Monthly Archives: November 2014

Day 56 of 196 – Miso soup for another cold day

lunch 56Winter is absolutely, undoubtedly here and here to stay for many months.  The drive home from school was slow as people got their first taste of winter driving. I love hot soups on a cold days so decided to make a big pot of miso soup and a bunch of add ins for dinner and figured I would pack the same thing for lunch.

I made up some soba noodles, steamed broccoli and bok choi, sautéed some mushrooms – these three were all from my amazing CSA share from the previous week – and sliced some carrots, peppers and tofu up.  Because of the slow driving conditions, the kids ate early while my husband hung around the office until traffic looked like it was picking up.  They set up a picnic in front of the fireplace and put together bowls of soup and ate away delighted for this rare meal on the floor!

For lunch, I put some soba, bok choi, mushrooms, carrots and tofu into the round container that came with their lunch boxes. In the morning I filled up their insulated bottles with some hot miso soup that they could pour over the contents of their containers to warm them up and have a warming meal. I also packed them some chompers – delicious seaweed snacks that we cannot get enough of – some edamame and rice crackers, an orange and a bunch of candied sunflower seeds.   Yum!

FIT TIP OF THE DAY – 1 minute wall squat (lean against the wall like you’re sitting in a chair, knees in line w heels. Breathe). Questions about the FIT TIP? Give Barb a shout –

Day 55 of 196 – Roasted tomato tartines

lunch 55This delicious lunch of whole roasted tomato tartines was a request from my daughter for lunch this week. She cannot get enough of the baguette that we buy from the butcher and fine food store up the street (we have to buy two baguettes usually  – one is eaten on the walk home, the other used for breakfast or lunches) and this is a quick and easy lunch to throw together so I was game.

I was watching a PBS cooking show over the summer where the chef demonstrated an ingenious way of roasting tomatoes that she used in her restaurant when fresh and delicious tomatoes aren’t available.  It is so simple and I have used it a bunch of times since – place tomatoes on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet, drizzle w olive oil and salt and roast in a low oven – about 250 degrees F – until the skin has cracked and the liquid has started to evaporate. I usually buy tomatoes on the vine for this because they look so magnificently beautiful and have served up a pile of tomatoes over fresh mozzarella or burrata and some torn basil leaves on big platter at parties a couple of times. They are always a hit and definitely the way to go when local tomatoes are not available.  So, I roasted up a tray of the tomatoes and set aside some for the kids lunches.  The rest went on to platter for dinner with a drizzle of olive oil.

One of my kids does not tolerate dairy particularly well, so I roasted some chick peas tossed with curry powder and olive oil in the oven until they were crispy. I packed her a container of the chick peas w a few tomatoes. My other daughter got the lunch pictured above – a few slices of buffalo mozzarella topped with the tomatoes.  Along with this, each of the girls got a few slices of toasted baguette (to assemble their tartines a la minute – is there any other way with such a fancy sounding sandwich?!), some green beans and slices of white beet, cubes of dragon fruit and some pomegranate airls. Finally, I tucked four little gummy bears in for a treat.

Barb Rosenberg, personal trainer and fitness expert, wants to know how you are improving with the FIT TIPS, so we are repeating the 20 FIT TIPS so that you can try them again and see how you have progressed. FIT TIP #1 – 30 push-ups (straight out or on knees, hand position a little wider than shoulder width, drop down as low as you can and back up). Let Barb know if you have questions about the FIT TIP – she is happy to help –

Day 54 of 196: Build your own soft taco

lunch 54Mondays are usually the day that I catch up from the weekend and the kids jump back into their school and after-school activity routines. Because of this, I try to make dinner a pretty quick and simple affair for me and set things up so that lunch can be easily assembled either from dinner leftovers or prepped at the same time as I make dinner.

We had some leftover roast chicken from dinner from the night before so I figured I would repurpose it into some soft tacos for dinner. It is one of those meals that fall into the make it your own category which makes everyone happy.  I picked up some tasty dips – guacamole, a black bean and jalapeno dip and some pico de gallo – and some corn tortillas and a head of lettuce. I roasted some sweet potatoes in the oven, charred some corn in a hot pan and roasted some cauliflower that I chopped up into pieces about the size of grains of rice.  For dinner, we started with a tortilla or a leaf of lettuce and got to work.

