Back-to-School Lunch Box Taste Test

We’re fortunate here in Virginia that we don’t go back to school until after Labor Day, so there’s still time to check the last few things (and favorite summertime treats) off our to-do list. My niece starts school this week though, and I know others are already back in school — having grown up with an August birthday, and having a child with one as well, the thought of starting back to school in August will probably always seem strange to me. Regardless, whether you’ve already started back or are still getting ready, I thought I’d dust off my old school lunch tips now that we’ve had a few more years of experience.

back to school | foodietots.com

The first, though, is still my biggest one: plan lunches together. One way we do this ahead of time is to do a sandwich taste test, where I let the kids put together whatever they can imagine to see how they like it. Last year they came up with a peanut butter & salame (his) and pb & pickle (hers). Butter, prosciutto and peach was another favorite the boy came up with while we still had a few local peaches on hand.

pb & pickle | foodietot creation

Even if your kids love sandwiches, it helps to have some non-sandwich alternatives in your pocket to keep the lunches from becoming too monotonous. Rice cakes with nut butter or hummus, mini bagels with chévre or cream cheese, and the occasional waffle sandwich can be found in our lunch box rotation. For the preschooler, a scoop of hummus with several things that can be dipped in it (pretzel chips or pita, cucumbers and tomatoes are her usual) is often requested.

lunch box taste testing | foodietots.com

If your kids are particular about their fruits and vegetables, ask them for a list of ones they’d like to eat, and then encourage them to try one new one each week. If they normally go for carrots, do half carrots and half celery (or peppers or green beans) so that there’s still something familiar in the lunch box. When they’re caught up in conversation with friends around the lunch table, they just might drop that stubbornness they display at home. (Check out the Today I Ate A Rainbow kit if your child needs a little extra encouragement.)

Working with kids to let them feel in control of what they’re eating can go a long way to ensuring they actually eat what you pack. As they get older, they can do more of the packing themselves — even better!

cheddar cheese crackers | foodietots.com

Here are a few other healthy, homemade treats the kids have helped me make to pack in the lunch box too:

Do your kids have any lunch box favorites?

Preserving Summer #CanItForward

Well it’s mid-August, which means we’ve reached the point of summer where I start to panic about all the things I haven’t preserved yet. It started with this sign at the market on Thursday evening, and the dreaded “Last Week” notice for our absolute favorite summer snack, donut peaches.

foodietots heart donut peaches

Then it was the “2 weeks left!” sign tacked to the bin of sweet corn.

And I certainly couldn’t say no when the kids wanted a pint of blackberries, each.

Today, Ball Canning celebrates international #CanItForward Day. You can watch the live webinars here, or just get the recipes to try at home.

Here are some of our favorite recipes to preserve that precious summer produce — plum vanilla jam, tomato jam, plum vanilla jam and chai ground cherry preserves.

preserving summer #canitforward | foodietots.comGet the recipes:

What are you putting up this year?

Plum Organics Mighty Tots Giveaway #sponsored

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics.

Hello, readers! Hope you’ve been having a fun and delicious summer. We’ve been on the road quite a bit, which has given us a good reason to try out some of the newest kids snacks from Plum Organics. We’re long-time fans of Plum’s all-natural products for little eaters, so we were glad to try out their new Mighty line of pouches, bars and puffs for growing tots.

Plum mighty tots | foodietots.com

As part of the launch of the new products, Plum is celebrating the wild imaginations of toddlers. When my oldest was just three, we set about planning our first kitchen garden. I gave him a sheet of paper and asked him to draw what he’d like to grow in our garden. Here’s what I got:

a toddler's garden | foodietots.com

From left, he drew three sunflowers, a hot dog plant, strawberry and peas. Of course. We couldn’t quite get our hot dog plant to grow, but we did eat a lot of garden-fresh peas and strawberries! I love the creative combinations kids come up with when you give them room to play in the kitchen or at the dinner table.

Plum has some fun “Ask a Toddler” videos on YouTube posing questions like, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” This one got big laughs from my two cow-loving foodie tots.

GIVEAWAY: Plum Organics would like to share a Mighty kit (pictured below) with one lucky reader. The kit contains Mighty 4 Pouches, Mighty Puff ‘Ems, and Mighty 4 Bars. The giveaway is open to US residents only and closes at 11:59 EST Thursday, July 31. Enter below.

plum mighty tots giveaway foodietots.com

I love the creative ingredient combinations Plum’s come up with for these new products, especially the Mighty 4 pouches that contain protein (Greek yogurt), fiber, vitamins and Omega 3s in flavors like pumpkin pomegranate with quinoa and chia seeds. Confession: I’ve been known to grab an extra pouch for myself for a quick breakfast or snack on the go.

Even my big kid, now age 7, has been enjoying the Puff ‘Ems — Cheesy Pumpkin Sage has been the favorite, and I like that it’s a cheese puff I can feel good about them snacking on, packed with whole grains and veggies. The bars are also full of nutrition, made with fruit/veggie blends like strawberry-spinach and a touch of yogurt and chia seeds, too.

