Posts tagged lunchbox

This lunchbox idea solves soggy-sandwich-syndrome

If you’ve hit mid-year and find yourself all adrift and out of sandwich ideas then this healthy recipe is the rope thrown to you by the lunchbox coast-rescue-guard-lifesavery-people.

A batch of these will brighten up the drabbest lunch bag and keep the kids vaguely inspired for the rest of Term 2. A double batch will do lunch boxes and then can be reheated and served with a soup…. (keep watching listeners, there’s an insanely good recipe for that coming next week).

Can you tell I’ve settled back into the land of the cooking? I have. And quite cheerily, too. There may have even been a bit of humming going on whilst I whipped these up.

And before you say, “AS IF I’m going to BAKE for their lunches”, I’ll just remind you that this recipe is prepared in about 10 minutes, especially if you get a gadget on your side. And the kid’s containers will come home empty, SANS crusts, half eaten bits or slobbery seconds. So, worth the effort, I say.

healthy lunchbox ideas - cheese and veggie savoury rock cakes
Cheese & kumura rock cakes

75g butter, cubed, left to soften
3/4 cup self-raising flour
60g grated cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated sweet potato (kumura)
1 egg
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Let the butter soften in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the flour and use your fingertips to rub it together (usually takes a couple of minutes – you could do this in a food processor if you prefer).

Tip in the cheese and veggies. Mix well.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg and mustard. Tip this into the flour mix and combine. The mix should now be ‘dough’ like and should hold together well.

Use your hands to press the mixture into 8 even-sized patties. Place on the tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through

Makes 8.

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The starsign most likely to be a fussy eater is…

starsign-graph

Combining two of the internet’s favourite topics – food and astrology (sadly I couldn’t find a way to also include conspiracy theories) – I recently conducted entirely credible research (on Facebook of course) that drew staggering results as to the connection between sun signs and whether or not your child is likely to be a fussy eater.

Got a child born between August 23 and Sept 22? You have a VIRGO and according to me, they are statistically OFF THE CHART and by far the most picky eater in the zodiac. Of course, you could call my research entirely flawed since the question I asked was, “What sun sign is your fussiest little eater? Mine – VIRGO.” With the benefit of hindsight I realise that this was biased qualitative questioning. But hey, I went to art school and spent three years painting, not actually learning anything useful like how to prepare a credible survey.

But if you removed Virgo, there were still some pretty interesting results. Next fussiest was Leo (Jul 23 – Aug 22) which is a ‘fixed’ sign – known for a certain level of stubborness. Another fixed sign, Taurus, came in next. As you’d expect there was a mid-result clump that was separated by ‘statistically insignificant’ amounts, but the two easiest signs to feed were Capricorns and Librans.

Moving on to another internet darling – cacao nibs – and I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting. The first is a healthy-as-you-like option, a dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, processed-sugar-free, is-there-anything-left cookie that I enjoyed but only got 50/50 approval my my sample study of 6 children.

The second is a pretty regular cookie, with choc chips swapped out with cacao nibs. Between the two options there should be something for everyone.

Free from everything except flavour.

Free from everything except flavour.

The healthy cacao nib biscuits

This is based on a recipe from Joyous Health.

1/4 cup maple syrup 3 tbsp tahini
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup combined currants & cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Line a tray with baking paper.

Mix everything together and dollop the mixture on the tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on the tray.

Makes 10.

Free from nothing.

Free from nothing.

Classic cookies (with cacao nibs)

125g butter, softened
1 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup cacao nibs
1 cup sultanas

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line two trays with baking paper.

Use hand held beaters or an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together. Cream them well for several minutes until light and flufffy. Add the egg and beat in well. Also tip in the vanilla and salt.

Sift over the flour and fold it in (slow setting on the beaters will be fine). Then stir in the oats, nibs and sultanas. Dollop amounts onto your trays and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Makes 36ish.

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My fruit-bowl runneth over with sloppy bananas

Usually when my fruit bowl is all a-quiver with a mass of mushy bananas, I cook this banana bread, which uses up a few in one go. HOWEVER it’s full of nuts, so not lunchbox-friendly, which is why this NEW banana-hoovering recipe has been making a few appearances at VSHQ.

Let’s not kid anyone – this is no bread, this is CAKE. And a yummy one too, complete with passionfruit icing. Mmmmm. Freeze a few pieces and you’ll be ahead for lunchboxes when school goes back for term 2. Sweet.

Did you see that I’ve got an additional 10% off all my gloriously practical and family-friendly cookbooks? I do. Until midnight, Thursday April 9, 2015. Just enter code ‘holiday’ at the checkout. Visit my shop to see the full range.

Nut-free, a litle piece of this in the lunchbox will be pretty popular.

Nut-free, a litle piece of this in the lunchbox will be pretty popular.

Lunchbox banana cake

50g butter, softened
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup oats
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup icing sugar
Pulp 1 passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 14x28cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl. Use hand held beaters to cream them together until well combined. Tip in the egg and beat until well combined.

