Tag Archives: raising vegetarians

School Lunch Reprise: Observations and Ideas

Gentle Readers, what do you remember about school lunch? My brother and I often reminisce less than fondly about the smell of bloaty peas that seemed to permeate our cafeteria, with a hint of green cleaner. The world has changed, and while schools often promote the concept of healthy eating, it’s a high nugget environment.

Easy to use lunchbox food.

Easy to use lunchbox food.

Last week I had the opportunity to do some on the ground research courtesy of The Practical Cooks Junior. I went to eat lunch with both of them, two separate yet similar experiences. First observation, every kid who got school lunch chose nuggets and fries, only the fruit varied. Second observation, almost every kid ate the fruit, sometimes first.

Sliced oranges (shown with dried cranberries and bananas) make a great side dish for garlicky pasta.

Sliced oranges (shown with dried cranberries and bananas) make a great side dish for garlicky pasta.

The Jrs pack their lunch, their choice, and as vegetarians, a smart one. The “crushers” (essentially chunky fruit juice) and “squishers” (yogurt in a tube) were big hits. Reminded me of the days of Froot Rollups. Food marketing matters. Kids still sit in judgment of one another’s lunch, and in turn, the judged rarely cares if they like what they’re eating.

Don't overlook the afterschool snack!

Don’t overlook the afterschool snack!

I saw cookies eaten first, but a lot of whole fruit consumed as well. And I saw fries greatly ignored, and who could blame them. A floppy fry is abysmal.Conclusion, bad food is bad, and kids are not fooled by that.

World's Largest Fortune Cookie: Tao in Las Vegas

World’s Largest Fortune Cookie: Tao in Las Vegas

Here are some lunchbox faves from TPCs Jr:

  • bagel with cream cheese
  • nuts — walnuts and pecans lead the pack
  • clementines — these are like kid crack, a favorite classroom snack as well, they’ll go through 2 or 3 of them
  • phoney baloney — the traditional sandwich with cheese is still a favorite
  • fruit cup with 100% juice — these always were and still are fun, and less cloying with the rise of fruit juice as the medium
  • fortune cookies — I have no issue with a lunch box treat, and this is a great way to surprise them. The fortunes always get read, and perhaps they can learn a little Chinese in the process.

The Jrs are still young enough that I am allowed to sit with them at the table and it be a cool thing, which is probably why peer pressure around food is not in full swing either. So while there’s still time, keep pushing those whole foods. They will get eaten!

Bagels are Sandwiches Too!

Bagels are Sandwiches Too!

What’s your school cafeteria memory? Post a comment in the box below! It’s wide open and waiting for you.

Send your hot tea, strokes of brilliance, and kitchen confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Friday: Smoked Salmon Salad, A Recipe of Sorts.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under On the Table, Snacks

Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup Review (and Bonus Recipe)

Gentle Readers, there are few things that are simpler and more diverse than soup. Yes, scratch soups are awesome, and I’ve got many a previous post on them. However, when you have 10 minutes to feed the troops, it never hurts to have some Punt! options on hand. Enter the line of Trader Joe’s boxed soups. Often available as organic and low-sodium, they, to use the vernacular, rock.

Creamy Corn and Rosted Pepper Soup from Trader Joe's

Creamy Corn and Rosted Pepper Soup from Trader Joe’s

Today we’ll be reviewing the Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup. Do not mistake this for a red pepper, it is in fact a green one. The soup is not overly think, and has a distinct Southwestern flair. I’ve found many of the soups run fairly sweet, and this is no exception. Well balanced, it was a hit with the whole of Team Practical Cook.

It's not easy being green, soup.

It’s not easy being green, soup.

But wait, there’s more! Feeding vegetarians, growing vegetarians, is no simple task. To make this meal more substantial, we doctored the soup. Here’s how.

Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup Recipe Suggestion

1 box Trader Joe’s Cream Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained
handful of crushed tortilla chips

In a medium pot over medium heat, bring the soup to a boil. (Tip, open and pour it into the pot, do not add the box whole.) When the soup comes to a simmer, add the chickpeas and artichoke hearts. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve, topped with a smattering of crushed tortilla chips.

Chickpeas and artichokes add protein and dimension to the soup, chips add crunch and bring out the corn flavor.

Chickpeas and artichokes add protein and dimension to the soup, chips add crunch and bring out the corn flavor.

If you like heat, consider garnishing with fresh or pickled jalepeƱo in a fine dice.

This soup is truly delicious, and making it a more complete meal is obscenely easy. You can thank me later. Perhaps with the extra time you can make some cookies.

Are you a fan of boxed soups? Have you tried the Trader Joe’s line? Do you think I live in the store? Comment below.

