I try not to ignore the ‘salad’ in pasta salad. So, rather than going for the standard pesto from a jar mixed with white penne, I use it as a way to sneak in various veggies and protein and turn to wholemeal pasta whenever I can.
Italian stallion Gino D’Acampo certainly knows his pasta, and I particularly like his “easy pasta salad” which involves grated garlic, shredded chicken, sunblush tomatoes, olives (optional), fresh basil, cubed cucumber, toasted pine nuts and crumbled feta. Yum.
I love cooking Mexican food, and these quesadillas – even cold – are more exciting than a soggy sandwich any day of the week. And, when put in a zip-lock bag, they stay crispy and don’t fall apart.
Anna Jones’ quesadillas are veggie but, rather than being packed full of cheese and dripping with grease, they are light, zingy and very healthy. The main ingredient of the filling is mashed white beans (borlotti or haricot, for example) combined with fried spring onions, a pinch of paprika, lemon zest and a smidgen of Manchego. My daughter adores helping me make these the night before.
Rachel Beller is a nutritional expert and, in her book Eat To Lose, Eat To Win, she performs “food autopsies” and suggests healthy substitutions. Rachel’s “tuna pitta pocket” is always a winner – and a delicious alternative to a ham sandwich – crammed with Omega-rich tuna, spinach and chopped cherry tomatoes, all held together in a wholemeal pitta. I sometimes add sweetcorn, spring onions, or a sliced-up hard-boiled egg… just to keep Evie on her toes!
Lunch sticks are bursting with colour and are a fun way for children to eat, but are so easy to put together. Annabel Karmel has some great suggestions for both savoury and fruity sticks – and don’t be afraid to combine the two! One of Evie’s favourites is slices of ham, cubes of cheese and wedges of pineapple. She also loves carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and Emmental. For pud, mix some dried fruit – such as dried apricots – with melon and cubes of mango. They’ll have had their five-a-day (and then some!) before they know it.
Dean Edwards is a busy working dad, so he knows all about the challenges of coming up with fuss-free, wholesome ideas for the whole family to enjoy. So the title of his new book – Feelgood Family Food – caught my eye, and I’m glad it did!
As we all know, eggs are a great source of protein, so why not give your kid’s lunchbox a Spanish twist by making a Med-style tortilla? Dean’s mushroom and goat’s cheese tortilla always goes down well in our household (although you could always add ingredients that your little one prefers). After frying mushrooms, onions and garlic in a pan, I add the beaten eggs, goat’s cheese and chives and fry until the eggs just begin to set. Then it’s into the pre-heated oven for around 8 minutes until golden, before cutting into wedges. I make this the night before for supper, but we often have to stop ourselves from polishing off the whole lot.
Talking to friends is always great for inspiration. I’ve been picking the brains of mine, so thought I’d share some of their quick-fire tips for lunchbox success…
- Pinwheels. This is another fun alternative to a sandwich; simply spread cream cheese, smoked salmon and spinach (or other ingredients of your choice) into a whole-wheat wrap, then roll the whole thing into a log. Cut the log into small, bite-sized pieces.
- Sandwich shapes. Make lunch fun by cutting their sandwich into fancy shapes – my favourite is into four jigsaw pieces and slotting them together.
- Make your own sweet snacks. Granola bars, banana bread and oat cookies are easy, cheap and delicious – and much healthier than a shop-bought muffin.
- Is your child a fan of The Minions like mine? If so, cut a banana in half and get creative with that marker pen! I’ve even bought some googly eyes especially.
- Finally, make it together. When kids get involved in something and have fun doing so, they’ll enjoy it ten times more, guaranteed.
Toni Waterfall – Cookery, Food & Drink A mum with a food-loving family and a part-time pescatarian lifestyle, I’m always searching for delicious and practical ideas to try in the kitchen. My all-time favourite chef is Gordon Ramsay, but I’ve never made a bad meal using a Jamie Oliver recipe. Spaghetti bolognaise is the go-to meal in my household, but I also enjoy cooking curries from scratch – especially seafood ones. I always say that balance and seasoning are crucial elements of getting a dish right. I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next meal and am an impulsive, daily supermarket shopper, as opposed to a weekly bulk buyer.