Are you sick of making school lunches yet?

For most families, at this point in the school year, kid  lunches are starting to get stale.  Well not literally, but  I’ll bet a lot of moms are starting to pack the same old boring lunches day in and day out.

I love making lunches for my boys.  For me, it’s a work of art.  I remember the lunches my mom packed us and they weren’t exciting (sorry Mom if you are reading this).  Back in the day when nut allergies were unheard of, I would get a PB and J daily with some slimy fruit and maybe a hard mandelbread.  In my opinion, an awesome lunch makes the day.  You have something to look forward to and once it’s been eaten you feel satisfied and well nourished ready to take on the rest of the day.

I don’t pack the same lunch for both boys.  They are individuals with different likes and dislikes and so I respect that.  While preparing for school to start in mid-August, I ordered some lunch supplies online at Fenigo and Noplastic.  I asked each boy to choose a lunchbox and a water bottle.  Trevor chose this one and Jason picked this.  The only criteria were that each lunch box had to be easy to clean.  Trevor’s can go in the washing machine and Jason’s cleans well on the top rack of my dishwasher.  In the past we had chosen lunchboxes that were difficult to keep clean and had to be thrown out due to the growth of mold.

I believe that kid sized food is the key to a successful lunchbox.  I picked up some small containers to hold bite sized food.  They are perfect for diced cheese, cucumber slices, a few baby carrots and even berries when they are in season.  It’s overwhelming for a child to open their lunchboxes and find large portion sizes of food, even foods they love.  Keep the portions sizes to ¼ cup or ½ a cup.

I use tight sealing containers to pack applesauce (homemade or from a jar), yogurt and anything else that could spill out.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know my plight with baking.  Well, over the Christmas holidays I finally came to terms with my dilemma.  A few more baking disasters ensued including a mixer that caught on fire (don’t worry nobody got hurt) but I did it! I am an official baker.  I realized I am a mom of 3 boys and I HAVE NO CHOICE.  I must bake.  So, I bake a cake or cookies or banana bread or muffins every Sunday night.  Then I portion everything out and freeze them each individually (this stops the Richard and me from devouring the yummy baked goods).  These are high calorie snacks but they contain no preservatives or artificial crap like the store bought Rice Krispie squares or Bear Paws I used to buy.  Most of my desserts contain eggs, flour, butter, sugar and chocolate. Eaten in moderation, I am happy to give these treats to my kids.

It’s important to pack some type of protein in your child’s lunch box.  Trevor likes chopped egg so I often give him that in a sandwich.  Trevor is maturing and so are his taste buds.  At 7 years old I can finally pack him leftovers from supper.  Here are some of the choices I have given him recently: fish stew, bean burritos, vegetarian meatloaf, carrot stew, meatballs with pasta, tuna casserole and cut up cooked chicken.  I heat up his hot thermos with boiling water for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, I heat up the leftovers in the microwave and then put it in the thermos.  I visited his school last week at lunch and the food was warm but not hot.

Jason is in Kindergarten which is a transition in itself.  Jason requires comfort food and so I pack him pasta with tomato sauce every day in his hot thermos. For protein, hard boiled eggs, cut up cheese or cottage cheese.

I use a cold thermos for their beverages which is either milk or watered down 100% apple juice.

I have noticed when the weather is warm their lunch boxes come home empty.  When it’s cooler they don’t seem to be as hungry.  I save any leftovers that come home for after school munching.

Food of the Gods

I was at the health food store the other day picking up some moisturizer and while waiting in line I spied a bag of chocolate.  I thought to myself, what can I use this for?  I’ve been baking a lot lately and thought maybe they would go well in some chocolate chips cookies.  I brought the bag to the cash and the girl asked me what I planned on doing with them.  I said maybe baking and then she warned me of their bitter taste.

Being the type of person who needs instant gratification, I got into the car and ripped the bag open.  I grabbed a few nuggets of what is supposed to be the food of the gods and tasted it.  I nearly spit it out.  I wondered how the connection was made that this stuff could be combined with other ingredients to make it heavenly.  Chocolate in it’s raw form tastes  well, ick.  However, The mouth feel of raw chocolate is exceptional.  It’s crunchy with the right amount of smoothness.  But it does taste very bitter.

