I’ve had a fun , adventurous and blessed childhood. I grew up in a small town. The kind where almost everyone knows each other, if not by name then at least by face. One of the most important part of my childhood memories is the time at school. I went to a Christian missionary school. It was a great school, some would say the best in town. Sisters were strict and made sure we paid attention to our academics. Sir Michael would drag us to the field for our PT exercises every afternoon, miss Rashmi would let our imagination go wild in the craft class and Father Joseph, our Principal would monitor everything from a distance. There were rules, a number of them and the students as well as the teachers knew they had to follow them.
I can say that those were good times and the best part was the time I had with my friends at school was over lunch. Though lunch time in our school was a little different. It might be a part of the “small town charm” but in our school the parents were allowed to bring or send in fresh food for their kids during lunchtime. So for several years mummy would cook, pack two lunch boxes, one for me and one for my brother and Ganga (our house help) would come riding his bicycle to our school everyday sharp at 12 pm. The lunchtime bell would ring and as we peek out the window, sure enough Ganga would be standing there with two stainless steel lunch boxes. And we would go sit under a huge shady Gulmohar tree with our friends, talk whatever the heck kids that age talk about and eat steaming hot rice with lentil soup one day or flaky parathas and stir fried vegetables with some tangy lemon pickles the other. Though I never realized this until today but it was such a blessing to have hot home cooked food everyday, AT school. I just loved my small town. There was no rush to get anywhere, no adulteration of any sorts and no deadlines to catch up on. Just pure, organic, closer to the roots joy!
Unfortunately I am not that lucky anymore. Now I need to be at several places at the same time and I just cannot meet the deadlines if I do not follow a schedule. Now I need to be up at 5 in the morning and pack lunch for my daughter just to make sure she doesn’t have to eat reheated frozen pizza at school. Doing that day after day, everyday takes a lot of planning and creativity in the kitchen. And still many times I run out of ideas on what to put in her lunch box and I am told by my friends that they too get clueless many times.
So after being pushed by them for almost an year I finally gave in and hence starting this new series on Indian Simmer. Nothing fancy, just an attempt at sharing what I send “In Her Lunchbox” every morning. I do not promise the food will be “traditional” or “Indian” all the time but I do promise it will be healthy and something that my kid loves and will be hoping that yours loves it too. I’ll try to share a few tricks here and there about how I work in advance so that I am not rushing in the morning to pack lunch. How sometimes I am amazed how the same food becomes “edible” by the kids just by adding some fun element and how healthy doesn’t always means packing a bowl of salad. But just for the record, I in no way am trying to say that I am an authority in kids nutrition. All I will try to do is tell you what I plan to pack “In Her Lunchbox”.
One of the things that always helps me in making sure I am able to survive through all the chaos in the morning and still get the lunch box ready and have them out of the house in time is some advance prep work. Do as much as you can in advance or a night before so that all you need to do in the morning is to put things together. Kids (at least the ones I know) love pasta so I always make several varieties of pesto whenever I have time in hand. Store it in the refrigerator and pull it out whenever you are in a hurry and can’t be very creative, mix it with pasta, spread it on bread or add as a dip for veggies. My daughter loves Fava beans and Fava Bean Pesto is always available in my kitchen. I added some pumpkin seeds in this recipe just in the spirit of fall and Halloween. Also if Fava is too bitter for your taste add extra lemon juice, that helps cut the bitterness and brings in a fun tang to the dish. Here’s the recipe.
1 cup fava beans (blanched and skinned)
1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
Put all the ingredients (except oil) in a blender or food processor and turn it on.
While the blade’s still moving slowly pour the oil into the food processor through the opening on the lid.
In the end you should get a smooth (or a little granular, depending on your taste) pesto. Spread it on the toast or mix it with pasta.
What I plan to send “In Her Lunchbox” this week:
Healthy Millet Patty by Spices And Aroma – Try using whole wheat or even whole gram flour for this recipe. Works well. I prepare the rolled dough a night before so that in the morning all I need to do is pan fry them.
Spicy Corn Fritters by Sunshine And Smile– Again I prep it a night in advance which saves me time in the morning. Omit strong spices if the kid can’t handle it. Sweet corn is always a selling point for my 3 year old.
Quick And Easy Bento by La Fujimama – I loved the idea of adding beans with rice. I also tried adding a zing of lemon juice in the mixture and it was a hit.
Vegetable Poha– This again is a very forgiving recipe. Use whatever vegetable you have in the refrigerator or you can even try adding grilled chicken or eggs.