Don’t these overnight oats with yogurt and berry jam look amazing? Last night after dinner, I made a small batch of berry jam using a package of frozen berries, a couple of tablespoons of turbinado sugar, a tablespoon of chia seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice. I mixed some rolled oats with plain yogurt, soy milk, raw cashews, and a big spoonful of berry chia jam. Then I sprinkled a little shredded coconut on top—just to be fancy. I also made some trail mix with almonds, Chex, dried cranberries and peanut butter chips. Clearly, the trail mix was irresistible to a certain little imp who snuck into this photo.
This is one of those Mom’s healthier version of Lunchables type lunch. I just love all the different colors and flavors and textures in this lunch. I actually planned this lunch around the amazing energy bars that I made last night from this Oh My Veggies recipe. The bars contain oats, almonds, chia seeds and shredded coconut all held together with salted “caramel” made with maple syrup, dates, coconut oil, and almond butter. These are definitely my new favorite bars, even if they are a bit on the decadent side.
The rest of the lunchbox is filled with kid favorites: tuna salad (heavy on the pickles), crackers, pretzel thins, slices of gouda, grape tomatoes, dried apricots, almonds, pink lady apples, cucumbers and baby sweet peppers. And let me tell you about the almonds: they are the most incredibly delicious almonds I’ve ever tasted and they were a gift from a student last quarter. Several years ago, I had a student who’s family owned a farm full of almond trees. He used to bring me gallon bags of fresh, shelled almonds. Best. Gift. Ever. When he graduated, I was somewhat bereft as he was an amazing student, talented designer, all around gentleman, and, of course, my almond supplier. Fast forward to finals week last quarter and another student shows up in my office with a vacuum sealed bag of almonds tied up in a pretty satin green bow. My first question: “Does your family happen to own an almond tree farm?” Yes, yes, oh, yes. Then I thanked her profusely, immediately cracked open the bag and started eating almonds with wild abandon. Coincidentally, this student is also talented and motivated and polite and respectful and dedicated. Maybe there’s some sort of almond connection: high almond consumption leads to high levels of creativity and all around niceness.
Today’s lunch features a yummy, tart/sweet strawberry chia pudding. I also made a mini ham sandwich with spinach on a dinner roll. For reasons unknown, I sliced up some aged gouda and put it on the side of the sandwich instead of in the sandwich. Veggies today are sliced baby bell peppers and carrots.
Photos courtesy of Iain.
I’m obsessed with baked donuts. Before buying a couple of donut pans, I questioned whether or not I really needed to add two more pans to my already over-stuffed kitchen. But, then I started thinking about how much my kids love donuts and how much I love donuts and how donut pans would enable me to make healthier, baked whole grain versions of a favorite breakfast indulgence. After making my first batch of baked donuts, I couldn’t believed I survived for so long without owning a set of donut pans.
On Sunday morning I made a batch of banana bread donuts with peanut butter glaze and chocolate sprinkles. Amazingly, there were a couple of donuts left over, which I threw into the kiddos’ lunches. Since I love breakfast for lunch, I decided to pack containers of homemade yogurt with plum jam and muesli. It should come as no surprise that this lunch was a hit with the kiddos.
This is usually the scene in my house on Thursday at 5:45pm:
The kids and I have just gotten home from Zumba (yes, they take Zumba with me even though it’s an adult class—the instructors are really cool), I put a big pot of water on the stove to boil, I open the fridge, stare vacantly at the contents and start pulling things out. Then I look in the freezer and pull more stuff out. We’re all starving and I have to make dinner FAST. Usually this means pasta tossed with whatever is left in the fridge at the end of the week.
Last night, it was whole wheat spaghetti with edamame, peas, corn, kale, spinach, ham and cilantro tossed in a soy sauce sesame dressing and served on a bed of salad greens. The kids ate piles of this pasta. Good thing they loved it, because they are getting it again for lunch.
Easy Sesame Dressing
- 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
- sriracha to taste
In a jar with a tight fitting lid combine vegetable oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, black pepper and sesame seeds. Shake well. If you don’t have sesame seeds (I didn’t), the dressing will still be delicious. I usually don’t add sriracha to the dressing, because everyone likes to add their own level of spiciness at the table. You could also add some red pepper flakes for more heat. This dressing is very versatile. You can decrease the oil and add some citrus juice. You can turn it into a peanut sauce by replacing the oil with peanut butter thinned with water. You can add fresh herbs like Thai basil or cilantro. You can use honey or mirin instead of sugar as a sweetener. It’s all good.
