School Lunch

People often ask me what my kids eat for lunch so I've decided to post a collection of images of the lunches that my 8 year old and my 4 year old cart off to school in the hopes that it perhaps provides some helpful ideas to others. I'll also post the occasional grown up lunch and lunch for my 2 year old because we need to eat too! 

Simply click here to open up the gallery and see a complete description for each lunch and, where applicable, a link to an easy recipe. I'll keep updating the gallery, so you can visit for fresh ideas and updates. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and Pin these for later too. 

As always, I welcome comments or questions and if you have product suggestions that your family loves and you think others should know about, I'd love to hear about that too! 


Body Puzzles

My son wondered aloud this morning about how tall he was, measured in sheets of paper. And so a fast morning project was born! 

First we laid out paper. As it turns out, my guy is 6 sheets by 2 sheets. 

body puzzle step 1

Next, I traced him. Oops, there were some errors! Check out the difference between the ankles!

body puzzle step 2

Then, he colored in the details he wanted to include. 

body puzzle step 3

Now we're having a grand old time rearranging the pieces as a puzzle and fitting them together properly or putting them in absurd positions. Fun, fast and inexpensive! Woot woot!

body puzzle 4

As an aside, when I noticed my 2 year old with the end of the tape roll in her mouth, as if to cut the edge off with her teeth, I realized that my attempts to save a nanosecond by not using scissors is being watched more carefully than I thought. 

Veal Stew with Carrots and Cinnamon

My 4 year old has become quite fond of making phone calls. We have a list of important numbers posted in our kitchen and he has taken the liberty of calling some of them when he feels chatty. Last month, he called my mom and dad and requested "special time" in the form of a sleepover. #heartmelt 

My pareants were (of course) delighted by this request and have changed around their schedules to make it happen three times - on a weeknight, no less! My son proudly tells his teachers "I'm doing the Grandma and Grandpa thing tonight." His preschool has a late start so mornings for him don't have the time crunch that come with other school schedules. That'll all change next year. In the meantime, there are few things in my world that are as awesome as seeing my kids having fun with my parents and hearing the stories from both sides. 

My daughters are more amenable to eating meat for dinner than my son, so when he sleeps at my parents' house and has dinner there, it's an opportunity for me to serve something a little different. I was excited to make this recipe from The Kitchn but yesterday was one of those days and I was tied up for so many hours that it would have been impossible for me to make anything other than scrambled eggs for dinner if it weren't for my all-around-lovely babysitter, Wendy. Three huge cheers for her!

Veal Stew with Carrots and Cinnamon

I texted her the recipe with my changes, noted below, and I came home at the end of a long day to my home smelling of warm cinnamon, earthy roasted cauliflower, sweet carrots and slow-cooked meat. Mmmm. The hallway leading up to my apartment smelled like roasted sweet potatoes - a favorite in my house. Boy is it nice to go home to that! This dish got enthusiastic thumbs up from everyone. Wendy says the prep was easy – it's a mostly hands off dish. Next time I think I'll try it with lamb, as the recipe calls for. My daughters love veal and we don't have it often so this was a treat! 

Veal Stew with Carrots and Cinnamon 

1.5 pounds boneless veal stew meat
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, cut into chunks
2 whole celery stalks, cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup red wine

Place the veal in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Cover and place in refrigerator for an hour, or longer if you have time. 

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the pieces of veal on all sides. When all of the meat is browned, add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until vegetables start to soften. Add the tomatoes and wine and stir.

When mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 2 -3 hours, or until meat falls apart when tested with a fork. 

Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower (Cut, place on parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for approximately 25- 30 minutes). 

The Candy Fairy

Here's the deal: the night before Halloween, my kids write sweet notes to the Candy Fairy asking what his/her favorite candy is this year. They leave the notes under their pillows and are incredibly excited to find a response in the morning. On Halloween night, they leave that candy under their pillow for the Candy Fairy and in exchange get a small present. The kids usually get a huge haul of candy (and it seems to grow every year), so parting with a few pieces (usually between 5 and 10) is never an issue. Here's what we do with the rest of it. 

Candy Fairy 2

We've had a bit of a hiccup lately with the Tooth Fairy -- the jig might be up with my 8 year old -- so her questions for the Candy Fairy were a lot more probing than a simple "what is your favorite candy." 

Candy Fairy 1

As usual on Halloween morning, the day began with excitement! The Candy Fairy will be busy today finding a little gift to place under their pillows tonight in exchange for that candy. 

