The Art of Cheese – Castello Aged Havarti Lasagna and Broccoli Raab

This month’s Good Eats is all about Castello Aged Havarti cheese.  Part of Honest Cooking’s latest campaign, The Art of Cheese, you’ll learn about how to make a delicious dish with it.

HC Havarti Lasagna

This comfort food dish is perfectly sized for two hungry people. A “petite” arrabbiata lasagna, this recipe calls for a glass loaf pan and the ingredients that can be made ahead to help out busy schedules.

It starts with a simple tomato basil sauce, seasoned to taste with garlic, onion, and red and black pepper.  The lean chicken sausage has a spicy kick that’s cooled by the creamy, buttery Castello aged Havarti cheese.  You wouldn’t know it but it’s a spot-on substitution for the typical mozzarella/ricotta mix.

I served this dish with a side of steamed broccoli raab.  It adds a touch of bitterness to balance the sweet and the healthy greens make you want to reach for that second helping.  It’s truly delicious!


1 block of Castello aged Havarti cheese, grated
1 bunch of broccoli raab
5 links Buffalo style chicken sausage, medium heat
1 tablespoons olive oil
28 ounce can crushed tomato with basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil

HC Havarti Ingredients


Prepare broccoli raab by cutting off the dry ends of the stems and pulling off any yellowing leaves. Cut just below the flower heads and stems into 2” pieces. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepot cook until the green pops, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add sausages and cook for 8-10 minutes. Drain and cool sausages for 5 minutes before carefully using a knife to score the link and peel away the casing. Crumble the meat with a wooden spoon and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown sausage until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add crushed tomato with basil, mix well and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 1-1/4 glass loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil. To create lasagna layers, pour a little sauce and spread evenly. Top with three sheets of oven-ready lasagna then pour one ladle’s worth (1 cup) of sauce and one handful (1 cup) of grated Castello aged Havarti cheese. Repeat for three more layers, or until reaching the top of the glass pan. For the final layer, be sure to cover pasta with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Once baked, remove foil and bake an additional five minutes to brown the cheese. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting.

Sponsored Post – Honest Cooking and Castello Aged Havarti campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Good Eats: Delicious Dishes with Rioja Wine

This month’s Good Eats is all about wine from the Rioja region of Spain. Part of Honest Cooking’s latest campaign, A Match Made in Heaven, presented by Rioja Wines, you’ll learn about why this wine is so special and how to make two delicious dishes to serve with it.

HC Rioja (55) Wine

Rioja is a picturesque region in northern Spain and home to some of the most food-friendly wines in the world. It’s also the next-door neighbor to Castilla and León, the region where I lived for a while in my early 20s.

My two favorite things to do with friends were travel the countryside and eat. I still dream about the foods that we found and it has become a habit to pick-up a Rioja wine for everyday pours and special occasions because it pairs well with a wide array of culinary styles outside the Iberian peninsula.

Rioja wines are made with tempranillo grapes, a black grape that ripens early and known as the king of grapes.  They give notes of plum, tobacco, leather and vanilla.  The alcohol and acidity are deftly balanced and I’ve even seen sorbet made with sweeter Garnacha grape blends.

Riojas can be found in traditional ruby red, as a white (blanco) and a rose (rosado). Winemakers don’t rush their wines to market but rather release them from their cellars ready to drink. This means a perfect wine every time. Most bottles are priced around $15 and a fine vintage runs $30 or less.

In the dusty city of Salamanca, a place with ancient architecture that I once called home, tapas are called “pinchos” because of the toothpicks that pierce the savory snacks. The place we used to visit often would first serve us tiny bowls of piping hot potato stew, the abuelita’s healthier riff on patatas bravas, or fried potatoes, then we’d order up a big plate of lamb “lollipops” with whole fried garlic cloves and a Rioja red.  Trust me, there’s no better way to sip away spend an evening.

Rioja Meal

Lamb cutlets with fried garlic
8-10 lamb chops
½ cup olive oil
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
Salt and pepper (have shakers at the ready!)

Instructions: Rinse and clean lamb. Pat dry. Season heartily with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and fry cloves of garlic until golden. Transfer to a container and keep hot. Fry cutlets on both sides in oil, about 2 minutes a side.  Serve hot with garlic cloves.

Potato stew
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 lb. potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 red bell peppers, dried
1 bay leaf
½ cup white wine, dry
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Instructions: Heat olive oil and saute onions and green pepper until brown. Add diced potatoes, garlic, red bell pepper and bay leaf. Add white wine and top with enough water to cover veggies. Season with spices. Bring to a boil, cover then simmer for 25 minutes or until tender. Remove red bell pepper and bay. Mince red bell pepper and set aside. Adjust stew seasoning with salt and cayenne. Serve hot and top with a dollop of red bell pepper.

Stay connected to your favorite wine region by joining the Rioja Wine mailing list. It’s fast and simple! Just click on the banner above and fill out the form. You’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a festive wine dinner. Good luck! #riojabuzz

Sponsored Post – Honest Cooking and Rioja wines campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Good Eats: Chocolate Hibiscus Ice Cream

Last month’s Spicy Peanut ice cream was such a big hit that I decided to come up with yet another interesting flavor:  Chocolate Hibiscus.

Choco Hibiscus Ice Cream

My recipe uses Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Heart-Tee and their Flowers in Syrup.  I made a candied ginger-almond topping to make it even more yummy.  I recommend eating it with good friends from the cutest bowls you can find.  I found my darling one at Kobo Shop & Gallery in Seattle.

Chocolate Hibiscus Ice Cream with Candied Ginger-Almond Topping

 Ice Cream Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 hibiscus tea bags, such as Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Heart-Tee
4 diced hibiscus flowers, such as Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Flowers in Syrup

Ice Cream Instructions:

  1. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a tempered-glass container then set aside.
  2. Bring milk, cocoa and tea bags (tied together with tags cut off) to a simmer over medium heat, or until edges start to bubble. Remove tea bags and set aside to use again later.
  3. Very slowly add milk and eggs, whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture and tea bags back into the saucepan and heat over low, stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes.  Use a thermometer to check your temperature, which should be between 165-180 degrees.  As the mixture thickens, it will coat your whisk.
  4. Please note: If at any time your milk or mixture boils and burns, pitch it and start over.  Some people say you can save it with an immersion blender and hope but it never tastes right. Also, the tea bags may break apart. If so, you may strain them out OR embrace the hibiscus nubbies because they are tasty.
  5. When your timer buzzes, pour the custard mix into a deep-sided, freezer-safe container with a cover (fits perfectly into a 1-1/2 quart ceramic baking oval) and chill completely for a few hours in your fridge. Once your custard mix is cool, whisk in 1 cup heavy cream and the diced hibiscus flower. If you have an ice cream maker, this is when you would pour and freeze according to manufacturer instructions.
  6. If you don’t, roll up your sleeves because we’ve got some work to do! For the next five hours, your job is to stir the mix every 45 minutes.  Sure, it sounds like some bicep-building craziness but it makes for a really nice soft texture. If you’re lazy and don’t want to stir, leave it overnight. You’ll have a dense block but the custard-based ice cream won’t turn icy like a cream-based recipe would.

Candied Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup fine diced ginger

Candied Topping Instructions:

  1. Measure out ¼ cup almonds and chop them into thirds. Peel 1-1/2” ginger then julienne and fine dice. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring water and sugar combo to a boil over high heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Add almonds and ginger, reduce to medium and stir constantly until sugar crystallizes, about 5 minutes or when the mix becomes difficult to stir.
  3. Continue to stir and watch carefully as sugar will re-melt and turn golden brown. Pour mix onto pre-prepped cookie sheet covered with foil and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Use a fork to separate the mix while sugar is soft. Let mix set at room temperature and break apart for topping once cooled.

Good Eats: Black Rice Brussels Sprout Quiche

Brussels Sprout Quiche Black Rice

I’ve been obsessed with Brussels sprouts lately! This week at Costco I discovered black rice and a giant wedge of Jarlsberg, my favorite cheese. Wondering what I could make with the pair, I decided to incorporate my vegetable crush to make a gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly Brussels sprout quiche with black rice crust.

A word or two about black rice:  It’s just as healthy as brown rice but packs a serious anthocyanin antioxidant punch.  Some folks call it “purple rice” and it was known as “forbidden rice” in ancient China since only royals could eat it. Black rice can be tricky to cook but you can still use a rice cooker if you don’t mind a little purple mess.  Be prepared for the inevitable skeptical look when the amazing cook that you are presents a dish that looks a little “over done”.  Rest assured, black rice takes heat well, doesn’t burn and has a nice nutty crunch.  You can also sub it in place of brown or white rice and is perfect for dessert recipes, like rice pudding, because it is naturally sweet and starchy.

