Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Back To School

Back to life, back to reality ...

As I shake the sand off our feet and head back into the fray, there is a lingering unsettling feeling. Of dooooom. And then it hits me - school lunchboxes must be made. Gah.

I've written about this here and here before, yet it remains the bane loving duty of my life. Heading into Term One trying to keep it fresh, I took some tips from Matt Preston and our resident chocolatier Tad Lombardo.

These qukes (yes they are actually called that) have been a lifesaver. Around 10cm long, they fit perfectly into brain food boxes and are perfect for snacking. They also mix it up a little when kids groan "Carrots? Again?". They may need wholegrain carbohydrates for energy but any lunchbox heading out of my kitchen is loaded with raw vegetables, protein and dairy.

Qukes, baby capsicums & tomatoes from Russo's Fruit Supply

Golden coloured baby capsicums have also gone down a treat, along with the baby tomatoes. Red capsicum has more Vitamin C than oranges, so it's a go-to-food in this house. Dip, as always, is sometimes required to coax the younger palates to it but a delicious tub of homemade white taramasalata from one of our delis will generally do the trick.

Tad snuck a cupful of red capsicum into his pizza pinwheel recipe. Under the topping and cheese, kids are unlikely to notice. The Vitamin C helps iron absorption and with many little noses turning up at red meat, they need all the help they can get.

Pizza Pinwheels

2 cups self-raising flour
Pinch salt
90g butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup milk
Plain flour, to dust
3 tbs tomato paste
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
150g ham, chopped
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 cup red capsicum, finely chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a tray with baking paper.
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk. Use a round-bladed knife in a cuttin motion to mix until evenly incorporated and the mixture begins to hold together.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead (about 5 minutes) until smooth. If the dough is still sticky, sprinkle with a little more flour.
4. Roll dough into a 20cm x 40 cm rectangle and spread with tomato paste. Sprinkle with ham, cheese, spinach, capsicum and oregano.
5. Turn the dough so the long end is in front of you and roll up. Slice into 10-12 pieces and place side-by-side on the tray.
6. Brush with egg and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

 Matt Preston recommends freshening things up a bit with rice paper rolls over sushi. You can take a tip from our Sushi Gallery and replace most of the rice vermicelli noodles with shredded vegetables (or you could just buy them from the Sushi Gallery, whatever floats your boat).

As much as I look longingly at Karen Martini's recipe for Roast Duck, Pickled Mushroom and Perilla Leaf Rice Paper Rolls, I'm not going to be banging these out at 7.30 in the morning. (I'll be saving that one for a Sunday supper, in the late afternoon sunshine.) My lunchbox philosophy comes down to a handful of basics: raw fruit and veg plus leftovers. Cooking up a pile of sticky ribs from Gary's Meats for dinner - leave three or four over per lunchbox. Chipolatas from Ian's Quality Meats on the barbie - grab the last handful for finger food the next day. The occasional treat to keep it interesting and (shock, horror) the occasional dull Vegemite sandwich to keep it real*.

It happens to all of us. I salute you fellow parents, as we get ready to box.

*Disclaimer, my children are actually forced to eat VegeSpread from Ripe the Organic Grocer instead

Local blueberries at Paddlewheel

Tad will be making blueberry muffins tomorrow in the Blanco Kitchen. The beauty of these is that you can substitute any seasonal fruit (peaches are fab at the moment) as you please. They freeze well and I often make them in smaller muffin tins as a tiny treat. 

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup caster sugar
80ml olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup low fat, natural yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (you can also use walnuts or almonds)
1/2 cup dates, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180°C and place paper cases in a muffin tray (12 large cupcake size).
2. Sift flour and cinnamon into large mixing bowl. Add caster sugar.
3. Combine oil, yoghurt and eggs, whisk to combine.
4. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
5. Stir in blueberries, pecans and dates. Spoon mixture into paper cases.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean.