Last night I asked the kids what they wanted for lunch and Iain requested overnight oats with lots of fruit. Easy enough. I used Coach’s Oats, which have a great texture and don’t get as mushy as rolled oats. To the oats I added yogurt, vanilla soy milk, chia seeds, a little maple syrup and lots of fruit: bananas, kiwi, raspberries and blueberries. I made a nice big batch of these oats, so the grownups could have little jars for a mid-morning snack. Yummy. A little serving of oats—hot or cold—is one of my favorite snacks.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get lunches made in the evening, when I have two little fiendish “helpers” in the kitchen.
My helpers love to jump in and steal food out of their own lunches. Here Lily goes for the egg salad slider. I’m surprised she didn’t dip a spoon into the chocolatey overnight oats with bananas and berries. Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sneaking apple slices and carrots sticks out of the kids’ lunches while packing them. A love of snacking seems to run in the family.
Yesterday’s lunch featured the kiddos’s current favorite sandwich combo: peanut butter, Nutella and jam. I also mixed up a little trail mix with cashews, Goldfish, and dried fruit. Kiwis and apples are both in season here, so they are sweeter and more delicious than ever.
Yesterday I came home from work and discovered that my refrigerator wasn’t working. Total disaster. Luckily my in-laws live a block a way and their fridge is the opposite of mine: nice, clean and empty. After a scramble to move the most perishable items over to their house, I went to bed feeling utterly defeated by life. As I was laying in bed, I realized I hadn’t made lunches, was almost out of bread, and I needed to come up with a plan. Overnight oats to the rescue. I jumped out of bed and mixed up some carob powder and brown sugar with rolled oats and vanilla soy milk (which I had moved to our mini-fridge out in the garage). This morning I added chopped bananas and coconut to the thick and chocolatey oats. A little trail mix, some sliced up apples, and lunch was done. Unfortunately, the sage of the broken fridge continues…
Due to a perfect storm of maladies, work related stress and lack of time, I have fallen behind on my lunch posts. But, as usual, lunch has still been happening.
I’m not gonna lie, I ate a whole lot of egg salad last week. I think I had it for three lunches in a row. But the kiddos need more variety than I, so I had to make sure they didn’t O.D. on egg salad.
At some point last week, I made quesadillas. I have no idea what, other than cheese, I put in them. Sometimes last week seems like last year.
For Friday’s lunch, I made a delicious batch of overnight oats with yogurt, vanilla soy milk, bananas, blueberries and a little swirl of Nutella. This lunch also had the last of the Easter eggs. I had to admit defeat and throw away some hard-boiled eggs. They don’t last forever.
For reasons unknown to me, all the public schools in this area have late start Monday. The day starts at 9:25 instead of 8:25. It’s a total pain in all ways, but one: I actually have time to make lunch on Monday mornings. Although, morning made lunches tend to be low on the ambition scale. Sometimes you just can’t fight it: the beauty and ease of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Although, lest you call me out as a total slacker, that there white thing in the treat tray is a real, honest to goodness homemade marshmallow. Sunday was my sweet Iain’s 9th birthday and all he wanted was a single (NOT decorated) gigantic marshmallow, which we then used to make the best s’mores ever.
Iain also requested fish tacos for his birthday, because he’s awesome. For lunch, the fish tacos were transformed into these cute little fish quesadillas made with corn tortillas.
The kiddos loved this lunch and gobbled up every last bit of their sweet overnight oats made with chopped bananas, blueberries, chia seeds, vanilla soy milk and plain yogurt. To push these oats into the stratosphere of deliciousness, I threw in a dollop of Nutella. Even the grownups had overnight oats for lunch. Because I had a faculty meeting right before my class at noon, I ate my yummy jar of oats during the meeting. Everyone was curious about my science experiment-y lunch; I never said overnight oats were pretty.
