BACK TO SCHOOL LUNCHBOX LOVE
Alarms set; pencils sharpened; school buses color the streets. Yes, it’s Back to School time.
School lunchboxes can get old r-e-a-l fast for both parents and kids. It’s an especially tall task to make a meal that can sit for hours unrefrigerated, is enjoyable to a very young palate, is nutritious and can be made in just a few minutes. Encourage children to help prepare their own lunch alongside you. Even though what you eat and what your kids eat can be very different, the best way to encourage healthy and – dare I say – adventurous eating is to lead by example.
To help inspire families across the nation, I recently caught up with “The Couch” crew on CBS / WLNY to dish on lunchbox goodness. Check out the video here.
Be sure to check our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages for updates or email email@example.com to schedule your individual phone consultation for specialized private cooking lessons with kids; healthy family-friendly pantry make-overs and school lectures. Don’t Worry, Eat Happy!
EAT WELL. FEEL WELL. ENTERTAIN WELL.
CELEBRATE your culinary creativity!
PLAY with a renewed vitality!
- Manic Monday, Bangles
- Coffee in Bed, Squeeze
- Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd
- School Days, Chuck Berry
- Campus, Vampire Weekend
- She Blinded Me with Science, Thomas Dolby
As a family, create a colorful seasonal produce chart to hang in the pantry or on the fridge. It’s a great reminder of what’s super yummy at any given time of the year. What’s more, if your child knows his/her favorite fruit or vegetable will be coming to market in all its seasonal glory, together you can develop some fun recipes to make lunchtime even tastier.
Pantry staples to save the day (in more ways than one)!
If your children love dried fruits and granola, don’t hesitate to buy or make in bulk. It’s both economic and environmental. Keep reusable produce bags or stainless steel containers within your pantry for easy grab and go options. To make sure you’re not going overboard with the granola and nuts, keep some measuring spoons to rest assured you’re staying within a healthy calorie limit. Also, couscous; quinoa; yogurt, all-natural jam or honey, peanut or other nut butter, cheese or cream cheese, and pita bread are great foods to have on hand at all times. Toss some quinoa with kale, fresh herbs, lemon and olive oil. Make a container of yogurt with dried nuts a dollop of jam on top. Pack a quick pita with almond butter and drip of honey. These are all delicious, healthy lunches for your kids. *Recipe for Walnut Ginger Granola below!
Think TAPAS for kids!
Bento Boxes, those fabulous multi-compartment boxes used to contain the different courses of a meal are hot buys for back to school, and perfect for giving your child options for lunchtime. Instead of packing the traditional sandwich and snack, make a lunch out of a variety of small meals and/or snacks. A hard-boiled egg can be packed with a handful of trail mix and a scoop of tuna on a bed of lettuce. Add it all together and you’ve got a delicious salad. Separate, you’ve got a healthy, protein-packed meal!
Use items in-season and transform them into Rainbow Super-Food side salads and protein-rich bites.
To a young belly, an apple shaped like a cartoon-film character could look whole lot tastier! Buy some fun sandwich, veggie and fruit cutters. Even your older kids will think a sandwich looks cooler shaped like a cartoon-film character or pirate! All you need to create Mike’s character is the following:
Green apple halved;
Hard-boiled egg top; plus cream cheese for adhesive;
Provolone cheese and fruit strip for mouth;
Cucumber segments for ears plus toothpicks to hold in place; Bibb lettuce and creativity!
Kids love soup, especially with something crunchy like sliced almonds or Asian noodles on the side that they can add when they are good and ready. During the cold months, make a big pot of soup or stew and freeze it for lazy days. Ladle into glass containers for easy portion control. When ready to eat just heat and add texture with crunchy toppers.
Pick one day each week and go with an international theme–Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican, Asian, Indian, French, etc. Theme all elements of the lunchbox that day and even include a note about the origin of each and a picture of its flag. Make it a tasty educational experience so your child learns something new. Add some prosciutto rolls, baby bruschetta and yummy Italian sweets such as Citrus Leone candies or irresistible Baci chocolates to complete the food story. *Spiedini Recipe below!
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 cups raw walnuts, chopped (can substitute with fresh pecans or almonds)
1 tsp ground ginger powder
1/4 tsp Sea salt
1/4 cup Sunflower, Safflower or Canola oil
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
2 egg whites, whipped until light and frothy
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Combine oats, chopped nuts, ground ginger and Sea salt in a large bowl. Toss well with hands or silicone spatula until ingredients are mixed. Pour oil into the bowl. Pour agave nectar into the bowl. Mix well with spatula until ingredients are incorporated.
Add whipped egg whites to bowl and toss mixture to coat.
Spread granola onto a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Make sure to toss granola every 8-10 minutes during the baking process to evenly cook.
Remove from oven and sprinkle crystallized ginger over the hot granola. Stir quickly then allow granola to cool completely for several hours. Store in clear airtight container for easy and protein-packed snack. (Add other seeds for tasty fun like Pumpkin seeds or Sunflower seeds-both packed with great health!)
POTATO LEEK SOUP
Prepared in 50 minutes or less.
1 Bouquet garni (one bay leaf, 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 10 whole black peppercorns)
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 leeks, rinsed well white and green parts only, cut into ½ inch sticks
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh white pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh chervil leaves or snipped chives, for garnish
Construct bouquet garni inside cheesecloth. Close and tie with kitchen twine. Set aside.
In a large Dutch oven on medium heat, melt the butter and warm olive oil. Add leeks, minced shallots and garlic; cook until very soft approximately 10 minutes occasionally stirring.
Do not brown. Add cubed potatoes, chicken stock and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil before reducing heat to gentle simmer. Cook until potatoes are fork (very) tender, approximately 40 minutes.
Discard bouquet garni. Working in batches, pass soup mixture through a food mill with a medium disk or purée in a blender leaving some texture. Warm soup over medium-low heat.
Slowly stir in whole milk and cream then season with salt and fresh white pepper. Once milk is added, do not boil soup. Gently ladle into glass containers and seal tightly. Top with Veggie Stix or either chopped chervil leaves or chives.
GRILLED MOZZARELLA AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO SPIEDINI
Prepared in 10 minutes or less.
24 pieces of cherry tomatoes or good quality sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 lbs fresh mozzarella cut into 1-inch cubes or fresh herb mozzarella balls
16 fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
Preheat grill or oven to broil. Lightly brush the grill rack or broiler pan with olive oil.
On each skewer, alternating the ingredients, thread three pieces of cherry or sundried tomatoes, two mozzarella cubes and two basil leaves. Brush the mozzarella with marinade from the sundried tomato jar.
Grill or broil the skewers just until the mozzarella begins to melt, flipping once. Serve immediately. Serves 8.
For trivia fun, add history facts about the Italian flag to feed your mind, too!