MOM! What's for DINNER????

School is officially in session! The third of my three had her first day of school today...I was excited to have a few hours (okay 1.5 because she's a toddler and only goes half days the first week) to myself, but it's also a bittersweet time.

Back to school means more hectic schedules, racing around in the morning, running to and fro getting children to activities, hoping you don't miss the bus, frantically packing lunches, and praying for early bedtimes. The lazy days of summer seem like a distant memory after just a week and half back in the action.

As my youngest is not even two, we are still very limited on extracurricular activities. This isn't because of lack of boys (and even the toddler) could have activities every afternoon/evening, but I just don't have enough energy or patience (and neither does my one year old) in this season of life to do more than one sport and one artsy activity per baseball and choir/kindermusik are what we've chosen for the Fall. This still puts us out of the house two or three nights during the week.

With these activities on the horizon, I am finding myself having to plan more intentionally for nightly meals. There's no throwing something together at the last minute or prepping something early to then cook for dinner. Activities are often right in the middle of dinnertime, which makes it very difficult to get kids healthy dinners to the table each night.

I have been asked a few times recently for suggestions on easy week night meals for on-the-go families. Here is what I have come up with:

Pork Cubanos

(1) Sandwiches don't have to be boring!!
No one ever said there was anything wrong with PB&J for dinner! Yes, this isn't super exciting, but sandwiches are always a great option. Turkey or PB&J are great for on the go, and there are lots of varieties of sandwiches that are a little more satisfying to my palate and just as easy to make. Two of my favorites are:
Tomato & Mozzarella with Pesto Mayo on Ciabatta and

Leftover Pork Cubanos.

(2) The crockpot is your friend. 
Gone are the days of the cream of whatever soup over chicken over rice in the crockpot...not that those recipes aren't delicious, but there is SO much more that you can do to make a yummy meal with this amazing machine doing the bulk of the work. Here are a couple of my Go-To Crockpot Meals:

Crockpot Chicken with White Wine Sauce (I made a very similar meal from 100 Days of Real Food last night that was enjoyed by all!)

Pork Verde Tacos (These are always a hit and super easy to throw together in a flash.)

(3) Soups are easy to make ahead of time and heat up right when you're ready to eat.
A couple of my stand-bys are:
Quinoa and Sweet Potato Turkey Chili (I still can't believe how my kids gobble this up each time I make it.)

Crockpot Chicken & Black Bean Soup:
Crockpot Black Bean and Chicken Soup: from my friend Stacey
4 chicken breasts
2 (15oz) cans black beans
2 (15oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 cans cream of chicken soup (or use this substitution)
1 can diced green chiles
1 cup salsa
Combine all ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours.
Serve atop tortilla chips and top with sour cream and shredded cheddar.

NOTES: If you have a crockpot, a can opener, and 5 minutes in the morning, you have time to make this delicious meal!  Honestly, it takes more time to clean out the cans for recycling than it does to prepare this dinner :)

(4) Pizza! 
You can certainly order a pizza, but it is really fun to keep ingredients on hand to throw together your favorite pies during the week. Two of my favorite alternatives to regular old pizza are:

Chicken Stromboli and

Mini Shrimp Calzones

I would LOVE to hear from you all to see what you're doing to make these school nights a little easier for everyone. Best of luck with getting back into the swing of things!!!

Happy Cooking!

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