Archive for the 'Lunch Box' Category

Oatmeal Quinoa Breakfast Cookies

I found a container of cooked quinoa in the back of my new, narrow but deep fridge this morning, which was begging to be eaten. I remembered a recipe for breakfast cookies I read in the latest issue of “Bon Appetit” magazine and decided to give it a try. My kids each have to bring two snack to school per day and with our stack of cereal bars dwindling fast and replacements costing the equivalent of nearly 10 USD, I will probably be doing a lot of baking in the years to come.

Not that I mind really, as it is much more fun than cutting the head and feet of yet another organic chicken which is staring at me from my counter top. I went for a different brand, this one twice as expensive as the last one and I was hoping it would be a bit more plump in the chest and thigh, but no. I did find some organic pork; liver, tiny pieces of very fatty bacon and knuckles. Now I just need to find the “Sauerkraut” and dig up my German cookbooks…

Here is the recipe for the delicious, and very wholesome breakfast cookies, which have been my second and third breakfast today and probably will be my lunch as well. Oh no, weren’t they supposed to be for the kids’ lunch boxes?

I slightly changed the original recipe, substituting spelt flour for wheat, maple syrup for honey and walnuts for almonds. I am sure you can use whatever you have available. These cookies seem to be very forgiving.

Off to my first Mandarin lesson today. Got to find myself some coffee on the way.

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Sesame Kale Chips

Here is my first post from China, and I am sorry that it is a recipe you can come across very easily nowadays and that it is not even remotly related to Chinese food. I made it just before leaving Massachusetts and probably won’t make it until we go back for our next holiday. Kale, or at least the types of kale we’re used to, isn’t available here or perhaps I haven’t found it yet. I did however find some local organic farms, which I will visit next week. Very exciting, especially in the dead of winter.

Our luggage full of food got through customs without so much as a glance – a huge relief, as it was loaded with plenty of treasures from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Now we just need to be as lucky with our Australian biodynamic olive oil, spices and bottles of wine hidden deep inside our moving boxes in our container, still out at sea.

In the few days we have been here, we had amazing Peking Duck at the very famous “Dadong” restaurant and very mediocre noodles. The kids had a great time spotting “unusual” ingredients on the menus, such as sea cucumber intestines, bullfrog, turtle, donkey, innards of every kind, soya pigeon, etc. I am planning to take my camera along to future restaurant and market visits and let you know what I found. I started checking out grocery stores and supermarkets that sell everything from electronics, to underwear to milk all the way from Germany. I found a few very sad looking organic vegetables, which were harvested long before Chinese New Year, and organic chicken and pork. The chicken still has its head and feet attached, which will be interesting when it comes to preparing dinner tonight. I had the choice between spring chicken, hen and rooster. I went for the hen, but it felt almost a bit too real. No doubt we will be well fed during this adventure here, hopefully without too much dog or donkey meat thrown into the mix.

Go make some kale chips now! It’s so easy and quick and a delicious snack which is loved by all. I am jealous already…

Ingredients

1 bunch of kale (any other than cavolo nero, also known as tuscan or lacinato kale, will be good)

1/4 cup sesame seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil

sprinkle of salt

Method

Preheat oven to 200F (100C) convection heat, or 225 regular heat.

Wash and dry kale. Take a leaf into one hand and use the other hand to tear off the leafy part, starting at the thick end of the stem and moving all the way to the top of the leaf. Tear the stemless leaves into roughly 2×2 inch size pieces and put in a large bowl. Repeat with other leaves.

Drizzle kale with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt. Mix well.

Place kale in single layer on parchment lined baking tray and bake for 25 minutes, turning kale over half way through. If some of the kale hasn’t turned crispy after 25 minutes, bake for a few more minutes.

Eat straight away, or store in air tight container for a 2-3 days.

 

Mysterious Brownies

Looking at the title, you might wonder if you should even consider reading this post. How can brownies be mysterious, if all it takes is flour, butter, sugar, eggs and chocolate to make them. It really doesn’t get much more straight forward.  To my excuse, I am in a state of frantic pre-holiday chaos and with my brain crammed with to-do-lists, I had to come up with something quick, and this was it. The title actually does fit the brownies quite well, since they got a few untypical ingredients that are best not mentioned when it comes to picky eaters. I assure you however, that no one will ever be able to tell what exactly they are and these brownies will be devoured in no time. There’s no way you can detect the pumpkin (even if you want to) and my family thinks they are just delicious. Guilt free snacking at it’s best!

