Friday, December 20, 2013

Queen of Sandwiches

Last night I didn't cook dinner; as I always do one night each week, I just threw together some sandwiches for the boys. Thursday is pizza day at the big boys' school, so they've already had a 'main' meal by the time they come home, and the toddler had leftovers for his lunch, too.

Dinner for lunch! Lunch for dinner! IT'S TOPSY-TURVY TIME UP IN HERE.

I made the older boys pretty much the same kind of sandwich they've been eating a lot lately - sliced turkey, cheddar cheese, and baby spinach with mayo and mustard.

This time, though, they were watching me make the sandwiches (usually I pack lunches very early in the morning, before they're even out of bed). Their input was both welcome and surprising, and reminded me that I should be involving them in the process more than I have been - even if it does mean the process takes longer.

Five year old requested honey mustard instead of regular yellow mustard, and wondered if pickles were possible. It never occurred to me that he'd want such strong flavours - he's the pickiest of my children, by far - but he loved them.

The 8 year old asked for sliced tomato and 'some of that fancy mustard'. A word on the fancy mustard - friends of ours shipped us a selection of mustards from Mrs. McGarrigle's for Christmas. (No, this is not a sponsored post, although I wish it were, if it meant a lifetime supply of their products because OH MY). Anyway, my favourite of the bunch is "Hot Whiskey", and who would put that on a sandwich for an eight year old? But I slopped some on, figuring I could eat the sandwich myself once he tasted it and hated it.

But he RAVED about that sandwich. RAVED. He was still talking about it this morning, and feeling slightly mournful that toasted bread for sandwiches is just not possible in a lunchbox. He also asked me to make sure I put "all those ingredients" on the week's grocery list so he could eat lots of "those delicious sandwiches" while he's on Christmas break.

I am The Sandwich Queen.

***

We're going on break now until January 9th. Until then, have a wonderful holiday season filled with laughter and love.



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Welcome to the M&M Show

*taps microphone, clears throat*

Is this still on?

It's been a long time since I've been a Lunch Lady - it's been a very hectic fall for me! Here's what happened that's kept me delinquint over here:

1) I'm chair of the School Council/ Parent Association. I know, I'm a pretty big deal.
2) Our school Fundraising Coordinator quit prior to doing any actual fundraising, so I took on the role for our magazine campaign (no, not the icky one that makes kids sell x amount of subscriptions to win a crappy prize, the ccrp.ca one)
3) I co-coordinated a silent auction.
4) I went to Toronto for four days for Blissdom Canada.
5) I went to the in-laws' for Thanksgiving.
6) I ran the school's book fair.
7) Our SC/PA Treasurer was away for five weeks and so I was acting Treasurer.
8) I've been busy recipe writing over at the Yummy Mummy Club.

But I've missed you, you wonderful lunch-obsessed people! Thank you to the lovely guest posters - in case you missed it, how to organize lunch for three older children when you're days away from giving birth, and also how to put your kids to work making their own lunches, by the seven year old Mr. M. You two saved my vegan bacon, so thank you!

Vegan bacon, what is THAT? Gross. Sorry for the visual.

So it's been a busy fall and early winter, and we've been trucking along as usual over in my house; the kids are still coming home for lunch, and their general lunch of choice is a) bagel with cream cheese or b) bagel with peanut butter. Hey, if it's not broke...

But last Friday was a PD day. I'm not sure why it was a PD day, with only two weeks left of school, and a few days off in the month of November, but since I'm not working outside the home it's not a big deal for me. In fact, it's nice, because then I don't feel the urge to change out of my sweaty yoga clothes immediately and make myself pretty for school drop off, because yes, I'm THAT mom who always has makeup on and hair done at drop off. Hey, the one time I didn't have makeup on, someone thought I was gravely ill.

In any event, it was a PD day, and I decided to whip up some pancakes for lunch. I have been feeling like a happy little elf this month, and in the spirit of Buddy the Elf I decided to throw some mini M&M's into the batter. Awesome, right? M&M pancakes! The boys were appropriately thrilled and dug into their stacks.

Somewhere around his third or fourth pancake, Mark frowned a little. "Wow," he said, "This is a really hard M&M. I think I should spit it out." I handed him a napkin, hoping I wouldn't have to go online about finding something weird in a package of baking M&M's.

"Hey, my tooth fell out!" Mark said, looking at his napkin. "I guess it wasn't an M&M after all!"

M&M Pancakes

3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, fork beaten
1 tablespoon canola oil
150 mL milk
handful of M&Ms - yes, that's an actual measurement. SHUT UP, it is so!

Mix together dry ingredients, then add the egg, oil, and milk. Stir until combined - a few lumps are fine, don't overmix. Fold the M&Ms into the batter. Drop batter by large tablespoons onto a hot griddle and flip when bubbles form and edges brown. Maybe don't serve to wiggly toothed children, unless they are desperate for a few extra tooth-bucks.

PS I mentioned this event on Facebook and some people misread it and thought *I* had lost a tooth, like a meth addict or something. NO, IT WAS MY NINE YEAR OLD. NOT ME.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

All the small things

It's hard to believe we're in December already. That's approximately 60 days of lunches, if you're counting. Are you out of ideas yet? It's strange, but this year I don't mind the lunches so much. They used to be a thorn in my side but now I just get it done, you know? Children are creatures of habit, after all. So you can make the same things, over and over, throw in a new thing now and then, and you're good. Or at least that's how it works in my family.

Last week I made plain ol' egg salad but put it on soft, fresh white bread. Okay, so whole grain bread is healthier, but: Best. Sandwiches. Ever. Or so I am told.

A new treat now and then helps too. Last weekend we did an epic Christmas cookie baking session. We made these molasses ginger cookies that we make every year. I got the recipe out of Canadian Living magazine a few years ago and, seriously, everybody loves these cookies (Unfortunately, I can't find the recipe online now). They are the amazing and the recipe makes close to 100 cookies. I make the whole batch and then give them away as little tasty gifts over the holiday season.

We also made these Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint cookies. They are decadently delicious and so easy to make. Since my kid is nut allergic, I roll them in coconut instead of pecans. I also find they keep their shape better when you use a little less flour -- about a quarter cup less. A kid-sized thumb is perfect for making the indentation you need for the caramel, too. They are the perfect helping cookie and the perfect lunchtime treat while we count down the days to Christmas.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sea Change

If you want to see active hubris, look at this post that I wrote last spring.

HA HA! I actually thought my teenage daughter would want to continue packing lunch to school! But she doesn't - at all - and keeping her well fed is an ongoing challenge that I'm not doing a great job at right now. So we have a cobbled-together mess of peanut butter and jam sandwiches (permitted again after a whole childhood of being forbidden by school rules) and the occasional $5 to spend in the cafeteria and I don't know if we're going to make it.

Even if we could afford it - and we can't - eating fast food or in the cafeteria every day just isn't good for her. But skipping lunch - her other new favorite option - is even cruddier for her and this is a skinny kid ALREADY and what can we do? This is a hypothetical question, I suspect, because I think the answer is that we're just going to muddle through.

Her dad told me about getting an unexpected phonecall from her one lunch hour earlier this fall - she had gone out for lunch with a group of friends but the line-up at the restaurant was far longer than expected and could he come and take them to a further restaurant, please? So he did and told me later on that the girls - girls he's known for a decade -  all looked pale with exhaustion and suddenly lanky and tall and talked about how hard it was to get up so much earlier and how different the classes were and so full (after a childhood spent in a school with the same 90 kids) of strangers.

You couldn't get me to be a teenager again for a million dollars and my kid is going through it right now - largely with grace and largely with kindness and I'm trying to keep in mind that for all of the changes this brings into my life, it's even harder for her. And she is well worth figuring out the whole bothersome mess of school lunches all over again, with as much grace and kindness and peanut butter sandwiches as I can give.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

branching out

The lead-up to the holidays is always a fun time to go grocery shopping.

So many treats on the store shelves! So much candy and chocolate and fancy cheese and fancier cheese and weird snacking meats and nuts in the shell and...

Yeah.

Funny thing though, this is also the time of year where you start seeing slightly more exotic fruit on offer in the produce department. Things that are coming in season halfway around the world, like the humble but always delightful clementine (or mandarin orange, depending on where you live). All of a sudden you can get 4lbs of easy-to-peel balls of orange happiness, and who doesn't love one (or two) of these sweet little bundles in their lunchbox?

This time of year you also tend to see deep discounts on pomegranates. Now, I love pomegranates, but I've spent years trying to decide if the game is worth the candle; to wit, if it is worth my time and energy to sit there painstakingly picking the seeds out from the membrane.

Then I saw this video, and I thought if this works, it will change everything:



GUYS, IT WORKS.

In mere minutes (fun ones, too - spanking a pomegranate is hilarious for some reason) I had a big bowl of tasty little nuggets of sweetness. The kids loved them. My husband did, too. And because I didn't have to pick out each individual seed with a stickpin (yes, that is one suggested method) or roll it around in a bowl of water for a thousand years (the most commonly-seen method) I didn't mind sharing.

They are nice in lunches as part of a fruit salad with some slices of clementine / mandarin and some grapes - also an item usually marked down in the run-up to Christmas. They're packed with fibre and are one of the prettiest foods going.

