Roz Ka Khana

A blog about everyday food. Mostly Indian. All vegetarian.

Archive for the category “Lunchbox series”

Lunchbox Series – Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Tofu in Spicy Miso Sauce and Mung sprouts salad

Trying to get back in the swing of things after days of eventful and exciting travel, bouts of illnesses and days of being in a rut. If I can be a tad introspective for a change, something about life has always intrigued me – do things always happen as ups and downs in sequence as in moments of happiness or “up” moments followed by “down” times? Or is it all merely what we perceive as an up or a down moment? Are we just conditioned to expect happy times to be automatically followed by stress and down times?

Over the past month it feels like we have experienced just that – fun and travel to exotic destinations, days of adventure and excitement that were quickly followed by bouts of illnesses in the family and of course the vagaries of work and home and life’s decisions that seem to be looming large with no respite in sight.

I have come to the realization that it all boils down to how you react to situations and what you really label as an “up” or “down” moment in life. It’s all relative.

When I really put things in perspective, illnesses are the body’s way of telling you to slow down when you’ve had a “bit too much fun” or have exerted the body to beyond what it can endure. Is that really a down moment or an opportunity to applaud and cherish the body for letting off steam and resetting itself?

And all the uncertainties that seem to befall us? They are just life’s way of telling us that at times it’s okay to just “let it be”. It’s not always that things will go “as planned” and when they don’t, it’s time to just step back and watch the drama unfold. Be tossed around a bit but hang on like you were hanging on to that raft when you were rafting amidst the whitewater rapids in Australia (that we just experienced a few weeks ago and despite all the uncertainty that came with the experience we definitely labeled it as all fun – an up moment at the end of it all:). Take care not to fall off (and even if you do, jump right back on) and after all the jostling and tossing you will almost always get back to floating on the calm of the river. Now you could call any of this an “up” moment or a “down” moment – it’s all relative at the end of the day.

So there you have it. That’s the frame of mind I am in and it actually feels good to jot that down and put things in perspective for a change. It’s almost cathartic.

Getting back to what I really started to write about which was to clear my backlog of the lunchbox series, here’s another recipe from that protein lunch week that I wrote about a while back. Soba Noodles with marinated tofu, bean sprouts, cilantro. Packed with some mung sprouts salad, cut fruit and you have yourself a nutritious lunchbox that you can look forward to in the day.

Ingredients
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced
  • 1 (8 oz.) package of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 10 oz extra firm tofu, cubed and sliced.

Spicy Miso Sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1½ Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon white miso
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½-1 Tablespoon chili sauce or Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons bragg’s liquid aminos (or low sodium soy sauce)
  • ¼ cup water, to thin

Note: If you don’t have miso you may just use soy sauce or tamari but the flavor will be different. You can also add dulse flakes or crushed seaweed for that “umami” flavor.

Instructions
  1. Prep the bell pepper and carrots by washing and chopping it.
  2. Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a blender, blend and then set aside. Add the cubed tofu to this mixture and set aside for about 15-20 minutes to marinate.
  3. Cook the soba noodles according to package directions in a large pot. When done, place noodles in a colander and rinse with warm water, drain and place back into the pot.
  4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ½ tablespoon coconut oil to pan. When hot, add red pepper and carrots to pan; sauté 6-10 minutes or until half cooked.
  5. Once the veggies are cooked to your liking, pour sauce over the mixture. Mix well to make sure the sauce gets distributed evenly. Add the noodles and stir well to evenly coat the noodles and veggies with the sauce. Add the bean sprouts and tofu. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, mix and switch off the heat.
  6. Garnish with cilantro, basil leaves (optional), and sliced lemon wedges.

Moong Sprouts salad:

Ingredients:

  • Sprouted whole green gram or mung –  1 cup
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 raw mango, chopped fine (optional)
  • Black salt or chaat masala, to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix all the above ingredients and chill before serving.

