Highlights: Back to School 2014

I can’t believe I’m writing this post again.  I had a really good summer, but it’s still hard to believe that I’m back teaching again.  Where did the time go?  (The fact that it was almost July when we got out of school probably didn’t help).

It’s no secret that I bring my lunch to school every day, for reasons that include the length of my lunch period and the dangers that come from trying to get through the lunch line at the same time as students.  Not to mention the fact that I like knowing what’s in my food.  This week’s main dish is Unstuffed Bell Peppers from Budget Bytes, with chickpeas instead of beef.  It’s already made and I’m rather proud of myself.  Brian and I are attempting to get all our school work done on Saturday so we can have Sundays to relax and do other things.  So here I am on a Sunday evening, writing a blog post, watching West Wing and feeling, generally, ready for the week ahead.  This may be the only time before June that this happens.  At any rate, I’m still a huge fan of my BUILT Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote that’s over 7 years old and my Thermos Intak Water Bottle , which I’ve used for at least 3.  I couldn’t imagine my school lunches without them!

Lunchtime: Tuna Hand Pies (The Good Hearted Woman)

Ideas for Packed Lunches (Healthy Tipping Point)

29 New Lunchbox Ideas (Simple Bites)

11 Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meals (Food52)


7 Back to School Snack Ideas and 11 After-School or (After-Work) Snacks (Food52)

20 Tasty Hummus Recipes for Savory Snacking (Oh My Veggies)

Back to School: 21 Portable Allergy-Friendly Snack Recipes! Vegan, Gluten-free, with Nut-free Options (Oh She Glows)


Top 10 Recipes for College Students (Budget Bytes)

What Should I Put in a College Cooking Care Package? (The Kitchn)


Formerly on Relishments:

Highlights: School Lunch (2011)

Highlights: Back to School (2010)

The People Who Have Changed My Life The Most

I’ve been attending or working in a school 9 months out of the year for every one of my last 27 years, from pre-school to finally working under a teacher’s contract as of last January.  I’ve had a lot of teachers and met a lot of students.  It’s no secret that teachers do more than just impart knowledge to students.  I’ve seen teachers work as counselors, cooks, nurses, therapists, meteorologists, coaches, motivational speakers, garbage collectors and more.

With all these roles, teaching can be a bit overwhelming.  Looking back over my career in the classroom, there were so many teachers that impacted me.  My middle school art teachers, who let me spend many of my afternoons creating, my AP English teacher who fostered my continuing love for all things Steinbeck, the college professors who encouraged me to write an honors thesis and present at conferences and all of the other caring, patient adults I interacted with as I grew up really helped shape who I am now.  As a teacher, the impact of other teachers has not diminished at all.  I owe a debt of gratitude to my high school history teacher, who first let me intern in his classroom when I was still a student.  My cooperating teachers, who doubt that I could manage a classroom at all, have fueled my desire to prove otherwise since 2007.  My co-workers have pushed me and encouraged me to try new things professionally and in my classroom since the moment I got my first job in Maine and continuing through my current role in the Berkshires, despite my breakdowns in department meetings, lack of full time status until recently, and inexperience in my field.  Very few of these lessons have to do with content specifically; they’re about life.  Teachers have taught me to set high goals and not to give up.  If there’s a group of people that have really changed my life, it’s teachers.

When I think about all that the teachers I know have done for me, I want to pass that encouragement on to my students.  For six hours each day I have the opportunity to be a really positive force in my students’ lives.  I’m even more inspired when I see videos of other incredible teachers, like this one:

It can take a lot to be a teacher though.  There’s a constant stream of work to be done, the regulations are always changing, students can be exhausting and unappreciative, and more often than not, teachers are supplementing the supplies in the classroom with their own purchases, especially in underfunded areas.  For many of us, that’s just part of the job.  You need pencils, binders, calculators of lab materials for your students?  Then you go out and buy them.   That’s why I’m excited to let you know about the Adopt-a-Classroom program from Office Depot.

Office Depot and Adopt-A-Classroom have partnered to raise awareness about teachers, and all that they do in the lives of their students.  Adopt-A-Classroom is a nonprofit organization that helps connect donors with teachers to enhance the learning environment for students.  Teachers all over the country and in your local area are doing amazing, innovative things in their classrooms and you can help them do more by donating.  Are you a teacher who could use more resources to change lives in your school?  Register on Adopt-a-Classroom and let people help you.

If you have any stories of teachers that changed your life, I’d love to read them in the comments.  We could all use more inspiration!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

A Planned Ahead Party


A couple weeks ago, I accomplished something I’d been working on since the fall of 2010.  I finally proved to the state of Massachusetts that I had met the requirements necessary to be given a license in special education.  I could write a long post about the over three year process and the frustrations involved with in it, but this is a primarily a food blog.  The new license means a number of things for me, including the security of my position at work, but in terms of the immediate effect, it meant that I had a party to plan.

