Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tips: Let the Kids Make Lunch Too

I make lunch for my children every morning mainly because I love to do it. I love to be in the kitchen and the challenge of keeping their lunch boxes interesting is something I get a kick out of. But I know that even though I can make their lunch every. single. morning. doesn't mean I should. They need to learn kitchen skills too and independence is a very good thing. Besides, surely there are brownie points earned when they know they can, they know that I know they can, but I do it for them anyways. They may not end up with a Cuban Sandwich , a Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Sandwich or a BLT Salad Sandwich on the day they make their own but a PB&J and a Bagel Thin can be just as good.

Letting the kids make their own lunch sometimes is good for all.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sides: Sweet & Spicy Peppers

These sweet peppers are so colorful that I didn't dare pass them by.
They are high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid and Vitamin A. When consumed, they can reduce the risk of lung cancer, help those who bruise easily, support the structure of capillaries, lower the risk for macular degeneration and more.

Sweet and Spicy Peppers
  • sweet mini peppers
  • 1 triangle, per pepper, of Queso Fresco & Chipotle Laughing Cow cheese
Stuff the sweet pepper with the spicy cheese. You can slice the pepper in half, as pictured, or just slice the top off the pepper and stuff it whole.

Other (non-spicy) cheeses work great as well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Banh Mi

Banh Mi is a flavorful and texture full Vietnamese styled sandwich that is usually served on a baguette and with pâté, two things that I felt I had to change to make it healthier for the lunch box. So I skipped the pâté (and other substitutes) altogether and replaced the baguette with a sandwich thin. A whole wheat hot dog bun would work nicely too. I used this recipe from Food Network's site by Anthony Nguyen as inspiration and actually used his exact slaw recipe.

The daicon, which is in the slaw, is high in vitamin C and folacin. It is yet another cancer protecting food. The texture and ever so slight bite it adds to this sandwich is perfect.

Banh Mi

for the slaw
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup juliened carrot
  • 1/2 cup juliened daicon
  • a pinch of salt
for the meat
  • about 6 ounces pork (I used leftover pork roast, leftover shredded pork will work)
  • chicken, a couple of sandwich meat slices (or leftover chicken will work)
  • a sprinkle of Chinese 5 spice (if using shredded meat, this can be stirred in)
for the sandwich
  • sandwich thins
  • Mayonaise
  • English cucumber, 1/4, juliened
  • a couple of sprigs of cilantro
Make the slaw: (this can be done the night before and stored in the refridgerator) In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and vinegar and bring to a boil. Transfer the vinegar mixture to a bowl and cool. Add the carrot and daikon, mix well, and season with salt. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

To assemble the sandwich, add mayonaise to sandwich thin, then add pork and then chicken. Top with slaw and then add cucumber and cilantro.

Friday, March 25, 2011

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

My all time favorite pizza in the whole wide world is the Barbeque Chicken Pizza. Oh boy, do I love it! Every ingredient go together so perfectly for me. That is what has inspired this sandwich. I think I am going to look for every possible way to put chicken, bbq sauce, cilantro, red onion and cheese together. (have you seen my recipe for BBQ Chicken Quesadilla's?)

Red onion has many health benefits. They can keep blood sugar in check, they are good for your bones, they are a natural anti-inflammatory and the B6 and chromium in onions helps to increase cardiovascular health. What a bargain!

Here is the lowdown on this flavorful sandwich-

BBQ Chicken Sandwich
serves 1
  • 2 slices of bread (I used sandwich thins)
  • 1 grilled chicken breast
  • your favorite bbq sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's)
  • a few slivers of red onion
  • 1 Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss wedge
Mix cheese wedge and cilantro in a small bowl and set aside. Slice or shred chicken and add to 1 slice of bread. Top with bbq sauce (to your liking) and add red onion. Spread the cheese mix over the other slice of bread and add to top the sandwich.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A School Lunch Poem

No Thanks

I’d rather eat roaches
And grasshopper punch
Than try to digest
Even one more school lunch.

Joyce Armor

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is great for St. Patrick's day. I think it'll be a little less embarrassing than the bread my mom made my sandwich out of one St. Patrick's day that had been colored green. Oh the teasing I got for having "moldy bread".  I've been anxiously waiting for Pasta Salad season and I think the time is close enough and a Green Pasta Salad is in order.

Bell Peppers are nutritious, they contain vitamin C and B6, thiamine, carotene and folic acid. That is not including the phytochemicals. All of these nutrients help prevent blood clots and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

Green Pasta Salad
makes 4 cups
  •  green pasta (I used Ronzoni Garden Delight Rotini and picked out the green pasta)
  • 1/4 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup broccoli, cut into bit sized pieces
  • 2 string cheeses, cut
  • 1 T. Italian dressing
  • 3 T Green Goddess dressing
Cook pasta according to directions. Rinse with cold water. Add chopped vegetables and cheese. Toss with the salad dressings.

***Pair this Green Pasta Salad with some celery with cream cheese and chives and a kiwi cup and you have a fun, tasty and very green lunch! 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lightened Muffaletta

Without compromising taste and losing the Muffalettaness of this great traditional sandwich, it's been lightened! It's still full of flavor and oh-so-good! 

