We have an overloaded snack drawer in our house. You know the one: it’s filled with random stuff like Goldfish, rice cakes, those applesauce squeezy packs, granola bars, fruit bars, etc. Sometimes, the kids forget about one of the best snacks ever: a banana.
Seriously, bananas are cheap, delicious, available everywhere, totally unprocessed, and not likely to be contaminated with pesticides due to that lovely wrapper of thick skin. They also fill you up. You can even mash them up and feed them to a baby. So, the next time your kids tell you they are starving and dinner is still two hours away, tell them to eat a banana.
Do you ever feel like you’re in a salad rut? You want to eat more salad, but you can’t motivate yourself to do all that washing and chopping. Today, I decided it was time to make some sort of new and exciting salad to go with dinner. I was super excited when I saw this gorgeous salad on Smitten Kitchen’s Instagram. I used Deb’s recipe as an inspiration for this completely different kale salad, because I had no green beans on hand and I don’t like onions.
Here’s how I made it:
Mind Blowing Kale Salad
a big bunch of kale
handful of chopped cabbage
handful of shredded carrots
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup raisins
bulb of fennel
1 or 2 stalks of celery
handful of sugar snap peas
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. sugar
salt and pepper
Make the Pickles
Thinly slice the celery and fennel (this goes quickly if you have a mandolin). Wash and trim the sugar snap peas. In a glass jar, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Add the sliced celery, fennel and sugar snap peas to the brine. Let it sit in the fridge for a least an hour—or better, yet, all day.
Begin by roasting the almonds on the stove top. I used a dry cast iron pan and it only took a few minutes to cook the almonds until lightly brown and fragrant. Let these guys cool.
Remove any thick stems from the kale and slice it into thin strips. In a large bowl, toss the kale with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Roughly chop the cabbage. I used white cabbage, but purple would be really pretty. Add the cabbage, shredded carrots, and raisins to the kale. Roughly chop the almonds and throw these in the salad.
Now, get some of those pickled veggies out of the jar with a fork and add them to the mix (you might not use them all; it depends how much you like that tart pickle taste). Spoon out some of that pickling juice and add it a little at a time to the salad. Mix everything up, season generously with salt and pepper, and taste it before adding more of the brine.
Dig into this crunchy sweet sour bowl of deliciousness.
Back by popular demand: another fruit salad lunch. Today’s fruit salad contains strawberries, white nectarines and golden kiwifruit. Iain helped pick out the sides: peanut butter filled pretzels from Trader Joe’s, applesauce, carrots and two mini peanut butter cups.
Have you noticed that smoothie bowls have become ubiquitous of late? Everywhere I go, I see acai bowls and pitaya bowls and chia bowls. Try doing a Pinterest search for smoothie bowls and you’ll see all sorts of beautifully styled bowls of fruit, nuts and assorted goodies. For some reason, I’ve never thought to make the kids a smoothie bowl—until last night, that is. I was trying to come up with yet another nice, light, fruit-filled lunch for a hot day. Smoothie bowl to the rescue. I made a simple green smoothie with frozen bananas, frozen pineapple, spinach and vanilla soy milk. I poured it in a bowl, stirred in a tablespoon of chia seeds to ensure that it’s not too runny, and garnished with frozen blueberries, granola and coconut. I hope it’s a hit with the kids. I kind of want one for my lunch, but I’ll probably end up eating carrots, crackers and hummus like I did yesterday.
The kids have really liked their lunches lately. Or, maybe, school is making them extra hungry. Lunch on Tuesday was a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich on whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread. That little compartment of green veggie goodness is baby lima beans and sugar snap peas with a little salt and chile limón seasoning.
I wasn’t sure if the kids would go for the veggie wraps I made for today’s lunches, but they both gobbled them up. I spread a tortilla with some hummus, mashed avocado (with a little lemon juice and salt), and shredded carrots to make these yummy little wraps. I should have made some for my own lunch.
This lunch looked so tempting this morning that a little apple thief started sneaking a snack. I was surprised she didn’t grab a spoon and start digging into that bowl of chocolate chia pudding (sweetened with a super ripe banana and some dates). This lunch is actually vegan, yummy, and super kid-friendly. I feel so good when that happens.
I made a quick, easy and relatively healthy chocolate peanut butter chia pudding for today’s lunch, which also has a cereal mix, fruit + veggie strips cut into bite-sized pieces, apple slices, half a kiwi and some smoky almonds. I get a brief break from lunch packing, because the kids have a four-day weekend for my birthday—no, wait, I mean for Veteran’s Day (which, as luck would have it, coincides with my birthday). We’ll be celebrating with a mini holiday to Disneyland. Even though we live within driving distance to Disneyland, we have never taken the kids to experience this important cultural touchstone of childhood. Disney princesses, here we come!
Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding
1-1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk, but any milk will work)
2 tablespoons carob powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup chia seeds
Mix all ingredients together except the chia seeds. I find that carob and cocoa powder are difficult to mix without using a blender or an immersion blender. Once everything is blended together, stir in the chia seeds and let rest in the fridge overnight. The next day, voilá: thick, rich, reasonably healthy chocolate chia pudding.
Today’s Fun Friday Lunch is a sweet and crunchy chia bowl loaded with fruit—frozen mixed berries, bananas, and chopped dates—and topped with homemade granola. I had a little of this chia concoction for my breakfast/late morning, post-critique snack and it was just the pick-me-up I needed. Seriously, chia seeds are the greatest thing ever.
Here’s how to make your own chia bowl:
Sweet and Crunchy Chia Bowl
1 cup vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1 large ripe banana, chopped into small chunks
2 medjool dates, diced
1/2 cup mixed berries (frozen is fine)
pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
Stir together the milk, chia seeds, and fruit in a small container with a lid. Put it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The chia seed mixture with get quite thick, as the chia seeds work their magic. To finish off the chia bowl, top with your favorite crunchy toppings.
By the time Thursday night arrives, I always feel like I’m running out of lunch ideas. You’d think this wouldn’t happen after years of packing lunches, but, sadly, it still does. Last night, I was scrambling for stuff to put in the kiddos’ lunches. Yesterday I made a big batch of vegan pumpkin muffins for today’s 4th grade assembly, so at least I had some fresh muffins on the kitchen counter. Iain requested a fruit salad simply by asking: “Are you making a fruit salad for lunch tomorrow?” Umm, I am now—with this white nectarine that’s getting kind of soft, the last of a bag of grapes and some watermelon that grandma brought over. Then I grabbed some dried apricots and some mixed nuts. I felt like the lunch needed some protein. Cheese? A little container of yogurt? Then it hit me: there’s a bag of teriyaki beef jerky in the cabinet. And, with that, lunch making was done for the week.
It’s the end of the second week of school, so I decided to give the kiddos a special treat for lunch today: super chocolatey chia pudding with crunchy cereal trail mix and sweet green plums. If you want a satisfying, but not too decadent treat, I highly recommend making this chia pudding:
Super Chocolatey Chia Pudding
1 cup milk (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Vanilla Soy Milk, or as the kids call it “sweet milk”)
1 banana, the riper the better
1 tablespoon carob powder
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup (optional)
4 tablespoons chia seeds
Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds and refrigerate for several hours—preferably overnight—so that the chia seeds can plump up and thicken the pudding. This recipe makes enough for two kid portions, with some left over for mom. Without the chia seeds, this would be a darn fine weekend smoothie (chocolate smoothies are called “weekend smoothies” in our house). You could also sneak a little spinach into this smoothie/pudding and the kids won’t even be able to taste it.