The quiche recipe below is very easy to make, especially if you have a food processor with blades that can slice and shred. Give it a try on a busy weeknight!

Brussels Sprout Quiche with Black Rice Crust

2 cups black rice
1 egg white
8 oz. Brussels sprouts (about 10 sprouts)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
6 oz. grated cheese, such as Jarlsberg Semi Soft Part-Skim Cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Brussel Sprout Quiche Ingredients

Rice crust: Cook black rice according to directions on package. Cool completely. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix egg white and black rice by hand. It helps to have wet hands so the rice mixture won’t stick. Press rice mixture into 9-inch pie pan prepped with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes.

Quiche base: Use food processor to thin slice Brussels sprouts. Quick steam with 2 tablespoons of water then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil for a quick sauté. Set aside in medium bowl. Use food processor to grate cheese. Add eggs, milk, herbs and salt then blend for 30 seconds.   Pour mixture over Brussels sprouts and combine well.

Bake quiche at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Makes 8 hearty servings.

An EGG For Every Occasion – Spicy Peanut and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

Thai peanut sauce is a favorite here in the kitchen.  I’ve always wondered what it would taste like as an ice cream…what’s more delicious than peanut butter, coconut and spicy chili peppers?

Spicy Peanut Ice Cream

Earlier this month I was asked to participate in the brand new marketplace initiative called An EGG for Every Occasion, presented by Safest Choice Eggs.  I was really excited because I knew exactly which recipe I was going to make:  Spicy Peanut and Toasted Coconut Custard Ice Cream!

Last June, I met Chantel Arsenault, the spunky representative for Safest Choice Eggs, at the Eat Write Retreat in Philadelphia.  She told us all about the benefits of using their pasteurized eggs in recipes calling for raw or gently cooked eggs.  We made flips and fizzes during the opening night’s cocktail mixer and learned how their all-natural egg pasteurization process eliminates the risk of salmonella before the eggs even enter a cook’s kitchen.

Safe Eggs Carton

For me, pasteurized = peace of mind.  Since custard ice cream is made with egg yolks, it was a no brainer to use Safest Choice Eggs that have exceptional farm-fresh flavor and are trusted by tops chefs in their signature recipes.  Find a store, pick up a dozen and make some dessert first!

Spicy Peanut and Toasted Coconut Custard Ice Cream

4 Safest Choice Eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup toasted coconut
¼ cayenne pepper


Whisk together eggs and sugar in a 4-quart tempered-glass container.  Set aside.  Bring milk to a simmer in a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, or until the edges start to bubble.

Slowly add hot milk to egg mixture whisking constantly.  Patience, grasshopper, or you’ll get scrambled eggs!  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over low stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes.  Use a thermometer to check the temperature, it should be between 165-180 degrees.  As the mixture thickens, it will start to coat your whisk.  When your timer buzzes, pour the custard mix into coverable container (fits perfectly into a 1-1/2 quart ceramic baking oval) and chill completely for a few hours in your fridge.

If at any time your milk or mixture boils and burns, pitch it and start over.  Some people say you can save it with an immersion blender and hope but it never tastes right.

While you’re waiting, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread ½ cup of coconut flakes on a small cookie sheet then bake, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown.  It takes about 10 minutes.

Custard Collage

Once your custard mix is cool, whisk in 1 cup heavy cream then 1 cup peanut butter, ½ cup toasted coconut flakes and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper.

If you have an ice cream maker, this is time when you would pour and freeze mixture according to manufacturer instructions.  If you don’t, roll up your sleeves because we’ve got some work to do.

Pour the mix into a deep-sided, freezer-safe container.  For the next five hours, your job is to stir the mix every 45 minutes.  Sure, it sounds like some bicep-building craziness but if you have the time and a few other things on your around the house to-do list, you’re good to go!

If you don’t want to stir, that’s also okay.  You can always eat it as a softer ice cream as soon as it reaches your preferred texture.  Custard-based ice cream is an encouraging recipe for beginners because it has a creamy and smooth texture, not icy like a cream-based recipe.

Love Eggs? Like receiving seasonal recipe ideas and coupons? Join Safest Choice Eggs mailing list and you could win a Chef approved cookware set and a $200 gift card! To participate, just click and fill out the form and you will be automatically be entered into the giveaway.

