44 hours a week?

Recently, I read (think it was in that new cookbook) that in the early 1900’s most women spent some 44 hours a week preparing dinner (or was it meals?)  And that today, many folks spend as little as 15 minutes a day (so, 1 hr 45 minutes).  I don’t think I fall into the 15 minute category, I try and aim for 45 minutes or less.  I usually spend about 15 minutes in the morning, making lunches, and on the weekends sometimes spend another 30 minutes getting breakfast.
But when you think what women in the early 1900’s had to do to get ready for lunches (or meals in general)…Most made their own bread (often each day or every other day), some would have churned their own butter, even made their own cheese!  J.L Kraft (the son of Ontario dairy farmers) opened his wholesale cheese business in 1903, and then in 1914 opened the first cheese factory, supplying the US Government with processed cheese in tins for soldiers fighting in World War I.  He obtained the patent for processed cheese in 1916.  Velveeta was born in 1928 and KD in 1939.  But it wasn’t until 1950 that Kraft Deluxe Processed Cheese slices appeared as the first commercially packaged sliced cheese product.
My father has often told us about how much my grandmother (who was born in 1910 in Montreal to German immigrants) loved cheese slices!  That and sliced bread (the kind that came from the dear old POM bakery in Montreal: POM stands for Pride of Montreal, in case you were wondering).  And you know, I am not surprised!  I am sure most women her age, who grew up during WWI, married during the Great Depression and then raised children during WWII and into the 50’s, felt the same way.  They had helped their mothers make bread for lunches, had learned all the chores and tools and tricks to running a kitchen, and then the innovations and new consumerism of the 1920’s happened, hardships of the 1930’s and 40’s and then the boom of the 1950’s.  Toasters, and electric ovens, electric mixers and even self-serve grocery store chains (her favourite was Steinberg’s),  and, of course, cheese slices!  Making lunches would never be the same!

Have a look in the fridge or the cupboard.  Pick one thing out of there and imagine how different your day to day life would be if you had to make that item from scratch, every time you wanted to use it.  Take soup for example.  Yes, today we know that canned soup is a villain because of the amount of sodium it contains (but there are ways to fix that!), but imagine if it wasn’t there at all?  Or, canned tomatoes?  Wow, I can just imagine (heck, I’ve done it!), a hot humid, August Saturday and what are we doing?  Canning tomatoes!  Yippee!  But I would rather go to the beach or the movies or anything!  But you can’t, because the tomatoes are ready (whether you bought them at the market or picked them in your own garden).  So, you spend all day washing, blanching and canning.  Why?  So that in January, you can make spaghetti sauce!
     In the last few years, many of us have returned to some of that, to enable our families to eat more locally.  My freezer still has blueberries and some tomatoes from last summer.  My pantry has jams and pickles and some peaches that we put up as well.  I bought some smoked salmon from a girlfriend whose husband did a lot of fishing last year, but that is all gone (big surprise!).  But I didn’t do enough of any of that for the entire year!  And I am very glad that I don’t have to!
Why?  Because I work full time (45 hours a week actually!), and when you factor in all the running around that gets done in a week, plus when husbands and wives have differing schedules, or in single parent homes. There is a very good reason we no longer spend 6 hours a day getting supper ready!   And, in our house, we do have the odd time when one spends about 20 minutes getting supper ready…Take tomorrow night for example…Dance, skating and then skating, and oh, just for fun, we will throw a school board meeting in there as well!  Good thing that there are plenty of leftovers in the fridge!  Chicken curry and rice from Saturday, and beef bourguignon and quinoa from tonight, and plenty of fixings for salad.
For tomorrow’s lunches?  I thought I would make ham and cheese roll-ups, with some Kraft Cheese slices for old times sake!  (the only one cheering for that in our house is my son…Looks like the girls will be having tuna, chick pea and quinoa salad with tomato dressing…Rob is taking leftover chicken curry.

See us tomorrow for my re-invented version of Aunt Mabel’s oatmeal cookies!  I have finally managed to get rid of the shortening all together and end up with something with Rob saying “those are pretty good” (the recipe is from his Great Aunt Mabel).  I promise to share the recipe!

Happy Packing!

