Siri Daly Is Making Your Kids' Lunchboxes Easier To Pack Than Ever - Exclusive Interview

We all know the dreaded feeling of a recipe rut — especially when dinner rolls around. When you have kids, it's even harder; they're notoriously picky eaters that look at a piece of broccoli with disgust. How do you get them to eat vegetables? Siri Daly has the answer — and a few new recipes too.

Daly is a mom of four and married to television host Carson Daly, and she met up with Mashed for an exclusive interview to talk about her new collaboration with Juicy Juice. The juice box brand offers 100% juice with no added sugar and is now featuring Daly's lunch box recipes for kids. The cookbook author also revealed the odd snack combination she enjoyed as a kid, her favorite simple breakfast recipes, and the one food she can't live without. During our conversation, she gave Mashed the recipes for none other than her PB & J rolls, ham & cheese sliders, a delicious smoothie bowl, and more.

Why Daly partnered with Juicy Juice

Could you tell me what inspired this partnership with Juicy Juice?

When they reached out, it felt like a very organic and genuine brand to work with, because first of all, my kids love it. I actually grew up drinking it as well, and I loved their messaging. What we're trying to get across is that real mom moment that we all have, especially right now with back to school. Now we're a couple of months in the swing of it, but [we're] trying to come up with healthy and easy and adaptable lunchbox ideas that pair with Juicy Juice to inspire moms because it's very chaotic, especially in the morning times, getting kids out of the house.

We were trying to come up with a bunch of different ideas, which we did. There's a calendar on their website that you can view and download that has a bunch of different lunchbox ideas, like peanut butter and jelly sushi rolls and cheese and salami kebabs. [It's] a bunch of different [and] easy, kid-friendly, parent-friendly lunchbox ideas.

How Daly gets out of recipe ruts

What do you do to keep yourself inspired when you find yourself in a recipe rut?

I find that asking my kids helps. Sometimes they surprise me with their ideas, especially things that they see their friends eating. They're much more willing to try something that they're excited about. Sometimes we'll look through cookbooks together, or I'll take them to the grocery store [to] get their eyes hungry for whatever looks good, and that will definitely help with ideas.

[I ask] my mom friends too. You definitely get in ruts when it comes to cooking or anything, so you need to turn to your villagers for inspiration and support.

I find myself in recipe ruts all the time, especially when dinner rolls around. I can't keep making the same thing over and over.

It gets easy to do that and fall into habits, but you need to shake it up every once in a while.

Absolutely. Say you're in a rush and you have to make your kids lunch in five or so minutes. What are the first foods or ingredients you would grab?

I try to keep everything as balanced as possible. That's a tricky question because I have three kids that I'm making lunches for. I have four kids, but they're all so different, so I find myself making three different lunches. For instance, for my 8-year-old, I'm pretty much always making a ham sandwich with the little Hawaiian buns. She loves that.

Staples that all three of them like ... I pretty much put a carrot in their lunch every day — baby carrots, either that or strawberries. I'll try to get either fruit or a vegetable in their lunch. They all love popcorn and pretzels. I definitely like to add little treats here and there because again, it's all about balance. I had a handful of chocolate chips when I finished my lunch, so you've got to keep it fun.

[There's] some sort of protein. We do a lot of chicken. I like to make something that I can use with leftovers a lot throughout the week. Whether that's roast chicken or hamburger meat, I like to find things that you can reuse.

Daly reveals her number one tip for picky eaters

Do you have any advice for incorporating tasty vegetables into a school lunch or kids' meals in general? 

Yes. I definitely have a few picky eaters, and there's two things. First of all, you have to keep trying — because maybe they won't like a raw carrot, but maybe they'll like it if it's caramelized. You have to take the ingredient and maybe test it in different ways. I've found that crisping up cauliflower or broccoli helps with my kids.

Then the second thing is I'm not ashamed to sneak it in. In my cookbook, for instance, I have a couple recipes where there's squash that I blend up and put in a pasta, or I'll make a chicken vegetable soup, but I'll puree all the vegetables first. It's part of the broth, and you put that in a thermos for lunch. I'm not above sneaking it in there when all else fails.

That's a good idea. Is that the number one tip you have for parents and picky eaters? Keep trying, get creative, that kind of thing?

Yeah, keep trying, because my kids range from age 13 and 2. I've found right now that my 2-year-old is getting to that phase where she has an opinion, and she's like, "I don't like broccoli anymore." I'm like, "But you ate it last week."

My 13-year-old is showing me that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. He asked for a Caesar salad for lunch today, so as long as you don't give up, they'll get there. Keep trying.

Daly explains how to make her PB & J sushi roll recipe

You mentioned your PB & J sushi roll recipe. Could you walk me through how to make that?

