Feeding Babies

FEEDING BABIES: LUNCHBOX EDITION

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Curran (3) starts preschool next week and I know some of you have been in a few weeks or are approaching your start as well. I will be honest with you, I get stuck on kid lunches. A sunflower butter and banana sandwich on repeat seems the simplest way out but I'd rather save that for days when I have no minutes to prepare something. Generally speaking, I try to get some protein, fat and fiber in there to keep his energy up and stable. I recognize the sugar will get in there naturally via fruit, crackers, bread etc. and believe me, I don't always get this right, but I try to keep in mind that kids' blood sugar is even more sensitive than ours. If it's a nut butter and fruit sandwich, the side is leftover roasted chicken or a hard boiled egg or string cheese. I'm not a nutritionist, but I read a lot, and there is a plethora of research explaining the short and long term benefits of not having huge spikes in blood sugar throughout the day, and that includes kids. It helps their mood, behavior, attention span and normalize energy levels. Curran runs on the ultra sensitive side, so whatever I can do prevent a crash. Below are a few ideas, whether you have kids in school or not, or for yourself. I love the broccoli pesto in my scrambled eggs. My kids are not vegetarian, so some of these ideas include animal proteins but you can easily leave them out.

* Most schools are no nuts, so sunflower butter is a staple. They sell an unsweetened one at Trader Joes and Whole Foods. I've made my own but can never get it as spreadable as the store-bought stuff. Jam most often has added sugar, so think about layering fresh fruit in its place. Banana slices, strawberries, peaches and apple have all been successful. They have no added sugar and add texture to an otherwise moosh sandwich. 

* Frittata type things. Made in muffin tins make them super portable. These are easy if your kid is ok with mushrooms. I find they are passable when chopped small enough. On the note of great breakfast items that can also be thrown in a lunchbox, these pancakes look perfect. 

* These broccoli balls. They travel well and pack some good protein, fat and fiber. Speaking of, these Vegetable Flatbreads from Green Kitchen Stories are amazing and so easy. For the little kids and big kids here, we love these Squash, Greens and Quinoa Fritters

* I am not above a packaged snack. I try to do one if I need to fill it out and I'm certain it's the first thing he eats and that's ok, I did the same thing.
 I found a variety snack pack of Luke's at Costco recently. They were half the price they are on Amazon but just so you can see them. Both kids like the crispy chickpeas from The Goodbean. Both Costco and Trader Joes sell dried broccoli which I think smells like fish food but my kids love it so I add that to the mix. We also like the kids Rx bars or cut up half a Perfect Bar and put it in the "dipper jar" of his lunch box** (see note below). These would be considered a treat. They sell these at Costco, Trader Joes and Target in the fridge section. Add other things you like in the comment section!

* I am planning to make Laura's Seedy Granola Bars (recipe posted here) and just skip the chocolate drizzle on top. Cut these Brown Rice Crisp Treats into smaller squares and you'll make someones day...including your own. Or I will hide a few chocolate chips inside a pitted Medjool date as a treat. All are nut free options.

+ Water bottle and a love note post-it or a sticker and I feel like WHEN DID I BECOME OLD ENOUGH TO BE PACKING LUNCHES?!?! Ok, good luck! 

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LUNCHBOX SAMMIES, THREE WAYS

V.1 "sushi sandwich" (which I learned about from Weelicious )

1 slice of soft sandwich bread
2 Tbsp. hummus
1ish Tbsp. grated carrots
sprinkle of herbs or sprouts, optional

Roll the bread with a rolling pin to make it flat and thin. Cut off the crust. Spread the hummus over the top and then top with the grated carrots and herbs/sprouts, if using. Roll it up lengthwise and slice them into 1/2" pinwheels. 

V.2 "Broccoli Mashup"

This will make enough for a few sandwiches. I also mix a few spoonfuls into my scrambled eggs halfway through cooking and eat it with a sliced tomato. Make a double batch for that reason alone. 

broccoli pesto

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp. sea salt
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup barely steamed and cooled broccoli florets
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
small squeeze of lemon
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 whole grain tortilla or sandwich bread
cheese, chicken, salami or garbanzo beans, one or all to taste

In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts, garlic and salt and pepper. Add the basil leaves, broccoli, olive oil and pulse to combine. You want it well chopped but not a puree. 

Into a tortilla or between bread, do a generous spread of the broccoli pesto and then layer with cheese, shredded chicken, salami and or chickpeas as you wish. 

V.3 "cheese + veggie spread"

This is sort of like a lazy version of hummus, but is a way to add vegetables to the sandwich without them being particularly noticeable. 

veggie spread
3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup white beans
handful of baby spinach
1.5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

sliced turkey or chicken, optional
1 whole grain tortilla or 2 slices sandwich bread
sprinkle of shaved parmesan or 1 slice of provolone, havarti or mozzarella

In a food processor, combine the artichokes, white beans, spinach, oil and a good season of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times just to chop and get everything to hold together a bit. Barely toast the bread or warm the tortilla (I like to take the raw edge off but not dry it out). Spread the vegetable mixture on, a layer of turkey, if using, and a slice of cheese or sprinkle or parmesan on top. Roll and slice the wrap or sandwich.

**The lunch boxes posted here are from Planetbox. Comes with a bag and a dipper container that I'll use for necessary dips, hummus or plain yogurt. I find stainless to not hold on to color and smell like plastic does. 



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Entrée, Gluten Free, Salad, Side, Summer

SUMMERY KALE CHOP

Are you summering well? I see you people who make summer bucket lists and I imagine that helps one to optimize their time this season. I have an unacceptable amount of sand in my car, I am eating lots of tomatoes and fruit crisps and we cleaned up the front porch so we can sit out there at dusk with a glass of wine and watch the kids run around in the grass so I do feel in it. We didn't plan a big trip, I need more long afternoons at the beach and I haven't had friends over for dinner as often as I'd like but I believe summer lasts through September so there is still time. Sounds like perhaps I need a list. 

I am going to Vietnam on Friday, so there's that. It is sort of last minute and part of a campaign I am working on with Celestial Seasonings. We're going to a cinnamon farm to see the process of harvesting, drying, grinding the cinnamon that is then used for teas or cooking and such and I can't wait. In the depths of my momm-ing I have felt so eager to learn and see something new; break the routine. It will feel good to recharge in that way. I am scared to leave my people, but thrilled that I get to see a new place. This job, it's pretty wild and I like it. I will be on a plane/in transit almost just as long as I will be in the country so please pass on any book recommendations. I am picky about self help/spiritual stuff and can't do super sad, but tell me what you're loving. I'll share some photos on Instagram and chat with you lovelies in a few weeks! 

SUMMERY KALE CHOP // Serve 4

I like the crunch and structure of kale in salads but I know it can be a bit much. You could swap in tender greens or romaine in its place, or even half and half, and not change anything aside from the massaging the dressing into the greens step.The nuts and dressing can be made in advance.

spicy pepitas
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. maple syrup
3/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne, to taste
1/8 tsp. garlic powder

cilantro dressing
handful of cilantro
1 garlic clove
1 anchovy, optional
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. cashew butter*
1/2 tsp. sea salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

* I usually add a dollop of mayonnaise to make my dressings a little thicker, but wanted to try a plant based route. They sell cashew butter at Trader Joes or Whole Foods or surely your local health food store. Otherwise, about 1/3 cup of cashews soaked in water will do the same thing if blended long enough. 

1 bundle of Lacinato/Tuscan Kale, stemmed and well chopped
1/4 of a red onion, shaved thin
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/2 cup crumbled sheeps' milk feta, plus more for garnish
1 avocado, pitted and cubed
1 peach, pitted and cubed

To make the spicy pepitas, warm the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the maple, pepitas, salt, cayenne and garlic powder and stir to coat. Continue to stir until the nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove to a piece of parchment to cool completely. 

For the dressing, in a blender, combine the cilantro, garlic, anchovy, dijon, cashew butter, salt, pepper, cider vinegar and lemon juice. Blitz a few times to chop. Add the olive oil and whiz until everything is well combined. 

In a large salad bowl, add the chopped kale. Add a drizzle of the dressing and work it into the kale with your hands, breaking down some of the structure so the kale is nicer to eat. Add the onion, lentils, feta cheese, avocados, peaches, handful of the pepitas and toss to coat. Serve the salad with a few spicy pepitas and feta cheese on top. 

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Entrée, Summer

ROASTED ZUCCHINI PASTA BAKE

My bounty of summer zucchini has regrettably not been very exciting lately. I have been grilling it or grating it into the kids morning muffins, neither of which has been particularly tasty. I do like zucchini noodles and I've been picking up those pre-zoodled ones from Target to saute with the pesto I always have on hands along with tomatoes and white beans and dinner in done in 10 minutes. So how else can we jazz it up? Amidst pasta and cheese of course! If you have other zucchini recipes you love, please point me towards them in the comments. I told you I would try to get more easy weeknight dinner options going on here and this one is not to be overlooked. 

ROASTED ZUCCHINI PASTA BAKE // Serves 4

If you are making this in advance, follow the directions all the way through the last baking step. It can probably sit overnight at the most, and then be baked the following day. To reheat, warm it, covered, at 350' for about 20 minutes. 
If you do eat meat and want to add sausage of some sort, crumble and cook it, and add it in when you are mixing everything together before baking. My guess is about 3 links would be plenty and would not change other amounts drastically. You can use gluten free pasta shells if you'd like but I have nothing to offer those of you who will ask if this can be dairy free ;)

2 lbs. zucchini (about 4 medium)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more for pasta water
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
pinch of red pepper flakes
zest of one small lemon
1/2 lb. large pasta shells
8 ounces/ 1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 lb. grated goat cheddar, divided
fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1/8 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400'. 
Cut the squash into 1/4" coins. If there is a thicker end or seedy part of the squash, scoop the seeds out with a spoon, halve and slice those parts. Pile the zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. Toss to coat and spread evenly on the baking sheet. Roast in the upper third of the oven for 25 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until you get a few browned edges. Remove to cool completely.
While the squash bakes, cook the pasta in well salted water until al dente, or following package instructions. Drain and return to the pot. Let it cool to the touch, and then add the creme fraiche, half of the grated cheddar, a handful of chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper and the fresh grated nutmeg. Stir everything to mix well. Add the zucchini and give it one more stir. 
Butter a baking dish and transfer the pasta mixture into it. Sprinkle the remaining goat cheddar, parmesan and another few generous pinches of parsley over the top. Pop the dish in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to set before serving. 



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