Find more information about the Kraft Company:
These wonderful old ads are from


Making it your own

The one plus to being sick with a kidney infection and sidelined on the couch for a few days was that I got to catch up on my magazine reading!  That, and watching “Oprah” (boy do I miss Oprah).  I pulled out back issues of “Clean Eating” magazine and re-read them.  It is my favourite “new” magazine from the past year.  I bought a few new food magazines ove the last year and some were quite disappointing.  But “Clean Eating”, well, I have 5 issues so far, including February 2011.  There is also a website, at least 2 cookbooks, a facebook page and who knows what else.  While I haven’t spent too much time on the website, I love the magazine and enjoy the updates that appear on my facebook wall from time to time.  Tosca Reno, the mind, body and spirit behind “Clean Eating” is quite an inspiration. 
One of my favourite parts of the magazine are the menu plans with matching grocery lists.  This has become my “go to” for the holes in our family weekly menus.  Some ideas are as easy as “Clean Tuna salad on whole grain toast with fruit for dessert”.  And when the alternative was frozen pizza and popsicles?  Well then, we are ahead on both nutrition and time for those nights when it seems like everyone has to be somewhere all at the same time and we have about 7 and a half minutes to get supper into them.
So, last night, feeling somewhat recovered and hungry enough to feel inspired by my recipe reading, I set about making supper from the February issue.  The recipe, “Clean Chicken and Waffles” calls for making whole grain and grated zucchini waffles (which sounded really good), but I just wasn’t up for getting out the waffle maker, so we had Kamut penne noodles with ours.  The chicken and veggies part called for Broccoli Rabe, brussel sprouts and mushrooms.  My crisper had regular broccoli, mushrooms and leeks.  The final change?  Smoked Paprika…
The kids came up from downstairs sniffing the air, “What smells so good?”  
“Your supper”, I answered.
“I’ll set the table!” my 9 year old grinned.  “Has the cat been fed?” asked my 7 year old.  The older girls began getting plates and glasses out of the cupboard.  Somebody made a jug of orange juice….
…Yes!  Jamie Oliver was right!  Smoked paprika is magic!  (the author of this blog warns readers that these results may not be typical and makes no guarantees that smoked paprika will have this effect on other families)
    And I was in such a good mood, I mixed the bit of leftover chicken and veggies with some leftover brown rice (from another meal) and made “Clean chicken and brown rice wraps” for today’s lunches!   Yum Yum yum!  (and cut up melon and pineapple, so not local!, with mixed frozen berries and vanilla yogurt to round out the lunch box).  I love a yummy lunch!
Happy Packing!

Find more yummy clean recipes at www.cleaneatingmag.com

Gone looking for inspiration…

   This past Christmas, I received two gift cards for Chapters/Indigo booksellers.  I was delighted.  My first thought was that I could go out and buy myself a new novel or two…I couldn’t wait.  Something to read that was just for me.  Not a parenting book or a children’s book, not even a cookbook.  I perused the Globe and Mail best sellers list…maybe I would get the new non fiction…I really wanted to read Stevie Cameron’s book…Or perhaps the new Giller Prize book…
   I made a list (surprise!) and off I went, BY MYSELF~  First to the Coffee counter for an extra-hot non-fat half-sweet Chai Latte (I can be as high maintenance as the next customer if I don’t have a van full of kids with me), a nice change from my typical long pour Americano with cream.
   The Stevie Cameron book was easy to find, so I picked it up and carried it around with me while I browsed.  I love the feeling of new books in my hands, just waiting to be opened and read, an e-book reader, I am not.  I looked at calendars and flipped through the best sellers, including the Giller Prize winner, but I put that one back, no longer sure that I wanted it.  Then I came upon the middle table filled with cookbooks.  Hardcover ones, with the Boxing Week sign about 30% off.  And there was Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, right on the top.  I had wanted that book for such a long time (yes, even before seeing the movie “Julie and Julia”, but that had only made me want it more)…30% percent off, and a gift card…You do the math!
   Within a few moments, I had made my way to the cookbook section in search of Gordon Ramsay books.  There was one I had been wanting to look at.  I spied it, in another woman’s hands.  I scanned the shelf and realised that she was holding the only one.  Before I could say anything, she walked away with it, saying something to her daughter (or at least the young girl who was with her) about 30% off, and heading towards the cash line.  Oh well.  I still had Julia Child and Stevie Cameron, Gordon Ramsay could wait for another day.  Maybe I was done looking at books.  I was certainly done with the Chai.  So, I too headed for the line up, and then home to make Quiche.  Mmmmm…

