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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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The cub added mustard to the yogurt.

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

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

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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.

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!

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

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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.

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The cub enjoyed pushing the button!

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

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

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

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

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Time to dig in!

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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

 

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

Delizioso! Nothing like homemade pasta! Grandma DiDi and the cub took on the task of making homemade whole wheat pasta and boy was it worth it! All the while, the cub learned about the time and energy it takes to prepare and cook noodles.

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The cub was feeling brave today and decided to work with the food processor. In goes the flour.

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Then the eggs and a little water!

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The cub watches while Grandma DiDi mixes the dough. The cub stands back, but isn’t as intimidated this time around.

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Grandma DiDi rolls out the dough.

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Now it’s the cubs turn to pat the dough and shape it so it can rest for an hour.

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The cub delicately wraps the dough with plastic wrap.

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Time to feed the dough through the Kitchenaid pasta attachment.

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After a few passes, the dough stretches out nice and long! Almost time to feed through the noodle press. The cub enjoys her duty of helping hold the dough with her hands.

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The cub got to pick between fettuccini and spaghetti… she chose Fettuccini and was eager to help feed it thought the roller.

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All done and the cub wants me to see her finished work!

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Fettuccini!

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And we had enough dough to make spaghetti!

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Lunch is served! Our version of Caccio e pepe! We added oil, butter, salt, pepper, parmesan and peas! Make your own creation and share it with us!

 

Whole Wheat Homemade Pasta

(adapted from Small Victories)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Water, as needed

Directions

  1. Combine in bowl or food processor the flour, eggs and salt. Run machine until it forms ball of dough and it doesn’t stick to fingers or blade. Add water, teaspoon at a time, until this occurs (took more water with the whole wheat flour than with all-purpose). When dough has formed, pat into flat disk and dust with some extra flour. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for one hour.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Using a kitchenaid mixer with correct attachments:  After dough has rested for an hour, cut dough into about 6 equal pieces (keep the rest covered).  Press one piece of dough down with the heel of your palm until it flattens,  then run it through the pasta machine on level one. I needed to do level 1 several times with the whole wheat pasta, folding over once or twice to get the consistency correct. Run dough sheets through every level (up to6 or 7) at least once or twice until you have achieved desired consistency.  Towards the end, sheets become very long and it’s necessary to gently carry them on the backs of your hands.  If dough becomes sticky dust with a little flour.
  4. You can use the flat sheets for lasagna – no pre cooking needed. We changed the attachment and fed the sheets through to make fettuccini and spaghetti.
  5. Cook noodles in boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes  and serve with your favorite sauce/toppings.
  6. All pasta should be cooked right away or refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

 

Strawberry Spinach Wrap

Strawberry Spinach Wrap

Staying creative with meals can be a challenge, allowing us to easily fall into the same routine – I’m very guilty of this! This wrap is easy and uses items you probably already have in your refrigerator.

The cub loves sour foods, i.e., lemon, vinegar, etc. So when thinking of something that would fit her palate, we decided to make a sweet and sour tasting wrap! The perfect balance in flavor and nutrition.

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The cub began by helping Grandma DiDi cut up the strawberries.

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Next up, Grandma DiDi made the ricotta spread. She used regular ricotta cheese and added honey .

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The cub loves lemon, so we zested a lemon and added it to the ricotta spread to create a light balance that was slightly sweet with the zesty brightness of the citrus.

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The cub must try it to make sure it’s just right! She approves!

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Grandma DiDi grabs a lavash wrap and spreads the ricotta on one side.

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Next, the cub layers spinach leaves on the ricotta.

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On go the strawberries!

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Strawberries go really well with a balsamic dressing so we added that to give it a bit more flavor. The cub helps drip it on the strawberries. It’s almost time to eat!

 

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Such fun watching it roll up. Some of the ingredients fell out the side and the cub helped push them back in as Grandma DiDi rolled it up.

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Dig in! A perfectly balanced snack or lunch that is sure to satisfy your sweet and sour cravings!

 

Spinach Strawberry Wrap

Ingredients for 2 wraps

  • 1 12 x 9  whole wheat Lavash cut in half
  • Handful of spinach/or arugula
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp lemon zest or to taste
  • 1 tsp honey or to taste
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cut the lavash in half, crosswise.
  2. Mix the ricotta cheese with honey and lemon zest and set aside. Wash the strawberries and slice.
  3. Make dressing by mixing vinegar, oil and salt and pepper.
  4. To assemble, spread half of the ricotta on top half of the lavash as well as the one inch portion on other end to create a glue when you roll it into a wrap.
  5. Cover the ricotta with a thin layer of spinach.
  6. Cover the spinach with a thin layer of strawberries.
  7. Drizzle with as much balsamic dressing as you would like and roll up.
  8. Cut in half at an angle or into two inch rings.
  9. Remaining dressing can be used for dipping on the side.

 

Deviled Egg Bunnies

Deviled Egg Bunnies

Easter is upon us, and before you run out to the store to grab everything you need for the celebrations, consider jazzing up your deviled egg recipe by adding some bunny faces to them.

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After the eggs had been hard-boiled and cooled, the cub got right into rolling and peeling them. It took a few tries until she understood how to roll them under her palm. On this particular day she woke up feeling like a princess, so, of course, she needed to dress the part.

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Grandma DiDi then demonstrated how to cut them in half. With a little bit of help, the cub did an excellent job.

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Grandma DiDi showed the cub how to pop the yolk out of the egg white. The cub watched intently.

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She did it! Yay!

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Now it’s the cubs turn. This took patience and practice.

