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Senior Contributor

Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Ladies, I could use your help! We are in the full swing of baseball season now, even though games don't start for another week. My 3 boys are each in a different league, so between them, we have practice or a game 6 days a week. The hardest days for me are M-W-F, when Jake has practice or a game. We have to leave the house around 5:00 and don't get home until after 7. I don't want to feed the kids a big meal at 4:30, and Jayson doesn't want Jake playing with a full stomach. But by the time we get home, it's almost bedtime and I don't want to feed everyone a big meal then either.

 

I'm trying to come up with quick, easy ideas so we can just walk in the door and eat. Salads are one idea, and bbq pulled pork in the crockpot. I would love to hear your ideas for super-quick or make-ahead meals! Thanks in advance!

 

~Lisa

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Honored Advisor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Lisa, give them a protein snack - cheese stick or something like that - at four-ish, to hold them.  No harm in a small fruit serving then, too...carbs are quick energy, but you can crash if that is all you consume

Peanut butter crackers can be a good snack, with protein and carbs.  Yogurt snacks can help some kids bridge that gap, too. 

I used to call the four to six p.m. part of day "Arsenic Hour," from a parenting book that wrote well about this time of day.  It was what taught me to have a small appetizer-type snack waiting for ours when they got off the bus. 

Pulled pork is my favorite go-to meal for these circumstances.  We had it yesterday, and so I felt free to ride to a kids' softball game to meet my daughter, who is keeping a young teenager while her mom's in the hospital right now. 

I need to gear up for haying season, starting as soon as the next rainy front passes, too....hmmm....chili?  Always a hit at my house.  Holds well in the crockpot, too. 

You can make spaghetti and stir in the sauce, then just scoop it up, like you would if it was a leftover.  I think we sometimes look at a mela as having to be served only one way, but we eat it as a leftover any way it survives the night.   

My family loves some sandwiches, like pastrami and Swiss on rye bread.  Fried chicken is actually better to me after it's cooled off - I LOVE it cold for a quick meal.  Have some potato salad or a fruit salad for a side. 

Chicken salad or egg salad for sandwiches is good, if they like those.  We like them best on toast, but those new sandwich thins can get you around that for a timesaver. 

I also love meatloaf for a quick meal, and some people really like meatloaf sandwiches.  Grilled cheese is always a family favorite here, but better in cold weather, I think...needs to be made at mealtime, so perhaps not best for this purpose. 

I made a sausage/potato/apple casserole last week, and it was very good.  Sliced two different spicy sausages crosswise into "coins" (I used anduoille and a chicken & jalapeno one, but you can just use kielbasa ro amked sausage), browned them a bit in the bottom of a large Dutch oven on the stovetop, with a chopped onion.  I added some cubed potatoes in the skin (I used colored fingerlings, but any decent potato will do), plus some chunks of apples. 

The original recipe calls for sauerkraut, but I substituted a jar of pickled red cabbage on top, and then poured in one beer.  Made it a bit sweeter than the kraut version.  I sprinkled some Caraway seed on, too, but that was an afterthought. 

Set the covered pot in a 250 degree oven for four hours...this would have been a good recipe for a Romertoff clay cooker, too.  It cooks into the most delicious meal, and smells wonderful cooking.  We ate it for three suppers in one week...one of those that gets better the second day. 

There are a lot of things that are good just heated up or served out of the crockpot and spooned over rice, too.  We are on a jag of tiny carrots, celery sticks and other raw veggies with a good dip...kids like this most times, too.   Ants on a log (peanut butter stuffed celery stalks with raisins on top) are another way to skin the cat. 

There is no rule that says that kids need their calories all in three sittings.  It's fine to have a snack at four, then a light supper at seven or eight.  I use a yogurt smoothie at about three in the afternoon when I plan to train at 5:30, then have a light supper when I get home around seven. 

A small slice of banana nut bread, or pumpkin bread...a scone, muffin  or biscuit - anything light is traditional, as if for high tea - is something I will grab if I am on the road.  I even carry a couple of Oatmeal to go bars in the car for a quick pick-me-up. 

We are studying nutrition in A&P right now.  It is interesting to see the lagtimes between eating a meal, to when the liver will start to use its own stash of glycogen, to when the skeletal muscles will start to kick in their converted glucose stores, through several metabolic stages of conversion, to where the body starts to literally consume its own muscle to feed the brain.  Fascinating, and explains so much about hunger and energy. 

Four hours is about when the liver starts to contribute stored glucose (glycogen) after most meals.  The liver can keep you going for about four more...then the next stage of transfer starts.   If your boys are having a noon lunch, they will naturally be hungry by about four. 

There are lots of ways to stave off that starving feeling, without burdening the GI tract with a whole meal to digest.  Jayson is right that you do not want the bloodstream directed towards absorption of a big meal during an athletic event.  Circulation is diverted to the guts during digestion, which robs skeletal muscles and can make you even drowsy, or at least not as sharp as you need to be at shortstop.   Still, they may well  need some energy boost for the activity. 