Pomegranate = WIN.

We also tried persimmons this week - another fruit that tends to go on sale this time of year. They're still pretty pricey, but I was feeling chuffed from my success with the pomegranates so I figured I'd give it a go.

You eat a persimmon like an apple; just take a bite. I sliced mine first because I was sharing it and the peel is much thicker than an apple, so I'd do that. The flesh is very smooth and with a creamy texture; the taste is sort of reminiscent of an apple and a pumpkin together, but sweeter. My suddenly-very-picky five year old loved it, as did my two year old; my eight year old said it was "pretty nice" but declined to take any in his lunch. Two out of three? I'll take it.

Persimmon = PARTIAL VICTORY

Next time you're in the grocery store, give some thought to trying one of the "holiday fruits". Slip some into your kids' lunches and see how it goes. You may start a new tradition (and trick your kids into eating some extra vitamins while you're at it.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Expectant Lunches

Today we have a guest post from the southern US. A friend of the Ladies is due to deliver any day now, and having a newborn AND school-aged kids presents its own unique set of organizational challenges. She's got it cased! And agreed to write a post for us while thinking labor-ish thoughts (I took out the "u" because she's American. Cross-cultural sensitivity is important.)

***

Every Sunday night for the past three weeks I've done the same thing: pack five snack bags for the oldest son, prep half of five snack bags for the girl, and fill a lunchbox with random goodies for the preschooler who firmly believes that he, too, is going to school and needs a lunch. Here and there I've assembled lunch "side items" as well. This level of organization and preparedness is not natural to me. I'm just paranoid. I'm paranoid that I will go into labor with child number four, and I'll have no time to make sure that the children are taken care of in my absence. My preparedness has left me a million weeks pregnant, but it's also taught me something that I should have already known: Advance preparation actually makes morning life so much easier. Let me say that again, because frankly, I'm shocked that this is the case since I've lived so long on coffee, adrenaline, and a lead foot motoring toward the city center each morning:

Advance preparation actually makes morning life so much easier.

Just let the above statement soak in for a minute or two. I'll wait for you to digest this, fellow adrenaline junkies. If you're one of those perfectly organized moms who has "known this all along" (sarcastic air quote emphasis mine) then just go watch this video of some kittens eating lunch with a monkey while the rest of us mull this over.



I mean to tell you that I am pretty darn impressed with how quickly I can roll out of bed, get kids into uniforms, shove breakfast into their mouths, and load them into the car each morning when I have these snacks and lunches staged and waiting. Today is a great example: I awoke startled to discover it was already 7:15. Bleary eyed, I wondered if I could get us out of the house in a mere 20 minutes. It might not have been pretty, and the two big kids might have been eating double chocolate gluten free muffins in the car at 7:30, but thanks to those snacks and lunches mostly prepped we made it with time to spare.

This evening I'm spending time in between contractions putting together a few more snacks and lunches. I'm taking a little more care because now I'm starting to feel the impending guilt of being away from the children while in the hospital. My kids have different tastes and dietary requirements, so it's pretty important to me that I make sure they are set up with snacks and lunches that they can and will eat in my absence. I feel like children have so much demanding their focus in school - not just the school work, but the dynamics of discipline as well as social life. Making sure they have food that doesn't throw them curve balls, but rather comforts and represents a taste of home is in many ways a comfort to me as I send them off for the day without me. It sounds a little bit sappy, but I do want them to have good food experiences while I labor, deliver, and hide in the hospital begging for extra ice and pain medication.

To wit, my middle child really enjoys the making of lunch. I don't do it very often because I'm an impatient hag who is guilty of valuing speed over what I really do know could be valuable time with my eight year old daughter. The girl, Peep, has recently discovered that she likes tuna salad, but we've struggled with the right way to transport it to school. On a sandwich? By lunch the cold pack has sogged out the bread. Our best strategy has been to pack the bread in her sandwich case, put the tuna salad in a small container on the side, and add a plastic knife for spreading. This approach to packing lunch has really worked well. Tonight I let her make the tuna salad herself. I didn't prod, fuss, fix, or really help her except to remind her what ingredients a girl from the southern United States might use.

Tuna Salad:
1 can of your favorite brand of tuna
1-2 TBS Duke's mayonnaise (having a brand you love is important!)
1 stalk of crisp, fresh celery (diced)
1 TBS sweet pickle relish
dash of celery seed
salt/pepper to taste

I'm not going to insult y'all by telling you how to mix up tuna salad. This does make 2 generous sized sandwich portions which is my way of saying that I just successfully conned my daughter into making my lunch in advance. See how everyone wins here??

To recap: Some of you got some amazing advice about how doing things in advance actually increases personal efficiency. Some of you had the opportunity to watch an inter-species luncheon. Mostly, all of us got the chance to reflect on exactly how a perpetually exhausted and frazzled mother of three manages lunch preparation while being approximately 7,000 weeks pregnant.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A microwave would make things simpler

At least twice a week, while making lunches, I fantasize about buying a microwave for my kids' classrooms. Or at least for two of them: the logistics for the high schooler who moves from class to class would be ridiculous. Plus he'd probably be embarrassed, since pretty much everything I do is embarrassing now.

Of course, you can't just buy a microwave for one classroom. So would it be a microwave for all kids in the school? Can you imagine the line up? That leaves the alternative for buying many microwaves for the whole school population to use, which is financially prohibitive, really. Plus, you know some kid would microwave their spoon and cause some sort of injury that would result in a lawsuit. And so my microwave dream evaporates, like steam rising off of reheated soup. :)

"What about a thermos?" you may be asking yourself. Well, yes, that's the alternative. I do send thermoses, of course. But despite the labour intensive process of boiling the water to heat up the thermoses, heating up the food to scalding and getting the lid on before any of that heat can escape, it's not quite the same. I open up thermoses at the end of the day to find abandoned pasta or soup, those last few bites that just weren't hot enough. That never happens with microwaved food.

I recently discovered the joy of turning stereotypical hot food into cold-food lunch awesomeness. I'm talking about taco salad. Whenever I make tacos we always have some of the meat filling leftover, so why not use it for lunches the next day? Now you could heat it up and put it in the thermos, but it's actually really good thrown in a cold salad. It's one of my favourite things to eat for lunch at work.

I like to send the various components separate, so the cheese doesn't get all soggy and lettuce doesn't get all taco-meaty. I have these multi-compartment containers so I can put torn up lettuce in one spot, with any kind of veggies I have on hand thrown in. Then the shredded cheese goes in its own compartment and, in the third, the leftover taco meat (or, if you're vegetarian, you could put chickpeas or some other kind of bean in there). I put some ranch dressing in another container and, if we have any, a few nacho chips to crunch up over the whole mess at lunch time. It takes 30 seconds to throw all the components together at lunch time and then you're eating taco salad. No boiling water required.

Speaking of tacos, do you use the little spice package from the store to make yours? I used to and then I discovered this recipe in a milk calendar over 10 years ago and it has been my go-to every since. I find it milder then the spice mix and my kids love it.

Make your own taco filling

1 lb ground beef (I actually use ground turkey for tacos - leaner and still delicious)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (if you don't have garlic, leave it out. It tastes fine without)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup milk
1/3 cup tomato paste (or ketchup. I often use ketchup because I always forget  to buy tomato paste)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meat. Add the onion, garlic and spices. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. Stir in the milk and tomato paste (or ketchup!). Then you just let it simmer for 5 or 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It Is My Turn To Post, Which Is Why It's Late

I was sick! Wretchedly sick with a cold although now that I'm better it's sort of hard to remember that I spent much of the week staggering around with a fever and complaining dramatically to my poor long-suffering husband. And I didn't have to make THAT many lunches this past week, because I cleverly infected my children as well and they mostly just lay around asking me to make chicken noodle soup (the "good" kind that comes dry in packets and that Gwyneth Paltrow would never, ever feed her children).

But I also made homemade lentil soup, which is one of my children's very favorite things and which causes ANOTHER one of my children to burst into horrified sobbing so you be the judge of whether or not your kids will like this. It packs nicely in thermoses for lunch, if your children are more like my first child and if they're more like my youngest it will also give them an excellent story of childhood hardship for when they're older and build their character:

M's Lentil Soup
1 quart chicken stock (although if you want this to be a vegetarian soup, add vegetable stock or heck, just another quart of water)
1 quart water
1 pound dried red lentils
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, diced
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp dried oregano
a sprinkle of black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of salt
and any or all of the following:
2 large tomatoes, de-glopped and quartered
a red pepper, diced
a green pepper, diced (and you can continue adding other colours of peppers, if you'd like. You're free!)
2 large carrots, peeled and diced

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil. Add all the other ingredients at once. Bring the soup to a boil, TURN IT DOWN and let it simmer along for... a while. Half an hour? Stir it once in a while and make sure it doesn't burn. It's done when it's cooked and it tastes better after a day or two in the fridge but it MAGICALLY the best tasting lentil soup ever.




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

It's October! When everywhere you look, someone is putting 'pumpkin spice' into something and selling it at a premium.


I'm as big a sucker for it as anyone. There is something about that smell that instantly transports me to the woods behind the house I grew up in, wearing rubber boots and rustling through the ankle-deep leaf carpet. In buying that over-priced latté, I'm trying to recapture that feeling.

