Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lunch Lady

I love everything about Katie's elementary school. I love the teachers, I love the administration, I love the small town hominess of it all. But talk to me for more than five minutes about school and you will learn the one thing that I hate with a white hot passion:

School Lunch.

School lunch is, at best, barely edible. At worst, it is a vile, soggy, breaded mess of reheated crap on a plate. I wholeheartedly support the changes that so many people are trying to make, and wonder exactly when those changes are going to reach us out here in the boonies.

Our elementary school was given Title I status this year. If you're not familiar with the term, Title I schools typically have 40% or more of the students classified as low income. Title I means more federal funding, and in a rural area where many of the kids are living close to the poverty line, that's a good thing.

So, with approximately 40% of our student body underprivledged and on free/reduced lunch, the lunch (and often breakfast, too) they receive at school may well be the best meal they get all day. Don't we owe it to them to give them something more nutritious, more delicious, more palatable, than chicken dino-bites and razzy applesauce?

I think so.

I'm not a food snob. I believe that people should eat delicious food made from quality ingredients, in a wide variety. I think pizza every now and again is fine. So are chips and chocolate and ice cream and Moon Pie trifles. But if a child is going to get one good meal a day, then it should pack all the nutritional punch it can. And in that regard, our schools are failing our children. Even the schools that we love.

I started this post intending to just share ideas for packing lunches, and it seems my soapbox got in the way of that. New ideas for lunches are always a popular topic among moms of elementary aged kids, so I promise to do that soon. In the meantime, here's a recipe for some really outstanding granola bars I made today. I started with a recipe from Alton Brown, then heavily modified it because, as usual, I always get a bug up my butt to make something and then get started without first checking to see if I have all the ingredients.

They are outstanding. Next time, I will use the wheat germ like I was supposed to instead of the whole wheat flour. I think they would hold together a little better. I will also use the 9x9 pan I was supposed to bake the actual bars in, instead of a half sheet pan, which would help as well. Other than that, the modifications (especially the almond extract) were awesome. The girls did not care for the cherry craisins, and they don't really like raisins, so I'll have to find a dried fruit to suit them. Pineapple or mango might be good, if I switched the extract back to vanilla.

Eat however you want, but feed your children well. They depend on you for it.

SFC Granola Bars  

(Bastardized from the amazing and always reliable Alton Brown)


  • 8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups
  • 1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup
  • 1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup (this is where I used whole wheat flour, as it's what I had on hand. In researching, it seems flax seed is a better substitute. Something else I don't keep on hand!)
  • 6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup (thanks to the Husband's fried JJ, a beekeeper!)
  • 1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed
  • 1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (original recipe calls for vanilla, and I was, unbelievably, out of vanilla extract!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries (here is where I used the cherry juice infused cranberries. Kid fail.)
  • 1 C coconut (because I love it, omit it if you don't)
  • Optional - Good handful of semisweet chocolate chips (because they're delicious, that's why)


Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, and wheat germ (or whole wheat flour) onto a half sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium  saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit and chocolate chips, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week. 


  1. It is awesome! Love me some Alton Brown with a little bastardizing on the side!

  2. That sounds yummy. Think I'll have to try this. I love reading your posts. Very entertaining.

  3. What a wonderful post! I agree with you whole-heartedly! I wish all public schools would return to in-house cooked meals using real, chemical-free ingredients. There have been so many studies about how much better children are able to concentrate (and therefore, learn) when they are fed fresh fruits, veg, whole grains etc. instead of reheated, packaged, over-processed foods. I love junk food as much as the next gal, but it's time to treat our children a little better!