Even though my children are all grown up with kids of their own, I still remember this time of year as being especially busy. Baseball practice, spring basketball league, track meets, concert rehearsals, voice lessons for the big recital, baton lessons, math meets – you name it, we were there.

We ate more hot dogs, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and McDonald’s Happy Meals than I would ever care to admit. But when you’re constantly in the car, racing to the playing field, or rooting for your kid as they attempt to hit high C while balancing on the top bleacher, you do what you have to do to keep things on schedule.

Now that I’m older, wiser, and more organized, I’m the first one to be handing out advice when it comes to what should be going into my growing grandchildren’s bellies, and it’s not anything wrapped in a paper logo, poked through a drive-through window, and wearing the price tag of $32 (if you’re lucky) for a family of four.

Who needs fast food when there’s a pot of soup and a pan of biscuits keeping warm on the back of the stove? All it takes is a bit of mindfulness when making the grocery list and an extra 30-45 minutes of prep time. Make it a family affair. All kids over the age of 10 should be able to put this combo together.

Keep some pesto in the freezer for times such as these. After whipping up a batch in the food processor (I use walnuts instead of the pricier pine nuts and different greens including carrot tops, kale, spinach, and of course, basil) I put the concoction in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I store the cubes in zip-lock bags and voila – we can enjoy a taste of high summer whenever we want.

Make Power Balls for the freezer, too. Vegan, gluten-free, and practically guilt-free, these treats can replace those expensive protein bars and tide over hungry kids (and parents) when the game runs into extra innings or whenever an energy boost is needed.

And for those of us whose little birdies flew the nest long ago, this can all be made ahead so you can carry on with your business, whether it’s in the office, the garden, or on a hiking trail.

Whatever you have on your overloaded agenda, have a great day knowing you have a yummy meal waiting for you at the end of it.

Portuguese Stew

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 head cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into bite-size pieces

6 cups chicken stock

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Warm olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté onion, garlic, cabbage, carrots, bell pepper and sausage for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer until flavors are blended, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in parsley. Yield: 8 servings

Pesto Biscuits

2 cups flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup chilled butter

1/4 cup pesto

2/3 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in butter and pesto until pea-size crumbs form. Add buttermilk. Mix with a fork until dough holds together.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough lightly then pat into a round 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter. Place one inch apart on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Yield: 10 (2 1/2 inch) biscuits

Power Balls

2 cups dried cherries

8 pitted Medjool dates

2/3 cup nuts

2 tbsp. orange juice

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped

4 tbsps. shredded coconut, plus more for coating

Finely chop cherries, dates and nuts in a bowl. Add juice, cinnamon, chips, and coconut. Mix together with your hands until the mixture sticks together, adding a bit more juice or more dates if needed. Moisten hands with water and roll mixture into walnut-sized balls. Roll in coconut and refrigerate until firm. Yield: 24 treats

Karen Scneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected].

Say no to the drive-through and yes to protein-packed Portuguese Stew.

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