Food | Work/Life Balance | Nutrition

Feeding the Whole Family This Fall: Lunches They'll Love

Whole-food tips and recipes that will help lunchtime go from ho-hum to yum!

Photo credit: Feeding the Whole Family

Few things can bring a family together like a good meal.

In the spirit of hearty, happy eating this fall and winter, we're sharing  select recipes from Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents by Cynthia Lair.
Lair's cookbook has been a go-to for families for nearly 15 years, satisfying even the pickiest of eaters and making sure everyone leaves the table satisfied. Read on some of her delicious meal-planning ideas.
Photo credit: Feeding the Whole Family

Packing a wholesome lunchbox

Here are some suggestions for caretakers who pack lunch regularly for children:

1. Include one item in the lunch box for each of the categories: vroom-vroom vegetables, giddy-up whole grain, power-on proteins and fantastic fruits.

2. Make a lunch box chart. If your child is 5 or older, let them help plan and make the chart. Children are more likely to eat the food if they have helped plan the menu. Renew the chart as the seasons change. Post your chart where the less tall can view it.

3. Though many food companies make convenient lunch foods wrapped in happy-looking packaging, remember to be discerning and read labels. Avoid foods with additives, preservatives, food coloring, cheap oils and an excess of sweeteners.

4. Rather than packing juice, tuck in a small container of fruity herbal tea if liquids need to be included. Juice does not signal a sense of fullness and metabolizes as quickly as table sugar.

5. For an earth-friendly lunch, use a cloth napkin and silverware instead of wasteful paper and plastic.

6. On days where you feel like tucking in an extra treat, add a dried flower, poem, a special rock or crystal, a jingle bell, a cartoon, a finger puppet or a love note from you instead of candy.

7. If the staff and parents of your child’s school are open to the idea, consider having “Hot Soup Fridays” where parents bring in enough hearty hot soup for the whole class on a rotating basis. This is especially appropriate during the winter months when warm food will be welcomed.

Photo credit: Feeding the Whole Family

Thai fresh vegetable rolls

These rolls are way yummy served with Coconut Peanut Sauce (page 361) as a dipping sauce. Rice wrappers are available in most Asian grocery stores.
Preparation time: 30 minutes

Makes: 10 rolls

Ingredients: 

  • 10 spring roll skins 
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, thinly sliced 
  • 2 lettuce leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade) 
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchstick slices 
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into matchstick slices 
  • Fried tofu (optional) 
  • Grilled chicken (optional) 
  • Cooked shrimp (optional) 
  • Fresh basil, mint, or cilantro leaves (optional) 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Fill a large, round pie plate or cake pan with warm water. Soak the spring roll skins, one at a time, for about 15 seconds on each side, until soft but still firm to the touch. Remove the soft skin from the water and lay it at on a hard surface — plastic or metal work best.

2. Build the rolls one at a time. Place a couple of avocado slices on the bottom third of the softened skin. Top 
with some of the lettuce, carrot, zucchini, and any other additions, forming a line. The key is not to add too many vegetables and overstuff the roll. Next, sprinkle some of the lime juice over the fillings.

3. Working quickly, fold the edge closest to you over the filling and drag the filling in toward you. Use a firm touch or the rolls won’t hold together. Fold the sides toward
 the center and then roll it closed. Rolls should be about 4 inches long and 1½  inches wide. Repeat until you have made ten rolls.

4. Place the rolls in a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For babies 10 months and older: Any of the finely cut-up vegetables can be blended into baby’s cereal or served as a finger food. 

Photo credit: Feeding the Whole Family

The three sisters (squash, corn, beans) stew  

Native Americans grew corn and planted beans at the base. The corn stalks served as a beanpole. The ground space between the stalks was used to grow squash, letting it ramble. The three sisters (corn, beans and squash) mature harmoniously. If you choose delicata squash (yellow with green stripes), the skin is thin enough that there’s no need to peel. 

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or Homemade 
Ghee (page 383)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more if needed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked pinto or red beans (see page 244 for cooking instructions), or 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto or red beans, drained
  • 1½ cups fresh or frozen corn
  • ½ cup grated Jack or cheddar cheese (optional), for garnish 

1. In a 4-quart pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil, then add the cumin, oregano, chili powder and cinnamon and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the onion, salt and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the squash and tomatoes, and bring the pot to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Add ¼ to ½ cup water if the mixture seems dry.

3. Stir in the cooked beans and corn and simmer until the corn is tender, about 3 to 5 more minute. Taste and add more salt if desired. Starches such as squash and beans can take more salt than you might imagine to bring up the flavor.

4. Serve the stew hot, garnished with cheese. 

For babies 6 months and older: Reserve some peeled squash cubes, steam or bake them until tender, puree and serve.

For babies 10 months and older: Retrieve some well-cooked squash from the stew, puree and serve. 

*(c)2016 by Cynthia Lair. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Feeding the Whole Family by permission of Sasquatch Books. 
Photo credit: Feeding the Whole Family, Pancakes Two Ways

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