LUNCH – Tortellini & Veggie Skewers with Basil + Lemon Pesto
Pesto is perfect for getting kids involved in helping out in the kitchen. It makes for a wonderful sensory experience, it’s quick to make and there are lots of tasks that the kids can help out with. Like pinching off the basil leaves, using a reamer to juice the lemon, adding the ingredients to the blender and off course pressing that, oh so fun, blender button.
I like to talk about the ingredients and to encourage the kids to smell and taste them as we work, because it means they become more familiar with them, which tends to make the kids more likely to try the final product and to better be able to anticipate the taste. And this Basil + Lemon Pesto from babyfoode.com is delicious! Delicious! So delicious, I actually licked the bowl clean when the kids weren’t watching:)
Because this was our first time trying this recipe, I wanted to serve it as a dip. Because dipping is fun. Because the kids can then choose what and how much to dip. And because dip is just generally less intimidating. Oh and because then I could also serve skewers along side (more fun). I threaded the cold tortellini (great way to use leftovers from dinner) onto the skewer along with some veggies I had on hand and if anyone asked for more I simply let them thread more on the skewer themselves.
SNACK – Purple Smoothie with Toast Dippers & Banana Peelers
This Purple Smoothie is one of our favourite smoothie recipes. I like that it has both a fruit and vegetable. I also think it is a great way to show kids, who have an aversion to greens, that they can be made to taste different by serving them in different ways. I also like that I can swap the spinach out for other greens, like kale.
Here I served the smoothie with some multi-grain toast dippers (some of the kids like to dip their toast in the smoothie) and some banana slices, that I left the peel on, so the kids could peel them themselves.
SNACK – Mini Zucchini Cupcakes & Watermelon Wedges
Dressing up muffins into cupcakes and making them mini instead of full size adds an element of fun and some portion control. These Mini Zucchini Cupcakes from greenkitchenstories.com were an immediate hit with the kiddos! I rarely make full size muffins, instead I use a mini muffin pan and in this case I made half of the recipe into mini muffins and the other half into mini donuts (using a mini donut pan). I froze the mini donuts after they cooled completely, that way I have a stash in the freezer for next week or next month and when I pull them out they will be a little different than the first batch. Keeping things interesting, I am:)
What to send this as a School Lunch?
Place the tortellini and veggie skewer in a lunch container along with some extra tortellini and veggies. Put the pesto in a dip container. Pack the smoothie in a thermos (my girls do this all the time), leave out the toast and send half a banana. Send one or two mini cupcakes in a separate lunch container and pack the watermelon either as a wedge or cut into cubes in another container.
1 Lunch + 2 Snacks is where I share the healthy, kid friendly lunch and snacks, that I serve the kids Monday to Friday, along with a few tips & tricks thrown in here and there. For more posts in this series click here. If you would like to see my lunch and snack ideas in real time, you can follow me on Instagram where I post them as they happen:)
The other night for dinner we had this One Pan Chicken Dinner, Roasted Asparagus with Bacon & Lemon and a Leafy Green Salad with sliced Mini Sweet Peppers and Cucumbers with Honey Dijon Dressing. And now it’s dinner to lunch time.
So what the heck is dinner to lunch??? Well, dinner to lunch is all about making dinner with lunch in mind. It’s about making dinner, so that there will intentionally be enough for leftovers and then reinventing those leftovers for lunch.
Healthy, delicious lunches for home, work and/or school. Lunches that are family friendly and that give leftovers a good name.
This One Pan Chicken Dinner recipe is a perfect example of how one dinner can be reinvented into several lunches (or even another light dinner). The first thing I do is make sure that I make enough for leftovers. So for this recipe I often double it or simply add one or two more chicken breasts, depending on who is eating dinner. I know what each person in my family will typically eat (i.e. a whole chicken breast or half a chicken breast) and then I base my calculations on that.
The next thing I do is purchase, prep and/or cook enough of the side ingredients, so there will be enough for dinner, as well as for the reinvented leftovers.
So for this dinner I…
- cooked six chicken breasts instead of four
- roasted enough asparagus for dinner and for Roasted Asparagus Soup (see how below). I also saved some raw asparagus in the fridge
- cooked a half pound of bacon
- washed enough mixed greens for the salad for dinner and for use throughout the week (stored in a zip top bag in the fridge)
- sliced a whole cucumber – used some for our dinner salad and stored the rest in a resealable container in the fridge
- purchased enough mini sweet peppers for our dinner salad and to be used throughout the week
After dinner I…
- let the leftover chicken and sauce cool completely and then stored them in separate airtight containers and placed them in the fridge
- quickly finished making the asparagus soup (see how below), let it cool, transferred it to a mason jar and placed it in the fridge
And with the leftovers and prepped ingredients I can then make any or all of these lunches. The number of lunches that can be served will obviously depend on the amount of leftovers and the number of people eating lunch, but the great thing is, with all the ingredients cooked, prepped and waiting, lunch comes together in no time flat.
