This is the first time since becoming a parent that I’ve had to really think in terms of “getting back into the swing of things”. I am the mother of a two year old and a nearly three month old. I worked up until the day that little Scout joined our family in June, after that I took two months off to spend time with my girls, write and travel. Really, I took time off to get a lot more done but those three things are all that ended up getting crossed off of the list and I’m okay with that.

We eat on the patio as often as we can. We even purchased some patio heaters last year!

The day before I returned to work, I went grocery shopping and then I packed a beautiful lunch for my two year old who is now in the “Sprouts” class at school. I put together the diaper bag for my infant who would be going to the Mother’s Day Out program at our church. Finally, I tossed a a roast into the slow cooker dish with some onions, carrots, broth and potatoes and then I placed the crockpot dish in the refrigerator so that it could be placed into the base of the crockpot as we walked out the door in the morning.

At midnight I was admitted into the hospital for emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. Three days and three nights later I returned home to finish recovering from

The slow cooker is like having a cook. Dinner is ready when you come home!

my own bed. So, as you can see, getting back into the swing of things hasn’t been easy but I finally feel like I’m getting there.

Working a full time job, co-parenting two young children, being active in our community and trying to get a small business off of the ground calls for planning ahead when it comes to meals. While I’m not the poster child for organization or cooking, I can share with you a few things that I have learned along the way;

1. The slow cooker is my best friend 2-3 nights a week. Since all of us get home right before dinner, it’s fantastic knowing that the main part of dinner will be ready and waiting for us. Sometimes if we learn about a cool new place to visit, we just wrap up dinner in some Tupperware and take it on the road! It helps to keep a bag or basket packed with paper plates, plastic forks and spoons and napkins just in case you do get the opportunity to run out and do something on a “school night”.

School Lunch Fav: PB&J Rollup or fill with meats, cheeses and veggies!

2. Anything that you can do the night before, DO IT! Assembling your meal into a slow cooker and putting it in the fridge is simple to do. Making lunches at night has been the best move I’ve made this year. This way I tend to make my own as well, saving me money and forcing me to eat healthier AND saving me time so that I don’t have to run out for food while I’m at work. Just try not to drive off without grabbing your food from the fridge — we made an emergency lunch shopping trip on our way to school just last week.

3. Be inspired by food that is in season and by food that is on sale. I am NOT a couponer. Some of you have a system down and you are so quick at finding sales and matching them with coupons, I cannot even make myself sit down and cut out the coupons. Newspapers pile up and when I DO get around to clipping, I end up just having coupons sitting around in my car, on the counter, on the table and eventually they all just go to the trash. I buy meat when it’s on sale and then I freeze it for the next week. My menu the next week is based on what I have available. When I look at the calendar each week, I figure out which nights we’ll be home for a meal and plan my meals from there and buy other ingredients I might need as well as fresh fruit and veggies.

We LOVE farm fresh food!

All of these tips make for a much easier morning and evening for our family. This leaves a lot of room for conversation (Lulu, age 2 is the BIGGEST chatterbox ever!) and time to go check out a new hot spot in the Indianapolis area.

Here is a slow cooker recipe inspired by a fantastic dish I tried from the Spice Box food truck at the Dig In food festival last week. It’s also super timely because September is National Chicken Month!

Chicken Curry with Chick Peas

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon Olive oil (approx)
2 garlic cloves – I sliced them into a few chunks to save time but chopping would be better.
3-4 tablespoon Curry powder
1-2 cups chicken broth – enough to cover the ingredients.
1 can of Chickpeas drained

Assemble everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours. Serve over brown rice. After we remove Lulu’s portion, I add Cayenne Pepper to spice it up for Jay and me. Soooo delish!

Something that I learned about chicken is that no artificial or added hormones are used in the production of ANY poultry in the United States, regulations of the Food & Drug Administration prohibit the use of such hormones. Any brand of chicken can be labeled “Raised without hormones”. However, any package of chicken with that type of label must also have a statement that no hormones are used in the production of ANY poultry. I had no idea that this was the case!

Thank you to Indiana’s Family of Farmers  who contributed some goodies to help us get on our way with school lunches and family dinners.