• 15th October
  • 15

Pretzel Roll - A German Treat to Ring in Autumn

Bartlet pear balls; lady apple; mini orange bell pepper, humanely-raised/nitrate free bacon by Applegate Farms; heirloom cherry tomatoes, half a pretzel roll (top featured here) and a slice of blood orange

Ah, pretzel bread!  My family loves it, especially in autumn!  If you’ve never tried it before or don’t know what it is, you can read about it here

The pretzel bread featured in today’s bento is made with white wheat flour and is from our local bakery.  Since it is not whole grain it gets filed under our “special treat” category. 

Here is a recipe for Bavarian “bretzel” rolls (or more accurately, “Laugen Brötchen) if you’d like to try making them at home.  Feel free to experiment with a whole grain version, and if you are successful please let me know so we can share the recipe! 

  • 9th October
  • 09

Autumnal Beef Stew Bento

Autumnal grass-fed beef stew made with Black Chocolate Stout beer, with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, Vidalia onions and carrots over creamy mashed organic potatoes; German red cabbage; organic red seedless and green grapes

Hands down, this was the best beef stew we’ve ever made, maybe even had — in our lives.   My mouth is watering just thinking about the flavors.  The problem is that it was made in part from leftover brisket stock that we stashed in our freezer after this meal a few weeks ago, which makes sharing the recipe kind of complicated.  We used the leftover stock and added a half a bottle of Black Chocolate Stout from the Brooklyn Brewery, browned the beef in onions and garlic, then added the vegetables and 2 bay leaves to the mix.

It smelled like heaven on earth in our home with the smell of the stew wafting from the slow cooker, and it was an especially welcomed dish on our first chilly day of the season.

The homemade German red cabbage was made by my cousin Darlene, and the recipe is here (note:  she used 1/8 of a cup of sugar, not 1/4 cup).  It is leftover from the Oktoberfest gathering we had on Sunday evening at our house.

What are some of your favorite recipes as the temperature starts to drop? 

  • 1st October
  • 01

Grilled Chicken “Club” Kebabs

Humanely raised/antibiotic-free grilled chicken cubes with organic heirloom tomatoes (missing:  the butter lettuce that I forgot to take out from the fridge) and crispy humanely raised/antibiotic & nitrate-free bacon from Applegate Farms; canary melon balls; pomegranate seeds; blood orange slices and organic sweet potato

Sometimes packing lunch the night before simply does not work. Our youngest Little Lady took one look at her bento lunch and wanted to eat it for dinner instead.  After a brief tussle we worked it out, but man…. that was close.  Phew! 

I always try to pre-pack Monday’s lunch, because lets face it —Mondays can be tough enough as it is!

The colors of this bento certainly bring cheer though.

  • 24th September
  • 24

Flower Power

Almond butter (almond butter, sea salt — period) and organic apple slices; fresh strawberries, a white peach slice and spinach salad with red peppers, carrots and edible flowers.

Anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally has figured out by now that I am acutely bothered by the excess of junk food in the classroom (NOT by the occasional treat — I’m talking about the onslaught the occurs at classroom celebrations or even birthday parties.  My mind-set is if sending big, honking cupcakes is the only way you’ll feel joyful as a parent at these celebrations, skip the accompanying juices boxes, consider omitting the food dye — things like that).  I’ve talked about it endlessly, and have offered up many suggestions and possible solutions as it relates to the issue, from healthier treat options to non-food traditions and more.  Check out this handy guide from Spoonfed: Raising Children to Think About the Food They Eat  who did an amazing job of assembling a ton of relevant information on what can be done in one spot. 

I’ve also mentioned here and there the GOOD to come out of our school when it comes to food and health, from the fact that we have a Wellness in the Schools (WITS) cafeteria and also benefit from their Wellness Labs, to my kids sampling healthy foods at school Harvest Day and later asking me to make them at home,  to the Mighty Milers program, to how proud I am of our school garden

Today’s lunch is another example of the good.  Yesterday we went to the produce market as a family and had the kids pick out their fruits & veggies for the week.  The girls were choosing things like baby spinach, multi-colored peppers, carrots, broccoli, white peaches, plums and all sorts of varieties of pears and apples, when suddenly I heard the sort of joyful “mommy!” usually reserved for things like spying the latest American Girl catalog in our mailbox.

What was the outburst over?  A package of organic edible flowers (read more about edible flowers here).  Yup, that’s right.  My 7 year old was over the moon with this tiny package of beautiful, bright flowers, and explained that she hadn’t seen any edible flowers besides dandelions since Wild Man Steve came to their school to lead the kids on a foraging tour in 500 acre plus Prospect Park. 

While the excess junk is still a thorn in my side, it is getting better very s-l-o-w-l-y.  As I pieced together this post I realized just how fortunate my kids really are, and just how far we’ve come as a school on our path to Wellness and being more open minded about exploring and trying new things.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the little changes really do add up to something big.

Are you feeling better about your school this year, food-wise? 

