Send ‘Em Packing – Easy, Healthy Food/Drink Container

I was going to skip the back to school lunch packing tips. So many blogs talk about it.  And I wrote about packing a healthy and waste free lunch last year.  The surprising and interesting thing is while there are many more product offerings, my favorites remain those I tested (and still use) from last year.  And I realize while this may seem old news to some, it’s brand new for others.  So take a look at what my family has been using and liking.  The added bonus is that some are local Bay Area companies.

My kids will not be getting new lunchboxes this year, as their PlanetBoxes have
held up perfectly. They are easy to pack with appropriate compartments for
everything. The bag can be washed and new magnets can be purchased if your
PlanetBox is needing something fresh.

 

We also still love and are using our Kids Konserve freezer packs (fits well in
the PlanetBox pocket). I am never without one of their stainless steel
containers for snacks in my purse. They now offer more colors and sizes than
ever. Hurry to their online sale thru August.

As far as drink bottles go, we are not as satisfied with the longevity and
rotate quite a bit. My kids have just discovered the new Thermos/Threadless
stainless bottles with spouts, which are easy to open and close tightly. (I
can’t stand the leaky straw designs of some bottles). We also use EarthLust‘s
nature inspired stainless steel designs. I’m enjoying my Lifefactory 22 oz
large glass bottle and have ordered the new lunchbox ready 9 oz size for my
kids. Note: I only pack water in these. I find it is the easiest to clean, the
bottle lasts longer and healthiest for my kids and self. (If needing help with baby bottle choices for the youngest set, check out this article/review from The Babble Out.)

Finally, our organic cotton napkins by Fabkins are holding up from school
lunches, picnics, camps and home use. They continue to introduce new patterns
to make lunch fun and less messy.

So go forth and pack a healthy lunch with reusable, responsible products that are good for you, your kids and the planet. Yes, that is a lofty statement, but every little bit countsm as your child can create more than their weight in school lunch trash each year.

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Pass the Peanut Butter

Summer means a break from the nut butter bans at my house.  We can’t pack it for school or camp, but we can for summer picnics, camping and at home playdate lunches.  Of course we check before serving, but luckily my kids’ usual friends don’t have issues.  We even got crazy and I made peanut butter cookies (recipe below).  I can’t remember the last time I did that.

 

Allery News

There have been a few articles recently about the rise in nut allergies and some pretty angry parents who are just getting into school with nut free policies.  Your child will survive at school without peanut butter, while another may not survive because of it.  Think of it that way, before you get mad at policies, schools and parents who deal with an allergic child.  Enjoy it at home and use the bans to discover something new with your kids for lunch.

 

Taste Test

We like to do taste tests at my house.  My daughter wasn’t to be fooled when we did various milks at a (see blog about our milk test for a cookie party).  She still doesn’t drink cow’s milk.  So about about finding an alternative for peanut butter when school starts?  Soy nut butter and sunflower butter are big at my house.  Or try an entirely diffrent tasting type of spread such as hummus, black bean or cream cheese.  Try it on tortiallas, bread, flatbread, bagels, crumpets, crackers, etc.  I bet you’re family will find a new favorite you can safely pack, come back to school day.

 

Enjoy these cookies before school starts, on the weekend or as an after school treat.

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

(adapted from the Ski Lodge Cookbook by Tina Andersen)

Makes 24 cookies

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F.  Layer baking sheets with parchment paper.

 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Flatten dough balls with fork tines to make a crisscross.

Bake until puffed and light golden brown, 8 – 19 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes.  Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

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Kids’ Menus – A Few Good, Most Not So

I am usually dissappointed by kids’ menus at restaurants.  Why is it that the restaurant can serve fresh, organic, delicious food on the adult menu, but the the kids’ is an afterthought with a choice of who’s who from the freezer section?  Why offer a kids menu at all if you’re stooping to offer a steamed hot dog and boxed macaroni and cheese?  When did people get the idea that kids will only eat hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta with butter and chicken strips?  And even if the kids’ menu is decent, why does everything have to come with fries?  If your restaurant makes pasta for adults, make pasta for kids (just not such an overwhelming size).  If my family is going to a mexican restaurant we’ve decided we want mexican food, not a burger and fries.  If you have salads for adults, why not a small salad or some fresh, raw veggies for the younger set?  And what about milk?  Some kids are only offered soda, juice and chocolate milk.

 

Seems easier to use same ingredients and cooking techniques too.   I rarely offer my kids what’s on these menus other than the games and pictures to draw (although harder to edit now that my son reads).  We prefer to order a smaller or shared portion from the main or appetizer menu.  Or we pay for two adult size portions and take food home.

 

OK…Enough of my ranting.

