Monthly Archives: April 2015

Day 135 of 196 – One of my favourite lunches

lunch 135This lunch screams summer and is one of my go to lunches at my desk. It is a great way to use up the odd carrot, half pepper or quarter cucumber that is lingering in my fridge but without feeling like I am eating the leftover stuff from the fridge.

I made these gluten free salad rolls with some green tea noodles (they cook really quickly so I keep them on hand for quick meals), carrots, cucumbers and some tamari ginger tofu. The tofu is already cooked and sauced which is enormously convenient when I am short on time. The other upside is that I don’t need to send a separate dipping sauce (apparently they get kicked over ALL the time at school – the kids on the floor ).   Once you have chopped up – or even grated up the veggies if you don’t love to stand around julienning vegetables – you just need to dip sheets of rice paper in warm water and then roll everything up. The rice paper seems to be widely available now in the Asian sections of large supermarkets or at Asian markets. It has a good long shelf life so it another great product to keep in the pantry.

Packed these salad rolls with some snow peas, roasted beet and some fruit. My kids are hesitant to eat melons so thought slicing the cantaloupe up with little cookie cutters might entice them to try it out.  Finally, I tossed in a handful of quinoa puffs that we had leftover from my daughter’s sleepover birthday party. It is technical a cereal, but the kids are pretty thrilled with it dry as a snack.

 

Day 134 of 196 – What to do with leftovers from party platters – make them into lunch!

lunch 134We survived my daughter’s first sleepover birthday party over the weekend. I haven’t been this tired since my children were newborns and am amazed at how only 5 girls can be so unbelievably loud, so late into the night, and then still get up bright and early in the morning and still be full of energy!  The kids were here for 15 hours (=lots of food!) so I made up big platters of fruit and vegetables for them to graze from all night long.  By the time everyone went home and we all had naps, I still had some leftover fruit and vegetables to repurpose. Fruit is easy – some of the  went into the girls’ lunch boxes and the rest went into freezer bags for smoothie making.

Vegetable platter veggies don’t freeze as well as fruit, so I used a bunch in the kids lunches. I made some wholewheat pasta, and tossed it w some vegan nut-free pesto and some cherry tomatoes (from the party) and pea shoots (growing on my window sill). I packed some edamame for protein (they came right from the freezer and cooked them quickly in some boiling water) and julienned some peppers and sugar snap peas (from the party) for a colourful salad.   We also had some leftover candy – my daughter opted for an ice cream sundae bar instead of a cake – so from the candy bar, I packed a chocolate covered pretzel to end this 134th school lunch sweetly.

Day 133 of 196 – No lunch, just healthy snacks

lunch 133It is pizza Friday – the monthly lunch fundraiser that is run by our school parent council – so I am off the hook for lunch packing, but still need to send some healthy snacks to fuel my girls through the day.  The vendor who provides the lunch promises that it comes with fruits and veggies, but I am unconvinced (it is the same vendor who provides lunch at the day camp that one of my kids attends and passes off a slice of a pickle as a serving of vegetables!!) this happens so always try to pack a variety of each to keep the kids going.  Snacks can be quick and easy – here I have packed some carrots, cucumber slices and some grapes and dragon fruit cubes. For a treat, one last Passover recipe (really the last one this time) – a few cubes of rhubarb pate de fruit. My husband grew up eating neon coloured jellies each year at Passover and a few years ago decided to make his own for our guests. They seemed to get a lukewarm reception so we skipped them last year to the absolute dismay of one of his cousins. In the interest of keeping my guests happy, I have made these lovely tart jellies from some early spring rhubarb and am sure they will also thrill and delight my girls!

Day 132 of 196 – Forbidden foods

lunch 132During Passover we are forbidden from eating a bunch of different foods. There are lots of rules beyond this and we take it with a grain of salt. We do not change out our dishes, we do not throw out all of our un-kosher foods and we do not go around the house with a candle and feather cleaning crumbs of the forbidden foods. What we do do is avoid bread, pasta, grains, legumes and the other foods on the list for the duration of the 8 day holiday. The funny thing is that we don’t eat much bread and pasta. This is not deliberate at all  – we love great bread and pasta – but during Passover all we all want to eat is bread and pasta! In anticipation of the holiday, I am including as many of the foods we avoid in the girls’ lunches as well as one more recipe I am trying out for the seder.

