Wraps and why we love them

I find it interesting.  I send ingredients (protein, cheese, salad, dressing) in between two pieces of bread in their lunches, and half of the time, half of it comes back, and most of the time, some of it comes back.  With my son, the excuse is “I didn’t have time.”  With my daughter, it is usually a wrinkled nose, a hesitation, a lie “I didn’t have time”, followed quickly by, “I don’t really like…”

Two days later, I can send exactly the same ingredients in a piece of tortilla/flatbread, and the sandwich box comes back empty.  And my son will follow up with, “I could have eaten two of those.”  (He is an 11 year old string bean), even when I have sent the wrap filled with salad and beans! This is my non-legume-eating child.  His sister on the other hand, could live on legumes.

So, what do I learn from all of this?  If you don’t want food coming back, better pack it in a tortilla and make it into a wrap.

One of our favourites across the board, is a Greek Chicken Wrap, with spinach and tzatziki.  Our other favourite is Santa Fe Wrap with BBQ salmon.  The newest one that goes over really well is Roast pork with Broccoli salad, it has a bit of an Asian flair to it.  Tip: drain the salads slightly to avoid a wet wrap at lunch time.

Wraps, 3 ways: 

First, we typically use a whole grain tortilla, either ancient grains or whole wheat, or sprouted if you can find them!  Then you want some kind of leafy green, either spinach (which is my go-to for most) , or whatever lettuce you have in the house.  Use most of one leaf, to hold the ingredients in place, like a bowl.  In the case of spinach, or baby greens, I line much of the tortilla with some leaves before I add the filling.

  • Mediterranean or Greek Chicken wraps: Sliced cooked chicken breast (either baked or grilled), spinach leaves, Greek Salad, and homemade Tzatziki.  Tip:drain the Greek salad slightly to avoid a wet wrap at lunch time.
  • Santa Fe Wrap with BBQ Salmon: You can use leftover baked or BBQ salmon for this, or you can buy the BBQ salmon tips from the Fish counter at the grocery store (the Ocean wise Wild salmon is what to look for, to be sure you are purchasing a sustainable product, or at least Wild Salmon as opposed to Farmed).  Red or Green leaf lettuce and Santa Fe salad.
  • Roast Pork and Asian Broccoli salad wrap: Use leftover roast pork (either Pork tenderloin or Pork loin) sliced thin, Romaine lettuce leaf and Asian Broccoli salad (your own recipe or watch for mine later this week!)

Happy Packing!


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Multigrain Cherry Chocolate chip cookies

Yum.  Everyone loves a cookie in their lunch.  And we all know that cookies aren’t meant to be clean, right?  (At least, those were my husband’s words!).  However, why not make a sweet treat that you can feel good about giving your kids either as a snack or in their lunches for school.  I think my hubby’s comment was more in reference to the fact that the recipe I was cleaning up was his Aunt Mabel’s oatmeal cookie recipe.  It calls for shortening and white flour and a teaspoon of salt (for 18 cookies!).  I have cleaned this recipe up before, but this time, we really took the 1940s recipe to task (she is actually Great Aunt Mabel).  Image

Multigrain Cherry Chocolate Chip cookies ~ Makes 36 good sized cookies

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I used my large food scoop (or standard ice cream scoop size), but you could use a medium sized one and then you would likely end up with 48 smaller cookies (bake for shorter baking time).

Measure out 4 cups rolled oats (either large flake or quick), and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl, whisk with a fork and set aside:

1/2 cup Oat flour

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1 cup whole Spelt flour or whole wheat flour

1/2 TSP sea salt

2 TSP Baking soda

1 TSP Baking powder

1/2 cup Vanilla Isapro or skim milk powder (Vanilla Isapro whey powder is only 0.05% Lactase so is fine for lactose intolerant folks)

In large bowl, combine:

1 1/4 cup Coconut Palm sugar (or brown sugar)

1/2 cup Coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Mix until well blended.  Add:

2 eggs, beaten and mix well.

Measure out 1/4 cup skim milk or unsweetened almond milk (or other milk substitute), and set aside.  Measure out 1 cup  dark chocolate chips, 1/4 cup dried sour cherries (chopped), and half cup of pecans, coarsely chopped.  Set aside.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well.  Add half of the oats and mix well.  Add in the rest of the dry, and mix well.  Add half of the oats again, and if dry, add half of the milk. Add the remainder of the oats.  If mixture appears dry, add the remainder (or part) of the milk.  Mix well.

Add chocolate chips, dried cherries and chopped pecans.  Combine.  Using your food scoop, measure out 12 cookies onto the baking sheet, 2 inches apart.  Bake for 12 minutes in center on middle rack in the oven.  Cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet.  Remove and cool on rack for 10-20 minutes before serving.  Store in airtight container for up to three days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Made with the large food scoop, these are a perfect lunchbox snack.  If your kids are in nut-free school environment, leave out the pecans!

Happy Packing!


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The Birthday Bread machine

My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, (which was back in February, by the way).  I told him that I had been thinking that a bread machine would be a really good addition to the kitchen.  Sometimes, we can go through 4 loaves of bread in one week.  (now that is combined us and Daycare).  It is not so much that good bread is expensive, but also that good bread is hard to find.  I have often made my own bread, but then something will happen and I run out of time, and we are left without.

So, given that he likes when things are simple, off he went to shop for a bread machine.  Given that he is one of the larger consumers of bread in our house, he has his specifics of what he likes in bread (usually the Country Grain loaf from Cobs suits him nicely).  So, he didn’t ask me what my specifics were for a bread machine, he just went shopping.

He came home with a Black and Decker “All in one” bread maker.


He chose it because it had the whole grain loaf option as well as the “standard” bread pan.  (Which means the loaves are standard loaf shape rather than square and up and down like most bread machines).  I don’t know if I would say, “Standard” is totally appropriate when describing the size of the loaf, which comes out reasonably tall, but it is certainly more like a conventional loaf of bread than any bread machine loaves that I have seen.

The first loaf I made was the whole grain loaf from the book that came with the “Robot boulangere” as it is called in French (so Rob has nicknamed it “the Robot”).  The loaf was very nice, but the recipe left a bit to be desired in terms of a whole grain loaf goes.  2 cups of whole wheat flour to 4 cups of white bread flour, plus added flax seeds and sesame seeds.  However, it was low salt, no preservatives, low sugar.

Then I started to play.  I began with the dough recipe that comes in the book.  This is so you can make the dough in the machine and then bake it in your own oven.  I took that one from its all white flour recipe to one with 1 cup white and 3 cups whole Spelt flour.  It was beautiful.  And the buns were delicious.  I sliced them in half lengthwise and we used them with Sausage and peppers one night instead of pasta.

I did some searching on the Web for whole grain bread machine recipes.  I found lots.  I chose three that used only whole grain flours.  I tried each of them.  Let’s just say that we won’t make them again.  Each one tasted good.  And would be fine served along side some soup (to dip the bread in !).  But you couldn’t use them for sandwiches.  They were just way too heavy.  Each time, the kids were like, “Mum, can’t you just buy bread?”

I went back to the recipe that came with the machine, and I started playing around with the ingredients (now that I was more familiar with the machine).  First, I made one with half and half, whole wheat to white.  It was very good (almost the same as the original one).  Then I upped it again, to 4 cups whole wheat, 2 cups white. Finally, 5 to 1.  Then I started subbing in other flours.  I also did some reading about vital wheat gluten, which is the protein from wheat flour, after it has been hydrated and then the starch has been washed away.  What is left is simply the wheat gluten.  Typically, Bread flour has a higher protein content than regular all purpose flour, so if you are substituting other flours for bread flour, the recipe is more successful when you add 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten per cup of flour used.

And now, here it is, the final recipe, which has been kid tested and husband tested, and passed.  And still pretty healthy and clean (and definitely better than store bought!)


Whole Grain Bread Machine Loaf  ~ makes one 2lb loaf.

Put these ingredients in order into your bread machine pan:

2 cups buttermilk (or soured skim milk = 1 7/8 cup skim milk + 1/8 cup vinegar or lemon juice), room temperature

1/4 cup warm water (80-90F)

1 1/2 TBSP oil (I used Canola, as Grape seed left a taste)

2TBSP Maple syrup

1 1/2 TSP salt

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup Oat flour

4 cups whole wheat or whole spelt flour

1 cup All purpose flour

Make a small bowl in the top of the flour, and place 3 tsp active dry yeast in it.

Sprinkle 4 -5 tsp vital wheat gluten over the top of the flour.

Set your bread machine on the setting for Whole grain loaf, and for a 2lb loaf.



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7 days of 400-600 calorie suppers, when it’s not your turn to cook

If you are the primary person in charge of meal planning and preparation in your house, then you have control over what gets made, and what goes into it, and how it gets made.  But what happens when it isn’t your turn to cook?  Does it turn into take out pizza, or pasta with a jar of sauce? Do the salad ingredients get left in the fridge?  That happens at our house, although it can be perogies and chicken legs with frozen peas.

The first part is, what comes into the house.  If your pantry, fridge and freezer are stocked with healthy options (brown rice, barley, whole wheat pastas, canned beans, and cans of tuna or salmon packed in water, fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit, chicken breast, low fat pork chops, homemade stocks and vegetable based sauces), then you are well on your way.  But you still might be faced with those who are left in charge not knowing what to do with all of it, or any of it!

Step one: Teach your children (or your partner!).  Even your 5 year old can help get things going in a positive direction.  They can wash and tear lettuce or spinach for a salad.  They can set the table, to help ensure the family sits down together.  They can drain and break up canned fish for either pasta or salad.  The biggest plus here is that they are also more likely to eat the food that is being prepared if they are part of the process.  Older children can prepare salad or raw veggies, or steamed vegetables like broccoli or bok choy.  In our house, regardless of whether it is Dad or Mum preparing supper, it is the kids who are responsible for preparing the salad and the vegetables.

Step two: Make preparations easy.  I buy chicken breast and pork chops at the butcher, where they can be had individually wrapped.  This means that they are easy to get at, and you only use what you need (helps avoid over eating).  Sometimes, I also season meat ahead of time and store it in it’s own container in the freezer or fridge.  This means that a container of chicken breast or pork chops once thawed, can be ready to go on the BBQ immediately, without having to worry about what to season them with so everyone will eat them.  Keeping a couple of jars of homemade vinaigrette in the fridge helps too.

Step three: Make a plan.  Create a menu and then post it where everyone can see it.  Label it with names to that everyone knows ahead of time who is doing what, to participate in the creation of the healthy meal.  I even go to the extent of posting what might be for dessert.  (Fruit, yogurt, granola is typically what is available).  We keep everything balanced around the weekly schedule, so you know who is home and how many are eating, and when everyone else will be home.

Yes, all of this means some planning and preparation, but doesn’t everything?  A friend shared a quote this morning: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”  and we all know how hard those days are when we have failed to plan!

And if you are always the one to prepare the meals in your house, then you can also use these tips to create healthy, inexpensive meals even when you are pressed for time, or for planning for the days when you know you will be too tired to cook.  Knowing that your meals are easy, makes clean healthy eating even easier!

7 days of Healthy Meals when it’s not your turn to cook

Day 1: Baked Yam rounds with grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli  (season your chicken breast ahead of time so they are ready to go out of the freezer, use leftover broccoli for Day 5)

Day 2: BBQ Pork loin chops with spinach salad and brown rice (brown rice can be cooked in the morning while you are getting ready, then it just requires a microwave to heat it up in the evening, make double batch of rice and cook 2 extra pork chops for Day 5))

Day 3: Baked Salmon fillets (seasoned with salt and pepper and a tsp of dried oregano, baked in a 375F oven for 15 minutes, make 2 extra salmon fillets for tomorrow supper) with mashed potatoes and green salad

Day 4: Salmon wraps (leftover salmon with left over green salad in whole wheat tortillas), raw veggies and fruit salad for dessert

Day 5: “Fried” rice with pork and veggies (using leftover brown rice, pork chops and broccoli, add frozen mixed veggies and two green onion, cook rice in skillet with a TSP of grape seed oil and a 1/4 cup of chicken broth, add 1-2 tsp soya sauce to taste.  Add one-two scrambled eggs or egg whites if you want)

Day 6: Mini homemade pizzas with raw veggies (whole wheat pitas, homemade marinara sauce or low sodium tomato sauce, grated mozza and parm cheeses with left over chicken, or some chopped ham, sprinkle of dried oregano if using plain tomato sauce and chopped green onion)

Day 7: Greek salad, grilled chicken breast and baby potatoes.  (I think this is my favourite meal of all time, and since once upon a time, my hubby was shy to cook baby potatoes, I used to make them in the morning or the night before, and then he would just have to saute them for a minute or two in a couple of tsp of olive oil and sprinkle them with oregano).


Cleaned up Chocolate Birthday Cake

Everyone loves birthday cake!  But that doesn’t mean that every birthday cake has to be made with white flour and butter and a pound of sugar.  A cake with a little less can still taste delicious.

Chocolate is always the preferred choice when I announce I am making someone’s birthday cake in our house.   And that was no different this weekend.

The recipe I use is my cleaner version of an Anne Lindsay recipe from her 1998 New Light Cooking.  It makes a 13×9 inch cake or a 10 inch Bundt cake (my preference).  Sometimes we ice it with a simple Buttercream frosting, other times it gets sprinkled with a combination of icing sugar and cocoa powder.  Either way, it is special and delicious.


Chocolate Birthday Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 13×9 pan or 10 inch Bundt pan with oil, lightly flour.  Set aside.


2 TBSP espresso powder or instant coffee granules + 1/2 cup boiling water (or 1/2 cup strong coffee)

1 1/4 cup Whole Spelt flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 TSP Baking powder

1 1/2 TSP Baking soda

1/2 TSP salt

1 3/4 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted or 1/4 cup olive oil

3 TSP Vanilla extract

Optional: Combine 2 TBSP icing sugar with 2 TBSP of cocoa powder in small mesh sifter.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Beat in buttermilk, eggs, oil, vanilla and coffee; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes (if you are using the Bundt pan, plan on at least 45 minutes), or until top springs back when lightly touched.  Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.  Remove from pan, let cool completely on rack.  Ice to your preference,, or lightly dust with icing sugar and cocoa powder.

Makes 16 servings.  230 cal, 5g fibre and 5g total fat, each when dusted with icing sugar and cocoa powder.



Turkey tortellini soup with Baby bok choy

Looking through my freezer to decide what goes on the menu this week, and I realised that there was one container of turkey broth left from the Christmas turkey.  There was also one package of chicken tortellini left.  Moving on to the fridge, there is the bok choy that was destined for stir fry last friday night, but we had pancakes instead, when my 11 year old offered to make supper when Mum said something about feeling tired.

So, Turkey-tortellini soup it is for lunch tomorrow!

Turkey tortellini soup with veggies

one medium onion, diced

3 stalks celery diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1tsp each, dried thyme and dried sage

3 tsp olive oil

6 ounces turkey breast, cooked and diced (you can use chicken or lean pork in its place)

8-10 cups Turkey stock (or chicken or vegetable stock)

1 package of frozen chicken (or cheese) tortellini, or 1 lb homemade tortellini

2 full heads of baby bok choy (or two large hand fulls of fresh spinach), rinsed and coarsely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Using a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and carrot, and cook until soft 7-9, minutes.  Add thyme and sage, continue cooking until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add stock, continue cooking on medium until boiling.  Add tortellini, return to a low boil and cook for 7-8 minutes.  Add turkey and bok choy, cook until warm through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately or store in fridge up to three days, or freeze for up to 6 months.


Clean Lunch Menu for March Week 2 – Protein

Hello All!

Sorry, it has been awhile!  Why is it that Life can get in the way of the stuff we really want to do? However, no dwelling on that, let’s get on with this week!

When my daughter was in kindergarten, in a class that was seemingly full of different allergies, to simplify things the teacher suggested that everyone just send veggies for snack time.  Well, that is a great suggestion, but my children have always required some amount of whole protein a few times a day.

Protein is important to all the functions of our bodies from fighting illness to muscle development and movement.  If a body doesn’t get a certain amount of protein each day, even the simplest of activities can be exhausting.  The average person requires between 40-70grams of protein each day, and if you are physically active, you will require more.  The more active your child’s day is, the more likely they are to require additional protein in their lunch while away from home.  My own children are used to protein offered with every meal or snack, so I incorporate this into their lunches for school as well.  My son plays basketball at school, so on days with practice before school or games afterwards, I adjust his lunch accordingly.  For my daughter, who skates  almost every day (sometimes for as long as 3 hours), I usually provide her with another whole meal after school, and then snacks for during her skating session.

Complete proteins are provided in animal products, such as meat, chicken, dairy, eggs and fish.  Incomplete proteins come from plants and it is best to pair two from different groups (so whole grains and leafy dark green veggies) when eating them.  Spinach salad, made with dark green spinach leaves, and barley with raw nuts is an example.  Quinoa is an example of a whole protein from plants, and makes a delicious addition to salads or for use in place of rice or pasta.

This week’s menu involves ensuring adequate protein sources in yours or your child’s lunch for the day.

Happy Packing!


Monday: Chicken salad wraps with spinach; oatmeal cookie, apple, cottage cheese

Tuesday: Turkey-tortellini soup with baby bok choy, vanilla greek yogurt with frozen berries, cranberry-quinoa bar, raw veggies

Wednesday: Spinach salad with Tuna (yes, my kids eat this one with Maple Mustard vinaigrette or low fat ranch dressing), homemade applesauce, carrot sticks, plain greek yogurt with honey and kiwi; cheddar cheese squares, oatmeal cookie (for before basketball game)

Thursday: Turkey chili quesadillas, blueberry muffin, orange slices, apple, lemon coconut protein bar(for after basketball practice)

Friday: Roasted veggie and Feta cheese wraps, 3 Bean salad, banana, flaxseed chocolate chip cookie


Monday: Lentil soup with toasted whole wheat bagel

Tuesday: Turkey tortellini soup with baby bok choy

Wednesday: Ham and pea “fried” rice with scrambled egg

Thursday: Turkey chili quesadillas with veggie sticks

Friday: Tuna noodle casserole