The weekend flew by and I’m in the process of getting my mind around Monday morning. Lunch is packed for the morning – ricotta and oven dried cherry tomato flatbread (no ricotta for the dairy free kid – she’ll have some nut free pesto instead), wedges of grilled socca (a simple, protein packed vegan and gluten free pancake made from chickpea flour), sliced local veggies, fruit and a cat-shaped jelly. A fast and simple lunch made from the fruit and veggies that came in our box, some ricotta I had leftover from a giant crostini platter I made on Friday night and tomatoes that I roasted for a couple of hours at 200F until they were sweet. I didn’t have a plan in mind for the tomatoes at the time, but felt like I hit the jackpot when I spotted the ricotta in the fridge and the flatbread in the freezer! Lunch saved. Bring on Monday!
One of my daughters loves to order granola parfaits whenever we are out for breakfast. I like them because she ends up eating some fruit, grains and protein all in one sitting and now that she is 10, she also sees the nutritional value in the right granola parfait. Granola is a cinch to make, it very inexpensive and is so much tastier than the stuff you can buy. By making it, you can also control the amount of sugar in the mix and make it a healthier breakfast (or lunch or snack…) option. I started off with a recipe from Mollie Katzen and removed the nuts to make it suitable for school and got rid of a bunch of the sugar. The end result is a crunchy, healthy and tasty granola. It does not taste like dessert, but has a lovely sweetness from the dried fruit that I mix in. Here’s the recipe:
Pre-heat the oven to 325F. In a large bowl mix the following together
3 cups of extra thick rolled oats
1 cup of quinoa flakes
1 cup of oat bran
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of hemp hearts
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp of fennel seeds (this is optional – I love these, but not everyone in my family likes fennel)
1/2 cup of neutral oil like grapeseed
1/2 cup of maple syrup or honey
Once everything is mixed together, spread it evenly on a parchment covered rimmed cookie sheet. I use a commercial sized cookie sheet for this so that the granola bakes more evenly. A commercial sheet is a great investment for roasting veggies or anything else you cook in the oven in large quantities. Bake the granola, stirring occasionally until it is golden brown. This takes about 45 minutes. Immediately mix in the following:
1 cup of pumpkin seeds
1 to 2 cups of dried fruit. I use whatever I have on hand but typically a mix of berries or stone fruit.
Wait for the mixture to cool and store in an airtight container.
For lunch, I packed a container of granola along with some plain greek yogurt that I drizzled with some honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I added a mix of berries and a gummy cat for a treat. This lunch box always comes back empty and takes about 90 second to pack once I have some granola on hand.
2015 is off to a terrific start and I am back and getting caught up on the lunches that I didn’t document here (they are always captured here) at the end of 2014 as well as resolving to try to stay on track here. The end of 2014 got busy and we left the city early to escape the cold for a while but with the kids back at school, lunches need to be packed!
While we were away, we went to a great food truck event in Hollywood, FL. Every Monday, 30 or so food trucks gather around the Arts Circle in the centre of Hollywood and serve up tons of delicious food. The last time we encountered so many food trucks was around Washington, DC last summer. We were amazed at the sheer number of trucks around the city and all of the different food they served up. After a visit to one of the Smithsonian museums, we came out and had Korean, Ethiopian, Indian and Thai food from a group of 10 trucks that happened to be parked in front of some office buildings! The laws in Toronto have made it difficult for people to serve food from food trucks – and the freezing weather at this time of the year doesn’t help either – so we jump when we get a chance to dine this way. It is such a great way for everyone to try something different and it is truly a pleasure to dine outside in December.
Back to Florida – we all ate well (I had a quesadilla with plantains, black beans and some queso fresco – yum!) – very well, but couldn’t eat everything we wanted to so I figured I would give a few of the things we had to pass up a whirl when we got home. One of the trucks we passed had delicious looking and smelling arepas stuffed with all kinds of enticing ingredients. I have only had arepas once before, think it was from a cart at a NYC food festival, but had recently come across a recipe and they looked simple to make and would be a good lunch option.
Arepas are made with masa – a corn flour – baking powder, salt and some water. You mix everything up, form patties and cook in an oiled pan until they are golden on each side. Once they are golden, you transfer them to a baking sheet and bake them until they sound hollow when you knock on the bottom – just like baking bread. I made three little arepas and concerned that they would get soggy, decided not to stuff them and instead packed a filling along side. I tossed some black beans, roasted corn, cherry tomatoes with some salsa verde and green onions and put that into little containers for the kids. This was packed alongside of some giant Incan corn, veggies, fruit and a couple of juice sweetened gummy penguins. A great first day back at school lunch!
We had a busy weekend – all wonderful things fortunately – but that left me making lunch this morning before school. I prefer to make lunch at the same time as I make dinner to save me cleaning up twice and also to simplify mornings which are busy enough as it. The upside of making lunch in the morning is that I can make the kids hot food and they welcome this as the weather is cooling off.
