I know that I, for one, have at least one member of the household that is deeply unhappy that this day has arrived.
We have spent the last two months footloose and fancy-free, flip-flop clad, jumping (literally) in lakes, exploring other cities and countries and making a game of how few nights we spent sleeping in our own beds at home.
The answer is about 3, and we are wildly proud of that fact.
But reality is now coming crashing down. Michael is starting Grade 9, and I am back teaching as of next Monday. A busy fall schedule awaits us both. *sob*
One more moment of silence as we mourn carefree, sunny summer days that were our own.
Okay. Now that that’s done, let’s turn our focus to the matter at hand: school. I’ve already loaded the freezer up with lots of healthy, quick grab-and-go lunches: homemade vegetarian pizza pockets made with yams, Trader Joe’s vegan chorizo, and beans, and individually-sized containers of Cuban rice and beans that I can quickly heat up in the microwave.
But breakfast. That’s the kicker. I usually resort to smoothies, or I’ll make breakfast cookies or homemade granola bars.
But I also love me some Overnight Oats. You see, the thing is, you can really pack a lot of good stuff into your Overnight Oats.
Like Gojis, for example. I was tickled pink to discover that there is a local farm here in Vancouver that’s growing gojis. Up until now, our only way of getting this superfood was by purchasing them dry (imported from China). I really like the fresh ones, they have a pop of tartness, and did I mention how good they are for you??
This overnight oat recipe can be customized to how you like it. Be sure to make up 3-5 to last you a whole week of healthy, grab-and-go breakfasts.
Overnight Goji Oats
Ingredients (for each individual serving)
250-ml mason jars with lids
2-3 tbsp oats (not instant)
1 tbsp ground, roasted flax
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp vegan protein powder(I like vanilla)
8-12 fresh goji berries
1-2 tbsp dried fruit like cranberries, dates or raisins
2 tbsp yogurt (or non-dairy yogourt if you want to keep it vegan)
2 tbsp non dairy milk
a sprinkle of cinnamon
a tiny pinch of salt
a drizzle of maple syrup
Place all the dry ingredients in the bottom of the mason jar, and give it a shake to combine.
Now add the wet ingredients and shake/stir well to mix everything together.
Place the lid on and store in the fridge overnight. In the morning, grab and go.
If you like, you can add extras, like nuts/seeds, or blob of peanut butter and jelly.
Michael and I have been enjoying lots of time off. We went on a road trip, and have been spending lots of time at Second Beach Pool. But, with much trepidation, the time has come. He had his high school orientation yesterday, and school starts for real in a few days after the long weekend.
This is a big period of transition for us, from elementary to high school, from lazy days of summer with no schedules to busy days packed from morning to night.
The situation calls for one thing: comfort food. And not just any comfort food. It has to be fast.
Pizza is the perfect solution. On crazy nights when I know we won’t have much time between after school activities and homework, I set the oven to come on and pre-heat 15 minutes before I know we are going to walk in the door. Then, all I do is literally walk in the door, drop my stuff, pull a frozen pizza out of the freezer, and pop it in the oven. Add a few sliced raw veggies and dip, and 15 minutes later, dinner is served.
Now, you might be asking, “pizza, that’s easy, and cheap, why would I go to all the effort to make my own?”
Well, by making my own, I can control what goes in it, and what goes on it. And that means a more healthy final result.
When I make our own pizzas, I can customize it with veggie pepperoni, for example, or just put regular pepperoni on his half. We can also do some fanciful toppings you may not be able to buy in the store, like artichokes and olives. You could even make these pizzas individual-sized and have everyone choose their own toppings resulting in 98% less bickering.
It’s really all about control. I like a thin crust, I’m trying to watch my cholesterol, so I use lower fat cheese, you can use tomato sauce, pesto or even bechamel, and then load it up with toppings as you please. For the crust, you could easily substitute 1/2 whole wheat flour to increase the amount of fiber. If you’re vegan, use vegan cheese (the crust is already vegan).
Make a pile of these on the weekend, and pull them out for that one night of the week when getting dinner on the table is a nightmare. For us, it’s Wednesday.
I saved myself more time and stress by ordering my groceries (including all the ingredients I needed to make these pizzas) online through Save-On Foods. I order the night before, drop Michael off at his after school activity, then jet over and pick up the groceries from the North Van Save-On. They load up the car for me, I have time for a quick coffee (ah, me time!) and then back to West Van to pick him up.
We go back over the bridge, and walk into the house–the oven is already preheated and ready to go. The pizza goes in, and you, my friend, have managed your Wednesday night like a boss.
Our pizzas are loaded with artichoke hearts, olives, pesto, and lots of cheese.
DIY Frozen Pizzas
(makes 2 cookie-sheet sized pizzas, double if you want to make 4)
2 ¼ tsp yeast
½ cup warm water (around 110 degrees)
1 tbsp sugar
¼ cup aquafaba
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
pizza toppings as desired
In a large bowl, place the water and sugar and mix them together. Sprinkle the yeast over in a thin layer, then leave to bloom for about 10 minutes.
After the yeast has activated, add the AF and the olive oil, and stir well. Now add in the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients, stirring until it becomes hard to stir, and the dough forms a sticky, shaggy ball. Get in there with your hands with and mix it until it becomes a cohesive ball.
Sprinkle a little more olive oil on your ball of dough, and rub it over the top. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for about 20-30 minutes in a warm place.
Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper, and then greasing them with a little olive oil. You could also sprinkle some cornmeal. Divide your dough in half, and roll the dough out onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Push the dough out from the centre and form a lip all the way around the edges. You can brush the edges with a little more olive oil if you like.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Pop the pizza into the oven for 8-9 minutes. You want it to be set, but not done. Pull the pizza crust out of the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Now you can add your toppings. Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then any meats. Next top with cheese. Finally, add vegetable toppings like spinach, sundried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, etc.
Place the pan, with the pizza on it, in your freezer, making sure it’s level. Allow to freeze overnight. Once it’s completely frozen, pop it off the cookie sheet, and double-wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Store in the freezer until needed.
To cook: preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and bake the pizza (either on a cookie sheet, or a pizza stone) for about 10-12 minutes, until it’s brown on the edges, and the cheese is melty and gooey.
This post is sponsored by Save-On Foods, but the recipe and opinions are my own.