In fall, a mom’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of lunches. School lunches, that is. Some of us eagerly look forward to the challenge of providing lovely, photo-worthy lunches with a wide variety of items every day, and others of us feel like Anne Boleyn on her way to the chopping block, knowing that our attempts to make pretend sushi rolls out of tortillas, cream cheese, and red pepper are only going to end in tears for everyone involved.
I love cooking, and I love making fun things for the children to eat, but I fail spectacularly at cute lunch ideas. I want to be a person who cuts sandwiches into shapes of owls or bunny rabbits — complete with carrot sticks to munch on — or even just plain hearts or stars, but I am not. I want to be the sort of person who creatively skewers fruit to make rocket shaped kebobs, who puts grapes into baggies and then seals them with a clothespin painted to look like a butterfly, or who makes roses out of ham slices, but I am not.
Here’s the thing, though: I am the only one who cares. I hurt my own feelings by looking longingly at photos of bento boxed lunches and other crafty ideas, stark contrasts to the nutritionally-solid-but-dull lunches that I actually do pack in the battered lunch bags that are emblazoned with a Batman motif. My children, most emphatically, do not care. In fact, they are at the age now that a teddy bear-shaped sandwich would likely be the cause of much embarrassment, rather than delight at their mother's lunchtime joie de vivre.
There’s another consideration, though, and that is that variety is not the spice of life, as far as my children are concerned. Certainly I provide them with a wide variety of flavours and textures at dinnertime, especially when I’m trying out new recipes. Certainly I purchase a wide variety of fruits and vegetables based on seasonal availability and local production. Certainly I create any number of home-baked goods made with different grains and ingredients for them to snack on. However, when it comes to lunches, the tried-and-true is always my children’s preference. If my children were given free rein to choose anything they wanted for lunch, there would be a zero deviation from the mean.
Sometimes school days can be long and tiring; if I can provide a little bit of happiness in the form of a favourite lunch, then why wouldn’t I do just that? If what my children desire is the same lunch, over and over again, why would I fight it? What I’m saying is this: let’s embrace the monotony! Let freedom from high lunchtime expectations reign! Who’s with me?
Summertime eating is practically synonymous with barbequing; the evenings are warm, the sunsets are late, and the backyard is practically begging to be the new dining room. Beers, burgers, salads, and good friends are all that is required for a perfect evening.
This veggie burger is a wonderful addition to any barbeque; it has excellent texture and flavour, and won’t fall apart on the grill. Even my meat-loving family enjoys it, which is really saying something. Your guests will love this delicious quinoa and black bean patty served on a crusty bun with a salad and a frosty beer — casual entertaining at its best.
In a small pot, bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is translucent and the water is absorbed.
Meanwhile, saute mushrooms in olive oil until soft.
In a food processor, pulse together cooked quinoa, sauteed mushrooms, black beans, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and onion powder until combined.
Form mixture into patties and refrigerate until firm.
Grill for six minutes per side over medium heat. Serve on a crusty bun with favourite toppings, and a beer on the side.
Patties can also be frozen for future use.
Yield: 8 bean burgers
Nutritional Information, based on each of 8 burgers: Calories: 117, Total Carbohydrates: 18 grams, Fibre: 5 grams, Sugar: 1 gram, Protein: 6 grams, Fat: 2 grams
If I could eat only one thing for the rest of my life, it would be this Greek salad. It is my number one favourite food. When I was pregnant with my second child, I ate this several times a week. These days it is merely a weekly treat, the Friday night meal I look forward to. It has replaced popcorn as my “no one else is home, it’s just me” dinner. It’s incredibly simple to make, and served with pita, hummous, and tziatiki, it is a complete meal for me, although when the meat-eating contingent is home I sauté some chicken breasts that have been marinated in lemon and olive oil.
When I visit my mother-in-law in the summer, she goes out into her great, abundant vegetable garden and chooses the best peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes for me, so I can have my very favourite meal. There’s something so delightful about slicing up the sun-warmed, perfectly ripe vegetables, and the flavour of that freshness adds considerably to the salad. The rest of the year, I content myself with buying the sweetest looking produce for this beautiful, colourful, masterpiece of a salad. In the soundtrack of my life, Ode to Joy would play each time I take a forkful.
Whisk together olive oil, vinegars, basil, oregano, and garlic.
In a large bowl, combine veggies. Top with black olives and feta cheese.
Toss with dressing, enjoy with warm pita, hummous, and tziatiki.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
Arrange chicken slices in a shallow bowl.
Pour oil and lemon mixture over top; marinate for 2-5 hours.
In a nonstick pan, sauté chicken slices until browned and cooked through.
Yield: Makes 2 large or 4 medium servings.
Nutritional Information, salad only, based on 4 servings: Calories: 269, Total Carbohydrates: 10 grams, Fibre: 3 grams, Sugar: 8 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Fat: 23 grams