whole30

lunchbox life: steak kabobs with avocado and salad greens

image1(23)Greetings, friends! On one hand, I can’t believe I’m about to begin Week 3 of this school year, but on the other hand, the rhythm of the weekly grind has already begun to set in. Since it’s still mid-August, and therefore summer, I thought I’d make this week’s lunches an homage to the summertime, and what’s more summery than shish kabobs?

These kabobs pack a protein punch and are brimming with local veggies. The zucchini, onions, and sweet peppers all came from our CSA box from Dirt Farmers, making my lunches this week even more special and healthy. While most people serve kabobs over rice, I decided on a different approach since I’m still trying to infuse my good habits from my Whole30 experience into my regular, post-Whole30 life. Instead of rice, I’ll heat up my meat and veggies in the microwave and then place them on a bed a chopped romaine lettuce and top it all off with some sliced avocado.

image2(10)This lunch is a perfect example of healthy eating with a hearty approach. I think the 1990s and early 2000s messed us up with ideas about “eating light” that made us think we had to be hungry all of the time in order to be eating in a healthy way. By loading up on veggies, protein, and good fats, your body should be satisfied and full, but not uncomfortable and bloated. This is a great approach to that goal.

Note: if you’re not a red meat eater, you could certainly substitute chicken breast or thigh.

Steak Kabobs with Avocado and Salad Greens

1.5 to 2 lbs. boneless beef ribs

3 large or 5 medium zucchini

2 small or 1 large sweet onion

1 red bell pepper (I used 5 small sweet peppers from our CSA)

8 to 10 wooden kabob sticks

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. McCormick brand Montreal steak seasoning

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

5 small avocados

3 hearts of romaine lettuce

optional: salad dressing (I recommend making your own or your choice from the Tessamae’s brand)

Soak the wooden kabob sticks in water. Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat or light an outdoor grill. Cut the beef into 1-inch pieces and place in a bowl with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic powder, and Montreal steak seasoning. Let the beef sit in the bowl on the counter for about 20 minutes while you chop the veggies. Remove the ends and outer layers of the onions, then chop them into chunks with two or three layers attached. Remove the tops and seeds from the pepper and slice it into 1/2 inch length pieces. Cut the ends off of the zucchini and slice into 1/2-inch rounds. Coat the veggies with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper (about 1 Tbsp. salt for all of the veggies).

Assemble the kabobs to your preference using the photo for reference. Grill the kabobs to your preference of doneness for the beef, but remember that you’ll most likely be reheating the beef in the microwave, so err on the side of medium rather than well done. I prefer my beef rare, but because of the longevity of this beef, I cooked my beef to medium.

When the kabobs are finished cooking, let them cool for about 10 minutes. While they’re cooling, chop the romaine hearts and evenly distribute between five plastic, sealable bowls. Add one small avocado to each bowl, then place the top on the bowl.

In a separate piece of sealable plasticware, slide the meat and veggies off of the kabobs and distribute evenly among the five plastic containers. When you’re ready to eat, reheat this container, then place the reheated meat and veggies atop the romaine lettuce and cut the avocado into slices or chunks to top the meat and veggies. Drizzle with salad dressing and enjoy!

lunchbox life: sweet potato bowls with chicken and spinach

image1(22)Welcome back! It’s Week 2 for the 2015-16 school year, and I’m happy to report that Week 1 was excellent. Seriously. I have great students who are willing to try new things are ready for a year of hard work and challenges, I’m settling back into a routine of teaching five classes per day, and I’m happy to be reunited with my work buddies. One adjustment, however, is getting back into the groove of inhaling my lunch five time per week. During my summers at GHP, we have a 90 minute lunch break, but during the school year, I have about 25 minutes, including any microwaving that I need to do. I’ll get used to it again, but it’s certainly an adjustment.

This week’s lunch comes from a serious love for sweet potatoes. Instead of a brown rice or quinoa bowl, this spin uses sweet potatoes as a healthy starch while keeping the dish grain-free. Ever since my Whole30 experience this summer, I’ve been making a conscious effort (probably 80% of the time) to follow the Whole30 guidelines, being particularly intentional for breakfasts and lunches during the week. This sweet potato bowl has everything you need for an energy boost: roasted sweet potatoes for fiber and starch (energy), chicken for protein, and spinach for all of the leafy green action (Vitamins A and K, folic acid, fiber, etc.). I seasoned the sweet potatoes with turmeric, which has multiple health benefits, including its role as an anti-inflammatory spice.

As I’ve done before here on the blog, I used already prepared rotisserie chicken for this dish. Sometimes I do this because of time constraints, but I also go this route quite frequently during the spring and summer months because I just don’t love the idea of having the oven on for that long in our house. Added heat? No thank you!

Sweet Potato Bowls with Chicken and Spinach

3 large sweet potatoes

1 large sweet onion

1 large or two small whole rotisserie chicken(s), organic if possible

1 lb. organic baby spinach

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. turmeric

1.5 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Halve and peel the onion, then thinly slice each half into half-moon shapes. Place the onion slices on a cookie sheet. Next, peel the sweet potatoes, then cut each peeled sweet potato into 1/2 inch circles. Largely dice the circles, then place them on the cookie sheet with the onions. Add the olive oil, turmeric, 1 Tbsp. salt, and 1/2 Tbsp. pepper to the onions and sweet potatoes, mix them around in the sheet with your hands, then roast in the oven for about 35 minutes.

When this is in the oven, begin to break down your rotisserie chicken. Remove the skin and all bones and place both white and dark meat in a mixing bowl. When this step is complete, use your hands to shred the chicken. Don’t worry about the shreds being exactly the same size.

Next, melt the ghee in a large pan on the stovetop. In batches, add the baby spinach and 2 tsp. salt. Use tongs to saute the spinach in the pan, then add the shredded chicken and toss to combine.

For each bowl, evenly distribute the sweet potatoes, then evenly distribute the chicken and spinach. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the bowl in the microwave on high for about two minutes, adjusting accordingly for your preference of heat.

lunchbox life: kale confetti salad

image1(21)School’s back in session, and so am I!

Welcome back to lunchbox life, my series of meal planning as a high school teacher. If you’re just joining us, I create five refrigerated meals for my school lunches each week. Sometimes I use a microwave to reheat the meal, sometimes I don’t; it depends on what I’ve prepared. My goal is to create a healthy, substantive lunch to help me power through teaching and the rest of my day, all while being mindful of using local produce when possible, focusing on protein and fiber, and fueling up for exercise.

I’m really excited about this school year. It’s year five for me, and while I know I have so much left to learn, I actually feel like I might know what I’m doing (shhh…at least I think I do). If you know any first year teachers, please be nice to them–their worlds are about to be rocked. Alex and I were engaged most of my first year of teaching (we married in late March), and he is a saint for listening to all of my tear-filled moments of agony and defeat. This year, I’ll be teaching US History (an old stand by that I love) and a new prep for me: Humanities. I moved classrooms, too, and now I’m across the hall from one of my work besties, Rachel, so I’m happy to have quips and convos during class changes with one of my favorites.

This week, I’m going to a couple of my go-to ingredients: kale and brussels sprouts. I wanted to avoid the microwave this week since the first week of school can get super busy, plus the oppressive heat has me craving cool salads in the middle of the day. The key to a kale salad is the quick massage with olive oil and salt: thirty seconds, tops. This allows the kale to slightly break down and become more palatable as a salad green. By now, I know how worn out I get during the first week of school, so I wanted to fuel up on my greens, folic acid, fiber, and Vitamins A and K. The combination of kale and shredded brussels sprouts is a great base for a hearty salad, and you can add whatever you like. I love adding raw sugar snap peas to salads for crunch and a natural sweetness. I’ve also added garlic stuffed green olives for a briny touch and organic sliced roast beef for protein (no added gross stuff–read your labels!). I’ll be topping my salad with Lemon Garlic dressing by Tessamae’s. I usually make my own salad dressing, but I started using this brand when I did Whole30 this summer at GHP where kitchen access was scarce. This family company focuses on all natural ingredients, and their salad dressings and sauces are pretty great. I spotted a few of the salad dressings in the produce section of Kroger in my neighborhood, but you can also order from the website.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Monday. For some of us, it’s the start of a brand new year–good luck!

Kale Confetti Salad

1 bunch kale (I used dino kale from my CSA box)

1 Tbsp. olive oil + pinch of kosher salt

1 lb. raw brussels sprouts

8 oz. raw sugar snap peas

1 jar green olives (I used garlic stuffed)

12 oz. all natural, deli sliced roast beef (I used Simple Truth from Kroger–no sugar or carageenan added)

Salad dressing of choice

Slice the kale into thin ribbons (about 1/2 inch in width) and remove the woodsy stems. Place all kale ribbons in a mixing bowl and pour in the olive oil and salt. Using your hands, gently massage the kale for about 30 seconds to break down some of the strong fibers of the greens. Keep on the counter. Next, slice the tough stems off of the brussels sprouts and either slice them thinly or use the slicer function on your food processor. When complete, add the shreds of brussels sprouts to the kale and thoroughly combine. Divide the greens mixture between five bowls. Slice all of the sugar snap peas in half and distribute equally between bowls. Slice all of the green olives in half and distribute equally between bowls. Slice all of the roast beef into 1/4 inch ribbons and distribute equally between bowls. Pack your salad each day with the salad dressing separate and add just before eating.

lunchbox life: pan-roasted chicken and olive tapenade

image2(8)ONE MORE WEEK. That’s it! One more week of school with students, plus two days of post-planning next week. I will miss many students, but I know that we’re all ready for a break. This will be the last lunchbox life until the end of July, so savor this savory recipe between now and then.

This week’s lunchbox life is another example of a great weeknight supper. The chicken, broccoli, and olive tapenade create the perfect trinity of protein, vegetables, and healthy fat that will sustain you at lunch and throughout the afternoon. I love olives–those briny, salty, bite-sized morsels are so tasty, and I think they really elevate a dish. Alex doesn’t love them, so they’re a great pick for my lunches or when I order off of a menu.

By pan-roasting the chicken, I seared each side in butter, then finished them off in the oven. This gives the chicken a punch of flavor and texture, livening up the go-to baked chicken model of 30 minutes and 350 F. The process for cooking the broccoli is also important: do not, I repeat, DO NOT steam or boil broccoli. Just say no. Broccoli has so much fantastic flavor, and the fibrous stems have a robust flavor that comes through beautifully when you roast, grill, or saute this scrumptious veggie. For this week’s lunches, I heated some clarified butter in a wok at medium-high heat, added the broccoli pieces with salt and pepper, tossed it for a few minutes, then set it aside. Just a few of the pieces had seared edges and crispy ends, and that’s exactly what I like–broccoli with texture and crunch that I have to cut with a knife and fork, not a watery mushy mess.

Olive tapenade is one of my favorites, and it reminds me of Christmas time. My mom prepares it with beef tenderloin once per holiday season, and it’s a family favorite. It’s a great spread on crackers or with veggies, and it also pairs well with meat that is simply prepared. I like to pick out the olives, roasted garlic, and roasted peppers from the olive bar at the grocery store, placing them all in the same container, then get them home and zip them together in the food processor.

Pan-Roasted Chicken and Olive Tapenade

5 chicken breasts

3 broccoli crowns, cut into segments (about 2 inches is length, plus the smaller pieces that fall along)

1 cup pitted olives (I used a medley of nicoise and kalamata)

1/2 cup roasted garlic cloves

1/2 cup roasted red peppers or peppadew peppers

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 Tbsp. butter

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Dry the chicken breasts with paper towels, then liberally salt and pepper each side. In a large, oven-safe pan, Melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat, then place two of the chicken breasts in the hot pan, cooking for about 4 minutes on each side. After you’ve cooked them on both sides, remove them from the pan and place them on a plate. Cook two more on each side, then the last one on each side, adding another Tbsp. of butter if you need to. When all five breasts are cooked on each side, add them all back to the pan and place them in the oven to finish cooking for 10 more minutes.

Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a wok or large, deep pan over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli pieces and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, tossing frequently. Cook for about 3 minutes, then turn off the heat and set aside.

Combine the olives, garlic, peppers, and parsley in a food processor. Pulse to combine. You want the pieces to be about the size of rice.

To plate, evenly distribute the broccoli on one side of each container, then place one chicken breast on the other side, then spoon your desired amount of tapenade in a line down the middle.