Whenever I see a recipe for something I like with the added deliciousness that is pumpkin pie spice, I get inspired to try it.

First step? Mix up your own pumpkin pie spice. There are about a zillion recipes online but this one is my favourite. Just mix everything up in an airtight jar and pop it in the cupboard.

3 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground allspice
1.5 tsp ground cloves

The nice thing about making your own is that you can adjust the various components to your own personal tastes.

What does all this have to do with lunches? Well, just after Thanksgiving Julie van Rosendaal posted a recipe for "Roasted Sweet Potato Gingerbread" on her "Dinner With Julie" website - and lo, you can use canned pureed pumpkin instead of sweet potatoes.

*cue angels singing*

I whipped up a batch on the weekend, using some leftover canned pumpkin (WHY is there always leftover canned pumpkin?) and WOW. We had some warm right away with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and it felt like a luxurious treat. It has since gone to school in several lunches, and it's perfect - not crumbly, and still moist & delicious several days later. It's a nicely festive little dessert option for the week before Halloween, and pumpkin is packed with potassium, Vitamins A & B, and is rich in anti-oxidants.

Take THAT, Starbucks.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

These Apples Are Delicious (as a matter of fact they are, she said)

Can you BELIEVE that it is mid-October? Can you believe that October is MORE than half over? Me either. It feels like school just started and then - whoooooosh - here we are.

What's been going on for lunches around here? Same old, same old. The kids are still coming home and eating the same exact lunches that they have for years - bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter - and I'm still packing the same rotation of snacks for them to take to school: cookies, loaves, muffins with fruit or veggies on the side. If it's not broke...

The one fruit I never pack for school snack is the one fruit I always had as a child, and that is the much-loved and celebrated apple. Whole apples are hard for my kids to eat due to chronically loose teeth and time constraints, and sliced apples are just too BROWN. I know, I know, if I sprinkled them with lemon juice they would be fine, but I'm more of a "well, you can eat them after school" kind of mom. I'll happily bake everything from scratch, but apparently lemon juice on apple slices is just too much for me to handle.

It's too bad they don't have apples at school because I currently have sixty pounds of apples in my cold storage right now, along with forty pounds of Concord grapes. I just got back from Thanksgiving at the in-laws', where fall means fruit, beautiful, quality fruit. We're all enjoying the fresh flavours, but the time to enjoy the grapes is limited, and I have a plan.

Remember my not-so-secret love of fruit leather? Remember how my husband romanced me by buying me a food dehydrator? Do you see where this is going? HOMEMADE GRAPE AND APPLE FRUIT LEATHER. I see the future and it is going to be all dehydrating, all the time, at least for the weekend. I haven't quite figured out the measurements yet...and I haven't quite figured out how to make the leather thick and chewy rather than thin and roll-up like, but it's all part of the experience. As someone at Blissdom Canada said a few weeks ago, I CAN DO ANYTHING IF I BELIEVE I CAN. Well, I probably can't become a professional athlete or a supermodel or someone who has to work with small children, but I am pretty sure I CAN make fruit leather.

Stay tuned - I will let you know how it turns out! In the meantime, I'm going to go eat some more Concords and stock up on teeth whitening strips.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The fruit drought

I bought a honeydew melon the other day and when I cut it up for lunches it looked lovely, pale green and firm. However, when I ate my serving at work the next day it was disappointing. The texture was wrong, a signal that melon season is over. Period.

Of course, we have seasons for a reason. There was a time when people only ate local fruit in season. So you enjoyed your two weeks of strawberries and then it was over, unless you had the skill and foresight to do some preserving. 

Now we can get all kinds of fruit all year long. Mangoes in March, nectarines in November:  I definitely partake. It's hard to eat only apples, pears and bananas for 8 months straight, though our lunches do skew towards these fruits in the winter months. So when it's cold and blustery and I have non-local fruits in the fridge that may have questionable texture, I make fruit salad. Because, really, who doesn't like fruit salad? It's a welcome change in the lunch box and it adds some variety to our fruit-eating repertoire. After almost 6 tedious weeks of making school lunches now, I'll take variety wherever I can get it. 

Simple Fruit Salad
1/2 cup grapes
1/2 cup diced apples
1/2 cup melon (watermelon, honey dew or cantaloupe)
1/4 cup of blueberries
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp lime juice

Mix all together and chill. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

when you can't send peanut butter

This is not a sponsored post, nor was I compensated in any way for the following content.

Our school is officially classified as "nut careful". Which is terrible grammar, I know, but it essentially means that all students, staff, and visitors are asked to not bring any nuts or products containing nuts to school. Classrooms with a student who has a nut allergy are "nut free" - in those classrooms, if a parent forgets and sends something with nuts, the offending item is promptly removed and the parents are called to remind them.

This is all fine. No peanut butter & jam sandwich I've ever made is delicious enough to run the risk of hurting a child. My peanut-junkie kids can get their fix on weekends, or the seemingly endless parade of PD days.

BUT!

My kids are unapologetic lovers of peanut butter: peanut butter & jam, or honey, or bananas, or smeared on a cut-up apple, or on celery stalks as ants-on-a-log. Even carrot sticks apparently taste good dipped in peanut butter. They are pragmatic about the situation, but when their friends started bringing sandwiches to school made with nut-free peanut butter substitutes, they started pestering me to give them a try.

Enter NoNuts Golden Peabutter.


I was given a jar by a neighbourhood mom who tried it out on her kids, with limited success.

I'm glad I didn't pay any money for it.

At first glance, it looks basically like peanut butter. The smell isn't quite right, though. We all used a highly-scientific sampling procedure - we took a taste on the end of a spoon.

Um, EWWWWWWWW.

The mouth feel is the same as smooth peanut butter. And your brain goes something like this:

Hmm, this tastes pretty much like peanut butter, I mean it's a little strange but OH GOOD GRIEF WHY IS MY MOUTH FULL OF THE TASTE OF DUST???? GAAAA IT TASTES LIKE I'M EATING MUD OH LORD SWALLOW SWALLOW I CAN'T SWALLOW IT'S TOO DRY I'M STILL TASTING IT HELLLLLLLLPPPPPPP!!!!!

And that's how it went. I tried it as did all three of my kids, and we all had the same reaction - for something that has two kinds of oil on a six-item ingredient list, this stuff is as dry as tombs. I cannot imagine eating an entire sandwich made of it. I'd rather chew paper. My poor toddler just kept saying "more milk, pwease, mommy?" and guzzling it down in desperate fashion. The aftertaste has unbelievable staying power, too. I tasted it again while writing this post just to make sure I was remembering it correctly (I was) and several swallows of strong coffee later I can still taste it.

NoNuts Golden Peabutter is made of brown peas, oil, icing sugar, and preservatives. It is free of nuts, peanuts, gluten, and trans-fats. One tablespoon has 2 grams of protein; less than the admittedly-not-terribly-healthy Kraft Smooth PB that my kiddos like. I checked with registered dietician and blogger Diana Chard who told me that a serving of protein is 6 to 7 grams, so NoNuts' claim to be "very high in protein" is not correct unless you're eating it by the quarter-cup. I say that if you do that your entire body will shrivel into a dessicated ruin, so.

Bottom line? I don't recommend NoNuts Golden Peabutter. Yes, it's nut-free - but that's about all it has going for it. It's more expensive than peanut butter, too. Leave this one on the shelf.

***

Recipe time!

One thing my kids do love is hummus. I am very, very lazy about hummus - it goes on sale a lot, and I figure pre-prepared hummus is better than no hummus.

However, I have a new food processor so my excuse for not making any from scratch is kind of gone. I've made this recipe before and it makes a nice, chunky hummus. My Lebanese neighbour tells me that if you want very creamy, smooth hummus, you need to parboil the chickpeas first so they break up more readily.

This is from Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry by Janet & Greta Podleski

1 can (19oz/540ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My First Post Of The New School Year

My oldest is in high school this year - WHAT! - and for the first time in her life is at a school with a cafeteria. Once or twice a week, she's allowed to buy herself lunch and it's a whole new exciting world of french fries and pop sandwiched between lentil salads and plums packed from home.

AND! My middle kid has been very, very helpful with packing lunches this year, to the point where my primary lunch contribution has been making the occasional aforementioned lentil salad AND baking a lot. Like EVERYTHING ELSE so far in parenting, packing lunches was a seemingly-endless chore that has pretty much ended all at once without a lot of fanfare and so I am, mystifyingly enough, wistful for it. EVERYTHING ENDS, guys. OUR KIDS GET OLDER. And I guess this is parenthood, full of the same damn epiphanies all the time that we never learn from.

Yesterday, we took the youngest kid to get her missing booster shots, missing because she had a terrifying reaction to needles four years ago and she's spent the next four years having heart tests and blood tests and anything else they could think of to figure out why and finally it was decided that it would be safer to have her vaccinated and I spent the past several weeks feeling time rush bleakly up to her appointment. And then she DID start reacting and was promptly packed up in ice and I felt this rocky slide into dark water, felt absolute terror. AND THEN SHE WAS FINE but I was still a bit of a wreck.

