I'm Mama Harris, the wife and mother to a large blended and multicultural family. In my lifetime I've been a single mom, a step-mom, a working mom and now a stay at home mom. My kids range in age from toddler to newly adult and I write about my kitchen adventures and the variety of foods and recipes I feed my family at From the Kitchen of Mama Harris. I've experienced all aspects of mommy-hood and look forward to sharing my kitchen tips, tricks, recipes and shortcuts!

Case of the Boring Sandwich: Kick It Up a Notch with These Tips

Categories: lunch, meal prep, recipes, shortcuts

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Since I’m often busy with the kids and working at home, my husband tries to make it easy for me when it comes to his lunches. One of his absolute favorite things for lunch would be a sandwich made up of cold cuts. He’s not even picky about the meat, it could be bologna, ham, turkey, pastrami, salami.. the list goes on. Slap a bit of mustard and mayonnaise on there and he’s a happy camper. Many times this is the sandwich he requests for lunch and while I can appreciate that there are no frills, but it can still get quite boring to make. Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I want to make a sad sandwich.

So I choose to liven up his sandwich, and of course he doesn’t mind. This is easy to do and here’s how:

  • Add fresh veggies. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sun dried tomatoes, pickled bell peppers. Get creative!
  • Include a great kick. I’ll often use spicy brown mustard instead of the original bright yellow kind. In addition, I’ll spread a bit of horseradish into the mayonnaise and include a few pepperocini’s for a great bite.
  • Mix it up with different breads. Instead of plain sandwich breads, I’ll but sandwich rolls, fancy wheat bread with the seeds sprinkled on, or even some Hawaiian rolls. You can also slice up a loaf of French or Italian bread for softer or crispier variety to mix it up.
  • Also mix up the cheese. Instead of just using those boring slices of American cheese, try adding Pepper Jack cheese for an additional kick, or Swiss, Colby, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Provolone, maybe even Feta and cream cheese. Play around with different flavors and get creative.
  • Make it a grilled cheese sandwich. I’m not really a cold cuts sandwich girl, but make it a grilled cheese and I’m all the way in! It’s so simple too, just make the sandwich how you normally would, and grill it in a saute pan with a bit of butter or margarine. Even if it’s for later it still tastes great!
The main goal is to turn those sandwiches from boring to extraordinary.Let’s get excited about our food and look forward to lunchtime. He often enjoys the surprise and is impressed with the different things I add to tweak his favorite sandwiches.
What’s your favorite way to make a sandwich?

Healthy Smoothies On The Go!

Categories: breakfast, healthy, time savers

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There’s one thing that I can enjoy with my whole family, and that’s a delicious and healthy smoothie. If you’ve invested in a great blender like I suggested here, then whipping up a healthy and tasty treat is a snap! Kids love the varieties of colors and flavors and you can even sneak in a few healthy fruits and vegetables to make them even better for everyone. It’s a win/win!

I’ve created two great bases for an endless variety of tastiness. I typically just use whatever I have on hand, so most of the time I never have the same smoothie twice. The two recipes I’m sharing both pack a punch in the nutritional sense, you can add nonfat greek yogurt, soy milk, juice, or even other vegetables to suit your tastes.

The green smoothie has a crisp and fresh taste, perfect for Spring and summer, while the banana-berry smoothie carries a wealth of antioxidants and has a traditional berry taste. Both are delicious and nutritious and great for having as an easy meal on the go.

Banana-Berry Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 6 large strawberries
  • 1 large banana
  • 1/2 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup ice
Just blend everything up until smooth, then serve in two glasses (serves 2).
Refreshing Green Smoothie Ingredients:
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/2 small banana
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 2-3 tablespoons crushed pineapple
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup ice
Just blend everything up until smooth, then serve in two glasses (serves 2).
Tips for healthy smoothies
  • try to use neutral tasting ingredients for the healthy additions, if you’re using berries and bananas add kale, carrots, even chia seeds for extra health benefits without changing the taste of your smoothie
  • Make sure everything you’re adding is healthy and not light on nutrients. Celery might be a great idea for a green smoothie, but there’s other ingredients you can add that have many more nutritional benefits.
  • If you’re adding ingredients like juice, yogurt and milk, be sure you’re checking the labels. It’s easy to have a healthy smoothie go completely unhealthy by adding the wrong ingredients. The idea here is high vitamin, high protein, low sugar, low fat.
What are some of your favorite smoothie combinations?