I vote for breaking up what you might consider a typical supper into an easily-digestible snack before, and a small supper after the practices and games. 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Great suggestions ... and your sausage dish sounds yummy! The kids get off the bus at 4, and I usually give them a snack then, so that holds them over until after practice. Their favorite treat is a whole wheat tortilla with some PB spread on, wrapped around a banana. Sounds strange, but it's really good! Sometimes we sprinkle some raisins in there too.

 

I'm going to make a list of these quick meals and get stocked up with the needed supplies. Looking forward to what everyone suggests!

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

After school Cale begins to gather up his 4 o'clock meal...he says it is his most hungry part of the day!

 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

I like a glass of chocolate milk or a single serve container of yogurt after work. Keep a chest full of cold water bottle in the vehicle that you transport the kids. Saves time between games and they may also be dehydrated getting off the bus. I like a ham sandwich. Just pick up some extra mayo packets next time you eat out so it can be applied right before eating.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Kay's sausage dish reminded me of a simpler one.  Pretty much the same with sausage & potatoes & onions browned & mixed together.  Sometimes add a little cheese.  Oven or crock pot.  Plain old hamburgers can be done ahead & put on top of potatoes in the crock pot.  What about walk along chili or tacos?  Make up your favorite beef filling or taco, place on top of a small bag of corn chips with cheese.  You can just make an x in the back of the bag & add the filling & cheese.  The kids might like those.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Ham sandwiches...HEAVEN!   Our problem here is, hardly any stores carry country ham in the deli anymore.  For just us two, cooking a whole ham is a huge commitment, so I just like to buy sliced deli product. 

The point about water is excellent...many times, we are dehydrated and all it takes is a cup or two of water to set the world right.  I've read and beleive that it's true:  If you feel thirsty, you are already a bit low on water in your system.  That is the body's way of asking for some fluid intake. 

Fresh fruit is a great way to increase water intake and deal with energy and hunger at once.  I've served whole platters of fruit in hot weather, and Mike always says it makes him stay hydrated better than other choices.  A nice baggie of fresh fruit chunks or orange slices to carry along could be a good way to fill them with energy for the game. 

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Here is a Hot Ham and Cheese recipe that is really easy and can be made ahead of time.  It's not low fat by any means but you can adjust and play as you see fit.

Get a pound to a pound and half of shaved ham and cut into pieces.  I normally just take it and fold and cut, nothing fancy just make it smaller then the slice.

Then take 1 lb of Velveeta cheese, 1 stick of butter, and half a can of evaporated milk.  Cut the cheese into chunks for better melting, put everything into 1 bowl and melt in the microwave until melted or really soft.  Transfer everything to the crockpot and pour over the ham.  Stir together, put on low, let cheese finish melting.  By the time you get back you'll have sandwhiches for the crew.

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Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Tortillas had barely made the scene when our kids were coming along, so I forget to utilize them much...but you have a great idea in using them - or any other flatbread - for a carry-along snack or quick meal.  Wonder how it would be to roll up some ham and cheese with condiments in one, for example.  You certainly see them used for chicken salad and other fillings a lot now. 

I like the flatbreads that are whole grain.  Also love Doctor Kracker flatbreads, although they are really hard, crunchy, so might not be as good with young kids.  Mike likes them a lot, and I LOVE them, since I really like to chew on seeds.  I order them from amazon, but Walmart carries them in the deli here, too. 

Pita pockets used to be popular, but you don't see them as much now.  Choice of filling seemed to either make or break them.  I've had some truly wonderful sandwiches on bagels, too.  A bagel is tough enough to travel well, and sweeter ones like blueberry or cinnamon raisin are great with cream cheese or peanut butter, too. 

This thread reminded me of one thing I did with the kids sometimes when Mike was working second shift.  I would fill the lazy Susan on the kitchen table with small dishes of appetizers like chunks of fruit, cheese, and ham, and then give each kid a fancy toothpick and a saucer.  Mine loved carrot sticks and slices of cucumber, etc., and some dip, too. 

It was essentially a "heavy bites" buffet.  We called this "Toothpick Supper."  It taught them how to conduct themselves in certain social settings, too...no "double dipping."  They loved it for a change of pace, and I loved not having to cook once in a while.  If the tray is ready in the refrigerator, it's a five-second wait to eat, which is about all three hungry boys can stand, I am sure. 

We still have leftover nights, too.  You can use up a lot of bits and pieces of meal remnants by serving them all at once.  Slice a good loaf of bread and stretch this stuff.  

 

I made my first batch of pushup pops in those silicone molds yesterday, using the excess from my smoothie recipe...had extra overrripe bananas on hand, and so tossed in two extras and some additional yogurt.  Can't wait to try them today. 

I am getting myself set up to make some yogurt, too.  Will report back on that when I get a batch out. 

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Re: Help! Quick meal ideas needed!

Breakfast tacos' are also fast and easy. Scramble some eggs throw in some cheese and put on a tortilla.   That's if you don't want to brown the meat and go that route.  Salsa if they like it.

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