As Seen on KPRC Channel 2: 30 School Lunch Ideas to get the School Year Started Right!

” If you’ve already grown tired of the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich before the first bell, we’re helping you mix it up. We’ve pulled 30 of the most interesting lunch ideas from Houston bloggers and parents. Grab your child’s lunchbox and feel free to steal these ideas!”

See the list from Amy Davis on KPRC2… including some of our lunches! Get it HERE!

Easy to Cook, Hearty and Delicious: BLT Pasta

Pasta is quite the satisfying meal, and nothing quite compares to it. It serves as the perfect backdrop for various ingredients ranging from vegetables and meats to tomato sauce and cheese, and far beyond!

I think my younger daughter may have been Italian in a previous life. She would eat pasta for all three meals if she could. Pasta/noodles have been around for thousands of years so a food with that much longevity has got to be popular and delicious!

I served this BLT pasta as one dish for dinner, with no other sides, since there are both tomatoes and greens within the dish. The dish was easy to cook, hearty, and delicious.

We used yellow cherry tomatoes because they tend to be slightly sweeter than red tomatoes. My kids love bacon so this is incredibly popular in our house. After cooking the bacon, my younger daughter loved crumbling the bacon in a Ziploc bag with the bottom of a stainless steel small bowl.



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Cooking with the Kids: Potato and Spring Leek Soup

Hello BigKidSmallCity readers! I have missed cooking and blogging with you. It’s been a long while, and I am happy to be back; my girls are too. They were incredibly excited to be doing a post again. Hope you enjoy this one!

This past winter, I purchased a recipe book for a friend. It was a beautiful and vibrant recipe book with excellent reviews. It seemed well-written and a great gift for someone who cooks. My friend LOVED it and raved about it (affiliate The Love & Lemons Cookbook).

She cooked for many days from it, and even bought one for another friend. Her ringing endorsement convinced me to buy one for myself as well. I also liked that the author was from Texas and liked to support local farm shares.

So when I got the book a few months ago, I flipped through it and loved looking at the pictures. Such gorgeous pictures of food…and then I shelved the book.

Yes, I am admitting it.  Sound familiar?

I finally opened the book again this past weekend. I asked my younger daughter to flip through it with me and help me pick a recipe for dinner. I remembered that all the recipes were sorted in chapters by fruit and vegetable and that the recipes were vegetarian. Since we had to go to the grocery store that afternoon, it was perfect timing.

She stopped on a page that showed soup. I wasn’t sure the girls would eat leeks, but was willing to try. We wrote down the ingredients along with our weekly grocery list and headed out. I did forget the sage because I lost my grocery list while shopping, but I decided to substitute with complex and deep herbs like an Italian spice mix and fennel seeds.

My younger daughter helped me prep and the older one helped cook. The recipe was surprisingly quick, but very flavorful for the short cooking time! It was not difficult at all to prep or cook and the kids had loads of fun helping. We would definitely make this recipe again. If you absolutely must have meat, you could add shredded rotisserie chicken at the end to each bowl. This recipe serves a family of 4-5 people.

We will definitely be cooking from the Love & Lemons cookbook again. If you don’t buy cookbooks, you can check out Jeanine Donofrio’s blog at, or her Facebook page called Love and Lemons.


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Better Dinners & Fewer Trips to the Grocery Store with Maria’s Gourmet Kitchen

I’ve been spending way too much time and money at the grocery store.  Up until January, I was going several times a week and spending a whole lot of money each time.

This year I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my time and money… and the most obvious place to start was with groceries.  Years ago I did a lot of couponing (and this is actually how I learned about blogs) but I’m not quite ready to get that serious yet.

Instead, I’ve found that if I just go to the store less, I save time and money.  In fact, even if I go to fewer stores and pay a premium on a couple items, I still save money.  There’s just a whole lot less getting added to the cart.

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Salmon Prep Box
So, when Maria, from our sponsor, Maria’s Gourmet Kitchen, told me to just order my dinner online, I was happy to skip another trip to the store. And having dinner prepared by a Parisian trained Chef was going to be a whole lot better than a dinner prepared by me.

So on two different nights last week, I served my family Maria’s Asian Street Tacos and Miso Glazed Salmon.

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Cooler Bag
My delivery was dropped on my step, kept cold with a cooler bag and ice packs.

First up were the tacos, with all the ingredients prepared in separate bags and easy cooking instructions. The steak was trimmed, the cabbage was chopped, the rice was seasoned… all I had to do was cook.

When I served the kids, they gave the ultimate compliment… “This tastes like it’s from Ms. Felicia’s house.”. My friend Felicia is one heck of a cook… and the kids have never compared my meals to her meals!

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Asian Street Tacos
Next up was the salmon. Now, let me tell you that my husband loves salmon and I don’t always love salmon. Sometimes it’s just too fishy.

Well, Maria’s salmon came with a miso glaze, pickled carrots and bok choy. I prepared just as she said on the label, and served this up for dinner:

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Salmon and Pickeled Carrots
Friends, my dinners do not usually look this good.

The fish was delicious and the carrots and miso (something I never would have thought to add) made it amazing. I thought we were eating at a restaurant (except for the Legos scattered under the table).

So, if you also want to spend less time at the store and less time preparing a fabulous homemade dinner check out Maria’s Gourmet Kitchen. This Houston mom will do the work for you.

AND, you can save $20 on a $100 order by using coupon code BKSCTRYMGK !

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Bok Choy

Marias Gourmet Kitchen Miso Salmon

Matching Christmas Pajamas, Happy Holidays & Grinch Popcorn from Imperial Sugar

When I was a kid, my mom would fill a big brown paper bag with popcorn, drizzle with a hot brown sugar mixture… and shake! She has an old hand written recipe from my kindergarten teacher, and has always made caramel corn this way.

So, when our sponsor, Imperial Sugar, asked me to make a recipe from Kids in the Kitchen, I chose Grinch Popcorn… but said I was going to do it my mom’s way.

On Kids in the Kitchen, Grinch Popcorn is made on the stove in a Dutch oven. That is way too wild for this cook, so we used the air popper and then used all the same ingredients and mixed it all in a brown paper bag.

The ingredients are:
Vegetable oil
Popcorn kernels
Imperial Sugar Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
Green Food coloring
Sea salt
Red candy hearts
Red, green, and white nonpareils

Find the full recipe HERE.

The funny thing about making it our “easy” way was that we still had a wild time making it. We burned some sugar, we had some color mishaps and we tripped a breaker in the kitchen.

Just imaging us in the kitchen with windows wide open to the neighborhood. We were all in matching red Christmas pajamas (something that had never happened before), with a baby over one arm and kids with bags of popcorn and sugar sprinkles in containers that were less like salt shakers and more like wide mouth pitchers.

So my 5 year old popped the popcorn, my 7 year old mixed the oil, sugar and coloring, and I burned the topping on the stove. We tried it again and did a little better. (And let me tell you that if you try to make this Grinch Popcorn into caramel corn with brown sugar… the green is a terrible brown… and the kids will squeal.)

I took the green sugar mixture, poured it in the bag with the popcorn, and the kids shook like crazy!

While it was warm, we poured the popcorn onto wax paper and went crazy with the salt and sprinkles. And we ate it as we went.

We spent the morning, mixing, burning, squealing over food color mishaps, losing power in the kitchen, making a big sugar mess… and laughing a lot.

The young woman that lives next door kept on walking by the window.  At first I think she was shocked to see us all in matching pajamas, acting crazy in the kitchen.  By the third trip to her car, she was laughing… and I suspect she wanted to be a part of our holiday family fun.


Using that Halloween Candy for Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies from Imperial Sugar!

We had so much candy from Halloween that I each day, while the kids were at school, I would steal a dozen pieces from each loot bag.  Soon the kids were down to no candy and knew something was up.  And since it disappeared slowly, they thought I had just taken a few pieces… and I just had to smile and thank them for sharing with me.

So here I was with a giant bag of candy when our sponsor, Imperial Sugar, asked me to make some Thanksgiving cookies.

The Kids in the Kitchen section of their website is full of Thanksgiving cookies and projects… but my kids picked the turkey!

For these we needed… Biscoff style cookie dough (or Oreos), Royal Icing, Candy Coating, Peanut Butter Cups, Candy Corn and Malted Milk Balls. So I climbed up on the counter top and quietly grabbed the candy bag hidden at the top of the cabinet.


After messing up a few turkeys, we finally figured out how to make these guys. Let gravity help you by laying out the candy corn features in an arch on the table. Take the cookie, cover the back with candy coating and place it on the features. Then add the chocolate tummy and head and details.

Once the turkey is built and the candy coating is dry… run a knife under it to loosen it from the table… and set it upright.



We are a little messy in our house, so when you see our little turkeys, just remember that yours could look a lot more like the cookies on the Imperial Sugar website. Still, we don’t let some messy cookies keep us from the fun of making them!

Find the instructions HERE.

The kids had a good idea of using these as placeholders on Thanksgiving… but we ate them all. We’ll have to have another turkey making day closer to the holiday!

Not So Spooky Spider Cookies and a Scary Scramble Recipe Contest on Imperial Sugar

Happy Halloween!

Kids in the Kitchen, by Imperial Sugar, is full of fun recipes, crafts and printables. The team at Imperial Sugar asked which recipe I could make… to which I laughed and said, “None?”.

Fortunately, Kids in the Kitchen is meant for, well, kids… and my kids are much better in the kitchen than me!

We went through all the Halloween recipes on the website and selected the Not So Spooky Spider Cookies!

I gathered up the ingredients and then let my measurers and mixers get to work.

They quickly made the cookie dough and started rolling the cookies into balls.  Sticking in the pretzel legs was perfect when done by them… and looked a little silly when done by me.  (Good thing I have the little bakers.)

I handled the oven part of the instructions, but then handed over the spiders for the final touches.

The kids added in the candy eyes and candy heads.

For the top, the recipe called for malt balls… but I really don’t like malt balls, so I got “Hershey Drops”.  (They did get a little melted… but were delicious.)

When we were done, the kids and I were proud of our silly little spiders.  And when my oldest boy and husband came home, they tried the cookies and were very impressed.  Maybe even shocked.

They said the salty and sweet cookies were really very good and, knowing my usual kitchen performances, asked if I had made them.  I smiled and told them that all credit went to my little kids and the Imperial Sugar recipe page.

You can find the recipe for Not So Spooky Spider Cookies on Imperial Sugar.

Also, from October 9-19, 2016, participate in the Scary Scramble Recipe Contest.  Just read the daily clue, unscramble the recipe and enter daily to win a KitchenAid stand mixer!


School Lunch Box Ideas: No-Peanut Lunches & No-Sandwich Lunches Ideas!

Back to school means…  180 school day lunches, multiplied by 3 kids.

I love being a mom and I love having little kids and I know that packing a lunch is no real hardship… but I really don’t like it.  I spent years making the cutest bento boxes, followed by years of making boring old PB&Js…

How to Make Sushi for School Lunch with Chopsticks
This year I have a non-sandwich-eater at school and a kid in a no-peanut class.  With a little inspiration, I’m sure I can make lunches between super cute and super boring… so I asked the BigKidSmallCity community for suggestions.

This is what you told me.  Thank YOU!  (And if you have more ideas, let us know!)
Affiliate links included.

No-Peanut Sandwich Ideas:

  • Sunbutter: Made with sunflower seeds.  Check with your school, but this may be okay even if no nuts are allowed.
  • Wow Butter: Made with soy butter.  Check with your school, but this may be okay even if no nuts are allowed.
  • Honey Sesame Butter: Made with sesame seeds.  Check with your school, but this may be okay even if no nuts are allowed.
  • Nutella: Hazelnut spread (that some moms have been known to eat from the jar)
  • Almond Butter: Made with almonds.
  • Cream Cheese & Cucumber Sandwiches
  • Cheese, Meat and/or Veggie Sandwiches and Wraps
  • Cream Cheese & Jelly Sandwiches
  • Strawberry, Mayo, Turkey & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches!

No-Sandwich Lunch Ideas:

  • Quesadillas
  • Pasta Salad
  • Tacos/Burritos: Use Shredded Rotisserie Chicken and/or Veggies
  • Fruit & Cheese Plate:  Serve with Crackers or Pita Chips.
  • Hummus, Pita & Crudités
  • Cracker Sandwiches: Turkey Pepperoni, Salami with Cheese
  • Pasta “Muffins”
  • Zucchini Muffins: Freeze them… and they thaw by lunch.
  • Soup: Send in a thermos.
  • Dinner!: Send last night’s dinner in a thermos!  Spaghetti and meatballs, Tortellini, Mac and Cheese, Chicken Tenders, Broccoli Cheese Nuggets, Pasta, Couscous, Quinoa, Enchiladas, etc
  • Bentos/Homemade “Lunchables”: Fruit, cheese cubes, meat/chicken/tuna, etc

You can also see the highlights of my (old) years of cute bentos HERE.

Find even more ideas on and also watch this ABC13 Segment from last fall…

Here are Pranika’s ideas for school lunches that are not sandwiches!  (And everyone always asks about her lunch boxes… the links are HERE!)