For lunch tomorrow, I have made up some crispy tofu cubes (I toss tofu in some corn starch that I season with salt and garlic powder any anything else that seems like it could be tasty and then fry in a shallow pan until it is crispy – the kids LOVE this, it was hard to get them to stop stealing it from the rack where the cubes were cooling and virtually everything in this recipe is forbidden during Passover!) as well as a quick stirfry of greens, mushrooms and brown rice noodles (also forbidden). The one recipe I was testing out for the seder is pictured on the top left hand corner – it is a fresh and delicious cucumber and pomegranate salad with a mint and lime dressing.  It will make it on to our seder table without a doubt!

Finally, I packed some mango and blueberries and a few chocolate chips for a treat.

Recipe: Sweet potato, banana and chocolate chip muffins

feb 27 lunchThis recipe has many possible titles – the muffins I churn out like a factory for school snacks OR the dead easy muffin recipe that people always ask for and that are always surprised by. It is my go to muffin recipe and is hands down my little daughter’s favourite. She would happily eat only these muffins and broccoli for the rest of her life (and yesterday, ate 4 after school and only steamed broccoli for dinner – I could not make this up!!).

I like this recipe because it is delicious, simple, freezes well and is great for school snacks. The original recipe was a favourite in my moms and babies group nearly 10 years ago. Someone would make a loaf (it was originally a banana bread recipe) each week and we would devour it over coffee, sometimes a glass of wine, and chat about our babies, obsessing over everything they were doing or not doing.  Since then, I have decided to change the loaf into mini muffins (formerly known as regular sized muffins when I was a child) and played around with the ingredients to increase the fruit and vegetable content and reduce the sugar. I do not align myself with any of the pro or anti-sugar camps but I do think it has little nutritional value but does taste great. My kids can only eat so much and would prefer that sugar not displace good healthy food so I will reduce it without compromising the end product. The original recipe calls for a cup of sugar which makes this “healthy” loaf or muffins so sweet and much more like cake. I find that if I have especially sweet sweet potatoes or squash, that I can reduce it about 1/3 of cup or leave it out entirely.  There are also chocolate chips so even if the bready part of the muffins isn’t sweet, the chocolate is.

After much rambling, the recipe:

1 large sweet potato OR 2 cups of butternut squash. Roasting your own potato or squash is really worth the effort but if you don’t want to, you can use canned puree. In a pinch, if you cannot find a can of pureed unsweetened sweet potato or squash, you can use a big jar of baby food. Commercial baby food isn’t so tasty but it works if you have to have some muffins!

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

 

4 or 5 mashed, ripe bananas

2 eggs (or egg substitute – I use 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds mixed w 6 Tbsp warm water if I don’t have eggs on hand or don’t feel like using eggs)

1/3 cup grape seed oil (melted butter also works here – one of my kids cannot have dairy, so I stick w oil)

1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar but this is entirely optional. The bananas and sweet potatoes can be so sweet that I leave this out entirely.

1 cup of chocolate chips plus a few to sprinkle on top.

Step 1 – Set oven to 400 degrees. Roast the sweet potato (prick skin w a fork, put on a cookie sheet, takes about 45 mins, or longer – I do this and often just store in the fridge until I am ready to use) or squash (toss in a bit of oil and roast until soft – 20 mins or so if the squash is cubed). In both cases, mash the potato or squash w a fork and set aside to cool. You should be left with about 1 1/2 cups of puree. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Step 2 – combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix w a whisk. Set aside.

Step 3 – break eggs (or set up flax eggs) in another bowl and give them a quick whisk to break the yolks and combine w the whites. Add the potato or squash puree, mashed bananas, oil and sugar (if using).

Step 4 – Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. The batter is really thick, but if it seems like concrete, add a bit of water to loosen it up. Add in the chocolate chips and stir to distribute.

Step 5 – you can make either a loaf or muffins with this recipe. If you want to make a loaf, scoop the batter into a prepared loaf pan. If making muffins, count on getting about a dozen regular muffins or 2 dozen mini muffins out of the recipe. Grease/line w paper liners the pan of your choice. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on the tops of the loaf or muffins

Step 6 – Bake loaf for about 50 mins. Bake muffins for about 30 mins and mini muffins for about 20 mins. Muffins should have golden tops. Insert a toothpick or sharp knife in the centre of the loaf (or into a muffin the middle of the pan) to confirm doneness – it should come out clean. These freeze really well – I dump them into big ziplock bags and keep them in the freezer. I pull them out frozen and pack them for the kids for snacks and they are apparently thawed by the time they eat them. Enjoy!!

 

Day 131 of 196 – More recipe testing

lunch 131Another day, another opportunity to try out new recipes on my kids for the seder. Before we eat dinner on the first two nights of Passover, everyone gathers around the dinner table and we tell the story of Passover. Because there will 8 young children (and 23 impatient adults), the story telling isn’t longer than about 25 minutes but I do like to have some snacks on the table in case anyone gets hungry.  Traditionally, people put out platters of pickles and olives but only my big daughter and I are fans so it was time to look for something new.

