The one good thing about starting back to school in September is that there’s a huge variety of fresh, local fruit and vegetables available at this time of year with which to fill lunch boxes.
The great thing about all the cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, pears, apples and grapes available locally right now is they’re all finger foods that are terrific and simple to pack in a lunch bag.
That’s also true of all the carrots, radishes, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, beans, cauliflower and broccoli that are around right now and are delicious raw. You could make up a simple dip from a spoonful of cream cheese or yogurt with a drizzle of salad dressing if that will help your youngsters enjoy their vegies.
Or, you can create little salads with lettuce, spinach or other fresh greens, topped with crunchy bits of some of those vegies and perhaps some chunks of fruit as well. It’s not even necessary to add a dressing. It’s good without. Add a topping of nuts or seeds for a little extra crunch and nutrition.
For a sweet snack, treat them to a home made fruit and grain bar that you’ve packed with good-for-you stuff instead of buying the overly-sweet, underly-nutritious bars from the grocery store.
We had a great time at this year’s fifth Okanagan Feast of Fields at Little Church Organics in Kelowna last week.
The flat field there beside the cherry orchard was terrific and the layout generous, so no guests felt crowded as has been the case in some previous years.
After our morning volunteering to set up tables and chairs, cover hay bales, put up signs, carry water and ice and lay out the wineglasses and linen napkins, we were free to eat and drink, enjoying the hard work and ingenuity of some of the best farmers, chefs, winemakers, distillers and brewers in the valley.
It was difficult to decide what was my favourite, but certainly among those in the running was Bonfire chef Grant deMontreuill’s rabbit terrine, RauDZ chef Rod Butters’ cherry and pork canape topped with an outrageous puffed piece of pork rind, Delta Grand chef Stu Klassen’s stone fruit lolly, Grapevine chef Willi Franz’s chicken wrap, the scrumptious grilled beef from Old Vines’ chef Roger Sleiman, Codfather’s lime-cured salmon, and Mission Hill chef Matt Batey’s raspberries and mint with goat cheese, not to mention Poppadoms’ Aloo Chaat and for dessert: Sandrine’s crisp and rich chocolate-filled Danish.
Easy Banana Bars with Chocolate Chips
I’m not a big fan of the flavour of bananas, but I’m such a sucker for chocolate that I actually quite enjoy these. Bananas are not locally-grown, but they are available year-round now. Despite the fact they are among the highest-sugar fruits around, they are a good source of potassium, as are blackberries, cantaloup, papaya, avocado, mango, dates, figs, prunes and raisins. They’re also a good source of vitamin B6.
1/2 c. (125 ml) butter
3/4 c. (175 ml) brown sugar
1 c. (250 ml) mashed banana
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) vanilla
1 c. (250 ml) flour
3/4 c. (175 ml) whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
3/4 c. (175 ml) chocolate chips
3/4 c. (175 ml) chopped nuts
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan.
Cream softened butter with sugar and beat in the mashed banana and vanilla.
Ad dry ingredients and mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips and spread in pan. Mixture should be quite stiff.
Chop nuts such as almonds or pecans and sprinkle on top of the batter.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool in the pan and cut into bars.
These are moist and keep fairly well.
Dianne’s Chunky Cheese Muffin Bread
This makes an open-textured, moist loaf that’s terrific with soups, salads, or as toast. It loves to go to school. It’s much quicker to make than yeast bread, but has a coarser texture. I make it in two small loaf pans and freeze one for later. They cook in a little less time. You could also use a full-fat yogurt in this, or even sour cream.
1-2 tbsp. (15-30 ml) jalapeno pepper
2 c. (500 ml) white flour
1 c. (250 ml) whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. (15 ml) baking powder
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml) black pepper
4 oz. (113 g) well-aged cheddar
1 1/4 c. (310 ml) milk
3/4 c. (175 ml) plain, fat-free yogurt
3 tbsp. (45 ml) butter, melted
Mince jalapeno pepper, using an amount that’s to your taste.
Combine with dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Cube cheddar and mix in.
Beat egg in a medium-sized bowl and stir in remaining wet ingredients.
Lightly spray a loaf pan with oil and pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Combine wet ingredients with dry, using a minimum number of strokes.
Scrape into prepared loaf pan or divide between two smaller ones and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool before slicing.