Lunch box ideas for kids

October 9, 2009 at 1:40 am 2 comments

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

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Entry filed under: 10 min fixes, 10 min meals, 10 min snacks, Daily Battles, Lunch box, Specialty Meals, Toddler food, Using left-overs.

Curried bread snack

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ashoo  |  October 10, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Excellent suggestions Sri….I will try the enchilada with Lavash bread…

    Thanks!!!
    Ashoo

  • 2. Kripa Venkatachalam  |  October 14, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Excellent post on packing lunch box for kids! Keep it going.

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