Some experts believe this a superfood.  I think if you like chocolate it might be fun to experiment with raw cocoa.  I have been adding about a tablespoon to my oatmeal.  I also add frozen blueberries and cinnamon.  I find this combination very flavorful.   I also tried it in my tea.  I added about a teaspoon of the raw cocoa to my tea bag along with some very aromatic rooibos leaves.  The cocoa gave a nice subtle yet surprisingly non-bitter flavor.

Sometimes trying something new even for a short period of time has it’s benefits.   I am not sure I will re-buy this again or even put it in a cookie dough batter.  All I know is that I had to try it.  I was curious about this power food and now I know what it is like.   I am enjoying it in my oatmeal and will likely finish the bag.

Nutrition Confessions

Would you like a muffin by jencounter
I suck at baking. I have had more baking disasters then I
care to mention.   I have actually
scraped cream cheese for a cheese cake that flew out of my bowl and landed on
the floor, back into the bowl and served it. 
I have ruined homemade granola, cookies, cakes, icing, muffins, premade
challah dough and even rice Krispie squares. 
I tried to candy maple syrup once and it boiled over the pot, over the stove
and on to the floor.  I can’t properly
whip butter even with a Kitchenaid.

The reason why I am such a terrible baker is because I don’t
like following directions and have no patience. 
I also hate using more than one bowl. 
I really detest mixing the dry ingredients in one and the wet in another.  I enjoy making recipes up and not following
directions.  You can not do that with
baking.  It’s a science and everything
needs to be measured properly, put into the bowls in the correct order and
baked at the right temperature for the right amount of time.  As you can see, there is a lot places where
one screw up the recipe.

I really wish it weren’t this way.  I really want to be a baker.   I want
to make my own wholesome snacks for my children.
  I want to stop buying junk in little packages
for their lunch boxes.  My kids beg for
me to bake for them.  This winter I even
tried to become a half baker. I bought this muffin mix from Loblaws.  It’s reasonably healthy and fairly easy to
make.  But, after a few batches it became
boring and no one was eating them.

I know several people who are ‘bakers’.  They make wonderful homemade baked goods for
their kids effortlessly.
  I like going to
their houses. Unfortunately, we don’t get too many invites these days because
my kids devour all their homemade goodies.

In the olden days there was no such thing as store bought
baked goods.  Granted, women used to keep
house and part of their daily work was creating the family meal plan from
scratch.  Today it is all about
convenience and time saving techniques. 
I have grown up that way too.  My
mother worked and baked only on occasion. 
My grandmother didn’t work but also only baked on occasion. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies by jamieanne
Ironically, as I sit here writing this my kid just got
dropped off by my mother with a tin of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
that she made.  From a nutrition
perspective, regularly eating a ton of baked goods will surely end up on your
waistline.  It’s all about moderation.  I just ate 2 of my mother’s cookies and
tossed the rest into the freezer.  I will
put them in my kid’s lunch boxes instead of those dreaded Bear Paws.

The question is, would you pay a premium to have someone else
bake for you?  I would! Stay tuned for
Friday and to find about a new supplier.   

Junk Food Pantry: Good or Bad?

Caryn and Suzanne
I was visiting
last week for a family wedding. The drive along the 401 was excruciating with 3
kids and a bubby. Every single rest stop from here to TO and back was closed.
Luckily, when I got there I got a chance to visit with my oldest friend Suzanne.  Our kids get along very well and we all spent
one evening just hanging out.  We ordered
some delicious healthy-ish pizza and of course after supper my kids wanted
dessert.   They had been there before and
knew exactly which pantry Suzanne kept the junk food stash in.  This lead to a junk food discussion that
Suzanne and I have had many times. 

Suzanne is an only child and when we were young all the
neighbourhood kids wanted to go to her house because her mom had the best junk
food pantry ever.  If you ask anyone who
was friend’s with Suzanne back in the day what they remember about her house,
they will all say the yummy snacks.  We
kids would gorge ourselves on whatever was there. Our moms never kept that kind
of stuff.  The funny thing is, Suzanne was
always slim and healthy.  She never ate
that much junk food.  Suzanne is a high
school phys. ed. teacher now and she believes that keeping a pantry full of
junk will actually help kids maintain a healthy weight.  I completely agree with her.  When you deprive kids of junk food all you
are doing is making them want it more. 
What Suzanne has managed to do is teach her own 2 kids about self
control.  Really, isn’t that what it is
all about? 

Personally, I cannot keep as much junk in my house as
Suzanne does because Richard and I do not have that same self control.  My mom rarely kept it in the house and so
when it was available to me, like at Suzanne’s house, I would over indulge.  As it turns out my own mother told me today
that my dad would eat all the junk food so she was forced not to keep it in the

One day Trevor and Jason helped themselves to ice cream,
serving seriously large portions.  Then
they dumped about a cup each of chocolate powder and chocolate syrup over
it.  My first reaction was to pull it
away.  Instead, I encouraged them to eat
it the whole damn thing.  As expected,
they could barely finish it and they both got stomach aches.  This is the way I teach my kids about junk
food.  I have on several occasions let
them eat as much as they want until they turned green.  The consequence to this is they have developed
self control and the ability to recognize an appropriate amount to feel
satisfied but not sick. 

The fact is, junk food is everywhere and it’s fun to eat but
if you eat too much too often it results in health issues. Whether or not you
believe stocking up on junk food or making your kids sick with sweets is
appropriate, it is important to figure out a way to exercise that self
control.  If we can teach it to our
children then hopefully they will grow up consuming less than nutritious foods
only in moderation. 

June 2010 013

When I got back to Montreal
I had this craving for the yummy homemade meringue cookies Suzanne’s mom
makes.  Luckily for me, but not for
Suzanne, Estelle lives in my ‘hood .  So
I called her up and asked her for a batch. 
Sure, she said, as long as I share them with my kids and don’t hoard
them all to myself.

Friday Finds: Sweet Revenge

April 2010 002 
It is no secret that I can’t bake.  I would prefer to eat home baked goods and
give them to my kids for snacks instead of all that processed crap.  But, it really pains me to bake.  That’s my dilemma, until recently.  About 6 weeks ago I got an email from a friend
of friend telling me about her friend’s new business.  It is called Sweet Revenge and it's a locally owned business which is great because I like supporting local ventures. Basically, every
two weeks they bake up a storm and then deliver delicious organic goods to a
few drop-off places around the city.  Brilliant,
I thought, sign me up.  The only caveat
is you get whatever they are baking that week. 
You do not have a choice. 

April 2010 006 
I admit I am not much of a risk taker but I figured how
bad can this be?  Someone else is doing
the baking and they are using wholesome ingredients so why not?  For $10 I get a brown bag filled with 6
items.  For an extra $4 I get a dozen
chocolate chip
cookies. This is the only item that is a constant on their menu.  Over the last 6 weeks I have received maple
and walnut muffins, raisin oatmeal cookies, date and cottage cheese buns
(delicious toasted and eaten with cheese) spice loaf, apple-strawberry crisp,
brownies and other stuff I am forgetting. As you can see from the ingredients
there are no preservatives so if you are not going to eat them right away, you
can toss them in the freezer.  With each order you will receive a printout of the ingredients.  The printout does not contain a nutrition label with serving size, calories, fat, sugar, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Remember, these are treats!  Just because they are homemade doesn’t mean
you can eat as much as you want.  They
still have calories and if you are watching your weight you need to consider
this.  They certainly are a better choice
than Rice Krispie Squares or a Trans fat bar I mean a snack bar. I must mention
that portion sizes for these items are smaller than what you will expect.  However, they are appropriately sized for
healthy eating purposes.  Starbuck’s
sized foods they are not.  I guess you
can have your cake and eat it too?!