How to Pack a School Lunch (that your kid will eat)

The school season is upon us! Fueling kids through the school day so they feel full, focused and ready to learn is essential, but it can be tough finding the right lunch to pack for your child – one that they’ll eat even when out of your sight.

And while we at Just Add Cooking have made dinners as easy as can be, packing a lunch can become a huge chore! So we’ve made a list of our favorite tips for packing a lunch that your child will eat!

Choose the Right Container

bentgo

What your kid is carrying his lunch in can make all the difference in his excitement to eat it. Let your child be involved in picking out his or her lunch box. Perhaps a favorite character, color or design will get her excited for lunch. While you’re at it, try to find something functional–a box with containers or coolers that keep foods at the right temperatures or allow you to easily separate the different meal items. One fun one we love is the Bentgo Kids Leakproof Lunch Box, which allows kids to open up a perfectly-portioned box of food and pick and choose how to eat it. (Plus, a divided lunch box like this cuts down on wasteful packaging like baggies.)

Involve Your Kids in the Process

One hack we love is creating a fun whiteboard in your kitchen with the various lunch food groups on it – for example: protein, grains, produce, dairy, dessert, drink. Then, list on the board the options for the week and allow your kids to choose their lunch the night before by selecting one item from each category. You still have control over the ingredients, but kids are more likely to eat if they’re involved in choosing.

kidsconserve

Think Outside the Lunchbox

Peanut butter and jelly is great, but sandwiches aren’t the only option for a main meal. A lot of kids love to take leftovers in for dinner, and thanks to lunchbox technology like the KidsKonserve insulated food jar, you can keep foods hot for a few hours, providing your children with ready-to-go meals that are repeats of their dinnertime favorites.

JustBento.com

JustBento.com

Get Creative with Presentation

We eat with our eyes first, so consider doing something fun with lunch to make it more appealing. Some examples include using cookie cutters to cut sandwiches and fruit into fun shapes, or skewering fruit or veggies on a stick. Kids love anything that can be dipped, so combining pretzels with cut veggies and providing a duo of dips like honey mustard and hummus is a winning combination as well.

Prep in Advance

Many of us batch cook dinners in advance, but what about lunch? Peanut butter and jelly freezes great, and will thaw completely prior to your child eating it at school. Make a big batch of sandwiches at the start of the week and take away the headache of having to make one every morning. Hard boil one batch of eggs and provide protein all week. Pre-portion snacks and place them in reusable containers or baggies. You can even create a snack station for kids to choose their treat or dessert as the final touch to their lunch box.

So now you’ve got lunch covered. What about dinner? It’s the perfect time to check out Just Add Cooking and take your meal planning and grocery shopping woes away. Use code BACKTOSCHOOL for a free family dinner when you order a 4-person, 3-meal box! (New customers only, 33% discount.)

Make Gelato at Home with Morgan Morano

A few weeks ago, our subscribers got a tasty little treat in their weekly Just Add Cooking delivery: a coupon for a free gelato at Morano Gelato’s newest shop at the Mall at Chestnut Hill. If you’ve never had gelato before, it’s quite a bit different from ice cream. When made properly, it’s creamier and smoother than American ice cream, and naturally lighter on the cream (and thereby the fat contents) than ice cream.

Today, Morano Gelato founder and chef Morgan Morano is back to share one of her favorite gelato recipes with us. Making gelato at home can be a bit of a complex process – but it’s absolutely delicious! If you’re not yet ready to make your own, you can always visit Morano Gelato for a taste of authentic Italian gelato.

homemade stracciatella gelato morano

Stracciatella Gelato
(Chocolate Chip)

Courtesy of Race Point Publishing, 2015

Named for the straccia, “strips” or “shreds” of chocolate,
in the gelato, Italy’s version of chocolate chip is much more decorative in appearance than its American ice cream counterpart. The pieces of chocolate that speckle this gelato have been previously melted, causing them to dissolve more quickly in the mouth. Additional spoonfuls of melted chocolate drizzled all over the top combine with the milky flavor and creamy texture of the base to create a much-favored flavor. Stracciatella is one of the few flavors that almost always sells out daily at Morano Gelato, and it’s easy to understand why.
Any dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao) will work for the chocolate-chip base, but my preference is 60 percent cacao. Although the base is simple, an extra step is required to melt and add the chocolate after the gelato has finished freezing. Don’t be tempted to add more chocolate to the recipe because it will change the consistency of the gelato. A little extra chocolate on top enhances the presentation as well as the flavor of the gelato, and this is how it is served in Italy. Stracciatella gelato goes with just about any dessert or gelato flavor, but when blended with Menta gelato (see page 90), it creates an irresistible frappé (see page 51).

Ingredients

2 ounces / 56 grams milk powder
6.35 ounces / 180 grams granulated sugar
0.7 ounce / 20 grams tapioca starch
6.75 ounces / 192 grams heavy cream
24.15 ounces / 685 grams whole milk
0.95 ounce / 27 grams light corn syrup
5.3 ounces / 150 grams 60% to 70% dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Yield: About 1 quart / 950 milliliters

Prepare

  1. Mix the milk powder, sugar, and tapioca starch in a bowl.
  2. Add the heavy cream and whole milk and whisk well to incorporate all of the dry ingredients into the liquid.
  3. Whisk in the corn syrup.

Cook

  1. Pour the mixture into a 2.5-quart / 1.42-liter saucepan, using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and cook, whisking continuously to prevent any burning or clumping. Whisk slowly in the beginning and increase speed as the mixture gets warmer and begins to steam and thicken. It should thicken without boiling after 8 to 10 minutes on the heat; watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Once the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, continue cooking 15 seconds longer, whisking vigorously. Then immediately remove from the heat.

Freeze

  1. Pour the mixture into a clean glass or stainless-steel bowl and lay plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming on top. Allow the mixture to sit 30 to 45 minutes until no longer hot. Then place it in the refrigerator to cool completely, about 4 hours. If the mixture needs to be used right away, submerge most of the bowl in an ice bath and let it sit 30 to 40 minutes, refreshing the ice as necessary.
  2. Once the mixture has cooled completely and thickened further, pour it into the bowl of the gelato machine and churn the gelato according to the manufacturer’s directions. The gelato will expand and should spin until it’s thick and creamy but still soft enough to scoop into a storage container, about 30 to 55 minutes.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, scoop the gelato into a storage container. Place the uncovered container immediately in the freezer and begin prepping the chocolate chip base.

Prepare the Chocolate

  1. Fill a small saucepan a quarter of the way with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. The water should remain at a simmer. Place the chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. The bowl should fit snugly on top of the saucepan, but the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. The steam from the simmering water will melt the chocolate. Using a heatproof spatula, 
stir the chocolate from time to time to ensure even melting.
  2. Once the chocolate is fully melted and liquid, turn off the heat and carefully remove the bowl from the saucepan. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly for 2 minutes. Remove the gelato from the freezer. It’s important to work very quickly as the gelato should not melt much during this process. Using a tablespoon, begin drizzling the melted chocolate into the gelato and gently swirl it in with a spatula. Save a small amount of chocolate to drizzle on top before serving. The chocolate should freeze upon contact with the gelato. Make sure to incorporate the chocolate into the gelato at the bottom of the container so that little pieces of chocolate can be seen throughout the gelato. Do not take more than 3 minutes to add in the chocolate or the gelato will begin to melt.
  3. Press a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the surface of the gelato, seal the storage container with an airtight lid, and put it in the freezer.
  4. Freeze at least 4 to 6 hours. When ready, the gelato should be firm enough to scoop but soft and creamy in texture. Remove the gelato from the freezer a few minutes before serving.

Serve

12. Reheat the chocolate set aside for garnish either over the pot of simmering water used before or in the microwave on low, being careful that it doesn’t burn. Drizzle chocolate decoratively on top of the gelato. Put the gelato back in the freezer for 5 more minutes to allow the chocolate to harden before serving.

13. Enjoy the fresh gelato as soon as possible. If using after 2 days, allow 8 to 10 minutes for the gelato to soften outside of the freezer before eating.

Recipes to Get Kids Cooking (Part 2 of 2)

kids cooking

At Just Add Cooking, bringing families together to cook is a major part of our mission. By increasing the number of meals families make at home, and making it easy and fun for them to cook from scratch by providing ingredients and recipes, we endeavor to get kids cooking, learning where their food comes from and developing healthier habit

Welcome back to our family-friendly recipe series with our friend Holly Pierce of The Soul Chef. If you missed Part 1, check it out here [ADD LINK WHEN LIVE]. Today, we’ve got some savory recipes that are perfect for little fingers to make.

Calzones w/Cheese, Pepperoni & Roasted Red Peppers

1 (16oz) pkg prepared pizza dough
1 cup sliced roasted red peppers
1 cup sliced or diced pepperoni
1 cup baby spinach leaves
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
4 tsp dried oregano

Prepared marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece in flour. Shape into balls and roll out into 6” rounds.

Mix together mozzarella and ricotta cheese and add oregano. Season with salt & pepper.

Spread ¼ cup of cheese mixture onto one half of prepared dough round. Top with roasted peppers, spinach and pepperoni slices. Fold remaining dough half over the topping and crimp edges to seal. Place on baking sheet and pierce tops in several places.

Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Farmer’s Market Roasted Vegetables in Avocado Cups

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch rounds and rounds cut in 1/2
1 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados
1 lemon, zested and juiced (2 to 3 tablespoons juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
1 ear fresh corn, husk and silk removed
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped dill

Fresh arugula

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the carrots, zucchini, squash, and red pepper. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Spread in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When done, set aside to cool.

Remove the corn kernels by standing the cob on a plate or in a wide shallow bowl. Set the blade of a small, sharp knife at the juncture of the kernels and cob. Slice downward to remove the kernels. Repeat this procedure, working your way around the cob, until all the kernels are removed. Set aside.

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove pit, leaving the skin on. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent avocados from discoloring.

In a large bowl, mix roasted vegetables, corn, remaining lemon juice, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and fresh herbs. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Place each avocado half on a small bed of mixed greens or arugula, if using. Top each avocado half with a generous serving of the roasted vegetable salad. Sprinkle lemon zest on top and serve.

Looking for some extra fun and family-friendly meals in your Just Add Cooking box? Some of the kids’ favorites include Tomato Mac & Cheese, Chicken Pecan Pesto Spaghetti, Swedish Meatballs and the ever-popular Steak Fajitas! Keep an eye on upcoming menus for these kid-friendly favorites and get into the kitchen with your kids tonight!