Monday, October 4, 2010

Ragu, Feeding Kids on Busy Nights & A Giveaway

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and Ragú.




As the school year gets into full swing, so do all of the extra activities that come with the season. There are some days when the kids have to power through their homework so that they can pull on their shin guards and cleats to get to soccer practice on time. My husband and I try our best not to over-schedule our kids because we believe that playing tag in the backyard and building with Legos are very worthy activities. We also make an effort to sit down to dinner together every night. It is our time to re-hash the day's events, tell silly stories, and reconnect as a family. That being said, there are days when putting a healthy, satisfying meal on the table is a challenge. Over the years, I have come up with a few tricks to help us avoid the fast food trap. It is our hope that, through healthy food and plenty of family time, we can raise confident, healthy, and happy children.

Convenience foods
As a food blogger, I tend to cook most of my meals from scratch, using the freshest ingredients I can find. However, on busy nights, I often rely on convenience foods so I can put a healthy meal on the table quickly. I always have canned beans, frozen potstickers, and jars of tomato sauce stocked and ready to go. When Ragu sent me some of their bottles of tomato sauce, I was very interested in sampling it. More on that later.

Freezer envy
One of the best purchases we ever made was a full-sized standing freezer, which is nestled into a corner of our garage. This allows us to take advantage of the great deals on chicken, fish, beef, and pork at the warehouse stores without worrying about the meat going bad before we have a chance to eat it. The night before or in the morning, I take something out of the freezer to defrost and it is ready to be cooked when dinnertime arrives.

Chopped vegetables
If I am prepping vegetables on a more leisurely night, I chop extra. Sliced red bell peppers, chopped carrots, and broccoli florets stay fresh when stored properly in the fridge. When the prep work is already done, the meal comes together a lot faster.


Make extras
During the cooler months, we eat significant amounts of chili, soup, and baked pasta dishes. It is very easy to double these recipes and freeze the extras for future meals.

The taste test
Ragu sent me two tomato sauces to try. Both were the Old World Style Traditional Pasta Sauce, but one was Ragu's old formula and the other was their new formulation of the same sauce. When I first opened the bottles, the first thing I noticed was that the new formula has a deeper, richer color. I took a spoonful of the old formula and, to be honest, I was not satisfied. In my opinion, the old formula had a slightly artificial taste. Next, I took a spoonful of the new formula. The deeper red color promised a richer taste and did not disappoint. Ragu states that there are 2 servings of vegetables in every half-cup of the sauce and I believe it. The fresh, slightly acidic taste of the tomatoes was prominent and the new formula had a thick, satisfying consistency.

Now, please remember that I write about and cook a lot of food as my part-time job, so I am rather picky. I will not lie and tell you that I would choose Ragu's sauce over one made from fresh tomatoes on my stovetop. However, when we have a busy night in front of us, I am looking for convenience and Ragu's sauce would fit the bill.

I visited Ragu's recipe page so that I could choose a recipe to make with the new formula sauce. I chose the lasagna recipe, which required two bottles of Ragu sauce, along with about 6 other ingredients. In other words, it was a quick and easy recipe to throw together. Now, it is not in my blood to follow any recipe to a tee, so I made a couple of simple changes. I substituted grated mozzarella cheese with fresh mozzarella, plus I added about 10 leaves of thinly sliced fresh basil. This was not the best lasagna I have had, but it was a satisfying meal for my family.

To be one of the first to taste Ragú® with two servings of veggies in every half-cup, visit Ragu at facebook.com/ragusauce.

For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, sponsored by BlogHer, please answer the following question in the comments section:

"What are your tips for feeding your kids on busy nights?"

For a second entry, you can:
· Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
· Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)
· Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Please visit BlogHer.com special offers page for 10 more chances to win a Visa gift card.

This giveaway will run from 10/4 - 11/15/2010.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway.

There is also a chance to win a Meal Makeover kit (sponsored by Ragu). See Ragu's Facebook fan page for details.
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127 comments:

Ashley said...

