The Scramblog

Making Healthy Family Dinners Happen with Less Time, Money and Stress.

Getting Your Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches: Mistakes I’ve Made and How I’ll be Doing it Differently This Year

My kids go to a school where there is no cafeteria, so we have to pack lunches every. single. day. And while my husband is in charge of school day breakfasts, I still have the task of overseeing school lunches. Last year, when they were in 2nd and 4th grades, I decided that it was time for the boys to start packing their own lunches. There were definitely days when it didn’t go as planned, days when I threw up my hands and just packed the lunches because otherwise the boys never would have left on time, but for much of the year, they successfully pulled their own lunches together every day. And it was awesome. So now that we have done it for a year in my house, I wanted to share the lessons that I have learned and thoughts on what I will do differently this year.How to get your kids to pack their own lunchesBe clear on expectations, then step backBefore the school year started, I shared The Scramble’s lunch packing printable chock full of lunch packing ideas with...

5 Tricks to Make Breakfast a Breeze

We’re a family of breakfast eaters—some out of passion for the meal (my youngest and my husband) and some out of necessity (my eldest and me). For my eldest and me, breakfast is not our favorite meal, but we both fall apart without it so we’ve had to figure out ways to make it work for us. Even on the best of mornings, though, our family rarely has more than 15 minutes to make breakfast happen, so we have come up with a lot of tricks to make it work.5 Tricks to Make Breakfast a Breeze1) Make-aheadOne weekend morning a week, I try to prepare a big batch of a make-ahead breakfast of some sort. My family gets to enjoy the breakfast that morning and we freeze the leftovers for upcoming weekday mornings. These include muffins, breakfast sandwiches, burritos, waffles, pancakes, and frittatas. Did you know that for the past year The Scramble has been sharing a make-ahead breakfast option as part of the weekly meal plan? Plus, if you sign up or renew now, you’ll also...
  Jul 29, 2018  Easy Family Dinner, Family Dinner

My Husband/Wife Gets Home Too Late for Family Dinner

Quite possibly, my favorite workshop to give is Raising Healthy Eaters: How to Win the Mealtime Wars. I love it because I get to talk directly to parents about all the struggles that come with feeding our families: negotiations with picky eaters, guilt about not feeding everyone enough fruits and vegetables, exhaustion that can come with preparing multiple meals to please everyone, the list goes on and on. At every workshop there is always a parent who raises their hand and says, “that’s great and everything, but my kids need to go to bed early and my husband/wife doesn’t get home until too late for family dinner, what do I do?” Here in the Washington, DC area at least, this is a big issue. Parents work long hours and yet kids, especially the little ones, need to get to bed at a reasonable hour. So how do you do dinner as a family? Even as someone who highly values family dinners, this was an issue in my own family when my kids were smaller. Here is how we handled...

Summer Sausage, Sage, and Eggplant Stew

Plump purple eggplants at the farmer’s market were the inspiration for this summer stew. It is wonderful served on top of pasta, cous cous, or rice, or you can even just have some crusty bread on the side. Scramble recipe tester Kathryn Howell Dalton said, “My husband, who does not care for eggplant, just cleaned his plate.” Watch Jessica make this Summer Sausage, Sage, and Eggplant Stew on Facebook Live.Summer Sausage, Sage, and Eggplant StewPrep + Cook Time: 30 Minutes, Makes 6 servings 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 10 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced1 lb. chicken or meatless sausage, any variety (use wheat/gluten-free, if needed), sliced, or use 15 oz. canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed1 small eggplant, diced (about 1 lb.)1/2 yellow onion, diced1/2 red bell pepper, diced1 tomato, diced (about 1 lb.)1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste1/4 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
In a Dutch oven or...

Why Grocery Lists Matter and How to Make Them Work for You

This summer, our weekends have been packed with fun outings, events, and visits. It has been an absolute joy to connect with friends and family, go on adventures with our kids, and enjoy the warm weather. It has also meant, however, that my usual habit of making our meal plan on Saturdays and going food shopping first thing Sunday mornings hasn’t happened as consistently. While being flexible every once in a while is great, these weeks of getting off my game have reminded me of the importance of our plan and list because I have ended up making more last minute trips to the store for forgotten items and impulse buys—that’s time and money wasted! But let’s be honest, pulling together a grocery list every week can feel like a bit of a chore, so here are some ways to make the process simpler and your grocery shopping faster and more economical.How to Make Your Grocery List Work for You
  1. Keep a running list. As soon as a staple runs out, put it on your list. I keep...