5 Easy Recipe Ideas for Leftover Rice

Categories: leftovers, recipes, shortcuts

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Rice is a staple in so many homes, it’s an easy ingredient to whip up as a quick side, or even as part of a main dish. My husband and son are rice fanatics. They will literally make a pot of white rice and eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even a midnight snack. They like to add a little milk and sugar to it, so it’s sort of like an oatmeal. Often when they make their big pot of rice they leave a lot of leftovers that I’m left with to figure out how to use. They don’t even use the leftover rice the following day, they just make another pot.

Through the years this has left me with a predicament, because I hate to waste food. So I’ve discovered quite a few ways to use this leftover rice to my advantage, it’s kind of like meal planning and it’s a great time save since it’s already been prepared. SCORE!

This is actually a great problem for the busy mom to have. A lot of really good meals that include rice actually call for the rice to be cooked a day or two in advance. Otherwise, it may become too mushy when you add it to your dish. Using leftover rice is actually a great option! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Ideas for Leftover Rice:

  • Rice pudding. Mix rice with some milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and you have yourself a delicious treat!
  • Stir fry. The best stir-fry begins with a good cooked rice and oil. You can add scrambled eggs and vegetables, or even customize it with chicken, beef or shrimp!
  • Chicken soup with rice. A good, hearty soup is a great way to use up some leftover rice. It’s especially helpful during the polar vortex that much of the country is experiencing, great way to keep you nice and toasty!
  • Sausage and rice casserole. A hearty casserole is another great option, and an efficient way to create a quick meal with all that leftover rice!
  • Black bean and rice burritos. A great dish on it’s own, or you can even add eggs, vegetables and salsa to create a delicious breakfast burrito. Perfect for leftover rice the next morning!
Do you make rice often? What is your favorite rice based dish?

Chocolate Dipped Oreo Treats: Valentine’s Day Snack Recipe

Categories: desserts, no-bake, recipes

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There’s a special magic about Valentine’s Day that makes it indescribably fun for kids. Why not make a fun treat that your kids will love to create with you, almost as much as they’ll love to enjoy!

For more Valentine inspired treats check out these 16 Sweet and Savor Valentine’s Day Treats

During this past holiday season my best friend from childhood came to visit and we had a fun day of cooking in my kitchen. She shared this recipe with me, and we added to it by drizzling the chocolate dipped Oreo Bites with white chocolate. This would be a great base recipe for many occasions, and kids absolutely love joining in. My five year old had a blast breaking up all the Oreos and rolling them up in balls with the cream cheese. It was messy fun, just how kids like it!
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15 No-Bake Dessert Recipes

Categories: desserts, no-bake, recipes

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Whether you need it for the Game Day party this weekend or the Valentine’s Day class party in a few weeks, no-bake desserts are always a great choice for sweets. They are an ideal way for kids to help in the kitchen, since there’s no risk of being burned by the oven and it’s often “magical” the way these desserts come together. They are also a great option in the summer when the last thing anyone wants to do is bake.


Many No-Bake Desserts are pudding based. You may cook it on the stovetop until it thickens and create a parfait or a pie by chilling. Most often with this type of dessert you refrigerate overnight until it sets and is ready to be served.
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8 “Must-Have” Kitchen Appliances to Save Time

Categories: kitchen, organizing, products, time savers

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You may have seen my other lists for kitchen utensil essentials as well as pantry essentials, so I thought I’d compile a list of some essential gadgets and small appliances that are wonderful additions to the kitchen.

All of these gadgets are created in order to save you time, which is perfect for the busy mom!

  • Electric mixer. Whether it’s a hand mixer or a stand mixer, you definitely need an electric mixer of some kind. Especially essential if you like to bake.
  • Food Processor. A food processor is one of the ultimate time savers. Need to chop onions, garlic and vegetables? A task that could easily take half an hour takes just five minutes with a quality food processor.
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No Meat? No Problem! Easy Meatless Dinner Recipes

Categories: healthy, meal prep, recipes

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For a long time in my house a meal would not be considered dinner unless meat was a primary ingredient. If there was no meat in the house, I just couldn’t make dinner.