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Lunchbox Series – Day Two – Mediterranean Salad with Creamy Garlic Cilantro Parsley Dressing

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It’s been quite a busy few days so pardon the delays in the “daily posts”. For one I have restarted the 1-green-smoothie-a- day series again. This time for 21 days. I figured it’s February and probably a month where the zeal of New Year resolutions just starts to wane so why not try to keep the momentum alive. I have been smoothie-ing for the past year and a half and cannot tell you how beneficial it has been for me. There have been quite some requests to share the daily recipes so I just started to post them here and on the Facebook page, in case you’re interested in following along.

So get your green smoothie to start your day and continue to nourish with these protein packed lunches.

Day Two comprised of a Mediterranean Salad inspired from this popular salad chain in Singapore called Salad Stop. The perfect combination of carbs, protein, greens and veggies topped with a creamy Arabic spiced vinaigrette. Top this with a peanut chaat and some fruit and you have a wholesome lunchbox to last you through the 4pm sugar or caffeine rush.

Ingredients:

  • Romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces – 2 cups
  • Red bell pepper, sliced thin, 1/2 cup
  • Chickpeas, 1/2 cup, boiled and drained
  • Boiled potato, 1 , cubed
  • Cucumber, 1/2 sliced thin
  • Cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup, halved
  • Falafels – 4-5. (Prepared ahead using this recipe. You may also use an organic falafel mix).

Layer all the above in that order in the lunchbox container.

Arabic Spiced Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cups Olive Oil
  • ¼ cups Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (can Substitute White Vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons Dried Mint
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-½ teaspoon Sugar
  • ¾ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • •¼ cups Loosely Packed Fresh Parsley
  • 1/4 Chopped cilantro

Blend all the above to a creamy mix.

Peanut Chaat:

  • 2 cups boiled peanuts
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies chopped fine
  • cilantro, 1/2 cup chopped
  • juice of half to one lemon squeezed.
  • salt to taste

Mix all the above and garnish with cilantro.

Lunchbox Series – A Week of Protein Packed Lunches – Day One – Rainbow Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I just realized that this is my first post for the new year. A wee bit late but what better way to start than with some healthy lunchbox recipes. It’s always heartening to see the whole family get on a healthy streak versus a lone crusader (that would be me) experimenting with single serve “healthy” menus which has been the case for some time now. I’d still try to cook and pack healthy food for Nikhil but I have never wanted to force “dairy free” or “gluten free” or “grain free” menus on anyone, even on myself. Those have purely been weekly experiments to see the effect of elimination of some of these highly talked about diets, on my own body. And I have realized that some things that work for me may not work for everyone. To each his own. I have, for example, tried to eliminate milk, caffeine, white flour, white rice, white sugar etc. from my diet, I try to be gluten free once a month if I can, have introduced fermented foods like kefir and kombucha on a regular basis and have noticed quite drastic effects on my energy levels, skin, vision and even my outlook in general. I keep trying something new every month and it’s amazing to see the direct effects of food on the body and mind.

But I’m also not wont to spending hours catering to every diet need at home so this project meant that either everyone get on the healthy bandwagon or I jump off and “be normal”:) Save my green smoothies of course, which I have stuck on to – possibly for life:)

So it came as a pleasant surprise when last week G announced that he wanted to try packing lunches to work. And make it a rice-free but protein laden week. Like I said I have enjoyed packing lunches for Nikhil, something I would never have imagined I had in me, but I also love a good challenge. One of my favorite pastimes on weekends (call me strange) is creating healthy menus for the week ahead and it has been a blessing to have a planned food calendar for everyone in the house – removes the stress out of crazed weekday mornings, eradicates the eternal and annoying “what’s for lunch or dinner” questions and makes shopping easier.

And so we were on. Vegetarian, protein laden menus for the week, minus rice, pasta and heavy carbs. Here’s what it looked like:

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I have been posting the daily lunchboxes on the Facebook and Twitter pages but do need to record the recipes somewhere for posterity and of course to share with those interested. So here goes…a daily recap of the #proteinweek #lunchbox.