Warm Chicken Salad with Mixed Greens

Salads like this can be such a satisfying meal on a hot summer evening. Another benefit is that when a salad is as loaded with different tastes and textures like this one, it can become more accessible for kids who can eat the parts they like and maybe try a bite or two of the parts they aren't so sure about. If your kids flat our refuse to eat salad, you can leave some chicken and corn plain (defrost extra corn) for them to eat separately. If you have leftover chicken from a previous meal, this is a great opportunity to use it up. Watch Jessica make the salad on Facebook Live.Warm Chicken Salad with Mixed GreensPrep + Cook Time: 30 Minutes, Makes 6 servings 1 - 1 1/2 lb. chicken tenderloins, or use sliced mushrooms8 oz. balsamic vinaigrette dressing, (store-bought or homemade, see Note below)8 oz. mixed salad greens 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries 1/2 cup slivered almonds or shelled pistachios, lightly toasted if desired10 fresh basil or mint...

Cashew Garlic Tofu (or Chicken) with Sugar Snap Peas

I think I never make a stir-fry sauce the same way twice.  That flexibility is one of the creative things about making a stir-fry. You can switch out the ingredients based on what you have in your ‘fridge or what you like most. If you want a sauce that’s slightly less sweet, replace one of the tablespoons of hoisin sauce in this recipe with soy sauce. Serve it with steamed white or brown rice. Watch Jessica make Cashew Garlic Tofu with Sugar Snap Peas on Facebook Live.Cashew Garlic Tofu (or Chicken) with Sugar Snap PeasPrep + Cook= 30 Minutes 1 lb. extra-firm tofu or boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces, drained if using tofu1 Tbsp. cornstarch 1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce (use wheat/gluten-free, if needed) 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced1/2 yellow onion, chopped3 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced8 oz. sugar snap peas, or use trimmed and halved green beans2 Tbsp. hoisin...

Feeding a Crowd Without Ordering Pizza

Before kids, meeting out at bars and restaurants or hosting dinner parties were the ways that my husband and I most often socialized and we loved it. When kids came along, however, something changed: somehow meeting friends at a restaurant with toddlers in tow just wasn’t as relaxing and intricately planned three or four course meals that I cooked over a day or two just weren’t realistic. So we made a shift—we started hosting family gatherings at our house. These informal get-togethers were meant to give kids the space to run around and parents the time to actually catch up. But as the kids have gotten older this has also come to mean cooking for 15, 16, or even 20 people, which then begs the question: what do you cook if you have to feed a crowd but don’t want to order pizza?Feeding a Crowd Without Ordering PizzaFor me, I like to usually make one big main dish and then accompany it with various sides or toppings so that everyone can make the meal their own, even...

Road Trip Foods Everyone Will Love

It was wonderful to be back on Good Morning Washington this morning to share some of my favorite road trip foods everyone will love, along with some tips on how to make feeding everyone as easy as possible. https://youtu.be/wshNGlo7Q9k Here are the recipes that I shared:Spinach MuffinsWhen I first developed this spinach muffin recipe my younger son loved them so much that he asked if they could be made for his birthday cake! They are packed with spinach and sweetened with banana and just a little bit of sugar, so you can feel great about serving these to your friends and family. They also freeze well so they can be made ahead of time and then thrown into the bag as you run out the door (that way they will help keep your other foods cool as well!). Find the recipe here.Crunchy Rainbow WrapsThese wraps are easily portable, endlessly variable depending on what you have in your fridge, and pack an incredibly satisfying crunch with every bite. Find the recipe

How to Take Advantage of the Summer’s Bounty

Tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, okra, eggplant, peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, fresh herbs… the list of amazing fruits and vegetables available at the height of summer is staggering. Sure, we can get many of them at grocery stores year-round now that produce is shipped in from all over the world, but the freshness, flavor, and textures are never better than when they are in season right in your region. If you like to eat seasonally (which we at The Scramble strive to help you to do by providing meal plans that are as seasonal as possible), then taking advantage of this time of year can be a celebration of flavor! But how do you find the yummiest options? How can you truly take advantage of the summer’s bounty?How to Take Advantage of the Summer’s BountyVisit Local Farmer’s Markets: If you’ve got a farmer’s market in your area, check it out. Talk to the farmers - ask them what is at its peak that week. If it is something you aren’t sure how to...