Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Food Free Rewards for Middle School

My daughter survived her first year of middle school.  Truthfully, it was not as food filled and harrowing as elementary school was.  And, we had a very supportive guidance counselor to help us navigate the challenges, 98% of which stemmed from her allergies.

At her school they have a rewards/recognition program whereby every student in the school has the opportunity to earn points, and those with enough accumulated points participate in an special event each quarter.  Points are earned through academic achievements as well as citizenship in the school and community.  The number of students that participate is quite large!  They throw an event for about 200 students!

Of course, when rewarding that many students, budget is a key consideration.  Pizza was often part of the reward... Pizza means I drop what I am doing that day, and make a pizza to run over to her.  There were a few other foods as well, but pizza is the most time consuming endeavor for me.  And I like to deliver it warm, it's better that way.

Last year I did ask if we could have more rewards where the focus was not on food.  The guidance councilor advised that he would gladly consider that, and asked if I would compile a list of suggestions.  I did!  I included all ranges of budget, and included a separate list of local vendors that are able to provide allergy friendly treats if desired.

I thought I would share that list with you, in case you need inspiration for activities for your middle school kiddo.  These are all activities for large groups, but most could be scaled down to be for one classroom.  Feel free to add to the list- the more ideas the better!

Food Free Celebrations for middle school

  • Trip to Rave Cinema (or other)- fountain drink for all, plus a movie
  • Climbing wall at facility or on location- many bounce house rental places will set one up
  • Face/hand/arm painting and/or henna tattoos
  • Hire local performance artist: magician, band, comedian, etc
  • Dave and Buster’s
  • Sky Zone
  • Skate Zone 71
  • The Chiller
  • Teacher dunking booth, pie in face stand- students stop by during SSR/lunch/study hall, or do festival style with multiple booths available to all students at the same time- including a booth to honor teachers in some way
  • Highlands swimming or Rec Center swimming (the local pools)
  • Zip Zone or similar (local zip line)
  • Bowling
  • Lazer Craze
  • Putt-putt golf, glo-putt
  • Radio station broadcast from school grounds, Ren students can make requests, dance, and convene in area near DJ, station is played over school PA system between classes
  • Life size foosball and hungry hippos (google this- hilarious fun for all!!)
  • Decorate the office staff’s/leadership’s  cars- decorations to remain on for specified amount of time (24-72 hours): supply decorations and split the Ren students into teams to decorate cars- you may need to do more staff cars in order to allow everyone the opportunity to decorate
  • Ren students released 5 minutes early from each class for one day
  • Create a flash mob video for you-tube
  • Stairway pass- earn a pass to use the stairway of your choice for one day/one week
  • Eat lunch outside- combine SSR and lunch for an extended lunch period outdoors
  • Book of homework passes- earn a book of 2,3,or 5 homework passes based on Ren points earned
  • Designate a Ren Room- students can stop by the room on their lunch/study hall/ SSR to play video games on the chrome books, listen to music, socialize, etc
  • Graffiti wall- large sheet of plywood/drywall painted white, students can decorate with paint/sharpies
  • Life size maze set up in field next to school
  • Go- carting
  • Pass to skip a period (could be used to go to the Ren Room)
  • Mammoth water gun fight

Hopefully something above will spark a creative idea in you!  Tell me what you thought of!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Menu Plan Monday

I know. I know.  It's not Monday.  I still did the plan on Monday, I just haven't shared it yet.  I decided instead that going to bed luxuriously early on Monday sounded more appealing, so I went to bed at 9 when the kids did.  Know what?  It was fabulous.  Starting the week with a little extra sleep is so lovely!

Here is the plan that has been, and will be, keeping us on track this week.  I hope your week stays on track too!

