Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lunches for an Outing: Burnt Rock Hike

For our first hike of the season, we decided to tackle a new trail to us (because we don't tend to do mountains twice - there are so many mountains, this is possible!).

After some searching in books and online, we decided to do Burnt Rock Mountain trail.  The trail was much more challenging than we expected it to be.

The website and the books said 5.2 miles round trip, but we logged 6 miles.  I know we took some detours, because there were beautiful waterfalls and creeks along the way.

Alas, due to The Boy's blood sugar dropping too much, we had to stop before the top for lunch.

Still, we powered on to the top (we maybe could have gone higher, but we saw the view...) This trail doesn't really end, per se.  It's part of the Long Trail, so you could theoretically hike all the way to Canada.  You have to pick your end points.

For lunch, we all had a wrap with hummus, spinach, ham, and cheese, along with sugar snap peas, strawberries, blueberries, and trail mix.

We look forward to more adventures to come this summer, with lunches packed for them!

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Recipe: Summer Strawberry Pie

I was inspired to buy some strawberries the other day, and began fantasizing about strawberry pie.  The Hubby loves strawberry rhubarb pie (and who can blame him?), but I've never made a plain strawberry pie.

I based my pie on this recipe that I found on The Little Epicurian.  I admit, I used store bought pie crust.  I was very tired when I made the pie, and it was very hot... this was a night when we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.  I was set on making this pie, though.

It's a wonderful pie, and I think it would be even better a la mode.  I may or may not have had a piece for breakfast, with my cup of coffee.  That was pretty delicious, too.

Summer Strawberry Pie
(modified from The Little Epicurian)

2 lb (5 c) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 c sugar
3 Tbsp Instant Clearjel powder (from King Arthur Flour - can also use cornstarch)
1/2 tsp salt
2 pie crusts (9", store bought or homemade)
1 Tbsp milk
2 tsp sugar, for dusting

Mix strawberries with sugar, clearjel, and salt, and set aside to macerate while preparing the pie crust.

Roll bottom pie crust out so that it is slightly larger than the pie plate.  Transfer to pie plate and cut excess, crimping edges slightly (the decorative edging will happen with the addition of the top crust, so don't worry about it at this point).  Chill the crust at least 5 minutes.

Spoon filling into crust and spread out evenly.  Roll out second crust and place on top of the pie.

Crimp edges decoratively, and cut several air vents into the top.  I have a tiny strawberry cookie cutter, and The Boy helped to cut the decorations.  Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar on top of the pie.  Chill the pie while preheating the oven to 450 F.

Cover the edges of the pie with foil and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes.  Lower temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, rotating halfway through, until crust is lightly golden brown.

Let cool and enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Boy's Lunch: 6.10.15 - The Actual Last Day of School

So you know how I said yesterday that it was the last school lunch of the year?  Yeah... then The Boy came home and told me that he needed a lunch for this half day.  It's a "whatever we have around" lunch, since I wasn't prepared.

Lahmacun: 35g, granola bar: 17g, raisins: 8g, sesame sticks: 10g
He has lahmacun on Middle Eastern flatbread, a granola bar, raisins, and some sesame sticks.

Happy REAL last day of school!

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lunches: 6.9.15

It's the last full day of the school year!  Tomorrow, the kids have half days, and they are being given lunches.  For the occasion, I've made.. normal lunches.  I completely neglected to shop for anything interesting or special for this end of the school year.  It's been a busy week, and it's only Tuesday...
Pretzels: 14g, applesauce: 8g, sandwiches: 18g each, sesame sticks: 10g, raisins: 6g
The many adventures of summer, and their lunches, are to come... and plenty of recipes, along with the continuation of the International Cooking Challenge.  So, rest assured - the blog will not lay quiet over the summer!

For this final lunch of the school year, The Boy has some berry applesauce, yogurt pretzels, sesame sticks, raisins, and a couple salami sandwiches on mini buns.  His snack is a strawberry applesauce (not pictured, 14g).

The Girl also has berry applesauce, yogurt pretzels, sesame sticks, raisins, and a couple of salami sandwiches.

I hope that the school year has been fantastic for all of you, as it has for us!

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Lunches: 6.8.15

It's the last Monday of the school year!

The Boy was supposed to have a barbecue and field trip to the park... but it is forecasted to rain all day. I packed him a lunch, but I have the day off, so if they do end up doing the barbecue in-school, I will go in to enjoy it with him, and save his lunch for tomorrow.
Lahmacun on flatbread: 35g, sesame sticks: 10g, strawberries: 6g, yogurt pretzels: 14g
In the case of rain, his lunch is some leftover Turkish Lahmacun on Middle Eastern flatbread, sesame sticks, strawberries, and yogurt covered pretzels.  His snack is a strawberry applesauce (not pictured, 14g)

The Girl has leftover Turkish Lahmacun on Middle Eastern flatbread, sesame sticks, strawberries, and yogurt covered pretzels.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

International Cooking Challenge: Turkey - Imam Bayildi & Lahmacun (with Bonus Dates stuffed with Almond paste)

We love Turkish food.  For Mother's Day, we went a local Turkish restaurant for dinner.  I knew I wanted to cook some Turkish food in honor of our International Cooking Challenge.

While I was looking for recipes, I found this delicious looking eggplant recipe on NPR - Imam Bayilda, which  translates to "the priest fainted" because it was so tasty... that's a good recommendation!

I also wanted to make a version of Lahmacun, a Turkish take on pizza.  Yum and yum.

The Lahmacun especially is a keeper - we'll make this again.  I used a shortcut and made the pizzas on Middle eastern flatbread, so it was very quick.

I loved the Imam Bayilda, and the kids ate it, but I don't know if it would be a repeat dish.  It is worth trying, especially if you like eggplant.

I also make some dates stuffed with almond paste with some orange blossom water and a little cinnamon.. then read the recipe was Moroccan.  Oops.  I was the only one in the family who liked them, which was disappointing to me.  I'll bring some to work... they'll get gobbled up quickly, for sure!

Imam Bayilda
(modified from

2 eggplants
8 Tbsp olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 Tbsp dill
3 Tbsp parsley
3 Tbsp basil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Halve eggplants lengthwise.  Brush with just a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Preheat grill pan and cook, cut side down, for about 5 minutes (working in batches)  Place in large baking pan, cut side up.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, then scoop on top of the eggplant.   Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened.

(modified from

8 pieces Middle Eastern flatbread (you could make your own - see original recipe)

2 Tbsp ghee or butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef or ground lamb (I used beef - lamb would be delicious)
1 tomato, chopped
2 c parsley, chopped
1 tsp ground sumac (optional)
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Melt ghee in a saute pan.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium high heat until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in the ground meat and cook until browned.  Cook with the tomatoes, parsley, and spices for an additional 3 minutes.  Scoop on top of flatbread and bake for about 12 minutes, or until slightly crispy around the edges. 

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Lunches: 6.5.15

There are only a couple days of school left for the year - and this is the last Friday!

Sandwich: 35g, applesauce: 14g, pretzels: 14g
 Super simple lunches.. The Boy has a ham and hummus sandwich,  banana applesauce,  and yogurt pretzels.  His snack is a granola bar  (not pictured, 17g).

The Girl has a sandwich with ham and hummus,  strawberry applesauce,  and yogurt pretzels.
Happy Friday!

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

International Cooking Challenge: Sweden - Smörgåstårta and Rhubarb Soup

In case you didn't know yet, I am half Swedish.  My father was first generation American.  I lived in Sweden in high school for a year, with my father's cousin, and I am fluent in Swedish.

I don't cook Swedish food often, though.  I don't know why.  Perhaps it is because when I was living in Sweden, and I asked what Swedes cooked when they wanted to cook fancy food, they told me they cooked French food...

I decided it was time for a good Swedish meal.  I have seen pictures of Smörgåstårta all over the internet.  It looks delicious, beautiful, and intriguing.  You can modify it to have all sorts of fillings.  It's whimsical, because who doesn't want to have cake for dinner?  It would be lovely for a party.  Midsommar is coming soon - maybe I'll revisit it then!

I also decided to make some rhubarb soup for dessert, as the rhubarb is coming at us now (my mother has a nice patch and is willing to share.  Bonus!)  Cake for dinner and soup for dessert?  We all found this amusing.

We had my best friends over for dinner, along with one of my best friend's mothers.  This was absolutely a great company meal.

The Smörgåstårta is, literally, a sandwich cake.  The first thing you need to do is make bread in the shape that you want the cake to be in.  I've seen it both in loaf shape and round.  I decided to go with round, because I like that better.  A loaf might be better for a party, because slices would be more uniform, and could be smaller more easily.  I used smoked salmon, shrimp, and hard boiled eggs for my filling, along with cucumbers and radishes, and plenty of dill.  I've seen recipes calling for herring mousse as filling, and that would also be delicious.  You can modify as you see fit.  I am only including bread machine instructions for the bread, but you could always modify it to make by hand or using a stand mixer.

Swedish Smörgåstårta


2 c milk
1 tsp honey
2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp salt
6 c all-purpose flour (add more if necessary to get the dough to the right texture)
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast


1 c creme fraiche (could use sour cream)
1 c cream cheese
1 c plain Greek yogurt

6 - 8 oz smoked salmon
1 c small cooked shrimp
1 cucumber
2 radishes
3 hard boiled eggs
1/4 c dill
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp pepper

For the bread:  

Combine the ingredients for the bread in the bread machine on dough setting.  Allow to continue through cycle, adjusting texture so that the dough is not too sticky by adding more flour, or a little water.  When the dough cycle is complete, punch down and transfer to a 9" springform pan.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise for about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 F, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until bread is golden brown, and sounds hollow when you knock on it.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

To assemble the Smörgåstårta, whip together the creme fraiche, cream cheese, and yogurt - this will be your "frosting."

