What to Pack – Healthy Ideas for Back to School

I put together the following list to give parents a place to start when being overwhelmed by the prospect of packing your child’s lunch.  When packing a lunch I try to pack a variety of colors, flavors and textures to appeal to kids (or really everyone) and be sure the food that packed, gets eaten and enjoyed.  Whether they’re small and just heading off to preschool or daycare or older and expressing their boredom of the same old lunch.  Here are some tasty and healthy food items to quickly make and pack for school, day trips, or anytime on-the-go.  These foods do not require much in the way of preparation.  They are easy to make and don’t need a real recipe – only your imagination and your child’s appetite.  Even kids can help make these.  This is just a start to get you and your family going with their favorites and new combinations.  Feel free to share with us here!


Not being able to pack peanut butter (for school and community activities) can be difficult for some children.  However alternatives such as soy nut butter,  sunflower butter, and cream cheese can be a good source of protein and makes a healthy snack paired with the following foods:

  • Spread on chunks of apple
  • Spread on brown rice cake
  • Sandwiched between two waffles or pancakes
  • Spread on wheat tortilla, topped with a banana and rolled up
  • Spread on lavosh with fruit spread and rolled and cut into pinwheels

Vegetables and fruits can make their own snacks with a little extra effort to make them special and appealing to children.  A few suggestions:

  • Celery stick spread with cream cheese and sprinkled with raisins
  • Fruit chunks (melon, pineapple, grapes) skewered on a popsicle stick
  • A cored apple stuffed with granola or cereal
  • Carrot and jicama sticks served with dip
  • Lettuce leaves stuffed with egg-olive spread, then rolled

When the bag of plain old cereal needs a shake up.  A variety of homemade trail mixes make easy to pack favorites.  You can even pop in a few chocolate chips to any of these for a real treat:

  • Favorite low sugar cereal mixed with raisins and coconut flakes
  • Granola mixed with dried apricots, cranberries
  • Dried fruit pieces mixed with wheat pretzels
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) mixed with goji berries and banana chips
  • Yogurt covered pretzels mixed with whole wheat crackers

Something other than typical sandwich bread.  Pita bread makes a handy and healthy pocket to stuff your child’s favorite fillings:

  • Stuffed with lettuce, avocado and cheese
  • Stuffed with spinach and hummus
  • Stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs
  • Stuffed with left-over meats and veggies

Lavosh or flatbread and tortillas make a neat roll-up for little hands.  These rolls can also be cut for a special, colorful presentation – kind of like sushi!

  • Spread with cream cheese and shredded veggies (carrots, red pepper, zucchini)
  • Spread with hummus and sliced cooked turkey
  • Spread with tomato sauce, sprinkled with mozzarella cheese
  • Spread with bean dip and sprinkled with jack cheese

For something creamy and cold, which can also be put in partially frozen to act like an ice pack:

  • Organic plain yogurt (provide berries or granola to mix in)
  • Flavored organic greek yogurt (less sugar than regular)
  • Fruit gel cups (vegetarian)





Date Night at Mill Valley Beerworks – Alice Waters in the House


Tonight my husband and went to Mill Valley Beerworks for dinner.  We’ve been to Beerworks brewery a few times for beer and a few bar bites, but they’ve remodeled, and expanded and now have a full dining menu.  Most of the tables are long and communal for sharing and gathering with friends.  We opted instead for seats at the bar.  At first I was disturbed not to see my favorite pork sliders and soft pretzels on the menu.  However I was pleasantly surprised by the new menu and food.  It was bright and fresh and simple, yet sophisticated.  I’m not a big beer drinker but I had a nice Hogan Dry Apple Cider, which went well with the food.  We shared a few small plates such as peas with mint, fava toast (fava bean paste on a baguette with a citrusy  salad of herbs), cucumber and beets with creme fraiche, and 23 minute roasted potatoes (not sure on the name, luckily we didn’t wait that long).  Only one dish missed for us – a tuna pappardelle on the large plate section.  Pasta was a bit heavy and rubbery and heavily seasoned with parsley.  After one bite it went untouched, and the waiter credited our bill.  We finished with a lovely fig and ricotta dessert with a drizzle of honey.  There was a small tea cake on the side (really just a bite), that I could’ve eaten a dozen of at least.


According to the bartender, Beerworks is planning to open for lunch soon and bring back some of the former bar bites, such as sandwiches and salads.  I’m happy to  have another lunch and dinner dining option in Marin county and especially in Mill Valley that creates and supports local, seasonal food.  All in all it was a really nice, local date night.  A surprise from the beer pub we were expecting, but more interesting and sophisticated than prior.  Beerworks is noted for it’s handcrafted beer and other hundreds of international beer choices.  However we saw more wine being served with the new fare than beer.  Certainly a new destination for both beer snobs and foodies….


