Just 5 days until the break and we are all counting down! Quick and easy lunch: smoked tofu (it is labelled as tofu bacon and although it has been more than 20 years since I have eaten meat, I am certain that this is nothing like bacon and everything like tofu!) and veggie pita sandwiches (lovely fresh veg from our csa, tofu from St Lawrence Market) and some sliced apple. Easy lunch as we race out the door.
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 →
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!
My big daughter and I were at a café and cooking school the other night making soup for women at risk in Toronto. The café was closed for the event but their menu was posted on the wall. I have been to other events and parties there but haven’t ever popped in to buy food but will keep it in mind the next time I need something delicious! The sandwich menu looked great and my daughter dragged me across the room to show me an amazing sandwich – a wrap with some grilled veggies, pesto and goat cheese. As a vegetarian of nearly 20 years, I feel like I have eaten this sandwich a million times and ate too many of these in the late 90s – just needs a balsamic drizzle to take me back to my undergrad years – but was delighted that she found something she was keen about for lunch so added it to the menu for the week.
Dinner last night was a Spanish chick pea and spinach stew – found the recipe online and thought the spicing was unusual so figured I would make it. It turned out to just be strange (unusual is sometimes a red flag) so wont be making it again but we did have it along side of a salad of hearty grilled veggies – cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, carrots – with a big squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. Simple and delicious and also great for packing into some wraps for lunch! While I put the veggies on a platter for dinner, I took a big wrap and spread it with some nut free pesto, sprinkled on some chevre and dotted it with a roasted red pepper condiment that was a new arrival to the supermarket that I like to shop at (I am such a sucker for new food products!!). On top of that, I laid out some baby spinach (the same stuff that went into the stew), a couple of roasted carrots, some sundried tomatoes, sprouts and a few bit of cauliflower. I rolled it all up, cut it in two – one for each kid – and wrapped it up for lunch.
I love beets so have been roasting a bag every so often to keep on hand to toss into a salad for my lunch. I diced up a couple of the beautiful golden and candy cane (they turned uniformly pink after roasting) ones and packed them into the kids lunches. I added some fresh fruit – mangoes and raspberries – some cherry tomatoes and black bean crackers and a few chocolates for a treat. My little daughter has a been turning down vegetables recently but was so enthusiastic about having a wrap sandwich like one of her good buddies that she just might eat something fresh and tasty!
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!
This delicious lunch of whole roasted tomato tartines was a request from my daughter for lunch this week. She cannot get enough of the baguette that we buy from the butcher and fine food store up the street (we have to buy two baguettes usually – one is eaten on the walk home, the other used for breakfast or lunches) and this is a quick and easy lunch to throw together so I was game.
I was watching a PBS cooking show over the summer where the chef demonstrated an ingenious way of roasting tomatoes that she used in her restaurant when fresh and delicious tomatoes aren’t available. It is so simple and I have used it a bunch of times since – place tomatoes on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet, drizzle w olive oil and salt and roast in a low oven – about 250 degrees F – until the skin has cracked and the liquid has started to evaporate. I usually buy tomatoes on the vine for this because they look so magnificently beautiful and have served up a pile of tomatoes over fresh mozzarella or burrata and some torn basil leaves on big platter at parties a couple of times. They are always a hit and definitely the way to go when local tomatoes are not available. So, I roasted up a tray of the tomatoes and set aside some for the kids lunches. The rest went on to platter for dinner with a drizzle of olive oil.
One of my kids does not tolerate dairy particularly well, so I roasted some chick peas tossed with curry powder and olive oil in the oven until they were crispy. I packed her a container of the chick peas w a few tomatoes. My other daughter got the lunch pictured above – a few slices of buffalo mozzarella topped with the tomatoes. Along with this, each of the girls got a few slices of toasted baguette (to assemble their tartines a la minute – is there any other way with such a fancy sounding sandwich?!), some green beans and slices of white beet, cubes of dragon fruit and some pomegranate airls. Finally, I tucked four little gummy bears in for a treat.
