Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 30th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 30: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - lentil croquettes, sweet potatoes, bok choy, 100% whole grain toast; Snacks - peaches, whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 30: Breakfast - applesauce, blueberry muffins; Lunch - meatballs, salad, apples, potatoes, bread; Snacks - carrots, pumpkin bread

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's That Time of Year

I survived the grilled cheese challenge and since there were no leftovers in Caroline's lunchbox today, I'm assuming that I passed. But I have a bigger challenge ahead of me for the next 5 months -- eating in-season in Michigan. Yes, it's that time of year when nothing at the grocery store seems to be grown nearby except for bok choy and carrots from Giving Tree Farm, apples from Appleschram Organic Orchard and the occasional storage vegetable. I canned, froze, and dried fruits and vegetables all summer but these will not get us through the winter. We have a lot of corn, green beans, tomatoes, pesto, blueberries, tart cherries, shallots, and garlic but we're down to our last 5 pints of Queen's Lace peaches. So, this is the time of year when I emphasize the "as possible" in my family's goal to eat as close to home as possible and when domestic organic fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables make their way to our refrigerator. Ironically though, Caroline's lunch tomorrow is full of local foods - eggs from Flying Goat Farm in Mason, bok choy, pesto, tomatoes, and peaches.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 29: Breakfast - mixed grain cereal, peaches; Lunch - bok choy, brown and white rice with pesto, egg, and tomatoes; Snacks - sweet potatoes

Childcare Center Menu, Novemeber 29: Breakfast - French toast sticks, peaches; Lunch - cheesy rice, mixed vegetables, pears; Snacks - sweet potatoes

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Grilled Cheese Challenge

I admit it. I have never made a grilled cheese sandwich. Geoff is the master of grilled cheese in our household and he is in D.C. Caroline loves his grilled cheese - gooey cheese oozing out between two pieces of buttered and perfectly grilled bread. I don't know why I feel so anxious about making tomorrow's sandwich but I do. I have been anxious ever since I saw this week's menu last Friday. I even toyed with the idea of asking Geoff to make the sandwich before he left this morning so that all I would have to do is heat it up. I'd like to say that I mustered up the courage to tackle the challenge but the truth is, I forgot to ask. So, tomorrow, I will be making my first grilled cheese sandwich!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 28: Breakfast - oatmeal, pearsauce; Lunch - grilled cheese, turkey noodle soup, broccoli; Snacks - mixed vegetables (frozen, Cascadian Farm), Ak-Mak crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 28: Breakfast - oatmeal, bananas, raisins; Lunch - grilled cheese, chicken noodle soup, cantaloupe, cucumbers; Snacks - broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots, sour cream dip

Monday, November 26, 2007

November 27th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu: Breakfast - oatmeal, peaches (canned this summer), Lunch - pinto beans, brown and white rice, mozzarella cheese, bok choy; Snacks - blueberries (frozen from Walton Orchards), graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu: Breakfast - peaches, blueberry muffins; Lunch - veggie hard shell tacos, cheese, refried beans, pears; Snacks - flour tortilla, strawberry jam, cream cheese

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pearsauce Does the Trick!

Caroline is feeling much better after a long weekend feasting on traditional Thanksgiving foods and eating a daily dose of pearsauce. Unlike applesauce, pearsauce (labeled as "pears") only comes in baby food servings. We buy the Organic Baby brand or the Gerber organic brand. I actually like the texture of the Gerber pears (puree) better than the Organic Baby pears (pureed and strained). Even though she seems to be back on track - I won't go into any details - I am going to send pears with her for breakfast tomorrow. I accidentally ripped off a piece of the childcare center menu this weekend so I don't know what they're serving for breakfast and snack tomorrow. But since the menu just seems to cycle every month, I have a pretty good idea of what it might be.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 26: Breakfast - O's, pearsauce; Lunch - chard and mushroom lasagna, peas (frozen, Cascadian Farm); Snacks - banana squash