How to Make Overnight Oats in a Jar
Overnight oats are made like muesli: rolled oats are softened in milk overnight with fruit and other goodies. Put about a 1/3 of a cup of rolled oats and one tablespoon of chia seeds in a pint sized mason jar. Add half a chopped banana and any fruit you like (I added frozen blueberries). Pour milk in the jar until it is about 2/3 full. Fill the rest of the jar with plain yogurt. Store in the fridge overnight. Some other things that I like to add to overnight oats are:
a big spoonful of peanut butter (or Nutella, if I really want a treat)
I have to admit that my banana carob chia oat concoction looks a little like a pile of mud, but it’s mmm, good. Really. I swear. I threw in a little of everything: a banana, some dates, a little honey, carob powder, rolled oats, chia seeds, yogurt, sunflower seed butter, and almond milk. I wasn’t organized enough to measure anything, so I can’t give out the recipe. Okay, I may have been in a bit of pre-Oscars mania. But, trust me, it’s almost impossible to mess up chia overnight oat concoctions. Not the same can be said about the Academy Awards, which never fail to disappoint. Yet, I love movies and gowns and diamonds and big hair and Clooney, so I always watch. But, back to lunch—even though now all I can think about is George Clooney, that handsome devil. The kiddos gobbled up the banana carob chia oat concoction, along with the sunflower seed and lingonberry jam half sandwich. I got the strawberries at the Saturday farmers market, and they’re not quite in season yet—still a little tart—but, seriously, can I complain? Strawberries in February. Oh the joys of California produce!
Yesterday I was trying to come up with a new and exciting chia pudding for the kids’ lunches, and, suddenly, it popped into my head: kefir. I used to drink kefir like crazy back when I lived in Chicago, having discovered it in my little neighborhood market under the L. I love the tart bite of kefir, but somehow I got out of the habit of buying it—probably as a result of trying to reduce our daily dairy consumption. The other day, when shopping with Lily, she saw a big pink bottle of strawberry kefir in the yogurt section and became quite insistent that “we try it.” Mmm, kefir, I thought. Unfortunately, I am sorry to report that the kiddos don’t seem too crazy about kefir. Maybe it’s the weird effervescent—some sort of crazy fermented probiotic-induced bubbliness. If you are a kefir fan, you might want to try this kefir chia pudding/overnight oat concoction:
Cherry Chia Kefir Oat Pudding
1 cup berry flavored kefir
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup oats
1 heaping tablespoon cherry preserves
Stir all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge overnight. The chia seeds will plump up substantially, as they are amazing liquid soaker uppers. Before serving, sprinkle with unsweetened coconut. Makes 3–4 servings.
Lately, I’ve become mildly obsessed with overnight oats—oats that are soaked overnight in milk, then eaten cold in the morning. Cold oatmeal may sound kind of weird, so just think of it as muesli (Europeans have been doing this soaked oat thing for years). I’ve tried different versions of overnight oats, usually with bananas, vanilla almond milk, and chia seeds as a starting point. The basic ratio is 1 part oats to 3 parts milk. This is the first time I’ve made overnight oats with a green smoothie (bananas, spinach and vanilla almond milk) as the soaking liquid. Isn’t the color amazing? I sprinkled some unsweetened coconut and a tiny bit of maple syrup on top. I used very ripe bananas, so these oats really don’t need any additional sweetener. Whole grains, fruit and leafy greens all in one bowl—these oats are plant power to the max. For the junk food portion: Goldfish and sugar cereal. Hey, I’m not perfect.
*UnCooking Tip: Green Overnight Oats
two ripe bananas (the riper the better)
two big handfuls of spinach
2-1/2 – 3 cups of almond milk
1 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
Combine bananas, spinach and almond milk in a blender. Stir green smoothie into the oats and chia seeds. The mixture will look really watery. Put in a covered bowl and let sit overnight in the fridge. In the morning, the oats and chia seeds will have absorbed the liquid and should be nice and thick. Sprinkle on shredded coconut for a little crunch. This makes a big portion of oats—probably enough for two adults and two kids.