summer

Tips for Easy Summer Lunches

The weather is warm, the sun is shining for longer, and people everywhere are outside with smiles on their faces. I love you, summer! Whether your kiddos are headed to camp this summer or they'll be enjoying unstructured days, they'll still need to eat lunch. Every day. Look, I realize it can be stressful to continue to pack lunches in the summer after school has ended. I'm right in the trenches with you. Below are some tips to make that task slightly easier so you can kick back with that glass of wine and listen to the crickets. 

1. Produce is your best friend. 
My kids tend to choose more produce-heavy lunches in the summer, probably because summer produce is so ridiculously delicious (I'm looking at you, nectarines, plums, watermelon, melon, strawberries, cukes and green beans!). Lunches that showcase the colorful bounty of the summer are a treat for the eyes, the mouth and the stomach. So don't sweat it if you don't want to pack some elaborate lunch. Let the fruits and veggies do the heavy lifting for you. Plus, have you read this post about how many fruits and veggies your kids should eat every day? Eye opening. 

produce lunch

2. Prep fruits and veggies ahead of time. 
Adding lots of fruits and veggies to your kid's lunchbox is a hundred times easier if they're sliced, cut, peeled and ready to go ahead of time. Pick a day, set aside 30 minutes and get friendly with your cutting board and your favorite knife. Trust me, you won't regret this. The lunch below took all of five minutes to throw together because I had already sliced everything except the salami. 

summer lunch 1

3. Be adventure-ready! 
Some kids love unstructured time but some kids need their days to be more carefully planned. Whichever category your kids fall into, having a lunch that's already packed will make getting out the door much smoother. Best way to do this? Pack lunches at night. Whether your kids are choosing their own lunches or you're the one deciding what they'll eat, lunch packing goes much better with wine than it does with coffee. Plus, if you're packing leftovers, doing it at night makes sense, right? 

lunch 3

4. Don't forget breakfast! 
Who doesn't love breakfast for lunch? Whether it's waffles, crepes, eggs or a yogurt parfait, there are loads of foods that are delicious and fun for breakfast AND lunch. Below are three examples of brunchy lunches that my kids love. 

brunch lunch 1
brunchy lunch 2
brunchy lunch 3

Whatever you pack, be sure to include an ice pack to keep lunch contents safe and cool for the day, as well as a big container of water to keep kids well hydrated. 

For daily lunch inspiration, be sure to follow us on Instagram. Happy lunching! 

You might also like: 
Strategies to Get More Veggies in That Lunchbox
Lunchbox Favorites
Meal and Snack Planning at Your Fingertips

Corn Soup

image courtesy of organicfacts.net

image courtesy of organicfacts.net

While it doesn't feel like summer yet, I'm dreaming of blue skies, warm weather and a hallmark of the season: fresh corn. In preparation, I've created a recipe for an easy Corn Soup that you can enjoy during any season, but one that will taste utterly fantastic with the freshly hulled ears of summer. This version serves 4-6 and is vegan, but you can make substitutions (noted below). 

Here's what you'll need:
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 1 medium white onion, chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
• 2 white fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 inch chunks
• 2 cups vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth too)
• 1 cup coconut milk (I used full fat. You can use cow's milk too) 
• 3 cups of corn kernels (I used frozen corn for this, but come summer, I'm going fresh all the way) 
• juice of one lime plus 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest
• 1 scallion, chopped (green parts only, for garnish)
• 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (garnish) 
• salt and pepper to taste

corn soup

Here's how: 
1. In a soup pot, heat the oil to medium high and add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
2. Add sweet potato, broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
3. After about 5 minutes, add the corn but reserve about a half cup of the kernels for garnish.  
4. Stir, cover and let this cook until the potatoes are soft (but not mushy). Should be approximately 20-25 minutes.  
5. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
6. Purée with a stick blender, but leave some chunks for texture.
7. Add lime zest and juice and stir to combine.
8. Garnish with scallions, smoked paprika and corn. 

Enjoy! 

Corn Soup

Camp Lunch Inspiration

Summer is in full swing here and we've been busily shuffling kids here and there. Summer is our busiest time because we're getting ready for the Back to School season and we've got amazing things in store for LaLa Lunchbox users this year. Stay tuned! 

In the meantime, I'm still packing lunches daily. If you missed our post about making summer lunches easier, have no fear, here you go. The kids are still picking their foods with the LaLa Lunchbox app, making my busy life easier, and we're incorporating loads of delicious summer produce. We post daily pics on Instagram, so go ahead and check that out for some fresh ideas every day. If you're here looking for a little inspiration, take a peek below at some of the recent camp lunches: 

banana sunflower seed roll ups, carrots, apple, figs and cookies.

banana sunflower seed roll ups, carrots, apple, figs and cookies.

DIY yogurt parfait: yogurt, berries and cereal, plus grapes, nectarine, snap peas and a sweet chocolate treat. 

DIY yogurt parfait: yogurt, berries and cereal, plus grapes, nectarine, snap peas and a sweet chocolate treat. 

Cheese blintzes, nectarine and plum, strawberries, broccoli and a sweet chocolate treat. Does your kiddo have a summer birthday? We absolutely love the cards from  Lunchbox Love  - and not just for birthdays! They're regular accompaniments to lunches all year round here. 

Cheese blintzes, nectarine and plum, strawberries, broccoli and a sweet chocolate treat. Does your kiddo have a summer birthday? We absolutely love the cards from Lunchbox Love - and not just for birthdays! They're regular accompaniments to lunches all year round here. 

pancake sandwiches with sunflower seed butter, watermelon, cherries and carrot fries. 

pancake sandwiches with sunflower seed butter, watermelon, cherries and carrot fries. 

prosciutto toast sandwiches, cherries, broccoli, avocado and snap peas. 

prosciutto toast sandwiches, cherries, broccoli, avocado and snap peas. 

nectarine and blueberries with chocolate hummus and dried apple snacks for dipping, plus ham and snap peas. 

nectarine and blueberries with chocolate hummus and dried apple snacks for dipping, plus ham and snap peas. 

leftover chicken cutlet, guacamole, broccoli, carrot ribbons, grapes and cantaloupe. 

leftover chicken cutlet, guacamole, broccoli, carrot ribbons, grapes and cantaloupe. 

Homemade Sunbutter... Yes, please!

As I mentioned, I eat a lot of sunflower seeds and sun butter. I really love the organic unsweetened version of this brand of Sunbutter because there's just one ingredient: roasted sunflower seeds. I always have sun butter in my house because it's a fabulous nut alternative and when I'm hungry and need a quick snack, a spoon of it is just perfect. My kids love sun butter too, and it's a frequent lunch choice on a sandwich with fresh fruit slices or jam. I decided to try my hand at making my own sun butter.

It's harder than I thought it would be! I tried several times using raw sunflower seeds and adding oil instead of starting with roasted seeds and the result was pretty gummy and not at all smooth and creamy like I had hoped. Blah. Then I tried using maple syrup instead of honey but that didn't turn out well either. I finally got it right using roasted seeds and didn't need to add any extra oil. Victory! My successful recipe had just two ingredients: 1 cup of roasted, salted sunflower seeds and 1 tablespoon of honey. That's it! Next time I plan to eliminate the honey and use vanilla extract and cinnamon instead and see how that goes...  For any nut-allergic folks, be sure to read the label on roasted sunflower seeds to make sure they're not roasted with peanut oil.

1 cup of roasted sunflower seeds.    

1 cup of roasted sunflower seeds. 

 

First the seeds became dry and crumbly. It took patience and time to get to the next stage.  When you think it's time to give up, keep going! The oils take a while to be sufficiently released to produce the desired outcome. 

First the seeds became dry and crumbly. It took patience and time to get to the next stage.  When you think it's time to give up, keep going! The oils take a while to be sufficiently released to produce the desired outcome. 

Finally! After 7 minutes in the processor, the sunbutter began to resemble what I think of as sunbutter. Then I added 1 tablespoon of honey and pureed till smooth. 

Finally! After 7 minutes in the processor, the sunbutter began to resemble what I think of as sunbutter. Then I added 1 tablespoon of honey and pureed till smooth. 

Voila! Creamy and delicious. 

Voila! Creamy and delicious. 

Lunchtime! A great sandwich for a hot day. 

Lunchtime! A great sandwich for a hot day. 

Union Square Farmer's Market

The Union Square farmer's market is one of my favorite places to visit in the City. The people watching is out of sight: some folks stroll through (especially tourists, families and caregivers with young children) and others race through at breakneck speed (like those who work in restaurants and have to quickly get specific ingredients back to the kitchen). 

The people who come to Union Square to sell their foods are uniformly friendly and willing to answer any questions. For example, I spoke with a cheese monger about why his cheeses were not organic. His animals are not fed hormones ever but if an animal gets sick, it is given antibiotics to get well. During that time, the milk from that animal is never used in the production of cheese but because of the administration of antibiotics, his cheeses are not able to be labeled organic. 

 

 

My kids love going to the farmer's market to see what's in season and to have little snacks along the way. On our most recent visit, the kids and I devoured over a pound of sugar snap peas and a pint of super sweet tiny strawberries. 

image.jpg

Here's just a small sampling of our farmer's market bounty. I'm going to use the rosemary later this week to season a white bean salad with roasted garlic. We'll fly through those eggs in a day or two (most likely scrambled) and the rest of the produce will be eaten raw. It's really hot outside today so I'm particularly excited to have fresh, wonderful foods that don't require my oven.