Got a jump on Monday and packed school lunch as I begin to make dinner. We had a little flurry of snow in Toronto today so a warming meal is on the menu for school: I will warm up some of this delicious and protein packed red lentil and tomato soup in a thermos for my girls in the morning and pop it into their lunch bags w some fruit and a cardamom and cinnamon roll I made earlier. The perfect way to start off the week (in my mind, pretty sure my kids would prefer a long weekend 😜).
Another salad in a jar for my big kid – it looks pretty and pretty food is important to her and I am happy to indulge. My little one thinks this whole jar business is beyond silly and her lunch is essentially the same but packed (said with great emphasis and hand gesturing) FLAT. It is even nicer than yesterday so I have packed a sunny meal (from the bottom): blackberries, mint, strawberries, carrots, chèvre, quinoa and baby chard all dressed w a white balsamic vinaigrette. An entire healthy meal all bundled together in one container!!
A couple of weeks ago we discovered that Gordon Ramsey’s daughter Matilda has her own cooking show on the BBC . She is a delightful 11 year old girl who, unlike her father, keeps her cool in the kitchen and shares all of kinds of healthy recipes that kids can make either on their own or with a bit of… Read more →
Another school day, another salad in a jar! Today I packed my big kid a greek salad in a jar. She came across a jar salad like this one a couple of years ago and I was reluctant to send her to school with a glass jar but I think she is careful enough now to do this regularly. This one starts off with a layer of barley, topped with cucumbers, yogurt mixed with lemon and salt and pepper, carrots, tomatoes, sugar snap peas and most important to her – some crumbled feta and olives! Packed her a handful of pita chips and some fruit to round out this lunch.
The school week has flown by and I can hardly believe it is October (except for the single digit temperature when I raced out to the gym early this morning – October felt very real then!) and that tomorrow is Friday. It has been a busy week and I found myself counting on my pantry and CSA box to get some lunches into lunch boxes and dinner on the table. I always have a good variety of grains on hand, an assortment of vegetables in the freezer – things like edamame and roasted corn – and combined with my farm vegetables, there is always potential for a meal (although this is not always so apparent when I am staring into my pantry).
After a few minutes, I decided to make freekeh bowls for lunch and dinner. Freekeh is a young variety of wheat that has a smoky flavour and cooks relatively quickly. I packed the kids a bed of freekeh, topped w some roasted delicata squash (a great one because the skin is completely edible), red pepper, avocado and some sweet sprouts. Our csa box arrived about 20 mins after I started cooking the freekeh and there was a bunch of beautiful white turnips inside. I cut the ones we got last week into matchsticks but the kids did not touch them. Today, I sliced them up and handed my little daughter a rabbit cutter set to cut out bunnies. She ate all the scraps and was the mastermind behind the bunnies in the carrot grass. Tossed in some edamame, golden peach and a dark chocolate butterfly to end the week off sweetly.
I 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
We had a busy weekend – Halloween on Friday, a regular but good Saturday and then a swim meet on Sunday afternoon. After the meet, we had a family dinner and then finally stumbled back home at nearly 8pm and hustled the kids into bed. I had been out all day with all the excitement of the swim meet, hadn’t given much thought about lunch so went into my pantry to make a plan.
For lunch on Sunday, I made a big salad with roasted fall veggies from our CSA box – butternut squash, carrots, leeks, cauliflower – and some purple kale and green grapes. There were some leftovers in the fridge that I thought could be the starting point of lunch. I usually have boxes of par-cooked grains on hand. They are so convenient because they cook in about 10 minutes and you can always transform odds and ends in your fridge into a wholesome salad in minutes. I cooked up a box of a 5 grain mix and put a bed of the grains in each lunch box. I topped the grains with the veggies from the fridge and then just added some extra fruit and veggies: cucumber, pineapple, raspberries and a few pita crackers and some chocolate, of course, for a treat!
FIT TIP OF THE DAY 50 sit ups (lie on floor legs straight, sit up and roll down slowly keeping belly sucked in, swing arms overhead to help get you up). Questions/comments/concerns about the FIT TIP? Barb is always delighted to help – email@example.com
I love to cook and love to buy and read cookbooks – often to the exclusion of other reading – but I am reluctant to buy a lot of kitchen tools. There is no shortage of gadgets but I find that most of the time I can accomplish the same task with a good sharp knife, my fingers or by improvising. I do make the odd exception and the rice cube (pic at the left) caused me to bend my minimalist kitchen-tool rule. The rice cube forms perfect little cubes of rice, grains or almost anything that can be pressed into shape and is a cinch to use. My 6 year old watched the video on their website and got to work making cubes of jasmine rice mixed with either grated beet, grated carrot or sandwiched with a thin omelette of kale and caramelized onions and then called it dinner. I tried using the rice cube last week to make cubes of brown rice but the rice didn’t stick well and I improvised and re-titled lunch “deconstructed sushi”.
I was shopping in an amazing Korean supermarket a few weeks ago and picked up some unfamiliar ingredients (I am only minimalist with tools, I pick up new foods all the time) including some short grain wild rice that looked intriguing. Undeterred by last week’s failure (and by the package entirely in Korean – thank goodness for my lovely Korean neighbour who translated for me) I cooked up a pot of rice and set to work making a cubist lunch.
