What to make for our kids lunch, when we’re afraid of them eating at school!

It’s no secret at this point that here in the Charleston WV area that our water isn’t usable. With this post I’m not going to get in to what is safe, appropriate, or usable. I’m just going to state that my wife and myself are not using the water that is available from West Virginia American Water. We don’t feel that it is safe for our family to use, so we have chosen not to use it. All of my feelings on this matter would be best covered in a separate post.
This post will cover what we’re doing in order to make sure our twelve year old has something to eat each day when he goes to school. There are a few hurdles to cover with this, as we do not want him eating food that has been prepared by the local water, or eating off of the dishes that are being washed in the local water. He doesn’t have access to a microwave so warm food is out. And we want him to have something of substance so he isn’t setting in class hungry. These are a few of the items we have been preparing for him at home, and he seems to enjoy. There isn’t anything earth shattering, or on the cutting edge of the culinary world. However, if you would like to send food to school with your child, this is a great place to start.

Chicken Salad-
This is one of the recipes that I have used for years in several different restaurants, and it has always been received well. I believe that Chicken Salad gets a bad wrap because of the way it is prepared, so I made some adjustments to the texture of it during the preparation stages and I think it makes all the difference in the world.

Needed:
5lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1/2 Red Onion, diced
3 Ribs Celery, split and diced
Herbs de Provence
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mayonnaise
Dijon Mustard
Canola Oil

Notice that on some of the ingredients I do not list amounts. This varies each time I make the recipe and there are a lot of factors as to how much you should use. Going through the explanation process I will explain this in detail so that you won’t run in to issues.

To begin with preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the Chicken Breast on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with a little non stick spray. It’s ok if the chicken breast are touching each other, but try to avoid any overlapping so that everything will cook evenly.
Season the chicken with Kosher Salt, and Black Pepper and then with the Herbs de Provence. This is a mixture of seasonings and it contains Lavender. Lavender can become very over powering if you use too much, so just sprinkle a small amount (Approximately 1/2 teaspoon) on each breast. Then drizzle some Canola (you can also use Extra Virgin Olive Oil) oil on to the breast and place them in the oven for about 28 minutes. The cook time will vary if the breast are really thick.

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While the chicken is cooking is a great time to cut the onions and celery. Once the chicken has cooked remove it from the oven and set it somewhere in the kitchen so that it can rest. There will be a lot of liquid in the baking pan so be careful while you’re moving it. Let the chicken rest for at least twenty minutes, however I recommend thirty five to forty minutes.
Once the chicken has rested you need to cut it up so that it will be the consistency that we want. I normally cut half of the chicken in to small square pieces, and the other half I cut very small to where it is basically minced. This gives the finished product some texture because there are actual pieces of meat to bite in to. Too many times I have had chicken salad that is pureed to the point that there is no texture to it at all, or the pieces are cut so large you would be better off placing them on a skewer and serving them that way. By cutting the chicken to two different textures you’re getting the best of both worlds!

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After cutting the chicken I place it in a large bowl and I add the celery and red onion. I normally do not use all that I have cut. To be honest I just add it until I feel that it is the right amount. This comes down to a personal preference, if you really like onions, add more. If you don’t care for celery, add less. There is no right or wrong.

Now it is time to add the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. And in my opinion this is the most important step in making chicken salad. Chicken Salad is a mayonnaise based salad. However if you only use enough mayonnaise to hold the salad together you essentially can have a chicken based, chicken salad. I start with about 2 teaspoons of Dijon, and about 3/4 cup of Mayonnaise and fold everything together. You just want a slight coating on the chicken, you may need to add more and don’t hesitate because as it sets the chicken will absorb some of the liquid. I just try to avoid it becoming a bowl of mayonnaise that happens to have some chicken in it. Taste it and see if the level of Herbs de Provence are where you want them. If not then add a little more, just be careful as this seasoning can take over rather quickly and become too strong.

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Place in a air tight container and refrigerate. It will be better after it sets over night.

We made wraps out of this for our son with some lettuce and tomato. Another obvious choice would be bread and to be honest this is really good on a nice thick piece of wheat bread. It’s a good lunch, it’s filling and it isn’t bad for you like processed meat products or toxic water.

Egg Salad-

Not everyone likes Egg Salad, but at our house if I make it, it is usually gone within three hours. This is how I make it, and I hope you give it a try.

What is needed:

30 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Yellow Mustard

Egg Salad is one of the easiest salads to make, and if you do it right, it can be down right delicious. I start by placing the eggs in to a large pot that will hold all of the eggs, as well as allow them to be covered by about an inch of cold water. Place this on the stove over high heat until the water comes to a boil. As soon as you have a full boil turn the heat off, and note the time. Let the pot set as is for 18 minutes. When the 18 minutes have elapsed pour the hot water from the pot, and put cold water on top of the eggs while shaking the pot. This will crack the eggs and allow some of the cold water to get between the hard cooked egg, and the shell. This will make peeling the eggs a lot easier.

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There are several different ways to peel a hard cooked egg, some people roll them on the counter, others use a spoon, and some just pick them up and start peeling them with their fingers. However it is that you chose to do it, peel all of the eggs and place them in a large bowl. After you have peeled them all, use a mash potato utensil to “mash” the eggs. This will allow larger pieces of egg to remain, but will mash the eggs so that it has the right consistency. If you happen to have a “pan rack” at home that is used for cooling foods on a baking sheet you can also just press the eggs through one of these racks for a quick and easy method of breaking them up for the salad.

Once you have mashed all of the eggs, season them with Kosher Salt, Pepper and the Herbs de Provence. Add the mustard and mayonnaise and mix together. If you don’t feel it is enough mayonnaise then add more. I try to do the same with this as I do the chicken salad. I just want there to be enough to coat the eggs and hold them together. Once you’re finished place in an air tight container and refrigerate. As with the Chicken Salad it will be better after it sets in the refrigerator overnight.

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We made Egg Salad sandwiches for our child on a hamburger bun. You could also use an English Muffin, a wrap, or just regular bread. Also some people like to add pickles, or pickle juice to their egg salad, if this is your preference you would do so at the same time you add the mustard and mayonnaise.

So there are two things that you can make sandwiches or wraps from, but what should you serve with it? What follows are two salads that I have made that pass the kids test over and over and are also very simple to make.

Pasta Salad-

What you need:

1 16oz box Tri Color Rotini
1 Cucumber, diced
1 Tomato, diced
1 Red Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Bottle Bacon Ranch Salad Dressing
Kosher Salt

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. As you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil you can cut the vegetables up to add to the salad. Once the water has came to a boil, add some Kosher Salt to the water to season the pasta as it cooks, then add the pasta to the pot. Stir the pasta occasionally so that it doesn’t stick together and cook for as long as it says to do so on the package. Drain the hot water from the pasta and place the pasta in a large bowl that will hold all of the ingredients, and allow room for mixing. You will want to allow the pasta to cool for a few minutes before you introduce the other ingredients.

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Once the pasta has cooled, add the diced vegetables, and the bacon ranch dressing, mix well and place in an air tight container and refrigerate. After the salad has set for about an hour I give it another stir just to make sure everything is coated well.

Other things that you can add to this depending on you and your child’s taste is olives, pickles, capers and even shredded cheese.

Broccoli Salad-

This is one of my favorites to eat without question.

What is needed:

2 Heads Fresh Broccoli
12 oz Bacon (Or bacon bits)
1/2 Red Onion, diced
8oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Cole Slaw Dressing

Before we talk about putting the salad together lets go over a couple of the ingredients. With the price of bacon as it is right now, it could be more cost effective to simply buy bacon bits, however if you can find bacon at a good price it is probably better to cook it yourself, then crumble it after it cools. Obviously if you’re using bacon bits you don’t want to use 12 ounces you would just want to sprinkle some in when it comes time to mix everything together.
As for the Cole Slaw Dressing, I prefer to make my own however there are some really good pre-made items available out there. If you chose to make your own and you’re not sure how to go about it, I keep mine very simple by just using Mayonnaise, White Balsamic Vinegar, Kosher Salt, Black Pepper, and Sugar. I do not follow a recipe, I simply just taste as I mix until it taste the way I like Cole Slaw to taste.

So to begin the recipe cut the broccoli down to bite size pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add the Red Onion, Bacon, Shredded Cheese to the bowl, top with the cole slaw dressing and mix together. Once again I just put enough dressing on this to coat the items in the bowl, so start with a small amount of dressing and then add more as needed. Season with Kosher Salt if you like, place in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator.

I realize that none of these recipes are going to win any awards, however as we found at our house you can only fix ham or bologna sandwiches for so long before your child becomes bored with lunch. And to keep a child from eating junk you can buy from a machine, this is what we have done the past couple of weeks. I will add to this as we do new things and share what we’re doing. I hope this helps someone out!

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