Back to school season is upon us. Kids returning to the classroom inevitably means they’re returning to the lunchroom as well. Because I like to offer variety for my kids, I’m always on the hunt for new, easy ways to fill their lunch boxes with things they love to eat.
After gathering some thoughts of my own, I decided to go right to the source and get advice from the experts: my kids. Together we came up with a pretty decent list of ideas for this year’s lunch boxes that are a little outside the traditional lunch box PB&J.
Breakfast for lunch
With a little preparation ahead of time, eggs for lunch is a great idea. You could hard boil a pot of eggs on Sunday to add one to their lunches each day of the upcoming week.
If hard boiled eggs aren’t your kiddo’s cup of tea, another idea is to make crustless mini-quiches in muffin tins. These are great because if you have more than one child and they prefer different vegetables or cheese combinations, it’s easy to cater to their likes with different ingredients within the same batch—just filled each muffin tin accordingly.
If eggs in general aren't in the lunch box repertoire, bagels are filling and with so many flavor options, usually a winner. I like the idea of a mini bagel with homemade veggie cream cheese. Just by adding a mix of fresh, finely chopped vegetables to softened cream cheese, you have a great “alternative” sandwich.
And who says muffins need just be for breakfast? I say we establish a new variety—the lunch muffin—made from any savory bread recipe that’s worthy of the lunch box. Whether it has meat (Prosciutto and chive anyone?), is loaded with veggies (chopped up enough so my kids won’t complain) or is just filled with cheesy goodness, there are countless recipes out there worth trying.
Twists on the sandwich
How you cut it, literally, is one of my favorite ways to take a lunch from ordinary to extraordinary. It really doesn’t matter what you roll up in a tortilla if you slice it into four to six pieces. Suddenly you have lunch box sushi—a whole new way to eat. It’s versatile as well. Try hummus, ranch, or peanut butter wrapped with veggies, meat, or even a fruit spread. A fun presentation adds a little something different to the regular old sandwich.
Another alternative is pita pockets. My kids love to choose their own adventures when it comes to the filling. They’ll load one with veggies then add their favorite dressing, not even realizing they’ve made a salad in a pocket. Perfect!
A pint-sized thermos is your friend. When all else fails, last night’s pasta and marinara can be heated up before school, placed in the thermos, and sent off with them in the morning. If there’s a favorite soup you know they’ll eat, make a large batch then freeze it in thermos-sized portions. Heat it up in the morning and you’ll have a healthy lunch option at your fingertips.
Kabobs make everything seem more edible. My kids are way more likely to eat bite-sized food if I layer different fruit on a stick or alternate meat and cheese cubes on a stick. Because who doesn’t love to eat food off a stick, I guess.
When all else fails make your own “lunchables.” Cut up some great cheese, add their favorite crackers and some sliced deli meat and let them build their own little cracker sandwiches. Or wrap slices of deli meat around a cheese stick for a simple twist on meat and cheese.
Crustless Mini Quiche
The beauty of this recipe is how versatile it is. The cheese and veggies can be swapped out for other cheeses, veggies, or even meat. By simply keeping the portion sizes the same, you can custom make these mini quiches to your liking. These can be enjoyed at room temperature and will also freeze well.
¾ cup Milk
2 Tbsp. light cream cheese
¾ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup green onions
1 cup grated zucchini
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425°. Coat muffin tins generously with cooking spray or butter. Put a small amount of cheddar cheese in bottom of each cup. In a large bowl, whip the eggs for a minute or so, then mix in remaining ingredients.
Fill each cup two-thirds high with egg mixture. Bake at 425° for 25-30 minutes until eggs have set up. Let cool 5 minutes then run a knife around the edge of each quiche and pop out.