The last few weeks have been filled with a back-to-school activities and I know a lot of the parents out there are already going bananas trying to figure out healthy lunch options. My oldest boy is only in pre-school so I don’t have to pack a lunch yet for him yet, but I totally understand the frustration. Even-though he’s not packing a lunch, I still have to feed him every day and he’s not the sandwich sort of kid (SO annoying!). I find myself constantly searching for new and exciting ways to get my boy nourished come noon-time around these parts.
Lunch can be tough. It’s even tougher when your family has dietary constraints because you can’t always just slap a PB&J together and call it a day. That’s why when a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook asking for vegetarian/diary-free lunchbox options for her kiddos, I knew I had to write this post and share one of my favorite vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free lunches with y’all (oops…let my Brooklyn accent slip through there. ; )
Rice salad is one of my favorite lunchbox staples for a few reasons: it’s full of flavor, extremely versatile, and super inexpensive to make. I love it most of because, like my Confetti Quinoa and Lentil Salad, the flavor gets better over time as the rice absorbs the dressing. It’s the perfect use for leftover rice and any veggies you may have hanging out in your fridge. You cannot mess this up. Rice salad is a great way to get some whole grains and fresh veggies into your diet. It’s light but hearty at the same time and delicious served cold or at room temperature, making it the perfect lunchbox meal or side dish. All of that and its made in one bowl.
Can I get a hallelujah?!?!? (Sorry. I just went all Kirk Franklin on you there, didn’t I?)
Customize this dish to suit your family’s fancy or dietary needs. I’ve made a hundred versions of this salad using whatever ingredients I have on-hand at the moment and it always comes out delicious. Go nuts! No, literally, add some of those bad boys in there along with dried fruit or gussie it up with cheese (feta is yum!) or even tiny chunks of ham (if your into that sort of thing) or follow my recipe to a T, then come back here and shower me with comments of love.
Mixed Veggie Rice Salad
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bell pepper, diced very small
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, diced very small
6- 8 cups of brown rice, cooled completely (I used short grain brown rice but you can use basmati, jasmine or even white rice)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
1. In a very large bowl toss rice together with all of the vegetables and herbs. Then make dressing.
My 3 year old son working the mortar and pestle.
2. Place garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a mortar and pestle and pound it until it becomes a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle simply paste the garlic on your cutting board (see video for how-to).
What the garlic should look like as it begins to turn into a delicious paste.
3. In a small bowl whisk together garlic paste, remaining salt, pepper and lemon juice until the salt begins to dissolve. Continue to whisk while slowly stream in olive oil. Set aside. Pour as much dressing as desired over salad and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.