Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22 - Mom and daughter lunch

I want to start off with a correction.  I mentioned an Ina Garten roasted eggplant spread in my last post.  I realized later that I did not post the recipe I used but instead another recipe from her trove of instructions on delicious dips and spreads.  The one I like is very similar to the one I posted but it calls for a few extra things like lemon juice and tahini.  I added the correct recipe to the post; you can also see the correct recipe here.

A number of friends and acquaintances have sent me really cute lunch ideas for the coming school year which I promise post about soon.

Today's lunch includes leftovers from last night.  Whenever I haven't planned for dinner, I make an old standby from the Moosewood cookbook, Spinach-Rice Casserole.  I usually have all the ingredients at home (I use frozen spinach if we don't have fresh spinach on hand) so it's pretty easy to make last minute (though you do have to cook the rice first and then back the dish for about 35 minutes so you can decide too last minute).  We had fresh spinach from our CSA box so it made sense to make this dish.  Incidentally if you live in LA and you have a baby, this is likely the dish I will bring to your house.  It's vegetarian and kosher friendly and it's a really big portion which you can eat for a few meals.  It's great food for sleep-deprived new moms and dads.

In addition to the spinach-rice dish I served avocado, cucumbers, carrots, and green and champagne grapes.

Last week I went somewhere that required me to pack a lunch for both me and Juju.  Our mother/daughter meal included leftover almond crusted chicken, string beans and mini heirloom tomatoes for me, and an egg salad sandwich, grapes, cucumbers, strawberries, and carrots for Juju.  I also gave her some sunflower seed butter for dipping the veggies (not shown).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roasted eggplant spread

I promised the recipe for eggplant dip and I won't disappoint!  But, a few other things to get out of the way:

I'm sorry I didn't mention this earlier but SnackTaxi, the reusable snack bag company is offering a "back to school" sale of 20% off their snack and sandwich bags until tomorrow.  Use code SCHOOL20 at checkout.

Also, there was a great article in the New York Times yesterday about schools cooking from scratch (as opposed to reheating food and other edible food-like substances that were created elsewhere).  It's a great trend that I hope continues.

Onto my veggie dip.  Inspired by the eggplant and red peppers that showed up on my door yesterday, I looked up Ina Garten's roasted eggplant spread (I'm not sure how a spread differs from a dip - if you know please let me know, I'm assuming it has to do with texture).  I've made it before, following the recipe precisely but this time I made a few changes.  No matter how I make it, it always comes out delicious.  And, for what it's worth, it's totally vegan.  Ina's recipe is below but in a nutshell, you roast the veggies, then blend them in a food processor with some wet ingredients.

Here is a photo of my veggies while roasting:

I actually forgot to add the garlic while roasting so I threw it in during the the food processor phase and I don't think you can tell the difference.  Here is the finished product served with veggies for dipping.  It would also taste great spread on toasted pita (it is a spread after all and not really a dip. . .)

The problem with eating vegan meals all the time (or even vegetarian) is that there is a LOT of chopping involved.  It's really time consuming.  I'm still thinking about vegan week; I'll have to factor in a lot of time for prep work.

Lastly I should share that I purchased a set of Lunchbot containers in the recent Hautelook sale (yes, their shipping rocks and they are here already.  You could learn a lesson from them, Zulily!).  As you know I am not 100% satisfied with my current Lunchbot container (nor their customer service) but I can't find too many other stainless steel options.  I wonder what delicious lunches these will hold for the new school year!



  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled
  • red bell pepper, seeded
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, cayenne and salt and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking. Cool slightly.
Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the lemon juice and tahini, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and add the chopped parsley. Garnish with extra parsley.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lunch on Thursday, August 18, 2011 - Champagne! (well, champagne grapes)

Lunch tomorrow is more of the same pasta salad I blogged about yesterday.  Poor Juju is probably sick of it already.  We made a good dent in it though so new food is coming soon.  I am also including half an avocado, clementine segments, and champagne grapes!  These little cuties are only in season for a few weeks a year and I think they are much more adorable than ordinary grapes.  They are also toddler friendly - you don't need to cut them up like you would if you had a little guy who needed his or her grapes sliced.

Our CSA box came today and we received a number of goodies including an eggplant and two red peppers.  I think I'll make a fantastic roasted veggie dip I learned from Ina Garten with them.  I'll post the recipe and photos when I make it.  

