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:
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).
Sometimes in the midst of chaos, I find it therapeutic to make stuff. Since I got into a serious yogurt making kick over winter break, I’ve been making yogurt at least weekly. I love having a big jar of thick, creamy whole milk yogurt in the fridge. The kiddos just love yogurt with fruit and muesli and granola and jam—you name it. For Monday’s lunch I packed a tin of yogurt and fruit salad with honey granola sprinkled on top. Yum!
On Monday I was able to work from home, so I made a loaf of whole wheat maple oat bread using the ridiculously easy no knead technique from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I made enough dough for two loaves and at this very minute, my house is filled with the glorious aroma of fresh baked bread. On a Wednesday. At 9:30 at night. You can make bread at random times like that when you dough on hand. Craziness.
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.
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.
Lately, I’ve been on a yogurt-making kick. Every few years, I decide to try my hand at yogurt making, but get frustrated when my yogurt doesn’t turn out as thick, smooth, and tart as I’d like it to be. Inevitably, I go back to buying my favorite yogurt at Trader Joe’s like a normal person. Making yogurt is, in theory, a simple process: you slowly heat milk to 210˚and then you let it cool to about 115˚ and then you stir in a little bit of yogurt and then you try to keep it sort of warm for several hours while it incubates and magically turns into yogurt. Nothing too complicated, except that the milk tends to burn, especially on the bottom of the pan, as it comes up to temperature. This means a lot of stirring. So, I tried the crock pot thinking that maybe the milk wouldn’t burn. But it did. Then theres’s the issue of consistency. I’ve made lots of runny, lumpy yogurt; it tastes fine, but is not as satisfying as a nice thick European-style yogurt. I read that adding a little powdered milk can help thicken the yogurt, and this does indeed work. You can also add gelatin, but, in my mind, this defeats the purpose of trying to make a simple yogurt with just milk and a yogurt starter. If you have any yogurt-making secrets, please let me know.
When you have a couple of big jars of homemade yogurt in the fridge, it makes a darn fine kid lunch. Yogurt + jam + Crazy Good Granola = awesome lunch. Or, awesome breakfast. Or, awesome snack. You can call it a parfait, which sounds fancy. You can serve it with some nice fruit. And perhaps a little roll with aged cheddar cheese like a packed in the lunches today.
Over the weekend, I got creative with my new Crock Pot (thanks for the awesome birthday present, mom V.K.!) and made a big batch of yogurt. I used some of that delicious homemade yogurt to make today’s tropical yogurt chia seed concoction. I thought a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese would be a nice accompaniment to the tropical chia pudding, and luckily, Trader Joe’s is still well stocked with pumpkin bagels. The veggies today are super sweet carrots and lipstick peppers from the farmers market. Who doesn’t want to eat some crunchy, bright red lipstick peppers?
Tropical Yogurt Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup pineapple (I used frozen)
1/2 cup mango (I used frozen)
1 tbsp. agave syrup
3 tbsp. chia seeds
Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds and let the pudding thicken up in the fridge overnight.