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School Lunch Flashback

11 Aug

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I’m bringing back this article I wrote for Edible Marin Wine country in 2012. This continues to be an easy fun lunch for my kiddo!

If you have a rice cooker, set it the night before to cook fresh rice in the morning before you get up. Use whatever is on hand, leftovers, nuts, veggies , chicken, steak, whatever you have on hand.

We are all getting ready for school and being prepared for lunch making is a real time saver. Good luck!

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By Jennifer Carden / Photographed by Matthew Carden

If it’s day one of 200 or so school days to come and you’re already out of ideas, you are not alone. It feels like kids’ school lunches have been the same since the ’50s. Does this sound familiar: PB&J with the crust cut off, an apple and juice? My own mom used those waxed bags that never quite closed, so one side of the sandwich was dried out by the time lunch rolled around. I almost never ate them. Sorry, Mom.

I consulted with my daughter when I was writing this piece and she provided some useful food for thought on why kids don’t finish their lunch at school. “I like to get through my lunch fast so we can go out to recess,” she divulged. I think that’s pretty universal. So give this sleight of hand a try to spice up your child’s lunchtime with a game of handball… sushi, that is!

Temarizushi is Japanese for “hand ball,” and these small jewel-like rice balls, formed by hand, are traditionally served in the spring for young children’s parties. They are actually great year-round, changing the toppings with the seasons, and a perfect way to use the leftovers in your refrigerator. Three rice balls that include a protein have around the equivalent nutritional value of most lunchbox sandwiches, making them the right kind of fuel for all that playing and learning. The balls are easy and fun for kids to make the night before school.

TO PREPARE HAND BALL SUSHI:

Tear or cut a dozen 4- by 4-inch squares of plastic wrap and set aside on a clean, dry work surface. (Note: If you lay them down with half extending over the edge of the counter it makes them easy to grab when you need them.) Place a small amount of your chosen ingredient on a sheet of the plastic wrap. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons of room-temperature sushi rice on top of your *Toppings of choice. If it is sticky, dampen your hands with a bit of water.

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*Toppings of your choice such as: toasted sesame seeds; nori (toasted seaweed), cut out with a hole punch or cut into shapes; carrot, zucchini or cucumber ribbons; cooked fresh pumpkin; corn; sliced black olives; tofu, cut into animal shapes with small cookie cutters; leftover chicken, salmon or scrambled eggs; edible flowers; or thinly sliced deli meats like turkey or ham For a sweet option, add cinnamon sugar to the rice and top with thinly sliced apples.

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Gather the plastic wrap up around the rice ball, then twist the plastic wrap tightly, firmly pressing the rice into a ball shape. Continue with new ingredients until you have used up all the rice. Wait at least 15 minutes to unwrap the balls and serve. If you make these ahead of time, leave in the wrap and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to serve. For lunch boxes, leave them wrapped for safekeeping and your child will have fun unwrapping them at lunchtime.

How to make perfect sushi rice every time.

Ingredients for Perfect Sushi Rice

2 cups sushi rice

2 cups water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons mirin

2 teaspoons salt

Ingredients

Toppings of your choice* (examples below)

Instructions

TO PREPARE PERFECT SUSHI RICE:

Do not follow the directions on the bag of rice! Rinse the rice only 3–4 times— the water does NOT have to run clear as it will instruct on the bag. Allow rice to drain thoroughly.

While rice is draining, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Add the rice and water to a pan and bring quickly to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat, keeping the lid CLOSED. Abso- lutely no stirring or sneaking a peek!

Let rice rest for 10 minutes, then remove the cover.

Spread the rice in a wide glass or ceramic dish to cool and lightly fan the rice while adding the vinegar mixture. Mix rice gently, being careful not to break or mash it.

Cook’s note: If you have a rice cooker, follow the directions for “sushi rice” and add the vinegar and other seasonings after cooking.

Yields 4 cups of rice.

Raw Kale Salad

14 Jul

Raw Kale Salad with Creamy Balsamic Dressing
This is my favorite most filling meal, kids think it’s yummy too because it has apples and a bit of honey for sweetness. You can save it for leftovers because kale is hearty and won’t get limp like lettuce after it has been dressed.

