It's that time: Lessen the stress of back-to-school

August 1, 2018 11:14:38 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


When store displays of beach towels and flip-flops are replaced by three-ring binders and backpacks, change is in the air. The retail shift began several weeks ago and has escalated to a polished-apple pitch. Most Golden Triangle teachers return to classrooms today. Students report for their first day not long after.  


For parents and kids alike, back-to-school is a time of excitement, with a side of stress. Resumption of early mornings and strict routines may shock some systems, and juggling schedules can torque grocery shopping, meal planning and prep. Time-saver breakfast, snack and supper suggestions can come in handy. 


"There are so many things to think about when school starts -- clothes, shoes, supply lists and keeping hungry kids fed," said Lisa Wright of Starkville. She's a working mother with two youngsters in elementary school. "When it comes to grocery lists, I start thinking about what to get that will help us all get out of the house on time in the morning, what's in the house for after-school snacks, and something to do for dinners when I know I'll be worn out." 


For quick-start breakfasts, a little prep time set aside on a Saturday or Sunday can fill the freezer for the week. Freezer breakfast sandwiches on English muffins could be thought of as a healthier version of McMuffins. See the recipe below. One to two minutes in the microwave and you have a piping hot cheesy breakfast. Likewise, breakfast burritos can be made up ahead, frozen and enjoyed all week.  


Kristen at likes to add a dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce to hers when scrambling the eggs, plus a tablespoon of salsa on top of the eggs before she rolls them up in an 8-inch tortilla -- with crumbled cooked bacon and 1 to 2 tablespoons of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Wrap each burrito in plastic wrap, date and label a freezer bag and freeze. Again, one to two minutes in the microwave and they're ready to go. You don't even have to have kids to appreciate the time saver these can be in the mornings.  


Similarly, mini hot roast beef or ham and cheese sandwiches on whole wheat dinner rolls (flavored with horseradish) can be assembled by the dozen and frozen for weekday snacks or a quick bite on the way out the door to a ball game or dance team practice. Heck, even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be frozen. 


One healthy after-school snack is so obvious and simple it's often overlooked: apple wedges with a dollop of peanut butter, topped with a raisin -- much better than fat-laden potato chips. 


Zucchini Parmesan crisps take about 25 minutes and are a great way to introduce kids to zucchini. See the recipe below. 




A rotisserie shortcut 


When things get a little nuts, never look down on a good shortcut. Rotisserie chicken is a great one, available at many grocery stores. One chicken can go a long way, from chicken wraps to chicken salad to tacos and beyond.  


"So many days I end up working a little late," said Martha Dent of Columbus. "I'm all about anything that saves time. I'll pick up one or two rotisserie chickens for the week and use them six different ways before they're gone. Some stores have them in different flavors, like barbecue or lemon pepper." 


French bread pizzas are another quick-fix supper. Keep a jar of marinara sauce and cheeses on hand and mix it up -- pineapple chunks, tomatoes, pepperoni, deli ham. The point is, the advent of school bells shouldn't signal a meltdown. We can make out our lists, walk down the grocery store aisle with fresh eyes and, like children returning to school, be open to something new.  






Makes 6 




6 large eggs 


Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 


6 English muffins, split 


12 slices deli-sliced ham 


6 slices cheddar cheese 




  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil six 10-ounce ramekins or coat with nonstick spray and place onto a baking sheet. 


  • Add one egg to each ramekin, beating slightly; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place into oven and bake until egg whites are cooked through, about 12-14 minutes. 


  • Place one egg over the muffin bottom. Top with 2 slices ham and 1 slice cheese, and then cover with another muffin top to create a sandwich. Repeat with remaining English muffins to make 6 sandwiches. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. 


  • To reheat, remove plastic wrap from the frozen sandwich and wrap in a paper towel. Place into microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through completely. 


    Serve immediately. 








    Prep time: 15 minutes 


    Cook time: 10 minutes 


    Makes 4 servings 




    1/2 cup vegetable oil 


    1 cup Panko 


    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 


    2 zucchinis, thinly sliced to 1/4-inch thick rounds 


    1/2 cup all-purpose flour 


    2 large eggs, beaten 




  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. 


  • In a large bowl, combine Panko and Parmesan; set aside. 


  • Working in batches, dredge zucchini rounds in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in Panko mixture, pressing to coat. 


  • Add zucchini rounds to the skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. 


    Serve immediately. 








    Prep time: 20 minutes 


    Cook time: 20 minutes 


    12 servings 




    12 whole dinner rolls or small sandwich buns (preferably whole wheat) 


    1 pound thinly shaved roast beef or ham (or both) 


    1 pound cheese (provolone, Swiss, mozzarella, even Cheez Whiz) 


    1/4 cup Mayonnaise 


    3 tablespoons grated onion (or 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes)) 


    1 tablespoon poppy seeds 


    1 tablespoon spicy mustard 


    1 tablespoon horseradish mayo or straight prepared horseradish 


    Dash of Worcestershire 


    Optional dressings: sriracha, hot sauce, dried onion flakes instead of fresh, garlic powder, pepper, etc.) 




  • Slice rolls in half. Mix together mayo, grated onion, poppy seeds, spicy mustard, horseradish, and Worcestershire. Taste it and adjust ingredients however you wish. 


  • To assemble, spread dressing on top and bottom buns. Lay on roast beef or ham, then one or two slices of cheese (I cut them to fit the small buns.) If you're using Cheez Whiz, spread a layer on the top bun.  


  • Wrap each sandwich in a foil square, and either keep in the fridge or bake right away. To bake the sandwiches, put them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The buns should be slightly crusty and the cheese should be melted.  



    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.