School has been out for almost three weeks now, and all I can say is, “Thank goodness my husband is home, too!” I’m not quite sure how it’s possible, but I’m more busy now that they’re home for a relaxing summer vacation than I was when they were in school. Needless to say our busy summer needs some help.
Every morning, I’m waking up at 6:45 (and I am not a morning person) so I can get dressed and move my car before contractors working on our garage arrive. My friend’s kids arrive shortly thereafter since she has to work, and I generously volunteered to drive them each morning since we’re going anyway. My husband takes the boys to the middle school, while I drive the girls to the elementary school – since of course they both start at the same time.
That gives me almost three hours to get all my work done for the day. Little Miss begged to sign up for a gymnastics camp a friend recommended, so the last two weeks, I’ve been picking her up early from summer school to drive her to the camp that’s over a half hour away. And even with me picking her up early, we’re still hustling to get there. Fortunately, there isn’t a big pickup line yet so I can get in and out in a hurry.
Lucky her, she gets to eat lunch in the car. Me? I’m still waiting until I get home. I’m not comfortable eating while driving for safety reasons. Eating on the run isn’t the best thing to do, but when there’s no room between activities, sometimes you have to make do. And honestly, each day Little Miss is thrilled to see what yummy treat I’ve brought for her to enjoy. The trick is feeding my starving, growing nine year old who does hours of gymnastics at a time. And feeding her foods that won’t make a mess in my car? At least I’ve gotten creative there!
Did I mention that camp that’s over a half hour away lasts for just two and a half hours. By the time I get home, I have a little over an hour to ensure Mister Man has done everything he needs to do and gotten ready for the basketball camp he has been doing. I drop him off before heading back to gymnastics to pick up Little Miss and drive her to her next activity.
Here’s the thing. I don’t overschedule my kids. It’s important to me that they have downtime. Unfortunately, everything they want to do this summer happens at the same time in June, so it’s been crazy. So long as they’re loving it at happy, I’ll let them do this. When Little Miss’s gymnastics camp is over, the first week I drove her to the annual evening Girl Scout camp that’s 45 minutes in the opposite direction, and last week I headed to her regular gymnastics practice. I don’t get home until 4:30, by which point my husband and Mister Man are already asking what’s for dinner. Fortunately, I can get that done before I have to turn around and pick up Little Miss from gymnastics at 7:15.
Can you say busy summer?
Here’s the thing. I still love to cook and bake. So last week, I made a mistake. I had a craving for macaroni and cheese, so I decided to make it from scratch for lunch. No biggie, right? I didn’t want to eat it at 11:15am, so I decided I’d just whip it up when I got home from dropping Little Miss at gymnastics camp. Silly me.
I started browning my bacon for it (because tomato bacon mac and cheese? Yes, please!). As I started on the cheese sauce for the homemade mac and cheese, Mister Man needed help on the math he was doing. The stove went off, and I spent twenty minutes walking him through the math. It’s a good thing I enjoy math myself, right?
Fortunately, I was able to get back on track and start back with my homemade mac and cheese. I made the sauce, boiled the pasta, and assembled it. Then I took a look at the clock. Magically, time had flown, and it was 2:20, which meant I had to leave in just a few minutes to pick up Little Miss from that gymnastics camp. Without lunch. I got to see if and smell it and look at it, but not actually eat it.
I sighed and tossed the mac and cheese into the oven, reminding my husband that he had to take it out when the timer went off because I wouldn’t be home yet. Have I mentioned that not eating makes me cranky?
When I got home, I ate some of that amazing macaroni and cheese, but I was beyond starving and then wasn’t hungry for dinner later. The next day, I got smart. After I dropped Little Miss at gymnastics, I made a quick side trip to the Walmart on my way home (doesn’t everyone have Walmart on the way home?) and picked up something that would give me a taste of homemade without the required time that I so obviously don’t have right now. Why I can never remember this at the start of each summer, I don’t know.
As I was searching (quickly) for something that piqued my interest, I noticed the new LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace meals. They come in organic, high protein, and gluten free varieties, and I couldn’t stop with just one. Nope, I had to pick up a few different options. After all, not only is summer long but with my husband heading to China next week for the next five and a half weeks, it’s going to stay just as busy. I need some help!
The LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese is “made with organic pasta,” something I love to see, and it’s ready in six minutes. Microwave on high for 2 and a half minutes, stir, cook again for another minute and a half and let it sit for another minute.
Do you know what I can do in that short time? I can make great little salad to accompany my LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. So not only did I get to eat by 1:15 instead of 4:30, but I added some nice veggies to my meal to round it out perfectly. Yep, this is the new strategy when I’m craving mac and cheese during my busy summer. Added bonus? I didn’t heat up my house with the stove and oven on for so long either.
Having learned from my mistake, I enjoyed other LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace meals for the rest of last week. There were so many options out there that it’s hard to choose just one. Or three. Or five. Spicy black beans and rice? Cheese tortellini in roasted red pepper sauce? Pomegranate chicken? Sweet Sriracha braised beef? Comfort chicken in sweet bbq sauce? Spicy beef and bean enchilada? Fortunately, it’s not just a busy summer, it’s a long one, too!
I love that there are such protein packed options available, as I need my meals to keep me going mentally and physically with this schedule! They’re so tasty, too. I loved the mix of flavors in the sweet and spicy Korean style beef. My husband kept trying to steal some, but I successfully fended him off. Apparently, I have to feed him, too. He enjoyed his nibble, and he’s already talking about how he plans to use these for lunch at school next year. They’re less expensive than the school lunches he usually buys, and I’d rather he eat these – definitely tastier!
The gluten free spicy beef and bean enchilada was another winner. Like the Korean style beef, the enchilada is fork tender, so I can eat it one handed. Why do I care? I can get more of my work done (and shhh eat while working) instead of standing at the stove and stirring all afternoon.
If you have six minutes to spare in your busy summer schedule, you can enjoy a meal just as quick and tasty as I have and with a side salad and homemade dressing to complete it. It’s easy and delicious, and this is something anyone can do. I learned to make it as an eight year old in French summer camp.
Tear your lettuce and quickly wash it. Add it to your salad bowl, and pop in some grape tomatoes. Add other veggies if you choose – sliced carrot, cucumber, broccoli, or whatever you choose. I’ll often add in some protein with a couple slices of sliced salami, but not always. Make your dressing and pour it on top, saving the rest for your next meal. Voila – lunch in six minutes and no cranky moms because there was no time to cook and eat lunch with the busy summer schedules we all keep.
- 1 T dijon mustard
- 3 T balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/4 t pepper
- 1/3 c olive oil
- Add your mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Use a fork to whisk together until incorporated.
- While whisking, slowly add your olive oil and continue mixing until the oil is all added and the vinaigrette has thickened.
- Use immediately or store in in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. If using after refrigerated, shake well before opening and using to ensure it's still emulsified.