Childcare Center Menu, November 26: Lunch - spaghetti with turkey meat sauce, salad, bananas

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Bit Constipated

Well, we got another call from Caroline's teacher today letting us know that Caroline was feeling constipated, straining, and uncomfortable. She actually isn't technically constipated since she has been having at least one small, hard bowel movement every day but I know she is not comfortable. So, tomorrow, I am going to forget about mimicking the childcare center menu and focus on foods that are less likely to be "binding" -- that's the med-talk that I got from Caroline's pediatrician today. They said to avoid carrots, applesauce, yogurt, and cheese and to try to include whole grains, peas, pears, peaches, prunes, and juice. Since she is already getting a lot of fiber, I actually think that she needs more liquids. But I'll give these foods a try tomorrow.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 20: Breakfast - Bartlett pear, oatmeal; Lunch - whole wheat elbow macaroni, tomato and meat sauce, peas, peaches (canned this summer); Snacks - apple juice, graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 20: Breakfast - cream of wheat, bananas, raisins; Lunch - turkey sloppy joes, cucmbers, honeydew; Snacks - celery sticks, cream cheese, graham crackers

Monday, November 19, 2007

Banana Squash

I finally got up the courage to cook my Banana squash. I bought the squash at the farmers' market back in October and it has been sitting on (or, more like taking over) my counter ever since. At two feet tall, it is a bit intimidating. The squash is long with a pink-orange skin. It is not as hard as some of the other winter squashes I have tried so I was able to cut through it easily. The flesh is bright orange and very moist. I diced up a pound of it and cooked it with some onions and diced tomatoes -- the last locally grown tomatoes of the season purchased at ELFCO -- in a little bit of olive and butter. I served it with whole wheat rotini pasta and scattered chopped celery leaves and grated Parmesan on top. I would never have thought to use celery leaves this way but the dish was delicious. Caroline was a bit constipated tonight and feeling uncomfortable so she wasn't interested in eating anything except her pureed prunes and plain yogurt. I'll put the pasta dish in her lunch tomorrow and hopefully, she'll feel like taking a bite.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 20: Breakfast - prunes, plain yogurt, oatmeal; Lunch - Banana squash, whole wheat rotini pasta, tomatoes, egg; Snacks - peaches (canned this summer), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 20: Breakfast - applesauce, French toast sticks, syrup; Lunch - Mostaciolli, beans, kiwi; Snacks - chocolate chip cookies, red peppers

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dark Green and Orange Vegetables

When I went grocery shopping on Saturday, I made a point to buy dark green and orange vegetables. A study that was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association last year indicated that Americans are far from meeting their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, especially for dark green and orange vegetables. I checked out MyPyramid, the new and personalized version of the Food Guide Pyramid, and noticed that the recommendation for children 2-3 years old is 1 cup of fruit and 1 cup of vegetables every day. Since Caroline is only (almost) 16 months old, I know that she doesn't need this much. But she'll be 2 years old before I know it so I am trying to get her into the habit of eating lots of fruits and vegetables. The childcare center menu does include a limited variety of fruits and vegetables but I noticed last week that the menu doesn't veer far from California vegetables (which I assume is at most a mix of carrots, peas, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower), carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cucumber. I know that I am supposed to be mimicking the childcare center menus but frankly, I'd like to introduce Caroline to a larger variety of vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables. So, this weekend, I loaded up my cart with a nice variety of produce including collard greens, winter squashes, and bok choy (all locally grown). I know Caroline likes winter squash and bok choy but collard greens will be new for her.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 19: Breakfast - O's, peaches (canned this summer), Lunch - marinated and baked tofu, steamed bok choy, brown rice; Snacks - Bartlett pear

Friday, November 16, 2007

November 16th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 16: Breakfast - oatmeal, peaches (canned this summer); Lunch - cheese "pizza" (100% whole grain bread, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce), carrots, green beans (frozen from Titus Farm); Snacks - apple

