Last week I attended the pottery barn kids back-to-school gear event in NYC at Haven’s Kitchen. A group of moms were able to preview the new gear and were treated to a healthy lunch demonstration by Chef Sam Talbot (you may remember him from Top Chef) for some creative lunch box inspiration.
My sons already have their pottery barn kids (PBK) back-to-school gear (ranging from backpacks to lunch bags and beyond) which I bought for them because, well – they are the best. However, the lunch boxes are looking a little worse for wear after this past school year. Luckily, PBK has added a slew of new styles and designs to help make all of our lives a little easier.
What isn’t always easy is coming up with inventive, yet healthy lunches our children actually want to eat. I feel like I give my sons a very limited range of lunches because they are so picky. Therefore I was more than eager to get some new ideas and learn a few healthy tricks. I did not know that Sam Talbot was diabetic, so his lunches aim to keep the sugar low so the kids aren’t bouncing off the walls by 1pm (teachers will thank you).
On the menu was a natural fruit seltzer (which I kinda make already, but never thought to pack for lunch. Guess I need to get my sons some PBK Mackenzie water bottles this year) to replace juice boxes loaded with sugar. I make a version of this at home for my one son, but this I actually want to drink myself…with some vodka! There was also a Banana Jam Sandwich (which he showed us how to make), carrot chips, popcorn balls and a super fruit granola.
The sandwich (recipe below) was so tasty I made it for my kids over the weekend! I burned a few batches of the carrot chips before I got them right (make them like you would kale chips), but they loved them. I tried to make the popcorn balls, but I couldn’t get the balls formed. It was a mess, but the kids ate the gooey popcorn anyway. If your kids can’t have nuts at their school like mine, then Chef Talbot suggested replacing the almonds in his recipe with pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds. I’ve tried soy nut butter and my kids won’t touch it (can’t blame them). I’m ready with these new ideas and now I can’t wait for school to start!
Banana Jam Sandwich
Almond Butter and Banana Preserve Sandwich with Carrot Chips and Dark Cocoa.
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 1/2 cups bananas, ripe, mashed
2 cups coconut sugar sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 cup Apple Cider
Combine all of the ingredients, except the mashed bananas and cook until the sugar and honey dissolves about 2 minutes. Add the bananas and cook for about 45 mins on medium heat, stirring constantly. Once warm place the contents into a blender quickly, until smooth.
2 cups unsalted roasted almonds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup dark chocolate shavings, at least 70percent
2 teaspoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon himalayan sea salt
Add almonds to food processor and process for 6-8 minutes. Continue to process until you reach the desired consistency. Melt chocolate shavings and coconut oil in small saucepan over low heat. Stir consistently until completely melted and smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients to almond butter and process again until smooth. Store at room temp, always stir before applying.
1 large carrot, peeled
2 tsp. olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the entire carrot with a peeler. Place carrot strips in large bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer strips to baking sheet in a single layer – don’t overlap. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until chips are just starting to brown. Cool on a rack about 5 minutes. Carefully remove chips from baking sheet. Eat right away or store in airtight container.
Lastly, enjoy on your favorite bread toasted!
Spread the preserve on one side the almond butter on the other. Sprinkle with himalayan sea salt and place a few carrot chips on one side to toast before making a sandwich, cut off crust if you desire, slice in half and enjoy!
Cocoa Nib and Black Sesame Popcorn Balls
1 1/2 Tbs. Safflower Oil
½ tsp. Himaylan Sea Salt
1 tbsp Cocoa Nibs chopped
⅓ cup Popping Corn
1¼ cup Grade A Maple Syrup, divided
1 tsp. Butter
2 tbsp of black sesame seeds
Place the oil in a large pot. Place three or four popcorn kernels in the pot and turn the heat to high. Cover the pot with a splatter guard screen or a lid, just open enough to keep the kernels from popping out, but allowing for the steam to leave.
Once the popcorn kernels have popped, turn off the heat and add the remaining ⅓ cup of popcorn. Shake the pan to coat with the oil. Discard the kernels and add the popcorn to the pan.
Wait until the popcorn starts to pop, shaking the pot occasionally to make sure the popcorn doesn’t burn as you make it. Once the popcorn has slowed to popping every 2 seconds or so, turn off the heat. Shake it one or two more times to make sure no more popcorn is going to pop, and then empty it into a large heatproof bowl, placed on a trivet or oven pad.
Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with a silpat. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour ¾ cup of the maple syrup and butter into a small saucepan. Cook the syrup on medium high, stirring frequently, until it reaches 240 to 250 degrees, about 8-10 minutes. Drizzle the syrup over the popcorn and toss with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon.
Keep tossing the popcorn with the maple syrup until the popcorn is evenly coated. Spread the popcorn on the prepared baking sheet, and pick out any uncooked kernels. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
About 10 minutes after you put the popcorn in the oven, pour the reserve ½ cup of maple syrup in the same saucepan and heat until it reaches above 240 degrees. Since there is less maple syrup it should reach the firm ball stage about the same time you take the popcorn out of the oven. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, you can leave the popcorn in the oven for a few more minutes.
Once the popcorn has baked and the maple syrup has reached 250 degrees, take the popcorn out of the oven. It should be golden brown. Pour it back in the same large heatproof bowl and drizzle the maple syrup over the popcorn. toss the popcorn with the maple syrup, coca nibs and black sesame and form the popcorn into balls. Working fast as possible to shape and roll them Let cool and store in an airtight container.
Shop Pottery Barn Kids Back-to-School here!
– Lauren Dimet Waters
Photos: Second City Style