Friday, September 23, 2011

Week of 9/19/11 - Kids Menus, Bread, and Lunch

I sometimes wish I had time to photograph every lunch I make as I imagine this blog would turn into a yearbook of sorts detailing everything Juju ever ate in preschool.  But as I type that it sounds a little disgusting. . .so I am glad my schedule prevents me from documenting every morsel to cross her lips.

While I may not be blogging a lot, I must be a copywriter at heart because I continue to think up blog titles (if not the entries themselves).  I considered writing a post called "Roast on Toast" about how I repurposed some prime rib from a dinner last weekend and another called "The (Hot) Dog Days Are Over" about the week we go vegan but alas, we haven't cut animal products out of our lives entirely just yet (though we have made an effort to consume fewer of them so we're on our way) so those posts never made it here.

I was also thinking about this blog when I went to dinner at Ca' Del Sole, a great Italian restaurant here in LA my family has been dining at for years.  I was so delighted by their children's menu that I asked for a second copy to take home (Juju had scribbled all over her copy while waiting for her food) so I could photograph it and include it here.  Wow, I'm a huge nerd.

One of the things that really bugs me about children's menus at restaurants is that they so rarely have any connection to the menu and flavor of the kitchen serving them.  I understand there are a lot of picky young eaters out there and I know why restaurants want to accomodate them but I don't understand why in addition to the chicken nuggets or buttered pasta on the menu they can not also include smaller versions of their regular dishes.  I sometimes order Juju an adult appetizer at a restaurant because the kids' menu is so unappealing (not to mention lacking in flavor or nutrition) and I would rather get her something that is designed for her.  And, let's not forget that ordering from the regular menu is a lot more expensive than ordering off the kid's one.  I've always thought that it would be easier for a restaurant to just make a smaller size of whatever they are already cooking anyway instead of pulling out special food just for kid diners.  And I think a lot of that could be appealing to young eaters if presented in the right way.  Am I wrong?

The folks at Ca' Del Sole don't think so and I was delighted to see that they put some real effort and imagination into their kid's menu.  Children can choose from a real Italian (well, American Italian at least) menu with sophisticated ingredients like fresh Heirloom tomatoes, twists on the standard pasta fare like pumpkin ravioli, and even their very own kid-sized Caeser salad appetizer.   Juju often feels left out when the adults get their appetizer course and she has to wait until the second course for her food.  I love that this menu offers an affordable option for a children's appetizer so they can participate in the whole restaurant experience.

In case you were curious, Juju had the Fritto Misto (I had some of it - it was delicious!) and the Chicken Milanese (don't you dare call it a chicken finger, it was way out of its league).  She of course had the flourless chocolate cake for dessert!  It was a ton of food for a 3-year old; she probably could have gotten by with just one entree but she enjoyed everything.  I will certainly be back to Ca' Del Sole with Juju.

Also last week I tried this bread recipe my friend Lirona gave to me.  The bread was ok, I think I either used the wrong kind of beer or too much vinegar but it was fun to pull it out of the oven and it made great croutons a few days later.  I took a picture since the way it looked was the most appealing part.  Lirona's tasted great.  I'll have to figure out what I did wrong and try again:

Lastly I have to include a photo of a lunch from last week as that's the whole point of this blog!  I mentioned in an earlier post that a chef in Michigan sends a hamburger in his son's lunch so inspired by that, I served hamburger, brown rice, and string beans with avocado and peas for snack.  I squeezed some ketchup for dipping into a mini heart-shaped cookie cutter so that it wouldn't get all over the lunch in our drive and walk to school.  The hamburger was made from the "burger blend" at McCall's Meat and Fish on Hillhurst in Los Feliz.  It's a fantastic butcher shop and their burger blend rivals any steakhouse burger.  Their salmon sashimi is also second to none.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lunch on September 15 - Lox of luck for a great school year!

So we've been at school for two days.  It's an adjustment but for the most part things are going well.  I am trying to focus on the things I can control, like what to serve for lunch!

Tomorrow's lunch includes seaweed and crackers for snack, followed by tea sandwiches, cucumber and pomegranate salad, and watermelon for lunch.

The tea sandwiches started out as one big sandwich I cut up to make eating easier.  It is lox with cream cheese and cucumber on whole grain bread with the crusts cut off.  I realize bringing fish to school may not be the best way to make friends during the first week but I am trying to give Juju her own version of comfort foods while she eases her way into a new space and lox is one of her favorites.  Plus, she is now going to a Jewish school so I am assuming lox isn't so foreign to these folks.

I am including a photo of the snack bags because the King of All Media enjoyed that he was able to pack Juju seaweed in a sushi-themed snack bag.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lunch on September 13 - First day of school!

Yay the day finally came!  Nursery school started today and things went pretty well considering Juju was at a new school and instead of 2 days a week she is now going all 5 days.  I couldn't ask for much more on the lunch front; her nervous energy must have helped her work up quite an appetite because she ate everything I packed.

