Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tuna in the News

Tuna fish is on the menu again tomorrow but this time it happens to follow a series of stories in the New York Times about high levels of mercury found in tuna sushi served at New York restaurants. The story, High Mercury Levels are Found in Tuna Sushi was published in last Wednesday's paper (January 23). Yes, I know that canned tuna (which is usually yellow tail, tongol, or skipjack) is not the same thing as the highly coveted (and very expensive) bluefin tuna. Species of tuna that are larger (like albacore) are more likely to be contaminated with higher levels of mercury. Yellowfin (239 cm) is smaller than albacore (458 cm) and skipjack (108 cm) are much smaller. Tongol tuna, sometimes labeled as "canned light tuna" is one of the smallest and can be as small as 70 cm. Still, other studies have shown that the mercury levels in canned light tuna are highly varied and can sometimes be higher than in canned albacore tuna. Personally, I think that childcare centers should do away with tuna fish. Why take the risk? Tomorrow, I will pack Caroline's lunch with salmon, which is known to have lower levels of mercury.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, February 1: Breakfast - Queen's Lace Peach (frozen last summer), ten grain hot cereal; Lunch - salmon, 100% whole grain toast, green peas, Pink Lady apple; Snacks - banana oat muffin
Childcare Center Menu, February 1: Breakfast - peaches, cream of wheat; Lunch - tuna fish, wheat pitas, cucumber, apples; Snacks - Ritz crackers, watermelon

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Family Secret Tomato Sauce

Last summer, Geoff and I canned tomato sauce for the first time. We've canned tomatoes for years but I had always been weary of tomato sauce recipes because they seemed too bland or too much trouble. But when I came across Barbara Kingsolver's recipe Family Secret Tomato Sauce published online and in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I couldn't resist. The cinnamon and nutmeg were too intriguing to pass up. Unfortunately, I couldn't make just one pint of the sauce. The recipe called for 10 quarts of tomato puree. Since I didn't have a pot large enough for 30 pounds of tomatoes, I borrowed one from my friend Mary who lives just down the street. The only very large pot she had was the one she used for making beer. Since she hadn't made any beer in years, she let me use the pot for my sauce. I hope she didn't say "yes" in a moment of weakness because contaminating beer pots with tomatoes makes them unusable for any future beer-making. A very large pot, 13 ingredients and hours and hours later, we had 7 quarts of sauce. We gave one to Mary and saved 6 quarts for the winter. Tomorrow, we will open our first jar! Instead of attempting to mimic tomorrow's ground turkey ghoulash with macaroni and spaghetti sauce (which honestly, sounds frightening), I will pack Caroline's lunch with one of Geoff's meatballs and a heaping spoonful of Barbara Kingsolver's Family Secret Tomato Sauce.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 31: Breakfast - pearsauce, 100% whole wheat toast; Lunch - whole wheat macaroni, meatball, Family Secret Tomato Sauce, mixed vegetables (frozen, Cascadian Farms); Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, pomegranate, graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, January 31: Breakfast - applesauce, raisin bread; Lunch - ground turkey ghoulash with macaroni and spaghetti sauce, honeydew, California vegetables; Snacks - Ritz crackers, watermelon

January 30th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 30: Breakfast - ten grain cereal, D'Anjou pear; Lunch - rice with eggs, pesto, and tomatoes (canned last summer), peas and carrots (frozen, Cascadian Farms); Snacks - Minneola tangerine, cornbread muffin

Childcare Center Menu, January 30: Breakfast - oatmeal, raisins, banana; Lunch - cheesy rice, apples, peas, carrots; Snacks - smiley fries, tangerine

Monday, January 28, 2008

January 29th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 29: Breakfast - Queen's Lace peaches, ten grain hot cereal; Lunch - meatball, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables (frozen, Stahlbush Island Farms); Snacks - Pink Lady apple, 100% whole grain toast

Childcare Center Menu, January 29: Breakfast - peaches, wheat bagels, cream cheese; Lunch - meatballs, mashed potatoes, wheat bread, cantaloupe, mixed vegetables; Snacks - soft pretzels, grapes

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Frozen Peaches!

I feel like I struck a gold mine. I thought that I used up the last of my preserved Queen's Lace peaches from last summer on January 24th, but when I was digging around my deep freezer this weekend, I found two sandwich-size containers of sliced peaches! I froze a few pounds of peaches last summer as an experiment to compare the flavor, color, and texture of the canned versus frozen fruit. Freezing is so much easier than canning (and less time consuming, too) but it takes up valuable space in my deep freezer. It still needs to thaw so I haven't tasted the fruit but they're packed in a clear container so I can see that they still have the cream- and peach-colored flesh they did on the day that I sliced them up back in August.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu: Breakfast - O's, grapefruit; Lunch - chard and mushroom lasagna, cauliflower (frozen, Stahlbush Island Farms), corn (frozen, Titus Farms); Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, Queen's Lace peaches (frozen last summer, Appleschram Organic Orchards), whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Golden Grahams; Lunch - enchiladas, corn, green beans, bananas; Snacks - yogurt, peaches, crackers

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cupcakes for Caroline

One of Caroline's friends is celebrating her 2nd birthday tomorrow and her mom is bringing in cupcakes to mark the occasion. When I first learned about the cupcakes, my immediate reaction was, "No problem. I will make Caroline some blueberry muffins so that she doesn't feel left out." My second reaction was, "What?! I am not going to be one of those crazy moms who sends their kids to a birthday party with their own cake." And I'm not talking about all those moms who lovingly prepare a gluten-free cupcake for their child with wheat allergies. Seriously, though. Even I can't convince myself that a blueberry muffin is the same thing as a chocolate cupcake sitting in a silver foil liner, iced with thick chocolate frosting and sprinkled with multi-colored stars. It's not. And when Caroline sees all of the other kids enjoying cupcakes while she is stuck with her whole-wheat muffin made with local, organic blueberries, she will feel sad. Tomorrow, I am going to skip the muffins and put my obsessive-compulsive tendencies aside. The importance of local, organic, sustainable, low-mercury, Fair Trade, whole-wheat, high fiber food pales in comparison to Caroline's happiness.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 25: Breakfast - ten grain cereal, prunes, D'Anjou pear; Lunch - baked and marinated tofu, brown rice, braised kale with onions, mixed vegetables (frozen, Stahlbush Island Farms); Snacks - cupcake

Childcare Center Menu, January 25: Breakfast - oatmeal, raisins, peaches; Lunch - chicken, brown rice, California vegetables, pears; Snacks - Monkey bread, carrot sticks

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January 24th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 24: Breakfast - ten grain hot ceral, my last jar of peaches I canned last summer; Lunch - egg salad, 100% whole grain bread, pearsauce; Snacks - sweet potato

Childcare Center Menu, January 24: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat croissants; Lunch - egg salad sandwich on wheat bread, cucumbers, orange; Snacks - baked sweet potatoes

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Black Bean Croquettes

I have a love affair with croquettes. Lentil croquettes, salmon croquettes, and my all-time favorite - potato croquettes. When I was growing up, my mom would make potato croquettes for dinner or to take along on picnics. She used a ricer to make mashed potatoes and would add ground beef and diced vegetables. She shaped each croquette into a perfect oval, dipped it in a beaten egg and coated it with fine breadcrumbs before frying it in a pan of hot vegetable oil. The kids - there are 5 of us - ate the croquettes dipped in ketchup. Now, whenever I come across a new recipe for croquettes, I never pass up the opportunity to recreate my childhood memories of eating the delicious, palm-sized patties of whatever the filling may be. Tonight, I made black bean croquettes and served them with rice, salsa, and shredded lettuce (and flour tortillas for those who wanted to make a black bean croquette burrito). The croquettes were easy to make and I found the recipe in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks). Think mashed beans, minced onions, minced parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs, and oil for frying. I made small nugget-sized croquettes for Caroline and she loved them! Another croquette keeper.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 23: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes; Lunch - black bean croquettes, flour tortilla, carrots; Snacks - hummus, whole wheat pita bread

Childcare Center Menu, January 23: Breakfast - cream of wheat, bananas, raisins; Lunch - flour tortilla, refried beans, salsa, carrots, grapes; Snacks - hummus, pita bread