Childcare Center Menu, November 16: Breakfast - wheat croissants, jam, applesauce; Lunch - cheese pizza, cucumbers, apples; Snacks - chocolate chip cookies, bell peppers

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

Geoff bought 100% whole wheat graham crackers for Caroline and for the most part, they taste great! My only (small) complaint is that they are just a tad bit on the salty side. They are made by MI-DEL and have a relatively short ingredient list: whole wheat flour, honey, unsulphured molasses, soybean oil, leavening, salt, soy lecithin, lemon oil. Even though honey is second on the list, these crackers are not very sweet at all. Caroline loves the New Morning graham crackers but given that the MI-DEL crackers are made with 100% whole wheat, I think these are the healthier option.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 15: Breakfast - Bartlett pear, O's; Lunch - egg, 100% whole grain toast, Carnival squash, peas; Snacks - blueberries (frozen from Walton Orchards), MI-DEL 100% whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 15: Breakfast - apple muffin, pears; Lunch - turkey, beans, potatoes, gravy, cantaloupe; Snacks - pumpkin pie, apple cider

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mac n' Cheese

I have fond memories of eating Kraft Dinner when I was growing up. Kraft Dinner was in the same category as Hamburger Helper - both foods that my mom rarely made for our family. But I remember begging my mom to make it for dinner and when she did, I ate it smothered in ketchup. After I graduated from high school and reached the legal drinking age - 19 years old in Canada - Kraft Dinner was the quintessential post-party snack. I ate the fluorescent orange pasta right out of the pot before collapsing into bed. Now, the thought of feeding Caroline Kraft Dinner makes my stomach churn. I don't even want to know what makes the powder turn fluorescent orange. I have tried to make mac n' cheese in the past but have always ended up with macaroni and clumpy cheese. I know where I went wrong. The secret to creamy mac n' cheese is Velveeta. But there must be a way to make mac n' cheese without resorting to Velveeta. But how? Mac n' cheese is on the menu tomorrow. I found a recipe in one of my Moosewood cookbooks that calls for cottage cheese, yogurt or buttermilk, and cheddar cheese. This recipe sounded promising especially because it also calls for cabbage and whole wheat pasta. I made this mac n' cheese (with a few adaptations) tonight using the last of my green cabbage from Pooh Stevenson at Owosso Organics. If Caroline likes it, I will post my recipe tomorrow.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 14: Breakfast - oatmeal, Bartlett pear; Lunch - mac n' cheese, peas and carrots (frozen, Cascadian Farm); Snacks - cornbread, applesauce

Childcare Center Menu, November 14: Breakfast - oatmeal, bananas, raisins; Lunch - mac n' cheese, California vegetables, apples; Snacks - Smiley fries, ketchup

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 13th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 13: Breakfast - 100% wholegrain toast, apple butter; blueberries (frozen from Walton Orchards); Lunch - whole wheat flour tortilla, refried beans, cheddar cheese, corn, mixed vegetables (frozen, Cascadian Farm); Snacks - GoldRush apple, whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 13: Breakfast - fruit cocktail, blueberry muffin; Lunch - soft shell veggie tacos, corn, beans, grapes; Snacks - garlic bread, carrots

