Old-fashioned + New School = Vegan Tapioca Pudding

lunch on 16 Jan 2014: vegan tapioca pudding with a sunflower seed butter and jam sandwich, and fruit
lunch on 16 Jan 2014: vegan tapioca pudding with a sunflower seed butter and jam sandwich, and fruit
lunch on 16 Jan 2014: vegan tapioca pudding with a sunflower seed butter and jam sandwich, and fruit

I recently saw a package of tapioca pearls at the grocery store. This got me thinking about tapioca pudding and how yummy it is and how I’ve never actually made tapioca pudding. Well, last night I remedied that with a nice batch of vegan tapioca pudding, which was surprisingly easy to make. Except for perhaps one thing: you have to remember to soak the tapioca pearls in water overnight (at least that’s what the internets told me). Other than the soaking business, tapioca pudding cooks up in about 15 minutes. The kiddos agreed that a sunflower seed butter and raspberry jam sandwich would be a nice accompaniment to their tapioca pudding. And, of course, I had to include lots of juicy fruit for fruit-loving Iain.

Vegan Tapioca Pudding

makes 4–6 portions

  • 1/2 cup tapioca pearls, soaked overnight in 2 cups of water
  • 3 cups non dairy milk of your choice (I used half vanilla soy milk and half almond milk.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon water
  • 1–2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • generous pinch of salt

Drain the tapioca pears. In a small saucepan, heat the tapioca, milk and sugar over medium heat. Watch the mixture closely and stir it pretty regularly, so that the milk doesn’t scorch and the tapioca pearls don’t clump together. Keep stirring until the tapioca pearls plump up and turn completely transparent (about 15 minutes). As the pudding is cooking, make a slurry by stirring the cornstarch and water together. Add the cornstarch slurry and vanilla extract to the pudding while it continues to simmer. The pudding can be served either warm or cold. It will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.

Tropical Chia Yogurt Pudding

lunch on 19 Nov 2013: tropical chia yogurt with a pumpkin bagel and veggies
lunch on 19 Nov 2013: tropical chia yogurt with a pumpkin bagel and veggies
lunch on 19 Nov 2013: tropical chia yogurt with a pumpkin bagel and veggies

Over the weekend, I got creative with my new Crock Pot (thanks for the awesome birthday present, mom V.K.!) and made a big batch of yogurt. I used some of that delicious homemade yogurt to make today’s tropical yogurt chia seed concoction. I thought a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese would be a nice accompaniment to the tropical chia pudding, and luckily, Trader Joe’s is still well stocked with pumpkin bagels. The veggies today are super sweet carrots and lipstick peppers from the farmers market. Who doesn’t want to eat some crunchy, bright red lipstick peppers?

Tropical Yogurt Chia Seed Pudding
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup pineapple (I used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup mango (I used frozen)
  • 1 tbsp. agave syrup
  • 3 tbsp. chia seeds

Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds and let the pudding thicken up in the fridge overnight.

Fun Friday Treat: Mango Jello Yogurt

lunch on 8 Nov 2013: mango jello yogurt with a sunflower seed butter and apricot jam sandwich and fruit
lunch on 8 Nov 2013: mango jello yogurt with a sunflower seed butter and apricot jam sandwich and fruit
lunch on 8 Nov 2013: mango jello yogurt with a sunflower seed butter and apricot jam sandwich and fruit

