Wednesday, February 27, 2013

waving the white flag


This week, we don't NEED no stinkin' lunch.

We are all sick. We've had a mercifully healthy winter, all things considered - runny noses of course, but nothing really significant. It took a strong, vicious, take-no-prisoners kind of virus to bring us down... and that virus broke through on Sunday.

The past two days have been a haze of vomit, popsicles, Gravol, more vomit, and laundrylaundrylaundry.

I packed a lunch for 7yo yesterday, but I honestly don't remember what was in it.

Other than that, I haven't packed a single lunch. Even those of us that are over the worst of it aren't actually able to eat much of anything - a couple of us are hungry, but no food looks at all appealing except for buttered toast.

Today though was 4yo's turn to provide snack at preschool.

Preschool snack day, we hates it, precious.

We need to provide a healthy snack comprising at least two food groups, for eighteen kids. Plus drinks. (Milk, chocolate milk, or juice. Water? Only on request for individual kids. Sigh.)

Usually when our turn comes around I bake a couple batches of muffins with Secret Vegetable Ingredients - sweet potato are very popular with that crowd, ditto carrot & pineapple. They also like blueberry.

But this time, I just don't care. I don't have it in me to bake two dozen muffins. And they'd be crawling with plague anyway.

I got my husband to pick up a giant fruit tray on the way home from work. Yes, I paid a premium because someone else cleaned and chopped it all. This week, it was worth it. I had a bunch of cheese that I bought on sale so I cut some of that up into cubes. I did - in deference to the teachers - put the fruit on skewers so it was all portioned out ahead of time for them. (Fruit kebabs! Kids love 'em. When something is on a stick it is automatically 20% more delicious. That's SCIENCE.)

Sorry, preschool. Playing the competi-mommy snack game is not high on my priority list, this week.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In short order

You know how in parenting magazine they always say you should resist the urge to cater to each child's culinary whims at dinner time lest you become a short order cook? I don't. At dinner. But lunches are another story.

And I guess some people would say that's silly. I remember having a conversation with a group of moms and one said that when her kids brought stuff home at the end of the day, uneaten, she would make them eat it after school. I pictured myself as a kid, picky little pick that I was, gagging down some sweaty cheese or a soggy sandwich. Yuck. I'm not that hard core.

My kids really aren't that picky; they mostly eat everything that I send them. But they each have their things, you know? The boy doesn't like egg salad sandwiches, for example. And tomorrow that's on the menu. So am I going to send him an egg salad sandwich knowing he won't eat it? No, I am not.

I'm one of those people who believes in simple pleasures. With my own lunch, for example, I look forward to that little break in my busy work day. If I know I have an awesome salad like the one I made for lunch last week, that makes me happy. But you probably need to know that I pack my salad in a particular way. I put the lettuce, cut up veggies and goat's cheese together in one container. If there is chicken or nuts to add they are in a separate container to sprinkle on right before I eat it. Same goes for the dressing. That's the way I like it.

My husband, on the other hand, will mix all the dressing with his salad the night before and then happily eat that soggy mess the next day. To which I, again, say 'yuck'. That would not make my day.

So I guess what I'm saying is, I'm open to indulging my kid's culinary idiosyncracies, just a little bit. I'm not going to take custom orders for their lunches each day, but if I know that one kid likes their apple whole and another prefers it cut up with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top well, hey, I'm game.

Kids have crappy days, too. School can feel tedious sometimes. So if what I pack in my kids' lunches gives them something to look forward to, then bring on the customization! And if they really don't like something I pack, they are welcome to bring it back home: As God is my witness, I will never force feed them sweaty cheese.

What's for lunch today?

- Egg salad sandwiches - except for the boy. Probably soup in a thermos or something for him
- Tangerines
- Apples
- Graham cracker fishies
- Popcorn
- Juice/water

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hell Bent For (Fruit) Leather

Sometimes we all need a shortcut, especially for those of us who were just on (ahem) vacation for two weeks and then, in addition to catching up on life in general, have to immediately run the school book fair upon our return.  Sometimes convenience food is, well, convenient, and that convenience factor far, far outweighs any other considerations.

Related: I really, really love fruit leather.

I know it's processed, I know it's full of sugar (naturally occurring fruit sugar!), but when I'm pressed for time - as I am this week, goodness - I love dropping them into the kids' snack bags for school.  There's a no-squishability factor, plus the added bonus of no washing, slicing, or packing up.  Not to mention the fact that I love them myself.

Lately I've been considering combining my love of, shall we say, the culinary arts with my love of dehydrated fruit, and perhaps purchasing myself my very own food dehydrator.  Remember that old Friends episode where Chandler gets a (crazy) new roommate who starts dehydrating everything?  That, THAT is a watermelon!  I'm slightly worried that I'll end up like that, but I'm not letting my eventual descent into insanity via food dehydrating deter me.  I could make my own fruit leather! 

My mother-in-law has a dehydrator; it's of the vintage of very well-made and long-lasting small appliances.  Remember those days, when a toaster would last a lifetime?  In any case, she makes her own raisins and other dried fruits.  I think, as a project, this is something I could really get behind, if I could just figure out what kind of dehydrator is best.  Any recommendations?

The problem is that by making my own fruit leather, I'm kind of eliminating the convenience factor that is one of my favourite attributes of fruit leather.  It's simple and easy to make granola bars, but one of the reasons I buy granola bars is for backup when I don't have time to make something from scratch.  Well, there's no reason I can't do both: purchase a box of fruit leather AND make some for fun.  The best of both worlds?  I think so.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Blues.

I was feeling petulant this morning - the sort of warning which if given in REAL life would cause me to thank you and scuttle away lest a prolonged discussion about feeeeelings ensue. But I had the kind of morning packing lunches, finding sweaters, brushing long tangled hair and COMPLETELY failing at being the mother of a teenager that makes me wonder exactly who licensed me to be a parent in the first place and what were they thinking? I'm terrible at this.

I made a chocolate-spice bread yesterday (actually, it was more like a cake in a loaf pan, if you want to be EXACT) and it was so good and so well-welcomed that I walked around feeling nuturingly maternal for hours and VERY pleased with myself. This morning while I was ordering my kids to get their boots on, PLEASE, and trying to talk my teenager out of her bedroom exile and fighting off frustrated tears, I sliced up what was left of the chocolate-spice bread and whatever magic it had once possessed had gone, leaving behind just a tired middle age woman and her upset daughter, leaving behind just me making lunches in a rush AGAIN.

Sometimes on Twitter, for whatever reason, I get followed by people who are under the wistful impression that I'm a nice person, like them. "You don't sound like you like your kids very much," one of them said to me a while back, which startled me, since a) I'm rather fond of my children and b) this isn't exactly a SECRET. And once I was done feeling put out by that, I thought about the image that "niceness" demands - both online and in real life - a brisk tidiness not just of one's house but also of one's SOUL, the crisp lack of admitting either failure or frustration. The opposite of this, of course, is emotional incontinence and/or a gross house so I don't know what to say, you guys. Parenthood should not be some big race to the bottom but parents who spend hours making careful craftsman lunches for their kids are weird and there's a balance between trying too damn hard and not trying hard enough and the point is that my kids had soup for lunch AGAIN today. Soup is fine! They like soup!

And they also had what was left of the chocolate cake/bread, of course. It was very tasty. I recommend it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

caveat emptor

Every Thursday we read through the flyer for our favourite grocery store and plan our week's meals & lunches based on sales or specials.

This week was "Buy One Get One", and we are huge dorks so every time that comes up we do a gleeful little "It's a BOGO!" dance. We stock up on items that we use often (canned tomatoes, bread & bagels for the freezer, that kind of thing) and pat ourselves on the back with obnoxious smugness because we are super-savers.

We have three young children. We take our entertainment where and when we can find it.


Anyway, this week there were several items we planned to stock up on - and then, in the produce section, navel oranges. Buy six, get six free.

Husband was excited. He loves citrus fruit. "Six free oranges!" he said. "We could get a dozen! It works out to 33 cents an orange!"

(See? Dorks.)

So I bought twelve oranges. I selected them carefully, making sure each one was unblemished and heavy for its size. And I made a mental note to wipe them all down when I got home.

Flashback time!