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Columbia River Gorge Pears

It's hard to believe that we are already in the third week of November and that Thanksgiving Day is next Thursday. We had a chilly weekend (in the 40s) and as I was grocery shopping at the East Lansing Food Co-op, I was reminded of how little is available this time of year in the way of local food. For the first time since I started Caroline's Lunchbox, I had to confront a fresh produce dilemma. How close or far is "local?" Do I put an Appleschram or Almar apple into Caroline's lunch everyday or do I expand the boundaries of my local food shed to include Oregon so that I can include Columbia River Gorge Bartlett pears and add variety to Caroline's fruit intake? Or, do I buy conventionally grown (non-organic) pears grown nearby? Before Caroline was born, I would have chosen the latter. Back then, I felt that preserving farmland and reducing food miles were two of the most important reasons to buy my food from as close to home as possible. Organic was important but if we didn't preserve our farmland, the issue of organic would be a moot point. Now that I am responsible for Caroline's health, my decision-making process for buying food (especially fruits and vegetables) starts with whether or not the food is organic. After checking out the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce and their report on pesticides in pears which found pesticides on 94 percent of the pears tested, I made a decision. I do want Caroline to have a decent variety of fruits and vegetables in her diet but I would try to buy organic whenever possible. "Decent" doesn't mean strawberries in February or tomatoes in December. But it does mean that once in awhile, I will buy food grown near my hometown on the west coast. And that includes the Bartlett pears grown near the Columbia River Gorge.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 12: Breakfast - O's, Columbia River Gorge pears; Lunch - tofu dengaku, brown rice, mixed vegetables (frozen Cascadian Farm); Snacks - pumpkin carrot muffin

Childcare Center Menu, November 12: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios, Golden Grahams, Rice Krispies; Lunch - deli chicken, California vegetables, bananas, rice, mushroom soup; Snacks - soy nut butter, graham crackers

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chard and Garbanzo Beans

Lentils and Mexican rice is on the menu tomorrow. This is the second time lentils is on the menu this week. I must say that I am surprised since a lentil dish has not been on the menu once since Caroline transitioned to the toddler room (September). I love lentils but since I don't have any on hand, I am going to pack Caroline one of our favorite dishes for her lunch tomorrow: rice with chard and Garbanzo beans. This is a versatile dish that is easy to prepare. It calls for just five ingredients - chard, onion, olive oil, water or broth, Garbanzo beans, salt. First, I dice a small onion and the chard stems. I saute the onions and chard stems in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on low-medium heat until the onion it is soft and translucent. I then tear the chard leaves into bite size pieces and add it to the onions and chard stems along with enough water or broth so that the chard and onions don't stick to the bottom of the pan and cover the pan with a lid. When the chard leaves are melt-in-your-mouth soft (about 15 minutes or so), I add a couple cups of Garbanzo beans and salt to taste. This recipe is great over brown rice.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 9: Breakfast - pumpkin muffin, applesauce; Lunch - brown rice with chard and Garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes; Snacks - blueberries (frozen from Walton Orchards), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 9: Breakfast - blueberry muffin, applesauce; Lunch - lentils, mixed vegetables, orange slices, Mexican rice; Snacks - salsa, taco shells

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lentil Croquettes

I just got back from the American Public Health Association conference in D.C. The conference was great and I learned a lot about current health threats to our society. The most interesting was MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a drug-resistant staph bacteria carried by hogs that I will write about another day. I talked with Geoff when I was at Washington National Airport - I refuse to call it Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport - and he told me that Caroline's teacher called him at work today. That's usually a bad sign. She has been biting lately so I immediately thought that was what prompted Krystyna to call. But it turns out that she just wanted to let Geoff know how good her lunch was today! On Sunday, I made lentil croquettes for Geoff to fry for Caroline's lunch today as a substitute for chicken nuggets (we're one day behind in posting the menu). He must have done a good job frying them up because Krystyna, the assistant teacher and one of the student aides all took a bite of Caroline's lunch today and all three of them liked the croquettes! Thanks, Geoff for standing-in for me! The recipe is from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. The recipe was a bit labor-intensive but I froze half of it so that the next time chicken nuggets are featured on the childcare center menu, I can just make the patties, and bread and fry them.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 8: Breakfast - oatmeal, applesauce; Lunch - egg salad, 100% whole grain bread, mixed vegetables (frozen, Cascadian Farm); Snacks - whole wheat graham crackers, plain yogurt

Childcare Center Menu, November 8: Breakfast - cream of wheat, bananas, raisins; Lunch - egg salad, cucumber, oranges; Snacks - pumpkin dip, wheat crackers

