November is officially the month of minimal learning in elementary school. What with holidays, parent-teacher conferences, teacher in-service days, and parties, there’s not much time left for school work. Not that the kiddos are complaining. Today is the last day of school before Thanksgiving break (remember when Thanksgiving break was just Thanksgiving and the following Friday?), so it was class party day. Iain’s third grade class had a Healthy Breakfast Party and Read-In. Sounds awesome to me. Their teacher had a list of items the kids could sign up to bring. Iain, knowing of my legendary love of granola, volunteered to bring homemade granola. I made a variation of Crazy Good Granola, using half the sweetener (it was still plenty sweet).
Lily’s kindergarten class had a Thanksgiving Feast that was a bit more of a free-for-all potluck. I signed up to bring a salad.
Knowing that most of kids would opt not to eat any salad, I decided to make a crunchy salad of fall goodness that won’t get too wilty and will still be good in a few hours for dinner. I loaded the salad up with all sorts of fall harvest yummyness: chopped persimmons, pears and apples, roasted beats, dried cranberries, slivers of crunchy kale, shredded carrots and romaine and red leaf lettuce. I tossed the salad in a light dressing of meyer lemon juice, honey and olive oil. Those kindergarten kids don’t know what they’re missing.
There’s my sweet Lily eating her not-so-traditional Thanksgiving Feast of pepperoni pizza, pancit, taquitos and Tree Top apple juice.
As I gear up for that frenzy of kitchen activity known as Thanksgiving, I’m keeping lunches pretty simple. Today we have a straight-up, nothing fancy quesadilla: just a whole wheat tortilla, a little shredded “Mexican” cheese, and a smear of red salsa. Yum. Sometimes a simple quesadilla is perfection. Fruits and veggies today are an explosion of color: bright red lipstick peppers, grape tomatoes (these may be the last tomatoes my sad little vines are able to produce), carrots, gorgeous green honeydew melon and pomegranate seeds.
A few days ago, my daughter asked me: “Why don’t you make tuna sandwiches more often? It’s my favorite sandwich.” Apparently, she’s feeling tuna deprived of late. (Never mind that I made tuna sandwiches for lunch on Wednesday). Perhaps I’ve made too many lunches of quesadillas or chia puddings or yogurt parfaits. So, today, I set out to rectify the tuna sandwich issue. Yesterday’s shopping trip to Trader Joe’s with the kiddos resulted in all sorts of random, unintended purchases, such as: sweet and spicy buffalo jerky (delicious, but quite expensive), chocolate-covered star cookies with sprinkles, four advent calendars, spiced apple cider, and a box of cheese cracker sandwiches (clearly “inspired by” Ritz Bits with cheese). Hence, the kids get to have some of those addicting little cheese cracker sandwiches for lunch, along with their tuna sandwiches, celery sticks, carrots, and satsumas.
Since my crock pot yogurt making experiment, we’ve been consuming lots of delicious yogurt. I’ll post a crock pot yogurt recipe once I’ve perfected the technique. I’m still experimenting with homemade yogurt, because I am a yogurt fanatic and could eat it everyday. I had a little yogurt this morning for a snack after helping out in my daughter’s kindergarten class. Working in a kindergarten class is exhausting. Seriously, I don’t know how kindergarten teachers do it. They are truly amazing. Next time you see a kindergarten teacher, be sure to thank them for their incredible contribution to society.
For the kiddos’ lunches today, I made a little yogurt and muesli parfait with plum jam and shredded coconut. The sandwiches are filled with sunflower seed butter and apricot jam. I may have also snuck in a little Nutella. I’m indulgent that way.
I haven’t busted out the cute dolphin/heart sandwich cutter in awhile, so I figured it was time to make some adorable tuna salad sandwiches. As usual, I made the tuna salad with lots of chopped dill pickles; the kiddos are pickle maniacs. Making another appearance in today’s lunch, are those yummy lipstick peppers and carrots from the farmers market. And, aren’t those two little satsumas cute?
Over the weekend, I got creative with my new Crock Pot (thanks for the awesome birthday present, mom V.K.!) and made a big batch of yogurt. I used some of that delicious homemade yogurt to make today’s tropical yogurt chia seed concoction. I thought a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese would be a nice accompaniment to the tropical chia pudding, and luckily, Trader Joe’s is still well stocked with pumpkin bagels. The veggies today are super sweet carrots and lipstick peppers from the farmers market. Who doesn’t want to eat some crunchy, bright red lipstick peppers?
Tropical Yogurt Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup pineapple (I used frozen)
1/2 cup mango (I used frozen)
1 tbsp. agave syrup
3 tbsp. chia seeds
Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds and let the pudding thicken up in the fridge overnight.