Be sure to check out the Plum videos with your tots and encourage them to tell you how they’d answer the questions, too — I guarantee you’ll share some laughs!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Plum Organics. As always, all opinions are our own.

A Trip to France via Olivia Macaron

In preparation for Bastille Day (July 14), we took a field trip to learn the secrets behind our newest favorite treat, authentic French macarons. Olivia Macaron opened in Georgetown in 2013, just off of M Street across from Dean & DeLuca.

clay macarons at Olivia Macaron | foodietots.com

The foodie tots love to check out the latest window display, featuring macaron trees in the colors of the season. (We learned a secret: the macrons on display are filled with royal icing so they’ll hold up longer — so don’t bother trying to pinch a taste, as they won’t taste very good!)

Olivia Macaron | macaron trees | foodietots.com

Inside, they are easily tempted by the rainbow of cookies in the case.

macarons at Olivia Macaron | foodietots.com

We met with store manager Joelle, who told us a little more about the shop and the process of making macarons. Unfortunately, Chef Michel Giaon does the baking at a commercial kitchen in the suburbs, not on site, so we didn’t get a true peek in the kitchen. (You can, though, by following @oliviamacaron on Instagram.) The macarons are delivered fresh each morning.

choosing macarons | foodietots at olivia macaron

There are 13 signature flavors available year-round, and three new featured flavors each month. We stopped by in June, so we got to sample the spicy chocolate bacon macaron created for Father’s Day. This month, look for a special strawberry — blue, white & red for Bastille Day — mojito, s’mores and champagne mango.

olivia macaron tasting | foodietots.com

So how do macarons differ from macaroons, the standard Passover dessert? Macaroons with two o’s are made with coconut, while the French macaron is made with almond flour. Olivia grinds almonds down to flour, then mixes them with egg whites and sugar. Those three ingredients are the base, which are then flavored, piped on baking sheets and baked. The fillings can be a cream cheese or buttercream frosting, ganache, or jam.

Olivia Macaron is named after the owner, Ana Claudia Lopez’s daughter, a three-year-old who, much like the foodie tot, tends to prefer the pink macarons in rose and raspberry.

A few more tidbits:

The most popular flavor they sell is salted caramel, and they offer mini packages of two that can be customized to match your event’s colors. (We thought about macaron pops as a party favor for the Foodie Tot, but were afraid they’d crumble too quickly.) Did you catch the clay macarons in the top photo? They were made by local preschoolers after their own field trip to the bakery.

From the Foodie Tot:

favorite part of the visit: tasting the flavors!

favorite flavor: bacon and cassis

flavor she’d like to create: blueberry bacon

From the Foodie Boy:

favorite part of the visit: Getting to taste the June flavors.

favorite flavor: piña colada (another June special)

flavor he’d like to create: red licorice

fun at olivia macaron | foodietots.com

We have plans to attempt to bake macarons at home this summer, but in the mean time, it’s nice to have Olivia Macaron nearby! After a visit (they also offer coffee and espresso for mom and dad), it’s an easy stroll down to the canal or waterfront park.

Olivia Macaron
3222 M Street NW
Washington DC
Monday to Thursday: 10AM-8PM
Friday-Saturday: 10AM – 9PM
Sunday: 11AM-7PM

Fennel Slaw {#PicnicGame}

With an unusual stretch of pleasant weekends here in DC, we’ve been getting really good use out of our picnic blanket. (Even laying it out to watch the USA match on the big screen at Mosaic District Monday night — so fun!)

Today we are celebrating International Picnic Day by bringing you a basket packed with goodies from A to Z, in the style of the picnic game! Drop by the Sunday Supper Movement to see the whole picnic spread out on our virtual blanket.

I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…
Asian Chicken Salad from Try Anything Once Culinary
Beautiful Beet Salad from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Chicken Muffuletta from Marlene Baird
Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups from The Dinner-Mom
Elote from Peaceful Cooking

and

Fennel Slaw!

fennel and grape slaw | foodietots.com

This tangy, cool salad is a perfect complement to grilled fish or chicken. The foodie tot joined me in the kitchen to whisk together the yogurt dressing and assemble the salad. While she’s no fan of yogurt on its own, she agreed that the finished dressing was tasty and even took a few bites of the salad at dinner. More proof that kids who cook are more likely to try something new. And serving up new foods in a fun and laid back setting, like a picnic, is even better!

foodie tot makes fennel slaw

Recipe: Fennel Slaw

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 bulbs fennel, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

1. Place sliced onion in a bowl of water and let soak for 10 minutes, while preparing salad. (This helps take the bite off.)
2. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, vinegar, honey and salt. Set aside.
3. Drain onions and pat dry. Gently toss fennel, onion and dressing in a separate bowl. Fold in cut grapes. Chill until ready to serve.

What’s your favorite salad for a picnic?