Day One:

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Rainbow Salad with Boiled Egg and Lemon Vinaigrette:

Ingredients: (for one lunchbox)

  • Romaine Lettuce – 2 cups
  • Grapes – 1 cup, sliced
  • Red apples – 1 cup, chopped
  • Red Bell pepper- 1/2 cup sliced thin
  • Carrot – 1/2, grated
  • Red cabbage- 1/4 grated
  • Sunflower seeds – 1/4 cup
  • Boiled egg – 1, sliced (you may replace with tofu or tempeh or quinoa if you don’t eat eggs for other protein alternatives; even paneer or haloumi cheese if you don’t mind dairy)
  • Kidney beans, 1/2 cup, boiled

Lemon Vinaigrette: (Epicurious.com recipe)

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, mustard, and fine sea salt, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the oil , whisking constantly until the dressing is well blended. Season with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The vinaigrette can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, in an airtight container, up to 3 days.

Chickpea or Kabuli Chana Chaat:

  • 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, boiled and drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cherry tomato, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp Jiralu powder or chaat masala (available at Indian stores)
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • a small bunch of cilantro, chopped.

Take the chickpeas in a bowl and mix the first 5 ingredients. Add the lemon juice and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Snappy Salads – Taco Salad in a Jar

Salads in a Jar is probably another Pinterest favorite but it was actually a Huffington Post article that caught my fancy this week. The article was about colorful salads and fruits to make for a not so sad desk lunch. Couldn’tbe more timely as I was on a gluten-free/clean eating binge this week again after all the “junk” devoured over the past week and weekend.

My hurried clicks with my Iphone camera while I was making this salad didn’t come close to the vibrant colors in the original article, but it was a decent first attempt to inspire me to eat healthy at work and stop my binges in Singapore “dhaba” type eateries and food courts. I have to admit, this is by far the most convenient method to tote a salad to work, greens stay fresh, its healthy, compact and the dressing gets evenly mixed when its time to eat. All you need to do is turn the mason jar upside down and shake it a few times and you have a wholesome green colorful meal. And yes its snappy too!

After my smoothie obsession (that continues), salads may come a close second to slowly becoming an everyday habit.  Both smoothies and salads use my favorite kitchen utensil…the versatile mason jar. Not that ubiquitous in Singapore, you can find mason jars at wholesale Chinese kitchen stores in Chinatown or at Japanese dollar stores (Daiso). I do miss the “Ball” mason jars I used to collect at Walmart and Amazon but these aren’t too bad. Of course there’s always the pasta sauce/pickle jars that can be reused so it’s not hard to get started. You can also make the dressing and the fresh salsa ahead of time and keep it handy to whip up other tasteful mason jar salads.

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Taco salad in a mason jar

Couple of points to note when making salads in a jar:

  • Use mason jars that have a wider mouth than those you use for smoothies. Helps to mix and eat out of the jar if necessary.
  • Put the dressing in first and then add in other ingredients, Beans, harder veggies or fruits at the bottom and the softer ones on top. The salad leaves should be top most so they stay fresh.
  • Experiment with different veggies, fruits, beans and dressing.
  • Use homemade dressings as much as you can. Store bought ones not only have processed ingredients but are also calorie laden so nothing like blending some fresh dressing with fruits, veggies, olive oil or other on your own. I will share some dressing recipes frequently in this section as well so keep a look out.
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Taco salad prep

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 1/2 cup boiled and drained black beans (soak black beans overnight in water and then cook it the next day in water over a stove or a pressure cooker)
  • 1/4 cup diced green or red bell pepper,or both
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions or regular sweet Vidalia onions
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa or brown rice (I mixed the quinoa with some lemon juiceand cilantro beforehand)
  • 1 small avocado, diced (toss with a little lime juice to prevent browning)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh Mexican salsa (recipe below)
  • small handful chopped cilantro
  • shredded or sliced lettuce or any leafy greens

For dressing: (can be made 1-2 days ahead) 

  • juice of 1 lemon or lime (or about 2 tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea Salt to taste

Mix all the above with a whisk and set aside.

