Saturday, April 13, 2013

4 Weeks of Lunchbox Inspiration

This may seem like just five options, but here's the thing. You can make a big batch of muffins, a big batch of nut-free banana bread, a big batch of quesadillas, a big batch of puff pastry pies, and a big batch of meringues, AND FREEZE THEM. You could even do a couple variants on the muffin/quesadilla/pie theme, should you have the energy. But, in my opinion - the same-ish lunchbox, once a week? Not a biggie.

Do this today - before school starts again, for us Queenslanders - and you are set for April/May. You can use all your newfound time to catch up on yoga in the morning, or coffee, or see if you can nail a tree-pose-with-cappuccino.

Make lunches, and time.
Amanda xx

organic childrens recipes
1 - banana bread :: chicken + pea pies :: dried apricot :: grape "eggs" in alfalfa sprout "nest"
2 - brown sugar meringue :: red capsicum (pepper) :: cheese quesadilla :: kidney beans

organic childrens recipes
3 - cocoa butter + coconut ball :: dried cranberries :: poppadoms :: sushi balls :: orange slices

organic childrens recipes
4 - zucchini muffin :: carrot flowers :: raisins + cheese :: tomato
organic childrens recipes
5 - steak :: pasta shapes :: apple slices :: roasted sweet potato

Here are the ideas and recipes, but the key is to go with what your child eats!  This isn't meant to be prescriptive, but a guideline to keep you sane when you're trying to pull together lunches for the whole family. For these ideas, I'm assuming your child's lunchbox can be kept cool via a fridge or cooler pack. Always use your best judgement! :)

Just so you know, Nelle's class has a mid-morning fruit snack and morning tea - all before lunch, which is why I don't fill up the lunchbox too much. You can vary quantities according to your child's appetite. NOTE: for mid-morning, I usually send grapes or a banana, depending on what she's been eating for the rest of the week; and for morning tea she usually gets toast, crackers, or yogurt.

Lunchbox 1:
  • Banana bread - recipe here
  • Puff pastry pie - I don't usually follow a recipe, but all you have to do is fold small rectangles of puff pastry around cooked fillings you know your child likes (like meat/veggies/cheese/tomato). Crimp the edges with your finger, to keep the fillings from oozing out, and use a knife to poke a few holes in the top of the pie to prevent explosion. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and flaky. Cool and slice. NOTE: I try to avoid cheese in these pies, because I know she'll have it a couple times in her lunches later in the week.
  • Large dried fruit - Whatever's your favourite, but mix it up week-to-week. Try apricots, dates, mangoes or figs.
  • Grape nest - The presentation is key here: make it look interesting, and it will become imminently more edible. Just 4 grapes on alfalfa sprouts, and Nelle thinks it's the coolest thing ever.

Lunchbox 2:
  • Meringue - recipe here
  • Crunchy raw veggies (not carrot) - Whatever's your favourite, just not carrots - we'll have those later in the week. Try capsicum (peppers) or snow peas.
  • Quesadilla - Simply fold a tortilla over cheese (and meat or jam) and cook in a toastie maker or on a hot griddle until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden. Cut into wedges. I usually make extras and freeze them.
  • Beans - We like kidney beans, black beans, lentils or baked beans - sometimes plain, sometimes with a little tomato puree stirred through. Don't forget a spoon if it's saucy!

Lunchbox 3:
  • Small dried fruit - We like raisins, cherries or cranberries.
  • Cocoa butter balls - Remember that notebook I lost? I'm pretty sure this recipe was in there. Damn. I think they had cocoa butter, toasted shredded coconut, buckwheat flour and rapadura sugar, but I'll have to tinker to get that recipe back. In the meantime, you can sub in your favourite wholesome cookie. (Here's mine)
  • Crispy poppadoms (Indian lentil-flour chips - find them at the supermarket and microwave according to packet instructions)
  • Fish-Free Sushi - recipe here
  • Fresh fruit - Go for seasonal colour here, to balance the whiteness

Lunchbox 4: 
  • Veggie muffin - Use whatever you've got ... zucchini, carrot, sweet potato ... but go nut-free.
  • Raw carrot flowers - It's easy to make carrots pretty, just slice off the ends and make 5 small "v" shaped incisions along the length of the carrot, removing the "v" material. Then slice into flowers. I've experimented with love-hearts, too, but if you have a boy you might have to get creative with robots or something ...
  • Dried fruit - Try something you haven't used already this week
  • Cheese - I try to vary this, too - sometimes she'll get a cheese stick, other times slices or cubes of different sorts.
  • Antipasto - I used raw tomato here, which can hardly be called antipasto ... but I often mix the tomatoes with olives, and it just sounds better that way. Am I right?

Lunchbox 5:  
  • Meat - Use whatever you have leftover from dinner. For us, that's usually steak or lamb. I don't send fish - it's too potentially messy/stinky on her school uniform.
  • Pasta - I almost always have made-up pasta shapes in the fridge for kiddie emergencies. Nelle *loves* them in her lunch! Go for shapes that are easy to eat, and add sauce if you like.
  • Fruit slices - We like apple or pear, but brush each slice with a little lemon to keep it from going brown.
  • Roast veggies - Again, go with what you've made for dinner. Ours usually include roasted sweet potatoes, pumpkin or potatoes.
 Happy lunchboxing!


Zara said... [Reply to comment]

These lunchboxes sound delicious. I've hust purchased a compartment lunch box for work and you've given me some great ideas.

Hannah said... [Reply to comment]

so many great ideas!

Laura said... [Reply to comment]

What fabulous lunch box ideas! My daughter will be in 1st Grade next year and I need to start planning daily healthy lunches for her to bring with her this Fall. I might need to get one of these lunchboxes too-super cute :)

Erika said... [Reply to comment]

What lovely lunches you fix for Nelle!

Stupid question, but do the kiddos really drink tea, or does that just refer to a certain time? Here in the States I'm afraid it would be Kool-Aid or something along those lines ;)

Amanda Niehaus said... [Reply to comment]

Zara, Hannah, Laura - I hope you enjoy them! You'll have to link back with any lunchboxing you do :)

Erika - not silly at all! They call it 'tea' but it's really just a snacktime. A throwback to English culture :)

Eileen said... [Reply to comment]

These are such great & different lunch bentos! I especially love the simplicity--but also the variation from usual lunch dishes. Hooray!

Amanda Niehaus said... [Reply to comment]

@Eileen What a great way to sum it all up! Simplicity and variation. It's how I like to (try and) live life, too ... Starting with Bentos :)

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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx

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