We’ve been busy elves this holiday season. We made teacher gifts for Iain’s ukelele teacher (world peace chocolate cookies—my new favorite), Lily’s dance teacher (more world peace chocolate cookies), the dynamic duo—Brooke and Kayla—my Zumba teachers (sweet snacking granola) and the kids’ school teachers (more sweet snacking granola).
I also found some adorable stamps on etsy to give to Lily’s kindergarten teacher and Iain’s third grade teacher.
For Santa, we decided he needed some health food along with his sweets (a small piece of Texas sheet cake!).
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a delicious New Year!
This lunch is a farmers market special, with gorgeous locally grown fruits and veggies. The guacamole was made with nabal avocados grown just a few miles from my house. The first time I had a nabal avocado, my mind was blown. First of all, these avocados are ENORMOUS. And they have small pits and thin skin, so they are loaded with avocado goodness. The flavor is similar to a hass avocado: very rich and creamy. Nabal avocados are the absolute best for making guacamole, because two nabals easily makes enough guac to feed a crow. When I bought the avocados, I also got a nice bunch of cilantro, because the kiddos love tons of cilantro in their guacamole. For guacamole dippers, I packed some small quesadillas, carrot sticks, and slices of sweet pepper (Iain walks around the farmers market crunching on peppers like a typical kid might eat an apple—he’s a sweet pepper maniac). This lunch could easily be made vegan by switching out the quesadillas for some crisp tortillas or good tortilla/pita chips.
This lunch was a hit with both kiddos: the lunch boxes came home almost empty yesterday. And what’s not to love? I made little english muffin pizzas with fresh mozzarella and this fancy uncured pepperoni I got at Target. And look at those kiwi—gorgeous and in season here right now (along with those crazy sweet satsumas).
This week, my house has turned into Santa’s workshop. I’m wrapping gifts, baking cookies, making teacher gifts, decking the hall and what not. There’s barely any time to think about lunches. This one is a classic kid favorite: a sunflower seed butter and banana sandwich. And, I couldn’t pass by the Goldfish display at Target without buying a bag of Goldfish in “fun holiday colors.” Nothing says Christmas like green and red Goldfish.
It’s that incredibly challenging last week of school before winter break. Kids are stir crazy and distracted and anxious for Christmas excitement. Parents are stressed out pre-Christmas maniacs. Teachers, I assume, are just trying to survive the week. Thanks to my academic job and the quarter system, I am done with teaching for the fall and my grades are turned in, so I can focus on making teacher gifts, procuring stocking stuffers, writing cards, wrapping gifts and, most importantly, hiding gifts around the house.
Oh yeah, and I have to remember to keep making kid lunches. Today the kids had fancy grilled pork sandwiches (leftover from Sunday BBQ) with a little mayo and spiced plum jam. Yum. I also packed some sweet potato tortilla chips and pretzel slims. Yesterday the kids played over at a neighbor’s house and—holy cow!—do they just happen to have the most loaded with fruit satsuma tangerine tree. We sat outside on a warm day while the little kids made mud pies and the bigger kids did various nerd activities. Then they sent us home with a shopping bag full of easy to peel, incredibly sweet tangerines. It was one of those days when I felt extremely fortunate to live in this temperate land of citrus and warm December days.
Today was a berry yogurt chia kind of day for Iain. It was pajama day at school, so I packed a breakfasty lunch: yogurt blended with berries and bananas and chia seeds, a mini blueberry bagel with cream cheese and a couple of little mandarin oranges. Lily’s gets out of school early on Fridays, so she usually eats lunch at home with Grandma. Today, I got to eat with Lily because the quarter is officially over for me (whee!). Lily and I had breakfast burritos for lunch, because we both love scrambled eggs and salsa.
I’m always experimenting with various lentil (meat-less) loaf recipes. Last night for dinner, I made sliders/mini burgers with little slices of curried lentil loaf on dinner rolls. Lentil loaf sliders—what a ridiculous sounding dinner, although quite yummy (basically, the same thing as mini veggie burgers). For today’s lunch, I decided to smash up a small piece of lentil loaf and put it in a tortilla with some salsa and shredded cheese. I rolled it up and baked it until the tortilla was crisp and browned on the edges. Curried lentils and salsa? A strangely delicious combination.
