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2011 October 13
by Thehousedaddy

I know how lucky we are never to have bought a school lunch for our kids.  I have distinct memories of feeling left out when I was a kid.  My mom always made my lunch.  Everyday I brought in a brown paper bag or lunch box until I graduated high school.  Once, while in the second grade I demanded a hot school lunch, just to see what I was missing.  I remember that it was a Friday which was pizza day.  I was really excited about standing in the line and getting a hot lunch on a tray with the other kids.  That excitement ended for me when I actually got my food.  The smell of the cafeteria remains seared in my mind.  Once out of the actual food line the smell dissipated and I tried the pizza.  It was horrible.  I couldn’t eat it.  I am not sure if things have changed much, but if I can help it I won’t let my kids eat the school lunch.  I have read enough stories and seen the trucks drop off the processed food at the schools and know that it can’t be good for you.  I also know that parents are taxed with tight schedules and work, but you can make a lunch with minimal planning and effort.

Once you go down the road of letting your kids eat crap, it is harder to get them not to later on.  In our area we are really fortunate to have a diverse student body.  Lots of different cultures are represented in our schools and that means lots of different foods.  I am always very excited to see the different lunches from transplants or first generation families.  I am usually saddened to see what second, third and fourth generation have their kids eat.  Asian families most consistently make my mouth water with their lunches.  Bento boxes with appealing looking and tasting food probably win the award.  Other Asian cultures are incredible as well with hot thermoses of dumplings and soups and noodle dishes.  Some Latin cultures really do well with balanced lunches of fresh tortillas, rice and beans, a protein, and always, fresh veggies.  Most cultures seem to do a better job then we do.

I usually don’t make hot lunches since I am worried about creating a food borne illness and haven’t figured out how to package it.  We do, however, try to make something fresh, healthy and tasty everyday.  As of a month ago, Virginia took a new job and I have started making lunch for her as well.  She isn’t downtown anymore and she is so crazed that she doesn’t have time to go out and get lunch so I make it for her to eat at her desk.

I wrote about bread a few weeks ago and we bake all of our bread.  It is way harder to do if you have two full time working parents, but if you make the dough on the weekend it can last for about two weeks.  If you don’t want to or really don’t have the time you can buy decent bread.   I have standard sandwiches that are always a little different depending on what is fresh and seasonal.  For the most part the standard sandwich is bread, tofu cream cheese or a bean spread, a veggie and a fresh herb.  By far the most popular sandi is the cucumber cream cheese with fresh dill.  I could send this everyday and they would be fine with it, but I sometimes feel like I need to give them a little more variety.  We are lucky to get Twin Springs Mediterranean cucumbers throughout the year.   They grow them in the field or green house in the winter and they are amazing.  We are now in a transition when the cucumbers are moving inside so we have been using their red peppers as a substitute.  We also use fresh oregano or thyme. It just depends on what is available.  We always season with salt and pepper or instead of the salt we sometimes slice olives.  If we forget a step or if we are rushed and omit something, I always hear about it from the kids when they get home.  My family is without a doubt the harshest critic of my cooking.

Other than the veggie combo sandwiches, we also make almond butter and jam.  I like to send these to summer camp. If it is really hot or for some reason we can’t us an icepack, they last longer in hotter temps.  I have made jam before, but since this is only a sometimes sandwich we are lucky to be able to buy McCutcheon’s Jam that is juice sweetened and doesn’t have any extra sugar added.  They love orange marmalade and all the berry flavors.  I use the same bread and it even goes well with the sesame, poppy seed and salt that I sprinkle on the crust of the bread before baking.  Sometimes I am out of bread or sometimes I just don’t feel like baking inside if it is hot and we need an alternative lunch.  The salad, term used loosely, is a great alternative.  We do it with pasta or brown rice and have two basic styles that work with either starch. They are Asian or Mediterranean in flavor.  I ask the kids, if they are awake, before I make it what they feel like or just make sure it is a different style than what they had for dinner the night before.  Salad is really easy and you don’t have to individually wrap sandwiches, which seems to be the hardest part.  In a bowl, I mix brown rice or pasta with cut or diced veggies.  I usually put in cucumber, red pepper, carrots, herbs and some kind of nut or seed for additional protein.  If doing Mediterranean style, I will put in shelled pumpkin seeds or sunflower and dress with olive oil, salt, pepper thyme or oregano and a dash of rice wine vinegar.  If we do an Asian style, I will make a dressing out of soy, miso, toasted sesame oil, rice wine, pepper and sometimes add dark and light sesame seeds and spice with coriander.
I need to stop and point out that lunch assembly for two to three shouldn’t take more than ten minutes if you have some of the basic ingredients.  If you have either bread, or rice or pasta and some veggies in the fridge, it isn’t hard to come up with something.  For Virginia it is easier and better if I make her lunch and it saves about $200.00 a month. Since she is gluten free, it can’t be a sandwich.  She usually takes leftovers from the night before, but I have been putting broccoli, onions, garlic and edamame in a pan and adding brown rice.  I made her a huge broccoli rice bowl in five minutes flat this AM that she can heat up before eating. The kids also always get a fresh fruit or veggie like an apple, pear, carrot, berries or clementine.  Since Virginia bakes we usually include a special treat like a vegan cookie of whatever variety she has made.  As an emergency, I also include a Larbar for the kids which is just raw nuts and fruit and can tide them over in the event of an after school activity or terrorist attack that would require lockdown.
We also send water with the kids and Virginia takes a SodaStream liter of bubbly water with her everyday so she doesn’t buy water or waste bottles.  We are lucky that we only drink water with meals.  Water is all we drink with the exception of coffee in the AM and wine in the night.  The kids don’t drink any juice or soda ever.  Water is it, and we pack our own filtered stuff to consume.  Noah carries a water bottle with him all day long.

The only thing I do, which has caused us to run a little late at times, is to write a note  on their napkins.  I have done this every day since they started school and camp.  My mother, although not as religiously, did this for my sister and I, and I love the tradition.  I usually write a poem that is topical. It can be about the day’s events, weather, or a message that might address a problem.  That is rare and 90% of the time is total silliness.  I write the date, a rhyme and sign “love, Mommy, Samantha, the sibling who isn’t getting the napkin and Daddy.  I have saved all of the napkins I have ever written as long as they aren’t destroyed.  Sasha can’t read yet, but he tries to get someone to read him the napkin at lunch or I will do it when he gets home.  I love to do it and hope to one-day make a book of them. It is kind of a diary of sorts and the kids like to look at them from time to time.

Make a good lunch.  It isn’t hard and it is so much better.





3 Responses leave one →
  1. sherry pyle permalink
    October 13, 2011

    Your lunches are so delicious-looking and your family is lucky to have their “house daddy”! I miss reading Sasha’s notes…you absolutely must compile them into a book for each son and present them as a token of your love when they graduate from high school! What a treasure! Love you guys…

    • Thehousedaddy permalink*
      October 13, 2011

      Thanks honey. Hope everyone has recovered. Miss you all more.

  2. August 27, 2012

    Love your blog, Kenan. Unfortunately, I thought of you when I saw this Onion article… I’m sure this never happens to your kids!!!,29281/

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