I have a confession to make: I love Jello. I love the colors and the jiggliness. I love that you can make it in layers or you can add fruit to it or you can make it creamy. My love for Jello is definitely a result of being a kid in the 70s. Jello was HUGE in the 70s. So was Cool Whip. They go together. Every potluck and holiday dinner had some sort of weird Jello salad concoction. My mom was famous for her rainbow jello, which was always a feat of Jello engineering. Just last week, my daughter announced: “Jello is my favorite dessert.” Huh? Even though I have this nostalgic love for Jello, I rarely make it. After all, Jello is artificial to the max. And, it’s crazy sweet. Yet, something about Lily’s Jello announcement made me crave Jello, and I couldn’t help but pick up a packet of mango Jello the last time I was at Albertsons. Have you ever had mango Jello? All I can say is: A-AMAZING. It tastes so mango-like, unlike most Jello flavors which just taste red. For a super lunch treat, I made the kiddos some mango Jello yogurt. You make Jello yogurt by whisking in a cup of plain yogurt when you would normally add a cup of cold water. The yogurt cuts the sweetness of the Jello and gives it a wonderful creamy consistency. Yet, it’s Jello, so it’s still kind of wiggly. It seemed like a peanut butter and jello sandwich was the logical thing to serve with mango Jello yogurt, so I made my nut-free version with sunflower seed butter. A handful of grapes and a nice, big date finish off this fun Friday lunch.

Rich and Creamy No Sugar Added Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Pudding: The Recipe

no sugar added rich and creamy chocolate peanut butter chia pudding
no sugar added rich and creamy chocolate peanut butter chia pudding
no sugar added rich and creamy chocolate peanut butter chia pudding

Do you have a hankering for something sweet, rich and creamy? Then try this super simple, naturally sweetened chia pudding.

No Sugar Added Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Pudding

makes 2 large or 4 small portions

  • 1-1/4 cup milk of your choice (I used vanilla soy milk)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons carob powder
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 3 dates
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds

Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds and store in the fridge overnight, so the chia seeds can work their magic and thicken up the pudding. If you don’t have carob powder, you can use cocoa powder, but the pudding will not be as sweet.

Fancy Frittata with Spinach and Tomatoes

lunch on 21 Oct 2013: fancy frittata, cheese and crackers, persimmon and orange slices
lunch on 21 Oct 2013: fancy frittata, cheese and crackers, persimmon and orange slices

This is one fancy frittata. I made it with two kid-favorite fancy cheeses: 1000 Day Gouda (amazing!) from Trader Joe’s and nice, salty crumbled feta. Because you can never have too much 1000 Day Gouda, I also included some sliced gouda with multigrain crackers in this lunch. Right now, we are in an orange fruit bonanza: oranges and persimmons are both in season, so we are feasting on all things orange (pumpkin, included). And in case you’re wondering, that sad little shriveled up guy in the treat compartment is actually a delicious dried apple slice.

Fancy Frittata
  • 3 eggs
  • handful of chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400˚F. Warm a small (8 or 9-inch) cast iron pan over medium heat. While the pan is heating, whisk the eggs until well scrambled. Coat the hot pan with a thin film of olive oil. Sauté the spinach in the oil until wilted. Pour in the eggs and then sprinkle the cheese, tomatoes, and salt and pepper on top. When the eggs start to set around the edges, transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the egg is puffed and the top is golden brown (about 15–20 minutes). As the frittata cools, it will start to release from the sides of the pan. After a few minutes, you should be able to easily transfer the frittata to a cutting board. Slice up that fancy frittata and serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold in a lunchbox.

 

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding: Healthy and Delicious and Pumpkin-y

pumpkin pie chia pudding
pumpkin pie chia pudding
pumpkin pie chia pudding

If you are fan of pumpkin pie, you should try this kid-approved chia pudding. It tastes remarkably similar to pumpkin pie filling, but has no refined sugar and is packed with pumpkin goodness.

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding

makes 2 large or 4 small portions

  • 3/4–1 cup canned pumpkin puree (about 1/2 a 15 oz. can)
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (I used vanilla soy milk)
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 2 dates
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds and store in the fridge overnight, so the chia seeds can work their magic and thicken up the pudding. Serve in a pretty orange bowl and enjoy the taste of pumpkin season.

 

Mmm, Pumpkin: Mini Pumpkin Muffins

mini pumpkin muffins
mini pumpkin muffins
mini pumpkin muffins

I’ve made quite a few mini muffins over the past five years. Mini muffins were my go-to snack when I had to sign up for snack duty at preschool: they’re easy to make, easy to transport, and they are the perfect size for little eaters with little hands. For snacking muffins, I try to make them reasonably healthy: whole grain, not too sweet and not too oily/buttery. You can hide all sorts of healthy stuff in a mini muffin. One thing I’ve learned after making gazillions of mini muffins it that they are almost impossible to mess up. The worst thing that can happen is the muffins won’t rise very much, but even this is usually not catastrophic. I’ve also discovered that most muffins and quick breads don’t require eggs, which is good if you are making muffins for kids who might be allergic to eggs, or if you are cooking with kids who love to eat batter, or if you are vegan.

Mini Pumpkin Muffins

makes 18 mini muffins

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • half a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree or about 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or sucanat
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flax + 3 tbsp. water)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Spray mini muffin pans with baking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix with a fork. The add in the wet ingredients and blend the batter lightly with a fork or spatula. As with all muffin batters, don’t overwork it.
  4. Fill mini muffin pans by the spoonful and place on the center rack of oven.
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
  6. Resist the temptation to eat immediately. Instead, allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan.

Lunch for the Parents: Salad in a Jar

salad in a jar
salad in a jar
salad in a jar

If you regularly read food blogs on the internets and peruse Pinterest, you have probably encountered Salad in a Jar. I’m not sure of the exact provenance of Salad in a Jar, but I do know that it’s a genius idea for lunch. You start by mixing up a little dressing in the bottom of a tall jar. I use a pasta sauce jar, but you can use a large canning jar: a wider mouth makes it easier to fill. Then you add ingredients that won’t get soggy and gross if they sit in the dressing overnight—things like cooked grains, pasta, beans, or raw kale. I also like to put something protein-rich at the bottom, so that the salad is hearty enough to fill me up (I’m pretty hungry at lunch). Then you pile in more heavy ingredients, such as: cucumbers, tomatoes, cooked potato chunks, roasted beets, edamame, etc. Next, stuff in as much leafy, green stuff as you can fit in the jar. Once I’ve packed in the greens, I like to put a little handful of nuts or seeds in the neck of the jar. When it’s time to eat the salad, turn the jar upside down, shake it up, and then pour your beautiful, colorful, amazingly healthy salad onto a plate.

In a perfect world, I’d eat a big salad for lunch everyday. But, what with packing kid lunches, cooking meals, making snacks, and everything else, I sometimes neglect my own lunch. I’ve read that Salad in a Jar will stay fresh for up to 5 days, but I’ve never tried making several jarred salads in advance. Maybe next week.

Packed with Healthy Stuff Green Chia Pudding

lunch on 24 Sept 2013: green chia pudding and honey yogurt with graham crackers, cucumbers and grapes
lunch on 24 Sept 2013: green chia pudding and honey yogurt with graham crackers, cucumbers and grapes
lunch on 24 Sept 2013: green chia pudding and honey yogurt with graham crackers, cucumbers and grapes

I’ll be the first to admit that green chia pudding swirled with honey yogurt is not the most beautiful thing, but, looks can be deceiving. This packed with healthy stuff chia pudding concoction is delish. To make green chia pudding, you basically start with a green smoothie, stir in some chia seeds, and voilá: crazy green pudding. The pudding is great by itself, but you could make it more substantial by stirring in some fresh tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, maybe a little shredded coconut). For the kiddos’ lunches today, I added in some lightly sweetened yogurt for an extra little somethin’ somethin’.

Packed with Healthy Stuff Green Chia Pudding
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 cup chopped mango
  • a big handful of spinach
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds

Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds and let them work their magic for several hours, or overnight, in the fridge. This pudding makes a great mid-morning snack. It’s sweet, packed with vitamins, and full of the magical hydrating power of chia seeds.