Hand on fun

Day 30 of 196 – Middle eastern lunch

Day 30This jar is composed of some salads we will have for dinner tonight: broccoli tabule, carrots w black chickpeas and mint, roasted cauliflower and pomegranate and some roasted corn. Packed some whole grain pita and a delicious roasted pepper and feta dip that my daughter spotted in her favourite kids’ cooking and fitness magazine Chop Chop.  It was very straightforward and easy for her to make on her own – just a combination of roasted red pepper, lemon, feta, olive oil and a couple of her own additions: lemon thyme and smoked paprika. Very delicious and she did it on her own!  Cooking and even better, cooking something delicious, gives kids such an amazing feeling of accomplishment. My daughter smiled and her chest swelled with pride when she tasted how great this dip was.  A handful of fruit rounds out this delicious school lunch.

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.

Day 26 of 196: Dumplings again and noodles everywhere

IMG_4775Today is the city-wide cross-country running meet so lunch had to power my big daughter through her run and also had to be easy to eat since they will be sitting on the grass or sand for lunch.  Dumplings, as I have written before, are a great vehicle for all kinds of veggies.  I ran down to Chinatown before school pick-up to get some dumpling wrappers, a selection of mushrooms and some fun fruit for lunches for the week.  When we got back home and started to prep dinner (corn tortillas w mixed roasted veggies, tofu and the apple and tomatillo salsa I made last week) I realized I had half a box of spinach that could be mixed in with the dumpling filling and we all got to work.

I started by prepping the veggies for lunch and dinner. The dinner vegetables – mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots, celery and squash – all went into the oven with some olive oil and salt and pepper to roast.   The lunch vegetables – carrots, celery, mushrooms – were diced up finely and sautéed in a pan with some grapeseed oil until there was some colour on the mushrooms. I folded in some diced tofu, the baby spinach that I had minced up, a few teaspoons of soy sauce and some minced garlic and ginger. The kids had been foraging in the pantry and found a package of brown rice noodles so we rehydrated them, chopped them up a bit and folded them into the filling mix.

The kids love making dumplings and the only requirement I have is that they make themselves half a dozen moon-shaped dumplings each to pack in their lunches.  Once they have done that, they can create any shape or size dumpling they can conceive of and they don’t hold back! We end up with letter-shaped dumplings, tiny dumplings for their stuffed animals and all kinds of other creations. We cook all of these up for a snack to tide them over until dinner.  To assemble the dumplings, each kid sets up a station with a stack of wrappers, a bowl of water and spoon. I transfer the filling to a bowl and put it in between them and they set out to work. This is usually pretty messy but I had no idea how much messier adding noodles to the dumpling filling would be! We had tiny noodle bits all of the floor and stuck to the side of cabinet where they were working and hours later I was sweeping them up in adjacent rooms! I vowed to myself that we would not use noodles again until they both declared that these were the best dumplings that we had ever made.

I cooked up their lunch dumplings in the same skillet that I had cooked the filling in (I wiped it out first) filled with a bit of water and teaspoon of oil. I brought the water to a boil added the dumplings and covered the pan for 3 or 4 minutes until the dumplings were ready. In the meantime, I cut up some fruit (mango and dragon fruit), washed some sugar snap peas and pepper rings and mixed up a little dipping sauce with some soy sauce, rice vinegar and a tiny bit of maple syrup. I had a package of tofu jerky that I divided and added at the last minute along with some little panda cookies.  I wish I had made myself a lunch like this!  Happy 26th day of school!