Food Adventures for the Week

lunch on 19 June 2013: english muffin pizza with veggie sausage

We had plenty of good food adventures this week:

hummus wrap with carrots, edamame and feta cheese
hummus wrap with carrots, edamame and feta cheese

On Monday, I made these veggie-packed hummus wraps with shredded carrots, edamame and feta cheese. I served them with some potato salad and lime chips (purchased at Iain’s insistence).

lunch on 17 June 2013: hummus wrap, potato salad and chips con limón
lunch on 17 June 2013: hummus wrap, potato salad and chips con limón

I thought it was a lovely meal with lots of yummy veggies, but the wraps were completely rejected by the kiddos (“not my favorite” = kiss o’death). So I ended up making them some quesadillas with leftover BBQ ribs and baked beans from Father’s Day. Naturally, they loved the sweet and meaty filled tortillas. Oh, well.

oatmeal with fresh raspberries, frozen blueberries, brown sugar, honey and vanilla soy milk
oatmeal with fresh raspberries, frozen blueberries, brown sugar, honey and vanilla soy milk

Tuesday, we started the day right with big bowls of oatmeal full of fruit: raspberries from our garden and frozen blueberries that we picked at Cal Poly (alas, the blueberries are almost gone). On school mornings it’s hard to do breakfasts that are much more elaborate that a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal. That’s why I love summer mornings with the kiddos: we can actually relax and enjoy breakfast rather than wolfing it down and moving onto teeth brushing, getting dressed, hair-doing, backpack checking, lunchbox packing, water bottle filling, jacket putting on-ing, etc. Having summers off with the kids is the absolute best part of having an academic job. As is, eating lunch outside:

lunch outside: english muffin pizzas
lunch outside: english muffin pizzas
lunch on 19 June 2013: english muffin pizza with veggie sausage
lunch on 19 June 2013: english muffin pizza with veggie sausage

On Wednesday, I made english muffin pizzas for lunch: one with just cheese and one with homemade veggie sausage. Yes, making homemade veggie sausage was my incredible accomplishment this week.  Even though we are total omnivores, I try to make as many veggie-based meals as possible. Things like veggie burgers, veggie sausages and various other fake meats are somewhat suspicious food products to me. They are convenient and provide a simulacrum of meat, but they tend to contain Texture Vegetable Protein which, in my mind, is kind of a processed, unappealing, non-real food ingredient. That being said, veggie-based fake meats are getting better all the time, but they tend to be expensive and hard to find in regular grocery stores. Since I haven’t found a veggie sausage that I like, I decided to try making a homemade version. I used a recipe I found on Post Punk Kitchen: it was easy, contained ingredients that I already had in the house, and turned out AMAZING. I made a veggie sausage skillet for dinner on Wednesday and served it with some lettuce, quinoa, fancy cheese and bread for a super duper Make Your Own Salad Night. I am happy to report that the kiddos loved it.

veggie sausage skillet with carrots, onions, corn and kale
veggie sausage skillet with carrots, onions, red peppers, corn and kale

Yesterday I cooked some beans in the morning, for a bean salad I wanted to make for dinner. I cook a lot of beans. My last name is Martinez, which means my love of beans is completely genetic. I mean, if your last name is Martinez and you don’t like beans, you must have been switched at birth. Even before I knew how to cook anything, I could make a pot of beans, which is a complete meal with some tortillas, cheese and salsa. The kiddos have inherited my love of beans and they never turn down a warm bowl of frijoles—with chips and salsa, of course.

a bowl of red beans with cheese and salsa
a bowl of red beans with cheese and salsa

 

lunch on 20 June 2013: beans with cheese, salsa, and blue corn tortilla chips
lunch on 20 June 2013: beans with cheese, salsa, and blue corn tortilla chips

 

Easiest Kid Lunch Ever: Leftover Spaghetti

Iain digging into his spaghetti lunch
spaghetti with turkey meatballs and parmesan chees
spaghetti with turkey meatballs and parmesan cheese

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to feed kids at home, rather than having to go through the rigmarole of packing a lunch box—especially if you have some leftover spaghetti in the fridge. I find that the kiddos are more receptive to straight leftovers like this, if you offer them a couple of days after you’ve had them for dinner. The very next day and they are like: “I don’t want that. We just had it for dinner last night.” So, this is dinner from two nights ago: whole grain spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce (easy) and Trader Joe’s frozen turkey meatballs (really easy). I also picked up a pack of ready to serve edamame at TJs yesterday, because ready to serve edamame is a great to have in the fridge for lunches and snacks. And it looks really cute in a little frog-shaped silicone bento container.

