All summer, the house has been a mess, as every chore was abandoned in favour of a picnic or a barbecue or a romp at Grandma's house. Our food staples have been cereal and sandwiches, supplemented by handfuls of lettuce or snow peas or raspberries from the garden. Now, that morning chill has turned my mind from flame-charred beef patties to long-simmered stews and cheese-topped casseroles and soup with oven-hot biscuits. Yup, it's that time.
It's funny how quickly fall changes me. During the summer, life is unscheduled, bedtimes are approximate, and supper arrives on the table some time before dark. Now that fall is here, the meals are like clockwork (even the late-season barbecue dinners), the kids are all in bed at a reasonable hour, and the dishes are all done in time for me to bake a batch of muffins for the next day's lunches and snacks, or for me to make a batch of jam, or to pack ahead some portion of Miss B's lunch.
And lunch. Remember how I was going to rock it? Yeah? Well, I totally am. So far, it's been all success. I'm sure the novelty will wear off, but since last week it's been one lunch triumph after another. Since a few of you have asked (and for my own future reference), here's a week's worth of rockin' lunch menus:
Day 1: yellow rice pilaf*, apple, peach spice mini-muffins, blueberry yogurt, strawberries, chocolate-dipped mini rice cakes. (yogurt and strawberries not eaten)
Day 2: ham and lettuce sandwich on toasted English muffin, cheese slices, apple, banana “doughnut” (banana muffin batter baked in a doughnut-shaped muffin tin), blueberry smoothie made with leftover blueberry yogurt and strawberries from day before. (cheese not eaten)
Day 3: chicken, black bean, and cheese quesadilla (with leftover cheese from the day before), apple, banana “doughnut,” yogurt for dipping quesadilla, carrot salad, strawberries. (carrot salad not eaten, so I ate it)
Day 4: baked French toast** with maple syrup, apple, cheese slices and soda crackers, yogurt with blueberries. (Everything eaten)
Day 5: faux “lunchables” (crackers, sliced mozzarella and cheddar, and pepperoni packed separately, for lunchtime assembly), sliced black olives, celery sticks, carrot sticks, apple, blueberry mini-muffins. (everything eaten)
Day 6: ham and lettuce sandwich on English muffin, granola bar, apple, strawberries, cheese, snow peas. (waiting to see how this one goes...)
*Yellow rice pilaf isn't, strictly speaking, a pilaf, I just cook 1/3 cup basmati rice with 2/3 cup water, a few tablespoons of cooked chickpeas, some frozen peas, and a tablespoon or so of currants, with pinches of cinnamon and turmeric. Cover, bring to a boil (happens fast, since it's such a small amount of liquid), reduce heat to very low and cook about 15 minutes, until water has been absorbed. Makes one perfect insulated-bowl-sized serving.
** Baked French toast is a new thing for us, but Miss B loved it, and it's super easy. The night before, I cut some light rye (light as in "pale," not "low-cal" or anything) bread into one-inch chunks, so it made roughly a heaping cup's worth. I beat one egg and a bit of milk (2 tablespoons?) in a container, added the bread cubes, stirred it up to coat well, then covered it and left it in the fridge overnight. There was a relatively high proportion of liquid to bread, but it was all absorbed by morning. I heated the oven to 400F, put the bread mixture into a well-buttered dish (I have these little individual casserole dishes that are the same diameter as Miss B's insulated-bowl-thingy), sprinkled it with cinnamon, then baked it until crusty and starting to turn golden, maybe 20 minutes? Then I removed it from the dish, placed it in the warmed insulated-bowl-thing, and packed some maple syrup in a small container for pouring come lunchtime.
In case you're wondering, yes, I am keeping a detailed lunch log. And yes, that is about as completely unlike me as it gets. But so is having the dishes done before bed, and I'm managing to tackle that one, too.
I've been testing a new granola bar recipe for lunchtime packing awesomeness, and it seems to be a success. This one is my standby, but Miss B has moved beyond crunchy and is into the chewy granola bar these days, so I tried out something new. I started out with this recipe here, but I made a lot of substitutions:
- I swapped out the peanut butter for tahini, since I'm not sure yet whether peanut butter is allowed this year (sigh... amazing teachers at Miss B's school, but much-less-than-amazing home-school communication),
- I was out of honey so I used brown sugar,
- I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt,
- I didn't have large-flake oats so I used 5-minute ones.
- I didn't have sunflower seeds, so I used a combination of pumpkin seeds and millet puffs, and upped the crisp rice cereal content to 1 1/2 cups,
- I used chopped juice-sweetened dried cranberries instead of raisins,
- I nixed the peanuts, and
- as soon as the pan came out of the oven, I sprinkled the top with mini chocolate chips, then, when they had melted, I used an offset spatula to spread the chocolate smoothly.
(Note: these bars are gluten-free if the oats and cereal are certified as such: check labels if you're not sure.)
So I guess it's pretty much my recipe now. I still want to tweak a little, and when I'm happy with it I'll post it in a more useful form. I will say that these ones sliced very nicely, which my other recipe didn't always do. Cha-Bear has already eaten more of them than he should have, and the whole things, too, not just the chocolate off the top. I think in the future I'll reduce the oats and add in more puffy cereals, as these are very dense, probably too dense for children whose diet is already rather rich in fibrous materials. Sometimes more roughage is not actually the answer. Go figure.
And on that note, buh-bye!