Slice the cucumber and radishes very thinly, with a mandolin if you have one.

Slice the bread into three equal layers with a sharp bread knife and separate carefully.  Spread a thin layer of "frosting" onto bottom layer and top with a layer of fresh dill, followed by a layer of smoked salmon, reserving a piece of two of salmon for decorating the top of the cake. 

Spread the next layer of bread with more "frosting," and carefully place, "frosting" side down, on top of the first layer.  Spread the newly exposed bread with more "frosting" and top with some more dill.  Toss the shrimp with the lemon juice.  Reserve a few shrimp for decorations on top of the cake, then chop the rest coarsely.  Spread the chopped shrimp over the second layer of the cake, and sprinkle with some of the pepper.  Add a layer of radishes and cucumbers, along with slices of hard boiled egg (reserve one egg for topping).

Finally, spread the final layer of bread with more "frosting," and carefully place, "frosting" side down, on top of the second layer.  Use remaining "frosting" to cover the top and sides of the cake.  Decorate with remaining salmon, eggs, vegetables, dill, and shrimp.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hr before serving.  It will benefit from sitting for several hours, to allow flavors to meld.  Slice and serve, as you would a cake.


Swedish Rhubarb Soup
(modified from Boniers Kokbok)

500g fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1/2" pieces
4 c water
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cornstarch

Serve with:
4 strawberries, sliced thinly
1 c vanilla ice cream
From one of my Swedish cookbooks

Bring water and sugar to a boil and add rhubarb.  Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until rhubarb dissolves when stirred. 

Add vanilla and stir until no more rhubarb chunks remain. Mix corn starch with a small amount of cold water until it is dissolved, then stir the mixture into the rhubarb.  Simmer until slightly thickened.

Serve the rhubarb soup with slices of strawberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Lunches: 6.4.15

Sandwich: 35g, grapes: 6g, yogurt pretzels: 12g

For this Thursday lunch, The Boy has a ham sandwich with hummus, along with some grapes and yogurt pretzels.   His snack is a granola bar (not pictured, 17g).

The Girl has leftovers from our Morrocan dinner, along with Rainier cherries and some yogurt pretzels.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lunches: 6.3.15

Quick lunches for this Wednesday!
Sandwich: 20g, feta: 1g,applesauce: 14g, grapes: 6g, pretzels: 12g

The Boy has a ham sandwich on a slider bun, with feta cheese on the side, along with an applesauce, grapes, and some yogurt pretzels.  His snack is a granola bar (not pictured, 17g).

The Girl has a ham sandwich, cherries, and applesauce.  She has a school celebration and there will be more food there for her.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

International Cooking Challenge - Morroco: Chicken Tagine with Lemons, Moroccan Mint Tea

For our Moroccan meal, I decided to make a stewed chicken "tagine," though I do not have a tagine itself.  I used a large Dutch oven, and that worked out well.

I also made Moroccan mint tea, which was a hit all around.

I invited my mother over for dinner, and she was able to join us.  She has been to Morocco, so I was excited to share our meal with her.

While we ate, we listened to some traditional Moroccan music.  I showed the kids where Morocco is on the globe.  My mom visited Morocco when she and my father were in Portugal and Spain.

Chicken Tagine with Lemons
(Modified from Saveur)

1 chicken, cut into parts (I bought mine already cut up)
5 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp tumeric

4 yellow onions
1 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1 c water
2 lemons, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp olive tapenade (or fresh olives)
1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro

Marinading chicken

Chop garlic coarsely and combine with cumin, paprika, and tumeric.  Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and make a paste.  Rub over the surface of the chicken and put into a large bowl or baking dish.  Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 4-8 hours.
Stewing onions with saffron
Remove chicken from the fridge, and heat remaining oil in a large dutch oven or a tagine.  Brown chicken on both sides and remove to a plate.  Chop onions into small wedges (10-12 per onion), then cook them over medium high heat in the same pan that the chicken was browned in, stirring to coat them with the spiced olive oil.  Add the saffron and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.

Put chicken back into the pan with the onions.  Add the water and lemon slices, then cover and cook on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through (about 30-40 minutes).  Stir in the olive tapenade and cilantro before serving over rice or couscous.

Reflections in tea

Moroccan Mint Tea
(modified from Saveur)

6-8 plain green tea bags
5 c water
1/3 c sugar
1 bunch fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Boil water and add sugar, stirring until well dissolved.  Add the tea bags and mint and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes before straining and serving.  This is a sweet tea, typical of Morocco.

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