The Back-To-School pantry

Thursday, September 07, 2017

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That sound you heard Saturday last was the collective sigh of parents across Jamaica who realised that August fun was over and the school year was nigh. Once uniforms, shoes and books have been checked off the list, the next big issue is going to be, what's for lunch?

It's fair to say that children and parents these days have higher expectations for what's going into those colourful lunch packs. Salty chips and juice boxes alone just don't cut it, — and so any plan requires forethought and organisation from grocery shopping and storage to meal planning and execution. Here are our best tips to see your way through a week of school lunches


Plan your shopping:

Like most things in life, success in the school lunch game requires preparation. Some key items can be bought at the wholesale stores for great savings. Look for deals on milk and juices in Tetra packs, oranges, and yes, snacks. You should always have great balance with protein, so consider Hamilton's Smokehouse deli slices including, ham, chicken ham and pastrami. Chicken is a perennial favourite and The Best Dressed Chicken Individually Frozen pieces are wonderfully convenient, so you can cook as much or as little as you like.

Wholegrain bread for sandwiches

Wholegrain pasta


Nuts and seeds

Fresh vegetables such as carrots and sweet peppers

Canned beans

Fresh fruits to be enjoyed whole or as a medley in a fruit salad


Get Packing

Be certain to have a variety of containers so you can pack a variety of lunches. Insulated containers that keep hot lunches hot and cold lunches cold are must-haves. So are ice-packs and insulated lunch bags.


Plan Your Menu

Each Saturday, think through what you want to serve. Always think “second life” to make the best use of your time, so Sunday's roast chicken is easily Monday's chicken pita pocket. If you are not getting two meals every time you turn on the stove or open the refrigerator, then you are not really trying.


Here's a great starter menu for a week of lunches.

Monday —Sunday's Leftovers: The Best Dressed Chicken Pita Pocket

Tuesday: The Best Dressed Chicken Pasta To Go Salad

Wednesday: Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham-possible Wrap

Thursday: Wednesday's Leftovers: The Best Dressed Chicken Chilli

Friday: Hamilton's Smokehouse Pastrami Sandwich


The Best Dressed Chicken Pita Pockets  
1 cup The Best Dressed Chicken, roasted and roughly shredded
2  pita pockets
 ½ cup romaine
½ cup diced tomato
½ cup diced cucumber
½  cup diced red onion
½  cup Cheddar cheese
½ cup feta cheese
1/2 cup crispy chickpeas
Crispy chickpeas
1 can chickpeas
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons smoked sea salt


To make the chickpeas, position an oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Brush baking sheet with vegetable oil. Dry the chickpeas on a clean towel and then toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 50 minutes. Chickpeas can be used in the pita pockets and in salad to give added crunch and boost of protein
Assemble the pita pockets with ingredients of your choice.

The Best Dressed Chicken Pasta to Go Salad
2 The Best Dressed Chicken Breasts  
1 red pepper, deseeded and thickly sliced
1 red onion, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped thyme  
1 teaspoon oregano
pinch red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup cherry tomato, halved
1 cup mixed greens
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Cook the pasta following pack instructions. Drain and set aside.
Mix oil, herbs, chili and garlic then rub all over the chicken. Heat a frying pan and cook chicken 3-4 minutes on each side. Let the chicken rest a few minutes. Slice the chicken on a board, scrape into the pasta with any juices, plus the roasted onion and pepper, cherry tomatoes, mixed greens vinegar and seasoning. Toss together and pack to be eaten warm or cold.

Hamilton’s Smokehouse Ham-possible Wrap  
1 package Hamilton’s Smokehouse Smoked Ham Slices
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/2 small onion, diced
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 stalks escallions, sliced
8 flour tortillas
Choice of sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato and red pepper, cheddar cheese

In a food processor, blend cream cheese, mustard, onions, Worcestershire sauce and pepper flakes until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in escallion, set aside. Line a flour tortilla with 4 Hamilton’s Smokehouse Smoked Ham Slices, spread with cream cheese mixture. Add avocado, lettuce, tomato red pepper and cheddar. Roll up tightly.  Add a cold pack to the lunch kit to keep the wraps cool.

The Best Dressed Chicken Chili  
Serves 6 - 8
4 cups The Best Dressed Chicken cooked, shredded chicken  
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1/4 teaspoon Scotch Bonnet pepper diced fine
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
6 cups chicken stock
2 cans white beans
2 cups fresh corn
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk  
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and Scotch Bonnet pepper and cook until soft. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne; sauté.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the white beans, corn, chicken, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about an hour.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the milk and continue whisking until a thick paste forms, about 2-3 more minutes. Stir the paste into the chili until it is completely incorporated and there are no lumps.
Cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.




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