31 January 2008

Lunch Time

Yes, I've very much alive. Its just that I've been on a very long vacation. Er.. I wasn't on vacation for 3 months (since my last blog post) nor have I totally stopped cooking. I just haven't made time to post some of the stuff I've cooked up in the last few months. I have this bad habit of taking pictures, uploading them on blogger, and then never getting around to doing a decent write up.

These days most of my culinary creativity is directed at lunch boxes. Packing lunch for a four-year old is quite taxing. I need to include the major food groups, modify and beautify stuff that is not likely to be eaten, and then pray for an empty box when she gets home.

Twice a week, I try to make a vegetarian version of the lunch that other kids get at school. That is quite a tall order. Sometimes a meatless substitute is easy. Like grilled paneer or tofu in place of grilled fish, vegetable patties or cutlets instead of steaks.

Some substitutions are quite challenging. What does one do for a vegetarian version of chicken drumsticks? Sometimes I can't figure out what on earth they are serving these kids. Some of these experiments in translation are unmitigated disasters. One menu said 'vegetables in almond sauce'. And it came back untouched.

Grilled paneer, steamed sweet potato, vegetables in almond sauce, banana slices and cheese

cheese omelette, lettuce salad, fruit and cheese

Pan-fried tofu, potato-pancakes, carrot sticks, spinach, fruit yogurt
Potato patties, rice and dal, steamed corn kernels, cinnamon flakes, fruit and cheese

Potato pancakes are what I call that substitute for hamburg steak. They're quite simple to make. Cinnamon flakes are a nice standby as a filler when I can't of think of a decent substitute for something. Potato patties/fingers are a good standby too.

Potato Pancakes
1 medium potato
oil to grease
salt to taste
Microwave potato on high for 5 minutes.
Peel and cut into 1/2 cm slices.
Roast slices over a hot, lightly greased, skillet till lightly browned on both sides (about 2 minutes a side).
Sprinkle with salt.

Pan Fried Tofu
2 slices of firm tofu
Marinade of choice
Marinate tofu slices for 5 minutes.
(I used a blend of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder and salt)
Shallow fry in very little oil over low heat, till lightly browned.
Remove from pan and drain excess oil.
Serve with little mayonnaise.

Steamed Sweet Potato
Peel and slice sweet potato.
Lightly steam for 5 minutes or so.
Toss with salt and lemon juice.

Cinnamon Flakes
Puff pastry scraps (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
Bake puff pastry scraps at 160C for 7 minutes (or till they start to brown)
Cool for 10 minutes and toss lightly with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cool completely and store in airtight container.

These days I've taken to filling her lunch box with at least one raw vegetable, some fruit and cheese. Most days the easiest raw vegetable is carrot sticks.

Quesadilla,phulkas, potato curry, tomato salad, fruit and cheese

Rice, dal and ghee, Carrot sticks, beans curry, coleslaw, fruit and cheese

A set of molds are always handy. They can be used to shape rice, patties, and even eggs. I'll be the first to admit that there has to be a knack to molding an egg. I've seen molded ones, and well, I guess I'm making a mess somewhere. Rice molded like a teddy bear is always welcome in the lunch box. It definitely qualifies as 'cute'. And 'cute' is what my daughter wants to eat.

Rice, potato patties, dal, fruit and cheese

Did I mention that she also wants foods she can eat with chopsticks?? That led to omelet rolls. Make a thin omelet, and instead of flipping it over, or folding in half, when it's almost cooked sprinkle some cheese on it, and then roll it up and cut into small pieces.

Carrot sticks, steamed broccoli, omelet-rolls, fruit and cheese

Like my friend Hemu said, I am never going to win a good looking Obento contest. But as long as my daughter thinks they're cute, and eats it up, I'm happy.


vimmi said...

Ur daughter is so lucky. The tiffins look so fancy.

Sia said...

they sure look very colourful and delicious and i bet ur daughter must be enjoying her lunch:) i didn't know so much of work goes into making kid's tiffin box;)

Anonymous said...

well am so glad my kid is on a peanut butter sandwich roll these days.. so easy peanut butter with honey and sliced fruit ( usually he prefers banana) and a cup of yougurt and a stick of cheese for snack and we are all done.I just hope he never gets over that stage !!!

Shella said...

Hats off to you for taking so much bother to fill you kids tiffin with such goodies n so much variety at that.....it is a difficult task. I am sure she brings home a empty tiffin. I know of so many mothers who dont bother as much as you do. She sure is a lucky girl.

Madhumita. said...

V - these are great. Coincidentally I've been obsessed with ther Bento concept recently. You've done a good job with making balanced and appetizing looking meals for kids. Especially smiley faced rice thingies :)

Vidya said...

@vimmi: thanks Vimmi.

@sia: out here, kids' lunchbox decorations are a serious business. I try my best to make her box as nice as possible.

@anonymous: lucky you! but the funny thing is, my l little girl eats any fruit or veggie that's in her lunch box. so that's one way to get different veggies in!

@shella: thanks, shella. initially it used to be a chore, but now it's become something fun.

@Madhumita: i have a feeling i'll make the lunch boxes a regular feature.