Lunch was a quick and easy job using what we had for dinner. I filled three muffin cups w some of the dips and for one of the girls (the one who is apparently into Korean Mexican fusion) some kimchi and some corn into a cup for the other one. Along with this, I seared some tempeh and put it into their boxes, dropped in a granola bar that I made earlier in the day and added some fruit.  The kids were excited about dinner and equally excited about lunch  – a win-win!

FIT TIP OF THE DAY – 25 squat jumps (squat down low and jump up high, keep feet shoulder with apart). Questions? Fitness expert and personal trainer Barb Rosenberg is happy to answer your FIT TIP queries –


Day 53 of 196: Leftovers for lunch

lunch 53We usually get together with our families on Fridays (my family) and Sundays (my husband’s family) for dinner.  Everybody pitches in and hosts when they can and this week, we volunteered to have the gang over. My CSA boxes have been spectacular of late – late summer and fall are the best times of the year for locally grown produce in Southern Ontario – and between the intensity of the colours of the vegetables and their amazing flavours, cooking is an even greater pleasure than usual.

A couple of hours before everyone was set to come over, I took a quick look over what we had on hand and devised the following menu:

baked ratatouille w eggplant, peppers and zucchini,

baked sweet potatoes, leeks, and red onions with a mint, lemon and garlic tahini dressing, sprinkled w sesame seeds and rose petals

red kale salad w black rice, mandarin oranges, pickled beets (I made these with the beets from the box and have been waiting for them to be ready to eat!) and seeds w a cider vinegar dressing

apple, carrot and red cabbage slaw with a lemon, smashed coriander seed dressing and fresh mint

My husband picked up a couple of chickens from our terrific local butcher while I got started and in the end we had a lovely, nourishing meal.  Buy the time everyone left, and the kids were tucked in, it was nearly 9pm. I looked through what we had for dinner and devised a lunch plan. I had set aside some rice for the girls’ lunches so I made up a few cubes of rice for each them. Along with this, I threaded some smoked tofu on to skewers and put some fruit from what remained of the fruit plate into their lunch boxes. Finally, I put a scoop of the slaw into a muffin cup and a few sugar snap peas into another cup and called it a day. The girls are always keen to take on new responsibilities and had kindly volunteered to choose a treat for their lunches so I added the 9 jellybeans each had chosen to their boxes.  Tomorrow’s less abundant treat may be a disappointment!

Lunch 52 of 196: Warm soup for a cold day

lunch 52Winter is on the horizon and between the shorter days and the chilly mornings and afternoons, I am increasingly drawn towards comforting foods and contemplating hibernation until spring. Since actual hibernation is probably not an option, I have started to make soup a few nights a week. It is a great way to use the produce from our CSA share and usually  – but not always – an easy way to get the girls to eat some veggies.

I have a big jar of dried wild mushrooms that I picked up at Costco a that I knew would be put to use as soon as the weather started to cool down. Dried mushrooms add lots of flavour and body to a soup and are a go to when I am making vegan soups since I am not using beef or chicken stocks which naturally add depth. Between the dried mushrooms and some fresh shitake mushrooms from our box, I decided to whip up a pot of mushroom and farro soup.  It is hearty, warming and would do double duty feeding us for both dinner and lunch the next day.  For lunch, the kids had a thermos each of soup, a sandwich of smoked tofu on some whole wheat sourdough bread and some pomegranate airls. They each had a fruit jelly for dessert.  I cannot think of anything better to eat before heading out to play on a chilly day!

