Lunchbox Ideas!

Organic Valley is giving away bento boxes!

It’s back to school time for many of us who provide meals for our families! Here’s a great list of creative ideas for jazzing up your kids’ lunches. I think the “theme a day” idea is very smart to keep some semblance of order but also keep things creative and fun. I love the “lunch money” idea.

For my kids, I do a lot of “bento style” (i.e. tiny containers with various finger foods) and that goes over well. They seem to always eat better if stuff is cut into shapes (my mom’s mantra is “It’s all about the presentation”), so I keep a supply of cute cookie cutters on hand for sandwiches, cheese, etc. (my preschoolers get a kick out of the ones shaped like their initials). One of my proudest moments as a mom was when my son’s teacher told me I make “the best” lunches!

Why not write your kid’s “love note” in meats & cheeses, with “I <3 U” cookie cutters? Plus, you can choose better-for-them products without all that junk that’s in Lunchables (shudder!).

What are some of your winning ideas for your kids’ school lunch?

Why I should have stopped eating at Chick Fil A a long time ago

“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.” (Dan Cathy)

“Of course, it’s perfectly OK to have the audacity to re-engineer God’s chicken design to make them 95% breast meat, and then drop a couple of strips of bacon and cheese on top of those bad boys, cuz you can’t take everything in Leviticus like it’s the word of God.” (Jon Stewart)

But smarter people ask where it comes from

I haven’t been to CFA since the whole Cathy Kerfuffle, though I probably will not stay away forever. But I have had to ask myself WHY I suddenly stopped eating there, over of all things a man’s personal opinion, when for years eating there has resulted in my participating in or supporting many other actions which I find repulsive, such as:

  • Growing ridiculous numbers of chickens, who are at best living their lives in a crowded dark warehouse eating feed not suited to their bodies, and are at worst genetically modified to produce the type of meat I want.
  • Consuming fats which are likely poisonous to my body and processed food with dubious nutritional content. Oh, and also, meat glue.
  • Eating produce which was almost certainly picked by an immigrant laborer who was paid maybe a pittance, or maybe nothing at all, for his or her work, all the while exposed to dangerous chemicals and backbreaking labor in any sort of weather.
  • Supporting a level and type of farming that requires altering natural processes, damaging the environment, and widespread use of fertilizer, pesticides and their ilk.

Why have I not questioned any of this before?

Granted, these are problems with almost any fast food – scratch that, almost any food you eat outside your home, period. And since reading Fast Food Nation several years ago I haven’t patronized the major fast food chains on any sort of regular basis. But I make excuses for my favorite places, either by virtue of knowing they treat their staff decently (In-N-Out), or because they give my kids books instead of toys and fruit or applesauce instead of fries (Chick Fil A), or because I know they source local and somewhat cleaner meat (Freebirds, Chipotle). I don’t have an excuse for why I eat at Five Guys (someone know something good about them?) but I only go there 1-2x a year anyway.

Anyway, all this to say that there are so many good reasons not to eat at any fast food chain that none of us should be doing it regularly. Certainly not up to three times a week, as I’ve been guilty of doing in the past with CFA (it’s my kids! I blame their addiction to nuggets! And the play structures that keep them amused while I avail myself of free wi-fi!).

This week I’m going to talk about just one aspect of this post: justice. Particularly in relation to the people who tend and pick the crops we eat. And I mean the stuff we buy to cook at home, too, not just what the major restaurant chains have to demand to meet their supply quotas. So if you’re not inclined to think about or change the way you eat, you should probably skip these posts. Because I’ve learned some seriously disturbing information, and I’m about to get all lady justice up in big ag’s ass.

Tortilla Stack Dinner Nom Nom

Since I seem to be on a bit of a recipe roll this week, I thought I’d throw this one out too. I’m a improviser in the kitchen, and this is very loosely based on this recipe from epicurious but, IMHO, far, far superior.

It should be noted: my children ate it.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “What?! Your CHILDREN ate it?? What strange witchcraft is this, O Wise One? And wilt thou sharest with me?”

(I don’t know why you’re in a Shakespeare play in my head. I suppose because I’m usually in a Shakespeare play in my head. Being a theater major does that to you.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, dinner…

Sautee half an onion (more if your kids will tolerate) and a garlic clove, in your cast iron skillet. You DO have a cast iron skillet, right?

Throw in some tomatoes (I used muir glen canned w/chipotles), like 1/3 cup. Makes some tasty liquid.

Add a small bunch spinach (very small). Wash ‘em good. Grit is nasty. Wilt those suckers.

Toss in some frozen corn and black beans, don’t ask me how much, just enough so it looks balanced. Very important: rinse your beans. I forgot and later, my nose paid for that mistake. (thank you, dear hubby)

Add some spices: cumin, chili powder (if you have good stuff made up), salt & pepper. LIME JUICE. This is essential. You taste. You say, what does this need? (actually you say, “what doeth this needeth?”) Acid, duh. So lime it up. But gently.

Taste some more. Imagine Gordon Ramsey breathing down your back. If you’re not half full by the time dinner starts, you’ve done it wrong.

(the other half of your tummy may be full of wine/beer/tequila…I won’t tell)

Now the fun: hit it with the stick blender. Grind up all that onion & spinach so your kids never know what him em. BAM. Leave some poor lil beans & corn so there’s texture and the corn pops into little sweet nuggets when you bite.

On a baking sheet, put down some tortillas. H-E-B in-store made is really the only way to go (see last post), but not everyone is so blessed, so do what you can. Spoon the bean stuff on each, then layer some cheese. Don’t put too much. Turns out this bean stuff goes everywhere. Cheese is excellent binder. And nommy.

Layer to your heart’s content. But four tortillas is a good stopping place. Let’s not be greedy.

Brush w/EVOO spiked with a little cayenne. Bake at 450 for 12 mins until the tops & bottoms are all toasty and the inside is ooey gooey yumminess.

Cut into wedges, drink beer, roll eyes as kids refuse to taste.

Eat theirs.

Suddenly, they’re very interested.

(don’t look for no damn photo – the best food is ugly but delicious – and anyway, it’s all gone)