Whenever i cook I try to make a huge batch so that it will last for those busy nights.

hewella1 at gmail dot com

Mami2jcn said...

Sometimes we do breakfast for dinner if we're in a big rush...waffles and oatmeal are really quick to make.

mami2jcn at gmail dot com

meeyeehere said...

On busy nights we eat pasta and I heat up a bag a veggies and make some tomato sauce
jacksoncrisman@yahoo.com

meeyeehere said...

http://twitter.com/#!/meeyeehere/status/26408749997
I tweeted
jacksoncrisman@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Once a month a cook about ten freezer meals for those crazy busy nights! tracietrump@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Crockpot!!!

Melinda
(melindaes@hotmail.com)

Susan said...

Wow, my tip for feeding my son on a busy night is take-out. I know that isn't the correct answer, but at least he gets to eat. There are seriously some nights that there is so much running around that I am glad that he is vocal and reminds me he is hungry!

rsmstahley @ adelphia dot net

Susan said...

I tweeted

http://twitter.com/rsmstahley/status/26469874517

rsmstahley @ adelphia dot net

Karen said...

We use the crockpot a lot in our house...a family of 6.

Katy said...

I try to plan ahead for busy nights & use the Crock pot- it is a huge help!

Robin M. said...

The crock-pot helps me alot!

Carrie White said...

We love pasta in our house! I sometimes add sausage or hamburger and occasionally I chop up a few tiny tomatoes in it and toss in some additional oregano or basil and put some green peppers and mushrooms in it. whitecarrie69@yahoo.com

Tabathia said...

On a busy night I either go with a frozen pizza and salad or boil some spaghetti noddles to go with meatballs and sauce
tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

Tabathia said...

tweet
http://twitter.com/ChelleB36/status/26505204835
tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

allthingsnew said...

On busy nights, I do usually open up a jar of pasta sauce! It's the fastest way and it tastes great too!

stephanierosenhahn at yahoo dot com

allthingsnew said...

Tweeted!
link: http://twitter.com/asthepotter/status/26512441444

stephanierosenhahn at yahoo dot com

Just call me b said...

Well, that's a hard balance, and I am not great at it. But my fave quick and easy meal is Chicken and Spaghetti!

sodahoney said...

My kids are grown and while they preplanning was the key. We made sandwiches for lunch and froze them a week at a time. Most meals were cooked in batches of 2. Everyone had responsibilities and everyone shared in the meals and clean up.

sodahoney said...

http://twitter.com/sodahoney/status/26518198630

Betty N said...

I cook ahead and freeze meat and casserole dishes. This ensures good healthy food at a moment's notice...just add salad, frozen veggies

Kelly Massman said...

I cook ahead sometimes. What a great giveaway! Thanks for a chance to win!
kmassman gmail

Betty N said...

tweet
http://twitter.com/Grandma3710/status/26551216034

kari jasus said...

one answer. crockpot!

raggammuffin@gmail.com

kari jasus said...

tweeted
http://twitter.com/raggammuffin/status/26552148872

Lorie said...

We have about a half dozen family dinners that are REALLY easy to prepare, so we always have the ingredients on hand to make them. Plus we always have fresh fruit and veggies ready to eat, so if we are really short on time, we have leftovers or a paninis with fresh fruit and veggies.

Amber said...

We definitely make food ahead and freeze it or cook it the night before and heat up the next day. So helpful!

shevilkenevil1 at aol dot com

Amber said...

Tweet:
http://twitter.com/lipstickncandy/status/26583048977

shevilkenevil1 at aol dot com

susan1215 said...

I plan ahead and put something in the crock pot like chili or soup for dinner that night.

s2s2 at comcast dot net

susan1215 said...

http://twitter.com/susan1215/status/26604636791

Trish said...

That's my best idea too, make an extra dish of something that's easy to freeze, and then use it for a simple meal on a weeknight.

Alessandra said...

I usually make pasta or a frozen pizza when in a rush, or make something that is pretty easy yet delish.

alessandra7 (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

Spaghetti is always a good bet.

