This will make packing lunches a little faster.

Usually I’m not crazy about pre-made guacamole because it tends to taste way too smooth, citrusy and chemical tasting. Imagine my surprise when I tasted Wholly Guacamole at my neighborhood Costco and discovered that it’s actually delicious. Even though I’m not a fan of single serving type packaging (wasteful, bad for the earth, too much plastic, blah, blah, blah), I have to admit that Wholly Guacamole Minis are the perfect lunch box item.

wholly guacamole

Today, I made lunches in a flash thanks to these little guacamole packs.

lunch on 30 Oct 2017: chips, guacamole, cheese stick, pineapple guava, dried pineapple, carrots and celery
lunch on 30 Oct 2017: chips, guacamole, cheese stick, pineapple guava, dried pineapple, carrots and celery

 

In Praised of Roasted Broccoli

roasted broccoli
roasted broccoli

My kids were never that into broccoli—that is, until I made roasted broccoli. I wouldn’t say they beg me to make it on a regular basis, but they will actually eat a delicious serving of tender, roasted broccoli. I try to buy broccoli at our local farmer’s market, because it really does taste better than your average bunch of grocery store broccoli. After reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, I started getting into the habit of roasting a big bunch of broccoli during the weekend. Roasting broccoli is the easiest thing ever: chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces (kids can help with this), line a sheet pan with parchment paper, toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper (and any other seasonings of your choice), and roast in a 425˚F oven for about 25 minutes. Broccoli can go from perfectly roasted to burnt in a matter of minutes, so I tend to keep an eye on it: opening the oven and stirring the broccoli ever few minutes. Once the broccoli has cooled, it will keep in the fridge for about a week. It’s super convenient to quickly heat it up as a side dish or toss it into salads or soups. The best thing about buying broccoli and immediately roasting it is that you tend to eat it before it languishes in the back of crisper drawer and becomes sad, forgotten, stinky, half rotten broccoli (we’ve all been there).

Lily chopping broccoli
Lily chopping broccoli

Kids Making Lunch

Lily makes a kid-approved lunch.

I wish I could say that it was a regular occurrence, but one in a while, the kids do make their own lunches. They are more than capable of doing this, especially since we pretty much always have a stocked fridge and pantry. Actually, we probably have a far too stocked fridge and pantry. Here, Lily builds a lunch around one of her favorite snacks: honey whole wheat pretzels dipped in peanut butter and Nutella swirled together.

a kid made lunch of pretzels and Nutella peanut butter dip, a Chomp beef stick, pumpkin cookie, carrots and fresh figs
a kid made lunch of pretzels and Nutella peanut butter dip, a Chomp beef stick, pumpkin cookie, carrots and fresh figs

Anatomy of a Snacky Lunch

lunch on 15 Sept 2017: lunch on mini muffins and nibbles

I’m afraid the start of the academic quarter has made for sparse lunch posts on my part. Funny thing about teaching: it’s always a challenge, even for a class that you’ve taught for twelve years in a row. Or, maybe it’s just me. I can’t resist making new assignments, because I get bored looking at the same old thing year after year. That’s how it goes with lunch, too. If the lunches get too repetitive, the kiddos complain.

One thing they never complain about is when I make a fun, snacky lunch—a Momables lunch box, if you will. The snacky lunch is all about balance: something sweet, something crunchy, something salty, and something proteiny (I don’t think “proteiny” is a word).

Exhibit A:
lunch on 14 Sept 1017: lunch of small bites
lunch on 14 Sept 1017: lunch of small bites

If I have several little things to organize (like edamame and small slices of meat or cheese), I like to use silicone cupcake liners in the lunch box. Crackers are always de rigueur in a snacky lunch. Our favorites are good ol’ Ritz. Not the healthiest option, but I don’t make snacky lunches every day.

