What’s for Lunch??

In a lunch rut? We were too, until I discovered Yumboxes.  These multi-compartment bento-inspired boxes are leakproof, so you can even pack ranch dip, salsa or yogurt without a big mess come lunchtime. Added bonus: these aren’t just for kids! I plan on using Yumboxes for our next plane trip, since the hard case will protect food from getting squished in my carry-on bag. The portion control is nice too.

YumBox with Cheez-Its

Cheez-Its, peanut butter, celery and honeycrisp apple slices. Pack a plastic knife for spreading peanut butter.

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No Yolk: Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta “Eggs”

April Fool's Panna Cotta Egg

Old-world panna cotta is experiencing a renaissance these days, and for good reason. This no-bake, gluten-free dessert is a giggly blank canvas for seasonal flavors and embellishments, from rhubarb compote to gingerbread crumbles. Sounds fancy, but panna cotta is really just barely-sweetened Jell-O made with cream (or milk or Greek yogurt) instead of water. Since it must be made ahead (in order to set up in the fridge), panna cotta perfect for entertaining. Busy restaurants love it for this reason as well.

Back in 1999, when I was voted one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs, I began experimenting with all kinds of different flavorings, shapes and toppings for panna cotta.

That's me - front row, second from the right.

That’s me – front row, second from the right.

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Crafty Cracker Baskets

Cracker basket salad

While many of our friends are lounging around in sunny locales this week for spring break, sipping Piña Coladas (or Shirley Temples) and worrying about nothing but SPF coverage, we are hunkering down at home – gearing up for another snowstorm (?!) and making To Do lists for our New Jersey “staycation”.

cat watching snow

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Zero-Calorie* Creamy Vegetable Soup

OK – technically speaking, this soup has 96.5 calories per serving (still a bargain), but since you can burn 100 calories by cooking for 34 minutes, this soup nets you zero calories. That’s my kind of math! (Similar to “subscribe and save 80% off the newsstand price” or “buy 2 pairs of shoes, get the 3rd pair free”; how can you go wrong?)

(Calorie information is from sparkpeople.com. I was excited to learn that you can also burn 100 calories by rearranging furniture for 14 minutes – finally justification for one of my favorite pastimes!)

Besides having “zero” calories, this soup 1) tastes rich and complex, 2) is gluten and dairy-free, and 3) contains four types of vegetables but no one will ever know. (We have some vegetable-phobes in our house.) And – like any pureed soup, it can also be dressed up for Halloween with a sour cream spider web.  This will up the calorie count a little, but will keep the attention away from the exact contents of the soup. (I called it Mystery Soup.)

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