Packin’ It Up!

picnic lunch

Nothing says “summer” to me more than picnic lunches.

There are plenty of things I dislike about living in Los Angeles County.  Housing is ridiculously expensive.  Traffic can be a bear.  Some parts of town aren’t so nice…

There are plenty of things I absolutely love about living in Los Angeles County.  The weather is ridiculously gorgeous.  The crowds are made up of people from all over the world.  Some parts of town are way cool.

If I focused on the dislikes, I’d be frustrated.  Due to big-city-modern-day-life-issues my children will never grow up like I did; roaming the neighborhood freely on bikes without mom knowing their exact whereabouts at all times.   This ain’t southern Minnesota (and it ain’t the 70’s either!)

So I focus on the cool stuff.  My kids have soooooo many experiences at their fingertips that I never even dreamed about when I was a child.  There are free summer concerts (often with big-name recording artists!) and multicultural fairs.  There are free/cheap museums galore.  There parks everywhere and (my personal fave) there are miles and miles of beaches.

When we head out for our various summer excursions–my regular reminders about the positives of raising a family ’round here–I do like to pack some tasty and healthy food for my crew.  We partake in food events, of course, but often I bring along the staples and we splurge on a treat here and there.  This meal planning not only serves the purpose of keeping us healthy, it is the more economical approach to travel.  I know my grandmother is smiling down on me when I say that. 🙂

A typical Calva-Despard lunch-on-the-go looks like what I have pictured above.  Sandwiches containing nitrate free meats are prepared on whole grain bread.  Summer pea pods and fresh carrots are ready for mouth popping fun.  Fresh watermelon awaits our finger tips.  Roasted peanuts are fun and packed with protein.  Kalamata olives are a salty treat, and for our sweet desires I baked homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars.  These are not “healthy” per se, but as I prepared them myself I control the ingredients and don’t worry about multisyllabic hydrogenated goop.  (They are also sliced into small squares as a little sugar is nice, but we don’t want to go overboard now do we.)

You will also notice a 3/4 bag of Trader Joe’s baked cheese curl things.  Again; not a “healthy” choice, but better than most.  A small portion for everyone brings a smile to faces without too many nasty calories to other places. (plus, I don’t like them so I’m not tempted.  Ha!)

One thing not pictured is our beverage.  Usually water, although I have been known to grab some small cans of apple juice or small carbonated juicey-drinky things.  I’m not big on the waste producing juice box scene, but I will admit that an occasional little something special to drink is appreciated even by me.

Ahhh… summer time!

 

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Why? WHY!!!???

cookie bar

Why did I do it?  What was I thinking?  It’s me: non-baking-Michelle.  I was persuaded.  Pushed even. 

Carissa of At 350 Degrees practically made me do it.  I mean she signed on to follow my blog so it would be rude of me to not at least try one of her baked demons, right?  And I’m nothing if not polite, right?  (Carissa’s in high school, by the way.  Remember high school metabolism?  Yeah, me too.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…)

So I decided on the “amazing M&M cookie bars.”  I actually picked these because I don’t much care for M&M’s (unless they’re in really yummy cookie bars, it turns out…)

So there I was.  Baking.  Yes B-A-K-I-N-G.  And measuring (pretty much) and then next thing I knew… I was tasting.  And tasting.  And… I think you get the picture.

Argh!!!  This is the other reason I hate baking.  My form of willpower is to not create fattening treats in the first place.  I’m unfamiliar with the protocol once the first layer of defense has been breached!

Were they good?  Um, yeah.  Really good.  I will agree and label them “amazing.”  Nobody who is home for any length of time alone should make these bars.  It’s not a good idea and let’s just leave it at that.

My kids all had one in their lunches and all three complimented the production.

“I hope you enjoyed them” I answered, “because I’m never making them again.”

Double P.S. today:

P.S. #1= sorry I didn’t run my usual MWF schedule this week.  I wondered if my blogs were becomming tired, but Teri wagged her finger at me so I guess not…

P.S. #2 = I am definitely blogging about kale tomorrow!!!

Patience is a Virtue

AKA: why Michelle’ will never create something like you see here.

cookie
(AKA: Ndidiamaka don’t even challenge me, girlfriend!)

Homemade cookies.  Who doesn’t like’m?  And I wouldn’t mind making them either, if only there wasn’t all that measuring and accuracy involved.  And then all that scooping and same-size-making-strategically-placing-to bake evenly type situation going on.  Man does that get in the way of my happy kitchen vibe.

Lucky for me I’m from Minnesota.  I’ve decided that I must not be the only woman from my neck of the woods who has an aversion to the precision involved in good baking.

In the Midwest we make cookie bars, or just “bars” as they’re referred to at potluck gatherings and bake sales.

The premise is basically as follows: take the cookie dough and heave it onto a cookie sheet with an edge.

heave

Press it out till it’s evenly spread.

spread

How deep?  How should I know!?  The whole point here is that we’re cutting corners, thus, I shall not be bothered with details.  (OK though, If I had to give a number I’d say about a 1/2 inch or so–but don’t tell anyone I said that.)

There are actual recipes designed for baking bars (aka: I’m not making this up), but it is possible to wing it.  If your baking time is calculated for cookies, I would add about 50% onto the total and check what you’ve got.  So, if you’re taking a chocolate chip cookie recipe that bakes for 8-10 minutes and morphing it into a chocolate chip cookie bar recipe, you should set your timer for about 14-15 minutes and check.  Depending on how deep you’ve made your bars or what recipe you’re using, it could take up to double the baking time.

Don’t worry though.  The first time you make bars this way, you may have to check back once or twice.  But then you can just make a note of the new “bar” time and you’re set for the next time ’round.

Mix.  Heave-spread-press.  Bake.  Done.

I make cookie bars for my family’s lunches.  Everyone likes a little something sweet after lunch, and this way I control the portions and know exactly what’s in there.  No hydrogenated or multisylabic ingredients that can technically be consumed but are not, necessarily, food.  And of course there’s the added bonus that mommy doesn’t get all irritated while making them.  Yeah team!

I can cut these little honeys into 2 or so inch squares and freeze them for a couple of weeks of post-lunch treats.

Patience may be a virtue, but cutting corners is where it’s at.