The “Super Awesome” Apple Peeler… & No Crust Apple Pie

I may not be much of a cook… but I am one heck of an apple baker.  And this is because the only thing tricky about baking with apples is peeling them… and this is magically done by the “super awesome” apple peeler (as named by my kids).

Apple Peeler with Apples
This device, which you can get for as low as about $12.00, is easy enough for kids to use and magically peels and cores the apples.  Find it (affiliate)  HERE.

Apple Spiral from Apple Peeler
You just use the suction cup to attach the device to your table, attach the apple to the fork-like side, and turn the handle.  (And if you are like my kids, you eat the peel as it comes off the apple.)

Eat Peel while Peeling Apple
Occasionally the peeler does not want to stick to the table, so we hold it down with our non-turning hand.  And occasionally we will fight over who gets to peel which apple.

Once I had 6 peeled apples (2 for each kid… because no way one would settle for less than their siblings), I was practically done with the No-Crust Apple Pie!

Here’s how to make this easy dessert (which happens to be my husband’s birthday cake this year):

Ingredients for Crustless Apple Pie with Imperial Sugar
Topping Ingredients:
1 Cup Imperial Sugar
1 Stick Butter (Softened)
1 Heaping Cup Flour

Filling Ingredients:
Enough Apples to Fill the Pie Plate (I use Granny Smith for baking)
1 Tbs Flour
1 Tbs Imperial Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon

Covering Crustless Apple Pie with Imperial Sugar
To make the topping, blend together sugar and butter.  Add the flour and blend with sugar and butter.  Set aside.

To make the filling, in a bowl, slice enough apples to fill your pie plate.  Mix together flour, sugar and cinnamon and add to the apples.

Pour apples into the pie plate.  (I use a deep Corningware dish.)

Make the topping into meatball sized balls, flatten and lay them across the apples.  It does not need to be perfect and the kids can easily do this step.  Just cover up all the apples.

Bake at 350º for 45 minutes.

Crustless Apple Pie with Imperial Sugar
It’s easy… and you get to use the super awesome apple peeler!

Best of 2015: 7 Quick & Easy Dinner Ideas!

The best of 2015: Pranika contributes quick and easy dinner ideas, and beautiful pictures, to BigKidSmallCity… and here are 7 favorites from the last year!



1. Cheater, Cheater, Antipasto EaterMy kids love to snack and who doesn’t love snack foods? Occasionally I must admit it’s nice to be daringly lazy when you don’t have much time to cook. I decided to create an antipasto platter and use premade polenta plus store-bought garlic bread for a fun and balanced meal.


Black Bean Soup with Sour Cream

2. Black Bean Soup: Why spend a ton of time in the kitchen, when all you need to do is throw in a few ingredients, chop a slight bit, and let an appliance do all the work? For this recipe, a must have is a slow cooker. I love to find slow cooker recipes that are a complete fit for my family, but also flavorful and filling enough for a meal.


Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia

3. Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia: Our family likes to eat fish and shrimp, so I try different recipes and some work and some fail; fortunately, this one is a keeper!


Pasta Shells with Meyer Lemon Cream

4. Pasta Shells with Meyer Lemon Cream: This recipe is delicious and you can really taste the meyer lemons in this dish. If you don’t have access to meyer lemons, you can use the juice a regular lemon in the recipe and add a tbsp of orange juice, preferably fresh for a similar taste.


Finished Bowl of Orange Cauliflower Soup

5. Orange Cauliflower Soup: My family accepted the Recipe for Success challenge, VegOut2015, last March. We tackled 30 different vegetables in less than 30 days. This is one of them!


Wrapping Up Fish and Shrimp in Parchment Paper

6. Fish & Shrimp in Parchment Paper: I cooked fish in parchment paper with my mom years and years ago and it was fun, so cooking this with my girls was fun and nostalgic.  A fish cooked “en papillote” is wrapped in parchment paper, and baked in the oven so it gently steams in its own juices. You can add a variety of aromatics, such as herbs, onions, and other vegetables to the parchment package to flavor the fish.


Summer Minestrone Soup

7. Minestrone Soup: I love one pot meals…who doesn’t?! It’s less to fuss about on the stove and more importantly, less to clean up and wash post dinner.
My older daughter adores minestrone soup, as do I; my husband usually eats anything I cook and my younger daughter…well she’s the picky one so I was hoping to entice her by mentioning there was pasta in the soup.