Friday, 7 September 2012

Lunch Love Part III: Veggie-licious

Vegetables seem to be the most controversial part of meal time.  Kids especially have a reputation for wrinkling up their noses at veggies, though I seem to be encountering more adults who don't care for many types of them either.  When I taught Kindergarten and we had Shared Snack each day, I must admit that I was frustrated sometimes with the pursed lips of students I considered to be picky eaters who did not want to follow our 3-bite rule.  Since then, I have heard and read that children actually have more taste buds (they wear off over the years), and that it can take up to seven times for us to get accustomed to taste and texture of a new food.  (I don't have any sources to cite for you but I probably heard it on CBC!)  This makes sense; I wish I would have known that information during my K days.  When our own kids began eating solids, every time we presented a tiny spoon of pureed food, we would smile enthusiastically say, "Mmmmm....[food name]...yummy..."  I'm not sure if this aided in our children being open to trying nearly all foods or if we were just lucky! 

I think that vegetables are more likely to be chosen as a snack or take-for-lunch item when they are washed, trimmed, and cut into ready-to-eat pieces.  Most Saturdays when we do our weekly grocery run, I prepare the fruit and veggies and load them up into plastic containers.  This also helps me during the week when I'm cooking; having to clean celery, lettuce, or carrots can be a pain when you're in a hurry.

Colour and presentation are really important.  Although the following photos show veggies for a crowd, perhaps the beauty of the different hues and variety of the arrangements will inspire you and encourage your loved ones (and perhaps you!) to be a little more willing to try them.

Pick A Peck of Pretty Peppers...& Cruciferous Veggies...& Root Veggies...& Cucumbers...

Picking from a big selection can be fun and give your child some decision-making power.  I made this a few years ago, but the arrangement reminds me of the neat idea for toddler meals and snacks I saw on Pinterest this spring.  You take an ice cube tray and put tiny servings of different foods in them, allowing the child lots of choice.  You still control what the choices are, and the little one can graze on what s/he prefers on that day but is not expected to eat everything. 

Rainbow of Vegetables

It was my turn to take the veggie tray for church lunch and I had seen some rainbow-like arrangements via Google images.  Red onions aren't everyone's favorite but there aren't a lot of indigo and violet vegetables!  Raw red cabbage wouldn't cut it. (Please let me know if you have suggestions on fulfilling the representation of the whole spectrum!)

Veggie Christmas Tree
Having signed up to bring vegetables for the Miriam's class Christmas party, I got an idea to make a Christmas tree design on a new plastic tray I'd bought for putting goodies on.  One of my students had brought a veggie Christmas tree with the food affixed with toothpicks to a plastic-covered styrofoam cone.  I figured the tray would be a little different and Miriam helped to pick the tree "decorations" when we went to the grocery store.  I was very impressed by her idea to use bean sprouts for the tinsel!  I'd forgotten about our veggie version of cranberry & popcorn garland.  Memories... 


Skeleton o' Veggies

The last one was inspired by Tanya, my student's mom, who brought a vegetable skeleton for our Grade One Hallowe'en party.  Not only did she show how veggies could be arranged to make a picture, she introduced me to the joys of Press 'N Seal.  I love that stuff!   Anyway, I made the face from a ramekin filled with dip and that's red cabbage hair as suggested by the Kraft Canada website.  It has this skeleton and lots of other fun party food ideas; I linked the site to the Yummy Mummy Spinach Dip which I made for our youth camp Hallowe'en party last year.

School is back in but I'm making an effort to keep taking time to enjoy writing and creating a post per week.  Thanks to everyone who has mentioned that they like reading the blog; it makes my day. :-) 

Thanks for nibbling your way to my island.  See you again soon!


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lunch Love Part II: Mains

Just before I get into Sandwiches & Friends, I have an addition to the Fruit Fun entry!  I tried editing posts but the spacing between paragraphs and photos goes crazy and it takes a lot of time to repair the damage.  Therefore, at some point, I will be started a post of post-post notes.  Ha ha!  Perhaps you could offer me a more interesting title, preferably alliterated.

Anyway, I had offered to bring fruit for our Back to School Staff Breakfast.  I wanted to include a few fruits including apples.  Whole apples don't usually have a lot of takers at buffets so I needed to pretty them up as well as avoid yucky browning.  I searched "apple art" and found some neat layered and polka-dotted ones from a site in Russia.  Here are my first-attempt versions:

Stripes!  I cut a few different types of similarly-sized apples into thick slices and mix-and-matched the pieces after giving them a quick dunk in orange juice.

Spots!  Using my Core 'N More, I used the small end to carve out dots from different colors of apples, bathing the dots in orange juice as per the slices, and then popped them into contrasting-colored apples.  


It was a lot of fun to play with the apples!  
The final presentation...