We picked up a couple of tiffins in Little India last summer. I had one that my older daughter used in nursery school for her snack, but it is small and I now have two children so we went out there for lunch and to do some shopping. I was thrilled to find insulated lunch boxes that the seller assured me would keep food hot for hours and that were under $20 a piece. The tiffins are not water-tight, so I cannot send liquid in them, but they are perfect for pasta and things along those lines that are not wet.
Since I was making lunch while packing swimming clothes, school bags, making breakfast and getting myself ready, it is a pretty simple meal. I boiled some pasta and tossed a handful of frozen edamame into the boiling water for the last couple of minutes to cook. I drained it, and tossed it with some pesto and split this between the two kids boxes. I packed the other tiffin section with some cut up fruit and packed both up with a fork (I forget cutlery all the time!!). The kids were thrilled with this lunch but I will go back to my regular routine of making dinner and lunches again today.
In my travels through the world of instagram I have come across a few build your own burrito lunches and thought this would be a fun and quick lunch so I filed it away for a busy day. We had a terrific but busy weekend and this kind of quickly assembled lunch was exactly what I had time for. Besides throwing some beans in a pan – and really, you could skip this step – it is all just a matter of putting stuff into a lunch box.
We happened to eat at a great taco house over the weekend where we picked up containers of guacamole and black bean dip. I didn’t have any particular plans for it but as Sunday progressed, I realized that they were lunch-bound. I started by packing the dips in the kids’ lunch boxes and pulled some tortillas from the fridge and rolled them up in some waxed paper so that they wouldn’t dry out. Next, I stood staring into the pantry hoping for inspiration.
I always have cans of beans on hand and had a can of black eyed peas that one of the kids had chosen (laughing because how funny it was that a variety of peas was named for a band :)) some time ago and that was waiting to be eaten. I drained the beans and tossed them into a cast-iron pan with some olive oil, a finely diced onion and some salt and pepper. Once the onion was translucent, I squeezed a lime over the pan and folded in some minced cilantro. I popped them into a cup in their lunch boxes, sliced up some sweet pepper that had come in our CSA box and threw in a few cherry tomatoes. Lunch was completed with some orange segments and a fruit jelly. From start to finish, lunch took about 5 minutes to make and should be enjoyed. I had the same thing for my lunch and it was delicious!
FIT TIP OF THE DAY: 100 jumping jacks (have fun with this one, clap hands at the top for more fun!!). Feel free to email Barb with any questions about the FIT TIP email@example.com
Tartines are a great quick lunch option. They look fancy – my older daughter is into that – and I like that they combine some kind of protein and a fruit or vegetable (or even both!) and they take only seconds to prepare. Figs have been popping up at the supermarket lately so I picked up a couple of them and actually carried them home in my hands because they are so delicate and didn’t want them to be crushed by the rest of my groceries. The original plan for this lunch was to make chevre and grape tartines. We were going to toss the grapes in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, some rosemary and a splash of balsamic vinegar but the beauty of the figs won us over and we will make the grape tartines another time. I was caramelizing some onions for dinner so threw another onion into the pan (thinly sliced onion, dry hot pan until the onions begin to brown, add a bit of oil, salt and then finish with some acid – I used white balsamic here) for lunch. Once the onions were ready we assembled lunch.
I toasted three slices of baguette and smeared each with some chevre, topped it with a tablespoon of onions and then slices of fig. I sprinkled each one with some finely diced rosemary. This was served up with some colourful heirloom carrots that I sliced on my mandolin, some cherry tomatoes, pomegranate and a few gummy bears.
The other exciting addition to this lunch is some new content brought to you by an amazing fitness expert and personal trainer from the gym I work out at. Barb Rosenberg has more than 25 years of experience and has worked with everyone from kids to adults. Her own fitness and strength are inspiring and she has been an enthusiastic supporter of these healthy lunches since I started posting on Instagram 36 days ago. She approached me to see if she could add a daily fitness challenge – a fit tip – to get people moving. A fit tip is something that you can do anywhere, anytime and that does not require a gym. Today’s fit tip is a 1-minute wall squat (lean against wall like you are sitting in a chair, knees in line with heels/breathe). Questions/comments/concerns about the fit tip? Please email Barb – firstname.lastname@example.org
I made some granola to bring as a hostess gift over the weekend the kids gobbled up the little bit that was leftover. Keeping this in mind, I whipped up a batch yesterday to pack in their 32nd lunch. I mixed up some oats, quinoa flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp protein powder, a few shakes of cinnamon, some grape seed oil, a bit of kosher salt and some dark maple syrup and baked it in the oven until it was golden. I mixed in some dried berries – cranberries, blueberries, cherries and goji berries – at the end and set it aside to cool. The kids walked in from playing outside, were delighted by the delicious smell and immediately had a bowl of warm granola with almond milk.