Send your kitchen confessions, food dilemmas, and poundcakes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up next, it’s Sunday Sunday Sunday! Weekly Menus Time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Punt!, Recipes

Weekly Menus: Week of 12/9/2012

Gentle Readers, what a delight it is to be back in the kitchen. The time of holiday food-gift making is upon us. This year, it’s cookie time, with a side of spiced nuts. Surprise. I’m back from Las Vegas, where the tourist sections rival Texas in portion size. So this week’s menus are an exercise in restraint, in preparation for cookie time.

World's Largest Fortune Cookie: Tao in Las Vegas

World’s Largest Fortune Cookie: Tao in Las Vegas

Weekly Menus for this week:

Weekly Menus: 12/9/2012

Weekly Menus: 12/9/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 12/9/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List: 12/9/2012

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Frozen Pizza and Salad
This is not technically in the kitchen, but I have an event to attend, and TPC’s Dad is at the helm. Of his many many life skills, feeding burgeoning foodies is not among them. Rather than risk them cooking a full meal, I’m keeping it simple.

Monday: Pork Chops and Sides
When the vegetarians are away, the omnivore will play. I think some spicy sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are in order here.

Tuesday: Polenta Delight
We’re having a special guest over, and it’s time to break out yet another version of polenta! Mushrooms, spinach, and what? TBD.

Wednesday: Latkes and ??
I have never made latkes, and I don’t know what goes with them, but I fully intend to a) find out and b) help make them. Happy Chanukah to all who celebrate!

Thursday: Mexican
Long week, tough crowd, Mexican for the win. Burritos or quesadillas, with a side of beans. I am afraid I’m going to have to learn how to do sweet plantains at home as well. They are in very high demand by TPCs Junior.

Friday: Soup and Sammie
Hoping to make veggie stock and try some soup ideas. If not, another boxed soup test will happen. Options, always keep the options open.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Scouting some new places in Durham! As always, send your suggestions.

What are you making for food holiday gifts? Post your ideas in the comments section below. Or just send me a sample. šŸ˜‰

Send your latkes, your spare presents, and your legitimate questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Wednesday, Telling the Truth About Food: Picky Eater Updates.

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Menus

Soup Review and Recipes: Trader Joe’s Mushroom Soup Two Ways

Gentle Readers, with cooler weather upon us, and holiday demands being what they are, soup is an excellent fast choice. Do not let it be said that I don’t love to make the stuff from scratch, I do. However, I currently have two newly converted vegetarians and a lot of chicken stock on hand.

Trader Joe's Portabella Mushroom Soup

Trader Joe’s Portabella Mushroom Soup

Thus I was led to the boxed soup aisle of Trader Joe’s. As the weeks progress, look for more reviews here. Today we tackle the Trader Joe’s Portobella Mushroom Soup and two applications of it. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Trader Joe’s Mushroom Soup Two Ways

1. Mushroom Soup with Wild Rice: Make the soup according to directions on the package (in our case, we went with water instead of milk at the request of TPCs Junior). Add 2 cups of cooked wild rice. Season with black pepper to taste. Eat. This was a huge hit with everyone. I’m sure other faster grains would work (barley, bulgar, etc.), but we had wild rice on hand. It was toothsome, full of umami goodness, and disturbingly simple.

Wild rice stuffed squash = leftover wild rice. What to do?

Wild rice stuffed squash = leftover wild rice. What to do?

2. Not Your Great Aunt’s Green Bean Casserole: Steam a pound of green beans (we used French-cut frozen ones), cut in bite-sized pieces as needed. Mix with concentrated soup (do not dilute) and 1/4 cup or so of grated Parmesan. Top with Trader Joe’s Fried Onions. Do not substitute on this one. They are in fact the bomb. Bake at 350 to 400, depending on how much time you have, covering with foil until the last few minutes to prevent burning. Thank me later.

What would you do with a non-gloppy mushroom soup? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Send your lucrative book deals, garlic fries, and good ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Friday, For the Love of Doughnuts.

Leave a comment

Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways, Recipes

Weekly Menus from Barcelona: 10/7/2012

Gentle Readers, it is time once more to hit the road on business travel, this time it’s Barcelona. Thanks to the great number of you who have shared suggestions of where to go, and what to eat and see. Meanwhile, back at the home front, The Practical Cook’s Mom is once more to the kitchen rescue.

Sorry Mom, I’m up blogging, I haven’t packed, and there’s no way I’ll make it to the grocery store before I board a plane tomorrow. Good luck.

Here’s what’s been suggested so far (a mash-up of TPC’s Mom and The Practical Cooks Junior, who are becoming quite adept menu planners):

Weekly Menus, 10/7/2012 are potentially as follows:

Sunday: Veggie Chili
This will be my recipe, plus sammies. It’s great comfort food, and good for leftovers.

