Smarter Than Pancakes

Friday, May 30, 2008

My Attempt to Grow Food!

Filed under: gardening — shaye3 @ 7:58 pm

Ok, looky what I did today! I worked on our vegetable garden!

First off, let me say that I know I’m about a month late, but I figure better late than never. I also know that my backyard weeds need a mowin; but when I mowed yesterday, Steve and Simon were still taking off sod so I mowed around that area. (Also, for the record, we have so many weeds in the back yard because I’m afraid of putting chemicals down where the dog plays.)

I’ve wanted to start a garden ever since we moved in here three years ago, but this year we felt more motivated since food prices have been going up and up. If we actually grow anything, I might even try my hand at canning and freezing stuff to put away for later!

This morning, I got up and fired up the tiller and tilled the whole thing myself. (I probably won’t ever have to till it again, but there hasn’t been a garden there since before my husband’s grandmother passed away in the early nineties, so I figured it could use it for this first season.) Simon raked it out for me, and then Linus made footprints across a few times. They’re both so helpful! (Ok, Simon more so than Linus.)

After it was all ready to plant, I decided to come in and print some graph paper and come up with a plan. I already bought seeds off the internet, and I have four tomato plants, two bell pepper plants, and a flat of eighteen marigolds for the perimeter. You’d think I would have had sense enough to come up with a plan before I even bought seeds, but you’d be wrong. Oh well, this is my first garden in at least ten years, and something like my third garden in my whole life so I’m cutting myself a whole lot of slack.

Here’s my big plan:

I just realized that it’s not completely legible, so I’ll just tell you that I’m going to try to grow spinach, eggplant, zucchini, yellow summer squash, bell peppers, green onions, green bush beans, edamame, carrots, and four different kinds of tomato. We also have two blueberry bushes and a rhubarb patch, so hopefully you’ll see recipes that use all of the above.

I just pulled some rhubarb on my way in, so don’t be surprised if you see it in the not so distant future.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ok, so the past several days have been crazy around here. We enjoyed Memorial Day weekend, and yesterday was my son’s last day of school. We also have folks coming over this coming weekend, and over night guests coming the second week of June so I’ve been trying to whip this crack house into shape!

I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new, so I figured I’d share some cupcakes that I baked over the weekend. The problem is that we inhaled them before I could snap a picture.

Here’s an artist’s rendition though.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
13 ww points each
(Hey, cupcakes ain’t health food.)
Makes 24 cupcakes
Time to make 50 min (25 min prep)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour (As always, whole wheat pastry flour rules!)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup mini-chocolate chips (The first time I used regular sized chips and they all stuck to the cupcake papers. The mini stay distributed better and fewer stick to the papers.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with papers.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  3. Throw the butter and sugars in the mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the bananas, eggs (one at a time), and then the vanilla.
  5. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture alternately, and mix until just combined.
  6. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  8. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Please don’t over mix these, don’t over bake these, and if you want them obnoxiously moist you should add extra mashed banana.

Then make this for the top:

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter (Softened to room temperature unless you have a stand mixer.)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I use the natural kind with no sweeteners. It might be too sweet if you use something like Jiff of Skippy.)

2 cups powdered sugar (sifted works best)

1/8 cup milk (Same as 2 Tbs.)

1 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Cream butter and peanut butter together.
  2. Add half the powdered sugar and mix in.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla and mix more.
  4. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix until it’s smooth.
  5. Frost those cooled cupcakes, and don’t be stingy with the frosting!

Whip these up and take them to your next potluck or pitch-in! Everyone will love you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fruit on the bottom (and in the middle and on top) Yogurt

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 4:58 pm
Tags: ,

(In keeping with scripture my recent breakfast theme.)

There are certain restaurants around that have started selling what they call “Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits”.  I looked at the ingredients one time, and trust me when I say you don’t wanna know how little actual food and how many chemicals are involved. I can tell you, however, that their parfaits are not the healthy treat they want you to believe they are.

Mine, on the other hand, are just yogurt and fruit. No yucky chemical additives whatsoever. (Yep, you can actually DO that!)

All Natural Yogurt Parfaits

1 quart of plain, lowfat yogurt (If you’re not using homemade, make sure the brand you buy doesn’t have any gelatin or it won’t drain. I’ll post my homemade yogurt recipe as soon as I make more and take pictures.)