Exhibit B:

 

lunch on 15 Sept 2017: lunch on mini muffins and nibbles
lunch on 15 Sept 2017: lunch on mini muffins and other small stuff

Mini muffins are a great thing to build a snacky lunch around. Banana peanut butter chocolate chip muffins are definitely a kid favorite. I like to swirl a few scoops of peanut butter into the muffin batter before pouring it into a mini muffin pan. If you don’t fully incorporate the peanut butter into the batter, you get satisfying blasts of peanut butter deliciousness in every muffin. Small fruit is also great to throw into a snacky lunch: things like figs and apricots (fresh or dried).

The Basic Formula

A lunch of snacks is basically built around finger food. The formula is simple: crackers/bread + veggies (small or cut small) + fruit (bite sized or cut into chunks) + protein (meat or cheese or tofu or nuts) = a fun lunch.

 

Week 2: Crushed It!

lunch on 30 Aug 2017: grilled chicken and edamame hummus roll ups with veggies, watermelon and ginger snaps

The kids made it through the second week of school, and I’ve pretty much gotten back into the swing of lunch making. This week it was all about variety. Here are some fun lunch ideas:

Rice Cake Sandwich

Mix things up by using rice cakes instead of bread. Since rice cakes are pretty light, I threw in a hard boiled egg to power the kids through their day.

lunch on 28 Aug 2017: rice cake sandwich with peanut butter and Nutella, peanut butter filled prezels, hard boiled egg, sprouts, and apples
lunch on 28 Aug 2017: rice cake sandwich with peanut butter and Nutella, peanut butter filled pretzels, hard boiled egg, sprouts, and apples
Sandwich Bites and Bento Containers

Make a regular sandwich, but cut it into smaller pieces. Kids love small stuff. Cute silicone bento containers are perfect for holding little treats.

lunch on 29 Aug 2017: peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches with almonds, candy sunflower seeds, veggies and melon
lunch on 29 Aug 2017: peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches with almonds, candy sunflower seeds, veggies and melon
Roll It Up

Do your kids get bored with sandwiches? I know mine do. Use flatbread or a tortilla to roll up all sorts of yummy stuff. Hummus works great as a glue. So does peanut butter if you want to go sweet.

lunch on 30 Aug 2017: grilled chicken and edamame hummus roll ups with veggies, watermelon and ginger snaps
lunch on 30 Aug 2017: grilled chicken and edamame hummus roll ups with veggies, watermelon and ginger snaps
Add Something with Cute Packaging

I usually try to avoid food that is overly packaged, but some things are just too cute to pass up like GoGo Squeezes. They are kind of like baby food, but my big kids still like them.

lunch on 31 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with peach applesauce, apples, and veggies
lunch on 31 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with peach applesauce, apples, and veggies
Make a Sliders

My kids are crazy for any sandwich made on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, which are so soft and delicious. Every sandwich is more fun when it’s slider-sized.lunch on 1 Sept 2017: pepperoni and cheese sliders with veggies, white nectarines, and Goldfish grahams with candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds

lunch on 1 Sept 2017: pepperoni and cheese sliders with veggies, white nectarines, and Goldfish grahams with candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds

And Just Like That, It’s Another School Year

lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples

I can’t believe that the lazy days of summer are over and the kids have been in school for a full week. I am full of optimism for this new school year. I now have a 4th grader and a 7th grader (first time middle schooler!), so I feel like an old pro at lunch making.

Here is how the first week went:

lunch on 21 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, lipstick peppers, and an apple
lunch on 21 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, lipstick peppers, and an apple

I’ll admit that the first day of school snuck up on me. It was the day after my daughter’s dance recital and it coincided with the epic solar eclipse (which wasn’t so epic here), so there was a lot going on. For lunch, I stuck to a classic combination: peanut butter, Nutella and banana (quite possibly the greatest sandwich ever) with some crunchy veggies and a little farmers market apple.

lunch on 22 Aug 2017: ham, cheese and sprouts sandwich with carrots and plums
lunch on 22 Aug 2017: ham, cheese and sprouts sandwich with carrots and plums

On Tuesday, my son actually tried school lunch for the first time ever. He was underwhelmed by the “street tacos” so I’m not sure if he will by buying lunch at the middle school too often. For Lily’s lunch, I made a ham and cheese sandwich with butter and pea sprouts.

