Lunch Box Ideas

Lunch Box Ideas

It’s that time of year! Kids are back in school and the lunch boxes are pulled out and dusted off ready to take on the school year.

The cub started 3 Day Preschool last week and it’s her first year eating lunch at school. We purchased a Planet Box and a friend from school gifted us the Omie. Both are fabulous lunch boxes!

We prepared two fun and healthy lunch box ideas that incorporate some of our old recipes! Scroll down for links to the recipes!

Box

Omie lunch box:

  • New savory pumpkin bread (Recipe to come) to make a sunbutter and apple sandwich
  • Roasted seaweed
  • Watermelon balls
  • Grapes
  • Brown Butter Pumpkin Cookies

box2

Planet Box

Artichoke and Dip Dip

Artichoke and Dip Dip

The ancients considered the artichoke full of health benefits, including uses like a diuretic, a breath freshener, and even a deodorant. Thankfully we’ve developed different forms of deodorant over time.

Grandma DiDi grew up a few miles away from the artichoke capital – Castroville – and recalls it being a staple at the dinner table when she was growing up. We hope to pass the same memories onto the cub. And this veggie is a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants; they’re number 7 on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.

Artichoke

The cub begins by seasoning the water, that we used to steam the artichoke, with herbs, garlic and oil.

Artichoke2

While the cub takes an apple juice break, she watches Grandma DiDi carefully cut and trim the artichoke outer leaves.

Artichoke3

The cub can’t wait to use the scissors to help trim the leaves.

Artichoke5

While the artichoke steams on the stove, the cub helps prepare the dip dip.

The base of ours is greek yogurt. You can also use plain melted butter or mayonnaise as a dip.

Artichoke6

The cub added mustard to the yogurt.

Artichoke7

Then curry for added flavor. She mixed it up and waited for the artichoke to finish cooking.

Artichoke9

Once the artichoke was complete, the cub dug in with a big munch! She loves artichokes!

artichoke11

Enjoy! What kind of dip do you like to use when eating an artichoke?

Artichoke and Dip Dip

Ingredients

  • Fresh artichokes (as many as you would like)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried Herbs de Provence or oregano
  • Enough water to cover half of the artichokes

Dip Dip

  • 1/2 cup good plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp curry powder (depending on your taste – start light)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Wash the artichokes well under running water; pulling leaves out a bit to rinse away any dirt or residue
  2. Trim top off with serrated knife and pull outer smaller leaves. If you want, snip all leave tops off with scissors (this removes little stickers on tips of artichoke leaves).
  3. Place right side up in saucepan that will comfortably hold the number of artichokes you are cooking. Fill with water to about half way up artichokes.
  4. Add oil, herbs, and chopped garlic to water.
  5. Place artichokes on stove over medium heat and cover.
  6. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes or until artichokes are tender when heart is pierced with a knife or fork. When the artichokes are done, drain all of water off and turn them upside down to make sure all water is out. (keep an eye on water level – it can evaporate so you may need to add more hot water during cooking time)
  7. To make dip, blend yogurt, curry, garlic powder and mustard together. Cover and let sit in refrigerator for an hour.
  8. Artichokes can be eaten hot, warm, room temp or cold and hold for days in refrigerator after being cooked.

Notes:

  • When choosing artichokes at the market, look for those with leaves that are tightly closed and when the leaves are squeezed gently there is a squeaking sound. These are the freshest!
  • Artichokes can also be placed on a steamer plate to cook.

Summer Nectarine Salad

Summer Nectarine Salad

We are seriously digging this salad! Sweet, tangy and refreshing. It goes well with chicken, fish or on its own. The cub loves it, too!

Salad1

Grandma DiDi is known for many of her talents in the kitchen, but salad dressings have to be at the top of the list. She always makes her own and it always makes the salad.

Salad2

She also always recycles old jars. The cub helps her add the oil to the jar as the base of the dressing.

salad3

She destems and adds the fresh thyme to the jar.

salad5

A touch of salt and pepper.

salad6

A fun activity that the cub doesn’t always get to try is zesting. She really enjoyed this step!

salad7

Stop and smell the ingredients.

salad8

Big squeeze of lemon into the dressing. These lemons are crazy big, but also big in flavor!  And they come from GG’s (great grandma’s) lemon tree.

salad9

Next up, the cub chops the peppers for the salad.

salad10

Watching Grandma DiDi cut the corn off the cob is so interesting. She was fascinated.

salad11

Grandma DiDi shows the cub how to sprinkle all the salad toppings over the lettuce to make it look pretty.

salad12

It’s the cubs turn! Nicely done!

salad15

The finished product! Hurry, make this salad before summer ends! Nectarines and corn are delicious this year!