MCantu1019@aol.com

Becky said...

My favorite is making soup or chili in the crockpot so it's ready as soon as we are all home!

Becky said...

I'm a big fan of crockpot meals. I love being able to eat as soon as we are all home!

sisinpacific said...

once a month cooking. Make a couple of huge batches, swap with friends and keep at the ready in freezer. Life saver.
Karla_schade(at)hotmail(dot)com

Karen said...

I always try to prepare most of the meal the night before if possible.
Thanks!
Karen

lemontart5(at)yahoo(dot)com

Jenny B said...

I make as much as I can while my little ones are napping--otherwise it would never get done!
Jenny B

Jennyhasquads at yahoodotcom

allysmama said...

When I cook a pot of chili, I make plenty and freeze the extra to use on busy nights!
bleatham*at*gmail.com

allysmama said...

tweet
http://twitter.com/#!/sleatham1/status/26823351124
bleatham*at*gmail.com

gmissycat said...

Make several dishes for the week and use the freezer. That always worked for me!
gmissycat@yahoo.com

gmissycat said...

Tweeted giveaway here!
http://twitter.com/gmissycat/status/26835658727
gmissycat@yahoo.com

fostertam said...

1. Plan you menu in advance keeping in mind you schedule for the week then you can plan easiest meals for busiest days.
2. Make sure each meal includes a vegetable--fresh or frozen is best, but canned will do in a pinch
3. Have at least one REALLY easy backup in case of a schedule change.

fostertam said...

http://twitter.com/#!/fostertam/status/26878730150

Amanda said...

I make some extra meals and freeze them, but I actually really like the meals that Sam's Club makes too. They are over by the meat department and there are several really good ones. 30 minutes and they are done!

Tammigirl said...

I think I'm a lot like you. On busy nights I go for things which will be convenient for me. This could be things I've stashed in the freezer like another pan of enchiladas. (Make two - eat one, freeze one) Or, like the other night, it was throw some dough on a cookie sheet, grab the Ragu, run to the Country Trader for some pepperoni, and toss on some cheese = PiZZa!

I also use V8 as a chili base = more veggies. Love it!

Anonymous said...

Freezer cooking & family clean up! scg00387 at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

http://twitter.com/#!/DesMoinesDealin/status/26905234041 scg00387 at yahoo dot com

Mel4Him said...

I like to buy the complete frozen meals that are loaded with healthy veggies. They take about 12 minutes to cook so we do not have to wait around to eat.

Mel4Him777{at}gmail{dot}com

Mel4Him said...

Tweet
http://twitter.com/#!/Mel4Him/status/26943687478

Mel4Him777{at}gmail{dot}com

Angel Jacklyn said...

SPAGHETTI ALWAYS WORKS IN THIS HOUSE. IT'S QUICK, SIMPLE AND EASY TO MAKE. OF COURSE IT WOULDN'T BE COMPLETE WITHOUT RAGU... kytah00@yahoo.com

Angel Jacklyn said...

TWEETED TOO! http://twitter.com/#!/kytah00/status/27025109396 kytah00@yahoo.com

Patty said...

When the kids were young, they each had a night to plan and prepare dinner. It was sometimes easy--sandwiches and soup, frozen fish sticks and fries, or baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese on the top. As they got more experienced, their dishes evolved into beef and bean burritos, sloppy joes, spaghetti with meatballs. The trick was to sit with them, help them plan, and make sure that the pantry contained the items necessary to complete their menu. P.S., they both cook now that they are grown.

bdiane34 said...

On our busy nights we usually have easy quick fix meals like Tacos, Spaghetti, Or I pop in a frozen lasagna!!
sweokgrl@gmail.com

bdiane34 said...

I tweeted
sweokgrl@gmail.com
http://twitter.com/bdiane34/status/27077216432

jessica miller said...

On a busy night I liked to use jar sauces:)
driven873@hotmail.com

DoughGirl said...

