Eat / Recipe

Back to School with Sprouted Kitchen

How Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen keeps lunch interesting for her little ones.

Back to School with Sprouted Kitchen
Hugh Forte Photography

Sara is inspired by food in its purest form, she believes that eating seasonally will change your take on everyday cooking. Her intention is to make food taste good through using natural ingredients: whole grains, healthy fats, natural sugar alternatives and the like. As a local and long time friend of The Ecology Center, we were excited to ask Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen to collaborate with us on a Back to School project! We highlight three of her best recipes for the littles ones in your life! Keeping lunch interesting Monday-Friday can be difficult, but with these unique, nutrient dense lunches will have your little one asking for seconds! Check out Sara’s cookbooks, The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon: Simple and Inspired Whole Foods Recipes to Savor and Share and The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods in our Tools for Change shop.

Lunchbox Sammies, Three Ways

Sushi Sandwich (adapted from Weelicious)

  • 1 slice of soft sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp. hummus
  • 1ish Tbsp. grated carrots
  • sprinkle of herbs or sprouts, optional

Roll the bread with a rolling pin to make it flat and thin. Cut off the crust. Spread the hummus over the top and then top with the grated carrots and herbs/sprouts, if using. Roll it up lengthwise and slice them into 1/2″ pinwheels.

Hugh Forte Photography

Broccoli Mashup

This will make enough for a few sandwiches. I also mix a few spoonfuls into my scrambled eggs halfway through cooking and eat it with a sliced tomato. Make a double batch for that reason alone.

Broccoli Pesto
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup barely steamed and cooled broccoli florets
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • small squeeze of lemon
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 whole grain tortilla or sandwich bread
  • cheese, chicken, salami or garbanzo beans, one or all to taste

In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts, garlic and salt, and pepper. Add the basil leaves, broccoli, olive oil and pulse to combine. You want it well chopped but not a puree.

Into a tortilla or between bread, do a generous spread of the broccoli pesto and then layer with cheese, shredded chicken, salami and or chickpeas as you wish.

Hugh Forte Photography

Cheese + Veggie Spread

This is sort of like a lazy version of hummus but is a way to add vegetables to the sandwich without them being particularly noticeable.

Veggie Spread
  • 3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup white beans
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • 1.5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • sliced turkey or chicken, optional
  • 1 whole grain tortilla or 2 slices sandwich bread
  • a sprinkle of shaved parmesan or 1 slice of provolone, Havarti or mozzarella

In a food processor, combine the artichokes, white beans, spinach, oil and a good season with salt and pepper. Pulse a few times just to chop and get everything to hold together a bit. Barely toast the bread or warm the tortilla (I like to take the raw edge off but not dry it out). Spread the vegetable mixture on, a layer of turkey, if using, and a slice of cheese or sprinkle or parmesan on top. Roll and slice the wrap or sandwich.

Q+A with Sara Forte

Kids are heading back to school + we have come a long way from feeding them the traditional food pyramid items.  How do you keep things interesting while still keeping their lunch nutritious?

Sara Forte: I try to not do the same thing each time. There is always something I know my son will eat (cheese, his favorite, apples, a sunflower butter and banana sandwich) and then we go from there. I am sort of the belief that if they’re hungry enough, they’ll try anything. He also seems to be into anything with a dip, so if I pack leftover roasted vegetables, maybe a tough sell on their own, if I also pack a side of hummus or ketchup and he gets to dip them (the novelty!), then I see that he eats them. I suppose you just need to pay attention to the quirks in your own child. Do they love sandwiches? Find a way to get vegetables in there, even blend them into hummus. Wouldn’t jump on cut fruit? Send them with a toothpick to stab them and make it fun to eat, then they focus on the “game” of it instead of what the food actually is. Eating is social, communal, and kids eat at school with other kids, so I think they are open to items that may be different than their usual.

Picky eaters? Have you become an expert at hiding the food they usually wouldn’t eat?

SF: Eh, I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I try to stay patient enough to understand there are phases and that kids are developing their own sense of self through food, just as they are with all other parts of their life. My daughter (20 months) will pound blueberries one day and then refuse them and throw them on the ground on the following day.  I think it’s just her way of taking control. I need a blueberry eating dog 😉 I can always pass off a smoothie packed with spinach and celery as long as there are nut butter and a frozen banana in there to keep it sweet enough. I make them veggie burger type bites (like the broccoli bite recipe above) and when served with ketchup, they always like those. Mini frittatas or I blend baby spinach into pancake and waffle batter just to get greens in wherever I can. If I find something they like, I can usually find a way to discreetly step up the nutrition. They love anything in muffin format, so I make them with super ripe bananas instead of cane sugar, add shredded zucchini, carrots, apples, oats and feel like I am beating them at their own game.

Do you usually pre-plan lunches? Or do you wing it?

SF: Because of the nature of my work, I keep a pretty stocked pantry and fridge. I usually wing it but know I have a lot to choose from at my fingertips. I think ahead by what I stock. As mentioned, my son loves cheese, we always have seasonal fruit and I know their short list of approved vegetables. I will make veggie balls in advance and have those ready for lunches or a vegetable focused spread, like spinach or carrot hummus. I make huge batches of cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes because when we have days where there is not a lot of color to their meals (and let’s face it, we all have those days), I can always get them to eat a naturally sweet vegetable like a sweet potato. For our whole family, I typically make more than we will eat at meals so there are leftovers to pack the next day.

What are your go-to tools for packing lunches?

SF: We have reusable bento boxes by PlanetBox which I am loving. They come in a few different sizes and also come with a cooler pack for storage. Stasher bag makes reusable plastic bags where I send cut apples or cucumber slices and pack a side of hummus or sunflower butter. We have been through every reusable water bottle trying to find one that doesn’t leak and unfortunately, I haven’t found the perfect one. I put some sanitizer gel in his backpack and hope he washes his hands and send him on his way.

Hugh Forte Photography