Archive for September, 2011

September 29, 2011

Summer Rolls

My inspiration for today’s lunch came from last night’s dinner: grilled five-spice chicken, courtesy of S loves the chicken, as does her brother, but I wanted to repurpose it for lunch today. And I wanted to hold on to summer, since the sun was shining so warmly. So, I decided to make some summer rolls, the rice paper rolls that are frequently served at Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. It’s the spring roll’s healthy little sister.

I usually have all the ingredients I need in my pantry, so all I had to do was grate a carrot, julienne a cucumber, and soak some bean thread noodles (aka cellophane noodles) in boiling water. Before I started to construct the roll, I soaked an 8-inch round spring roll wrapper (made out of rice flour) in warm water until it was pliable. Then I moved it to some paper towels, where I blotted it. I arranged some spring mix on the bottom half of the soaked rice paper roll, leaving a 1-inch border. I topped it with the cellophane noodles, which had been drained in a sieve, some grated carrots, a couple mint leaves, shredded chicken from the night before, and a couple Thai basil leaves. You roll it the same way you would roll a burrito, but you want to make sure it’s tight around the filling. Wrap it with a damp paper towel to keep the rice paper soft. To finish, I made a peanut sauce for dipping.

September 23, 2011

Homemade Mac and Cheese with Swiss Chard

The crinkly whisper in the air signals the advent of fall. And nothing complements the cooler weather like macaroni and cheese. Not the kind that comes in a blue box with a packet of yellow powder. But the one that gets all crispy on top from being baked.

Inspired by the chilliness, I made my first macaroni and cheese last night. I wanted to see if I could make a delicious mac and cheese with brown rice pasta and goat milk products. And I wanted to use up some swiss chard. It wasn’t a cheap casserole when it was over, but it was more than tasty. I used goat gouda, goat cheddar and goat monterey jack, as well as goat milk. Although I used brown rice pasta, it wasn’t gluten free because I used regular flour for the cheese sauce and panko breadcrumbs to top it off. Looking back, I could’ve used rice flour and crumbled rice crackers.

I combined a recipe from Alton Brown and Epicurious. Both included swiss chard. Topping the casserole with cumin seed really made the dish stand out. But I only put it on half the casserole, in case it was too adult for the kids.

It packed easily in S’s lunch today, as does most pasta.

September 21, 2011

Leftover Wednesday: Broccoli Cole Slaw with Chicken

Early this summer, I found a recipe for broccoli cole slaw that I couldn’t resist. Little did I know that both my kids would feel the same way. They actually fight over this slaw. Many thanks, Paula Deen.

To make it a little more heart healthy, I cut back drastically on the butter and oil, without sacrificing any of the taste. And I added some chopped apples to give it a hint of sweetness. I’ve tried other fruit in it such as blueberries and mandarin oranges, but the apples have been my favorite. Loaded with slivered almonds and sunflower seeds, this is one hearty salad. And since this recipe uses the stalk of broccoli, it’s quite possible that broccoli haters may not even know they’re eating broccoli. I love that it all comes shredded and bagged. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

I made a huge batch last night with dinner, so there was enough for lunch for S. I topped it with some grilled chicken for some added protein. When I unpacked her lunchbox this afternoon all the slaw was gone, but most of the chicken was still there.

Paula Deen’s Broccoli Cole Slaw 


  • 2 bags (3-ounce) Ramen Noodle Soup in Oriental (My favorite is Asian Vegetable from Koyo)
  • 3/4 stick butter (I use 2 TB butter)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 bags (12-ounce) bags broccoli cole slaw (in the bagged salad section of the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • Chopped green onions, for garnish


  • 3/4 cup canola oil (I use a generous 1/4 cup of peanut oil and 2 tsp sesame oil)
  • 1/4 cup brown or white sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ramen noodle seasoning packet

Put the ramen noodles in a bag and crush them with a rolling pin while melting butter in a large skillet over low/medium heat. Add the crushed noodles and slivered almonds to the skillet and saute, stirring occasionally (keep temperature at low/medium heat). Meanwhile, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Place the shredded broccoli into bowl and toss with the noodles, almonds, and sunflower seeds. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Garnish with chopped green onions.