Monday (beef)
Breakfast: pumpkin muffins
Lunch: Italian sausage and peppers
Dinner spaghetti with meat sauce

Tuesday (fish)
Breakfast: pineapple muffins
Lunch: beans and weenies
Dinner: shrimp teriyaki, pasta, strawberries

Wednesday (turkey)
Breakfast: cranberry orange muffins
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas

Thursday (vegan)
Breakfast: pork sausage and cinnamon roasted squash
Lunch: meatloaf
Dinner: lentil dahl

Friday (pork)
Breakfast: sunbutter muffins
Lunch: veg chili
Dinner: lasagna, spinach salad

Saturday (beef)
Breakfast: bacon cheddar muffins
Lunch: calzones
Dinner: tacos

Sunday (fish)
Breakfast: donuts
Lunch: Red Robin?
Dinner: salmon, green beans, melon

Please remember that all links are to the original recipe and may not reflect the changes I make to ensure they are safe for the dietary restrictions in our home.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Menu Plan Monday

Here it is, Monday again!  It is amazing to me how quickly a week can speed by.  This week, I am prepared with my menu plan to help make weeknights a little less chaotic.  As always, I keep a few quick things in the freezer for when the day explodes into crazy and the plan won't work.  Here's the plan this week (with a few holdovers from last week that just didn't manage to happen.)

Monday (vegan)
Breakfast: turkey sausage, Alexia Harvest Saute
Lunch: beans and weenies
Dinner: squash soup, spinach salad with berries

Tuesday (pork)
Breakfast: strawberry muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: crock pot pulled pork, green beans, spiced peaches

Wednesday (beef)
Breakfast: bacon, green muffins
Lunch: pulled pork
Dinner: beef burgers, fries, broccoli

Thursday (fish)
Breakfast: sweet potato hash, green smoothie
Lunch: beef sliders
Dinner: fish sticks, roasted carrots, applesauce

Friday (turkey)
Breakfast: pineapple muffins
Lunch: hummus wraps
Dinner: turkey pot pie

Saturday (vegan)
Breakfast: pancakes with warm apple topping
Lunch: turkey roll up
Dinner: two bean chili, cornbread

Sunday (pork)
Breakfast: breakfast cookies
Lunch: chili
Dinner: italian sausage and peppers, roasted cauliflower, melon

*Note: Links provided are often to the original recipe and may not reflect the changes I make to ensure they are free of the allergens for our house. Each recipe above, as I make it, is free of: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, chicken, rice, oats, kiwi, avocado, banana, coconut, and chocolate.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Menu Plan

Back to the routine.  I've gone the whole summer without making a menu plan, and it shows!  Meals have been a constant mystery, and often I'm making last minute trips to the store to pick up odds and ends.  Time to get back to the weekly plan to help reduce the chaos in our lives, and make sure we are eating (somewhat) healthy meals.  That should help smooth out those crazy school nights, which are due to start in less than a week! Eeep!

Monday (fish)
Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: fish tacos

Tuesday (turkey)
Breakfast: zucchini muffins, smoothie
Lunch: fish taco salad
Dinner: turkey meatballs, green beans, oven roasted potatoes

Wednesday (vegan)
Breakfast: sweet potato hash, turkey sausage
Lunch: turkey burgers
Dinner: butternut squash soup, spinach salad with berries

Thursday (pork)
Breakfast: pumpkin muffins (I know, I know.  It's a bit early to start pumpkin-ing.)
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: crock pot pulled pork, roasted corn and zucchini salad, applesauce

Friday (beef)
Breakfast: pork sausage on biscuit, green smoothie
Lunch: ham "lunchables"
Dinner: chili bake

Saturday (fish)
Breakfast: waffles, two berry syrup
Lunch: corn dogs
Dinner: salmon, broccoli, melon

Sunday (turkey)
Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: salmon salad wraps
Dinner: creamy turkey casserole, peas

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Maple Bacon Muffins

Because what could be better than the union of salty savory bacon and sweet maple syrup in a muffin?!

I'm a fan of including protein at breakfast, and my kiddos love muffins, so it seemed natural to merge the two.  This is a sweet treat that makes any morning feel indulgent, but if you prefer to start with a bit more savory in your day try my Bacon Cheddar Muffins.