Sponsored Post – This post is a collaboration with #SafestChoice Eggs. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Good Eats: Pass the Prosciutto – Parma Ham Stuffed Chicken with Pesto and Gorgonzola

HC Parma Ham Blog

I spent a lot of time with my Italian grandmother in her kitchen. It’s where she taught me how to pronounce words properly. Mozzarella was shortened “mozzarell”, calzone sounded more like “calzonay” and I’m pretty sure my 10 year-old self once wrote prosciutto on a holiday grocery list as “proshoot”.

Prosciutto appeared only on special occasions, sliced thin and served as an appetizer. The nutty, buttery, salty delicacy always appeared with dates, melon or asparagus. Just like its Spanish cousin jamón that I ate when I lived there, prosciutto comes from the hind leg of a pig. It’s dry-cured and anyone in the know will tell you that the really good stuff comes from Parma.

My search for the good ‘proshoot’ brought me to Springfield’s old Italian neighborhood and a tiny shop that has bustled since the 1950s. Inside the glass case was exactly what I looking for: Parma Ham.

I watched as the butcher deftly layered thin, rosy slices on paper and wrapped them neatly in a brown package.  I walked to my car, holding it tight. The cold, blustery day and fading sunlight didn’t matter, I was going home to create a dish in the very same kitchen where my grandmother taught me how to speak.  Talk about warming the heart!

My plan is to make this flavorful, gluten-friendly dish this holiday season when entertaining guests inspired from Betty Rosbottom’s cookbook, Sunday Roasts.  I’m certain it will be what I bring to family celebrations.  The best part is that you can make it ahead of time and it tastes even better atop a creamy Parmesan polenta.

Parma Ham Stuffed Chicken with Pesto and Gorgonzola (Serves 4)

HC Parma Ham Blog

What You Need:
4 boneless chicken breasts
8 slices prosciutto
Small wedge Gorgonzola, crumbled
½ cup Pesto, store-bought is perfect!
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Wooden skewers, soaked in water
½ cup olive oil

What You Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Filet each chicken breast and set aside.
  3. Take one, open it like a book and cover with plastic wrap. Pound into 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. Repeat.
  4. Arrange flattened chicken breast on your work area. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then place two prosciutto slices in the middle. Add cheese and a hearty line of pesto. Close and secure with a wooden skewer. Repeat.
  5. Place pieces in a heavy pan prepped with olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Rest chicken breast a few minutes before removing skewers and cutting into 1-inch slices.

Parmesan Polenta

What You Need:
3 cups water
1-1/2 cups stone ground corn meal, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 tsp salt
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ stick unsalted butter, cubed

What You Do:

  1. Bring water and the salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Add polenta and stir constantly until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and fold in Parmesan and butter. Cover and set aside. Stir before serving.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.

Win Parma HamSponsored Post – All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Good Eats: Mac & Cheese

This month’s Good Eats is all about macaroni and cheese.  Do I really need to say anymore?

Gluten Free Mac & Cheese Sarah in the Kitchen

Mac & Cheese is the fundamental comfort food.  Everyone loves it, no matter how old they are.  Even people who can’t have dairy anymore figure out how to make a bowl of the one thing that makes them feel right at home.

What’s it made of?  Elbow macaroni and a creamy cheese sauce.  Done and done.  Where did it come from?  Italy, of course, but there’s talk of New England and Jeffersonian roots.  Pasta was difficult to make back then so it was an upper class-only kind of dish until the late 1930s when Kraft launched the family table favorite that rakes in a cool $7 million each year.

Homemade recipes run the gamut, from packaged processed cheese mixes to versions with butter and cream that would make Julia Child beam with pride.  Maybe it’s a blend of Parmesan/cheddar/Colby or a super gourmet version with goat, Gruyère, or Gouda.  Add-ins like beef, smoked bacon or heirloom tomato just add to the awesome.

Everyone has a favorite version of the dish, like my gluten-friendly version!  It’s easy to make, mix one pound of gluten free pasta (elbows or shells) with the cheese sauce below for Sarah’s Most Awesome Mac & Cheese.

What you need:

¼ cup butter
½ cup gluten free flour
¼ tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt, or to taste
4 cups milk
2 cups grated cheese, such as Jarlsberg, a part-skim milk Swiss-style cheese

What you do:

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients and whisk into to the melted butter.  Continue to whisk while slurry cooks for about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from burner and add milk all at once.  Whisk until smooth.
  4. Back on the burner, let the slurry thicken and come to a boil.
  5. Add cheese by the handful and whisk until melted and sauce is smooth.