FIT TIP OF THE DAY – 10 Roll-ups (lie on floor on your back, swing legs forward and back and try to fully stand up without using your hands. You need to really swing legs towards head to gain momentum). Questions/comments/concerns about the FIT TIP? Barb is happy to help –

Day 51 of 196 – Golden eggs

lunch 51I love browsing kickstarter and am always amazed by the innovation and creativity.  Last spring, I decided to support the campaign to build a tool called the golden goose. The tool, using centrifugal force, scrambles an egg in its shell so that when you hard or soft boil the egg, you end up with a golden egg. My intention was to use this tool for Passover. We host one of the two traditional dinners for our families – imagine nearly 40 people sitting around an enormous table that we cobble together with folding tables and chairs – and besides feasting on the first foods of spring, we follow a set of rituals that have been followed by people around the world for thousands of years.  One of these rituals is to eat an egg.  It’s roundness is symbolic of the world and of new beginnings and even with this lovely symbolism, the eggs I carefully cook and peel every single year usually come back to the kitchen uneaten.  I thought golden eggs might just surprise and delight my guests so I supported the campaign and hoped that it would be successful. As it turns out, it was incredibly successful and my golden goose arrived this week and I could hardly wait to get started!

Lunch for the 51st day of school was – one golden egg, some mixed seeds and dried berries, grapes, golden berries, ribbons of carrots and cucumber and a few brown rice and quinoa crackers with sunbutter. A few hard fruit candies rounded out this meal.

Day 50 of 196: Multigrain and cauliflower patties

lunch 50I shop at Costco a couple of times a month and for the most part, buy stuff for around our house – paper towel, toilet paper and the odd book. Since we get an amazing box of local organic veggies each week, I don’t usually have to buy more veggies but I still walk through all of the food aisles to see what is new and appealing. Last year, the Costco nearest to me started carrying a bag of mixed grains – millet, amaranth and quinoa – and I immediately grabbed a bag and put it in my cart. When I got home I put it away in the pantry and then promptly forgot about it until I happened to stumble across it in September when I was rummaging around looking for something else.  I am so happy that I was finally reunited with this grain mix because it has since become a staple in our house. It cooks up quickly and I usually make up a container of the grains to store in the fridge so that I can quickly put together a salad or side dish with whatever veggies I have on hand.  Last night, we had a quick dinner of roasted acorn squash from our box, cauliflower, kale on a bed of the grains and topped with a chopped salad made from some tomatoes and peppers (also from the box) and a vinaigrette made with lime juice, olive oil and a bit of honey. We broke open a jar of the carrot and daikon preserves that I made over the weekend and garnished our dinner with them – yum!  Quick, easy and nourishing.

I set aside some of the cauliflower for the kids’ lunches today and decided to put the grain mix to use again and make up some little patties. I also have a giant bag of ground flax seed from Costco that I have finally found a use for – another impulse purchase – as an egg substitute in baked goods and other savoury foods. My kids are usually open to eating almost anything but have been turning their noses up at fish so adding some flax to their diets seemed like a good idea in order to insure they are getting enough Omega3s.  I decided to use the ground flax in the patties and set up a couple of tablespoons of it with some water (1Tbsp:3Tbsp ratio of ground seeds to water for each egg) to thicken while I chopped up the cauliflower. Once the flax looked like it had set up, I added the cauliflower, some grains, a finely diced small red onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and some cumin and smoked salt. I scooped out and formed little patties and cooked them in a pan with some oil and popped them into the kids’ lunch boxes.  I have made similar patties with eggs and parmesan cheese added in too and they turned out well too.

The patties were packed with some sugar snap peas, slices of carrot, cherry tomatoes, kiwi and some dehydrated strawberries. I tossed in a few little bunny crackers for a treat.

My own lunch will probably end up being a kale salad with the grain mix and chopped veggies from the box. What did we ever do before this grain mix?!

FIT TIP OF THE DAY 100 butt squeezes (lie on your back, bend your knees, lift your butt off the ground & squeeze, drop butt and repeat). Questions about the FIT TIP? Barb Rosenberg, fitness expert and personal trainer, welcomes your email –

Inspired by Vietnam and my CSA box

carrot daikon preservesWe got a bunch of daikon radishes and carrots in our CSA share this week and after a quick meal at a little Vietnamese restaurant I was inspired!  The dishes we had at the restaurant were garnished with little matchsticks of sweet and sour pickled carrots and daikon radish. They add a bright punch of flavour to every bite and when I got home I immediately googled to find a recipe to replicate them.