So having my kids always getting older is the happy ending here, even if I would rewind time if I could, do it all over again but KNOW this time that it was finite. And my youngest kid is home today - achy and sore-armed but FINE and we are going to make cookies. These cookies, in fact:

Preheat your oven to 375.
In a heatproof bowl, soak one cup of raisins in boiling water. Set them aside for now.

Cream together:
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar.
Add:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a different bowl, sift together:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Blend together the flour mixture and creamed butter/sugar. Stir in the DRAINED raisins and 1 cup of chocolate chips (or butterscotch chips or whatever you like. We've also done craisin/white chocolate variants and that was pretty well-received too.).
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

These are VERY VERY good. They keep well AND are sturdy enough to pack in lunches and are a fine thing to make on a fall afternoon with a still-little kid, home for just this little while. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Make Lunches Without Driving Your Momma Crazy

Sometimes, we parents get so wrapped up in packing lunches that we forget we have an audience we're packing for.

We're like grouchy line cooks working in fifty-year-old diners. Possibly our name is "Sam" or "Joe". We wear baggy pants and stained aprons, and if someone sends back overcooked bacon we just growl in derision and mutter "guess you weren't all that hungry, were you?"

Recently, one of our readers experimented with having her two boys, aged 9 and 7, pack their own lunches. Friends, not only did they do it, they took the task very seriously and with minimal supervision did the job.

The seven year old, "Mr M", agreeably also wrote us a blog post with his thoughts about packing lunches. Thanks to his mom Lyn for acting as a human dictaphone. The following guest post is reproduced as submitted and is Mr M's own words.

Thanks to both Mr M and Lyn!

***

By Mr. M


You should ask your mom before making the lunches and if you’re on a field trip, you should pack a big lunch like 5 things. And if it is a normal lunch you should do like 4 things.

And if your child doesn’t eat all the food for 5 days you should never give them like a dessert like candy or anything that’s like a treat.

Today I made lunch for my brother and I, it was very nice actually, I did three things for me because I don’t eat as much as my brother and my brother got 4 things because he eats more.

And because I ate all my lunch yesterday I get a wagon wheel which is filled with chocolate on the outside, and they taste so good.

How I made the lunch is first I putted in a sandwich which is peanut butter and jam or you could do jelly and then I put in carrots sticks you can get them from Sobey’s, and then for my brother I put in yogurt. And apple slices from Sobey’s that my mom got on sale.

How I put in the yogurt is I got a grown up spoon I holded the bottle sideways and I pulled out the yogurt into a ziplock plastic container.

And what I give for drinks is water in water bottles.

I also have some lunch ideas.

Apples
Bananas
carrots
and then a peanut butter sandwich
grapes
a cookie
a bearpaw

These are not all for one meal.

***

Brilliant, right? Simple. To the point. Also, inspiring. My kids don't know it yet, but next week they are getting enlisted.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best Intentions

Well, hello there! Isn't it strange to be making lunches again? How are you coping? I have three kids in three different schools this year, so our routine has changed quite a bit, with more kids up earlier, buses to catch and the like. All of this means that I need to be more organized. For really reals. 

I started the school year with the best intentions. I made a meal plan for the week that included dinners AND lunches. Then I shopped to the list, which you know always saves money. It just does. Then it got freakishly hot where I live and that's when everything fell apart. 

I had turkey tacos on the dinner list. But 40 degrees with the humidex is too hot for tacos. (According to my husband.) So we had turkey burgers instead and no leftovers for lunch. 

I had crock pot pulled pork on the list for tonight and, okay, I will admit that 40 degrees with the humidex is too hot for pulled pork. So we had salmon instead, with enough leftovers to make salmon sandwiches for tomorrow's lunch. So, yay!

The lesson here, I think, is that even the best laid plans can go awry. If you're going to stay sane, you have to roll with it. But on the days when lunch does go according to plan, you might end up making new something that everybody loves. Like these Chef's Salad Wraps I saw in Canadian Living magazine. My husband declared them "The Best Wraps Ever" and my kids ate them up. Except for the teenager: he forgot his lunch on the floor by the back door that day and bought himself pizza instead. 

I just rolled with it. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

new year, new look, new resolutions

Welcome back!

The Ladies hope you all had good summers and a nice break from packing lunches, if you got one. I don't - it's just easier with my heavy summer dayhome schedule to pack lunches for my own kids too - but I certainly did enjoy the freedom to pack peanut butter & jam multiple times a week.

(Not slagging school no-peanuts programs, by the way. My convenience does not take precedence over the health of the other kids, and my 8 year old has a classmate with a lethal peanut allergy. That said, my kids love PB&J and man, are they easy to slap together at the last minute.)

Anyway! I've packed lunches for all of two school days now, and I've already had some thoughts.

1. Is this the most constantly-hydrated generation ever, or what? There are drinking fountains that the kids have free access to during breaks. And yet on day one I forgot to send filled water bottles, and thus both of my children came home, faces shriveled raisins, gasping for air like Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, proclaiming that they had never been so thirsty in their entire lives because they didn't have water on demand at their desks like ALL THE OTHER KIDS, GOD, MOM.

2. If you're the kind of parent who puts sweet little notes in your kids' lunches every day, I applaud you. I put one in each of the boys' lunchboxes on the first day. My creative juices deserted me utterly and I resorted to "I love you! Have a good day!" And neither one of them mentioned them, anyway.

3. I may have laughed at these Tupperware Banana Keepers when I first saw them, but now that I'm packing two lunches and it's fruit fly season, I'm thinking we should have custom-shaped Tupperware for all soft fruit. Bananas! Pears! Plums!

4. And for some reason my 5 year old brought home a banana peel and a plum pit to throw away. He didn't put them in an empty sandwich container, either. He just threw them loose into his lunchbag. That, my friends, was disgusting.

***

Last year, we Ladies started finding posting every day was getting to be a bit of a chore. We want this blog to be a place for some laughs, maybe some deeper thoughts from time to time, but mostly where parents packing the dreaded lunches can come for practical tips and help.

With that in mind, we're making some changes.

The blog will update once a week, generally on Thursdays. Each post will contain a recipe, and all recipes will also be posted under the 'recipes' link at the top.

If anyone has topic suggestions, or would like to submit a guest post, please contact me at hrweagle AT yahoo DOT com.

Here's to a year with no food returned uneaten!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

school's out for summer

It's June!

The end is in sight. This last month is so hectic if you have kids in school. I never would have believed it, before. I remember June as being lazy, and hot, and full of filmstrips (remember those?) and even the odd class outside on the soccer field in the sunshine.

I don't remember multiple last-minute projects, class open houses, two field trips, preschool graduation ceremonies, and so on. This blog post about the end-of-school-year madness went viral last week, but it still bears a peek if you, like The Ladies Who (Make) Lunch, are just done with this whole thing and could use a laugh.

Mind you, packing lunches this week has been easy - early summer fruit is arriving in the stores from the southern US, and so I was able to buy cherries, grapes, freestone peaches, and blueberries at extremely reasonable prices. Toss in some yoghurt and a sandwich, and we're good to go.

The Ladies will be going on hiatus for the summer, but we'll return in September. Please let us know in the comments what you'd like to see from us when we come back.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Never Surrender

When my youngest was in kindergarten, his class was visited by a dietician.  That day, he burst out the school doors to tell me that no longer would he be able to have cookies as a snack or Mini-Wheats for breakfast.  He informed me that they had sugar and therefore were absolutely unhealthy; he was not, ever again, allowed to have them.

My first instinct was defensiveness.  I felt judged as a parent and indignant that some dietician who doesn't know me or the way I feed my family, could pass on such a message.  I was enraged, yet impotently: I knew I would never talk to the school about it.  I knew that my son could have interpreted the message in an extreme fashion, unintended by the school.  I also recognized that the school was simply addressing societal dietary concerns such as obesity and poor nutrition, and that I could, in my role as a parent, make my son understand that some sugar is okay when balanced with a healthy diet full of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fibre.  I could tell him that my homemade baking contains wholesome ingredients and that Mini-Wheats, while they do contain sugar, also contain heaps of fibre, protein, and vitamins.  I was, and still am, very confident in my abilities to feed my family healthful food and a balanced diet, a diet that also includes the occasional sugar fix, in moderation.

But still, I felt judged.

I was supervising a field trip last week and there was a child in my younger son's class who was out of control, behaviourally speaking.  He is coded with learning difficulties and extreme behavioural issues.  The children had been instructed to bring a good lunch and two snacks for this field trip, and his lunch, when he sat down in the lunchroom, was revealed to be a large piece of frosted cake and a plastic container of gummy bears.

One need not be a dietician to see possible correlations here.

If we are all villagers raising our children, at what point do we sound the alarm?  My first thought was that if this is what that child eats for lunch every day, should the lunchroom supervisors not contact the child's parents?  With everything we know about nutrition and health, wouldn't it be in the best interest of the child to educate that child and his parents about a proper lunch?  Certainly this diet would be detrimental to any child's ability to learn and behave properly, but especially in the case of a child with well documented learning and behavioural issues.  One might even conjecture that the learning and behavioural issues could be a direct result of such a diet.

And yet.  And yet imagine that parent, who I do not know anything about, imagine that parent and the shame that would be felt from such a phone call.  I don't know this boy except superficially, but I would guess that poverty and lack of education are a large part of his home situation.  It's easy to say - and a few people, privileged and educated people, all of them, did say - that the situation called for immediate intervention.  If a parent meeting could not be scheduled then the lunchroom supervisor should tell the child himself that such a lunch was inappropriate and unacceptable.