Good Eats: Culinary Iceland

This month’s Good Eats is all about Iceland.  Below is a piece that I wrote for Honest Cooking’s NORTH Food Festival, happening in NYC from October 2-7, featuring an interview with chef and writer Jody Eddy.

Culinary adventurer Jody Eddy first traveled to Iceland five years ago when she was executive editor at Art Culinaire Magazine.  It was also right after the country’s economic collapse, one of the biggest bankruptcies in the history of the financial world.

“I started reading more and more about the plight of the restaurants because overnight they went from having robust staffs of thirty people to two.  It was unbelievable what these chefs were enduring and I wanted to go over there and explore what they were going through,” she said.

Eddy arrived in Reykjavík to find the situation less than dismal.  The country that had once annually spent over $1 million dollars just for ketchup and had been able to import everything (not just foie gras, prosciutto and olive oil), now could not afford any of it and did not know what to do.

“The Nordic food movement had been started a few years before by Claus Meyer and René Redzepi but Icelanders weren’t embracing it.  They really weren’t exploring their own native traditions and ingredients,” said Eddy.

Iceland Products Sandeep Patwal

Icelandic chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason thought differently.  He had introduced the principles of New Nordic cooking from the classic continental kitchen of VOX and continued that mission when he opened DILL.

“I felt like it was the right time and spot for the restaurant,” said Gíslason.  “I might have been the only one but I had a feeling it would go okay. At the end of the day, hard times make you work harder because it has not been easy.”

DILL opened at the exact moment of the collapse.  Investors pulled out overnight, leaving Gíslason and partner/sommelier Ollie Olafsson to do it all on their own.

“Gunnar always said when he started they ran that restaurant until his credit cards burned red.  He forced ahead and started doing the cooking he wanted to do, using traditional producers and products.  Since then, everyone has started doing it but he certainly was the pioneer,” said Eddy.

Eddy met Gíslason two years ago when she profiled him for a book that she co-authored with Christine Carroll called Come In, We’re Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World’s Best Restaurants.  Sad that their collaboration would soon end, she suggested that they work on a project together.

Iceland Gunnar Dill Sandeep Patwal

Dill: The Nordic Cuisine of Iceland, will be published in fall 2014 by Ten Speed Press.  It will feature stories from the amazing adventures that the two friends have had in almost every corner of Iceland to profile its traditional food producers.

“I think our long drives around the west part of Iceland were something,” said Gíslason.  “One of my favorite times was going to Flateyri, where my grandmother comes from, and enjoying traditionally dried catfish with generous amount of butter.  Maybe, it´s true what they say ‘the west is the best’.  We had exciting times and fun everywhere we went.  I’m thankful for that.”

The pair traveled to the Arctic Circle to interview a seaweed collector, a barley farmer who single-handedly reintroduced the flavorful grain back to his country, a fisherman making old-style bacalao, and a nursing student named Johanna Thorvaldsdottir who saved Iceland’s goats.

“Icelandic animals are original to the Viking landing in the ninth century and are some of the oldest breeds of animals in the world,” said Eddy.  “When the goat population dipped to under 80 animals, Johanna realized that she had to do something or they would go extinct.  She left Reykjavík to start a goat farm and the goat population is now up to about 1000 animals.”

Thorvaldsdottir, Eddy shared, is so determined to bring back the tradition of using goat cheese and milk that she takes artisan workshops in Europe and other parts of the world to learn her country’s lost skills.

Iceland People Sandeep Patwal

Also included in the new book will be Gíslason’s contemporary and approachable dishes that include ingredients like smoked arctic char, lamb and a wealth of root vegetables grown in the country’s eco-friendly greenhouses powered by geothermal electricity and water.

“Gunnar did a cooking demonstration for our last culinary tour.  He made this rutabaga dish for the group and it was just the star of the show in that recipe.  The way he prepares it, it’s just so delicious and flavorful.  It really changes your whole perception of a humble root vegetable,” said Eddy.

Gíslason encouraged the tour’s eaters that day with surprising dishes like sorrel granite and an umami-packed ice cream made with herring.  Notorious Icelandic foods, like fermented shark and pickled lamb unmentionables, were nowhere to be seen.

