Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lunch on July 29 - Chicken, broccoli and pita

I decided not to send tonight's leftovers to school tomorrow.  We had spanakopita which was great but I don't think it would taste very good cold.

Instead I am sending plain chicken, broccoli, grapes and clementines, and pita bites filled with leftover spinach dip from Mah Jongg night.   (Incidentally, if you play Mah Jongg and you live in LA (anywhere between West Hollywood and Echo Park), please let me know, I'd love to find more people to play with!)

Next week I'll get a packet from Julian's new school which will give me some information about the hot lunch program when she starts in the fall.  I think I might decide to order the hot lunch on some days depending on what's offered and how expensive it is.  I'll include the info here when I have it.  I wonder what it will all mean for the fate of this blog.  We'll see. . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lunch on July 27 - Shrimp and Shanghai Noodles

Today's lunch is one I really want to eat myself.  I am not sure if Juju appreciates the extra touches I put in to make her lunch look more appealing but they make me feel good so I do them.

Today's lunch is cold shrimp, Shanghai noodles with broccoli (leftover from lunch at Chin Chin, one of my absolute favorite LA restaurants), cooked carrots, sugar plum tomatoes, strawberries and grapes.  The grapes were a special request from Juju because her friend Harper had grapes on Monday and since they aren't allowed to share food at school, she was only able to stare longingly at them.  I've noticed she takes great joy in picking the grapes from the stem so I left those intact.

We went to the doctor today for Juju's 3rd birthday checkup and she received a number of shots.  This meant she received a number of treats throughout the afternoon and evening including a lollipop, cupcake, and mini ice cream cone.  At least she eats a healthy lunch.  Another cause for celebration on a blog about food is that Juju is finally at a normal height and weight (just under 50% percentile in both categories).  For a while she was hovering under 20% in weight which didn't bother me too much but it does feel nice to be right in the middle right now.

We've been eating a lot of trout around here and I came up with two ways to make it that differ from the recipe I posted a few weeks ago.  These are much easier (i.e. you will not have to supreme any lemons or make an extra trip to the store just for capers).   In the photo below I coated the trout with crumbled almonds and pan fried them in olive oil and lemon.  It was so good.  And tonight I took some leftover challah, toasted it in the toaster oven, threw it in the food processor to make breadcrumbs and cooked them the same way.  Delicious!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lunch on July 25 - El Cholo leftovers

Juju's birthday was last Friday and I forgot to take photos of the dinner as I mentioned I would last week.  Everything kind of came together at the last minute.  But, I did take a photo of the cake!  It was a dark chocolate recipe from Donna Hay's book Off the Shelf that my friend Billy gave me many years ago.  I would post the recipe here but honestly, it wasn't that amazing.  However I do recommend the book because her other recipes are delicious, easy to make, and nothing is ever ordinary.

It was a great birthday indeed:

Last night we continued the celebration and ate dinner at El Cholo where Julian was serenaded in Spanish and given her first taste of flan.  (She preferred the whip cream and caramel sauce to the actual flan).  I am serving the leftover rice, beans, and taco meat for lunch along with strawberries and watermelon.

As I watched the family next to us at the restaurant feed their 10 month old drops of Coca-Cola from a straw I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if we implemented a plan I read about in the New York Times on Sunday morning proposing we tax soda and other junk food while subsidizing vegetables.  It's an extraordinary idea even if it does have a few flaws (for example it's all well and good to make whole grains cheap and widely available but in addition to price a lot of people prefer fast food because it's fast - waiting 20 or 30 minutes for your quinoa or millet to cook is a luxury a lot or people, especially poor people, don't always have) but still really encouraging.  I love the idea of subsidized vegetables and a plan to give cooking tools and lessons to those who need them.  I also especially liked the line that has us imagine being able to buy whole grains at the library for 50 cents a pound.  Now that would be convenient!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lunch on July 22 - Happy Birthday Lunch!