Today I served hummus and carrots for snack, and sushi with edamame and fruit for lunch.  I probably should have made something special for the first day of school but she loves sushi and had fun picking it out herself at the market so we went with that.

In addition to now packing a lunch every day, I also have to pack a snack.  At her old school snack was provided which I definitely appreciated.  This year we were given a special snack bag just for snack.  I've included a photo below.  This is probably one of the more boring photos I have posted here but hey, you are reading a blog about one kid's school lunch so what do you expect?

And here is the first day of lunch all ready to go.  I am still not sure why I am bringing two bags with food to school since they eat lunch and snack in the same place and both sit in her cubby all day but I guess this makes it easier when it's time to eat?

Here's hoping for another great year!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Almost there

The lack of posting here hasn't been due to laziness; it's because we are probably the last people on the planet to start school.  We go back on Tuesday and I have no idea what I am going to pack.

The lunch program offered by the school doesn't start for the nursery school until October which means even if I wanted to sign up for it, I'm on my own for lunch this month.

I have mixed feelings about signing up for the program.  On the one hand, it would be nice to have a few days off from the burden of planning and packing a lunch.  On the other, it's kind of expensive and I don't love the options.  The menu for the nursery school isn't out yet but I did sneak a peak at what they are offering the kindergarteners and I have to say, I am not really impressed.  The program touts the fact that everything is really customizable, which basically means that almost everything comes "on the side."  I realize this is great for parents with picky kids who are afraid their kids would rather skip the meal entirely than eat something random served to them but I am concerned that this set-up will actually train Juju to become a picky eater.  For example, if I serve her a dish of pasta with a tomato-veggie sauce, she'll eat it.  But if I start serving her pasta with sauce on the side, she might skip the step of mixing everything together and just eat the straight pasta and ignore the sauce (this "on the side thing" isn't exclusive to pasta and applies to almost all of their offered dishes).  Since I haven't seen the nursery school menu I could be putting the cart before the horse, maybe they don't expect a 3 year old to mix up her own ingredients, but I just don't know yet.  I wish we could see photos of the actual lunches, maybe that would help?

My friend Lirona also pointed out that there is no way her daughter will eat $6.25 worth of food for lunch so she thinks it's a waste of money.  I realize some of that money goes toward the convenience of not having to pack a lunch but considering the program charges an additional $2 for sushi, I might as well run down the street to Gelson's to buy her sushi on days when I am lazy.  I can get her favorite rolls for less than $8.25 and they will be enough for at least two lunches.  But, I'm going to keep an open mind when the menu comes out and we'll see what happens.

I got some inspiration for what to make on Day One from the Wall Street Journal today in a small piece called "A Gourmet Lunchbox" where they interviewed 3 chefs about what they packed in their kids' school lunches.  Alex Young from Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan sends his son with a burger served cold (like a meatloaf sandwich).  It's so simple but I never thought to do it myself.

I can't promise daily updates of what I pack this year but I will try to document a whole bunch of them.  I do so love your comments about what I am making!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm still here

I haven't posted much lately because I haven't been packing too many lunches but, for several weeks I have been meaning to tell you all that some of my favorite stainless steel lunch containers are now on sale at Pottery Barn Kids.

The Kids Konserve containers I have are available for the same outrageous price as elsewhere ($26 for a set of 3) however you have a better choice of colors at Pottery Barn - no earth tones there, just pink, red, blue, and green.  Oh and I just checked the link, it looks like red is on sale for $19.99.  That's better than the Amazon price.

I seem to be on the same wavelength as Pottery Barn's buyers because they have also brought in the much coveted Planet Box lunch box I lusted about here.  However, I have to say that upon examining the Planet Box lunch box up close and personal, I'm really glad I didn't take the plunge and buy it online. {Insert audible gasp here} While I love how neat it is (the multiple containers I normally pack can get complicated) it just doesn't seem that exciting in person.  The areas for the food are smaller than I thought and it is simultaneously too limiting (what if I want to pack things that don't conform to it's shape?) and too suggestive (what if I only want to pack two items and can't fill up the rest of the lunchbox?).  It also seems like too much work for a toddler and not enough fun-looking either.  Maybe I'll buy it when it inevitably goes on sale.  I know Pottery Barn Kids shoppers generally have a lot of money to burn but my guess is they will opt for a cuter looking lunch box.

Speaking of cute looking lunch boxes, PBK also solved a problem for me.  I have a little girl who is obsessed with the color blue.  But almost every blue lunchbox out there screams BOY BOY BOY.  It's not that I am opposed to buying her a lunchbox that was clearly intended for a male lunch buncher, it's just that she isn't into Spider-Man or Thomas the Train, or any other images that seem to be plastered on every blue lunchbox out there.  But, lo and behold, in the store that on every other occasion has decided that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, I found a lunchbox that is both blue and girly enough that I won't have to deal with questions from other people who think my 3 year old needs to prove to the world that she is feminine.  Juju will be strolling up to her new school with this lunchbox in hand (only hers doesn't say Caden) and she's pretty excited about it: