Getting back into the morning school routine after lazy summer mornings is challenging, especially when you have a kid (my not so sweet in the morning Lily) who is a big morning grump. My strategy for a successful morning is simple: get up early. I’m not exactly a morning person myself, but kids and life have forced me to embrace getting my butt out of bed before 6:30am. This isn’t even early for many people, but it is for me. If I can manage to get up at 6:15, I can do a “kick butt 30 minute” Jillian Michaels workout and take a shower before Lily even wakes up. Then I move into breakfast-making mode. Weekday breakfasts have to be quick, simple, and reasonably healthy. I try to avoid super processed breakfast cereals, although the kids occasionally force me to buy stuff like Maple Pecan Clusters and the like. However, with enough fruit and a little honey, the kids will eat—and sometimes even request—things like Weetabix or oatmeal. Today, we had oatmeal with strawberries, bananas, a little brown sugar and half and half (decadent!). I love oatmeal. You can quickly cut up some fruit while microwaving a bowl of Coach’s Oats (the kids’ favorite oatmeal) and get that breakfast assembly line going. My 10-year old can make his own bowl of oatmeal, which gives me time to slap on some under-eye concealer and brush my hair. Every minute counts in the morning.
In order for me to survive the morning rush, I have to pack lunches the night before. Last night I made lunches to order: the kids wanted peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches instead of the lovely avocado, carrot and ham roll-ups that I already had in the fridge (no problem: those went to Daddy). They also wanted lots of fruit, so I packed pink lady apple slices, strawberries and our very own home grown cherry tomatoes.
With this lunch, I have officially survived the first week of school. We made it to school on time, we didn’t forget anything, I picked up the kids on time, and Lily had a different cute hair style every day. What a success! The final lunch of the week has a nice sweet treat: a bowl of yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds and sweet roasted coconut. I also made a little Nutella and peanut butter sandwich served with some honey graham fish, baby cucumbers and carrots.
Our first week of school heat wave is still in full force. It’s hot outside. It’s hot at school. It’s hot in our house. Cooking is out of the question. Iain was begging for Thai Boat the other day, and I wasn’t about to argue with him. We always get two orders of pad see ew with tofu, so the lucky kiddos got to have leftover pad see ew for lunch yesterday.
We could be having a perfectly temperate summer and, invariably, the first week of school will bring a heat wave. This week it’s hot and the kids are sweaty and miserable by the end of the day, because there is no air conditioning on the Central Coast! To make matters worst, they eat lunch sitting outside in the burning hot sun. On hot days, they typically don’t want to each much for lunch, so I try to pack lots of fruit. Yesterday, it was slices of watermelon with a little salami and cheese slider, some carrot sticks and a few crunchy snacks.
For today’s lunch, I made a big helping of fruit salad with nectarines, white peaches, strawberries and watermelon. For a little protein, I made ham “tacos” filled with Colby Jack cheese and cucumber. I also threw in some wheat crackers and carrot sticks. Iain will probably just eat the fruit salad. We might have to head to the beach after school to cool off.
And, just like that: it’s another school year. After many years of packing lunches in PlanetBox lunchboxes, I decided to change things up this year. The kiddos are getting big; they are now 2nd and 5th graders, and they ride their bikes to school almost everyday. I love the PlanetBox lunchboxes (stainless steel, all one compartment, a good size, easy to clean, etc.), but they are heavy—especially when packed inside a backpack full of school supplies. So, the kids and I looked at lunch containers at Target and decided to give the Fuel Bento Box a try. It has two separate containers that fit into a larger container, so it’s not as simple as the PlanetBox, but it can be stacked in the fridge in different ways (which is nice, when your fridge is ridiculously packed like mine always seems to be). I’m not sure if the individual containers are leak-proof—that remains to be seen. I didn’t want any potential messes on the first day of school, so I went with a simple lunch of bean and cheese quesadillas (on both flour and corn tortillas), strawberries, grapes and carrot sticks.
After what seemed like a way too brief summer hiatus, Love and Lunch is back for the 2015-16 school year. We finished summer with Lil Fest 2015: a performance of Pinocchio in which Lily played Hickory the Cricket, the annual epic Academy of Dance recital, and my sweet Lily’s 7th birthday. This year, Lily requested a Hello Kitty cake like she had seen on her favorite cooking show: Nerdy Nummies.
I ran out to Michael’s and got this adorable Helly Kitty cake pan. Big brother Iain insisted on a cake mix, because, according to him: “boxed cake mix is best.” I died a little inside when he said that after all my years of making gorgeous cakes from scratch. Oh well. Who am I to argue? Cake mix does make a nice light cake with a perfect crumb. And, it’s easy.
Take a look at that cute cake! I was afraid to decorate it.
I’m not going lie, rolling out that big sheet of white fondant was stressful. The kids wanted to help and they kept rolling and rolling and rolling. When we tried to lift it off the waxed paper, it was totally stuck. No matter. I folded it in half and began again. This time I worked it like pie crust: fast and furious, lifting the edges and continually sprinkling a little powdered sugar underneath the fondant to make sure it wasn’t sticking to the waxed paper. I carefully rolled it around the rolling pin and slowly unrolled it onto the cake. Worked like a charm. For the decorations, I used red fondant for the bow (using the cake pan as a stencil like Ro shows in her video), yellow fondant for the nose (using the pan again), black licorice sliced in half for the whiskers, and a dark chocolate power berry (those delicious little gummy filled dark chocolate balls) cut in half for the eyes. I was absolutely dying of pleasure when I finished it. It’s so adorable. Unfortunately, fondant tastes terrible, so the cake was not the tastiest. But kids don’t care.