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.
Today, I made lunches in a flash thanks to these little guacamole packs.
We have an overloaded snack drawer in our house. You know the one: it’s filled with random stuff like Goldfish, rice cakes, those applesauce squeezy packs, granola bars, fruit bars, etc. Sometimes, the kids forget about one of the best snacks ever: a banana.
Seriously, bananas are cheap, delicious, available everywhere, totally unprocessed, and not likely to be contaminated with pesticides due to that lovely wrapper of thick skin. They also fill you up. You can even mash them up and feed them to a baby. So, the next time your kids tell you they are starving and dinner is still two hours away, tell them to eat a banana.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
I’m a big fan of bringing lunch in a jar to work. If I’m not motived to make an elaborate salad or sandwich, I just pile fruit, yogurt or cottage cheese, and granola or something crunchy into a jar. Lately, I been on a beets kick—especially raw, shredded beets (messy to make, but delicious to eat). Last week, I made this gorgeous concoction for my lunch:
I piled shredded beets on cottage cheese with apple chunks, peanut butter, cinnamon and honey. The color is insane and I loved the spiced/sweet/earthy combo.
This morning I decide to make the kids’s lunches in jars. Of course, they had to be made to order, because they didn’t want the same thing. Lily got a yogurt, applesauce, banana and granola parfait, and Iain wanted the Elvis Special (yogurt, bananas, peanut butter and honey).
All of the fruit and veggies in this lunch are from the farmers market: gorgeous crisp apples, baby carrots, sweet lipstick peppers, fennel for Iain and kale for Lily. I threw in the little slices of lime only because I had half a lime sitting on the kitchen counter after making guacamole last night. Plus, it looks pretty. The cheese is Lily’s favorite, Irish cheddar, and the meat is also Lily’s favorite: salami. The crackers are nothin’ fancy: whole grain Goldfish and Ritz. Although, I do love me a buttery Ritz cracker; I’ll take Ritz crackers over fancypants crackers any day.
Today the kiddos have a rather European lunch with fancy cured meat and aged cheese: “Irresistible” salami sticks and New Zealand sharp cheddar, both from Trader Joe’s. Fruit and veggies are: grapes, a green plum and some sugar snap peas.
And, here’s a little peek into the grown-up lunch of the day:
My husband has been getting slightly better lunches since I got a set of EasyLunchboxes a few weeks ago. Normally, he grabs a random container of dinner leftovers for lunch, but I’ve been motivated to pack up those leftovers in a cute EasyLunchbox and that means side dishes! Fancy, huh? We both keep glass containers at work for any microwaving, because I try to never microwave anything in plastic after melting tons of Tupperware/plastic containers and finally realizing that I didn’t want to eat a side of plastic for lunch.
I got motivated last night to make a fun Friday lunch full of kid-approved snacks: mini ham and cheddar kabobs, rice cracker trail mix, carrots, lipstick peppers, cucumber and apple mango fruit crusher.
Lily helped me pack these lovely lunches last night. She’s very excited about the Laughing Cow Cheese Dippers that she forced me to buy on our last grocery outing. I don’t typically buy packaging-intense convenience snacks like this, but Lily can be very persuasive. She thought the cheese dippers would go great with last night’s leftover pesto pasta. A few chopped veggies, some fruit, and this lunch was done in a flash.
Today the kids get their favorite kind of lunch: snacky finger food. There are lots of yummy little bites in this lunch: a hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper (technically a hard-steamed egg since America’s Test Kitchen has taught me that steaming is preferable to boiling eggs), crackers, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, and strawberries.
How to Make the Perfect “Boiled” Egg
Choose a pot based on the number of eggs you want to cook: the eggs should fit comfortably in one layer on the bottom of the pan or in a steamer basket. Put about an inch of water in the pan and heat it until it’s nicely bubbling. Carefully lower your eggs into the hot water (if you have lots of eggs to cook, it’s easier to put them in a steamer basket and lower them all at once). Put a lid on the pot and lower the heat so that it continues to simmer. Cook for 6-1/2 minutes for the perfect soft-boiled egg. And when I say perfect, I mean perfect: the whites will be set and the yolk will be gloriously runny in the center. Cook for 13–14 minutes for the perfect hard-boiled egg. Experiment with the time until you find your version of the perfect hard-boiled egg. I like mine with the yellows just a little soft and darker in the very center. Run the eggs under cold water for about 30 seconds, peel and enjoy your perfectly “boiled” egg.
Thanks to those geniuses at ATK for doing all the work to discover the perfect way to boil eggs.