7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 214)

April 26, 2013 | 74 comments

— 1 —

Wow, it’s been three weeks since I’ve participated in my own blog carnival. It’s good to be back! And thanks to Grace for replying to multiple last-minute emails with the subject “Can you host 7QT this week?!?!?”

— 2 —

I’ve been doing 7 Quick Takes pretty much every Friday for almost five years, so it felt weird not to spend Thursday afternoons writing my posts (though not that weird, since everything was so chaotic that I usually didn’t know what day it was anyway). Thinking about how long I’ve been in this Friday routine inspired me to look up my first Quick Takes posts, from waaaay back in October 2008. It was especially interesting since the three children I had then were the close to the same ages at that time that my three youngest are now. Reading those stories made me realize that I have learned a few things about management household chaos…but mostly I haven’t, and things are pretty much as crazy now as they were back then.

For those of you who care to stumble along with me down Memory Lane:

  • Quick Takes Vol. 1: The friend I refer to at the top was Hallie. This was back in her pre-blog days, when she didn’t have a fabulous site for me to link to. Also, I really need to revisit that idea from #7 about telling Joe that I’m using our downstairs living area as a performance art space.
  • Quick Takes Vol. 2: Oh, wow. #3. Never again shall I buy clunky metal lunch boxes for my children, no matter how much 80s throwback charm they have. And I still occasionally think about #5 when I’m at the grocery store, filled with a burning desire for vindication so that all the employees of HEB might know once and for all that there WAS a black widow in my grapes!!!
  • Quick Takes vol. 5: Ha, ha! I can’t believe I ever tried to convince Joe that we should make our own yogurt (#3). That is the very definition of “exercise in futility.”

— 3 —

One of the things that surprised me about the whole NICU thing was how much the kids missed me. For one thing, they were staying with their grandmothers, whom they see almost every day anyway, so they were in familiar environments. But mainly I was surprised because I thought they’d enjoy having competent caretakers for a while, since I was not exactly adding a lot of value to our family during the last few weeks of the pregnancy. I mean, seriously: if I could have found a large mannequin with an unbrushed reddish-gray wig and a voicebox that would yell “STOP IT!” at ten-minute intervals, I could have planted it in my chair in the living room and it would have covered fully 80% of what I was doing in the average day.

But, as it turned out, my kids were evidently pretty happy to have foul-tempered-blob mommy around, as evidenced by how anxious they were for me to come home from the NICU. It’s made me feel more confident about my parenting skills (or lack thereof) to know that simply being present counts for a lot.

— 4 —

I need to take this opportunity to give a huge shout-out to my friend Kathryn Whitaker, whose blog you should read if you don’t already. She was such a huge help to me over these past couple of weeks. Her fifth child was in the NICU for 44 long days, so she had an intimate understanding of the challenges I was facing (she wrote a great post with tips for parents of NICU babies, which applies to anyone going through a stressful time).

Kathryn stopped by the hospital to visit me the day after the baby was born and gave me a ride out of there, which was a tough moment since I was leaving the maternity ward without a baby. She sent me encouraging texts, and delivered an amazing NICU survival gift bag to the hospital. The day before our little man was released, she came by my house with some pre-prepared meals for our freezer, as well as a generous gift certificate to The Studio Kitchen which she’d put together with donations from other generous friends. She even offered to pick up our Studio Kitchen meals so that I don’t have to go pile everyone into the car! She is every bit as gracious and kind and superwoman-ish as she seems on her blog. Thanks, Kathryn!

— 5 —

I have a food challenge for you: I need some creative lunch ideas. Not “creative” as in “I want to assemble the food on my children’s plates in the likeness of St. Pius V in honor of his feast day, ” but “creative” like “I’m trying not to eat about half of the food items that would typically be involved in an American lunch.” Joe expressed some mild concern about the current meal plan of letting the kids eat chips off the floor, and even I have caught myself marveling at the fact that my children can sustain life on the quasi-edible things that I have been letting them consume, some of which I’m not even sure qualify as “food” in the classic sense of the word.

The Perfect Health Diet has done wonders for my health and energy levels (when I’m actually following it), so that’s what I’m going to try to get the kids to eat too. This means:

  • No processed food
  • No grains other than rice (no bread, pasta, tortillas, quinoa, etc.)
  • No beans

I’ve got dinners down, and since I’m counting Rice Crispies as PHD-approved food I have breakfasts covered too. Now I just need some easy lunch ideas. Any suggestions?

— 6 —

Thinking about the lunch issue has made me interested in bento boxes. They’re so cute, and the Japanese food that typically fills them is very close to what the Perfect Health Diet recommends. I am overwhelmed with the urge to go buy The Just Bento Cookbook and these utensils that cut veggies into charming shapes and start reading bento box blogs. But is this possible for moms of large families (or, more accurately, moms of large families who are not gifted in the domestic arts)? Is throwing together a basic, no-frills bento box (i.e. no faces on the food) something that I could do quickly and easily with a little practice? Or am I setting myself up for failure to even think the words “bento boxes” and “six kids” in the same sentence? Pontificate away.

