Today’s lunch was a quick and easy one that did double duty for lunch and dinner. I usually take a few trips across the border to the US to visit Trader Joes. We haven’t got TJs here and there isn’t anything at all like it here. I am not sure if I would do all of my shopping there, but they have some terrific products including the lentils I used to make a delicious lentil salad. The lentils come steamed and vacuum packed so that you can just mix them up with some veggies and dressing for a salad or heat them up and eat them warm (we had them in tacos last month) – so handy. For this lunch, I made a bright lemon vinaigrette with some lemons, olive oil, salt, chives and thyme (the chives and thyme are from my garden) and poured that over the lentils. I chopped up some carrots and a few mild radishes and finally added a handful of pepitas and dill. Delicious and took all of 10 minutes.
We had a knob of lovely multigrain bread sitting on the counter so I diced it and tossed it in a pan with some olive oil and salt until it was nice and crispy. I topped the salad we ate for dinner with these little croutons but also packed a container of them for lunch. To round out this lunch, I packed some slices of peach – which they are still around and ripe, we will eat them! – and a banana muffin.
My kids were off school on day 12 while we observed Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and is a very special day of reflection that gives us the opportunity – because we don’t usually stop to do this – to think about how we have behaved, to apologize, forgive and make a plan for the new year. We are not particularly religious, but I really appreciate and savour this day every year. One of the challenges – although I am not sure it is intended to be a challenge – is that we fast for about 25 hours. The first 10 or so hours fly by (mostly because you are asleep for 8 of them!) and then hunger comes in waves, eventually followed by fatigue. In our family, we gather to break the fast together and because of unexpected circumstances, everyone came to our house to eat dinner. This meant that I spent some of the day cooking (without tasting!!) a meal of lighter foods that are most easily digested after a day without food.
We broke our fasts totally untraditionally with summer rolls packed with a rainbow of veggies. I made a couple of extra rolls and packed them for the kids for lunch. They are time consuming to make but simple and delicious. I julienned a bunch of veggies, rehydrated some mung bean noodles and picked some mint and basil from my garden. Once this was all in place, I soaked a sheet of rice paper in some warm water until it was pliable and filled and rolled it up with all of the veggies, noodles and herbs. We had them with a peanut sauce for dinner but I sent them plain to school. I added some steamed edamame for protein for the kids’ lunches, some fruit for colour and a handful of quinoa puffs. Finally, a square of dark chocolate rounded out this tasty school lunch.
I ordered a copy of the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook from UK in August because I was impatient to get my hands on it (the Canadian release date is two months after the UK one) after hearing all about it from Jamie himself when I met him last spring. I also really like the UK editions of cookbooks because the recipes are published with metric measurements which are so much easier and reliable than volumetric measurements. Baking is a breeze when you just have to measure out and dump ingredients into a bowl that is sitting a top a scale. This approach also takes the mystery out of what an author means by one zucchini, one banana, etc when it is recorded as 100g of an ingredient.
There are lots of terrific recipes in the book made with real foods in simple and straightforward ways. One of the recipes that popped out at me was poppadoms (Indian lentil cracker) topped with different toppings – luckily my kids were on board – and we looked around the garden and decided to pack poppadoms with tomatoes and basil. One of my kids also added some dollops of fresh buffalo milk ricotta. I packed this along with a container of apple sauce made from our apple picking expedition, some pepitas and a few slices of golden peach. Finally, I added a few chocolate covered pieces of dried fruit for a treat.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon so we drove about 45 minutes out of the city to do some apple picking. Unsurprisingly, we were not alone and the little family run orchard that we like was low on fruit by the time we arrived. We did still manage to pick about 50 pounds of apples (and eat about 10 pounds as we wandered around) but by the time we got home it was late which left me packing lunch on a Monday morning.
I had a package of flatbread from Ikea – of all places!! – in the freezer so I pulled out a couple of the little square breads and popped them into the toaster to defrost. I ran out to the garden and picked a nice red tomato and then put together a little sandwich of tofu, tomato and sprouts – sort of a vegan BLT. I added some cut up veggies and then spiralized an apple, tossed it with some dried wild blueberries and then raced out the door!
When my big daughter comes home from camp every summer we traditionally spend a day walking along Queen St W, wandering into bead shops, furniture shops and now that she is 10, shoe shops! One of our regular stops is a Japanese grocery shop that has a wonderful selection of foods, kitchen ware and I noticed this summer, even has a little rack of bento boxes and lunch accessories. A few things caught my eye including an egg mold and I was so intrigued that I had to buy a set! My kids are hot and cold with eggs – they go through phases of eating hard boiled eggs regularly that are followed by phases of not eating eggs at all and looking at my like I am crazy for even suggesting that they might want to eat an egg. Eggs are such a great source of protein and I was hopeful that eggs shaped like bunnies or bears would make them appealing all over again.
I boiled a couple of eggs until they were hard boiled and then peeled them (while they were blazing hot!!) and popped them into the molds and dropped them into a bowl of water as instructed. While the eggs set up, I scavenged through our CSA box that had just arrived and cut up some carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, beans and baby radishes. We had some guacamole in the fridge from the night before so added a container of that for dipping along with some black bean crackers, a peach and buckwheat muffin and some fruit. A quick and easy lunch for last day of the week!