 

Summer Nectarine Salad

Ingredients
(6 – 8 side servings)

  • 1 – 1 ½ bags of mixed greens of choice
  • 1 ear corn (raw or grilled), sliced off cob
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small Persian cucumber, sliced
  • ½ red bell, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 nectarine, sliced
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Good feta or goat cheese
  • Herbs: Mint, basil, dill and parsley sprinkled over

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup Trader Joes Orange moscato vinegar
  • 1/3  cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1  tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp or more agave
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of cayenne to taste
  • 1 -2 tsp fresh thyme

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients for the dressing into container (jar) and shake vigorously. Set aside.
  2. In large bowl place lettuce in bowl.
  3. Layer the rest of the salad ingredients over lettuce.
  4. Toss with dressing right before serving.
  5. Enjoy!

Notes:

Add or subtract the herbs to your taste. If you make ahead, place a damp paper towel over the top of the salad and place in refrigerator for up to 1 – 2 hours.

 

 

Watermelon Granita

Watermelon Granita

During these hot summer days, there is no better way to cool down than with a delicious cool treat, like Granita! Not only is it the perfect mix of refreshing and sweet, it’s also a ton of fun to make. Let’s get started!

Water1

We decided to use kombucha for the base. You could use water or juice as well.

water2

The cub adds her favorite part…sugar!

water4

Next up the cub chops the watermelon. One piece in the blender, one piece in the mouth! 🙂

water7

Grandma DiDi zests a lime and adds it to the blender.

water8

Then the cub gets to squeeze the lime for its juices. SQQQUUEEEEZZEE!

water9

They poured the kombucha mix into the blender and it was ready to mix.

water10

The cub covered her ears because it was really loud!

water11

Once it’s all mixed together, they poured the mixture into a 9 X 13 pan (metal works best) and put it in the freezer.

water12

Outfit change! Every 45 minutes they pulled it from the freezer to scrape it with a fork. This process insures it breaks into little fluffy ice pieces.

water14

The finished product… Summer treat perfection!

 

Watermelon Granita
(Recipe adapted from Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a small seedless watermelon(any fruit you choose)
  • 1-2 tbsp of sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
  • 1/4 cup of ginger Kombucha (or water or other liquid you wish to use)
  • 1 lime, for zest and juice

Directions

  1. Mix together kombucha and sugar, set aside so sugar dissolves
  2. Cut the watermelon into small pieces
  3. Add all ingredients, plus lime zest and juice to blender and puree until smooth
  4. Pour into 9 X 13 pan
  5. Place pan in freezer and set timer for 30- 45 minutes
  6. Remove and scrape the granita mixture with fork and return to freezer
  7. Repeat scraping with fork 3-4 times and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving

Cotton Candy Popsicles

Cotton Candy Popsicles

Summertime means sun, lots of outdoor fun and a time when you can buy the most delicious fruit! One in particular – Cotton Candy grapes! If you haven’t heard of them, ask your local grocer if they are getting any in and make sure to grab a bag before they are gone. I know when they hit the shelves in our hometown they don’t last long!  They are super sweet and taste just like cotton candy.

We grabbed a bag and decided to make popsicles with them!  And these couldn’t be easier!

Cotton

The cub started by chopping the grapes in half. We wanted to keep some of the grapes in bigger chunks.

Cotton1

The rest of the grapes she dumped into the blender.

Cotton2

For liquid we added one squeeze apple juice box to the blender.

Cotton3

A quick stir and then it was time to blend up the ingredients.

Cotton4

Time to get the Koji popsicle mold ready for the mixture.

Cotton5

In goes the apple grape mixture… oh, and a little friend joined in on the fun.

Cotton6

Grandma DiDi, the cub and her friend all helped put the grape halves in the popsicle mold. The bigger chunks give the popsicle more texture.

Cotton7

Last step before they go in the freezer is to put the sticks and caps on.  Notice that Grandma DiDi is getting a little help from a Santa sticker strategically placed on her arm by the cub earlier that morning.

Cotton8

Finally! The sweetest popsicle on a hot summer day!

