Sushi is wildly popular in my house – so popular that I had to start making my own once my children’s appetites began exceeding my budget.
Of course, whether or not what I make is actually “sushi” is subject to interpretation. Usually it looks like sushi in that it’s rice wrapped in Nori , but that may be where the likeness begins and ends. I use those two ingredients as a departure point to put all sorts of things in the middle knowing they’ll be devoured!
But rolling sushi for my children to take to school for lunch is not going to happen, love them though I do. However, I can do the next best thing and make a sushi bowl rather than a sushi roll. Imagine all the ingredients of sushi, without the meticulous labor.
You can add tofu, carrots, avocado, cucumber, spinach, broccoli, green beans or get creative and add salmon and a little cream-cheese or avocado, kohlrabi and pesto. Just pick whatever your child likes (or tolerates) and include it.
It’s a great way to add some fresh ideas to lunch.
It feels almost silly to share this recipe for Crispy Baked Kale Chips considering how many recipes already exist online. Really, I’m writing about them today to remind everyone how easy they are to make at home compared to buying them (and a lot less expensive, too). They’re the perfect snack to pack in school lunches.
Some recipes direct you to blast the kale with heat as high at 400ºF. I’ve been guilty of that in the past, too. Time and experience making many batches of kale chips have taught me that a little patience goes a long way. Low and slower is the way to go.
A 15 to 20 minute bake at 325ºF does the job nicely. Stirring the kale every 5 minutes is fussy-sounding but key in making sure they dry out properly without burning in spots. I love using Tuscan kale, but curly green kale will work fine. Those heads tend to be larger, so you’ll likely need to use two pans. Also, a little oil goes a long way. Don’t worry if they seem too dry after rubbing with such a small amount. The kale releases moisture as it bakes in the oven. Too much oil, and you’ll have greasy kale chips (been there, done that).
As our Facebook and Instagram feeds fill with back to school photos, it’s hard to believe summer is coming to a close. That also means it’s time to pack school lunches again. One thing I’ve always loved about this daily ritual is it provides a way to connect with my daughters when I’m not actually with them.
At ages 8 and 13, they take pride in packing their own lunches, but thankfully they still let me lend a hand the rest of the time. Bento boxes are all the rage, but don’t let rice shaped into cute little bears intimidate you from using them. A homemade lunch can be creative in what you pack without needing to sign up for master craft classes.
I love bento boxes because they rescue plastic and paper from the landfills. They also offer an actual dining experience—think of them as portable, self-contained plates. My daughters love the feeling of surprise as they open them to see what mom tucked into each compartment. So, it was a natural for us to partner with ECOlunchboxes on some back to school recipes. Sophia already uses them for her kids. They graciously sent me a few to test drive. We used them for a summer picnic, proving that these 3-in-1 nesting lunchboxes are useful year-round.
I decided to repurpose some leftovers for one lunch. Heating up last night’s dinner for the next day’s lunch isn’t a new idea. Turning it into something totally different, though, gives new life to leftovers. The resulting main course was Rice & Bean Lettuce Cups. They’re a spin on vegetarian tacos, sans the tortillas. Hope your kiddos love them as much as mine.
Here’s the recipe.
Rome is on my travel bucket list. Until I get there, I feed my urge to go by following a few bloggers and writers living in the Eternal City. Right now I can see it’s rice salad season from their photos on Instagram. I know, that sounds crazy—does rice really have a season? Well, it’s not so much about the growing season of the rice, as it is about the ingredients you use in it. Fresh tomatoes are a main ingredient, and that’s what makes rice salad a seasonal dish in the Roman mindset.
Aside from tomatoes, and of course the rice, the remaining ingredients for insalata di riso vary, much like many other family recipes handed down generation to generation. A pickled, briny addition are key, be it capers, olives, or a giardiniera (pickled vegetable mixture). Many, but not all, include red bell peppers, carrots, and celery—I went with two out of the three here.
One thing I do urge, though, is to mix your salad while the rice is still warm, not cold as some recipes direct. Trust me on this one. Warm rice will better soak up the flavors of the dressing and olive oil. If you’ve salted your rice properly, you might find there’s no need to add any additional salt once the salad is mixed. I’ll leave that final decision up to you, so season according to your own taste.
It’s so easy to get spoiled during the summer, as produce is plentiful, and needs little help from us to shine. This salad is a perfect example. Ripe, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and vibrant fresh-picked mint from the garden come together for a simple, but incredibly satisfying no-cook side dish.
As we often say when talking about Dress It Up Dressing, ingredients this good shouldn’t be disguised—dressing should enhance them, highlighting their innate deliciousness. All this trio of cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint needs is a bit of our Red Wine Vinaigrette, a grating of fresh lemon zest, and some salt to make your taste buds go “whoa”. That was my reaction when I first made. I truly wasn’t expecting such a humble salad to stop me in my tracks, and yet it did. Even with all my decades spent in the kitchen (I started young!), there are still plenty of surprises yet to be discovered.
Here’s the recipe.