Lunch box ideas for kids

Quick MealToddler FoodParallel ProcessingLunch Box MealKid FriendlyFamily MealTravel FriendlyNo Cooking

When the craziness of  life sets in  most of us are at loss for lunch box ideas at some level.  Some of us are lunch stumped for ourselves or for our kids and sometimes for the entire family! 🙂

Here are some suggestions especially for our vegetarian readers who do not get a fair share in the grocery stores with pre-made foods (at least in most stores).   This post is intended to provide lunch choices for kids (preschool -???).  A similar post for grown ups and for the entire family will soon follow.  The key to any of these choices is the marketing.  Please trust MTS on this.  Most often marketing the food to your child fetches empty lunch boxes returned at the end of the day.  So small steps like giving a cute name for the lunch you pack, providing interesting colors and shapes can get your child excited about lunch.

1.  Vegetarian meatless meat ball or cooked chicken meatballs or regular meat balls – warm these on a stove or oven (time dependent) as per package directions. Microwaving can make meatballs soft (easily breakable). String it with a pineapple chunk (or you child’s favorite fruit) on tooth picks or small skewers (check school safety policy).  You could also drizzle a sauce on top of it. The easiest sauces would be – melt any fruit jelly in the microwave for 10 seconds. There you go – your vitamins + protein in one meal. Call this something fun, something your child can relate to.  How about sponge bob and the sphere for the preschoolers (pineapple and meatball respectively)?

2.  If you do not have cookie cutters please think of investing in a set.  They are NOT pricey.  With fun shapes anything simple can be made to look very cute.  Cookie cutters go beyond their scope to cut mini sandwiches, fruits, veggies (cucumbers), pancakes, cheese, tortilla (quesadilla).  Even if it is a boring PBJ or a deli sandwich, placing a butterfly shaped slice of cheese on top of the sandwich can fetch the ‘wow’ effect.  And it will take 10 seconds to work with a cookie cutter + store bought sliced cheese to create a butterfly.  This is when little goes a long way :).

3.  Quesedilla is a  quick microwave meal.  Fresh lavash bread works better for a cold quesadilla (assuming most schools do not have facilities to warm up lunch).  Warm up the bread for 10 seconds until soft on a plate. Take it out and spread 2-3 Tbsp of egg (white/beaten/eggbeaters/egg substitute). Grated cheese can be used in the place of egg. Top it with minced veggie burger, cover it with another lavash and microwave it for 30 seconds until the egg is cooked.  Time will vary according to your microwave.  Egg is just a binder here in the place of cheese. If you have grilled or cook veggies for dinner the previous night, then plan on having some left over veggies to use as filling for the quesadilla next day.  If you want to grease the quesadilla to give a grilled appearance, then brush the outside of the tortilla with olive oil before placing in the microwave.  Butter will harden on breads when cold and get your quesadilla to go hard.

4. Caramelized veggies and tofu. In a pan add butter, then carrots (baby carrots – so no chopping), salt and pepper. Sprinkle water, cover and cook on medium low heat for 3 minutes until cooked yet crunchy. Add the tofu (cut to match the size of tofu) and toss.  Now add a little bit of sugar or honey and toss for 30 seconds until the sugar melts.  The sugar would caramelize and coat the carrots and tofu in the residual heat. Add just a bit of sugar or honey (1/2 tsp) to give the extra something nice.  This is no dessert :). Again protein + vitamins in one go!

5.  Phyllo cups – fancy, yet simple.  Remove phyllo cup from the casing and set it aside. In the mean time prepare the filling. Make a salad of drained rinsed garbanzo (or any bean), some hard fruit like apples or pears, carrot bits and  lemon juice and place it on the phyllo cups. You could drizzle just a little bit of the jelly sauce (from #1) or leave it as is.  Basically, these are phyllo cups filled with  bean n veggie salad – fancy for lunch, but isn’t this simpler than fixing a deli sandwich for lunch?

6. Mickey mouse savory pancakes: Keep the griddle on low heat and get it hot. Cook on low heat throughout this recipe. With a small spoon place a little pancake batter (about 2 Tbsp) and spread it to a round (Mickey’s face). Take 1/3 of the batter you took for the face and place in the shape of two rounds on the top left and right corners (Mickey’s ears). Sprinkle grated cheese or a blend of grated cheese and finely chopped veggies (again, use leftovers).  DO NOT flip the pancake but cover and cook until the cheese melts.  You could even try apples or pears and cheese.  If you dilute the batter and make thin pancakes – you could do a pigs in a blanket using grilled tofu or vegetarian sausage or plain sausage.

7.  A favorite among many kids is ravioli.  With the festive season approaching pumpkin raviolis are in the stores now.  You could stock up on some if you like these.  But there are always several types of vegetarian ravioli available.
Quick tip: If you are pressed for time and are making lunch for your child only, then warm up just two cups of water (covered) to save time and energy. It is common for us to reach for the 5 quart stock pot – colossal time killer!
Saute ravioli in a light butter sauce with raisins, your child’s favorite veggies and sprinkle some cheese.  Unlike pasta, cold ravioli is still ideal for lunch. Note:  If you are boiling water the previous day while fixing dinner, then you could cook some ravioli and keep in the refergirator.  The same applies to the butter sauce.  If you are making a sauce for something else save some for your child’s lunch.

