Lunch Ideas Kids Love

Ok, Ok, I know I am supposed to be a dinner strategist (self proclaimed) but as a parent I have to delve into the lunch arena on daily basis. I try to put myself in my daughters shoes and make lunch extra special. I just remember lunch being my favorite subject (YES) at school. It was the only time, other than recess, where I could talk freely with my friends, express myself and fuel my body. My parents didn’t make my lunch, I had free lunch, so I ate whatever was on the line. My favorite day was usually pizza or nacho day. Whew – I went way back. After two years of making lunch, I will now share some things I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t worry if you give your kids sandwiches everyday.

I read so many blog posts were parents try to re-invent lunch. I have seen everything from black bean tacos, to mediterranean slaw, to cold chicken wings. Some of it looked great – for me. I just wasn’t so sure if my picky 5-year old would enjoy any of it. My fix – I bought a lot of crust cutters and made fun shapes with bread and cold cuts. It delighted her. Soon she started making special requests. She’d say, “I would like a dolphin today.” Sometimes I do change it up. I have substituted the sandwich for a hotdog, wrap or rolled meat and cheese bites.

Come up with fun ways to inject veggies.

42930182-83f9-43d4-aea6-e14e49abcc0dSometimes I worry that my daughter isn’t getting a well-rounded meal. Besides dinner, she didn’t eat many veggies. In order to rectify this, I got a vegetable spiral slicer to make fun spirals out of carrots and zucchini. I would post a pic but the spirals are quickly consumed.

Find fun fruits.

I always try to inject fun fruits into my daughters lunch box. This week I bought a starfruit. She loved it. I did, however, have to watch a YouTube instructional video to cut and serve it. It came out great, although she ate it before I could get it in her lunch box. I also mix and match fruits to add variety. My favorite fruit for her are raspberries because she promptly puts them on all her fingers and waves at me.

Add a treat. Don’t skip this.

I always try to add a treat as an incentive for my daughter to eat all of her food. Most times I add a cookie or Hershey kiss but lately I have been making fun trail mix. She really likes it and it breaks up the lunch monotony. I normally make it out of whatever I have on hand (candy, nuts, dried fruit) and add it to a plastic baggie.

Don’t always expect a thank you.


Sad to say but this can be so true. My parting advice is to not expect a thank you…but sometimes kids surprise you with thanks and kisses! I can spend 15 precious minutes customizing the perfect lunchbox and my daughter may say, “can I order lunch instead,” or “can I have a lunchable.” It doesn’t hurt my feelings any longer. I am happy knowing she has the best lunch during the best part of her day.

Pork Loin Tacos

Ok so I am posting my last leftover recipe for pork loins because (1) I used all my pork loin and (2) my family will disown me. I did have fun re-inventing pork loins for four days. Transforming leftovers is one of my favorite things to do. Depending on what I have in the fridge, tacos are my number one “go-to” dish to flip leftovers. In this case, I had left over pork loin, but I normally use whatever I have. I’ve also done this with leftover chicken and beef.

dinnerstrategies pork loin

I chop up my leftovers into small pieces, season them and sauté them in a skillet along with cooked onions and taco seasoning. I have actually made taco seasoning from scratch – but not this time. Just a couple of simple, fresh, and in some cases canned additions can give pork loins a whole new flavor. Usually the finished product in no way resembles the original dish.

I usually don’t have time, patience or tools to make my own taco shells so I use store bought. I found these amazing store-bought taco shells at a new Sprout Grocery store that opened in my neighborhood.  I will try to use these often because they taste amazing and authentic.


I just lightly fried them on each side and served the tacos alongside some fresh salsa and corn, cheese, canned pineapples, sour cream and sliced avocado.

I must admit, pork loin is more exciting as tacos. And I can finally use my left over cilantro. My recipe card says 1 cup but I put as much in my food as possible. I am the biggest cilantro fan.

This meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare. I am always short on time, so anything I can do to get food on the table fast is a win-win for me. Try it and let me know how it worked out.

Click the links to see the original  pork loin crock pot meal I made a couple of days ago.  You can probably make some spanish rice to go with it.

taco receipe card

Watch this easy video for more. Happy cooking!

Continue reading “Pork Loin Tacos”

Pork Loin 2.0

This left over recipe is an easy way to re-enjoy all that extra pork loin still in the fridge.  I know the deal, it’s not as exciting as the first night but it is too much to throw away.  Well hopefully this post can change your perception of that old piece of pork.

I actually eat leftovers quite often and have learned a lot.  My #1 piece of advice is – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER – use a microwave to re-heat food.  It sucks the life right out of already lifeless leftovers.  If you put a day old pork roast in the microwave, good luck trying to chew it.  It will be like chewing rubber.

When I re-heat meat, I normally cook it on the stovetop in the juices it was originally cooked in.  If you don’t have original juices, the next best option is to cook it in either a stock (chicken or beef) or a wine/bouillon cube mixture (a bouillon cube add to cooking wine).  This usually re-energizes the flavor, moistens it, and makes it edible.

Best of all, this is the quickest thing you will probably make all week.  Let’s face it, we are all short on time, so this technique is definitely a winning dinner strategy that will allow you to spend more time at the table and less time in the kitchen.  Try it and let me know how it worked out.

