10 low-sugar, real ingredient, kid-friendly packaged foods in my pantry

foodlets favorite packaged foods for kids

THAT’S RIGHT, I DON’T ALWAYS COOK EVERYTHING FROM SCRATCH. Most of our meals are made from fresh, whole ingredients but not every time. Anyone with small kids (and likely those without but who can even remember those days right now?) will run out of two things at some point: time and energy. Or maybe it’s just… 

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cheese ravioli with spinach and bacon

ravioli with spinach and bacon,  foodlets.com

SO, THERE WAS AN ICE STORM. One that I’ve never seen the likes of, though I don’t have a lot of experience in the extreme weather department. This one came on quickly and thoroughly. Overnight, every single tree in our part of North Carolina was neatly encased in ice. Then they started splitting, falling, and… 

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easy penne pasta with cauliflower, sausage & parmesan cheese

cauliflower penne pasta with sausage

IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY TO GET KIDS EATING veggies. Especially those with a funny smell when you cook ‘em. That’s right cauliflower, we’re talking about you. The good news is, we’ve discovered three ways to make cauliflower an easy sell at dinner. Roasted cauliflower, baked into macaroni and cheese, and this way right here. I… 

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finally, a chili recipe my kids will eat

chili parfaits, on foodlets.com

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF TRICKS to this one, though they’re both so simple that “tricks” makes these ideas sound more complicated than they are. Simple methods, why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before moves, that’s more like it. First, make some chili. Don’t put in too much cumin and skip the spicy chiles. Then swap a soup bowl for a… 

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ravioli with peas and pancetta

ravioli with peas and pancetta

A BOWL OF PASTA DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN TOMATO SAUCE. One of the easiest ideas I’ve learned from the Italians is to substitute traditional red sauce with something much simpler: extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Dinner’s on the table in 20 minutes, and it’s a really good… 

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Frittata with spinach, pancetta & ricotta (a Barefoot Contessa makeover)

spinach, peppers and pancetta fritatta

MY BIG INDULGENCE IN ITALY, other than one trip to the Gucci outlet and one million bowls of gelato (which was probably more expensive in the long run!), has been an international subscription to the Food Network magazine. I’ve definitely learned a lot from Italians when it comes to food, family and the combination of… 

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Sausage & sour cream pasta with peas…a Stroganoff-ish dinner idea

Stroganoff pasta in the pan

We’re on “vacation” this week, on the southern coast of Italy. It’s our first trip with all three rascals so I’m out of the kitchen. So far, I’d say everything is gorgeous and exhausting, sometimes both at once. Meanwhile, I saved up a couple of fresh ideas to post while we’re gone. Be back soon…trust… 

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no-cook dinner: antipasto with ham, cheese, breadsticks, melon and more…

proscutto e melone

IT’S BEEN OVER 90 DEGREES EVERY DAY in Rome for weeks. This is a normal summer in Italy but that doesn’t mean we’re not melting! Particularly those of us from the Pacific Northwest where it simply doesn’t do this. Ever. My Floridian husband, however, is soaking up the sun, humidity and all the heat for… 

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Homemade skillet pizza with pepperoni, salami and peppers

Pinch the pepperoni to add texture, pizza

BARBARA KINGSOLVER, in the gorgeous memoir, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle“, says her family eats pizza every Friday. Homemade pizza (her husband whips up the dough), and while toppings always vary, never having to think about “What’s for dinner?” just simplifies their week. I think it’s brilliant.

Beef & cheese quesadillas (with a secret good-for-you ingredient)

beef and cheese quesadillas

GRATE EVERYTHING, I say. That’s my philosophy for “Taco Night”, which has actually become quesadilla night–the one that’s easier to eat and less likely to fall on the floor wins in my house. And since our ethnic food offerings are spare in Rome, to say the least, these flour tortillas are much easier to find… 

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Straccetti, arugula salad with sizzling strips of steak and Parmesan cheese

Straccetti

THIS IS A CLASSIC ITALIAN MEAL, so naturally I’d never heard of it. That was before I moved to Rome and discovered that Italian food is more than pasta, tomatoes and cheese. (But they do that very well.) One of my favorite summer meals has turned out to be a version of the Big Salad… 

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Pesto shrimp pasta

Pesto Shrimp Pasta

I WAS EXHAUSTED. It turns out that having a toddler and a baby (plus a husband, house and job) is tiring. I just needed a quick dinner but it had to be healthy. We’d been relying too heavily on pizza around here, being Rome you can imagine how often this possibility comes up, and I was craving something more fresh. That’s when I saw these giant shrimp at the store. Sold!

Barefoot Contessa Makeover: Lemon chicken with pesto potato salad

Phoebe at the beach

WE’VE HAD A BREAKTHROUGH in the potato department. Never a fan of them, Phoebe actually said, “I ont aunt tatoes” when I was trying to play up tonight’s dinner—a tough task considering that we were swimming (aka, the most fun activity ever) just before the potato conversation. But potatoes it was. Only I added a… 

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