When I was in high school band, we conducted a citrus sale every fall, as a fundraiser. Oh, how I hated the citrus sale. Have you ever tried to sell a (quite expensive) crate of oranges or grapefruits, sight unseen, for delivery two months from now? It is not easy. Then, when the oranges finally arrived, they'd come on the back of a huge truck. The music room was on the second floor, so the truck would back up to the door and we band types would form a bucket chain up the stairs in order to move in all the 5 & 10 pound boxes.

We then had to open every box, sort through the oranges - removing any that had spoiled on the trip - and then wipe down all the remaining pieces of fruit individually. Mould spreads. It spreads particularly fast on citrus fruits. Oranges rot from the inside but mould from the outside, so wiping off the fruit helps it survive longer.

You know where this is going, right?

I forgot to wipe down the oranges when I got home. I was shopping late on Friday evening, and by the time I got home all I could do was have a cup of tea and crawl into bed while my husband put the groceries away. Since Saturday morning, for every orange that has been eaten, one has been tossed into the compost, mouldy and squishy, completely wasted.

So the BOGO oranges? Not really such a good deal, after all.


This week, the kids have suddenly decided they like ham & cheese sandwiches again, so it's back to those. California strawberries were on sale this week, and they have actually been a pleasant surprise - not as good as local, in-season berries of course, but quite tasty and properly ripe. I've been chopping those and mixing them with plain Greek yoghurt and a squeeze of honey. Cheesestrings, apples or bananas depending on the kid, dried cranberries, mangoes (also BOGO) and carrot & red pepper sticks have been rounding things out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An unexpected break from lunches

I spent the Canadian Family Day holiday alone.

Well, not totally. In the morning my husband and two of the kids were home (plus an extra kid who slept over on Sunday night) but they left just after lunch for a quick overnight ski trip, an opportunity that kind of fell into their laps on Saturday night. I couldn't go along since I have to work today, but I spent the morning puttering around, baking them some muffins and helping to pack up some stuff for skiing. Then, in a puff of exhaust and excitement, they were gone and I was on my own (my husband's parents took our littlest for a sleepover yesterday). I puttered around, did some housework, got a little exercise, took care of some things I have been meaning to take care of, but never seem to have the time for. Not a bad day, in all.

I don't mind being on my own, but the timing was strange. Not just because it was Family Day, but also because one of our elderly neighbours is quite ill and in the hospital. We saw the ambulance arrive yesterday and take him away. He's close to 90, I believe, yet he and his wife still live in their own home. They are nice neighbours, kind to my kids, to all of us, really. I was thinking about these neighbours today, about how many lunches the wife has ceratinly made over the years. I was thinking about how she probably still makes lunch for the two of them every day and what it must be like to suddenly be alone at home with nobody but yourself to make lunch for and how surreal that must feel.

It makes me look forward to making lunch for my crew again tomorrow. Until then, here's what's for lunch (for one) today:

- Green salad with colourful sliced peppers and raw zucchini mixed in
- Topped with sliced cooked chicken breast, a few cashews and goat's milk cheese
- Baslamic vinegar salad dressing to taste

Thursday, February 14, 2013


This past weekend we had a two-day blizzard that kept us trapped indoors for the whole weekend. The power stayed on, somehow, and it turns out that being snowed in makes me go all Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was compelled to lay in a store of provisions just in case the blizzard was only the first salvo in a Long Winter, and me without hay to twist or an Almanzo Wilder to send out into the frozen hellscape for bread.

I spent the weekend in the kitchen, and one of my projects was prepping a small cross-cut roast for dinner. We got five of them? I think? in our bulk beef purchase this past fall, and strangely, my carnivore husband claims to "hate" pot roast. So I was nervous about making this into something edible.

I found this recipe on - I prepped it the night before so it had plenty of time to marinate, and roasted it for Monday dinner. It was the best pot roast ever, and we've all been happily eating roast beef & cheddar cheese sandwiches since Tuesday. Combine that with really good blackberries and tiny tim tomatoes on sale this week, plus perfectly-ripe bananas, and the kids have been living large and loving it.

World's Yummiest Cross-Rib Roast

2 lbs cross-rib roast
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Brush the roast with balsamic vinegar. Mix the remaining ingredients into a paste and apply it all over the roast.

Roast at 450F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and cook for 40 to 60 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness. Remove from oven and let rest under foil for at least 20 minutes. (I roasted mine for 50 minutes, then rested it for almost 45 minutes because I misjudged the cook times a little. It was perfect, and retained its moistness all week, making it great for sandwiches.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Daily Grind

One of the things I'd hoped for in starting up this blog again was for the guilt in being PUBLICLY boring in what I pack my kids for lunch to be the kick start I needed to start making more thrilling lunches for the poor, poor children.

Today I packed them chicken noodle soup in thermoses, grapes, applesauce and crackers.

So it's fine - it's not a BAD lunch - but I obviously haven't started making them fine, hand-crafted lunches quite yet, either. Maybe I'm more of a slow-release guilt sort of person. Maybe I'm just a chronic underperformer as a mother. Maybe my kids are all big enough to PACK THEIR OWN DAMN LUNCHES, HEY. (although once The Boy tried to pack an entire BAG of chips and an entire container of dip as his lunch, the end.)

The only time I really DO knock myself out is around holidays. Tonight - as soon as I'm done writing this, in fact - I'm going to roll out 50 zillion heart-shaped sugar cookies from the dough* currently relaxing in the fridge. And you know, if I really wanted my sugar cookies to make a big impact, I'd send them on ANOTHER day that every other mother is not ALSO sending treats on, but the nature of motherhood, for me, is that I never, ever learn. It means a lot to my kids, anyhow, in a way that overshadows - I hope - the underwhelming, quotidian lunches they get.
(* and I am using this recipe which I found on Pinterest, so it will totally serve me right if it doesn't turn out, since my success rate at Pinterest rate is mixed, at best. I TOTALLY THOUGHT THAT CREAM CHEESE/CAKE MIX RECIPE WOULD BE DELICIOUS, HEY. Not learning from my mistakes is a thing I do.)


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When All Else Fails: Improvise

Today is one of those days when I have no idea what to make for lunch tomorrow.

We decided to make pancakes for dinner in honour of Shrove Tuesday, so leftovers are out.

I mentally looked through the cupboards and the freezer: nothing.

I asked The Husband and he had no inspiring ideas either.

So I'm going to try something I have never tried before; I'm going to make grilled cheese on whole wheat bread in the morning and wrap it in tin foil so it says warm-ish (or at least soft-ish). It may or may not turn out but really, I'm not too concerned at this point in my lunch-making career. My children are hearty enough that they won't starve if they have a disappointing lunch every so often. Plus, I'm rounding it out with apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, red grapes, these popcorn-y chip things I bought at the grocery store last week and homemade banana bread. So they can eat all that if they don't dig the grilled cheese experiment.

My middle daughter and I made the banana bread an hour ago. There was much debate about the format: Loaf or muffins? Raisins or chocolate chips? In the end, we accomodated all. I used my loaf tin with an inferiority complex so that there would be enough batter left over to make 12 mini muffins, some with chocolate chips and some with raisins. There was a near disaster, mind you. I was just about to put the batter in the loaf pan when The Daughter asked me if she could add the smushed banana. I told her everything was done.

She gave me a look. I gave her a look. She pointed to the plate of smushed banana, sitting there on the counter, forgotten. Suddenly the sketchy consistency of my batter made a whole lot more sense. I really am very tired in the evenings.

Crisis averted though, you know? We added the banana and our other mix-ins and right now everything is baking happily in the oven. Tomorrow, even if the bread on the grilled cheese is soggy and the cheese is surly, there will be muffins (or loaf). And all will be right with the world. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

My friend Trish's Banana Bread Recipe

- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can sub in some apple sauce, but it makes the end product a little chewier)
- 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (I used s. cream tonight but have used yogurt, even vanilla in a pinch, in the past)
- 2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1.5 + 1/2 cup whole wheat)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- (Optional mix-ins: chocolate chips or raisins or both or *gasp* Craisins would be good too - about half a cup? I don't know. Just throw some in until your inner mix-in monster seems satisfied)

In large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, oil, ***IMPORTANT*** bananas!!, and yogurt or sour cream. Beat with an electric mixer or whisk until thoroughly blended.
In small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture. Stir until just combined. Add your mix-ins, if you are using. Pour into greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan (or loaf pan with inferiority complex and 12 cup mini muffin pan. Or, just make big muffins. It's your show -- nobody is going to  judge you).

Bake in 350 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Reduce baking time if you're doing muffins though -- 10 - 12 minutes for mini muffins and maybe 20-ish for big ones? I forget. I always set the timer a little short and check them with a toothpick and modify if they need more time).

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Funny Valentine

I am all about fruits and vegetables, whole grains and good fats, fibre and protein and iron, I swear.  I love leafy greens in raw, cooked, dehydrated, and smoothie form.  I stir flax and wheat germ and pureed beans into baked goods, and my children actually like it.

But I'll tell you what else they like: completely nutritionally deficient sugar cookies in thematic shapes, slathered with lots and lots of coloured buttercream.

I love it too.  I have cookie cutters in all sorts of fun shapes, and I'm not afraid to use them.  When January wraps up its cold dreariness, I turn my sights to that day of heart-shaped everything, Valentine's Day.

I, not uniquely, I suspect, was once an anti-Valentine's type of person, and not just when I was single, no.  Valentine's Day was cliched and boring and made-up - unlike all those other, "true" holidays like Labour Day or Thanksgiving. 

If I could time travel, I would go and shake my younger self, because Valentine's Day is fun!  Who cares about romance, heart shaped cookies are where it's at!  With this in mind, I mixed up some dough, smiling as I rolled it out and cut out the heart shapes.  "The secret ingredient is love!" I kept saying to my boys, who may or may not have rolled their eyes at me. 

I spread them thickly with homemade buttercream and sent them for snack all week, with fruit and veggies so as not to be a total nutritional failure.  I imagined the boys feeling their mother's love as they ate them; although the truth is that more likely they felt something more along the lines of "Hey, cool!  Heart cookies!"

Thursday, February 7, 2013

the salad days

Just this past week, my 7yo announced that he is at last tired of ham & cheese sandwiches. It only took two and a half years! I am thrilled because frankly, I am also tired of ham & cheese sandwiches - bored with making them, bored with sending them, bored with going through a large block of cheese every seven days.

So I needed to come up with an alternative.

Enter the salads - chicken, tuna, egg.

I know some kids do not like salad sandwiches, but happily all three of mine love them. As a make-ahead solution, they are brilliant, because you can make a large batch on Sunday night and use it for a couple of days.

It's also pretty easy to slip small amounts of vegetables into salad sandwiches. WIN.

Egg Salad

Half a dozen boiled eggs. Don't overboil them, or the yolks will get that weird greyish tint. It just makes the salad look muddy. My foolproof method is as follows:

- salt the water (keeps the shells from cracking)
- bring to a rolling boil, covered, on high heat
- as soon as steam escapes, slide the pot almost completely off the burner, and reduce the heat to low
- let simmer for 15 minutes
- drain and rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking process

Mince the boiled eggs up, salt & pepper to taste, mix with a couple tablespoons of mayo. My kids like theirs with minced red pepper and green onions. It looks really appealing and tastes great.

Tuna Salad

My kids prefer the chunk-style canned tuna rather than the flakes, and I quite agree. The flake tuna tends to turn out mushy. I mix mine with mayo, a little Dijon mustard, and a bit of relish. Then I add minced celery and red pepper. I make the sandwiches with baby spinach leaves, and that has been a hit.

Chicken Salad

If I have time, I'll roast a small chicken - one of those 3-pounders you can find every so often at a good price - or if not, I'll grab a roasted chicken from the deli counter at my grocery store. Strip the carcass and chop the white & dark meat together. Mix with mayo, salt & pepper, green onion, and celery. Again, made into a sandwich with baby spinach goes down well with my kids. They especially love chicken salad wraps, on a whole grain tortilla.

