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

 

Behold: One of the Best Snacks Ever

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.

one of the best snacks ever: the banana
one of the best snacks ever: the banana

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.

 

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

 

In Praise of Lunch in a Jar

beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar

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:

beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar
beet and cottage cheese lunch in a jar

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).

lunch on 6 Feb 2017: yogurt lunches in jars
lunch on 6 Feb 2017: yogurt lunches in jars

Cucumber, Cream Cheese, and a Favorite Condiment

cucumber cream cheese roll
lunch on 11 Oct 2016: cucumber roll ups, fruit salad, granola bar and graham Goldfish
lunch on 11 Oct 2016: cucumber roll ups, fruit salad, granola bar and graham Goldfish

For today’s lunch, I made a fruit salad with cantaloupe, grapes, and pineapple. I also made some cucumber, cream cheese and furikake roll ups.

cucumber cream cheese roll
cucumber cream cheese roll

I’m crazy about furikake, which is a sweet and salty mix of little pieces of seaweed and sesame seeds.

furikake seaweed seasoning
furikake seaweed seasoning

I pretty much sprinkle it on everything. My kids love it because it makes boring food taste like sushi.

open-faced sandwich with cream cheese, cucumbers, and furikake
open-faced sandwich with cream cheese, cucumbers, and furikake

Cheese, Salami, Crackers, Veggies and Apples

lunch on 4 Oct 2016: apples, veggies, cheese, salami and crackers
lunch on 4 Oct 2016: apples, veggies, cheese, salami and crackers
lunch on 4 Oct 2016: apples, veggies, cheese, salami and crackers

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.

A Pretzel Roll and Stuff

lunch on 21 Sept 2016: buttered pretzel roll, salami sticks, grapes, green plum, cheddar cheese, and sugar snaps
lunch on 21 Sept 2016: buttered pretzel roll, salami sticks, grapes, green plum, cheddar cheese, and sugar snaps
lunch on 21 Sept 2016: buttered pretzel roll, salami sticks, grapes, green plum, cheddar cheese, and sugar snaps

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:

leftover enchiladas with salad and sliced plums
leftover enchiladas with salad and sliced plums

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.

Fun Friday Lunch of Snacks

lunch on 16 Sept 2016: veggies, applesauce, ham and cheese kabobs, and rice cracker trail mix
lunch on 16 Sept 2016: veggies, applesauce, ham and cheese kabobs, and rice cracker trail mix
lunch on 16 Sept 2016: veggies, applesauce, ham and cheese kabobs, and rice cracker trail mix

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.

Pesto Pasta and More

Lily presents: Lunch

Now presenting: lunch.

Lily presents: LunchLily 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.

lunch on 13 Sept 2016: pesto pasta, strawberries, pineapple, Laughing Cow cheese dippers, sugar snaps, carrots and lipstick peppers
lunch on 13 Sept 2016: pesto pasta, strawberries, pineapple, Laughing Cow cheese dippers, sugar snaps, carrots and lipstick peppers

A Friday Snacky Lunch

lunch on 9 Sept 2016: crackers, hard-boiled egg, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, strawberries, and a little chocolate
lunch on 9 Sept 2016: crackers, hard-boiled egg, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, strawberries, and a little chocolate
lunch on 9 Sept 2016: crackers, hard-boiled egg, salami sticks, cheddar cheese, carrots, strawberries, and a little chocolate

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.