Day 35 of 196 – Tofu and carrot noodles

Day 35During our summer road trip to Chicago we had a delicious dinner at Little Goat.  Little Goat is a diner that appears to have been preserved from the 60s – I am not sure if this was a restored or recreated restaurant – but it reminded me in part of the old cafeteria at the airport in Toronto from the 1970s. Among the highlights of our meal was a bowl of tofu noodles in the most amazing dressing. I tried to replicate this dish for lunch (and for our dinner) here. A part of what made this so clever was that the noodles were made of tofu. I expected a bowl of noodles to arrive topped with tofu and it occurred to me after a few bites that the noodles were in fact made from tofu!

I picked up some sheets of tofu skin – thin sheets of tofu – in Chinatown and sliced them into long noodles. I boiled them in some salted water and then drained and set them aside. I tossed in some vegetables, including some carrots that I sliced using a vegetable peeler and made up a lime and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum) dressing to drizzle over the top. The dressing comes from an Ottolenghi recipe for a slaw that was published in Plenty More and there was something in the dressing at Little Goat that reminded me of this one.  It was not quite the same as the bowl of noodles that I had in Chicago but a close second.

I added in some fruit, a few rice crackers and a gummy scull to kick off the Halloween fun in our house!

Day 54 of 196: Build your own soft taco

lunch 54Mondays are usually the day that I catch up from the weekend and the kids jump back into their school and after-school activity routines. Because of this, I try to make dinner a pretty quick and simple affair for me and set things up so that lunch can be easily assembled either from dinner leftovers or prepped at the same time as I make dinner.

We had some leftover roast chicken from dinner from the night before so I figured I would repurpose it into some soft tacos for dinner. It is one of those meals that fall into the make it your own category which makes everyone happy.  I picked up some tasty dips – guacamole, a black bean and jalapeno dip and some pico de gallo – and some corn tortillas and a head of lettuce. I roasted some sweet potatoes in the oven, charred some corn in a hot pan and roasted some cauliflower that I chopped up into pieces about the size of grains of rice.  For dinner, we started with a tortilla or a leaf of lettuce and got to work.

Lunch was a quick and easy job using what we had for dinner. I filled three muffin cups w some of the dips and for one of the girls (the one who is apparently into Korean Mexican fusion) some kimchi and some corn into a cup for the other one. Along with this, I seared some tempeh and put it into their boxes, dropped in a granola bar that I made earlier in the day and added some fruit.  The kids were excited about dinner and equally excited about lunch  – a win-win!

FIT TIP OF THE DAY – 25 squat jumps (squat down low and jump up high, keep feet shoulder with apart). Questions? Fitness expert and personal trainer Barb Rosenberg is happy to answer your FIT TIP queries – barbrosenberg1@gmail.com


Day 28 of 196: Lunch tapas style

IMG_4790I had some odds and ends in my fridge when I went to make dinner and lunch and was stuck for ideas. When the weather cools off I usually make soup but the sun made an unexpected appearance late in the day and it did not feel like a day for soup. At the same time, it did not feel like a big salad kind of day either. I was chatting with someone about great food I had eaten (this is not such an unusual conversation  – I could talk about food all day long!) and I related the amazing food we ate at tapas bars in Barcelona a few years ago. We also stumbled upon a tapas place nearby recently and had some simple and boldly flavoured snacks before heading into a party. These experiences lingered at the back of my mind and as I stood looking blankly into the my fridge, tapas suddenly seemed like the perfect direction for dinner and for lunches.

Finger foods are always a good option because they can eaten quickly and easily while sitting and eating lunch. I had some corn as well as some roasted mushrooms and cauliflower in the fridge from the night before so decided to make some empanadas. I am not skilled with dough making, or maybe just not patient enough to make dough, so I picked up a container of spelt flour dough at the supermarket.  I divided the dough into 2 inch balls, rolled each one out and pulled a couple of tablespoons of the corn, mushroom and cauliflower filling in the middle. I folded the dough up and baked it in a 375 degree oven until the empanadas were cooked.  Three little empanadas went into the kids’ lunch boxes and the rest we had for dinner.

I had a bag of mini peppers at the back of the fridge that were not being eaten so I tossed them on the barbecue and blackened the skins. Once they had cooled off, I marinated them in some olive oil, sherry vinegar and garlic. We had some for dinner and some went into lunch boxes. Finally, I sautéed a can of chick peas in some olive oil with garlic and a good amount of smoked sweet paprika. Before serving I gave them a squeeze of lemon and sprinkled a handful of chopped parsley over them. Delicious and easy to eat with your hands.

Dinner was rounded out with some tuna and some pan con tomate – crusty slices of bread rubbed with garlic and tomato and then drizzled with olive oil. It was a lovely meal – the only thing missing (from dinner) was some cava – next time!

