In The Kitchen – September 21, 2019

After many months, I’m finally coming out of a long term kitchen funk. I find myself pulling out cookbooks and digging deeper into my recipe box for old favorites.

With my kids in school, I also have been cooking and baking more. Four growing kids taking packed lunches to school demand some creativity in the kitchen. I do supplement with healthy prepared snacks like fruit twists, raisins and pretzels, but I want to make sure I’m sending in a main dish and not just a  collection of snack food. Surprisingly, quesadillas have been the big hit.

My 12-year-old, who can be QUITE picky when it comes to food, loves taking black bean and cheese (Daiya) quesadillas for lunch multiple times during the week. Three out of four love this lunch option – and it’s filling so I don’t have to worry about them being hangry during the rest of the school day. Only one of my kiddos doesn’t care for them, and so my backup for him is cheese (Follow Your Heart vegan American cheese slices) sandwiches.

Pizza bread is also a hit – fresh baked bread, sliced thin and topped with tomato sauce and Daiya cheese – all four kids love this lunch!

For sides, I try to send in fresh fruit (grapes and cuties/mandarin oranges work well for lunches), trail mix, or super bites. I know a lot of kids get junk food packed in their lunches, so I do try to put a small sweet treat for each child so they don’t feel like their lunches are boring compared to the kids sitting around them. A few pieces of licorice, a tiny cup of chocolate chips, even vegan marshmallows!

I’ve been sending the kids in each day with juice boxes in their lunches – I figure they might not bring their water bottles to lunch, and a small juice drink would make their day. I’m not really a fan of all the waste that is generated though, so I have been searching for reusable drink bottles that would work in their lunch bags. I can fill their bottles from a large bottle, and they can bring home to be used the next day. I’ve ordered these bottles for school lunches.

Having a package-free lunch set-up seems unlikely, but I’ve at least tried to make sure plastic trash is avoided whenever possible. I love these paper sandwich/snack bags – I stuff cookies, crackers, pretzels, dried cereal, whatever and toss in their lunch bags. And I don’t feel so bad knowing they end up in the trash.

I’ve made several recipes this week. Super Bites are always a big hit – they are a super filling and nutritious sweet treat, and beyond the small amount of sugar that comes from using semi-sweet chocolate chips, have no added sugar. Dates provide the sweetness.

I prepped a batch a chocolate syrup so the kids (and me, I’m not going to lie) can enjoy some chocolate milk. I will on occasion buy chocolate milk, either Almond Breeze or HEB almond milk, but to be honest they tend to be TOO chocolately and sweet. Making our own milk with syrup lets us avoid chocolate overload.

I also prepped a large batch of fruit sorbet – always a hit, no matter the season. I try to keep a big bag of frozen mixed fruit on hand. As long as I have simple syrup prepped ahead of time so it’s cold in the fridge, a batch of sorbet from frozen fruit usually only takes less than thirty minutes to prepare. I do love to try new fruit blends as sorbet, but this mixed fruit blend is my go-to blend, and the kids love it!

I also finally got around to making a new batch of vanilla extract. I had some vanilla beans that were drying out, but still smelled strongly of vanilla, so I prepped two jars of extract, increasing the vanilla and decreasing the vodka in each jar. I’m gently shaking each day, and it should be ready for use in the next several weeks.

It’s been quite a week and I’ve got plenty planned for this coming week too!

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