— 7 —

I’m going to the Ladies for Life brunch next weekend. This will involve exotic things like leaving the house to go somewhere other than a hospital and wearing makeup. I’m most excited about seeing the speaker, Melissa Ohden, whose story is absolutely amazing and inspiring. If you’re in Central Texas, come join us!



  1. Micaela @ California to Korea

    Yay for home from the hospital! I’m so glad Kathryn is around to mentor and help. Aren’t friends the best? And your baby is scrumptious!

    I love Bento-box-type lunches. I’ve found that a melon baller, toothpicks, and a tiny bit of creativity go a long way. Once you make a few meals, it becomes easier to just mentally figure out from a template. I would totally buy the cookbook and flip through it for inspiration, but then I would probably just stick with a few “family hits.” You’re motivating me to get back into it!

    One last thing: I read a little about PHD awhile back but didn’t realize rice was allowed? I thought it was all grain-free which is why I didn’t start it. (did a strict paleo diet for two months last year and felt a lot of burnout plus annoying weight gain after.) What about dairy? What you describe pretty much sounds like it fits right in with what I need, but maybe I need to read more on the subject.

  2. Shannon

    Rice cakes. Add peanut butter. Or hummus. Or mashed avocado. Or…

  3. Natasha

    Just to say – you’ve possibly mentioned it tons of times but I was surprised to hear Joe referred to as germ-phobic. Given the amount and alacrity of viruses within a family with many children, surely a little yogurt won’t hurt, now?

  4. Barbara

    Mom of 5, one of whom cannot eat any grains. Bento saves us, though I call them homemade lunchables. I highly recommend making your own veggie dip on Sunday night to last the week. My kids will only eat raw veggies w dip. (Neufatchel cheese, frozen spinach, red bell peppers, cooked carrots, onion, garlic,dash of salt all blended in food processor)

    Left over crockpot meals in a thermos container works well too!

  5. Kathleen

    Our youngest is mostly grain free and there are some delicious rice crackers that I will put peanut butter on for a quick lunch. She is also dairy free, so we do hummus.

    They key I’ve found is to make sure all the junk is out of the house. I feel tempted to use it and the kids beg and hold out of the processed stuff, but if it’s not around I am amazed out how hunger will force them to try new veggies!

    So happy you had such of a support network during your NICU time.

  6. Rakhi

    Welcome back! I’ve recently found myself surprised in the same way about just how much just being mom and being here counts. After a particularly rough day with my 2 yo, if I were her I’d have wanted to get as far away from me as possible. Instead she not only asked for me at bedtime (usually it’s all about daddy), she wanted nothing more than to be glued to me. Her love language is definitely touch!

    Melissa Ohden is speaking at the True Beauty Breakfast fundraiser for our maternity home on Mothers Day weekend. Will be excited to hear your thoughts!

    Love and prayers to you all!

  7. Becky

    I will give you for free knowledge and wisdom that it has taken me many, many years, many lunches, children of my own, children I babysat, grandchildren and pet dogs to learn. ( I will not attempt to untangle that sentence).

    Children have not read about Martha Stewart. Don’t let them, for as along as you can. And forget EVERYTHING you have read that makes this not seem like a good idea.

    Fresh fruits and vegetables. Wash them. Provide one less of each then there are children. Five children who eat from the table? Four apples, three carrots, two large lettuce leaves. If the older kids want to be competitive and possessive it just makes what they have more desirable. If they want to share they can break the carrots (get big carrots, not baby carrots) and tear the lettuce leaves. If the children are whining for the processed foods that they have gotten used to tell them that they can just snack on the fruits and veggies while they wait for the real meal. Since God has already provided these foods in a nearly ready to eat form, no cooking is needed, no cute shapes are required, no pots to clean up afterward. If you can get fresh peas and show the kids how to take the peas out of the pods you can do lots with fine motor control, the biology of seeds, counting, size discernment.

    Carrots are especially desirable if you can go visit horses and take them carrots. Or if you have a friend with rabbits. You don’t try to use the animals to persuade the kids that the carrots are good, you just let the kids hold the carrot in his hand to give to the animal. Sooner or later they will ask “Can I have a carrot?” If at that point you are a little reluctant to take valuable carrots away from important horses or rabbits, again it just makes the carrots more desirable.

    Some fresh things require a little more preparation for kids. Fresh spinach really needs washing, but most grocery stores these days sell the pre-washed, in a container that can reasonably be considered a serving bowl. Grapes should always be cut in half or quarters before toddlers get to them. Whole grapes are truly a choking hazard (but not as bad as hot dogs). I do not recommend raisins for young children, even thought they are very popular for lunch boxed, since I have seen too many completely undigested raisins in diapers and the toilet.

