Okay I admit it…call it the calm after the storm, or just pure craziness.  Call it whatever you want…the truth is, it is now October and I finally feel that as a mother I am getting the school year routine down.  Getting the kids out the door each morning, the practice schedules down, homework time in, and attending school meetings are all falling into place as is my weekly meal planning.  My kids might tell you that I am a bit of an “over planner”, but I’d like to think our household runs smoothly thanks to this trait of mine. Let’s face it my family and I would probably not eat dinner together most nights nor would their lunch boxes be full the next day if I didn’t take the time to plan our meals.

It’s difficult to come from work to home and try to figure out what’s for dinner, therefore my planning begins on Sunday.  Of course I take into account what’s in my fridge, and what needs to get used up, etc., then I go downstairs to my protein packed freezer.   There I pull out a couple nights worth of meat (chicken, fish, hamburgers, turkey breast, etc.) and get to planning.  Leftovers are inevitable, but they are also necessary in my house.  At least one weeknight is devoted to reusing our leftovers in a different way.  A few of our favorite dishes to reuse leftovers are chicken noodle soup, fish or chicken quesadillas, and spaghetti pie.

More importantly, I always make sure there is enough food leftover for my kids’ lunches.  Because my middle daughter Sarah is a Celiac, it is necessary for her to bring her own lunch to school daily.  She uses whatever leftovers we have plus adds extra fruit, vegetables, and grains.  Probably the biggest challenge Sarah has is finding healthy and filling gluten-free sources of protein.  That’s why always cooking with leftovers in mind is so valuable.  Some of my kids’ favorite things to pack in their lunches are leftover spaghetti and turkey meatballs, chicken quesadillas, plank salmon, chicken noodle soup, quinoa salad, potatoes, and many more.  I may be in charge of providing the lunch options, but my kids are definitely in charge of packing their own.  Working moms can’t do everything on their own, and it’s all part of teaching my kids to be self-sufficient and plan balanced meals.  With a thermos for warm soups, freezer packs for cold food, plenty of leftovers and disposable food such as apple sauce pouchespeanut butter packetshummus cups, and other healthy choices, my kids’ lunchboxes are ready to go. What’s on your dinner menu and hopefully in your kids’ lunchboxes for this week?

Red Quinoa Salad (gluten-free)

Yield: Makes 6 servings

I discovered the grain quinoa when my middle daughter, Sarah was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We were forced as a family to find healthy, gluten-free, protein alternatives. I prefer the red quinoa over the regular. Red Quinoa Salad is a perfect side to serve with any fish, chicken, or meat dish year round. And the best part is because the dressing is made from oil and vinegar, it will stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.


    Quinoa Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cups red quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cucumber, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup mint leaves
  • Dressing Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Rinse the quinoa in cold water, drain and repeat. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the strained and dried quinoa, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for 15 minutes, then remove from heat.

Place cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add diced cucumbers, red bell pepper, and green onions. Use a food processor to finely chop the cilantro, parsley, and mint, add to quinoa mixture.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour into quinoa mixture and use a spatula to mix all together. The longer the salad sits the more flavorful it will become. Salad will stay fresh in fridge for about 5 days.