I picked up some silicone muffin cups over the weekend (and am kicking myself for throwing out a bunch of similar muffin cups about a year ago because I didn’t find them so effective for baking) and thought they would come in handy for this make-your-own granola parfait lunch. I scooped out about 1/3 cup of granola into a muffin cup for each of them and filled two others with some berries and fruit that they could (or not – one did not want fruit mixed in with her granola at all!) mix in with the greek yogurt I packed into the round container in their lunch boxes. Finally, and entirely for my peace of mind as a parent, I sliced up a little Persian cucumber and a yellow carrot. The yogurt and granola are pretty filling on their own so I am not sure they would be hungry for much more food but just in case they are, there are always veggies! Finally, the best treat in the world returned in this lunch – a few pieces of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate chunks that I usually use for baking but that turned out to be the best treat ever! I think these must have the same allure as the chocolate chips my mother always had on hand (and preferably not in our hands) for baking when I was little and of course, chocolate is delicious!
Yesterday was an unbelievably exciting day! My older daughter and I joined the World Changers team from her school for We Day – a day celebrating the amazing work done by young people to change the world. The event was held at the Air Canada Centre and attended by 20 000 youths who had to earn their tickets – you could not buy one – through community service and outreach work. The attendees were treated and inspired to a day of speakers ranging from an astronaut, a queen, a major news anchor, rock stars, pop stars, hip hop and rap stars and most significantly their peers speaking about what they had done and plan to do to make the world a better place.
Most of the attendees are 12 years old and older but her school – attended by children all under 12 – integrates social action into the curriculum in such a way that the organizers invite them each year to celebrate all that they do. They are a very lucky group of kids. It was pretty astonishing to see all of these agents of change up on stage all on one day. Before being invited to join the school group I related to my daughter what a rare and extraordinary experience she had in store for her – most people do not have the opportunity to hear many of the speakers speak even once, let alone all on one day and I doubted I would ever have this privilege. I am still pretty amazed 18 hours after the event and am so grateful that I had this experience.
Back to reality now and lunch. We had to leave the house at 6am to get to school and down to the ACC in time for the doors opening and didn’t get back home until nearly 5. My husband and I had an event to attend in the evening so I had about an hour to get dinner and lunches made and change into something that was a bit more sophisticated than my field trip outfit! I picked up some mini garlic naan at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and tossed them in the freezer anticipating this kind of situation. I quickly made up a couple of little pizzas for the girls w pesto and tomato paste, mozzarella and some sliced mini peppers. I served this up with a scoop of the grain salad that I had for my lunch at We Day, some grapes, some nori (I seal off the section of the lunch box with plastic wrap to keep the nori crispy) and a few pieces of the same chocolate chunks as yesterday because they are the best treat ever. To think of all the time I spent sourcing out all kinds of other treats when I had these in my pantry all along!
As hard as I try to plan ahead, there are days when no matter how much planning I do, things do not fall into place. We had a big crowd over for dinner and I made a BBQ style pulled beef brisket (inspired by a post from smitten kitchen) overnight in the oven the night before so that I would have time to do other things during the day. It turned out to be a very challenging day but I took comfort in the fact I would have some of the 6 lbs brisket left over from dinner for the kids’ lunches the next day and that making lunches was one thing I did not need to worry about. I was wrong. The brisket turned out to be so delicious that my family and guests polished it all off. I served it with fresh blue and white corn tortillas and some delicious salsa, fresh cheese and some other tasty toppings that I pick up at a terrific Mexican market just a few kilometres away.
After I cleaned up from dinner I had to figure out a new plan for school lunches and decided to make quesadillas for the kids and send them along with some of the milder salsa verde. I used one blue and one white corn tortilla for each for visual appeal and packed this along with some rosemary and raisin crackers, fresh baby peppers from our CSA box, cucumbers and mixed fruit. For a treat, I enclosed some quinoa puffs that I found at the health food store last week.
We take delivery of our CSA box of fresh and amazing organic fruits and vegetables every Thursday afternoon. Everything is grown about 45 minutes from where we live by a really wonderful family of farmers who consistently impress me with how smart they are and how hard they work. This means that Thursdays are always a day filled with excited anticipation (for me!) and that Wednesdays are days when I use up the odds and ends from the previous week’s box in order to get my fridge in order for another week’s worth of produce. I had some eggplant on hand and the kids, in a request that took me totally by surprise, asked me to make them some babaganoush for their lunches as we were walking into school that morning. Before they changed their minds, I set to work roasting the lone eggplant lingering in the fridge and transforming it into babaganoush for their lunches. Unfortunately one of them had changed her mind by the next day, but this just left me more babaganoush to enjoy myself! I mixed the roasted eggplant with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
Lunch today was red lentil pasta – pasta made entirely of red lentils that is delicious and high in protein – broccoli, sun dried tomatoes and some herb pesto, babaganoush and rice crackers, carrots and some fresh fruit. I tucked a fruit jelly into their boxes for a treat too.