Thursday, September 9, 2010

New school year - 5 easy school lunches

Things are starting to slow down a bit, fresh produce frenzy-wise. Not that we aren't still inundated, but we are beginning to be sated, a bit. The sweet pickles turned out great, even without a pickle crock. The main thing is to use a non-reactive container, i.e. glass or ceramic. Since I lacked a large enough crock, I used my largest glass bowl. the shape is not ideal for submerging all the cukes in the brine, so I placed a pie plate on top and weighted it down with a gallon jug of olive oil. Three days later I had sweet pickles. Some will make their way into school lunches....

Today was our first day back. Back to our routines, back to shuttling kids, back to more structured cooking.

Structured cooking? What is that?

Well, instead of throwing something on the grill shortly before dinner, I have to actually think and plan. the kids must get to bed and so dinner at 8:30 is no longer an option. I need to have a plan no later than noon. Earlier in the day is better even than that.

And school lunches. I have been making them now for twenty one years. Sigh. We all know packing school lunches is the bane of our existences.

So I probably don't have any suggestions for you that you haven't read a million times already, but I do have some thoughts

Here are my top five tips:

  • Use different kinds of bread. There is nothing more tiresome than opening a lunch box to the same thing. Every. Day. You would get tired of it, wouldn't you? That ham and cheese you packed yesterday can be completely transformed by turning it into a wrap. Same fillings, whole new lunch.
  • Don't get stuck in a sandwich rut. Anything that can be eaten cold is good: think picnic food.
  • Stock up on small containers, small size blue ice packs, and multiple sizes of ziploc bags.
  • Try to cut veggies into packable sizes once a week. Then store in ziploc bags with a damp paper towel. Figure out what vegetable your kids like enough to eat cold: my boy likes broccoli and carrots and not much else.
  • And my new obsession: bento. What is a bento? Well, it means "lunch" in Japanese. A bento typically consists of a rice ball, some type of protein, and veggies. A very healthful lunch, indeed. The components are packed tightly into a small container and artfully arranged. I have started to stock up on bento boxes and accessories, but these are not necessary. A small square sandwich container from the grocery store works just fine. The first bentos I made had homemade sushi (it's not as hard as you think, I'll talk about it some other time), diced peaches, Japanese pickles, and mini carrot pineapple muffins. I didn't take any pictures, sorry. The kids (and hubby) went nuts over them. Other varieties have been less popular, but some others have also been big hits. Leftovers are great for bentos; tuck some leftover chicken on top of some rice and surround by some veggies. Include a packet of soy sauce from your last takeout Chinese food. I keep threatening to pack them some crazy bentos in their lunch boxes.They insist other kids will make fun of them. I ask them why they would care what other people think. Haven't I set a good enough example when it comes to this? Nonetheless, it is fun to torture them. I will take pictures of some of my bentos and post them as I do them. 
Here are my "recipes" for out of the ordinary lunchbox entrees.  Hey, if they'll eat it, I'll make it.

Peanut butter wrap
Spread a flour tortilla with peanut butter. Sprinkle lightly with Honey Bunches of Oats cereal and drizzle very lightly with honey. Roll up.

Baba Ghanoush with pita
Roast an eggplant in the oven for about an hour, until tender. Let cool. Peel, and toss the flesh into the processor, along with 1/2 c tahini, 1/4 c lemon juice, salt, 3 cloves of garlic, and a dash of cayenne. Serve with pita.

Veggie Wrap
Spread a pita, tortilla, or softened lavash cracker with mayo. Lay two pieces of a quartered pickle, four tomato quarters, three or four broccoli florets, and lettuce or sprouts down the center. Roll up. (My husband can't stand these. He calls them "broccoli sandwiches" I love them, but then I'm a girl. Girls like vegetables.

Cobb Salad
Line a small container with chopped lettuce. Arrange on top: diced tomatoes, crumbled bacon, diced hard cooked egg, avocado, and diced cooked chicken. Pack a separate container with blue cheese dressing

Pack celery and carrot stick and tortilla chips with a container of guacamole. Sprinkle the top with a little lemon juice to keep it from browning.

There, now that was pretty easy, wasn't it? See, even you could do it.


The Reader said...

well, peanut butter is too scarce an item around here to spread on a tortilla and (according to my boys) ruin it with honey, and I have no idea what tahini is, but the last 3 all sound good.

I think I can get bento boxes here; seems to be a growing trend. Not that we NEED to pack lunches at my house, but it is fun sometimes.

Been using your guacamole recipe for a while now, and it is a HUGE hit.

Another Suburban Mom said...

I love my bento. Now I need the little accessories so I can have more tiny bites for lunch.