I formed little cubes of black rice and wrapped them in thin strips of heirloom carrot that I had sliced with my mandoline and quickly blanched so that they would bend around the rice. I also wrapped the rice in thin strips of smoked tofu and filled another three with cucumber. Carrying on with the theme, I pressed a couple of banana and squash (sounds strange, actually delicious) muffins and tucked them into this lunch. Lunch was rounded out with some steamed edamame, sliced kiwi and raspberries and a roll of the fruit leather I made a few weeks ago.
I was about to pack up a second lunch when my little daughter wandered in, tasted the black rice and declared that she did not like it at all! I don’t get into struggles with my kids about food. I insist that they try everything but don’t insist they eat things they don’t like. I keep everyone in mind when I make lunches and dinner and there are always enough options so that if you don’t like one thing, there is always something else on the table to eat. Her lunch was just a rice-free variation on the planned meal – julienned carrots, tofu slices on a tooth pick, a muffin, some oranges (one of her best buddies at school is allergic to kiwi so they cannot sit together if she has kiwi in her lunch) and raspberries, edamame and fruit leather. At the end of the day, they both had healthy and delicious meals to help fuel them through the day and healthy and delicious meals that they would eat and not bring home untouched.
After a long weekend with lots of indulgent eating, it felt like it was time for some simple and healthy food. The kids love sushi and we are lucky to live in a city with lots of great sushi and food in general. Over the weekend, I picked up a fun tool to make cubes of rice (and other grains) that I thought would be a handy tool for making lunches. The kids gave it a whirl the day I came home with it and they made – no adult assistance at all! – the tasty cubes of rice with veggies pictured on the left. We made a pot of rice and mixed some of the cooked rice with chopped beet and another bit with some grated carrot. Finally, I made an omelette with some kale and cut it up into little squares to fit into the rice press. The kids got to work and were delighted to have made their own dinner. After this great first run, I was keen to put the press to use for lunch 30. I made up a pot of brown rice – not as popular with the kids, but a healthier choice – and while it cooked I prepped lunch and dinner.
We had fish tacos for dinner – basically just fish that I dip into egg and then seasoned panko and then cook in a hot oven for a few minutes, flip and then pull out the oven. I set out bowls of different toppings – charred corn, rice, cauliflower rice, diced tomatoes and peppers, sautéed zucchini and mushrooms and some salsa – and everyone builds their own lettuce cups or tortillas for dinner. I set aside some carrots, mushrooms, peppers and cucumber and diced these for lunch.
When the rice was ready, I put some in a bowl for dinner and then got to work on what I thought would be a quick and easy lunch preparation with the rice cube tool. What I did not anticipate was that the brown rice I was using was not nearly sticky enough to hold a cube shape and the sushi I had constructed was quickly deconstructing. Rather than giving up, I took this as a sign that I was meant to make deconstructed sushi and ended up packing little sushi salads instead. I set down a bed of brown rice and sprinkled the diced veggies over it, threw on a few radish sprouts for colour, chopped up some nori and called it a day. When my little daughter wandered over to see what was happening in the kitchen she declared that she hated sushi (a lot can change in three days apparently!) but I assured her that she was having some rice with vegetables and predictably she declared she loved rice with vegetables!
Along with the deconstructed sushi, I packed some steamed edamame, a few baby carrots from our CSA box, a little container with some tamari to dress the salad, some rice crackers and fresh fruit. For a treat, my big daughter selected a fruit jelly for each of them.
Back to the carrots for a moment – one of the kids had a friend over to play when we got our CSA box last week. My kids are always keen to see if they are strong enough to carry it in and then open it up to see what is inside. I pulled out a big bunch of magnificent carrots with the greens still attached and soil clinging to the roots. My daughter’s friend looked aghast and asked what I was holding. I explained – really perplexed – that they were carrots. She told me that she only likes baby carrots and what she meant was that she likes the little carrots you can buy in the supermarket that have been cut up and formed into little rounded sticks. This experience made me realize how lucky we have been to get our food directly from a farm for the last 9 years because it has given my kids a connection to where food really comes from and how it is grown. One more benefit from this CSA box!
Yesterday was a wonderful but action packed day: we celebrated Rosh Hashana with our families over lunch and then again over dinner. By the time we got home we were all tired out (and full!) but I knew we had a busy day ahead of us. My girls are very fortunate to go to a school with terrific teachers who volunteer their time to run a huge assortment of teams. Today both kids had cross-country running practice at 745 which meant we needed to get up and out the door early and that they would probably be hungrier than usual. Our CSA box arrived while we were out and I spotted some apples and decided to whip up a batch of barley flour and buttermilk pancakes with some finely diced apple. We also got a bunch of adorable and sweet mini peppers and a bag of enormous sweet red grapes. All of this went into their planet box lunch boxes, a few whole wheat and flax pita chips that I picked up the last time we were at Trader Joes. Just before we walked out the door, I put a banana and some frozen mango and berries, a couple of scoops of hemp protein powder and some ice into the blender and whipped up a smoothie. I poured that into insulated bottles for them to have after running. Both kids are light breakfast eaters and have physically active days ahead of them – one has swimming and the other has phys ed – so wanted to be sure they could make it through the day happy, learning and having fun.
We are enjoying some amazing weather at the moment and think we are headed to the apple orchard tomorrow to pick some apples. Will have to start thinking about how to incorporate them into lunches in the weeks to come.