    Dairy is allowed, right? See if you can possibly get fresh milk (meaning unpasteurized). A glass of fresh milk is very filling, provides proteins, necessary dietary fats and loads of vitamins and trace minerals. If you can get good yogurt from unpasteurized milk slice a few bananas in it. The kids feel more like they are eating something, and it is basically the same nutrition as drinking the fresh milk.

    Anyway, the point is to minimize not only your own preparation work by buying already prepared foods, but to minimize it by buying foods that come ready to eat. Also, get a picnic table and encourage eating lunch outside to minimize cleanup.

    This is getting too long for a comment, but I do have more suggestions if you want.

    • GeekLady

      For what it’s worth, most bentos aren’t all cute, like this piggy one. Most just try to present a variety of food in a compact and attractive manner.

      Cute bentos are done for special occasions, birthdays, 1st day of school, etc. or for contests.

  8. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    The advantages of bento boxes for us were a) there were several compartments, so I assigned categories (protein, veggie, fruit, other) to each, which meant automatic balancing of food groups, and b) small bits of different things often meant that my nibbler kids actually ate something.

    What I’d suggest is borrowing some bento box cookbooks from the library, or from a friend. After you’ve tried the cute stuff for two weeks, THEN decide if you need to buy the supplies!

    The way my cooking goes, I end up using four recipes from any one book. I’ve gradually developed a system in which I copy the recipes I use and put them in sheet protectors in a 3-ring binder. It makes life simpler.

    As for lunch ideas in general, MAKE A LIST. Every time something works for you, add it to the list. Eventually you’ll have a page of ideas, which you can use when you go grocery shopping, which is when all good ideas (other than convenience) vanish from the brain.

    • Kathleen Basi

      That’s what I do with recipes, too. I impose self-discipline where cookbooks are concerned b/c so much is available online.

  9. Eleonor

    Vegetable soup? Almond flour muffins? Home made energy bars with coconut oil, coconut rasp, dates and chia seeds? Raw vegetables and fruits with different dips? Banana bread with almond flour? Rice cakes with nut paste? Cold rice salad with tuna/ansjovies and veggies? Eggs with a salad?

    And can you eat buckwheat? It is not a real grain, so maybe buckwheat crackers or buckwheat bread are okay?

  10. Renee Aste

    “But, as it turned out, my kids were evidently pretty happy to have foul-tempered-blob mommy around, as evidenced by how anxious they were for me to come home from the NICU”

    The bonds of biology are pretty amazing, the want and desire your parents is stronger then most people can imagine.

  11. KK

    A friend of mine does a mostly Paleo diet with her and her family. For lunches she often does turkey deli slices (the natural ones) rolled with an avacado slice inside along with veggies and hummus. Her cheater meal since Paleo is technically grain and dairy free for lunchtime with the kids is to use the rice tortillas and make a quesadilla with cheese and shredded chicken.
    As a tip for cooking ahead, I started cooking bone in skinless chicken breast in large quantities with salt, pepper and garlic powder on it. Then I shred it and freeze it in ziploc bags. Great for pizza, salads or anything else! So much cheaper than buying prepped chicken.

  12. Laura

    Welcome back!! We’re glad to have you back, too 🙂 Lunch ideas? Ha…we all hate that meal here. I will be anxiously waiting for other people to come up with great ideas that I can copy, too.

  13. Lisa Schmidt

    Hahaha – in 2008 I was trying to make homemade yogurt, too. Something in the air that year? I’m still not convinced it produces a nice end-product even though people swear by it. I was on the “French Women Don’t Get Fat” diet. Deep down, I think the diet was just a vehicle to enjoy a glass of red wine at noon everyday.

    Glad to see a shout-out to Melissa, a fellow Iowan! She gives a stellar pro-life witness. Enjoy the brunch, Jen.

    Blessings and peace to your family!

  14. Jenny

    I’m so glad you’re back!

    God bless mama friends who’ve been there. Makes me so happy to hear how much your kids missed even grumpy mom, since that’s my mothering persona about 90% of the time. Maybe their standards aren’t ours? Here’s hoping…

    Joey is gluten free, so we eat a lot of weird stuff for lunch. And I’ve been dabbling in Paleo lately, so it’s gotten even weirder. One trick I’ve discovered is that both my boys will eat ANYTHING if it has been drenched in olive oil and roasted in the oven for 10 min or so. Bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, ‘french fries,’ whatever. If I saturate it in fat and roast it till it’s sort of squishy, they think it’s pizza.

  15. Amelia

    We’ve been basically following the Perfect Health Diet (but definitely not perfectly).

    Some things we eat for lunch are:

    smoothies (plain yogurt, frozen fruit, almond butter (or other nut butter, but I think peanut butter is not on the PDH..we still eat it though..as I said, I don’t follow it perfectly) and a handful of spinach. Because I’m not a stickler for rules, I also throw in honey or some other sweetner.

    rice cakes and nut butter

    rice crackers and nut butter or cheese

    You can find GF bread which is *almost* PHD compatible. The UDI’s white sandwich bread is so good, and has mostly PHD ingredients in it.

    Rice pasta (tinkyadi is a good brand and not too expensive) with butter and parmesean cheese

    King Arthur brand of multipurpose GF flour is PHD compliant, so I use that to make muffins, pancakes, etc. You can also use coconut flour to make those things.

    Eggs are always good for lunch..omelets, scrambled, hard boiled, etc.

    Bento boxes are kinda cool…I’ve always wanted them,. but since we homeschool, I never felt I could really justify it since we’re mostly home for lunch and the kids can just eat off plates (or the floor).

  16. Michelle

    So happy to see you back and doing well. It’s always fun to do the memory lane thing, I think. 🙂

  17. Sue in Japan

    Hoo, boy! Now that I’ve recovered from the fits of laughter created by the very idea that making obento for lunch would make life easier… I had to make obento every day when my kids were in Japanese kindergarten, before we decided to homeschool, and I was never so glad as the day the last one graduated and I never had to stress about that again! Whew!

    Having said that, you certainly could make an obento-type lunch without all of the boxes, and a lot less of the cutsie – I do it often. You can make onigiri (rice balls) without the faces, for sure!

  18. Abigail Benjamin

    Nice to have you back!

  19. TheresaEH

    Very nice to read that life is getting back to “normal” at yer house eh 😉
    If I was the Pope, I would grant Kathryn a million and one indulgences for her kindness!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Katie

    So glad you’re back to the ‘new normal’ of life! Love reading your posts 🙂

  21. Kayla @ Number One Petersons

    I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t have grains. That’s probably not a good thing. Do you use gluten free replacements?

  22. Jessica @ housewifespice

    I heard Melissa Ohden recently and I was a little nervous about…I don’t know…graphic abortion descriptions, etc. My fear was unnecessary as she is so classy and her story so poignant, she didn’t need to be graphic. I hung on her every word. She is an amazing speaker.

  23. Kathleen Basi

    Welcome back! HEre’s the thing I don’t get about those bento boxes: you fill them with nice & healthy food, yes, but that doesn’t mean the kids are going to eat it. Mine would come home hungry if I sent a box with that stuff in it, no matter how cute it looked. And my kids eat way more vegetables & far less sugar & junk than the typical American kid. So how does all this work????

  24. Kathryn Whitaker

    Jen, you are a gift, girl, to all who know you. The NICU is no place for any mom, but I am grateful that Joseph is doing beautifully and you are home – where you should be. Hugging your neck was the highlight 😉 That certificate was the brainchild of Rachael and Martina, I was just the messenger.

    Bento boxes rock. We don’t get fancy over here, I just put different foods in the compartments. The best part about them is I can see how healthy the meal is at one glance. And, it controls the portions, too. You’ll love them!

  25. Laura

    For lunch ideas, may I offer up the humble egg(s)-in-a-cup? The egg-in-a-cup added a lot to our b-fast and lunch options (and the kids can do it themselves). The raw egg is scrambled in a ceramic cup with a bit of milk and whatever veggies/cheese/meat you’d like to add. You cook it in the microwave for 1 minute and you have a nice hot meal. We add fruit and toast and I have happy kids. An important prep item to note – you have to really scramble the egg with the milk or you get a watery separation thing that most kids dislike (except for my youngest, she loves to drink the cheesy egg water). Enjoy! 🙂

  26. Chris C

    THANK you for hosting; thank you!
    Congratulations on your newest little miracle!! What great news…Loved your QTs today, as always.


  27. Carol@simple_catholic

    I am so glad that you and the baby are doing well! I haven’t participated in 7 QT in a while but I have been praying for you, the baby and the whole family.

    This week I’m doing a scripture edition of 7 QT and posting some scripture verses that relate to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

    I hope everyone has a blessed weekend!

  28. Lauren T

    So I didn’t read the other comments to see if anyone has suggested this already, but I really like the blog “Big Red Kitchen.” (http://www.bigredkitchen.com/) She does paleo/regular cooking and has a huge archive of recipes that fit in mason jars. Not sure how feasible this is with young kids, but her ideas are genius.

    Really glad to hear that you and you family are home together! We have been keeping you in our prayers!

  29. Laura

    Welcome back!!! I’m eager to read the comments about #5 and #6. I’m trying to follow the PHD myself but my two kids eat a steady diet of Tyson’s chicken nuggets and Nature’s Best (hah!) mac and cheese. My first daughter willingly tried my sweet potato the other day, but we still have a loooong way to go.

  30. Miriel

    Growing up we packed our own lunches, and while some of the stuff we ate doesn’t qualify (crackers, sandwiches), plenty of it does! Ants on a log (celery, peanut butter, raisins); apples and peanut butter; rolled up slices of turkey (does that count as “processed food”? I guess you could also use chunks of roasted chicken breast) with mustard to dip it in.

  31. GeekLady

    I love the JustBento and JustHungry websites! If you’re interested in trying bento lunches, I would try Maki’s Bento 101 that ran in February and March. It contains a lot of good info on how to pack, and what to pack, and what type of box to use, and how to balance nutrition.

