Yesterday was a PA Day and during these days, I like to make sure I think of ways to keep my kids happily entertained in advance. This day, in particular, because:
- Kids have a lot of energy to burn
- It was raining all day…
- … and kids need to keep their brains and bodies working even when they’re home
- I have a ton of work to complete and would still like to spend as much time as I can with them (and keep sane in the process)
In between PA Day hoopla, work, an almost-missed dentist and optometrist appointment (I like to book all these things in on PA days and apparently I’m not the only mother that did this which resulted in delayed schedules), I don’t know about you but come dinnertime the thought of standing in the kitchen chopping, cutting, and cooking a meal is a tall order. The only tall order I would like by then would be a coffee or tea.
Much like planning for PA Days and holidays with the kids, I also prefer to prearrange meals as well.
Do not get me wrong, my meal planning on Sunday’s is far from Pinterest-worthy; however, I find simple planning makes the world of a difference. Not just with time but with flavour.
Here are a few of my meal planning tips in our busy home:
- Marinate and Portion Meats
Buy meat in bulk (more cost-effective than already cut up variety or you can have your trusted butcher to it for you). I like to marinate meats for 24+ hours to really get all the delicious essence in them and separate them in freezer bags so it’s quicker to portion and cook in a jiffy.
- Keep a freezer full of veggies and fruits
Keep your freezer stocked with frozen fruits and veggies you and the kids love. Veggies my kids love are: broccoli, snap peas, green beans, Brussel sprouts, and butternut squash. Separate them in freezer bags to add to stir-fry’s (including the marinated meats you have ready!).
I also love peeling and freezing A LOT of bananas. I use them as a base for every single smoothie I make (I will share another post sometime soon with some our favourite kid-friendly smoothie recipes)
- Stock up on Minute Rice!
This is essential in our home of rice-lovers! My kids love rice and typically like to eat it as a side along with veggies with their protein otherwise they will not feel full and satisfied. Rice is just the perfect addition to any meal.
I like to stock up on both Minute Rice® Premium Instant Long Grain White Rice and Minute Rice® Instant Whole Grain Brown Rice (takes ¼ less time than the traditional brown rice which is fantastic!) and make enough cups for the entire family.
Adding a bit of butter makes the rice extra fluffy for longer and swapping half (or all) the water for chicken broth (or any broth of your choice) adds an extra bite of flavour.
- Make Sunday Week Meal Planning a FUN Routine
When something becomes a routine, it’s less likely to feel like work after a while. I noticed this after the 2nd week of my Sunday meal prepping. I usually do this with my husband (and sometimes the kids) on Sunday afternoons with some great music and a glass of wine. He does more of the chopping and I’ll do the sautéing (if making ready-made meals for Tupperware), marinating and separating into freezer bags.
- Organize Your Fridge
Okay so I am guilty of not always having the cleanest fridge and often I am scrambling to find items or discover ones I didn’t even know I had. I’m not the only one, right?
An organized fridge; however, will certainly help you with keeping on track of your meal planning by allowing you to utilize all the items in your fridge so nothing goes to waste (and a lot has gone to waste in our home in the past, unfortunately).
I purchase small plastic organizer baskets at the dollar store and use them to separate not only pre-prepped meals but also snacks in Ziploc bags that the kids can easily grab such as: grapes, apple slices, veggie sticks and crackers and cheese.
This has been helpful in keeping everyone in this home eating and snacking healthier.
Going back to marinated meats, one of my go-to meals using cut-up marinated boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts (we like the flavour using thighs best though!) is Taiwanese-Style Popcorn Chicken.
I discovered this recipe at a local Taiwanese Tea Shop that we frequent for their refreshing bubble tea (have you ever had bubble/boba tea before? SO good!).
This dish is usually priced a bit more and I noticed they don’t give much either which was a shame. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I can make this at home!”
When I see a sale on boneless, skinless chicken thighs, I buy a lot! Boneless, skinless chicken thighs is a favourite meat for recipes in my home for a variety of dishes because we love the taste and texture.
This favourite recipe consists of bite-sized boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and spices marinade that is coated in egg and cornstarch and then fried.
I don’t deep fry often but this recipe really tastes much better this way.
Do not be intimated by the list of spices, once you have that all added, that really is the most taxing part (ha!). This is why I like doubling this marinade to marinade a bigger batch of cut up chicken and then separate them in freezer bags for the next day/s.
It’s really a simple recipe that is not only extremely delicious but I swear it will have you hooked! It’s that good!
I also like to use a ketchup or spicy mayo as a dip and of course, add rice as a side.
My kids request this often for dinner and even for their school lunches. Marinating for at least 12 hours ensures big flavour but I found that even when I was in a serious rush and marinated it for only half an hour that it still tasted phenomenal.
Add this recipe to your must-cook list this week and I assure you that this will quickly become a favourite #WeekdayWin in your household.
- - 1 lb of boneless & skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-sized pieces
- - 2 garlic cloves. minced
- - 2 tbsp soy sauce
- - 1 tbsp five spice powder (you can find this spice in any grocers spice aisle)
- - ½ tsp sesame oil
- - ½ tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine (you can replace with sake or medium sherry or omit altogether)
- - ½ tsp white pepper powder
- - 1/8 tsp black pepper
- - ½ tsp salt
- - 1/8 tsp sugar
- - 1 cup of cornstarch
- - 1 egg, whisked
- - 1 tbsp five spice powder (to sprinkle on top after)
- - canola oil (enough to deep-fry)
- - handful of fresh Thai basil leaves (optional)
- - Minute Rice® Premium Instant Long Grain White Rice or Minute Rice® Instant Whole Grain Brown Rice
- 1) In a bowl or large Ziploc bag, add all the marinade ingredients first and then the cut-up chicken. Make sure to completely coat every piece of chicken. Marinade for 30 minutes – 12 hours (the longest you should be able to marinade it for is 48 hours in the fridge).
- 2) Heat up to 1” deep oil in pot or wok on medium-high heat.
- 3) In two separate bowls, whisk egg in one and add cornstarch in another. When oil is heated, dip chicken in egg, then in cornstarch, then fry. Let chicken fry until medium-brown all around (about 3-4 minutes). You should be able to fry a few pieces at a time depending on the size of your pot or wok. When chicken is done, remove and place on baking tray or plate lined with paper towel to remove excess oil.
- 4) If you’d like to add the crunchy Thai basil leaves to the recipe, drop them in the oil. They cook fast so only require a few seconds in the oil.
- 5) Sprinkle basil and 1 tbsp of 5-spice powder on top of the chicken and toss to coat all the pieces.
- Serve immediately with a sweet chilli ketchup or spicy mayo dip and a side of Minute Rice while chicken is nice and crispy!
- Thai Sweet Chili Ketchup
- Equal parts ketchup and Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (available at Asian grocers or Asian section of grocery store) combined.
- Spicy Mayo
- Equal parts mayonnaise and sriracha sauce combined.
What meal prep tips do you have? Let me know below along with what revisions or additions you’d add to this recipe to make it your own or something your children would love.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Minute Rice Canada; however, all opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.