REAL Lunch: Gemelli Pasta w. Garlic Marinara

Gemelli Pasta

4 c. Gemelli Pasta
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp basil, shredded fresh or dry
3 c. of fresh Marinara
1 TBsp Olive Oil
1/4 tsp salt
Mozzarella Cheese *optional

Set a pot of salted water to boil on high heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, quickly saute (1 min) the minced garlic and basil in Olive Oil over medium-low heat – taking care not to burn or brown the garlic, that will make it bitter. Add the Marinara to the garlic, oil and basil and lower the heat to low.  Stir well and cook for 12 – 15 minutes.

Check your salted water — when you have a rolling boil, add the Gemelli, stir to prevent sticking and cook until al dente (about 15 mins).

Drain the cooked pasta,

For packing to-go, scoop about 1 c. of pasta per container and top with 3-4 TBsp of Marinara, a few shreds of cheese or fresh herbs.

For dining-in, plate pasta and sauce — serve with crusty Italian Bread, that you can make ahead of time (like, the Sunday before) and a quick Romaine, Carrot and Tomato salad.

Delicious,

AND p.s. – you just got 4 servings of Vegetables in one meal!

REAL Lunch: Quick Gyros

Chicken Gyro

REAL Lunch: Quick Gyro ~ Serves 5 ~ Substitution makes this Vegan Friendly

Unbelievably easy. Insanely delicious (I just finished mine).

I packed them for the kid’s lunches in a 2 ply to-go wrap. One sheet of wax paper, and one sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the sides in and roll the long end together along the top. Perfect.

//Ingredients//

1 lb chicken tenders OR 1 lb of seitan strips
Spice Blend, 1 TBsp each:
Turmeric, Paprika, Dill, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Salt, Cracked Black Pepper, Parsley.
1 pkg Pita Breads
Olive oil
Lettuce, Shredded
Tomato, Sliced
Shredded Cheese, optional*
Sliced Onions, optional*
Fresh Jalapeno, optional*

//Yogurt Sauce//

1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped parsley or mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dark sesame oil

//Method//

In a medium bowl, coat the chicken tenders with your pre-mixed spice blend.

Turn your broiler to medium-high. Lightly coat both sides of your pita breads with Olive Oil, and either spread them out onto a cookie sheet and place under the broiler for 2 – 5 minutes each side OR using a frying pan, warm the pitas on each side for 2 – 5 minutes.

Pan-fry the spiced chicken (or seitan) on medium-high heat in a heavy bottom pan, using a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook until the meat is cooked through (or until the seitan is browned and crispy) about 10 – 15 minutes. Chop the chicken (or seitan) into chunks, while still in the pan – using a metal spatula.

If you’re packing to-go, grab your wax paper and foil sheets and layer them. Foil first, wax on top. Pita next.

Layer the cheese, chicken (or seitan), lettuce, tomato slices, sliced onions, jalapeno strips and yogurt sauce [feel free to use whatever you have on hand, use Ranch dressing, Bleu Cheeese Dressing, or any other favorite sauce].

Wrap and Pack, enjoy later.

For dining-in, just plate up with fresh fruit and call it a meal!

Happy eating!

New School Year. Old School Lunch.

On Monday, August 24th, 2009 – my three bright and beautiful children will begin a new school year. A new school year means a new lunch calendar, a new chance to get it right – or not. Last year saw the addition of a ‘Teriyaki Veggie Burger’ and ‘Fresh Chilled Fruit’. I wonder what efforts are being made this year, and what won’t or can’t be done with resources being tight and things being done as they always have.

I’m not going to post the link to the actual school lunch calendar, it is a standard Maryland Public School lunch configuration. I will however, break out some scary statistics for you.

Calendar

This comes from the August/September lunch menu:

Chicken Nuggets: 6 times (every Monday) second options include Pizza Burritos and BBQ

Hot Dog/Chili Dog: 6 times (every Tuesday) second options include Burger Bar, Steak & Cheese and Pork Fajita

Crispy Chicken on a Roll: 6 times (every Wednesday) second options Pizza, Beef and Potato and Meatball Sub

Beef Taco with Soft or Hard Shell: 4 times (every Thursday) second options Pork Dippers, Ham Melt Sub and Oven Fried Chicken

Pizza: 5 times (every Friday) second options Turkey Bacon Melt, Fish & Cheese Sub and Beef Dippers

Items to Note:

I’d like a survey of all teachers who eat lunch in the school cafeteria.

What in the name of food are a Pork Dipper and a Beef Dipper??

Home Grown School Lunch week occurs in the middle of September, and the highlight is New Orleans Chicken (we live in Maryland – just saying).

For the entire month, the only meatless items on the menu are ‘Oven Toasted Cheese Sandwich’ and ‘Macaroni and Cheese’ – so….what are the Vegans supposed to eat again?

The lunch calendar is stamped at the very top with two captions that just seem a bit, off —

‘Mighty Food 4 Mighty Minds’

and

‘Food 4 Thought’

Yeah, indeed.

I know that schools only have so much money in the budget for the cafeteria and the commodities – just like most all of the moms I know and the state of their own grocery budgets. What I’m finding hard to swallow, pun intended, is that not one grown-up within the decision-making structure of our schools has said, “Hey fellow grown ups, if we ate like that for a month – we’d probably be constipated, sick to our stomachs and half alive.”

Has anyone seen Super-Size Me? I NEED the Parent Teacher Associations to form a subcommittee that deals exclusively with the food served in their schools. What good are fundraisers, bake sales and skate nights if we are not making any progress or gaining forward momentum in the fight for the most basic needs of our children?

As parents, we are charged with being a fierce advocate.

It’s not for the sake of being all foamy at the mouth over this, I just wanted someone to start asking the right questions and coming up with a better idea of what Elementary School lunch should look like. Studies show, that the earlier you begin to introduce healthy eating habits, fruits and vegetables, whole and unprocessed grains – the more likely it is for the child to be keen on trying, and asking for those foods. Additionally, the peer network of a child more largely affects their eating style than the direct influence their parents have, says a study by Johns Hopkins.

I take this to mean that if as a school administrator, you transformed the Elementary School Cafeteria and posted pictures and brightly colored signs showing different examples of healthy food lifestyles and differing cultural food lifestyles: Organic, Local, Vegan, Vegetarian, Whole, Halal, REAL, Pescatarian, Flexitarian (that’s my own variation *tee hee*) – if you featured a children’s sized salad bar once a week, if you actually stepped out on a limb and tried ‘New Food Wednesdays’, where every week there was a new food to try, if you featured REAL Vegan and Vegetarian options like Tofu and Tempeh and Gluten, you would really be closing the gap and giving kids a chance at turning the tide for the future and their kids, and their grand-kids and how we view food as a society and as a community – locally and globally. It’s just astounding that in the year 2010, we would still be serving our children a lunch diet designed in the 1950’s.

Looks like another brown bag year. Yummy, yummy. I think Brown Rice and Veggie Maki Roll Sushi would go well with a First Day of School – what do you think?

Eat well, feed them well.

Nira

REAL Food Lunchbox

This school year is gearing up to start in a few weeks, which means I am getting my recipes in order and meal preferences straight.

My 10 year-old doesn’t like strawberries, tomatoes, pineapple, bananas, or anything squishy. A staunch vegan – doesn’t like meat at all, cheese is his weakness and will be the last thing he gives up, so he says.

The 8 year-old likes sandwiches, any food that calls for salsa, sour cream and cheese, green apples and corn on the cob. Loves meat, especially chicken – fried. (Sigh)

The 4 year-old will eat anything her brothers say is good, and anything sweet. She has an amazing palate for a Kindergarten kid; she loves Sushi, onions, leeks, orzo, salmon and spinach among other things.

Me – I love it all. All the colors and flavors, all the gross and weird looking stuff and all of the things I’ve never tried. I am determined to travel every one of the seven Continents AND to taste the food of every culture on the planet. A girl MUST dream, you know.

Packing lunch usually means dinner’s leftovers – this can be tricky because it means that dinner has to be so good, that the kids will actually want to eat it again the next day. On the days that dinner is so good that there are no leftovers, or dinner wasn’t that great of a success – I cook lunch from scratch (these are the super-quick’s).

Most of the recipes I use are not recipes at all, but cut and paste projects of web browsing, cookbook reads, what I or the kids have a taste for, what’s in season and what I can afford. A little of this, a little of that – substitutions are King. Flexibility is one of the most important ingredients in cooking for me. I use measuring spoons only when I’m baking (learned that the hard way) and when I’m trying to write a recipe. ha.

The only principle I will not compromise is the use of REAL food ingredients. It is possible to prepare a meal, a lunch, with REAL ingredients with whatever resources you have on hand. REAL = not fake. Not artificial, chemical or manufactured. Not powdered, in a kit or in a pop top, not hermetically sealed or preserved, and no colors that only occur in a lab. No food that pops or crackles as a result of scientific experimentation or engineering. I’m not a food purist, just someone who thinks that the Earth pretty much has the growing, creating thing down pat. If we use what is given to us in the form of plants (and sometimes animals), we can live just like the Herbivores and Omnivores do, in harmony, in the natural kingdom.

In today’s new ‘green’ world – we are made to believe that ‘all-natural’, ‘organic’, ‘free-range’, ‘local’ and ‘pastured’ are reserved only for the gourmet and the affluent. Not true.

Within 15 minutes of where I live, in the heart of the city, is Waverly Farmer’s Market – here you can buy fresh produce, bread, cheese, flowers, sauces, juice, coffee and more for at least 50% or more less than what you spend at a chain grocer. Some of the farmer’s accept SNAP (food vouchers) and EBT cards.

Within 45 minutes of where I live, in the beauty of the countryside, you can pick your own potatoes right out of the ground, blueberries off the bush, eggs and chicken straight from the hen house, apples from the tree and tomatoes from the vine. Using the pick-your-own strategy, you score even more goods and produce for even less money — and the taste, don’t forget the taste!

If you want to see what a month’s worth of dinner-lunch recipes would look like, using local ingredients when possible and REAL food ingredients always, time-saavy, budget friendly – kid approved. Wait until you get your hands on what I’m working at…

Keep eating, REAL Food Changes People!

Nira