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Mom plans ahead to balance busy schedule

Making bananchocolate chip bars is family affair for (from left) Isaac JemmOliver Asher Weisler.  The boys will share treats

Making banana chocolate chip bars is a family affair for (from left) Isaac, Jemma, Oliver and Asher Weisler. The boys will share the treats with their three older brothers, Abe, Sam and Jonah. | Judy Buchenot for Sun-Times Media

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Banana Chocolate Chip Bars

3/4 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup mashed banana (2 to 3 bananas)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat butter with an electric mixer on high for 30 seconds. Add sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt and beat until combined. Add egg, bananas and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in as much flour as possible with mixer and then stir in remaining flour by hand. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into a greased 9x12 inch pan or a 15x10 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Bars are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and cut into bars.

Updated: May 15, 2013 9:45AM

Jemma Weisler is a busy Aurora mom who is teaching her almost-2-year-old to talk one minute and helping her 16-year-old learn to drive the next. She is a mother to the sixth power for six sons ranging in age from 22 months to 16 years. Needless to say, feeding her family is daily challenge.

“I do try to menu plan,” bravely says Weisler. “But the boys are always surprising me with things like ‘I need to take cookies to scouts tomorrow’ or ‘I need to be at school at 6 for a concert today.’ I have to be flexible so I buy in bulk and use my freezer. ... a lot.”

She makes sure to always have an ample supply of bread, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, wraps, tortillas, pasta, flour, sugar and baking basics. To make her role a little more challenging, she has one son with a milk allergy and another who is a picky eater.

Weisler happily embraces her unpredictable family lifestyle with understanding and creativity.

She helps the school-age children pack their own lunches each day and has developed a series of quick fix meals for evenings when there are multiple activities.

“Quick fix meals are anything I can get onto the table in 20 minutes,” she explains.

One of the favorite quick fix meals are scrambled egg burritos. Weisler scrambles up several eggs and allows her sons to create their own personal mix of cheese, sausage, ham, peppers, onions and eggs to roll up in a tortilla.

New recipes

A recent find for the family are pizza panini sandwiches which begin with slices of hearty bread like French bread.

She mixes garlic bread seasoning into butter and coats one side of each slice. She places half the bread slices butter side down on a grill pan and spreads them with pizza or spaghetti sauce.

Each son chooses fillings including mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, cooked sausage, peppers, onions and vegetables to pile on the slices.

Then each panini is topped with the remaining bread slices with butter side out.

Weisler creates a panini press by placing a plate on the top of the bread slices. She weighs down the plate with cans of fruit. When one side is browned, she flips them to brown the other side. “I always include salad or sliced fruit with every dinner to balance things out,” says Weisler.

She tries to enlist help from her sons and has a chore wheel that changes weekly. “Of course, if the chef’s helper who is supposed to help me set the table is at a volleyball game, I really can’t call on him to do the job,” notes Weisler.

Support network

Thankfully, her husband Dan is an eager supporter who pitches in where ever he can. “If he asks the boys to help me, they are very good about responding. Dan also calls me on his way home from work each day to ask, ‘do you need anything?’ and willingly stops at the store for me,” says Weisler.

Mother’s Day and her birthday are the two days a year when Weisler doesn’t worry about fixing a meal. She knows that her husband and sons will be there to serve her breakfast in bed and take care of dinner.

Weisler has found that pre-packaged foods are often very expensive and not as filling and nutritious as home-made items.

“I bake a lot of quick breads because I know what is in them and they are filling. If I add chocolate chips to a quick bread like banana bread, it becomes dessert,” she says.

When the boys announce that they need to bring a snack to boy scouts, Weisler often stirs up a batch of her banana chocolate chip bars. “They take five minutes to make, 20 minutes to bake and then they are done,” she says. “And everyone loves them.” She shares this recipe for others to try.

Jemma’s Kitchen Cue

When bananas get too ripe, place them in a freezer bag and freeze. They can be peeled or unpeeled. Thaw as needed to use in quick breads, cookies or smoothies.

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