Archive for the 'Lunchtime Solutions' Category

Finding Recipe Inspiration Online

When my boys were babies and toddlers, the world of food bloggers was just emerging, and family focused web sites were becoming reliable sources of parenting information with their large data bases of content.  This is hard to believe given that my kids are only 6 and 8.  I can’t imagine life without social media and the endless streams of data we now find on the web.  It seems everyone has a blog, or a blog community such as the wonderful one found on this site Best Tools for Schools.  Just as the question of “what’s for dinner or school lunch?” can feel a little overwhelming at times, so can wading through content we hope will make our lives better, not just busier.

Since we all want to service healthier and tastier meals to our family, I spent an afternoon going through content to find some great Canadian websites and blogs which I think can help us in our quest.  What I found are some great tools, articles and of course recipes that I think you will love.  Have a quick look, bookmark what works for you and remember to visit when you need inspiration, a helpful tip or just someone to tell you what to make for dinner.

Today’s Parent

I found a great lunch box tool on the Today’s Parent website.  The site offers a large selection of different lunch menus.  You simply need to click on the menus that appeal to you and your kids, click and the tool creates a menu for the week plus a shopping list.  There are links to recipes on the menu items which you can then save to your recipe box.  Go through the list with your kids and let them “click” away on the lunches they like.  The site also features family meal plans designed by dietician Rosie Schwartz, RD.  You will love how they have them organized into categories such as “summer produce”, “super foods” and “make ahead”.

Chatelaine

The Chatelaine website has an interesting collection of menu plans based on ideas such as brain foods, immunity boosting, low salt, tummy trimming and fill up on fibre.  The website is not as user friendly as others and I found that not all of the functions worked.  You can search recipes by ingredients or choose from categories such as meal, cooking method or cuisine type which included meatless, party entrees, one dish or big batch.  There is a large collection of kid friendly recipes and I appreciated the nutritional information included. Another feature of the site is it allows users to rate or comment on the recipes.  In order to comment the site does require you fill out a lengthy registration form. 

Savvy Mom

I thought the “one ingredient, four ways” feature on the Savvy Mom site was fantastic.  Not only does the site give you great ideas for an ingredient, they have also categorized the recipes into toddler friendly, 15 minute meal, family meal or easy entertaining.  You can then also find collections of recipes under each of these categories which include photographs and easy to follow instructions.  There are links at the bottom of each recipe to print, e-mail, or comment.  The printing format for the recipes is clear and well formatted.  One of the great features of the Savvy Mom site is it allows you to view a version of the site based on your city.  Recent Ottawa food articles featured local grocers, prepared food stores and farmers markets.

Canadian Parents

At the Canadian Parents website I was immediately attracted to the cooking tips and articles section.  There was an interesting collection of articles which included topics such as entertaining, kids lunches, cookbooks, holiday menu guides, slow cookers, organizing your kitchen and organic food.  You can submit your own recipes to the site with categories including craft recipes, special occasions, school lunches and the great Canadian cookie exchange.  The recipes are well laid out and can be printed, e-mailed or even loaded to Facebook.

Blogs

Two blogs I have had the pleasure to discover on Twitter are Karen Humphrey’s Notes from the Cookie Jar and Chasing Tomatoes.  She has wonderful meal plans which she also features on the site EverythingMom.  The second blog is Julie Van Rosendaal’s Dinner with Julie.  Julie has a delicious selection of recipes including categories for freezable recipes, beans and grains. Both blogs feature great family friendly recipes and of course lots of mouth-watering photos.  If you are on Twitter, they are fun to follow and always happy to talk food.

Please let us know what your favourite food sites and blogs are.

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @epicuriadotca

image credit: stock.xchng

Soup’s On!

With midwinter temperatures’ dropping, weekends full of outdoor activities and more sniffles than we care to have, a classic chicken noodle soup fits the bill for a hearty school lunch or quick midweek dinner.  This recipe can be halved or doubled with ease or simply add your own twist to it. 