2 Tbs frozen apple juice concentrate – or to taste

1 tsp vanilla (I happened to use vanilla paste, so you can see the vanilla seeds in the yogurt if you look closely.)

Fresh or frozen fruit (I used frozen strawberries and fresh bananas for the one pictured.)

  1. First set up your rig–Put either a coffee filter or some cheesecloth in a strainer and put the strainer in a bowl.
  2. Pour the entire container of yogurt into the lined strainer, cover it, and put it in your fridge overnight.
  3. The next day, take your drained yogurt and throw it in a bowl. (You can use the whey that drains off as a substitute for the water in a yeast bread recipe, or you can add it to a bean dish to make a complete protein if you wanna.)
  4. Add the apple juice concentrate and vanilla and mix well.  (Sometimes I whisk the yogurt if it seems lumpy.)
  5. Here’s where the magic starts!  All you have to do is layer the yogurt with whatever fruit you want.  For the one in the picture, I just threw about five frozen, unsweetened, whole strawberries in my mini-food processor with about half a banana and pureed.  I layered the fruit puree and the yogurt, took a picture, and then offered it to my kid.  (It was gone in about a minute and a half.)  You can also use chopped fresh or frozen fruit or jam if you’re so inclined!  You can even throw some granola in there for fun! Do what ever the heck you want, it’s your yogurt!

In case you’re wondering, my strange child immediately stirred the layers together before he ate it.  He prefers blended yogurt, and it didn’t occur to him NOT to stir it. He thought you were supposed to.  😉

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tuna Casserole (Please don’t try this at home.)

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 10:17 am

No, I haven’t hit my head, but I’m actually posting a cream of crap casserole recipe! It’s all for a good cause–nostalgia! This post is my homage to the Gallery of Regrettable Foods!

I’m joining a blogging event called

I was visiting Elle’s blog, and found out that Sarah at Homemade wants to know what foods remind us of our childhood! Steve and I started talking about all of the disgusting stuff our moms used to make when we were kids, and I landed on Tuna Casserole. It was one of the first things my mom taught me to make (after pancakes from a mix), and I made it fairly frequently when Steve and I first got married–before I learned anything about nutrition and how to cook things from scratch. (Hey, we also ate Hamburger Helper. What did we know?) 😉

PLEASE, I’m begging you, either go over to Sarah’s Blog and join the event before midnight on 5/23, or leave me a comment about what foods remind you of your childhood. (I’m dying to hear about other people’s regrettable foods!)    Sarah’s results will be posted on Monday, May 26th on her blog.

Ok, check this out—

How can anything that starts out like this be bad? (I haven’t opened a can of cream-o-crap soup in a while. I have to say I’m not impressed with these new fangled easy open cans and “creamier” consistency. I liked it better when you opened the can and a whole blob of can-shaped soup plopped into the pan.)

Here’s the finished product. It actually could have baked a little longer, but we had to leave. (Please notice the original aluminum pan that my mom always made this in. She gave it to me several years ago when she determined that aluminum pans caused Alzheimer’s disease. I told her I would chance it because the pan has an awesome sliding lid.)

Here is the actual serving. (Note all lack of color. We ate our tuna casserole out of the very same kind of Corelle dish when I was a kid, too. Come to think of it, most of my childhood meals were beige food served on white dishes. Seventies food was YUM!)

Tuna Casserole
Makes a 9×13 pan–so however many servings that is.

1 16 oz. box elbow macaroni

1 12 oz. can tuna packed in water

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup

1 can Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup

1-2 cups frozen peas

1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed

1-2 Tbs. margarine

Crisco to grease the pan

  1. Grease a 9×13 baking pan (I used pan spray) and preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Boil your noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  3. In your now-empty noodle boiling pan, combine the undrained tuna and both cans of soup.
  4. Fold in the noodles and peas, combining well to distribute the “sauce” and peas evenly.
  5. Pour the whole mess into your prepared pan.
  6. Top with crushed saltines, dot the top with small pieces of margarine (I used butter) and place into your preheated oven.
  7. Bake until golden brown on top–roughly 45-60 minutes.

Ok, I’ll admit that I did sub sweet baby peas for the huge, tasteless peas that my mom used. I also used pan spray instead of Crisco and real butter instead of the margarine my mom would have used. I did totally use the canned soup though!

If anyone’s interested, I’m sure I can come up with a scratch version of this for you. I just needed to use the original recipe for this event for authenticity.