    One thing I learned is its amazing how many calories I need in a day (pregnant, I’m at something like 3000). Turns out I need a big bento box for lunches, so I just went with some Rubbermaid containers.

    JustHungry also has good explanations of how to cook Japanese rice (and sushi rice), and she’s running a Japanese cooking 101 class right now that I think is mostly finished. Onigiri (with salted salmon) and vegetable sushi are actually what’s for dinner tonight – onigiri are easy to make and a big hit with David for some reason.

  32. Susan M

    Hi Jen, Don’t know if this will help or not. We also homeschooled our three but my mom sometimes did something the kids loved. She made them bag lunches. I also am trying to live by the PHD so I don’t know how well this would work, but maybe you could try it. Make up the lunches on the weekend and let the kids choose one each day.

  33. Jennifer G. Miller

    So happy baby is home!

    I try to do the whole real foods approach with my boys, but I think grains are fine for them at their growing stage, and I’m also a 80/20 kind of approach, especially when you wean them off those convenience foods.

    The picture of the pig food is not appetizing to me! Oink, oink!

  34. Cynthia

    Hi Jen!

    Real quick, some lunch ideas for you:

    Organic (or nitrate free) sliced turkey wrapped around cheese (if cheese is ok for you) or avacado slices, red peppers, etc. –my boys really like this

    Fish sticks (mix a bit of veganaise or homemade mayo, a bit of whole grain mustard and dijon together. Cut fish of your choice into bit-size sticks. Dip in mayo mixture and then roll in gluten-free bread crumbs…or almond flour. Bake in a 400 degree oven on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet til done). I’ve done this with a baby in one arm and the kitchen shears in the other…with boys screaming at my feet. Not as difficult as it sounds, I promise!

    Take leftover fish (see above) and make a mango salsa. Serve on top. This week, in the salsa, I cut up mango, cucumber, red peppers, cilantro and sprinkled with lime juice. I DID put black beans in mine too…but somedays I cheat like a boss.

    Mini egg quiches for a “breakfast” lunch. Lots of great links for those. I usually put in all the veggies my boys don’t eat on a normal day in those…and I can breathe easy that they have eaten some fresh foods for the day.

    Leftovers from supper the night before are always recycled in this house too. Like the roasted chicken last night? It will be served with an avocado and cheese today. Probably with some black beans 😉

    Glad to hear you and the baby are well! God bless you 🙂

  35. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I can’t say I am familiar with Bento, but I can say I am always scared of systems.

    Here are the things I always keep in the fridge for lunch:
    Nitrate free lunch meat
    string cheese
    rice cakes & pb
    baby carrots
    dinner leftovers

    Yeah, maybe it costs a little more money to buy some convenience food, but, dang it, it is so much more, well, convenient!

    Sidenote: If you can’t tell, I don’t cook lunch. I throw those things on a plate with a glass of milk or water, and people eat or they don’t 😉

  36. elizabethe

    STEP AWAY from the cute rice ball shapers!!!!! Do NOT TOUCH the hard boiled egg shaper! NO you will NOT order a bulk package of plastic grass food separators!

    back away slowly from the submit order button.

    seriously, bentos are for people who send their kids away for lunch, so a. they can show off to their friends and b. have proof you love them even though you send them away to school everyday. If you are there they don’t need the bento and it will infuriate you when they don’t appreciate your hard work and don’t eat the food anyway.

    phew. Okay.

    2 principles for paleo homeschool lunch sanity.

    1. Buy a rice cooker with a warmer setting, make sure there is rice everyday.

    2.Don’t feel bad giving them the same thing every day.

    Rice with steamed broccoli, or raw carrots if there is nothing else to eat. perfectly acceptable lunch. add leftover chicken breast or steak (or google “the domestic man’s chicken nugget recipe”) for a great lunch.

    Rice cakes with almond butter and rice syrup or honey, served with yogurt, apples and bananas or grapes.

    Make a triple batch of Paul’s gluten free muffins and freeze them. Serve the muffins with almond butter and apples, or split them and serve them with strawberries/blueberries and unsweetened whipped cream.

    Make two or three dozen hardboiled eggs each week and let them eat those for lunch (YMMV w/hardboiled eggs, my kids love them and love slicing them) along with some apples and cheese. serve with a chocolate banana smoothie.

    some mini hamburgers (make a whole bunch under the broiler and store them in the fridge for a week. If they are mini, you don’t need buns), with roasted french fries or roasted sweet potato fries (roasting is faster and easier than frying). If worse comes to worse, nitrate free hot dogs are a life saver.

    “Nom Nom paleo asian chicken thighs” with rice and veg. my kids loved it.

    broiled chicken wings with a tasty sauce or rice flour panko.

    Seriously, if you don’t have one, buy the rice cooker. zojirushi is good. set it up the night before with the timer and you have warm rice always at your disposal. Mine is always on. I make rice just in case. If you have leftover, make rice pudding or something.