Day 22 of 196: Leftovers for lunch

20140926_013945186_iOSOur house, or rather, our front porch is the depot for our CSA. Each week a stack of bins of locally grown fruits and vegetables are dropped off and people come by on their way to pick up kids from school or the way home from work to pick up their bins. Once in a while, a bin goes unclaimed and the deal is that I can keep it, give it away or compost it at 6pm the following day. For a while, we had an extra bin every week and I was giving them away to my neighbours (you cannot imagine how quickly people respond to emails entitled “free organic fruits and vegetables”!) and then things were sorted out with the orders and all of the boxes were being collected. That was until this week, when once again there was an extra box. Late summer and early fall is when the boxes are biggest and full of my favourite produce – squash, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, apples, etc so I decided to keep this one for us and do a bunch of cooking and baking.

I thought a tray of beet chips would be a terrific addition to my kids’ lunches so I thinly sliced a few beets, tossed them into the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and let them roast. What I didn’t take into account was that the red beets had a much higher sugar content than the others so quickly burned and the others left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately the lot went into the compost and I will save the rest of the beets for another purpose.  The beets did look lovely on the tray before they went into the oven!

Fortunately things were more successful after the beets. Between the extra CSA bin and the one I get, I had 4 butternut squash on hand. We ate a couple in salads w mixed greens, mixed grains, dried fruit and a lemon vinaigrette. I also roasted and pureed one to fold into some polenta along with some smoked scamorza to make a comforting side dish. The recipe serves more than our family of 4 eats in a meal so I chilled the leftover polenta on a sheet pan and roasted little wedges of it for lunch.  The same evening, I made some chicken breasts using this method and one extra one for lunch. This made lunch quick and easy to assemble.20140930_221032451_iOS

Finally, we have a mountain of apples from our apple picking expedition. In the excitement of apple picking we picked too many apples (this happens every year – we never learn!) so I decided to make some fruit leather. My mother used to buy fruit leather for us from the health food store and refused to buy us the fruit (froot?) roll ups that all of our friends used to get in their lunches. Little did I know that I would eventually feed my kids in the same way! I cut up a dozen or so apples  – with skins intact-  and put them into a pot with a cinnamon stick and a splash of apple cider that we bought at the orchard while we were apple picking. I covered the pot and cooked it over medium heat for about 15 minutes. The apples were nice and soft at this point so I transferred them to my food mill and pureed them. The sauce was still a little thin for dehydrating so I cooked it down a bit more and then added some ground vanilla bean and some ground cardamom.  Finally, I spread all of this out on to 2 silpat non-stick baking sheet liners on cookie sheets, sprinkled on some chia seeds, and cooked them on the dehydrate setting on my oven. After about 3 hours the sauce had dehydrated and I could pull it up at the corner.  I pulled both sheets out of the oven and let them cook for a few minutes.  Once they had cooled off, I peeled off the entire sheet of fruit leather, placed it on a sheet of waxed paper and got some little hands to roll it up.  We cut the large sheet into smaller pieces and one went into each lunch. The resulting fruit leather is tart and flavourful with little crunchy chia seeds. Absolutely more delicious and healthier than anything I pled with my mother to buy for me when I was 8 years old!

20140930_213652753_iOSLunch for the 22nd day of school was three skewers of the leftover chicken, the polenta cut into stars and roasted until crispy, a little spinach salad with sweet mini peppers and amaranth sprouts, strawberries and grapes and the fruit leather. After disappointing my daughter with the gummy bears (she did manage to pull it together and eat them all remarkably) I also put in a few of the chocolate crispy pearls she requested for today originally. I am sure she will be pleased to find these tomorrow at lunch time!

Day 13 of 196: Salmon salad sandwich hearts

photo 13The cedar planked salmon I made last night was not the hit I anticipated with my kids. One declared that it smelled too much like a sauna and the other one had been eating dumplings as quickly as she was folding them so did not eat much at all.  They also got pet fish over the summer – betta fish, not salmons – and suddenly found themselves identifying with dinner differently than before. That being said, they like tuna salad and I had a piece of salmon sitting in the fridge that I figured I could whip up into sandwiches for lunch.

I mixed the salmon w a dollop of Greek yogurt, lemon juice, diced celery and finely diced green onion. Still uncertain about how the fish would appeal, I asked my daughter pick out a cookie cutter so that we could cut their sandwiches into fun shapes. With any luck this lunch was a success! The sandwiches were served up with a crunchy salad of radishes, celery, carrots and sprouts, a couple of crackers and a dip made w avocado, umeboshi paste, lime juice, rice wine vinegar and a bit of grapeseed oil. It is tangy and creamy and delicious.  A mandarin, a handful of local Ontario grapes from Plan B Organic Farms and a few granola crackers round out lunch number 13!