This will make packing lunches a little faster.

Usually I’m not crazy about pre-made guacamole because it tends to taste way too smooth, citrusy and chemical tasting. Imagine my surprise when I tasted Wholly Guacamole at my neighborhood Costco and discovered that it’s actually delicious. Even though I’m not a fan of single serving type packaging (wasteful, bad for the earth, too much plastic, blah, blah, blah), I have to admit that Wholly Guacamole Minis are the perfect lunch box item.

wholly guacamole

Today, I made lunches in a flash thanks to these little guacamole packs.

lunch on 30 Oct 2017: chips, guacamole, cheese stick, pineapple guava, dried pineapple, carrots and celery
lunch on 30 Oct 2017: chips, guacamole, cheese stick, pineapple guava, dried pineapple, carrots and celery

 

In Praised of Roasted Broccoli

roasted broccoli
roasted broccoli

My kids were never that into broccoli—that is, until I made roasted broccoli. I wouldn’t say they beg me to make it on a regular basis, but they will actually eat a delicious serving of tender, roasted broccoli. I try to buy broccoli at our local farmer’s market, because it really does taste better than your average bunch of grocery store broccoli. After reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, I started getting into the habit of roasting a big bunch of broccoli during the weekend. Roasting broccoli is the easiest thing ever: chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces (kids can help with this), line a sheet pan with parchment paper, toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper (and any other seasonings of your choice), and roast in a 425˚F oven for about 25 minutes. Broccoli can go from perfectly roasted to burnt in a matter of minutes, so I tend to keep an eye on it: opening the oven and stirring the broccoli ever few minutes. Once the broccoli has cooled, it will keep in the fridge for about a week. It’s super convenient to quickly heat it up as a side dish or toss it into salads or soups. The best thing about buying broccoli and immediately roasting it is that you tend to eat it before it languishes in the back of crisper drawer and becomes sad, forgotten, stinky, half rotten broccoli (we’ve all been there).

Lily chopping broccoli
Lily chopping broccoli

A Kale Salad that Kids Will Eat

I actually love kale salads. They are crunchy and filling and will last for several days in the fridge. I’ve even cracked the code and found a way to get kids to eat kale salad: make it just a little sweet with either the dressing or toppings to counteract kale’s slight bitterness.

Here’s a super delicious kale salad I made last week.

kale salad
kale salad

Versatile Kale Salad with Grains

Salad

1 cup dry grains (such as quinoa, couscous, farro, barley, wild rice etc.)
about 8 oz. of Lacinato (also called Dinosaur or Tuscan) kale
1/2 cup nuts, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup dried fruit, chopped
optional additional veggies (cooked or raw), such as: green beans, sugar snap peas, cucumber, radishes, sweet peppers etc.
fresh herbs if you have them, minced

Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook grains and drain off any extra water.

Wash your kale and dry it well. Pull the thick stalks off of the leaves (I find this is easiest to do with my hands). Set the stalks aside. Stack the leaves and cut across them to make kale ribbons. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the grains (it’s okay if the grains are still warm).

Chop the kale stalks into small pieces. Sauté them in olive oil until they are tender. If you want to add cooked veggies to your salad, you can cook them along with the kale stalks. Salt the cooked veggies to taste and toss them in with your salad. Add the dressing and remaining ingredients and toss to mix.

Behold: One of the Best Snacks Ever

We have an overloaded snack drawer in our house. You know the one: it’s filled with random stuff like Goldfish, rice cakes, those applesauce squeezy packs, granola bars, fruit bars, etc. Sometimes, the kids forget about one of the best snacks ever: a banana.

Seriously, bananas are cheap, delicious, available everywhere, totally unprocessed, and not likely to be contaminated with pesticides due to that lovely wrapper of thick skin. They also fill you up. You can even mash them up and feed them to a baby. So, the next time your kids tell you they are starving and dinner is still two hours away, tell them to eat a banana.

one of the best snacks ever: the banana
one of the best snacks ever: the banana

In Praise of the Bread Machine

a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven

A bread machine is one of those big bulky kitchen appliances that I never imagined would be an essential item in my house—that was, until I got a bread machine. I love this thing. The loaves that bake in the machine are a little funky in size: tall and puffy with a hole in the bottom from the mixing device. But, the kids don’t complain: they love fresh, warm bread. The thing that I really love about the bread machine is that it mixes dough perfectly. We use every week to make pizza dough: dump the ingredients in and the dough is ready in 45 minutes. All it needs is a short rest and then it’s ready to roll out.

I’ve also discovered that the bread machine can make lots of other doughs, including enriched doughs for brioche, sweet rolls, pan de muerto and challah. Look at this beauty I made yesterday:

a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven
a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven

And here is today’s school lunch, featuring that lovely bread:

challah with Nutella and jam, pistachios, baby carrots and strawberries
challah with Nutella and jam, pistachios, baby carrots and strawberries

In Praise of Lunch in a Jar

beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar

I’m a big fan of bringing lunch in a jar to work. If I’m not motived to make an elaborate salad or sandwich, I just pile fruit, yogurt or cottage cheese, and granola or something crunchy into a jar. Lately, I been on a beets kick—especially raw, shredded beets (messy to make, but delicious to eat). Last week, I made this gorgeous concoction for my lunch:

beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar
beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar

I piled shredded beets on cottage cheese with apple chunks, peanut butter, cinnamon and honey. The color is insane and I loved the spiced/sweet/earthy combo.

This morning I decide to make the kids’s lunches in jars. Of course, they had to be made to order, because they didn’t want the same thing. Lily got a yogurt, applesauce, banana and granola parfait, and Iain wanted the Elvis Special (yogurt, bananas, peanut butter and honey).

lunch on 6 Feb 2017: yogurt lunches in jars
lunch on 6 Feb 2017: yogurt lunches in jars

A Week of Mini Muffins

chocolate beet apple banana oat mini muffins
chocolate beet apple banana oat mini muffins
chocolate beet apple banana oat mini muffins

The theme of school lunches this week was: mini muffins. I made mini beet muffins on our Monday holiday and once the kids gobbled them up, I had to make another batch of mini muffins. They were quite dubious when they saw me grating a beet to add to the muffins, but they ended up loving these loaded with goodness…

Chocolate Beet Apple Banana Oat Mini Muffins
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. ground flax mixed with 4 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup grated apple (about 1 small apple)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cupunsweetened almond milk
  • 1 heaping cup (packed) grated beet
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚ degrees F. Spray mini muffin pans with cooking oil or use cute little cupcake liners.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the flax and water and let it thicken while you mash the banana and grate the apple and beet. Add the grated/mashed fruit and veg to the flax egg and whisk in the maple syrup, olive oil, and almond milk.

Add the dry ingredients (brown sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, oats, almond meal, cocoa powder, and flour) to the bowl and stir until everything is combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

When filling the muffin pans with batter, fill them all the way up to the top. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Muffins can be stored at room temperature for a few days (if they last that long).

Yield: about 40 mini muffins

Muffins, Muffins and More Muffins

And here is a round up of those muffin-filled lunches:

Back into the Swing of Things, Lunch Style

lunch on 30 Nov 2016: hummus and veggies, crackers, grapes, and mini chocolate mint stars

It’s always a challenge to get back into the school routine after having an entire week off for Thanksgiving break—especially when that break includes a trip to Disneyland followed by the making and consumption of way too much food. The first few lunches of the week were typical lazy mom affairs made with minimal fuss and effort.

Exhibit A:

lunch on 28 Nov 2016: cinnamon swirl bread with butter, dried apricots, carrots, apples and a GoGo Squeez
lunch on 28 Nov 2016: cinnamon swirl bread with butter, dried apricots, carrots, apples and a GoGo carrot applesauce

Exhibit B:

lunch on 29 Nov 2016: peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich with carrots and oranges
lunch on 29 Nov 2016: peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich with carrots and oranges

For today’s lunch, I put in a little more effort and made the kiddos a nice hummus (edamame hummus from Trader Joe’s) and veggie lunch with multi-colored carrots, quick boiled green beans and baby bell peppers. I also included some delicious Ritz crackers, grapes, dried apricots, and Trader Joe’s adorable little mini mint chocolate star cookies.

lunch on 30 Nov 2016: hummus and veggies, crackers, grapes, and mini chocolate mint stars
lunch on 30 Nov 2016: hummus and veggies, crackers, grapes, and mini chocolate mint stars

Mind Blowing Kale Salad

mind blowing kale salad

Do you ever feel like you’re in a salad rut? You want to eat more salad, but you can’t motivate yourself to do all that washing and chopping. Today, I decided it was time to make some sort of new and exciting salad to go with dinner. I was super excited when I saw this gorgeous salad on Smitten Kitchen’s Instagram. I used Deb’s recipe as an inspiration for this completely different kale salad, because I had no green beans on hand and I don’t like onions.

mind blowing kale salad
mind blowing kale salad

Here’s how I made it:

Mind Blowing Kale Salad

a big bunch of kale
handful of chopped cabbage
handful of shredded carrots
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup raisins
bulb of fennel
1 or 2 stalks of celery
handful of sugar snap peas
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. sugar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Make the Pickles

Thinly slice the celery and fennel (this goes quickly if you have a mandolin). Wash and trim the sugar snap peas. In a glass jar, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Add the sliced celery, fennel and sugar snap peas to the brine. Let it sit in the fridge for a least an hour—or better, yet, all day.

quick pickled celery, fennel and sugar snaps
quick pickled celery, fennel and sugar snaps
The Salad

Begin by roasting the almonds on the stove top. I used a dry cast iron pan and it only took a few minutes to cook the almonds until lightly brown and fragrant. Let these guys cool.

Remove any thick stems from the kale and slice it into thin strips. In a large bowl, toss the kale with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Roughly chop the cabbage. I used white cabbage, but purple would be really pretty. Add the cabbage, shredded carrots, and raisins to the kale. Roughly chop the almonds and throw these in the salad.

Now, get some of those pickled veggies out of the jar with a fork and add them to the mix (you might not use them all; it depends how much you like that tart pickle taste). Spoon out some of that pickling juice and add it a little at a time to the salad. Mix everything up, season generously with salt and pepper, and taste it before adding more of the brine.

Dig into this crunchy sweet sour bowl of deliciousness.

Cucumber, Cream Cheese, and a Favorite Condiment

cucumber cream cheese roll
lunch on 11 Oct 2016: cucumber roll ups, fruit salad, granola bar and graham Goldfish
lunch on 11 Oct 2016: cucumber roll ups, fruit salad, granola bar and graham Goldfish

For today’s lunch, I made a fruit salad with cantaloupe, grapes, and pineapple. I also made some cucumber, cream cheese and furikake roll ups.

cucumber cream cheese roll
cucumber cream cheese roll

I’m crazy about furikake, which is a sweet and salty mix of little pieces of seaweed and sesame seeds.

furikake seaweed seasoning
furikake seaweed seasoning

I pretty much sprinkle it on everything. My kids love it because it makes boring food taste like sushi.

open-faced sandwich with cream cheese, cucumbers, and furikake
open-faced sandwich with cream cheese, cucumbers, and furikake

Two Ways with Peanut Butter and Nutella

lunch on 6 Oct 2016: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, sweet peppers, persimmon and pineapple slices
lunch on 6 Oct 2016: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, sweet peppers, persimmon and pineapple slices
lunch on 6 Oct 2016: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, sweet peppers, persimmon and pineapple slices

We’re finishing off the week with some peanut butter and Nutella. For Thursday’s lunch, I made a peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich on a nice, fluffy roll.

lunch on 7 Oct 2016: peanut butter and Nutella roll-ups, apples, carrot, GoGo Squeez, and shrimp chips
lunch on 7 Oct 2016: peanut butter and Nutella roll-ups, apples, carrot, GoGo Squeez, and shrimp chips

Today’s lunch has some little peanut butter and Nutella roll ups with lots of apples (sliced and GoGo Squeeze strawberry applesauce), a baby carrot and a small serving of delicious shrimp chips. And with that, another week of school lunches is crushed. Happy Weekend!

Leftovers for Lunch: Two Ways with Tortellini

lunch on 5 Oct 2016: tortellini, peanut butter filled pretzels, persimmon slices, pineapple, grapes, and baby carrot

Tortellini from last night’s dinner translates into some yummy lunches today. For the kiddos, I tossed the tortellini in a little olive oil with some grated parmesan. Tortellini always seems really filling to me, so I just gave the kids a small serving of the pasta. I also packed lots of fruit (pineapple, persimmon, and grapes), a baby carrot, and some peanut butter filled pretzels.

lunch on 5 Oct 2016: tortellini, peanut butter filled pretzels, persimmon slices, pineapple, grapes, and baby carrot
lunch on 5 Oct 2016: tortellini, peanut butter filled pretzels, persimmon slices, pineapple, grapes, and baby carrot

And here’s the grownup version of leftover tortellini for lunch:

Daddy lunch: tortellini and kale salad, pineapple chunks and grapes
Daddy lunch: tortellini and kale salad, pineapple chunks and grapes

I tossed the tortellini with some kale, shredded carrots, diced salami and balsamic vinaigrette to make a delicious and filling salad. Just call me master of leftovers. And, yes, I’m loving my EasyLunchboxes.