Click the links to see the squash side dish and original  pork loin crock pot meal I made a couple of days ago.  You will definitely want to pair it with something special.

Recipe Card

Adobe Spark

Watch this easy video for more. Happy cooking!

Continue reading “Pork Loin 2.0”

5 Spices To Elevate Your Skills In The Kitchen

Herbs and spices have a wide range of health benefits.  They can relieve inflammation, fight oxidation and much more.  But most importantly, they can make a bland meal into a bling meal.  By strategically adding a few spices to your food, you can make your food taste a lot better.

Furthermore, using herbs and spices to flavor your food has several benefits such as:

  1.  Consuming less salt.  This lowers your risk of high blood pressure
  2.  Losing weight. Spicy foods make you feel satiated and can help burn calories
  3.  Increased heart health.  Certain herbs and spices can reduce inflammation, which in turn, may reduce heart disease

My top five favorite spices:

  1. Oregano.  Oregano is so versatile that it can be used in almost any dish.  I grow mine fresh and I use it for pesto sauces.  Most recently, I added it to an aioli sauce that I slathered on mini sliders – so good.  This hard-working spice can also be added as a topping to pizza and chicken meals as well.  Sometimes I rub it on red meat and chicken before cooking to give it a head start on flavor.  Best uses – Sprinkle it in pizza as an extra topping, mix it in salad dressing or sprinkle it on fish and poultry before or after cooking.
  2. Saffron.  While saffron is not as versatile as oregano or many of the other spices on this list, it still packs quite a punch.  I mainly use it to add a slightly bitter- mild sweet – flavor to Indian, African, and Spanish meals.  Best uses – Add it to paella, risotto, plain yellow rice, and vegetable stews.  Remember that a little goes a long ways – seriously!
  3. Garlic.  This next spice needs no introduction as it is probably the hardest working spice on the planet.  On top of all of its obvious health benefits, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-viral, it is a no-brainer when it comes to taste.  You can easily add it to almost any pasta or salad, meat and poultry dish you choose.  Although it may have a strong pungent odor, the taste and health benefits are to phenomenal to ignore.  Best uses – Everything as there are very few recipes I have that don’t include a bit of garlic to.  Heap ( I love a lot of garlic) it on soups, salads and roasts.
  4. Ginger.  Ginger is another one of my favorite spices.  The sweet and savory flavor of ginger is awesome with vegies, soups, and stir-fry.  If I have it, I even add ginger to a warm cup of tea.  Best uses – My favorite is adding ginger to either chicken or beef stir-fry.  I try not to use to much because not everyone in my household is a fan.
  5. Cumin.  Last but not least, my last go-to spice is cumin.  With cumin, you get a lot of bang for your buck.  It’s rich, peppery and nutty can be used in a variety of ways, from a chicken rub to popcorn toppings. It lends a great flavor to stews and soups, sauces, beans, and tacos, as well. Best uses – this is definitely a staple in any Mexican dish I cook.   I feel like it gives my Mexican dishes an authentic, yet bold flavor.  In order to get the most out of the spice’s flavor, make sure to use seeds that are freshly ground.Those are my five favorites but there are sooooo many more to choose from.  Just a few quick tips before I go – keep the lid on spices to prevent moisture from seeping in and keep track of when you buy your spices so you know when to replace them (they age and lose flavor after about three years).

Couponing: Is It Worth It?


So bottom line up front – FOR ME, the answer is a definitive no, but there have been a few times when I wasn’t so sure. The first time I questioned my aversion to coupons was at a pharmacy. Just as I was about to part with a ridiculous amount of money for a random, over-priced item, a woman behind me asked me if I needed a coupon. As I accepted her offer, I looked back to find her calmly flipping through an indexed, sheet protected, pink coupon binder. I was impressed. I was so impressed that I had to question my disdain for couponing. Time number two occurred at work while I was listening to a co-worker espouse the benefits of couponing. He bragged that he and his wife saved hundreds of dollars a year clipping coupons. Again, I was impressed but I was quickly vindicated when he disclosed that he had to stockpile all the stuff he and his wife purchased for use at a later date. I was not impressed with stockpiling. I dislike the idea of using a coupon to save a mere quarter on two or more pricey bottles of dish detergents that would take me a year to use.

Despite my issues, I did do some research. I am proud to say that I dug deep and delved into the underbelly of the couponing industry (…yes it’s an industry) and I learned all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of couponing.

• The Good: Average coupon values are $2.00 and offers last at least 7 weeks

• The Bad: 23% of coupons require you to purchase two or more items

• The ugly: Savings can quickly disappear with impulse purchases and no strategy

In order for couponing to work, you must have a coupon strategy. The key to success is to make your grocery list based on the coupons you have and you can soar where others have failed.

As a Food Strategist, I can attest that there are much better ways to save money. Look at my example below:


• An online coupon for a name brand 8 oz. box of bread crumbs is $1.99 after a one dollar off coupon

• A generic 15 oz. bread crumb canister is $1.49 with no coupon

By the numbers, the generic option yields better results without the work of couponing. Generic options can really save money, especially when you can’t really tell the difference between name brand counterparts.

So to reiterate, couponing is not for me but it works for some. Maybe you can try your own experiment to see what works for you.