School Lunches

Well the first week is done and no matter what your kids ate this week you made it through!  GOOD JOB!     …but we don’t want to just make it through all year.

Last year I didn’t plan very well and found that each morning my first thoughts were, “crap what do I have in the kitchen to put in the lunches?”  …secondary thought was, “will my kids eat it?” …third, “is it healthy?”

You might be thinking, oh c’mon Jenny of course it’s healthy you post lots of healthy foods… but my kids are still kids and my girl is trying to survive on chocolate I’m pretty sure and my son can’t believe that chips aren’t a food group! lol  They have their preferences and unlike me, they like variety.  (I literally eat the same thing for breakfast every day and I LOVE it! …sometimes on the weekends I’ll feel the pressure to eat the same breakfast as my family… but this post isn’t about my crazy habits)

So this year I have vowed to procrastinate less, involve the kids more and be prepared for the inevitability of the MON-FRI lunches.

I have a PDF here for you to check out…  school lunches (1)   This gives you a visual and some suggestions on how to pack your kids a healthy lunch.  This can also be made into an activity for the kids to participate in.  (pictures below)

As you can see on the PDF I have included some non-vegan items. I really wanted to help as many families as possible make lunches WHOLE FOOD BASED… in an ideal world we would all be feeding and eating WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED but just eating whole food would be a great start!

This is what our first 3 school lunches looked like. The potato salad we had for dinner the night before and I just planned to make extra to have enough for their lunch.  Hubby took it too cause lunch isn’t just for kids 😉  The other lunches I made the morning of… We have our whole grains (granola, whole grain bread), fruit (blueberries, oranges, bananas), vegetables (carrots, peas, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes), healthy fats (coconut whip, seeds, avocado) and protein  – people there is protein in almost everything!  (hummus, carrots, chis seeds, coconut, banana, etc)

The paper chart featured here isn’t part of this week’s lunch prep.. it’s actually the beginning of next week. I let both kids make 2 charts like this. This gives me 4 lunch ideas. Some items will be repeated because, for example both kids like oranges, but that’s great! It gives me a foundation and a grocery list to make our lunches from.  Just having these ingredients in mind will create opportunities for you to keep lunches creative and easy.  Sooooo many things can be wrapped or sandwiched in whole wheat or flax wraps and healthy seeded breads. Just because your kid get a wrap every day next week, doesn’t mean they aren’t getting variety. Pasta salad is such a great go-to lunch because you eat it cold, so no “heating up” worries and both fruits and veggies can be chopped and added in.  Seeds are a great way to get those healthy fats in without breaking the “no nuts” policy and once again, there is seriously protein everywhere so it’s not even something that needs to be on your radar.

These meals are of course plant-based, because that is how our family eats.  REAL TALK if you do eat meat or cheese or eggs, check out my post on Hot dogs, lunch meats and cancer… so you can make an informed healthy choice for your little one.  Also, you can just make them some chicken or fish or scrambled eggs for supper. Once a day for animals fats is ENOUGH 🙂

RECIPE ALERT!

My daughter and I were invited to a summer’s end potluck and this recipe popped into my mind.  I had made it in the past but somehow even though my family loves it, I had forgotten about it…until now!

CURRY CHICKPEA PITA

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You can find variations of this recipe in plant-based cook books but personally I like this combo best 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 green onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 large carrot (shredded)
  • handful of cilantro (chopped)
  • handful of sunflower seeds
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of daiya cheese (optional)
  • 2 or 3 chopped pickles
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp yellow curry
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 lemon slice freshly squeezed
  • black pepper
  • a few blobs of vegan mayo… you’ll have to just mix it and decide how creamy you like it.  

There is no method, just mix it all into a bowl!  That is about the best I can do with measurements 🙂  I just eyeball, dump and shake while I cook.  Don’t be afraid to taste it and add more or less of those flavours you love.  There are lots of veggie options that make a nice addition like sweet red pepper, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, etc.  Have fun!

We stuffed this mixture into a pita for our potluck but it can be eaten straight up, with crackers, or on spaghetti (which is how we ate the leftovers).

This salad tastes great when you make it, awesome when you arrive at your potluck and even better the next day as the spices give out more and more flavour.

Hot dogs, lunch meats and cancer…

I have a goal this year. Last year I had the same goal but I encountered resistance and basically took no for an answer. NOT THIS YEAR!

This year I plan to make it a priority to get processed meat out of school fundraisers and stop schools from participating in selling processed meat to kids. 

That’s my mission.  It wont be easy.  I already tried explaining to the school division who passed it to the principle, who passed it to the parent committee who passed it off to individual parent choice.  The problem for me is that we look at schools as a place of education, this is a place that is supposed to be setting our kids up for making great future choices. As parents we don’t know or remember everything that school teaches our children. Teachers are always learning new ways to teach our kids, better methods and more current information. So for a school to take a backseat to something as important as nutrition and sell kids a class 1 carcinogen that causes cancer is 100% unacceptable in my books!

