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 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.


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?


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


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

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


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.


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.