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 7: Breakfast 100% whole grain toast, apple butter; Lunch - lentil croquettes, hard-boiled egg, farmer cheese, Butternut squash; Snacks - cheddar cheese, Ak-Mak crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 7: Breakfast - peaches, french toast, syrup; Lunch - chicken nuggets, carrot sticks, honeydew, bread, ketchup; Snacks - cheese, saltine crackers

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Stand-In (Part II)

It's day two of being left to our own culinary devices and we're getting a wee bit ragged around the edges, as judged by the slowly fraying routine. Tonight's dinner, after Caroline's 45-minute nap in the driveway at home (sitting in the front seat listening to NPR I dozed, as well, probably because the heat was blasting away to help ward off the 40-degree weather outside) was: a) a 4 oz. of milk, b) squash mixed with milk, c) corn. We did share one single pinto bean, too, but really never got to "d" as Little C was clearly tired and fussy and not in the mood to do much but feed me kernels of corn or throw them on the floor. So Betty, of course, is right that the post-daycare nap just isn't a good idea. (Though I, for one, felt mildly refreshed.) Betty will be returning to her position at Caroline's Lunchbox tomorrow, good news for readers of this blog and for me and Little C. I don't blame her, by the way. Cold pinto beans are no way to end a cold early November day.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 6: Breakfast - blueberry pancakes, peaches canned during the summer; Lunch - fusilli pasta with tomato sauce (warm), lettuce, one-half of a hardboiled egg, pinto and garbanzo beams, carrots; Snacks - whole wheat graham crackers with another jar of Michigan blueberries

Childcare Center Menu, November 6: Breakfast - fruit cocktail, blueberry muffins; Lunch - ground turkey, taco lettuce, kiwi, lasagna noodles, spaghetti noodles, spaghetti sauce; Snacks - cucumber slices, pretzels

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Stand-In (Part I)

It's Geoff here, the silent but generally supportive partner in most of the food endeavors in the household. Betty has flown off to the big annual public health shindig in Washington, D.C., I'm sure with some trepidation about the potential for decline in public health in our household while she's away. For those those wondering, we've not (so far) resulted to mac 'n cheese and pizza, canned fruit and excessive numbers of graham crackers. Instead, we've stayed on track, remained focused, played with focus and intensity, and just generally kept our momentum going. (Can you tell it's football season in Big 10 country and that I've listened to one hour too many of sports talk radio?) That is, it's still fresh, local and from scratch, even with the budding local food scholar gone. Okay, so Betty made it easy with detailed lists and lots of good stuff in the freezers and fridge. And okay, so it has only been one day. Caroline is happy and well-fed, too, though is perhaps showing signs of impatience with the fact that I'm hopelessly noso-noso -- that's slow, sluggish and dawdling in Japanese. No, I don't know why it takes me 30 minutes to make grilled cheese sandwiches and defrost the cooked corn. But the main thing is we enjoyed our dinner, even if it was a bit later than usual. Tomorrow is day two, and I may just throw in the towel and opt for fast food takeout. (A joke! Save your letters and threatening phone calls.) For now, however, you can call me "Mr. Local."

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 5: Breakfast - O's and, on the side, a few spoonfuls of cooked corn from the batch we cooked and froze during the summer (a bit unorthodox, I know); Lunch - brown and white rice mixture with garbanzo and pinto beans (warm), cooked corn and carrots, farmer cheese; Snacks - blueberry pancakes and with a jar of extra defrosted Michigan blueberries

Childcare Center Menu, November 5: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios and Life cereal; Lunch - shredded cheese, corn and beans, bananas, rice; Snacks - lemon pudding, wheat crackers

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November 2nd Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, November 2: Breakfast - peaches (canned this summer), 100% whole grain toast; Lunch - tofu, Butternut squash, brown rice, broccoli; Snacks - Golden Delicious apple, graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, November 2:Breakfast - peaches, french toast sticks; Lunch - fish sticks, carrot sticks, pears, bread; Snacks - apples, garlic bread
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