I like to cook double batches and freeze the extra...it's quick to thaw and bake on nights when we're on the run! I also like using the slow cooker to make manicotti and lasagna.

elderberry44 AT yahoo.com

ms-texas said...

planning ahead and using my crockpot help out most on busy days!

debbiebellows[at]gmail[dot]com

ms-texas said...

tweeted!

http://twitter.com/bellows22/status/27099121610

debbiebellows[at]gmail[dot]com

Linda said...

Try to use divided dishes and fix one out of each meal I cook. Freeze them and use on nights I don't have time to cook.

Danielle said...

I try to not make anything too complicated and always make enough for leftovers.
dgoodridge84@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Make casseroles or crock pot dishes. It is pretty easy to just throw all of the ingredients in a pot/pan and let it cook.

mmburdette22@yahoo.com

Darcy said...

I don't have kids, but I'm all about making a double batch of whatever recipe I'm making and freezing 1/2 of it!

BrendaLea, the Prpldy said...

it's either frozxen pizza dipped in Ragu sauce or a casserole that was made at another time and taken out of the freezer.

prpldy (at) comcast dot net

Pretend Chef said...

I like to prepare a menu plan the night before for the following day. I keep a spreadsheet of the food items we have in our fridge, pantry, and freezer broke down into categories of veggies, fruits, protein, dairy, carbs, and fats. I try to provide a balanced dinner and choose a protein, veggie, and carb for dinners. Having this spreadsheet ensures our family no longer wastes food that gets pushed to the back of the pantry. If anything can be prepped the night before I do so. It's always a perk when a recipe can easily be doubled, froze, and then reheated for another night.

wigget said...

i like to use green giant frozen boxed vegetables to get a quick vegetable on the table

Crazy Lila said...

First, put on a big pot of water to boil.

Second, race to dinner table to get the cookies back from my kids who are ravenous.

Third, hide behind partition so kids don't see me sneak a cookie while I'm cooking.

Fourth, throw a bag of baby carrots to the table and follow with a bottle of ranch dressing.

Fifth, don't speak with mouthful of cookies, discretely swallow, and ask if kids want pasta with red sauce or pasta with parmesan cheese.

Sixth, cook and drain pasta, portion out parmesan only dish, dump a good size helping of red sauce (Ragu of course!) on remainder and juggle both dishes to table so everyone gets their dinner at the same time!

Seventh, run back into kitchen to get glasses of milk and bag of salad. Carry to table, sit and give thanks for getting one more meal on the table without bloodshed!

Viola!

LAMusing said...

Spaghetti with meat sauce and a salad is quick and easy! Second best is take out :)
adrianecoros(at)gmail(dot)com

Norma said...

On a really busy night - cold cereal with fresh fruit is easy
bingomamanorma(at)gmail(dot)com

LAMusing said...

tweet! http://twitter.com/LAMusing/status/27521221320
adrianecoros(at)gmail(dot)com

mama mia said...

I try to plan ahead every Sunday night and identify the busy nights so that I am prepared with leftovers. If a night catches me by surprise, I will make a quick meal like Boy Scout Stew, or breakfast for dinner, or grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and carrot sticks.

Kerry said...

My favorite busy night meal is to have something ready and waiting in the crock pot. It's still healthy and everything in the crock pot is much more tender!
nuthouse(at)centurytel(dot)net

Lexiquin said...

Now that it's Fall, stew in the crockpot is a lifesaver! I can assemble it in the morning and as schedules permit, we can eat a bowl any time after the kids get home. Unfortunately, with the kids' sports schedules, there aren't too many days we can actually sit down to eat together. I also make a quick casserole by slicing zucchini and pouring a jar of Ragu' over the top. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until cheese melts. It's pretty darn good!
Thanks for the giveaway.
aleq13@gmail.com

Lexiquin said...

Tweet! http://twitter.com/#!/lexiquin/status/27655428629

I Love Lucy said...

Freeze! I fill my freezer with meals so on busy days I can just take one out of the freezer and let it defrost and still have a home cooked meal for dinner! it's great!

