This is another “use up the leftovers” lunch. There was a single apple chicken sausage that didn’t get eaten at dinner last night, so I repackaged it into the spiffy form of an apple sausage panini on whole wheat skinny bread. I removed the sausage from the casing, because, well, ick. Plus, fancy chicken sausage casings are way too tough and chewy for the average four year old to eat. I crumbled the sausage onto the bread rounds, topped these with shredded cheese, and popped then in the oven until everything was melty and toasty. Mmm, it smelled really good while I was washing the dishes. I went with parmesan Goldfish and honey whole wheat pretzel twists on the side, along with strawberries and a medjool date for the treat.
On a completely random note, I just finished reading Alexandra Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. I have this bad habit of letting NY Times Book Reviews pile up, reading them when they are months old, making a note of books I want to read, and promptly forgetting either the authors’ names or the titles or both. For some reason this title stuck in my head (as did Apollo’s Angels, a history of ballet —also on my ever-growing reading list). At least now I’ve gotten organized and am keeping track of my reading list on Pinterest. Anyways, I finally got around to checking out Alexandra Fuller’s memoir at the library. Her story is unbelievable and hilarious and devastating. If you read it, you’ll weep, unless you have a heart of stone.
I had a very small amount of leftover hash browns in the fridge yesterday. Hmm, what to do? Ah yes, a poor man’s Spanish tortilla. A real Spanish tortilla is a glorious thing: thinly sliced waxy potatoes and onions cooked in copious amounts of full-bodied olive oil, all held together in an egg-ilicious mass of yumminess. When I looked at the sad little pile of hash browns in my fridge, I thought: the kiddos will love a Spanish tortilla muffin concoction for lunch. And, here it is. The cute little polka dotted container has some ketchup, because the kiddos always want ketchup with their hash browns and eggs. The lettuce leaf is both decorative and functional. You know how eggy hors d’oeuvres and mini quiches inevitably end up creating a little oil slick of grease on the plate? Yeah, I find that greasy residue rather unpleasant, hence the lettuce leaf, i.e., grease concealer. Plus it looks pretty. What to serve with Spanish tortilla muffins? Salty carbs of course: Cheez-Its (actually no-name Target brand) and whole wheat pretzel twists. A match made in heaven.
*Cooking Tip: Spanish Tortilla Muffin Concoction
1–2 cups cooked hash brown potatoes
salsa to taste
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a six muffin tin with cooking oil spray. Mix hash browns with a few spoonfuls of salsa.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese. I used a Mexican blend. Authentic Spanish tortillas do not have cheese, but, hey, this is for kids.
Whisk up 2–3 eggs with a little salt and pepper and pour on top of the cheese and potato layers. Sprinkle more pepper on top because it looks nice. These little babies will puff up in the oven, so don’t overfill.
Cook until the eggs are puffed and golden on top. My oven is slow: it took about 18 minutes, but I’d start checking after 10 minutes.
Let the muffins cool before attempting to pry them out of the pan. I had to run a butter knife around the edge to get them to pop out. Next time, I’ll be extra careful when greasing the pan.
Don’t they look good? I ate one immediately, because it’s important to try your food before serving it to others. And because I have no self-control.
I just love tuna melts. They remind me of Richard Simmons, which is totally insane. A million years ago (for real, like the 1980s) I was watching some ridiculous daytime t.v. with my mom, who shared my love of soap operas, talk shows, and motivational exercise gurus. Richard Simmons was at the height of his fame back then and he was on some post-General Hospital afternoon talk show making “healthy tuna melts” and probably leading the audience in a little spandex-fueled aerobics. Why this memory is etched forever in my mind, I don’t know, but suffice it to say that Richard Simmons and tuna melts are inextricably linked in my twisted brain. So, in honor of Richard Simmons, spandex, sequins, and “partying off the pounds” I give you these delicious mini tuna melts made on nice, crusty dinner rolls. I’m not sure that these particular tuna melts would fit into a weight loss plan what with the white carbs and mayo. Luckily the kiddos burn calories almost as fast as they eat them. No spandex needed. The veggies are grape tomatoes, carrots, and fennel. Yep, those green sticks that look like celery are actually fennel. My son loves fennel. He walks around the farmers market gnawing on big stalks of the stuff. No lie. The fruit is normal kid fare: strawberries and satsumas.