The olives are such a great source of Omega-9 and vitamin E and research has shown that they can help reduce chances of type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and more. The olives are also what make a muffaletta and muffeletta and what saved the world from only eating an unhealthy muffaletta or eating no muffaletta at all was this olive salad.

Lightened Muffaletta
  • Ciabatta bread (or something similar)
  • Sliced turkey, about 4 slices
  • 1 slice salami
  • 1 Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Cheese wedge
  • **Olive Salad mix, about 1/4 cup
Spread Olive Salad mix on bottom slice of bread. Add salami and turkey. Spread cheese wedge on top half. Wrap tightly and enjoy in a couple of hours or more, sandwich improves with time.

**Olive Salad
  • 3/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 lg. pepperoncini
  • 3 - 4 pickled onions
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano  
  • lemon juice from half a lemon 
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Dice olives,pepperoncini, onion and garlic finely. Add  capers and oregano and mix. Toss in lemon juice and olive oil. Keep tightly covered in refrigerator.

If this isn't lightened enough for you, use Flat Out bread and skip the salami. You may want to call it a Turkey and Olive Wrap though, because it will then be lacking any muffalettaness at all at that point, while still being delicious.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tips: Use a Variety of Breads

I believe I have mentioned before that I get bored very easily and I take the task of keeping daily life new and exciting very seriously. The lunch box (and food in general) is no exception for me.

My lunch box tip for the day is to keep a variety of breads on hand.

Think about a basice turkey and cheese sandwich.

We all know what it tastes like on two regular slices of sandwich bread. Good. Basic... but good. But it's a whole new sandwich when the turkey and cheese is on a multigrain ciabatta roll. Although not pictured, when turkey and cheese are served rolled up in a soft fluffy FlatOut flatbread, it's a whole new sandwhich. Serving it on a tortilla changes the meat and cheese/ bread ratio and changes the flavor too. Crackers with the turkey and cheese is another way to think outside the box and change things up and whatever you do, don't discount the hot dog bun. I use hot dog buns all the time and almost never for what they are intended for. Left over dinner rolls are always perfect and it's one of my kids favorites change ups.

So there you have it. If you need something a little different to the routine lunch box, simply change the bread.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Today is the perfect day for a Muffuletta but this was lunch for my husband's lunch box, not the children's. But I am determined to make a healthier/kid friendly version of this hearty and traditional sandwich and I feel confident that I can make it work! Look for it in the next few days or so. In the meantime, here is the simple version of the real deal. Well..... all except I used mayo and mustard which is totally nontraditional, and I didn't use the right bread or make my own olive salad. But other than that, this is the real deal!

  • One round loaf of bread (I found an oval shaped Artisan multi grain loaf)**
  • 1 cup olive salad (I used Gambino's Peperoncini brand)
  • 1/4 lb. hard salami
  • 1/4 lb. sliced ham
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese
Spread olive salad on bread (could spread on both halves), then add sliced meats and cheeses. Wrap and know that it's perfect that it goes in the lunch box because it gets better as it sits and the juices are absorbed in the bread.

** Works best with a bread that is crusty on the outside but softer in the middle.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sides: Tri Fruit atop Tapioca Pudding

I recently saw a recipe on line with fruit and rice pudding (I wish I could remember where so I could give credit for this idea) and my thoughts were, 'Rice pudding is good, but tapioca is gooder.' (I also wish I remembered where I saw the recipe so I could have went back and saw which fruits were used. The only one a specifically remember is the mango.)

Speaking of mangoes, did you know that mangoes are good for your skin? You could rub the pulp of the mango on your face for about 10 minutes before washing and it will unclog pores. But the even tastier benefit helps your complexion too. Eating mangoes on a regular basis will give your face a soft and shiny glow. All of this is not including the benefit of mangoes being an anti-cancer, a memory booster, good for your eyes, and more.

So to the lunch box lowdown! I used boxed tapioca pudding mix because it's lower in fat and calories than making from scratch, which calls for full fat cream.

Tri Fruit atop Tapioca Pudding
  • Tapioca Pudding box mix, I used Jello brand
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • mango
Follow Tapioca pudding directions according to the box, using skim or 1% milk. After it sets in the refrigerator, add to 4 oz container leaving room for fruit.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Lunch Box Thought for the Day

A week or so ago my 12 year old daughter told me about her friend, who every single morning before school, stops by Subway with her Mom and orders a sub for her lunch later that day. My daughter said,
" I love Subway!! But where is the love in that?!"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sides: Ants on a Log

Without the raisins, this would just be some celery and peanut butter, but thanks to the added raisins, this side dish gets the fun name of Ants on a Log.

And thanks to the raisins, this side dish has a health dose of boron. (actually raisins have the highest concentration of boron among the major contributors) Boron is important for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones and joints. Just what we want our children to have!

Hey! And stop worrying about your children's teeth when it comes to raisins! (how many of us have heard another momma give that warning?) Recent studies have shown that raisins actually promote healthy teeth and gums thanks the the bio active compounds. This rumor probably began because raisins are sweet and sticky, however sweet and sticky bears little relationship to the actual retention of food particles on tooth surfaces and studies have shown that raisins are the least retentive within a sample of 21 commercially available snack foods. So let's put that rumor to rest and eat these healthy gems.

Ants on a Log
  • Celery
  • nut butter
  • raisins
Are directions needed? I don't think so. :-)