Andrew's Mom said...

Thankfully I'm able to stay home and have the day to prep the meals for the night ahead. But there are occasions I use jarred sauce - not for my husband - but Andrew loves any sauce as long as the pasta is freshly boiled - he will not eat reheated anything! He's autistic and I think it is a texture issue.

Law Family said...

On a busy night, Ragu saves my bacon! Can't wait to try the new formula!

babybloomr said...

OK-- I'm trying it!

Tara said...

We try and do a meal prep day on the weekend so we can prepare food for the upcoming week and freeze it. SO on days that we don't have much time we can grab something from the freezer and reheat it.
wakechick25@yahoo.com

Tara said...

I read the official rules.
wakechick25@yahoo.com

Meaghen said...

leftovers frozen! just take them out the night before and they're ready to be heated by the time you're done work!

Erin said...

Everyone has already said spaghetti but it's so quick, easy and yummy so I'll say it again. I also love getting brisket and freezing that and then all you need are some rolls and you have instant brisket sandwiches.

Toystory said...

Quesadilla's for us. I have pre cooked and sliced grilled chicken in the freezer, I pop a handful the microwave, while I heat a pot, get out the flour tortillas. I put tortilla, chicken and bought shredded Mexican cheese. Fast, easy and inexpensive too.
1prizewinner(at)gmail.com

Deb said...

At least once a week I fry up a pound of ground beef, add it to a jar of Ragu and serve it over Angel Hair. It is so quick and easy, yet fulfilling and comforting! Certainly a staple and a go to dinner at my house.

Shel said...

When I make meatballs, I make a double batch and freeze some. This way when we're in a hurry, I throw them in the spaghetti sauce and cook up a box of rotini noodles..quick, easy and filling.

shel704 at aol dot com

Shel said...

http://twitter.com/auntiethesis/status/28624482062

shel704 at aol dot com

Sandyhere said...

I cook large batches of food on the weekend to freeze for quick meals, but on those nights where they want something filling but I don't have time to cook a whole meal and the freeze works won't do, we have pasta with Ragu sauce, the chunkier the better. I may add in some stewed tomatoes or even pre-made meatballs or ones I have cooked and frozen ahead of time or even a little spinach to the alfredo sauce . We love the tomato based and creamy versions of Ragu so it is never the same thing twice and still quick and easy. Just sprinkle a little cheese on top, parmesan or a little mozzarella, heat up some garlic bread or just make garlic toast and the kids are happy and I am happy.. throw in a little salad greens on the side and it is healthy too.

jakiesmom said...

my son only eats about 6 things so luckily most are easy to make..my only real tip is to make sure the kiddo is in the mood for what you have planned i've made his fav meal turned down cause he "wanted" pizza
nannypanpan at sbcglobal.net

JC said...

I have weekly menu plan and pre-cook main ingredients on weekends.

JC said...

tweet.http://twitter.com/tcarolinep/status/28764332858

suburban prep said...

I always keep chicken fingers and mac and cheese on hand for my nephews and nieces.

Haven said...

MAKE AHEAD meals!! Or crock pot meals. That's the easiest

Haven said...

tweeted!

http://twitter.com/HavensTwit/status/28833037080

Stacey said...

I meal plan weekly and do something easy on the busy nights....for a quick one we throw together a taco salad.

Stacey said...

Taco Salad or Nachos for the busy nights.

Christine said...

I try to have stuff prepped ahead of time and I make alot of casseroles to bury those frozen veggies. Knowing what I'm gonna make is half the battle.


Christine
dazed1821@aol.com

Holly said...

pasta and sauce always on hand or order pizza.

hcornish@agron.com

Xandra said...

Casseroles that are easy to throw together and are also good for leftovers the next night. I make a couple versions of tacos for busy nights too and use leftover taco meat in a homemade sloppy joes recipe the next night.

ale.runawaybunny@gmail.com

Heather said...

On busy nights, I use my crock pot, it's a life saver!


heatheranne99 at gmail dot com

Heather said...

Tweet!
http://twitter.com/ScoomerBlog/status/28940030089

heatheranne99 at gmail dot com

Racingjourno said...

The key is to always (if you can) have something frozen which can quickly be reheated. Then it's no time at all.

scoopster(nospam)at yahoo dot om

Racingjourno said...

tweet
http://twitter.com/LuigiFranco/status/28947469692

scoopster(nospam)at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

order pizza!

pokraj (at) yahoo (dot) com

angie lilly said...

The best way is to make it in a crockpot the night before…then turn it on before you leave for the day…and when you come home…nice fresh hot dinner is waiting!!!
Angie
one 4 earth at aol dot com

angie lilly said...

I tweeted here: http://twitter.com/#!/FotoMacro/status/29092683684
Angie
one 4 earth at aol dot com

Scott said...

during the week we stock up on healthy organic frozen meals like Amy’s brand…nothing faster or easier than microwaving! LOL
Scott
nynekats at aol dot com

Scott said...

tweeted http://twitter.com/#!/RePurrPussed/status/29093924809
Scott
nynekats at aol dot com

abitnerdy said...

Ragu and steamed veggies are easy go-to's also have spare pizza crust in the freezer and just pop it in with anything available in the fridge and voila!

abitnerdygirl [at] gmail [dot] com ;)

ape2016 said...

If it is one of those really insane nights, then it is scrambled eggs and toast!
ape2016(at)aol(dot)com

bargaingirl said...

Sometimes I will double whatever meal I am making to have ready in the freezer for those nights that are too crazy to cook. At least we still have a home-cooked meal.

susitravl said...

My crockpot and a husband that gets off work 90 minutes before I do! :)
susitravl(at)gmail(dot)com

jillyrh said...

I use my crockpot a lot

Ellie said...

It's funny that your story is about pasta sauce, because on a busy night I usually make my simple version of spaghetti. I have several variations, and my simple one is just ground beef and store bought sauce. Of course I am a chef-wannabe, so I add seasonings, chopped onions, garlic and green pepper too!

quitecontrary1977 said...

On really busy nights, I will usually make a frozen pizza or some other not entirely healthy frozen prepared food!My daughter likes really busy nights!
quitecontrary1977@hotmail.com

Karina said...

leftovers



karinaroselee(at)gmail(dot)com

SUEB0B said...

I just open a can and put it in a bowl on the floor. Oh - did I mention my "kid" is a greyhound?

marcia goss said...

On busy nights, we have a sandwich and soup. My granddaughter loves tomato soup and a grilled cheese.
marcia.goss@gmail.com

marcia goss said...

Tweet.
http://twitter.com/mgoss123/status/622611646128129
marcia.goss@gmail.com

Just call me "B" said...

I am not very good at it. I wish I was! Maybe your readers comments will help me ;)

shiloh said...

I pre cook and freeze ground beef and chicken. A pack can be taken out and added to a couple of jars of sauce, and you have a chicken or ground meat spaghetti. I always use Ragu in my Lasagna. I think easier, tastes better.

tattgiff said...

we have had cereal for dinner before
tattgiff at centurytel dot net

duckstrawberry said...

I use microwaveable foods like tv dinners. Just pop them in the microwaves and they're ready in a few minutes. Pasta's also really easy to make.

Gaines7 said...

Cooking a day ahead of time and using items like Ragu sauce saves a lot of time. I am subscribing, liking, and following. Thank you.

gainessimmons@aol.com

daveg0929 said...

spaghetti and meatballs is always easy

Barbarawr said...

I couldn't live without the crockpot for busy nights when we can't all eat together.

Email address is in blogger profile

Barbarawr said...

I tweeted http://twitter.com/bsw529/status/4275671530475520

Email address is in blogger profile

JJ said...

I use my crockpot for hectic nights (usually always) come home and dinner is already done

JJ said...

Tweeted
http://twitter.com/jjudy04/status/4356985973641217