I took a photo of all of the veggies and fruits on my counter right now because summer produce is SO beautiful.  I love a colorful kitchen (you may notice from other photos I've taken that we have color EVERYWHERE) and it's so much fun when it changes every week.  I also found a photo on my iphone that I took two weeks ago for this blog.  I can't remember why I took it, I presume I was going to write about a cauliflower recipe but I never did.  The photo was pretty so I decided to include it here anyway.  The awesome cutting surface is courtesy of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who sent it to us as a 5th wedding anniversary gift (wood is apparently the gift you give for 5 years).  I use it almost daily and absolutely LOVE it.  Thank you Michael and Erika!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lunch on August 17 - balsamic chicken pasta salad take 2

School is out for summer but I am still packing lunches.  My friend had the brilliant idea to hire one of Juju's teachers from her school to do a "camp" at our houses for our kids for a couple of days this week and next.  Because we are not returning to school next year, Juju's fabulous teachers are fair game which is very exciting for both me and Juju (she could hardly believe herself when her former teacher showed up on our doorstep this morning!).  It's kind of funny to pack a lunch that Juju will eat in her own house but it just makes things easier.

I tried a pasta salad I made several months ago inspired by my friend Amy.  It is grilled chicken (marinated in balsamic vinegar) with fusilli, yellow peppers, and baby heirloom tomatoes.  I drizzled olive oil and more balsamic vinegar along with some salt and pepper and tossed it all together.  I made a lot so I will be eating this for a few lunches this week as will the King of All Media.  I am also serving cantaloupe and cucumber.

Speaking of tomatoes, I was at the Silver Lake farmer's market on Saturday and was overwhelmed by the number of heirloom tomatoes to choose from.  On the same day I also read about 4 friends around the country (some are blogreaders!) in my Facebook newsfeed who were enjoying tomatoes harvested from their own backyards.  I am so jealous.  We tried to grow tomatoes one year but the animal neighbors we share this canyon with ate almost everything we grew.  I'm inspired to try again though.  We have a lemon tree in our backyard and I love the idea of going outside to pick my own "organic" fruit.

Despite the fact that the pasta salad I mentioned above includes chicken, we've actually been eating a lot of vegetarian or pescetarian meals at home.  On Monday night our dinner was almost vegan save for the parmesan cheese we threw in the salad.  I think I've mentioned before that we are thinking about going vegan for a week (though I won't insist that Juju participate) and we are kind of working up to it by eating less meat and making some vegan meals here and there.  In fact on Monday I wasn't even trying to go vegan, I realized halfway through dinner that almost nothing we ate came from an animal.  I don't have photos but we ate quinoa that I tossed with sauted spinach and onion, farm stand okra roasted with oil, oregano, salt and pepper, and a salad filled with goodies from our CSA box.  I had some leftover parmesan cheese in the fridge that delegitimized the meal but I was pretty impressed that we were all (Juju included) completely satisfied with the meat/fish-less dinner.  As far as pescetarian meals go, I continue to coat a lot of fish in egg and almond meal (as I've blogged about before) with delicious results.  

Lastly I wanted to let you all know that Gilt Groupe is doing a sale on lunch containers today.  There aren't a ton of stainless steel offerings but if you missed the Hautelook sale on Lunchbots there are a few options to still grab that aren't sold out.  If you are not a member of Gilt click here for an invite. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lunch on August 12 - Last day of school plus farm fresh cold corn soup!

Tomorrow is Juju's last day of preschool at her current school.  It has been a fantastic year and we are really going to miss the wonderful teachers, scores of new friends, and charming campus.  I can hardly believe how much she has grown in one year.

This also marks the end of weekly lunch packing for me for the next few weeks though rest assured, I will still find things to blog about!

The final meal is a turkey sammie, edamame, and fruit salad with strawberries, grapes, and orange slices.

I also wanted to mention some things I made for dinner since one was quite good.  We recently started up again with a CSA box.  Over the years we have tried a few, then canceled our shares and started to shop at Farmer's Markets.  But, we've gotten busier and we can't always make it out to shop for fresh produce so we started again with a service that delivers organic farm fresh produce to our neighborhood. You never know what you are going to get in the box but we've committed ourselves to trying everything we receive which so far has worked out well.  For example this week we got a bunch of kale so I roasted it in the oven tonight with olive oil and sea salt and made "kale chips."  They were very easy to make and a great way to incorporate such a nutrient rich food into dinner.  

