I'm still finding it hard to comprehend, but in a mere four days my big baby girl will be starting school *gulp*. For some reason when the kindy year finished last year, I thought that between then and now things would have changed, you know, she would seem older and I would seem well, ready. Cause lets face it fellow mums, they are ready, we are not. She's been ready for a long time now, and for the past week has been asking me daily "how many days to go 'till I start school Mum?". She's so ready.
She's going to love school, I just know it. She's such a busy little bee and loves the constant stimulation school provides which mum doesn't. My only worry is how her little body will cope with five full days of it? The next few months are going to be pretty full I'm guessing, while her body adjusts and adapts. She did only just drop her day sleep late last year after all!
The day after she starts school, my little man is going to be starting kindy *another gulp*. He loves the idea of it all, being able to do more craft projects than we do at home and finally being able to play in what was only ever "Ada's" playground has him super excited. But I fear what will happen when he realises mum's going. He knows it's going to happen in theory, we've talked about it a lot, but I still have my fingers crossed that when it comes time for me to leave, he's okay. There's nothing more heart breaking than your child screaming as you leave, the tears building up in your eyes as you walk out the door.
Now moving onto the other big stress that comes with kids starting school and kindy... lunches. Or gluten-free lunches to be exact.
Growing up I had a love-hate relationship with school lunches. My mum would always pack us amazing healthy vegetarian lunches. I remember lots of fruit, yoghurts, nuts, dried fruit and sandwiches. But I also have memories of trying to hide my "hippy" sandwiches (natural peanut butter and alfalfa sprouts if I remember right, mum?) from my friends by only unwrapping just enough of my sammie to sneak a little bite before anyone looked. I always wished I could have packets of chips or a pie from the tuck-shop for lunch or just regular vegemite or cheese sandwiches on white bread, not brown, wrapped in glad wrap (plastic wrap) not paper. I also remember with great clarity how tomato sandwiches tasted once they'd been sitting in my bag all morning, with their warm limpness wetting the bread making me gag with every mouthful. I vowed to never make my kids have to eat vegetable sandwiches while at school (they eat them at home happily, freshly made). I instead keep their sandwiches simple, spread with my beloved Vegemite (wheat but not gluten-free) or nut butters that I know will get eaten, I then just add loads of vegetable sticks and cherry tomatoes separately for them to snack on. Same ingredients as a vege sandwich, just separate!
I now totally appreciate how determined my parents were to bring us up eating real food, even when no one else around them was doing the same. It was the 80's after all, where mince and cheese pies were considered good food and flavoured milks were just coming into vogue. I'm now just like my mum. (Seriously mum, thank you! I forgive you for those weird sandwich combinations, really). I refuse to buy pre-packaged kids "lunch" foods, preferring to fill the kids lunch boxes instead with fresh, healthy, home made foods with a few naturally sweet treats thrown to keep things exciting. Eating gluten-free doesn't have to be any harder than regular lunches and if your kids know no different they will never complain. (Sure you may get the odd, "I want what Sarah eats mum". But look at me, proof a mums hard work does pay off!).
A few of my favourite lunch box ideas...
- vegetarian sushi. It's my kids favourite and I always make sure I make extra when making it for dinner, leaving plenty for lunches the following day. I save the little soy-sauce squeezies from sushi shops and re-fill with my own tamari or gluten-free soy sauce.
- lightly toasted gluten-free bread spread with peanut/almond or nut-free sunflower seed butter (most schools are nut-free these days) with 1/2 banana for them to squish between the bread when ready to eat.
- boiled eggs, crack the shell a little so they can peel them easily.
- leftover gluten-free pasta salad.
- leftover quinoa and roast vegetables
- yoghurt. Frozen in summer, so that it's lovely and chilled when time to eat.
- a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable sticks
- dried fruit; pears, apple, peach, raisins, sultanas, mango, dates etc...
- stuffed dates (I blitz up almonds and desiccated coconut until paste-like and use this to stuff freshly pitted medjool dates)
- hummus in a little container for dipping vegetable sticks. This can be frozen overnight to keep it from spoiling in their lunch boxes in the warmer months.
- home made sugar-free cookies like todays banana and date based ones.
A few weeks back I had the pleasure of being asked by Amy Green and Maggie Savage to be part of a blogging event to launch their new site The Balanced Platter. It's a place where you can go for balanced, healthy gluten-free living with recipes, tips, how-to's and product reviews.
All month gluten-free bloggers from around the world, have been sharing their recipes and tips for living a balanced, healthy gluten-free life. Click here for all the links to their posts and while you're there have a little browse around, I'm sure you'll be impressed with what's on offer!
The recipe I'm sharing today is one I've been making for quite some time. Inspired by this recipe from 101cookbooks, it is the perfect addition to any kids lunch box. Sweetened with only ripe bananas and a handful of dates they are sweet but not sickly and you needn't fear your kids experiencing the sugar-low that comes from eating most other cookies. I've used quinoa flakes for added protein (and to keep things strictly gluten-free) which pairs perfectly with the coconut flavours and citrus notes.
The end result is somewhere between a muesli-bar and cookie, with a golden exterior and moist buttery coconut orange centre. I like to add chopped dates, but I'm thinking almost any other dried fruit would be wonderful; raisins, cranberries, blueberries, apricot, peach....
Their is one upside to the kids both starting kindy/school... I will now have 2 1/2 days a week to myself for the first time in over 5 years! I can hardly believe it, I will now be able to think without the constant nagging of a small child in my ear, do the grocery shopping without battling over what to buy or breaking up fights over who gets to sit in the trolley that day. I can go for a walk/run/swim when I want to, leave the house with little more than a purse and I will be able to cook like a mad woman, music on high without any fears of waking someone from their nap. This might not be so bad after all...
healthy banana, date + orange cookies
As mentioned above I like to use chopped dates, but you could sub in any of your favourite dried fruit. I'm thinking dried blueberry and lemon (zest) would make for a lovely variation too. Heidi's original recipe uses rolled oats in place of quinoa flakes, so if you tolerate use them if preferred.
makes 3 dozen.
- 3 large ripe bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (60ml) coconut oil, warmed slightly if solid
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 cups (180g) quinoa flakes
- 1/2 cup (55g) almond meal (ground almonds)
- 1/2 cup (45g) desiccated coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (check it's gluten-free)
- 1 cup (160g) pitted dates, finely chopped
Preheat oven 180 C/350 F. Line 2 trays with baking paper and grease.
Mash bananas in a medium size bowl, you will need approx 1 1/2 cups once mashed. Stir in vanilla, coconut oil and orange zest, mixing well to combine.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to form a wet paste-like dough. Take 2 teaspoonfuls of mixture and mould into a cookie shape. Place onto baking trays and bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden around the edges and if you lift one up it is deeply golden on the bottom.
Remove from the oven and cool on the tray 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store airtight for 3-4 days, although I like these best if eaten in the first 1-2 days.
Click here to see my vegetarian sushi recipe and sushi making tips...