School Lunch

Josie making salad And now it’s time for everyone’s favorite time of day–even more favorite than the ever present “What’s for dinner?”– Yes.  That’s right: What the heck do you put in your kids’ school lunches!!??

I grapple with this issue mostly with my middle child.  Josie is a very high-brow girl when it comes to culinary delights.  I believe I once mentioned that when asked what she’d like for lunch at school (since her food was coming home practically untouched) her reply was “Ummm… bruschetta please.”

Josie is not a big meat eater, is currently gluten free, and later this month will have braces.  Can you say: food restrictions?  Yipes.  We gotta step up our game here folks.

So I thought about it and decided work with her strengths.  Thank heavens she’s a foodie!  Josie’s auntie gave her a cookbook for Christmas and I have to say, it’s helping quite a bit.  Not only does it give us some good ideas, but as a third grader Josie is now able to prepare most of the items on her own.  This effort, in and of itself, is lending itself to consuming lunch at school.

This is the cookbook we are currently using:

Trader Joe's cookbook I have cleverly blocked out the first letter of a couple choice words in an effort to not give free advertising to this store.  I like Vrader Hoe’s, but I must say they could use a little competition.  Also, while it is darn handy to use ingredients found at a single stop, many of these so-called “recipes” are just instructions for pre-packaged foods.  I mean seriously: some “directions” say “open the frozen food box, put in oven, bake and serve.”  Hmmm… This is not really considered cooking in my opinion… how ’bout you?  But I digress.

In any case, if you’ve got some kiddos old enough to make a go in the kitchen, I do recommend getting something like this.  Libraries carry cookbooks, btw–so don’t get on Amazon if you’re not sure you really need it.

Josie’s Caprese Heaven

Ingredients: 1 cup Ciliegine whole milk fresh mozzarella balls, 1 cup sugar plum tomatoes sliced in half, 2 tbsp. refrigerated Genova Pesto (contains walnuts), a few sliced olives (we like kalamata), pinch ‘a salt, black pepper to taste.

Directions: Mix and serve!

Tip: The original recipe does not contain olives.  After our first taste test, however, both Josie and I agreed that the salad was missing a little something.  “We shouldn’t add any more salt” she said… (Man I love this kid) “I know!  How about some olives?”  It was the perfect choice.  To keep chilled during the school day we place salad into thermos and put in fridge over night.  Serve with some rice crackers on the side and wah-lah!

Best tip of all: She who prepares also cleans up!


Hamburger Helper

burger 1

OK.  So technically these are turkey burgers, not beef.  Why so many?  I’m making them for school lunches of course.

Spring break just ended for us and we’re in the home stretch now, but there are still 10 or so weeks of school left–that’s still 50 lunches times 3 kids to pack.  Whew.

One of our current faves is a burger for lunch.  Pictured above you see 8 patties (there are more that didn’t fit on the pan) that I made from a pound of ground turkey.  Little olive oil in the pan, dash of garlic salt on top and wah-lah: ya’ got yerself some burgers.

Once they’ve cooled, I can put the patties in the freezer (buns separate) and then pull them out for a fridge-defrost the night before.  20 minutes at the stove top for a dozen lunches = good return on my time investment!

burger 2

Out of a one pound package of meat, I can make 12-14 patties.  Slap these little honeys on a whole wheat bun with some ketchup and what do you know:  Lunch!

Here you see me placing my model burger in a reusable  food pouch.

burger 3

The pouch cost me about eight bucks–but they clean up in the dishwasher, and we’ve been using them all year long and they still look great.

(I made sure my kindergartener was going to be responsible with his lunch bag before I started sending such pricey accoutrements with him.  It’s important to be green, but once my daughter lost her lunch bag with a water bottle, thermos, food pouch and fruit container.  Thank goodness we recovered it or it would have come out of her college fund…)

My middle child will eat one of these a week.  The other two would eat it every day if I packed it up.  Throw in some veggies, fruit and a little cookie–now we’re talkin’!

Does the bun get soggy from the condiments?  Not enough to bug my kiddos.  You could see about a small container with a dipping style situation though if it’s a problem.

Sometimes when Mike’s been a very good boy, I send him to work with a burger too.