  • 19th September
  • 19

Daddy & Daughter Bentos

For daddy:  Leftover brisket (antibiotic-free, humanely raised) covered in a tomato-based sauce with veggies; creamy mashed potatoes; organic strawberries; raw sweet yellow and red mini bell peppers

For the Little Ladies (who have no way to reheat their mashed potatoes and don’t dig them lukewarm): Whole grain mini roll with raisins; 2 types of extra sharp cheddar from our local cheese monger; a few heirloom cherry tomatoes; organic apple slices; organic strawberries; star fruit; raw sweet yellow and red mini bell peppers (or as my children call them:  dinosaur jelly beans)

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Our family isn’t Jewish, but we live in a neighborhood with a lot of Jews.  During holidays like Rosh Hasanah, the delicious smells of simmering food are impossible to ignore and are always inspiring. Have you ever smelled fresh Challah bread baking?  I don’t know about you, but one sniff and my mouth is watering like mad.  Heck, just the thought of extended families and friends coming together to feast is enough to get me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.  I love holidays, even if they’re not my own.

One year around Christmastime my husband and I baked Chanukah doughnuts, and to this day they rank as the best doughnuts we’ve ever had.  Known as “Sufganiot,” (or the greatest jelly doughnuts ever) they appear to be more popular in Israel than the States, but if you know any Jews stateside who bake them (or any Christians like us who insist on diving into Jewish culinary traditions), get your hands on some.  You’ll be thankful you did.

Back to Rosh Hasanah.  Since I wasn’t raised in a Jewish household, my Jewish cooking adventures are strictly recipe-reliant.  For the brisket pictured above, we used a cross of 2 recipes from 2 Jewish cooks I admire (and like — they are both very good seeds), Ronnie Fein from Kitchen Vignettes (right here on Tumblr — you should follow her!) and Tori Avey from The Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Check out their recipes when you have a chance.  Yom Kippur is coming up next Wednesday, and I know I will be bowled over by the food aromas once again.  What shall we make?  Noodle Kugel?  

  • 17th September
  • 17

Reminder for Cold & Flu Season

Just four days after the new school year began my 7 year old surprised us with a fever and a sore throat.  The search for our ever-disappearing thermometer commenced, and oops — we’re out of dye-free acetaminophen.  A few hours later we walked out of her pediatrician’s office with a diagnosis (positive rapid strep test, 103 fever) and a prescription for Amoxicillin. 

This little incident got my thinking.  With 4 kids in the house (and 3 bathrooms), medical supplies are constantly getting shifted around to one floor or the other, or they migrate between various medicine cabinets.  I immediately got organized and took stock of what we needed for the upcoming season, with the added bonus of establishing a central location for our arsenal.

I hope you find this post hopeful and don’t get caught off guard in your own house.

Life in the big city without a car begs for a creative solution to picking up an older child at school without leaving a feverish, strep-infested younger sibling at home alone.  Yes, I opted to haul her in our trusty wagon, padded with pillow and blankets.  We were quite the spectacle. I so miss having family nearby to help!

For convenience, I am reposting the “how to care for your child’s cold naturally” link featured in the above prep list photograph here.  Please do take a look!  There are great suggestions listed.

Also, our recipes for chicken soup and homemade dye-free “Pedialyte” pops is here.

  • 15th September
  • 15
  • 12th September
  • 12

Taking Control of the Day

Nitrate-free/humanely-raised deli slices (turkey breast, prosciutto) and extra sharp cheddar from our local cheese shop with a slice of whole grain bread; organic grapes; organic strawberries, plum slices, a petite seckel pear and white organic carrots

September 11th is always a hard day for me, as it is for many people.  The vivid memories of the sights, sounds and smells all come flooding back.  

Yesterday I made a conscious decision to stay off line most of the day and to reflect in my own way, rather than subject myself to the barrage of media images and Facebook commentary.  I also scheduled a restorative yoga class, which ended up being a Godsend.  Think snugly props, an instructor who worked by candlelight and who tucked us in with blankies while walking us through our breathing.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better she gave us all mini massages and released the scent of medical-grade lavender into the room for good measure.  It was heavenly, and made us all but oblivious to the world outside of that room. 

Completely reset, I left and immediately thought of dinner.  The day demanded something comforting, and so I defrosted a hearty grass-fed beef stew from the freezer stash and served it over whole wheat egg noodles. We each had a square of extra dark chocolate for dessert.

All in all, the day went as well as it possibly could, with each of the 4 kids having a good day at school, and the girls enjoying the start of their performing arts season. Best of all, they came home to a relaxed mother.

That brings us to today.  We woke up in the mood for lighter fare, at least for breakfast and lunch (for dinner we will be hosting our school gardening committee at our home).  Today’s bento fits that mood. 

  • 11th September
  • 11
  • 7th September
  • 07

One Cold, One Warm Lunch

Usually, the girls pack the same or very similar lunches  Today, however, they went in completely different directions:

Almond butter and a drizzle of local honey on organic oat bread; celery, carrot and cucumber slices with star fruit; slivers of fresh nectarine.  The pomegranate seeds are for snack time (along with a few cashews, packed separately).

(Leftover from dinner, from our freezer stash) - Organic brown rice, turkey & bean chili (made with antibiotic-free, humanely raised meat) and sliced plum packed in the tiffin container my husband scored while on a business trip in India. 

This is similar to what our tiffin looks like when it is stacked and locked for travel:

All said and done, 15 minutes was dedicated to lunch packing (veggies were pre-sliced).  Not bad.