Every 50 gram serving of processed meat increases cancer risk by 18%… 1 typical hot dog that you would see at kids birthday party or school hot lunch is 75 grams.

Schools need to know better, do better and be on the side of educating and encouraging the parents to do better. This is not a place for ambivalence.  These are our kids lives. 

Take a moment to remember that doctors used to smoke in hospitals, in fact in the 1930’s – 1950’s doctors even promoted “healthy cigarette brands” and prescribed the use of cigarettes to their patients….sounds ridiculous to us now.

Take a look at your school aged child, in 50 years they will be telling stories about how schools used to sell them ham and cheese subs, pepperoni pizza and how they could buy hot dogs from the school lunch program or at school celebrations….and it will sound ridiculous.

Despite great marketing attempts at making these products sounds healthy, these are all examples of carcinogenic processed meat.

Fusion Noodles

Another leftover creation that turned out so delish, that I will just make it on purpose and not wait for leftovers!  A little Italian, a little Asian – win win!

Of course I had sprinkled everything on top, really pretty, to take an appetizing Insta-pic but then I stirred it and started eating it before I remembered to take the PICTURE!!

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We like the really thin spaghettini or vermicelli noodles when we are eating pasta.  I  love to have just a little taste of noodle and mostly taste the veggies and sauce that I’ve dressed it with.

Since, I was starting with leftover spaghettini that had been in the fridge, it was cold and I decided to roll with it and make a cold noodle ‘salad’.

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I added my seed mix. This SUPERFOOD mix I’m trying for the first time.  Usually I just add hemp hearts and the “salad topper” from Costco that has pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries in it.  Either way these seeds are a healthy source of fat, great fibre and add a nice crunch.  I also sprinkled some chili powder, S&P and chopped up fresh basil.  For a little moisture and some salty asian flavour (because that is what I love, give me heat and salt and I’m a happy girl!) I added a splash of tamari. Tamari is fermented soy sauce.  Because of the fermentation, the salt doesn’t effect your blood pressure the same way that it would with other salty products and it is gluten-free if you need that.

 

If you decide to give it a try I hope you like it as much as I did!

Easy Ramen and Kale

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This was just a quick lunch with my favourite kind of noodle…ramen!

Ingredients:

  • ginger
  • garlic
  • chili peppers
  • soya sauce
  • 1 cup bouillon (or 1 cup water and 1/2 tsp bouillon paste)
  • button mushrooms (because that is what I had on hand but shiitake would have been ideal)
  • kale
  • ramen noodles
  • toasted sesame oil (gives it the asian flavour)

I put the oil in the pan and heated it up a little with the garlic, ginger and mushrooms. I let it fry for a couple mins while I washed and tore up the kale. Then I just dumped everything else in the frying pan, kept the heat on medium low and put the lid on until the noodles were cooked.  Since I wasn’t in the mood for soup today 1 cup of water was enough to cook the noodles and have a bit of sauce from the noddle starch and spices.

Fun Facts about my lunch!

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable making it a powerful antioxidant able to help fight off free radicals.  It is also full of vitamin C and lowers cholesterol.  Mushrooms are fantastically anti-inflammatory in your body and your blood vessels and heart will thank you with every serving!   Ginger is great for digestion and of course garlic boosts immunity. 

Bowtie Pasta

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Sometimes my kids want crazy shaped noodles… part of being a kid I guess.  They picked this bowtie pasta out at the grocery store and I thought…what the heck am I going to make with this?!  This adorable shape made me start dreaming of pesto but I didn’t like the ingredients in anything from the store… so I thought, I’ll just make it myself.

Let’s say this is a loose interpretation of pesto since it’s very basic and quite clean tasting …really I just wanted that sweet fresh basil flavour!

Green ‘Pesto’ Sauce: handful of fresh basil, handful x2 of spinach, 1 avocado, a splash of coconut vinegar, a splash of water and a squeeze of lime.  A dash of pink Himalayan salt to bring out the flavours and into the blender it went.  It was bright green perfection!   I put the leftovers in the fridge and it was even better the next day after the flavours had time to marinate with each other.  I did choose to skip the garlic in the sauce since I knew we wouldn’t use it all up at once and I find that fresh garlic the next day is super overpowering and I wanted to enjoy the clean flavours of the fresh greens and herbs.  

The Veg: I fried up some mushrooms, onions, garlic and canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed) in a little avocado oil, S&P, and nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast gives it the wow factor, a salty – cheesy flavour without the actual salt and cheese.

In the end, kids got their cute pasta and mom got her fresh ‘pesto’ sauce!  WIN WIN 🙂

Some Nutritional Facts:

  • chickpeas are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and an excellent source of plant based protein.
  • mushrooms are anti-inflammatory making them great for your heart and blood vessels.  There is also new research showing their benefits in improving cognitive function.
  • onions and garlic are a no brainer! Immune boosting, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory along with providing many vitamins and nutrients such as B1, B6 and vitamin C.
  • spinach is a great source of vitamins namely vitamin K, important for bone health.
  • basil is a good source of magnesium and vitamin A, promoting healthy blood flow.