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

1 cup diced onion (1/2 onion)

1 cup diced celery (4 stalks)

1 cup diced carrot (2 medium carrots)

2 Litres chicken stock

2 cup cooked diced chicken (2 chicken breasts)

2 cups cooked pasta

Fresh thyme, garlic clove

2 TB canola or olive oil

Saute onion, celery and carrot in canola oil at medium heat until soft – approximately 20 minutes.  Be sure to add some salt at this point to bring the flavour out in the vegetables. Five sprigs of fresh thyme and 1 garlic clove can be added at the same time.  Once the vegetables are soft add the chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Remove thyme and bay leaf and add cooked chicken and pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 8

Cooking Class Notes:

Making it work in the lunchroom:

Choosing the right pasta can make this lunch option easier for kids to eat at school.  I chose a wagon wheel shape to sit on a spoon easily without slipping or being difficult to get out of a thermos.  I also increased the amount of pasta in the soup to make it thicker and heartier.  I figure the less liquid the better when it comes to kids.  If you plan on putting servings aside, cool the soup entirely before adding the pasta.  This will reduce the chance of overcooked soggy pasta.  You could even freeze the soup without the pasta and simply add cooked pasta when you are ready to serve.  Depending upon how many children you have, freeze the soup in the number of portions that you will require for a day.  I recommend 1 cup of soup per child.

Mirepoix

The combination of onion, carrot and celery is a classic base for soups and in the French method is called mirepoix.  This stage of a soup is important for developing flavour in the soup and this is why it is important to cook the vegetables until soft.  Be sure to cut into a consistent ½ dice so the vegetables cook evenly.  A classic mirepoix is 2 parts onion to 1 part celery and carrot.  (I chose to reduce amount of onion for my recipe)

Chicken stock:

 It is always best to make your own chicken stock but if this is not possible be sure to purchase low sodium or organic tetra pack stocks.  Specialty stores and some butchers also sell chicken stock made from scratch.  If you are making your own, make a large patch and freeze in litre or half litre containers.  Check out Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Chicken Stock.

Prep Ideas: 

The cooking time for this soup is fast and preparation is easy.  If you are cooking chicken in the week simply cook extra as part of your prep for the soup.  If you know you won’t have time to make the soup for a few days, simply dice, portion and freeze for later.   A quick dinner or school lunch is only 30 minutes away if you have your ingredients ready.

Lunchtime Solution: Flexible Fried Rice

For those of you that have read my past posts, you know I am a big fan of the quick, no-rules, multi-meal recipe.  If I can substitute ingredients, do fast easy prep in advance and use a meal more than once, I’m in. Even better is a recipe that can be pulled together when you did not get a chance to go grocery shopping and you need to put together a school lunch or dinner with the handful of items in the fridge and pantry.  What is that dish you ask?  Fried Rice. 

I had not made fried rice in years and although I love it, usually avoid it when ordering Chinese.  When eating out, it is the kind of dish that tastes so good upon the first few bites but leaves you with a salty fat feeling.  My family and I were vacationing in Hawaii over the holidays and rice is an important staple in the local diet.  Rice is always an optional side and a typical Hawaiian “plate” lunch is served with steamed rice and macaroni.  We had rented a house on the Big Island so we made 2 of our 3 meals each day and served a lot of steamed rice which naturally resulted in leftovers.  Hawaii has the most geographically isolated population so food is expensive and you really don’t want to waste any. The cuisine is also heavily influenced by Asian cultures so fried rice was a perfect way to use up leftover proteins, vegetables and herbs from previous meals.  By the end of my trip, fried rice with Kalua pork and fried egg became my favourite breakfast.

This recipe for fried rice met all my qualifications for a good school lunch option.  Fast, adaptable to kids preferences, made from leftovers or prepped alongside another meal, and healthy.  Yes, fried rice can be unhealthy but there is no reason to use the amount of salt and fat in restaurant versions.  I used brown rice, light soy sauce and very little fat.  My base version incorporates ingredients I know will hold well for a few hours in a thermos, I know my kids will eat and I almost always have on hand. 

