Farah Sawaf, founder of www.cookingwithamanicure.com shares a few easy-to-prepare lunchbox snacks and after-school dinner recipes to help feed little ones’ tummies and minds
1. Lunchbox quesadilla craze
I usually keep back up ingredients on hand when serving this recipe because every time I lay it on the table, I’m requested to make another bunch as fast as possible. For someone who loves to cook, that’s the greatest compliment. My boys love taking this in their lunchbox as it is great at room temperature and does not have to be hot! I recommend you get your hands busy, roll up your sleeves and after the chicken cools, use your fingers to shred the chicken into fine strands. I find this works better than a knife, scissors or anything else around the kitchen.
Serves 2 to 4
4 medium wheat/whole grain tortillas
2 cups chicken, shredded (you can bake chicken breast or purchase small roast chicken, cool and shred the white meat by using fingers)
2 cups Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
¼ teaspoon ground chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin powder
¼ cup chopped green onion (green and white parts)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 fresh lime
Mix together shredded chicken, shredded cheese, sour cream, chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, green onion, cinnamon, salt and lime zest in a bowl forming a paste. Over two tortillas, spread evenly and pat the paste down covering the entire surface. Over each tortilla lay another on top. Now you have two quesadillas ready to go in the pan.
Heat a medium-sized skillet over low heat. Spread out some butter in the pan. Lay one tortilla at a time over low/medium heat. Try to avoid flipping too soon. Over the top of the tortilla, spray with butter or oil before flipping. Carefully flip the quesadilla when you see the bottom tortilla begin to brown lightly. This should take about four to seven minutes.
Allow the other side to brown up nicely, also taking about four to seven minutes depending how browned you want your tortillas to get.
Allow at least 15 minutes to cool so cheese does not ooze out. Cut into slices and wrap in little foils for lunchboxes the next day.
2. Quinoa-crusted chicken with a honey mustard dip
This is great for a lunchbox stuffer! Tupperware these days is so creatively designed — you can place the chicken sticks on one side with some cut up vegetables and the dip on the other for a fuss-free enjoyable lunch. The goodness of quinoa, protein of the chicken and yumminess of the honey dip will put a smile on both you and your child’s face during lunchtime!
2 cups cup cooked quinoa
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, you can ask butcher to slice each one into escalope-pounded thin pieces. Each breast should create about two or three slices
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Fresh cracked pepper and salt
Flour- you can even use quinoa flour (many grocery stores carry this) or any flour you prefer
Honey dip - Blend ¼ cup honey with 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
Pre heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prepare quinoa as usual. After fully cooked, spread evenly on a non-stick baking tray and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. You can do this ahead of time and save in a jar or in a ziplock bag.
In shallow bowls place in each — flour, whisked eggs and toasted quinoa. Dip one at a time, chicken breast in flour, then egg, shake any egg dripping then lay on toasted quinoa fully coating each piece.
Lay on a wire bake rack or non-stick baking pan and cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Allow to cool. Cut in strips and dip in honey sauce.
3. Turkey/cheese-stuffed cucumbers
1 large long cucumber (the large ones found in sealed plastic-imported)
Utensil to de-core the inside of the cucumber, the same used to take out the inside of the zucchini, found in all supermarkets (alternatively you can use a thin, long knife)
2 slices of good quality hormone-free turkey
1 flexible slice of mild cheese like Edam
Any jam you like - I prefer date or fig jam
De-core the cucumbers creating a hollow inside each, make sure you don’t poke a hole in the bottom or tear the sides. Lay the cheese upon the turkey. Dab on your favorite jam or sauce. Roll tightly. Insert fully into the hollow cucumber. The cucumber should be stuffed with enough filling to feel like a sandwich!
I also sometimes stuff the cucumber with Labneh and fresh Zaater, quinoa salad, roast chicken and cheese- anything you can think of...be creative.
4. Ginger-sweet salmon sticks
Once you get this right, it’ll taste like you’ve got the perfect marinade. The beauty of marinating salmon is that it doesn’t require a huge waiting time. You can rustle up this meal in less time than it takes to go the store and find a bottled marinade.
Marinating minimum 1 hour
2 small pieces of salmon fillet, approximately 200 grams, cubed
2 to 3 skewers
For the marinade:
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoon honey
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
In a Tupperware or glass bowl, combine ingredients for marinade and mix well. Place salmon cubes and allow to sit in fridge for at least an hour. I tend to do this the night before and sit until next day.
When ready to cook. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Using about 2 or 3 skewers, jab each salmon cube onto sticks. Place in over semi-deep rectangular or square baking pan so sticks are hanging with the salmon not touching the bottom of pan. Cook for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
Garnish with sesame seeds.
5. Little drumstick snacks
Marinating minimum 1 hour
6 to 8 small good quality chicken drumsticks
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup grated apple
2-tablespoon maple syrup
In a Tupperware or glass bowl, combine ingredients for marinade and mix well. Place drumsticks in bowl or Tupperware, give it a shake and allow to sit in fridge for at least an hour. I tend to do this the night before and sit until next day.
When ready to cook. Preheat oven to 175 degrees.
Place on wire baking rack and then cook for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
Allow to cool and wrap ends of each drumstick with foil.