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.
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 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.
This lunch looks deceptively small, but the container is actually pretty deep and loaded with goodies: two types of cheddar cheese, slices of ham and salami, cherry tomatoes, sugar snaps, crackers and a big fig from my neighbor’s tree. I also threw in a small apple. The kiddos tend to love finger foods and snacky lunches with lots of variety, so I’m sure they’ll enjoy this one.
Last night while staring at the cupboard trying to figure out what to pack for the kiddos’s lunches today, I got a burst of motivation and decided to make a little Lunchables, but healthier, snacky lunch. I sliced some salami and cheddar cheese, so the kids could make little cracker sandwiches. I also cut up a purple carrot and a couple of kiwi fruit. Then I combined mixed nuts, smoky almonds and two kinds of cereal to make a sweet and salty trail mix. I think the kids are going to love their fun Friday snacky lunch.
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.
The kiddos have been coming home from school pretty hungry for the last two days. They must be working up some serious appetites as they get back into the swing of the school routine. I decided to give them some protein power in today’s lunch: a hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper and two extra delicious kinds of cheese (Dubliner and smoked gouda). Yesterday, I also made a batch of mini zucchini banana muffins to use up some of that summer squash. For fruits and veggies, I threw in some carrot sticks, jicama sticks, grapes and a dried apricot. I just love this pretty, colorful lunch.
I’ve noticed that sometimes the kiddos eat more of their lunches if the food is presented in little bites. Of course, finger food is pretty fun. They also like deconstructed sandwiches: all the normal sandwich ingredients served as individual pieces instead of made up into a big sandwich. That’s exactly what I decided to do for Wednesday’s lunch: I cut up some leftover grilled teriyaki pork tenderloin and served it with baby dill pickles, a couple of slices of homemade bread with yummy Irish butter and some delicious strawberries, grapes and carrots.
I continued with the small bites theme in today’s lunch, which had slices of ham and cheddar cheese served with a side of veggie crackers. The kiddos just love mom-made Lunchables. Unlike real Lunchables, mom-made Lunchables have all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies.
I decided to go with a lunch of small bites for today’s fun Friday feast. There are all sorts of goodies in this lunch: fancy cheese, Canadian bacon, cereal trail mix, savory crackers, crisp veggies, and slices of tart Granny Smith apple.
The trail mix is a winning combination of Chex, almonds, date pieces, dried cranberries and peanut butter chips. Yum! The kiddos absolutely love a snacky lunch of small nibblies.
dramatic photos courtesy of Iain
Lately, the kids have been interested in helping me pack their lunches. At the end of last week, we came up with this beauty: our homemade take on Lunchables. Iain came up with the slogan, “same idea, 0nly healthier.” Our lunchables kit contains: multigrain crackers, a piece of smoked trout, slices of sharp cheddar, carrot and celery sticks, a small container of cookie butter (for celery stick dippin’), oranges from our tree, and some dried apples and goji berries. This lunch may not have the shelf life of a Lunchables pack, but it’s still fun to eat.
I’m wondering how the post-Halloween school day is going and how many kids are suffering from a candy hangover. I feel for the teachers. Yesterday I was organized enough to get the kiddos’ lunches packed before trick or treating time. It’s one of those typical Friday lunches comprised of random things left in the fridge and in the fruit bowl at the end of the week. I made some pumpkin muffins on Wednesday night, so the kids could eat them on Halloween morning. For lunch, I sliced the muffins in half and spread on a little pumpkin cream cheese, for double the pumpkin. I bought string cheese to make the mummy pizzas, so I threw one of those in each lunchbox. I also included a small container of plain yogurt with homemade apricot jam (look at that color!). The fruits and veggies today are carrot slices, celery sticks, persimmon slices and some dried apple rings. I went with yummy smokey almonds for the treat today.