If you are fan of pumpkin pie, you should try this kid-approved chia pudding. It tastes remarkably similar to pumpkin pie filling, but has no refined sugar and is packed with pumpkin goodness.
Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding
makes 2 large or 4 small portions
3/4–1 cup canned pumpkin puree (about 1/2 a 15 oz. can)
1 cup milk of your choice (I used vanilla soy milk)
1 very ripe banana
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of allspice
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp chia seeds
Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds and store in the fridge overnight, so the chia seeds can work their magic and thicken up the pudding. Serve in a pretty orange bowl and enjoy the taste of pumpkin season.
Once Starbucks goes crazy promoting Pumpkin Spice Lattes, it means that pumpkin season has officially arrived. True confession: I’ve never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte (I’m more or a plain latte type of gal). And, no matter that it’s not remotely Fall-like where we live—heck, it was 90˚ a few days ago—I still go crazy for pumpkin once October arrives. Just the anticipation of October sends me into a pumpkin frenzy. Hence, today’s pumpkin-themed lunch of pumpkin pie chia pudding and mini pumpkin muffins—both of which I whipped up yesterday before taking my daughter to kindergarten. (It was one of my motivated mornings—I also did a load of laundry and hung it out on the line in a bizarre fit of productivity.). Since I had a little container of previously pan-fried tofu in the fridge, I decided to make some little tofu veggie kabobs. And, of course, there’s one of those little candy pumpkins (I love ’em!) for a Friday treat.
I’ve made quite a few mini muffins over the past five years. Mini muffins were my go-to snack when I had to sign up for snack duty at preschool: they’re easy to make, easy to transport, and they are the perfect size for little eaters with little hands. For snacking muffins, I try to make them reasonably healthy: whole grain, not too sweet and not too oily/buttery. You can hide all sorts of healthy stuff in a mini muffin. One thing I’ve learned after making gazillions of mini muffins it that they are almost impossible to mess up. The worst thing that can happen is the muffins won’t rise very much, but even this is usually not catastrophic. I’ve also discovered that most muffins and quick breads don’t require eggs, which is good if you are making muffins for kids who might be allergic to eggs, or if you are cooking with kids who love to eat batter, or if you are vegan.
Mini Pumpkin Muffins
makes 18 mini muffins
1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
half a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree or about 1 cup of pumpkin puree
1/3 cup brown sugar or sucanat
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax + 3 tbsp. water)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Spray mini muffin pans with baking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix with a fork. The add in the wet ingredients and blend the batter lightly with a fork or spatula. As with all muffin batters, don’t overwork it.
Fill mini muffin pans by the spoonful and place on the center rack of oven.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
Resist the temptation to eat immediately. Instead, allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan.
If you regularly read food blogs on the internets and peruse Pinterest, you have probably encountered Salad in a Jar. I’m not sure of the exact provenance of Salad in a Jar, but I do know that it’s a genius idea for lunch. You start by mixing up a little dressing in the bottom of a tall jar. I use a pasta sauce jar, but you can use a large canning jar: a wider mouth makes it easier to fill. Then you add ingredients that won’t get soggy and gross if they sit in the dressing overnight—things like cooked grains, pasta, beans, or raw kale. I also like to put something protein-rich at the bottom, so that the salad is hearty enough to fill me up (I’m pretty hungry at lunch). Then you pile in more heavy ingredients, such as: cucumbers, tomatoes, cooked potato chunks, roasted beets, edamame, etc. Next, stuff in as much leafy, green stuff as you can fit in the jar. Once I’ve packed in the greens, I like to put a little handful of nuts or seeds in the neck of the jar. When it’s time to eat the salad, turn the jar upside down, shake it up, and then pour your beautiful, colorful, amazingly healthy salad onto a plate.
In a perfect world, I’d eat a big salad for lunch everyday. But, what with packing kid lunches, cooking meals, making snacks, and everything else, I sometimes neglect my own lunch. I’ve read that Salad in a Jar will stay fresh for up to 5 days, but I’ve never tried making several jarred salads in advance. Maybe next week.
Make a quick dinner for starving children: creamy chicken taquitos (shredded chicken, pinto beans, enchilada sauce, salsa, plain yogurt and cheese rolled up in whole wheat tortillas and baked until crispy), pico de gallo, and creamed corn.
Cut one leftover chicken taquito in half and put in lunch box.
Fill a container with leftover pico de gallo.
Go outside and pick an orange.
Slice up orange and put in lunch box.
Toss in two little pieces of candy corn, because you’re an awesome candy corn-loving mom.
The last time I packed cold ramen noodles for lunch, it was a big hit with the kiddos. They are just crazy about anything ramen. I started with one package of super cheap-o Top Ramen. I’m okay with buying multiple six packs of Top Ramen at Target. (Yep. Me and the college kids. We have piles of ramen in our carts.) As usual, I immediately tossed out the sodium bomb flavor packet. I added frozen peas and edamame to the ramen noodles during that magical three minutes of cooking. While the noodles were boiling, I chopped up some high protein super firm tofu. Then everything got tossed together with a tablespoon of tamari, a teaspoon of sesame oil, a little drizzle of honey, and a good sprinkle of black pepper. Super fast. Super simple. Definitely kid-approved.
And, yes, your eyes do not deceive you: that is candy corn in the treat compartment. Candy corn and those little pumpkins are a big autumn weakness of mine.
I’ll be the first to admit that green chia pudding swirled with honey yogurt is not the most beautiful thing, but, looks can be deceiving. This packed with healthy stuff chia pudding concoction is delish. To make green chia pudding, you basically start with a green smoothie, stir in some chia seeds, and voilá: crazy green pudding. The pudding is great by itself, but you could make it more substantial by stirring in some fresh tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, maybe a little shredded coconut). For the kiddos’ lunches today, I added in some lightly sweetened yogurt for an extra little somethin’ somethin’.
Packed with Healthy Stuff Green Chia Pudding
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup almond milk
1 very ripe banana
1 cup chopped mango
a big handful of spinach
3 tablespoons chia seeds
Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds and let them work their magic for several hours, or overnight, in the fridge. This pudding makes a great mid-morning snack. It’s sweet, packed with vitamins, and full of the magical hydrating power of chia seeds.
On Sunday, I decided to mix up our pancake routine with something completely radical: zucchini waffles. Yum! Yet another fun way to use up part of a gigantic zucchini. To make zucchini waffles, just do what you normally do to make waffles, but add about a cup of shredded zucchini and a nice sprinkle of cinnamon to the batter. You can also add in a mashed banana if you happen to have a sad looking, over-ripe (almost black) banana languishing on your countertop. Because waffles simply must be served with maple syrup, I included a cute little container of maple syrup. Tiny bento containers are perfect for itty bitty portions of condiments. I also packed a small serving of yogurt with some plum jam, little heart-shaped cinnamon wheat crackers, and grapes.
Friday’s main lunch item was a grilled ham, cheese and pickle sandwich on whole wheat skinny bread. Doesn’t it look delicious? Unfortunately, it was really hot and sunny on Friday. At the kiddos’ elementary school, lunch is eaten outside, on the grass, under the burning hot sun. And, when it’s hot and sunny, a certain third grader named Iain does not like to eat meat and cheese. “It’s just not appealing to me.” He does have a point. So, from now on, I’ll be trying to find Iain-approved hot day foods. He’s down with chia pudding. And ramen noodles. And, possibly, quesadillas.
Just a couple of days ago, I made little caprese—fancy grilled cheese—sandwiches for the kiddos. Today, I have another caprese variant: a chopped tomato, cucumber and fresh mozzarella salad with a sprinkling of chile limón and olive oil. On the side, we have quesadilla triangles made with cheddar cheese and a thin layer of mild enchilada sauce on corn tortillas. I also packed a crunchy mix of potato lentil Crispy Curls, parmesan Goldfish and bagel chips. I have a feeling that there are more tomato-themed lunches on the horizon, as we eat our way through the tomato forest in our back yard.
The kids ate a far better lunch than I did today. My lunch was a ham, cheese and cucumber sandwich with an apple. Not bad, but not nearly as well balanced as the kiddos’ lunches. I made a not-too-sweet parfait out of plain yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, a little honey, chia seeds and muesli. There’s something so delicious about whole milk yogurt and muesli; it tastes fresh and good and vaguely European. I’m sure that’s exactly what the kiddos are thinking while eating it: “mmm, how fresh and good and vaguely European.” Okay, maybe not. To go with the yogurt parfait, I made a mini sunflower seed butter and sliced apple sandwich on Soft Multigrain Rustico Bread. I got the Soft Multigrain Rustico Bread at Trader Joe’s and it is good. Real good. Four or five slices of toast good. I may need a piece right now.
Our garden is overflowing with tomatoes these days—all different shapes and sizes and colors. I love it! One of my favorite things to do with tomatoes is to make a caprese salad. Summer sweet tomatoes. Peppery basil. Creamy mozzarella. Fruity olive oil. Perfection. For a little lunch box love today, I made grilled caprese sandwiches filled with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. I also included a little serving of plain yogurt with lightly sweetened sliced strawberries, some carrot slices and those addictive Trader Joe’s potato lentil Crunchy Curls.