Finger foods

Day 51 of 196 – Clean out the fridge dumplings

Day 51Clean out the fridge dumplings on the menu for school tomorrow. Our csa box comes tomorrow so using up the odds and ends in the fridge now. These dumplings are filled w kale, celery, green onion, pea shoots, squash and tofu that I sautéed w garlic and ginger, seasoned w tamari and wrapped up and then steamed. The kids are happy to eat them at room temperature at school. Packed some fruit and will steam some soy milk in the morning for a warming drink before playtime outside

Day 49 of 196: tofu cubes always get two thumbs up

Day 49A lunch of quick bites. My little daughter has swim team practice at lunch three days a week and between her love of conversation and tendency to eat slowly she doesn’t always have much time left to eat so made both kids a lunch that they can eat in just a few bites: rice cubes, crispy tofu cubes, some wilted spinach and some quickly pickled carrots and turnips. Added some berries, longan and kiwi on the side and hopefully this should carry her through the pool.

The tofu cubes are always a hit in my house and are simple to make. Inevitably my kids eat the cubes as I make them, so I usually make a double batch.  To make the cubes, cut a 1lb block of extra firm tofu into cubes and dry them off with a dish towel. Next, toss the cubes in a mixture of corn starch and some seasoning (I use everything from just salt to a mix of spices like smoked paprika, garlic granules and anything that appeals in the moment). Heat a thin layer of grapeseed (or other neutral oil) in a pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, toss in some cubes (don’t crowd the pan – the cubes will steam if they are crammed in!) and cook each cube, turning from one side to the next when they are golden. Enjoy!

Day 45 of 196 – Savoury rolls

Lunch 45I had some whole wheat dough leftover from the calzones I made last week and decided to make some savoury rolls for lunch with some roasted squash and caramelized onions. While the dough defrosted and came up to room temperature, I roasted up some squash in a hot oven and caramelized some onion on the stove top. While I waited for the veggies to cool, I rolled the dough out into a rectangle and let it rest for a few minutes.  Next, I pureed the squash and spread a layer on the dough, added some onions and rolled it up into a cylinder. I sliced the cylinder into 2 inch sections and packed all of them into a greased pan. I let this rise for about an hour and then baked the rolls in a 350 oven until they were golden.

They smell great and will quick and easy to eat before my little one has a lunch time swim practice. I packed some edamame for protein, tomatoes and some fruit to round out this meatless lunch.

Day 43 of 196 – Calzone of desperation

Lunch 43This is the last school lunch of the week and I was running short on inspiration. Pizza and its relatives are always a good bet, so I whipped up some whole wheat dough and made up some calzones. The dough recipe is so simple (it is from @weelicious) and I will freeze the rest for future use.  The key to success with whole wheat dough, in my limited experience, is a relatively fine flour. Bob’s Red Mill flours have recently popped up at my local  supermarket and I have been using the regular and pastry versions of their whole wheat flour. Both have delivered great results!

I stuffed these calzones w cannellini beans, kale pesto and sundried tomatoes. Packed some fruit on the side including some sweet slices of fuyu persimmon. Not sure if my kids have had this before – will have to see if they come back home uneaten or not. 

Day 38 of 196 – A light lunch before the candy

Day 38My kids have amazing teachers this year. They inspire them to learn, have created interesting and creative projects for them to work on and are doing all of this in the midst of challenging working conditions. On top of all of this, they are throwing Halloween parties for their classes but have asked that we send healthy food! None of the kids will be deprived of candy on Halloween and they do still have a full day of learning to tackle and so it makes sense to make the parties about fun with some healthy snacks. That being said, there will still be candy so lunch for the day before Halloween is on the light side.

I have made some brown rice sushi with some cucumber, carrots and avocado – this thrilled my kids to no end – and packed some edamame for protein for this lunch. I made a couple of apple monsters with pumpkin seed teeth and googly eyes left over from a cake decorating kit. I may or may not have told my kids that their teeth will look just like these monsters teeth if they don’t brush them after eating a mountain of candy. My 10 year old laughed it off, but the 7 year old looked worried!!

Day 37 of 196 – Dumplings and more Halloween fun

Day 37

One of my kids came home upset from school the other day after another little girl in her class told her that her lunch was “not normal”. Although very confident in all other situations, she was overwhelmed and did eat her lunch at all. She came home so hungry, sobbed and then related what had happened and asked if she could just have something “normal”.  We live in one of the most multicultural cities in the world so “normal” is a meaningless word but I also know that my kids are more adventurous eaters than some and I really just want them to eat a healthy balanced meal.  A similar situation arose when my older daughter was in grade one so I wasn’t phased by this and we sat down and figured out what she would feel comfortable eating.  I expected her to ask for pastas or a sandwich but she asked for dumplings and sushi!! I took a look in the fridge, (took a few steps to the right to shoot off an email to her teacher to chat with the kids about respect), and made some dumplings.

Dumplings are the greatest food and virtually every culture has their own version of them. What makes these vaguely Chinese dumplings amazing is that they are a vehicle for lots of vegetables and protein and allow you to use up the odds and ends that are in your fridge. I had a couple of carrots, some mushrooms, celery, tofu and some shallot in my fridge so roughly chopped them and sautéed them in a pan with some oil, ginger and garlic. After everything had cooked through I seasoned the veggies with some soy sauce – maybe a couple of teaspoons –  and then tipped all of this into my food processor and pulsed it until it was uniformly and finely chopped. I gave it a quick taste and let set up an assembly line with my daughter for filling the dumplings.

