Category Archives: recipes

Jar Lunch: Polenta with Cream Cheese & Chives

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Oh my gosh, it’s Friday! I went to bed last night convinced it was Wednesday. This post was already a week late thanks to a trip to urgent care last week. Everyone is okay, except possibly my gallbladder. We have been absentee bloggers as we’ve moved from one project to the next in our house and yard. Sadly, the blog and garden have been neglected. I do have a new Jar Lunch for you, however!

Sometimes new ideas come about from leftovers. Instead of trying to make a creamy polenta packed with milk and heavy cream, I decided to try stirring in a little cream cheese and fresh chives. It was a hit, and stores perfectly in a pint-sized jar. You can make them ahead, store in the fridge and add your favorite toppings later.

Polenta with Cream Cheese & Chives
Makes six small servings

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow corn meal
6 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions:
In a medium sauce pan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add the corn meal slowly while whisking. Reduce to low heat and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring frequenly, until thickened.

Turn off heat and stir in cream cheese and chives until fully incorporated. Using a jar funnel, divide the mixture between six pint-sized mason jars. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until set.

You can put just about anything on top of polenta. This week we opted for vodka sauce, sauteed mushrooms, Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs, and a little parmesan.

Next time, I’m taking a cue from the store bought tubes of polenta and adding some cooked quinoa for a healthier grain. And perhaps a poached egg on top!

xo Krista

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I tried to keep it simple this week. Translation: we are still without an oven. Time has been scarce, so I even went for store-bought pesto, although homemade pesto would make this recipe all the more delicious. You could omit the smoked mozzarella to lighten this up a bit, but I’m pretty sure you deserve a little smoked mozzarella. Levi took one bite of this and said, “Is that smoked mozzarella!?!” at which point I knew this one was a keeper.

Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella
Makes ten 1-1/3 cup servings

Igredients:
5 cups cooked quinoa
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
½ cup mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 (10 ounce) package grape tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 (13.75 ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
8 ounces smoked fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Directions:
For quinoa cooking instructions, this method works great (and 1.5 recipes worth makes a bit more than 5 cups). You can make the quinoa the night before and chill overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to allow it to cool faster.

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1″ strips and steam for about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pesto and mayonnaise. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, and toss until combined and evenly coated.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: Thai Peanut Tofu Spread

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

This is an old recipe of mine that somehow has never made it onto this blog. I love flavored tofu spreads. You can eat them on a bagel, in a wrap or on a sandwich. This recipe would even be good in a fresh spring roll with some lettuce and sprouts. Here we’ve packed it in jars with vegetables and whole wheat flat bread for dipping.

Thai Peanut Tofu Spread
Makes 5 cups (10-15 servings)

20 ounces high protein, extra firm tofu
1-1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon chili paste
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar*
1 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup chopped peanuts or cashews

Directions:
Press the excess liquid out of the tofu. You can watch a quick video on that technique here. I use two cutting boards instead of plates, slice the tofu lengthwise into two thinner pieces, and wrap them in a kitchen towel to absorb the liquid. This step is important, as you want to get rid of the tofu liquid so it can absorb the liquid you are adding to the recipe.

In a food processor, pulse the ginger and garlic until finely minced. You may need to open the food processor and scrape down the sides and pulse again to get all of it minced. Add the peanut butter, coconut milk, chili paste, tamari, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix in the food processor until thoroughly combined, about one minute.

Cut or tear the tofu into several smaller pieces and add to the peanut mixture. Pulse the food processor until the mixture is combined and the tofu is chopped into small pieces. Leave some texture, as pictured below:

Finally, put the peanut mixture in a medium bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients.

Though we love this stuff on bagels, we packed a jar lunch with about 1/2 cup of tofu spread in a half-pint jar along with a pint jar of carrots & cucumber and another half-pint with triangles of whole wheat flat bread.

Cucumber rounds are great for dipping.

It reminds me of little Levi in kindergarten getting “carrot cookies” from his teacher in the school garden. They were just slices of carrot. That would make these cucumber chips.

*You can substitute a different sweetener of choice, but don’t omit sweetener entirely as it will throw off the balance of flavors.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: Sesame Noodle Salad with Ginger Tofu Cubes

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I love sesame noodles a little too much. I make a double batch so big it barely fits in our biggest bowl. I don’t know why I don’t make this more often. We use whole grain noodles and lots of ginger baked tofu for protein. A cold noodle salad like this makes an easy jar lunch that you don’t even have to heat before you eat.

Sesame Noodle Salad with Ginger Tofu Cubes
Makes eight pint mason jar lunches

Ingredients:
1/2 pound whole grain spaghetti noodles
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced and cut into 1” lengths
2 cups thinly shredded napa cabbage
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced and cut into 1” lengths
1 (15 ounce) can sliced baby corn
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cashews, toasted* and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 recipe ginger baked tofu (below)

Directions:
Cook the noodles al dente and drain. After draining, rinse with cold water until completely cooled and drain again. Whisk together the honey, tamari, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. It is best to let the salad marinate in the bowl overnight and toss the salad again. Then pack into eight pint-sized mason jars for lunches.

*To toast the cashews, spread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350° F for about 10 minutes, checking on them frequently. When they are done they will be golden and fragrant.

Ginger Baked Tofu

Ingredients:
20 ounces high protein, extra firm tofu
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon red chili paste

Directions:
Press the excess liquid out of the tofu. You can watch a quick video on that technique here. I use two cutting boards instead of plates, slice the tofu lengthwise into two thinner pieces, and wrap them in a kitchen towel to absorb the liquid.

Once the tofu is pressed, cut it into ½” cubes. Combine all the other ingredients in a medium casserole dish and marinate the tofu in the dish for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spread the cubes of tofu in a single layer. Put the casserole dish in the oven to bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn the tofu with a spatula every 15 minutes.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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jar lunch: deconstructed sushi

I want to introduce a new feature on the blog: the Jar Lunch! It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I am pleased to introduce the first jar lunch; it was so much fun to make. Meet deconstructed sushi in a jar:

Might as well take advantage of the mason jar’s glass with some colorful layers. Levi is currently obsessed with all things Japan. He has been considering taking Japanese in addition to German. We sometimes splurge on the brown rice sushi from Trader Joe’s, so I figured I ought to start making something at home. The beauty of this lunch is you don’t have to achieve perfect sushi rice and you don’t have to roll it. You still get all the delicious flavors of an avocado roll. It’s perfect with a side of baked tofu.

deconstructed sushi in a jar

ingredients per wide mouth pint jar:

3/4 cup cooked short grain brown rice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar*
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 sheet nori, cut into 1″ X 1/4″ pieces
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup cucumber matchsticks
1/2 an avocado, diced
lime juice
pickled ginger, to taste
wasabi paste, to taste

Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. While your brown rice is still warm, pour the vinegar-sugar mixture and soy sauce over it and toss to combine. Let cool to room temperature. Adding the soy sauce to the rice saves you from having to lug soy sauce to school or work.

*If you use seasoned rice vinegar, omit the sugar and heat.

You can use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut up your nori.

I used heaping 1/4 cups of carrot per lunch, and used two medium carrots to pack six lunches. When you prep all your veggies, place the diced avocado in a bowl and toss with just enough lime juice to lightly coat in order to prevent browning.

I watched youTube videos to figure out how to cut cucumber matchsticks, and it was surprisingly easy to use the same method. One large cucumber was enough to pack six jar lunches.

Once your ingredients are ready, simply add one layer at a time and use a spoon to level and pat down each layer. If you smudge the sides of the jar, wipe the inside with a dry cloth. I used half the sheet of nori on the bottom and half on top, and finished with ginger and wasabi to taste.

You can easily move the ginger & wasabi to your lid when you eat to add as needed. For even less mess, you can cut a larger piece of nori to hold your wasabi at the very top of the jar. Or just stir the whole thing together, if that’s your cup o’ tea.

Enjoy!

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breakfast in a jar: eggnog oatmeal custards

Time for another baked oatmeal.

This one is a little more decadent and sweet, perfect for a holiday. These small servings work well as one component of a large brunch.

eggnog oatmeal custards
Makes 12 small servings

⅔ cup sugar
half a vanilla bean, split
6 egg yolks
4 cups lowfat eggnog
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons bourbon
3 cups oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Whisk or beat the scrapings of the vanilla bean and sugar together until the vanilla is no longer in clumps. Add egg yolks and beat lightly. Add eggnog, nutmeg, bourbon, and oatmeal. Stir until combined. The oatmeal will soak and absorb some liquid while you prepare the mason jars.

Bring a kettle of water to boil. Lightly butter 12 wide mouth half-pint mason jars. Place the jars in two large baking dishes. If you don’t have the right jars available, you can use ramekins.

Using a canning funnel, divide the oatmeal mixture evenly between the jars (about 1/2 cup in each). Then pour the boiling water into the baking dish until water comes halfway up the sides of the jars.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until set. The center should not jiggle.

You can eat them warm after cooling slightly. If you prefer more of a chilled custard dish, cool completely and put the lids on the jars and refrigerate.

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brown bag microwave popcorn

Did you know you can microwave popcorn simply in a brown paper lunch bag? This was making the rounds online ages ago, and I finally got around to trying it.

All you need is a standard brown lunch bag. They cost less than two cents each. I love that this package says “Packed with love“. I also love that I didn’t notice it until I looked at the photo I took.

I don’t think we’ve had these things in the house since Levi was little and we made puppets and birthday party loot bags out of them. Nostalgia.

With a little testing, I found 1/3 cup of kernels to be the magic number. Go up to 1/2 cup and you will either waste a lot of kernels or burst open the bag. With 1/3 cup the popcorn fits with a little room to spare.

Simply put the kernels in the bag. Some recipes call for oil or butter, but I wanted plain ol’ popcorn.

Fold twice at the top of the bag. Alton Brown uses staples, but doesn’t that go against the cardinal rule of microwave use? You don’t need staples. Put the bag upright in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Listen as it pops, and just like store-bought microwave popcorn, you remove it when the popping slows to 2-3 seconds between pops. This could happen anywhere between 2 and 3 minutes.

I called Jess at work and said, “Why does anyone buy microwave popcorn?” My mind is blown. This is simple, cheap, and you can compost the brown paper bag when you’re done. It’s nice when the cheapest option is also healthier and better for the planet.

I can’t wait to share what we made with eighteen cups of that popcorn tomorrow.

brown bag microwave popcorn

Makes about 8 cups.

one standard brown paper lunch bag
1/3 cup popping corn

Unfold the paper bag and place the kernels inside. Fold the top of the bag over twice. Place upright in the microwave. Set the microwave to 3 minutes on high heat. Listen carefully, and stop when popping slows to 2 to 3 seconds between pops.

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