Today’s quesadilla is loaded with yummies: lots of melty cheese, big chunks of feta cheese, a fried egg and slices of avocado. I also packed some crunchy treats in this lunch: rice crackers and whole grain pita chips. Over the weekend, Lily was going through my Pinterest boards and found this one on making gummy fruit snacks. That meant, of course, that I had to whip up a batch of gummy fruit snacks (the dark purple rectangle in the treat compartment). Homemade gummy fruit snacks are pretty good: not too sweet, but strangely appealing in that Jello jigglers sort of way.
This is a short week of school for the kiddos: Monday was a holiday and Friday is a teacher work day to prep for next week’s parent-teacher conferences. Since today’s lunch was the last one I had to pack for the week, I decided to go all out with a colorful salad. The salad is loaded with goodness: romaine lettuce, lima beans, corn, carrots, roasted golden beets, and pomegranate seeds—all tossed in a little balsamic vinaigrette. I made myself a similar salad for lunch and, since then, I’ve been riding on a wave of positive salad energy. The kiddos also got some quesadilla triangles and grapes to go along with their colorful salads. Who wouldn’t want to eat a rainbow for lunch?
Yesterday I had to get a few things at Albertsons and I had a little helper—i.e. impulse buyer—with me. My little helper insisted that I buy these funny shaped flatbreads. So, naturally, today’s lunch is flatbread pizza with some veggies and grapes. I often make lunch either while I’m making dinner or right after dinner. I was already heating up the oven, so I threw in the flatbread pizzas. While I was making the pizzas, I realized I needed a plan for grownup lunches today. Well, with a packet of flatbread laying on the counter, the possibilities are endless. I rummaged around in the fridge and found some pinto beans, tofu taco filling and chopped cilantro, so I decided to make a Mexican-style flatbread for the parents. I felt quite productive making dinner, kid lunches and grownup lunches all at the same time. And, after this whirlwind of activity, I got to go out and see Dance Theatre of Harlem (amazing! phenomenal! life-changing!) without having to worry about doing any late night chores.
Several weeks ago, my daughter received a gift certificate to Urbane Cafe for good behavior in kindergarten. We had never been to Urbane Cafe and Lily kept asking: “When are we going to Urbane Cafe?” Since yesterday was a holiday for all of us (Veteran’s Day: thank you, Veterans) and it was my birthday, we decided to finally go on our outing to Urbane Cafe. The sandwiches were quite good and came with gorgeous, big side salads. Liliana had a turkey and cheese sandwich and Iain had a So Cal sandwich with grilled chicken, avocado, tomatillo salsa, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli (fancy!). That boy is one adventurous eater.
And, because the sandwiches were so large, the kiddos got to have their leftovers for lunch today. A lunch that pretty much makes itself is a great birthday present.
I have a confession to make: I love Jello. I love the colors and the jiggliness. I love that you can make it in layers or you can add fruit to it or you can make it creamy. My love for Jello is definitely a result of being a kid in the 70s. Jello was HUGE in the 70s. So was Cool Whip. They go together. Every potluck and holiday dinner had some sort of weird Jello salad concoction. My mom was famous for her rainbow jello, which was always a feat of Jello engineering. Just last week, my daughter announced: “Jello is my favorite dessert.” Huh? Even though I have this nostalgic love for Jello, I rarely make it. After all, Jello is artificial to the max. And, it’s crazy sweet. Yet, something about Lily’s Jello announcement made me crave Jello, and I couldn’t help but pick up a packet of mango Jello the last time I was at Albertsons. Have you ever had mango Jello? All I can say is: A-AMAZING. It tastes so mango-like, unlike most Jello flavors which just taste red. For a super lunch treat, I made the kiddos some mango Jello yogurt. You make Jello yogurt by whisking in a cup of plain yogurt when you would normally add a cup of cold water. The yogurt cuts the sweetness of the Jello and gives it a wonderful creamy consistency. Yet, it’s Jello, so it’s still kind of wiggly. It seemed like a peanut butter and jello sandwich was the logical thing to serve with mango Jello yogurt, so I made my nut-free version with sunflower seed butter. A handful of grapes and a nice, big date finish off this fun Friday lunch.
Quesadillas with eggs are a kid favorite in my house. When I make them as a snack, I can barely cook them fast enough to keep up with those inexplicable kid appetites. I made these eggadillas while Lily was finishing up her dinner (she’s the slow eater in our house). Once she figured out what I was making, she decided that she was actually hungry for an eggadilla instead of for her spaghetti dinner. Oh well. Who can get in the mind of a five year old? Not me, so I quickly fried up another eggadilla for her dinner. Before she could start stealing grapes or graham crackers out of her lunch box, I snapped it shut and stuck it in the fridge.