Last night the kids wanted to make their own lunches without any help. Well, I’m not going to argue with that. They raided assorted kitchen cabinets and came up with this delicious rice cake topped with Nutella and berries. As usual, they wanted a lunch with lots of fruit. I did have to help cut up a mango, because that’s a bit of an advanced cutting job. Otherwise, they did everything themselves.
Last night I asked the kids what they wanted for lunch and Iain requested overnight oats with lots of fruit. Easy enough. I used Coach’s Oats, which have a great texture and don’t get as mushy as rolled oats. To the oats I added yogurt, vanilla soy milk, chia seeds, a little maple syrup and lots of fruit: bananas, kiwi, raspberries and blueberries. I made a nice big batch of these oats, so the grownups could have little jars for a mid-morning snack. Yummy. A little serving of oats—hot or cold—is one of my favorite snacks.
Do you ever make a big batch of oatmeal and then end up with leftovers? I know that I always seem to overestimate how much oatmeal everyone is going to eat on Saturday morning. Then I end up with a container of congealed, leftover oatmeal. What you do with this thick mass of oatmeal? Turn it into fancy oatmeal cakes, of course. This recipe is so easy that it’s not even really a recipe.
Step One. Start heating up your trusty cast iron pan and take out your container of cold oatmeal.
Step Two. Mix in a little dry pancake mix (or flour) and one or two eggs, depending on how much leftover oatmeal you have. My leftover oatmeal is usually pre-sweetened and full of fruit. If your oatmeal is plain, you can add some sweetener and dried or fresh fruit. Maybe a little cinnamon too. Stir it up with a fork. If the mixture seems too thick and gloopy to work with, add a little milk.
Step Three. Melt some butter or coconut oil in the hot pan. Drop spoonfuls of the oatmeal mix into the pan. Fry over medium low heat until nice and brown. Then flip the cakes and brown the other side.
Step Four. Add some fancy toppings and serve up the oatmeal cakes. I love these with some plain yogurt, berries, and maple syrup. The kids insist on a little whipped cream as well. This breakfast is so good that I often think I should cook up a batch of oatmeal just so I can let it cool and turn it into these delicious little cakes.
Pizza-making is serious business in our house. Friday night is officially Pizza Night, which makes meal planning easy at the end of the week. Pizza is also the ultimate family fare, as everyone can customize their toppings and the combinations are endless.
I also feel like pizza making is an important life skill, because unless you live in a major metropolitan area, your pizza options can be surprising bad. In contrast, it’s easy to make a really good pizza dough and even using jarred sauce and pre-shredded cheese always results in a fantastic meal.
Who doesn’t want to enjoy this with a nice glass of red wine on a Friday night?
I love breakfast and could eat breakfasty things all day. Last night, it was just the kids and I for dinner, so we indulged and had french toast with warm berry sauce, maple syrup, whipped cream and a side of Canadian bacon. Lunch was easy: a few slices of french toast with a little container of maple syrup and some fruit, veggies, and Goldfish, of course. Lily picked out a fancy marshmallow for her treat and Iain had a couple of chocolate covered almonds. This was the last lunch of the week, as the kids have an extra long weekend coming up (teacher’s development day and MLK holiday on Monday). Lucky them.
Today we have another kid-designed lunch. They were in the mood for some tropical splendor, so I cut up a pineapple and a mango into pretty yellow spears of goodness. The sandwich is that glorious combination of peanut butter and Nutella. And the cherry tomatoes? They just happened to be on the counter, so the kids threw them in. They also insisted on some Goldfish. Who am I to argue with kid combinations?
The kids have been continuing to help me pack lunches this week, which is great because they have been clean plating these kid choice lunches. On Monday, Lily made a yogurt mix with frozen berries, lemon zest (she wanted to do some zesting), and honey. She also chose her sides: a banana, a crispy rice roll cut in half and some peanut butter filled pretzels.
Iain, on the other hand, went with what I call “The Elvis Special”: plain yogurt with peanut butter, bananas and a generous drizzle of honey. This is one of my favorite yogurt snacks. His sides were similar to Lily’s but he also threw in a little tangerine.
For lunch today, the kids made almost exactly the same thing: a big fruit salad with grapes, watermelon, kiwi and tangerine. They both made a trail mix with smoky almonds, Cheez-Its (left over from our holiday road trip: don’t judge me), and pretzels (Lily used Butter Snaps and Iain used those yummy peanut butter filled ones). They both packed some carrots as well. Those kids make some good looking lunches!
Last night, the kids wanted to help make their lunches, which was great, even if this meant that making the lunches took about three times longer. Of course, the both wanted slightly different things: Iain went heavy on the fruit (orange and mango):
and Lily did a great job slicing up two carrots and two sweet peppers:
We’ll see it this interest in lunch making continues….
People tell me all the time that I’m lucky that my kids will eat almost anything. I don’t know if it’s luck or that I’ve given the kids a huge variety of food to try from the earliest days—probably a combination of both. And, even though my kids are adventurous eaters, they don’t love lettuce. I’ll make a nice salad and they’ll eat everything in it, but the lettuce. Several months ago, I read an article on how lettuce is overrated. I didn’t agree with everything in this article, but the columnist raises some good points, and, it got me thinking: why not make more salads without lettuce?
So, I’ve deemed 2016 The Year of the Lettuce-less Salad. Why fight it? My kids like all kinds of fruits and vegetables—just not served on lettuce. In 2016, I’m also trying to get the kids both more involved in meal prep, and putting them in charge of making salads will hopefully make them more interested in eating them. A couple of nights ago, Iain made the salad. I told him that he could put anything in it that he wanted. This is the combination he came up with:
Cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint. He decided that mint was too hard to cut, so he tore up little pieces and sprinkled them on the salad. It was delicious. I never would have thought to combine cucumbers and tomatoes with berries: genius!
We’re getting through the first week on the new year and surviving being back in the school/work routine. I’ve been mixing it up with the lunches this week: lots of variety. On Tuesday, it was pizza bread, Wednesday was loaded with fruit, and Thursday’s lunch has quesadillas because the kids like quesadillas and, we’re out of bread.
And just like that, winter break is over, school is in session and it’s 2016. Happy New Year! As is typical for me at the start of a new year, I’m filled with optimism about organizing, cooking, eating healthy, exercising, and basically getting back on track after the long stretch of holiday gluttony that pretty much starts on Halloween and ends on New Year’s Day. Over the weekend, I went to Costco and spent most of Sunday cooking like crazy and organizing my freezer. I marinated a big pile of chicken thighs and then grilled them—I sliced up the leftovers and portioned them out into little freezer bags, because grilled chicken is a great addition to salads, noodles, sandwiches and such.
I also saved a little grilled chicken for the kids’ lunches today. They both ate every last bite, so this was a major lunchbox success. Of course, as I made these lunches, I took a moment to admire them and mentioned to my husband that I wish our lunches looked this good. Better grownup lunches: now there’s a challenge for 2016.
My Favorite Chicken Marinade, no measuring required
Combine all ingredients in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Exact proportions are not important: I never measure for this marinade and it always turns out. Throw your chicken (I typically use boneless chicken thighs) in the bag, seal it, and squish the bag a bunch to rub the marinade into the chicken. Marinate the meat for several hours or all day long. This marinade is extremely versatile. You can change the flavor profile by adding different spices such as curry, chili powder, ginger, smoked paprika, etc. It works great with just salt and pepper, but the Montreal Steak Seasoning is especially good. I have a big jar of this stuff because it’s a fantastic rub for anything you want to throw on the grill.