And, because I found a recipe in the Wall Street Journal this weekend I made a cold corn soup with the corn that came in our box.  It was delicious and I highly recommend it for the hot summer nights ahead.  I can't find the original copy of the article (there were actually 4 cold soup recipes, I wish I had scanned them!) but here is the recipe from memory along with a photo of how mine turned out:

Cold Corn Soup
3 ears of corn (I used 4 because I wanted to make sure it was really thick)
1 vidalia onion (I used a large regular onion because it's all I had)
1 shallot (I omitted this because I didn't have one)
2 tbls butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste.
*Serve in bowls or in shot glasses as corn soup shooters!

Cut the corn off of the cobs and set aside.  Place the empty cobs in a pot with 6 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes (you are making a corn stock).

In another soup pot, melt the butter and add in the onion and shallots (both diced) and sweat for ten minutes (do not brown).  Next, add in the corn and mix so the corn is covered with the butter.  Pour in the 6 cups of corn stock and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the corn is soft.

Using a slotted spoon strain out the corn and onion pieces and put in a blender (I used a Cuisinart).  Add 1.5 cups of the corn stock and blend for 5 minutes, until very well blended.  If you want to thin out the soup you can add more corn stock.  Place the soup in a clean soup pot or a bowl and add in the heavy cream, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.  Mix well and chill for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

When I made the soup last night, I tasted it before chilling it.  I thought it was only ok and was frustrated that I had spent so much time and effort making it since it just tasted like mediocre creamed corn.  I was so delighted this evening when I pulled the pot out of the refrigerator and tasted it again.  The soup was incredibly thick and had much more flavor than it did the night before.  I don't know if that was due to the flavors blending overnight or if it was because it was properly chilled.  Whatever the reason, it was a beautiful appetizer that I might try again with guests.

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lunch on August 10 - Fruit with mint

This is our last week of school and I can't say I am going to miss packing a lunch 3 days a week.  When I started this blog I was so excited about the possibilites of lunch creations. . .but that got old quickly.  Still, I love the opportunity to blog about what I've made (and hearing from all of you!) and I think keeping track of what I've sent to school helps me get a little bit creative.  Maybe I'll get reinvigorated in the next few weeks as I prep to pack a whopping 5 lunches a week!  Oh and soon I'll have information about the hot lunch program at Juju's school but even if I choose to do it, it won't start until October so September is all on me!

Today's lunch is an egg salad sandwich (Juju still doesn't really get the concept of holding two pieces of bread with something in the middle but I sent a fork and am hoping for the best), beets from our CSA box (I just roasted them in the oven with a little bit of water), and watermelon and grapes with mint (also from our CSA box - I am running out of things to throw mint into!).

I should also mention that the sample sale site HauteLook is featuring LunchBots today at around 25% off.  That's not much of a discount but it might appeal to you.  Unfortunately I've never seen Lunchbots deeply discounted anywhere.  If you are not yet a member of Hautelook click here for an invite.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rawesome and other food news

I don't know what it's like where you live but here in Los Angeles, a lot of people are really into food.  And if you're a mom, the topic is almost unavoidable.  I try to stay out of most of the food debates and focus on the fun parts of feeding kids (need I remind you the number of fun shaped cookie cutters I own?) but I pay attention to all of them.  One particularly hot subject is whether raw dairy products are superior to pasteurized conventional milks, yogurts, and cheeses and which kind is the healthier option for our kiddos. Despite the fact that I know a lot of moms who swear by raw milk I can't believe how much press the recent raid of Rawesome in Venice is getting.  The New York Times covered the story here but didn't include some of the more intriguing theories suggested here.  I also heard about it twice on the radio today and saw it on the local news.  It's really exciting to see this issue (it's not just about raw dairy but also about lobbyists and how the government decides what is and isn't safe for us to drink) being talked about.

And on the topic of dairy and whole foods, someone pointed me to this post about what's in shredded cheese.  I happen to have some shredded cheese in my refrigerator and just put some in Juju's lunch right before I read this.  Apologies for not taking a photo of said lunch, my mind has been elsewhere this week and I have forgotten to photograph my lunches.  More photos soon!