Lunch today is of the snacky variety: lots of variety, sweet and savory. Since the kids are on their rice cake kick, I packed a plain brown rice cake with ham, cheddar cheese and teriyaki beef jerky on the side. The little container of yogurt has some pineapple jam that I made by boiling down a can of pineapple with a little sugar, fresh ginger and some cornstarch. It turned out super yummy and would be even better with fresh pineapple. Fruits and veggies today are: freeze dried apple chips, a dried apricot, apple slices and celery sticks.
Over the weekend, I bought a little bag of clover sprouts at the farmers market, and I’ve been throwing them on everything ever since. My daughter likes to eat them right out of the bag. She’s way ahead of me; I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat sprouts until well into adulthood. Let’s just say that Bellevue, Nebraska in the 1980s wasn’t the type of place where sprouts showed up on sandwiches or in salads. There were no microgreens. Now I can buy sprouts year round at the farmers market from the amazing sprout lady who regularly grows five or six different varieties ranging from mild (clover) to zesty (cilantro) to downright fiery hot (radish). And I do love sprouts on a tuna salad sandwich. So do the kiddos. How could anyone resist this deliciousness:
My kids actually love rice cakes. And they don’t even have to be sweet or flavored rice cakes. They like plain old Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes, Lightly Salted. Iain loves to read the ingredients on a package of rice cakes, because he knows how ingredients-obsessed I am (maltodextrin?? say what?!), and that I get all excited about a snack food with two ingredients: organic whole grain brown rice and sea salt. Awesome. Thank you Lundberg, for making a delicious product without maltodextrin.
Although I love Lundberg’s rice cakes just as they are, I decided to mix things up for lunch with a little smear of peanut butter on the rice cakes. I was lucky enough to have several shredded beef, black bean and potato taquitos left over from Monday night’s dinner, which made this lunch quick and easy to pack as I geared up for a crazy busy week.
Here’s the special Valentine’s Day lunch I made for my two little sweethearts. I started with a heart shaped grilled cheese and smoked turkey sandwich, which I surrounded with sweet little cherry tomatoes. Then I sliced up some Pink Lady apples. I made an enormous batch of pink salted brown butter crispie treats for the 43 students in my two typography classes today, because, I’m awesome. I followed Deb’s genius recipe at Smitten Kitchen to make the crispie treats, and they are, hand’s down, the most AMAZING crispie treats you’ll ever eat. It’s extra work to brown the butter, but totally worth it. I think the kiddos will be pretty excited to have such yummy treats in their lunches today.
Wishing you a sweet and wonderful Valentine’s Day!
Trader Joe’s has this amazing product: Pretzel Stick Bread. It’s a pretzel and bread hybrid that is soft and salty and delicious. The kiddos love to eat it plain, but it also makes a great little sandwich. I decided to double down on pretzels today by packing some whole wheat pretzels on the side of the smoked turkey and cheese pretzel bread sandwich.
I love frozen puff pastry. If you have a couple of sheets of puff pastry, you can make elegant little pies in no time—like these spinach, kale and ricotta cheese turnovers. I made them for dinner last night and served them with some marinara sauce and couscous salad. For lunch, I went with grape tomatoes on the side (less messy than marinara sauce) and assorted goodies picked out by the kiddos: tortilla chips, Goldfish, apple slices, dried apricots and a kumquat.
Yesterday I was trying to figure what to do with all the yogurt I’ve been making lately (I’ve got two different cultures going—it’s a long story), and I decided to make berry yogurt pudding.
Tart and Yummy Berry Yogurt Pudding
- 3/4 cup of mixed berries
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 1 packet of plain gelatin
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons honey (or more, to taste)
In a blender or food processor, puree the berries with the yogurt. Stir the gelatin into the boiling water until it is dissolved completely. Mix in the honey. Add the berry yogurt and refrigerate until set. Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.
I love how the yogurt pudding turned out: very tart and refreshing. My little Lily loved it, but Iain claimed it “wasn’t my favorite.” Oh well. I can’t always please them both. I also have to admit that the pudding didn’t look super appetizing after scooping it into the kiddos’ lunch containers. If I were to make it again, I’d let the pudding set up in the serving containers so that it would have that nice, perfectly smooth Jello-like surface. I also sprinkled a little coconut sugar on the pudding, so that explains the weird brown stuff on top. Let’s just call this one a fail in the presentation department. At least the other stuff in the lunch box looks good.