lunch on 23 Aug 2017: edamame hummus and sprouts sandwich with salami, lipstick pepper, plums, nectarines, Goldfish and almonds.
lunch on 23 Aug 2017: edamame hummus and sprouts sandwich with salami, lipstick pepper, plums, nectarines, Goldfish and almonds

My kids are crazy about these salami sticks that come in two-pack at Trader Joe’s, so I typically throw them into a lunch at least once a week. On Wednesday, I also included a little sandwich with edamame and hummus, half a super sweet lipstick pepper, some plums and nectarines and parmesan Goldfish with almonds.

lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples
lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples

I was motivated to try something a little different for lunch on Thursday. I folded a tortilla around some sliced ham and guacamole to make a little pocket of yumminess (a little cheese glues the edges together). These were a big hit with the kids, so I think I’ll be making more tortilla pockets in the future.

lunch on 25 Aug 2017: pretzel bread with sprouts and grilled fish, carrots, plums, Goldfish and almonds
lunch on 25 Aug 2017: pretzel bread with sprouts and grilled fish, carrots, plums, Goldfish and almonds

On Friday, the lucky kiddos got sandwiches made on pretzel bread filled with leftover grilled cod fish and sprouts. How yummy does that sound? Whew, we survived the first week of school.

 

And Just Like That: The End of School

lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King's Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes

I still can’t believe it: the school year is over. It’s been a long slog this year, but we survived it. I’m actually relieved to get a break from lunch packing. I was starting to run out of inspiration as the school year wound down. I’ll be using the summer to get my lunch packing groove back and to try to master the art of choux pastry.

Here are some of the favorite kid lunches from the last two weeks of school:

last day of school lunch: pita pizzas with papaya, nectarine, Trader Joe's dark chocolate Nutty Bites and Reese's Pieces (special treat!)
last day of school lunch: pita pizzas with papaya, nectarine, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate Nutty Bites and Reese’s Pieces (special treat!)
lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King's Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes
lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King’s Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes
cantaloupe, donut peach, fennel, mini peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins, grilled chicken and salami sticks
lunch on 31 May 2017: cantaloupe, donut peach, fennel, mini peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins, grilled chicken and salami sticks
lunch on 1 June 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on homemade challah, grapes, cherries, kiwi and baby carrots
lunch on 1 June 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on homemade challah, grapes, cherries, kiwi and baby carrots
lunch on 5 June 2017: cantaloupe, grapes, Cheez-It snack mix, salami sticks for Iain and mortadella wrapped around cheese and sprouts for Lily
lunch on 5 June 2017: cantaloupe, grapes, Cheez-It snack mix, salami sticks for Iain and mortadella wrapped around cheese and sprouts for Lily

 

Variety and Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots

I just love our new Monday morning routine in which the kids pack their own lunches. This week, I asked Lily to pack me a snack and she made me a beautifully organized container or cherries and carrots, complete with an encouraging “You’re Awesome” Post-it note. I love that kid.

Lily making her lunch and a snack for mom
Lily making her lunch and a snack for mom

Lunches for the rest of the week were full of variety. For Tuesday’s lunch I made little salami pizza’s on honey whole wheat English muffins.

lunch on 16 May 2017: English muffin pizza with salami, carrots, grape tomatoes and kiwi
lunch on 16 May 2017: English muffin pizza with salami, carrots, grape tomatoes and kiwi

Wednesday’s lunch contained lots of fruit along with cheese, pretzels and leftover pork tenderloin. I love how fast pork tenderloin cooks. I marinated two pork tenderloins in teriyaki sauce (Soy Vay®) and roasted them in a 500˚F oven for 20 minutes (be sure to line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you’ll be left with a sticky, burnt mess when cooking at this high temperature). They were perfectly tender and juicy. With rice and some quick sautéed mushrooms and sugar snaps, it was a perfect dinner with plenty leftover for both grownup and kid lunches.

lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots
lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots

On Thursday, the kids requested a “sandwich tasting” for lunch. These little King’s Hawaiian rolls have 1) Nutella, 2) butter and strawberry jam, and 3) crunchy peanut butter and marshmallow Fluff.

lunch on 18 May 2017: mini sweet sandwiches, pistachios, carrots, cherries and mango
lunch on 18 May 2017: mini sweet sandwiches, pistachios, carrots, cherries and mango

The last lunch of the week has some oranges that I picked last night in the dark (ripe, luckily), kiwi, carrots and a mini sandwich with mortadella, pork and cheddar. What a yummy end to the week.

lunch on 19 May 2017: pork and cheese mini sandwich, oranges, kiwi and carrots
lunch on 19 May 2017: pork and cheese mini sandwich, oranges, kiwi and carrots

In Praise of the Bread Machine

a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven

A bread machine is one of those big bulky kitchen appliances that I never imagined would be an essential item in my house—that was, until I got a bread machine. I love this thing. The loaves that bake in the machine are a little funky in size: tall and puffy with a hole in the bottom from the mixing device. But, the kids don’t complain: they love fresh, warm bread. The thing that I really love about the bread machine is that it mixes dough perfectly. We use every week to make pizza dough: dump the ingredients in and the dough is ready in 45 minutes. All it needs is a short rest and then it’s ready to roll out.

I’ve also discovered that the bread machine can make lots of other doughs, including enriched doughs for brioche, sweet rolls, pan de muerto and challah. Look at this beauty I made yesterday:

a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven
a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven

And here is today’s school lunch, featuring that lovely bread:

challah with Nutella and jam, pistachios, baby carrots and strawberries
challah with Nutella and jam, pistachios, baby carrots and strawberries

In Praise of Strawberries and Fancy Sandwiches

crazy big strawberry from the SLO Farmers Market

Here at Love and Lunch Corporate Headquarters, we have had a rough couple of weeks (a month?) of sicknesses working their way through the office. As a result, I haven’t been keeping up to date with my lunch posts. But, rest assured, we have been eating. And eating quite well, I might add. I was thinking about this as I made sandwiches for the kiddos last night. I took sandwich requests (always a mistake), so I had to make two different types for today’s lunch: one with mortadella and the other with roast beef. Making these fancy sandwiches made me reflect on my own childhood of bologna, American cheese (Kraft singles), and ketchup (Heinz, please) sandwiches. Yep, that atrocious combo was my favorite. My kids definitely have way better taste than I ever did at their ages.

sandwiches made to order: mortadella, cheddar and sprouts for Princess and roast beef, cheddar, a few sprouts and dill pickle relish for Big Dude
sandwiches made to order: mortadella, cheddar and sprouts for Princess and roast beef, cheddar, a few sprouts and dill pickle relish for Big Dude

Of course, I didn’t grow up in California (except for a brief stint in kindergarten when Dad was stationed at March AFB), land of plenty. I mean just look at this strawberry:

crazy big strawberry from the SLO Farmers Market
crazy big strawberry from the SLO Farmers Market

My kids are so lucky to have year-round access to such amazing produce. It makes it a lot easier to pack reasonably healthy lunches when you always have delicious fruit and veggies on hand. Here is a round-up of some recent lunches. Almost all the produce is from the SLO Farmers Market. Yum, yum and more yum.

lunch on 13 Mar 2017: carrots, apple slices and strawberries with mini peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and pistachios
lunch on 13 Mar 2017: carrots, apple slices and strawberries with mini peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and pistachios
lunch on 14 Mar 2017: rice cake with crunchy peanut butter and jam, graham fish and dry roasted peanuts, strawberries
lunch on 14 Mar 2017: rice cake with crunchy peanut butter and jam, graham fish and dry roasted peanuts, strawberries
lunch on 15 Mar 2017: jam and butter on homemade egg bread with dried apricots, a Fig Newton, strawberries, carrots and sugar snaps
lunch on 15 Mar 2017: jam and butter on homemade egg bread with dried apricots, a Fig Newton, strawberries, carrots and sugar snaps
lunch on 17 Mar 2017: sandwiches with grapes, carrots and baby cucumbers
lunch on 17 Mar 2017: sandwiches with grapes, carrots and baby cucumbers