For fresh Mexican salsa: (in the Vitamix)– from Vitamix recipes. Can be made a day or even a week ahead)

  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 5 baby carrots
  • 3 or 4 slices of fresh serrano peppers pending your desired heat level
  • fresh cilantro ( 3 finger pinch)

Turn the Vitamix to variable speed 7 and drop the garlic, serrano peppers, cilantro, and carrots in through the hole in the lid while the machine is running. Next, add the following to the container and put the lid back on:

  • 3 roma tomatoes (cutting in 1/2 or 1/4’s will make it easier for the blades to grab the tomatoes)
  • 1/4 inch slice of sweet yellow onion (larger onion) or a 1/2 inch on a smaller union
  • 1 thin slice of green bell pepper
  • Season Salt (2 or 3 shakes)
  • Pepper (2 or 3 shakes)
  • Garlic Salt (4 or 5 shakes)
  • Ground Cumin (2 or 3 shakes)
  • Squirt of lime juice

Now, turn the machine on variable 1 or 2 range. The less ripe the harder the tomato and the higher the speed needed to chop), and then use the tamper to push everything down in to the blades! When you can no longer see or feel large chunks of food, then your salsa is ready to devour:)

Method for layering the salad:

Layer ingredients in jar in the order listed- Lemon cumin dressing, black beans, diced pepper, green onions, salsa, quinoa, avocado and end with the lettuce. Top with lid and refrigerate until ready to eat. Can be made 1-2 days in advance.
To eat – turn jar over to let dressing/salsa coat the salad ingredients. You can eat out of the jar or empty it on to a plate. Salad leaves stay fresh and dressing is all evenly coated. Perfection!

 

 

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Snappy Salads – Baby Spinach, Red Onion, Orange and Feta Salad with a Sweet Citrus Dressing.

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This is a quick post for a snappy salad that I packed for lunch this morning. This week is fridge clean out week after days of entertaining and multiple grocery visits. Let me also add that it’s also a “clean eating” week for much the same reasons:). That is quite a challenge when you have pints of ice cream, chocolates and wine as party leftovers in the fridge but I did want to try.

This week’s resolve was to pack my lunch as often as I could and this salad was the easiest I could mix up with the clean-er items in my fridge and pantry. Some farmer’s market marmalade, rice vinegar and olive oil and I had a sweet citrus dressing. Truly snappy.

Ingredients:

3 cups of baby spinach

1 cup chopped romaine lettuce

2 small mandarin oranges

1/2 cup pecans chopped

2 tbsp feta crumbled

1 small red onion sliced

Dressing:

1 tbsp orange marmalade

1 tsp rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

1 tbsp olive oil

You may also add some orange juice if you don’t have marmalade handy. As I said I was cleaning out my fridge:)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix all the above with a fork or small beater. Makes enough for 1/4 cup, enough for one salad.

Method:

Mix all the ingredients for the salad. If you’re packing it for lunch, keep the onions and the feta in separate containers and only mix them before you are ready to eat. Add the dressing, toss and enjoy!

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Lunchbox Series – “Bollywood” Burrito (Indian Rice and Beans Wrap)

IMG_0530Cliched name for a burrito I know – drives me nuts when anything desi (Indian) is termed Bollywood these days – it’s just that this is the actual name of the Indian-ised burrito I had at a Doodle and Switch cafe in Singapore recently. Doodle, a pasta bar and Switch, a salad/wrap chain recently opened a joint establishment at a mall near my office with quite some vegetarian options on the menu – enough reason for me to check it out over lunch.

Here is what their Bollywood burrito was all about  – cilantro lime rice, spiced lentils (yellow pigeon peas or toor dal), cucumber salsa, Indian spiced yoghurt, and choice of tofu or roasted chicken.

