Cool Lunch for a Hot Day

lunch on 2 May 2014: pasta salad with rice crackers, and apples
lunch on 2 May 2014: pasta salad with rice crackers, and apples
lunch on 2 May 2014: pasta salad with rice crackers, and apples

Today is another crazy hot day—crazy hot for these parts, at least (it’s nothin’ compared to Palm Desert). I knew the kiddos wouldn’t want too much food today, so I packed a pasta salad with lots of juicy tomatoes, roasted golden beets and black olives. The dressing for the salad is very light: just a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some fresh basil.

It’s Tapiocalicious: Crock Pot Chocolate Tapioca Pudding

lunch on 22 Apr 2014: chocolate tapioca pudding with strawberry jam, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grape tomatoes and carrots
lunch on 22 Apr 2014: chocolate tapioca pudding with strawberry jam, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grape tomatoes and carrots
lunch on 22 Apr 2014: chocolate tapioca pudding with strawberry jam, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grape tomatoes and carrots

That crazy looking gelatinous mass in the round tin is actually a delicious serving of chocolate tapioca pudding with homemade strawberry chia jam on top. After making traditional tapioca last week, which involved separating eggs, whisking, stirring, stirring, more stirring, beating and folding, I decided to try making tapioca pudding in the crock pot. I made e a super simple vegan tapioca pudding, so I wouldn’t have to worry about eggs curdling and all that. I am happy to report that it’s SO EASY to make a big batch of delicious tapioca pudding in a slow cooker.

Crock Pot Chocolate Tapioca Pudding

  • 8 cups milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 cup tapioca pearls
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to the crock pot, except the vanilla extract. Cook on high for 2–3 hours. After about an hour, stir the pudding to make sure that the tapioca isn’t all lumping together. Then stir occasionally until the tapioca pearls turn translucent. The pudding will look a little runny at this point, but it will thicken up substantially as it cools. Once the pudding is cooled down to room temperature, stir in the vanilla extract and refrigerate. This makes a pretty big batch: tapioca pudding for a crowd!

 

 

Naturally Sweetened Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding

lunch on 8 Apr 2014: chocolate peanut butter chia pudding, apple cinnamon Fig Bar, dried apricots, fruit and veggies
lunch on 8 Apr 2014: chocolate peanut butter chia pudding, apple cinnamon Fig Bar, dried apricots, fruit and veggies
lunch on 8 Apr 2014: chocolate peanut butter chia pudding, apple cinnamon Fig Bar, dried apricots, apple slices, tangerine slices, tomatoes, carrot and goji berries

Yesterday, I made a yummilicious chocolate chia pudding for the kiddos’ lunches. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan, and 100% delicious.

Naturally Sweetened Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding
  • 5–6 medjool dates
  • 1-1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds

If your dates didn’t just fall off a date tree, soak them in the almond milk for at least an hour. Blend all ingredients, except the chia seeds, until smooth. Pour into a glass container, stir in the chia seeds, cover and refrigerate overnight or until the pudding is thick.

photo courtesy of Iain

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.

Berrylicious Chia Pudding with Honey

lunch on 13 Jan 2014: mixed berry chia pudding with honey, baby carrots, celery, fruit leather, and mini peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches
lunch on 13 Jan 2014: mixed berry chia pudding with honey, baby carrots, celery, fruit leather, and mini peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches

Mixed berry chia pudding is always a big hit with the kiddos. I used my typical berry chia pudding recipe, except I used plain yogurt instead of almond milk. Now that I’ve earned my master’s degree in yogurt-making, I’ve been adding my homemade yogurt to everything. But, if you’re not a dairy person or if you are vegan, chia pudding is perfectly delicious when made with non-dairy milk. Usually, I sweeten chia pudding with dates, but I’m clean out of dates at the moment. When I tested the pudding, it was a little tart, so I drizzled some honey on top. Mmm, extra yummy.

Farmers Market Yummies: Guacamole, Carrots, Sweet Peppers, Kiwi and Apples

lunch on 19 Dec 2013: quesadillas with guacamole, sweet peppers, carrots, apple slices and kiwi
lunch on 19 Dec 2013: quesadillas with guacamole, sweet peppers, carrots, apple slices and kiwi
lunch on 19 Dec 2013: quesadillas with guacamole, sweet peppers, carrots, apple slices and kiwi

This lunch is a farmers market special, with gorgeous locally grown fruits and veggies. The guacamole was made with nabal avocados grown just a few miles from my house. The first time I had a nabal avocado, my mind was blown. First of all, these avocados are ENORMOUS. And they have small pits and thin skin, so they are loaded with avocado goodness. The flavor is similar to a hass avocado: very rich and creamy. Nabal avocados are the absolute best for making guacamole, because two nabals easily makes enough guac to feed a crow. When I bought the avocados, I also got a nice bunch of cilantro, because the kiddos love tons of cilantro in their guacamole. For guacamole dippers, I packed some small quesadillas, carrot sticks, and slices of sweet pepper (Iain walks around the farmers market crunching on peppers like a typical kid might eat an apple—he’s a sweet pepper maniac). This lunch could easily be made vegan by switching out the quesadillas for some crisp tortillas or good tortilla/pita chips.

