Monday, September 4, 2017

Back to School & Work Lunches

September is either a sad or happy time of year.  You are sad that summer is over but if you are going back to school you can be excited to see your friends and meet new ones.  September means back to a regular routine and schedule and getting organized with your lunches so that you can get through the school year.

September to me feels like the back to high school time when I volunteer for the Toronto International Film Festival it feels like going back to school after the summer.  We are all excited and we try to catch up on what everyone has been doing.  Some of my Tiff friends take time off work and spend their days watching movies and their nights volunteering. I don't have the energy or time for that these days but the one thing that most of them do is prepare their snacks and food to get them through their busy days.   This September my mission is to try and pack more lunches and snacks for work and for my Tiff shifts.  It takes a lot of organization and time to do it right but hopefully I can set aside more time to batch cook and prepare in advance for the week.  I am a go with the flow kind of person and don't like eating the same thing everyday so this is a challenge for me.

I'm starting my September off with my Sunday Batch cooking Pasta 2 ways.

I took a box of Penne pasta and since it's easy to cook the whole box once and portion it to make different things I decided to make half a cold pasta and the other half a hot pasta.

Sundays are a great day to get your Sunday Sauce as some Italians call it going on the stove.  I just make a simple tomato sauce with chopped onions, garlic, some spices and canned tomatoes and simmer away on the stove.  You can use your favourite jar sauce if you don't have the time but making your own sauce controls the amount of salt that goes in it which is important to me.
The other recipe I made was a simple cold Tuna pasta salad.


1/2 box of Penne pasta
1 stalk of celery
1/2 green pepper chopped
2 green onions chopped
1/4 red onion diced
chopped parsley *optional
1/2 cup of Vinaigrette of 1 part oil and 1 part Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 lemon zest and juice
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cans of Tuna
*mustard (optional)  you can add a teaspoon of mustard to the vinaigrette but I omitted it.

Cook the whole box of Penne Pasta according to the directions on the package and drain and divide into half the other half reserved for tomato sauce or your favourite pesto sauce.  Place the pasta in a large bowl and add the vinaigrette dressing.  I usually just add enough to coat the pasta and keep it moist so I don't always measure.  I like more acid than oil in my salads but classic vinaigrette is 1 part acid and 2 parts oil.

Add the canned tuna,  I usually drain and rinse slightly to get excess salt out.  I like to control the salt a bit more for the whole salad.

Add the chopped vegetables and fresh herbs like parsley or basil and toss the pasta.

You can add mayonnaise but I skip it because this salad will keep longer and less chance of getting sick if it sits at room temperature.

It's that easy.  Most of the hard work comes in the vegetable prep because the pasta is just boiling water and draining the pasta.

It's great to add the vinaigrette when the pasta is warm so that it absorbs the dressing better and I really like the pasta salad when it's still warm but it will intensify when it sits in the fridge for a while.

The containers you put your lunches in is equally important.  For the cold pasta salad it's ok to use a good plastic container without BPA because you won't be microwaving it and make sure it has a good seal to keep it fresh.
For the Hot meals I always use glass containers if I am going to be microwaving them.  When I am at work I see people microwaving their lunches in cheap plastic containers.  That's the worst thing you can do because it leaches the plastic into your food.  I am not a huge fan of microwaves and use very sparingly.  At my office I have a ceramic mug with a handle that I can microwave things like chili and soup so that it's easy to take out of the microwave and it has a plastic lid with a vent.  That might not be as practical for a school lunch but easy to keep in your desk at the office.

Sometimes the best way to have great lunches is to get great containers ready to pack your lunches and snacks.  From ziplock bags to small containers for dressings and hot or cold dishes and containers that have portion separators so that things don't get soggy.

My fellow Food Revolution Ambassadors are masters of school lunches as most of them have kids or work with kids everyday.  You can WIN a great lunch containers and a Jamie Oliver cookbook in our September Food Revolution Challenge to make great school lunches.

September means back to school and we want to help you get off to a great start with this month’s extra special contest! A healthy and delicious lunch sets your kids (or you!) up for a productive day of learning and fun.
Share a pic of your healthy lunch with our team on social media and you will be eligible to win not only a Jamie Oliver cookbook courtesy of HarperCollins Canada but also an OmieLife lunchbox!! This is no ordinary lunchbox – you can pack hot and cold foods all in one box and when you don’t want hot food, you can just remove the thermos! Think soup and a salad, pasta and some fruit, fried rice and a nice slaw – the options are endless! We will sharing all kinds of great ideas here and can’t wait to see your healthy school - or work - lunches!

How to enter:
Show us your healthy lunch! Snap a photo of your lunch and tell us a little bit about what you made and how.
You MUST use the hashtag #CookwithFoodRevTO AND tag us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. That's it! Then you'll be entered to win a lunchbox and a cookbook!
Eligibility and contest rules:
– Contest begins on September 1st 2017 at 6am EST on and closes September 30th 2017 at 6pm EST.
– Prize consists of one (1) Jamie Oliver cookbook and (1) OmieBox lunchbox
– Open to readers of the age of majority with a Canadian mailing address.
– No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
– Winner will be chosen randomly (using from all qualified entries on September 30th 2017 after 6pm EST.
– Winner will be notified via email October 1st 2017 and will have 48 hours to respond to the email.
– Winner will be required to answer a skill testing question.

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