School Lunch

Josie making salad And now it’s time for everyone’s favorite time of day–even more favorite than the ever present “What’s for dinner?”– Yes.  That’s right: What the heck do you put in your kids’ school lunches!!??

I grapple with this issue mostly with my middle child.  Josie is a very high-brow girl when it comes to culinary delights.  I believe I once mentioned that when asked what she’d like for lunch at school (since her food was coming home practically untouched) her reply was “Ummm… bruschetta please.”

Josie is not a big meat eater, is currently gluten free, and later this month will have braces.  Can you say: food restrictions?  Yipes.  We gotta step up our game here folks.

So I thought about it and decided work with her strengths.  Thank heavens she’s a foodie!  Josie’s auntie gave her a cookbook for Christmas and I have to say, it’s helping quite a bit.  Not only does it give us some good ideas, but as a third grader Josie is now able to prepare most of the items on her own.  This effort, in and of itself, is lending itself to consuming lunch at school.

This is the cookbook we are currently using:

Trader Joe's cookbook I have cleverly blocked out the first letter of a couple choice words in an effort to not give free advertising to this store.  I like Vrader Hoe’s, but I must say they could use a little competition.  Also, while it is darn handy to use ingredients found at a single stop, many of these so-called “recipes” are just instructions for pre-packaged foods.  I mean seriously: some “directions” say “open the frozen food box, put in oven, bake and serve.”  Hmmm… This is not really considered cooking in my opinion… how ’bout you?  But I digress.

In any case, if you’ve got some kiddos old enough to make a go in the kitchen, I do recommend getting something like this.  Libraries carry cookbooks, btw–so don’t get on Amazon if you’re not sure you really need it.

Josie’s Caprese Heaven

Ingredients: 1 cup Ciliegine whole milk fresh mozzarella balls, 1 cup sugar plum tomatoes sliced in half, 2 tbsp. refrigerated Genova Pesto (contains walnuts), a few sliced olives (we like kalamata), pinch ‘a salt, black pepper to taste.

Directions: Mix and serve!

Tip: The original recipe does not contain olives.  After our first taste test, however, both Josie and I agreed that the salad was missing a little something.  “We shouldn’t add any more salt” she said… (Man I love this kid) “I know!  How about some olives?”  It was the perfect choice.  To keep chilled during the school day we place salad into thermos and put in fridge over night.  Serve with some rice crackers on the side and wah-lah!

Best tip of all: She who prepares also cleans up!

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I Swear I’m Not Lame!

balsamic glaze

This is not new, but for whatever reason I just met balsamic glaze.  Where have I been?

Balsamic glaze is basically a reduced balsamic vinegar which you can even prepare yourself if you’re feeling Italiana.  It has a malty, rich taste and a syrupy texture that really turns my dial.

And just so you know, I’m not only worried about being labeled “lame” because I’m late to the balsamic glaze party.  The recipe I’m about to share is verbatim a Trader Joe’s sample that I walked by and ate the other day.  What can I say?  Some things you can’t improve and that’s that.

There are two details I would like to point out before I list the recipe.  First of all, you can get balsamic glaze at many markets (aka: this is not a plug for TJ’s!)  Secondly, I’m sure you can make a ton of tasty treats with balsamic glaze, but as fresh ripe summer tomatoes and basil are my best warm weather friends, I haven’t actually experimented with other glazey combos yet.  I just keep making this and we keep shoveling it in and now I’ll tell you how to do it too.

Glazed Caprese Salad (shown here on a summer’s night candle lit table where I ate and drank with some girlfriends who were like recommended bonus ingredients to the whole experience.)

caprese salad

Ingredients: buffalo mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes, fresh chopped basil, balsamic glaze, dash of salt

Directions: chop, mix, pour, eat, smile, eat more.

Tips: you may notice that I didn’t list quantities of the ingredients.  It really doesn’t matter and anyway I say grab as much of each item as you can so you’ll have a ton of salad in front of you when you’re finished!  Just drizzle the balsamic glaze a little at a time and stir/taste along the way.  It will mix and dilute with the tomato juices so you’ll need less than you might think.

p.s. I’m back Lisa!