As a working parent of a 4-year-old, some of the things I Google most are: “meal planning strategies,” “sandwich ideas” and “how to make overnight oats taste good.”
During my work hours as a food editor I may produce stories about pairing wines with homemade paella or smoking a brisket for an entire day, but that is generally not what’s happening in my house. Efficiency is key. I want my small family of three to eat whole foods that are healthfully prepared, but I also want to sit down and relax every now and then, or maybe just sleep.
“The School Year Survival Cookbook” by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh (Random House, $29.95) recently landed on my desk, and it spoke to my tired, hungry and aspirationally healthy heart.
The cookbook is very organized (of course), and it details pantry and gear must-haves, then goes into plans for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks and treats, all focused on nutrition, few ingredients and quick techniques.
Simple but interesting
The recipes are simple and use lots of fruits and veggies, but that doesn’t mean they are boring: Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies (these were a hit at my house), Beet Hummus, Curried Chicken and Grape Pockets, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup, Fruit Sticks with Cardamom Sauce.
The recipes also embrace parental trickery, packing nutrition and green things into whatever we can, with Protein Pancakes with Cottage Cheese, Chocolate Avocado Chia Pudding, Banana Chocolate Quinoa Bars, and Broccoli and Cheese Patties.
There’s even an entire chapter on how to do magic with leftovers. You can pretty much turn anything into a grain bowl, quesadilla, taco or bread pudding.
There are also make-ahead mixes, batch cooking tips, and a lot of lunch ideas. I liked these two fritter recipes as replacements for run-of-the-mill sandwiches.
Broccoli and Cheese Patties
Yields 6 patties
They’re easy to whip up on the weekend and stand up to the lunchbox bounce-around. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C — important for immunity during flu season — so we’re always happy to find a new way to tuck it into recipes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Add the broccoli and give everything a stir. Cook until the broccoli just begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the panko, cheddar and Parmesan. Add the broccoli mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.
Use your hands to form 6 patties. Don’t worry about making them perfectly round, but do try to make them even in thickness. Arrange the patties on the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the patties, then bake for another 10 minutes. Allow the patties to cool on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container. They’ll keep for 3 or 4 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
Sweet Corn and Zucchini Fritters
Yields about 14 patties
These pretty little guys are a great main event for a lunch box but can also be a dinner side or be tucked between a roll as sliders.
2 cups frozen corn
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup all-purpose or spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
In a medium bowl, whisk together the corn and eggs. Stir in the carrot, zucchini and green onions. Add the flour and salt and mix well.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the skillet. Press down on the batter to form a pancake. Cook until the bottom is golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side.
Drain the fritters on paper towels. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of green onions. Fritters will keep for 3 or 4 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.