September 19, 2011

Buh-Bye, PB&J; Hello, SB&B

Is anything more American than the peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Can you imagine the hundreds of thousands of PB&J’s that show up each day in lunch boxes throughout the country? From New York to Florida to Iowa to California, it’s a staple. And for most kids, it’s a hit.

But, of course, S does not like them. But I’ve been experimenting. I’ve tried almond butter (which is my favorite!), homemade raspberry jelly, honey, agave nectar, you name it. Despite all the attempts, I have not been successful. I’m hoping that will change today.

For lunch, I put together a sunflower seed butter and banana sandwich, and cut it into the shape of a heart with a cookie cutter. Maybe the extra love is just what S needs to appreciate this slight twist on the classic kids’ sandwich.

I used organic multigrain with omega-3 bread from Costco and sunflower seed butter from Trader Joe’s. There’s already some evaporated cane juice in the butter, so there’s no reason to add honey. Some Veggie Booty accompanied the sandwich, as did some grape tomatoes. I also included a cup of blueberry-flavored coconut milk yogurt from So Delicious.

And if this doesn’t change S’s mind, I’ll have to go the way of Elvis—frying it all in butter.

September 14, 2011

Leftover Pasta with Meat Sauce and Salad

It’s leftover day! Hooray! I sent S to school with some pasta and meat sauce with zucchini. And, we had some leftover Moroccan Chicken Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. The salad is chock full of goodies such as butternut squash, beets, dates, egg, avocado and toasted almonds. Together, the brown rice pasta and salad made for a complete lunch.

Whole Foods had some wonderful grass-fed ground beef on sale last week ($4.99/lb.!), and it was delicious in our pasta sauce. I also added some garlic, chopped onion, zucchini, oregano, basil and organic strained tomatoes from Bionaturae. Not quite as easy as a jar of pasta sauce, but almost. It tasted super fresh!Pasta with meat sauce and CPK's Moroccan Chicken Salad

September 13, 2011

Greek Salad with Smoked Turkey

Evidently, I’m not just a glutton for good food—I’m also a glutton for making my life more difficult. I was more rushed than usual this morning and pleased with myself that I put together a yummy, nutritious lunch. But then, I remembered I had to photograph it, too. Add to that: the light was bad, I needed to get gas before I could take S to school, and I couldn’t find her favorite water bottle. Did I mention I’m not a photographer and don’t play one on TV? Blah, blah, blah. Okay, I’ll take that advice I’m always giving to my children: stop whining.

Today’s lunch was inspired by a dinner I made last week. For weeks, I’ve had tomatoes and cucumbers coming out my ears because of my CSA. One morning as I was shopping at Trader Joe’s, the feta caught my eye and all of a sudden I realized I should be making Greek salads. And I mean real Greek salads—the kind that remind me of my honeymoon. The kind that don’t have lettuce in them. That night, I cut up a bunch of cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and parsley. And I snuck in some chopped red onion. For the dressing, I mixed fresh lemon juice with olive oil and added some dried oregano, salt and pepper. I tossed the salad with the dressing and then topped it with feta. The kids loved it. Simple, fresh and I used up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers.

This morning, I had a quarter cup of leftover quinoa from last night, so I made a Greek salad again and threw in the quinoa. I included some smoked turkey breast (sans nitrates/nitrites) on the side to give S more protein. And at the last minute, I grabbed a handful of sesame rice crackers so she could scoop the salad with them. The chopping made for a little more work than usual, but now that everyone is out the door and at school it seems worth it. It all took about 10 minutes. For snack? A nectarine and a Trader Joe’s Nutty Chocolate Granola Bar. By the way, those little bars are the perfect combination of sweet and savory.

And, yes, S made it to school on time.

September 12, 2011

What Do Chefs Make Their Kids for Lunch?

In the most recent Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal, editors caught up with three top chefs to find out what’s in their kids’ lunchboxes. The skinny is in A Gourmet Lunchbox.

The article inspired me to think outside the lunchbox. What about you?

September 9, 2011

Wrap v. 2.0: Ham, Hummus and Avocado

Good news! The wrap I made on Tuesday was such a huge hit that S has been asking for another. Actually, she wanted to same one with turkey, bacon and avocado, but I thought we should branch out.