I have lovely neighbours who gifted me with the most magnificent cookbook of Iranian food.  The combination of flavours is really remarkable and unlike anything I have encountered before and so I thought a few Iranian dips might be the way to work these flavours on to the table.   I have flipped through the cookbook many times but this was the first time I was going to embark on a recipe so I absolutely had to do a run through before serving anything to family and friends.  I decided to make an eggplant and tomato dip and an olive, pomegranate and walnut dip. They were both delicious and such a departure from what we have eaten before so will make it on to the table. For school, I left out the walnuts and I think I may have even liked it better without nuts.  These dips will make it on to the table and will hopefully be enjoyed by my hungry guests.

I have served the dips for lunch along with some veggies and crackers for dipping, chickpeas for protein and some fruit for dessert. A nice, fresh and colourful lunch!

Day 130 of 196 – Turning my kids into guinea pigs

lunch 130We will be celebrating Passover soon and have the pleasure of having our families over for the first seder. I took the seder over from my mother-in- law a few years ago and decided that I would change things around. A lot. She served a beautiful table of traditional Jewish foods but this is not the food I grew up with. My mother is vegetarian and a terrific and adventurous cook and we ate a huge variety of interesting and meatless food. My mother’s seders reflect that, and that approach felt more natural for me. We usually host the second seder (my mother’s place flooded during a cold snap this winter when the pipes burst and was not seder ready in time) and people arrive still full from the first night, so serving a lighter, plant-based meal, seemed not only considerate but just healthier. I held my breath the first year we hosted and served a feast of colour and vegetables (a significant portion of the menu came from the first Ottolenghi book) and was relieved when people didn’t notice the meat was missing (it wasn’t – it just took a bit longer than we anticipated to cook so made it to the table after all the salads and sides) and when they began requesting recipes. The cookbook I used for much of the menu was passed around and I knew that my approach was going to work. My nieces and nephews who are in their early twenties were particularly pleased with the changes and the older generation did not complain. A success!

I like to change the menu around each year and usually do a trial run of new recipes so that I don’t serve something inedible to my 30+ guests. This lunch gave me a chance to try out a couple of options – a vegan leek, lemon and quinoa fritter held together w a flax egg and some quinoa flour and a sweet potato fritter held together with some sweet potato flour.  The leek and lemon fritter was  Passover worthy – will serve it with a lemony tahini sauce but just plain for lunch. The roasted sweet potato fritter was good, not sure if it feels seasonal so will give it a pass. The kids liked both so I was pleased to have a couple of new recipes to use for lunches. 

I packed the kids some fruit and veggies and a cinnamon meringue  – also for Passover, but was feeling bold and didn’t see the need to test it out. This one cracked, apparently “accidentally”, so we had no choice but to pack it for lunch. It is dusted w some cacao powder and providing there aren’t any other “accidents”, the balance of the cookies will end up on the seder table and not in lunch boxes.

Day 129 of 196 – The most delicious chickpea and rice flour waffles

lunch 129Monday, and back to school after the school break, and the beginning of the last stretch of the school year. Before we know it, the weather will change, the kids won’t need to wear jackets to school and everyone will be smiling because sunshine makes everyone smile!

I follow an Instagram account from some users in India (I love Indian food!!) and followed it hoping to get a glimpse into what people – mostly in their 20s, urban professional types who have time to eat out a lot – are eating there. What I never anticipated was a steady stream of pictures of McDonalds, Oreo cookies and what is just ordinary food here. This all changed this week when they regrammed a pictures of these beautiful chickpea and rice flour waffles and I hunted down the recipe from The Jam Lab immediately. They are golden from turmeric, were a cinch to pull together and were an amazing weeknight dinner. The kids were so smitten with them, that I whipped up a half batch for their lunches.  My kids are usually pretty adventurous but they can be unpredictable so I was delighted that they enjoyed these so much.

The recipe is simple:

1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp. yogurt
1/4 cup chopped kale and cilantro
approx. 1/2 cup water to blend

Method:

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Consistency of the battery should be smooth, and not watery. Heat a waffle maker, when ready put in the batter and make the crispy waffles.

The Jam Lab served hers with some tamarind chutney and a sprout salad. The sprout salad wouldn’t hold up well at school, so I spiralized some carrots, cut up a bit of purple cauliflower and steamed some edamame and packed them in its place. I threw in a handful of blueberries and goldenberries, a few candied sunflower seeds and called it a day. Just 67 more days until the last day of school!