  37. Kathy Allen

    In the cooler weather, I make a broth with bones with meat on them, or a chicken carcass, once a week. Then kids can have soup or rice or rice noodles with some of the protein, and throw in some frozen or fresh veggies that they hate least and they can decorate the soup with some parm cheese or chives. In the summer, lunch can be the sullen chunk of protein theory. Start with…oh, chuck roast on Sunday. Then fling some Mexican seasoning on it, fling it in the fridge, and it is Tuesday tacos with lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, etc. Wednesday is soup and stuff with rice crackers and sunflower seeds (and you have pre made the soup overnight in your crockpot.) Thursday is potatoes with cheese and crumbled bacon and the kids can mash their own and develop fine motor skills. Friday is fish tacos or light tuna on crackers or cheese and crackers and salad and veggies. Add fruit to all these lunches as needed. If it,s a chicken week, chop chix and add apples and some dried fruit and some mayo or yogurt for a kid favorite. Add curry to yours for a tasty treat! Also, google Crockpot 365 for great gf, kid tested recipes, plus the secret knowledge that you can buy a cheap and good box mix for gf bread that is way better than Udi’s and you can bake it in your crockpot! Your darling big kids can help with ripping salad leaves and maybe with bread, but you need a heavy duty mixer. Hope you have some friends to help you! blessings!

  38. Dwija {House Unseen}

    Rice is my children’s least favorite grain (what is wrong with them?) so I will be no help in the lunch department. And oh….how I wish I was in Texas to go to A Place with Makeup. *swoon*

  39. Leanne

    Laptop Lunches — probably one of those bento blogs you’re reading — but they have a little recipe book of healthy meals to put into said lunchboxes, which I’ve used a time or two for myself. Not sure how they go with the Diet though …. and the lunchbox sets are cute — you have nesting boxes inside a larger plastic lunchbox — and they sell spares for when you inevitably lose one.

  40. Heather

    some quick lunch ideas not having read all of the other comments:
    Crustless quiche
    Cream of broccoli or mushroom soup
    eggs with various other things or breakfast for lunch
    coconut or almond meal pancakes
    bananas with peanut butter or almond butter on them
    canned seafood like sardienes or smoked oysters
    tuna salad or tuna melts with almond meal flatbread
    chicken salad made with leftover chicken
    split pea soup or lentil soup in the crock pot
    carrot soup made with the immersion blender
    yogurt with fruit
    salads with cheese and nuts on them
    squash or sweet potato soup made with coconut milk
    egg salad

    The Wellness Mama Blog has some other great meal suggestions

  41. Laura

    Great to have you back and to know you and babe are doing well!

    Here’s a link for healthy lunch ideas. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/02/04/school-lunch-roundup-iii/

    This person doesn’t follow a no-grain diet, but she takes pictures of all of the lunches she makes that may give you other ideas…making substitutions for the grains, of course. We’re trying to follow a more primal/paleo diet, but I’m finding that we need to take baby steps to get there.

  42. Alex

    My kids love hard-boiled eggs. You just have to deal with egg shells everywhere (including under the bed!)

  43. Kara

    I actually enjoy packing lunches that are bento-style. I pull out any cut up veggies, meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts, crackers, etc. we have on hand and start filling spaces in the box. My daughter can pack her own lunch pretty easily this way for school. And as a newly postpartum mom, I have been packing lunches for the little ones who are still at home the same time the night before (only one time for meal prep and clean up makes a big difference). My daughter has the relatively pricey planet box which is awesome. We gave her uncle the idea for a Christmas gift one year. But Ziplock makes some compartmentalized boxes for a fraction of the cost that work pretty similarly and are great for little kids.

  44. Blair

    So maybe someone has suggested this, but you totally need to show all the Bento websites to your kids and have them make THEIR OWN! You could make it like an art contest with awards for the kids who make the coolest lunch. I know that means they make a mess, but in my house when people feed themselves or siblings, I don’t mind the mess. I’d rather clean some dirty dishes and sweep a floor covered in crumbs, than find the energy to locate some food that the whiny natives will eat 🙂

  45. Catherine

    I’m so glad you’re home from the hospital! And I love the bento box idea. My oldest son (9) has been grain-free for 5 years so I posted what he typically eats for lunch on my quick takes. Basically, a peanut butter or almond flour muffin, fruit, veggie, and cheese. Grain-free involves a lot of from-scratch baking, and for me, the only way around those logistics are to get the kids baking for themselves as soon as possible!

  46. Renee

    So I’ve gone through the first 100 blogs… T need to go through another 100.

    I would like to note, when I reference STDsin my blog caption, I get a ton of hits through the link from other Catholics bloggers. Today I talked about the color of ducks. I only got a fraction.

    I guess people aren’t interested in the color of ducks.

    Renee @ Cappadocia in Lowell

  47. Rebecca

    So glad you are back and that you and baby are both home and doing well!

    Of course your other kiddos missed you – there’s no one like mommy.

