All posts filed under: Around the World Lunches

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Grilled lunch with a taste of Argentina

When I flip open my grill it’s rarely to flip burgers; My vegetarian 5-year old inspires me to think beyond hamburgers and hot dogs in the summer. Argentina is known for her amazing meats, but beyond that she’s earned a special place in my heart for this acorn squash salad. The charred gourd stuffed with peppery arugula and aged goat cheese first entered my awareness through the campfire cooking of Francis Mallmann. His recipe entails roasting an entire pumpkin buried under the embers of a campfire. My recipe is simplified for the home chef – an acorn squash is easier to manage and cooks twice as fast. Ever since we first made it on this blog, some version of the salad has been in our regular rotation. We even made it on our recent camping trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest. Tips Don’t restrict yourself to making a meal that’s 100% foreign to you and your family – too much work can dampen motivation for international eating. Also: some people are more likely to try …

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Dipping into Mezze for Lunch

I don’t think a single day has passed without my five-year old eating some sort of food with her hands. While many parents might fret about their child’s “grabby” manners at the dinner table, I encourage her to explore how she eats her food as much as what she eats. My guidelines are simple: only three fingers (the thumb, index and middle fingers of her right hand) and no more than one knuckle deep. Bread should be used whenever possible to help scoop up particularly messy food. Oh, yeah… And use a napkin. Since cooking the world we’ve learned that eating with our hands slows us down and helps us connect to the meal (and each other) in a visceral way. Millions of people eat with their hands – in fact some estimates range from 1 to 2 billion folks daily. That’s people from India to Lebanon, and from Morocco to Ethiopia. The number grows dramatically if you consider the sandwich, popcorn, and pizza munching people right here in the USA. Even hummus  – once considered international food …

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Going “Down Under” with an Easy Kid’s Lunch

Throwing together a Down Under lunch requires just a few fun ingredients. My kindergartner loves a good cheese sandwich (don’t we all!?) so this week I smeared her sandwich bread with sticky, salty yeast extract like they do in Australia and New Zealand (I couldn’t find Aussie’s preferred version, Vegemite, so I used Marmite, the version preferred in Britain and New Zealand). Let the record state: ooey gooey cheese paninis with yeast extract are also grand! The salty smack goes a long, long way; don’t overdo it! Next, leftovers came to the rescue. On the side are leftover sweet potatoes drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. In New Zealand and parts of Australia they call sweet potatoes “kumara.” The shining star of the meal came from the fruit basket: one shiny Granny Smith apple. These green beauties were first cultivated in Australia in 1868. What an easy, authentic addition to the lunch box. The container came back empty, so I’d say her lunch “down under” was a success! Tips & Tricks: Ava’s lunch is vegetarian but others might enjoy tossing the sweet potatoes …

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A Polish lunch that’ll clean out your fridge

Whether your child is in a growth spurt or you just need a meal to satisfy you longer than the 20 minutes it takes to eat it, Polish comfort food is the answer. We ate ours back on December 23rd, three hours before locking up the house and flying to spend 11 days with more than a dozen family members (First stop: Cape Charles Virginia, to see one of my brothers and sisters, and their kids. Second stop: Martinsburg, West Viriginia for our cousin’s wedding and most of Keith’s family). In large part, this hurried meal was the kind of “cleaning out the fridge” and “pantry upkeep” situation I engage in every time I travel. It started because the potatoes threatened to grow legs and walk off while we were away.  In the fridge, I had a link of kielbasa sausage and package of fresh sauerkraut with imminent expiration dates, plus some carrots and Brussels sprouts that I just knew would be despondent upon our return. I pan-fried the vegetables and sausage while the potatoes boiled. As the components came together on our trays …

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A Central American Lunch

Central America can provide fresh, fun inspiration for the lunchbox (with a generous dash of indulgence). Since our family chose not to opt in for my daughter’s school’s weekly Pizza Day, I’m always looking for something special for Ava’s Friday lunches. When I asked Ava how she enjoyed this particular Around the World lunch, Ava returned my question with wide eyes and an even wider grin. I have a feeling the cheesy pupusas from El Salvador did the trick. Pupusas are made with masa harina and melted cheese or bean filling, then fried. We made them for dinner the night before (when Ava taught papa how to make them with a hilarious, if not entirely authentic “double stuffed” method). Not bad for five years old! The leftovers were a quick reheat in the school microwave, though they’re decent cold, too. To balance things out, I included a cabbage slaw called “curtido” seasoned with dried oregano, vinegar, and a touch of red pepper flakes. The fried plantain chips and sliced avocado were just for fun! Tips Try substituting the …

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South African Lunch

An African lunch for a cold day

Below freezing weather means one thing: the thermos goes on double duty. This week I filled Ava’s hot pink Hello Kitty thermos with a hearty bean stew bolstered with a swirl of red palm oil – a typical element in West African cooking. On the side – a fat hunk of mealie bread. This is southern Africa’s answer to corn bread (especially popular in South Africa). The fresh corn kernels add sweetness and interest beyond anything Jiffy Mix can offer. Tips and Tricks If you’d like a little spice in your mealie bread try adding some blackened chilie peppers (I like poblanos – here’s a recipe from Zambia). Try adding some sliced plantain to your kidney beans stew or swapping the kidney beans for black eyed peas. Why show you Ava’s lunch? Ava’s Around the World Lunches began when I shared a few of Ava’s globally-inspired lunches on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out a lot of people are looking for lunch ideas – whether for school or work. In this weekly column, I share one of our Around the …

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An Indian lunch for kids or work