It's really fun. You basically take any sort of bread, and sometimes I cut off the crust. But then you take a rolling pin and roll it out so it's very thin, the bread. Then put peanut butter and jelly and roll it up and cut it so it looks like little sushi rolls.

I've done it with grilled cheese too. You can take cheese, roll it up, and then actually grill it like you would a regular grilled cheese, and either keep it long or cut it up into little bite-size pieces. Even when you're in ruts, if you take food that you would normally make and change it up a little bit, it makes it more exciting for them.

For the grilled cheese recipe, do you grill it first, or do you roll it out first and then grill it?

Roll it first and then grill it.

That definitely makes it more fun for kids. They think it's a different food when it's actually the same thing.

Everyone loves to eat with their fingers and dip. I'd like that grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup.

Daly's go-to dinner right now

What is your go-to family dinner these days? What are you normally cooking?

There are two things that we're into right now. Last night we made salmon and rice bowls — we'll make a big pot of rice. I like to air fry my salmon lately, and my daughter, who's picky, she'll just eat salmon, rice, and soy sauce.

That's pretty good for a picky eater.

That's her most adventurous meal. For the rest of us — or not the rest of us, but my 13-year-old and Carson and I — I will dice up some avocados and some green onions. What else do we put in there? Radishes ... It's like a DIY salmon bowl thing but with cooked salmon. That's fun. We also do a lot of tacos because everybody seems to like that.

Tacos are always a safe bet. For the salmon, how do you normally season it? Do you do basic kinds of seasonings?

Now that I've been using my air fryer, I typically do ... I don't even have to use olive oil. I spray the bottom of the air fryer, and I'll use some salt and pepper. There is a certain seasoning that I like to use — actually, it's for pork. It's called pork seasoning. I don't remember what brand it is, but there's something about it. I don't know if it's paprika or cinnamon. It makes the salmon really yummy. But you can use whatever you want.

Daly names her favorite childhood snack and breakfast meals

Mini pancakes are also included in your lunchbox recipes. Do you have any other easy-to-make breakfast recipes that you could share?

There's an egg and cheese — well, you can use whatever you want — but you can make little baked muffins in little mini muffin tins. [It uses] baked eggs, and you can make them ahead of time and freeze them and then microwave them in the morning. That's always fun.

I also have yogurt parfait, frozen parfaits that I have in my cookbook. With Juicy Juice, I made a smoothie bowl. It's like a smoothie, but you pour it in a bowl. It's more fun to eat in the mornings.

Like an açaí type thing?

Yeah. It's like that. I like to make a lot of ... Again, we're really into tacos, so my kids will sometimes like egg and cheese quesadillas in the mornings. You can make that pretty quickly.

On the topic of kids and your favorite snacks, what would you say is your favorite childhood snack and why?

Other than chocolate chips? No, I'm kidding.

I get that though.

I would sneak that when my mom wasn't around ... I grew up in the Midwest — not that that has anything to do with what I'm about to say — but it's a weird thing that I loved to eat when I was little. There was a brand of chips in the Midwest called Old Dutch chips. They were crinkle potato chips, and I would dip them in pickle juice. This was before dill pickle-flavored chips were a thing.

Pickle juice — that's interesting.

Isn't that weird?

What a cool concoction. You had the trend before anyone else.

If only I would've thought of branding that.

The ingredient Daly can't live without

What is one ingredient with all of your cookbooks and all of your experience that you could never live without?

I don't know about cooking-wise, but eating-wise, I swear I eat at least half of an avocado every single day. If there was one food that I couldn't live without, it would be that. As far as cooking, I don't know — maybe Parmesan cheese. That's a weird one, but I use it in so many different things, not just over pasta, but over soups [and] in so many different things. That's a staple that I would never not have in my house: a hunk of fresh Parmesan cheese that you can grate yourself.

Is it fresh or do you have to grate it?

My picky eater likes the green bottle [from] Kraft.

Well, you have to have both. It's a good combo ... Living or dead, who is the one chef you would want to cook you dinner?

My answer is always Ina Garten. There's something so soothing about the way she cooks, and her meals are simple and elegant. I want to go to her house in the Hamptons and eat with Jeffrey and Ina.

Do you have any other upcoming projects coming up that you want to share?

Not right now. I'm trying to ... My 2-year-old is finally starting school, so now that that has happened, I have a little more time on my hands to think about what's next. As of now, I'm enjoying her as much as possible because she's our last and the baby. Carson and I always talk about possibly doing another cookbook together.

Learn more about Siri Daly's lunchbox recipes on the Juicy Juice website. Follow Siri Daly's Instagram page to keep up with her latest projects.

This interview was edited for clarity.