My kids’ school is having a food drive to support the city’s biggest food bank so we hit the supermarket after school so that they could shop for items that the food bank needs most. For the last few years, I have given each of the kids some money and set them free in the store with the list of requested items and their budget so that they can be a part of the process of donating to the food bank. This also gives them a chance to apply math outside of the classroom – “real world” math. They get really invested in choosing things that they think other kids would like – colourful lentils, fun pasta shapes, etc – and it is always the best hour I spend in the grocery store in a year. While we were browsing the aisles, I stumbled upon a bag of chick pea flour. I have been meaning (for a number of years!) to get some chick pea flour when I have been shopping in Little India but consistently forget so grabbed one and put it into our cart. I had a vague recollection of reading about recipes making a pancake or even a pizza crust with the flour and figured I would see what I could find. Chick pea flour is made of ground chick peas so it is a great source of protein and fiber and is very reasonably priced.
When I got home I googled chick pea flour and found a simple and straightforward recipe for socca. Socca is a chick pea flour pancake made in the south of France that people enjoy with a glass of wine before dinner or just as a snack. I made up the batter with the flour, water, some toasted cumin and some olive oil and set it aside to rest. While the kids worked away on homework I turned on my broiler and cooked the socca. I sliced half of the first pancake into the kids’ lunch boxes and gave the kids the other half. To my relief (I did have a back up lunch plan just in case this one wasn’t a hit) they gobbled it up! Along with the socca, I packed them some raw green beans, cherry tomatoes, fruit, a little pot of pesto (the socca is a bit dry on its own) and a few sour jelly beans. Socca will definitely make another appearance in their lunch boxes this year!
FIT TIP OF THE DAY 50 walking lunges (step forward with right leg and bend both knees then the left, keep chest up, back straight, knee over heel NOT toe). Questions/comments/concerns about the FIT TIP? Barb is happy to help! Email her at email@example.com
I haven’t packed sandwiches for the kids in a while and so picked up a package of whole wheat crustless bread at the supermarket that works well for making little roll up and tea sandwiches. Not wanting to make a second trip to the supermarket, I decided to use up the last few tablespoons of black bean and jalapeno dip left over from the day before and the last few heirloom carrots, a lone cucumber and a few kale leaves. Little bites, like the sandwiches I ended up making, are great for my kids for lunch. They can quickly pop them into their mouths and it is very difficult to avoid eating the vegetables rolled up inside of them.
I started off by julienning carrots, peppers, cucumber and kale. I set out two slices of bread in front of me and spread black bean dip on one and an herb pesto on the other. I added a bunch of veggies to each and rolled them up. I wrapped the rolls tightly with plastic wrap and popped them into the fridge. The key to these sandwiches, is to let them set up in the fridge before slicing them. While they rested, I made a couple of ants on a log with sunbutter and dried berries and pulled apart a pomegranate and packed it up in the kids’ lunch boxes. I added a handful of grapes, a few pieces of fruit leather and a few granola crackers for a treat. After an hour or so, I sliced the sandwiches into small rolls and packed it all up for lunch 41.
FIT TIP OF THE DAY Run a flight of stairs 10x (all at once or throughout the day, go fast, be careful). Questions/comments/concerns about the FIT TIP? Barb is happy to address them firstname.lastname@example.org
I have had a delicata squash sitting on my counter since last week. I was going to roast it and throw it into a kale salad but my menu plans changed and it didn’t get used. Delicata squash have sweet and richly flavoured flesh and best of all, they have completely edible skin so that you can roast slices of them in the oven and then immediately plate them up for a meal. Unlike many other winter squash, they are easy to slice and are also relatively small so that you aren’t obligating yourself to days of squash consumption. It turns out that the flesh of a single delicata makes just enough filling for a dozen tortellini – perfect for two hungry girls’ lunches.
I sliced the delicata squash lengthwise, scraped out the seeds and popped it into a hot oven to roast while I was busy making dinner. After about 30 mins, it had started to brown and soften so I pulled it out of the oven to cool. While it cooled, I sautéed some finely diced red onion, sage and garlic until the onions were soft. The squash was cool enough to handle at this point so I scraped out the flesh and mixed it with the onion mixture. I had a package of wonton wrappers in the fridge so opened it up and put about a 2 teaspoons of the filling into the centre of a dozen wrappers and sealed them up with some water. Finally, I cooked them in a pot of boiling water until they floated – this only took a couple of minutes – and then tossed them in a pan with some olive oil and sage. Relatively quick and a nice autumn lunch.
The pasta bundles are served up with some carrot coins, sliced pear, grapes, crackers and a few chocolate/beet/orange and oat cookies that I picked up on a cross-border shopping trip. The cookies are delicious and while I am usually reluctant to buy cookies, these ones appear to be made with ingredients I have at home so seem fine for the odd lunch.
FIT TIP OF THE DAY 1-minute plank (on elbows, lift legs off floor, only toes touch ground, legs straight, pull abs in tight toward back). Questions/comments or concerns about the FIT TIP? Email personal trainer and fitness expert Barb Rosenberg – email@example.com
In my travels through the world of instagram I have come across a few build your own burrito lunches and thought this would be a fun and quick lunch so I filed it away for a busy day. We had a terrific but busy weekend and this kind of quickly assembled lunch was exactly what I had time for. Besides throwing some beans in a pan – and really, you could skip this step – it is all just a matter of putting stuff into a lunch box.
We happened to eat at a great taco house over the weekend where we picked up containers of guacamole and black bean dip. I didn’t have any particular plans for it but as Sunday progressed, I realized that they were lunch-bound. I started by packing the dips in the kids’ lunch boxes and pulled some tortillas from the fridge and rolled them up in some waxed paper so that they wouldn’t dry out. Next, I stood staring into the pantry hoping for inspiration.
I always have cans of beans on hand and had a can of black eyed peas that one of the kids had chosen (laughing because how funny it was that a variety of peas was named for a band :)) some time ago and that was waiting to be eaten. I drained the beans and tossed them into a cast-iron pan with some olive oil, a finely diced onion and some salt and pepper. Once the onion was translucent, I squeezed a lime over the pan and folded in some minced cilantro. I popped them into a cup in their lunch boxes, sliced up some sweet pepper that had come in our CSA box and threw in a few cherry tomatoes. Lunch was completed with some orange segments and a fruit jelly. From start to finish, lunch took about 5 minutes to make and should be enjoyed. I had the same thing for my lunch and it was delicious!
FIT TIP OF THE DAY: 100 jumping jacks (have fun with this one, clap hands at the top for more fun!!). Feel free to email Barb with any questions about the FIT TIP firstname.lastname@example.org
Today is pizza lunch at school. The parent council raises money for different school programs by selling pizza for lunch on a monthly basis and it is fun and exciting for the kids and also a nice break from packing lunch. At this point in the year, I have not yet started craving a break from lunch packing but was also not disappointed to not have to pack up school lunches today. In addition to lunch, the kids take a couple of snacks to eat mid morning and mid afternoon. The mid morning snack is particularly important for my kids because they don’t eat much for breakfast and are probably very hungry by the time 1015 rolls around.
I have a lot of pears on hand and for some unknown reason the kids love apples but don’t like pears. They do tolerate them in baked goods, so I baked some ginger and pear muffins and reduced my pear inventory by two. I try to keep a bunch of muffins on hand, in the freezer, to grab for snacks so that they have different muffins most days and to spare me a frantic search for something, anything, to pack for snack. I set aside a couple of these muffins after they came out of the oven and put the rest in a big zipper top bag in the freezer for another day.
We are having a big crowd over for dinner tonight to celebrate my mother’s birthday so I have an unusually big selection of fruit that is intended for a fruit plate for dessert. I cut up some of it and packed it into a container for one snack and then tossed some edamame into another container. Back to the fruit – I found fresh jujubes at the supermarket today and they are amazing! I have tried dried ones before and didn’t like them but was blown away by the fresh fruit. It is crisp like an apple but so much sweeter. I am disappointed that I did not buy more and will sadly have to disappoint my guests tonight since we ate all of them before they had a chance to make it to the fruit platter!
Today’s fit tip: 30 tricep dips (heel of hand on any firm surface, slide butt off and drop down bend elbow and straighten back up, legs straight is more challenging). Feel free to email personal trainer Barb Rosenberg with any questions about the FIT TIP email@example.com
It was thrilling to see the sun shining again yesterday. The air was crisp, the sky was blue and the sun lit up all of the magnificent fall leaves on the trees. Cleary sunny food was in order! Wednesday is also the day before we receive our CSA box so I usually have odds and ends in my vegetable drawer that I make into a big salad or pot of soup. I made a disastrous red lentil and smoked tomato soup earlier this week – it turned into playdough after whirling it (probably for far too long) in the blender – so thought that salad was a safer route for dinner and lunch the following day. I am still riding the snack foods from around the world wave so settled on some falafel for lunches. I found this great recipe on Mark Bittman’s website that was simple and healthy – great ingredients and they are baked rather than fried. We cannot send sesame seeds to school so I had to skip the tahini sauce that he serves on the side, but aside from adding some ground coriander and Aleppo pepper, I followed the recipe as printed and was delighted with the results.
