Archives for August 2012

AWESOME Granola Bars! School Lunch Ideas Installment #2

My kids LOVE to eat granola bars! I also love it – when else can I get them to eat so much nutrition packed into a little bar, with only a small amount of sugar to make it all stick? Oh yeah, and I make these gluten free, oat free, dairy free and of course nut free. Well, what do they have??? Here’s the recipe that is always a hit in my kid’s school lunches. I must admit that I found the base to this recipe online a few years ago and do not know the source.

Homemade Granola Bars

1 cup puffed rice (if you eat oats, you can use them instead)

1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (sulphate free if possible)

3/4 cup ground flax

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

2/3 cup brown sugar*

1/2 cup honey

4 Tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

8 oz dried fruit

  1. Mix dry ingredients in 11 x 13 baking dish with sides, toast in oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Put brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla and salt in saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring constantly.
  3. Mix dry and wet ingredients in large bowl. Mix well.
  4. Prepare 11 x 13 dish by lining with waxed paper that is lightly greased.
  5. Dump mixture into baking dish, spread evenly, cover with waxed paper and press down HARD.
  6. Wait 2 – 3 hours until cool. Turn onto cutting board and cut with knife.
  7. Wrap individual bars in saran wrap, put them all into a large freezer bag, and store in the freezer. Go ahead and put these directly from the freezer into those lunch bags, they don’t take long to defrost.

*I should note that I always try to eliminate as much sugar as I can from a recipe, and I did try unsuccessfully to reduce the amount of brown sugar in this recipe (and increase the amount of honey) and my bars fell apart.

toasted dry ingredients











stirring liquids









Stirring wet and dry together









Pressing Down









I love the endless amount of variations that this recipe allows. Think dried apples and cinnamon or dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips. If you are making them for home and can eat nuts, go ahead and add almonds, or some peanut butter to the recipe.

Although this may seem like a lot of work, it takes only about a half an hour to make these (not including cooling time), and it makes about 24 bars when cut so they do last for quite a while if you are using only one a day in school lunches. Enjoy!

finished product!


School Lunch Ideas – Installment #1

Over the summer while spending time with friends and talking about the impending school year, I have realized that school lunches are quite a challenge for many families. I realized that they were hard for families with food allergies/intolerances like ours, but I had never really thought about the challenge for families with children who simply won’t eat what is considered the “typical” school lunch. I am a self professed health food nut. The joke remains that I made brownies with whole wheat flour for my roommates in university… it was absolutely out of the question in our family growing up to even have white flour in the house! That being said, I realize that not everyone eats the way I do – I’m okay with that. I do want to point out though that while on my daughter’s kindergarten field trip this past year, I was appalled at some of the lunches that I saw. Not a single fresh or unprocessed item to be seen, loads of sugar, food coloring, and preservatives. How is a child supposed to learn while their body is dealing with so many toxins???

My kids and I have collectively come up with some pretty stellar healthy lunches that are gluten, dairy, and of course nut free, and I thought I would spend a bit of time between now and when school starts in a week and a half sharing some of our favorites.

Our girls love dip. Who doesn’t? Even something tasteless slathered in some delicious creamy dip becomes a hit! That’s why we love hummus. I also love it because my girls will consume copious amounts of fresh veggies (carrot sticks, sweet peppers, celery, mushrooms, cucumber…) if they have hummus to dip into. Without the hummus there is some grumbling involved. Now, there are some seriously unhealthy dips out there that are loaded with bad fats, MSG, and preservatives – this easy-to-make dip is not one of those and is only filled with health-giving ingredients!!! Here is our recipe, which can be modified to your liking:


1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas (from a BPA free can, or even better – soak dried beans overnight, and cook. Use approximately the equivalent amount that would be in a can)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cumin

1 tsp olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic

juice of one lemon (1/4 cup) (or raw apple cider vinegar as a tangy alternative)

2-3 Tbsp tahini (this is sesame seed butter – found in the international section, or the natural section of the grocery store)

Puree in blender or food processor. Before serving drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil and paprika on top. Adjust amount of liquid (olive oil or water) as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

That’s it! Very easy and economical (way cheaper than the pre-made varieties) and SUPER healthy. Oh yeah, and sooooo yummy. We use this fairly often as a sandwich alternative. I’ll send it along with fresh veggies and some rice crackers to dip. For those that can have gluten, you could also send along some whole grain pita bread cut into triangles, or some yummy whole grain crackers. If your kids like bread, and you just want to add some pizazz to their lunches, try using hummus as a sandwich spread – put it on nice and thick with some sprouts or lettuce and some tomatoes.

I hope this school lunch idea finds a spot in your child’s lunch!



My Little Nature Photographers

This summer I have been trying to be very intentional about doing fun things with the kids. Not elaborate or expensive things, just fun, sometimes educational, sometimes goofy things. A few days ago we went to Point Pelee National Park, which happens to be a short drive away from where we live, with the purpose of being nature photographers. My older girls love to take pictures, and they also enjoy going for hikes and learning about nature, so I thought this would be a fun spin on things (the week before we went with our binoculars as birders).

It was a lot of fun, and mostly a success. We saw lots of living things that the girls were excited about. The mostly was because a 1/2 a km before we finished our 3 km hike, my oldest daughter got a blister from her shoe and refused to walk any further. My 2 year old had already walked most of the way and had just settled into her mei tei carrier when this blister problem happened – she was tired and didn’t want to walk any further (I don’t blame her – that’s a long way on little legs!). So, I put my oldest daughter on my back in the mei tei and carried my little one in my arms in the front and off we went. I’m smiling in the picture (at the end of the photos shown here), but by the end of our hike my hips were killing me with almost 90 extra pounds that I was carrying. Note to self: don’t go on hikes that are so long with three kids and no other adults!

Here are some of the pictures from our hike, from the cameras of a 5 year old and a 6 year old.





















































Didn’t my little nature photographers take some good pictures? A simple and fun day.