Use this recipe as a guideline for really there are no rules when it comes to fried rice.   In one of my test versions, I used Swiss chard, salmon and cilantro.  You can season with soy sauce or even hoisin, or oyster sauce or just salt and pepper and fresh herbs.  When using soy sauce or chilli sauce I would just caution to season at the end and add incrementally as you can always add more.

 

Vegetable Fried Rice

(4-6 side dish servings)

2 cups cooked brown rice (best made 1 day in advance or fully cooled to fridge temp)

2 eggs beaten lightly

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 green onion

½ cup corn

1 tsp grated ginger

2 TB light  soy sauce **

2 TB vegetable oil

Add a small amount of oil to the pan.  Add eggs stirring occasionally until cooked.  Break eggs apart in pan and set aside.  Alternately you can cook eggs omelette style and slice into ribbons.

Heat skillet to medium heat and add vegetable oil.  Sauté onion and celery until soft.  Add ginger and sauté for one minute.  Stir so ginger does not burn.  Add mushrooms and cook until all vegetables are cooked through.  Add rice and corn and sauté until heated through. Incorporate egg and then season with soy sauce.  Green onion can also be added at this point or used as a garnish.

The rice can also be done in a wok at high heat, however, instead of adding grated ginger, season the oil with a piece of ginger prior to sautéing vegetables.

There are of course limitless variations on this dish using different proteins, vegetables and grains.  In addition to rice, try roasted buckwheat (kasha), quinoa, bulgur or even couscous.

** Light soy sauce contains almost half of the sodium of regular soy sauce.  1 TB of light soy sauce contains 24% of daily sodium intake.  This recipe would contain 12% of daily sodium requirement.

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @epicuriadotca

The multi-tasking chili

Moms and chefs love to multi-purpose and multi-task, and I am almost positive one of these hard working professions must have been the inspiration for these life saving words.  We all know without our multi-tasking super powers our day to day lives may well be very messy and chaotic.  Today’s Vegetarian Chili recipe is the edible embodiment of multi-tasking and multi-purpose and we all certainly need a go to recipe in our repertoire that works just as hard as we do!

I love this chili recipe because it works for vegetarians, vegans and meat lovers.  You can serve it for lunch, for dinner, for two or for a crowd.  It loves a pot, a crock-pot, a chafing dish, a freezer container and a thermos.  The recipe is simple, fast and allows you to complete another recipe, do the dishes or even walk the dog while it cooks.  Serve it simply or dress it up with sour cream, cheese or your favourite corn muffin or baked tortillas.

The recipe easily multiplies freezes, reheats and holds for service.  Most of the ingredients are easily stocked pantry items and vegetables that are easily sourced and store well.  This chili recipe is also very mildly spiced and appealing to a wide range of spice tolerances. 

  

Vegetarian Chili

1 Spanish onion

1 medium sized zucchini

1 small eggplant

1 green or red pepper

2 cloves garlic

½ cup canola oil

1.5 teaspoon chili powder

½ smoked chipotle pepper in adobe sauce (sold in cans and readily available in grocery stores)

1.5 teaspoon ground cumin

1 TB Italian seasoning or herbes de provence (rosemary, oregano, marjoram, basil etc)

28oz can of whole tomatoes (preferably Italian or organic)

14oz can chickpeas

14oz can kidney beans

½ lime

¼ bunch coriander

Prepare vegetables by cutting into ½ inch dice.  Sauté onions in oil until they have softened.  Add eggplant and cook until eggplant is soft.  Add garlic and spices and cook for several minutes to open up flavours of the spices.  Add peppers and zucchini and cook until they too soften.  Be sure to add some salt to vegetables while they are cooking at this stage to enhance flavour.

Add tomatoes and beans and simmer for 60 minutes until mixture darkens and thickens.  To finish, season with lime juice, chopped coriander and salt and pepper.