 

Tiny Tacos

TACOS

This one was quick and easy since jackfruit comes in the can and doesn’t really need to be cooked.  I just pulled apart the jackfruit and fried it a little in some sweet and tangy BBQ sauce with a handful of smashed black beans.  To boost the flavour even more I added some onions, garlic and mushrooms to the frying pan.  Onions and garlic are not only great for the immune system but are also powerful anti-inflammatories, lowering inflammation in your gut and throughout your body.

DID YOU KNOW: Mushrooms relax your arteries lowering your blood pressure!

We love our homemade guacamole! Avocado is rich in oleic acid – a healthy fat – and we try to consume it as much as possible  — our guac is just squished avocado with some S&P, a splash of pickle juice and scoop of nutritional yeast —  For the rice I always cook it in broth and often will add some cumin or coriander for added flavour.  If you add the spices to the water then the rice (or any grain you cook) takes on the flavours as it’s cooking and soaking it all in.

We topped it all off with a little salsa and some fresh cilantro — cilantro is great at soaking up and naturally removing any extra heavy metals from our body. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • rice
  • guacamole – avocado, pickle juice, nutritional yeast
  • jackfruit
  • black beans
  • onions
  • mushrooms
  • garlic
  • salsa
  • BBQ sauce

Christmas Eve Pumpkin Pancakes

pumpkin pancakes  These pumpkin pancakes drizzled in maple syrup were dinner Christmas Eve at our place!  The kids had eaten a lot of candy at school and then right into the weekend with company coming over and party food on the menu.  Our digestive systems needed some stability but our tastebuds still wanted to know it was Christmas Eve 😉

Pumpkin is loaded with disease fighting vitamins and antioxidants. Along with plenty of dietary fibre to feed beneficial gut bacteria pumpkin aids in digestion to keep things moving along in the digestive tract.

Recipe:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 can organic pumpkin puree (425g)
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup oil (I like avocado)
  • 1/4 cup plant based milk
  • 2 cups ground oats
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda activated with apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soaked raisins

Top with maple syrup, fruit, jam, chickpea chocolate, coconut flesh, …I will let you imagine 🙂

*gluten free       *vegan

Kale… yup I said the K word

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Kale is just one of those foods, you either love it or you hate it.  Some people have the ability to eat it despite their dislike but I am a strong believer that there is enough variety out there, you can always find something with the same health benefits that you love…

You should always love what you eat and eat what you love! 

I am a kale lover!  This pic was from a hot salad that I made myself for lunch today. I steamed the kale and mushrooms in a little bit of miso broth and added fresh tomatoes and spicy banana peppers on top…a personal love of mine.

But the benefits of kale are worth it in spades even if you only like it a little.

  • Lowers LDL cholesterol – after just 14 days of adding kale to the diet of people with high cholesterol they saw a 20% drop
  • Immune booster – adding kale into your diet exponentially increases your white blood cell army (your disease fighting immunity cells)
  • Loaded with vitamins – iron, protein, folate, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, calcium,  …the list goes on!
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • A great source of dietary fibre
  • Detoxifying chlorophyll

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Kale can be a bit bitter uncooked, so I recommend eating it steamed. Lots of fresh foods lose many of their nutritional benefits during the cooking process but kale is not one of them. So go ahead and steam, bake or even boil your kale.

Spice it up, season it, sauce it – discover how you love it and then eat it often!

 

 

TIP: If you’ve given it an honest try and aren’t a kale lover/liker you can give purple cabbage a try and reap many of the same rewards 🙂 

Mango Rice with a little spice ;)

This is a quick and easy go to supper or lunch for the whole family.  Back in my childcare days rice was a great meal for the kids.  I found that lots of kids like rice (especially if you put ketchup on it…shhhhh) and you can chop up veggies that they might other wise reject and mix it all together – stir-fry style.  By choosing a brown rice you don’t get that blood sugar spike that you do with white rice and it’s a healthy source of energy, protein and fibre.

Hubby cooked lunch with a side of kombucha! 😍  Brown basmati rice cooked in bouillon, garlic (a powerful immune booster and anti-inflammatory), shiitake mushrooms (lower your blood pressure by relaxing artery walls), onions (too many benefits to list 😉, black beans (an excellent source of protein), S&P, No Salt Added Costco spice mix, corn, parsley, dill and fresh mango (loaded with fibre, live enzymes to promote good digestion and of course vitamin C!).

…for the adults a few chilli flakes on top! 

mango rice

TIP: cooking your grains in bouillon gives them huge depth of flavour and can really change your mind when it comes to the umami factor of a simple grain