Monday, January 21, 2008


On Sunday morning, Caroline vomited after drinking about 4 ounces of milk. I thought the milk just went down the wrong way so when she asked for more milk, I gave it to her. She drank two more ounces and then vomited again. You'd think I'd learn after the second time, but when she asked for milk a third time, I gave it to her. And...she vomited again. I was worried that she would become dehydrated so I gave her some water. Vomit, vomit, vomit. By 10:00 that morning, she vomited so many times that I lost track. We called the doctor who told us not to give her any milk or water and to wait at least an hour before giving her anything else to drink. After an hour, she recommended giving Caroline 1/2 teaspoon of Pedialyte, an oral electrolyte maintenance solution, every 5 minutes for the first hour and then soy milk or more Pedialyte for the next 6-8 hours. After that? BRAT - bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. It's been a full day and Caroline seems like she has fully recovered. Pedialyte has officially made it to my list of pantry "must-haves." After a vomiting spell, I like to go easy on my stomach for a couple of days by eating bland, easily digestible foods. So, I am ignoring tomorrow's menu - spaghetti with ground turkey sauce - and packing Caroline's lunch with BRAT foods...and chicken noodle soup, the other instant cure-all.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 22: Breakfast - 100% whole grain toast, apple sauce; Lunch - chicken noodle soup, rice; Snacks - banana

Childcare Center Menu, January 22: Breakfast - apple juice, Cheerios, Life, Rice Krispies; Lunch - spaghetti with ground turkey sauce, mixed vegetables, banana; Snacks - graham crackers, cucumbers

Thursday, January 17, 2008

January 17th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 17: Breakfast - bran muffin, whole milk plain yogurt; Lunch - whole wheat English muffin cheese pizza, lima beans, Satsuma orange; Snacks - whole wheat graham crackers, D'Anjou pear

Childcare Center Menu, January 17: Breakfast - applesauce, bran muffin; cheese pizza, tangerines, cucumbers; Snacks - trail mix, honeydew

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cloned Cows? Not in My Body!

Somehow, the thought of drinking milk or eating meat from a cloned cow creeps me out. But today, the Food and Drug Administration gave it the thumbs up. See the story on CNN. All the more reason to buy organic dairy products made with milk from pasture-raised animals.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 16: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes, pear; Lunch - marinated and baked tofu, brown rice, carrots (Giving Tree Farm), broccoli; Snacks - yam

Childcare Center Menu, January 16: Breakfast - oatmeal, bananas, raisins; Lunch - turkey Sloppy Joes, wheat bun, carrots, kiwi; Snacks - celery sticks, cream cheese, wheat crackers

Monday, January 14, 2008

January 15th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 15: Breakfast - ten grain cereal, prunes; Lunch - lentil croquettes, 100% whole grain bread, broccoli; Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards)

Childcare Center Menu, January 15: Breakfast - corn muffins, grapes; Lunch - wheat breaded chicken nuggets, salad, cantaloupe, wheat bread; Snacks - cottage cheese, peaches

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Banking on Bittman

This past Christmas, I gave Geoff How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Geoff likes to cook (sort of) and wants to take over some of the cooking in 2008 - at least that's what he told me. So, I bought him How to Cook Everything (or, maybe I really bought it for myself and disguised it as a gift for Geoff) hoping that Bittman could turn Geoff into a chef of sorts. So far, it seems to be working. This weekend, Geoff used the book to plan menus and even made a white bean soup with ham hocks. And I made savoy cabbage and apples and brown rice with lentils and dried apricots. Yum!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 13: Breakfast - O's, grapefruit; Lunch - savoy cabbage and apples, brown rice with lentils and dried apricots, mixed vegetables (frozen, Cascadian Farms); Snacks - whole wheat blueberry pancakes

Childcare Center Menu, January 13: Breakfast - orange juice, Cheerios, Life, Rice Krispies; Lunch - cheesy rice with brown rice, California blend vegetables, bananas; Snacks - apples, soynut butter