Vanilla-Scented Granola

Filed under: Vanilla-Scented Granola,WW Points — shaye3 @ 9:09 am
Tags: ,
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually posted this on my non-food blog a while back, but since I’ve been on a breakfast kick lately, I thought I’d share it over here, too.)
Vanilla-Scented Granola — 11 ww points per 1 cup serving

I don’t remember adding the crack to these, but I swear I had to go back and look at the recipe this morning because Simon and I couldn’t stop eating it.  I know it has a lot of sugar, but I figure at least it’s not hfcs, and I know exactly what all of the ingredients are!

45 min | 15 min prep | 8 cups

vegetable oil cooking spray

4 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup sliced almonds (I used chopped pecans because that’s what I had.)

1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey (I used some honey and some agave nectar because I ran out of honey.)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

(I also threw in one cup of dried fruit right before I put it in the oven. It was a mix of blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and plums.)

  1. Position rack to middle of oven and preheat to 300°.
  2. Lightly spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. (I put down a sheet of parchment and sprayed that.)
  3. Mix oats, nuts, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in large bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey and sugar, and bring to simmer over medium heat.
  5. Remove from heat; then stir in vanilla.
  6. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture; stir well.
  7. Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed. (I used a rubber spatula and it worked fine.)
  8. (I added the cup of dried fruit right after I mixed the liquid into the oats, by the way.)
  9. Spread granola on prepared baking sheet.
  10. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes (Check after 20 because the sugar burns easily).
  11. Transfer sheet to rack; cool granola completely.
  12. Store in airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for about two weeks.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Healthy Cherry Muffins

Filed under: cherry muffins,WW Points — shaye3 @ 12:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting you dear internet. There’s some evil pollen out there, and it appears to be in cahoots with my stupid immune system to stymie me! I haven’t cooked anything good in DAYS!

I felt a little better this morning, so I decided to make you some muffins for Sunday brunch!

So, I present to you–

Cherry Muffins!

They may not look like much, at least not with my photography skills, but they are crazy good and pretty good for you! They’re made with ricotta cheese and whole grain flour, so they have over a gram and a half of protein and over four grams of fiber per muffin! But don’t worry, they are definitely NOT like those nasty colon-blow bran muffins that everyone thinks of when they think “healthy muffins”. These are really moist, sweet and fruity! They’re so popular around here that I like to pack them instead of the ubiquitous pb&j’s in Simon’s lunches. They do have 140 calories per muffin, but even that’s not so bad compared to store-bought muffins!

Healthy Cherry Muffins (2.88 WW Points per muffin)
Makes 18 muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (You can use AP, but the nutrition info will change.)

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1 Tbs lemon zest (I didn’t measure, I just used the zest of one lemon–the very outer yellow part only please.)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup ricotta cheese (I use the lowfat version.)

1 cup buttermilk (I’ve never tried this with ersatz buttermilk. Just buy the buttermilk.)

2 large eggs

1 Tbs lemon juice

4 tsp vanilla (Just FYI, 4 tsp is the same as 1 Tbs plus 1 tsp.)

4 Tbs butter, melted (You can use 1/4 c. canola oil if you’d prefer.)

1 1/2 cups frozen cherries, cut up (I keep a bag of dark, sweet, pitted cherries in the freezer at all times.)

  1. Heat your oven to 350° and spray or oil your muffin cups.
  2. In a sifter or in a small bowl with a wisk, combine your flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and sugar.
  3. In a larger bowl, whisk your ricotta and butter milk together.
  4. Mix in your eggs, one at a time; and then mix in your vanilla and lemon juice.
  5. Throw your flour mixture and butter in with the liquid ingredients, and fold together a little with a rubber spatula, and then add cherries. (Don’t defrost your cherries before you add them, and don’t overmix if you can help it.)
  6. Distribute your batter evenly between 18 muffin cups, and bake for +/- 20 minutes, or until a tester is clean. (You can try making 12 muffins, but the tops will definitely overflow. Sometimes I go for that, but I like to make more small muffins with this recipe because they’re pretty filling.)
  7. Cool them on a rack before eating. (Cool completely before putting them away or they get soggy.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Welcome Foodie Blogroll Visitors!

Filed under: News — shaye3 @ 2:30 pm

I just joined Foodie Blogroll, and I have to say I’ve been having fun looking around through all kinds of food blogs.  I think I might actually be addicted at this point.