  48. J.R. Baldwin

    Bento boxes are fun — have you tried more soup/ chili options? Sans beans, I suppose! I’ll have to think about that since you cut out my favorite food group. Definitely more vegetables, maybe with dressing or peanut butter. Hard-boiled eggs are another fun idea!

    Prayers for you and your sweet family! I just finished watching ‘Minor Revisions’ … I love it! Looking forward to seeing the next Fulwiler in action! 🙂

  49. Marti B.

    I would humbly question whether or not this desire to suddenly pack bento boxes for five small children is something along the lines of wanting to make your own yogurt back several years ago– kind of an overreach that’s just going to stress you out. As much as I long for the little molds that make boiled eggs into rabbit shapes and wee little fish-shaped soy sauce packets, I know that my kids are mostly just happy to have food to eat when they’re hungry. And besides, they’ll make everything into guns anyway because they’re boys.

  50. Jennifer

    My daughters aresorta kinda paleo-ish only because I am and have stopped buying things like bread and cereal. They still eat dairy, though. (And they still eat grains, etc. outside the house.) For my 10-yr-old’s lunch box (which she packs herself, with a little oversight from me), the standbys are good-quality lunchmeat and raw-milk cheese, tuna salad, or leftovers (meatballs, homemade chicken nuggets or fish sticks, taco meat). I tell her she always needs a fruit or a vegetable (or both). Often (since she packs her own lunch and gets lazy), it’s a whole can of tuna with homemade mayo or Caesar dressing, SeaSnax, and an apple. I often buy plain whole-milk yogurt which she can sweeten with honey or fruit, but she’s gotten tired of it after eating it for months nearly every day. Oh, and even though she generally dislikes nuts, she loves pistachios and often packs them, too. Salad is also a frequent choice (doused liberally with Caesar dressing, of course, unless it’s a taco salad). Wholly Guacamole sells one-serving packets that she loves, as well. We have Lock ‘n Lock lunch boxes, which are square and come with plastic containers with inserts so you can do a noncutesy bento. But last year we just used the Ziploc containers with three compartments, which fit perfectly into a standard lunch box.

    More ideas on the Paleo Parents blog: http://paleoparents.com/featured/healthy-lunchox-alternatives-a-guest-post-for-and-love-it-too/ And I’ve seen other paleo/primal blogs with lunch ideas, as well.

  51. Deborah

    We do “snacky lunches” around here and my kids love it. I am mostly paleo and try to feed the kids the Perfect Health Diet so they get a plate or bento box of healthy things like fresh or dried fruit, cheese, Applegate Farms lunch meat, hard boiled eggs, nuts, raw veggies, etc. Sometimes I add toasted gluten free bread with almond butter. We homeschool so I need to keep lunch easy!
    I met your sweet Catholic aunt at her church (which is down the street from our new home) a few weeks ago and was so excited when I found out she was related to you! I told her you were my favorite blogger : ) I am a convert from agnosticism so really relate with your conversion story! Good luck with the creative lunches!

  52. Cassi

    No quinoa? I think you just broke my brain a little. Is it even possible to use those two words together like that? (In case you can’t tell, I love quinoa, lol.)

  53. Holly

    You should look into the lunch ideas on the “100 days of real food” blog. I would lonk it, but I’m on my phone. And, keep it simple! I give my daughter cheese, fruit, and crackers for lunch most days. 2 minutes of prep!

  54. Flannery Salkeld

    (Sorry I don’t have a current blog so I hope this old link is good enough to get my idea to you…)

    I love your blog and your TV show. I thought I would throw it out there that what I do for my oldest (6 years) whom I just discovered “doesn’t like sandwiches” is to put sausages and cut-up potatoes in the crock pot on low overnight and into a Thermos in the morning. That is pretty easy to supplement with cut fruit, cut veggies (or baby carrots – no cutting required!) and also maybe some cheese or a boiled egg. Good luck!

    PS – I use what’s left for my husband’s lunch that day too and for stews. Just add a bunch of stuff to the crock pot and turn it on again to make dinner. 🙂

  55. mary


    i use the ziploc 3 compartment containers for both my son’s school lunch and for my son who’s still at home, but admit, they aren’t very durable. but i’ve tried other bento boxes and find they take up too much room in the dishwasher once you take all the pieces apart. the ziploc style boxes stack well in the cabinet too, which is important in our small kitchen.

    the easy lunch box site has tons of pictures that are a good visual help and i find the three compartments make it easier for me when i’m feeling brain dead. plus, if the kids don’t eat everything, it’s easy to just put the lid back on and stick in the fridge/pull out later for a snack.

  56. Beth Anne

    I LOVE BENTO BOXES. I love all the cute little boxes. I also LOVE Japanese food and sushi. YUMMY now I want to go get some. Confession: When I first started doing Quick Takes 2 years ago. I once spent an evening reading a TON of your past quick takes to figure out how it became a link-up and the history of it since I knew so many people participating. Does that make me sound smart or stalkerish?

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Wow, what a small world! Thanks for sharing!

