New School

For young scholars across the globe, going back to school undoubtedly looks a bit different this year. Having a sharp new haircut, the freshest pair of shoes, or the coolest backpack on the block may not mean as much when classes take place just a few feet from where you woke up. Packed lunches aren’t going anywhere outside the home when lessons take place over Zoom, within arm’s reach of the fridge. However, that doesn’t negate the importance of meal planning! In fact, even greater emphasis should be placed on advanced prep, when easily accessible snacks beckon at all times.

Even under stay-at-home orders or quarantine conditions, the show must go on. Weekdays are still busy as ever, and the last thing you want to do is waste precious time wondering what to eat. Don’t stress yourself out by try to cobble together a passable meal out of cold leftovers while the clock is ticking. Prep ahead, divide, and conquer your day.

From this point forward, barley will be your new best friend. Unlike plain white rice, pearl barley is an excellent source of fiber and protein, to keep you full and energized longer. Plus, it’s toothsome, chewy texture holds up to reheat much better than more fragile starchy grains, which makes it the perfect base for advance prep.

Traditional risotto is finicky, demanding constant attention while cooking and immediate service the minute it’s done. Let it cool, and the whole pot of silky, al dente rice will turn into a gooey, over-cooked mess. Perish the though of saving leftovers, unless you plan to deep fry them the next day.

Barley risotto, or barlotto as I like to call it, offers an endlessly adaptable foundation to build any seasonal meal around. Mix and match based on what’s in the fridge, what’s in the market, or what’s on your mind. My default approach is to riff off classic barley soup, complete with some hearty meatless beef and bold aromatics. I would argue that mushrooms are essential for their meaty texture and umami essence, but there are no hard and fast rules here. Let’s save those for the school teachers, shall we?

Designed to stay creamy yet toothsome over the coarse of subsequent re-heating opportunities, there’s no reason to get locked into the same eating experience, meal after meal. Get younger kids (or the young at heart) on board by transforming the leftovers into finger food! Think of hearty, baked arancini, and you wouldn’t be too far off. Anything you can pick up and dip has an added fun factor, making it a painless way to explore new whole grains. Plus, you can justify a bowlful (or a more measured cup) of marinara on the side, you know it’s going to be a good day.

Let’s spoon and dip our way into the next chapter of this strange true story. Stay at home or take it to go; stay safe, and always well-fed.

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Taste the Rainbow with Popit!

Chia pudding is a perennial staple around here, appearing on the menu as breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and desserts alike. For a quick fix full of fiber, protein, and brain-boosting omega-3’s, the tiny seed just can’t be beat. Of course, plain old vanilla does get dull after so many big bowlfuls. That’s where a bit of meal planning wisdom comes in, with a bit of help from our friends at Popit!

Big batch advanced prep is a big part of the appeal for chia pudding. Mix it up en masse, chill, and enjoy as desired for a full week. Cool and creamy, it’s an ideal healthy treat to eat on the fly, straight out of the fridge or on the go. By breaking it down into separate, single-serving containers, you get that same convenience with the flexibility to infuse each sweet spoonful with completely different flavors. While the effortless base starts the same, the end results are uniquely delicious.

The Popit! Baby Food Storage Set is ideal for making a full rainbow of bold chia puddings to suit every mood. Each BPA-free container holds 3 ounces with a patented lid and hollow silicone seal system to lock in freshness and prevent leakage. These are just the right size for a light snack or healthy treat, anywhere, anytime. The most difficult decision here will be deciding which one to eat first!

Starting with some bakery inspiration, Red Velvet gets its alluring hue from pureed beets, but tastes only of buttery cake with a touch of cocoa. Lightly sweetened yogurt swirls throughout to take the place of more sugary icing. Pitaya Princess Cake paints the Swedish pastry with a shock of bright pink pitaya puree. Nutty almond extract gives it a marzipan-like quality, paying homage to the traditional decor. Carrot Cake takes shape with naturally sweet carrot puree, warm spices, and chewy raisins mingling throughout the mix.