On a slow speed, mix through the combined flour/baking powder. Use a spoon to add in the oats and banana.

Scoop into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and the top springs back with touched.

Leave to cool completely, then sift the icing sugar (to remove lumps) and add just a little passionfruit at a time until you have a good icing consistency. Ice and leave to set.

Cut into 8-10 pieces.

Freezes well. Also makes great cupcakes.

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The piece of paper that stops my head falling off

Such is the reputation of my memory that my kids treat me as though I am a little bit SIMPLE. “Poor mama”, they say, as they pat me on my shoulder, “her brain is like Swiss cheese, all full of holes.”

Before you get outraged at my mild acceptance of such rudeness from the little rascals, I need to explain that I would love to tell them off, but the impact is lost when I have to screech, “Oi! Thingybob! Enough cheek! Get yourself over to the out time on the steppy stone timber things. And number two, you go do that homework before you fail year 2!” In the heat of the mid-week tempo, I’m generally unable to put a sentence together, let alone a nice pithy one that successfully puts everyone in their place.

“Year 2!” my trouble maker would screech indignantly. “But I’m in year 3, cheese lady!” And his point would be proven. Because the truth IS that my memory is horrible.

During a lucid moment I have actually explained to them that it’s not that mummy is stupid, it’s just that mummy’s brain is very FULL. And not really with anything fun. Just fadmin stuff, like permission notes, planning when to do the dark load of washing so that everyone’s sports clothes are clean for Friday and what on earth is going to be popped into the lunchboxes each morning.

Possibly it’s the quantity of thoughts or perhaps it’s just the mundane nature of them that renders it essential that I WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN at the start of the week. It only takes a jiffy and then my brain can rest, ready to take on the next thrilling parenting challenge.

Once I've written it down, I just don't have to think about it anymore.

Once I’ve written it down, I just don’t have to think about it anymore.

Perhaps you find your brain is a little leaky too, in which case you might like to download and print out this simple planning sheet. Stick it to the fridge to help you unclog your brain (I’ve filled out a demo on page one, showing you what my week looks like).

As you can see, it’s a quick weekly planner for lunch boxes and dinners. Also, I’ve allowed a side bar for a mid-week shopping list. Even doing one massive shop a week doesn’t get me right through, generally I have to duck into a store on Wednesday afternoons.

And while we’re talking lunchboxes, here’s a nice little high-fibre muffin that uses up soggy bananas and gives the kids a chocolate treat.

And they freeze too, for those days when you've forgotten to make something.

And they freeze too, for those days when you’ve forgotten to make something.

Chocolate & banana muffins

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup bran bits (I use original All bran cereal)
1/2 cup brown or coconut sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or grapeseed oil
2 overripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour (no need to sift), bran, sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the egg, milk and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently. Add the banana and stir until just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly among your muffin holes and bake for 25 minutes or until they spring back when touched and a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 12.

For more lunchbox help, don’t miss my Complete Lunchbox Planner e-book, which just happens to be on sale at the moment! Visit the shop to check it out.

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Bugger it, they can eat biscuits all year

My back-to-school stress dreams started about a week ago. After one particularly gruelling night time panic, involving lists, school bells and missing leopard-print vests, I wrote a quite funny blog post which was subsequently lost when my laptop carked it.

So I’ll have to leave the humour to your imagination and rather than try to rewrite it, I’m giving you a DIY blog post. Just fill in the blanks based on your own family’s back-to-school situation…..

On the first day of school, I have to go _____________________ to get __________________ for _______. Then I’m off to _________________ because _________________ needs _______________ and I’ve only got until _________________ to fetch them. After that we’re off to __________________ for ______________. I’ve got _______________________ planned, but we’ll see how we go. I might have to resort to plan B, where ______________________________________ and ____________________________________________. Then I’ll nip into work for a bit because I’ve got _____________________ at _______________ which really needs some ____________________ before _______________. We should be home by _______ when I’ll get _____________ to __________________ and practice _______________________ before ________________________. I think that’ll work nicely with just enough time to eat ______________________________________ and do a bit of _________________ before bed.

And so we’re back into the school year. Good luck!

Nut-free, lunchbox perfect.

Nut-free, lunchbox perfect.

Gingerbread (good luck) biscuits

Perfect for the summer lunchbox, these sturdy biscuits are packed with seeds, making them nutritious, nut-free AND delicious.

1 cup seeds (I use a combination of flax, pumpkin, sunflower & chia – skip sesame seeds which are becoming more of an allergen problem)
30g butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp treacle
1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal flour works well, too)
1 tsp each of ginger, mixed spice & cinnamon (or cassia is great)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Add the seeds to a blender, mini food processor or thermomix and blitz them, to break them up a little (this helps hide them a little AND better helps your body absorb the nutrients). Set aside.

Use hand held beaters (or a mixmaster if you have one) to cream the butter and sugar for a minute or two, until it resembles the texture of soggy sand. (NOTE: traditional ‘creaming’ is to help dissolve the sugar, however these quantities don’t allow that to happen, we’re just giving the mix a good start).