Does anybody know if there’s a 10-step program for this?  😉

(If you have a food blog–and you haven’t already–you should totally join!  ALL the cool kids are doing it.)
I’m seriously thinking of joining the joust.  (My good friend Elle was the last winner, and she picked raspberry, lime and almond as the ingredients for June.  YUM!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Homemade Toaster Waffles

Filed under: Uncategorized — shaye3 @ 8:59 pm

First, I want to know WHY the first batch of waffles I make never turns out?  My son has seen this phenomenon so many times that he now automatically volunteers to eat the first “reject” waffles that come off the iron.  The only thing I can guess is that the first waffles are the learning curve waffles, but even if I’ve made waffles recently I never have any luck with the first set.


If you make these, you should double the recipe so that (a) you have lots to put in the freezer and (b) you have enough batter to sacrifice the first set that comes off the waffle iron!

* * * * *

They had toaster waffles for lunch the other day at my son’s school, so I decided to make some waffles to freeze that we could toast later.  I looked at all kinds of recipes, until I found one on Epicurious that looked like it would lend itself well to toasting.  (Of course, I only used the Epicurious version as a jumping off point and then tweaked it like crazy.)  The original recipe called for making the waffles, then putting them in a 250° oven to keep them warm.  Several of the reviews said that the waffles didn’t really crisp up until you put them in the oven.  Sounds like the perfect waffle for toasting if you ask me!

Homemade Toaster Waffles
Makes 8-10 Belgian waffles, or more like 14 waffles if you have a regular waffle iron.

2 cups flour (The reviews I read used all sorts of combinations of flours.  Most used All Purpose.  I usually use whole wheat pastry flour.  Another reviewer used 1 cup AP with 1/2 cup whole wheat and 1/2 cup wheat germ.  Do what you like best.)

2 Tbs sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 cups buttermilk (My buttermilk was bad so I used 1 Tbs lemon juice and the rest 2% milk with decent results, Real buttermilk is better.)

1 tsp vanilla

6 Tbs butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

vegetable oil for your waffle iron

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. Sift or whisk your dry ingredients in a large-ish bowl.
  3. Whisk together your wet ingredients in another bowl, and then whisk that into your dry ingredients. (Don’t over mix.  A few lumps are good!)
  4. Brush your hot waffle iron with a little vegetable oil, then pour enough batter on to just cover the bumps on the bottom.
  5. Cook waffles according to the instructions for your waffle maker until they’re golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes.  (I heard once that you’re supposed to let then cook until they stop steaming.  No idea if there’s anything to that or not.)
  6. Move them onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely.
  7. Stash them in a bag in the freezer until you’re ready to eat.
  8. When you’re ready for them, toast them in your toaster or toaster oven just like a store-bought toaster waffle.
  9. Serve with butter and syrup, fruit and whipped cream, fried chicken, or whatever sounds good.

The original Epicurious recipe called for a glazed banana topping.  Slice two ripe but firm bananas kind of diagonally into 1/3 inch slices.  Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skilled over moderately high heat until the butter stops foaming.  Add the banana slices in a single layer and cook until golden, about one minute per side.  Remove the bananas, then throw in some maple syrup to warm and flavor it.  Spoon your bananas over your waffles and top with the warm syrup.  (Sounds really good, but I haven’t tried it yet.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Staples (It’s what for dinner!)

Filed under: Opinions — shaye3 @ 10:53 pm

Nope, not the metal bits that keep your papers together or even office supply store–the must have grocery items!

I was just reading this entry on The Delish, and started thinking about what staples I keep around. Not very long ago, I asked many of my foodie friends just what they kept in their larder. I kind of started my list there, and have been adding and subtracting things according to what I use most.

I imagine there are other people who are trying to come up with their list of must-have grocery items, so I thought I’d throw mine out there. You can do what you want with the information. (Ok, if you sell it for a lot of money, I want at least a cut. Come to think of it, I also want to know how you found someone who would pay you a bunch of money for my grocery list!)

I’d post pictures of my fridge, freezer, and pantries; but they’re all pits of despair. I really need to spend an afternoon cleaning them all out. It seems like I just did that, but for some reason they all need organizing again. (Would someone please invent a self-cleaning refrigerator?)