Ramen Noodles with Edamame, Peas and Corn

lunch on 10 Dec 2013: ramen noodles with edamame, peas and corn, Asianesque trail mix, and orange slices
lunch on 10 Dec 2013: ramen noodles with edamame, peas and corn, Asianesque trail mix, and orange slices
lunch on 10 Dec 2013: ramen noodles with edamame, peas and corn, Asianesque trail mix, and orange slices

Since the kiddos are ramen noodle fiends, I decided to whip up some quick ramen noodles for today’s lunch. My kid lunch ramen strategy is this: throw out the MSG-loaded flavor packet, boil the noodles with some frozen veggies (usually peas and edamame—corn if I’m feeling fancy), and drain everything and toss with a little sesame oil, soy sauce and honey (and a squeeze of lime if I have it). If I was making this for my lunch, I’d also add some sriracha and a fried egg: super yummy! To accompany these delicious noodles, I made an Asianesque trail mix. It’s Asianesque because it has soy sauce rice crackers, crispy pea snacks, and cashews. I would have also added some of those delicious seaweed wrapped rice crackers if my cupboards were not empty of seaweed wrapped rice crackers.

A Light Lunch of Mostly Fruits and Veggies

lunch on 6 Dec 2013: apple strawberry crusher, carrots and celery, chocolate oat cookies and slices of persimmon
lunch on 6 Dec 2013: apple strawberry crusher, carrots and celery, chocolate oat cookies and slices of persimmon
lunch on 6 Dec 2013: apple strawberry crusher, carrots and celery, chocolate oat cookies and slices of persimmon

I ended up not packing as many lunches this week, because both kiddos got quite sick and missed several days of school. I’m happy to report that they seem to be on the mend and both made it to school today. The kids haven’t been eating much for the past few days, so I kept this lunch on the light side: an apple strawberry fruit crusher, some veggies, a sliced persimmon and chocolate oat cookies. I thought the kids deserved a treat after their miserable sick days, so I made a nice batch of super yummy chocolate oat cookies yesterday. The cookies are the first recipe I’ve made out of my new cookbook: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They are so good; I can’t wait to get busy making more vegan cookies this holiday season. I’m not vegan, because I lack the discipline and I love bacon and yogurt. However, I try to make a fair amount of plant-powered meals and vegan baked goodies. The kiddos always ask “Is it vegan?” because they want to know if they can dig into the batter. And, who doesn’t want to eat cookie batter?

Peanut Butter and Apricot Jam Sandwich with Assorted Green Things

lunch on 2 Dec 2013: peanut butter and apricot jam sandwich with apples, celery, crispy pea snacks and pretzel crisps
lunch on 2 Dec 2013: peanut butter and apricot jam sandwich with apples, celery, crispy pea snacks and pretzel crisps
lunch on 2 Dec 2013: peanut butter and apricot jam sandwich with apples, celery, crispy pea snacks and pretzel crisps

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:

Liliana and Iain hard at work peeling and chopping apples for apple pie
Liliana and Iain hard at work peeling and chopping apples for apple pie

I was also incredibly thankful live in a place where you can go boogie boarding in December.

boogie boarding at Avila Beach on December 1, 2013
boogie boarding at Avila Beach on December 1, 2013

 

Pretty Salad Full of Colorful Superfoods

lunch on 14 Nov 2013: salad with beets, pomegranate seeds, lima beans, corn and carrots with quesadillas and grapes
lunch on 14 Nov 2013: salad with beets, pomegranate seeds, lima beans, corn and carrots with quesadillas and grapes
lunch on 14 Nov 2013: salad with beets, pomegranate seeds, lima beans, corn and carrots with quesadillas and grapes

This is a short week of school for the kiddos: Monday was a holiday and Friday is a teacher work day to prep for next week’s parent-teacher conferences. Since today’s lunch was the last one I had to pack for the week, I decided to go all out with a colorful salad. The salad is loaded with goodness: romaine lettuce, lima beans, corn, carrots, roasted golden beets, and pomegranate seeds—all tossed in a little balsamic vinaigrette. I made myself a similar salad for lunch and, since then, I’ve been riding on a wave of positive salad energy. The kiddos also got some quesadilla triangles and grapes to go along with their colorful salads. Who wouldn’t want to eat a rainbow for lunch?

Now That’s Fancy: Stuffed Tortilla Pizza

lunch on 6 Nov 2013: stuffed tortilla pizza with grapes, celery sticks and cookie butter
stuffed tortilla pizza
stuffed tortilla pizza

Doesn’t this stuffed tortilla pizza look just like a real slice of pizza? I made calzones a few days ago and I had a little leftover filling (a crazy tofu, spinach, basil, roasted eggplant, mozzarella concoction). I put some of this filling in a tortilla, folded it in half, spread some marinara sauce on top, added some shredded cheese and popped it in the oven until it looked like a delicious slice of pizza.

lunch on 6 Nov 2013: stuffed tortilla pizza with grapes, celery sticks and cookie butter
lunch on 6 Nov 2013: stuffed tortilla pizza with grapes, celery sticks and cookie butter

I also packed a bigger container of cookie butter in today’s lunch, per Iain’s request. Who doesn’t want to dip their celery sticks in cookie butter?

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.