Sliced Chicken with Tomato Sauce Dip and Veggies
One really simple way to reinvent the leftovers, is to simply slice the chicken and serve it with some of the sauce pureed as a dip, along with some of the prepped veggies. It can be served warm or cold but my girls happily take it to school in their lunches cold.
This is also a great way to serve the original dinner to younger kids, either as “chicken fingers” to dip or cut up into smaller pieces when age appropriate. Texture is a key player when it comes to kids enjoying foods, especially new foods. I find that pureeing the sauce and serving it as a dip is often a simple way to appeal to kids who are hesitant about chunkier textures. I distinctly remember not liking chunky cooked tomatoes as a kid, but absolutely love them now.
Chicken & Asparagus Pizza with Arugula and Lemon
Pureed leftover sauce can be used for more than just dip, so I usually puree about half of the leftover sauce. Here I used it as pizza sauce, spreading it on some whole grain flatbread, before topping it with shredded mozzarella cheese, chopping leftover cooked chicken, bacon (in the fridge chopped, cooked and ready to use), sliced mini sweet peppers and some of the raw asparagus that I left uncooked in the fridge.
I popped the pizzas into a 400°F oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese melted. After pulling them out of the oven, I topped the pizzas up with some arugula (also prepped from dinner, washed and waiting in the fridge) and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Roasted Asparagus Soup with Grilled Chicken Wraps
To make the roasted asparagus with bacon and lemon for dinner, I first chopped up the bacon, spread it out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and cooked it in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes. Then I followed the directions for steps 1 – 3 from this Roasted Asparagus Soup recipe adding an additional 4-5 asparagus spears per person for dinner and tossing the asparagus, leeks and celery with the partially cooked bacon and drippings instead of adding the olive oil.
To serve the asparagus for dinner I used tongs to transfer enough asparagus for dinner to a serving platter, topped it with some of the bacon bits and gave it a squeeze of lemon, setting the baking sheet aside while we ate dinner.
After dinner I transferred the bacon from the baking sheet to a airtight container and placed it in the fridge. Then continued with steps 4 – 9 of the asparagus soup recipe to make the rest of the soup.
To serve this for lunch, I reheated the soup, poured it into individual bowls and garnished it with some grated parmesan cheese and a few bacon bits. While the soup was reheating, I pulled out some whole wheat tortillas, topped them with a spoonful of leftover sauce, leftover chicken slices and grated cheese. I folded the sides of each of the tortillas in and then rolled them up burrito style before grilling them for a few minutes on each side (I did this on the BBQ over medium heat, but you could also do it in a pan). I cut the grilled chicken wraps in half and served them along with the soup.
Chicken Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing Dip
This is a really simple salad that uses up all the little bits of leftovers. You could leave the chicken sliced, as I did here, or chop it up and toss it with the salad. I usually start with it served on the side, when I am serving kids who don’t like everything mixed up and then mix it together once it is more familiar to them. Served with a fun food pick and some Honey Dijon Dressing on the side as a dip, the kids get a kick out of searching through their bowl of delicious treasures.
And there you have it. Dinner to lunch. With very little extra prep, simple lunches and/or light dinners that take only minutes to put together.
I have to admit, I love one pan dinners. They are easy to make, they go from the stove top to the table and of course there is very little clean up. What’s not to love? And on top of all that, this One Pan Chicken Dinner recipe is full of flavour and is a big hit with the whole family.
When I make this recipe for dinner, I usually bring the pan right to the table and everyone takes either a whole breast, or a portion of one, topped up with some of the sauce and we have a salad and maybe a cooked vegetable on the side.
If I want the meal to go a little further I serve it over rice or pasta and I have even increased the amount of chicken breasts to 6 without increasing the amount of sauce. I just brown the chicken in two batches.
If you want to double the recipe, but don’t have a pan large enough to hold it, you can also transfer the sauce to a casserole dish (after step 9), add the chicken and cook in the oven at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
And if you don’t have any basil on hand or if basil isn’t your thing, just throw in a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme instead. Just remember to remove them before serving:)
One Pan Chicken Dinner
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley (plus more for garnish, optional)
- 1/3 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
- 1-28 oz can diced or whole tomatoes including juice (for whole tomatoes I use my hands to break them up as I add them to the pan)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan/skillet over medium heat
- Add chicken to pan and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side
- Remove chicken from pan and set aside
- Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan/skillet
- Add garlic, onions, carrots, celery and parsley. Stir, then cook until the onions are softened, reducing heat if necessary to keep the garlic from burning. About 5 minutes.
