All of us at Love and Lunch wish you a most wonderful holiday. May the force be with you.
We had a fantastic, fun-filled 4th of July weekend with plenty of patriotic treat making. My little Lily is obsessed with an adorable cooking show called Nerdy Nummies. She wanted to make all of the 4th of July treats featured on the DIY July 4th Treats episode. We started with these gorgeous patriotic candy-dipped and sugared strawberries:
The strawberries were a super fun project to do with the kiddos and they were quite popular at our neighborhood holiday potluck.
After making the strawberries, we whipped up a batch of easy frozen pudding pops make with instant vanilla pudding dyed sort of red, white and blue (more pink, yellow and teal, but who cares—it’s still festive).
We also made some red, white and blue cupcakes by coloring white cake batter and layering it in festive cupcake liners.
My big boy Iain ate three or four of these during our July 4th bbq, that little stinker.
Our final July 4th treat was this layered kid cocktail make with cranberry juice, Sobe piña colada, and blue Gatorade—an insane flavor combination that actually tasted better than I expected.
We finished off the weekend with a day at the Oceano dunes near Oso Flaco lake. It was a beautiful, breezy day and the perfect ending to a relaxing holiday weekend.
I love to make tuna salad that is chock full of veggies, and the kiddos love just about any type of tuna salad. I gave them the option of tuna salad sandwiches or tuna and crackers. They decided on tuna salad with nibbly things in their lunch today. Since the kids are getting more involved in the lunch fixing process (they’re also making coffee in the morning: no lie!), I had Lily help me with the tuna salad.
Veggie-Laden Tuna Salad of Awesomeness
- 2 cans of tuna
- 1/4 head of cabbage
- 1 carrot
- 1 or 2 green onions
- 1 small sweet bell pepper
- 2 dill pickles
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- salt and pepper
Chop the veggies in a food processor. I actually used a Vitamix: you add the veggies with a blender full of water and pulse it on high a couple of times for a fine chop. Put the veggies in a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Let drain for half an hour if you have the time. Salt will draw the water out of the cabbage so that the salad doesn’t get too soggy (this is also a great trick for cole slaw). Mix the strained veggies with two cans of tuna and two tablespoons of mayo. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Last night, the kids helped me pack their lunches. They had all sorts of ideas about what they wanted, and cute dolphin sandwiches were at the top of the list. Lily started raiding the pantry and pulling out various containers of dried fruit. Prunes, apricots, dried blueberries and goji berries made their way into the lunches. There is also a single marshmallow and a peanut butter chip in the treat tray. Iain wanted me to cut up a honeydew melon that was sitting on the counter, because he’s really into “juicy stuff” these days. The tangerine is yet another juicy favorite. The kids also decided they each needed a slice of meyer lemon for lunch. Who am I to argue with my citrus-loving California kids?
Here is it: the first school lunch on 2014. Doesn’t it just look like a healthy New Year’s resolution type of lunch? Over winter break, I finally perfected my yogurt-making process (more on that to come). It took considerable patience and included some gnashing of teeth, rending of clothes, and use of bad language, but, in the end, I achieved yogurt-making perfection. And here it is: yogurt thick and creamy enough for the kiddos, topped with maple syrup and homemade granola (I went on a bit of a cooking frenzy during the last few days of break in an attempt to prepare for general back to school/back to teaching chaos). And as if cracking the yogurt-making code wasn’t enough for one winter holiday, we had another breakthrough: Iain decided he liked raw mushrooms. This is the kid who has rejected mushrooms of all sorts for the past seven years. For some unknown reason, he decided to eat a mushroom while I was slicing them up for pizza on Friday. Then he announced with great fanfare: “Hey, I like raw mushrooms!” Well, to that I say: thank the good goddess of the palate and all that is holy, because I am a mushroom lover from way back. And that’s the long story of why mushrooms have made an unprecedented appearance in today’s lunch. Also in this lunch, some gorgeous celery from the farmers market and little sandwiches on skinny bread made with sunflower seed butter and homemade (thanks to a wonderful neighbor and friend and ace jam maker) grape jelly. It’s nice to start off the new year with so much homemade-ness. I’m sure by the end of next week, I’ll be packing leftover pad see ew from Thai Boat with a side of Goldfish.
We’ve been busy elves this holiday season. We made teacher gifts for Iain’s ukelele teacher (world peace chocolate cookies—my new favorite), Lily’s dance teacher (more world peace chocolate cookies), the dynamic duo—Brooke and Kayla—my Zumba teachers (sweet snacking granola) and the kids’ school teachers (more sweet snacking granola).
I also found some adorable stamps on etsy to give to Lily’s kindergarten teacher and Iain’s third grade teacher.
For Santa, we decided he needed some health food along with his sweets (a small piece of Texas sheet cake!).
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a delicious New Year!
It’s always difficult to get back into the school routine after a little holiday, but we’re doing our best. The kiddos are officially turkeyed out, so I knew I couldn’t pack turkey sandwiches for lunch. Instead, I went with the old standby: peanut butter and jelly. This morning I asked Iain if that would be okay and he said, “only if you have some interesting jam.” Luckily, I had some Iain-approved homemade apricot jam. Geez, my kids are spoiled when it comes to food. I didn’t intend to include so many green things in this lunch—it was just happenstance that I had green apples, celery and Trader Joe’s Inner Peas crispy pea snacks.
I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family and copious amounts of food. I had the best day ever thanks to my trusty kitchen helpers:
I was also incredibly thankful live in a place where you can go boogie boarding in December.