Moving on to more fruity flavors, Orange Zinger is guaranteed to wake you up with energetic, zesty orange zest, spicy crystallized ginger, and a dash of sunny yellow turmeric. Lemon Drop is another option made for citrus lovers, keeping it simple with fresh zest and a tangy, creamy vanilla yogurt. Banana-Nut will sooth any cravings for quick bread or muffins, with mashed banana and sticky peanut butter blended in, crowned by even more crunchy toasted nuts. Don’t forget the pinch of salt that really makes it sparkle.

Painted with the cool color spectrum and offering some cold comfort, my personal favorite, Mint Chip is like a spoonable milkshake without the sugar rush. Crunchy cacao nibs add textural contrast to this minty treat, although you could always go for chocolate chips or chunks instead. Blue Moon uses alluring butterfly pea tea for a naturally brilliant hue, with blueberries to add substance beyond mere style. Everyone’s favorite purple tuber, Ube makes an appearance alongside toasted coconut flakes, tasting like a little tropical getaway in a jar.

Taking a more decadent turn for the final three, I’ve got a whole Latte Love for the combination of instant coffee AND whole ground coffee for a serious midday perk. When I’m really craving dessert, this pudding-based Devil’s Food provides a sinless way to get my fix, with a serious dose of cocoa and rich chocolate curls on top. Finally, dark as night, with a mysterious allure, Black Sesame offers a uniquely nutty, lightly gingered flavor that’s sure to satisfy the more adventurous eater.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking comfort in consistency. If you fall in love with one flavor and want to make the whole batch to follow suit, simply multiply those ingredients by 12 and of course, omit the other optional additions.

What will be your top chia pudding pick?

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Popit! for Soba All Summer

Come July, the heat is on. Bare feet scorch on sizzling pavement and even shady trees provide little relief. The only thing that appeals for lunch is either cool, cold, or straight-up frozen. There’s no place for a hot entree on this picnic table.

Luckily, Popit! is here to help! Since both their plastic and glass containers are ideal for advanced prep, you can pull a meal, ready to eat, right out of the fridge. That means you only need to suffer the brief heat of the kitchen once to reap the rewards all week long.

When I saw the small Popit! bread box, also billed as a “lettuce container,” I must admit, I didn’t think about using it as storage for a fresh loaf or salad fixings. One thing came to mind immediately: Zaru soba.

Chilled buckwheat noodles served with a light, brothy dipping sauce is the quintessential summer dish of Japan. Served on a special tray with elevated slats, the mat at the bottom allows excess water to run off, keeping the noodles from getting soggy. With that in mind, I couldn’t see these unique rectangular boxes in any other way. It was simply too perfect to do anything but build a warm weather bento box around that eastern inspiration.

Mentsuyu, the deeply savory dip that accompanies those chewy soba strands, traditionally contains bonito dashi, or fish stock, but is easily veganized by naturally umami dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu seaweed instead. Packed away in a small Popit! snack container, it fits flush right inside the main box. There’s no risk of leakage with those airtight lids locked tightly into place. Perfect for travel and eating alfresco, it also helps prevent messy drips by keeping everything close together.

Lightly blanched spinach is served on the side for a healthy serving of dark leafy greens, enhanced by the nutty flavor of toasted sesame. Tender pods of salted edamame provide all the plant protein you could want in a fun finger food. All together, it becomes a well-balanced, refreshing, and highly versatile meal that will help you keep your cool.

Grab your chopsticks and chill out. Don’t forget to slurp for maximum enjoyment!

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Greeking out with Popit!

June, here so soon? Breezy, beautiful month of June, she’s here before you know it, but gone in the blink of an eye. Inviting us back outside with a radiant warmth, now is the time get that free Vitamin D and soak in the sun. Naturally, dining alfresco is my favorite opportunity to do so, with a homemade meal at the ready whenever weather permits.