I got an email from my CSA this afternoon to let me know what to expect in tomorrow’s box – among all the usual amazing local organic produce was zucchini. Again! I really love zucchini but the rest of my family doesn’t but will eat it if is baked into muffins. I made some gluten free buckwheat and peach muffins this afternoon and set aside some of the batter to whip into waffles. At the last minute, I decided to fold in a grated zucchini and while they are not the prettiest waffles, they are delicious. Added some carrots and cucumber, a silly melon caterpillar (cute lunches are not usually my thing and thought my kids would love this but got a very lukewarm response!!) and a few sprinkled-covered chocolate chips for a treat
This is an exciting week in Toronto! Toronto hosts the Toronto International Film Festival which means that the city is humming w excitement, crawling with celebrities and there are more than 400 movies showing over the course of about 10 days. A dear friend of mine bought a package of tickets and invited me to join her at 3 movies this week. It is such an indulgence to see a movie in the middle of the day and so exciting to be in the heart of the film festival spectacle that goes on downtown. We saw some great movies and two very strange episodes of a French television show and while all of this was great fun, it left very little time for everything else! This left me scrambling to figure out dinner and lunches so relied on my pantry and my freezer to come up with some sustenance for my family.
I always have beans in the pantry – dry and canned – because they are a great source of protein and fibre and my kids love them. Between the can of beans, some pesto in the fridge and half a baguette I figured I could come up with something for lunch. While I toasted thin slices of baguette, I mashed up some cannellini beans w a glob of pesto and a squeeze of lemon juice. I left some of the beans somewhat intact so that I didn’t end up with a bowl of green slime. My daughter eyed what I was doing, declared it looked delicious and promptly ate all of it!! The good news was that I had plenty of beans to start again. I packed a little of container of the bean mash along with a few pieces of toast for both kids lunches.
Their lunch boxes were still looking a little bare so I went out to the garden and pulled a few strange looking carrots from our little garden, picked some of the last cherry tomatoes and sliced up a cucumber. We had some berries and peaches from our CSA and finally I tossed in a few vegan chocolate buttons that I picked up in London last spring. It is staggering how long candy lasts when you eat it so slowly!!
We were off celebrating Rosh Hashana on the fifth day of school with our families and after a lovely day, it is back to school and lunch packing! One of my fabulous nieces is on a low fodmap diet (there is lots of information online if you are curious about it) and so I made a rice noodle, tofu and veggie dish w a tamarind, ginger and lime sauce with her in mind. It was yummy and I set aside a bit for my kids for school (since they were much happier eating enormous plates of French toast made by their aunt than the stuff they have at home!) Packed the dressing in a little squeeze bottle so that the noodles aren’t mushy by lunchtime. I browned some tofu in a pan and sliced it up into sticks and packed some orange segments and local organic grapes to round out this school lunch
We survived the first week back to school and everyone was still smiling by the end of the day on Friday (homework hasn’t been assigned yet!). The girls’ school schedule has changed around a bit this year. They attend a densely populated school and in an effort to manage the crowds last year, the principal staggered recess and lunches. This gave everyone more space to play in in the yard and more space to eat in in the gym. For whatever reason, this did not work and the school and has gone back to the old single recess and lunch times. The only reason this has any impact on my kids is that recess ends an hour before lunch AND they cannot eat their recess snacks outdoors (there have been issues with bees and wasps) so that they eat them indoors after recess. All fine except, that less than an hour later, they are not terribly hungry so they didn’t eat much lunch and came out of school ravenous at 310. They brought home half eaten lunches which went into the compost bin and in an effort to not waste food, I will be packing lighter lunches and bigger snacks. Friday’s school lunch is a container of gluten free chickpea pasta (made this a few weeks ago and froze the uncooked pasta we did not eat) w some kale pesto, topped w baby kale. Tossed in some cherry tomatoes (from our garden!!) and cucumbers and a handful of delicious coronation grapes that just arrived in our #csa box. Added a butterfly #chocolate to round out lunch for the week.
Our CSA box of fruit and veggies comes on Thursdays so by Wednesday, I usually have a funny collection of odds and ends in the fridge – a couple of carrots, a few cobs of corn, half a watermelon, etc so dinner is usually an exercise in creativity to use everything up. Since getting our produce from a farm and getting to know the people who grow and pick what we eat, I feel a massive responsibility not to waste our food and their hard work.
Here is our clean out the fridge and vaguely Moroccan grain bowl lunch box: quinoa tossed w a lemon, cumin, cinnamon and ginger dressing and topped w baby kale. Packed some toppings alongside – grilled butternut squash and sliced figs, chickpeas tossed w cumin, lemon and chives, corn and some roasted bell peppers. Packed some watermelon and kumquats for fruit and a few white chocolate buttons for a treat. Kids had this all wrapped up in tortillas for dinner and the adults assembled bowls tableside. Delicious and my fridge is empty and ready for this week’s delivery!