This party was planned ahead on two fronts.  One: I knew I’d be throwing a party as soon as I got my special education license, whether that was last month or next year.  So, just days after I got the news I invited way too many of my friends to a very casual get together at our place last Friday.  Two: I scheduled the party to begin on a Friday afternoon only half an hour after I was scheduled to leave school for the day.  My goal immediately became to prep as much food in advance as possible.

chips and salsa

The menu:  Vegetarian Buffalo Chicken Dip, carrot and celery sticks, homemade hummus, Veggie Pizza Squares, various packaged chips and crackers, salsa, cheese slices, popcorn – This menu is extremely similar to the one I served at our house warming in May, and a lot of the guests were the same, but I was totally okay with that.  These are the foods I like to eat at parties, I didn’t have the time/energy/money to make anything fancy and I knew these recipes would work out.  Trying out one new item, the veggie pizza squares, was all of the risk I was prepared to take.

party food

Thursday Prep:  On the night before the party, Brian cut up the carrots, celery and cheese, because he is the best husband ever.  Meanwhile, I made the dough for the veggie pizza and set it aside for its two hour rise.  Next I mixed together the ingredients for a double batch of the buffalo dip and placed them in a large bowl in the fridge.   I could’ve put the dip straight into the casserole dish, but I have this thing about transferring baking dishes directly from the fridge to the oven.  I also mixed the topping for the pizza and put that in a bowl in the fridge.  And, in an effort to make my life as easy as possible the next day, I put all the serving dishes I planned on using and the bags and boxes of chips and crackers on the dining room table.  Before bed, I baked the crust for the pizza and then let it cool overnight.

veggie pizza

Friday:  In a miraculous and incredibly helpful turn of events, Brian was able to get a ride home from school after his meeting, allowing me the chance to head home almost an hour earlier than originally expected.  And I ended up needing even minute of that extra time.  I immediately preheated the oven for the dip, spread the dip into a casserole dish, sprinkled it with some cheese and put it in the oven.  While it cooked, I chopped up the vegetables for the pizza and popped a batch of popcorn.  And ran around doing a little bit of last minute cleaning. Our first guest arrived at 3:45, fifteen minutes early, and she helped arrange platters with chips and crackers.  Brian jumped in when he got home not long after and we were ready to go when people really started showing up a little after 4:00.

party food 2

All of the menu items went over really well, despite the fact that we definitely had a bunch of leftovers at the end of the evening.   I was especially glad that the pizza was popular, as I’d never made it before.   Next time I think I’ll use a little bit less of the sauce, but it did taste really good.  Lots of our friends came and we had an awesome evening chatting and snacking the night away.  Now I just need an excuse to do it again…

Highlights: Back to School (Part 4)


Hard to believe it’s time once again for my annual Back to School Highlights post.  From what I can tell from my first few days back in the classroom so far this year it looks like it’s going to be a good one.

desks 2

I feel like I’m constantly on the search for a nutritious, filling, fast breakfast.  Overnight oats are one option, as detailed on The Kitchn.  There’s also a post looking for on-the-go breakfast suggestions with some good ideas in the comments.

The Washington Post has useful guidelines regarding what to consider when shopping for packaged breakfasts.

Fooducate suggests that if you’re Stumped for Lunchbox Ideas, Try These Two Yummy Recipes

There are some really neat suggestions in Apartment Therapy’s round up of the Best Kids Lunch Bags and Boxes.

The LA Times has 10 ideas for simple, delicious school lunches for kids (or adults!)

Popular Science explored the data about whether kids eat more vegetables when schools serve healthier lunches.

7 ways to turn leftovers into lunch from The Kitchn

I am thrilled to see that there are 41 comments on The Kitchn post asking readers for their favorite vegetarian and dairy-free sandwiches.  So many great ideas!

The Ultimate 4-Layer Vegan Sandwich from Oh She Glows looks pretty amazing as well.

Homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets on Simple Bites seems like they’d please many kids (and adults!)

Cooking Light also has a collection of healthy lunch ideas.

Serious Eats suggests filling your lunch box with Spaghetti With Arugula Jalapeno Pesto and Zucchini.  Sounds good to me!

After school can be just as challenging as lunch.  Check out these suggestions of 7 Tasty Packaged Snacks for Kids from Real Simple.

Or check out this list of 30 allergy friendly snack ideas from Life Your Way

I’m feeling like these Back-to-School Granola Bars are going to happen in my kitchen really soon.  They look incredible! (via Kitchen Vignettes)

Despite all these links, I can always use more ideas.  Any great suggestions?

Highlights: Back to School (Part 3)


This is the third time “Back to School” has been a Highlights topic.  I can’t help it…it’s the teacher in me.  I love the beginning of September—back to school shopping, setting up my classroom, filling out my plan book.  I hope going back to school never loses its excitement for me.  Of course, going back means returning to the early morning breakfast, 30 minute lunch, after school snack routine, which takes just a little more planning than the random cooking and eating I do during the summer.

school desks

Several “lunch box” recipe collections appeared in my Reader recently, including 20 recipes from The Kitchn, 10 sandwich recipes from Weelicious and 40 vegetarian lunchbox ideas from Peas and Thank You.  My plans for the next couple days include reading all those lists and making a list of lunch ideas for myself and Brian.  Teachers have to eat too!

While I disagree with title “10 Must-Have Apps for Successful High School Students” (I’m pretty sure one can be successful without apps), this Mashable post has some really good looking educational apps.  Now if only we could get everyone access to iPads…

mental_floss has a list of 12 college courses your school probably didn’t offer.  3 of them are taught at schools in my general area.  Maybe I should go sign up?

Packing for college was both fun and difficult for me.  I still don’t understand a system of education wherein on has to pack up and move most of their belongings every 3-4 months.  That said, Serious Eats put together a food related packing list for those headed to college.  It’s actually a pretty good list though lacking in instant soup and ramen noodles (it’s a wonder I didn’t die from a sodium overdose).

After school snacks are important for teachers and students alike.  Check out Real Simple’s 19 Healthy Snack Ideas and The Kitchn’s 5 No-Bake Energy Bars for some snack time inspiration.