   A few weeks ago, I discovered that “Better Food for Kids” had been released in second edition, and was now for kids ages 2 to 10 (the previous edition is ages 2 to 6).  I went online and found it.  And I still had a gift card left.  So, I browsed (albeit without a tasty chai in hand), and found two more books I wanted.  Unfortunately, for my comfy chair, neither of them were novels.  Nope.  They were (you guessed it) cookbooks.  The Zuni Cafe (a San Fran eatery gone cookbook) and (wait for it!)…Dieticians of Canada, “Cooks!” pub. 2011  (what was it that they were doing in the first five books?)…What?  Were you expecting Gordon Ramsay?  Yeah, well, I would bet that his wife would use the D of C cookbooks.
And I have to tell you, the new D of C “Cooks!” is awesome!!!  And they don’t use nearly as much butter as dear Julia.  In ten minutes of browsing through the book, I found four recipes that I could have made right then and there without a trip to the grocery store.  And a few more where I was only missing one or two ingredients.  I made “Greek Chicken” out of it on Saturday night, with some steamed potatoes  on the side and their recipe for Tzatziki.  All gone at one sitting.  Even my fussy 9 year old ate everything (and I don’t think that had anything to do with the promise of dessert).
There are great soup and lunch recipes inside it, plus desserts and breakfast recipes as well as dinners and sides.  Healthy eating tips, local eating tips, storing tips for fruits and veggies.  All kinds of great stuff.  And all for under $20.00.  If you are looking for some easy inpiration in the kitchen, this book gets my recommendation!  Five stars!

Happy Packing!

Was that really the best price?

Ah, another impending trip to the grocery store.  It involves the usual chores of checking the fridge, the pantry, the freezer and the opinions of other household members (the cat’s request was that Grandma and Grandpa’s dog be removed from the house and returned to wherever she came from…apparently, he wants to go back to eating on the floor and hanging out in the big play room during daycare time…In a few days, Emmy, it will all be back to normal, and you can run away from the lego cars to your heart’s content…In the meantime, go back to enjoying your newfound Cat-tertainment of the fish swimming in the aquarium)…But I digress…
   When it comes to packing lunches, in our house, we try and take a “litterless” approach whenever possible.  Sandwich boxes (I like the Lunchbots stainless steel ones), thermoses, containers for yogurt and cookies, carrot sticks and dip, water bottles.  You know the drill.  We have some great sandwich containers: beyond the stainless steel Lunchbots, we also have Tupperware sandwich boxes, and some snackTAXI’s.  They are great when you need to take your lunch, but don’t want to carry around the bulky box afterwards.  They are fabric velcro closing snack or sandwich bags (2 sizes), that have a nylon easy-to-clean lining.  All great gear for saving on garbage creation and for saving money.  Saving money, because we all know that it is cheaper to make your own snacks and pack them than it is to let someone else pack them and sell them to you prewrapped and then boxed up in groups of  5 or 6 or 24!  However, while I stand firm on the pre-packaged “Lunchables” or lean cuisine type meals, I do give in and stock (both for their enjoyment and my sanity) cheese strings or Babybels, applesauce, granola bars and small yogurts (the deal being that the yogurt and applesauce containers have to only be used for lunches and that the empty containers come home to be washed and used for daycare paints, glue or other craft helper uses).
    So, I did a little homework this week and investigated where you get the best value for your dollar (and your nutrition) when buying the standard lunchbox fillers.  The yogurt was the easy one:  watch for the sales, as long as you have a few different brands that your family will eat, and aim not to pay more than 0.50 per serving.  Most yogurts are the same, when you compare similar fat contents.That and the sugar content, those are the decisions that you have to make for your family.  The ideal being about 2% mf (for younger children or teens who are maintaining a healthy weight, go 1% or no fat for adults), and the lower the sugar the better, staying away from artificial stuff.  Best is creating your own: plain yogurt and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit, and using honey or maple syrup as your sweetener (if you brought back a bottle of vanilla extract from your last trip to Mexico, add that too!  Mmmmm!).  Bottom line, the less ingredients in your yogurt, the better, both health-wise and taste-wise.  However, if your family will only eat somebody’s 2% fruity yogurt, go for it and feel good that they are eating yogurt.  Yogurt (plain or fruit filled) will give your loved one a serving of dairy (and for your kids, that means you are only looking for one or two more servings to meet the RDA).
   Granola bars is another one: we buy Nature Valley crunchy ones or the Kashi chewy ones (altho these are probably the most expensive if you go regular price).  Comparing sizes and prices and nutrition values, Kashi gives you the best bang for your buck.  The key?  The same as the yogurt: the fewer ingredients on the list, the better.  And the Kashi ones had no added palm oil, and I could pronounce and recognize everything on the ingredient list.  However, regular price around here, they go for 4.99 a box (so 6 bars), when you compare with other store brands, you can get the same number of bars for half the price.  The Nature Valley crunchy bars (the ones in the green package containing 2 bars), sell at reg price around here for 3.99 a box, but regularly go on sale for 2 for 5.00 or even 1.99 a box.  They too have a reasonable ingredient list (pronounceable and recognizeable), and average about 4g of fat per bar (so 8 per package).  My suggestion?  Buy what your kids will eat (because it’s no deal if it goes in the garbage), but stay away from long ingredient lists (and I won’t mention the one big name that I left off of here, that tends to be a big seller because they advertise that they have “Peanut Free” bars…they are filled with puffed rice and all kinds of other ingredients…their bars are smaller than both the other brands I mentioned earlier and when you compare same size servings, they have more fat and sugar, and less fibre).
   The third and last item I compared was Applesauce…Unsweetened (albeit they make a variety of mixed flavours like berry apple and peach apple etc)…Motts, Presidents choice and Compliments (owned by Sobeys) were the three brands of applesauce cups I compared, all unsweetened, and all offered similar nutritional information.  The big thing for me was that as far as I could tell, both Presidents Choice and Compliments are really Leahy (available some places as Applesnax).  Mott’s is a US company that began in New York State as a Cider company.  It has been through a variety of changes over the 100 plus years of existance and is now owned by Cadbury-Schweppes out of England.  See their website for more info http://motts.com/ 
Leahy is a Canadian company, based in Franklin, Quebec.  Growing up in the Chateauguay Valley, Franklin was (and still is) “Apple Country”, and therefore close to my heart.   Leahy offers both organic and regular unsweetened apple products (both of which are available as Compliments and Presidents Choice across Canada), and are made with Canadian apples.  Price-wise, both of the store brands are slightly less expensive than the name brand, altho Motts is the one available at Costco. Both of the store brands are availabe in larger jars (700ml) and if you go to Zellers, you can find Applesnax (Leahy) in both organic and regular unsweetened varieties in the large jars.
So, while Motts may be the name brand on the shelves, in this case my heart is with the store brands, and my daughter’s taste buds are too. 
To read more about Leahy, http://applesnax.com/EN-CA/index.html
The Leahy company is also Apple Boost another interesting concept:

