Happy Day After Halloween

halloween lunch with mini mummy pizzas

My favorite Halloween treats to make for the kiddos are these adorable mini mummy pizzas. They take a few more minutes to make than the standard sandwich, but they’re well worth the effort. I typically use sweet, soft King’s Hawaiian rolls, which are sliced in half and layered with marinara sauce, string cheese and sliced black olives for the eyes. Aren’t they adorable?

mini mummy pizza

Sweet Bread for Day of the Dead

pan de muerto with a sweet orange glaze

As requested by the kids, our Halloween/All Saints’/All Souls’ Day celebration continues with this lunch of pan de muerto marmalade ghost sandwiches.

lunch on 2 Nov 2016: pan de muerto with orange marmalade, Babybel Gouda, sweet pepper, baby carrots, and kiwi
lunch on 2 Nov 2016: pan de muerto with orange marmalade, Babybel Gouda, sweet pepper, baby carrots, and kiwi

Yesterday, I made a made two gorgeous loaves of pan de muerto for Dia de los Muertos. The kids go crazy for this soft, golden bread. It’s basically brioche with a sweet orange glaze. I’ve tried various recipes, but I really like this one from King Arthur flour. I used the pizza setting on my bread machine to mix the dough and it worked like a charm: no kneading, no fuss, no mess. I also didn’t bother with the King Arthur egg wash and topping. Instead, I made a quick glaze with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice (let it boil for only two minutes or you might end up with hard candy) which I spread on the warm bread and sprinkled with sugar. Crazy yummy and a beautiful offering for the dear departed—especially the bread loving dear departed.

pan de muerto with a sweet orange glaze
pan de muerto with a sweet orange glaze

Fun Halloween Food

lunch on Halloween 2016: little mummy pizzas on King's Hawaiian sweet rolls, persimmon slices and veggies

The only problem with Halloween: the kids never want it to end. They have requested Halloween-themed lunches for the rest of the week. Yesterday it was mini mummy pizza breads made with marinara, mozzarella and black olives on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls.

lunch on Halloween 2016: little mummy pizzas on King's Hawaiian sweet rolls, persimmon slices and veggies
lunch on Halloween 2016: little mummy pizzas on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, persimmon slices and veggies

Today, I really should have made some skeletons, but these little pumpkin bagel ghouls and banana goblins were the best I could do after a wild night of trick or treating and candy consumption.

lunch on 1 Nov 2016: pumpkin bagel ghoul and banana goblin, Halloween Apple Jacks (with skeleton marshmallows!) and veggies
lunch on 1 Nov 2016: pumpkin bagel ghoul and banana goblin, Halloween Apple Jacks (with skeleton marshmallows!) and veggies

We also made assorted Halloween-themed treats for a little party we had last weekend. I did a woefully poor job of documenting the food, because I was too busy making and arranging it. Here are a few highlights:

hot dog spiders
hot dog spiders
owl hummus and veggie platter
owl hummus and veggie platter
revolting hot dog finger
revolting hot dog finger
individual mini mummy piñatas
individual mini mummy piñatas

Green Tea Yogurt with Honey and Strawberries

lunch on 18 Mar 2016: green tea yogurt with honey and strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, soda bread and crunchy rice roll
lunch on 18 Mar 2016: green tea yogurt with honey and strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, soda bread and crunchy rice roll
lunch on 18 Mar 2016: green tea yogurt with honey and strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, soda bread and crunchy rice roll

We’re keeping the green theme alive after St. Paddy’s Day. Iain loved the matcha chia pudding I made for yesterday’s lunch and requested it again. Unfortunately, we ran out of chia seeds, so I suggested a green tea yogurt combination: plain yogurt + a little match powder + honey. Delicious! Why didn’t I think of this combo sooner. A few strawberries on top makes this yogurt extra pretty. I also packed some veggies, a crispy rice roll (we have tons of these from Costco) and a piece of nontraditional Irish soda bread that I made yesterday (adapted from this excellent recipe). Happy weekend.

soda bread made with coconut oil and yogurt
soda bread made with coconut oil and yogurt

St Patrick’s Day Green Tea Pudding

lunch on 17 Mar 2016: green tea chia pudding, edamame, peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, and peanut butter filled pretzels
lunch on 17 Mar 2016: green tea chia pudding, edamame, peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, and peanut butter filled pretzels

Today’s green-themed St. Paddy’s Day lunch has a matcha green tea chia seed pudding made with almond milk, bananas, matcha powder, chia seeds, and a drizzle of honey. Mmm. For even more green, I threw in some edamame. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any ripe avocados, so I couldn’t make a green sandwich.

What’s in my Crock-Pot?

St. Paddy's Day Crockpot: corned beef and herbs
St. Paddy's Day Crockpot: corned beef and herbs
St. Paddy’s Day Crock-Pot: corned beef and herbs

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya. It’s St. Paddy’s Day, so naturally my Crock-Pot has a gorgeous hunk o’ corned beef brisket in it. In about 8 or 9 hours, it should be cooked to perfection. I think I might do something radical for dinner: serve the corned beef with roasted veggies (cauliflower, sweet potatoes and carrots), sautéed greens (kale and spinach, instead of cabbage), and mashed potatoes (perhaps with some parmesan and a teensy bit of yogurt for tartness). It’s not exactly traditional, but I’m not super crazy about the boiled veggie part of boiled dinner. There I said it. Sorry, Mom.

