Monthly Archives: February 2015

Chewy whole wheat pretzels taken one step further

feb 27 lunchIt is the last Friday of the month which (usually!) means that it is pizza lunch at the school. The kids allegedly get fruit and veggies with their pizza but I have my doubts that this happens so always send a big box of fruit to serve as vitamin packed fuel to take them through the day.  My big daughter was flipping through the Weelicious lunches book and spotted a recipe for some chewy whole wheat pretzels that she wanted to take on and pack along w her fruit.  Knowing that the kids had swimming after school, I whipped up the whole wheat dough during the day and set it in a bowl so that they could make up pretzels as soon as they walked in.

My little daughter had a friend over so she has little interest in making pretzels with us so I made up a tray of little cubes, dipped them in the baking soda and water solution, sprinkled them with some Maldon salt and baked them off.  When we sampled them warm out of the oven and my big daughter thought there were fine but wanted something reminiscent of her favourite cheese sticks from a local bakery. The cheese sticks are made with puff pastry, some sharp cheddar cheese and probably some cayenne. They are tasty – she has been known to eat a bag on the walk from the bakery back home – but not exactly a health food so was happy for her to adapt these pretzels.  She grated up some aged hard goat cheese on the box grater and sprinkled it over a rectangle of dough. She sprinkled a little bit of cayenne over that and then rolled it up, cut it up, dipped the rolls in the solution and then baked them.  They were sharp and spicy and after packing some in her snack box, she ate the rest!

My little daughter is open to trying all kinds of food but is also happy eating the same thing over and over again. Her favourite muffins (I bake muffins every week or so and freeze them so that I can pop them into their lunch bags for snacks) are banana squash muffins that I have been making for as long as I can remember.  I made up a batch while working on something else and inadvertently left out the sugar!! She did not seem to notice – she ate two after school – so I packed one of these in her box too.

Our CSA box was delivered when we walked in from school and I order an extra fruit share. Since it is February and we live in Toronto, local fruit is non existent so we get fantastic imported organic fruit.  This week, we got a terrific selection of fruits and I cut up a selection and packed them up for the girls. Two boxes of healthy growing snacks.

Lima beans can be delicious!

feb 26 lunchIt is day 2 of my big daughter making her own lunch and she continues to be thrilled with her new responsibility. After dinner, she starting flipping through her favourite food magazine – Chop Chop – a great magazine that tackles healthy food and exercise for kids and consistently has delicious looking recipes that kids can make independently. She has made a bunch of smoothies and is often inspired by it and makes suggestions for family dinners.

Last year the girls’ school added sesame seeds to the list of forbidden foods in order to protect kids with life threatening allergies. More than happy to abide by the list (it is in the interest of keeping their classmates safe after all), I stopped sending my kids favourite middle eastern dips. I have made them without tahini but they are not the same so we eat them at home and had largely given up on dips. That was until my daughter found a recipe for lima bean hummous and she was sure it would be fantastic.

Before I picked the kids up from school, I ran out and bought a bag of frozen lima beans and when we got it in, she got to work making the dip. It was very straightforward – boil the beans until they are soft, drain them and them toss them into the food processor along with some olive oil, garlic, cumin, lemon zest, lemon juice, chopped mint and salt and pepper. She whizzed it around, added a bit of warm water to loosen up the mixture and then we tasted. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it turned out to be and packed a couple of containers of it for the girls. We even ended up having it spread on bread for dinner alongside of some curried red lentil and spinach soup.

Earlier in the week, I made some tortillas and they were drying out a bit, so I brushed them with some olive oil and baked them in the oven until they were crispy and cut them up and packed them for lunch.  I sliced up some crispy veggies for dipping, packed some tomato marinated tofu for protein, sliced up an apple and sprinkled it with cinnamon and finally, the kids picked a few gummies out for a treat.  All in all, a rainbow of colours and a terrifically healthy meal!

Lunch for one

decon greek saladIt is official – my 9 year old has taken over lunch packing (and left me with a shopping list for her lunch tomorrow!) so I am just packing one lunch.  I am not sure if she will be able to keep up with her lunch packing as her days get busier with homework (her teacher has been away sick this week so no homework) and after school activities that will ramp up again in the spring, but I am delighted for her that she has taken on this responsibility.

My husband forwarded a link to me with a pic of a Greek salad in a jar as a lunch idea for the 9 year old. It had a layer of chick peas and orzo at the bottom, some sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumber, cubes of feta and was topped with some romaine lettuce.  She loved the idea and after being coaxed to use her lunch box rather than a glass jar, she packed herself a version of this based on what we had on hand. She was so excited about it and kept checking on her lunch to admire her great work!

My little daughter cannot eat and does not particularly like cheese – this worked out well – so she got the vegan version of the salad: some broccoli and cannellini beans w a lemony dressing, a container of Israeli couscous, quinoa and baby chickpeas w a drizzle of olive oil, some cherry tomatoes and cucumber flowers, a few strawberries and a terrific cocoa nib and cranberry cookie that I made with some mesquite flour I had on hand.  I have been playing with he mesquite flour and think this is the best use so far. It has caramel and cinnamon flavours in it and have used it to make tortillas as well as other cookies, but definitely like these ones the most.

Now on to my shopping list for lunch tomorrow!


Catching up on more days than I care to count!

catch up 1Where has the time gone? January got busy and then we escaped the frigid February weather for a couple of weeks in the sun (and lunches of tacos, mojitos and lots of papaya with lime) and I have fallen behind documenting these lunches. Here are the 18 lunches – actually 16 lunches and a couple snacks when I didn’t need to send lunch  – that get me caught up to today.