It was basically dal-chawal (rice and lentils) with raita (spiced yoghurt) in a roti/chapathi (wrap). To be honest it didn’t sound or look very appetizing when I read/saw it – yellow dal with rice or yellow dal with chapathi are good by themselves but can be quite bland when you put them all together. Adding the yoghurt probably doesn’t help and only dilutes the spices further. I ordered it anyway to hopefully prove myself wrong. Chipotle – I’ve never missed you more:).

Oh well – you could blame it on my fiery Indian taste buds but then again, why call it a Bollywood (rolling my eyes) burrito if you don’t spice it right.

In any case the dish did inspire me to make my own version of Bollywood burrito – rajma chawal (kidney bean curry with rice), achar (pickle) and raita in a wrap. I thought this was the perfect desi answer to this Mexican dish.

Rajma is just the right substitute for pinto or black beans with salsa, raita for sour cream and jeera rice (cumin flavored rice) for the cilantro lime rice.

This looked good enough to be featured in Nikhil’s lunch box today:)

The Rajma and jeera rice were leftovers from the evening before so you can make them ahead of time and assemble the morning of.

Ingredients: (for making 2 wraps) 

  • 1 cup prepared Rajma (kidney beans curry – recipe will follow soon. This is quite a common North Indian dish best enjoyed with hot white jeera rice or with hot wheat tortillas – chapathis). Alternatively you could saute boiled kidney beans in some salsa and add some cumin powder and garam masala powder to spice it up.
  • 1/2 cup Jeera rice (I used brown rice but white rice works too. Saute some brown butter or clarified butter (ghee) in a hot skillet, add 1 tsp cumin seeds. Once they sizzle add the cooked rice and a pinch of salt to taste.)
  • 2 Whole wheat tortillas or wraps – I used whole wheat chia wraps but you can use any
  • 4 leaves of Romaine or butterhead lettuce
  • 1/2 cup Cucumber raita (chopped cucumber mixed with hung or greek yoghurt and spiced with cumin and chili powder)
  • 2 pieces of Indian red chili pickle or mango pickle chopped into pieces (Available at any Indian store. This is optional if you like your burrito Indian spicy:)
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion

Method:

1. Warm the tortillas on a skillet.

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2. Place 1 lettuce leaf on each tortilla.

3. Add 1/2 cup rajma to each. Top with 1/4 cup of jeera rice.

4.  Add the cucumber raita and the chopped pickle pieces.

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5. Top with some onion slices.

6. Now finish with another lettuce leaf.

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7. Roll the wrap to make a burrito. Wrap in foil.
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The lettuce leaves ensure that the burrito doesn’t get too soggy for an afternoon lunch.

Verdict – The lunch box came back clean with one comment – “it was amazing!” That doesn’t come by very often so it must have been good:) Oh and the critic also suggested that it may be good to add some paneer to the rajma. Then it truly is a desi substitute for Mexican food (I hadn’t added any alternative to Mexican cheese you see:). Good one, that. Will be trying it the next time around.

Lunchbox Series – Weekly Menu/Calendar Round 2

Thanks for all the feedback on the weekly calendar. There were some good questions on time management especially for the breakfast and lunch recipes so  I thought I would share some tips that have worked for us. Most of the recipes are quick enough to assemble together in the morning though a bit of planning the night before helps a great deal.

For example, you can add all the ingredients for the smoothie and store in the blender container in the refrigerator. The next morning, just fix the container to the base, turn it on and blend, blend.

Assemble all the ingredients for the grilled sandwiches the night before. You can butter the slices (if you use butter or any spread), add the filling and cover with a grease proof sheet and store in the fridge. The next morning turn on the sandwich maker or grill, and just add in your buttered slices with filling and grill till brown.

Make all the ingredients for the burrito or burger the night before and assemble in the am. Be sure to use lettuce on the bread or wrap first before adding the filling. The lettuce keeps the bread from turning soggy and the burrito will stay fresher till the afternoon if you wrap in foil or parchment paper. You can also make the burgers ahead of time and freeze. Just thaw and add to the sandwich in the morning.

Make the pancakes in large batches and freeze as well. Pop into the microwave or toaster oven in the morning.

