Tag Archives: lunch menu

Hamburger Tarts

When discussing menu items in my childcare home ‘favourites’ can be defined in many ways. It could be a meal that all of the children eat at least some of and no one refuses to eat. It could also mean that some of the children really enjoy it and consistently ask for seconds but there may be one or two children who barely eat any at all. After all, not everyone likes the same things.

Sometimes it may be defined as one of my favourite things to make because it either doesn’t require a lot of work or it can be prepared well in advance and baked for lunch. I always prefer meals that don’t add to the already busy lunch time – between returning from outdoors and getting ready for nap time there is already a lot to do without including food prep.

Hamburger Tarts are one of the items that tick a lot of boxes. They require a bit of fairly easy prep early in the morning before the children arrive and then bake a bit just before we come in from outside. Most of the children like them – some don’t – some ask for seconds. Personally I find them addictive and left unchecked I could wipe out the whole batch because seriously – bread, meat and cheese is really just like pizza which I could eat all day every day.

This is the ‘original’ recipe which of course I only use as a starting point and then modify – a lot.

First of all, I don’t fiddle with cutting crusts (best part) off bread, buttering the slices and pressing them into muffin tins to essentially make more crusts. I use yummy brioche buns, placed upside down in a 9×13 pan, and hollowed out (keep for free bread crumbs). I have also tried this step using scratch made bread dough pressed in the pan and using a cup to make 12 indents for filling – good too but it requires much more effort and time and most of the children prefer the brioche buns

For the filling I do saute the onion and lean ground beef though I use much more than half an onion – more like one very large or two medium and very well cooked before adding the beef. One lb of ground beef will fill 12 buns. I never use the yucky mushroom soup – usually tomato soup or cheddar cheese soup.

I add all the saved ‘bread crumbs’ from the buns, eggs, and ketchup as well as some mustard and BBQ sauce too. I don’t usually grate the cheddar cheese to add to the filling. To save time I most often just place a thick square slice of cheddar in the bottom of each bun cup before filling with the meat mixture. At this point I cover with foil and refrigerate until closer to lunch time then bake covered at 325F for about an hour to heat through. Uncover for the last bit of time to brown a little without drying out.

Serve with salad or coleslaw – pick them up and eat like a burger or cut them up and use a fork (not as fun) – Mmmmm good.

New Soup

I have always liked to have at least one home made soup included on our four week revolving menu.  Over the years I have tried many different soup recipes but sadly none of them have ever received enthusiastic, positive reviews from the children.

I blame bread.  I like to have a heavy, home made savory bread with soup to dip in and soak up the broth…yum.  However, if I serve homemade bread then ALL the children eat only the bread and won’t even try the soup.

So, I tend to make all my homemade soups very thick – more like a thin stew than a soup.  With pasta or rice included in the soup we don’t need to have bread added as a side dish to get the grains.  Still, soup is definitely not a popular item with the children unless it comes from a can and is laden with salt.

Last month I introduced a new soup and this week we had it for the second time.  All but one of the children eat this new soup – in fact, most asked for a second helping too.  The one who doesn’t eat it has never even tried it, adamantly insisting they don’t like it without tasting even one bite of it.   Stubbornly sitting at the table eating only raw vegetables and salad because I didn’t make any bread. 😉

Here is the recipe for Lasagna Soup;

  • 4 Italian sausages,cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 680ml can of spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 L water
  • 1 L vegetable stock
  • 8 lasagna noodles, broken in small pieces
  • 500 ml cottage cheese

Stir fry sausages and onions together in large pot.  Add pasta sauce, tomatoes, water and vegetable stock. Simmer.  Add noodles and cook until softened (about 30 minutes).  Remove from heat and add cottage cheese.  Serve topped with Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese if desired.

Here’s a picture but it was taken later in the day after  the leftover ‘soup’ had already been refrigerated and so the noodles have soaked up almost all the broth but it still tastes good.

15-11-soup

Miscellaneous Things

From time to time my collection of ‘Photos I Want to Blog About’ accumulates a number of pictures that by themselves don’t manage to become full posts but I still like and want to share them.  Here are a few of them;

15-09-misc01This was a new soup I offered the children – I’m trying to add some new items to our menu.  I combined many of their favorite foods and made what I called ‘Southwest Chicken & Rice Soup’.  Sadly the children were unimpressed – even the less picky toddlers were reluctant to eat it.  They did all like the onion bread I served on the side.

15-09-misc02One of the toddlers enjoys crawling on the stumps.  In the years since the stumps were first introduced to our play space the children have enjoyed climbing on, jumping off etc but crawling on them was something I haven’t seen them do before.  Fantastic coordination!

15-09-misc03The baby was very focused on this old stump so, trying not to interrupt, I went to see what had captivated his attention for so long…..

15-09-misc04OOoooh…..Spiderwebs! 🙂

15-09-misc05There are plenty of old pots, plates, bowls etc in the yard but the children still really like to use the bark pieces instead.  Love it!  Of course the pots still get used too.  Every day this summer at some point there would be a pot sitting here;

15-09-misc06This group has decided that the tunnel makes a great ‘oven’ so they continually place stuff here to ‘cook’ while they go play elsewhere.  They come and check on it often and there is always plenty of excitement from the group when the ‘food’ is deemed ready – they all rush to the table.  Maybe I should ask the cook for their recipe – it might make a good addition to our lunch menu.

Squash

This year we got a lot of squash in our CSA box from Wild Earth Farms.  We got a lot last year too but this year there was more. Luckily squash keeps longer than the other types of fresh produce so I didn’t have to use it all at once.  Some of it made a nice addition to our Fall decor.

14-11-squash01

I like that we got so many different kinds of squash and some I had never tried before.  I find it interesting that as I search for new recipes it doesn’t seem to matter what type of squash I use in the search I still get many similar recipes.  The only exception is the spaghetti squash which has some unique recipes that would not work as well if you used another type of squash.

I have roasted the various squash and used them in stir fries and stews.  I love squash however, it has been a challenge to get the children to eat it.  If it is not baked in a pie, loaf, or cake they will usually just leave it on their plate.

This week I tried something different.  I cut up an acorn squash, coated it with egg and a mixture of bread crumbs, flour, cornmeal, and taco seasoning.  Then I baked it until it got crispy – about 30 minutes at 425 F.  I served it along with our Mexican Chicken and Rice.

I loved it.  The baby inspected it very closely then dropped it off the side of the highchair without ever even tasting it.  The 2 year old children expertly gnawed all the breading off every squash nugget but left the innards. The three year old never even touched the squash.

After eating every last bit of her chicken and rice she pushed her plate away and announced that she was done.  The rest of our conversation went like this;

  • Me: You didn’t try your squash.
  • 3 yo: I don’t like it.
  • Me: How do you know that if you haven’t even tasted it.  It’s like a chicken nugget.
  • 3 yo: It’s not a chicken nugget.
  • Me: Try a little one.
  • 3 yo: No, I don’t like them.
  • Me: Why do you think you won’t like them?
  • 3 yo: McDonald’s doesn’t have squash nuggets.

Sigh.  No they don’t.

14-11-squash02

Oriental Casserole

I haven’t done a major overhaul of the lunch menu for quite a while but there have been a few minor changes.  One of the more recent additions – about four months ago – was the Oriental Casserole.

This recipe was originally added because I needed a new rice recipe – I try to have a mixture of rice, pasta, potato and bread/sandwich lunches on the menu each week.  Now, I’d also have to say that, when they were young, my own children would have refused to eat Oriental Casserole or any other rice dish.  Now that they are all adults there is still only one that actually likes rice.

However, many of the children in my care today actually do like rice and for some reason they all LOVE the Oriental Casserole.   Even the really picky eaters eat it.  There was a lot of excitement at lunch yesterday because it was Oriental Casserole day.  I listened to the comments made throughout the meal and I think I know what ingredient in particular makes this dish so poular.

This is a short excerpt from the lunch conversation;

  • “You’ve never had this before? Oh, you’ve got to try it!  It has bamboo in it.”
  • “I didn’t know you could eat bamboo.  Now I know why panda bears like bamboo.”
  • “I think Cheryl should be on ‘Chopped'”.
  • “I can’t wait to tell my dad that we had wood for lunch.” (giggle)
  • “I wonder where you can buy bamboo?”
  • “I think they sell bamboo at IKEA.”

Just for the record, I don’t think opening a can of bamboo qualifies for participation on ‘Chopped’.  Here’s the rest of the somewhat vague recipe I use to make my Oriental Casserole.

Heat olive oil in pan and stirfry 4 stalks of celery (sliced), 2 onions (chopped), and any other veggies like peppers that I have on hand and feel like tossing in.   Add one or two cans of sliced bamboo shoots (drained), one can of water chestnuts. and a pound of cooked, ground pork.  Heat through.

Cook 2 cups of Basmati rice in 4 cups of water/chicken stock with several Tbsp of soya sauce.  Combine cooked rice with stirfried veggies and pork.  Serve immediately or put in a casserole dish to reheat in oven later.

I think it is really a pretty simple recipe but the children really enjoy it.

 

Mixed Reviews

We’ve been trying out some new recipes.  The first one I want to mention is my personal favourite of the three.  I originally made Veggie Pies for a potluck dinner but there was one whole pie leftover so I decided to reheat it for lunch the following day.

It did not replace the regular lunch but I used it as a side dish instead of salad or raw veggies and dip.  The children were unimpressed.  Few of them even tried it, choosing instead to just stare at it and shake their heads.  Fine then, more for me.  I wasn’t really surprised – cooked veggies are never popular.

MR01

Veggie Pie

  •  2 onions, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 4 large carrots thinly sliced
  • 2 cups Broccoli florets
  • 2 Tbsp chicken bouillon
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water
  • Pie crusts

 Sauté onions, celery and red pepper with olive oil in a large pot until softened.  Add carrots and broccoli and continue cooking for about five minutes stirring often. Blend in flour.  Mix water and bouillon and pour over veggies in pot.  Cook, stir often, until mixture thickens.  Pour into pie crusts in a deep pie plate.  Cover with top crust and seal the edges.  Make a few small slits in top for steam to escape.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 40 minutes until crust is brown.

 

The second recipe was also first introduced to the children because I had made far more than I needed for supper the evening before and rather than make more food for lunch I used the leftovers.  The reaction truly shocked me this time – every one of the five preschoolers finished all of their first helping and asked for more.

I added it to the lunch menu and the next time it was offered none of the children ate it.  I had inadvertently placed the wrong attachment in the food processor and sliced the carrots instead of grating them.  Carrot slices were easily recognized as cooked veggies and therefore rejected.  The third time I remembered to grate the carrots and most – but not all — of the children ate it again.

I couldn’t find the picture of the finished recipe – maybe I forgot to take one.  This picture is cropped from a larger picture where the food was not the main topic but it will have to do for now;

MR02

Quinoa Pilaf

  •  1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Olive oil
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 Combine quinoa, cold water and salt in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid in fully absorbed.  Heat olive oil in large pot, add the celery, onions, and grated carrots; cook and stir until softened.  Add garlic, raisins, spices and quinoa, cook and stir until evenly mixed and heated through.

I also have this picture of one of the babies trying to eat every last piece of quinoa off the plate.  The spoon was too slow – he shovelled handfuls from the plate to his mouth.

MR03

 

The third recipe is one that I can barely force myself to eat but my husband and youngest son love it.  It has been offered twice as a daycare lunch.  Some of the children refuse it.  Most of the children eat it but none of them are really excited about it.  I doubt I’ll leave it on the menu.

It looked better before it was cooked;

MR04

Afterwards – not so much;

MR05

Chinese Stew

  • Olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 lb pork, cubed or sliced
  • 4 cups frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 5 potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 398 ml can of crushed pineapple with juice
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic

Heat oil in large pot, add pork and onions.  Stir fry until pork browns and onions are soft.  Add vegetables, potatoes and broth.  Stir.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Combine pineapple, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar and garlic.  Add to pork mixture.  Heat and stir until sauce is boiling and thickened.

Those are just a few of the recipes we’ve been trying out recently.  Lunch is part of the adventure.

Chili or Not

Chili is not one of my preferred menu items but many of the children like it so we currently have chili buns once every four weeks.

Lately the children seem to be growing tired of  some of the menu items including chili buns  so I’ve been going through my recpies with the intention of changing a few of the menu items.

I came across a quinoa chili recipe and decided to try it to see if the children like it better than the regular chili.  It starts with a whole lot of vegetables;

Carrots, onions, peppers (red, green and jalapeno), and zucchini sauted together.  Then crushed tomatoes, frozen corn, garlic, cooked quinoa, two cans of beans and some spices (salt,  pepper, cumin, and chili powder) are added.

Simmer — Mmmm smells good.

For the preschoolers I cut the buns into cubes before topping with chili — easier to eat that way.  Then cheddar cheese is sprinkled on top.

I found the quinoa chili was not as saucy as the regular chili so the buns didn’t soak up the chili as well.  The children still seemed to enjoy it but no one wanted seconds and I have far too much leftover chili. Good thing I like quinoa chili better than beef chili.

Still, I think that it may be time to remove chili buns from the menu.

Our Week Outdoors – Day Three

The children have settled into a comfortable ‘all day outside’ routine.  Day three was very similar to the other days — chalk drawing, ball games, tag, a walk through the neighbourhood, gardening, digging in gravel etc.

The baby has surprised me.  He has absolutely no difficulty being outdoors all day.  The biggest difference has been nap time.  He actually stays up a little longer – not falling asleep earlier but definitely sleeping longer.  His naps have been about 3 hours each day.  Even though I have his playpen set up in a high traffic area between the back door/upper deck and the lower deck/yard he is not disturbed by our passing by or by the various sounds in the neighbourhood – including lawnmowers and sirens!

Probably the biggest change for me has been the lunch menu.  Tuesdays are always sandwich days so nothing had to be modified for that day.  Many of the other days had lunch items that required cooking and since I don’t have access to the stove I had to modify the menu this week.

Monday should have been ‘French Fries and Meatloaf’ but instead we had ‘Potato Salad and Garlic Sausage’.  Wednesday would have been ‘Mexican Chicken with Rice’ but in the morning I made ‘Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas’ before the children arrived.  They were served cold and the children have declared that they would like them added to the regular menu.

Today would regularly be ‘Ham and Mozza Biscuit Bake’ but instead I will be baking biscuits this morning and add cheese and ham when I serve lunch.  Tomorrow would be ‘Sausages and Parmesan Pasta’ but I have a pasta salad recipe that I am going to try.  We’ve never had a pasta salad on the menu – mostly because I don’t like cold pasta – so this will be a new experience.  I’m very curious to see how it goes over with the group.  Maybe we will be making some permanent menu changes. 🙂

Then and Now

Spring break is over and our schedule is back to ‘normal’.  One of the parents asked if I’m happy that the older children have gone back to school.  I’ll admit that sometimes I find some of the older children to be a little ‘needy’ – unable or unwilling to make activity choices and demanding ‘entertainment’.  Mostly though, I much prefer the larger group and the no-school schedule.

So, here are just a few random highlights of the last day of spring break and the first day back to school.

Friday’s favourite activity was the ‘log slide’;

For some the logs were almost the same size as they were;

Over the weekend there was a population explosion of some type of moth in my back yard.  I don’t know what they are but they were covering most of the surfaces and I am a little concerned they may be some type of garden pest that will wreak havoc on our garden this year;

Then Monday morning I realized I didn’t have the vermicelli that I needed for the Turkey Tetrazzini.  I used couscous instead and it was an instant hit – I may modify the recipe permanently.

Now, let’s see what else develops this week….

Ham & Mozza Biscuit Bake

Of all the recipes currently on our lunch menu this is one of my personal favorites.  Most of the children really enjoy it and of course there is one doesn’t.  That one refuses to eat anything except the ham depending on what type of ham I use — sometimes it is deli meat ham other times I use pieces of baked ham depending on what I have available.

It is on the menu for lunch today — I can hardly wait.  Here is the recipe;

Ham & Mozza Biscuit Bake

  • 3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • mustard
  • 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 500 g sliced ham

Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl, mix and make well in centre.  Add milk and oil to well.  Stir. Press half of biscuit mix onto bottom of 9 x 13 baking pan. Cover with thin layer of mustard and half of the grated cheese. Arrange ham slices over cheese and cover with second half of cheese.  Flatten out remaining biscuit mix to approximately the pan size. Lay biscuit mix on top of other layers and press – try not to disturb other layers.  Bake in 350F oven for about one hour.  Remove and spread top crust with margarine to soften slightly.  Cut into 24 squares.