Top Allergy Safe Lunch #12

Top 8 Safe 12

Who says BLTs require bread?! Not us. These bunless BLTs are a fun DIY for kids, who can wrap their bacon and tomato slices inside of lettuce! If you're looking for a bit of a crunch to go along with that, some gluten free corn chips do the trick. This lunch is fun to eat, and fun at lunch is important! Here we've also got kiwi, raspberries, mango and some dairy free chocolate chips. 

The Thing About Comfort Food

When you think of comfort food, what comes to mind? My mom always says it's her mom's fried chicken wings or a baked potato.  And sure, while fried chicken wings are comforting in their decadence and deliciousness, they are not the first thing that I yearn for. As for baked potatoes, I realize this sounds crazy to some, but they never appealed to me. It's easy to find goodness in a great array of foods that are labeled "comfort foods" (like chocolate chip cookies, big juicy burgers, chicken soup or cheesy pastas). But what is it about comfort foods that make them so comforting anyway? What exactly are we looking for in comfort food? 

roast chicken and sweet potato

I've spent a fair amount of time these past few weeks helping a loved one who just had major surgery. Last week, I made dinner for her kids while she was in the hospital and yesterday I brought groceries to cook in her kitchen for her family. Both times, I relied on my own definition of comfort food: simple roast chicken (dark meat only). For me, roast chicken is a return to home. To reliably delicious family dinners where I sat around a formica table for 18 years with my parents and sister and discussed the comings and goings of the day. Where we hashed out familiar family chatter and where I began to discover, embrace and enjoy the world and my place in it. I'm grateful for those evenings, and a large part of what I find comforting in the food is that return to the simple pleasures of the company of loved ones. 

The smell of my mom's roast chicken and the taste of juicy thigh meat with white rice soaked in chicken juices is, to me, the most comforting food ever. When I was little, we had vegetable minimums; my mom told us we had to eat 4 green beans or two pieces of broccoli. I never had a problem with that, and in fact, green beans alongside that chicken and rice absolutely completes the comfort meal for me. And we must have eaten rice three days a week with dinner. I absolutely love rice. 

So as I set out to make a difficult time even slightly easier for my loved ones, I returned to my concept of comfort food and made roast chicken. I made some additions and modifications to suit the tastebuds of others and included a spinach salad with eggs, onions and bacon with a warm bacon vinaigrette that I knew would be appreciated. 

What do you seek in comfort food? 

Roast Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potato Chips

roasting chicken and sweet potato chips

8 drumsticks
2 large sweet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 375. Arrange the chicken on a baking tray lined with either aluminum foil or parchment paper. Sprinkle salt, garlic and thyme on both sides of the meat. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Slice the sweet potatoes into rounds. Arrange on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Roast for approximately 35 minutes or until the juices of the chicken run clear and the sweet potato chips are slightly browned and crispy. 

Spinach Salad with Bacon, Eggs, Onions and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

10 ounces baby spinach
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 package of bacon
6 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Spinach Salad with Bacon and Eggs

Toss the spinach and mushrooms in a large bowl. Fry the bacon in a pan (I used a cast iron skillet). Remove the bacon and  reserve most of the bacon grease. Fry the onion in the same pan, in the bacon grease. Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the salad. Remove the onion from the pan and when slightly cooled, add to the salad. While the skillet is still hot, add the mustard, sugar and red wine vinegar with the reserved bacon grease and stir vigorously so that the mustard clumps dissolve and a fragrant dressing magically materializes. Add the sliced egg to the salad and pour on the warm vinaigrette. Special thanks to The Pioneer Woman for the idea of this recipe! 

Carbonara for Food Revolution Day 2014

My kids are frequently in the kitchen with me, and conversations about where our food comes from and how to prepare it healthfully and deliciously is part of our family fabric. Today is Food Revolution Day, and this year's message from Jamie Oliver really hits home: "I believe that it's every child's right to be taught about food, how to cook it and how it affects their bodies. Without this fundamental knowledge, they'll grow up without the skills or even the desire to eat better." Beyond the knowledge, I want food and food preparation to be fun for my kids. I'm excited for them to try new flavors and develop their palates and taste preferences. Experimenting in the kitchen exposes them to new flavors and helps to free them of inhibition to taste new foods. It also sends a message that setting aside the time to prepare real, whole foods is a family priority. I'm thrilled that Jamie Oliver has been so successful with Food Revolution Day; it is now celebrated in 117 countries! 

Today I've come across loads of events, recipes and blog posts recognizing Food Revolution Day. I absolutely loved this one by Bettina Elias Siegel of The Lunch Tray about home cooking as a political act and agree wholeheartedly with her when she says "I want them to learn by osmosis that we don't need Big Food to feed us, and that we can actually do a better job when we take back control of the cooking."

Today in honor of Food Revolution Day, my kids and I made Pasta Carbonara - a family favorite. This recipe has four ingredients. Three ingredients for my littlest one, who is dairy free and therefore eats the version without cheese.  

pasta, eggs, bacon, parmesan. 

pasta, eggs, bacon, parmesan. 

First, we boiled the water to cook the pasta. The classic carbonara is all about spaghetti but my kids love this twirly shape best. Meanwhile, we fried up the bacon. I use Applegate's organic Sunday uncured bacon and I like to put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before making this recipe so that it's easy to chop before frying. 

When the pasta is done cooking, I reserved 1/2 cup of the pasta water to use in the recipe (full recipe below). My daughter added it to the bacon and then added the cooked, drained pasta. 

I added the eggs and stirred quickly to incorporate them into the pasta without making scrambled eggs. I set a portion aside for my littlest one. My older kids then added cheese and stirred. Yum! Because the pan is still hot, the cheese melts beautifully. 


This dish is easy to make with kids in the kitchen. It uses simple, real, pronounceable ingredients. And it's a crowd pleaser! 

Pasta Carbonara
1 pound of dry pasta
4 large eggs
8 ounces of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan
pepper to taste
salt for boiling water

Boil the pasta in salted water as directed, until it's al dente. While the pasta cooks, fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat for approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, crack the eggs and lightly beat them. Set aside. In another small bowl, grate the parmesan. When the pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining. 

Turn the heat back on to medium on the bacon pan. Add the reserved pasta water and stir. Add the cooked pasta and continue stirring until the water has evaporated and the bacon is evenly distributed. Take the pan off the heat again. Let sit for one minute. The pan will still be hot. Add the eggs slowly and mix quickly to thicken the sauce and to prevent the eggs from scrambling. At this point, you can add black pepper to taste for a dairy free version of carbonara. Otherwise, add the grated parmesan and stir well to combine. The cheese should melt immediately into a rich, creamy delicious sauce. 

Serve immediately. (this recipe serves 4-6 people)

Happy Food Revolution Day! 

Kale Soup for All Kinds of Comfort

It's ridiculously cold here. Twenty something degrees! And the thing is, it's only December. I fear January. And I'm terrified of March. (February has always been one of those easy peasy months in my mind because it's so nice and short.) Besides the hectic pace of the holiday season (interwoven with little reminders like "stop the madness and smell the roses," which is totally easier said than done), we have been struck down by some unkind stomach virus chez moi. I have two things to say on the matter: first, I'm incredibly grateful that it was only the 24 hour variety. And second, I'm so fortunate to have a babysitter who is loving and patient, good spirited and also amazing with sick kids. She didn't blink an eye when my son lost his lunch all over her. Seriously. #Feelingblessed. 

Naturally, after a bout with any kind of stomach thing, bland and basic is always best. So for my son, it was all toast and oatmeal. But the grownups need to eat too. I threw together this soup and it hit the spot. It was hearty and comforting after an exhausting day. It was warm and filling after facing the bitter cold. And it was delicious, thanks to simple ingredients. 

Simple ingredients for Kale Soup

Simple ingredients for Kale Soup

Kale Soup

4 ounces of bacon
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of green leafy kale, chopped
8 cups of water
1 can of navy beans (or white beans)
1 bay leaf
1 rind of parmesan
dash of cayenne pepper or red chili flakes
salt to taste

Fry the bacon in a soup pot for several minutes until the edges begin to brown. Turn off the heat, remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Leave the bacon fat in the pot. When the bacon has cooled, chop into smaller pieces and add back to the pot. Turn the heat to medium and add garlic and kale and stir. After about 2 minutes, add water, beans, bay leaf and parmesan leaf. Simmer with lid on for about 40 minutes (or longer). Add cayenne pepper and salt if desired. Enjoy! 
*Note: for a richer soup, use chicken broth instead of water and feel free to add grated parmesan when you serve soup. 

My other favorites for cold weather: 

Winter Root Vegetable Soup

Best Cold and Flu Fighter Soup

Rainy Day Carrot Soup

Easiest Black Beans