Healthy lunchboxes, a surprise gift and a giveaway

As many of you know, I am a mother of 5 children; two of whom have special diet requirements and are following a gluten-free, casein-free and shellfish-free lifestyle.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you have heard me mention that in addition to being a mother, I am also an educator.

Couple these facts with a quickly approaching school year, is it any wonder why healthy school lunchboxes are heavy on my mind?

Reality is, what we feed our children affects them.

Allergies and auto-immune syndromes aside, what we feed our children has an impact on their ability to focus, it has an impact on their ability to succeed.  What we feed our children affects not only their physical growth; it also affects their cognitive ability and thereby is a determining factor in the level of success a child is able to achieve throughout their educational career.

It is painful to watch the number of children who come to school with little more than a pop-tart in their stomach, followed by nothing more than cheese, processed meat and crackers for lunch.  If they are ‘lucky’ they might have some highly processed, sugar laden dessert to go with that packet of highly processed junk.

Yes, I said it…junk.

We are what we eat.

Take what you know about the Standard American Diet and throw in a couple of sugar coated pieces of saturated fat. There you have the standard American student’s packed lunch.

Do you think I am exaggerating?  Volunteer at your child’s school for a week or two and tell me what you see.

Is it any wonder why we, as a nation, are slipping into oblivion?

A few weeks ago I had a fleeting thought, “what if I were to gather tips, ideas and recipes from some of my favorite bloggers, friends and moms?”

Who couldn’t use some great tips and ideas for their children’s lunchbox?  Heck. Who couldn’t use some great tips and ideas for their own lunchbox?

Given that this is the first time I have reached out and asked for guest-bloggers, I am elated at the number of individuals who have jumped on board my humble little project.

I am accepting guest-posts through this Saturday, August 20; so if you are interested in joining us, please send me a message at: andloveittoo [at] gmail [dot] com.


That being said, I am honored to open this healthy lunchbox series with tip #1:

Use Planned-Over’s

We are all familiar with left-over’s.  Very few people enjoy eating them.

Seriously, why would you? Left-over sounds like something no one wanted to eat in the first place.

Planned-over’s, on the other hand, are something you knew would be so fantastic, you made enough for two meals and planned on serving it again.

Planned-over’s are an ideal way to trim the amount of time it takes to pack your healthy lunchbox.  Planned-over’s are a great way to add variety to your day, to break away from the cold sandwich and juice box routine…moreover, planned-over’s are a fantastic guard against the junk.

What kind of meals make for worthwhile planned-over’s?

There are many.

Less than a week after I made the announcement that I was seeking guest-bloggers for this series, I received a special surprise in the mail.  My friends over at Ten Speed Press honored me with a pre-release copy of an amazing new cookbook: The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen.

If you are seeking whole-food, positively gourmet yet perfectly simple recipes to fill your day with…this is your book.

As I worked through The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen, I was pleased to find recipes that reflected special meals from all over Asia.

Unlike the gluten riddled, lard fried, soy sauce drenched and barely recognizable dishes we have grown accustomed to in our Chinese take-out obsession; Laura Russell brings to life the true flavors of Asia.

By using whole foods, fresh, crisp vegetables and vibrant herbs, even the most basic cooks will find pleasure in creating these very simple yet highly gourmet dishes.

Bringing diversity to the gluten-free lifestyle, Laura Russell’s The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen is a must have for us all.

I am honored to present two recipes which have brought new levels of flavor and excitement to my kitchen.

Far from your typical lunchbox solution, both of these have been recently used as ‘planned-over’s’ for my own lunch, and I look forward to sharing these dishes with my children in their lunches throughout the year.

Reprinted with permission from The Gluten-Free Asian
Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More
. Copyright © 2011 by Laura
B. Russell, Celestial Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and the Crown
Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Leo Gong.