Eating outside demands a bit more preparation than cobbling together a meal on the fly at home. That’s why I’m turning to Popit! once more to plan ahead. Stocking the fridge at quiet times means I can just enjoy when I get a break in the action, or perhaps a break in the clouds on a rainy day. These accommodating containers actually make food last longer because they’re 100% airtight, so you’ll never have to worry about spoilage or food waste if sudden storms derail your excursion.

What to put in these efficient boxes, you ask? This month, it’s all Greek to me.

The love of pasta transcends all cultural boundaries and knows no seasonal limitations. As the weather warms and cravings skew lighter, this infinitely adaptable noodle is flexible enough to follow suit. Pasta salad is a summertime picnic staple, gleaming in all the colors of the rainbow with any number of fresh vegetables tumbling over twists or tubes, nestled in shells or toppling out of trumpets. The best salads have a distinct theme to unite these otherwise disparate additions, and an eye for presentation certainly doesn’t hurt.

Greek salad lends itself beautifully to a pasta-based adaptation, ripe with briny olives, gem-like cherry tomatoes, tender artichoke hearts, and crisp cucumbers. Glistening with a light coat of red wine vinaigrette, the whole melange is gently kissed by the invigorating breath of fresh herbs.

Laid out in neat rows like a fancy composed salad, it takes on an air of greater prominence, turning the everyday outing into a special occasion. Of course, feel free to toss everything together for simplicity’s sake. It will taste every bit as good, even if it gets jostled around in your bag while in transit. If closed properly, Popit! guarantees there won’t be any spills whatsoever. You could even take soup or gravy anywhere wanderlust beckons. You certainly don’t have to worry about oil stains from leaky seals, so go ahead, throw caution to the wind and take it outside!

If there’s a chill in the air, don’t despair. This meal is just as delicious heated. You don’t even need to take it out of the container. Popit! can be used in the microwave; simply remove the lid to avoid a vacuum from being formed, stir well, and dig in.

Getting hungry, or just getting tired of being stuck indoors? Grab a Greek pasta box and get out there. Lunch is ready whenever you are.

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Introducing: Meal Planning with Popit!

Perhaps you’ve seen the immaculate rows of perfectly curated lunchboxes captured for posterity on Instagram, or entire shelves dedicated to meal prep and make-ahead recipes in bookstores. Meal planning is all the rage these days, though it seems daunting to dive right in.

Meal planning is not just for busy office workers or students on the go. Even if you’re eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home, everyone can reap the benefits:

  • Prevent mindless snacking by setting aside perfect portions.
  • Save time by cooking in batches.
  • Stress less by knowing exactly what’s for dinner.
  • Maximize your budget by resisting the lure of takeout.
  • Reduce food waste by using up what you already have.

The best containers are durable, lightweight, leak-proof, microwave- and freezer-friendly, easy to clean, and available in multiple sizes. That’s why I’ve chosen Popit! to house my meals. They offer all that, in both glass and BPA-free plastic food storage containers, which snap closed with airtight locking lids. No leaking, no cracking, no discoloring here. Plus, they conveniently nest together for space-saving storage.

Popit! has made it possible to bring you a bold new series featuring fresh recipes every month, to help fill the gaps in your daily menu. I’m excited to kick things off with a simple, satisfying burrito bowl worth throwing a fiesta for.

Brains and beauty go hand in hand for this well-balanced bundle. Colorful, crisp vegetables sit comfortably on a bed of fluffy cilantro rice, with a hearty scoop of black beans for a complete protein complement. Rich, thick avocado crema gets packed alongside to keep everything fresh, but I wouldn’t blame you for breaking out the chips to polish off the final drops. It’s everything you could ask for in a properly loaded burrito, minus the grease, stodgy flour tortilla, and potential wrap malfunctions.

Served cold, straight out of the fridge, at room temperature on-the-go, warmed lightly in the microwave, or hot from the moment it’s made, it’s a delicious combination at any temperature. Designed for two servings, it could be one lunch for you and your partner, two lunches for you, OR double the quantities and containers to maximize your time and effort. Get twice as much delicious food out of the deal, and spend that much less time worrying about it. Get in, chow down, and get on with your life. That, my friends, is the beauty of meal planning.