  57. Emily

    Have been following you an expired for over a year now but I never comment!
    Lunch ideas, seems like making extra dinner and using it for lunch would help. Also, perpetual bone broth might help. There are several recipes if you google but the idea is that you keep it on your counter all week and keep using it. Egg drop soup from the broth would be an easy lunch. I am not doing the PHD but I have been trying to cut back on processed food so I no longer buy lunch meat but just cook extra meat at dinner and use that–it tastes better and is much cheaper too.

    Also, PLEASE look at the new website I have been working on called Conversation with Women http://www.conversationwithwomen.org/
    It’s a perfect answer to your NCR post on Those Catholic Women who use Contraception

    We are just starting out and would love it if you could send some traffic our way!

  58. Elena

    So glad you are home jenn! I don’t have any really creative ideas for you – ceral and milk always works in a pinch! So does the classic Peanut butter sandwich! The main thing is food in the tummies and less stress for mom. Enjoy your babymoon!

  59. Katherine

    If you really want to feel guilty about food or being an American mommy, read “French Kids Eat Everything.” Actually, a lot of the ideas make sense, but who would have thought the French would be so uptight?

  60. Katherine

    My kids usually eat leftovers from the previous dinner (when we have any) for next day’s lunch. My mother is Asian, so we always had a pot of just cooked rice or cold rice on the stove. One of my favorite meals is fried leftover rice with green onions and seasonings with an over-easy egg over the top. If your kids have an aversion to “yolky eggs,” you could add the uncooked eggs to the rice while you are frying it, thus making yellow rice with protein. Another easy lunch is leftover baked potatoes. I usually cook more baked potatoes than I need for a dinner and the next day I peel them (quick and easy since the skins are cooked already) and fry them up with green onions and whatever compatible veggies are on hand or hard boiled eggs. We also eat a lot of corn tortilla quesadillas. My favorite easy meal is a quick chicken-spinach soup: chicken broth, green onions, grated carrots, whatever left over chicken is on hand, spinach, salt and pepper and rice thrown in at the last minute. You could also dribble uncooked scrambled eggs in (like egg-drop soup). Stir-fry veggies with leftover meat? I think you’d get a lot of ideas from a good Asian cookbook.

  61. Erin

    I feel you on leaving the hospital without a baby. I had to do it with my first pregnancy, and through I knew I was lucky and everything would be fine eventually, I didn’t feel like it. They wheeled me out with a baby in my lap and people smiled and waved and cooed as I went past and I was trying desperately not to bawl. I wanted to scream “STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE IT’S BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I JUST LEFT ONE BEHIND!!”
    Meanwhile, you can make apples look awesome by cutting them horizontally in thin rings and then using a small star cookie cutter to cut the core out of each slice. It’s actually easier than the traditional way.

  62. Dawn

    We do Perfect Health/Paleo/Primal too. During the work/school week our lunches are soup and salad. Sunday afternoon we make a bone broth (usually chicken)- based veggie soup, which might have chicken or sausage in it, with whatever random veggies are left from the week (so its always slightly different). We buy prepared greens (spinach, herb mix, spring mix, etc.) and we chop up toppings, which again, are different every week. And then we prepare a couple different protein options like salmon/tuna, shredded chicken, hardboiled eggs. When we pack lunches we get a container of soup and a container of salad, put on toppings and dressing – Bam! No thinking, lots of veggies and protein. Plus bone broth almost every day.

  63. Pam H.

    “simply being present counts for a lot” – truer than most of us can imagine!

    Re Bento lunches: What you need is a teenage girl to make lunches for little sisters! A twelve-year-old would probably do.

  64. Katherine

    I have a theory on the kids missing you thing: Mothers are like oxygen, if you have enough you don’t think about it at all, if you don’t have enough you don’t think about anything else. Fathers are like chocolate, you can never quite get enough.

    Your writing is so awesome. My children hear me laughing manically and run into the room to make me read to them about your husband’s reaction to home made yogurt.

  65. Bethany

    Hi Jen,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for the past couple of years, but this is my first comment. I originally found your blog linked on the PHD website. I’m a Protestant Christian who eats paleo/Weston Price, and I enjoy getting a peek into the Catholic world from your perspective. Congrats on the baby and I can hardly imagine how tired you are!

    I will share a few if my go-to lunch element ideas that don’t require staying up late and making big batches of anything. 🙂

    1) Whole Foods rotisserie chickens (buy two get one half off where I am).

    2) Grass-fed Butter. As a side dish. With everything. For real.

    3) Asian rice wrappers (my 4-yr-old loves soaking them in the water herself). You can wrap them around the chicken, or some avocado, or a veg, or some butter. Or just eat them plain as a starch alongside the protein. The kids can soak and assemble themselves (though it might be messy).

    4) Applegate grass-fed hot dogs. (processed, I know, but we’re talking a step up from Doritos here)

    5) Avocado slices (filling and quick)

    6) Cheese (limited on PHD, but such a quick protein/fat source for kids)

    Take all the help you can get!


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