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January 11th Menu

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 11: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes; Lunch - lentil croquettes, 100% whole wheat bread, mixed vegetables (frozen, Cascadian Farms); Snacks - whole milk plain yogurt, blueberries (frozen, Walton Orchards), graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, January 11: Breakfast - applesauce, wheat bagels, strawberry jam; Lunch - ground turkey, potatoes, mixed vegetables, pears, wheat bread; Snacks - strawberry yogurt, graham crackers

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Salmon Sandwich - A Low Mercury Alternative

I love tuna fish sandwiches...well, at least I did until the USDA Food and Drug Administration warned against eating too much tuna and other large fish such as tilefish and king mackerel, that contain high levels of methymercury. Mercury is naturally occurring in our environment but is also present in products such as thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs. Through a complex chain of events, it eventually reaches our oceans and rivers where bacteria convert it into more toxic forms. Small fish and other bottom feeders ingest it and it eventually makes its way up through the food chain and accumulates in large fish such as tuna. White or albacore tuna has higher levels of methylmercury than canned light tuna but according to a 2006 Consumer Reports article, the light version can contain just as much or more methylmercury than its white counterpart. Given that the FDA has warned against eating too much albacore tuna (for all people but especially for more vulnerable populations like small children), it makes sense that this should apply to light tuna as well. Tuna fish sandwiches appear on the childcare center menu from time to time. When it does, I pack Caroline a canned salmon sandwich. Why take the risk? I use Natural Sea canned pink salmon because it has been certified eco-friendly by the Marine Stewardship Council and is more affordable than some of the other brands. Salmon has been found to have consistently low levels of methylmercury and it is an excellent source of calcium (if it contains the soft bones that you can just crush into the salmon salad) and omega-3-fatty acids. I use one can of salmon (drained) and add a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a tablespoon of yogurt and a pinch of salt, pepper, and dried dill. Sometimes, if I have it on hand, I add a stalk of celery, minced. Caroline loves it.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 10: Breakfast - ten grain hot cereal, prunes;Lunch - salmon salad, 100% whole wheat bread, carrots (Giving Tree Farm), broccoli; Snacks - pearsauce, whole wheat graham crackers

Childcare Center Menu, January 10: oatmeal, raisins, cantaloupe; tuna fish, wheat pita bread, carrots, pears; Snacks - chocolate cookies, grapes

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Changes Already!

Wow, I can't believe how quickly the cook has incorporated the survey results into her menu. This week, the bagels, rice and pita bread are all whole wheat. I am impressed.

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 9th: Breakfast - grapefruit, whole milk yogurt; Lunch - brown rice with eggs, pesto and tomatoes (canned last summer), carrots (Giving Tree Farm); Snacks - sweet potato

Childcare Center Menu, January 9th: Breakfast - fruit cocktail, wheat bagels, cream cheese; Lunch - chicken and brown rice with red and yellow peppers, soy sauce, honeydew; Snacks - baked potatoes with shredded cheese

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Heading to North Carolina

After one day back at school, we're taking another break. Geoff, Caroline and I are heading to North Carolina tomorrow and staying through the weekend. I can't wait to get a taste of Southern cuisine. We might even visit the Saturday Carrboro Farmers' Market where everything is grown or produced within a 50-mile radius!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Constipation Success!

Well, it is indeed a happy New Year's day. After two weeks off from school, Caroline will be returning tomorrow with a proven constipation elimination regimen (no pun intended): a daily prune cooked with her morning hot cereal. Since prunes, like raisins, can easily stick to teeth and cause cavities, we have been cooking it with her hot cereal to plump it up and soften it so that it resembles bits and pieces of fruit rather than a wrinkled, sticky, hard mass. Caroline won't touch pureed prunes (which resemble hot, sticky tar) but she happily eats the prunes in her cereal. Best of all, she hasn't been as uncomfortable as she has been for the past several months!

Caroline's Lunchbox Menu, January 1: Breakfast - 10 grain hot cereal (Bob's Red Mill), prune; Lunch - mac n' cheese with spinach, mushrooms, and locally grown savoy cabbage (Cinzori Farm), green peas; Snacks - peaches (canned last summer), 100% whole grain toast
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