September. The month synonymous with the return to packing lunches: specifically, school lunches and the challenges that brings.
This doesn't apply to me anymore (the school lunch part) but my husband still regularly needs a packed lunch for work so I am always on the look-out for healthy take-along lunch ideas. These little mini quiches serve equally as well for breakfast, lunch or otherwise. Quick to make too.
Garden Mini Crustless Quiches
2 large stalks kale (swiss chard can be substituted)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 small zucchini, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp pine nuts (yes, they're expensive, but the small amount needed here goes a long way with texture and flavour)
fresh herbs if available: I used about 1 Tbsp dill and 2 Tbsp basil
spices of your choice: I used about 1/2 tsp each of cumin and a thyme seasoning mix called za'atar, 1/8 tsp chili powder, dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
optional: 3-4 Tbsp. cheese of your choice; I used grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients (except for the optional cheese) and mix well.
Scoop out 7 - 8 equal portions into a muffin pan with lightly greased paper liner cups.
Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes - if using cheese, sprinkle a spoonful on top of each "muffin" for the last 4-5 minutes of cooking.
These are delicious and nutritious for "anytime" eating - and very transportable for take-along lunches.
I'm one of five siblings and for a few years we all caught the school bus at the road, making sure we had grabbed our lunch kits - or lunch bags when they became the cool thing - as the only other option in our country school was to beg off our friends. Amazing Mom made our lunches - no small feat considering we had to eat breakfast and be out of the house by 7:45. The lunch "prize" was the dessert, and we were rarely disappointed.
Kids still like something sweet. Peanut butter balls
that my daughter got me hooked on last summer are my perfect sweet fix; because of the nut-oil content they travel best packed in a small container. Pesonally I don't mind them being a little soft so a couple stowed in a baggie where they're somewhat protected works for me.
I've adjusted the recipe a tad: click → printable copy
of Raw Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
. Make some for lunches of all kinds - kids, work, camping and cycling trips, etc.
Last week I came across a recipe the closest I've seen to the chocolate-roasted hazelnut spread we know as Nutella
. In good health conscience (though on occasion I indulge in a spoonful from someone else's jar), I can't recommend it for great health benefits (even with its hazelnuts, skim milk, and cocoa). And I have a hard time believing some claims that "star" Italian soccer players are energized and nourished with the product - eating this healthier version, however, wouldn't be such a bad idea. Here's the recipe, by another name.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
2/3 cup hazelnuts, with skins on
*1/4 cup raw honey and 3-4 pitted Medjool dates
3-4 Tbsp. organic cocoa powder
1/3 - 1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk: other options are dairy, rice, almond, hemp)
(* other sweetening options: 1/2 maple syrup or raw honey, without dates. This will make it sweeter and smoother; I chose part honey/part dates for a less-refined product.)
Toast hazelnuts in a pre-heated 350F degree oven, for about 12-15 minutes. A toaster oven works well when toasting such a small amount.
Let nuts cool slightly before rolling through your hands to rub most of the skins off.
Process the nuts in bowl of a food processor, pulsing and scraping down sides as necessary, until nuts are like a nut butter. This might take about 5 minutes.
Add sweetener and cocoa to hazelnut butter and process until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Add as much milk as necessary to achieve the consistency of cream cheese.
Scoop spread into a jar or other airtight container and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. I doubt it will last that long!
To Serve/Pack-a-long Hazelnut Spread:
spread desired amount (a.k.a. thick layer!) on favourite Ryvita cracker - top with another cracker
scoop spread into small plastic container with lid - pack along with rice crackers or cakes, pita chips, etc. Don't forget to send along a plastic knife!
spread desired amount on whole-wheat tortilla. Roll up, cut into wedges - and divide amongst the family!
What's your favourite healthy lunch idea? Please pass it along!