“Fermented shark is offensive to almost everyone, including Icelanders!  It’s not as if Gunnar is going out and eating fermented shark,” joked Eddy.  “It’s a pretty funky thing but these are old, ancient traditions that were used for survival.  You can still try it in February at a festival called Thorrablot.”

Eddy’s food-centric tours aim to show the county’s new culinary landscape.

“The reason that I started doing the tours is because I wanted these producers that I respect so much to continue doing what they are doing.  Icelanders are really taking pride in who they are, what their resources are all about and what they are producing in the world.  It’s a very gratifying and satisfying thing,” said Eddy.

To learn more about Jody Eddy and her culinary adventures, visit or  For more information about chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason, visit  Photographs by Sandeep Patwal.

Iceland Geo Sandeep Patwal

Want to learn more about Nordic Cuisine?  Check out the link below for more information about the festival and a sweepstakes with a chance to win two tickets to one of the epic dinners!  I’m hoping to be there on Saturday for the afternoon classes.

Win Castello Cheese TastingSponsored Post – NORTH Food Festival.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Good Eats: Bento

This month’s Good Eats is all about bento, or Japanese boxed lunches.  They are delicious and nutritious meals great for school and play.  Let’s learn how to make them and have some food fun!

Bento Box Kids Lunch

Did you know?
– Children and adults love bento!  Bento traditionally features wholesome ingredients instead of candy or processed foods.  They have perfectly portions of rice, protein, fruit and vegetables and are packed in reusable containers.

-These popular laptop meals have cousins in India and Korea.  Friends in North America have caught on to the trend of these moveable feasts and make bento-style boxes filled with cuisine from Italy, Greece, Mexico, Morocco and many other places around the globe.

-Moms and dads like these lunches because they are easy to make since ingredients can be leftovers, made ahead of time and frozen for later.  They can also be made vegetarian or for allergy-friendly eaters.

Bento Box Kids Snack

Here are four tips to make your best bento-style box:

1. Make it tasty
Pick four to six ingredients.  Foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (if your school allows them), crackers and hard cheeses from Jarlsberg or Woolwich Dairy, rice or noodles and a variety of fruits and raw vegetables are smart choices.

2. Keep it simple
Bento makers can get really creative and spend lots of time making bento art!  Keep your assembly time to twenty minutes or less.  Even the most plain and simple bento can look cool.

3. Make it safe
Pick foods that keep best at room temperature.  Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and egg products need refrigeration or they can spoil and cause food poisoning…yuck!  Pack perishable items with an insulated lunch bag, a cold pack or a frozen juice carton.

4.  Have fun
Make ingredients eye-catching by making shapes with tiny cookie cutters that you can find in craft stores.  There you can also find reusable silicone baking cups in cheerful colors and spill-proof containers for wet ingredients.  Don’t forget fun notepaper for words of encouragement on important days.

Are you ready to make tomorrow’s bento lunch?  Pick your favorite gluten-friendly option below, gather up your tools and get going!

Lunch Bento for 3-Section Container

Oven roasted turkey breast
Woolwich Dairy cheddar cheese
Mixed greens
Gluten-free tortilla wrap
Gala apple
Gluten-free granola
Non-perishable condiment packet
Coconut macaroons (see recipe below)

Instructions:  Roll slices of oven roasted turkey breast, Woolwich Dairy cheddar and mixed greens in a gluten-free tortilla wrap.  Secure with toothpicks and cut sandwich to fit inside the largest section reusable container.  Next, cut a Gala apple in half then arrange the slices over ¼ cup of gluten-free granola placed in a smaller section.  Add two homemade coconut macaroons for a sweet treat in the remaining section along with a non-perishable condiment packet.  Do not forget to pack napkins, a cool pack and a beverage of your choice to complete your laptop lunch!

Snack Bento for Square Container

Jarlsberg classic cheese
Gluten-free crackers
Snow peas
Gluten-free granola

Cut Jarlsberg classic cheese into ¼” thick slices.  Use tiny fondant icing cutters bought at a craft store to make eye-catching shapes.  Alternate eight cheese shapes with gluten-free crackers and place in two stacks in the middle of the container.  Wash and dry one cup each of snow peas and blueberries then carefully arrange on opposite sides of the cheese and crackers.  Fill the remaining spaces with ¼ cup of dried cranberries and granola.  Pair a cool pack or frozen juice box with this snack bento.

Tip:  Leftover cheese from shapes can saved in a container for quick breakfast add-ins or a mid-week grilled cheese.