They are not wrong, not entirely.  The lunch is inappropriate and unacceptable.  But I cannot reconcile myself to this answer.  Where do we draw the line between autonomy and honest concern, as a villager?  Sure, it's easy to say that cake and gummy bears are unacceptable, but what about a lunch that contains a sugary juice box?  What about one that has a fun-sized bag of chips?  What about a chocolate covered granola bar?  At what point do we draw the line?

Not to mention our lack of understanding about this child's home situation.  Who is packing the lunch?  What foods are available?  Is it the difference between taking cake for lunch and taking nothing for lunch?  We don't know and until we have walked a mile in their shoes, we can't judge. 

I don't know the answer.  All I know is that when I volunteered in my son's class a few days after the field trip, I watched the little boy who couldn't sit still and who disrupted the class and I felt a sad understanding.  But not acceptance.  Never acceptance.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

canary in the coal mine

Saturday I went grocery shopping alone.

This is a big deal for me. As part of our family strategy for getting the kids to eat a variety of foods without kicking up holy hell about it, we plan our menu and do our shopping together. All five of us get up early Saturday morning and head to the store with our list. Some weeks, if there are big sales on stock-up items, we'll take two carts. The kids are pretty agreeable about the whole thing and it is quality time we spend together, but.

Shopping alone, even though it was only at the grocery store, was pure luxury. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman before that bitch kicks her out of the fancy store.

Choosing fruit for lunch snacks without the immediate input of the kids was tough, though. And nothing was on sale, except for mushy California strawberries - again - and two of my three kids flat-out refuse to eat them. I was getting a bit desperate when I spotted the canary melons.



The colour is so vibrant, they're hard to miss. They were nestled in between the mini watermelons ($4.99 and maybe enough for a day or two) and the honeydew melons ($5.99, OMFG). They were larger than the honeydews and $2 less. I was standing there in the produce aisle, dithering, when I noticed that on the UPC code sticker, in tiny wee letters, it said "yellow honeydew".

Since all three of my kids love honeydew melon, I figured this was my ace in the hole. I'd just tell them this was an extra-special yellow honeydew, how crazy! And then with any luck they wouldn't reject them the way they did the cantaloupe I bought a month ago.

Guess what? SUCCESS. They love it. I'm not sure why, to be honest - it doesn't taste anything like a honeydew, although the texture is the same. I actually find it quite bland. But all of them have been snarfing it down all week and asking for more. I've already packed Thursdays' lunches and there is still lots left, so it was good value for money, and it made a nice change from the interminable bananas / apples / grapes round we've been on lately.

One half-cup serving of canary melon contains 5g of fibre and 50% of your daily requirement for Vitamins A & C. They would be a tasty addition to smoothies or a fruit salad, too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I got a ham that won't quit

My husband had a brain-wave at the grocery store this week. He bought one of those little hams, which was a crazy price on sale. Around $3, I believe. Then he cooked it and...you guys...tomorrow will be day THREE of lunches, courtesy of said ham.

Okay, okay, so it's probably a little high in sodium and not as nutritionally sound as, say, homemade hummus or organic, free-range, chicken salad sandwiches. But can I just say again, in case you missed it the first time: 3 days of lunches. I tell myself it can't be any worse than deli meat.

He threw it on the bbq wrapped in tin foil when he was grilling our steak and asparagus on Sunday night. Then Monday we packed it in their lunches sliced on whole wheat bread with some mayo, mustard and lettuce.

Last night I boiled some whole wheat rotini and turned it into greek pasta salad with chunks of ham thrown in, which they ate in their lunches today.

Tomorrow I think they are getting ham sandwiches again. Maybe it will be on white bread this time with cucumber slices. Just to mix it up.

It's not something I would do every week but this week lunches are a breeze, I tell  you, because: ham! Then Thursday is pizza day and Friday is a PD Day. Done and done.

What's for lunch tomorrow?

- (Forever) ham sandwiches
- Granola bars
- Pears
- Cheese rice crackers
- Sliced green and yellow peppers with dip

Monday, May 27, 2013

Discovering something that doesn't exist, or giving a monkey a shower.

When I was a kid I invited friends over to lunch, or I was invited to "eat over" at a friend's house, frequently.  Since this was in the eighties, my mom wouldn't know until I showed up with a friend in tow, or until I phoned from that friend's house.  My kids don't have this kind of experience: for one thing, I pick them up for their 55 minute lunch hour, and for another, there are very, very few other children who go home for lunch.

But the other day my friend - whose daughters do come home for lunch - was running a tight schedule, and it was pouring rain, and so I picked up her girls and took them home for lunch.  It was a festive occasion, so I broke the kids' sandwich-and-bagel rut and made pancakes.  It was, for everyone, so much fun.  The novelty of having friends over for lunch, not to mention having chocolate chip pancakes, was great.  Add to that an episode of Phineas and Ferb and being able to eat lunch while watching meant through-the-roof excitement.

It's funny, after-school play and lunch dates seem to be largely a thing of the past.  Our school day goes until 3:40, most kids have activities or schedules that don't allow for playtime after this.  It's fine, but until we have friends over I forget how much fun the kids all have.  Well, there are only three and a half weeks left of school - after that the whole summer is free for unscheduled playtime, and who knows?  Maybe even a few lunch dates too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

a plague o' both your houses

Lunches? Don't ask me about lunches. This is going to be a brief post, as I haven't slept more than a couple of hours at a stretch since last Friday because my 16 month old has pneumonia. I figure as long as the kids don't go to school Nelson Muntz-style with peanut butter smeared on a playing card, that I'll be ahead of the game.

Like sick toddlers everywhere, he thinks he wants food, but he doesn't know which food it is that will make him happy. Certainly not any of the foods I've packed for him. Even standbys like flavoured yoghurt and sweet watermelon don't seem to be working.

He takes one bite, screams deep in his chest, which brings on a bout of coughing. He shoves the food at me (or onto the floor). I take the offending thing away. He points at the lunchbag and screams "MOREMOREMORE". I try something else. Rinse. Repeat.

Blissfully, my older kids have settled into a nice routine where they want a sandwich, either yoghurt or cheese, a couple pieces of fruit, maybe a granola bar or something. Like Sue said last week, maybe the reason why the bog-standard bag lunch exists is because it really is what works the best, for most people.





Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lunch Break

I was away on a business trip last week and the lovely Sue stepped in to write a post, which was fantastic. Not only did I not write a post last week, I barely packed a lunch. I think I must have packed Monday's lunch but that's the last lunch I remember, even though I was back for Friday lunches.

This past weekend was the May Two-Four long weekend in Canada, the unofficial kick off to summer. So today is the first day of school, the return to packed lunches. However, after cuddling and reading with my youngest last night for an extended period, I came downstairs to find the lunch sacks out and (mostly) packed. Further, my daughter informed me that they had a definitive plan on the other items they were going to add in the morning.

Um...what?

Did I fly through a worm hole on the way home? Is this my alternate, button-eyed, Coraline-esque family? I don't know what is going on, but I like it. I suspect it won't last but I'm going to enjoy it while it does.


What's for lunch today?

I don't know! :)



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Things I Feel Guilty About

A few weekends ago, we zipped over to my grandma's house on her birthday and visited with her and my aunts and mom and my three-year-old first cousin (he's spiffy!) and I mentioned the lunch blog, I think, because one of my aunts asked me if I make my husband lunch.

.... no?

There's no real REASON why I don't, beyond him not WANTING me to very much. He leaves really early in the morning and he likes the time to himself in the unusual dusky quiet of the still morning rooms and he also doesn't want me grouching around making him peanut butter sandwiches, I suspect, and so his lunches tend to be either leftovers or purchased salads and he's perfectly content with the way things are (OR SO HE CLAIMS). I still managed to instantlly feel guilty, though.

My kids go to school with a family with a perfect mom. She sends her kids imaginative, healthy, tasty lunches everyday and my kids speak wistfully of their lunches, with their fruit kabobs and interesting homemade dips and HOMEMADE BREAD EVERY DAY I AM NOT KIDDING and I feel weary just listing this. I spend a lot of time - well, enough - making and packing lunches, but it seems that I still have even more time to make and pack myself generous servings of guilt about this ONE THING. And our moms could just send a sandwich and an apple - imagine!

The reality of school lunches is that although I likely could (and should) try harder, I probably won't. Time in the morning is too short and after I've made supper in the evening I have no interest at all in thinking about future meals looming ahead of me and so I guess my comfort - and it's not actually a comfort at all - is that time in the mornings is short and so is childhood and my oldest child has four years left at home ahead of her and in no time at all I won't be packing lunches for anyone and I'll have a shelf full of school lunch cookbooks gathering dust, never used.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Flash and The Worm

It's Wednesday night at 9PM and I only just remembered that I'm responsible for a post today.

You can imagine how committed I am to packing lunches right now.

My 7 year old is in Running Club at school. Running Club days are NUTS, as far as lunch packing goes. "Pack me a BIG LUNCH, Mom" he tells me, "I get SO HUNGRY on Running Club days".