Can you imagine?

Now we like to play around with a variety of ingredients, sometimes substituting meat and sometimes letting the vegetables and other ingredients get all the glory. I’ve recently noticed a “Meatless Monday” theme as well, just as a way to cut down on meat and ante up on vegetables and I was intrigued. It’s a great way to challenge yourself and your family by creating some classic favorites and swapping out ingredients to cut the meat out with ingredients that are normally stocked in your kitchen.

If you’re looking to build your meatless Monday repertoire, then check out three of my favorite meatless recipes.
P.S. The lasagna roll ups are my 2 year olds favorite!


Black Bean Meatless Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • dash of cumin
  • corn tortillas, taco size
  • 4 diced roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese/Monterey jack cheese mixture
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes
Directions:
  1. Heat olive oil in medium skillet.
  2. Add chopped onions and sauté until softened.
  3. Add drained beans, garlic salt and cumin. Combine and heat through.
  4. Warm tortillas.
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4 Tips for Healthy Meal Planning on a Budget

Categories: budget, healthy, meal prep

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Since the holidays are now over and the New Year has kicked into full swing, one of the most common goals is making better food choices and eating more healthy. As a busy mom, however, I understand that sometimes convenience outweighs smart choices and that’s how we can get sucked back into those bad habits. Believe me, I know first hand.

No matter what your goal is, whether you plan on cooking more at home, eating more salads or just avoiding the drive through altogether - I’m here to help. I’ve compiled a short list of tips to help you continue to make good choices for yourself and your family without breaking the bank.

  • Write a shopping list. If you know what you are going shopping for, you are less likely to make impulsive purchases. Plan ahead, clip coupons and check the sales ads for your favorite stores. Write down the prices of your favorite items and comparison shop. I typically shop at least three stores a week to get the best deals. Tip: only do your grocery shopping when you’ve already eaten!
  • Stay on the outer aisles. Have you noticed that most grocery stores have all their fresh fruit, produce, bulk items and generally healthier stuff on the outer regions of the store layout. If you go down the aisles that’s where most of the processed foods that are boxed or canned are found. Try to stick to the outer circle for the majority of your trip, only going down the aisles for the necessary items on your list. Some folks shop by going up and down each aisle, but that is also how impulse buys happen.
  • Find local Farmer’s Markets. In a few months the local farmer’s markets will be opening up, take advantage of some fresh local produce while also getting to know your local farmers. You’re likely to score some excellent deals while making it a learning experience for your kids.
  • Stick to your budget. When I shop I usually allocate a certain dollar amount for groceries, and I’ll only bring that amount in cash. I use my calculator on my phone and add each item while shopping and sticking to my list. If I come up under budget, then I’ll grab a few extra items I may decide on purchasing. This is always a guarantee to not overspend and you really get to know your prices on all products.
There’s a myth out there that in order to eat well you have to spend a lot. This is just not the case, you just have to shop smart and know your local stores and prices
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What are some of your favorite tips for healthy food shopping on a budget?

Outfit Your Kitchen For The New Year: Kitchen Essentials

Categories: cooking, kitchen, organizing

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The New Year is here and I know that everyone is buzzing about their goals and resolutions for 2014.

Maybe one of your resolutions is to spend a little more time in the kitchen or maybe you plan to get a little more creative with new recipes, or even to spend time cooking or baking with your kids. Naturally, most of my resolutions reside in my happy place: the kitchen. So how can I make this year a better year…or better yet, my kitchen a better kitchen?
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New Year’s Cocktails

Categories: holidays, recipes

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New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, and thinking up a signature cocktail for the special occasion can be a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be difficult, with just the right garnish you can make almost any cocktail a special occasion drink.

  • You can use holiday berries and seasonal fruits as garnish and ingredients for an extra special holiday themed cocktail.

Some Ideas:
Apple Pie Cocktail
Snow Cosmo
Red, White & Vodka

  • Your favorite champagne with frozen berries or fun flavored ice dropped into the glass. You can even freeze herbs for a gorgeous result.
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  • Use Candy or sprinkles for a fun and festive effect.

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