Veggie Chili Simmering

Veggie Chili Simmering

Monday: Burritos
Could be a new filling, could be the veggie chili inside. I won’t tell.

Tuesday: Leftovers OR Breakfast for dinner.
Add a salad, call it a meal.

Wednesday: Frozen Pizza and Salad
It’s so easy, and everyone likes it.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Thursday: Nachos
This would be at the request of TPC’s. Their theory is that I could make these after I land because it’s easy and scalable. True genius those two.

Crispy Salmon Cakes

Crispy Salmon Cakes

Friday: Salmon Cakes
Though the Eldest is holding strong as a vegetarian, the Youngest loves fish, so I’m trying to balance the two. I will probably serve with sweet potato fries and a green veg, and potentially sub a faux chix patty for the Eldest.

Saturday: Dine Out
We’re going to a tapas place in town, just so the Juniors can have the experience, too.

Meanwhile, my menus look like this:

Tapas, tapas, tapas, tapas. Churros.

But no eels. And please hold the frutas del mar! (That does not even sound good to me, I can tell it’s a trap.)

What are you eating this week?

Send questions, queries, and untold wealth to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Wednesday, Update from Barcelona

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Menus

Weekly Menus: Week of 9/30/2012

Gentle Readers, it is yet one more week of high-paced excitement for Team Practical Cook. However, times like these I’m even more protective of our time in the kitchen and at our meals. For us, it is a time to share, confess, console, and laugh. Sometimes we manage to eat a few green veggies too.

The Practical Cooks Junior are becoming more like kitchen staff than patrons, and they are also more clear about their likes and dislikes. Full respect for their ability to state this clearly and politely. Wednesday’s blog is based on their reviews.

But I digress, on to the week. Our weekly menus are:

Weekly Menus: 9/30/2012

Weekly Menus: 9/30/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List is:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/30/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/30/2012

Which all means:

Sunday: Thai Tofu
This got bumped from last week, and I’m actively looking forward to it. We’ll be offloading some veggies and trying out a commercial red curry paste.

Monday: Beans and Rice
Comfort food here. Probably black beans and rice, potentially Indian though, a simple dal.

Tuesday: Leftovers
Travel week coming up, so we’re eating up the supplies.

Wednesday: Omelets
This may change too, but it’s a good stand-by. If I can work it out, I’ve got a foodie Tweetup to attend.

Thursday: Burgers and Fries
The best thing about this meal is that everyone can have it their way. I’m working on a homemade veggie burger, but we’ve got frozen and beef on hand too. Fairly easy to serve veg and non with this meal, believe it or not.

Friday: Dine Out!
On the road again. More details pending.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Manchego, hold the eels. That is all I will say for now. šŸ˜‰

What’s in your kitchen these days? I would love to hear your go-to meals for busy times. Post a comment below!

Send your bright ideas, your food cravings, and your kitchen confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Next up on Wednesday: Cereal Review: The Loser’s Bracket.

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Menus

Weekly Menus: Travel Edition, Week of 9/23/2012

Gentle Readers, it’s time to hit the road again. In a bit of excellent planning, the trip will serve dual purposes with a lot of planned eating and working. I’m heading to San Jose, the mothership corporately speaking, and where I get to see a lot of friends personally speaking. So The Practical Cook’s Mom is once more at the helm.

How do you feed meat eaters and vegetarians at the same time? Watch and see.

The weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 9/23/2012

Weekly Menus: 9/23/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/23/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/23/2012

Which all means:Ā 

Sunday: Veggie Surprise
It will include beans and rice, and everything TPC’s Mom is offloading from her fridge. I’m finally learning . . . essentially, if she cooks it, they’ll eat it.

Monday: Tomato Pie and Salad
Pie crust, tomatoes, cheese, a lot like a Southern Pizza. It’s delicious and veggie friendly.

Tuesday: Sammies
Make your own, meat or veg. Everyone wins.

Wednesday: Leftovers
Again, I’m learning that when the resident cook portions things in family reunion size, just accept there will be leftovers.

Thursday: Vegetarian Junk Food
I’ll be back, but exhausted. So I’m relying on veggie burgers or fake chicken tenders. Perhaps even some store-bought sweet potato fries (though I was the only one who liked them the first round–the Juniors complained that they weren’t as good as mine. Sigh.)

Friday: Thai Tofu Curry
I’ve been meaning to try my hand at this. Will report on how the experiment goes. Hopefully I won’t burn my face off like I did eating Panang Curry out last week.

Saturday: Dine Out!

What are you eating these days? Send your thoughts to all of us via the comments section below. Free AND fun.

Send your veggies, kitchen woes, and witty comments to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

 

Coming up Wednesday, Ā Roasted Portobella Mushroom Caps with Warm Bean Filling Recipe.Ā 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Menus