And he does. He's like The Flash, my skinny kiddo. He eats. And eats. And eats. His metabolism is running on overdrive. He needs to eat constantly just to maintain his baseline energy levels. Add in a couple of kilometres of running before lunch, and gym class, and I'm contemplating buying him a bigger lunch bag.

Today was pizza day, so he had two slices of cheese pizza, a banana, a cheesestring, a greek yogurt, grapes, and a pear. Then he had a snack when he came home. Then two large helpings of spagetti for dinner, and a piece of leftover chocolate birthday cake, and two glasses of milk.

Did I mention he's only seven? And weighs only 50 pounds and can still wear size 4 shorts because he's so tall and skinny?

Yeesh.

Tonight I got him to help me pack his lunch. He asked for a whole carrot, cut into slices. Sure. I prepped it and he packed it neatly in a container. "This will be perfect," he said, "they'll really like these."

???

They? They who? Am I feeding the class, now? WHO WILL LIKE THESE CARROTS?

Mealworms, that's who. The class is raising mealworms, and apparently mealworms like to eat carrots. So in addition to his usual ginormous lunch, my son is off to public education tomorrow with a baggie of carrots, all prepped and ready for mealworms to eat.

Mark your calendars, folks. May 15, 2013 - the day I packed a lunch for mealworms.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Delegate

Hi there. Sue here. I was one of the original lunch ladies back in the day, but stepped back when this blog rebooted. Given that Janet is off gallivanting this week, I'm taking the opportunity to fill her metaphorical thermos. And just what do I want to fill her thermos with? Conference food.

A conference I co-organized wrapped up late last week, and one great thing that came out of it was I discovered our campus food services mega-corp actually can make decent food when it wants to. Delegates were treated to a reception of oysters, fine cheeses, black olive tapenade, and vegetarian sushi. They dined on lobster rolls, roasted red pepper soup, and lamb lollipops. Breakfast comprised eggs, sausage, fried potatoes, AND french toast. Fresh fruit, cookies, and fancy squares were abundant at all the breaks. Burp.

On the final day of the conference everyone was sent off to the airport with a bagged lunch. 'What-ho,' I thought. 'A chance to get inspired for my return to the school-day routine.' It would seem, however, that the definition of bagged lunch comes with its own, time-honoured baggage. The contents, though abundant, were entirely predictable:

A turkey, ham or roasted veggie sandwich depending on dietary preference
A garden salad w/ French dressing
A fruit cup
An apple
A can of juice, and
A giant chocolate chip cookie (holy glucose spike, Batman)

Sure, it's a classic formula, but maybe it's classic for a reason. I may have been hoping for some clever twist on the everyday, but really, if a lunch can be nutritional, portable and have a bit of chocolate in it, isn't it hitting all the bases? The bread used for the sandwiches was a herb-foccacia inspired thing, only lighter, that appealed to my adult palate, although I am sure my 8-year-old daughter would reject it. A croissant sandwich would serve as a special treat to her instead, I'm sure.

The best part about the bagged lunch, though, was its size. I ate my fill on Friday and still managed to send my daughter to school with the apple and cookie today. She'll enjoy both more because they're "mommy's work food" than if they'd been kicking around the fridge in the first place. What's with that, eh? I brought home a raspberry coconut square on Thursday and you'd've thought I'd taken her out for High Tea at the Plaza. And that time I went to a conference in the States and brought home a snack-sized bag of mini-Oreos? She totally lost her shizz over that.

Ah, sigh. If only this Delegate could delegate the task of making lunch more often. Or better yet, if only someone would pack a lunch for me each day... Now that would indeed be lovely. I'd register for that in a heartbeat.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hooked on a berry

Happy belated Mother's Day to all you lovely mamas out there.  I hope you had a lovely weekend; I sure did, although it was not dissimilar to any other weekend, really.  Sunday was pretty much like any other Sunday but with more hugs, and my husband did the dishes at dinner.  I'm calling it a huge win. 

A mother's work is never done, as we all know, and so yesterday in between hugs I served up a batch of French toast for my younger son and a frozen-fruit-and-yogurt parfait for my older one.  I washed up blackberries and sliced up strawberries, and prepared school snacks for the week.  Fortunately I still had cookies left over from last week's baking session, so I could skip my usual Sunday afternoon snack-baking marathon, in honour of Mother's Day.

Strawberries and blackberries, mmm.  I cannot get enough berries right now.  Once berry season is upon us - and thanks to my way-more-than-100-mile-diet-thank-god-for-imported-fruits-and-vegetables, it's a long season (hail Mexico!) - I find myself buying more and more berries every week.  I have a hard time rationing my children when it comes to nutrient- and antioxidant-rich berries.  When I was a kid, as I've mentioned before, fresh strawberries were rare and expensive and therefore we didn't eat them much.  My kids gulp them down like tap water.  So do I, which means more trips to Costco.

One of my sons told me that a classmate of his never eats berries because she doesn't like them.  This was as foreign an idea to him as a child saying while trick-or-treating, No thank you, but do you have any toothbrushes?  Who doesn't eat berries, he asked.  HOW can someone not like berries?

I agree.  Berries are nature's candy! I said, somewhat facetiously, but the kids agreed with me.  The apples didn't fall too far from my tree, I guess.

Lunches at my house this week:
Bagels with peanut butter
Strawberries and blackberries
Chocolate chip cookies
Milk

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jessica Fletcher Ate My Lunch

I had thought - stupidly enough - that warmer weather might bring us a break in the nasty viruses that we've had over the winter and apparently that wistful hope was enough to bring a host of viruses down upon me because this is the SECOND straight week in a row that I've been sick, and it's really, really boring by now.

It is - because this is fascinating to talk about, OBVIOUSLY - just a bad cold but it's right on the heels of a bad stomach bug last week and if life was FAIR I should be a pale, slim Victorian girl right now instead of being a rather solid 40 year old mother of three who just happens to be prone to getting sick. "I couldn't possibly eat another pastry," I'd say wanly from my fainting couch, and then someone would insist and so I would. But no, still myself and I've spent most of this week avoiding the internet, napping, and watching reruns of Murder She Wrote.

This blog is about lunches! My children - all two of them who have made it to school this week, anyhow - have obviously not had any great glorious lunches this week, ALTHOUGH one morning I was sick enough that they packed their own lunches. "THEY COULD DO THIS EVERY DAY!" I thought briefly, before rejecting the idea as unworthy or something and then back I went to Jessica Fletcher and her gumball of a  nephew, Brady and my quilt on the couch.

I have no lunch epiphanies to write about this week. I was sick, lunches were made, life went on, my youngest child likes turkey sandwiches with NO CONDIMENTS. No, only bare dry bread and shaved turkey for her and then she squares her shoulders and heads out into the cruel, unpredictable, cooties-filled world.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Papaya

My five year old is an odd little duckling.

He's very observant - much more so than his older brother, more so than some adults I know. He sees everything, takes it all in, processes it in his little round and, if you're lucky, shares his conclusions with you.

During the brief Dried Fruit Craze of '13, we tried dried papaya. They ate it, I heard no complaints or cheers, and aside from them both forgetting and calling it "paella" more than once, it was pretty much a non-event at Casa Munday.

Then suddenly one afternoon 5yo asked what a fresh papaya looks like. I described it for him and showed him a picture online. He asked if we could buy one at the grocery store.

Sure, why not.

So we did, and what a strange fruit it is. The flesh is a blend of coral pink and orange. It's very soft. The peeling is greenish yellow, slightly wrinkled, and easily removed with a knife. The seeds are dark brown, a little larger than an apple seed, and covered in a sort of squishy membrane thing. (They also taste AWFUL, if you should chance to taste one in case you're supposed to eat the seeds. Or so I've heard. *whistles nonchalantly*)

7yo claimed he liked it "okay", but after eating it the first day I packed it in his lunch (YAY!) it came home uneaten, sweaty, and fit for nothing but the compost bin on day two (BOO!)

5yo says he liked it quite a lot, and he did it for two days' worth of lunches plus as a snack one afternoon, so I'll call that a win.

16mo - whatever, he doesn't get a vote. That child is going through the always-marvelous I love it / I hate it stage, so whatever, I'm going to keep giving it to him in case I happen to catch the 9 minutes of the day wherein he will eat papaya.

Me? I don't like it at all. The mouth feel is... too fleshy. There is a strange aftertaste. I can't say I hate it, or anything, but I certainly wouldn't buy one again unless the kids demanded it. Right now, there is half a papaya sitting in my fridge, acting all judgmental every time I open the door.

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? And maybe it would make nice smoothies, or something.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rat Race

It is 10:30 p.m.

I have been up since 6:30 a.m.

I worked all day, came home, gulped down dinner, walked a kid to soccer practice, stood around for an hour getting my ankles bitten by mosquitoes, walked a kid home from soccer practice, made a strawberry milkshake for after-soccer snack, ran to the store for milk and lunch items, came home, kissed kids goodnight, cleaned up, cooked some chicken for sandwiches tomorrow, took care of some paperwork that needed attention and now? I am spent but too wired to go to bed.

Lunches are half-packed and we have a plan for the rest, so that is a good thing.

I feel disorganized, spun out, and it's not going to get any better. We are out of the house four nights a week with soccer this year. We have crazy dance performance rehearsals, pictures, and the like for the next week-and-a-half and I am traveling with work next week, which will actually be kind of relaxing. But, oh, my poor, poor husband.

