Back-to-School Lunch Box Ideas from Washington’s Top Chefs

It’s back to school, and Washington’s top chefs are pitching in. Ever since Michelle Obama started her “Let’s Move” campaign, chefs and dietitians everywhere have been encouraged to help get school children into shape by improving their diets, upgrading school offerings and developing wellness and physical activity programs.

In this spirit, last week 5,000 insulated school lunch boxes were given away at Woodrow Wilson Plaza’s Capital Harvest on the Plaza (C.H.O.P.) Farmer’s Market, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Each lunch box contained creative, yet simple and kid-friendly recipes from top chefs like Equinox’s Todd Gray, Restaurant Eve’s Cathal Armstrong, Marcel’s Robert Weidmaier and Citronelle’s Michel Richard. The Georgetowner is providing you those very special recipes! Each Friday, at Woodrow Wilson Plaza through the Fall, the C.H.O.P. Farmer’s Market will feature live music and a top chef, who will be demonstrating healthy cooking using ingredients fresh from the field that day.

One of the most active chefs improving D.C. children’s nutrition, our very own Todd Gray, appeared with Mrs. Obama at a White House gathering of 700 chefs nationwide. Gray’s Equinox Restaurant is a regular haunt of the Obama family. He and co-owner/wife, Ellen Gray, have helped organize other D.C. chefs to provide guidance to D.C. area schools for improving the freshness, flavor and acceptance of their offerings.

For example, Todd Gray adopted D.C.’s Murch Elementary School in 2009, helping them start a garden while teaching principles of growing and cooking food. When he first visited Murch, he noticed that while the children were offered fruits and vegetables they were mostly being thrown away. Over time, as he involved the children, teachers and parents in growing, harvesting and cooking fresh food, their natural curiosity and excitement about food took over. Their enjoyment of more healthy and nourishing food was a natural consequence.

“This project has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my 25-year career as a chef,” said Gray. “Make a commitment to the school and these kids – it will change your life professionally and personally. Our own son is so proud of what we are doing and asks us all the time, ‘When are you coming to my school?’.”

Art & Soul Restaurant Chef Art’s BBQ Meatloaf Burgers

As a parent, I am always challenged with getting kids to eat vegetables. I find one of the best ways to get kids to eat is used in this preparation. You can also make great meatballs too and serve with multigrain pasta.

1 1/2 pound lean ground beef, my favorite Allen Brothers
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup of bell peppers
1/2 cup of grated carrot
1/2 cup of broccoli flowerets, chopped
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1/2 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 cup of BBQ Sauce 1 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 large egg whites

In a pan add canola oil, and sauté onions, peppers, carrots, and broccoli till tender. Remove and allow to cool.

Combine ground beef, veggies, bread crumbs, 1/2 the BBQ sauce, spices and egg whites. Mix well and chill for 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and shape into 6-4 ounce burgers.

Chill slightly, heat skillet or grill to medium heat. Cook 8 minutes per side, till internal temp is 165 degree’s. Spoon additional BBQ over burgers and serve on Whole Grain Buns

Chef Cathal Armstrong
Restaurant Eve, Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper; PX, The Majestic

Eamonn’s R.L.T. (Rasher, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich)

Makes 1 sandwich
1½ back rashers (leaner than bacon)
2 slices wheat bread, toasted
½ tomato (or 1 small tomato), sliced
2 or 3 leaves romaine lettuce
One large spoonful homemade mayonnaise (see below for recipe)
Cheddar cheese, sliced, as needed (optional)

In a pan set over medium-low heat, sauté the back rashers, then pat them dry. Wrap the bread and a few rasher strips in tin foil. In a separate container, pack the sliced tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Put the mayonnaise in a small container and pack a blunt-edged spreading knife.

Armstrong’s tip: Separating everything in individual containers stops the bread from getting soggy. Eamonn puts the R.L.T. sandwich together at school, and he likes it because he can show his pals that he can “cook.”
Rashers is a slang term for Irish Bacon. It is similar to Canadian bacon and leaner than regular bacon. Rashers can be found at Whole Foods. Cooks in seconds!

Homemade Mayonnaise
Makes about 1 cup, enough for five sandwiches

1 large organic egg yolk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup canola oil

Combine the yolk, salt, water, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Fold a hand towel into a ring on the counter and set the bowl into it to hold it steady while you whisk the ingredients together. While whisking vigorously and constantly, slowly drip in the oil (it helps to measure out the oil into a cup that pours well in a thin stream, or you can start your emulsion by drizzling the oil off a spoon). After the emulsion turns creamy, add the oil more quickly than a thin stream. From the beginning, the mixture should look creamy and be thick enough to hold its shape. Store in the coldest part of the fridge.

Marcel’s Chef Robert Wiedmaier
Shredded Chicken, bacon and Avocado Whole Wheat Wrap

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap shredded chicken (from last night’s dinner)
Bacon strip (left over from breakfast)
Lettuce, shredded
Avocado slices
Cheese, pre-grated or fresh
Optional: lite ranch dressing (would not add if you’re making sandwiches the night before)

Roll the tortilla by folding in two sides, than roll away from you.

Wrap in foil or wax paper so it can easily be torn away to eat.

Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant
Yummy Stuffed Pita Pocket

2 Tbs cashew or almond butter
1Tbs low fat cream cheese
1 Tbs all natural jam or marmalade
2 Tbs low sugar granola
1 sliced banana

Half the pita so that the interior pocket is accessible

Spread pocket with cream cheese and jam

Sprinkle granola into pocket

Lay sliced banana into pita pocket

Cut into ¼’s and secure with bamboo picks

BTW… Toast if available for a real treat…

Tabouli with Chick Peas, Basil, Seasonal Vegetables and a Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
By Nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. Author, “Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations”

Makes about 6 – 300 calorie servings
Time: 20 – 30 minutes

1 Cup Bulgur (Cracked Wheat)
1 15-ounce Can Chick Peas, drained
1 Large cucumber, skinned and seeded, chopped
1 Large Yellow Pepper, seeded, chopped
1 Sweet Onion, finely chopped
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, sliced (omit if good cherry tomatoes are not available)
1 Large Handful Fresh Basil, chopped

¼ cup golden raisins ¼ cup roasted pine nuts

Juice of One Lemon (2 Tbsp) and its lemon zest
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 crushed Garlic Clove
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a large glass bowl, pour 3 cups boiling water over the bulgur and let sit for 15 minutes or longer.

While the bulgur is fluffing up, make the salad: In a large glass or plastic bowl, dump in the chick peas, the chopped cucumber, pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, basil, raisins and pine nuts.

Make the vinaigrette in a separate small bowl: roll the lemon on the counter and place in microwave for 30 seconds (this procedure extracts the maximum juice). Let cool.

With a microplane, zest the lemon, being careful not to use the bitter white pith.

Squeeze the lemon juice and place with zest in the small bowl.

Add the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk together.

Drain the bulgur and add to salad.

Toss in the vinaigrette.

RJ Cooper, III – Chef/Owner of Rogue 24
The Kid Can Cook Llc.
Sesame Chicken Wraps

2 cups rotisserie chicken, pulled
1 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbl mayonnaise
2 cups boston bibb lettuce, chiffinode
4 ea spinach tortillas

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, soy sauce, pineapple juice to make an emulsion. Add the cashews, sesame seeds, pineapple and chicken. Fold all together. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Lay out four tortillas, place a half a cup of lettuce on each tortilla, add the chicken mixture and roll the tortillas. Serves 4.

Michel Richard, Citronelle & Central
Pink, Yellow & Green Couscous (Don’t tell them it’s got vegetables)

2 cups V8 juice
1 cup couscous
¼ cups frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup frozen corn, thawed
½ cup milk
4 Laughing Cow segments
Salt & white pepper


Kids: Defrost the peas and corn an hour before you want to begin cooking.

Kids : Remove the aluminum foil from the Laughing Cow cheese

Parents: Bring the V8 to a boil in a small pot with a lid. Add a pinch of salt and the couscous, stir well, cover and remove from the heat. Wait 10 minutes.

Parents: In another pot, bring the milk to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Kids: Add the laughing cow to the milk, and mix with a small whisk to make a light cream sauce.

Kids: Add the peas and the corn.

Parents: Salt & pepper to taste.

Kids: Add the cream pea sauce to the couscous.

Kids: Mix with a wooden spoon.

Kids: Portion the couscous into 4 small bowls.

Kids & Parents: Enjoy! Serves Four

Chef Victor Albisu, BLT Steak
Banana, Strawberry & Nutella Sandwich on 7 Grain Bread

½ Banana, each
2 Strawberries, each
2 tbsp. Nutella
2 slices of 7 grain bread


Toast the seven grain bread and spread with Nutella hazelnut spread (for added texture and ?avor you can add chopped toasted hazelnuts to the spread).

Place sliced strawberries and sliced bananas on the spread and press the sandwich lightly on a table top griddle or a non stick pan. Serves One

Michelle Poteaux, Bastille
Sweet Griddled Corn Cake with Sautéed Peaches

Corn Griddle Cakes:

1½ c. All Purpose ?our
1½ c. corn ?our
5 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
¼ c. sugar
1½ c. water
2 cups milk
1 egg
2 tbsp. melted fat

Combine water, milk and eggs, then, separately combine all sifted dry ingredients.

Next add dry to wet ingredients and stir. Finally, stir in the melted fat. Bake on a hot griddle.

Sautéed Peaches:

5 Yellow, cling-free peaches, sliced in wedges
Granulated Sugar
Vanilla Bean, split and scraped
Tarragon, fresh and chopped last.

Lightly toss with cooked peaches

Serve with fresh whipped cream or Corn ice cream Serves Six

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A, R.D., columnist and author of “Diet Simple,” regularly appears in the national media, customizes nutrition programs for people and designs corporate wellness programs. (202) 833-0353

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