Lots of Bread Baking

lunch on 9 Dec 2016: pepperoni, butter and dill pickle relish on a pumpkin roll, cheese stick, satsuma, grapes, and veggies

I’ve been on a bread baking kick this week thanks to my trusty bread machine (and the fact that I’m not teaching this quarter!). It’s hard to even call bread machine bread “homemade” because it’s so easy. I also love using the bread machine to mix and knead dough, so I can make cute rolls like this:

lunch on 7 Dec 2016: peanut butter and honey on a roll, colby jack cheese stick, satsuma, veggies, pretzel fish and cheese filled crackers
lunch on 7 Dec 2016: peanut butter and honey on a roll, colby jack cheese stick, satsuma, veggies, pretzel fish and cheese filled crackers

My son mentioned this week that he wants to have “simple” lunches that aren’t too heavy. He’s a sixth grader, but his little sister has a bigger lunch time appetite than he does. I think it’s because he just wants to eat as fast as possible, so he can go to recess and play with his friends. With that in mind, I’ve tried to keep things “simple”. I made a batch of little rolls twice this week, and they’ve been perfect for making mini sandwiches like the one above with peanut butter and honey.

lunch on 8 Dec 2016: honey and peanut butter on golden pumpkin bread with a satsuma, kiwi and veggie sticks
lunch on 8 Dec 2016: honey and peanut butter on golden pumpkin bread with a satsuma, kiwi and veggie sticks

The peanut butter and honey was a hit, so I spread it on some fresh pumpkin bread for Thursday’s lunch. Fresh pumpkin bread? What?! I have a favorite holiday roll recipe that uses pumpkin puree in the dough, so I decided to add some pumpkin puree to my standard egg bread recipe. It turned out both pretty and delicious—a gorgeous, soft, golden loaf of bread. If you’re a bread baker, try adding some pumpkin puree in place of half the liquid in your bread recipe. You won’t be disappointed.

lunch on 9 Dec 2016: pepperoni, butter and dill pickle relish on a pumpkin roll, cheese stick, satsuma, grapes, and veggies
lunch on 9 Dec 2016: pepperoni, butter and dill pickle relish on a pumpkin roll, cheese stick, satsuma, grapes, and veggies

Because that pumpkin bread turned out so well, I was motivated to whip up another batch of rolls—this time with, you guessed it, pumpkin added to the dough. Today’s little sandwich has a couple of pepperoni slices, a little butter and lots of dill pickle relish. We’ve also been on a radish kick lately. My daughter just loves radishes. Look at these beauties I picked up the farmers market last weekend:

farmers market radishes
farmers market radishes

Now, don’t you just want to add some crunchy radishes to your next salad?

Crunchy Veggies, Kiwifruit and Assorted Breads

lunch on 6 Dec 2016: homemade roll with butter and jam, salami sticks, carrots, kiwi, and a satsuma

We’ve started out the school week with assorted featured breads. On Monday, I had some leftover French toast, which made some nice little Nutella and jam sandwiches. While I had the Nutella out, I spread some on a tortilla and rolled it up with a banana inside. Yum!

lunch on 5 Dec 2016: French toast with Nutella and jam, banana and Nutella roll up, kiwi, carrots, radishes and candy cane pretzel treats
lunch on 5 Dec 2016: French toast with Nutella and jam, banana and Nutella roll up, kiwi, carrots, radishes and candy cane pretzel treats

Yesterday, I made some delicious rolls using my trusty bread machine to mix and knead the dough. Aren’t they lovely?

homemade dinner rolls
homemade dinner rolls

So, naturally, the kids wanted some rolls in today’s lunch. I went with my favorite way to eat a fresh roll: with butter and raspberry jam. Total comfort food.

lunch on 6 Dec 2016: homemade roll with butter and jam, salami sticks, carrots, kiwi, and a satsuma
lunch on 6 Dec 2016: homemade roll with butter and jam, salami sticks, carrots, kiwi, and a satsuma