Basically you can make most of these recipes ahead of time if you have an idea of what to pack for the week. Hope this is helpful. Do keep your tips and suggestions coming on other ideas that have worked for you.

WEEKLY MENU FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 23rd

DAY 1 – MONDAY

BREAKFAST – Cereal with chopped bananas or apples

GREEN SMOOTHIE – Spinach, mango, cilantro detox smoothie

JUICE – Beet, pomegranate, spinach, cucumber

LUNCHBOXSprouts and potato sandwich

SNACK – Grapes and a cereal bar

DAY 2 – TUESDAY

BREAKFAST – Muesli

SMOOTHIE – Spinach, avocado, banana, passion fruit

LUNCHBOX – Bollywood Burrito (recipe will follow) – an Indianised version of the Chipotle Burrito

SNACK – Apple slices with almond butter

DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY

BREAKFAST – Toast with smoothie

SMOOTHIE – Blueberry, banana, spinach, chia seeds

LUNCHBOXVegetarian Black Bean Burger 

SNACK – Orange segments and trail mix

DAY 4 – THURSDAY

BREAKFASTEggless Pancakes

GREEN SMOOTHIE/JUICE

LUNCHBOX – Green Chili and Cheese Sandwich

SNACK – Pomegranate seeds

DAY 5 – FRIDAY

BREAKFAST – Oatmeal with bananas and walnut

GREEN SMOOTHIE/JUICE

LUNCHBOXSprouts n Salsa in Chapathi rolls

SNACK – Celery sticks with almond butter and raisins

 

Lunchbox Series – Weekly Menu/Calendar

As I mentioned earlier, I find that a tad bit of planning maybe for 20 minutes or so every Sunday evening goes a long way to keep our weeknights and mornings stress and yell free. (Well, the energy conserved is now channeled to run around for things we forget when we get to the bus stop – it never ends:)

I did get a few requests to share our weekly menu calendar here so will attempt to begin sharing them this week. I still haven’t found the best wordpress plugin to make this look sophisticated, so bear with me as I share links by day in  a post like format for now. Hope you find this as useful as I do.  Do keep the comments coming here and on FB and Twitter of course.

Oh and while I don’t mean to bombard you with a daily log of our nutrition calendar I figured giving you a peek into the breakfast menu wouldn’t hurt. I did mention earlier that our morning breakfasts are now increasingly dotted by juices and smoothies , didn’t I? This has been quite a life changing step into a healthier lifestyle so this menu also gives you a sneak peek into some of the green smoothies and juices in my kitchen and breakfast suitable for kids and adults alike. Again I have provided links where the recipes are available here on RKK.

On a separate note, I plan to start a 30 day smoothie/green smoothie recipe list on my Tumblog here and on Facebook beginning Monday, September 30. So do keep a look out for some shopping lists every week and daily recipes and pictures. Let me know if this is helpful to you too. I meant every letter when I said that green smoothies and green juices have been quite life changing so more on that in a later post.

WEEKLY MENU FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 16TH

DAY 1 – MONDAY

BREAKFASTSouth Indian Style Oatmeal (lovingly called Thachi Mammu Oatmeal in our home:)

GREEN SMOOTHIE – Kailan or kale, carrots, banana, orange, chia seeds and coconut water

JUICE – Green apple, cucumber, celery

LUNCHBOX – Peanut or almond butter, banana and maple syrup sandwich on a multi-grain or gluten free bread

Note : Do use raw organic peanut or almond butter. I prefer almond butter over the PB but it is an acquired taste for kids so experimentation and substitution is acceptable. I have found it is tough to wean kids (who grow up on sodium and hydrogenated fat laden Jif and Skippy PB) off to raw PB or AB or even Cashew or Hazelnut butters, but baby steps are totally worth it.  If you can make the peanut or almond butter at home in a high power blender (Vitamix or Blendtec) nothing like it. Also use pure 100% maple syrup, not the flavored kind.

