PB&J with a boost (a non-recipe)


School is in full swing and I’m already falling into a school lunch rut. I’ve been saving kid lunch ideas all over the place, but can’t seem to think of them when I need to feed hungry kids quickly.

Which is why PB&J was invented right?

You might think as a nutrition student, I would grab for something a bit more … nutritious but alas I am a human being and parent of two and just doing my best. In these moments of doing my best with what I have – which is lack of preparation and half and ounce of energy – I try to think of ways I can boost nutritional value – convenience food or otherwise.

So as I am making PB&J for my hungry kids, those jars of chia and hemp seeds in my fridge come to mind.  And there you have it, redemption for this nutrition student (kidding). I sprinkled some hempseed on the side of the pb and chia on the j. Done.

IMG_4271 2

I thought I was done but my five year old wanted me to make him a fish-shaped sandwich, yes a fish. Let me pause to note, I am definitely not that mom making cute creations out of food or bentos for my kids’ lunches (I’m just not that talented or patient). So I’m puzzled by where this idea came from, but he’s five years old – and in the wild and free mind of one that age, a pb & j sandwich can be a fish.

So we collaborated (because he’s much more talented than me in this area) to make a fish AND a scene in its natural habitat :).

This sandwich has indeed gone from humble to an inspired pb&j sandwich.



With nuts being highly allergic for some kids, it is being banned from schools/ child care facilities. If an alternative to peanut butter is needed sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) seems to be a most neutral and safe one to use in a nut-free situation. 




mapo-tofuIt was one of those week nights I was stumped on what to make for dinner. I could possibly describing most week nights! But I stood numbly in the kitchen and tried to come up with something before hanger crept into the house. In the fridge I saw tofu and some ground pork I bought for meatballs and then boom! ma-po tofu came to mind which is interesting because … meatballs to ma-po tofu? Plus, I’ve never made it before nor have I pinned it, which is the next best thing, right?

Ma-po tofu wasn’t a staple take out or chinese restaurant dish for my family growing up.  My husband actually introduced me to the dish during our dating years. Little did I know the sauce came from a little instant pack from the Asian grocery store where all you have to do is add the fresh ingredients. AKA bachelor food. I was actually quite impressed, because he’s great at visual presentation so it possibly made up a lot for the taste. And hey, I was in love and happy to have dinner made for me. It could have been buttered toast and yum, swoon. Ah, young love.

Well, back in the weeknight kitchen, I looked up the recipe and found one from epicurious.com whose recipes haven’t failed me yet. I saw a key ingredient was bean paste but didn’t specify what kind. As a home cook who rotates between Korean and Japanese food, fermented bean paste is a pantry staple. I had a choice between Japanese Miso and Korean Duenjang and I’m guessing Sichuan cuisine has its own version. I substituted the bean paste with the Korean duenjang because it has a much more pungent and intense flavor than Japanese miso, which I thought was a closer substitution to the flavors I’ve experienced in ma-po tofu. And it turned out lovely! I also happened to have some Sichuan peppercorn that I’ve never used. I toasted and crushed them to garnish I had an impression that it would be overly spicy so didn’t mix it in for the kids, but it’s actually mild and has a licorice-like flavor. Amazing. So next time, I’ll be including it in the entire dish for the kids as well.

Served with a side of veggies and mixed grain rice, I would also file this under healthy and kid friendly, and easy!

After the jump is the recipe from Epicurious.com that I adapted. Enjoy!

Note: After looking up several recipes, it seems this dish is traditionally spicy and fiery, this version with the Korean fermented bean paste was not. It just has the lovely fermented pungent umami flavors that my kids love.  I’ll probably try one of the spicier versions with its just me and the hubby.

Image credit: splendidtable.org

Continue reading “MA-PO TOFU”



Here’s a nice weekend recipe for the little ones. These granola bars are easy and simple so a great one to make with a 3 year old sous chef/baker like I had a few weekends ago.

My youngest is 11 months old so he’s loves eating finger foods and snacks. Between him and my 3 year old it’s a constant chase to stock up on healthy snack options. As a working mom I definitely don’t mind the convenience of Cheerios, yogurt melts, baby mum mums etc. but once in a while (usually the weekends) I go through a fit of making a batch of homemade ones likes these easy granola bars. My eldest loves helping me in the kitchen so its so much fun to see him get excited about checking on our baked goodies to see they’re ready. And the aroma that fills the house … mmm.

The recipe I used for these Baby Granola Bars are from WholesomeBabyfood. They happen to be vegan, for those of you who are looking for eggless recipes. My eldest was actually allergic to eggs so vegan baked goods were a big part of my life for about a year.

Click below for the recipe.

Continue reading “BABY GRANOLA BARS”