I know I said that I’d never use this sandwich cutter again, but Lily requested dolphin-shaped tuna sandwiches for lunch and I hate to disappoint a four year old. So, here they are: dolphin-shaped tuna sandwiches, heavy on the dill pickles. Carrots, cucumbers and strawberries from the farmers market also make an appearance. I’m not sure about the little chocolate in the middle—I found it in a plastic container in the cupboard. In one of my efforts to achieve pantry organization, I foolishly stored an unlabeled container of chocolates. Oh well. How bad can they be? Happy weekend.
This post has nothing to do with school lunch and everything to do with how glorious vegetables can be. Seriously, look as those colors. This is a pile of chard getting ready to go into a boiling pot of water and then into a lasagne. My kids aren’t crazy about chard (but, glory be, they do love kale). However, they eat almost any vegetable when it’s in lasagne.
I don’t know why, but I totally think of bagels and graham crackers as comfort food. Today’s lunch has half a bagel with cream cheese and blackberry jam. I also included two graham cracker sandwiches with sunflower seed butter and a small amount of chocolate syrup (Trader Joe’s Midnight Moo version of Hershey’s chocolate syrup). The banana ended up being somewhat problematic as Iain didn’t eat any of it, claiming that he was unable to peel it. Next time, I’ll have to pull back a little piece of skin so the poor guy can get into the banana. The lunch was lacking in color before I added the carrots and cucumbers. The treat: two little chocolate mints.
After the last two lunches with leftover grilled pork, it’s time for some vegetarian fare. Today’s sandwich is one of my favorites: tart apple slices with sunflower seed butter (I’d use regular peanut butter if I were making this for a home lunch). Apple season is now in full swing here. I got these gorgeous pink on the inside green on the outside apples (the name escapes me) at the farmers market. If I were to name them, I’d call them Blushing Tart apples. Also in this lunch are some pumpkin muffins leftover from yesterday’s preschool snack and lovely red fruit (watermelon and strawberries). The treat is a small helping of those addictive candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds from Trader Joe’s.
Today was another preschool snack duty day for me. I had every intention of making whole grain vegan pumpkin muffins. But, life, work, chores, etc. got in the way, so I turned to TJ’s convenience:
These muffins are darn good, but way sweeter than I would have made them. I did substitute applesauce for half of the oil in an attempt to make the muffins slightly less decadent. I’m sure the kids will gobble them up. I decided to try sending some green smoothie as part of the snack. The smoothie is pretty sweet, so I think the kids will go for it.
Green Smoothie for Kids:
- frozen bananas
- frozen pineapple
- kale or spinach
- apple juice
- vanilla almond or soy or coconut milk
Exact ratios are unimportant. More pineapple and apple juice will result in a sweeter smoothie. More milk and bananas will create a creamier smoothie. You don’t need a Vitamix to make green smoothies, although, the Vitamix smoothie will be, well: smoother.
Grilled pork: it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Today’s main lunch item is a whole grain quesadilla with grilled pork and barbecue sauce. Yummers. The pretty pink and red compartment has strawberries and greek yogurt with strawberry jam swirled in. I also included some grapes and sliced carrots. The more colors in the lunch, the better—and healthier—it looks. The treat is a couple of chocolate mints.
Cooking Tip: For the best, crispiest quesadillas, use a dry cast iron pan over medium heat. Cast iron pans are awesome in so many ways: they are cheap, basically indestructible, and totally non-stick when seasoned properly. I have fancy pants expensive All Clad pans, but, more often than not, I use one of my cast iron pans for sautéing and such.
When I was growing up, Sunday was barbecue day. When we lived in places like Southern California and Guam, the weather was conducive to Sunday BBQ year round. Not so in Nebraska. But, not matter, my dad would be bundled up, lighting the grill and smoking a cigar outside in the dead of winter. In retrospect, I wonder if Sunday BBQ was related to my dad’s desire for a weekly cigar indulgence. My mom had been a heavy smoker early in life and once she quit, she quit for good and couldn’t tolerate the smell of smoke at all. Hence, dad had to take his stinky cigars outside where the smell was somewhat masked by lighter fluid and burning charcoal (he eventually broke down and bought a gas grill which was much easier to light on Midwestern winter days).
So there you have it: the long story of why Sunday is still barbecue day in my house and why today’s lunch contains barbecue leftovers. The sandwich has sharp cheddar cheese and sliced pork roast. That’s a little container of scrumptious eggy potato salad (grandma’s contribution to Sunday BBQ) at the top. Since this meat and potatoes lunch is pretty heavy, I included lots of fruit—grapes, strawberries and watermelon—and threw in a baby carrot.
Yesterday’s Veggie-laden Tuna Salad of Awesomeness is back: this time in the guise of a tuna melt. I think a tuna melt is comfort food perfection. A normal person might make a tuna melt on an english muffin or a nice crusty piece of bread. Unfortunately, on Thursday I found myself out of bread. No loaves, no skinny breads, no english muffins, no biscuits. Nothing. My saving grace: a batch of no-knead whole wheat olive oil dough in the fridge. Have you tried no-knead bread? It’s amazing stuff. When my good friend, the talented and amazing Jason O’Malley told me about Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day, it changed my life. Now, I almost always have some bread dough on hand for pizzas, flatbread, rolls, mini tuna melts, whatever. For the tuna melt, I simple pinched off a small piece of dough, flattened it into a circle, spread on the tuna salad, topped with shredded cheddar and baked at 450 for about 15 minutes. On the side is some steamed broccoli I prepped for dinner and a fruit course of grapes and nectarines. All produce is from the farmers market, so it’s especially delicious. The broccoli tasted amazing without even a sprinkling of salt.
I can never waste even the tiniest scrap of pie crust. Maybe this is because pie crust making is a mysterious art—sometimes the dough magically rolls out perfectly with nary a crack in sight and more often than not, inexplicably, the dough is finicky and refuses to behave. Recently I made a pie with a slightly dodgy crust. Even though the crust was far from perfect, I couldn’t bear to toss the scraps. Hence, today’s lunch galettes: blackberry jam and sliced nectarine on the dodgy crust. Because a little pie is far from a proper lunch, I served it with veggie-laden tuna salad of awesomeness on whole wheat and grapes. In the treat tray is dried pineapple. Treat? Who needs a treat when lunch is a mini pie? Truthfully, I was afraid of leaving the treat tray empty.
Cooking Tip: Here’s how I made Veggie-laden Tuna Salad of Awesomeness:
- one gorgeous yellow sweet pepper
- two small carrots
- a nice big handful of cabbage (purple would have been prettier, but I only had plain old white)
I put the veggies into the Vitamix and covered them with water. I blasted them on high for about 5 seconds, poured the super finely chopped veggies into a strainer and pressed most of the water out. A food processor would have also done the job nicely. I then diced up some dill and sweet pickles. I mixed everything with three cans of tuna, a little olive oil mayo, a squirt of mustard, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. This made a big batch: enough for a giant family-sized tuna hoagie (we had a preschool open house picnic last night) with enough left over for the kids’ and my lunches today.
For today’s lunch, I made cutesy dolphin and heart sunflower butter blackberry jam sandwiches. Usually I’m not into cutesy cut-out things in lunches, because it takes too much effort. But, I saw this dolphin/heart sandwich cutter at Staples and I couldn’t resist. That being said, I may never use it again, because a little too much bread gets wasted with these cut outs. Maybe I’ll save it for special occasions—tea parties, birthdays and such. On the side is a cereal (Quaker Oat Squares and Wheat Chex) and Goldfish combo with a few chocolate chips sprinkled into the mix. Isn’t today’s fruit glorious? Nectarines and pluots from the farmers market. I keep thinking that stone fruit season is over, and it is except for a few lingering varieties. Candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds are in the treat tray.
Who doesn’t love a biscuit crust pizza? It’s got that special hint of sweetness and is especially good for kids who like a softer crust. Flatten some biscuit dough, put a little marinara sauce and cheese on top, cook at 375˚ish and take it out when the aroma in the kitchen reminds you that you put a mini biscuit pizza in the oven. Mmm, call it good.
In addition to that delicious little pizza morsel, we have grapes, blueberries, carrots and strawberry applesauce + greek yogurt with a sprinkling of granola. Yesterday’s lunch also had a little container of strawberry applesauce and greek yogurt but I didn’t mix it up. See how it looks different? I’m a master illusionist. In the treat tray: those crazy sesame seed Somersaults.
There were tons of grapes at the farmers market this weekend, so I stocked up on green and gorgeous dark purple varieties. They will be making an appearance in more lunches this week. The little container has plain greek yogurt with homemade strawberry applesauce. The strawberries I got this week were super sweet and ripe; I knew they wouldn’t last long. Sometimes really good fruit is ephemeral that way. So, I made an easy sauce: strawberries, cut up apple chunks (don’t bother to peel if organic or unwaxed), the juice of an orange and a little sugar. I let this simmer while giving the kids a bath last night. By the time they were finished, so was the sauce. I gave it a little blend with an immersion blender and let it cool while we read bedtime stories. Sunday night is for multi-tasking. This lunch also has a cheddar cheese biscuit left over from dinner, slices of this yummy baby swiss cheese from Trader Joe’s and real, honest to goodness baby carrots (farmers market).