The school lunch dilemma

I have a serious dilemma here in my house.  It's school lunches.  Because we both work outside the house, kid #1 eats her lunch at school.  She doesn't like sandwiches.  Because I'm cheap and too lazy to haul my ass out to buy something and usually don't have time to anyway, I have to eat my lunch at school too.  I also don't like sandwiches.
I will eat them when I have to though.  Two years ago I spent the entire school year eating lunches which consisted of two slices of whole grain bread, some cheese, some dijon, some lettuce, two slices of shaved deli meat and maybe a slice or two of tomato.  Sounds good doesn't it?
Trust me, after about January you start to get bored and by June the thought of another sandwich triggered my gag reflex.  Last year I did the same thing but with flat bread and cooked chicken breast.  Ugh!  This year I've got to get something goin' on.  Kid #1, she takes a thermos with homemade soup or pasta and sausage sauce (her favourite) or leftover quiche.  I am having trouble somehow with doing all this for myself.  Aside from a hard boiled egg my lunches so far have been paltry to non-existent.  I'm trying to fix it though.  Last week I went to the grocery store and bought some pre-made 3 bean salad from the deli counter.  Yeah... you know the stuff.  I know you do.  You look at it too, don't you?  And you wonder about it, right?  Well, I tried it.  It was ok.  I can do it better though.

So, I decided to get it in gear and make it.  I figure that I can just take a big container of it to work on Monday and eat it for two or three days straight.

I have a feeling I'll be doing lots of 'school lunch' posts this year.
Just a note here... I would definitely blanch the green beans for about 5 minutes in boiling water to soften them up a bit.

Wanda's 3 Bean Salad
(makes 4 school lunches ;-)

1 can Chick Peas
1 can Kidney beans
2 cups Green beans (2 inch pieces, blanched for 5 minutes)
1/2 cup red or green onion chopped
1/2 cup red or green pepper, diced small
1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs (parsley, chives, basil, oregano, marjoram - whatever's on hand)
salt to taste
cayenne to taste
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil

Mix the peas, kidney and green beans together in a large bowl.  Add the onion and peppers.  Mix in the chopped herbs.  Add the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Check the taste to see if you are happy with the oil/vinegar ratio.  Add in the salt and cayenne and check the tastes.
Lasts well in the fridge for a few days.

P.S. fits well into my lunch container too!

It's been too long.

 I haven't baked with chocolate in what feels like forever.  With so much beautiful fruit to work with who needs chocolate right?  (Actually I do - a little dark stuff every single day!)  Slowly, the reality of Fall is setting in.  The luscious fruit of the late summer is ebbing away.  I can't help but be a little sad (and resentful as I hustle off to work EARLY each morning on my bike or ready to run) to say good bye.  However, the oven on and the chocolate baking help get me through the sadness.

I got a Facebook message earlier this week from my sister who lives in far away Calgary.  She moved to Calgary about 10 years ago to get married and start a new life there.  My brother and his wife followed about 4 years after that.  They've all left me here in ON.  I don't get to see them very often and that's hard sometimes.  Last week was particularly difficult.  First week of school, Kid # 2 starting Junior Kindergarden, first week back to work, sister's husband working out of town for what promises to be a good long time, me getting some hefty dental work seen to.  It was all very overwhelming.  She sent me a sad, gushy, 'I-miss-you-it's-so-crappy-we-don't-live-closer-will-this-ever-change' message.

I wish that I could be there.  Ok.  Let's be honest.  I like my house, job, friends, general crap here in T.O.  and I wish that they could be here.  That's better.  However... it's not to be.  At least not for now.  So, Mel this is for you.  I'm baking this and each time I have some it will remind me of you.  Think of it as me raising a cold one for you... 'cause I love you and can't bring you out here myself.

I got this recipe from a site called The English Kitchen.  I think that she must bake or cook every single day or something.  It's out of control!  Either way, this recipe looked like just the thing....  Just a side note here, the Green and Black was out of this world (sayin something for me and white chocolate, huh?) and I didn't miss the nuts this time around.  

White/Dark Blondies from 'The English Kitchen'

1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar (I used the dark stuff)
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100 g bar of dark chocolate (I used Godiva dark)
100 g bar of white (I used Green and Blacks)
1/3 cup toasted walnuts (didn't have, didn't use)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an oblong or rectangular 8x12 baking dish.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
In another bowl combine the melted butter and the brown sugar together and mix well.  Add in the vanilla and the eggs.  Mix until fluffy.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir until everything is mixed.  Add in the chocolate and nuts (optional).  Mix and pour into the baking pan.  Bake for about 20 - 24 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Let the pan cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Think of people that you love while you drink it with some milk or tea.

Another Re-Try and a challenge

I seem to have some kind of 'extreme sport' attitude when it comes to cooking. It's an odd thing. I think that it comes from fundamentally being a minimalist. I don't get huge satisfaction from having cupboards stuffed (unless I've canned it myself). That fact, combined with my broke situation (until my first pay cheque of course) means that cooking has become a challenge.

I like a challenge. It's take a mundane occasion and raises it beyond itself. Something that I can win - that's the best (unless I'm talking to my kids and then it's 'winning isn't everything' - they still believe it but who are we kidding). So here is my challenge. The stores are closed today because it's a holiday and to be frank I don't feel like hauling my ass out to a store anyway. I have to feed us this week. I have some italian sausage in the fridge. I am not getting a food box this week because monday is my delivery day, it's a holiday and the alternate delivery day sucks for me. No fresh veggies. I have a cabbage. It's really decided isn't it?

However, I was able to put a meal together (with plenty of leftovers) without exiting my house and purchasing something additional. Could this recipe do with some more veggies? Say, diced peppers, zucchini maybe even some spinach or something else green? For Sure. I made do with what I had and it will pretty much get us through the week (I've got some potato to make some chips if I'm in a pinch). I rose to the challenge AND the result was really dope tasty. Immense.

Cabbage Rolls with Sausage
serve 6 - 8

1 small cabbage
5 small italian sausage (I used hot), casings removed
1/2 onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups of rice
1 bouillion cube
2 tbsp honey
salt, to taste
handful of fresh chives and parsley, coarsely chopped
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
dash of pepper sauce

Tomato Sauce

1 large can of tomatoes (can be crushed or diced)
3 - 4 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
salt to taste
dash of pepper sauce (optional)
3/4 cup shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of water, boil the cabbage whole after cutting out the heart. The leaves will come away from the cabbage easily. Boil for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are pliable. Once boiled, set aside in a sieve. Using some of the boiling cabbage water, cook the rice until just slightly under cooked. Once cooked, drain if needed and set aside.

In a large heated pot, add some oil for frying and then add the onion and any additional cabbage bits that were not big enough to be used as rolls. Over medium to low heat, fry the vegetables until wilted and sweaty. Add in the sausage, you might want to chop them up a bit first. You could also use any other minced meat here. Once the sausage has cooked and is in small pieces, turn the heat down and add in the spices. Check the tastes and then add in the cooked rice.

In a large baking dish begin to place each leaf of cabbage that has been rolled with the rice mixture in it. I use a little method: Fold in the sides and then roll the rest - whatever works for you. Feel free to squeeze and tuck them in.

Tomato Sauce:
I used diced tomatoes but ran them through a food mill. You could use a simple passata or crushed tomato though which would be easier. I heated the tomato just a bit and added in the tomato paste, honey, Worcestershire and spices. Add in the salt last just to make sure it doesn't get over salted. Pour the sauce over the tucked in cabbage rolls.

Top with the shredded cheese and bake for about 20 min.
I timed this just to see how long the assembly would take. I took me 45 minutes to put the dish together beginning to baking.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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