 

I was impressed on two recent occassions when dining out with my family.  First, we went to  San Luis Obispo where we had a lovely breakfast at Big Sky Cafe.  The kids’ menu did have a drawing to color but the offerings were actually made from the same fresh organic ingredients as the regular menu, just smaller portions.  A stack of blueberry pancakes just wasn’t stacked so high.  A make your own omelet only came with 2 eggs and the steel cut oatmeal was appealing for every age with a selection of dried fruit and fresh berries.  I wish we were staying for lunch and dinner too.  Anyone for a petit filet with potato croquettes?   Mind you this was not a high end restaurant, as everything was under $18 for dinner on the main menu, under $10 on the kids’ menu.

 

Another great local find with a good kids’ menu is Piatti Ristorante.  There are 9 locations in all – most in California, but also in Colorado, Washington and  Texas.  This is a good italian trattoria for family and friends to gather as well as a date night spot when the kids are at home with a sitter.  Each location’s menu reflects the local taste and season.  Their bambini menu is the largest I’ve ever seen with a selection of antipasti, pizza, primi (pasta), secondi (salmon, chicken, steak), verdure (broccoli, mixed veggies) and dolce (gelato, panna cotta).  They started with an antipasti of salami, mozzarella, veggies and olives (so much we brought some home). My daughter loved her spinach and cheese ravioli as did my son appreciate his tomato gnocci.  This was higher end for the main menu but everything on the bambini  menu was a bargain at  less than $10.

 

So, yes.  It can be done.  Any place you care to share with a good children’s menu?

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Kitchen Confessions – Cookbook Contest

So there are a few things regarding cooking, eating and the kitchen (and beyond) that I’m not always proud of.  We all have these things right?  Nothing crazy, just things we’d rather not share with our kids, spouses and friends.  But here goes.  I have to tell someone.

1. When my kids aren’t looking I take a lick of batter.  I do share the spoon/beater with the kids if there are no eggs in the batter.  But I tell them it’s not safe if it has egg.  The message is correct, but I risk it for myself.

2. I forget to set or listen for timers.  My biggest mistakes in the kitchen are because I’ve overcooked something.

3. I used to eat Taco Bell breakfast burritos frequently.  Mind you this was 20 years ago.  I also ate Pop-Tarts as a kid.

4.  I’ve told my family a particular food was gone and I actually hid the very last of it for myself.  Specifically with a homemade chocolate sauce.

5.  I am secretly screaming inside when my kids are served (and eat) a birthday cake from Safeway.

6. I do not have a slow cooker.

7. I do not like raw oysters.

8. I am not fond of paper plates, plastic utensils and paper napkins (especially if you invite me for dinner).

9. I’ve turned off a burner with my toes.  I know other moms have done this while holding and/or nursing a baby.  Fess up.

11. I don’t like to be “out-ordered”.  This is when you go out to eat and your dining companion’s meal is better than yours.

12. I eat many lunches standing up by myself in the kitchen, bewteen pick-ups, while checking phone messages, searching cookbooks, and making to do lists.

13. I often cook to get out of doing something else, like cleaning.

14. I put rosemary salt on just about everything.

15. I don’t always sift, when instructed to.

So let’s have our first contest here.  I’d love to see if anyone else does some of these things and any other confessions they’d like to share.  These should be G rated please.  The top 3 answers will receive a copy of one of the new Idiot books (and no I didn’t call you one): Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Local, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking and Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Freezer Meals.  Simply blog a confession or agree with one of mine.  I’ll choose the top 3 funniest and most honest.  Winners will be contacted via email for their addresses (and must respond within 72 hours, or I’ll make a new pick).  Must be in the continental US and blog here between Friday June 17th and Friday July 8th.

 

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Chicken Apple Bite Review on Doof-a-Palooza

I’ve had a few guest bloggers, but no one under 21 years old, has ever written a review of my food.   This was so exciting to see this post from a friend of mine’s daughter, Jenny, age 14 (unsolicited even).  I’ve told you about her mom, Elaine Smith.  She’s the founder of ChowBella Kids cooking events for kids.  Well her daughter is on her way to being a food connossieur, blogger and instructor too.  Check out her making my recipe for Chicken Apple Bites here…http://www.foodbackwards.com/2011/05/14/yummy-chicken-apple-bites/

Note this was on the Doof-A-Palooza website.  Doof is food spelled backwards, and  teaches kids the amazing journey of food from its source to their table, with an interactive, imaginative, sometimes messy and always hands-on experience.  The Doof food festival in the Bay Area is this Sunday May 22nd, from 10 – 5pm at Jack London Square.  While I do not have a booth this year (just too many family commitments), I know this will be a fun time for all ages who come out to play with and sample food from local growers, chefs, purveyors, culinary instructors, authors and restaurants.  Learn event deatils here…

 

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