Monday, April 4, 2011

Lunch on April 5, 2011 - Pasta Salad Plus

The idea of making lunches twice a week for my daughter is still fairly new and exciting considering we really like to cook (and eat) in this house and I usually pay a fair amount of attention to presentation.  Having this blog though has really thrown things into overdrive.  I will confess I actually thought about printing out the photo of the lunch above and taping it inside Juju's lunchbox so her teachers would know how to arrange the food in front of her and which container to open first.  Yes, I am aware that that is going overboard but if thoughts like that disturb you, you should probably stop reading this blog now; I imagine stressing over decisions like whether or not to print out lunch diagrams will be commonplace as I plan and execute more lunches and you need to be okay with that.

Today's lunch is actually tomorrow's lunch.  Although I like to pack food as fresh as possible, I simply have more time today than I will tomorrow morning so I've already made the lunch.  Also, the main dish is a pasta salad which I find tastes better the next day anyway.  Joining the pasta salad is a container of strawberries and grapes and a container of mini carrots to dip in hummus (while I loathe Costco, it's only redeeming values to me are cheap, quality kids pajamas and the fact that you can find individual servings of Sabra hummus there).

I have been thinking about making pasta salad since last week.  I know most kids gobble up any sort of noodle but I wanted to move beyond the prosaic mac and cheese.  Plus this lunch is served cold with no option to heat it up so I wanted a pasta dish that was best served at room temperature.  I made up the following recipe; the portions are totally up to you and I apologize that I am not actually a proper recipe writer. 

Pasta Salad Plus - this recipe will give you enough for 3-4 lunches
Cook 1/2 box of mini bow tie pasta. 
While it's cooking, place 1/3 package of frozen corn in a big bowl (don't worry about the moisture as it defrosts).  You can also use fresh or canned corn.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add 1/2 clove of chopped garlic.  Stir and cook the garlic long enough to flavor the oil but don't let it get brown (you don't want to burn it).  When the oil starts to bubble, turn it off and let the garlic hang out in the oil off of the heat.  You may leave out the garlic if you don't like it but I find it really adds a great flavor to the dish.
Cut in half sugar plum tomatoes, as many as you like.
Chop up some fresh basil (optional, I just do this for color) or better yet, to save time, buy the frozen kind made by a company called Dorot sold at Trader Joe's and elsewhere.  Get your chopped garlic from Dorot too - this company has changed my life!
Chop up fresh mozzarella cheese (I used one big hunk, about the size of a fist)
Chop in half black and green olives (optional, I did this because my kid is obsessed with olives)
Drain pasta when cooked al dente and add it to the bowl with the corn.  Add the tomatoes, basil, cheese, olives, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the oil and mix thoroughly.  If the pasta salad is too dry add more oil to taste.
Put some in containers for your child and eat the rest yourself!
It's best if you can make this dish a day or two before, the flavors taste even better when they've marinated overnight.

Fingers crossed the pasta salad is a hit; I don't actually have any kid feedback yet but I quite enjoyed the sample I had.  And I had enough to send my husband a container for lunch as well which is always a plus.  Today's lunch was served in Kids Konserve stainless steel containers.  I promise a post on all the containers I use very soon.


  1. I bought a box of those hummus packets too - I love em! Although they're about to hit their expiration date and I still have many left. How closely do you think I have to hew to it?

  2. Did you see this article in the New York Times? According to what they say, you can wait as long as you want, it's very unlikely that you will get sick, it's just that food might not taste as good past the expiration date:

  3. Thanks! Super good to know, esp when you've gone to Costco.

  4. First of all - I aspire to be you when I grow up! I love reading your lunchbox adventures. Second of all - I'm sure you already know about these, but in addition to using bento boxes, you should go to an Indian grocery and look for "tiffin boxes," which are stainless steel Indian lunch boxes (I feel in love with them when I lived there). They make hip ones these days, but you can get them cheaper at Indian stores.

  5. Now that I have eaten my lunch I can safely say that the "husband" portion of the pasta salad was delicious. Because I'm not in school, it wasn't packaged quite as artfully as pictured above, but the taste was outstanding nonetheless. Thanks J!

  6. Mags, I definitely know what tiffins are, Jonathan is obsessed with them too! From what I have seen in photos, they seem a little hard for a kiddo to operate, and I think they are more designed for keeping hot food hot, right? Either way I should certainly take a look to get an idea of what else is out there in the stainless steel variety. Thanks!!

  7. J, I'm so glad you liked the pasta salad. There is more for tomorrow's lunch as well!