 

Cotton Candy Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of cotton candy grapes; save about 1/8 cup just chopped
  • 1 7oz apple juice box

Directions

  1. Wash and prepare grapes
  2. Chop all grapes (reserve approximately 1/8 cup)
  3. Place grapes (except reserved) in blender
  4. Add 1 box of apple juice
  5. Blend for about 1 minute or pulse about 10 times
  6. Pour into popsicle mold
  7. Add reserved chopped grapes to each popsicle mold
  8. Freeze and enjoy. It should take 1 – 3 hours to fully freeze depending on the molds you use

Plantain Crusted Chicken Strips

Plantain Crusted Chicken Strips

A new restaurant recently opened up by our house and they make these amazingly crunchy and slightly sweet plantain chicken strips. The cub loves them so we decided to try and recreate them. Not quite the same, but close!

Chicken

The cub started off the preparations by scooping some coconut oil into a bowl. This will serve as a coating for the chicken.

Chicken1

We ran to our nearest Trader Joes and grabbed their Sweet Plantain Chips. Sooo good!

We placed the chips in an old coffee grinder to bring them to a fine ground.

chicken4

The cub enjoyed pushing the button!

chicken3

Grandma DiDi scooped the plantain grinds into a bowl while the cub watched.

Chicken5

The cub seasoned the plantains with salt and pepper. Now they are ready to dip the chicken!

Chicken6

The cub helps Grandma DiDi coat the chicken in plantain grinds.

chicken7

The chicken strips are placed on a baking sheet ready to go in the oven.

chicken8

Time to dig in!

chicken9

Try our healthier version of a chicken strip! Enjoy!

Plantain Crusted Chicken Strips

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lbs. chicken breast strips
  • 1/2 bag Sweet Plantain Chips from Trader Joes, crushed to either a crunchy or fine grind
  • Approximately 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted or 2 eggs whipped
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F
  2. Grind plantain chips to a fine ground (or courser if you choose)
  3. Season plantain grounds with salt and pepper
  4. Dip chicken strips in coconut oil (egg would work also here)
  5. Dredge chicken in plantain grounds
  6. Place chicken on parchment covered baking sheets
  7. Bake chicken for 15 – 20 min or until cooked through

 

Kale Popcorn

Kale Popcorn

Need an easy snack that your kids will love that also has some nutritional value to it? Look no further – an easy recipe that will satisfy that salty craving all while eating your greens! It’s a win-win situation!

Kale

The cub began by helping strip the kale from the stems.

Kale1

Grandma says, “Way to go”!

Kale3

Once all the kale had been stripped, the cub stopped for a snack. Raw kale for the win!

Kale4

Next up, the cub oils the baking sheets.

Kale5

And tosses the kale in the oil and adds some salt for flavor.

kale6

While the kale bakes in the oven, the cub gets to work prepping the toppings. Popcorn wouldn’t be complete without a little cheese!  Yes, this task necessitated a princess and some help from Grandma!

Kale7

After the kale was cooled, the cub crushed the chips into small pieces.

Kale8

But she needs to taste them first to make sure they are just right! Delicious!

Kale9

Once all the kale has been crushed, Grandma DiDi adds the popcorn to the mixture. We used pre popped popcorn from the store, but you can make your own if you prefer.

Kale10

The cub stirs it up so that all the popped kernels are covered.

Kale11

Grandma DiDi does the final toss!

Kale12

The finished product. It didn’t last long!

Kale Popcorn

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Kale Dusted Popcorn recipe)

Ingredients

Kale Dust:

  • A bundle of Lacinato kale (aka dinosaur or Tuscan) although, we used red curly kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt

To finish:

  • 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels or bag of popped popcorn(we used  1 bag of Trader Joe’s olive oil popcorn)
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale. Remove and discard the tough stems.
  2. Lightly brush two large baking sheets with olive oil. Arrange the leaves in one layer on the prepared baking sheets, sprinkle lightly with salt, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the leaves are crisp. Let cool completely. In a food processor, with a mortar and pestle, or even with a muddler in a bowl, grind the kale chips down into a coarse powder.
  3. Make the popcorn (Directions from Smitten Kitchen): Place 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 or 3 kernels of popcorn in a 3-quart or larger pot. Turn the heat to medium-high, and cover with a lid. When you hear these first kernels pop, add the remaining kernels and replace the lid. Using pot holders, shimmy the pot around to keep the kernels moving as they pop. When several seconds pass between pops, remove from the heat. (Or use your preferred brand bag of popcorn heated in oven on tray for just a couple minutes.)
  4. Transfer to a bowl, and immediately toss with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, kale dust, Pecorino, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss until evenly coated. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed.