In Praise of Lunch in a Jar

beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar

I’m a big fan of bringing lunch in a jar to work. If I’m not motived to make an elaborate salad or sandwich, I just pile fruit, yogurt or cottage cheese, and granola or something crunchy into a jar. Lately, I been on a beets kick—especially raw, shredded beets (messy to make, but delicious to eat). Last week, I made this gorgeous concoction for my lunch:

beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar
beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar

I piled shredded beets on cottage cheese with apple chunks, peanut butter, cinnamon and honey. The color is insane and I loved the spiced/sweet/earthy combo.

This morning I decide to make the kids’s lunches in jars. Of course, they had to be made to order, because they didn’t want the same thing. Lily got a yogurt, applesauce, banana and granola parfait, and Iain wanted the Elvis Special (yogurt, bananas, peanut butter and honey).

lunch on 6 Feb 2017: yogurt lunches in jars
lunch on 6 Feb 2017: yogurt lunches in jars

How to Make Homemade Granola

homemade granola
homemade granola
homemade granola

After my last lunch post, several people have asked me about how I make granola. I have tried a variety of recipes, because I am crazy about granola. I think yogurt, granola and fruit is the best breakfast/snack/lunch/comfort food ever. Once every few weeks, I make a big batch of granola. I don’t really use a precise recipe—it’s more of a basic formula that can be modified to your taste, mood, and what you’ve got in the pantry.

Homemade Granola
  • 3 to 4 cups rolled oats
  • 3 cups raw nuts and/or seeds, such as: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, cashews, almonds, unsweetened shredded coconut, etc.
  • 2 cups dried fruit (optional), such as: raisins, currants, berries, apricots, or dates
  • 1/3–1/2 cup oil, fruity olive oil or coconut oil is especially delicious, but I often use plain old canola
  • 1/3–1/2 cup liquid sweetener, such as: maple syrup or honey
  • 1–2 teaspoons spices, which could include: ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc. You could also use citrus zest.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Preheat your oven to 325˚ F. If your oil is solid at room temperature, heat it up until it is liquid. In a large bowl, mix up your oats, nuts, and spices. Add the oil, sweetener, and vanilla extract to the oat mix and stir with a large spoon or spatula until well incorporated. Dump this bowl of goodness onto a parchment or Silpat lined large sheet pan (you can also use two sheet pans if you don’t have a big one). Stick it in the oven and stir the granola ever 15 minutes to ensure even browning (set a timer—trust me). The granola should take about 45 minutes to brown up nicely. Watch it toward the end, because it goes from golden to overdone in about 5 minutes. Let it cool on the baking sheet and add in your dried fruit at this point. Once it is completely cool, pack the granola into glass jars and it will stay fresh for a month or more, but probably won’t last that long. It’s so delicious, you can give it away as a gift if you add a pretty ribbon and a card.

granola ready for gifting
granola ready for gifting

Sweet and Breakfasty: Yogurt with Granola, Honey and Blueberries

lunch on 22 Oct 2014: yogurt with granola and blueberries, grapes and sweet rice rolls
lunch on 22 Oct 2014: yogurt with granola and blueberries, grapes and sweet rice rolls
lunch on 22 Oct 2014: yogurt with granola and blueberries, grapes and sweet rice rolls

This lunch is one my favorites: homemade granola with yogurt, honey and blueberries. I could eat granola and yogurt every day. Some crunchy rice rolls and sweet grapes complete this quick, easy, and delicious lunch.

First School Lunch of 2014 is a Homemade Extravaganza

lunch on 6 Jan 14: yogurt with granola and honey, celery, mushrooms, mini sunflower seed butter and grape jelly sandwiches, and licorice
lunch on 6 Jan 14: yogurt with granola and honey, celery, mushrooms, mini sunflower seed butter and grape jelly sandwiches, and licorice
lunch on 6 Jan 14: yogurt with granola and maple syrup, celery, mushrooms, mini sunflower seed butter and grape jelly sandwiches, and licorice

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.

Merry Christmas, Merry Gift-Giving

Lily with Santa's snack
xmas_cookies
holiday teacher gifts: sweet snacking granola and world peace chocolate cookies

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).

teacher gifts: sweet snacking granola
teacher gifts: sweet snacking granola

I also found some adorable stamps on etsy to give to Lily’s kindergarten teacher and Iain’s third grade teacher.

super cute teacher stamps
super cute teacher stamps

For Santa, we decided he needed some health food along with his sweets (a small piece of Texas sheet cake!).

Lily with Santa's snack
Lily with Santa’s snack

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a delicious New Year!

 

24 April 2013: Yogurt with Honey and Crazy Good Nut-Free Granola and Dried Blueberries

Big Jar of Crazy Good Granola
lunch on 24 April 2013: whole milk yogurt with crazy good granola and dried blueberries
lunch on 24 April 2013: whole milk yogurt with crazy good granola and dried blueberries

Granola is one of those things that is super easy to make. It is also fairly cheap, since the main ingredient is rolled oats. I haven’t done a cost analysis on homemade granola versus packaged cereal because, well, I don’t know how to do a cost analysis. However, I suspect that it’s cheaper than many fancy whole grain (!) organic (!) healthy (!) cereals. A couple of days ago I made a batch of Crazy Good Granola. In fact, this granola is so good, it might just make you cry. I used Melissa Clark’s Olive Oil Granola as a starting point, but I modified it to be nut-free and a little less sweet. For today’s lunch, I made a little yogurt parfait with plain whole milk yogurt, honey, Crazy Good Granola and dried blueberries. It always seems like a granola parfait should be served with a sweeter sandwich, so I made sunflower seed butter and blueberry jam sandwiches. Strawberries and a few chocolate chips complete this delicious lunch. Oh, and that Crazy Good Granola was my crazy good breakfast this morning:

Crazy Good Granola with plain yogurt, almond milk and fresh strawberries
Crazy Good Granola with plain yogurt, almond milk and fresh strawberries

*Cooking Tip: Crazy Good Granola (adapted from the genius food writer Melissa Clark)

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups raw pepitas
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Spread mixture on a foil or parchment lined rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until golden brown and well toasted. Let the granola cool completely before putting it in a big glass jar. I kept this granola pretty plain, because sometimes the kiddos can get picky about dried fruit. “I’m not really crazy about raisins.” “I don’t really like these dried apricots.” Of course, you can make granola to your own personal taste and dietary needs. That’s why granola is the best thing ever. I love granola with golden raisins, dried apricots and cashews. Pistachios and unsweetened coconut chips are also nice add-ins. You can even use pureed dates as a sweetener if you don’t want to add any sugar, honey or syrup. I’ve tried lots of different granola recipes, but this one is my new favorite.

Big Jar of Crazy Good Granola
Big Jar of Crazy Good Granola