Speaking of which we saw Alice Waters dining at one of the communal tables.  I just had to share that.  Hope we’ll be able to get a table again soon.


Giants vs Dodgers – Food Concessions Battle



I don’t know the baseball standings right now.  But I do know how the ballparks for the L.A Dodgers and S.F. Giants rank for me and my family in terms of food.

I grew up in the LA area and went to many Dodger games.  It was the years of Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, and Tommy Lasorda.  Yes, I’m that old.  Anyways my kids and I I were lucky enough to go to a Dodger game while visiting family in L.A. this summer.  It was just as I remember as a kid.  There were no differences.  The concessions were stuck in a Dodger Dog and fast food time warp.  Luckily my sister the vegan thought ahead and brought she and my vegetarian daughter veggie mexican food from Chipotle.  However when I went searching for my son’s dinner – it was slim pickings.  I couldn’t even find a plain cheeseburger that wasn’t a pre-made saucy fast food mess, topped with bacon.  He ended up sharing some cheese pizza with his uncle and having some peanuts.  I was determined to find something healthy and all I came up with was one cart (really not even a permanent stand) that said “Healthy Fare”.  This meant a $12 wilted iceberg lettuce salad and some iced teas.  (Apparently they already sold out of sushi – this was only the second inning.  People want this stuff!).  I bought the iced tea and went back to my seat in a huff.  Luckily for me my daughter’s veggie burrito was huge and I ate some of hers.  My sister felt bad and gave me some of her salad too.  Thanks sis.  Really in an area with all kinds of celebrity money and high profile chefs, someone needs to step up and bring LA into the present.  Magic, are you listening?

The very next week we met friends for a lovely day at AT&T park to see the Giants.  My husband and I used to live right down the street and go to many Giants games (back when Barry was Barry).  As we were walking near the stadium there was a Safeway selling peanuts, water and Cracker Jacks for about a quarter of the ballpark price.  This was a good ballpark food start.  Once we got inside there are was a large variety of lunch options.  However the lines were much longer than the Dodger lines.  Everything  from Cha Cha Bowls (my daughter and husband’s pick) to clam chowder in a bread bowl (my son’s pick), to fish and chips and fresh crab sandwiches.  Of course there’s the usual ballpark fare too.  There were actually too many choices for my son and we did a bit of line jumping before he made his soup decision.  We were with friends whose kids chose hot dogs.  They bought and finished them no problem before we even got through our first gourmet line.   I realized if my kids weren’t such food snobs (my doing) we’d spend less time in lines and we’d see more baseball.  I’m not complaining, just observing.  Again it was all about wrangling food for the kids and by the time my friend and I were choosing food for ourselves, we decided to hit the margarita cart.  It went well with my daughter’s Cha Cha bowl which was bigger than her head.

Both games were fun and we saw both home teams win their respective games.  If I ask the kids which game they liked better they’d probably say Dodgers.  The reason?  Not the food.  Not the baseball.  The give-away – Kurt Gibson bobble heads!  The Giants gave away 2 for 1 tickets to fly on Virgin Airlines (not sure we’re headed anywhere before the stingy Nov. 2012 deadline).


Happy Birthday To Me….Grilled Peach Idea

Wished and Ate Before Photo (sorry)

I’ve been remiss in writing I know.  I chalk it up to summer and fun times with my family.  And although I know it’s August, we’ve finally just finished celebrating our July birthdays.  Having three July birthdays in the family means it’s never ending.  We celebrate together as a family, then with friends and then usually with trips and visit from grandparents and extended family.  We are lucky.  But it makes me lazy too.


People celebrating me means talking me out for dinners (more on that later) and hosting my family, where I don’t have to bring a thing (yes, I still bring wine or flowers).  For my actual birth day my husband made a lovely dinner of grilled salmon, asparagus, salad, couscous and bread.  No birthday cake here.  He was a grill master from start to finish and the dessert culmination has become his signature dish…(wait for it…) grilled peaches!  Yep.  These are yummy.  He’s played a bit with the recipe, like any great home chef.  At first he got a little too tricky with marinating the peaches in brown sugar, and soy sauce.  He thought the salty soy would balance the sugar.  The soy was a bit too smokey and overwhelming.  He’s discovered after making them a few more times, that the trick is just to go sweet.   Here are some instructions rather than recipe as there’s no measuring done, or really required.


First he cuts each peach in half, and removes stone.  Then he drizzles maple sugar, and sprinkles brown sugar and cinnamon on the halved peaches to marinate for about an hour (long enough to eat your grilled dinner).  Next he puts the peach halves on a hot grill (high temp) for about 2 minutes each side, until the juice and sugar carmelizes a bit and the peach becomes softer (but watch it, not too soft).  Finally he puts each hot peach half over a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.  Voila!  A yummy, healthy and seasonal summer dessert. Candles optional.