When did all things pumpkin and pumpkin spice take over the grocery store, the coffee shop, the moisturizer section of the drugstore, etc.? I went to Trader Joe’s on Saturday with the kids and there was an enormous pumpkin products display as you entered the store. Pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin toaster pastries, pumpkin and cranberry crackers—even salted pumpkin caramels. Naturally, the kids made my buy a package of pumpkin bagels and some pumpkin cream cheese. They love this stuff. I think I could serve them pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they wouldn’t complain. As a matter of fact, they both ate every last bite of this lunch today. In addition to half a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese, they got homemade applesauce (it’s also apple season!), super sweet red lipstick peppers, carrots, fancy 1000 Day Gouda (also from TJ’s) and crackers.
Last night I made fun purple rice bowls for dinner. Purple rice? Craziness. I made purple rice with a combination of brown rice and black rice (about 3/4 brown rice and 1/4 black rice). I don’t know what gives black rice its amazing aubergine color, but the kids love it. I’ve always had trouble cooking brown rice; inevitably, it turns out either al dente or soggy. A quick internet search for “best way to cook brown rice” led me to Alton Brown’s baked rice method, which was a revelation! Boiling water is added to rice (1-1/2 cups rice to 2-1/2 cups water) with a little butter and salt. I takes an hour to cook in a covered 8-inch pan and it turns out perfectly. This is my new go-to method for cooking brown rice.
The other players in this yummy rice bowl are: Hawaiian-style pulled pork, edamame and corn, and seaweed salad tossed in a miso dressing. The seaweed salad was another experiment. I started with this Food and Wine recipe, but I didn’t have any cucumbers, so I substituted shredded carrots and apples. The recipe makes way more dressing than you need, but it’s extra delicious and would be great on just about any salad. Where does one procure wakame seaweed? I got a little package of it at my local Asian market. It comes dehydrated and expands like crazy when you soak it in water. My kids actually love seaweed, even though it has a somewhat unique texture and is quite briny. It tastes like the ocean.
So here’s the whole lunch: crazy purple rice bowl, half a Trader Joe’s apple mango bar, a date, a couple of dried apricots, carrots and yellow cherry tomatoes. Can you say, “yummy”?
I love cooking up a big crock pot full o’ Hawaiian-style pulled pork (or any pulled pork, for that matter). Two nights ago I was organized enough to take a bag of pulled pork out of the freezer to thaw for last night’s dinner. That mean that last night was pulled pork, glorious pulled pork night—not bad for a Wednesday. As I was reheating the pork and making some cabbage slaw, I rolled up a couple of pork taquitos for the kiddos’ lunches. A little cheese, a little pork, about 10 minutes in the oven and the taquitos were done. Some apple slices and pretzel slims are the perfect accompaniment to pulled pork taquitos, don’t you think?
What do you do when you find two random hot dog buns in your kitchen? Make a couple of kid lunches, of course. Hot dog buns are a really good size for making kid-sized sammies. I also found out, just yesterday, that half a slice of Canadian bacon fits perfectly on a hot dog bun. Canadian bacon, a few thin slices of smoked gouda, some dill pickle relish, mayo and mustard—done! I also included some mixed nuts with cheese-filled crackers in the salty compartment of the lunch box, and, what I fear is the last nectarine of the season, for today’s fruit portion.
This school week has started out with some delicious melty cheese lunches. For Monday’s lunch, I made quesadillas with pinto beans—conveniently, I had cooked up a big pot of beans on Sunday, which we had with grilled fish tacos (yum!).
Today’s lunch included an always-popular-with-the-kids English muffin cheese pizza. I also packed some little cheese-filled crackers, mixed nuts, and some super sweet cantaloupe I got at the farmers market this weekend.
By the time Thursday night arrives, I always feel like I’m running out of lunch ideas. You’d think this wouldn’t happen after years of packing lunches, but, sadly, it still does. Last night, I was scrambling for stuff to put in the kiddos’ lunches. Yesterday I made a big batch of vegan pumpkin muffins for today’s 4th grade assembly, so at least I had some fresh muffins on the kitchen counter. Iain requested a fruit salad simply by asking: “Are you making a fruit salad for lunch tomorrow?” Umm, I am now—with this white nectarine that’s getting kind of soft, the last of a bag of grapes and some watermelon that grandma brought over. Then I grabbed some dried apricots and some mixed nuts. I felt like the lunch needed some protein. Cheese? A little container of yogurt? Then it hit me: there’s a bag of teriyaki beef jerky in the cabinet. And, with that, lunch making was done for the week.
This is one of my favorite lunches to make for the kids. I take whatever we had for dinner, stuff it into a tortilla with some cheese and voila! Leftovers transformed into lunch. In this case, I had made tofu veggie breakfast-style burritos for dinner, which made for some yummy lunches the next day. We still have tomatoes in are garden, so I included these in the lunch along with some carrot sticks, grapes, a tangerine and a little cheese cracker sandwich (a savory treat).
Today’s lunch has a bit of a pink theme going on with the ham and cheese roll-ups and the yogurt with berries, raspberry jam and granola. To make the roll-ups, I covered a tortilla with shredded cheese and diced ham, microwaved it for one minute, rolled it up tight, and let it cool before cutting into bite-sized slices. I also included half a small carrot and a little serving of green grapes in this yummy lunch.
What’s the best thing ever on a hot day? Watermelon and cold grapes. I knew it would be another hot one today, so I packed a big container of always-popular-with-the-kids juicy watermelon and green grapes. I also made little sandwiches (one whole sandwich split between two kids) with ham, Dubliner cheese, mustard and microgreens. Microgreens? Say what? I don’t normally have cute little microgreens hanging out in the fridge, but they were on sale at Albertsons a few days ago, so I grabbed a package. Such a fancy little sandwich condiment for the kiddos’ lunches!
What’s better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich made on whole grain blueberry pancakes instead of bread. Yummy! The kiddos just love these little sandwiches. It’s been hot here—like it always is in September—so I’ve been keeping lunches pretty light and packing lots of juicy fruit.
Lunch on Friday was a typical end of the week meal comprised of slightly random odds and ends (a clean out the fridge scenario). I had made some teriyaki chicken and veggies for dinner, with coconut rice and black beans; this got packed as is into the lunch box, because I was too lazy to make something new. Earlier that morning, I had the wherewithal to mix up a small batch of blueberry chia pudding. Isn’t that pudding a great purple color?
Blueberry Chia Pudding
- 1 cup milk of your choice
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 3–4 dates
- 1 tablespoon honey
- pinch of cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds
Combine all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds and let the mixture sit in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight. This pudding was a big hit with the kiddos.
My kids have never had actual Lunchables, but of course, they’ve seen other kids with Lunchables at school. The interesting thing about Lunchables is that the concept is basically good: little finger foods that kids can assemble in different ways. Unfortunately, the actual Lunchables product is full of preservatives and utterly lacking in fresh fruit and veggies; nutrition is sacrificed for a long shelf life (as it is in so many processed foodesque substances). Luckily, it’s easy to make a Lunchables-inspired snacky lunch that is full of color, variety and fun finger foods. For today’s lunch, I included slices of ham and cheddar cheese with a stack of crackers and lots of yummies on the side: cherry tomatoes, half a sweet red jalapeño (strangely mild and currently growing in my garden), carrot sticks, apples slices, a tangerine, and a few salty nuts.