I have to admit that my banana carob chia oat concoction looks a little like a pile of mud, but it’s mmm, good. Really. I swear. I threw in a little of everything: a banana, some dates, a little honey, carob powder, rolled oats, chia seeds, yogurt, sunflower seed butter, and almond milk. I wasn’t organized enough to measure anything, so I can’t give out the recipe. Okay, I may have been in a bit of pre-Oscars mania. But, trust me, it’s almost impossible to mess up chia overnight oat concoctions. Not the same can be said about the Academy Awards, which never fail to disappoint. Yet, I love movies and gowns and diamonds and big hair and Clooney, so I always watch. But, back to lunch—even though now all I can think about is George Clooney, that handsome devil. The kiddos gobbled up the banana carob chia oat concoction, along with the sunflower seed and lingonberry jam half sandwich. I got the strawberries at the Saturday farmers market, and they’re not quite in season yet—still a little tart—but, seriously, can I complain? Strawberries in February. Oh the joys of California produce!
Today’s lunch, once again, features the glorious Egg Salad of Supreme Deliciousness. I decided to serve the egg salad with a mini bagel (topped with strawberry cream cheese for Lily and plain cream cheese for Iain). I rarely have two types of cream cheese in the fridge, but since I did, I offered the kiddos a choice. Because everybody knows that kids love choices. Along with the carrot sticks, I threw in some apple slices spread with a little cookie butter. I’ve already mentioned that cookie butter should be a banned substance, but, hey, I have to use up the jar. And, it tastes exceptionally good on tart apple slices. Craziness. Decadence. It must be Friday.
Egg salad is one of those things that I love, but rarely make. Because, let’s face it, making egg salad is a total pain in the ass: carefully boil eggs, wait for eggs to cool, peel eggs, pick out inevitable pieces of shell that stick to egg, chop eggs, chop other stuff . . . For some reason, yesterday I was motivated to get my egg salad on and today I was in egg salad heaven. I have a secret for making Egg Salad of Supreme Deliciousness and I have to warn you: it’s crazy decadent. Are you ready for it? The secret is: butter. Mmm, just a little butter mashed in with those eggs and mayo makes all the difference. Because butter is nice and solid when it’s cold, the addition of butter to the egg salad mix creates the perfect, creamy, slightly firm consistency. Seriously, it’s a revelation. How much butter you ask? It doesn’t take much: about a tablespoon for six eggs. Mash the butter in first and then add the minimal amount of mayonnaise (and any other stuff you like in your egg salad). Don’t forget the smoked paprika. Then spread a little egg salad on skinny bread and give it to your kids for lunch. However, don’t serve this amazing egg salad with Cheez-Its and pizza-flavored Goldfish. Only a crazy person would do that. The plain yogurt with applesauce and coconut sugar is a much better accompaniment.
Because you went through all the trouble of making egg salad, you can enjoy this:
Just be sure you have a little self-control and don’t make yourself a second piece of toast slathered with egg salad. Unless, of course, you plan to work it off with some vigorous Zumba-ing.
I wasn’t really intending to make a crazy carb casserole for lunch today. It started out as a burrito-y thing filled with some cheese and delicious left over Mexican-style bean, cheese and rice soup. There was only one problem: my whole wheat tortillas were a little past their prime and started to crack and explode when I tried to crisp up the burritos in my trusty cast iron pan. Because I hate waste, I decided to chop the whole mess up and—voila!—crazy carb casserole, chilaquiles-style. I looks a little like a pile of garbage, but at least one kiddo ate every last bite of it. On the side, we have some carrots, grape tomatoes and applesauce with plain yogurt and honey. You see those two cookies that look like Nilla Wafers? Well, they are imposters. Once again, I foolishly tried an “organic” store brand version of Nilla Wafers. Bah! There is no substitute for the amazing flavor of the Nabisco originals.
This lunch is not my proudest moment: leftover take-out cheese pizza. EGADS! This is what happens when a long weekend turns into a road trip up to San Francisco. The weekend was great, except that it culminated in a harrowing visit to IKEA on the way home. And, yesterday, IKEA Palo Alto looked like a plague of locusts had hit: empty bins, general filth, “This item temporarily out of stock” signs everywhere, and an overwhelming feeling of hysteria. After three hours in IKEA hell, we still faced three more hours on the road. We made it home by dinner time, but I was too spent to cook. Hence, this less than healthy lunch. At least I was able to muster the energy to supplement the pizza with some lovely fruits and veg.
I am crazy about Valentine’s Day. All the pink, red and fuchsia stuff. Boxes of chocolate. Pretty little cards. This heart-filled lunch. Okay, I might have gone a little crazy with my heart-shaped cookie cutters. The sandwich is an open faced Canadian bacon and swiss cheese delight. I toasted it slightly in the oven—just enough for the melted cheese to stick on two slices of heart ham. The scone is from a batch I made for today’s preschool snack: whole grain strawberry orange with a little blood orange glaze. I based it on this recipe with some modifications. I left out the dried fruit, swapped half of the milk for pureed strawberries and added orange zest, because I have oranges for days thanks to two extremely prolific trees. I used half butter and half coconut oil and they turned out amazing. The little hearts are a slice of apple and two pieces of homemade berry gummy snacks. The gummy snacks were made with frozen berries, applesauce and gelatin. I know that gelatin grosses some people out, because it’s made from hooves and stuff. Well, I just try not to think about that, because I love to have fun with gelatin and Jello and jiggly stuff. I haven’t yet experimented with plant-based gelling agents like agar agar (If anyone knows how this works, let me know).
This is the last lunch I’ll be making for the week, because tomorrow we’re taking a little road trip up to San Francisco to visit awesome friends and to meet my adorable new nephew. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and weekend. Kisses!
Whole Grain Strawberry Orange Scones
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons turbinado (raw cane) sugar
5 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup milk (I used almond)
1/4 cup pureed strawberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
the zest of one orange
Preheat oven to 350°
Combine the yogurt and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. The yogurt will go crazy when you add the baking soda: it will fizz up and expand due to some amazing food chemistry.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and salt.
Drop solid coconut oil (or butter) into dry ingredients one spoonful at a time and break apart with your fingers as you mix it into the flour. You could also use a pastry cutter, but I find it goes faster if you just use your hands. Fold in milk, strawberry and yogurt mixture.
Place dough on a surface dusted with flour and roll out until it is 1/2 inch thick. The dough will be easier to work with if you chill it slightly (3o minutes in the fridge). You can use a cookie or biscuit cutter to make cute little shapes, or you can just cut the scones into traditional triangles.
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for about 15 minutes or until light brown.
If you are feeling decadent, you can drizzle on a little glaze made with confectioner’s sugar and orange juice.
Today’s lunch contains one of my crazy tortilla concoctions: sliced bananas with sunflower seed butter and a little bit of cookie butter on a crispy whole wheat tortilla. I’ve already mentioned that cookie butter is one of the most decadent substances on earth, so it must be used sparingly. I just couldn’t resist spreading a little cookie butter on this sweet tortilla; I knew it would taste amazing with bananas. Since the tortilla is protein packed, I went with fruits and veggie for the sides.
I decided to do a small bites lunch today with lots of little nibblies. The apple slices have sunflower seed butter and raisins sandwiched between them. I dipped the apple slices in some lemon water to prevent them from browning. The assortment of fruits and veggies includes: carrots, grape tomatoes, a medjool date, mango chunks and a satsuma. There’s also a little serving of plain yogurt with honey. The treat is a couple of cocoa Somersaults. This lunch was on the light side, as evidenced by the amount of popcorn and assorted snacks consumed by the kiddos after school.
Today was a public school holiday, so I didn’t have to worry about the peanut allergies in Iain’s class. As a result, the sandwich today is good ol’ peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat skinny bread. The peanut butter is JIF, my absolute favorite. I know, it’s not “natural”, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, it could be healthier, and I’m sure it’s processed to hell, but I can’t help myself. Maybe it was all that “choosy moms chose Jif” stuff I grew up with, or maybe it’s that Jif is just damn fine. It tastes good. It’s got the perfect spreadable consistency. It makes: The. Best. Cookies. Period. Plus, the logo is a kitschy American classic. Those red, blue and green stripes combined with that crazy typography is just awesome. I had a student last quarter use Jif in a self-portrait piece and he perfectly recreated the label. No surprise, this student turned out to be fantastic in every way.
But, I digress. The rest of lunch is really fresh and healthy. Plain yogurt with local honey—yummers. Gorgeous California satsumas, kiwi fruit and cucumbers.