard to miss a tall note like this one.
I’m happy to share these notes with my readers this year. I like to keep a small stack printed, cut, and easily accessible. They are not terribly fancy, but they are functional, and I think you will agree — they are a real time-saver!
I know for most of you, the first day of school is a memory already. But unlike a lot of other areas, we don’t go back in August… it’s always the Wednesday after Labor Day. In other words… today! And for us, it was an important day because our littlest started Kindergarten!
But let’s start with the oldest. Jake is in seventh grade. No longer the youngest kids in the middle school — hooray! I remember when I was in seventh grade (not in a middle school — just a regular classroom back then), our teacher had a foozball table in the corner of the room, he picked his nose, and was known for various quips that I still remember (such as “There is no ‘noise’ in Illinois!” — he’d get aggravated when people mispronounced it). Ha! I think he’s looking forward to getting back into his intramural clubs, though.
Noah is in fourth grade this year and actually has the same teacher that Jake had, so I know what to expect (which is kind of a nice change). He’s looking forward to seeing all of his friends again, and I think he’s looking forward to being in class just in general.
Of course, for Laura, school is pretty much old hat. She loved preschool last year (and has several of her pre-K buddies in her class). And she spent two weeks at day camp this summer, so I’m not worried about her in full-day K. (Although for the first few days, the little ones are dismissed early to ease the transition).
It was very sweet watching Noah let Laura go in front of him to get on the bus. I think it’s going to be a great year!
With the kids all in school, we are back to a crazy schedule that includes a bunch of activities. We have Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, CCD, afterschool electives… and that’s just for beginners. Add in my part-time job at the library, trying to keep up with my blog, and family commitments and you have a full calendar! But a full schedule is no excuse for not cooking. You just need to plan ahead!
Here are my top 5 ways to save time in the kitchen on weekdays.
Menu plan. I make a home-cooked meal for my family six nights a week, and being organized is key. I’ve been menu planning since our pre-kid days. I look at what I have in my pantry and freezer, check my grocery store’s sale flyer, and go from there.
Be your own sous chef. Prep as much as you can ahead of time. Have an open burner on the stove? Fill a pot with water and cook rice, pasta, or quinoa for the week. Roast a pan of vegetables or boil them so you can reheat or quickly add them to dishes. Earlier this year I read An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, and this simple tip stuck with me and has made a huge difference in the way I cook.
Cook once, eat twice. Making a meatloaf? Buy enough ingredients to make two and freeze one. I also always try to keep the following pre-cooked items in my freezer: taco meat, browned ground beef, and shredded chicken. Within 20 minutes I can pull together a quick pot of soup or chili.
Save the culinary experiments. We all love trying out new recipes, but save the multi-step gourmet dishes for weekends or days when you have extra time.
Keep a file of quick-fix family favorites. Whether it’s juicy burgers, a fresh pasta dish, or a comforting casserole, it’s a relief knowing that you can throw together a home-cooked meal that everyone will love.
Turkey Divan Casserole is something I’ve been making for over 10 years. I occasionally change up the recipe depending upon what I have in my fridge (oh, that could be #6 – Be flexible). Don’t have rice? Use stuffing or egg noodles. Don’t have turkey? Use chicken. That’s the beauty of a casserole. It lends itself to whatever’s leftover. Country Crock Original Spread is delicious in this recipe. It contains 0 g trans fat per serving, no partially hydrogenated oils, and no cholesterol. Additionaly, it has 70% less fat than butter and 30% fewer calories than butter per serving.
Turkey Divan Casserole
Transform boring leftovers into delicious comfort food with this #QuickFixCasserole.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 2-quart casserole dish, layer the cooked rice, the turkey, and the broccoli.
Melt 3 Tbsp. of Country Crock in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour, poultry seasoning, and nutmeg. Slowly add the half & half, whisking continuously. Continue to stir until no lumps remain. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over top of casserole.
Melt 1 Tbsp. of Country Crock and stir in the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over top of dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with a crisp salad.
This recipe can be prepped ahead of time. Let it come to room temperature before baking.
By Carol Bancroft, www.puresugar.net
Pure Sugar http://puresugar.net/
You know it’s good when the kids just about clean the dish! (And yes, I did finish off the last few bites.) For more #QuickFixCasseroles, be sure to check out Country Crock on Pinterest. (And try not to drool all over your keyboard!)
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.