Happy Birthday Juju!  My little luncher is 3 years old today and has come a long way since her first meal on a sunny morning in Santa Monica.  So, today we'll celebrate with some favorite foods.

We greeted Juju this morning with the Happy Birthday song and a plate of favorites for breakfast - lox and cream cheese on a bagel.

Her lunchbox meal included some more favorites - orange slices, carrots, and sushi!  Also served but not shown is pasta in the shape of Arthur, (one of her favorite characters from the book and PBS show) and a smoothie made with Greek honey yogurt, milk, bananas, and strawberries.  I wanted to do something fun like write something with food or put a note in her lunchbox but since Juju can't read, I figured it was a wasted effort.

After lunch we'll join Juju in her classroom for a treat and a story.  Loyal readers are already familiar with the strict food rules at Juju's school so I opted for an inoffensive snack of fruit skewers.  Well I suppose the pointy ends of the skewers could be hazardous but we'll be careful.

A word of advice if you plan to make fruit skewers -- buy the fruit well in advance.  I bought a lot of it last night in a rush and didn't pay attention to what was ripe and what wasn't.  The result was a lot of hard fruit I couldn't serve to kids.  Oh well, at least the strawberries and oranges are sweet.

Dinner completes the day of favorites.  We'll have corn, broccoli, mahi mahi and lamb chops.  I'll try to post photos later.  Happy Birthday!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lunch on July 18, 2010 - Cilantro Lime Shrimp

I thought things were supposed to slow down in the summer but I feel like I am busier than ever.  Juju is also going to school three days a week which means I have more lunches to pack.  I'm going to try to record them all here.  I apologize for my absence.

Today I served cilantro lime shrimp, half an avocado, a delicious California nectarine, sugar snap peas and pita chips:

I have never sent shrimp to school before (growing up eating lunches at a Jewish day school makes it feel a little weird) but Juju ate almost all of it so I'll consider sending it again in the future.  The pita chips aren't a usual thing I pack but I felt like this lunch was a little too Atkins if you know what I mean.  

Juju's birthday is on Friday and I am already trying to think of the perfect birthday lunch.  I'm thinking it might be sushi and a smoothie.  They are two of her favorite foods and a real treat at lunch time since I rarely pack them.  While they sound like a pretty gross combination to me I think Juju will like it.  I'm also open to any birthday lunch suggestions if you have them!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Food for thought

I wanted to mention that it's a little difficult for me to take so much delight in preparing Julian's meals, buying produce at farmer's markets, and having the luxury to think so much about food without recognizing that so many people don't have the time, money, or education to pack their children healthy lunches.

I'm not entirely sure what the answer is but I think awareness is the first step toward a solution.  I like the things talked about on the blog Civil Eats.  If you have time to read just one post I would suggest something like this one about what class says about food.  I also have been meaning to read Oran Hesterman's Fair Food (I am in the middle of three books right now, I really need to focus) and maybe I'll get some inspiration from that.  You can read more about the book here and you can learn more about the Fair Food Network here.

I don't think this is going to become a blog about food insecurity but I do love talking about this stuff should any of you want to hit me up in the comments or via email.  My friend Annie is also really informed about this stuff.  Maybe she'll have something really valuable to contribute to the food movement in the future.  She's already been involved in a few campaigns doing some great work here in LA via the Progressive Jewish Alliance.  Click on the link to see how you can get involved with that great organization as well.

July 13, 2011 - Snack for lunch

I was really at a loss for lunch ideas today so I took inspiration from what Juju had for snack: peanut butter.

We went to a meeting for her new nursery school (I absolutely love the school we are currently enrolled in but for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with our current school we are switching next fall) and learned that we can not send any peanut products whatsoever to school next year.  There is some debate about whether something like almond butter is allowed; I will get some more details in August.  I assume I will be free to send sunflower seed butter as it is not a peanut nor a tree nut.  If you haven't heard of it, it's terrific and a great substitute to peanut butter (try it with jelly on a sandwich and see if you can tell the difference).

So, when Juju insisted I open the refrigerator for her (thank goodness she didn't open it by herself, the other night she figured out how to do that and there were strawberries all over the kitchen. . .) she grabbed for the first thing she could reach which was the peanut butter and insisted on adding it to her snack plate.  Since I have a few more weeks of sending peanut butter to school/camp, I decided to make these cute peanut butter and whole grain cracker sammies paired with some cheese, strawberries, grapes, and cucumbers.  I decided that the lunch looked a little light so I also gave Juju some leftover frittata from tonight's dinner (using a heart shaped cookie cutter of course).  This frittata was made with onions, leeks, spinach, broccoli, eggs and cheese.  I don't know if I have done that combination before but it was great.  I used a similar recipe to the one I blogged about here only I cooked it in a Le Creuset dish instead of muffin tins.

Although it's not in this lunch, I did want to put in a plug for the okra I made with dinner tonight.  I saw it at the Hollywood Farmer's Market this weekend and realized the only times I had had okra in recent memory it was fried and I wanted to try to really taste its flavors when they are not forced to compete with cornmeal and oil.  I'm so glad I did; the result was fantastic.  I set the oven to 500 degrees and placed small whole okra on a cookie sheet with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of oregano (I got the idea from the Gourmet Magazine cookbook - RIP Gourmet).  I mixed everything together and cooked it for 10 minutes, occasionally shaking the cookie sheet during cooking.  It was SO GOOD and further proves our theory that if you roast any vegetable mixed with olive oil, salt, and pepper at a high heat it is going to knock your socks off.  Juju enjoyed the "white balls" inside the okra though she didn't eat much because it was really hot.

I realize I skipped the blogging of two lunches; I've been really busy with Milkstars work but I will try to catch on those lunches soon as I did manage to take pictures.

I should also reveal that I am toying with the idea of signing up for some hot lunches next year.  They made the program sound really great today and the prospect of making a lunch (and blogging it!) every single day next year is a little daunting.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lunch on July 6 - Back to school

I can not tell you how excited I was to pack today's lunch.  It has been a very very very very very long summer break for us between preschool and camp and I think Juju and I are both very happy to have some time apart today.

Today's lunch is leftovers (again).  I do have some great ideas for fresh lunches; I just haven't had much time to execute them.  Lunch is watermelon and strawberries, wild rice with broccoli and filet mignon (I know it looks like the meat is raw in this photo but I assure it has been cooked), and a California peach.

I haven't put it in her lunch yet but one of Juju's favorite snacks is fresh guacamole and chips.  It is the cutest thing to hear her say the word "guacamole" and she once called it "guacaroni" which gave me the idea to try some sort of avocado sauce or dip over pasta.  If I ever make that dish I will write about it here.

We went to the Hollywood Bowl on July 4th with my parents and ate dinner in our box before the show.  I thought it would be a good idea to make guacamole and found these cute "red, white and blue" corn chips from Trader Joe's to go with it.  My Dad asked me where I got the recipe for the guac and I was surprised by the question.  Is there actually a recipe for making guacamole?  I thought it was just mashed up avocado with a handful of other ingredients thrown in.  But, in the interest of formalizing one of our favorite snacks in case I ever forget it, my "recipe" is below.

4 avocados removed from skin
1 minced clove of garlic (optional)
1/4 of an onion minced (you can also substitute a shallot or omit entirely if you prefer)
the juice of one lime (or lemon if you don't have lime)
about 8 grape tomatoes cut in quarters (optional)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mash.  My favorite tool to mash guacamole (or egg salad) is the "toothed" Kwik-Kut my friend Emily C. gave me when I got married.  They are hard to find in person but I am told Sur La Table carries them.

Also one tip I learned from my friend Betsy at a picnic in Central Park more than ten years ago - if you are not serving your guac right away, place one of the pits right on top of the dip and then cover it all with an airtight lid.  Apparently the guac won't turn brown as quickly if it's close to the pit.  It sounds a little hokey to me but it works!  When I make a large batch of guac I place several pits on top and remove them right before serving.