Grilled pork: it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Today’s main lunch item is a whole grain quesadilla with grilled pork and barbecue sauce. Yummers. The pretty pink and red compartment has strawberries and greek yogurt with strawberry jam swirled in. I also included some grapes and sliced carrots. The more colors in the lunch, the better—and healthier—it looks. The treat is a couple of chocolate mints.
Cooking Tip:For the best, crispiest quesadillas, use a dry cast iron pan over medium heat. Cast iron pans are awesome in so many ways: they are cheap, basically indestructible, and totally non-stick when seasoned properly. I have fancy pants expensive All Clad pans, but, more often than not, I use one of my cast iron pans for sautéing and such.
Yesterday’s Veggie-laden Tuna Salad of Awesomeness is back: this time in the guise of a tuna melt. I think a tuna melt is comfort food perfection. A normal person might make a tuna melt on an english muffin or a nice crusty piece of bread. Unfortunately, on Thursday I found myself out of bread. No loaves, no skinny breads, no english muffins, no biscuits. Nothing. My saving grace: a batch of no-knead whole wheat olive oil dough in the fridge. Have you tried no-knead bread? It’s amazing stuff. When my good friend, the talented and amazing Jason O’Malley told me about Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day, it changed my life. Now, I almost always have some bread dough on hand for pizzas, flatbread, rolls, mini tuna melts, whatever. For the tuna melt, I simple pinched off a small piece of dough, flattened it into a circle, spread on the tuna salad, topped with shredded cheddar and baked at 450 for about 15 minutes. On the side is some steamed broccoli I prepped for dinner and a fruit course of grapes and nectarines. All produce is from the farmers market, so it’s especially delicious. The broccoli tasted amazing without even a sprinkling of salt.
I can never waste even the tiniest scrap of pie crust. Maybe this is because pie crust making is a mysterious art—sometimes the dough magically rolls out perfectly with nary a crack in sight and more often than not, inexplicably, the dough is finicky and refuses to behave. Recently I made a pie with a slightly dodgy crust. Even though the crust was far from perfect, I couldn’t bear to toss the scraps. Hence, today’s lunch galettes: blackberry jam and sliced nectarine on the dodgy crust. Because a little pie is far from a proper lunch, I served it with veggie-laden tuna salad of awesomeness on whole wheat and grapes. In the treat tray is dried pineapple. Treat? Who needs a treat when lunch is a mini pie? Truthfully, I was afraid of leaving the treat tray empty.
Cooking Tip:Here’s how I made Veggie-laden Tuna Salad of Awesomeness:
one gorgeous yellow sweet pepper
two small carrots
a nice big handful of cabbage (purple would have been prettier, but I only had plain old white)
I put the veggies into the Vitamix and covered them with water. I blasted them on high for about 5 seconds, poured the super finely chopped veggies into a strainer and pressed most of the water out. A food processor would have also done the job nicely. I then diced up some dill and sweet pickles. I mixed everything with three cans of tuna, a little olive oil mayo, a squirt of mustard, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. This made a big batch: enough for a giant family-sized tuna hoagie (we had a preschool open house picnic last night) with enough left over for the kids’ and my lunches today.
Last night was Make Your Own Taco night in our house. The kids love Make Your Own Taco night, because they get ultimate control over their meals. I love Make Your Own Taco night, because it either uses leftovers or creates leftovers. And, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m kind of the Queen of Leftovers. Today’s lunch uses leftover grilled chicken (from Sunday’s bbq and Monday’s taco night) and leftover pinto beans (cooked from scratch, frozen and saved from a previous taco night) in a whole grain quesadilla. Fruits and veggies are all from this week’s trip to the farmers market: carrots, English cucumbers, and grapes. There’s a date in the treat tray. That blur at the top is Iain stealing a grape. I usually pack lunches after the kids go to bed, but last night I made the quesadillas right after dinner. Iain and Lily ate so many grapes that I had to refill both of their fruit compartments
Cooking Tip: Best Ever Grilled Chicken Marinade
a cup or so of buttermilk (Who am I kidding. You don’t have buttermilk in your fridge; neither do I. Just add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of regular—soy, almond, dairy—milk. You could also use yogurt.)
the juice of a lemon
a couple of cloves of garlic, pressed
a nice squirt of honey
a tablespoon of olive oil
a teaspoon of salt
a hearty grind of pepper
Pour all ingredients into a ziploc bag with your chicken pieces. Exact measurements are unimportant; I just eyeball everything. Marinate for at least 4 hours. Grill your chicken—thigh meat is more forgiving than breast meat and tastes way better (in my opinion, at least). It will be gorgeous and delicious.
Friday’s lunch always feels like a major accomplishment, because, well, we made it to Friday. Today’s festive Friday lunch is guacamole on whole wheat sandwich thins, pretzel thins + goldfish (there’s an unintentional “thin” theme going on here), and fruit (grapes, pluots and plums from the farmers market). Candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds are in the treat tray.
Cooking Tip:Guacamole is the easiest thing on earth if you have good, ripe avocados. Mash up an avocado with some salt. Done. If you want it to taste more exotic, mash up some chopped onions and cilantro with the salt. Then add the avocado. Or, forget the onion, it’s a pain to chop and makes you cry. Just add a garlic clove pressed through a garlic press. I never add lime juice to guacamole, unless I’m putting it in the kids’ lunches. In this case, I’ll squeeze a little lime juice into the mix to preserve the green color. Oh, yeah, sometimes I add a couple of grinds of black pepper. I’m crazy that way.
Today’s lunch is soy-licious. The main entree is a medley of cherry tomatoes (our garden), carrots (farmers market), edamame (Trader Joe’s frozen section), and teriyaki baked tofu cubes. The teriyaki tofu is from Trader Joe’s and comes pre-prepared, but I often make this by cutting a brick of extra firm tofu into four pieces and baking it in teriyaki sauce for about an hour (350˚ish). My kids love tofu—especially if it’s pan-fried or served in some yummy soy-based sauce. In the other compartments are: rice crackers + pretzel fish and blackberries + raspberries (farmers market). The treat is a rather decadent almond toffee dark chocolate drop.
Today, I was also in charge of Lily’s preschool class snack. Parents have to sign up for snack duty a couple of times per month. I usually try to bring some sort of whole grain baked item with fruit. We are also required to include a protein item in the snack. This time I made vegan zucchini pineapple whole wheat mini muffins. Man oh man, did these muffins turn out good. Sliced cheddar cheese and granny smith apples were also part of this snack. I try to prep and pack up everything for preschool snack the night before and slice/prep the fruit in the morning.
Cooking Tip: If you are looking to make vegan baked goods (because of allergies, health reasons, etc.), check out this vegan baking site. I’ve had really good luck with the recipes.