Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kids Peanut Free Lunch Ideas

There is a strange cloud hanging over my house...and I can see a few more grey clouds over some neighbour's houses too. Yet, the weather man is promising sun shine today... is he wrong again?? No... it's just the kids counting down the last days of summer and freedom before school starts.

Of course, my 7-year old daughter is also looking forward to seeing her friends and nervously excited about who her teacher will be and whether she and her best friend will be in the same class again. And my 5-year son is just beginning kindergarten this year so he is also excited but apprehensive about starting "real" school in a few days. New to our area is full-day kindergarten. Until this year, 5 year olds only attended school for half a day. This means both children need a packed lunch and recess snacks...5 x a week (thus my grey cloud:)!

Coming up with a variety of lunches that they will actually eat and are healthy can be difficult! On top of that, I keep their lunches peanut free (even though they are thankfully allergy-free) because of the prevalence of this allergy which limits many products and "go-to" lunches like PB and J! Of course, the inconvenience is worth it given the alternative of causing an accidental, life-threatening allergy reaction in another child!

I'd thought I'd share my list of ideas just in case anyone else is dreading the "what's for lunch" question. Of course, read every package to ensure it does not contain or come into contact with peanuts.

Peanut free lunch and snack ideas: 
  • carrot and cream cheese sandwich or wrap
  • cucumber and cream cheese sandwich or wrap
  • cold homemade pizza (cheese or vegetarian are healthy options)
  • BBQ chicken salad
  • pasta salad
  • celery stuffed with cream cheese or humous
  • crackers and cheese
  • yogourt and fruit parfait
  • yogourt and breakfast cereal (packed in separate containers)
  • tuna salad
  • cream cheese and jam sandwich
  • cream cheese and strawberry sandwich
  • rice salad
  • couscous salad
  • cereal and milk
  • pita and hummous
  • nut-free granola
  • bagel and deli meat
  • cold grilled cheese
  • cheddar scones
  • homemade fruit leather - click here for recipe!
  • mac and cheese
  • hard boiled eggs
  • cold macaroni salad
  • meat ball stuffed pitas
  • leftover pancakes and waffles with a side of syrup or jam
  • baked beans
  • cottage cheese and fruit
  • meatloaf sandwich or little meatloaves baked in muffin tins
  • veggies, meat, fruit and cheese cubes packed in separate containers or a bento box
  • raw veggies and dip
  • School Snack Mix

Great substitution ideas for regular bread:
  • Bagels or rolls
  • Naan
  • English muffins
  • Bread sticks
  • Flat bread
  • Pita bread
  • Rice cakes
  • Buttermilk biscuits
  • Melba toast
  • Homemade muffins
  • Crackers
Bonus idea: To keep food cold, use an ice pack, frozen juice box or frozen yogurt tube in an insulated lunch bag. Use frozen bread for sandwiches (they will thaw by lunch time).
And remember there are other names for peanuts:

  • Arachide
  • Ground nuts
  • Arachis oil
  • Kernels
  • Beer nuts
  • Mandelonas, Nu-Nuts
  • Cacahouète/cacahouette/cacahuète
  • Nut meats
  • Goober nuts, goober peas
  • Valencias


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge - Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

This challenge was definitely challenging! It taught me I am not a master of candy making or tempering chocolate! I made sponge candy from Wilde in the Kitchen and burnt the first batch. The second tasted great as I also added orange extract but I enrobed it in chocolate that was not tempered correctly as you will see in the photos! I highly recommend the sponge recipe though - it's fun to make and tastes like a Crunchie bar (Canadian readers will know what I'm talking about!).

For chocolates, I made some with caramel in the centre, some with caramel and salted pecans (mmmm) and finally some with a center of fig butter (from Trader Joe's)! The flavours of the fig butter and chocolate melded well together to form a sophisticated and delicious taste. However, I don't think the chocolate tempered perfectly on any of these as they weren't as shiny as I had hoped nor did they have the right "snap". Read this article to find out how to temper chocolate - it certainly brought out my "temper"!!

It was an interesting experience though!

Tempering gone wrong!