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Green Lentil Hummus

The other day I cooked far too many Puy (green) lentils. I turned them into a lentil salad and lentil burgers and still had some left. A lentil hummus came to mind and that’s what I made. It has a nuttier flavour than the traditional chickpea one, but everyone loved it. I made wraps for school lunches 3 days in a row and ate the rest with cut up veggies and toasted pita chips. If you like to make things from scratch and try to avoid using cans, this one is for you. The lentils cook in less than 30 minutes without the need for pre-soaking. I cook them in plenty of boiling, unsalted water for 20-30 minutes, checking repeatedly for doneness after about 20 minutes.

The other ingredients are pretty much the same: tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. I also added water, since my lentils were quite dry and I didn’t want to add any more oil. If you use canned lentils, you might not need any water or can probably use less of it.

This recipe makes a lot of hummus – perfect for a party or a large crowd.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked Puy lentils (about 11/4 cups dried) or 2 cans
  • 4 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil (or a little less and more water instead)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons water (less or more depending on the dryness of the cooked lentils)

Method

Combine all ingredients (except water) in a food processor. Depending on the consistency, slowly add water, keeping in mind that this hummus tends to thicken up a bit more in the hours to come.

Lunch Box Cereal Bars

And here is yet another lunch box recipe. These cereal or granola bars are full of fiber, vitamin A, and complex carbohydrates, helping your children to stay focused and energized, without the sugar highs and subsequent lows of so many commercial snack foods out there. Despite them being loaded with dried apricots, even Freddie, my fruit phobic middle child, loves them, which says a lot. They are super easy and quick to make, and keep for at least a week when stored in an air tight container. Once they’re out of the oven, let them cool completely in the pan before cutting, otherwise they’ll turn into crumbly granola instead.

Brown rice syrup, which is available in health food stores and well-stocked supermarkets, has a mellow sweetness and does a fantastic job keeping all ingredients sticking together. It’s much stickier than maple syrup on it’s own, so best not to skimp on it.

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Lunch Box Muffins

These savory muffins are a breeze to make and a great alternative to sandwiches. I make them in a 6-cup-muffin tin, plus 2 extra ramekins, which is just the right size muffin for my kids’ lunch. If you have smaller children, the regular 12-cup-muffin pan will be the right one for you and there is enough batter to make 12 of that size. Once they are done and cooled down, I try to wrap them  individually in aluminium foil and freeze them, before anyone can get their hands on them. I take them out of the freezer the night before, let them defrost on the counter, and in the morning, stick them, still wrapped, in the toaster oven for 5 minutes. If you prefer not to use regular bacon, use turkey bacon or sun-dried tomatoes instead. I haven’t used other veggies, but I am sure finely chopped, sauteed spinach, squeezed a bit to get rid of the liquid, and crumbled feta cheese, instead of cheddar would be an excellent combination as well. As always, let me know how you go and especially what your kids thought…

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Lunch Box Wrap

A few weeks ago, I held a lunch box class at my home. Not surprisingly it was my most popular class ever! It quickly became obvious that most parents are struggling to come up with school lunches that are just about healthy and interesting enough to be eaten and not thrown in the garbage bin. And what a delicate task that is! Not only do our kids need to like what’s in the lunch box, but the peer pressure adds an additional challenge. “All my friends have chips with lunch” or “so and so wouldn’t sit next to me, because he hates fish” or “it takes to long for me to chew my veggies and I miss out on football”.  Then there’s the issue with food allergies, or egg- and nut-free schools. You get the point.

I am far from being the queen of lunch boxes, but over the years I have learned what works and what doesn’t and to add to that, I researched, experimented, concocted, baked and assembled everything from super healthy quinoa muffins, sweet potato brownies to wraps, pasta salads, savory muffins and dips of all colors. In the week prior to the class, we ended up with dozens of muffins and even had them for dinner one night. The wraps were one of the biggest hits, and because the children help to make them, they get to choose what goes in them with a minimum requirement of a protein and 2 different vegetables. Hummus and pesto are popular, as is shredded roasted chicken or strips of smoked salmon, shredded carrots and lettuce, strips of pepper, different sprouts, avocado and grated cheese. Here are a few ideas:

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