Power Your Lunchbox

Yea (or, boo! – depending on your perspective) it’s back to school! Regardless of how you and your family feel about this time of year, one thing never changes: everyone has to eat lunch.  I feel quite lucky that all 3 of my kids have become sandwich lovers over the past couple of years, making packing lunches pretty simple.  But all of us need to mix it up from time to time, so today I am teaming up with Produce for Kids to help spread the word about their Power Your Lunchbox campaign:

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Look at all those clever, yummy and healthy lunches!

Please consider taking the pledge! It’s super simple and also helps the organization Feeding America.  Additionally you can be entered to win a bento box from Bentology, and also get some free printable lunch box notes (super cute).

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Ok, let’s get started.  I was lucky enough to get one of these fun bento boxes.  My kids have been itching to get their hands on it for weeks!

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There’s just something about all those cute little boxes that fit so perfectly inside each other.  I think it makes us all believe when can eat smarter and more creatively!

So when my kids and I discussed what to put in our bento box, they decided they wanted something with their new fave – Greek yogurt.  I thought about making granola to go with it, but decided instead to use up some of the delicious peaches that are in season right now.  I had just seen this Peach Oatmeal Muffin recipe over at Six Sisters Stuff, so we gave it a try:

4 cups of juicy peaches - delicious!

4 cups of juicy peaches – delicious!

We used 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat flour:

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I was concerned that full-sized muffins wouldn’t fit in the bento box, so I made a couple dozen mini-muffins:

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My little one decided to make some full-sized, Christmas-themed muffins:

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We may or may not have popped a few in our mouths straight from the oven:

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Next it was time to fill the box! I put in the vanilla Greek yogurt, then the little guy added some muffins.  I said 2 was plenty, he thought 3 sounded better:

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We agreed on some strawberries and sliced almonds, but had a difference of opinion on how to fill the last little box.  I thought carrots, he thought cheese sticks.  We compromised and added both:

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Does that look like a tasty lunch, or what?

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Squash, Comfort and the Holidays

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Dr. Bridget Engel.  Welcome, Dr. Engel!

I love Thanksgiving! There is something really special about getting together and celebrating a cozy day and all that we have to be grateful for, without the pressure and sometimes chaos that other holidays may involve. Plus, I love fall food, especially Thanksgiving food with all the fixins’. Sometimes, I wish they weren’t all so heavy and filling though. That is why I’ve started adding in a nice green salad with butternut squash that goes great with the turkey, and with the leftovers!

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Oh the sweet nuttiness and bright, cheery color of a Butternut Squash! However, one of my first feelings I experience when making Butternut Squash Salad is frustration. I find cutting squash to be difficult and tedious, even if our knives have been recently sharpened. But keep reading; its worth it. I’ve found that using a peeler sometimes works better when trimming the skin of a squash. Once I get that off, then my twin girls can help, and they love to be in the kitchen together.

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Cut up the squash in chunks and then toss lightly in extra virgin olive oil. For a whole squash, I use 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with two teaspoons rosemary. If you like a garlic flavor on your salad, you can add it a bit of that now too.

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Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, at 375 degrees, stirring half way through. I like my squash to be a little bit caramelized, so sometimes I flip again and put the pan back in the oven for five more minutes or so.

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By now, I am usually feeling cozy and content. I love the smell and color of squash, and I feel good that I’m providing something healthy for my family. Squash of course, has vitamin C but also lots of vitamin A and B. There is no doubt that squash has good fiber, plus potassium!

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I’ve played around with a variety of vinaigrette dressings for this salad, and the good thing is that you can do what sounds best to you. I usually cut up and puree some fresh, juicy tangerines. Remember to pull the seeds out first. Those little buggers sometimes have three or four seeds! I think the citrus flavor is what makes this salad light and refreshing, alongside your mashed potatoes or stuffing.

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Puree those in a blender, adding in one teaspoon of fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sometimes I add in a pinch of sugar or a half teaspoon of lemon juice to make it more sweet or more tart.

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Before you blend, try to get as much of the skin and the white stuff (what’s that called?) out so that you can get a nice smooth texture. You may need to blend for three to four minutes.

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Gently top warm squash on a bed of spinach, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and freshly grated pepper. Sometimes I also add kale, or the fall flavors of nuts and seeds too to vary the texture a bit. I’ve always used dried cranberries, but I wonder how fresh cranberries would taste. Or add in some fresh cranberries to your tangerine vinaigrette! Butternut Squash Salad, alongside friends and family, makes me feel joyful and happy for the holidays. I am always excited for the weekend after Thanksgiving too because leftover squash makes for some delicious little salads for lunch.

Feeling Good? Try a Zoodle!

This post is part of the Food and Mood blog series.  Today’s guest is Dr. Mary Tobin. Welcome, Dr. Tobin!

Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with Mango-Avocado sauce
This is one of my favorite recipes to make when I’m feeling good, and am inspired to eat fresh fruits and vegetables to help me continue feeling my best! It’s also one that I make when I notice that I haven’t touched the zucchinis that I bought earlier in the week and feel guilty about it (for some reason they’re the ones usually left over in my fridge). Making this is a great way for me to address that guilt and an easy way to use up the zucchinis, as the recipe calls for a lot of them!

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Ingredients:
3-4 zucchinis, spiralized
For the dressing:
Mangoes (I use a few handfuls of pre-cut frozen mangoes)
½ an avocado (scoop out the flesh of ½ of an avocado)
Juice of 1 lime
The original recipe calls for more zucchinis and mangoes, green onion tops and rosemary, and less avocado. I change up the recipe based on how much I want to eat at the time, my specific tastes (sometimes I add a pinch or two of salt) and what I have on hand (I don’t usually have rosemary and green onions).

Directions:
Cut off the ends of the zucchinis (sometimes I peel the skin off and sometimes I don’t)…

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Spiralize (I love this part!)…

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I like to cut the zoodles to make them shorter and easier to eat…

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and place in a bowl.

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Blend the rest of the ingredients (sometimes I have to add some water to help the blender along):
Squeezing in the lime juice…

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Pour the dressing over your zoodles and mix together…

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Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Fully Raw

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Dr. Mary E Tobin is a psychologist in Fort Collins, CO.
Check out Dr. Tobin’s internet policy here.

Cranberry Salsa Feels Like Being Home

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  I am excited to welcome guest author, Rachael Teufel – cake artist extraordinaire.  Welcome, Rachael!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. While there may be a little fuss with putting together a great meal, there’s no gifts to buy, cards to send, or candy laying around. It’s simply about spending time with family and giving thanks to all the wonderful people we love. Sadly, it’s not always possible to travel to be with family, so I have to bring our family to us in other ways. Making recipes that I would typically enjoy with them helps make me feel like I’m home for the holidays.

I thought I’d share one of my favorite holiday appetizers compliments of my Aunt Laura, fresh Cranberry Salsa. This is one of the most delicious salsas you’ll ever eat! It’s packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables and has a sweet, yet tangy flavor.

CRANBERRY SALSA

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1 bag (12oz) fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into eight pieces
1/2 large red pepper cut into large chunks
1/2 medium red onion cut into large chunks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapeno pepper
1 tsp grated lime zest

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Place all ingredients into a large food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  Serve with tortilla chips.  The lime tortilla chips go great with this salsa adding a little more zing to each bite.

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Rachael Teufel grew up baking in the kitchen with her Hungarian grandmother, but she didn’t discover her passion for cake decorating until later in life while seeking a creative outlet from her day job. She always had artistic interests, so cake decorating seemed like the perfect activity after a long day working as a Physical Therapist. Rachael began her passion for cake decorating in 2001 with a few Wilton classes and continued to educate herself by taking classes with top designers like Ron Ben-Israel, Colette Peters, and Marina Sousa. In 2006, she started her own company, Intricate Icings Cake Design, out of a commissary kitchen and eventually opened her own studio in 2009. After 6 years in her studio, Rachael opted to scale back her company to focus solely on custom designed, luxury wedding and event cakes, while continuing to share her cake knowledge in private classes and through online Craftsy classes.

Rachael’s work is now nationally recognized in both the wedding industry and the cake decorating community. Her work can be seen on episodes of Food Network Challenge as well as in the pages of magazines such as Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Knot. Rachael has been awarded several top honors including being named one of Martha Stewart Weddings’ top pastry pros in the country and Brides Magazine’s “Top 100 Bakeries”. Brides Magazine has also featured Rachael’s cakes in the “50 Most Beautiful Wedding Cakes” and “America’s Prettiest Wedding Cakes”.