SNACK – Sliced peaches

(We only have one snack break in middle school so this suffices for us, but in the past I would also send a vegetable for snack. Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Kind bars etc worked great.)

DAY 2 – TUESDAY

BREAKFAST Egg half fry and toast

SMOOTHIE – Spinach, mango, mint, celery and ginger

JUICE – Carrot, orange and celery

LUNCHBOXScrambled Spicy Tortilla/Paratha (Kothu Parotta)

SNACK – Carrot sticks with hummus or avocado dressing

DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY

BREAKFAST – Toast with cream cheese (plain or onion chives or any savory flavor) topped with avocado salad (sliced avocados, onion slices and tomatoes with a squeeze of lemon)

SMOOTHIE/JUICE (recipes will follow in a separate post)

LUNCHBOXBombay Sandwich and Green salad

SNACK – Apple slices with almond butter

DAY 4 – THURSDAY

BREAKFASTMuesli or Cereal with Bananas

GREEN SMOOTHIE/JUICE

LUNCHBOXSabudana Khichdi (Sago Stir Fry)

SNACK – Orange segments

DAY 5 – FRIDAY

BREAKFAST – Oatmeal with maple syrup and pecans

GREEN SMOOTHIE/JUICE

LUNCHBOX Scrambled tofu/paneer wrap or Sandwich

SNACK – Celery sticks with almond butter and raisins

Send in your comments to let me know if this worked for you. I can continue to post every Sunday night as my menu gets scheduled if you find this helpful.

Lunchbox Series – Bombay Sandwich

20130907-101246.jpgI’ve been asked why the lunchbox series have stalled since my move to Singapore. I don’t think the move has much to do with it or the fact that Nikhil is almost a tween/teenager. My tween is quite the foodie as I said earlier so he still prefers his yummy and healthy lunch menus from home (even if I say so myself:) over the cafeteria food. The issue itself is the lunchbox:). I used to be particularly fond of packing lunches the “laptop lunch” way or add in a fruit, a vegetable, protein and carbs in the lunchbox and the cute laptop lunch containers ensured a balanced diet.  And I was super excited when we moved here to “bento land” or so it was I had assumed (with all the Asian/Japanese influence) that I invested – yes those fancy bento containers are frightfully expensive – in a Zojirushi 3 tier bento kit for Nikhil to take to his 5th grade.

Sadly it lasted a month. Zojirushi was deemed too “heavy” to carry and one day it never got home. Was apparently lost in some “black hole” in the school or was picked up by some lucky cleaning service employee – no one knows – bottom line, we are on our 7th lunch box which now has been resigned to a disposable container or even a foil wrapped burrito in a brown bag. Did it conveniently “get lost”? Not sure but it does seem to be a trend among middle schoolers to not tote the separate lunch bags. And so with the demise of the laptop type lunches, I lost the inspiration to showcase the contents.

Nikhil still cares about the contents of his lunch though and for the most part claims he prefers taking his lunch to the “sad” lunches he gets at school, except for the pizza or subway days. I can’t say for sure if they are really that sad  but am secretly enjoying it while it lasts – I take it as a compliment, never mind that he is very much still a Mama’s boy:)

So this past week’s lunch menu was the sandwich that can be found at every street corner in Bombay. I found this recipe from this book I recently bought in India – Sanjeeev Kapoor’s Tiffins – Delicious and Healthy Khana for your Dabba (Hindi word for container).

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Some quick and easy lunch recipes in here though many would be better off in a traditional Indian tiffin dabba or the bento tier boxes. Oh well, if we do decide to get back on that trend the recipes are tempting enough to make their way into our lunchbox – or better yet – I may start carrying one of those Indian dabbas to work just to try these recipes:)

You do need a wee bit of planning for this recipe like the green chutney and the boiled potatoes but once you have those handy this is a very simple recipe to put together in a jiffy for those crazy Monday mornings.

