Lunch memories!

Today has been all about lunches!  (To prepare for the Brown Bag Challenge, of course!)  My earliest lunch memory (circa mid-70’s) consisted of a bologna sandwich on homemade bread in an actual brown paper bag!  My dearest wish was one day my Mom would pack peanut butter and jelly.  I tried to convince her a PB&J would make me popular.  I was alone in a universe of PB&J eating people. My seven-year old brain was convinced I was the only kid on the planet who had to eat bologna. Mom explained peanut butter and jelly would be mushy by noon and who wants a mushy sandwich?  ME!  I wanted a mushy sandwich!  A sweet, sticky, mushy peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread. It was my grade-school lunch fantasy. Alas, it was bologna on homemade bread that traveled with me to school every day.  As I got older I started trading for things.  There were little toys and rubber balls exchanged for a Ding-Dong or potato chips. I even remember doing someone’s homework in exchange for Oreos!  All the sweet stuff I was never allowed to have, I bargained and bantered to get.  In high school things changed. We went from bringing our lunch to buying it in the cafeteria or simply doing without.  No one.  I mean no one brought their lunch in high school.  It just wasn’t cool. I do remember the cafeteria having huge tubs of thousand island dressing (which was heavenly), paying for salad by weight and wrapping cans of soda in aluminum foil because we thought it would keep it cold longer.  Ahhh, the 80’s.

Fast forward several years and I was packing lunch for my kids.  Obviously traumatized by my lack of PB&J, I made sure they got sandwiches on Wonder Bread and some other stuff I missed:  Goldfish crackers, pudding cups, juice boxes, string cheese, etc.  My youngest says he traded for Ding-Dongs because that’s what all the “cool kids” were eating.  Interesting!  I don’t know why I never put Ding-Dongs in their lunches. I guess that will be their PB&J fantasy when they are feeding their own children.  I do remember putting carrot sticks in their lunches occasionally.  Those carrot sticks made me feel better about not having an entirely “healthy” lunch for each of them.  I’m certain they never ate those carrots though.

Fast forward again to today.  My oldest son is out of the house and shopping for himself.  He loves organic foods and makes salad almost every day for lunch.  My daughter is also out of the house.  She is a vegetarian who loves anything with cheese!  My youngest (the Ding-Dong trader) is in high school, doesn’t pack a lunch and it takes an act of Congress to get him to eat anything in the morning before he leaves for class.  He would rather sleep than worry about nutrition.  He will eat when he gets home, but by then he is so hungry he doesn’t really care what he has.  Lunch for me usually consists of a sandwich or Panini, an occasional fast food rice bowl with egg rolls or a yogurt.  Hardly balanced, definitely not good for me and seriously BORING!  My goal for this challenge is to have lunches that are delicious, nutritious and interesting.  I want to create meals I will look forward to eating and most importantly will benefit my health!  Don’t worry, I plan on having at least one PB&J along the way too.  Who is joining me?


September Brown Bag Challenge!

Here is what I will be doing in September! Follow the link below to be part of Food Networks Healthy Eating Challenge. I’m excited about making changes in how I eat, so this is the perfect starting point. I’ll be sharing how much money I save (which I will donate to charity at the end of the month!) and work on creating some fun meals to make lunch more fun!! Who is with me? Brown bag your lunches the entire month of September. See you in the kitchen!

Brown Bag ChallengeWe’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you’re eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

Recovery Day w/Food Blogs!

Today is “recovery” day from the 50th birthday party  last night.  So what have I been doing while in recovery mode?  Reading food blogs and finding fascinating people to follow on twitter!  I discovered a whole new world of people who love food as much as I do!  Reading through other people’s blogs helped me see where I want to be in a few years. There are things I love about my blog right now, but plenty of things to improve too. I still need to figure out ways to put up pictures, but I’ll get there.  For now, since I’m still in recovery mode, I’m going to catch the end of Julie & Julia on Lifetime!  Happy Sunday everyone!

Hot Chocolate Recipe

Am I crazy to be posting a Hot Chocolate Recipe in the midst of a national heat wave?  Probably.  Will that stop me?  No way!  From a very early age, my children had home-made cocoa mix instead of the instant envelope kind.  When they had a bad day at school or with a friend, we’d have cookies and cocoa and talk it out.  Today I am in need of cookies, cocoa and a hug.  So, here is my hug to each of you and my recipe for Cocoa mix to make it all better.  Heck, it might even make this heat wave go away!

Sara’s Home-made Hot Cocoa


1 – 25.6 oz package of Instant Dry Milk

1 – 12 oz jar powdered non-dairy creamer

2 cups powdered sugar

1 – 24 oz can Nestles powdered chocolate milk mix (i.e. Nestle Quick)


Mix all ingredients together in a huge bowl using a wooden spoon.  How hard is that?  🙂  Makes 20 cups of Cocoa Mix.

To prepare:

Boil water in a kettle or on the stove (or microwave).  Stir in 4 TBLS Cocoa mix for every 8 oz (1 cup) hot water.  Serve!

This mix will keep for several months in the pantry.  Use a container with a lid and you’ll be set for long nights of Cocoa-y goodness.  Prepared and put into cute mason jars, this recipe works great as a gift for your kids teachers, family, friends or co-workers.

This recipe is very easy to adjust too.  If you like more chocolate flavor, add more powdered chocolate.  If you want it creamier, add more non-dairy creamer (I think Coffeemate tastes best for this recipe, the generic brands don’t have the depth of flavor.) If you like it sweeter, add more sugar.  You get the idea! Take it and make it your own – that’s what cooking is all about right?   I’ve used this to make Caffe Mocha’s by stirring the cocoa mix into hot coffee – delicious.  For an “adult” version, add the cocoa mix to your coffee and then add some Bailey’s.  It’s the perfect Irish Coffee.

Recipe yields about 20 cups of Cocoa Mix, but the number of servings you get out of it will depend on your taste and of course, how often you make Cocoa.   Enjoy!

Being me!

My kitchen is a mess right now.  We are getting ready for my DH’s 50th birthday party this weekend.  Is the kitchen covered in food?  Smothered beneath layers of flour and sugar?  Are recipes laying everywhere?  Are there wild and exotic ingredients in the fridge? Nope!  There are hammers, nails, saws, pieces of baseboard and not a single thing that looks like a cake or a cookie!   What a shame!   Consequently, as we are cleaning and preparing our home to be shared with family and friends, I stopped to ponder if I were making dinner for everyone, what would we serve?  Knowing me, it would have to be a multi-course meal.  Snacks or appetizers for people to nosh when they first arrived.  Something bite size and easy to handle.  Perhaps bruschetta?  There would be several different drink options – of the non-alcohol and alcoholic variety.  (This weekend I am making Vanilla Bean Lemonade!) A fabulous salad of some kind (with homemade dressing and shaved cheese, of course.)  Then, the main event with a side dish and warm bread.  Possibly Tri-Tip with glazed carrots and Sourdough bread.  Then the end of the meal, dessert.  Hands down, my favorite part of creating dinner.  Whenever I’m asked to bring something to a meeting or some other function, my brain always goes to dessert.  What can I bring that’s sweet?  I inherited my sweet tooth from my Grandmother.  She *loved* sweet things.  The recipes I have of hers are not meat and potatoes.  They are Monster Cookies, Peanut Butter Fudge and Rhubarb Crisp.  That’s who I am too!  I love cooking anything and everything, but give me the chance to make you a new batch of cookies, brownies, cheesecake or even last weeks Sopapilla and I’ll take it every time!   What about you?  What’s your favorite thing to cook?


Where do you find your inspiration in the kitchen?  Where do you look when you want a new recipe?

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