Something  monumentally, unbelievably exciting happened at this house after school yesterday. My 9 year-old daughter announced that she was looking to take on more responsibility and would like to take over making her own lunch! I like packing lunch but it gives me even greater pleasure to pass this torch on to her and know that she is one (very small) step closer to being self-sufficient.  I also suspect that she is trying to hone some cooking skills in anticipation of a master chef kind of competition that we have planned with some friends for the upcoming school break! Either way, an exciting and wonderful development.

catch up 2We packed lunches side by side  – I am still packing my 6 year-old’s lunch (she is not quite ready for lunch packing and if she was, it would be a box of broccoli and chocolate chips) – and we packed some vegetable broth w noodles and veggies, grilled Panini (one with grilled apples and brie for the big girl and a tofu one for my little one), green beans, mango and strawberries and a few British smarties. Much tastier than the ones we get in Canada and made without artificial colours and flavours and maybe best of all, come packaged in a paper tube!  So much more fun than a box!

Back on track now – just need a plan for lunch tomorrow!

Day 86: Sandwiches for those who do not like sandwiches

lunch 86 bI was chatting with a friend over a cup of tea – probably a cup of hot water, I think I have turned an old lady – about lunches and she remarked that I rarely send my kids sandwiches.  It is something that had not occurred to me  but after some reflection I realized that it was true and this was for a few reasons (1) our school asks us not to send anything with nuts or sesame seeds. This is very limiting if your preference is for whole grain (not the brown whole wheat stuff) bread which inevitably has seeds in it and (2) my kids don’t really like sandwiches. They love a hunk of baguette or a slice of challah but that is about it. On the rare occasions that my little daughter has a hot dog she manages to eat it in the bun without ever taking a bite of the bun but while holding the hot dog in the bun the entire time. I have been meaning to watch how she achieves this because it is pretty remarkable.

Back to lunch – I love a good sandwich and used to love to pack myself sandwiches when I was school aged so thought I would pack up a build your own sandwich lunch for the girls. I packed a few slices of their favourite baguette, some smoked tofu and tomatoes and lettuce on the side. Finally, I sliced some carrots, pineapple and watermelon and a couple of gummy penguins that we picked up at Trader Joes during a cross border shopping trip. I expect that this was eaten in its deconstructed form, starting with the penguins and ending with the veggies but at least it was eaten!

Day 88: No lunch, just snacks

lunch 86No school lunches to pack – just a healthy snack. The kids have dental appointments over the lunch hour and my grand plan is to take them back to school afterwards so that I can get a couple more hours of work done. We have smaller Planetbox containers for days like this (and for vacations – amazing for day trips!) and I have packed them full of fruit and a couple of muffins – a buckwheat and banana one and a cranberry and orange one. Definitely enough to fuel them through the morning and hopefully the afternoon too.

Day 85: An amazing miso and noodle soup

lunch 85My husband and I are taking a corporate leadership course (we are both small business owners, his not so small, mine new and definitely small) on Wednesday evenings. It is so nice to spend time together talking about ideas (and not just ideas about our kids) and learning about instilling different values into our leadership styles.  We try hard to have dinner together as a family every night and we do what we can to start our days very early in order to make an early dinner possible.  This course has added a new challenge to the mix and because we have to be out the door by 645 – really it should be by 640 – so dinner has to be fast and also be a good option for lunch the following day. While I was poking around Instagram, I stumbled upon a picture of the most amazing looking soup with noodles and veggies. The broth was intensely golden and the noodles were sure to delight my kids.

I hunted down the recipe and it claimed to take only 20 minutes to throw together – perfect!! The  broth turned out to be a ginger, miso and turmeric broth and the recipe called for turnips – I had sweet potatoes, good enough – and some shitake mushrooms and a package of soba noodles and was good to go. The soup was an absolute success and I made enough for the next day.   I packed containers of noodles and veggies and in the morning heated up the broth and packed it in an insulated bottle. I sprinkled some sprouts and hemp hearts on top of the noodles and veggies and packed a handful of extra veggies, fruit and some seaweed snacks.  A few non-pareils with colourful sprinkles for a treat for the 85th day of school !

Day 84 of 196 – Pasta (almost) just like in Italy

lunch 84My kids love, no adore, pasta and would happily eat it every day. There were times when they were little and going through picky phases when I think I may have made them pasta multiple times a day for days on end. Luckily that picky phase has passed (but has been replaced many times over with different preferences) and they are open to eat other stuff. It is important to me that they actually eat the food I pack. As nutritionally sound as the meals I plan may be, I may as well send an empty lunchbox if they are not going to eat what I send.  So on that note, pasta is on the menu for the 84th day of school because I know they will like it.

I am not a fan of whole wheat pasta and some of the other pastas that have come on the market in the last few years. If we are going to eat pasta, I want it to be the real deal – full of carbs, gluten and all of the stuff that is entirely untrendy these days.  In the fall, I was at Costco and came across some red lentil pasta that is made only of red lentils. I had my doubts but cooked up a pot and it was pretty good. The appeal of this product for the me for the kids is that the pasta is packed with protein which keeps the kids going all afternoon. The kids actually love it – my little daughter ate some as I was packing lunches and declared that it was “just like in Italy!” (she hasn’t ever been to Italy, but I took it as a compliment regardless).

So for lunch, I packed my girls some of this delicious red lentil pasta with edamame, cherry tomatoes a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. The pasta tastes like red lentils so had a really lovely savoury flavour on it own and doesn’t need much more than a fruity oil. It is served alongside of some roasted purple potatoes and carrots, grapes and raspberries, a cherry and pumpkin seed granola bar (I make these up and keep in the freezer for lunches and snacks – easy, fast and easy to slip in some quinoa flakes, a few hemp hearts or even just some chia seeds to make them tastier and healthier than store bought alternatives) and a few gumdrops for a treat.