What do neighbours, lunch snacks and quick oats have in common?

When people ask me how do I ever manage to make time for my family and home, my business, my friends and my horse, I feel my face instantly take this puzzled look as to say, ‘do I really manage all those things?’ because it feels like I actually don’t.  In the day to day routine of my week I feel as if I don’t accomplish much except for a constant rush of the next priority.  Sound familiar? As I write this post, (an uncomfortably long time since my last one), I feel as if I have just stepped out of a work time-warp that I usually only experience at Christmas.  This usually consists of one or two days off in a month, no sleep, a few 15 hour days and the constant feeling of never catching up.  I really don’t recollect much of the last two months but I am happy to say that my kids did go to school with a litter-less and made from scratch lunch each day.  How did I manage?  Neighbours and granola bars.

In one of my first posts, I made mention of community kitchen:  a group cooking together and exchanging what they have prepared or just exchanging meals.  I am fortunate to have wonderful neighbours whom I spend a fair amount of time with.  We share common interests, our kids are very close in age and we are all working parents.  The moms make the school lunches, do the after school pick-ups and generally are in charge of all kid related organizing.  We are women who need some help.  So, we help each other.  Since September, most Sundays we bake or prepare items for school lunches and simply make enough for the other families.  There is no set schedule or structure and we simply contribute what we can.  With three food focused moms on the job, there is always something to be shared.  

For the many weekends that I worked in the past two months, I was either saved by having someone drop off baking for me, or I had an excess in the freezer to carry me over for the week.  I love the feeling of helping out another mom plus the added bonus of someone else doing the cooking!  Occasionally we also exchange dinners, desserts and even babysitting.  The concept is not new, and although it took us awhile of saying to each other “we should do this”, now that we are in a routine it has become very easy.

How do the granola bars fit in?  In yet another previous post I promised to rework the granola bar recipe as I was not fully satisfied with it.  During my Bento box post I discovered the blog  www.anotherlunch.com.  I adore Melissa’s blog and loved her idea for using silicone cups for granola bars.  I also had a good look at her recipe, gave it a try, made a few adaptations and have made it weekly for lunches and snacks since September.  The kids love it, the neighborhood kids love it and the silicone cup is pure genius.  No more crumbly and difficult to handle granola bars and best of all it is litter-less.  I have to say, I have also had pretty good success on the return rate of the silicone cups. 

Litter-less and Chewy Granola Bars

2 cups quick oats

1 cup crushed Vector or other cereal you have in the house

½ cup chocolate chips, or raisins, or dried cranberry etc. 

1/3 cup brown sugar

½ cup canola oil

1/3 cup maple syrup and corn syrup combined*. (or honey)

½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix the oil, syrups and vanilla together.  Crush the Vector with the back of a wooden spoon to break the flakes down to the same size as the quick oats.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.  You want to ensure all of the oats are covered so they stick to each other.  Add in chocolate chips etc and mix well.  Spoon into silicone baking cups and place on a baking tray.

Bake 350F for 12-14 minutes.  Cool completely.

Melissa makes two very good points in her recipe that I want to pass along.  Use only quick cook oats and not large flake as they produce crumbly granola bars.  I think size may be a factor as one reader successfully used large flake after pulsing them in the food processor to get a finer texture.  Also, let the bars sit overnight for best results.

This recipe can be competed start to finish in 20-25 minutes.  Once the granola bars are cool just store in an air-tight container.  They will stay fresh for a couple of weeks.  I simply pop one of the silicone cups into a square bento container and right into our laptop lunch box. 

*Note: the recipe previously read 1/3 cup each syrup.  It should be 1/3 cup combined.  Sorry for the confusion!

 

__________

Tracey Black, Owner, Epicuria Fine Food Store and Catering

No School Lunches, but now what?

School has been out for a month now and many parents rejoice in not having to make a lunch for the kids to take to school.  Sometimes the lunch bags come home barely touched, other times a last minute rush means parents are left clueless as to what to make for the day (or they have no money for the lunch program!).

Now that it’s summer, does the lunch stress change? Or does it just shift? It still means meal planning.  If you are out at the park, play dates, on vacation at the cottage or sending your kids to camp – lunch preparation may take on a whole new level of panic.

To help with your meal planning this week, we’ll be posting recipes on Facebook and Twitter from our Lunchtime Solutions chef Tracey Black that she has previously shared with us. They are easy, delicious and family friendly.

We’d love to hear from you too! What are your favourite summer lunches?  Do you find the lunch rush easier in the summer or is it the same?  Have a recipe that other parents may find useful? Please share in the comments below.

Posted by Rebecca, Community Engagement Manager for Best Tools for Schools

Salad Days of Summer

 

Fast, easy, inspired and fresh are the words that come to mind when I think of summer meals.  Farmers markets, home gardens and informal meals have a way of making mundane vegetables new and exciting again.  What better way to use fresh vegetables than in no cook leafy green salads. When the weather is hot, it goes without saying that more often than not we would prefer to spend our time pursuing our favourite summer activities than making dinner and lunches. No need to have your “garden” variety of garden salad when you have a pantry stocked with tasty accompaniments and dressing recipes.

Salads are summer’s “one pot” meals and can most certainly be treated as a main course and are perfect for school lunches. They provide endless possibilities for garnishes and are a quick and easy way to tailor a meal to particular tastes.  Salads are easy to pack, easy to eat and offer both healthy and indulgent flavour profiles in addition to vegan, gluten free and calorie wise options.  Salads are also a great first meal to teach your children to make on their own and it will set them up with endless menu options in the future.

Below is a quick and easy list of lettuces, pantry items and dressing ideas that you can mix and match.  When thinking of main course salads, be sure to incorporate leftovers or plan to prepare extra so you have a quick turnaround meal or lunch the following day. 

Lettuces:

Romaine, butter lettuce, red and green leaf lettuce, iceberg, mixed baby greens, Arugula, asian greens or just a mixture of whatever you have on hand.

Protein Garnishes:

Grilled chicken, grilled flank steak, shrimp, hard boiled eggs, salmon, tuna, tofu, beans or chickpeas

Cheeses:

Parmesan, Chevre, blue cheeses, cheddar, feta, bocconcini, and any other cheese you or your child enjoys eating.  Cheese can be crumbled, grated, cubed or shaved.

Vegetable garnishes:

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, mushrooms, beans, peas, celery, celeriac, jicama, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, onion

Fruit Garnishes:

Grapes, pears, peaches, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, apple, oranges, melon, raisins, and dried fruit

Crunchy Garnishes:

Nuts (candied or toasted), toasted pita or tortilla, croutons, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

Other:

Olives, capers, artichokes, grilled vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, bacon or pancetta.

Dressings:

Salad dressings flavours are endless and can either have a creamy base made with mayonnaise, buttermilk or sour cream or have an oil and vinegar base.  There are many types of oils, vinegars and flavouring agents and my advice would be to purchase the best quality you can afford or source.  Think about the flavours you or your children like, do a quick internet search and I promise there will be endless recipe possibilities.  A quick search on http://www.epicurious.com for salad dressings yielded 600 recipes.

Pie in the Sky

Oh my, I love pie.  In fact, as I write this post I am snacking on a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie.  I don’t count myself as a nostalgic person but pie evokes a real connection to my family and childhood.  As I was making the pie I am currently enjoying, I recalled the baby pies my mom used to make us from the pastry scraps.  She would roll them up, fill them with jam or brown sugar and cinnamon and then let us fold them over and crimp the edges.  These little confections were just for the kids and we were allowed to eat them as soon as they cooled.  This thought and a recollection to some cute little pie popsicles we made in the store last year inspired this blog post.  I don’t recall exactly, but I believe the original inspiration for the pie popsicles came from the wonderful blog of Bakerella.

The popsicles are so simple to make either using your own pastry or store bought if making pastry gives you nightmares.  Fill them with your favourite jam or filling and pop them in the oven for 15-18 minutes.  Popsicle sticks can be purchased at Bulk Barn or Michaels.

Pastry

If you have pastry recipe you love then by all means use it.  If you need one, I recommend Martha Stewart’s pastry recipe.  I have been using this recipe for 20 years and it never fails me.  It is buttery, flaky and can be made in the food processor.

To make the popsicles, simply roll out the pastry and cut rounds using 2.5 inch cutter.  Take half of the rounds and place a popsicle stick in the center, with the top of the stick half way between the center and top edge of the round. Top with 1 teaspoon of jam or your favourite filling.  Brush remaining halves with an egg wash and place over top of the jam covered rounds and popsicle stick.  With a fork, crimp the edges ensuring it is well crimped at the bottom edge.  Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden. 

You can purchase small bags to place on top of the popsicles that can be tied with ribbon for a cute gift effect.  To have them stand up, place in a container filled with sugar.

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @epicuriadotca

Summer family fun at its (local) best

Early spring and summer finds me practically giddy with the excitement of farmers markets, gardening and el fresco dining.  After a long winter of braising, root vegetables and far too much clothing, it feels great to visually feast on green landscapes and anticipate asparagus, fiddleheads, baby beets and strawberries. 

For the next 4-5 months there are a multitude of opportunities for families to experience food close up.  Today’s blog is a list of some of my favourite food outings and activities to do with kids.  If you are not in the Ottawa area, just search the categories in your area and I am sure you will find similar opportunities in your community.

A wonderful weekly outing for any family is a trip to your local farmers market.  In Ottawa, we are fortunate to have many markets throughout the city.  Whether you are just making a quick stop at your favourite stand or spending a little more time taking in entertainment, crafts and a quick bite to eat, I find bustling markets capture children’s attention and are a great opportunity to teach them more about where their food comes from.

Visit the City of Ottawa site for a full listing of markets plus information on many other Local Food Programs being run in the city.  Be sure to check out the Buy Ottawa Local Food Guide too.

 We are fortunate in this city to have some wonderful businesses that are committed to local food and entertaining families.  Saunders Farm and Proulx Berry Farm offer seasonal family fun and delicious local treats.  This year Saunders Farm is continuing with its Farm Shop but is also adding a Bakery and Farmer’s table.  They have an amazing network of local farmers that will be supplying the farm.  No need to worry about searching for healthy food choices on this family outing.  Saunders is also hosting two foodie events this summer.  One is July 11th and the other date in August is to be announced.  I will be joining owner Angela in the Saunders kitchen and cooking up a storm of local foods to be paired with wines from Savvy Company. 

The Proulx Berry Farm hosts its Strawberry Festival next weekend on June 19th and 20th.  Kids can learn how to make strawberry Jam and sample pies, honey and maple syrup.  There are also mazes, play structures, wagon rides and a petting zoo to keep the kids entertained.  The farm also offers U-pick strawberries as well as a market stand with berries, rhubarb and vegetables. 

A favourite of many families in Ottawa is the Canada Argicultural Museum.  The June Calendar is full of a series of quick and interesting demonstrations about ice cream making, honey bees, rabbit care and of course cow milking.  No matter what time of day you go there is some good food and farming education to keep the kids engaged.

If you are a foodie and your children are open minded about food you will not want to miss Mariposa Farms Sunday lunch and Cestbon Cooking Food Tours.  For the past 10 years I have been making the trek with my family east to Plantangenet to Mariposa Farms.  Each Sunday they offer a three course luncheon in a rustic farmhouse setting.  Mariposa supplies many of Ottawa’s best restaurants with duck, foie gras, artisan cheeses and game meats and have been one of my suppliers for the past 12 years.  They have their own gardens and resident chef who creates an inspired menu each week. Be sure to bring along your bottle of wine to accompany your meal as the dining room is BYOB.  After lunch, you will want to stroll the property to see the ponds, garden, pigs and of course the ducks. 