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Green Chef Gets the Green Light

There is truly nothing more satisfying than a home-cooked meal but sometimes we fall into a rut, making the same easy, go-to meals for lack of time or energy. There’s always trusty takeout and the thrill of trying new eateries but having local restaurants cater for dinner every day isn’t exactly feasible. There’s a ton of hype now about meal kits, but still few promising options for those with alternative diets, and vegans especially. Green Chef’s plant-powered meal plan strives to switch that script. I recently tried a week of this approach to home cooking, and I’m glad I did.

Green Chef is a meal kit delivery service that caters to specialty diets, including vegan and vegetarian. They send organic, pre-portioned ingredients and easy to follow recipe cards that take the stress out of the typical dinner rush. Every week, they have a number of different recipes to choose from, so you can cherry pick exactly the flavors you’re craving. All the ingredients are pre-measured, so there’s less food waste. No more forgotten heads of kale left to rot in the vegetable crisper, or full bottles of obscure spices you’ll only want to use once.

My first experience using Green Chef was actually with a friend of mine who, shall we say, isn’t exactly a skilled chef! She was able to follow the recipe and make the meals without too much trouble, and more importantly, was excited to take away some fundamental skills she had never previously attempted. Simple things like how to roast vegetables or cook quinoa; I take these things for granted, but if you have less experience in the kitchen, this is the next best thing to a personal cooking lesson from a chef.

The first meal from my box was an Israeli Salad. This was a favorite of mine- All of the herbs and spices included were so fresh, so bold, so vibrant! It had a crisp tomato and cucumber salad, creamy tahini sauce, and aromatically spiced chickpeas. The dish was filling without being too much, and all of the flavors and textures complimented each other perfectly. Green Chef is a USDA certified organic company, and sends produce sourced from local farms. A big plus for me was that each recipe was enough for 2 meals. My life can be a little hectic, so knowing I have some tasty leftovers in the fridge for lunch really makes my day a lot easier.

Next up were the Jackfruit Sloppy Joes and Carrot Fries. This was not something I would ever order off a menu or attempt to make from scratch, but I was very happily surprised by the results. The plant-based take on the classic sloppy joe was delicious, and I put my own spin on the carrot fries by cooking them in my air fryer to prevent heating up the oven to roast them as originally instructed. This made them extra crunchy on the outside and even sped up the cooking time.

I love middle eastern-flavors, so I also enjoyed the Green Pea Falafel. It was paired with roasted red pepper couscous and kale cucumber salad, all drizzled in a spiced tahini sauce. Like most of the recipes, there were quite a few components to cook, but worth the extra effort for the ultimate flavor payoff.

I made the same tweak for the Grilled Zucchini and Orzo salad. The zucchini went into the air-fryer for an effortless touch of char-grilled goodness, but I still wasn’t overly impressed with this recipe. The only suggestion for the side of chard was to toss with salt and olive oil (not included), so I had to add a lot of my own seasoning. Definitely not my favorite, this meal felt a bit haphazard and really didn’t come together in a compelling way.

My biggest complaint with Green Chef is that the recipes are a little lengthy. They all took around 40 minutes to make, which is a considerable chunk of time for someone accustomed to whipping up 10 minute meals, thanks to my most recent cookbook. The other major drawback was that each preparation called for a lot of pots and pans to cook all of the components, which meant a lot of washing up afterwards.

Green Chef is a particularly promising option if you’re new to veganism or new to cooking in general. It takes the fear and frustration out of meal planning, if you’re trying to eat healthier but struggle to set yourself up for success. I especially love that most of the packaging is recyclable or reusable. On top of that, all the produce was very high quality, and I love having the recipe cards, so I can recreate the recipes at a later date. Green Chef got me out of my dinner rut, all while stoking the flames of inspiration for new dishes to come!

If you’d like to give Green Chef a try for yourself, you can follow this link to get $80 off and free shipping for a limited time.