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One for you, one for me. The cub is always tasting the food we make.

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Now for the additions to the deviled egg mix. The Cub and her knife skills went to work. Chopping the celery to add to the mix was easy.

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This Cinderella princess is right at ease stirring up a batch of deviled eggs.

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Pausing to smell the ingredients is a MUST. The cub helps us chop some dill for the deviled egg mix and I think we will also use some for whiskers.

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Next up the cub chopped up some olives for the deviled egg bunny decorations. We think we will use them for eyes and maybe a nose!

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We let the cub design her own, but for our finished product, Grandma DiDi took over the assembly of the bunnies.

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HOPPY EASTER!

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We hope you enjoy the day with friends and family!

Deviled Egg Bunnies

Ingredients

  • Dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 -2 Tbsp Chopped celery (to taste)
  • 1-2 Tbsp mayonaise
  • 2-3 Tbsp greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dill, chopped
  • Toppings: radish, carrots, chives, olives, dill, and capers

Directions

    1. Bring eggs to a gentle boil for about 10 minutes then let them sit in the hot water for about another 5, covered. Cool them completely in an ice bath for 10 minutes.
    2. Peel eggs and slice them lengthwise in half.
    3. Remove yolks and place in a medium size bowl. Smash well with a fork.
    4. Add yogurt, mayonnaise and mustard  to the egg yolks and blend well. Add more or less depending on the consistency you prefer.
    5. Add chopped celery, salt, pepper, and dill to the egg yolks (we kept the eggs pretty simple. Feel free to add other ingredients like onions, pickles etc.)
    6. Fill the egg white halves with prepared yolk mixture using a small spoon or pastry bag.
    7. Decorate the eggs with eyes, nose, whiskers and a smile using  your choice of toppings.
    8. Eat and enjoy!

Veggie Alphabet Noodle Soup

Veggie Alphabet Noodle Soup

Anyone else on an endless cycle of colds with their little ones this season? The cub has had her fair share of sickness. A balanced, healthy diet can help boost your immune system, so we are doing all we can to help the cub during this season.

For centuries soup has been regarded as a cold fighting food. To back up this theory, we dive into the nutritional benefits of each ingredient.

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The cub learns about thyme and how to strip it. Grandma DiDi models and the cub follows along.

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The cub always smell new ingredients she uses. It activates more than one sense in the cub helping her to fully understand it.

Thyme: The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat bedwetting, diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis, colic, sore throat, cough, including whooping-cough, bronchitis, flatulence, and as a diuretic, to increase urination.

Thyme to eat up!

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Next up, the cub chops the zucchini. If you have been following along, you will notice the cub has improved on her knife skills. We’re so proud!

Zucchini: Already being an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C, zucchini is also contains vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper, and phosphorus.

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The cub moves onto chopping the bell peppers. Check out those knife skills!

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Along with smelling our ingredients, we eat them, too, to make sure they are delicious.

Bell peppers: are rich in many vitamins and antioxidants, especially vitamin C and various carotenoids.

Eat up, Cub!

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Grandma DiDi helped chop the rest of ingredients with a quick kiss to show love and appreciation for one another.

Onion: An onion contains fiber and folic acid, and B vitamin that helps the body make healthy new cells.

Carrots: Most of the benefits of carrots can be attributed to their beta-carotene and fiber content. These root vegetables are also a good source of antioxidants, vitamin A, C, K, and B8, as well as pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.

Potato: Potatoes offer the body fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C and iron, and are an excellent source of potassium.

Celery: The benefits of celery begin with it being an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6.

Tomatoes: Are a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Niacin, Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Iron, Potassium and Copper.

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Once again, the cub tests out how celery leaves taste. Eat your antioxidants, little one!

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We added all the yummy ingredients to a pot to cook. Can you smell the aroma? Delicious!

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Grandma DiDi made her own vegetable broth and added it to the soup. You can also use store-bought. The cub watches with curiosity.

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Time to add our noodles. We decided to use Eden Organic Pasta Vegetable Noodles for our soup. Bonus points for adding a learning component to the soup!

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In they go from the loving arms of Grandma DiDi.

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The final product that’s filled with so much goodness. Add fresh lemon for added Vitamin C – a proven way to help boost your immune system and a brightened flavor in whatever you’re eating!

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She’s so proud of her dish. Extra credit: Happiness is also known to lead to better health! 😁

 

Veggie Alphabet Noodle Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • I cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • I cup bell peppers – whatever color you want, diced
  • 3 – 4 small yukon gold or red skinned potatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • approximately 4 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken if you wish) *see note
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups alphabet noodles *see note
  • Salt and pepper to taste (note that canned tomatoes have a lot of salt)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Add whatever veggies you want, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips, parsnips, etc.

Directions:

  1. Put oil in large dutch oven pot or pan.
  2. Add onion, celery,  and carrots and saute until softened (about 5 – 10 min) over medium heat.
  3. Add peppers, zucchini and potatoes with thyme and cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in tomatoes and broth and let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add noodles and cook about 10 minutes (or per package direction of noodles).
  6. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

Note: I have found that packaged vegetable broths taste terrible. So as I cook I throw all leftover trimmings of veggies I have (carrot ends, stems of parsley, and other herbs, etc) into a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. I add to them and then put them in a pot with water and some fresh garlic, onion, peppercorns, bay leaves etc)  and simmer for a while then strain.  Freeze and use when needed.

Also noodles in broth will continue to soak up the water/broth until there is no more liquid. It’s best to eat soup with pasta first couple days.   You can freeze, but the noodles don’t always hold up well structurally, although they still taste wonderful.