Now, to get back to that grocery list!  But first, take Grandma and Grandpa’s doggy for a walk!
Happy Packing!

Happy Valentine’s Day

It seems in our busy schedule, there is never a good time for a date night.  So, about 5 years ago, we started having a family Valentine’s Day supper.  Typically, pasta and something yummy for dessert.  This year we had our Valentine’s day supper last night (because tonight is too busy!! Big surprise).  Homemade three cheese lasagna, garlic bread, salad and some chocolate fondue for dessert!  Chocolate fondue came on the menu about three years ago, and it has stuck as a favourite.
Here is a quick and easy recipe for homemade chocolate fondue with fruit to dip that doesn’t involve a special trip to the grocery store (well, unless you want strawberries to dip!).

Chocolate Fondue
 250g semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup evaporated milk (I use the nonfat or the light)

Cut-up fruit of your choice

Combine the chocolate chips and evaporated milk in fondue bowl and heat over pot of simmering water for about 5 minutes (until chocolate is really beginning to melt).  Remove bowl and stir with rubber spatula until all the chocolate has melted and combined with the milk.  Place over fondue burner and serve with platter of cut-up fruit.

What a great way to share Valentine’s day with your children and spouse (yes, even the teenagers will come back to the table for chocolate!) and the bonus is that everyone gets an extra serving of fruit for the day!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Salt Spring Island mussels

    I grew up near the water, the St Lawrence River however and not the ocean.  We went fishing sometimes, and caught things like perch and sunfish and the occasional Rock Bass.  The only one who ever ate anything we caught was the cat, and she insisted her fileted perch be fried in the frying pan before she ate it.  My first experience with real seafood (that I can recall) was on a family vacation to Cape Cod.  Dad brought take-out fish and chips to the cabin we had rented and Mum’s was deep fried scallops.  I got to have one (I was 8).  There were other times, after that, but they were infrequent.  We ate fish, but it was from the frozen section at the grocery store.  As a teenager, I remember my step-dad going to the fishmonger at Atwater market and coming home with shrimp as big as my hand, “Scampi” he called them.  We would pull a stool over to the counter and watch him devein them (he loved them so much, I think I even saw him eat one raw!).   

   In my early 20’s, my Mum, sister and I traveled to PEI for a summer vacation, a rented farmhouse on the beach on Malpeque Bay.  And (together with my aunt and three cousins) we hit a traditional maritime church lobster supper.  The kind where you pay based on the size of the lobster you would like to eat, but lobster is only part of the meal.  Long tables covered in red check tablecloths, are piled with bowls of any salad you can think of…5 different versions of the same potato salad, bean salads, green salads, carrot and raisin salad.  If the recipe is in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (the one with the same red check cover), it was on the table.  And then a table of seafood…mussels and scallops and shrimp and deep fried haddock and sole…Then your lobster…3/4 lb? 1 lb? Or 1 1/2 lb?  And when you eat that lobster, the meat inside is (believe it or not) the size of the shell you pulled it out of!  It hasn’t shrunken from travelling on an airplane to get to you…It came in a cooler in the back of somebody’s pick-up truck, having eaten its last meal in the ocean at breakfast time.  And then, the dessert table…loaded with pies, pies made from recipes that have never been written down because the ladies who made them learned them at the table from their grandmothers (because that is what Grandmas did, or so my Gran told me)…Blueberry, lemon meringue, chocolate cream, peach, strawberry rhubarb, each one baked in a butter/shortening crust (yes, there were probably a few with lard crusts, I’m sure).  Nothing from the bakery counter at the grocery store, nothing from the deli counter.  All of it homemade, all of it from scratch.  Real food, yum…

So, when we moved to Vancouver Island, I felt like I had arrived, as far as eating seafood was concerned.  But lobster is east coast food.  I am not going to do some poor lobster the disservice of exposing those poor dehydrated claws to the light.  All the garlic butter in the world cannot make lobster that has travelled on a plane and sat in a tank at the grocery store waiting for you to take it home,  taste like lobster that walked from the ocean to your plate.  So, I did some homework before I started cooking seafood here.  Checked out seasons, and what is available fresh (like crab and clams and mussels)…and what were the best ways to cook those things.  Crab is one of my favourites, but we try and wait until the family from the Interior is here to catch a few (of the right size!) and share some really fresh and tasty ones.  Over the years, mussels have become a favourite, mostly because of the price which is quite reasonable (right now, at Sea Drift, 5.99/lb), and because of that, I have had a good amount of practice with the recipes!  Mussel season (as with most bivalves) in any month that has an “R” in it…Why?  Because they like the cold water.  So, February (and Valentine’s day!) is a great time for mussels.  The ones we get are from a farm off of Salt spring Island (an Island in the Southern Gulf Islands, that lie between Vancouver Island and the Mainland).  For serving, if you are eating just mussels (which is a lovely treat!  add a salad and some lovely baguette and you have a perfect Valentine’s dinner for two…oh yes, and you may want to end the meal with some chocolate!), you will want a pound per person.  If you are serving them with pasta (like I did last night), then 1/2 a pound per person is just fine.  

Cleaning mussels involves cold water, a scrub brush (like a nail brush if you don’t have a kitchen scrubber, you can always clean it with a bleach solution later, and a lot of rinsing.  If you have two sinks, fill them both with cold water, put your mussels in one.  Gently move the mussels around to allow any sand or grit that has attached itself or found its way inside the mussels to escape.  Move them to the 2nd sink, inspecting for cracks.  Any cracked or broken ones need to go in the garbage (hint: you can ask to see the bag of mussels before you purchase, and if you notice an obvious cracked one, ask them to remove it, this way the cracked ones you end up with at home are from your own handling).  Any mussels that are not closed should with a bit of encouragement.  The ones that spring open are dead and also should be tossed.  Rinse your mussels a second time and then give each shell a good scrubbing.  If you have a tween in the house (or a teen) who enjoys mussels, get them to do this chore.  If you have cleaned your mussels much ahead of your cooking time, put them in a bowl, and cover with a cold wet tea towel and put in the fridge until cooking time.  (do not put a lid on the bowl or cover with plastic as the mussels will suffocate).

My recipe for mussels with veggies and whole wheat pasta is an adaptation of a recipe from Simply Great food by Dieticians of Canada’s recipe Shrimp with veggies and whole wheat pasta.

For 6 people:

4 lbs mussels, rinsed and scrubbed

1tsp olive oil + 1 tsp butter

1 small onion chopped

4 cloves garlic crushed

1 red pepper sliced

18 ounces grape tomatoes washed and halved

2 green onions, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano (or 4 tbsp chopped fresh) 

1/2 tsp each sea salt and pepper 

1 375g package whole wheat spaghetti cooked al dente

Heat oil and butter together on medium heat, in large (12 inch) skillet with a lid, add onions, garlic and peppers and cook until soft (5 minutes or so).  Add oregano salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and continue cooking until tomatoes are very soft (about 3 minutes).  Add mussels and green onions and cook until mussels open up.  this can take anywhere from 3-6 minutes depending on the size of the mussels.  Serve spaghetti on rimmed plates and top with mussels and veggies.  Enjoy a green salad on the side.

For those of you who came looking for a lunch meal today, I apologize!  But there will be more tomorrow, and we will be looking at comparing labels on some pre-packaged lunchbox staples.

Enjoy!  See you soon!

Some nutrtional info I found at a website for healthy eating (healthyeating.com)

“Nutritional value of mussels: 

Mussels are a wonderful food with a delicate taste that are high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat.

  A 3 oz (85 g) portion of cooked blue mussels contains 20g of protein and only 147 calories. It is rich in iron, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, zinc and vitamins C and B12.
  Mussels are low in fat, only containing 0,7g of saturated fat in a 3oz portion. They are, however an extremely rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and other foods but are not produced by the body. The consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cardiovascular and heart disease and is an important part of a healthy diet, promoting a healthy brain as well as a healthy body. Mussels in fact contain higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than any other shellfish.”

What grown-ups eat…

The other morning, while driving the kids to school, “we” were listening to CBC Vancouver’s morning show, with Rick Clough, (well, I was listening, I believe the kids were quietly tolerating…I remember all too well putting in my time in the backseat while the radio played “boring talking” when all I wanted to listen to was Top 40 stuff).  That point in the program was focussed on what folks were eating for lunch and whether or not they packed a lunch; how much they figured they spent on eating out for lunch each year and so on.  Did you know that you can save somewhere around $2000.00 dollars a year just by packing your own lunch?  Shiral Tobin, who does a column called “Pinched” and looks at how folks in and around Vancouver can save money in a variety of ways,  had an interview with the Chef from The Dirty Apron, and they were talking about packing lunches (but from a grown up perspective, as opposed to packing lunches for your family)…Some of the things he mentioned were things that I have pointed out in my blog entries, but I quite liked the way he put them…

“…* Pack food you love. You won’t want to trade it.
    * Shop for lunches. Dedicate some space on your grocery list with some thoughts just for lunch (favourite meat, bread etc)
    * Make a big dinner:  leftovers have a bad wrap.  I love leftovers, especially since that home made soup or spaghetti sauce ALWAYS tastes better the next day…”

Today, I took his advice!  You see, I pack lunches for my small humans (and for the bigger one I married), and then I make preschooler lunch for my daycare charges.  I don’t often give much thought to “my own lunch”.  Typically, I eat what is made for lunch…Hamburger soup, macaroni and cheese, pasta and sauce with chicken or ham, grilled cheese.  So, when I put the macaroni and cheese into the microwave at lunchtime to heat it up, I had a peak into the fridge and discovered that there was still some soup leftover from last night’s dinner.  (We had “potage maison”, which is a lovely pureed vegetable soup, made with whatever veggies you have in your fridge, as well as some homemade stock or even just water, and seasoned with sea salt and white pepper).
So, while the wee ones were turning their noses up at my baked macaroni and cheese (until somebody tasted it…always good to have one good eater at the table, keeps everyone else from starving to death), I dug into a delicious bowl of “potage”, and pretended I was dining at “Bistro Ratatouille” and listening to the lovely French small talk that I imagined was going on around me…Ahhhhh…Until of course, somebody dropped their uneaten bowl of macaroni on the floor and I was forced to leave my lunchtime daydream behind.

Speaking of what grown ups eat…This is on the menu for next week…We may not get much snow on Vancouver Island, but this is the time of the year for mussels…Lovely big ones from Salt Spring Island…So delicious…Of course my children think so too, so we won’t get away with this amount this year, better double it!  I promise to share the recipe too, even though it really isn’t a lunchbox meal!
Remember to pack yourself something yummy!