Some time ago, I got worried about school lunches, and immersed myself briefly in bento blogs. Then stuff happened. Then I got back from vacation, and realized I have very little time to figure this out! Actually it’s not so bad as all that, because the Kindergarteners in my city ease into things, having half days until October. I still need to send a snack, but that’s different. Not only that, but I keep expecting to get rules of some kind. No nuts, no peanuts, no chocolate milk, no soup, no… I don’t know what they would forbid, and that worries me. So, I’m testing portable food. And thinking very hard. Here are some things I’m thinking.
- Omelettes: I saw in some bento lunches, very very thin omelettes rolled up tight. Taste test = happy. I can’t roll them as tightly, partly because I lack practice, and partly because I put in minced green pepper too. Cheese helps the roll stick together, the shape makes it easy finger food, and I found that by using a pastry brush I can get enough butter for flavour in the pan without overwhelming it. Slightly labor-intensive for a weekday morning, but if I keep the minced pepper and grated cheese on hand, it takes barely longer than a sandwich. In my small pan, I think 2/3 egg per roll works perfectly, which looks like a reasonable size for a 5 year old, but we’ll see. The pepper in this, by the way, is not a veggie serving, just a flavouring.
- Sliced veggies: This is obvious, of course, but I need to remember to cut things up as I buy them, so I can just grab them and dump them in the lunches. Fruit is tougher, it mostly ought to be cut up that morning. Oh, and cooking veggies too, and be steamed fast in small quantities if they’re already cut.
- Sandwiches: I hope they allow nut butters. Combine with jam, or bananas. Also cucumber/mint (if it’s in a cool box, I make those with mayo), hummus/red pepper, and various things I haven’t thought of yet. Sandwiches are slightly complicated due to children deconstructing some types more than others.
- Beans: With Cynthia, I’m lucky. She’ll just eat canned beans by the bowlful. If I run out of protein ideas, there’s always that. Nathaniel won’t, but he doesn’t need the lunches yet.
- Jerky: I actually like making jerky, when I get to it, and the kids love it. Definitely not an everyday thing, or even every week, but a reasonable thing to have in the rotation.
- Marinated chicken: My current theory is, freeze small containers in marinade, thaw and cook the day before. I’ll need to cook several lunches’ worth at once though, I just can’t deal with piles of itty bitty containers in the freezer.
- Frozen corn and peas: Instant vegestarch. They can keep other things cold while they’re thawing, too!
- Pasta in parmesan: Both kids love this. Can be combined into pasta salad, or put in its own corner, it’s all good.
- Bread of course: In sandwiches, or just as bread & butter. I sometimes freeze risen but uncooked buns, with cheese and meat and veggie filling. Sort of like an instead calzone, except more bread than filling. If I can find a filling combination which my kids will eat, that will rock. 😛 No matter how much they like what I put inside, once it’s inside they don’t seem to want it.
- Cheese: Again, this works if the box is cold. I do have boxes with freeze-packs in the lids, but the boxes are a bit too tall and narrow to be convenient. They work best for mixed things like pasta/quinoa salad, or stir-fry.
Then there are things I haven’t tested yet.
- Quinoa Quiche: You ought to be able to dump a bit of cooked quinoa into a quiche, making it slightly less unhealthy. It’s also possible that you could take strips of quiche and roll them up in tortillas.
- Burritos: I haven’t made these in a while, not since Cynthia was able to eat them rolled up. I should see whether she appreciates them.
Then there are the extras, which are mostly plots so I can eat sugar.
- Thin pancakes, rolled up with or nutella or jam.
- Fruit leather, cut with mini cookie cutters so that I can eat the extra.
- Crispy treats, with brown rice puffs or 7-grain puffs and peanut butter. (My husband laughs at me for trying to make rice krispie treats healthy. But I can barely eat the normal ones, they’re sweeter than candy. I’m just trying to make them taste better!)
This is the first time I tried to write down any of this, so obviously I haven’t gotten everything in my head, never mind all the stuff which ought to be in my head. But I’d love other ideas!