Whole Grain Pasta Salad: An Easy, Healthy Make Ahead Lunch

As a kid, I always avoided pasta salad at potlucks and parties. Too vinegary for my taste, and undoubtedly loaded with child-repelling olives. But then in college I got hooked on pasta primavera, the gateway pasta, and before you know it, I was whipping up portable penne salads in my own home.

When packing my lunch for work, I like to choose meals that don’t require too much assembly in the crowded office kitchen. But they still have to be tasty enough for me to look forward to eating, filling enough to last me till dinner, and healthy enough for me to feel nourished and happy with my choice. Pasta salad fits the bill. It also makes great picnic food, which I verified this weekend at the Arnold Arboretum while soaking up the unseasonably warm weather.

This makes a great pantry clean out recipe (read: inexpensive), because like most salads, it’s super adaptable. I start with whole grain pasta (any shape will do, but the whole grains are mandatory), and then add whatever vegetables I have on hand (cherry tomatoes are a favorite when they’re in season). For protein, I like to toss in canned chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. (Chickpeas and pasta are a highly underrated combination, as I learned from a college classmate who would sprinkle them onto spaghetti like little meatballs.) Lastly, I finish with olive oil or pesto, and sprinkle with cheese or fresh herbs if I have them on hand. Easy peasy.

The more vegetables you can add in, the healthier it will be. Looking for ideas? See below for two pasta salads that I’ve made recently.

 Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Broccoli, Chickpeas, Feta, and Olive Oil

Whole grain farfalle (bow-ties) with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Artichoke Pesto

Whole grain shells with cherry tomatoes, fresh corn, chickpeas, and artichoke parsley pesto (inspired by this recipe)

Next up, I’d love to try a pasta salad with butternut squash, cannellini beans, and kale pesto. What are your favorite add-ins? Share in the comments!

– Kelly

Healthy Fruit and Veggie Platters inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar

veryhungrycaterpillar

Like many children, my story time picks were often supplemented with a colorful dose of Eric Carle. While Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was probably the family favorite, perhaps the most iconic Eric Carl book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In fact, if Pinterest is any indication, this classic story is now a very popular party theme. Anyone can arrange green and red cupcakes on a platter and call it a day, so I scoured the web to bring you the best HEALTHY platters inspired by Eric Carle’s classic. Whether you are throwing your own Very Hungry Caterpillar party and looking for healthy platters and snacks, or you simply want to jazz up your children’s meals with inspiration from this much beloved story, the following images should inspire you.

cute food for kids

Apple + Babybel cheese caterpillar from Cute Food For Kids

bajiroo

Fruit Caterpillar from Bajiroo

sushi

Caterpillar sushi from Anna the Red

bless this mess

Adorable healthy fruit tray from Bless this Mess Please

frostme

Another adorable fruit tray from Frost Me Blog

And while the following aren’t neccessarily Eric Carl inspired, they still keep with the caterpillar theme:

little page turners

PB + Banana Caterpillar from Little Page Turners

Hungry caterpillar sandwich

Caterpillar sandwich, original source unknown

kabobs

Caterpillar grape kabobs, from Healthy and Fun Snacks for Kids

Cute Summer Fruit and Veggie Platters from around the Web

Today I’ve rounded up some of the best sea-inspired fruit and veggie platters, snacks, and lunches from around the web. Late summer is one of the best times of the year for local produce, so don’t let the season slip away without concocting one of these ocean-inspired spreads. And if you are looking for healthy dips to serve alongside your produce, check out this round-up of healthy dips.

zucc boat

Image via Mom Foodie

fish carrot

Image via Meet the Dubiens

apple crab

Image via Make-Handmade

Shark

Image via National Watermelon Promotion Board

octopus

Image via Spoonful

whale

Image via Fancy

For more cute summer foods, see my cute summer food Pinterest board!

– Kelly

Cute Easter lunches and snacks from around the web

Spring has sprung! While it might not look that way in Boston (I wore my snow boots today), winter is over and Easter is just around the corner. To celebrate the arrival of spring, here is a round up of the cutest (healthy) Easter snacks and lunches from around the web.

lisastormsbunnylunch1

Whole grain, please. Image via Lisa Storms

creativefunfood

Image via creative fun food

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image via papa wow

alisonDeviled-egg-chicks

Image via Alison Artisan

pinterestcup

Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

russianladybug-sandwiches

Image via Russian Report

Hope you enjoyed this roundup! For more cute spring and Easter food ideas, see my Cute Spring Food Pinterest page. Also, stay tuned for a post on Easter fruit & veggie platters.

– Kelly