You can adjust the sweetness in this recipe to your liking. I like my dressing a bit sweeter when it is on raw kale, it cuts the harshness of the kale.

Dressing
Makes 1 1/2 cups dressing enough for a few salads

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup XVOO
2 Tbs rice vinegar
Salt/pepper
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs honey

Add to a blender and blend to emulsify.
A hand or stick blender works well too!

Raw Kale Salad
Makes two large servings

To break up nuts, put in a baggie and smash with a pan or meat tenderizer
Curly or Red Russian Kale is best for this salad

1 head raw kale, washed, de-stemmed, dried and torn in small pieces or cut with scissors
1/2 cup of raw almonds chopped or broken
1 hard apple, Fuji or Granny Smith, diced
Sliced red onion, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and dress to your liking.
Let sit for about 1/2 hour to meld the flavors. Serve.

Horchata – Rum Spiked or Not?

10 Dec
20121210-100820.jpgI wouldn’t normally write a post about Rum, but when I opened the box from Shellback I was inspired! First off the box was personalized just for me, how cool is that? When I opened it up, inside I found a very funny certificate (pictured) about the Rum.  The packaging was flawless, each bottle nestled in a pillowed covering and unharmed. ” Sourced from some of the finest Caribbean sugarcane,20121210-095747.jpg and blended with twelve spices and other natural flavors, Shellback is a modern rum for discerning palates.” The website is really fun….check it out!20121210-095801.jpg
I thought, how can I write about booze on this blog? Then it hit me…it’s holiday time and I bet you need a break, just a small moment of peace, something that the kids will like while mommy or daddy relax too.
Growing up I never had Horchata, that sweet, cinnamon-y, creamy frothy beverage. We had Knishes, Matzoh balls and occasionally chinese take out! Mexican food in the 70’s in Upstate NY was just not something we had.  Since I moved to the Pacific coast I have been introduced to so much fun Mexican food and Horchata is one of my favorites.20121210-095755.jpg
Some say Horchata has roots in Egypt, Spain and then Mexico, Some use almonds some use rice as the base, either way it is a deliciously sweet indulgent treat. Traditional Horchata is dairy free, made only with rice or almond milk.
If you can’t have milk this recipe is easily made dairy-free, just skip the milk and condensed milk.
So make up some tacos and Horchata and for dinner and spike yours with yummy Shellback Rum! The kids can have theirs too but make sure to keep the rum all to yourselves!20121210-095816.jpg

Horchata with a Twist

This recipe will come out best if you have a high powered blender like a Blend Tech or Vita Mix but you can use any blender or food processor.
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 quarts warm water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed
milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup rum, or to taste (optional)

Mix the rice and warm water together in a bowl, and let stand for about an hour.  Drain the rice and reserve the water for later use. Place the rice in a blender, add the cinnamon and process until a paste forms. (you may want to add a bit of the reserved liquid if it too thick) Return the rice to the water and let stand at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally as the water turns milky white.

Strain the rice through a fine strainer into a bowl or pitcher. Using cheesecloth in a strainer will give you the best results. Stir in the milk, condensed milk, vanilla until evenly blended. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Before Serving toss in the blender  or use a stick blender to froth.

Pour the chilled horchata over the ice, add  even amounts of rum to glasses.

For the kids OMIT the RUM!!

If you are looking for some other rum drinks check this out.

Quick Lunch Idea

19 Oct

Are you skipping lunch AGAIN? I know, you are so busy, little kids are home and won’t nap. Big kids are coming home soon and you still have to run out to do some errands. We all deal with it, whether you are a work at home mommy or work in an office mommy. Are you putting yourself first or are you having a latte for lunch again?  I work at home and so does my husband, most of the time we need to eat lunch at home but it is hard to stop what we are doing to eat. So tailor this to your liking and remember to eat!

Here is a really easy way to feed yourself and the other people at home with you during lunch. Add the greens for the kid, get them used to having sandwiches with veggies on them.

I love recycling leftovers, by now you know that! This is a very easy wrap using leftover roasted chicken but you could use anything. How about squash, potato, broccoli, steak, turkey burger??  Do you have tortillas, do you have cheese, spinach or lettuce?

It is nice keep ingredients on hand like  some pesto, humus or my favorite balsamic glaze on hand for quick lunches.

Trader Joe’s has a balsamic glaze that is delicious, it lasts forever too. Look around the store for interesting condiments to keep around for just such an occasion.

Here are two really easy versions of a wrap, one gluten free and dairy free, one cheesy with a regular tortilla.

Chicken Balsamic Wrap

(Normal folks version)

1 Flour tortilla

a handful of fresh spinach

shredded chicken or leftovers

A slice of cheese

balsamic glaze

mayonnaise

Warm tortilla on the flame of a gas stove for 5 seconds, flip over for five seconds more. You can also warm it in a dry pan on the stove for about 30 seconds.

add cheese, mayonnaise, spinach, chicken, salt, pepper and balsamic glaze. Roll and eat!

Chicken Balsamic Wrap

Gluten and Dairy Free Version

1 Gluten free tortilla ( like Rudi’s the best)

a handful of fresh spinach

shredded chicken or leftovers

balsamic glaze

mayonnaise

Warm tortilla on the flame of a gas stove for 5 seconds, flip over for five seconds more. You can also warm it in a dry pan on the stove for about 30 seconds.

Add mayonnaise, spinach, chicken, salt, pepper and balsamic glaze. Roll and eat!

My Little Food Stylist and Butterfly Dumplings

23 Jul

Easy soup with a twist

“Soup…mom I want soup for dinner tonight.” “Honey it’s 4:45, dinner is in one hour, I’d have to go to the store, blah, blah, blah…”  Once I get fixated on something to make nothing will stop me, so off to Trader Joe’s I ran (biked)….whoosh…

I grabbed a bag of frozen wontons and just like that…whoosh…I was back. I tossed together a very quick and “Semi Homemade” soup. I was lucky enough to have some good chicken stock on hand in the freezer, dried mushrooms and fresh spinach. I followed the directions on the bag for making the wontons, tossed in some onion and garlic, ginger, and let it simmer. It was very fast and created a warm light dinner. We can’t all be Super Mom or Super Chef every day and it’s ok, we shouldn’t have to be.

I was busy, getting the rest of our meal together and kidlet was restless so I came up with having her “style” her dinner. She loves tofu, the marinated kind, so I handed her some cookie cutters and tofu and walked away. When I turned back around she had placed the butterfly shapes so perfectly in the soup, I was shocked! She sees me working all the time, she even helps out occasionally on my food styling jobs.  I know she has the ability to decorate her food and make it beautiful, now if she would just start making entire meals for us!  I’m pretty convinced by now that if they cook it they eat it or in our case, if you decorate it, you eat it.

It helps to have some ingredients on hand for quick dinners these are things I love to keep around:
peeled ginger in the freezer, you can add it to soups,
Cooked marinated tofu
Chicken stock, homemade or boxed
Dried mushroom assortment
Green onions, sliced frozen

Wonton Soup with Tofu Butterflies

I realize that not everyone has a Trader Joe’s market across the street. This recipe is so flexible that you can use just about anything in it. If you can’t get wontons, try Gyoza or just ramen style noodles and cooked chicken. Make this to taste, if your kids need more flavor, add more soy sauce and sesame.  Water chestnuts are crunchy and take on the flavor of the dish they are in, try them. Try dried reconstituted mushrooms, they can add great flavor to lots of dishes.

1 Bag of Trader Joe’s Frozen mini chicken wontons
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 coins of ginger, peeled
1-2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms 
2 Tbs soy sauce
4 cups of Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 can of  sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 tsp sesame oil
Handful of spinach, fresh or frozen
Teriyaki marinated cooked tofu
Salt/Pepper
Optional
2 eggs, beaten (see below)
Follow directions on the bag of wontons, when cooked, remove and set aside. They should be browned on the bottom and cooked through.
In the same pan, add a tablespoon of oil (peanut, or vegetable) sauté garlic, ginger, green onions and mushrooms until dry.  Turn heat to medium and add the soy sauce and stir to incorporate.  Add chicken broth, and water chestnuts and  simmer.   Add the mini wontons back, to warm through, add sesame oil  serve. Salt and pepper to taste.
If adding the beaten egg for and egg drop style soup, add just before the wontons.
Slowly stream in the beaten eggs to simmering (not boiling) soup mixture, let simmer untouched 2 minutes. Continue with finishing the recipe.

Pink and Green Ravioli Made Easy

3 Feb

With Valentine’s Day approaching I thought you could use just one more pink recipe *wink, wink*  yes, I know your thinking  “Pink pasta again??” My answer is’ “Yes people, more pink pasta…can you really have too much pink?” My last post on Pink Pasta was a bit more complicated, this one is easy!

This is a really easy way to wow your family.  Are the kids asking for pasta AGAIN? OK, so give it to them but shock them this time. These are very easy ravioli made from Wonton skins and filling of your choice.We love spinach and what could be easier than frozen spinach and tofu try this on for size. If your kids are not very adventurous then just use a pinch of the lemon zest instead of a whole teaspoon.

Pink and Green Ravioli 

We like to add a little soy sauce or just some good olive oil and grated Parmesan on top.  If you have extra filling save it and add it to your scramble in the morning or drop it in some chicken broth for a good healthy egg drop spinach soup.

Filling:

1/2 pound soft silken tofu
10 oz  frozen organic spinach, thawed and drained
1 large egg
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper
1 package Wonton skins
1 beet, peeled and diced into one inch cubes
Method
In a large pot bring about 6 cups of water and chopped beet to a boil, let simmer for 15 minutes. The water will be nice and pink.
Assemble wontons following directions below.
  • In a bowl mash all ingredients except wonton skins and beets with a fork.
  • Put about 1 tablespoon of the filling near the corner of the wonton wrapper.
  • Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper with water or beaten egg.  Pull the other corner over the filling, creating a triangle press and seal the edges together.
  • Set finished wontons on an oiled baking sheet or plate.
  • Assemble the rest until you run out of filling or wontons.  You can either cook them immediately or put them in the fridge until later in the day. Make sure that they are well covered so that they don’t dry out.
    To Cook
  • Bring water back up to a boil, add  1-2 teaspoons kosher salt . Add about 10 wontons, stir very gently and let the water come to a boil again. Cook about 4 minutes until the ravioli look droopy.
  • Lift the cooked ravioli from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and add another batch.
    Place them on a plate or shallow bowl and drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.
  • Keep cooking until you have cooked all the wontons. Serve at once with desired sauce.

Rainbow and Squirrel Sandwiches (not what you think)

25 Oct
We made it through September and October seems to be even busier!! Seriously is it me or do we get busier every year? What happened to the down time it must be somewhere, I am still looking!! The preparing dinners is tough enough, but making lunches can leave you at a loss too. Walking in to the kitchen groggy and trying to juggle breakfast, finding missing socks and making sure homework is in the backpack can be a real chore. The last thing you want to do is make a bunch of lunches, am I wrong? Well I can’t help with that because the kids have to eat!! At our school we have to bring lunch everyday we do not have a lunch program (yet).  Over one hundred and twenty or more lunches in a school year can seem daunting, and if you have more than one child…well you get my drift!  
          When winter comes I immediately get out the Thermos and go for soups and stews, warmth during the day can give a child that little boost they need. But until then I like to make sandwiches, the problem is that my daughter has never been a fan of the sandwich. She much prefers a warm lunch, something homemade of course but that can’t always happen. Recently I remembered I had some edible markers I usually use to draw on hard boiled eggs with. My discovery that they work on bread was a gold mine!!! I can write notes like “I miss you” or “drink more water” on her bread!! 
The best part is that she likes make her own lunches (with some persuading) because the markers are fun to use. We make the sandwich the night before so we are not rushed in the morning. We only do this once a week to keep it special but it sure is fun!!  We add, fruit, cheese and crackers, and a veggie like cucumbers or carrots. I very rarely add any sugary treats unless it is home baked like banana bread.   This gives me a break the next morning so I can gear up my creative brain for the next day’s lunch.

Try going to a thrift shop for cookie cutters, Ikea has some fun ones too!  I have a large collection and find that I almost never make cookies with them. They work so well for “sandies” as we call them in our house!

Cookie cutters and edible markers make a great lunch.

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