Almost 100% Kid-made Lunches

Lily's lunch on 20 Jan 2016: rice cake with Nutella, rasberries and blackberries, dried tropical fruit, cheddar crackers, and mango
Iain's lunch on 20 Jan 2016: rice cake with Nutella and blackberries, tangerine slices, cheese crackers, and mango
Iain’s lunch on 20 Jan 2016: rice cake with Nutella and blackberries, tangerine slices, cheese crackers, and mango

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.

Lily's lunch on 20 Jan 2016: rice cake with Nutella, rasberries and blackberries, dried tropical fruit, cheddar crackers, and mango
Lily’s lunch on 20 Jan 2016: rice cake with Nutella, raspberries and blackberries, dried tropical fruit, cheddar crackers, and mango

 

By Request: Overnight Oats Loaded with Fruit

lunch on 19 Jan 2016: overnight oats with fruit and maple syrup, apple slices, cheddar cheese crackers, smoky almonds and cherry tomatoes
lunch on 19 Jan 2016: overnight oats with fruit and maple syrup, apple slices, cheddar cheese crackers, smoky almonds and cherry tomatoes
lunch on 19 Jan 2016: overnight oats with fruit and maple syrup, apple slices, cheddar cheese crackers, smoky almonds and cherry tomatoes

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.

Fancy Oatmeal Cakes: Best Use for Leftover Oatmeal

oatmeal cakes with yogurt, berries and maple syrup
a healthy breakfast: oatmeal with bananas and strawberries
a healthy breakfast: oatmeal with bananas and strawberries

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.

oatmeal cakes cooking in butter
oatmeal cakes cooking in butter
beautifully browned oatmeal cakes
beautifully browned oatmeal cakes

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.

oatmeal cakes with yogurt, berries and maple syrup
oatmeal cakes with yogurt, berries and maple syrup

In Praise of Friday Pizza Night

Iain and Lily sprinkling mozzarella on the pizzas
Iain and Lily making pizza
Iain and Lily making pizza

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.

Iain working on his pizza toss
Iain working on his pizza toss

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.

pizza with a kid side and a grownup side
pizza with a kid side and a grownup side

Who doesn’t want to enjoy this with a nice glass of red wine on a Friday night?

Happy Weekend!

Breakfast for Lunch and Dinner

lunch on 14 Jan 2016: french toast with pineapple, Goldfish, cherry tomatoes, and fancy marshmallow
lunch on 14 Jan 2016: french toast with pineapple, Goldfish, cherry tomatoes, and fancy marshmallow
lunch on 14 Jan 2016: french toast with pineapple, Goldfish, cherry tomatoes, and fancy marshmallow

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.

Another Team Effort: Tropical Splendor and the World’s Best Sandwich

lunch on 13 Jan 2016: peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, pineapple and mango spears, Goldfish and cherry tomatoes
lunch on 13 Jan 2016: peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, pineapple and mango spears, Goldfish and cherry tomatoes
lunch on 13 Jan 2016: peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, pineapple and mango spears, Goldfish and cherry tomatoes

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?

More Kid Choice Lunches: Yogurt and Fruit Salad

Lily's lunch on 12 Jan 2016: fruit salad, trail mix, carrots, peanut butter filled pretzels and a fruit candy
Lily's lunch on 11 Jan 2016: berry yogurt with lemon zest and honey, banana, crunchy rice roll and peanut butter filled pretzels
Lily’s lunch on 11 Jan 2016: berry yogurt with lemon zest and honey, banana, crunchy rice roll and peanut butter filled pretzels

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's lunch on 11 Jan 2016: the Elvis Special, crispy rice roll, tangerine and peanut butter filled pretzels
Iain’s lunch on 11 Jan 2016: the Elvis Special, crispy rice roll, tangerine and 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.

Lily's lunch on 12 Jan 2016: fruit salad, trail mix, carrots, peanut butter filled pretzels and a fruit candy
Lily’s lunch on 12 Jan 2016: fruit salad, trail mix, carrots, peanut butter filled pretzels and a fruit gummy
Iain's lunch on 12 Jan 2016: fruit salad, trail mix, carrots, and a fruit candy
Iain’s lunch on 12 Jan 2016: fruit salad, trail mix, carrots, and a fruit gummy

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!

Friday Kid’s Choice Lunch

Iain's lunch: pretzel bread with orange marmalade, cherry tomatoes, peanut butter filled pretzels, orange slices and mango chunks

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):

Iain's lunch: pretzel bread with orange marmalade, cherry tomatoes, peanut butter filled pretzels, orange slices and mango chunks
Iain’s lunch: pretzel bread with orange marmalade, cherry tomatoes, peanut butter filled pretzels, orange slices and mango chunks

and Lily did a great job slicing up two carrots and two sweet peppers:

Lily's lunch: pretzel bread with cheddar cheese spread, sliced carrots and sweet baby peppers, cherry tomatoes, and peanut butter filled pretzels
Lily’s lunch: pretzel bread with cheddar cheese spread, sliced carrots and sweet baby peppers, cherry tomatoes, and peanut butter filled pretzels

We’ll see it this interest in lunch making continues….

2016: The Year of the Lettuce-less Salad and Getting Kids More Involved in the Kitchen

Iain's salad: Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint

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:

Iain's salad: Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint
Iain’s salad: Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint

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!

Lunch Round-up: Surviving Week 1

lunch on 5 Jan 2016: pizza bread with tangerines, kiwi, pretzels and blackberries

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.

lunch on 5 Jan 2016: pizza bread with tangerines, kiwi, pretzels and blackberries
lunch on 5 Jan 2016: pizza bread with tangerines, kiwi, pretzels and blackberries
lunch on 6 Jan 2016: mixed berry yogurt with chia seeds, fruit salad, granola bar and trail mix
lunch on 6 Jan 2016: mixed berry yogurt with chia seeds, fruit salad, granola bar and trail mix
lunch on 7 Jan 2016: quesadilla with apple slices, cherry tomatoes and pretzels
lunch on 7 Jan 2016: quesadilla with apple slices, cherry tomatoes and pretzels

 

Happy New Year! First School Lunch of 2016

lunch on 4 Jan 2016: grilled chicken, sourdough bread, kiwi, sugar snap peas, apple slices, cherry tomatoes, and Star Wars gummies
lunch on 4 Jan 2016: grilled chicken, sourdough bread, kiwi, sugar snap peas, apple slices, cherry tomatoes, and Star Wars gummies
lunch on 4 Jan 2016: grilled chicken, sourdough bread, kiwi, sugar snap peas, apple slices, cherry tomatoes, and Star Wars gummies

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
  • olive oil, about a tablespoon
  • plain yogurt, about a cup
  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  •  a clove of garlic, crushed
  • honey, a nice squeeze
  • a few shakes of Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning (or salt and pepper)

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.