Indian Curry for Lunch

Ava’s school encourages outdoor play – even when it snows. For this I am  SO grateful (if kids in northern climes like Alaska, Sweden, or Canada can go out to play when it’s cold outside my daughter can handle it, too). But if she’s going to face the elements, she also needs a hearty lunch to keep her furnace running. Curry is great for taking the snarl out of the winter air. This vegetarian chana masala warms with tomato cooked down into a bed of spices – cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic and ginger. A healthy toss with chopped Serrano chilies will add pleasing heat, but it’s easily left out of the dish for mild sensibilities. As for the rest? Like most kids (?) Ava loves rice. And a heaping spoonful of plain yogurt and soft naan balances any heat. Finally: green peas because, yum! That’s Ava’s lunch. What’s in your lunchbox? Tips Add a little salt to the plain yogurt to give it a savory quality little ones will really enjoy While you can certainly make naan (I have a yogurt …

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French Around the World Lunch

Ava’s French Lunch

One of my favorite food memories from France was going out for couscous with my guardians. I was a wide-eyed teenager, happy to sit around a fragrant pot of stewed veggies and eat until my stomach ballooned. My favorite part was how the broth saturated the couscous, forming an unctuous gravy. The strong North African influence not only made its way into the restaurants  of Paris, but also into the home cooking – as I soon learned, couscous also makes a great base for ratatouille. Today I’ve combined my basic ratatouille recipe with plain couscous for Ava’s Around the World Lunch. Since ratatouille is often served room temperature, no microwaves will be needed at lunchtime. Perfect! To complete the meal? A miniature wheel of Brie and the cutest little pear you ever saw are shameless appeals to my daughter’s preference for anything “cute” (Which worked perfectly – I hear they were the first things to disappear at lunchtime). Tips: While Brie is one of the more mild French cheeses, sensitive eaters may want to swap the brie for a wedge of “Laughing Cow” …

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Nordic Around the World Lunch

Ava’s Nordic Lunch

Ah, winter. This week I took inspiration from the chill in the air and went Nordic with Ava’s Around the World Lunch (Nordic simply means the cultural part of Northern Europe that includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic menu is quite simple and can be assembled in about five minutes. For Ava’s main meal, I went Danish: A few slices of dark rye bread smeared with a bit of butter are topped with a translucent slice of smoked salmon. Two smaller slices of bread were topped with cheese – use any mild cheese you like, especially Jalsberg which comes from Norway. Essentially simple Smørrebrød, these open-faced sandwiches include other common toppers such as sliced cucumbers and radishes – which she can eat on their own or turn them into toppers – finger food like this is perfect my kindergartner. Dessert was a few raspberries and a squeezable tube of blueberry skyr, an Icelandic-style yogurt known for being super low in sugar and high in protein (a.k.a. my five-year old won’t have a post-lunch energy crash). Ava was SO excited about the Siggi’s – I have a feeling they’re going into the …

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South African Around the World Lunch

Ava’s South African Lunch

This week Around the World Lunch takes us to South Africa (thanks to your votes on our FB Page). The result is a hearty meal perfect for autumn, packed with nutrition. Watch a clip of Ava introducing this meal (and showing off her South African flag) on Instagram. Get Creative.  Who says creativity must be difficult? In a sea of bologna sandwiches, leftovers are a great way to mix things up and add interest to your child’s lunch! For dinner we made a batch of South African Yellow Rice (a.k.a. Geelrys), seasoned with turmeric, a touch of brown sugar, and raisins. While it’s amazing hot, it’s also decent cold the next day. South Africa is famous for her enormous coiled sausages, called Boerewors made up of beef and lamb or pork. These aren’t available here, so I improvised by browning a couple of small breakfast sausages. For cute-factor (and ease for small hands), try putting them on skewers. Balance. Nutrition is packed into the rest of this lunch. First up? Corn. Garnish a boiled ear of corn with a puff of smoky chile powder – a popular treatment …

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Around the World Lunch: Greece

Ava’s Greek Lunch

For this edition of Ava’s Around the World Lunch we’re heading to Greece with mezze. If you play your cards right, the flavors of Greece can be in your child’s lunch box in less than five minutes. Quick-Fix Secret Tucked away in my pantry is my greatest quick-fix secret: stuffed grape leaves, a.k.a. dolma.  Sure, I’ve been known to make dolma. I happen to LOVE making them. But sometimes I’m in a hurry and need to grab something quick for my daughter’s lunch. While I’ve found dolma at grocery store salad bars, I don’t always think far enough ahead to grab some. Thankfully our local Middle Eastern market sells dolma in cans for $3.99. There’s well over a dozen in each can. While not the same as homemade, they still have the same great pop of lemon and rich olive oil. They’re great to have around for hectic mornings!  Serve with pitted olives and a little tomato sauce for dipping, just like the do in Greece. Is it Greek without Spanakopita? I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out. This is another recipe you …

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Around the World Lunch: Egypt

Ava’s Egyptian Lunch

Ever since Ava’s Egyptian-themed birthday party this summer, she’s been obsessed with all things Egypt. Naturally, when I asked what she wanted to try for this week’s Around the World Lunch she sang out “EGYPT!” Finger Foods  First up? Ful medames (pronounced “fool”), Egyptian street food often served for breakfast and lunch. Ful is a dip made with fava beans cooked with onion and tomatoes. It’s high in protein making ful great for concentration during the school day!  For color and flavor I added torn parsley and drizzled some olive oil and lemon juice over the top, just like they do in Egypt. We treat ful like hummus, so on the side Ava has plenty of pita bread to dip, dip, dip. I also included tomatoes and a hard boiled egg, both popular ful toppings in Egypt. Dessert As a nod to Ava’s Egyptian birthday party, I included a slice of Basboosa, a Middle Eastern semolina cake laced with rose water and lemon juice. This cake is dense and sweet – but the touch of lemon juice and rose water balances everything out.  It’s …

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