Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Redeeming Lunch

Nesting seems to be covering many aspects of the daily workings of our home these days. I've been painting, cleaning, ditching stuff, and reworking systems to be more automated. Reinventing the wheel on a daily basis is not as efficient for me as reading a previously thought-out list of ideas. Read that: I don't think well on my feet. I've been working on grocery lists, chore lists, stuff-to-pack-in-the-diaper-bag lists, and any other list that will help me (and the kiddos) keep ourselves in order even when life is crazy.

The ladies at the old Choosing Home (edit: this site is no longer in existence) have inspired me to work on a What-To-Have-For-Lunch list. Whenever possible, we have leftovers from dinner the night before, or Live It Up Lunch, but in the absence of leftovers, I am sharing some of the ideas from our list.

First, some of the ideas for the days when there are "some" leftovers, but not enough to just have that alone.

~Soup: Ok, kind of a no-brainer, and not all that interesting in August, but it really works for January. We mix different veggies and meats together, and usually fill in the rest with milk. A tip I learned from Joy of Cooking, is to not mix too many types of leftovers together. Pick a theme and go with that: Mexican (corn, tomatoes, beans), Italian (pasta, tomatoes, spinach, white beans), oriental (rice, brocolli, peanut butter). We serve soup with bread, leftover muffins, or pancakes.

~Open-faced sandwiches: leftover casserole, soup, Sloppy Joes, meat and gravy, etc on top of toast.

~Omelet: a few veggies and some chopped meat make fun omelets. When we have tons of time, we make individual "real" omelets. When we are short on time, we mix all the ingredients together into scrambled eggs.

~Salad: Dad prefers Plain Jane type salads, so when he's not here, we can be a little zany with our salads. Into a base of lettuce or spinach, we toss in leftover meat, cheese, boiled eggs, weird veggies that you wouldn't find on a salad bar (corn, green beans), nuts, bread cubes , etc.
    When we are starting from scratch without leftovers, here are some of our usual (and unusual) ideas:

    ~Cheese fondue: Shredded cheese, some milk, maybe a smidge of your favorite herb, melted together. For dippers, use bread (fresh or stale), raw veggies cut up, fresh fruit cut up (apples in cheddar fondue is awesome), crackers, etc.

    ~Yogurt bar: we always have plain yogurt around , so we serve bowls of yogurt, so folks can doctor it up themselves. We add pineapple, apples, orange slices, berries, jam, shredded carrots, a bit of ginger, etc. for a sweet version. Some folks eat it straight from the bowl, others wrap it in a tortilla, or serve it on leftover pancakes.

    ~Tuna/chicken/roast beef salad: we stretch the meat by adding shredded carrots or shredded apples to the mix. (Shredded apples is especially good with tuna.) We eat this plain, or with crackers, on celery , scooped up with carrot sticks, in a tortilla, or the "normal" way: on bread.

    ~Eggs: Boiled eggs with veggies on the side, egg salad (plain, on bread, in scooped out tomatoes, etc.), fried or scrambled. Quiche is also pretty quick to throw together. Leftovers mixed in the batter, or just some salsa and cheese are yum. We just use a ratio of 1/4 cup milk for every egg, then bake it at 375' until set in the middle.

    ~Baked potato bar: This only works if I think of it early enough in the day, since they take an hour to bake. We top potatoes with leftover or canned chili, always cheese, veggies, yogurt or sour cream, green onions, etc. The kids love making their own crazy toppings.

    ~"Heidi Lunch": This is one of my kids favorites-literally a slab of cheese, and a thick slice of homemade bread. Butter the bread, and serve with lacto-fermented pickles. Add an apple, and lunch is done.

    ~"Beanie Weenies": This is one of my emergency lunches for a brain-dead-with-no-leftovers day. Saute chopped hotdogs with some onion, green pepper, and add canned beans. Add to taste: ketchup, mustard, mollasses, garlic.
    ~Mongolian Grill: The kids get ready their own stir-fry ingredients, then I saute each one individually. It is really quicker than it sounds-remember stir-fry is a quick-cooking method. We serve it over rice. When we are pressed for time, we mix everyone's ingredients (that they picked out and got ready) together and saute all at once.

    ~Bean Burritos: Another emergency food I keep on hand is canned refried beans. The kids can add whatever they want to these: cheese, veggies, salsa, etc. They also sometimes like them cold.

    We prefer to eat whatever we're in the mood for, but since that doesn't always work (i.e. life is crazy, someone is melting down, there is a newborn in the house), I have adopted Kim's plan from Large Family Logistics (scroll down sidebar for "Lunch Plans"). We have a menu set up for those less-than-perfect days, then, when things are going smoothly, we can eat a little more intuitively.

    Also, when things are going smoothly, or more importantly when they are not, and we need something refreshing to change the direction of the day, we throw something easy into a basket and head out to the yard. This doesn't have to be involved-just think Heidi lunch: toss in a loaf of bread, a block of cheese, some apples, and a jug of water. When the weather is yucky, I'll let the kids eat under the kitchen table, pretending they're camping for a change of pace.


    Two birds, one stone: another quick note about our lunches is that we do Science during lunch. No, no, no... not because we pull out the green hairy stuff from the fridge during lunch. We listen to science audio tapes during lunch. Currently we are enjoying the Jonathan Park creation science radio shows. They are a little hokey for the mommy's taste, but the scientific stuff is awesome! The fringe benefit is that lunch has to be eaten by the time the tape is done (thirty minutes), so we don't hang out too long and blow naptime.

    Priorities, you know.

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