You have to plan ahead to make the falafel because you have to soak dry chick peas for 24 hours before making the batter. I am not sure that these would turn out as well with canned chick peas but it is probably worth a try. I also decided to see how these would work using the rice cube tool I picked up a few weeks ago – falafel cubes seemed like more fun than patties – and it worked well. What I didn’t think through was that a patty only has two sides and that these cubes have 6 sides! The falafel have to be baked on all sides so they required more attention than I had planned to pay to them, but the end result was well worth it.
I made up a quick chopped salad with the veggies I had on hand and a couple of pantry items. I diced up some carrots, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and some hearts of palm and baby corn that usually keep in my pantry for salads and snacking. I dressed this with a vinaigrette made of lemon juice, olive oil, mint and salt and pepper. The kids also have some blueberries and raspberries, some pita crackers and a few hard candies for a treat.
Today’s fit tip – the easy to follow exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere (no gym required) – Bicycle abs (hands at side of head, lift back and shoulders up & rotate opposite elbow to knee) – aim for 100! Questions/comments/concerns about the fit tip? Please email Barb – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tartines are a great quick lunch option. They look fancy – my older daughter is into that – and I like that they combine some kind of protein and a fruit or vegetable (or even both!) and they take only seconds to prepare. Figs have been popping up at the supermarket lately so I picked up a couple of them and actually carried them home in my hands because they are so delicate and didn’t want them to be crushed by the rest of my groceries. The original plan for this lunch was to make chevre and grape tartines. We were going to toss the grapes in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, some rosemary and a splash of balsamic vinegar but the beauty of the figs won us over and we will make the grape tartines another time. I was caramelizing some onions for dinner so threw another onion into the pan (thinly sliced onion, dry hot pan until the onions begin to brown, add a bit of oil, salt and then finish with some acid – I used white balsamic here) for lunch. Once the onions were ready we assembled lunch.
I toasted three slices of baguette and smeared each with some chevre, topped it with a tablespoon of onions and then slices of fig. I sprinkled each one with some finely diced rosemary. This was served up with some colourful heirloom carrots that I sliced on my mandolin, some cherry tomatoes, pomegranate and a few gummy bears.
The other exciting addition to this lunch is some new content brought to you by an amazing fitness expert and personal trainer from the gym I work out at. Barb Rosenberg has more than 25 years of experience and has worked with everyone from kids to adults. Her own fitness and strength are inspiring and she has been an enthusiastic supporter of these healthy lunches since I started posting on Instagram 36 days ago. She approached me to see if she could add a daily fitness challenge – a fit tip – to get people moving. A fit tip is something that you can do anywhere, anytime and that does not require a gym. Today’s fit tip is a 1-minute wall squat (lean against wall like you are sitting in a chair, knees in line with heels/breathe). Questions/comments/concerns about the fit tip? Please email Barb – email@example.com
I am not sure if the sun ever managed to peek through the clouds today and tomorrow isn’t looking much more promising. It isn’t cold, but it has rained on and off all day long and soup for lunch fit the bill when I was thinking about what to make for dinner and lunch. I had a few bunches of baby bok choi from my CSA box, some sweet carrots, some broccolini and a package of tofu on hand. I always have rice noodles – they are so quick to prepare and great for a quick meal – so between what I had on hand and the shiitake mushrooms I picked up at the supermarket, I was ready to make a couple of meals.
First up, I made a vegetable broth – I sautéed some leeks, onions, garlic, ginger, carrots and the mushrooms until they were cooked but not too soft and then poured in some water. I let that cook and checked the seasoning after it had simmered away for about 20 minutes. I cooked the rice noodles in some hot water, drained them and set them aside. Separately I cooked the broccolini and bok choi. For lunch, I tossed some of the noodles in a pan with some oil, garlic, ginger and some sliced mushrooms and tossed in a mix of the greens. I put them in a container in the kids’ lunch boxes. In the morning I will heat up some of the leftover broth and pour it into their insulated bottles so that they can either just eat noodles and drink the broth or pour the broth over the noodles to have warm bowl of soupy noodles.
For both meals, I tossed cubes of tofu in some seasoned corn starch and cooked it in a lightly oiled pan until it was crispy. The kids love to eat tofu like this and I had to refill the cup of tofu pictured on the left twice after taking this picture! For lunch, I put some of the tofu and some dehydrated corn into little cups, added in some dried pineapple and an orange. Finally I tossed in a few candied sunflower seeds.