This morning, I changed things up a bit, by spreading the whole wheat lavash bread with hummus and avocado, and filling it with ham, lettuce and shredded carrots. Super simple. It was all wrapped and rolled in 5 minutes.

With the wrap, I included some Veggie Booty, strawberries and a cup of raspberry-flavored coconut milk yogurt. I think it’s tastier than regular yogurt and definitely easier on S’s lactose-intolerant belly. I will warn you: it’s significantly more expensive. On sale, it goes for two for $3; otherwise, be prepared to shell out nearly $2 for a 6-oz. cup.

Have a great weekend!

September 7, 2011

Hump Day Calls for Leftover Beef Stir-Fry

Leftovers: love it or hate it? Thankfully, at my house the kids are happy to have the same meal again. And this makes packing lunch a little easier.

Last night, I stir-fried beef with broccoli, carrots and baby corn for dinner. As usual, it was a hit with my son, C. But, for reasons that I can’t understand, S is not a fan of stir-fries. She’ll eat them, but likes to remind me, “It’s not my favorite.”  Yeah, well, this is one of my favorite stir-fries, and I do the cooking. So, there will be plenty of stir-fries in her future. She does, however, love baby corn.

In any case, she found it in her lunchbox today. On the bright side, stir-fries are easy to pack and hold up really well. I checked the Thermos when she got home, and pretty much everything was eaten except for some rice. Oh, yeah, S doesn’t really like rice either. Unless it’s rolled in seaweed. In which case, she loves it.

Here’s the adapted recipe from The Food of China. In the cookbook, it’s a crispy noodle dish with beef and snow peas, but I’ve changed it to a rice dish. Feel free to try it both ways, and use any fresh vegetables you have on hand.

Warning: this is really yummy!

Beef Stir-fry with Broccoli, Carrots and Baby Corn

3/4 lb. flank steak or top round  (cut against the grain into 1 1/2″ squares that are 1/8″ thick)

1 TB dark soy sauce (light is fine, too)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine

1/2 tsp sugar

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tsp cornstarch

2  cups broccoli florets

3/4 cup carrots, 1/4″ thick cut on the diagonal

1 can baby corn, cut up

2 TB vegetable oil


1 TB finely chopped ginger

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

3 TB oyster sauce

1 TB Shaoxing rice wine

1/2 tsp dark or light soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1 1/2 TB cornstarch (2 TB, if you want a thicker sauce)

Serves 4

Combine the beef, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, garlic, cornstarch (1 tsp), and sesame oil (1/2 tsp), and toss lightly. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Blanch the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and refresh immediately in cold water. Dry thoroughly.

Heat a wok over high heat, add 2 TB oil and heat until very hot. Drain the beef and stir-fry in batches for 1 minute, or until the beef changes color. Remove with a wire strainer or slotted spoon, and drain. Reserve the oil.

To make the sauce, mix all the sauce ingredients together except for the ginger and stir well, making sure the cornstarch is well combined.

Reheat the reserved oil over high heat until very hot and stir-fry the ginger for 10 seconds. Add the carrots, broccoli and baby corn, and cook for for 1 – 2 minutes. Pour in the sauce ingredients and simmer until thickened. Add the beef, toss to coat with the sauce, and serve over steamed rice.

September 6, 2011

Turkey, Bacon and Avocado Wrap

As I mentioned before, S is not a big fan of sandwiches. But for some reason, a wrap is okay. Go figure. Children are fickle that way.

Today I loaded up a piece of whole wheat lavash bread with her favorite ingredients. First, I spread the entire wrap with avocado (a great, healthful condiment loaded with fats that are good for growing brains!), filled the bottom half with smoked turkey (free of nitrates and nitrites, of course) and two pieces of crispy bacon (again, uncured and free of preservatives). And I threw in a handful of chopped romaine lettuce for a little extra crunch. I wanted to include a tomato, but that usually makes things too soggy by the time the lunch bell rings.

Roll it up and cut in half, and you have lunch for two kids—unless you have one very hungry eater. I added some baby carrots as a side, as well as some cut-up watermelon. For her morning snack, I tossed in a frozen tube of yogurt.

And that, my friends, is a wrap!

Turkey, bacon, avocado wrap

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