I pack a lot of lunches. Luckily, as a college professor, my academic schedule is similar to my kids’ school year. That means I pretty much get to take the summer off from lunch packing. This could be one of the reasons that I’m pretty motivated to make good lunches; I get that much needed break in the summer. When I’m teaching, I often have very little time for lunch. Sometimes I eat during my office hours and sometimes I have a weird schedule like this quarter, in which I have a class that meets from 11:00 in the morning until 2:00pm (it’s a terrible class time). When I’m on campus, I pretty much always have to bring my lunch to work. Some days, I have no energy for making myself a fancy lunch once I’ve finished cobbling together a family dinner, cleaning the kitchen and making lunches for the kids. BUT, occasionally I can muster the will to pack myself a lovely sandwich—and, oh, how I love a lovely sandwich. I would be so excited to have a job in which all I did was come up with interesting sandwich combinations. Look at the gorgeous sandwich I made for my lunch today: it’s got cilantro microgreens that I discovered at the farmers market over the weekend, avocado sprinkled with chile limón seasoning, cheese, and thinly sliced grilled pork loin on sprouted wheat bread with mayo and brown mustard. I can’t wait to eat it today!
Here at Love and Lunch Corporate Headquarters, we have had a rough couple of weeks (a month?) of sicknesses working their way through the office. As a result, I haven’t been keeping up to date with my lunch posts. But, rest assured, we have been eating. And eating quite well, I might add. I was thinking about this as I made sandwiches for the kiddos last night. I took sandwich requests (always a mistake), so I had to make two different types for today’s lunch: one with mortadella and the other with roast beef. Making these fancy sandwiches made me reflect on my own childhood of bologna, American cheese (Kraft singles), and ketchup (Heinz, please) sandwiches. Yep, that atrocious combo was my favorite. My kids definitely have way better taste than I ever did at their ages.
Of course, I didn’t grow up in California (except for a brief stint in kindergarten when Dad was stationed at March AFB), land of plenty. I mean just look at this strawberry:
My kids are so lucky to have year-round access to such amazing produce. It makes it a lot easier to pack reasonably healthy lunches when you always have delicious fruit and veggies on hand. Here is a round-up of some recent lunches. Almost all the produce is from the SLO Farmers Market. Yum, yum and more yum.
Here are some of the lovelies I picked up at the farmers market over the weekend:
I try to buy as much produce as possible (ideally, all our fruits and veggies for the week) from the farmers market. We have lots of farmers markets, so if I forget to buy something on Saturday, I can go to a market on Sunday or Tuesday or Thursday. My kids consume an mind-boggling amount of fruits and veggies every week; I think this is largely due to the amazing quality of produce at our farmers market.
A typical morning at the farmers market results in this:
So, how do I deal with this overwhelming table of deliciousness? I try to tackle it right away. Here is my strategy for produce cleaning and storage:
- Carrots: tops are snipped off with scissors over a compost bin. Carrots are rinsed and scrubbed, placed on a kitchen towel to dry, and then stored in a ziploc bag in the fridge. I rarely have to peel carrots that I get at the farmers market. I’ll just slice them for lunches.
- Eggs: these are easy—put the carton in the fridge.
- Stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots, apricots, etc.): rinsed off and placed on a towel to dry. I never refrigerate stone fruit as this seems to negatively affect the texture. Once dry, these are placed on a tray within reach of the kids; they don’t last long. Pluots and plums will last the longest (5–7 days depending on ripeness) at room temperature.
- Grapes: rinse well and dry on a towel or in a colander. I store these in the fridge in a recycled grocery store grape (or cherry) bag; you know, the ones with small holes all over them that seal at the top.
- Kale: separate and rinse well. Then, I shake them out to get them as dry as possible (I do this outside—it never snows here). I lay the leaves on a towel to dry, then gather the leaves back into a nice bunch, roll them up in the same towel and store them in a ziploc bag. The leaves are long, so they stick out of the bag. Hearty kale will easily last a week in the fridge.
- Apples: get rinsed and placed on a towel to dry. I store them in a cute little 1/4 peck bag that I once got at the farmers market. I place apples in the fridge to keep them nice and crisp, although I’ll leave a couple out on the fruit tray for the kids.
- Green beans: I put these in a ziploc bag and don’t wash until I’m going to eat/cook them.
- Potatoes: I put small potatoes in those little green baskets that strawberries come in (I have a zillion of them, because we consume a lot of strawberries) and keep them in the pantry. Potatoes should never be stored in the fridge due to some scientific thing that has to do with starch. I read about it once.
- Berries (raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, blueberries, strawberries): I usually buy a 3-pack, so I just keep them in their little containers within the cardboard box, wrapped in a plastic bag, in the fridge. I don’t wash until right before eating. I usually don’t wash raspberries until they look dirty. This is the advantage of shopping at a farmers market and buying from farmers who don’t use sprays and nasty stuff on their crops.
*Lunch tip: Bring your kids to a farmers market, farm stand, green market or some such place. They’ll try new things and they’ll like them, because locally grown food tastes good. Surprisingly good.
On today’s lunch menu: mini pizza margherita (basil from our garden, marinara sauce, and mozzarella on a wheat sandwich thin), sliced carrots, insanely delicious green plums, strawberries and grapes. All produce is from the farmers market. The treat: chocolate covered, candy coated sunflower seeds (Trader Joe’s).
The was a popular lunch: it was clean plate club for both Lily and Iain.
*Lunch tip: I make pizza-y/melty cheese things when I’m cleaning the dishes after dinner. Line a baking sheet with a small piece of foil, set oven to 400˚ and small melty things will usually be done in about 15 minutes.