The Main

Do you or your kids find sandwiches a bore?  If so, you have a lot of company.  For holidays at our school, some classes have shared lunches for which families sign up or are assigned a certain part of the meal; this may sound regimented but otherwise we would have 75% of the class bringing cupcakes and other treats, myself included!   One year at Hallowe'en, it was my turn to supply the main dish for Miriam's class.  Having sandwiches for yet another day seemed a bit sad for what could have been a more festive meal.  I looked around the bakery for non-bread offerings and spotted the cheese breadsticks.  They were kind of long and flat.  Now I have quite a phobia of snakes so my idea even surprised me...

I split the breadsticks, spread the tops and bottoms with the desired condiments (usually mayo and "paint mustard," as my chef friend used to call it), and filled them with ham, cheese, and lettuce, cut to fit.  To snake-ify them, I cut strips of fresh red pepper into forked tongues, inserting them in the ends of the buns, and adhered Cheerio eyes with cream cheese.  I cut the buns in half to serve the hungry 7-year-olds; you have to leave room for cupcakes, right?

There are extensive lists of creative lunch ideas if you search; those bento box meals look amazing but I'd have to make three each for my own kids to satisfy their teenage appetites!  I'm just going to include a few of my family's and former students' non-bread loaf faves here, hoping you'll see a few things you'd like to try. :-)
  • Bagels:  Split the traditional way (don't end up in Emergency - use a cutting board, please!), and toast a half per child (they have very dense carb content - the bagel, not the kid).  Spread with jam, cream cheese, pea-butter, or cover with grated cheese and toast them.  You could also make a little pizza out of a bagel half.  Alternately, cut the bagel vertically into finger-width coins.  They could be toasted for crunchy little bites to enjoy or even made into tiny (sorry, "s-word" coming up) sandwiches with something simple like the spreads mentioned, Cheez Whiz, pea-butter and banana slices, or banana slices and strawberry jam.  If you don't mind a little more work, use a toonie-sized circular cookie cutter to make pieces of meat or sliced cheese to fit in the bagel bites.  That's a better alternative to the s-word!
  • Breadsticks, Cheese or Garlic: Split them, spread with pizza sauce, and fill with pizza toppings, or send marinara sauce in a little container for dunking.
  • Breakfast for lunch:  Try toast & scrambled eggs, or perhaps cubed French toast, waffles, or pancakes; serve syrup in a little container on the side.  Don't forget a fork!
  • Cereal:  This can be nice for a change, milk served on the side, of course!  Hot cereal, such as oatmeal or Sunny Boy, kept warm in a thermos is so nice on a cool day.
  • Cinnamon bun:  Sugar for lunch is okay once in a while!
  • Chili, soup, or stew with a bun:  I like making a big batch to be used for suppers and school lunches for a few days.
  • Corn dogs:  This one's in remembrance of my student, Julie, who ate corn dogs almost every day at school!  Keep them warm by wrapping in tin foil or sending in a thermos.
  • Crackers, cheese, kubasa, & pickles:  Cut about the same size and have enough to "come out even" as Frances says in Bread & Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban.
  • Hamburgers & hot dogs:  Good even when cold as far as I'm concerned!
  • Quesadillas:  Between flour or corn tortillas, place leftover pieces of chicken or beef along with (according to your family's tastebud preferences) sauteed onions or sweet peppers and shredded cheese.  Heat a large frying pan to medium-high and brown on both sides until the cheese melts.  Cut into wedges, cool on a rack to help avoid excessive sogginess, then pack them up.  Send sour cream or salsa if desired.
  • Pasta & sauce:  Reheat leftover KD, lasagna, pasghetti & meatbulbs, etc. in the morning and pack in a thermos.
  • Pitas:  These can be miserable things!  My friend Amy's little guy remarked last week that we should call pita pockets "closed pockets."  Very insightful!  Don't bother wrestling with them if the sides are stuck together; pretend they're just like a hot dog bun and fold or roll your fillings inside.  I love pita with tzatziki, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
  • Salad:  Mix up some weeds, cut up fresh or dried fruit, some additional chopped veggies like cucumber, celery, peppers, and maybe some cubed or grated cheese, diced chicken, taco beef, or black beans, and add a starch (bun, crackers, breadsticks, etc.) for a well-balanced meal.  Pasta or grains like quinoa could be substituted for the greens.  Include dressing on the side to combat Soggy Salad City.
  • Tortilla chips:  If your child has access to a microwave, pour some chips in a square container and cover with grated cheddar to be heated at lunch for 30-60 seconds.  Send little containers of salsa and/or sour cream if you or your child like these.
  • Tortilla wraps:  Spread your condiments to at least an inch / 2.5 cm from the edge of the tortilla, add lettuce, cheese slices, meat, pickles, etc.  Roll up tightly , secure with toothpicks, and wrap with (sorry to waste resources...) plastic wrap so everything sticks together. My kids like a warning about how many toothpicks I've used so they don't get any unexpected fibre! 

Thanks for coming by the island again and Happy New (School) Year! 


P.S.  Only 179 more lunches to make... ;-)