This week I was able to get some Greek yogurt on sale, so they've had yogurt, too. I baked some carrot-pineapple muffins as a treat, and blueberries were on for cheap this week, too, so the lunch situation has actually not been horribly painful this time around.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mostly Muffins


We had a sickly January - I don't say! - but now that it's past, I find that I'm not QUITE back in the morning rhythm again. I made muffins this morning and I still feel like I should be hoisted aloft the shoulders of amazed townsfolk and paraded around the town because I MADE MUFFINS IN THE MORNING. Muffins that are all gone now because they were delicious.

Not having to bake gluten-free is the biggest relief - not just because it's lovely to have N able to eat EVERYTHING (although it's mainly because of that) but also because it's terrific to have baking consistently turn out now. I remember many, many batches of cornmeal muffins from last year that were horrible little rice flour lumps, expensive non-successes. And now even in my sleep-addled state, I can count on muffins to be muffins and it's funny what a big deal that is.

After Janet's post the other day, I'm trying to make more of an effort to send homemade things in my kids' lunches, and the muffins - although not a revelation - were very happily received by my kids. I liked them too.

Regular But Still Pretty Spiffy Cornmeal Muffins.
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp melted butter
Preheat oven to 400.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center.
In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Pour into the well and mix JUST until combined.
Pour into greased or papered ("Papered"?) muffin pan. It makes about 10 muffins, weirdly enough. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Notes and Cupcakes

Tomorrow is my youngest's birthday and so that calls for a special lunch. Nothing outrageous, mind you. We let her choose between leftover chicken and a roast beef sandwich (she chose the chicken) and there will be some cut up strawberries, apple and something crunchy to round it out. There will also be a homemade marble cupcake with purple icing. Why purple? I presume it's because when I asked her what kind of icing she wanted she was putting on her purple pyjamas for bed, but who knows, really.

There will also be a note.

I used to write notes from time to time to tuck in my kids' lunches. When my Middle got her hamster it pooped all over the place the day we brought it home. I don't blame the little guy, honestly. If someone yanked me from my fluffy group snuggle and stuck me in a dark box for a ride to who-knows-where, I would likely be a little stressed, too. Still, the arrival of The Hamster prompted a series of drawings slipped into her lunch bag featuring said hamster in various scenarios, always with a tell-tale trail of little black dots behind him. Then we would share a laugh about the note at the end of the day.

My husband also went through a writing-on-bananas phase, where he would scrawl out a quick note on each kid's banana skin using his Sharpie marker. Good times, those.

These days a lunch bag note would likely mortify my big kids. Or perhaps earn them an unfortunate nickname for the rest of their school days. Either way: not happening. My little would like notes, I suspect, but I'm too harried most mornings to think about it. But tomorrow, when the day she came into our lives will be fondly on my mind, I will tuck a little note into her lunch bag, beside her custom cupcake with purple icing. A little reminder to her that she's special and we're so glad she arrived safe and sound on a stormy Feburary night 7 years ago.

What about you? Do you have any lunch bag customs that you use to let your kids know you're thinking about them?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The French Toast Connection

Last Friday was a PD day; for a short week it sure seemed long.  Perhaps it was because it was the last week of January.  Not to wish my life away, but isn't it nice to be into February?

Back to the PD day.  If I was a working parent, the PD days that occur every third week for the entire school year would probably get to me after a while.  But I'm not and they don't; in fact, I welcome the lazy mornings of milling around in my yoga pants, nowhere to go and nothing more pressing to do than drink copious amounts of coffee.

And making hot lunches, of course!  One might assume that since my children come home for lunch, I serve them a nice hot lunch every day.  That assumption would be wrong.  In fact, I have never made a hot lunch on school days; I'm too pressed for time with the 55 minute lunch hour, for one thing.  Typical hot lunch items my children don't eat even if I did prepare them, items such as soup, chili, or macaroni.  I know.  I know.  I could write a whole post on the tragedy that is my kids' aversion to that childhood staple, mac 'n' cheese.  Another day.

What they do like, and what I do make on PD days as a special treat, is French toast.  It feels like a special, syrupy ritual: heating butter in the pan, soaking each piece of whole grain bread in its own mixture made up of an entire egg and a splash of milk, cooking until nice and crispy on the outside, soft in the middle.  Served with a glass of milk and some fruit, it's a perfectly balanced lunch.  Plus syrup, of course, which - according to my kids and Buddy the Elf - should be in a food group all of its own.