Monday, August 30, 2010

Not Your Typical School Lunch

Sorry this one has taken a while, but it just has. ;)

I've been finding so much good stuff that I want to share it all with you guys.

And, by the by....can I just tell you all how much I love my containers? I mean, I am a container aficionado as it is, but this has just magnified my love of them. And, knocking on wood, thus far, they have all made it home.

My lunch ideas are somewhat complicated by the fact that one of Ally's best friends in the whole wide world is allergic to peanuts. Not allergic as in has an upset tummy if he eats them. He is allergic as in full blown anaphylaxis, epinephrine and trips to the ER allergic. So, being as they are sharing the same space almost constantly, everything I send with her is safe for him.

Makes it a little more challenging, since almost all prepackaged food is cross-contaminated.

I pack lunches the night ahead, put them in the fridge. My kids eat lunch early on in the day, but if yours have a long wait between leaving home and eating, throw an ice pack in to keep their stuff cold. I love, love, love the individual serving sized insulated containers...we use them all the time. They can keep food warm or cold.

Lunch gets boring. No one wants to take the same sandwich and apple every day, even kids.

Here are my lunch ideas so far....feel free to share more in the comments!

- Sandwich shape cutters- any sandwich is instantly more fun if it is shaped like a dinosaur or butterfly. I have lots of these, most of which are just cookie cutters. If you have a non-crust-eater like I do, all the better. This way you cut off the crust and make it fun all at the same time. I put the cut sandwiches in one container along with grapes or baby carrots.

- Pizza- quarter pita bread and fill a compartment container with sauce, cheese and other toppings. My kids LOVE this, one of the things they request all the time.

- Cereal - breakfast is more fun when it's not breakfast time. I send them to school with a larger container half full of cereal and have them buy milk in the cafeteria. I slice some bananas or strawberries and send them along.

- Waffles - toast frozen waffles (or make them homemade if you're particularly ambitious), send with sliced fruit, fruit syrup or peanut butter (if no allergies, of course)

- Dip - make dip and send with fun stuff to dip into. There are lots of variations on this. You could do homemade ranch and veggies, you could do fruit dip and apples, you could do hummus and pitas, you could do pretzels and peanut butter (assuming no allergies, of course).

- Finger Food - think outside the sandwich. Grapes, oyster crackers and cheese cubes work well, just send more than you'd normally put in for a snack. My kids are always excited to see these.

- Sandwich rolls - using a tortilla, roll up sliced lunch meat with flavored cream cheese and thinly sliced carrots and celery.

- Quesadillas - melt cheese in a tortilla, slice into wedges. Send with sour cream, salsa or guacamole.

- Sushi balls- Roll sticky rice, cucumber and artificial crab meat into balls, send with packet of soy sauce or a container of teriyaki sauce. If you are brave enough, roll em for real. ;)

- Grilled cheese and soup - make grilled cheese ahead and send with an insulated container of their favorite soup.

- Pasta Salad - toss some whole wheat pasta with peas, diced ham, Parmesan cheese and Italian dressing.

- Protein power - black beans and rice, add a little sour cream or salsa.

- Leftovers- yep, you are reading this right. I send leftovers to school with my kids ALL the time, and they love it. Chili, spaghetti, homemade chicken nuggets, you name it. If it is something that needs to stay warm, use an insulated container. Totally not kidding, Ashley gets excited when I send green beans with her.

I'll be posting recipes for homemade fruit leather and granola soon....snacks still to come!

Crispy Brunch Pizza

If you are looking for something a little different for brunch, try this out. It's pretty easy to make, especially if you plan a little ahead and prepare the vegetables the night before.

Crispy Brunch Pizza

Crust
- 1 package shredded hash browns
- 1 egg beaten
- salt and pepper

Combine all above in a bowl and spread into greased 15" round pan, bake 20-30 minutes at 400 until crispy.

Topping
- 7 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup diced green pepper
- 1 cup diced ham
- 1/4 cup diced green onion
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper

Scramble eggs with milk, cook in a greased pan until almost set. Stir in all vegetables and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over crust, top with remaining cheese.

Bake 10 minutes until eggs are fully set and cheese is melted.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thai Noodle Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

Ask and you shall receive. :)

I love it when someone asks me for a recipe to make something that I've never attempted at home. Something that I really love and will order in a restaurant given the chance. This is one of those somethings.

I started the hunt for a recipe a few days back and it took me a while to find one that I deemed worth trying, with the obligatory changes and substitutes, of course. This is what I made for dinner tonight, and everyone ate it....even AJ. And that kid, well, let's just say not much goes in there.

I'm getting pretty good at this stuff.

This recipe is a vegetarian one, but can be modified to add chicken or shrimp if you would like.

I make dinners in larger portions than most families would probably need, mostly because of the fact that I have more kids. If you make this according to the list below and have a family of 4, you will most likely have a decent amount of leftovers. (that is, unless you have teenagers) Feel free to halve it or tweak it as you see fit.

Thai Noodle Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce
- 1 box thai style rice noodles, boil until cooked, drain and set aside.
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- dash red pepper flakes (add more if you want it spicy)
- 4 tbsp sherry cooking wine

Dissolve cornstarch into broth completely, then add all other ingredients except sherry. Whisk together and heat until boiling. Reduce and stir until thickened, adding sherry at the end. Keep warm until vegetables are done.

- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 broccoli crowns, chopped
- 2 cups chopped carrot (about one large)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup sugar snap peas

Heat oil, adding garlic and onion. Stir fry until onion is transparent. Add other vegetables, cover and steam until cooked through. (If you choose to add chicken or shrimp, cook separately then add just at the end)

Toss noodles, vegetables and sauce together.

Biscuits & Gravy

Here is a great, quick recipe for biscuits and gravy. The trick with the gravy is patience. And stirring. A lot of stirring.

Biscuits
- 2 cups flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 to 1 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients, then cut in shortening. Add milk a little at a time until dough forms. Toss until it isn't sticky anymore, then roll out until 1/2 inch thick. Cut with round floured cutter. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 450 for 8-12 minutes.

Gravy
- 1 lb ground pork sausage (I used light)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 6 tbsp flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper

Brown sausage, then add butter. Sprinkle flour over the top, mixing in evenly, then add milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce and cook for about 2-3 minutes stirring constantly. It will thicken on it's own while cooking, and more as it cools.

Family Growth Chart

I started thinking about making one of these a while ago, but could never figure out how. I have a friend who actually painted a huge family tree in her stairwell, then would mark on the trunk as the kids got taller. I loved that idea, but I'm just not that good.

Plus, I figure that we may move at some point. The thought of leaving behind the pencil marks just pains me, so I thought it would be better to make something we could take with us if we ever left.

I settled on this.

I had my husband buy a piece of wood from the hardware store and cut it for me. It rests on top of the baseboard and is the same height as the top of the door frame, so a little less than 7 feet long.

Then I sanded all the edges and primed it. I decided to paint it a dark chocolate brown, then do all the lettering and height markers in cream. Initially, I was going to use wooden letters, but then I figured the kids would probably try to take them off at some point. (Gotta love kids, right?)

I couldn't find a stencil I liked, and so I just decided to hand paint it. It's not perfect, that's for sure, but it fits in around here as a result. After I painted it, I sprayed it with a thick glossy finish. We will be hanging it later today.

Marks for height will be made with a cream paint marker.

My biggest tip for doing this is that if you are going to sit it on top of baseboards, make sure your height markers take that into consideration or all your measurements will be off.

Happy creating and happy measuring!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I found a recipe for these and tweaked it a little. Mostly because I realized after I mashed the bananas that I didn't have enough sugar to satisfy what the recipe called for. So I changed it up a little, and they came out good. No one even noticed that there wasn't as much sugar in them as there was supposed to be. Bonus!

These were a huge hit for breakfast this morning, and are full of good things. Shhh, just don't tell your kids these are good for them and they will eat them all up. ;)

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

- 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- dash salt
- 3 ripe mashed bananas
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup chocolate chips

Blend butter with sugar in one bowl, add bananas, milk and eggs. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl, then add to banana mixture a little at a time. Fold in chocolate chips at the end.

Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray, spoon batter into cups. Makes about 24 muffins.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Cool completely, store covered at room temperature. Can freeze, just wrap tightly.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Squash

If you are like me either you have or you know someone who has this problem this time of year.

Too much squash.

I didn't get to planting a vegetable garden this year, mostly because I'm still needing to construct planter boxes. Turns out it is okay though, my wonderful mother in law has a garden. And she likes to share.

Share, she does.

I am gifted with bags and bags of cherry tomatoes, most of which AJ eats like they are candy.

Then there is the matter of the squash. Yellow crookneck and zucchini. Lots of them.

You can only grill squash so often. I love it, I do. But enough is enough.

So I've been creative. I haven't resorted to making breads and muffins, yet.

What I have been doing is hiding it in everything else though. I grate it and add it to just about everything I make for dinner. It's mild enough in flavor that no one seems to notice it.

I've put it in chili and spaghetti sauce so far. We'll see what else I can put it in.

Just an idea, if you're like me, this time of year.

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