I will show you a picture of my spice cabinet. I love Penzey’s spices. They have a store in Indianapolis that I visit regularly. Their spices are fresher and cheaper than anything you can get in a grocery store! (This is just the cabinet with the jars of spices. I have another big plastic bin of bags of the things I use a lot of like chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, basil, parsley, etc. in another pantry.)

There are a lot of things on my list that I can’t find in my local Kroger. (Sometimes I can find things at Kroger, but at twice the price.) I try to get a lot of my produce from the farmers’ market or our local fruit stand. (But in Indiana, they’re only open a few months over the summer.)

I have to make a trip to Indy at least once a month to get other things that aren’t readily available here. I get most of my flours and dry goods from the bulk bins at Wild Oats/Whole Foods in Indy. I get a lot of my nut butters, jams, and canned goods at Trader Joe’s. Costco rules for nuts and dried fruits. (Luckily for me, I live less than an hour from the north side of Indy, and all of these store can be found close to a stretch of 86th St. in or around a burg called Castleton on the north side of Indy.)

Ok, before you look at my list, please keep in mind that I’m *trying* to avoid processed foods, but I’m not a fanatic. I try to avoid anything with more than five ingredients, but I there are still a few processed things that I buy like fake meat. I also still keep white flour and sugar on hand–but I swear I try to use healthier options most of the time!

Canned Goods
tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes (I want to learn to can my own this summer though.)
beans (pinto, garbanzo, black, cannellini, red kidney, green)
mushroom pieces (for pizzas)
cans and cartons of broth (mostly veggie, sometimes beef, some chicken and some mock-chicken depending on my mood)
diced pimientos (for pizzas)
black olives
chipotles in adobo (store them in the freezer once you open them)
artichoke hearts
light coconut milk
evaporated skimmed milk
fruit packed in juice
jarred applesauce (Those last two I keep on hand for the kid. I’d like to learn to can my own though.)

Condiments (check ingredients for hfcs)
vinegar (red wine, rice, balsamic, white balsamic, cider, white)
Worcestershire sauce
Cholula and Pickapeppa sauces
yellow mustard, ketchup, canola mayo, Dijon mustard
jams, preserves, fruit butters (like apple butter or pumpkin butter)
nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, cashew-macadamia)
low sodium tamari soy sauce and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
miso (I only have red right now, but I’ve gotten yellow before)

extra virgin olive oil
canola oil
walnut oil
sesame oil
pan spray (I like to use regular oil in a mister bottle, but my mister got gunky and died. I’ve been using generic Pam lately.)

Dry Goods
dried fruit (raisins, currants, plums, apricots, blueberries, goji berries, dates, cherries, cranberries, mangoes–I usually get big bags of dried fruit at Costco to keep in the pantry for snacking, baking and putting in oatmeal. Maybe I’ll break down and get a dehydrator and make my own!)
nuts (I currently have pine nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pecans in my freezer.)
dried lentils (red and brown)
dried split peas
oatmeal (steel cut and rolled)
dried beans (I think I have great northern, garbanzos, and a few others.)
pasta (I try to get whole grain. All different shapes. We’ve recently fallen in love with soba noodles.)
flours (whole wheat pastry, White Lily soft for biscuits, bread flower, regular whole wheat flour)
sugars (honey, molasses, agave nectar, white & brown)
vital wheat gluten
nutritional yeast
regular yeast for breads
grains (barley, millet, quinoa, bulgur, polenta, whole wheat couscous–I know couscous is a pasta, but I keep it with my grains)
rices (I try to get the brown versions, but some like arborio need to be white to make decent risotto.)
sun dried tomatoes
dried mushroom

fresh ginger (sometimes I keep it in the freezer)
sweet potatoes
onions (red and yellow or white)
greens of some sort (I usually buy a head of romaine or green leaf lettuce, chop it up, rinse it, send it through my salad spinner, and then just store it in the salad spinner in the fridge.)
(I buy lots of other produce items, these are just the things I always keep on hand.)

Frozen Foods
firm tofu (It doesn’t come frozen, but I store it in the freezer.)
edamame (I just found shelled edamame in my grocer’s freezer. I did a happy dance!)
baby peas
whole strawberries (No sugar added.)
mixed berries (Also no sugar added.)
Quorn fake chicken products
Morningstar Farms fake sausage crumbles (for pizza) and fake corndogs (for Simon’s lunches)
Other veggie burgers (Frequently homemade, but sometimes not.)
fish & seafood (I like seafood, but we don’t have it very often. I have salmon, scallops, and some tilapia in there right now. Try to avoid farm raised fish if you can though.)
meat (We usually only have meat a couple of times a week, but I think I have some ground beef, some ground lamb, and some chicken breasts in there right now.)

