I typically feature kid lunches on this blog, but I also pack lunches for myself. My teaching schedule typically doesn’t allow for time to go out to lunch, so I frequently eat in my little windowless office—not the best ambiance, but at least the food is okay.
Here are a few of my favorite lunches from the past two weeks:
And just like that, winter break is over, school is in session and it’s 2016. Happy New Year! As is typical for me at the start of a new year, I’m filled with optimism about organizing, cooking, eating healthy, exercising, and basically getting back on track after the long stretch of holiday gluttony that pretty much starts on Halloween and ends on New Year’s Day. Over the weekend, I went to Costco and spent most of Sunday cooking like crazy and organizing my freezer. I marinated a big pile of chicken thighs and then grilled them—I sliced up the leftovers and portioned them out into little freezer bags, because grilled chicken is a great addition to salads, noodles, sandwiches and such.
I also saved a little grilled chicken for the kids’ lunches today. They both ate every last bite, so this was a major lunchbox success. Of course, as I made these lunches, I took a moment to admire them and mentioned to my husband that I wish our lunches looked this good. Better grownup lunches: now there’s a challenge for 2016.
My Favorite Chicken Marinade, no measuring required
Combine all ingredients in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Exact proportions are not important: I never measure for this marinade and it always turns out. Throw your chicken (I typically use boneless chicken thighs) in the bag, seal it, and squish the bag a bunch to rub the marinade into the chicken. Marinate the meat for several hours or all day long. This marinade is extremely versatile. You can change the flavor profile by adding different spices such as curry, chili powder, ginger, smoked paprika, etc. It works great with just salt and pepper, but the Montreal Steak Seasoning is especially good. I have a big jar of this stuff because it’s a fantastic rub for anything you want to throw on the grill.
The kiddos feasted on this lovely summer lunch today. The whole wheat pita triangles are stuffed with zucchinis (from Mom-in-law’s garden), grilled chicken and hummus. We had a slightly more elaborate version of this sandwich for dinner last night (a few more condiments: some juicy tomatoes, cucumbers and hot sauce for the grown-ups). Those gorgeous green peas are English shelling peas from the farmers market. My little one is addicted to these: she just loves popping the big super sweet peas into her mouth.
Today’s lunch is all about yummy, little nibbly bits. I started with a small portion of shredded grilled chicken leftover from dinner on Sunday. I also had a couple of baked donuts (sweetened with zucchini applesauce) laying around, so I turned those into little apple donut kabobs. Cute, aren’t they? I just love making little baked donuts and the kiddos love eating them. Initially, I was reluctant to buy a dedicated donut pan, because I have a rather excessive amount of kitchen gear. But then I started seeing all these delicious baked donut recipes and the kiddos were always asking for donuts—you know, the fried, decadent, delicious kind from the 24 hour donut shop. Now I can practically whip up a batch of baked donuts in less time than it takes to go to the donut shop and back. If you’re a donut-lover, but feel guilty whenever you eat, um, two, maybe three, cake donuts with chocolate sprinkles, you might want to consider getting a donut pan.
But, back to lunch. Along with the chicken and apple donut kabobs, I added in some assorted nibbly things: a date, a couple of dried apricots, some carrot sticks, a few apple slices and a little cocodate cookie.
It just occurred to me that this would be an awesome, plant-powered vegan lunch if I had left out the grilled chicken (or replaced it with crispylicious tofu). Maybe next time. Since I’m currently obsessed with black bean hummus (super yums!), for today’s lunch I made a little hummus sandwich with grated carrots and thinly sliced cucumbers on skinny whole wheat bread. I put some edamame in an adorable little bento container on the side of the sandwich. Since, I still had some grilled chicken left over from dinner the other night, into the lunch box it went—along with some carrots. The farmers market is crazy with grapes these days, so we’ve been enjoying all different varieties of grape deliciousness.
Yesterday I mentioned ChopChop magazine and I’d like to give it yet another plug (especially since that’s where I discovered black bean hummus). I had never really checked out the ChopChop website, but I took at look at it this morning and it’s a great resource for healthy, kid-friendly recipes.
Several months ago, I discovered ChopChop magazine, which is a fantastic cooking magazine for kids that features fun, easy to prepare, healthy recipes. At the beginning of summer, I got a subscription for Lily, my little cooker and sous chef. She just loves to get her own mail and to look at all the pretty pictures of food that she wants to make with mommy. The current issue of ChopChop has tons of great ideas for school lunches and snacks. Black bean hummus was a revelation. Who knew?! I made a batch yesterday and it was a big hit with the kiddos, so I put some black bean hummus pita triangles in today’s lunch. I also make a ChopChop-inspired barley salad for dinner last night. The salad is chock full of good stuff: sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, black beans, corn and black olives. In today’s lunch, I added some leftover grilled chicken and crumbled cheese to the barley salad. Mmm, the kiddos always love a crunchy salad of goodness!
This is definitely a clean-out-the-fridge lunch. The quesadillas contain various leftovers: smoked beef tri tip from dinner with some friends, a little grilled chicken from Dad’s last night in SLO, the last of a pot of beans, some feta cheese, green salsa, and shredded mozzarella from Friday Pizza Night. There’s a lot of stuff in those little slivers of quesadilla. The fruit salad, oh, the fruit salad: it has fresh nectarines! We’ve been waiting and waiting for stone fruit to show up at the farmers market, and on Saturday, apricots and nectarines were plentiful. The kiddos have already plowed their way through two big bags of fruit. Every time I turn around in the kitchen, there’s a kid walking around with nectarine juice dripping down their chin: “Mom, I need a napkin!” But, oh yes, the fruit salad—it also has chunks of watermelon and strawberries. For veggies today, we have a cutie pie bento container of edamame. And that little sugary thing above it is half of a donut muffin, which I made for breakfast on Sunday. Although, the recipe I used from Food52 calls them Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Puffs, which sounds a bit more elegant.
Lunch today is a little less elaborate than yesterday’s Spooktacular Halloween fun lunch. I threw this lunch together quickly, post trick or treating. I had some leftover grilled chicken which I shredded into small pieces. I also included sliced carrots, slices of sharp cheddar cheese and whole grain crackers. That gorgeous pile of fruit is a combination of plums, pluots, and oranges from our trees. We have so much Halloween candy that I quickly need to come up with a strategy to get rid of it. You can see some of it there in the treat compartment: [fruit-less, I’m pretty sure] Halloween fruit snacks.