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I haven’t packed sandwiches for the kids in a while and so picked up a package of whole wheat crustless bread at the supermarket that works well for making little roll up and tea sandwiches. Not wanting to make a second trip to the supermarket, I decided to use up the last few tablespoons of black bean and jalapeno dip left over from the day before and the last few heirloom carrots, a lone cucumber and a few kale leaves. Little bites, like the sandwiches I ended up making, are great for my kids for lunch. They can quickly pop them into their mouths and it is very difficult to avoid eating the vegetables rolled up inside of them.
I started off by julienning carrots, peppers, cucumber and kale. I set out two slices of bread in front of me and spread black bean dip on one and an herb pesto on the other. I added a bunch of veggies to each and rolled them up. I wrapped the rolls tightly with plastic wrap and popped them into the fridge. The key to these sandwiches, is to let them set up in the fridge before slicing them. While they rested, I made a couple of ants on a log with sunbutter and dried berries and pulled apart a pomegranate and packed it up in the kids’ lunch boxes. I added a handful of grapes, a few pieces of fruit leather and a few granola crackers for a treat. After an hour or so, I sliced the sandwiches into small rolls and packed it all up for lunch 41.
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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.
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Another busy weekend of family celebration but a full and fun week ahead so a delicious and nourishing lunch is in order on the 25th day of school. We got a little pie pumpkin in our CSA box this week and I have to admit that in past years that I have only ever used the pumpkins decoratively and have not ventured into cooking with them. I resolved this year would be different and I roasted the pumpkin in order to make a batch of pumpkin and sunflower seed muffins from the recipe from Sarabeth’s Bakery in New York City. This muffin is apparently enormously popular there and I was delighted with the muffins when they came out of the oven. Roasting and pureeing the pumpkin was more labour and time intensive than I anticipated but felt like time well spent given these tender and flavourful muffins. The kids hesitated before tasting these muffins last night but eventually took a small bite and then devoured the rest.
We have a terrific butcher in our neighbourhood that carries, in addition to meat and poultry, some of the best bread and cheeses around. While I was up there picking up something for dinner, I grabbed a baguette and a ball of some fresh buffalo mozzarella from Quebec. I had a few red peppers from our CSA box, so tossed them on the barbeque to roast while I toasted a few slices of baguette and spread some herb pesto on each one. I topped these with a little slice of pepper, a few black olives and some fresh basil.
On the side, the kids have a little chickpea and diced vegetable salad with a lemon vinaigrette, some berries and a little gummy candy for a treat. A terrific lunch for a rainy Monday morning!
Yesterday was a gloriously warm summer like day and a wonderful day to go apple picking. There are lots of apple pick-your-own farms within an hour of where we live and we usually end up at one of the smaller family-run organic farms. They are pretty low-key and they usually have apple varieties that we cannot find in the supermarket in the city. We picked about 35 pounds of apples and stored in the fridge, should keep us going for a while!
There are only so many apples you can eat out of hand so we made a couple of things with our harvest today: an apple and tomatillo salsa and some apple and apricot sauce (apples, dried apricots and cinnamon) that I reduced until it was quite thick and used it to fill some whole grain bars for the kids for school. The bar recipe comes from the Weelicious Lunches book that has been an asset when I am stuck for ideas. The salsa is unexpectedly delicious (although much spicier than I anticipated!) and I will put it to use later this week. The bars are tucked into lunches for tomorrow and the balance will go into the freezer for the weeks to come.
Lunch #20 includes some little smoked cheddar, sliced liberty apple, honey and pumpkin seed open faced sandwiches on sourdough baguette from an amazing bakery in Kensington Market called Blackbird. My daughter ate a third of the baguette on our walk home and I had to quickly slice off enough for lunches before the rest disappeared! My kids can be funny (not always so funny) about vegetable consumption – they will eat vegetables cut into unusual shapes, will eat them in dumplings or stuffed into pasta but will not eat them in their native form – so I sliced ribbons of yellow and orange carrots and cucumbers and rolled them up and put them into their lunch boxes. I had some amaranth microgreens from something I made last week so put them in for colour and because they are also delicious. I also included some pomegranate, orange segments, a few bunny crackers – one looks like it is hopping off in that pic! – and the bars we made earlier today. This should get them off to a good start on Monday!