Get Ready for Back to School with Katie Workman
We’re happy to welcome back our Cool Food Panelist, Katie Workman as she arms us with kid-friendly recipes and ideas that are perfect for the Back to School season!
Parents greet the end of summer and the beginning of the school year with mixed emotions (the kids’ emotions? Not so mixed). Obviously we’re sad to see summer end, sorry to lose the longer, less structured days. But there’s an energy to back-to-school time, a feeling of a fresh start. We want to inject some fresh thinking into our weekday cooking, to make dinners that feel exciting, breakfasts that feel like a spirited start to the day and homemade snacks that the kids are going to be really happy to see after school!
For breakfast, having a package of puff pastry nestled in the freezer means that you can make a beautiful and substantial breakfast tart any day of the week. Puff pastry is one of those ingredients that feels very special, but it’s so convenient and easy to handle. Check out the Puff Pastry Breakfast Egg Tarts recipe for tips on how make the tart base ahead of time, so that weekday mornings can feel very special without setting the alarm too early. And, I can’t imagine my fridge without a couple dozen of eggs, which feature prominently (and adorably, I have to say) in this tart, and in breakfasts several mornings a week. We are a HUGE egg family—eggs are the perfect intersection of high-quality protein, value, flavor and convenience.
And of course, some boxes of frozen vegetables are a must have for weekday cooking—always ready-to-go, a no-brainer of a shortcut to quick, nutritious family meals. Here, a box of spinach becomes a flavorful layer in the tart AND packs in a ton of fiber, vitamin A, iron and calcium. That’s a lot of nutritional bang for your buck to start the day! The tart gets topped with a hefty sprinkle of shredded cheese, which is another ingredient I can’t imagine not having in the fridge—the convenience factor is amazing, and I couldn’t count the number of dishes that I end up making better with the addition of shredded cheese.
It’s also so nice to have something special to offer the kids and their friends when they get home from those first few days of school, or on a day where there was a test or maybe right before a performance. Homemade blintzes are such a treat, and much easier than you’d think to make—check out my recipe for Fruit and Cheese Blintzes and see for yourself. The simple crepe batter has only a handful of ingredients, as does the filling and the sauce. The incredible, versatile egg is featured again in both the crepes and the filling, and the inside of the blintz is stuffed with a creamy, sweet, dairy protein-filled mixture of cottage cheese and sour cream. Many of us love a bowlful of cottage cheese, and certainly think to dollop sour cream on everything from a baked potato to a soup, but do remember that they are also great ingredients in all kinds of recipes. And, the whole thing really comes together with a vibrant sweet-tangy raspberry sauce. Frozen berries are always in season, and whether you grab them for a smoothie, or a fool or this sauce, you’ll be very pleased to have a couple of bags or boxes in the freezer.
And while these recipes are two serious treats, when I’m strapped for time during the week, between the kid stuff and work, I sometimes don’t have the time or energy to make these full recipes. But, if I have the frozen products on-hand, I can put together any number of quick and easy meals or snacks by adding just a few simple ingredients. Here are some of my favorite combinations:
- Frozen puff pastry + thinly sliced zucchini + crumbled feta + herbs = adorable flaky tart
- Frozen spinach + onions + rice + Parmesan cheese = pretty and healthy side dish
- Frozen berries + banana + orange juice + honey + crushed ice = fruity smoothie
So the summer may be drawing to a close, but you can soften the blow with a great breakfast and a great snack. It’s hard to complain about school with your mouth full!