Quite a lip smacking sandwich and this now makes it in our every other lunch week calendar – yes I do have to make one so I don’t go crazy with the schedules. (Happy to share my weekly lunch menu here for those interested:)

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices bread
  • 1 tbsp butter (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green chutney (coriander and mint chutney – recipe below)
  • 1 medium onion cut into thin rounds
  • 1/2 medium cucumber cut into thin round slices
  • 1 medium tomato cut into thin round slices
  • 1 medium potato, boiled, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 tsp sandwich masala or chat masala (you can find both in India grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed peppercorns
  • Salt to taste

Method for green chutney 

I use this brilliant recipe from Panfusine for the green chutney. There are several green chutney recipes you will find but I like the fact that this one uses a very unusual ingredient – feta cheese – to add to the slightly “fermented” or yoghurty consistency which I think is what gives it a brilliant chutney green color and the thick consistency – perfect for a sandwich spread. I changed it a bit to add some mint as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch cilantro – 2 cups approx
  • 1/2 bunch mint – 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 green chilies
  • Salt to taste

Blend all the above to a smooth paste in a blender by adding a little water.

Method for Bombay sandwich:

  1. Trim the bread slices and spread butter and green chutney on one slice (You can skip the butter or you may add it to lessen the spice level)
  2. Arrange two slices of bread smeared with the chutney with the chutney slide facing up. Now add the onion, cucumber, tomato and potato slices on the chutney slide.
  3. Sprinkle some sandwich masala or chaat masala and top with crushed peppercorns.
  4. Cover with another chutney smeared bread slice – chutney side facing down.
  5. Cut each sandwich into two equal portions, if you’d like and pack with some tomato ketchup. You may also just pack them as is wrapped in grease proof paper to keep them from getting soggy. These sandwiches hold through quite well in the lunch box for later afternoon lunches.

Lunchbox Series – Vegetarian Black Bean Burger

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This is another Vitamix recipe, though you can make this burger mix in any food processor as well. It’s just that I love to talk about the Vitamix’s versatility and of course put it to all sorts of tests. And it almost always wins me over. I know I’m gushing and it’s silly.  Yes, pity that the Vitamix cannot actually make the patties and sauté them as well, as a friend jokingly asked me:). Well, those are the few things it can’t do (yet) but if Vitamix is truly listening, we may just about have another innovation to make this a true all round kitchen machine.

I sent this for Nikhil’s lunch and let me just say that I now make a batch of beans and freeze them regularly (black or garbanzo or any bean variety soaked and boiled), as this is another lunch box staple and a keeper recipe.

Ingredients:

Small red onion – 1 (cut in half)

Green chili (Thai or serrano) – 1 -2 depending on spice level

Cilantro  with some stem– a small bunch

Soaked and boiled black beans – ¾-1 cup (You may also use 1 can of black beans)

Cumin powder – ¾  tsp or to taste

Garlic – 1 pod

Ginger – 1/2 – 1 inch

Garam masala (available in Indian grocery stores) – ½ tsp

1 tsp olive oil

Corn flour or rice flour – 1tbsp (you may also use 1 tbsp flax seed meal whisked in ½ cup water. The idea is to have some sort of a binding agent and flax seed meal is a good substitute for eggs)

Method:

  1. Start the blender on variable speed 1, then add the red onion, green chili, a fistful of cilantro, ginger and garlic and blend till the onions are very finely chopped.
  2. Add the boiled beans and continue to blend on variable speed 3-5. Use the tamper to mix the ingredients well.
  3. Now add a dash of cumin powder, salt and garam masala.
  4. Add the binding agent (corn flour or flax seed meal). Blend again on variable speed. The mix should resemble a coarse yet blended paste. You can keep this in the refrigerator for a while to help bind the ingredients.
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  6. Shape into patties and cook on a skillet until brown on all sides. You may use 1 tsp olive oil to cook it till it browns well.
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  8. Add your favorite burger condiments and the patty to wheat or multigrain sub bread. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil and pack it away for a healthy lunch:). You can see a green apple, goldfish and a cupcake in this lunch box which is yeah, still quite healthy (depends on the type of cupcake:)
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