8. Oodles, poodles, coodles – oh yes Noodles – any kid’s comfort food!  Please check the MTS post on several choices for noodles with one basic formula.  The formula is – good carb + protein + vitamins and that article is available here.  Cold noodles work best for lunch boxes.

9. Soy nuggets available in many Asian markets and definitely in Indian (Asian) grocery stores is ideal to provide for protein source besides counting on tofu.  When these soy nuggets are soaked in hot salted water they become soft and can be used in pastas, stews, salads.  Stir fry / saute the soaked nuggets with rest of the ingredients.  They are super cheap.  Follow the package instructions.

10.  This is the most important MTS tip on this post.  Sometimes our perceptions on fixing food are mislead by media.  It will take us almost the same time to put together a wrap or quesadilla or ravioli for lunch as it will to fix a deli sandwich.  The key is planning properly – all the way from shopping for the right ingredients to planning how to multitask even when just making one recipe.  For e.g. make the butter sauce when  water is boiling for ravioli.  How about the time spent on public transport, waiting for appointment, waiting till eternity for customer service  – use this time to write down your weekly dinner/lunch menu for the family. It is not just writing the grocery shopping list. It is thinking through ‘the planning  phase’ for lunches and dinners. Think about what tasks can be clubbed. For e.g.  if you need 1/2 onion for Monday’s dinner and 1/2 for Wednesday’s then chop one onion on Monday and put 1/2 of it in a snap ware box in the refrigerator. When roasting veggies or chicken in the oven roast a bag of baby carrots on a platter.  They require no chopping – just toss in some oil, peeled store bought garlic and seasonings of your choice.  This can served as a side dish or puree them for a sauce or soup later.

Make it Fast, Fun, and Facile! – Sri

October 9, 2009 at 1:40 am 2 comments

Curried bread snack

Quick MealParty FoodKid FriendlyFamily Meal

Wondering what to do with left over slices of bread?  Well, this recipe will help you use up that left over bread and make a quick delicious afternoon snack. The recipe is extremely simple, lightly flavored and works with any kind of bread.

Curried bread snack

Kind of food: Quick snack
How long: 10 – 15 min
Makes: 4 cups
Pots and Pans: One small pot

Ingredients
6 slices of bread (any kind) – cubed
1/2 cup onions –  finely chopped
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp Red chili powder (Cayenne, paprika etc)
1/2 tsp of olive oil (or other cooking oil)
5  Fresh curry leaves (optional)
1/4 tsp Curry powder (optional)
Salt to taste

How to make
Cut the bread slices into 1 inch cubes. The best way to do this is stack the slices and cut them using a good bread knife. If the bread is a soft kind, just refrigerate it for sometime or throw it in the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting them.  Mix 1/4 tsp of salt in 1/4 cup water and sprinkle it on the cubed bread. Be careful not to over soak the bread. Sprinkle gently and shake the bowl till the bread cubes are fairly moist.  Place a pan on medium heat and heat 1/2 a tbsp of oil. Put the mustard seeds, curry leaves and turmeric. Wait a few seconds for seeds to crackle. Now add the onions and saute for a minute. You may add the curry powder (optional) and Red chili powder and give it a good toss. Now add the bread cubes and gently toss it. Its best to simply shake a pan and give it all a toss and avoid use a spatula. Roast this for a couple of minutes and keep tossing the bread often till some of it is browned .

Transfer to a bowl, garnish with some fresh cilantro and enjoy it with a cup of Masala Chai!

Serving tips
Always serve this hot from the pan. This recipe is so simple that while the tea or coffee is brewing, make this bread snack and serve it hot.

Keep it Smart, Short and Sazzy! – Anu

Tips, tricks and alternatives
Use a day old bread possible (refrigerated).
You can always make this spicier by adding some green chillies or add more seasoning
Try this recipe with other seasonings like Cajun or Jamaican jerk seasoning to give it a different flavor or to pair it with a fun drink.
This is a such a simple quick recipe and works very well for a after-school snack.

August 25, 2009 at 9:10 pm 2 comments

Sicilian Lasagna with vegetarian version

Steve Callahan’s recipe for an authentic Sicilian Lasagna originates from a family member who hails from Sicily. This recipe is  a product of passion for good food and adherance to authenticity.  MTS is very excited about sharing this recipe with its readers. MTS has also provided tips of making a vegetarian version of this recipe.

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork
5 pound beef roast
6 pounds tomatoes peeled and seeded or (use canned crushed)
1 pound mozzarella cheese
2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 pound parmesan cheese
24 OZ fresh spinach
1 bottle of red wine
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Italian flat leaf parsley
Salt Pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves

How to make:
Coat 5 pound beef roast with olive oil salt pepper and 2 cloves garlic then cook in oven at 350 for 2 hours, let cool then cut up the roast very small and add 3 pounds tomatoes peeled and seeded to pot  and simmer slowly.