We took a canning and preserving workshop a few weeks ago and while it was underwhelming (the hands on component of the class required us to put a lid on a jar – that was it!), it did run through the basics and has had me thinking of how to prolong our enjoyment of the amazing produce we are consuming now.  I usually freeze bags of local August peaches that I have pitted and skinned and roast a bushel of summer tomatoes and freeze them so that we can be reminded of the warmth of July and August during the depths of winter but now that I can can, there is a great deal more that we can eat to get us through to spring.

Since botulism is no fun, I followed the recipe and steps exactly as they were set out.  The brine for this recipe is made from vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger, coriander seeds, peppercorns and some pepper flakes.  The resulting carrots and radish slices are sweet, spicy and tangy. The flavour is more complex that the ones at the Vietnamese restaurant but I think this will make them more versatile when we eat them in the snowy months to come.

I have a bag of beets from my share from a couple of weeks ago that is destined for some jars next!

Day 49 of 196: Hot tiffin lunch

lunch 49We had a busy weekend  – all wonderful things fortunately – but that left me making lunch this morning before school. I prefer to make lunch at the same time as I make dinner to save me cleaning up twice and also to simplify mornings which are busy enough as it. The upside of making lunch in the morning is that I can make the kids hot food and they welcome this as the weather is cooling off.

We picked up a couple of tiffins in Little India last summer.  I had one that my older daughter used in nursery school for her snack, but it is small and I now have two children so we went out there for lunch and to do some shopping. I was thrilled to find insulated lunch boxes that the seller assured me would keep food hot for hours and that were under $20 a piece.  The tiffins are not water-tight, so I cannot send liquid in them, but they are perfect for pasta and things along those lines that are not wet.

Since I was making lunch while packing swimming clothes, school bags, making breakfast and getting myself ready, it is a pretty simple meal. I boiled some pasta and tossed a handful of frozen edamame into the boiling water for the last couple of minutes to cook. I drained it, and tossed it with some pesto and split this between the two kids boxes. I packed the other tiffin section with some cut up fruit and packed both up with a fork (I forget cutlery all the time!!).  The kids were thrilled with this lunch but I will go back to my regular routine of making dinner and lunches again today.

Day 48: Snow in the forecast, soup for lunch

lunch 48Snow  – very light flurries, not the stuff that will stick around for weeks and weeks – is forecast and there is a chill in the air. Unless it is very cold or very icy, the kids will head outdoors to play three times a day. A hot bowl of soup is the perfect way to warm up their little bodies before heading out so that they have lots of energy to swing on the monkey bars and to keep warm.

I had my winter tires put on my car today which ended up taking up the entire afternoon and while I got some work done at the coffee place down the street, it didn’t leave me with much time to get organized for dinner. There is a terrific Lebanese supermarket near the tire place that I ran into before getting my girls from school.  I picked up a jar of their lentil soup, some dips, stuffed vine leaves and some warm fresh pita for dinner and school lunches.  I cannot send the dips to school since they all have tahini in them, but they were a tasty after school snack and nice condiment for dinner.

For lunch, I packed the kids bottles of hot soup.  I am a big fan of the s’well insulated bottles – they keep hot stuff very hot and cold stuff nice and cold.  This makes them perfect for both smoothies and soup depending up on the day. I have learned from experience, that hot food doesn’t cool off at all, so that when I heat up soup, it has to be to a temperature that is comfortable for consumption.  The kids use the big dipper container that came with their lunch boxes to eat the soup and so I usually put whatever garnishes the soup in there. In this case, I tossed in a wedge of lemon and some mint.  Along with the soup, I packed some vine leaves stuffed with rice (and more lemon), some little wedges of socca that was leftover from the night before and a container of garlic sauce to dip it in. Finally, they have a selection of wonderful and exotic fruit – rambutan and goldenberries – from our Chinatown outing earlier in the week.  A few little chocolate wafers rounds out this cold day lunch!