Salted Pecan and Caramel Chocolates
Tempering Chocolate is tricky but even when it fails it tastes good!
Edible rice paper butterfly makes everything look pretty.
Fig Butter Chocolates - yum!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Stoked Smoked Burger

This recipe is based on one I found in Gourmet Grilling. The mayo is fantastic and makes enough that you should have leftovers for sandwiches or fries! The burger is nicely spiced but not too hot. The avocado MAKES this burger - warm avocado adds such a nice and creamy texture and flavour that you will never go back to ordinary avocados on your burgers!

  • 1 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons minced chipotle in adobo, including some sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup real bacon bits
  • 2 pounds ground beef - not extra lean - fat adds flavour to burgers!
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 firm-ripe avocado, quartered lengthwise, peeled, and cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick slices
  • 6-8 slices applewood smoked cheddar (or other fave cheese)
  • Olive oil for brushing on avocado
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6-8 hamburger buns, grilled

What to do:

  • In a food processor or blender, purée mayonnaise, mustard, and 2 tablespoons chipotle, 2 tsp smoked paprika; transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
  • Mix beef (using gloved hands always works best for me) with 1 tablespoon chipotle, 1 tbsp paprika, garlic, bacon bits and 1 teaspoon salt until combined. Form into 6 - 8 patties. Make a small indentation in the center of the burger with your thumb.  This will keep them round and help to prevent them from puffing up while cooking. Most importantly, it prevents uneven cooking. Refrigerate if not cooking right away.
  • Prepare a medium hot gas BBQ.
  • Meanwhile, brush both sides of avocado slices with olive oil.
  • Grill patties until they reach 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Add cheese and melt.
  • Grill avocado slices, turning once, until grill marks appear, about 60 seconds on each side.
  • Slather sauce on buns and stack burgers with avocado and any other of your favorite condiments. 
  • Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mango-Nectarine Shrimp Noodle Salad

Sometimes it's just waaaay to hot to cook or even eat something hot! On those days this is a perfect recipe that uses fresh fruit, shrimp and a bright vinegary dressing that will satisfy your taste buds and keep you cool!
Adapted from a recipe at


  • 8 ounces very thin cellophane noodles
  • 1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined medium or large shrimp
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large nectarines, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 green onions or scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 chopped fresh jalapeño chile, including seeds, or to taste
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt

What to do
  • Cover noodles with boiling-hot water in a large bowl and let stand 8 minutes.
  • Drain noodles in a colander and rinse with cold running water. Drain again.
  • Place back in bowl and add shrimp, mango, nectarines, green onions, basil, and jalapeno.
  • In a small bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar, and salt until sugar is dissolved.
  • Toss with noodles and shrimp.
  • Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Egg Frittata-Pizza

I like my frittatas thin like a thin-crust pizza. Of course, if you prefer yours thicker you could add more eggs. Broiling the cheese adds a nice crunch and burst of flavour.

  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 2 tbsp water or milk
  • 3 tbsp half and half
  • 1 tsp butter or oil
  • 1 medium leek, finely chopped
  • 5 baby tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp or few dashes chipotle tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • salt
  • pepper

What to do
  • Ensure oven rack is about 4 inches from top broil element. Turn oven to broil.
  • In mixing bowl, lightly whisk eggs, water (or milk), garlic, tabasco sauce, salt and peppper. Set aside.
  • Using a 10-12 inch sautee pan on medium heat, melt butter and add leek, tomato, capers, and spinach. Sautee for 2-4 minutes.
  • Add egg mixture.
  • Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring from bottom and sides a few times. Eggs will still be wet on top but set on the bottom.
  • Sprinkle parmesan on top of eggs. Put pan in oven. You must watch your eggs to prevent burning! Idealy, the cheese will melt and start to brown. This may take 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Cut in wedges like a pizza and serve!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good Morning Muffins

These muffins are small, subtley sweet and satisfying. They are not mammoth muffins we find so often now-a-days. They are great for a quick breakfast, a kid's snack on-the-run, or with a cup of tea or coffee. Remember to only fill the cups half full or you might not have enough batter.

Yield: 12 small (not mini) muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • Extra cinnamon and sugar for tops of muffins
What to do
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
  • Make a well in the center of the mixture.
  • Stir together egg, milk and 1/3 cup melted butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until just moistened to avoid tough muffins.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. These are meant to be smaller sized muffins so fill cups about 1/2 full.
  • Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top of batter.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Optional: If desired, mix 1 cup icing sugar with a tsp of water and tsp lemon juice. Drizzle over muffins.