Tell me, how do you stay organized? I need ideas, tips and sympathetic cooing from across the Internet.

And a big glass of wine.

What's for lunch tomorrow?

- grapes and strawberries
- chicken sandwiches on croissants
- Iogo yogurt drinks
- crakers
- Oreos
- Valium (for me) (kidding!)

Monday, May 6, 2013

High School Confidential

It was my twenty year high school reunion on the weekend!  It was so much fun, all the people were great - even better than I remembered - and there was a lot of laughter and wine, two of my favourite things.  Someone had mentioned the cafeteria, and I had to squint a little and think really hard and I finally, finally recalled the large chilly room where students could buy lunch or eat a bagged lunch from home, all those tables where the various groups of kids would hang out, separate but together.

I transferred schools in Grade Eleven when our family moved into a different community.  I took a bus 45 minutes each way, except for when I sweet talked my parents into letting me take the car, usually on days that I would have afterschool drama rehearsals.  I had been able to walk home for lunch all through elementary and junior high, and because that was the norm there was no real cafeteria option.  All the kids went home for lunch in my elementary school.  There was an "eat in the gym" option at my junior high, but I don't recall being able to purchase any real lunch items.  There was a vending machine with pop and a "snack shack" where you could buy chips and candy, but I can't remember there being any semi-healthy options available.  Much of the time I would just walk home for lunch anyway, and have Kraft Dinner or soup and a sandwich, prepared by my mother.

It did seem exciting then, when I was in high school, to have a bona fide cafeteria.  I don't remember ever buying a hot lunch at the cafeteria although they were available; pizzas, hamburgers, chili, french fries.  The only thing I ever recall buying for lunch was a submarine sandwich on Tuesdays.  It couldn't have been that great: probably a white bun with cold cuts and processed cheese, sliced tomato and lettuce, with mayo and mustard.  But it was exciting to actually buy a lunch from a real-life cafeteria. 

Of course, I found it exciting when I went to junior high and there were actual classrooms with doors.  My elementary school was one of those open-concept schools; a terrible hippie brainchild if ever there was one.  An elementary school with no classrooms, no walls, no doors?  I'm not sure there can be a worse educational idea, logistically speaking.  So I was easily pleased, is what I'm saying, and I really enjoyed Sub Day at the cafeteria.

No matter how hard I think, I cannot remember what I would have eaten on the other four days of school.  What would I have taken for lunch?  I'm fairly sure I would have packed my own lunches by then, but what would I have eaten?  I don't know.  A peanut butter sandwich, maybe?  An apple?  I cannot recall a single example, not one.

I wonder if this will happen to my kids in thirty years, if they will draw complete blanks on whole parts of their school experience.  They will probably never remember the lunches I make or know how I spent hours and hours slicing fruit and baking snacks and putting crackers into little plastic containers, but maybe they'll just think back fondly on these days of their childhood, these carefree happy days, and feel nourished.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Planning, Again.

I've been lazy recently and I haven't been planning school lunches, which is a minor thing unless it's 8:22 and I'm staring blankly at a cupboard full of not too many possibilities, wondering WHAT on earth my kids are going to eat for lunch that day. So today I'm trying to think of ways to fix this, and the only rather feeble thing I can think of is "pretzels in baggies." HOPE YOU LIKE PRETZELS, KIDS!

There IS a time when I'm moderately enthusiastic about packing school lunches, and this time is probably at the very end of August, when I'm excessively enthusiastic about my kids going back to school again. It's a shame I couldn't somehow channel that enthusiasm to myself NOW, but the best I can do is to haul all my school lunch cookbooks out AGAIN.

The Baby's weight has plateaued AGAIN. I can't think of what to put in her lunch during the day that she'll eat, that will make her gain weight and the lunches that I have been so carelessly packing for her are coming home untouched at the end of the day. Allowing my malaise to stretch into her school lunches was a miserable luxury I should not have allowed myself, and so I have to fix it.

One thing that I know for certain that N loves is this Chocolate Cinnamon "Bread," which is something I have certainly mentioned before (because it is delicious) and which I have planned for next week. And there is - sigh- the pretzels in baggies. And what else there will be, I have not decided yet but there will be something and it will be better, at least, than what I HAVE been doing. And any suggestions for fattening up a picky little 8 year old would be greatly appreciated.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

opting out of lunch

Our elementary school doesn't have a cafeteria.

Two days a week they bring a hot (well, probably lukewarm) lunch in.

Wednesdays, pizza. Mondays, chicken pita wraps. You order at the first of the month for the entire month.

My 7 year old has taken pizza every Wednesday, like clockwork, since he started school. It's just cheese pizza, on whole wheat crust with a low-sodium tomato sauce. Pretty benign. Bland as hell, too. But he likes the treat, and I like not needing to do anything beyond throwing a piece of fruit and some yoghurt or a cheesestring into his lunchbag once a week.

This month he begged me to order him the chicken pita wraps, too. He seemed to think I would say no.

ARE YOU KIDDING I DON'T NEED TO PACK LUNCH FOR YOU TWICE A WEEK SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

The total cost for May is $19.50. Less than twenty dollars! He gets a hot lunch twice a week. I get a little break. The school takes a small profit - 25 cents per item - and that money gets split between little extras for the school and a lunch fund for those kids who don't always have lunch of their own.

I find this last push before the end of the school year so difficult. All of my brilliant ideas for fabulous lunches have been used multiple times. Everyone is anxious for the fresh fruit to start coming in. This is the time of year when I start getting slack about nutrition and balancing out the lunch fodder carefully; I'm more apt to just say "hey, you want a cream cheese bagel and a cheesestring and some yoghurt and some milk to wash it down? Dairy is a vegetable, right?"

So I'm happy to have an alternative to offer.

***

I feel like I don't post enough recipes here, so I did some browsing this morning for an egg-muffin recipe. I'm going to try these this week, to use for breakfasts or lunches for the stay-at-home kids, and I'll let you know how they turn out. Or, if anyone has a favourite version of these, let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lazy Cookies

Tonight I felt like making something sweet to put in lunches tomorrow. Chocolate chip cookies, to be exact. The problem with cookies, though, is that they take forever, don't you think? I'm not talking about the mixing of the batter, but rather the whole process: parceling out onto cookie sheets, sliding them in the oven, waiting for them to cook and then cooling on racks before you can safely remove them. I didn't have the will for all of that, not tonight.

Still, the (sweet)heart wants what it wants. So I decided to make chocolate chip cookie bars. They really are the perfect compromise. The batter takes about 5 minutes to throw together and then you just spread it out in a pan, bake for 20 minutes and you're done. Simply cool, slice into bars and slide into lunch boxes for everyone to enjoy. You can even get fancy, if you want to. Melt some chocolate, put it in a baggie, snip the corner off and pipe thin chocolate ribbons on top. Go ahead: You have time.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
- 2.5 cups of flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 12 oz pkg of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan with butter.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into a greased pan.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack, top with melted chocolate as above, if you want to.
Cut into bars, put in lunch boxes.
Relax.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Like a worn out recording of a favourite song

Thank you so much everyone, for your well wishes and congratulations!  It means a lot to me.  I'm also super EXCITED because every time I make something new in the kitchen, I think squee, project!  And then if it doesn't turn out right, I make a big sad face in my scrapbook where I write down all my recipes.

I've been reading Catherine Newman's blog ever since she was writing over at Babycenter (and it's been so long since I had actual reason to read anything at Babycenter that I actually just blanked on the name Babycenter).  I read this last week about her solution for weekend lunches: getting the children to make their own in an Iron Chef-like contest.  I wondered how that would go over in my house.  Most likely, the following would happen:

1) The children would take out the package of bagels from the fridge and ask for help slicing them, since they are not allowed to use the large serrated knife.

2) The children would put said bagels into the toaster.

3) The children would put peanut butter on the bagels.

4) The children would request my help in mixing strawberry and/or chocolate syrup into their milk glasses.

5) On a very hungry day the children would spoon yogurt into bowls and top the yogurt with frozen berries.

The end.

There is almost a zero deviation from the mean, people.  When it's lunchtime, my kids almost always request peanut butter bagels, with a frozen berry and yogurt parfait, washed down with chocolate or strawberry flavoured milk.  A couple of times a month, on a weekend or a school holiday, the children may request French toast, or perhaps a ham sandwich, but otherwise that is the extent of lunchtime creativity.

There are negatives to food ruts, of course, but there are positives too - for one thing, predictability is nice.  And I am no different from the children, really.  Here is my confession: we have a wide variety of dinners in our house, a wide variety of snacks and baked goods, but I have the same exact breakfast and lunch every day.  I do not deviate.  I have a toasted tomato and cucumber sandwich and a piece of fruit every single day.  Sometimes I vary the bread and I usually vary the fruit, but that is my standard lunch.  Oh sure, occasionally I will shake things up a bit and have a tomato and cucumber PITA with hummous, and maybe a spinach/berry smoothie, and once in a blue moon I eat lunch out of the house and so my menu is necessarily different, but as a rule I just like to eat the same breakfast and lunch, day in and day out.  I do not tire of it.  I enjoy it.  I look forward to those meals with anticipation.  I am the kind of person who finds something they like on a restaurant menu and then orders that item each and every time I frequent that restaurant, from here to eternity.  I don't take the risk of ordering something I might not enjoy as much.