Both of the kiddos reported that people at school (a teacher and a parent volunteer) asked them about their pink chia pudding today. “Are those chia seeds?” Why, yes, they are, thank you very much. I like to refer to chia seeds as the superfood of the ancient Aztecs. Is this true? Who knows, but that’s what the packaging says. So, back to the pink chia pudding. Last night I made watermelon soup for dessert using a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks: They Draw and Cook. My daughter loves to look at They Draw and Cook and she had been nagging me since Saturday—when I bought a watermelon at the farmers market—to make watermelon soup, which also has raspberries in it for extra yum. I love fruit soups for dessert (they’re really just smoothies served in bowls), because they taste so healthy and refreshing. We had just enough watermelon soup leftover to make chia pudding for today’s lunches. I wasn’t sure about what to pack with watermelon raspberry chia pudding, so I went with a classic kid favorite: a ham and cheese sandwich. Then I threw some spinach on that sandwich, because that’s just how I roll.
As bizarre as this may sound, my kids love salad. It was not always this way. I kept trying to offer them a little bit of salad with dinner, and they’d say, “um, no thanks.” Then I changed strategies and told them they had to try a little bit of salad. I mean, they eat vegetables all the time, so salad should be easy. What would often happen is that they would pick the tomatoes and “good stuff” out of the salad, leaving a pile of greens on the plate. Hmm. That wouldn’t do. Learning to eat leafy greens is an essential life skill. So, yet again, I shifted gears. Since, Make Your Own Taco Night is a favorite kid meal, I decided to try Make Your Own Salad Night with tons of condiments, an assortment of dressings, and some tasty carbs. Bingo! That was it: salad need to be the star, the main event, the whole meal. It couldn’t be relegated to a shabby little corner of the plate. It needed to fill the plate.
The funny thing about Make Your Own Salad Night is that it’s not exactly quick and easy. It takes some planning or you could be chopping for 45 minutes. Especially if you start with greens from your garden that need to be picked and washed and dried in the salad spinner and then cut up into small, kid-friendly pieces. It helps to plan a Make Your Own Salad Night when you already have a fridge full of random leftovers—post-BBQ, perhaps.
How to have a successful Make Your Own Salad Night
You will need to gather some of the following items:
Really good leafy greens, such as, some combination of:
- green or red leaf
- dainty mesclun greens
- arugula, if you have adventurous eater
- iceberg (if you get it at the farmers market, it’s better than you remember)
- herbs: cilantro, basil, etc.
A protein or two:
- cold grilled meat
- deli meats, such as smoked turkey or nice ham
- oily little fish: sardines, herring, anchovies
- baked tofu
- tempeh bacon (surprisingly good in salad)
- hard-boiled eggs
- cheese, crumbled or cubed
Legumes, grains, pasta:
- green peas
- black beans, pinto bean, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc.
- cooked rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries…
- leftover cooked pasta/noodles tossed in a little olive oil
- carrots, sliced or shredded
- roasted beets
- steamed broccoli
- sweet peppers
- stone fruit
- dried fruit, such as apricots, raisins, currants, cranberries
- marinated artichoke hearts
- oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- hearts of palm
- marinated mushrooms
Nuts and Seeds
- sliced almonds
- sunflower seeds
- a crusty loaf of bread
- dinner rolls
- whole grain crackers
- tortilla chips
- homemade vinaigrette
- Ranch or something creamy
- salsa mixed with yogurt
- soy sauce dressing (soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, lime juice)
Put things in little bowls or on little plates, so it’s easy for kids to serve themselves and pass things around. Talk about how awesome Make Your Own Salad Night is.
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
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Spray mini muffin pans with baking spray.
- 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.
- Fill mini muffin pans by the spoonful and place on the center rack of oven.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
- Resist the temptation to eat immediately. Instead, allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan.
It just occurred to me that this would be an awesome, plant-powered vegan lunch if I had left out the grilled chicken (or replaced it with crispylicious tofu). Maybe next time. Since I’m currently obsessed with black bean hummus (super yums!), for today’s lunch I made a little hummus sandwich with grated carrots and thinly sliced cucumbers on skinny whole wheat bread. I put some edamame in an adorable little bento container on the side of the sandwich. Since, I still had some grilled chicken left over from dinner the other night, into the lunch box it went—along with some carrots. The farmers market is crazy with grapes these days, so we’ve been enjoying all different varieties of grape deliciousness.
Yesterday I mentioned ChopChop magazine and I’d like to give it yet another plug (especially since that’s where I discovered black bean hummus). I had never really checked out the ChopChop website, but I took at look at it this morning and it’s a great resource for healthy, kid-friendly recipes.
Several months ago, I discovered ChopChop magazine, which is a fantastic cooking magazine for kids that features fun, easy to prepare, healthy recipes. At the beginning of summer, I got a subscription for Lily, my little cooker and sous chef. She just loves to get her own mail and to look at all the pretty pictures of food that she wants to make with mommy. The current issue of ChopChop has tons of great ideas for school lunches and snacks. Black bean hummus was a revelation. Who knew?! I made a batch yesterday and it was a big hit with the kiddos, so I put some black bean hummus pita triangles in today’s lunch. I also make a ChopChop-inspired barley salad for dinner last night. The salad is chock full of good stuff: sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, black beans, corn and black olives. In today’s lunch, I added some leftover grilled chicken and crumbled cheese to the barley salad. Mmm, the kiddos always love a crunchy salad of goodness!