Maple Bacon Muffins

  • 2 cups flour (I use a blend of spelt, quinoa, and AP... but any combination would work.)
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (only if using a gluten free blend, omit if using gluten)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 strips bacon (more or less according to your taste)
  • 1/4 cup good-quality maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp bacon drippings, cooled (from 8 strips bacon above ^)
  • 1 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp warm water (to replace an egg)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar
First, lets chat about that bacon.  I like to open the pack and just chop it in half.  I put half right into the freezer, then chop the rest into little pieces.  THEN I cook it.  It's so easy to brown that way, just stirring the little bits around.  No constant flipping, no spots that cook less or more... it works for me.  You could also toss it into the oven and cook it, or cook the slices then crumble them.  Whatever makes you happy.  Just as long as we have little bits of delicious crispiness at the end.
Now combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.  Combine non-dairy milk and vinegar in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Add maple syrup, flax meal and water.  Then add the bacon drippings from the cooked bacon.  If you don't have 4 Tbsp, then just add the oil of your choice to make up the balance.  Let those wet ingredients sit for a moment, and go ahead and line your muffin tins.
Whisk the wet ingredients to combine thoroughly and add to the dry.  Stir gently to combine.  Fold in the bacon.  Scoop into muffin cups.  (The number you get will depend on the amount of bacon used.  I generally get 11 muffins. Weird.) Bake at 350 for 22 minutes.
You may drizzle with more maple syrup when they come out if you want to pump up the maple flavor, but it is totally optional!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quinoa Milk

I have watched quinoa milk showing up in stores for quite awhile now, but always as a blend with other non-dairy milks.  quinoa-rice, quinoa almond, never alone.  We have not been able to sample any of the blends because they include things that are not tolerated in our house.  Then, about two weeks ago: Ta-Da!  Single grain quinoa milk appeared on the shelf of our local Whole Foods.  Of course I bought some to take home and try.  I'm always looking for non-dairy milks that pump up our nutrition. Here are the ingredients on this one:

I brought home the unsweetened vanilla.  I always try to buy milk with no added sweeteners, and I know that quinoa has a rather prominent flavor, so I thought the vanilla might be a good way to ease into it.

Nutritionally, it has less protein that I would expect with only 2g per serving.  Even without added sugar or sweetener it has 2g of sugars per serving!  (My other non-dairy milks have 0.)  It carries a healthy amount of calcium (30%), vitamin D (25%), and vitamin E (30%), with trace amounts of a handful of other important minerals.

Upon pouring a glass, the color is decidedly not white, more of a gray tan.  I chilled mine prior to sampling.  The mouth feel was similar to rice milk, thin and lacking in body.  The vanilla flavor was very prominent on the front end, with a slightly bitter note following.  All of my taste testers noted a slightly unpleasant aftertaste.  Overall my family agrees that this is not offensive in any way, but not a milk they would not chose to drink plain.

My conclusion:  I won't go out of my way to buy this milk.  It might be a nice way to expand the variety in the house on occasion, but it does not carry significant nutritional load, flavor, or body that would make it a must have.  I think that I shall use the remainder of this carton for baking.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Menu Plan Monday

Monday (Vegan)
Breakfast: pork sausage
Lunch: ham
Dinner: pizza

Tuesday (turkey)
Breakfast: squash muffins, green smoothie
Lunch: sunbutter and jelly
Dinner: turkey meatballs, roasted turnips and rutabagas, spiced peaches

Wednesday (beef)
Breakfast: turkey sausage and biscuits, oranges
Lunch: meatballs
Dinner: beef stew, peas

Thursday (pork)
Breakfast: sunbutter muffins
Lunch: beef stew
Dinner: pulled pork, cauliflower rice, roasted beets

Friday (fish)
Breakfast: bacon cheddar muffins
Lunch: pulled pork
Dinner: salmon, green beans, cherry applesauce

Saturday (vegan)
Breakfast: cream of buckwheat
Lunch: on your own
Dinner: 2 bean chili, cornbread

Sunday (turkey)
Breakfast: waffles
Lunch: chili
Dinner: mulligatawny soup, kale salad with apples