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.

A Peek Inside Our Holiday Workshop

cookies packaged and ready for delivery

All of us at Love and Lunch wish you a most wonderful holiday. May the force be with you.

fresh out of the oven: Star Wars gingerbread cookies
fresh out of the oven: Star Wars gingerbread cookies
Lily waving around her Darth Vader cookie cutter
Lily waving around her Darth Vader cookie cutter
yoda cookie
as a friend of mine said: “Eat or eat not…there is no nibble.”
cookies packaged and ready for delivery
cookies packaged and ready for delivery

Post-Thanksgiving Lunches: Back to the Routine

lunch on 30 Nov 2015: lunch of small bites with cheese, crackers, smoked duck, a granola bar, apple and persimmon slices
lunch on 30 Nov 2015: lunch of small bites with cheese, crackers, smoked duck, a granola bar, apple and persimmon slices
lunch on 30 Nov 2015: lunch of small bites with cheese, crackers, smoked duck, a granola bar, apple and persimmon slices

After several days of manic cooking followed by several more days of decadent consumption, we are getting back into a normal eating routine (along with an increased exercise schedule for the grown-ups). Monday’s lunch did have a touch of the holiday with some shredded smoked duck. I decided to order a smoked duck from Nueske’s to have with the Thanksgiving turkey, because: why not? Naturally, I decided to order the duck at the last minute and it actually arrived on Friday, which was perfect because we had tons of leftover side dishes ready to go. And, BTW, smoked duck from Nueske’s is delicious!

lunch on 1 Dec 2015: peanut butter Nutella jam sandwich with a fig cookie, pretzel fish, apple slices and a tangerine.
lunch on 1 Dec 2015: peanut butter Nutella jam sandwich with a fig cookie, pretzel fish, apple slices and a tangerine

Today’s lunch was a classic, quick throw-together of the world’s easiest sandwich (peanut butter, Nutella and jam) plus some fruit and stuff out of the cupboard (pretzel fish and Trader Joe’s fig bites).

Holiday Baking, Gift Giving and Merriment

a tin of cookies for some special friends
holiday cookie bags
holiday cookie bags

I am feeling good about my holiday productivity this year. Last Sunday, I hosted a cookie baking party and it was great. I had three friends bring over dough that was ready to roll, slice, form into balls, etc. We made cookies, decorated cookies and drank sangria all afternoon. Everyone got to bring home two big trays of cookies to make gift baggies for teachers, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or anyone deserving of a little holiday cheer.

gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies
gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies

Even after the incredible output of the cookie party, mid-week I discovered I needed to make more cookies. So I did another round of gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies, which I decorated with the kids yesterday.

Star Wars holiday sugar cookies: Storm Trooper, Boba Fett, Darth Vader and Yoda
Star Wars holiday sugar cookies: Storm Trooper, Boba Fett, Darth Vader and Yoda

I made extra Star Wars sugar cookies, because nothing says Christmas cheer like a Jedi master and a Sith lord. I especially like how the Yoda cookies turned out.

a tin of cookies for some special friends
a tin of cookies for some special friends

Now most of our remaining cookies are packed up and ready to bring up to family and friends in San Francisco, where we’ll be spending a few days before returning home on Christmas Eve to await the arrival of Santa.

I hope you have a wonderful and happy holiday!

Pizza Monster and Banana Ghost: Happy Halloween!

lunch on 31 Oct 2014: cheese pizza monster with black olive eyes, banana peanut butter chip muffins, banana ghost and purple carrots
lunch on 31 Oct 2014: cheese pizza monster with black olive eyes, banana peanut butter chip muffins, banana ghost and purple carrots
lunch on 31 Oct 2014: cheese pizza monster with black olive eyes, banana peanut butter chip muffins, banana ghost and purple carrots

This year’s Halloween lunch features a cheese pizza monster, a banana ghost, banana muffins (with peanut butter chips!), purple carrot sticks and a few Halloween candy treats. Wishing you a safe and reasonably healthy Halloween weekend. Let the trick or treating begin!

What to Do When You Get BOOed

Candy Corn Crispie Treats
A BOO Treat Bag with Candy Corn Crispie Treats
A BOO Treat Bag with Candy Corn Crispie Treats

I don’t know when the whole Halloween tradition of BOOing your neighbors began, but I love it. You wrap up a surprise treat, leave it at a couple of neighbors’ houses and include instructions on passing on the BOO to two more neighbors. Two nights ago we were BOOed with a little bag of cake pops (!). Cake pops?! Super elaborate for a BOO bag. I have no idea who BOOed us—that’s part of the fun. I felt the pressure was on after the cake pops, so I wanted to make something particularly awesome for our BOO bags. Behold, Candy Corn Crispie Treats:

Candy Corn Crispie Treats
Candy Corn Crispie Treats

Good thing the recipe made a double batch.

Liliana gives a thumbs up to Candy Corn Crispie Treats
Liliana gives a thumbs up to Candy Corn Crispie Treats