Chicken  and Vegetable Yakitori

serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as an  appetizer


11/ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes

6 green  onions, white parts only, cut into 1/2-inch lengths

1 green bell  pepper, cut into 1-inch dice

1/ pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, halved or quartered if large

2  tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for oiling the grill

1/ teaspoon salt

1/ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/ cup store-bought GF or homemade  teriyaki sauce (page 26), divided

1 teaspoon  grated orange zest (from 1 orange)

12 small bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 15 minutes, or use metal skewers

Thread the chicken, green  onion, green pepper, and mushrooms onto the  prepared skewers, alternating the chicken and vegetables. Leave a bit of  space between each piece to encourage even cooking. Transfer the threaded  skewers to a plate. Brush the oil over the chicken and vegetables and then  sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Preheat the grill to medium. Put about 1/3 cup of the teriyaki sauce in a small bowl for basting. Mix the orange zest with the remaining teriyaki sauce to use as a dipping sauce. Oil the grill racks to keep the chicken from sticking. Grill the skewers, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved teriyaki sauce, until browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Serve with the teriyaki-orange dipping sauce.

variations Skewer 11/2 pounds large shrimp, cubes of steak, or chicken breast instead of the chicken thighs. And try zucchini, asparagus, or cherry tomatoes instead of the mushrooms, peppers, or onions. You can also choose just one of the vegetables for the skewers instead of all three.

heads up

If you choose to make your own teriyaki sauce (page 26) for this recipe, you can prepare it up to 2 weeks ahead.

Teriyaki Sauce

makes about 3/ cup


1/ cup mirin

1/ cup soy sauce or tamari GF

2  tablespoons honey

2 thin slices unpeeled fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, smashed

Pinch of red pepper flakes


In a small saucepan, combine the mirin, soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove the
ginger and garlic. The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.


Roasted Pork Meatballs

serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as an appetizer


11/ pounds ground pork

8  green onions, white and green parts, minced

7  cloves garlic, minced

2  stalks lemongrass, bottom 4 inches only, peeled and minced, or substitute the grated zest of 2 lemons

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

11/tablespoons sugar

11/tablespoons Asian fish sauce

3/teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Nuoc cham (page 27) or Spicy Mango Sauce (page 32), for serving

Lettuce leaves, hoisin sauce GF, Carrot and Daikon Pickle (page 114), and fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)


In a large bowl, combine the pork, green onions, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce, and salt. Stir to combine the ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, so the flavors have a chance to marry, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. More time equals more flavor.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Oil a baking sheet. Stir the cornstarch into the meat mixture. Form the meat into twenty-four 11/2-inch meatballs. (You can form the meatballs several hours  ahead of time. Keep them refrigerated until ready to cook.) Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet. Cook the meatballs until browned and cooked through, turning once with a spatula, 12 to 15 minutes.

For serving, skewer the meatballs with toothpicks and arrange them on a serving platter with the nuoc cham or mango sauce for dipping. Alternatively, using lettuce leaves as wrappers, spread a bit of hoisin sauce on each lettuce leaf and add a meatball, some of the pickle, and a few cilantro leaves.

variation For a juicy, coarse-textured meatball, substitute pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes, for the ground pork. Toss the cubes with the ingredients in the first step and then freeze the mixture for 20 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until the pork is coarsely chopped, about twenty (1-second) pulses. Proceed with the recipe, including the marinating time.


heads up

You’ll need to marinate the pork for at least 3 hours  and up to 24 hours. The dish calls for nuoc cham (page 27) or Spicy Mango Sauce (page 32).

You can prepare the nuoc cham up to 2 weeks ahead, or the mango sauce up to 3 days ahead.

Spicy Mango Sauce

makes about 1 1/2 cups


1 1/4 cups diced fresh or frozen mango (thawed if frozen)

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 jalapeño chile, seeds and ribs removed

3/4 teaspoon salt


Combine the mango, cilantro, vinegar, ginger, oil, jalapeño, and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth. The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about 3 days.



Is your mouth watering yet?
If you are tantalized by these beautiful recipes like I was, no doubt you would love to see more.

How would you like to win a copy of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen?? 😉  Well, here is your chance!

There are five ways to enter:

1) “Like” And Love it, Too! On Facebook, leave a comment below

2) Follow @andloveittoo on Twitter, leave a comment below

3) Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook. Tag And Love it, Too!, and leave a comment below telling me that you did

4) Share this a link to this giveaway on Twitter, mention @andloveittoo, and leave a comment below telling me that you did

5) Tell me your secret for a healthy lunchbox; or tell me some of the changes you would like to make in your child’s lunchbox or your own lunchbox this year in a comment below.

Entries will be taken through September 12, 2011 at 11:59pm.

Keep your eyes posted for healthy lunchbox tips, tools and recipes all month long.

I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you.





  1. love this post! I do volunteer at my kids’ school and it horrifies me both what students bring from home and also what they eat in the cafeteria. I’ve been following you on FB and added you to the blogroll on my site… thanks for the great posts! This recipe is perfect to suit both my Paleo lifestyle and my kids’ tastes.

    My secret for healthy children’s lunches is to make them as “interactive” as possible… my daughter in particular loves a cup of homemade hummus with various things to dip in: baby carrots, celery, edamame etc. They both also love pasta salad with lots of veggies. I always try to let them pick one healthy treat to include so they are involved in the packing process. It’s usually an applesauce or yogurt, or maybe a homemade cookie or mini muffin.

    • Susan,

      Thank you! So much great advice in one response. I have no doubt you will love the guest posts I have lined up.

      On a side note…as mentioned in this post, I am still accepting guest posts until this Saturday. Your style, mom wisdom and awareness would be a perfect fit. 😉

      Thanks again.

  2. I liked you on FB 🙂 This book sounds amazing – and I bet most of the recipes are dairy free, too???

  3. LOVE the Plan-overs! What a great idea. My picky daughter would typically just want a PB&J, but I have started packing small servings of the things she likes that are healthy. I have a “lunchbox” that actually has two small individual containers, room in the bottom and a flat freezer pak to keep things cool. I send hummus, pita wedges, grapes, cheese cubes, yogurt, crackers, peanut butter, etc. She thinks she’s getting all her faves and I know she isn’t eating a sandwich and chips everyday.

    • 🙂 I have the same container! I love this setup for meals like these where there are warm meats and crisp vegetables. I’m looking forward to your post, Shea. Thanks for the sweet comment.


  4. I’m ready to have my own lunch packed with these great goodies! Great ideas too, thanks!

  5. I liked your page on fb!

  6. Great pointers. I am now following your twitter feed. 🙂

  7. Great lunch ideas. Following you on Facebook !

  8. For myself, I really want to try more of the bento style like you have here. Then I can cram more whole foods in there without getting sick of them. I tend to do one large dish, but am not getting enough (only some) veggies.

  9. And I followed you on Twitter (can’t believe I wasn’t already)!

  10. And I tweeted about the contest!

  11. I MUST have this book!!! Thanks for introducing it to me. I’ll save my best lunch box tips for kids for my guest post. But for ME, the biggest tip is plan. If you wait until you’re running out the door, you’ll make poor choices. Plan lunches like you plan your family dinners.

  12. I shared your giveaway on Facebook!

  13. I like to focus on lean protein and lots of veggies and fruit for my lunches. My husband is veggie, but I am not, so I eat my meat for the day at lunch. Usually a bit of chicken or fish.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. I am already a fan on FB!

  15. I liked And Love it Too on Facebook!

  16. My son has many food some new fresh ideas for our lunch box is more than welcome…the recipes sound delicious ..can’t wait to try them

  17. I “like” And Love It, Too! on Facebook!

  18. Following on Twitter!

  19. I don’t have to do lunchboxes just yet, but I know it will be interesting. Right now, I’m just trying to keep the creative and easy snacks flowing to preschool with my 3YO. I feel bad that he’s left out of all the other cool snacks that everyone else will bring, but you can guarantee that I will be rocking the snack basket with some gluten, peanut, tree nut, egg and corn free snacks when it’s our turn!!

  20. liked on facebook – excited to see more!

  21. my favorite lunch idea this year is spring rolls – super easy to do assembly line style and can put all kinds of good for you things in them!

  22. My healthy lunchbox tip… pack it with color, natural color that is! A variety of fresh organic fruits and veggies 🙂

  23. Love your re-framing “left overs” into “planned overs”!
    Liked you on Facebook and would love to win the new Asian cookbook.

  24. I like you on FB! I’d love to win the recipe book. Thanks!

  25. I focus on veggies with some type of dairy-free dip, I have just started experimenting with nut cheeses. Then slipping in some other alternatives around the sunflower seed and jelly sandwiches (on gluten-free bread).

  26. Corn tortillas with peanut butter is a good quick snack or something that can be packed in a lunch box! Add honey, jam, bananas or many other things for a twist.

  27. Kristin W. says:

    I liked you on FB. Oh I want to win this so bad!!!

  28. Kristin W. says:

    For a healthy kids lunch I always ask my daughter what she wants first, then go off of her suggestions. If it is something I don’t approve of we reach a compromise. This way I know she will eat her lunch. I really want to reduce the amount of white sugar we consume in our house so I am trying to work on that for this year.

  29. Starting out on the GF lunches for my daughter who’s been labeled ADHD. I’m also leaning our meals towards Paleo and have been amazed at the results in her communication in just 2 weeks.

    Even hubby who was reluctant to cut out “a whole food group” is liking the results.

    Given hubby is Chinese, it would be great to win the book to win him over even more with tasty wonderful GF Asian cooking.

    Thanks for the great tips and for the give away.

    • Lisa,

      I am so excited to hear about your daughter’s progress! My ADD son has seen incredible improvement since removing gluten and casein from his diet. He is completely off his medication and fully capable as a student and has become the wonderful, mostly well behaved child I always knew he could be (nobody is perfect ;)). It is amazing what eating the right foods can do.


  30. Heather Brandt says:

    I like your page on fb 🙂

  31. I ‘like’ you on fb and love your blog. Glad to have found your gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. Yum!

  32. So excited to have found your blog! Following you on twitter now 🙂 I’m nursing a 7month old who doesn’t tolerate dairy or gluten so I need all the help & ideas I can get!

  33. My secret to a healthy lunchbox was leftovers. I’ve got a lot to learn it seems 🙂

  34. I liked “And Love it To” on Facebook. Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas. No longer have kids to pack lunch for, but a husband who works many long days.

  35. I LOVE you on Facebook!

  36. I’m following you on Twitter

  37. I shared on Facebook

  38. I shared on Twitter

  39. For a healthy Allergy Free lunchbox, I put in some grapes, few carrots, Tuna Fish with Vegenaise on my Allergy friendly bread recipe. Throw in a banana for her morning snack and then a fruit roll up for a “fun” snack for her. Without the fun snack, she is less likely to eat the rest.

    I would love to have this book as we all love Asian food and I would love to have a cookbook to use!

  40. I shared on Facebook! I already liked/love ya! LOL we have been GFCF for over a yr now my son was diagnosed with ASD a yr ago. Which was why we changed our diets. He just started PreKD so I have been getting creative with his breakfast/lunches/snacks, and educating his teachers as been interesting! 🙂 really hope to win this book! 🙂

  41. I love it! This looks and sounds like an amazing book! I have to read it!!

  42. Viki Brookover says:

    Love the face book everything is so good would love to win. Thank you

  43. I liked “And Love it Too” on FB. Can’t wait to try some new things!!!

  44. I love Asian food, lots of good ideas. I follow And Love it too on Facebook


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