Monday, September 8, 2008

Happiest Day Of The Year!

After an amazing and super active summer I think “School starts next week” is music to any parents ears. I love the lazy, low-key days of summer and it sometimes seems that the routine of the school year can be a bit overwhelming. I really want my daughter to have a good and healthy mid afternoon energy boost. At her school hot lunches are offered, but I can get past the fact that they consider cheesy garlic bread, nachos and chips with ranch dip a complete and healthy meal. And now I hear that not only do they consider ketchup a vegetable, but are considering low carb menus for the kids. I’m not a fanatic to any way of eating but I think it is important to offer healthy and well-rounded choices. I think that with a little planning and some creativity brown bagging can be a wonderful and tasty experience. With the disposable Tupperware (I still encourage Emma to bring them home as they can go through the dish washer and be recycled.) Left over pasta, stir-fry, Hard Boiled eggs, edemame, humus and carrots, apples and peanut butter can be delicious at room temperature. Even a plain PB&J can be dressed up by using a cookie cutter to make fun sandwich shapes. Stuffing tomatoes with tuna or chicken salad is popular with the kids. I’m sure that you all know the trick of freezing the juice or tea boxes and placing them in the lunch. They keep the food cool and are defrosted by lunch. I always include lots of fresh fruits and melon. The key is to know what your child likes and offer variety so that you get more in their bellies and less mashed up at the end of the day. I have put together some fun recipes that are always a hit with my daughter. The two big tips that I can offer that save time in the morning are to make your lunches the night before and pick clothes for the day as well. The less stress and choices that have to be made smooth out the somewhat challenging transition from summer fun to back to school.

Turkey Roll ups
This is a fun way to do a sandwich. The exact measurements are not really important so you can add any meat or veggie your child likes. These roll ups are made with tortillas but you can play around with other types of sandwiches and you can use crackes, rolls pita or bagels for a bit of variety.

1 pound thinly sliced turkey

1 package cream cheese

4 flour tortillas (10-inch diameter)

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 leaves lettuce

Spread cream cheese evenly on one side of each tortilla. Top evenly with shredded carrots and Jack cheese. Layer lettuce and turkey evenly on cheese, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Roll up tightly; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate over night.

Sushi Rolls

Sushi rolls are extremely versatile. They make fabulous picnic fare or lunchbox additions, and you can make endless varieties. I personally don’t use raw fish for packing in a school lunch, but I use lots of vegetables and Emma loves them!
Sushi rolls are a good way to use leftovers like veggies, cooked fish and chicken. Julian strips of cucumber, carrots, zucchini, sprouts, avocado, cooked crab and shrimp, really anything your child likes!!!! A rice cooker is an amazing appliance as you can pop it on and carry on about your day and have fresh rice in half an hour.

3 Cups cooked rice
3/4 Cups rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Teaspoon salt
Nori sheets
Assorted fillings

In large bowl mix vinegar, sugar, salt and rice until well combined.
To roll sushi you can use a bamboo sushi mat, or just use a clean towel instead. Place nori sheet on roller and spread a thin layer of the sushi rice over the nori. Place your filling in a centerline of the nori. Begin rolling by carefully folding over the top edge and starting the roll. Continue to roll, keeping the roll as tight as possible. Take a sharp knife and slice the roll into 1 and 1/2-inch pieces.

Pasta Pesto
This is a simple pesto sauce. It is great at room temperature and Emma just loves it. It can be a great leftover. You can serve it for dinner with fresh pasta scallops or chicken. For lunch I like to add tomatoes and olives, my daughters personal favorites! Add what ever your child likes and play around with the pasta shapes, there are some really fun ones available.
5 large garlic cloves
1-cup pine nuts (or Walnuts work as well)
5 cups packed fresh basil
1-cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh Parmigiano, coarsely grated
1 1/2 cup olive oil
In a blender or food processor mix garlic, nuts, basil, parsley and cheese and process until finely chopped. With motor running add oil mixing until incorporated.

Vegetable Chili
I understand that this may not seem appealing in the heat of early fall, but come the colder months this chili really kicks it. This is a basic roadmap you can add any veggies that your family likes.

! /2 cup olive oil
4 small red onions, roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic
2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
6 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced
3 bunches broccoli, roughly chopped
3 zucchini cut lengthwise then sliced
3 yellow squash, cut lengthwise then sliced
3 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced
2 cans (35 ounces) Italian style stewed tomatoes
3 pounds fresh ripe Plum tomatoes cut in 1- inch cubes
4-6 tablespoons chili powder (to taste)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons Italian Spices
(Or any combo of basil, oregano, sage, etc.)
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
1-teaspoon salt
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups tomato sauce

Heat olive oil in really large pot. Add onion, garlic, peppers, carrots and broccoli. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add all tomatoes and beans. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add all spices and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the marinara sauce and 1 cup of water. Cook covered, stirring frequently for 1 hour. Serve with lots of shredded cheddar cheese chopped scallions and homemade corn bread.

PB&J Energy Bars

These high protein bars are great in a lunch box or as an after school snack. We love to make them together and the kids just gobble them up. We also have had some real fun designing the packaging!

2 cups uncooked oats
1-cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup 100 % fruit jelly
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Spread in a sprayed 8-inch square pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 8 bars and wrap individually.

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