7 School And Work Lunches Approved By My Daughter And Husband

7 lunch ideas for Back to School
7 lunch ideas for Back to School

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 7, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks there to learn more about the highlighted products.)

After meal planning and making lunches for many years, my family and I have decided to shake things up for our upcoming back to school and work routines: we’re eating more fruits and vegetables and trying out different food combinations and ingredients.

Recently, I sat down with my high school daughter, who prepares and takes lunch every day, and my husband, who brings lunch to work a few times a month, to discuss new and fun ideas.

My daughter tested these lunches when she was at her summer day camp job and my husband enjoyed the leftovers from the photo shoot – yup, all the meals got a thumbs up!

We’re also making a conscious effort to include reusable, BPA-free items rather than single-use plastic. This is made easy by all of the innovative containers from one of my favorite stores: Kitchen Stuff Plus.

Here are the 7 school and work lunches we’re enjoying:

The Bistro Box
Putting together eggs, cheese, crackers, and fruit/nuts in a box takes no time. This Locksy box with two compartments is perfect, but you can also use a bento box. My husband loves this because there are lots of little things to choose from. And, my daughter loves the special fruit container with a built-in basket to keep fruits like strawberries dry. I am also totally loving this container myself and use it for my daily fruit-on-the go. The juices of any fruits, like watermelon, stay at the bottom and keep the melon pieces fresh.

Bistro Box lunch idea featuring Trudeau Fuel Fruit Container
Bistro Box lunch idea featuring Trudeau Fuel Fruit Container

The Hot Food Combo
My daughter likes hot meals: soups, pasta, beans and rice, and veggie chili. The thermos shown is the perfect size (290ml). Add chips and cheese in a slim box and keep them on an ice pack until it’s time to eat the chili. The chips stay crisp and intact. Note the water bottle where you can add any fruits, like the cucumbers here, to infuse the water.

Hot lunch combo with Thermos + Locksy box for keeping chips intact
Hot lunch combo with Thermos + Locksy box for keeping chips intact

Spinach and Chicken Salad In A Box
On busy mornings, I reach for boxed salad greens and sliced pears and put them in the bottom part of this double-layered bento box. The top compartment can hold chicken or other wet vegetables to add at lunchtime. The small round containers hold parmesan cheese and dressing.

Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box
Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box
Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box
Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box

Chicken Greek Salad With Avocado Dressing In A Jar
The salad in a jar is my daughter’s new favorite. Use a thick dressing at the bottom to keep the salad from wilting. For the avocado dressing shown here, place one ripe avocado in a mini-chopper and add lime and orange juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper. Then, layer cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, olives, feta cheese, and chicken, leaving room at the top. When it’s lunchtime, shake the jar and enjoy a very tasty and filling meal!

Chicken Greek Salad in a jar
Chicken Greek Salad in a jar

The Wrap Combo
This wrap is made with boxed spinach and sliced chicken that is meal-prepped earlier. You can include hummus or avocado in the wrap. To keep the wrap on theme, there’s guacamole and salsa for dipping the wrap. Veggie sticks and dip complete the meal.

The wrap combo in a Locksy container
The wrap combo in a Locksy container

The Customizable Sandwich
Sandwiches are one of our favorite options. Usually, they include cheese and some kind of deli meat. My husband likes tomatoes, but doesn’t like them in the sandwich because it makes the bread soggy. That’s why this little Locksy box is perfect. And, so is this yogurt container with a built-in freezer top.

The cusomizable sandwich and the Trudeau Fuel Snack Pod with built-in ice cap
The cusomizable sandwich and the Trudeau Fuel Snack Pod with built-in ice cap

Leftovers For Lunch
I love ordering extra take-out dinner food to use in the next day’s lunch! We do this with falafel, and I make my own Israeli Salad at home as a side dish. The next day, these little pita pockets are the right size to fit in this flat box and the little containers perfectly hold tahini and Israeli salad that can be added to the pitas at mealtime. Look for my recipe for Israeli salad in the next week!

Leftovers for lunch - falafel with condiments in separate containers
Leftovers for lunch – falafel with condiments in separate containers

I hope these lunch ideas have inspired you to try something new for the upcoming school year.

And, I’d love to know what your favorite and most popular lunch ideas are, so please comment below!

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This post was sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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What I’m Sending To University With My Daughter This Fall

 

Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus
Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 1, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks to learn more about the highlighted products.)

Although it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to my oldest daughter when she goes off to university in September, it makes me feel better knowing she’ll have what she needs to make her dorm room feel a bit like home.

When we looked at the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, there were many room décor and snack accessories to choose from! We chose items that are reusable and environmentally friendly, conducive to healthy eating, and durable – so she can still use them when she eventually moves off campus.

Clothing & Shoes Storage

Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers
Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers

These velvet-covered hangers ensure clothes stay put without sliding to the bottom of the closet. Because they’re all the same, the closet will look more organized and aesthetically pleasing.

For shoes, we chose an under bed container to hold out-of-season shoes and an umbrella.

Bath Accessories & Toiletries

Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical
Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical

We went with navy towels because they’re easier to keep clean-looking! A shower caddy is a must, à la sleep-away camp.

Keeping beauty accessories tidy
Keeping beauty accessories tidy

For holding makeup and hair styling accessories, this flat plastic container with high sides is perfect – she can move the bin around and then store it under the bed when it’s not in use.

Coffee & Water Bottles

Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages
Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages

We opted for two types of mugs, in two different sizes. We love that both containers can be used for hot or cold liquids and foods.

Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go
Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go

The smaller mug with a handle is just right because she can easily hold it and reach into her backpack for other things. And, both containers are wide-mouthed and easy to clean – yay!

Coffee Station 

In-room coffee station
In-room coffee station

My daughter is someone for whom writing comes at crunch-time, meaning late night studying. Having an electric kettle on hand means she can make coffee and tea in her room.

She also picked out a rose gold colored coffee press and an electric milk frother. She’s very excited about sharing lattes and drinks with friends while enjoying the usual fun conversations that come with dorm living.

Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug
Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug

By the way, we’ve been making iced lattes every morning at home for a few months now and one of our tricks is sweetening the drinks with simple syrup (recipe below). This reduces the need to store sugar in the dorm room, not to mention keeping ants at bay!

To quickly make a latte, pour coffee into a tumbler, add syrup to taste, and then pour in the milk – usually no spoon is needed for mixing!

Jars For Storage and Snacks

Jars for desk accessories and snack storage
Jars for desk accessories and snack storage

Keeping snacks such as nuts and chocolate in glass jars or plastic containers is neater, sanitary, and more conducive to having dorm-mates drop in for a chat and a snack.

We also liked this set of 3 mason jars in a caddy for storing markers, pens and pencils, coffee utensils, and reusable stainless-steel straws.

Himalayan Salt Rock Lamp

Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp
Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp

When my daughter saw this lamp, she loved it for various reasons. It gives off a warm, zen light, setting a calm mood for the room. And, the negative ions it emits help manage dust and odors.

Packing up for university is still a few weeks away, but getting these items ready is making the upcoming university drop-off feel like it’s going to run a tad more smoothly!

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Drops of lemon juice

Place the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, adding the lemon juice a minute before you remove the syrup from the heat. Store in a closed jar, at room temperature.

What tips do you have for helping a student get dorm-ready?

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This post was sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions are my own. A special thank you goes out to Sophie and Joanna for helping me with understanding dorm life needs today!

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Tahini Freezer Fudge

No Bake Salted Tahini Cookie Dough Fudge
No Bake Salted Tahini Cookie Dough Fudge from Ambitious Kitchen

Have you ever tried freezer fudge? It’s easy, quick, and no-bake — and, it’s my new favorite fudge.

I’ve always loved fudge: the texture, the bite-sized pieces, and the sweetness. And, I’ve made lots of fudge using condensed milk and chocolate, or using cream and butter and icing sugar. But, this freezer fudge, made with coconut oil, is just so simple and fast to make that I had to share it with you.

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How Colorful Tableware Changes Your Outdoor Dining Experience

 

Simple Steak Dinner on Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus
Simple Steak Dinner on Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus blog, on July 19, 2018)

It’s amazing how a set of outdoor tableware can change how one feels about eating outdoors. I recently won a flatlay contest sponsored by Collective Influence, a blogger/influencer association, of which I’m a member, and Kitchen Stuff Plus, one of southwestern Ontario’s leading kitchen and homewares stores. The prize was this beautiful tableware set for eight that my family and friends loved using this past weekend.

Outdoor Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus
Outdoor Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus

The tableware is called the Madrid and it’s part of the Blue Sky collection. It’s made out of BPA-free melamine that won’t mark when you use a steak knife on it like we did this weekend! It’s light-weight, dishwasher safe, and the perfect size for a bbq meal or just lounging around at home or in nature. The dinner dishes are the same size as indoor plates but the side dishes and bowls are slightly larger. These larger side dishes and bowls can be used as extra dishes when you have more guests. Continue reading

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Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad That’s Perfect For Summer BBQs

Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad

Sometimes I come across a recipe that I keep making over and over, like this Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad from Rose Reisman. I’m sharing it because I make it a lot in the summertime!

I saw this recipe in our local paper years ago and thought I would try it because it sounded perfect as an accompaniment to barbecued meals. It’s made with mangoes, black beans. sweet peppers, corn and coriander – all some of my favorite ingredients. The coriander is part of the dressing and the more you use, the better the salad tastes. If you have an herb garden and grow coriander, then you’ll love this salad because you likely already have this herb on hand.

Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad

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Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups – And, They’re No-Bake!

 

Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups Made With Penotti Cookie Notti
Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups Made With Penotti Cookie Notti

I love to bake, a lot, and recently I’ve been experimenting with cookie butter. I discovered cookie butter about a year ago and I’ve been busy developing new ways to bake with it.

Cookie butter is a spread that’s been popular in Europe for many years and is now available and gaining popularity in North America. Made primarily from speculoos cookies, cookie butter looks like and has a similar consistency to peanut butter.

When I did some reading on the origins of cookie butter and speculoos cookies in particular, I realized that I practically grew up on these cookies! Speculoos, or speculaas, cookies are a Belgian spiced shortbread cookie that are popular year round in Europe. You’ve probably seen them in old-fashioned type tins around the holidays and you may have seen them in the cookie section of your grocery store. Speculoos cookies are brown in color, crunchy, and often have a caramel flavor in addition to hints of cinnamon. In Europe and the Middle East, these cookies are served as tea biscuits and used for baking – they’re consumed and enjoyed all year round.

Speculoos Cookies
Speculoos Cookies

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3 Things I Know For Sure About My Anxiety Journey

As someone who suffers from anxiety on a regular basis, I’ve noticed there are three things that have been consistently true about this mental illness: each anxiety journey is personal, it changes over time, and talking about it helps.

When I shared my personal anxiety journey with you in a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day, I mentioned that I would post more on living with anxiety. I have a lot to share.

Anxiety is a personal journey

The first point I’ve noticed about anxiety is that it’s a personal journey.

As the stigma around mental illness is slowly being lifted, more and more people are talking about having anxiety, and no two stories are alike. This was a big a-ha moment for me, because when people would open up to me, I wanted to help. I know what it is to suffer, and I want to share my experience. But, you can’t really give advice to someone else because of the nuanced thoughts and behaviors around each person’s experience.

Each anxiety journey is unique. I took two Cognitive Behavior Therapy classes, which worked really well for me, and it was in the second one that the mental health professional would specifically remind us not to say ‘you should do x, y, or z’ to anyone. We had to use words like ‘for me, this worked’ or ‘I found this helpful in this situation’. At first that bothered me because I had to check myself a lot, but I soon understood. Each person’s story was completely different.

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5 Ways To Make Toronto (Or Any Big City) Feel Smaller

Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall
Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall

Ever feel like Toronto is getting too big, too busy, and too hard to get around? Well, you’re not alone. In 2016, the census metropolitan area of Toronto was almost 6 million and is growing at a faster rate than the national average. In fact, Toronto ranks as North America’s 4th largest city in terms of population, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit, after Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.

I love living in a big city. There are always new exhibitions to see, restaurants to try, and quaint neighborhoods to discover. In fact, I often feel there are so many options to choose from, and that I miss out on some fantastic opportunities because I just can’t be in two places at the same time!

One of the things that I’d like to share more with you, the readers of my blog, is how to live slow and intentionally. I didn’t realize there was a term for how I like to live. I’m an emotional person, love connecting with people, and tend to overthink things. But I also appreciate all the things life has to offer, the big and the small, the material and the immaterial. I like being alone as much as I like being with others. And, I like walking outside as much as I can, enjoying nature and just feeling a part of the world. Yes, even in a big city, you can experience much of mother nature. Continue reading

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How To Make The Best Avocado Greek Salad!

Avocado Greek Salad
Avocado Greek Salad

There’s one salad that my husband and kids can all agree on, and that’s my Avocado Greek Salad! It’s also a hit with guests at our summer barbecues, family holiday dinners, and basically all year-round. It’s very easy to make, and with the avocados, feta cheese, and olives, it’s a filling and delicious salad. Most people ask for the recipe as soon as they’ve had their first bite.

Greek Salad, like most foods these days, means different things to different people. There are so many variations at restaurants and in homes. Some Greek Salad is made with iceberg lettuce, others with romaine lettuce. The type of feta cheese used (sheep or cow) can make a difference in taste, as can the type of tomato (plum versus hot house versus beef steak or even cherry tomatoes).

And, the original Greek Salad is not likely what you’re having when you go to a Greek restaurant in North America. The traditional Greek Salad, called Horiatiki, is made with tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, and cucumbers – without any lettuce. It’s dressed with sliced feta, kalamata olives, salt, oregano, and the best olive oil and (sometimes) vinegar — this is what you’ll find served in most restaurants in Greece.

Although the traditional Greek Salad is delicious, my family likes it with the addition of romaine lettuce and a whole avocado. Yes, I said avocado! We all know the health benefits of avocados: they’re low in saturated fat, contain zero cholesterol, and are high in potassium. There’s also something about the avocado that lends a creaminess and dimension to the salad. Continue reading

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7 Reasons I Love Visiting With Family

Broummana, Lebanon
Broummana, Lebanon

7 Reasons I Love Visiting With Family

In the last month, I’ve visited with family in two very different parts of the world, and I wanted to share with you why I loved these two family visits. In early March, I went to Lebanon to visit my parents, brothers, and extended family, and, in late March, we went to the US to visit my husband’s family. Although these trips were in places far apart from each other, the reasons I enjoyed the visits are very similar.

As part of being mindful of how I spend my time, I really paid attention to the visits I had and why they were so important and meaningful. Visiting family seems like something you do because it’s associated with a certain holiday or milestone. Sometimes you feel like you need to make these visits out of obligation or expectations. Sometimes you love making the trips and taking the effort. And, sometimes, you’re just so darn grateful for the opportunities and savor each moment. The latter is how I felt in the last month.

Here are the 7 reasons I loved visiting with family recently. I hope they inspire you to plan more visits!

Reason 1: My family is a part of my history
This sounds so obvious, but it’s really deeper than having people who are related to you. I’m talking about the family resemblance, the common cultural background, a country’s understood traditions, and the feeling of connectedness. When you’re around your immediate and extended family, you see where some of your mannerisms and points of reference come from. For example, in Lebanon, we’re a bit of loud family. We yell from room to room or outside to someone in the garden. The neighbors pretty much know what we’re up to! In my family in particular, we are bitterly honest with each other and we tell it like it is. For spouses and in-laws, this may seem harsh at times, but it’s what we’re used to and how we grew up. It’s done lovingly, really. Engaging in this banter made me understand that growing up like this was normal for me, but that it might not seem so normal to my nuclear family of my husband and two teens, or for my in-laws. Continue reading

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