I am not sure if it is her love of dumplings or little fingers, but she is a pro at dumpling folding (and dumpling filling eating while my back is turned). We set out the dumpling wrappers (I buy them in Chinatown and keep a couple packs on hand in my freezer) in a row, I scooped out the filling into each one, she painted the perimeter of the wrapper with some water and then folded up each bundle. I set up steaming basket and cooked them all – she ate a bunch and the rest went into my kids lunch boxes.

I packed some pomegranate airls, an orange disguised as a pumpkin and a will whip up a bottle of miso soup in the morning. Lunch packed and lunch drama resolved.

Day 27 of 196 – Technicolour bits and pieces

Day 27A colourful lunch of bits and pieces (a favourite this year): crudités w a store bought vegan kale pesto and yogurt dip (pesto+yogurt+squeeze of lemon = dip), the dairyfree kid doesn’t like dips so her vegetables are packed as is, one hard boiled egg, some oatcakes (they are traditional Scottish crackers, not actually cakes) I made this afternoon – so easy and beat store bought any day, some fruit and a few dark chocolate chunks for a little treat.  Besides baking crackers (which is truly an optional thing – I haven’t made oat cakes before, wanted a break from my desk, so went down to the kitchen to make them – there are perfectly good commercially available oat cakes) and boiling an egg, this was a simple assembled lunch that looks more impressive than it actually is.

Day 18 of 196 – A lunch of bits and bites to balance on your lap

Day 18This is a lunch of little bits and bites and often one of my kids’ favourite lunches. Besides hard boiling an egg (and I swear by the Kenji Lopez-Alt method of adding a cold egg to boiling water and boiling the egg for 9 minutes to get a perfect egg), there is no actual cooking required in this meal – it is just assembly. Easy, fast and healthy.

My big kid is off to We Day  – an enormous celebration of youth outreach at the Air Canada Centre – tomorrow so needs a lunch that she can balance on her lap while she is being inspired to create change and also while being serenaded by an unbelievable line up of artists.  I packed an egg – shaped like a teddy bear – for protein, some veggies, including the end of our backyard green beans, some gluten free edamame and rice crackers and a vegan peach and buckwheat muffin. I added a handful of little round fruit – grapes, kiwi berries and physalis and a piece of nice dark 70% chocolate for a treat (although I am pretty sure that seeing Hozier, Shawn Mendes and Hedley will overshadow the chocolate!!).

Day 16 of 196 – Corn and spinach pancakes

Day 16The end of corn season comes with some sadness but also with some relief: we have eaten lots of corn while it is fresh and sweet but we have also eaten lots of corn and are ready for a change to fall vegetables. I normally just throw the corn on the BBQ and we eat it plain or with a squeeze of lime and some chaat masala – a delicious mix of Indian spices that is tart, salty and a little spicy all at once. I had a couple of cobs left from my CSA box and was flipping through the newest Jamie Oliver cookbook when I came across a breakfast recipe for some corn pancakes. His version included some grilled banana and bacon but I decided to work with what I had on hand.

A quick scan of the fridge turned up some spinach, shallots and a block of soft tofu. I roasted off the corn and removed the kernels. I then sautéed some diced shallots and added in the corn, julienned the spinach and gave it a quick toss in the pan. I transferred all of this to a bowl and added a block of soft crumbled tofu (in place of the cottage cheese called for in the original recipe) and followed the rest of the recipe steps as written. I cooked these up and packed one lunch box with some pico de gallo and the other with some mango chutney for dipping. I added some colourful carrots and celery, a few orange slices and a roll of carrot and nectarine fruit leather.

Day 79 of 196: Sweet Pea and Mint Fritters

lunch 79We had a couple of quiet days at home during the school break after we returned from vacation. We all needed a bit of downtime and after the rush of school, followed immediately by rushing off on holiday (we picked the kids up from school and headed directly to the airport) so it was nice to spend a day or two drawing, painting, building and reading. The kids, especially my big daughter, loves to flip through cookbooks and while I was menu planning for the week, she looked through Plenty More – the latest Ottolenghi book – and found a recipe for some sweet pea and mint fritters that looked lovely and that she thought she would like for school. When I was at the supermarket, I happened to be standing in front of the frozen peas so picked up a bag with plans to make them with her after school.

When we got home from school, we pulled out the book and I realized that I had not read through the entire recipe that included freezing the uncooked fritters for a couple of hours and then breading and frying them. With the bag of now mostly thawed peas sitting on the counter, it was time for improvisation. We made up the pea mixture (sautéed shallots, peas processed in the processor until they were chopped up but not mush, an egg – but I swapped the egg for some ground flax and warm water, mint, garlic, salt and pepper) and formed little patties. I dusted them w corn starch and cooked them in an oiled pan until they were crispy on the outside and cooked through. They were fantastic and the kids ate them up as quickly as I could make them. I managed to set aside half a dozen and packed them into their lunch boxes.

It is now apparent that the ying ying soy foods smoked tofu slices are a staple in our lunch boxes and here they are again! They really are delicious hot or cold and a great lunch option because they are packed with protein to keep the kids going through their active days. I threaded a few slices onto a skewer while the kids ate the balance of the package (and no dinner later on – no surprise!) and  I sliced up a few rainbow carrots, a pineapple and some grapes. Finally, I tossed in four citrus flavoured gum drops to round out this 79th lunch.