- Add basil and stir
- Add tomatoes and tomato paste, stir and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes
- Add salt and pepper
- Return the browned chicken to the pan, submerging among the tomato sauce
- Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes
- Taste sauce and add more salt and/or pepper if needed
- Garnish with additional chopped parsley, if desired
Don't worry too much about the size of the vegetables, just grab an onion, carrot and stalk of celery and start chopping.
To chop the basil, pile the leaves one on top of the other and roll them into a tube, then finely chop basil crosswise into thin strips. You can use the basil like this or you can pile it together and continue chopping as much as desired.
You can sub in 2 lbs of chopped, fresh tomatoes for the canned tomatoes.
This purple smoothie is one of our favourite smoothie recipes. It’s super easy to make, so easy in fact, that the kids usually make most or all of it, on their own (with my guidance where age and skill appropriate). There are only 3 ingredients (frozen blueberries, frozen spinach and peach nectar) and they are all either from the freezer or the pantry, which means I can always have them on hand. And to top it all off it’s delicious, nutritious and all of the kids love it.
We often buy a large package of fresh baby spinach at the grocery store and although we use it in our salads, to top up our sandwiches and in other meals throughout the week, I find that we rarely get through the entire package before it starts to go bad. So now, each time I buy a package, I freeze half of it. Right away, while it is at its freshest. Then we eat through the rest easily, I end up with a stash of frozen spinach in the freezer and there is never any waste.
This is a perfect recipe to get the kids involved in the kitchen. They love measuring out the ingredients (scooping out the blueberries, grabbing handfuls of frozen spinach and pouring the peach nectar) as well as adding the ingredients to the blender. I like to encourage the kids to taste each of the ingredients and we talk about how each ingredient looks and smells. They are all so bright and colourful and the kids respond to that.
And in the event, that one of the kids doesn’t want to taste or has an aversion to say, the spinach, well that’s ok because chances are they are going to love the smoothie and the fact that they know the spinach is in there, starts to give spinach a good reputation. And just maybe when they see spinach, fresh or frozen, the next time (or maybe a few times from now) they may be more enthusiastic. I’ve seen it happen so many times:)
I am always looking for ways to save time in the kitchen and to make lunch and snack time a little easier. One of the ways I do that, is to make two versions of the same recipe. Smoothies are perfect for this, because they also make delicious ice pops.
As I get the blender set-up for smoothie making, I also pull out my ice pop maker and set it on the counter beside the blender and beside that I set a measuring cup. We measure out all of the smoothie ingredients. Blend it all up. And any leftover smoothie goes from the blender straight into the measuring cup. Then I use the measuring cup to pour the leftover smoothie into the ice pop mold. The ice pop mold goes into the freezer and a few hours later we have ice pops ready to go.
Most of the time I plan for leftovers. I know my ice pop mold holds 3 cups, so I usually make a triple batch. One batch for smoothies and two for ice pops (since this recipe makes 1 1/2 cups). Keep in mind that you don’t always have to make a full batch of ice pops. Even if I only have enough leftover smoothie to make 2 or 3 ice pops, I still pour it into the mold and freeze it.
Once the ice pops are frozen, I often pull them out of the mold (running the side of the mold under hot water will help loosen them, if they are being stubborn) and pop them in resealable snack size zip top bags, like I did here with these Sour Watermelon Ice Pops. That way I can wash out the ice pop mold and it is ready for our next batch of smoothies. Plus the smoothie pops are then easy access for the kids and I simply rinse out the bags and reuse them for the next batch.
A healthy nutritious breakfast, a fun & healthy snack and some time saved in the kitchen means a little more time to get out and enjoy the summer!
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup frozen spinach
- 1 cup peach nectar
- Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Thin with additional peach nectar, if needed.
- Make Purple Smoothie Ice Pops by using a measuring cup to pour any leftover smoothie into an ice pop mold and freeze.
This recipe makes 1 1/2 cups of smoothie, enough for two adult servings or four child size servings.
Depending on the size of your ice pop mold, you may need to double the recipe to make ice pops or triple the recipe to make both smoothies and ice pops.
To determine how many cups your ice pop maker holds, measure out 4 cups of water, then pour the water into the ice pop mold until all of the sections are full, then subtract the amount of water that is leftover in the measuring cup. For example I had 1 cup of water leftover in the measuring cup which means my ice pop mold holds 3 cups (4 cups - 1 cup = 3 cups).