We Love Produce for Kids

I've been following Produce for Kids for as long as I can remember. Here's what has always resonated with me: Produce for Kids not only promotes healthy eating for kids and families with great recipes and helpful tips about what's in season, they've also orchestrated partnerships with produce and grocery outlets which has enabled them to donate $6 million to charities that benefit children and families.

Their Power Your Lunchbox Pledge is a cause that's near and dear to my heart. For each family that takes the pledge to eat a healthier lunch, Produce for Kids donates $1 to Feeding America, a network with 200 food banks, 60,000 food pantries and meal programs dedicated to hunger-relief. Each dollar donated provides 11 meals to families in need. 

When I connected with the folks at PFK and was asked to be part of their January 2017 Power Your Lunchbox promotion, I was over the moon. I took over their IG for a day to share the lunches that I pack for my kiddos as well as some easy recipes and tips and had a great time doing it! If you didn't follow along, you can see those posts below. It goes without saying that it's worthwhile to follow along with PFK on Instagram, and while we're talking about it, go ahead and take the pledge! Beyond doing something worthwhile, you can also grab money-saving coupons. If you like what you see below, be sure to follow us on Instagram for more!

nut butter and jam, apple noodles, polka dot banana

Here we've got sunflower seed butter and jam on raisin bread with apple noodles, raspberries, blueberries, celery, polka dot banana and a chocolate covered pretzel. 

Pasta with Quick Meat Sauce

Quick meat sauce with either pasta or polenta is a staple in my house. It comes together in 30 minutes or less! Here's where you can grab that easy recipe. Also featured here: produce in season! Pink grapefruit, sweet potato, apple and banavocado bread. 

Sausage in puff pastry

Sausage in puff pastry

My mom made sausage with puff pastry when I was a kid, so I have fond memories of it. Here we've got vegetarian sausage and I've added spinach to the roll. Sausage in puff pastry takes less than 30 minutes to make and also works beautifully for lunchbox leftovers! All you do is roll precooked sausage in puff pastry and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. 

After school snacks

After school snacks

My strategy for getting my kids to eat a ton of fresh produce is to make a ton of fresh produce available to them! I like to prep fruits and veggies ahead of time and have them in containers in the fridge for my kids to eat after school. It doesn't mean they're not also eating snacky stuff... it just means they have yet another opportunity during the day to eat fresh fruit.

Veggie sushi, made by kids

Veggie sushi, made by kids

I can't eat fish because I'm allergic. Sushi intrigues me incredibly! My husband and my oldest child (10 years old) go on sushi dates together and I think it's so sweet. She loves to make veggie sushi at home and I love to encourage kids in the kitchen, so it's a win-win! Here's where you can see a little clip of my 10 year old rolling up sushi magic!

Breakfast Bites

Breakfast Bites

I'm a morning person, but even for me, mornings are hectic and stressful. I like to get as much done in advance as possible and that includes making these Breakfast Bites at night. It's just eggs and vegetables (typically whatever is leftover from dinner, chopped). Somehow the cupcake shape, the simple flavors and the convenience make these irresistible for kids. Here's how:
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees
* Beat 10 eggs in a small bowl
* Add 3/4 cup chopped broccoli (or any veggie of your choice... there are so many options!)
* Add salt and pepper to taste
* Place cupcake wrappers in a muffin tin and coat each with cooking spray or oil. If you don't have wrappers, just coat each muffin tin with oil.
* Pour egg mixture into each
* Bake for 14-18 minutes or until they are cooked through
(Optional: you can add 2 tablespoons of milk 1/2 - 1 cup of shredded cheese to these if your family eats dairy). 


Casey2Cook's LaLa Lunches

I'm always curious about what chef parents are packing for their kids' lunches. Aren't you? Chef and mom Casey Repetti posts the lunches that she makes for her 4 year old son on Instagram and they're super cute. 

I was thrilled to host Casey for an IG takeover and wanted to take this moment to post the lunches that she packed for her son (using the free LaLa Lunchbox app!) If you aren't familiar with Casey, go right now to her website where you'll find delicious, easy, family friendly recipes. (Ok, don't go yet... finish reading this post first!) You can also connect with Casey on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. I recommend that! 

Without further ado, here's what Casey shared with our LaLa Lunchbox IG followers: 

"So simple, even a 4 year old can use it," is what Casey said about using LaLa Lunchbox.  

"So simple, even a 4 year old can use it," is what Casey said about using LaLa Lunchbox.  

Casey's tuna sandwiches for her little guy aren't just ordinary tuna sandwiches though... she gives them pizazz by adding taco seasoning! And look how she has turned regular cukes and carrots into something fun just by using a crinkle cutter! Note to self: I may need to add that to the lunch prep arsenal. 

Next up, Casey shared an absolute fave: DIY tacos. Taco Tuesday rocks - except for the fact that one of my kids routinely makes himself a "cheese taco" and calls it a day, ignoring all of the other delicious accoutrements. Sigh. Casey's son has the right idea though:

Tacos for lunch? YES please!  

Tacos for lunch? YES please!  

Casey's final Lunchbox post had a great tip: "sandwich sushi" can include basically anything - from roasted veggies to pb and j to deli meats. Get a burrito sized wrap, fill, roll, slice and enjoy. The possibilities are endless! 

Adorable and delicious - exactly what I'd expect from a chef/mom!  

Adorable and delicious - exactly what I'd expect from a chef/mom!  

So go ahead and show Casey some love with a follow. Dig into the easy recipes on her website and when you recreate them, be sure to tag your posts with #Casey2Cook! 

DIY Pita Bar

The holidays may be over, but with football season in full swing, you may still be entertaining guests. If you're out of ideas or sick of the chips, nachos, guacamole theme, this Pita Bar might be right up your alley! Here's what we served at the Pita Bar for our New Years Eve party for six kids and six adults, and there was something for everyone:
* Pita
* Hummus
* Baba Ganoush
* Labne
* Tabbouleh
* Fattoush Salad
* Roasted artichoke hearts
* Roasted red peppers
* Feta cheese
* Guacamole
* Pickled red onions
* Fresh veggies
* Grilled chicken (boneless thighs and boneless breasts) 
* Lamb meatballs

Pita Bar

We bought most of the ingredients already prepared, with the exception of the Fattoush salad, the guacamole, the pickled red onions, the grilled chicken and the meatballs. It made hosting a party of 12 much more feasible! The meatballs were a huge hit, and here's the recipe: 

Lamb Meatballs

1 pound of ground lamb
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unseasoned panko
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, making sure that the consistency is uniform. Roll into 2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy! 

Olive Oil Lemon Thyme Cookies!

I'm all about cookies. I've said this before, but this kind of important thing bears repeating. Cookies make the world go round, as far as I'm concerned. Sayonara candy, cake and pie. 

olive oil lemon thyme.JPG
olive oil lemon thyme 2.JPG

My youngest is dairy free, so over the years I've found some terrific recipes for dairy free cookies that satisfy my cookie craving and are also safe for all 5 of us to enjoy. These Lemon & Thyme Olive Oil Cookies have become some of our favorites! Beyond the flavor, which I can assure you as a cookie snob, is out of this world, the texture is fantastic. I'm making a triple batch of these to bring to a Christmas party.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine. The original recipe calls for almond extract, but my family is nut free, so I've eliminated that. 

Lemon & Thyme Olive Oil Cookies
makes about 28-32 cookies

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 regular-size lemons) {note: save the lemon}
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely minced thyme
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar (1 cup) and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar until it's evenly moistened and aromatic; Set aside to marinate for a few minutes.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and thyme; Set aside. 

Add the olive oil, egg and lemon juice, to the lemon-sugar mixture. Mix either by hand or with a mixer until smooth. (About 3-5 minutes.) Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours - this part is key. 

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

Place the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (for rolling) into a large, shallow bowl. 

For each cookie, measure out about 2 well-rounded teaspoonfuls. Roll into balls and roll the balls through the bowl of sugar until evenly coated. {Note: Don't worry if the dough is a bit crumbly. If you work the balls of dough long enough with your palms, it will come together.} Place the sugar-coated cookies onto prepared sheets and use your hand or the bottom of a cup to flatten slightly. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will have puffed up slightly but will still look pale. (Mine were just right after 8 minutes.) Remove the cookies sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest for about 3 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Recipe adapted from Mama's Gotta Bake


Buddha Bowl with Ginger Shallot Dressing

Hello, dinner! 

Here's a heads up: if you type the words "Buddha Bowl" into Pinterest, you may get sucked down a rabbit hole for a while. You'll find beautifully deep bowls of veggies and grains, some with beans, some with tofu, some with soy dressings, some tahini based. And then you may get ravenous. Been there, done that. 

The most complicated part of making a Buddha Bowl is all of the chopping. Other than that, it's a very straightforward recipe and a completely delicious meal. Here's how I tackled it: first I sliced a sweet potato into semi circles and placed them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzled with olive oil. Next to that I placed thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and kale leaves that I had torn from the stem and drizzled both with olive oil. I roasted them in a preheated 400 degree oven (the kale took no time, about 7 minutes, the Brussels sprouts took about 20, and the sweet potatoes took about 25). As those veggies were roasting, I placed 1/2 cup of quinoa into a saucepan with 1 cup of water, brought to a simmer, covered and cooked for about 15 minutes. As that cooked, I chopped the red cabbage and frisee endive. The final step was to make the dressing - the thing that brings it all together. 

buddha bowl LaLa Lunchbox

My daughters both love red cabbage, so they like to munch as I put this together. They also love shallot (raw, go figure!) so my version of this dressing had slightly less shallot than the recipe calls for, thanks to my nibblers. Also want to note that the jalapeno that I used was not super spicy and that you can adjust that based on your own heat preference. My husband and I devour Buddha Bowls, and this recipe will leave you with lots of leftover dressing. Woot woot! 

Ginger Shallot Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped ginger
1 chopped shallot
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste 

Combine all ingredients and blend in a cuisinart or medium sized bowl with immersion blender. Pour into a jar and refrigerate for use all week!