Check out these yummy little pockets of love: peanut butter, banana and Nutella wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. A quick fold, a few minutes is a hot cast iron pan, and you’ve made a perfect little portable pocket. I was feeling pretty inspired when I made these babies.
And then came Thursday. Do you ever feel like it all goes to hell on Thursday? Your perfectly balanced house of cards starts to come crumbling down. You find yourself late at work with no plan for dinner, no bread in the house, and no energy to do any creative problem solving. What do you do then? On the way home from work, you pick up big, decadent, fatty pork-filled hoagie sandwiches at Mr. Pickles, that’s what you do. Because the sandwiches are so huge, there will be leftovers. You chop these up into mini hoagies, plop them in your kids’ lunch boxes, pour yourself a glass of wine, and curl up with My Struggle. Thursday conquered. Alright, so I didn’t actually curl up with My Struggle, I curled up with a much more abbreviated NYT Magazine essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard: “My Saga, Part 1.” I can’t wait for Part 2.
I love chili. It’s the ultimate comfort food. Luckily, my kiddos are also total chili fiends. I can serve chili to them any which way: on rice, with chips and guacamole, on baked potatoes, on oven fries, with a fried egg on top, on hash browns, etc. For lunch, I’ll often put a few spoonfuls of chili into a quesadilla. Add a few veggies with chile limón seasoning and some sweet strawberries, and you have the perfect lunch.
Believe it not, we have some gorgeous strawberries at the farmers market right now. Strawberries are coaxed out of the ground year-round here, but they are pretty sad looking for a few months during the winter (such as it is). As we approach March, the strawberries are getting redder and sweeter: yum! For the kids’ lunches on Monday, I made peanut butter and jam sandwiches on whole wheat french bread—with strawberries on the side, of course. I also included carrots, sprouts and sliced oranges in this lunch.
For today’s lunch, I packed a nice tin of plain yogurt with lightly sweetened strawberries and chia seeds. I also threw in some honey wheat pretzels, pub cheese, and mixed nuts.
This was a long week, considering Monday was a work holiday. Luckily, when it comes to packing lunches, there’s always peanut butter to save the day. Thursday’s sandwich was peanut butter, sliced banana, and Nutella on whole wheat bread.
Friday’s sandwich was peanut butter and raspberry jam on raisin cinnamon bread. Mmm, raisin cinnamon bread: extra fancy!
This may sound bizarre, but my kids love sprouts—especially the sweet and crunchy clover sprouts from the farmers market. I feel like sprouts make any sandwich just a little fancier. This sandwich is a flavor extravaganza: smoked turkey with thinly sliced sharp cheddar, yellow mustard and those crunchy sprouts. Yum!
This past weekend the kiddos were really into french toast. Who can blame them? French toast is great—especially when you make it with cinnamon raisin bread and put fresh strawberries on top. Yesterday I made a couple of extra slices of french toast for today’s lunch. I also packed some plain yogurt with sliced strawberries and maple syrup. Plus, a few veggies, of course.
Last night I made pancakes for dinner. Crazy green pancakes. When you make pancakes for dinner you have to tart them up with some healthy veggies—in this case, kale. I started with this recipe for Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes, but I tweaked it by blending up about of cup of kale with the milk and adding the zest of one meyer lemon. They turned out AMAZING. Check out that pretty green color. I served them with lemon curd, plain yogurt and maple syrup. Best dinner ever.
I cook a lot of beans, because they are cheap, easy, and I love them. Until fairly recently, I had never heard of peruano beans, which taste kind of like a cross between a pinto and a navy bean. I came across peruano beans at the farmers market last year and decided to try them out. Man, am I glad I did. These beans cook up creamy and delicious. They make fantastic refried beans, which is what I filled these taquitos with—along with some veggies, salsa, and cheese. So, if you ever run across some yellow-greenish dried peruano or peruvian beans at Food for Less, pick them up and serve them with your favorite tacos. They’ll blow your mind.
The kiddos had a school holiday on Monday and I was home grading a gazillion student projects, so it was a bit of a challenge to stay on task. Lily always wants to “help” me grade. No good can come of that. But, she was able to help me make some little pizzas with a can of crescent roll dough from Trader Joe’s and some yummy toppings: marinara sauce, pepperoni, sautéed spinach and fresh mozzarella. I made four little pizzas, so I had two left over for today’s lunch. Easy peasy.
I made the kiddos’ favorite sandwich for lunch today, the Ultimate FlufferNutter: peanut butter, Nutella and marshmallow Fluff. It’s crazy yummy stuff. To balance out all that sweetness, I packed healthy sides: a medjool date, baby carrots, cucumber slices, and pears.
For the kiddos’ lunches today, I made some quesadillas filled with shredded cheddar, cotija cheese and chopped up, thin-cooked (like a crepe) fried egg. Because I was too lazy to cut up any veggies, I threw in some Trader Joe’s crispy Cheetos-inspired, but less day-glo, cheesy curls. I wasn’t, however, too lazy to slice up a pear.
After my last lunch post, several people have asked me about how I make granola. I have tried a variety of recipes, because I am crazy about granola. I think yogurt, granola and fruit is the best breakfast/snack/lunch/comfort food ever. Once every few weeks, I make a big batch of granola. I don’t really use a precise recipe—it’s more of a basic formula that can be modified to your taste, mood, and what you’ve got in the pantry.
3 to 4 cups rolled oats
3 cups raw nuts and/or seeds, such as: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, cashews, almonds, unsweetened shredded coconut, etc.
2 cups dried fruit (optional), such as: raisins, currants, berries, apricots, or dates
1/3–1/2 cup oil, fruity olive oil or coconut oil is especially delicious, but I often use plain old canola
1/3–1/2 cup liquid sweetener, such as: maple syrup or honey
1–2 teaspoons spices, which could include: ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc. You could also use citrus zest.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Preheat your oven to 325˚ F. If your oil is solid at room temperature, heat it up until it is liquid. In a large bowl, mix up your oats, nuts, and spices. Add the oil, sweetener, and vanilla extract to the oat mix and stir with a large spoon or spatula until well incorporated. Dump this bowl of goodness onto a parchment or Silpat lined large sheet pan (you can also use two sheet pans if you don’t have a big one). Stick it in the oven and stir the granola ever 15 minutes to ensure even browning (set a timer—trust me). The granola should take about 45 minutes to brown up nicely. Watch it toward the end, because it goes from golden to overdone in about 5 minutes. Let it cool on the baking sheet and add in your dried fruit at this point. Once it is completely cool, pack the granola into glass jars and it will stay fresh for a month or more, but probably won’t last that long. It’s so delicious, you can give it away as a gift if you add a pretty ribbon and a card.