Monday, November 4, 2013

Mexican "Lunch" Cooking - Part 1

Since Little Boy started going to preschool, we have had to send in his "lunch". This is more like a large snack since breakfast (desayuno) is eaten before school and comida, the main meal of the day is eaten at around 3 p.m. Dinner (cena) is something light like tacos, and that's eaten at about 8 p.m. Ok, back to lunch. Little Boy's school sends us a monthly menu of suggested meals so that the children are all eating the same thing more or less*. To put it mildly, I shudder at the thought that many parents send some of these highly-processed suggested foods, and for my own son I have taken it as a challenge to try and stick with the menu while making the dishes from scratch. Here are some of the most successful snack food recipes I have made based on the first month's menu:

Taquitos:
I took a shortcut buying homemade corn tortillas and refried beans from our mini-market (but with time these are easy enough to make from scratch). Heat the tortillas so that they are super soft- on the griddle or just in the microwave. Fill with beans and cheese and roll tightly. It is easiest to keep them together if you fill your baking pan. Brush a tiny bit of oil on top in the crevices between the taquitos. Bake at 350 until they are golden.
*I also made variations with leftover fish, chicken and salsa. Pretty much anything goes.

Jello:
1 envelope gelatin (7 grams)
1 1/4 cup juice
1/4 cup boiling water
Put 1/4 cup juice in bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Leave it for a few minutes to inflate and mix it up. Add boiling water and stir, stir, stir, until all of the gelatin is dissolved. Add in remaining 1 cup of juice. Pour into containers and let set in fridge over several hours.
*I used 100% grape juice and it came out perfectly.

Chicken nuggets:
Cut chicken breast into small "nugget size" pieces. Bread in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Pan fry in a little oil.
*For Little Boy I just used the yolks and it came out just fine.

Lara bars/ Granola bars:
The base of the bars is equal amounts (by volume) of cashews and pitted dates. I generally use 1 cup of each.In food processor, blend nuts until the largest pieces are no more than a quarter inch. Take them out, and spread dates on bottom, pour cashews on top, and anything else you want to add. Process until it all turns into a giant ball. Then roll out. I prefer to put it in wax paper folded in half and roll the paper to avoid a sticky mess. Cut into bars after chilling. (We love them with dried cherries or blueberries and sometimes a little bit of lemon rind and I generally keep them in the fridge for minimal stickiness).
If you want to make into granola bars, take out the "giant ball" and fold in by hand toasted oats, raisins and anything else you want.


*This was actually a huge plus for us compared to the schools where the parents bring in lunch for everyone on a rotating schedule.