Iain digging into his spaghetti lunch
Iain digging into his spaghetti lunch

First Lunch of Summer Vacation: Parfaits and the Pool

yogurt parfaits
yogurt parfaits
yogurt parfaits

Yesterday was the first official day of summer vacation for us, since both kiddos are now done with school. We ate the first of what I’m sure will be many lunches to come—at the pool. How summery is that? Our neighborhood pool has a lap swim from 11:30 until 1:30 every day, pretty much year round. And the pool is outside. Yep, sometimes life in California is good, although I’m such a wimp that I have a really hard time swimming outside in the winter. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s cold when you’re dripping wet and it’s only 60 degrees outside. During the mid-afternoon lap swim, the kiddos can swim in the small, warm therapy/tot pool with grandma while I do laps in the big pool. The only problem with this glorious summer lifestyle of a slacker academic is that the kiddos are ravenous after two hours in the pool. And, you better believe they want to spend the entire two hours swimming. That means I have to pack a nice snack or small lunch so they can eat it immediately on the pool deck when they get out. Yesterday, I brought these lovely little yogurt parfaits to the pool: plain yogurt layered with peaches, nectarines, strawberries, blueberries and Crazy Good Granola. I packed the parfaits in little jam jars, which I realize might not be the best travel container (glass—yikes!), especially for smaller kids. I have a small insulated bag that is just big enough the hold 3–4 jars with two ice packs, so they don’t jostle around too much. You could also use a plastic or stainless steel container if you are more sensible than I.

Last Lunch of the School Year: A Summer Fruit Spectacular

lunch on 12 June 2013: plain yogurt with fresh berries, Crazy Good Granola, carrots, peaches and a fancy chocolate
lunch on 12 June 2013: plain yogurt with fresh berries, Crazy Good Granola, carrots, peaches and a fancy chocolate
lunch on 12 June 2013: plain yogurt with fresh berries, Crazy Good Granola, carrots, peaches and a fancy chocolate

I am having a difficult time processing the fact that I have packed my last lunch of the 2012/13 school year. I’m having an even more difficult time accepting that today is Lily’s last day of preschool. That’s it. No more little kids. My baby girl is starting kindergarten in the fall. When you have infants and toddlers in the house, it seems like those sleep-deprived days will last forever. And, then, poof! Your kids are all in school. Real school with principals and homework and big scary playgrounds and such. Like Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about this now. I’ll go crazy if I do. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

But I can think about food. I can always think about food. Lily’s last lunch of preschool is a gorgeous celebration of summer fruit. The yogurt has fresh raspberries from our garden and blueberries that we picked at Cal Poly two weeks ago (they were in the freezer, hence the little flocking of ice on that big berry). I also cut up a nice, juicy peach from the farmers market. That’s some serious California fruit going on. Naturally, I had a little Crazy Good Granola left over from the two batches I made for teacher gifts. I also threw in a sliced carrot and a fancy chocolate. You simply must have a fancy chocolate on the last day of school.

And because it was the last day of school and because Lily’s preschool is awesome, the kids got to do an ice cream making science experiment today:

Iain and Liliana enjoying some fresh ice cream made the old school way: with ice and salt
Iain and Liliana enjoying some fresh ice cream made the old school way: with ice and salt

UMCC, we’ll miss you.

