Friday, May 24, 2013

Lunch Made Easy: Mommy & Me @CrunchAColor Lunches

I was honored to be asked again to participate in the Crunch A Color™ Healthy Lunch Challenge

Little Miss really enjoyed it the last time around, after we put ourselves to the challenge for a weeks worth of school lunches. 

Our Chicken Salad Stuffed Brussels Sprouts earned us one of the winning spots and a feature in the Huffington Post and on Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution website! How cool is that!? 

I always reiterate the importance of packing healthy lunches for Mom & Dad, not just the kids. So this week, I decided to get involved in the challenge right along with Little Miss. Packing a weeks worth of school and work lunches, trying to follow the Crunch A Color formula: At least 3 Colors, Healthy Grain, and Protein

Just because you're trying to keep up with food allergies or avoiding gluten, doesn't mean you can't still pack fresh & healthy school lunches!

Last Sunday evening, I baked up a delicious Gluten Free Eggplant Parmesan for dinner. The best part was having the leftovers for lunch the next day!
I paired mine with a a yummy salad and fresh strawberries. 
Little Miss enjoyed hers on homemade gluten free flat bread, toasted as a sandwich! Along with a side salad, strawberries, and watermelon. 
I knew it looked amazing but wasn't sure how she'd enjoy it for school. Sure enough, the sandwich came home devoured! She loved it! She did say she put it in the classroom microwave, just to "make the cheese melty again". 
If you're looking for a great recipe for Eggplant Parmesan, check out this one from Crunch A Color (click here for recipe). Jennifer offers some great tips for making the delish dish! A couple notes/ tips of my own: I salt the eggplant slices after slicing and let them sit for about a half hour. This helps take some of the 'bitterness' out of the eggplant. I also baked mine, and not fried. I try to avoid frying things whenever possible. It was simple: 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Flipping once in between. You want them toasty on each side. I also subbed for gluten free panko bread crumbs and gluten free flour. Worked perfect! 
The best part was since Sunday is always Little Miss and my's big cooking day in the kitchen, we were also able to make our homemade gluten free flatbread at the same time. I'll be sharing this recipe very soon! Stay tuned!!
This yummy lunch combo earned us 60 points!!

Tuesday we kept it simple, while still incorporating a new food to try! Well, new to Little Miss.
I love Papaya. I enjoy it in fresh fruit salads and most especially in my smoothies I take to work
Little Miss of course loves anything we pack using our melon baller, so I knew it'd be the perfect way to make them a bit more enticing for her. 
She enjoyed talking about the papaya with me while we peeled and removed the seeds before balling. She loves finding out how it's "good for me": Papaya is a great source of Vitamin A, C, fiber, and folate.
Packed with our papaya are turkey sandwiches on gluten free whole grain bread and carrots. Little Miss earned a bonus point for also helping me pack lunch and help clean up while we worked (good manners). She picked out raisins and a coconut milk for the rest of her lunch, while Mama got Greek yogurt and strawberries. 
Little Miss earned 41 points for her lunch choices and I earned 40. (Silly bonus point, she beat me! lol)

Pears happen to be one of Little Miss' favorite fruits. I cannot keep them stocked in my house! (Pears and bananas for that girl!) 
She also loves when we bake pancakes in our muffin tins. They are easy to grab & go for breakfast or pack in lunches that way. So I decided to come up with a yummy recipe that incorporated her two of her favorite things. :)

Gluten Free & Vegan Baked Pear Pancake Muffins
Yields 7-8 full size muffins
  • 1 Cup of Gluten Free flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of Flax
  • 2 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup (or sugar, honey)
  • 2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 RIPE pear - peeled & sliced
  • 1 Cup of coconut milk (or preferred nondairy sub)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tin with cooking spray. You can also use this recipe to make "regular pancakes" on your stove top or griddle.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, first mash your pear slices like you would a banana. 
  3. Add flour, flax, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Give it a quick toss together.
  4. Add vanilla, maple syrup, and milk. I added my milk first a 1/2 cup- mixed, then a 1/4 cup at a time there after to make sure it wasn't too runny. 
  5. Mix until you get the lumps out of the batter. You don't want it to be too thick or too runny. There's a happy medium and 1 cup should be just about right. 
  6. Fill muffin tin cavities to almost full. I topped some of mine with additional diced pears- optional. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-28 minutes. You can check their doneness by using a toothpick in the center. If baking mini muffins, they will only need to cook about 12-15 minutes. 
  7. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing. 
For the rest of the lunch, we packed up little cups of sunflower seed spread for dipping our carrots and apples. I also had strawberries and Little Miss picked watermelon. We racked up 40 points again for this gluten, allergy free, & vegan lunch! 

A few weeks ago Little Miss tried Endive for the first time. I shared the photo on my facebook page - we made these yummy appetizers stuffing the leaves with Caesar Salad. So this week, I thought it would be great to pack them up for lunch and add chicken giving us these delish Chicken Caesar Salad Endive Bites! 

After cleaning the endive and getting my leaves ready, I mixed up in a bowl fresh romaine and diced chicken breast pieces. I then tossed it in a Caesar Parmigiana yogurt dressing. This was my favorite lunch this week! Simple & a fun finger food, bite size twist to a traditional salad. 

We also packed fresh strawberry slices, carrots, and sweet potato tortilla chips earning us both 50 points on Thursday!

Friday was another new food for my baby girl! Fresh artichokes. She had never even noticed them at the store, so it was another great educating experience while she helped me prepare them and pack them up for lunches. 

It seems almost all the recipes for Artichoke Dip I see are made with canned or jarred Artichoke Hearts. I decided to use our Artichoke we purchased and make fresh dip

My friend Chef Corey has a great method for cooking them in the crock pot. Since we weren't making a large batch, I steamed ours on the stove top in a couple inches of water, covered, for about 45 minutes. Before steaming, I rinsed the artichoke, snipped each of the thorny ends of all the leaves with kitchen scissors, then cut off the top (about 3/4" from the tip) and trimmed the base stem to about 1".

After it was done steaming, I peeled away the leaves until I got to the yummy heart after discarding the "fuzzy" pieces. This is the part you want for your dip! Yum! I also jazzed ours up by making it with fresh kale instead of spinach

Fresh Artichoke & Kale Dip
Yields perfect lunchbox size amount, as pictured. Double & triple as preferred! 
  • 1 Artichoke - steamed & cleaned as noted above
  • 1/4 cup of Fresh Kale - cleaned and chopped
  • 2 oz of softened cream cheese
  • 1 TB of greek yogurt
  • Parmesan cheese - for sprinkling on top
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. a bowl, chop up your fresh artichoke heart pieces and all chopped kale.
  3. Mix together with softened cream cheese and greek yogurt. You can also add a bit of chili flakes & garlic to spice it up!
  4. Using a single serving size baking dish or ramekin, fill with your dip mixture and top with parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes then switch oven to broil. Remove from oven once cheese is toasty and starts to brown.
I let the dish cool before transferring to the lunch box. Little Miss can enjoy at room temperature or heated for a few seconds in the microwave. 

I packed her lunch up with tortilla chips for dipping, watermelon balls, diced cooked chicken breast, and carrot sticks.

With the edible artichoke parts not used in the dip, I used the remaining "meaty" sections as an adding topping for my own salad. Yum! A way I've not tried them before. My lunch is also packed with chicken on my salad, watermelon balls, and spicy falafel chips. 

Little Miss gets 60 points for doubling her artichoke points since it was a new food! Mama gets 45 for hers. 

I can't wait to experiment more with this nutrient packed plant! Not too shabby for my first time cooking a fresh one myself. ;)

I am so thrilled to have participated in the Crunch A Color™ Healthy Lunch Challenge again. There's no greater joy then taking Little Miss to the market and talking about new foods to try, having her get excited about them, and educating her on their nutritional value. It was an awesome challenge for she and I both this week to think outside the lunch box and come up with new fresh ideas!

Start your own Healthy Lunch Challenge
What new foods will you try? 
Who will get the most points in your family?

You can get your own award winning set of Crunch A Color Cards on or Amazon today!




  1. WOW! This post is jam packed with awesome recipes and lunches!! Love it! :)

  2. Love all your lunches! Going to have to try those pear pancakes - Birdie didn't dig them raw but maybe she will cooked - I do! So if she doesn't, I can have hers :) Great post !

    1. Thanks Cristi! I love baked pears - maybe try it for them with a little cinnamon & brown sugar? You could also make them pearsauce (applesauce with pears).

  3. Everything looks so delicious and healthy, Keeley! Esp love those pear pancake muffins... yummmmmm. Great job, girl!

  4. Yum yum yum!! These all look fantastic!


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