And so if my kids want to eat the same thing every day, I go with the flow.  After all, maybe the apples didn't fall so far from the tree.

Friday, April 26, 2013

we knew her when

Hearty felicitations are in order for our own Monday-poster Nicole, who is the newest food blogger at Yummy Mummy Club.

She has come up with possibly the niftiest blog name ever: she's the Meatless Mummy Con Carne.

So, she's the meatless mummy! With meat!

As regular readers here know, Nicole is a vegetarian-and-sometimes-vegan living in a house full of committed carnivores who say things like "it's OK, for vegan food" and "yo, Poindexter! Where's the meat?"

Or so I assume.

Anyway, she regularly has to cook from both sides of the meat divide, and does so with passion and flair. If you are trying to strike a balance between kale and bacon, follow her new column. It promises to be a great resource. Her recipes have never once failed to work for me, and I know you'll be pleased if you try them, too.

Please join The Ladies in raising a glass to Nicole. Congratulations on your new gig, dahling. Send us a tweet when you're lunching with Erica Ehm.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

everyone's a critic

These past few days have been challenging in the lunch-packing department, and all because of the baby.

Just shy of sixteen months old and he has OPINIONS, ya'll. And most of his opinions are of the "whatever you packed for me is instantly terrible because I want what Other Toddler is having".

I pack him a sandwich. He yells emphatically, shakes his head NO, points at Other Toddler's reheated leftovers, nods his head YES, throws his sandwich on the floor.

Next day, I pack him leftovers. So naturally Other Toddler comes with a sandwich and we go through the whole ridiculous process again in reverse.

He says "ban-ba" a lot, because that means "banana" and where in the hell is the banana, come on woman, make with the freakin' banana already, DUDE'S GOTTA HAVE POTASSIUM. He also will flip many, many fits if there is no yoghurt forthcoming.

Crackers, mini-pitas, goldfish crackers - these are all popular, day in and day out. Strawberries are his Most Favourite Thing Ever while they're in the grocery store cart, but are worthy only of contempt within the confines of home. Ditto cherry tomatoes. Cheese is never rejected. Apples with either be devoured, seeds, core, and all if I don't watch him... or else flat-out tossed aside because apples are horrible.

I'm holding him to the same standard as the dayhome kids; namely, you have to finish what's in front of you before you can have something else. (Or at least make an effort. If it's something you've never had before, you honestly try, and you just don't like it, you get a pass.)

It is a weird situation, to pack a lunch for your kids every day and then to be there when they eat it. I honestly think that if I weren't there to see it, he'd eat it with fewer complaints. That's just human nature.

***

In the lunches this week, dried fruit and lots of it! Nicole's fruit dehydrator love appears to be contagious. I realize the stuff from the grocery store has added sugar, but in small amounts it's a nice treat and better for them than cookies or candy bars.

Also lots of roast beef sandwiches, and honeydew melon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

You say it's your birthday

In case you missed the announcement over the megaphone, yesterday was my birthday.

*CONFETTI*

I was prepared to bake myself a birthday cake, but happily my mom did the honours instead, bringing me my very favourite angel food cake with strawberry filling and whipped cream, tinted pink.  Some of you may know that I have what I consider to be a minor dairy intolerance: a serving of dairy can induce stomach issues of the run-to-the-bathroom variety, as well as skin breakouts.  But a small amount of whipped cream on such an occasion as my birthday is just fine, which is what I told my mom when she asked me about it earlier. 

I grew up in a house where we had whipped cream, not an oil-based alternative, and butter, not margarine.  While preparing my birthday cake, my mom asked me if I would prefer Cool Whip, which felt really wrong.  Something felt wrong with preferring Cool Whip, with its many unpronounceable ingredients, to whipped cream, with its ONE ingredient, even if that one ingredient is dairy, which I try to avoid. 

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a girlfriend about eating other people's cooking.  I won't eat meat, certainly, but other than that I don't like being too much of a princess about food.  I generally avoid dairy and egg, which brings me into semi-vegan territory, but I do not want to be one of those people who turns up their nose at food someone has taken the time and effort to prepare.  Does this have an EGG in it?  No THANK you.  You used BUTTER?  NO.  I don't want to be the hard core vegan who literally spit into her napkin when the hostess mentioned that the dip contained honey.  Besides, I love honey.

If someone takes the time and energy to prepare food for you, it is an act of love, and I want to always accept it as such.  Last summer I visited my grandma, who made me a lovely vegetable stir fry for dinner.  She served it with leftover potatoes and gravy, which is normally something I would not eat.  In my mind I weighed my own non-meat conviction with my grandma's feelings, and I decided that my grandma was far, far, far more important.  I spread a spoonful of gravy over the potatoes.  Maybe it was the secret ingredient of my grandma's love in that gravy, but it was delicious.

What does this have to do with lunches?  Well, I had cake for lunch yesterday, and I enjoyed every creamy bite.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

mea culpa

Big time lunchbox fail this week.

Monday night, I made sandwiches for the two older boys. Peanut butter & jam for 5yo who eats lunch at home, cream cheese & jam for 7yo to take to school. I had the lunches packed by 7PM! They had fruit and Greek yoghurt and homemade muffins and things they liked! I was WINNING, I tell you!

Then apparently yesterday 7yo opened his lunchbox and I'd put the sandwiches in the wrong bags.

Meaning I sent peanut butter (GASP!) to a public school (OH NOES!!) in the year 2013 (HORRORS!!!)

The school didn't call, or anything. None of 7yo's classmates has a peanut allergy. He explained to the teacher that I mixed up the sandwiches. She told him to eat, close the sandwich container tightly, and then wash his hands well after he ate.

I still felt guilty when he came home and explained what had happened.

I have no words of wisdom to share. I just wanted to let you all know that sometimes, these things happen. And that I'm grateful for a sensible teacher who handled it well and didn't overreact.

Sometimes, the best of us make mistakes. Packing lunches, day in and day out, is HARD. Mistakes get made. Nutrition gets thrown out the window. Kids forget their lunches altogether and panicked last-minute runs to the school happen.

It's OK. We're OK. We're all doing the very best that we can, and sometimes our very best is delicious homemade goodies, and sometimes our very best is just remembering not to send a peanut butter sandwich to a public school.




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going bananas

Some fruits are just assholes.

Take strawberries, for example. They look all tantalizing in their container, but then you pour them in the strainer for a rinse and discover a universe of mold. The only sure fire way to ensure they are fresh, ripe and mold-free is to go out and pick them yourself. Which is fine. For about two weeks at the end of June, where I live.

Then I bought a pineapple on sale last week and when I cut into it I discovered there was significant rot. I was able to salvage enough pineapple for one lunch. Out of five. Not cool.

Grapes are hit and miss, too, forcing one to either buy them in good faith and hope they aren't sour little orbs of nastiness or sneak a taste in the grocery store, risking public humiliation at the mercy of an overzealous produce manager. Or possibly banishment, if your grocery store is hard core.

You might say all of this makes a pretty decent case for the fact that we should be sticking to in-season fruits, and I would say you have a good point, but it's hard to stick to those kinds of principles when you are packing 20 lunches a week. Variety keeps us sane and somewhat satisfied.

That's why I think it's important that we take a moment here to extole the virtues of the simple banana. Portably packable, definitely dependable and emminently edible in so many ways, the banana is a mainstay of our lunches. I don't pack them in their original form too often, as they do have a tendency to get a little banged up in the lunch bag which (apparently) renders them inedible. At least, according to my kids. But I have been known to cut them in half, leaving the half in the skin and encasing it in a reusable container.I also sliced banana up to include in little toothpick fruit kebabs for the kids' lunches when they were younger.

The thing I find about bananas is that everyone has their own window of acceptable eating. One person might like them a little green, another will only eat them perfectly yellow, while another prefers the sweetness associated with blotchy brown skin. Even if everyone in your house only likes them one way, you still have options. You can throw a slightly overripe banana in the morning smoothie. When they get really brown, then you pop them in the freezer to chill out until you're ready to bake banana bread. Or cake. Or muffins. Which is exactly what I did this week.

My usual banana bread/muffin recipe calls for sour cream, which I also discovered was moldy when I opened the lid (sigh), so I made a new recipe that used oil instead and included oatmeal, which always makes me feel unnaturally nutritionally smug for some reason. I threw in some chocolate chips for good measure and the kids ate them quite happily for two lunches.

So while we wait for warm June sunshine and the small window of opportunity to gorge on ripe, luscious local strawberries, I may grow ever wary of what's lurking under the skin or imported fruit, but I will happily continue to buy bananas with confidence that they will never go to waste.


Banana Oatmeal Muffins

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup milk
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (or more, if you like 'em chocolatey)

In large bowl measure first 6 ingredients. Stir to mix. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl beat the eggs until frothy. Mix in the cooking oil, milk and bananas. Pour into the well. Stir just to moisten. Add in chocolate chips and stir, but not too much or the batter will get tough and your muffins will be weirdly pointy.

Line a muffin pan with paper cups or great the tin well. Fill cups 3/4 full. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes.