31 Jan 2013: Chicken Quesadilla, Broccoli Salad and Nilla Wafer Sandwiches

lunch on 31 January 2013: chicken quesadilla, nilla wafer sandwiches and broccoli salad
lunch on 31 January 2013: chicken quesadilla, nilla wafer sandwiches and broccoli salad
lunch on 31 January 2013: chicken quesadilla, nilla wafer sandwiches and broccoli salad

Today’s lunch is pretty much a redux of last night’s dinner. I made some hunter’s style chicken a couple of night’s ago, so I’ve been working those leftovers for a few days. Last night I wasn’t in much of a cooking mood (shocking, I know), so I decided to make some quesadillas with the yummy saucy shredded chicken, which I served with some broccoli salad. I find that broccoli salad is hit or miss with the kids—sometimes they go for it, sometimes not so much. The version is pretty kid-friendly: raw broccoli chopped really small, cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, pepitas, sunflower seeds and small cubes of aged cheddar tossed in the minimal amount of dressing. I’ve tried all sorts of broccoli salad dressings, but one of the simplest is some mayo with a little apple cider vinegar and sugar. I always try to use a small amount of mayonnaise dressing, because I just can’t abide salads that are swimming in a pool of mayo. Since this lunch came together pretty quickly, I decided to make some cute apple, sunflower seed butter, and Nilla Wafer sandwiches. Aren’t they adorable? As luck would have it, I had a teeny tiny apple that was almost exactly Nilla Wafer-sized when sliced.

30 Jan 2013: Mini Smoked Turkey, Cheese and Veggie Kabobs

lunch on 30 January 2013: mini turkey, cheese and veggie kabobs
lunch on 30 January 2013: mini turkey, cheese and veggie kabobs
lunch on 30 January 2013: mini turkey, cheese and veggie kabobs

I’ve been dealing with a rather annoying cold, but I am determined not to let it get me down. Case in point: this super cute deconstructed sandwich lunch. In a bizarre fit of evening inspiration and motivation, I decided to make mini smoked turkey, cheese, grape tomato and dill pickle kabobs for lunch today. I love food served on toothpicks; it always reminds of that scene in Mermaids. You know—with the incomparable Cher and Winona Forever. But, I digress. Also in this lunch: pretzel fish and plantain chips, half a satsuma and a little Greek yogurt with blueberry jam. This lunch is so cute that I’ll have to make a point of packing more colorful kabobs in the future.

29 Jan 2013: Honey Greek Yogurt and Baked Oatmeal

lunch on 29 January 2013: honey Greek yogurt, baked oatmeal and satsumas
lunch on 29 January 2013: honey Greek yogurt, baked oatmeal and satsumas
lunch on 29 January 2013: honey Greek yogurt, baked oatmeal and satsumas

Have you ever tried baked oatmeal? It’s wonderful and satisfying. For today’s lunch, I made individual baked oatmeal portions. The oatmeal is lightly sweetened with mashed bananas, cinnamon and a little maple syrup. For a slightly decadent twist, I spread cookie butter on top of the oatmeal during the last five minutes of baking. For the record, I think cookie butter should be a banned substance. Seriously—Speculoos biscuits mashed up with even more sugar and oil to create a swoon-inducing spreadable cookie—who does that? Oh yeah, crazy food scientists in Belgium. Don’t buy it or you might be tempted to eat it straight out of the jar. After my brief flirtation with insanity, I mean cookie butter, I regained my senses and made the rest of the lunch. The plain Greek yogurt is garnished with honey, brown sugar, cinnamon and pepitas. It’s not very plain any more. I also included some little satsumas and a medjool date.

baked oats
baked oats

Cooking Tip: Baked Oatmeal 

  • 2-1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1-1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-count standard size muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Stir together banana, egg, milk, maple syrup and vanilla extra until well combined. Add oats, ground flax seed, salt, baking powder and cinnamon and mix well. Spoon into prepared baking cups and top with whatever toppings you like, such as, blueberries, nuts, chopped apples, etc. Be sure not to overfill the muffin cups if you plan to add toppings.

Bake for 25 minutes or until oatmeal is firm. If you are a devil-may-care bon vivant, spread a little cookie butter on top of the warm oatmeal and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

28 Jan 2013: Sunflower Seed Butter and Apple Sandwich

lunch on 28 January 2013: sunflower seed butter and apple sandwich with cherry Greek yogurt
lunch on 28 January 2013: sunflower seed butter and apple sandwich with cherry Greek yogurt
lunch on 28 January 2013: sunflower seed butter and apple sandwich with cherry Greek yogurt

Today’s fun fruity sandwich is sunflower seed butter and thinly sliced apples with a little cinnamon on whole wheat bread. I used pink lady apples— mmm, nice and tart and crisp. The sandwich looks like a lot, but it’s actually only half a sandwich cut into little triangles. The small round container has plain Greek yogurt with cherry preserves on top. The adorable little bento chick contains a small serving of parmesan Goldfish. Parmesan Goldfish are definitely my favorite—these little crisp fishies are positively gourmet. Veggies today are carrots and cucumber.

25 Jan 2013: Protein Packed Salad, Whole Wheat Roll and Fruit

lunch on 25 January 2013: protein packed salad
lunch on 25 January 2013: protein packed salad
lunch on 25 January 2013: protein packed salad

Last night I was feeling slight uninspired about making the kiddos’ lunches, so I put it off for a couple of hours. It the middle of watching the somewhat kid-inappropriate Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, I got the brilliant idea to made salads. Now, I know as well as you do that green salads can be a tough sell to kids. When I was kid, I only liked a green salad if it was loaded with non-salad items—i.e. meat and cheese. Oh yeah, and sweet canned kidney beans (I was funky on the corn syrup). I decided to take a protein packed approach to this salad: smoked turkey, gouda and edamame. The lettuce is romaine cut into itty bitty bite-sized pieces. I find that romaine is the best lettuce if the salad has to travel: it tends to stay crisp and fresh. There are also some sliced carrots and beets in there. I drizzled a little balsamic vinaigrette on top—just enough for some flavor, but not enough to make a soggy mess. I also included half a whole wheat dinner roll, some strawberries, and a date. This lunch is so pretty and colorful that it makes me want to pack more salads.

Inspiring Blog Award

inspiring-blog-award

I was recently nominated for an Inspiring Blog Award by Sushi Sushi Bento. I am very honored and touched that you find my blog inspiring. I started this blog on a whim last August just as a way to document the lunches I packed for my two kiddos each day. I have been amazed that people have found my little blog and have given me so much encouragement—I love the positivity!

The rules on how to nominate:

1. Display the award image on your blog
2. Link back to the person who nominated you
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers and link to their sites.
5. Notify the bloggers that they have been nominated and link to the post.

Here are 7 Things about myself:

  1. I am an Air Force brat and was born in the Panana Canal Zone—a place that, technically, no longer exists.
  2. I love pink, fuchsia and red.
  3. I have read Anna Karenina more than once.
  4. I loved Cheez Whiz as a child.
  5. I cry during sappy commercials, sappy t.v. shows, sappy movies, and everything I see any version of Pride and Prejudice. Despite my tendency to cry at such things, I am quite tough.
  6. My mom’s family is from Newfoundland and I love it there: it’s rough and windy and harsh and stunning.
  7. When I’m really old, I plan to stop wearing sunscreen and intend to lay in the sun all day long sipping citrus cocktails.

My nominees (I couldn’t pick 15—this was too much pressure):

24 Jan 2013: Grilled Cheese and Smoked Fish

lunch on 24 January 2013: grilled cheese, smoked fish, dill pickles, carrots and applesauce
lunch on 24 January 2013: grilled cheese, smoked fish, dill pickles, carrots and applesauce
lunch on 24 January 2013: grilled cheese, smoked fish, dill pickles, carrots and applesauce

I have to admit: this lunch looks a lot better than my lunch did today. That’s our pal Greg’s amazing smoked fish next to the ridiculously adorable bento frog container which has a nice stack of dill pickles in it. The sandwich triangles are grilled cheddar and muenster cheese on whole wheat bread. The little round container has applesauce with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. Some lovely sliced farmers market carrots and a couple of cocoa Somersaults finish off the lunch. There’s just something about that little green frog that makes me smile!

23 Jan 2013: Cherry Chia Kefir Oat Pudding

lunch on 23 January 2013: cherry chia kefir oat pudding
lunch on 23 January 2013: cherry chia kefir oat pudding
lunch on 23 January 2013: cherry chia kefir oat pudding

Yesterday I was trying to come up with a new and exciting chia pudding for the kids’ lunches, and, suddenly, it popped into my head: kefir. I used to drink kefir like crazy back when I lived in Chicago, having discovered it in my little neighborhood market under the L. I love the tart bite of kefir, but somehow I got out of the habit of buying it—probably as a result of trying to reduce our daily dairy consumption. The other day, when shopping with Lily, she saw a big pink bottle of strawberry kefir in the yogurt section and became quite insistent that “we try it.” Mmm, kefir, I thought. Unfortunately, I am sorry to report that the kiddos don’t seem too crazy about kefir. Maybe it’s the weird effervescent—some sort of crazy fermented probiotic-induced bubbliness. If you are a kefir fan, you might want to try this kefir chia pudding/overnight oat concoction:

Cherry Chia Kefir Oat Pudding

  • 1 cup berry flavored kefir
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cherry preserves

Stir all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge overnight. The chia seeds will plump up substantially, as they are amazing liquid soaker uppers. Before serving, sprinkle with unsweetened coconut. Makes 3–4 servings.

22 January 2012: Smoked Turkey and Gouda on Wheat

lunch on 22 January 2013: smoked turkey and gouda sandwich
lunch on 22 January 2013: smoked turkey and gouda sandwich
lunch on 22 January 2013: smoked turkey and gouda sandwich

For some reason, it always seems to be a little difficult to get back into the school routine after a long weekend. Last night I was enjoying my blue cocktail in honor of Obama’s Inauguration (wasn’t Beyoncé AMAZING?!) when it dawned on me that I had to make lunches. Luckily I had just enough bread in the house to make a couple of sandwiches: smoked turkey, gouda, romaine lettuce, and mayo on whole wheat. This a pretty hearty sandwich for the kiddos, so the sides are light: carrots, cucumbers, applesauce and a little Chex (wheat and corn).

21 Jan 2013: Smoked Fish Snacky Lunch

lunch on 21 January 2013: grilled fish snacky lunch
lunch on 21 January 2013: grilled fish snacky lunch
lunch on 21 January 2013: grilled fish snacky lunch

For reasons unknown to me, the kiddos like to have a “snacky lunch” when they eat at home. Yesterday was a school holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We had a pretty mellow day at home and the kids ate a lovely snacky lunch of smoked yellowtail, roasted beets, local cheese from Rinconada Dairy, sliced carrots, and some sort of psuedo-healthy seven grain honey flax crackers. The fish was line caught off the coast of San Diego and smoked by our awesome friend Greg in his back yard. How amazing is that?

And, how amazing is this:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

—excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

Adventures in Non-Dairy Milk Making

a nice, big container of cashew oat milk
cashew oat milk ingredients
cashew oat milk ingredients

A couple of years ago, I gave up dairy milk. Cold turkey. I had never thought much about milk and always assumed that it was healthy, full of calcium, good for your bones, etc., etc. After all, I did grow up with the powerful marketing funded by the cow’s milk cartel. However, the more I read about nutrition and food and farming, the more convinced I became that cow’s milk—especially conventionally produced milk—is not as healthy as I had previously believed. I know that for every argument against milk, you could probably find a counter argument in favor of milk, and that, ultimately, people have to choose their own path. I don’t judge people who drink milk, and I don’t freak out if my kids use half and half in their oatmeal while traveling—heck, I use half and half in my coffee when traveling.

For most things—cereal, cooking, baking—I use almond milk. I also use vanilla soy milk in smoothies. It seems that non-dairy milk has become ubiquitous in major grocery stores; there are lots of options. However, my general suspicion (paranoia) of Big Ag and food processing makes me question whether these non-dairy milks are that much better than cow’s milk. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? Carrageenan? I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t sound good. Maltodextrin? Yeah, anything with “dex” in it usually means corn, and corn has been turned into all sorts of questionable additives. Tricalcium phosphate?

I’ve really got to stop reading labels.

Since I’m a food blog junkie, I’ve seen numerous posts on making your own non-dairy milk from simple ingredients. Last week I decided to give milk making a try. I started with brown rice milk. It took two hours and tasted absolutely horrendous. This week, I’ve had much more success with cashew oat milk. It takes about two minutes in the Vitamix once you’ve soaked the cashews. It doesn’t have to be squeezed through a nut milk bag. Just saying “nut milk bag” makes me feel insane. You can sweeten it to your liking with things like dates, agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, plain white sugar, whatever. Even with added sweetener, I’m sure it has a much lower sugar content than the vanilla soy milk that my kids love. It’s cheap. It’s easy.

a nice, big container of cashew oat milk
a nice, big container of cashew oat milk

But, what does it taste like? It’s definitely not as perfectly smooth as store bought non-dairy milk. You can taste a distinct cashew flavor. It’s thick and rich (thick enough to use as coffee creamer). Will your kids go for it in cereal? I’m not sure. I’ve seen lots of recipes that suggest adding cinnamon to homemade blended milks, but I think the milk is more versatile if you leave the flavor neutral. I made my first batch with cinnamon and loved it in coffee and certain smoothies, but I wouldn’t use it in soups. I’m still experimenting, but I’m pretty happy with this non-dairy milk concoction:

Cashew Oat Milk

  • 1-1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking steel cut oats, soaked in water for 1 hour (I’m sure you could also use plain rolled oats—I just didn’t have any at the time)
  • 7 cups of filtered water
  • 4 medjool dates
  • 3 tablespoons agave syrup

Begin by rinsing the cashews well and draining. Rinse and drain the oats. Add the cashews, oats, dates and agave syrup to a super-powered blender. Pour in 4 cups of water and blend until smooth. You now have really thick milk. Pour this into a container and stir in three more cups of water. The finished milk has a similar thickness/consistency to whole dairy milk. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Shake before using, as the milk has no stabilizers and will separate. Let yourself be amazed that you have produced milk without going through all the hassle of giving birth to a child.

17 Jan 2013: Mini Pita Pizza Bites

lunch on 17 January 2013: mini pita pizza bites
lunch on 17 January 2013: mini pita pizza bites
lunch on 17 January 2013: mini pita pizza bites

Mmm, look at those mini pita pizza bites. Trader Joe’s sells packages of mini whole wheat pitas, that are perfect for making little pizzas. The pitas have no preservatives, so then tend to get moldy after a couple of days. Instead of viewing this as an annoyance, I’ve come to accept it as a good thing and a small price to pay for a bread product that is preservative-free. I just pull the pitas apart and store them in the freezer. When the kids get a pizza craving, I take some pitas out and they thaw on the counter in a few minutes. The pitas are so mini, that I made two pita pizzas for each kiddo using leftover tempeh marinara sauce from dinner a few nights ago, and, because I’m fancy, fresh mozzarella on top. The veggies are farmers market produce at its sweetest: sugar snap peas and roasted beets. I roasted the beets on Saturday and we’ve been enjoying them in salads all week. The banana just makes this lunch especially colorful and photogenic: what a beauty!

On a side note, today is my mom’s birthday. My mom and her love of cooking and baking turned me into the food-obsessed maniac that I am today. I wish she was still here to help me come up with preschool snacks, assist me in my bread making efforts, and fix my failed sewing projects. I think I should bake a cake today in her honor.