We’re joining Healthy Planet US this month to “take back lunch!” During May, you can join in this deliciously fun 21-day healthy cooking challenge. It’s easy to join: register at https://healthyplanetus.org/21daychallenge/. On May 11th, they will be giving away three Joyful 12 memberships, so be sure to register to receive daily updates and inspiration!
I was never a PB&J kid. I didn’t like sandwiches at all. Orange squares of cheddar cheese, atop salty crunchy Triscuits with a medley of fruit—this, I relished. But the sad bologna squares my friends ate with their Cheetos were not for me. From a very young age, I knew lunch was more than calories to fill my stomach. It was a chance to laugh and talk with my friends while munching on a small meal that satisfied my precocious need for variety, texture, and colorful bites to sample.
Not much has changed. When I’m cooking with kids or teaching adults in a class, I love to expand their ideas of what a tasty but simple lunch can look like. Ingredients are paramount, and my preference is to start with the vegetables first and build the rest of the meal around them. That’s fairly easy, when you begin with what’s in season. Right now, I’m seeing peas, radishes, and strawberries everywhere, so that’s where I begin.
When our partners and good friends at Healthy Planet US, Bryan Jersky, Chief Grower and CEO, and Erinn Butulis, Head of Storytelling, asked me if I’d like to share a fun recipe for their take back lunch challenge, I knew I’d need to channel my inner child to share a simple yet fun way to incorporate vegetables into the beloved sandwich—with an open-faced twist. My dislike for sandwiches hasn’t budged much in twenty years (or so!), but my love of savory and sweet spreads on artisan breads has just begun.
Toast bars and featured specialty toast menu items are all the rage now, and not just in San Francisco. Thick slices of homemade breads perfectly toasted with rich, creamy, and crunchy toppings satisfy customers’ basic needs to feel nourished and delighted. While, I’m a huge fan of supporting these restaurants, as a cook I know that in my own home kitchen, I can recreate these experiences, get more value for my dollar and even make them more vegetable focused.
This spring I’m making two cream cheese based spreads in the Joyful 12 that are made with radishes and are perfect on toasts and to dip spring veggies into as a snack for kids. Bringing back one of my childhood favorites, strawberry cream cheese, I mix fresh radishes, strawberries, and cream cheese together with just a hint of honey to produce a creamy pink spread that’s perfect on bagels and toasts alike. Using the same method, I can quickly switch up the flavors by using the ranch flavorings in my “Easy Homemade Ranch Dip”, mixing dried parsley, granulated onion, salt and pepper, with cream cheese and grated radishes. Just a warning—this dip can be very addictive!
The really fun part of making your own food is the twists and turns that can happen when you start with a recipe you know and trust but then deviate with whatever is on hand. This is exactly what happened with my pea toasts. I figured if radish spreads were delicious on toast, why wouldn’t a pea spread work as well! The French adore the simple pleasure of fresh, organic butter on toast topped with spring radish and a sprinkle of salt. Thus, my pea butter was created as a deviation from a classic that works—but with a pea perfect twist. Believe me, when you eat one of my creamy sweet pea butter toasts with crunchy sugar snaps on top, you’ll be glad you took back lunch by making it yourself!
- Red radish, 1 bunch (divided)
- Breakfast radish, 1 bunch
- Sugar snap peas, 1 cup
- Bread, your favorite toast bread (4-6 slices)
- Strawberries (fresh), 5
- Cream cheese, 8oz
- Red radish, 5 (from your bunch)
- Honey, 1/2 TBS
- Red radish, 5 (from your bunch)
- Cream cheese, 8 oz
- Parsley (dried), 1 tsp
- Onion (dried), 1 tsp
- Salt, 1/4 tsp
- Black pepper, 1/4 tsp
- Unsalted organic butter, 4 TBS
- Organic frozen sweet peas, ½ cup
- Tarragon (fresh), 2 tsp.
- Salt, ½ tsp
- Zest of 1 orange
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Wash all produce.
- Bring cream cheese and butter to room temperature.
- If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling salted water for 1 minute, remove and drain before using to make the pea butter. If using frozen peas, bring to room temperature before using to make the pea butter.
- For the mixture of radishes you’ll use to top the toasts, cut into thin rounds and set aside.
- Snap peas used for topping your pea butter toasts can be left whole or sliced down the middle to reveal their interior peas.
- For either of the radish dips, blend the 5 radishes that go into the dip in the food processor until finely grated.
- Then, add all other ingredients, depending on which dip you’ve chosen, and room temperature cream cheese. Blend until smooth in a bowl with a fork or spatula.
- To make pea butter: smash peas with a fork. Smash butter until creamy with a fork (or use your food processor). Combine peas, tarragon, butter and salt and set aside.
- Toast your bread and build your toasts using the pea butter topped with sugar snaps, or a radish toast with either radish dip topped with thinly sliced radishes. Enjoy these delicious toasts as a lunch, a healthy snack, or use the dips with fresh veggies in your packed lunch!
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