Back to School: 10 Morning Time Savers

Back to school means changing your morning routine. Getting the kids up and out of the house could double your morning workload, but there are tricks to get you out the door on time. Here are 10 morning time savers.

1. EAT Do not skip breakfast because yoBack-To-Schoolu are tight on time! Get ingredients and utensils ready the night before. You even can prep things over the weekend, like smoothie packs that go straight from the freezer or fridge to the blender.
2. PLAN TO EAT Plan lunch a day (or even a week) ahead. Pack as much of the meal in the evening as possible, and make sure ingredients for the rest are in one spot and easy to find. If necessary, keep the fully packed lunch bag in the fridge overnight.
3. PICK AN OUTFIT One of the biggest sources of last-minute struggles is clothing. Avoid this one by helping kids pick out clothes the day before. Children can take all the time they want to create an outfit, and parents have chances to make sure clothing is appropriate and clean.
Back-To-School4. PLAN A ROUTINE Create a simple routine that is similar to your family’s bedtime routine. This will prevent forgetting important things like brushing teeth and combing hair. The routine should include a bathroom schedule to make sure everyone gets the time they need.
5. GET UP EARLY Wake up before the kids. It is easier to get them up and going when you are up and going. Take a little time to shower, have a cup of coffee and get dressed before you need to focus on getting your children ready.
6. LEAVE IT AT THE DOOR Select a spot near the door specifically for things you need to grab on the way out, like shoes, bags, jackets, keys, and more. This will prevent a hurried search for a backpack or matching boots.
7. MENTAL NOTES Before you go to bed, go over the next day’s schedule. Don’t forget to check the weather report, too. You also can take this time to finalize transportation and carpool arrangements to avoid last minute scrambling.
8. TIME IT Use a timer to keep everything on track. Figure out how long you have to complete each task before you head out the door, then set a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone. That way, time will not slip away from you.
Back-To-School9. TUNE OUT Avoid the news unless the rest of your to-do list is finished. It is easy to get distracted by interesting—or depressing—stories from around the world. Staying up-to-date is important, but in the mornings, you need to concentrate on preparing yourself and your children for the day. There is plenty of time during the rest of the morning to catch up on current events. If there is a morning show you cannot miss, record it and watch it later.
10. STAY FOCUSED Resist the temptation to wash dishes, clean up an e-mail inbox, and other chores that do not need to be done in the morning. Once you have a morning routine down, you can add other activities to it if you have the time.

Do not wait until you are running late to find ways to save time. Plan ahead, and you will be ahead of schedule before you know it.

5 Creative Ways to Spice Up Your Oatmeal

oatmealWhen it’s cold and no one wants to get out of bed, plain old cereal with milk isn’t going to be the thing that gets them up. The surefire breakfast for a blustery and cold winter morning is heaping bowl of creamy, slow-cooked oats. While going for oats au naturale is always a nice standby, there are lots of great things you can add to them to switch it up once in a while.

Here are a few incredibly tasty and soul-warming suggestions for making your oatmeal really sing!

1. Add lots of fruit

Yes, including blueberries and chopped apples in oatmeal is a classic way to go, but think about incorporating different varieties of fruit in your breakfast. Fruits like gooseberries, stewed rhubarb, and Asian pear can add some real complexity to the overall taste. Add it just after dishing up and fold it into the oats so that it’s slightly warm.

2. Include crystallized ginger

Crystallized ginger is ginger root that’s been peeled, sliced, and candied. The sugar in crystallized ginger mutes the normally biting flavor of ginger, making it great to use as an ingredient in sweet foods like quick breads and cake. Of course, it’s also very suitable for oatmeal! Just chop it up into strips and sprinkle. If you do use this ingredient, cut down on any additional sugar that you’d normally add, since it’s plenty sweet.

3. Use toasted nuts

Add a complex, roasty flavor to your oatmeal by toasting up a handful of walnuts, pecans, or almonds (or all of them!). Either pan-toast them or stick them in your oven to cook at about 200˚F until they brown. You can chop them up or add them whole. Nuts are a great source of good fats and protein and will make you feel fuller after eating.

4. Stir in homemade simple syrups

Your options are literally infinite when it comes to infusing your own simple syrups! While they’re great for mixing into cocktails, their day-to-day culinary uses should not be overlooked. Dissolve equal parts sugar and water in a pot set over a low flame and add something fun to the mix: things like jalapenos, dried lavender buds, mint, thyme, or orange peel would work really well. Substitute a tablespoon or so of syrup for your usual dollop of brown sugar, and the aroma will infuse throughout the oatmeal, giving it a beautiful scent and flavor.

5. Go savory

This might sound a little too out-of-the-box for you, but stay with me here. Savory oatmeal is an echo of rice congee, a dish that’s a breakfast staple throughout Asia. Take a cue from that iconic dish by cooking your oats with some star anise and then adding minced green onion, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Top it off with a fried egg and you’ve got a seriously rib-sticking breakfast!

Soleil is a former chef, with an encyclopedia of recipes floating around in her head. Nowadays, she applies her culinary expertise to the wonderful world of fancy picnic baskets.

7 Tips on Planning a Holiday Meal

Plan-DinnerHoliday meals are absolutely amazing to enjoy, but they can be a nightmare to plan if you go about it in a disorganized manner. Armed with these 7 handy tips, you can make your holiday meal a total breeze. Here at Lakeside, we believe that meals should be about enjoyment, quality family time, and memories. They should most certainly serve as a relief from the stress of meal preparation. These quick shortcuts can show you how.

1. Segment your grocery list

One of the first mistakes that many people make is that they plan incredible recipes and just make an incredibly ill-fated trip to the grocery store. Why is this so terrible you say? Well, when everyone else has the same exact idea you are dealing with the equivalent of a grocery store meets Black Friday kind of thing.  So how do you segment your list? After you decide exactly which recipes you’ll be preparing, divide up the ingredients you need based on the specific department it is in. For instance, make a produce section, a spices section, etc. and fill them in!

2. Bring a helper, but let the kids play at home

If you need to get things done quickly, you’re better of dividing and conquering. However, bringing your kids can be counterproductive as you may have to keep tabs on them depending on how young they are. Make sure your helper is on the same page as you and you are looking for separate items in separate sections (see tip 1) of the list.

3. Concentrate your efforts

Instead of going all out on wonderful sides, you should focus on the main dish. This may seem pretty obvious, but you would be amazed how many people actually take more time to plan out their side dishes more than their main dishes! Remember, more people are interested in the centerpiece dish than filling up on stuffing.

4. Use a bit of familiarity

The holidays can be wonderful at inspiring innovation, but make sure to cook at least one dish that you are familiar with and love to make. This will minimize the amount of stress, and excess time used in cooking new creations and experimental dishes. It is great to have a fallback in case something doesn’t turn the way you were hoping it would

5. Consider special needs

If someone is a diabetic or has special needs think about these things ahead of time when you are planning. It can be an absolute nightmare to put together special needs dishes on the spot. If you are in a pinch, it can be easier to cater a portion of the meal.

6. Presentation counts

All the preparation in the world can fall flat if you don’t put some time and effort into the presentation portion. If you are out of ideas, you can always use trusty holiday décor themes!

7. Keep portions in mind

If you are inviting a lot of guests over, you may actually have to make that recipe that serves ten people. Otherwise, try to be realistic about how much food you make. If you are in the habit of making extra, be sure it’s something you enjoy just in case you have a lot of leftovers.

Image Credit: paulweberphotography.com