 

the kiddos and Miss Claxton wait patiently for their ice cream to be served
the kiddos and Miss Claxton wait patiently for their ice cream to be served

Teacher Gifts for the Most Awesome Teachers Ever

granola ready for gifting
gift for an awesome teacher: Homemade Crazy Good Granola and The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: LIFE
gift for an awesome teacher: Homemade Crazy Good Granola and The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: LIFE

The end of the school year is overwhelming: the kids want it to be over, the teachers are exhausted, and the parents: don’t even get me started. Weariness, malaise, apathy: you reach the point where you just don’t want to deal with homework folders and book reports and dress up days and class parties. In the craziness that is the end of the school year, it is tempting to slack off on your teacher gift(s). But, you must find the strength within to come up with something for those wonderful people whom you entrust your children to for most of the week. It can be small and inexpensive—just a little something to show that you give a crap. Especially if your kids’ teachers are awesome. They work hard, they are chronically underpaid, they have no job security anymore, they deal with problem children and unreasonable parents. In preschool, the deal with bodily fluids for God’s sakes! They deserve a small—preferably consumable—token of your appreciation. They really do.

This year, the kiddos had amazing teachers. I really wanted to go the extra mile on their gifts, so I made a huge batch of Crazy Good Granola. For this particular version of Crazy Good Granola, I used the following mix:

  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup raw almond slivers
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ brown sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp grown ginger 
  • 2 cups dried apricots

Everything but the dried apricots got mixed together and cooked at 350˚F for about 45 minutes. When cooking granola, be sure to stir it every 15 minutes so that it browns evenly.

For Lily’s preschool teachers, who are beyond super awesome—seriously, the best preschool teaching team in the history of preschool teachers—I also got The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: LIFE. I just love The Worst Case Scenario series of books, because they are completely random and hilarious.

teacher gifts: ready for delivery
teacher gifts: ready for delivery

Just look at those luverly, elegant teacher gifts. My work here is complete.

11 June 2013: Salad of Random Stuff and Other Goodies

lunch on 11 June 2013: salad of random stuff, cinnamon apple slices, cherries and strawberry cheese
lunch on 11 June 2013: salad of random stuff, cinnamon apple slices, cherries and strawberry cheese
lunch on 11 June 2013: salad of random stuff, cinnamon apple slices, cherries and strawberry cheese

Last night for dinner, we had Make Your Own Salad Night. I know it sounds crazy, but the kiddos actually really like Make Your Own Salad Night. They pretty much like Make Your Own Whatever Night, because they love customization and options. When dinner was over, I constructed this Salad of Random Stuff from little bits of leftovers, which in turn, were leftover from the previous night’s real BBQ dinner. The salad has some small pieces of BBQ baby back ribs (make them this way and prepare for your mind to be blown), salt crusted potatoes, edamame, and carrots. I also tossed on some vinaigrette for a little tart flavor blast. The granny smith apple slices are tossed in some cinnamon: Lily’s favorite. The Laughing Cow pink cheese makes another lunch appearance today, along with some gorgeous cherries from the farmers market.

10 June 2013: Strawberries and More Strawberries

lunch on 10 June 2013: strawberry sandwich, clover sprouts, trail mix and sliced strawberries
lunch on 10 June 2013: strawberry sandwich, clover sprouts, trail mix and sliced strawberries
lunch on 10 June 2013: strawberry sandwich, clover sprouts, trail mix and sliced strawberries

This lunch is a feast of strawberries. The sandwich is filled with Laughing Cow Strawberries N’ Cream cheese and sliced strawberries—quite the pink sandwich filling. Laughing Cow cheese is pretty processed and has some suspect chemical additives; I’m pretty sure it ended up in the shopping cart because Lily was attracted to the pink label and the cute cow logo. Oh, well: you pick your battles when grocery shopping with a four year old. At least there are more fresh strawberries on the side. The sprouts are mild clover sprouts from the amazing sprout lady at the SLO Saturday Farmers Market. Lily is an absolute sprout fiend and ate every last one in her lunch box. Today’s trail mix is the “Mommy’s World Famous” version: pretzel fish, peanuts, almonds, raisins, peanut butter chips (Reese’s brand, of course) and dark chocolate chips. And, for heaven’s sakes, there’s another marshmallow treat in this lunch.

7 June 2013: Slacker Mom Lunch

lunch on 7 June 2013: pad thai with carrots, trail mix and strawberries
lunch on 7 June 2013: pad thai with carrots, trail mix and strawberries
lunch on 7 June 2013: pad thai with carrots, trail mix and strawberries

This is my slacker mom lunch, because it’s Friday’s lunch and I’m just now posting it. Also, it has leftover take-out from Thai Boat (pad thai: yum!) and a little container of trail mix that I found in the way back of my kitchen cupboard. What can I say: after a school year of epic lunch-making, I think I’ve earned a little slacker time. Plus, I did manage to cut up some nice farmers market carrots and strawberries. And, yes, I’m still trying to use up that never-ending bag of marshmallows that I bought for Iain’s lego cake over a month ago.

Last Day of 2nd Grade Lunch

lunch on the last day of 2nd grade: yogurt with honey and crazy good granola, hard boiled egg, edamame, and Nilla Wafer s'more
lunch on the last day of 2nd grade: yogurt with honey and crazy good granola, hard boiled egg, edamame, and Nilla Wafer s'more
lunch on the last day of 2nd grade: yogurt with honey and crazy good granola, hard boiled egg, edamame, and Nilla Wafer s’more

Today is Iain’s last day of 2nd grade. I feel like I should have made some sort of elaborate celebratory lunch, but, the truth is, I’m as tired of school stuff as the kids are. I guess it’s just that end-of-the-school-year malaise that arrives every June. I feel thankful that I even had the energy to boil some eggs: that’s asking a lot this time of year. I also recently made another batch of Crazy Good Granola, which went into this lunch with the honey yogurt. I keep tweaking the Crazy Good Granola recipe: this time I added some ground ginger and dried apricots. Yum! The little frog container is filled with edamame. The treat today is a bit more exciting that the normal small piece of chocolate or dried fruit: the Nilla Wafer s’more sandwich. I spread two Nilla Wafers with Nutella and put half a marshmallow between them. Yes, I cut a marshmallow in half in order to make the perfect mini s’more sandwich. I’m dedicated that way.

4 June 2013: Potato Quesadillas, Pretzel Fish and Fruit

lunch on 4 June 2013: potato quesadilla, pretzel fish and fruit
lunch on 4 June 2013: potato quesadilla, pretzel fish and fruit
lunch on 4 June 2013: potato quesadilla, pretzel fish and fruit

The other day I made these amazing salt-crusted potatoes that I saw on Food52. The premise is simple: you boil potatoes in salted water until all the water has evaporated and the potatoes are covered in a salty crust. It’s a little steamy in the kitchen, but the results are totally worth it: gorgeous potatoes that are creamy on the inside and delicately salted on the outside. I think I just found my favorite way to prepare new potatoes.

For these quesadillas, I sliced up a couple of leftover potatoes and layered shredded cheese and salsa on top. A little starchy, but super yummy. On the side: pretzel fish, dried apricots and red ripe strawberries.

3 June 2013: Family Picnic at School

family picnic lunch: ham and cheese sandwich, assorted nibblies
family picnic lunch: ham and cheese sandwich, assorted nibblies
family picnic lunch: ham and cheese sandwich, assorted nibblies

Lunch today was the best: family picnic at Iain’s elementary school. I just love putting together picnic food and eating outside on a blanket. Seriously, what could be better? We had Black Forest ham and Dubliner cheese sandwiches with romaine lettuce, mayo, and a hefty sprinkling of black pepper. For crunchies, I packed sweet potato tortilla chips from Trader Joe’s (best tortilla chips. ever.) and a bag of that crazy good Angie’s sweet and salty popcorn. The lunch definitely needed pickles, so I raided the fridge: sweet gherkins, dill slices and bread and butter chips. I wanted to bring fruit that wasn’t too messy, so I pitted a nice bunch of cherries. Yummy sandwiches: check. Crunchies: check. Pickles: check. Not-too-messy-fruit: check. Elegant dining al fresco: check.