For dinner, I put some of the brown rice noodles in the bottom of a bowl, topped it with the greens, a handful of carrots, and then topped it with some of the broth. I tossed a handful of the tofu cubes on top of everything. We had this soup served with sliced lime, extra green onions and a selection of other sauces to make the soup spicier, sweeter, nuttier, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy and I was delighted to have two meals made at once.
I love to cook and love to buy and read cookbooks – often to the exclusion of other reading – but I am reluctant to buy a lot of kitchen tools. There is no shortage of gadgets but I find that most of the time I can accomplish the same task with a good sharp knife, my fingers or by improvising. I do make the odd exception and the rice cube (pic at the left) caused me to bend my minimalist kitchen-tool rule. The rice cube forms perfect little cubes of rice, grains or almost anything that can be pressed into shape and is a cinch to use. My 6 year old watched the video on their website and got to work making cubes of jasmine rice mixed with either grated beet, grated carrot or sandwiched with a thin omelette of kale and caramelized onions and then called it dinner. I tried using the rice cube last week to make cubes of brown rice but the rice didn’t stick well and I improvised and re-titled lunch “deconstructed sushi”.
I was shopping in an amazing Korean supermarket a few weeks ago and picked up some unfamiliar ingredients (I am only minimalist with tools, I pick up new foods all the time) including some short grain wild rice that looked intriguing. Undeterred by last week’s failure (and by the package entirely in Korean – thank goodness for my lovely Korean neighbour who translated for me) I cooked up a pot of rice and set to work making a cubist lunch.
I formed little cubes of black rice and wrapped them in thin strips of heirloom carrot that I had sliced with my mandoline and quickly blanched so that they would bend around the rice. I also wrapped the rice in thin strips of smoked tofu and filled another three with cucumber. Carrying on with the theme, I pressed a couple of banana and squash (sounds strange, actually delicious) muffins and tucked them into this lunch. Lunch was rounded out with some steamed edamame, sliced kiwi and raspberries and a roll of the fruit leather I made a few weeks ago.
I was about to pack up a second lunch when my little daughter wandered in, tasted the black rice and declared that she did not like it at all! I don’t get into struggles with my kids about food. I insist that they try everything but don’t insist they eat things they don’t like. I keep everyone in mind when I make lunches and dinner and there are always enough options so that if you don’t like one thing, there is always something else on the table to eat. Her lunch was just a rice-free variation on the planned meal – julienned carrots, tofu slices on a tooth pick, a muffin, some oranges (one of her best buddies at school is allergic to kiwi so they cannot sit together if she has kiwi in her lunch) and raspberries, edamame and fruit leather. At the end of the day, they both had healthy and delicious meals to help fuel them through the day and healthy and delicious meals that they would eat and not bring home untouched.
I love fall produce – squash, sweet potatoes, hearty leafy greens, pears and apples – and I decided to make a quick and easy curried squash and pear soup with the squash that was left from our CSA box and the pears that are always overlooked in the presence of apples. I peeled and diced the squash and tossed with halved pears with some olive oil and fresh sage. I spread it out on a cookie sheet and put into the oven to roast. Last week we had our family over for dinner and I whipped up some squash and apple waffles for the little kids for dinner. It is hard to get them to sit down for long when they are all together and just want to play, so waffles made with fruit, vegetables and other nourishing ingredients seemed perfect for getting some good food into them before they wandered off to dress up or spy on the adults!!
When I pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven, I had more roasted fruit and veg than I needed so decided to replicate the dinner waffles for lunch. I pureed all of the pear and squash in the food mill and set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the puree for the waffles. The balance was destined for the soup pot. I sautéed some celery, onions and carrots in a bit of olive oil until the onions were transparent. I added about a table spoon of curry powder and let it cook until it was fragrant and then added in the squash and pear puree and some water and salt. I carefully stirred in the puree and let it cook on low heat. After about 20 minutes, I checked the seasoning, added the juice of a lime and some salt and set it aside for dinner. We had it as is, but it would have been delicious with a drizzle of yogurt and some cilantro.
With the soup made, I got to the waffles. Since getting pet fish, the girls have largely stopped eating fish so I swapped out the eggs in the waffle recipe and substituted some ground flax seeds that I soaked in water so that they get a nice dose of omega 3 fatty acid. Besides this, I just used my usual recipe and at the end folded in the puree. I cooked them in the waffle iron and popped them into their lunch boxes. The waffles were served up with some sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, grapes and raspberries. The kids chose a juice sweetened jelly for a treat. A perfect lunch for a fall day!