Happy Halloween! 


Kale and Ham Frittata

When in doubt, make frittata! 

Here's what happened: I was hungry. I looked in the fridge. I had a bunch of kale, about 5 ounces of ham, some scallions and a half dozen eggs. I preheated the oven to 350 and chopped the kale, ham and scallions. One cutting board, one knife. I lined a baking dish with parchment paper so that I wouldn't have to scrub anything vigorously on the flip side of this experiment. I cracked the eggs and put everything into one mixing bowl and combined. I poured it into the baking dish and then had to wait! This had all been done so quickly that my oven wasn't even preheated yet! Once the oven was ready, I popped in the baking dish and 30 minutes later, out popped this yummy lunch. My 2 year old and I gobbled up half of the whole dish together for lunch!

kale and ham frittata

kale and ham frittata

Four ingredients. Under 10 minutes of prep. Total deliciousness. 

Our Halloween Candy Strategy

I have a sweet tooth. There used to be a time in my life when I ate a lot more candy than I do now (red swedish fish and peppermint patties were some of my favorites). I read this post by Sally of Real Mom Nutrition and like so many of her posts, I felt she was speaking my language. Once I began connecting the dots between how I felt and what I ate, my habits changed and so did my life. I still have a sweet tooth, and while I'll always have a soft spot for homemade chocolate chip cookies, I mainly stick to seriously dark chocolate these days. 

trick or treating

My kids eat something sweet pretty much every day. I'd love to sit on a high horse and say 'well, it's not junk,' but frankly, I think sugar is sugar. They get heaps of candy for Halloween from trick or treating and eat whatever they want that night. They leave about 10 pieces of candy under their pillow that night for the Candy Fairy, who replaces them with a small toy or book. After that, they can choose one per day until the stash runs out or until the holiday season, when Halloween candy gets dumped out. 

FARE teal pumpkin

This year, I've decided to forego buying Halloween candy and will be giving out glow-in-the-dark bracelets and glow in the dark fangs to trick-or-treaters. They're seasonally relevant and they don't contribute to the candy overload of the holiday. They're also safe for kids with allergies, and while I don't have a teal pumpkin, I will print out a photo of one and attach it to our door. 

What's your Halloween candy strategy? 

Make Your Own Applesauce!

Now that we have a billion apples, we eat applesauce with almost every meal. I've been using a dozen apples for each batch but that lasts just a day or two! The hardest part of this recipe? Waiting. Great applesauce takes a long time because you have to cook them slowly to yield the best flavor and texture. My family likes it chunky and with cinnamon. We don't add sugar or sweetener of any kind because the natural sugar from slow-cooking, caramelized apples is perfect as is. 

Here goes: 

Peel a dozen apples. 

peeled apples

Hmm... probably a good idea to peel an extra apple or two to accommodate hungry apple thieves in your kitchen!

apple thief!

Cut the apples into chunks and place in a pot. Smaller chunks will yield a smoother sauce. 

chopped apple

Add 1-2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir well. 

apples cinnamon and lemon juice

Simmer and cook slowly for approximately 60-90 minutes (or longer!) until the consistency is to your liking. Want to add other fruit? Here's a great recipe for apple-mango sauce



Apple Picking & Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

apple picking 2014

We had our family's annual apple picking day yesterday - one of my favorite things to do in early fall. I hadn't realized until yesterday that in the 9 years that we've been doing this, we always go before Columbus Day weekend. Unfortunately for us, pretty much all of the apples on the trees at the orchard where we've been going for years had already been picked! They had giant bins with loads of different apples, separated by variety for latecomers like us. 

Frankly, October 12 doesn't seem particularly late in the season and this was a big disappointment for my adventurers who like to wield the heavy apple picker each year and carefully inspect their findings before adding them to our bag. Rather than go straight to the bins, my crew checked out what still remained on the trees and apple-picked the old fashioned way. When we exhausted our on-the-tree options, we headed for the bins.  

apple picking 2014
apple cinnamon pancake batter

For the next week or so, it'll be round-the-clock apples. This morning, we began the day with Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and there's enough batter left over for tomorrow morning. 

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes (makes enough for about 6-8 servings, depending on size)

1 cup plain kefir
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for frying pancakes (or use butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 large apple, shredded (I used a cheese grater) 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, making sure to eliminate flour lumps. Fry with coconut oil or butter and serve with fresh apple chunks for extra apple goodness! 

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with apples