Saturday, January 18, 2014

College Foodie Series
Student Bag Meals

College students often eat on the run.  Parents of college students living away from home often send or take to their students bulk boxed items in addition to putting money on their meal cards.  Most universities have their own debit cards with which students can visit any store or restaurant on campus and use that card, just like a debit card.  Discounts and other perks are often associated with the cards, such as free bus transportation if you live off campus (to certain locations, such as local apartment complexes and shopping areas near campus).  Businesses on campus also accept bank debit cards, which makes eating on the go very easy and above all, convenient!  So why am I still thinking about bag meals?  Because, let's face it, parents, you Know This, we cannot be certain our students are eating their vegetables and balanced meals with such convenience afforded our kids on campus.  

I have put much thought into this, and I Know many kids will shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes (what else is new?) or stare at you (me) incredulously like a cartoon character, blinking blankly, but I think Bag Meals will help us parents help our kids eat balanced meals now and then, or have veggie snacks more often when they are home, whether that is a dorm room with a microwave or if they are living in an apartment.  

So parents, when your kids are home, or, when you are visiting next, think about putting raw or roasted veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces, into freezer zip-lock bags. Send along their favorite dip.  Broccoli, cauliflower, blanched and roasted green beans, even fruits, such as grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and more are great to put into the bags.  Washed and chopped kale, spincach, chard, escarole, onions, roasted and chopped peppers, roasted corn with the kernels chopped off the cobb and more are candidates for these bags. Put together meal plans, such as roasted broccoli and cauliflower with garlic to go along with frozen pre-cooked pork chops or chicken, sliced, so that the kids can plate and easily microwave them with extremely minimal time and effort.  

Here are some photos I took when I stored some veggies for future use.  You can freeze veggies like beans, broccoli and cauliflower, which I why I keep repeating those nutritious veggies.  If you chop up partly roasted sweet potatoes, also a highly fibrous and nutritious tuber, into thick fries, which can also be frozen until used, the kids can add a little evoo and pop them into the microwave for five minutes and devour like french fries with sour cream or ranch dips.  Delish and healthy! 

Send cooked and sliced or shredded chicken seasoned with oregano, salt and pepper, paprika and coriander seeds or cumin seeds (ground) along with garlic and onions (see above) and tortillas to make easy tacos!  

Send chopped, sauteed hot dogs in salsa along with onions and roasted chiles to make tacos or enchiladas.  Do not forget the tortillas!

Cauliflower and kale can be ready to use for pasta or roasting (Kale chips are very popular:  toss in evoo, salt and pepper, and roast for eight minutes). 

These are just a few of the examples.  Some items cannot be frozen, such as some green leafy veggies, such as lettuce, but most can be frozen for future use.  Write with a Sharpie (TM) what veggie is in which bag, when you placed it in there, letting the kids know that most veggies have a three-five day refrigerator life-span.  Kale has the longest refrigerator life-span of all green leafy veggies. 

I know you may be asking: "Why doesn't my child just buy a frozen dinner?  Same difference!"   Nope.  By doing this for your child, even if it is just now and then, you have control over the freshness and quality of the ingredients, you have control over the seasoning (sodium and sugar) content of the bagged meals, and you know your child will be eating healthy.  

I am working on easy meals to bag up for college kids, such as my "ancient family secret", "Stuff on Fritos", Pasta in a Bag, Chops in a Bag, Chicken in a Bag and much more.  

Stay tuned! Please feel free to share with me your own ideas!  The more the merrier!

Thank You, gentle readers, for your time and courtesy.  
Enjoy Cooking!