In large pot brown ground meat in olive oil, put in 3 pounds of the tomatoes, the onion and garlic chopped, the spices, and simmer  after 1 hour add the red wine let simmer ½ hour. In a lasagna pan layer the sauce and flat pasta noodles. I like homemade but store bought is OK. Then more sauce, then layer the mozzarella cheese and the ricotta and a sprinkle of parmesan then add a layer of spinach, keep this up until it’s gone.  Bake at 350 for 1.5 hours. Remove and let stand.

To serve place lasagna on plate then drizzle roast sauce over it and shaved parmesan cheese over that with a sprinkle of the Italian parsley.

So when on the plate you have a serving of lasagna with the roast beef sauce and shaved parmesan with parsley. This goes great with a nice toasted sourdough bread and butter.

MTS vegeterian version: Roast veggies like egg plant, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers and onions until tender.  Use this in the place of the beef roast.  Use meatless meat balls or soy granules or meatless ground meat in the place of the ground meat.

Recipe Credits: Steve Callahan

July 15, 2009 at 9:25 am Leave a comment

Preventing rice and pasta from sticking to a colander while filtering the starch water

Most often pasta and rice stick to colander while trying to filter the starch water out after cooking rice or pasta. The colander then gets more complicated to clean, especially if pasta or rice is left in it for a while to cool down.  It is possible to avoid this frustration using this easy tip.  Just rinse the colander with hygienic tap water just before you pour the pasta or rice.   This tip with the water layer provides for a non-stick layer and prevents rice or pasta from sticking to the colander.  Be generous with rinsing the colander and do NOT towel dry the colander after rinsing.

Make it Fast, Fun, and Facile! – Sri

July 7, 2009 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

Seafood Chowder

Quick MealToddler FoodParty FoodParallel ProcessingLunch Box MealKid FriendlyFamily Meal

Here is a recipe for Seafood Chowder that will make for a very filling one pot meal.

Kind of food: Main course/ Appetizer/Soup
How long: 20 – 30min
Makes: 2-3quarts
Pots and Pans: One stock pot

Ingredients:
1 Lb Shrimp (uncooked)
1 Lb Tuna
1 Lb Orange Roughy
1 Lb Salmon
1 Lb Scallops
1 medium Onion
1 Tbsp garlic crushed
2 large cans of fat free chicken broth
1 Stalk Bok choy
1 Pint heavy cream
1 Pint evaporated milk
Salt and pepper according to requirement
1 tsp Paul Prudhommes Cajun Spice
1 stalk celery
2 Lbs red potatoes peeled & cubed into small pieces

How to make:
Cut fish fillets in 1-1/2 inch cubes. Saute onion, and celery in fat until tender. Do not brown them. Add broth, bok choy, potatoes and seasonings. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes). Add fish and other seafood and simmer about 5-10 minutes. Add undiluted evaporated milk and cream. Heat gently to blend flavors and do not boil.  Boiling chowder may curdle it.  Adjust seasoning.  This chowder can be thickened using corn starch if desired.

Serving Tips: Sea food chowder can be served with ciabatta bread/french baguette.  It can be served in bread bowl for a very fancy appeal.

How to make a bread bowl: Warm up a Kaiser roll or any bread roll that is at least 10″ in diameter in a microwave for 10 seconds or in a oven covered with foil to make it soft.  Using a sharp knife make an incision one inch from the outer edge and atleast one inch deep.  Follow this incision and draw it into a circle one inch deep. Tear open the inner circle that you drew with the knife and scoop out as much bread you want to create a deep bowl.

Ingredients credits: Steve Callahan

July 7, 2009 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

Cincinnati Style Skyline Chile (With Vegeterian Option)

Party FoodParallel ProcessingLunch Box MealKid FriendlyFamily Meal

This recipe is contributed by MTS reader Steve who has serious passion for chasing and nailing down the authenticity behind every single culinary creation of his.

Ingredients:
4 pounds ground beef chuck
16-23 ounce can of tomato sauce
6 garlic cloves
2/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground mace
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper

To garnish- 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese

How to:
Boil ground beef in 3 cups of water and 2 cups beef broth. Add 16-23 ounce can of tomato sauce, garlic and all spices.  Cook for at least three hours. Cook a package of spaghetti, place spaghetti on plate add chili add chopped onions and finally grated  cheddar cheese then top off with oyster crackers.

Yum Yum

MTS tip for a vegeterain version- Subsitute soy nuggets or vegeterian proein nuggets in the place of beef.

June 30, 2009 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

MTS annouces a NEW CATEGORY – Reader’s contributions

MTS is excited about announcing a new category – Reader’s contributions.  In this section we will feature recipes, tips on food presentation, decor and tips that save time, effort and money.  Please email us  with your contributions.

MTS email – contact  (at) mealtimesuccess (dot) com

Remove spaces in the above id and convert the words in parenthesis to symbols.

June 30, 2009 at 8:26 pm Leave a comment

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