Add the egg and use the beaters to combine it in well. Also beat in the treacle. Tip over the flour & spices (I don’t bother sifting) and use the beaters on a low setting to mix it through (a deep bowl stops flour going everywhere).

Remove the beaters, tip in the seed mixture and use a spoon to mix it through evenly. Roll the mix into 26ish even-sized balls (wear kitchen gloves if you hate getting your hands dirty). Place on the trays (allow some room for spreading) and bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm and springy. They harden up more as they cool and you don’t want them rock hard the whole way through.

Makes 26ish.

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Halloween pumpkin…. in a cake

It is the week where orange food rules. I don’t know about your place, but Halloween has seeped into our household over the last few years and I’m happy this year that it falls on a Friday night. It means that we can all potter off to a dress up party together for a bit of fun rather than trawling the streets looking for the rare orange balloon that signifies that the occupants won’t freak out if we knock.

In previous years my kids have been super keen for a bit of trick or treating… until we get to the strange driveway… then all gumption leaves them and they start crying, too afraid to approach the door. Of course then they pester and want me to do it for them, but being a mean mum, I merely point out that following this imported tradition is THEIR idea, and if they can’t knock on the door, they don’t deserve any treat.

Tough love, and delivered whilst wearing a witches hat. Cackle.

Inevitably our lolly haul is small and we end up home earlier than anticipated with the night being more fraught than fright.

So a batch of these waiting in the kitchen might come in handy…

The ghosts look desirous, don't you think?

The ghosts look desirous, don’t you think?

Halloween pumpkin cakes

Most kids I’ve tried these on have liked them – although a few were vehemently anti-sultana, which is why I’m suggesting a choc chip substitution. I’ve not tried it, but I reckon it would get them over the line with most junior food critics.

2 eggs
1/4 cup oil of your choice (I use grapeseed, but coconut, olive oil etc are all fine)
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (be generous)
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
2 cups grated pumpkin (if you hate grating, just blitz small pumpkin chunks in a mini-food processor)
1/2 cup sultanas (or choc chips)

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Whisk the eggs well in a large bowl. Tip in the oil and yoghurt and whisk to combine before doing the same with the brown sugar.

Remove the whisk and sift over the flour and mixed spice. Use a metal spoon to fold through, then also combine in the pumpkin and sultanas.

Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin holes and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden and springy.

Makes 12.

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Why I can’t manage healthy eating all the time

Keeping all the nutrition balls in the air at all times is a task that is often too large for me (I suspect it’s too large for most modern parents). I mean, hot damn, if there isn’t a bunch of tasks clawing at us from different directions at all times keeping the domestic tension rising. It makes sense that the pressure escapes in the areas where you have the most options. So while skiving off work or dropping the kids to school at 10.15 isn’t an option, dashing into the supermarket and buying something ready-to-eat out of the packet, is.

So I get it, I really do, the fact that keeping a house full of 100% healthy food is a tricky task that is only achievable with consistent motivation and effort. Which is why I try to keep my blog pretty accessible. I’m not asking you to ferment, or make your cheese or activate nuts or only eat organic. Gold stars to all of you who do manage to do all of this – if you could please pop over and let me know all of your time management secrets; I’d be hugely appreciative.

At my place, I cook as much as I can. I consider but don’t obsess over ingredients and I do try to stand back and get an overview of our diet from time to time. Inevitably little areas of slackness have arisen that I can squish back down with some simple changes and easy recipes.

One area I get lazy with is savoury crackers. There are several brands that aren’t full of additives (yes I know, they’re all full of masses of salt), so a packet of them in the pantry can be a lifesaver. BUT, they’re not really full of anything much at all. No rubbish, but also no nutrition. And considering how popular they are with the kids as an after-school snack, it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to mix and press out this homemade version. Just happens that this recipe is gluten and egg-free, although I like it just because these crackers are seriously tasty.

Seed crackers - nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

Seed crackers – nut free, so perfect for lunchboxes, too.

SEEDY CRACKERS

1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour, available from good fruit markets and health food stores)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp spice (I like 1/2 tsp garlic powder & 1/2 tsp cumin, but you can try paprika, sumac, coriander or zatar)
1 tbsp fresh herbs (I like rosemary & thyme)
4 tbsp seeds (any combination you like of sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin & chia)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 170C.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, spices, herbs & seeds.

Tip in the olive oil, the gradually add enough water until the mix comes together to form a sticky dough.

Roll it out between a couple of sheets of kitchen paper until about 3-5mm thick (if you don’t have a rolling pin, just press it out with your hand). Remove the top sheet. Score with a knife and place on a large baking sheet. Cook for 20-22 minutes until golden.

Cool before breaking into pieces.

Makes about 20 pieces

____________________________

Did you see that I’ve got 15% off storewide? Use discount code ‘OCTOBER’ at the checkout before midnight tonight, Monday October 20. Visit the shop here…

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