Looking for an easy grab-and-go lunch that isn’t a salad? Try shepherd’s pie in a jar! You can feel good about this nutritiously complete made with ground turkey and plenty of veggies.
Stashing your lunch in a jar is all the rage right now. But most of the meal-in-a-jar ideas out there are of the salad variety. Now, we love salad as much as the next health-conscious parent. But sometimes you want something a little more substantial and filling. Shepherd’s pie is just that.
This recipe combines lean healthy ground turkey with carrots, peas, mushrooms, and creamy mashed potatoes so you can get a completely balanced lunch in a convenient package.
These jars travel to work with you, ready to pop into the microwave (lid off first!) and impress the heck out of your coworkers.
Even though we think of this one as a “mom and dad recipe,” you might also find your kids enjoy having a mini-sized shepherd’s pie in a jar all their own! Got a sitter and a night out planned? Prep these ahead and leave them in the fridge for an easy-to-heat, nutritious kid meal.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie in a Jar
Start off by getting your mashed potatoes going. This can be done using your own method, if preferred, but here’s how we did it.
We used small yellow potatoes and kept the skins on because we like them (also nutrients!), but you can peel them if you like. Chop them into inch-sized squares and cook them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces them. You want them pretty soft, but not completely mush before you even mash them. Drain when finished cooking.
Meanwhile, dice half an onion into small pieces, mince 3 cloves of garlic, and grate two or three carrots.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of oil (we used EVOO) and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Next, add ground turkey and sliced mushrooms (I bought mine pre-sliced) and stir, breaking up turkey as you go until it’s fully browned. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of flower, plus a tablespoon of fresh thyme and rosemary and mix well.
Finally, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, a cup of frozen peas, 1/2 cup of beef broth, and two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened just a bit.
TIP: if you have extra tomato paste, scoop it onto a parchment paper-lined plate in tablespoon-sized heaps. Freeze for a day, then transfer to a ziplock bag. Now you’re set for the next recipe that calls for only a little bit of tomato paste!
Now, back to the mashed potatoes. Add 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mash with a potato masher or use a handheld mixer for just a minute to whip them up.
Put Lunch in a Jar
Now is the fun part! Carefully scoop the turkey and veggie mixture evenly into four pint-sized jars. We used maybe 1 1/4 cups per jar. Now layer on 1/2 cup or so of mashed potatoes. Top with a pinch of cheddar cheese, if desired. It doesn’t even need cheese because it tastes great even without it!
Pint-sized jars work well for a hungry adult (very filling!), but you can also use half-pint sized jars for kids or if you have a smaller appetite.
Here’s an optional assembly tip: you might want to add half of the mashed potatoes to the bottom of the jar. This way, you have a more evenly distributed potato-to-filling ratio. But even if the potatoes are all on top, just stir it all up a bit and it works great!
Make these ahead for nearly a week of lunches! They can be reheated without a lid in either a microwave for 1-2 minutes. The great thing about using a jar is that they can also be heated in the oven, if that’s your preference. About 20 minutes at 400 F works nicely, just make sure to place them on top of a baking sheet so they don’t fall over.
Chop potatoes into inch-sized pieces and boil them for 15-20 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, dice onion into small pieces, grate carrots, mince garlic, and slice mushrooms.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of oil. Saute onion for 2-3 minutes, then add carrots and garlic and saute 1-2 minutes more. Now add mushroom and ground turkey, mixing and breaking up turkey into small pieces until fully browned.
Add flour and spices to the turkey mixture, mix well. Now add peas, tomato paste, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.
Now, return to the potatoes. Add 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup sour cream, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mash or mix until creamy.
Fill four pint-sized jars equally with meat and veggie mixture. Top each with 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes. Garnish with cheese or fresh herbs, if desired.
You’ve heard that probiotics are important for good digestion and immune function. Does that mean you should supplement your kids? We delve into the latest research about probiotics and health and provide tips for choosing the right supplements for kids. PLUS, learn about three supplement-free ways you can support your kids’ microbiome.
Remember when we were kids, and our parents and doctors led us to believe that bacteria were just plain bad? The story went like this: bacteria made us sick, and antibiotics cured us by wiping out bacteria. Great, right? …
Except that scientific research from the last decade has shown that bacteria are not all bad. Most strains of bacteria in our bodies cause no harm whatsoever, and some, in fact, are downright important to our overall health.
We also know that our bodies are absolutely teeming with the little things. Our mouths, skin, and digestive tract host trillions upon trillions of bacteria: so many that the number of bacterial cells in our bodies roughly equals the number of our own actual cells!
All together, this community of bacteria inside our bodies is called our microbiome. And many doctors and pediatricians now recommend taking probiotic supplements to support a healthy balance in our microbiome.
Read on to learn about the health effects of probiotics, how to choose the right supplements for your kids, and a few non-supplement alternatives that can help kids maintain a healthy flora.
What are the Health Effects of Probiotics in Kids?
Research keeps uncovering more ways bacteria positively affect the health of adults and children. So far, we know that probiotics can prevent or lessen the severity of these conditions:
Digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, and IBS
Probiotic supplements are safe for most kids, though they might have mild tummy troubles like bloating or gas for the first few days. Though rare, kids with serious immune system problems can have a reaction to these supplements. So if you have any doubt about whether it’s OK to try them out with your kids, make sure to talk to your family’s pediatrician first.
At the end of the day, deciding to give any supplement to your kids is a personal decision. But if your child is struggling with mild to moderate environmental allergies or digestive issues, supplementing with probiotics may help. And it’s unlikely to cause any harm.
What to Look for in Probiotic Supplements
If you’ve decided to buy a probiotic supplement for your kids, prepare yourself for a dizzying array of options. The particular brand you purchase doesn’t matter as much as a few key criteria, which we’ve outlined for you below:
“Live, active cultures.” Make sure the supplement you choose contains this actual phrase right on the bottle, so you can be sure you’re getting an effective product. Some brands of probiotic supplements even come refrigerated to help protect these living cells.
High bacteria count. The concentration of bacteria in probiotic supplements is measured in CFUs (that’s “colony forming units.”) Look for a probiotic supplement that has, at a minimum, 1 billion CFUs.
Multiple strains. Balance matters! Different strains of probiotics can have different health effects. A supplement with eight or ten different strains of bacteria may help to diversify the bacteria that make up your kids’ microbiome.
Enteric coating. This refers to a hard coating on the outside of the pill that lets it survive the journey through the harsh, acidic stomach. An enteric coating means that bacteria are released in the intestines, where they can thrive.
Three Supplement-Free Ways to Support Your Kids’ Microbiome
Maybe you’re not sold on giving probiotic pills to your kids. That’s totally OK. In fact, there are other ways you can support your kids’ microbiome, without supplementing at all:
Serve probiotic-rich whole foods. Yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and other fermented foods contain live active cultures right in the food. You can even make these foods yourself at home! Here’s our recipe for culturing your very own yogurt in the Instant Pot.
Let your kids get a little bit dirty. It turns out, letting kids play in the dirt, and skipping a bath here and there, is actually probably good for them. Early, consistent exposure to a wide variety of bacteria helps diversify their microbiome and improve immune health.
Serve plenty of PRE-biotic foods. Yep, that’s different than PRO-biotics. “Prebiotics” is basically a fancy word for fiber, and it’s what the healthy bacteria in our bodies like to snack on. You can literally “feed” your kids’ microbiome by serving lots of fiber-rich fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
Moving can be tough on kids because they thrive on routines and familiarity. Leaving their friends, neighborhood and school they are comfortable with can be a hard transition. Our tips can help make this transition as smooth as possible for your kids.
10 Tips to Help Your Kids Adjust to a Move
Discuss moving with your kids in advance. Try to give them as much information as you can about the move and allow them to process their feelings and thoughts about it both positive and negative. Explain what will be different, but also make sure you talk about the things that will be the same – their toys, family, etc.
Give your kids a safe space to express their feelings. If you are feeling a lot of anxiety or sadness about the move, try not to let that rub off on your kids when talking about it. Let them express their real feelings to you and not worry about it making you more sad or anxious. You can validate that their feelings are normal while also trying to maintain a positive perspective.
Make a moving book. Take pictures of your house, yard, friends, favorite neighborhood spots, and school. Let your kids help take the pictures and decide what they want pictures of.
Visit your new home/neighborhood before moving. When possible, take your kids to tour your new neighborhood and city and visit places that matter to them. The library, parks, and local swimming pool. This can help take some of the mystery and worry out of the move. If it isn’t possible to actually visit your new area, check it out online with your kids.
Let kids help with planning. Have your kids draw a picture of how they want to arrange their new space. On moving day, have your kids pack one box of their favorite things that they can open right away when you get to your new house.
Help your kids say goodbye and stay connected. Host a goodbye party for their friends and classmates and have them write their contact info in an address book for each of your kids. Plan a trip back home to visit friends.
Maintain normal routines. Continue with the same routines you had before the move like family meals, game night and bedtime. This helps kids have some sort of consistency that is reassuring to them.
Reassure your kids. Show your kids lots of love and stay positive and upbeat about the move. Talk about how new adventures await and how fun it will be to meet all sorts of new friends.
Get to know neighbors. Help your kids make new friends by paving the way and meeting the people who live around you. Talk to people about local activities and sports you can get your kids involved with.
Become involved in your new community. As you meet new people through local schools, groups, or organizations, you can be opening some doors for your kids to meet other kids and make new friends. Reach out to people who have kids the same age as yours. Set up a playdate or invite them over to make it easier for your kids to connect. Look into local sports activities, YMCAs community clubs. When your kids see you getting involved and finding your place in your new neighborhood, they will likely feel more comfortable doing the same. If you can help your kids find a new friend before school starts, they will feel a lot less scared about going to school and not knowing anyone.
Buying or Selling Your Home
Our family recently moved from our home of 10 years. One thing we found that really helped reduce the stress of the moving process was how smooth the sell of our home went. We recently sold our home using Homie and had an amazing experience. Our home sold in 12 hours with a full price offer!
If you are about to start the process of buying or selling your home, we definitely recommend using Homie. It is the new way to buy or sell a home without expensive realtor commissions involved. Homie’s technology automates the entire real estate transaction for buyers and sellers. The bottom line, you handle more of the transaction yourself using our simple online tools, and pay a fraction of the cost. Instead of the typical 6% commission fees charged by traditional real estate agents (which is $18,000 on a $300,000 home), Homie charges a low fee and zero commissions.
The features of Homie that were the most helpful to us:
Photography – Homie provides a professional photographer to come to your home and take photos. The way your home looks in your listing is critical to being able to sell your home. Our photos looked incredible and I know were a big part of selling our home.
Value report and pricing – Homie provided comps and information that helped us set a good price to sell at.
Take care of all the things you don’t know how or don’t want to do. You get a dedicated team of Agents that help you through the process that will help guide you every step of the way. Technology makes it efficient and their team makes it an incredibly smooth process.
Check out their frequently asked questions here for more info!
Try these sticks that can be made ahead and frozen, and reheated in the microwave! (Kids’ self-serve breakfast while you steal a few extra minutes in bed? Sounds right up our alley.) Use whole grain bread for the best nutrition.
These delicious, southwestern-style burritos take a little extra time to assemble, but they taste amazing and you can easily take them along on your morning adventures. Bonus points for eating veggies with breakfast!
Speaking of no-cook recipes, your kids will love these tasty little bites. We’ve made them low in added sugars, so you don’t have to worry about your kids having a sugar rush on a hot morning. Pepitas and almond butter provide plant proteins.
Have any of you tried the coconut chicken soup from Nourishing Traditions Cookbook? It’s quite spicy, isn’t it? When my children were little, they found this soup too strong tasting. So, even though my husband and I enjoyed it, I ended up never making it!
Beef stew is certainly one of the most popular comfort foods within American and Irish cuisine.
When you take the time to carefully source ingredients such as grass-fed beef and rendered tallow for sautéing the vegetables, then it becomes a truly traditional dish that is tasty, satisfying, and healthy.