Archive for ‘No Cook’

November 10, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sandwich

Let me apologize upfront: this was yesterday’s lunch, and it was a crazy morning. I had to take S to school, and haul C with me, and look presentable because I was going to watch a performance that S and her classmates were putting on. I was wondering if I even had time to pack S a lunch, but I really wanted to, because of all the food I have in my fridge. Plus, I wanted to make her a sandwich that was inspired by our trip to Portugal. Not to mention, school lunch can be so very bleak.

With all that said, I’m apologizing because lunch looks like a train wreck today. If you ever wondered what it would look like if smoked salmon got in a fist fight with cream cheese, you’re about to find out. I’m almost embarrassed to post it, but it is what it is. And it represents the truth for many of us, which is a harried mom frantically packing lunch and trying to get everyone to school on time.

I grabbed a whole wheat English muffin (I would’ve preferred a little a baguette, but didn’t have one), lightly toasted it and then spread some cream cheese on both sides. I piled some smoked salmon on one side and really, really wished I could put some thinly sliced cucumbers on top, but alas, I didn’t have any. I knew we had some baby spinach leaves, so I grabbed a small handful and put it on top of the salmon. This was risky, because S doesn’t like spinach. But I couldn’t let the sandwich go to school without some greens on it. I was betting that S would eat the spinach because she wouldn’t want to go to the trouble of picking it off. So was I right? Did S eat the spinach?

When I picked her up after school, she told me she was starving. Uh-oh. I asked her, “Did you eat your lunch?”

“Yep, everything but the Cuties,” she said. “I think I’ll eat those now.”

“Did you eat the spinach on the sandwich?” I asked.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she responded matter of factly. “I liked the sandwich. Can you make it for me again?”

That just goes to show you: we should never assume we know what our kids will or won’t eat. It’s always worth a try. After all, they just might surprise us.

October 13, 2011

Salmon Salad with Crackers

Think tuna salad—but with salmon instead. You get more omega-3 fatty acids than you would with tuna, and with a fraction of the mercury. Add to that a smashed-up avocado and a squeeze of lemon and you have one big serving of brain food.

I get my ready-to-eat pouched wild salmon from It’s less fishy than canned salmon and doesn’t have the BPA you get with canned foods. This morning, I packed the salmon salad with some some nut-and-rice crackers and cut-up cucumbers. That gives S two kinds of scoopers to play with. I’ve been really impressed with the gluten-free Hazelnut Nut-Thins crackers from Blue Diamond. They have just the right amount of salt and a touch of nuttiness. And I’m a sucker for Trader Joe’s organic Persian cucumbers. They’re petite and sweet, and don’t have the bitterness of regular cucumbers because they’re seedless.

Of course, you could also put it on bread and make it a salmon salad sandwich.

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 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 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 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

September 1, 2011

The Homemade Lunchable

For what seemed like every day of an entire school year, S gave me the lowdown on the lucky bunch who had a Lunchable for lunch. Then, she would tell me in detail who got which kind. She coveted the Lunchable the way a little girl—and even big ones—covet a shiny Hello Kitty lunchbox.

So, I reminded her of the evils of highly processed foods, hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup, but Kraft had her tightly in its grasp. “But it looks soooo fun,” she told me repeatedly. To which I responded: “The company that makes it wants you to think it’s fun. But it’s just food that’s bad for you.” She retorted, “Then why do my friends’ moms pack it for them?”

In short: because it’s easy and inexpensive. Busy moms can feed their kids lunch for an entire school week for less than ten dollars. And all they have to do is take the Lunchable out of the fridge and throw it into a lunchbox. Lunch? Check. It doesn’t get much easier than that. I get it.

One day, S was going on a field trip and her teacher requested that we pack a completely disposable lunch. My opportunistic daughter had an idea: “What about a Lunchable? Just this one time.” After all the begging and pleading, I caved. Secretly, I hoped she would hate it.

Later that evening, I found myself standing in front of an array of Lunchables. I turned over each one and read the nutritional information. I cringed; it was worse than I had thought. S had specifically requested the one with ham and cheese and crackers, accompanied with Oreos for dessert. What’s in a few crackers, slices of cheese and ham, and a couple Oreos? Brace yourself: 21 grams of fat and 1,070 mg of sodium. After hemming and hawing, I finally grabbed the box and tossed it in my basket.  After all, I had promised.

When S got home from school the next day, she told me, “I’m starving. The Lunchable was disgusting! I only ate the crackers and Oreos, because the ham was all puffy and watery, and the cheese tasted like oil.” I wanted to shout, “Hooray!”

S still liked the idea of the Lunchable, of piecing together your own meal, so it inspired me to come up with a homemade version. With some Late July and Back to Nature crackers, Applegate Farms salami and goat cheddar cheese, S can now have a Lunchable that’s delicious and good for her. To round out the meal, I included cucumbers, grape tomatoes and radishes. And I replaced the Oreos with some raspberries and cut-up nectarines. Packed in five minutes!

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