C’est Bon Cooking is a new company in Ottawa offering food tours in various neighborhoods throughout the city.  The tour includes local history and an inside look at the many wonderful food establishments in our city.  The tour includes restaurants, shops and markets in neighborhoods such as Byward Market, Beechwood and Westboro.

Each year I look forward to our local agricultural fair in Navan.   Besides the cotton candy and carnival rides there is a multitude of agricultural activities to share with our kids.  Many of the fairs accept entries from kids for baking, preserves, gardening, crafts and even photography.  Each year my boys and I enter our baking in the hopes of winning ribbons and $5 in prize money.  The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies has a full listing of fairs in Ontario.  You often need to be a member to make entries into the fair so be sure to check in advance.

If you know of any other kid friendly food experiences in Ottawa or the surrounding area please be sure to add them in the comment section.

BBQ Today, School Lunch Tomorrow

BBQ season and casual dining is upon us which means the end of school lunches is just around the corner!  As the count down for summer break starts, BBQ season is the perfect opportunity for easy and tasty school lunches.  Al fresco dining is always inspiring and there are countless school lunch ideas to be created from grilling your favourite proteins and vegetables.

My family’s new favourite BBQ marinade right now is adapted from the recipe for Roast Chicken with Achiote and Lime from Corinna Mozo, from chef and owner of Delux restaurant in Toronto.  I discovered this recipe and new ingredient “Achiote” in an article by Claire Tansey in the May 2010 issue of House and Home.

 Naan Wraps with Achiote Lime Grilled Chicken

 Marinade

 1.5 TB achiote paste **

Juice of 2 limes

¼ cup olive oil

2 TB ground cumin

4 cloves garlic

1 green onion or 1/3 bunch of chives

4 cloves garlic

Combine ingredients in food processor or blender and pulse until combined.  Marinate whole or cut up chicken in a Ziploc bag for minimum 2 hours.  The original recipe recommends marinating for 6 -14 hours.

Roast chicken whole in the oven or BBQ.  If grilling, be mindful that this marinade is more susceptible to burning and sticking so remove excess marinade before cooking.  Baste with butter or cooking juices frequently. Using lower indirect heat on the BBQ will be best.  Cook chicken until an internal temperature of 165F.

 ** Achiote paste is available at Chilly Chilis  http://www.chillychiles.com/.  Achiote is derived from a small shrub from South America.

Enjoy the chicken for dinner and reserve some for wraps the following day.  Assemble wraps with soft naan bread, mayonnaise, and sliced peppers and/or cucumbers.  For grown up tastes add mesclun, fresh cilantro, raita or even chimichurri.

Other BBQ Quick Fire Solutions for school lunches:

 Grilled Beef

  • Slice thinly for sandwiches or wraps
  • Sliced with asian noodle salad
  • Cold in a pasta salad with parmesan dressing
  • Hot with rice, broccoli and your favourite stir fry sauce

 Grilled Chicken

  • Adding a little mayonnaise to your marinated and BBQ’d chicken makes for great sandwich filling
  • Add celery, peppers, herbs and your favourite dressing to make a chicken salad to eat on its own or put in a wrap
  • Chicken Caesar salad
  • Add to hot pasta with Alfredo sauce or olive oil
  • Add to butter chicken sauce and serve with rice

 Grilled Shrimp

  • Serve on their own will sliced veggies, pita and dip
  • Add to cold pasta with tomatoes and feta
  • Serve cold with a thai style rice or noodle salad

Summertime salads are super for school lunches too.  During your prep keep some aside and pack directly into school lunch containers to save a time. Prep time is a good opportunity to adapt dishes to kids’ tastes.  Think about putting aside items for two days worth of lunches to make a smooth transition into the start of the week.  If evenings are busy with activities, these menu ideas work well for quick tasty dinners on the go.

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @epicuriadotca

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