Other Refrigerated
organic milk (We think it tastes a lot better, and I’m afraid of hormones and antibiotics.)
soy milk
eggs (I get the best eggs from a family from my church. Their chickens live in their yard, and the eggs are amazing!)
cheeses (a hunk of parm, some mozzarella, something for grilled cheese sandwiches like colby-jack, chèvre, and who knows what else. We’re cheese addicts. I prefer to grate my own because the pre-grated has some kind of starchy crap in it to keep the shreds apart.)
That’s all I can think of at the moment. I would love to hear what items are must haves for you. (The things that you know you have to immediately replace when you run out or you’ll be in trouble the next time you cook.)

What have you bought and never used? (Mine would be fish sauce. If you buy it, NEVER smell it!)

Please, please, please comment at will!

Friday, May 9, 2008

School Lunch

Filed under: Opinions — shaye3 @ 7:51 pm

Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for the past couple of days. I went with my son’s second grade class on a field trip to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum on Thursday. While I was at the school when we got back, one of the lunch ladies asked me if I could volunteer to help serve lunch today (Friday).

I meant to take pictures of the stuff I made for our sack lunches on Thursday, but I got busy and forgot. I’m going to recreate them sometime over the weekend and post pics and recipes for you, but for now I can just tell you that we had cherry vanilla ricotta muffins and homemade strawberry-banana yogurt. (We had a few other things in our lunches, but those are the major recipes I want to share with you in the immediate future.) 😉

Gratuitous Field Trip Shot:
Gratuitous Field Trip Shot

I thought I would also describe in detail the lunch I helped prepare for the students of my son’s school today. (And yes, my son took his lunch as usual.)

Today’s lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, crackers, dill pickle spears, and fruit cocktail.

I looked at each package, and the children didn’t get a single thing in their lunches that didn’t contain high fructose corn syrup–including the milk. They can pick between chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or plain milk. For each case of plain white milk they sell, they sell six cases of the other flavors. NONE of the children ever choose plain milk.

I’ve volunteered at my son’s school fairly frequently, and it just so happens that I’ve made this lunch before–so I can describe to you exactly what it entails. (And you can see exactly why Simon brings his lunch from home.)

First–Open the industrial sized cans of fruit cocktail. Drain them, put them in a hotel pan, cover with plastic wrap, and place in either the fridge. (I put them in the freezer because I like fruit cold and the fruit doesn’t get cold if you put it in the fridge for two or three hours.)

Then–You open the jars of pickle spears, drain them, put them in a hotel pan, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge. (Freezer again.)

Next–You open the industrial sized cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Pour them with the appropriate amount of water into hotel pans, cover with foil, and put it into the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165.

Finally–You get out the industrial sized loaves of Wonder bread, a huge tub of margarine, and some huge packages of pre-sliced American cheese. Take a rubber spatula and slap some margarine on one side of the bread, throw two slices of cheese in the middle, and then slap on another slice of margarined bread. Stack these on a plastic tray, and cover them with plastic wrap until time to grill.

A short time before serving, you pull out two large electric griddles and start grilling them sixteen at a time. As they’re finished, you take a knife (I use a pizza cutter), cut them in half, and put them four deep in a hotel pan that you pop in to a warming oven until it’s time for them to be used.

At serving time, you put the soup in disposable styrofoam bowls, but everything else with the soup on disposable styrofoam trays, and serve with a disposable plastic spoon. (Today was special, usually they get a disposable plastic spork.)

I wish I could say that this lunch is worse than normal, but all of the lunches that I’ve helped with have involved canned veggies, canned fruit, and processed main dishes that are reheated in an oven–and all served with so much disposable wear that they fill an entire dumpster in less than a week.

I never used to be this crunchy granola, but seeing this really helps strengthen my resolve to make Simon’s lunches, pack them in reusable containers, and send reusable cutlery. I’d say I even send a cloth napkin, but to be honest with you, Simon never actually uses his napkin anyway. I send the same one (with directions to use it) for at least three or four days in a row. If he starts using them on a regular basis, I might start sending reusable napkins, too.

(I promise to take pictures and post the yogurt and muffin recipes very soon!)

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