I have a kid who loves fennel. No lie. He often walks around the farmers market, crunching on a giant Seussian stalk of fennel. It’s hilarious. People stare and smile and make comments about how amazing it is for a kid to walk around crunching on a giant stalk of fennel. Other than the sliced fennel, this lunch is pretty standard kid fare: half a tuna salad sandwich, some multi-grain pita chips, half a cheese stick, persimmon slices and some chocolate shortbread stars for a treat.
Since the kiddos are ramen noodle fiends, I decided to whip up some quick ramen noodles for today’s lunch. My kid lunch ramen strategy is this: throw out the MSG-loaded flavor packet, boil the noodles with some frozen veggies (usually peas and edamame—corn if I’m feeling fancy), and drain everything and toss with a little sesame oil, soy sauce and honey (and a squeeze of lime if I have it). If I was making this for my lunch, I’d also add some sriracha and a fried egg: super yummy! To accompany these delicious noodles, I made an Asianesque trail mix. It’s Asianesque because it has soy sauce rice crackers, crispy pea snacks, and cashews. I would have also added some of those delicious seaweed wrapped rice crackers if my cupboards were not empty of seaweed wrapped rice crackers.
It was nice to send two pretty much healthy kids to school on Monday with some yummy stuffed tortilla pizzas for lunch. To make a yummy stuffed tortilla pizza, you spread a little marinara sauce and some shredded cheese on a tortilla, fold it in half, and spread more marinara sauce and cheese on top. Then pop it in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden—basically, cook it until it looks like a slice of pizza. Super easy, kid-approved lunch. If I had been more motivated, I would have chopped some spinach and put it in the pizzadilla. Next time.
I ended up not packing as many lunches this week, because both kiddos got quite sick and missed several days of school. I’m happy to report that they seem to be on the mend and both made it to school today. The kids haven’t been eating much for the past few days, so I kept this lunch on the light side: an apple strawberry fruit crusher, some veggies, a sliced persimmon and chocolate oat cookies. I thought the kids deserved a treat after their miserable sick days, so I made a nice batch of super yummy chocolate oat cookies yesterday. The cookies are the first recipe I’ve made out of my new cookbook: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They are so good; I can’t wait to get busy making more vegan cookies this holiday season. I’m not vegan, because I lack the discipline and I love bacon and yogurt. However, I try to make a fair amount of plant-powered meals and vegan baked goodies. The kiddos always ask “Is it vegan?” because they want to know if they can dig into the batter. And, who doesn’t want to eat cookie batter?
Lately, I’ve been on a yogurt-making kick. Every few years, I decide to try my hand at yogurt making, but get frustrated when my yogurt doesn’t turn out as thick, smooth, and tart as I’d like it to be. Inevitably, I go back to buying my favorite yogurt at Trader Joe’s like a normal person. Making yogurt is, in theory, a simple process: you slowly heat milk to 210˚and then you let it cool to about 115˚ and then you stir in a little bit of yogurt and then you try to keep it sort of warm for several hours while it incubates and magically turns into yogurt. Nothing too complicated, except that the milk tends to burn, especially on the bottom of the pan, as it comes up to temperature. This means a lot of stirring. So, I tried the crock pot thinking that maybe the milk wouldn’t burn. But it did. Then theres’s the issue of consistency. I’ve made lots of runny, lumpy yogurt; it tastes fine, but is not as satisfying as a nice thick European-style yogurt. I read that adding a little powdered milk can help thicken the yogurt, and this does indeed work. You can also add gelatin, but, in my mind, this defeats the purpose of trying to make a simple yogurt with just milk and a yogurt starter. If you have any yogurt-making secrets, please let me know.
When you have a couple of big jars of homemade yogurt in the fridge, it makes a darn fine kid lunch. Yogurt + jam + Crazy Good Granola = awesome lunch. Or, awesome breakfast. Or, awesome snack. You can call it a parfait, which sounds fancy. You can serve it with some nice fruit. And perhaps a little roll with aged cheddar cheese like a packed in the lunches today.