Let’s face it, June is a crazy month. All year you’ve slogged through making lunches, and now that you’re in that home stretch you’re ready to throw in the towel and call it a day. The kids are sick of lunches, you are sick of packing them, and all anyone can think of is the lazy days of summer where they can help themselves to watermelon and spit the seeds off the porch.
As someone who eats lunch with a bunch of 6- and 7-year-olds every single day, I have some tips to get you through the next few weeks with (hopefully) little trouble. This isn’t about pieces of fruit carved into favorite shapes or something that will have you slaving away in the kitchen creating things from scratch. This is survival, baby. Sometimes you have to compromise just a little.
Don’t roll those eyes at me, Mama. Trust me on this one. Here’s how you do it-get some of those wicked little snack re-sealable bags. Set out some various snacky type foods. Let the kids create their own little bags of trail mix or veggies. If they create 2 or 3 each, then just stash them in the cupboard for you to toss in their lunch bags in the morning. Done.
Some good combinations:
goldfish crackers, wasabi peas, pretzels
teddy grahams, mini marshmallows, cheerios (a bit of chocolate chips)
cheerios, Life (or other square shaped cereal), dried cranberries, chocolate chips
You can also do this with veggies. Buy a bottle of ranch dressing (or make your own dip) and send along in a little dipping container. The following are really easy to grab and stuff in a bag:
sugar snap peas
sliced sweet peppers
I’ve seen your kids wrestling with a big orange or apple in the class and you know what they do? They valiantly try to eat it, but then the bell rings and given their choice to play or try to eat some messy orange that is dripping juice all over their desk, they throw it away and go play. Prep the fruit while the kids make their trail mix, and you’re good to go.
berries (any kind)
already sliced/peeled fruit such as mango, watermelon, kiwi
Lots of kids don’t really like sandwiches but they will eat a wrap. Keep it simple; one boy I know often has a small tortilla with a little mayo, some shredded cheese and a bit of lettuce. Wraps are so versatile and they don’t get soggy, either. Some combinations:
chocolate cream cheese and a banana
ham and cheddar
hummus with sprouts, grated carrot, and chopped green onion
turkey lunch meat with cream cheese, sprouts, grated carrots
Kids love things that are easy to handle and can be dipped. Ditch the bulky sandwich and send in lots of finger food items that can be dipped and noshed on. Paired up with veggies, some fruit, and even some cheese slices you’ll have a full meal-just deconstructed. Some suggestions:
yogurt dip with fruit, pancake or waffle strips
ranch or plum dip with chicken fingers
When you are making dinner this month, try to make a little extra of the sides you know your kids love specifically for lunches. Things like pasta or potato salad pack well in lunches as long as you keep them cold with a freezer pack. Just keep the portions small — kids are often distracted and don’t eat a lot. Throw an extra piece of chicken on the barbeque so it can be stuffed into a wrap.
Just think, you’re almost there! You can do it. Pretty soon summer will be over and you’ll get to just relax on the beach, with no lunches to pack or containers to clean.
That is, until you discover that Junior’s lunch bag has sat, unopened, for a good week in a hot car.
Oh well. You can deal with that in September.
This week, Vancouver became the first Canadian city to join Meatless Monday, a non-profit initiative based in the USA to encourage people to try going meatless one day a week. Started as long ago as during World War I, meatless Monday encouraged people to be frugal and protect the food supply. Nowdays, the focus is a little different but much the same; go meatless one day a week to reduce your carbon footprint and eat healthier. Interested in trying out going meatless at home? Check out the Canadian Meatless Monday site for news, recipes, and ideas. You don't have to go meatless for every meal on Monday, why not just dinner?
Going meatless also doesn't mean you have to live on tofu or green salad-you can be meatless, deliciously! Try making the kids their usual grilled cheese, and whip up this amazing vegetarian sandwich for yourself. Smoky, creamy eggplant paired up with salty feta and pickly beets makes for a wonderful combination. Be sure to use a sturdy, heavier bread that can stand up to the filling. I listed my favourite from Cobs Bread simply because I'm a huge fan, but you can substitute whatever you enjoy. We had these for dinner and you could pair it with a tossed green salad, but the sandwiches alone were enough to fill up our bellies with little room left over.
1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp sherry vinegar
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup mixed fresh herbs (fresh dill, Italian parsley, mint or basil, or substitute any with baby greens), chopped
1/4 cup chopped olives
1/2 cup chopped pickled beets
2 tbsp drained capers
1 tbsp olive oil
6 oz feta, crumbled
4 6x4 inch pieces of focaccia, split or 8 slices of thick, heavier bread such as Cobs Pane Di Casa Loaf
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, sherry vinegar, and grated garlic. Set aside in the fridge.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the slices of eggplant with oil, then sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Turn the pieces over and repeat. Bake the eggplant for 30-40 minutes, turning half way through, until softened and browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
(make ahead: you can make the recipe to this point and then put the cooled eggplant and mayo in the fridge until the next day)
In a medium sized bowl, mix together the green onions, herbs, pickled beets, olives, capers olive oil, and feta.
Lay the bread out in front of you. Spread mayo on each slice. Build the sandwiches by layering on the roasted eggplant, then mounding the beet salad over top. Top with the other slice of bread, mayo side down. They are a little messy to build, but that's half the fun, right?
Adapted from Bon Appetit
School is almost over, but cookies are still the number one treat in my house. Peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal, it doesn't matter; every weekend I'm in my kitchen mixing up a batch. If you like sweet and salty, these cookies marry the best of both worlds, incorporating both salty nuts and sweet chocolate into one delicious bite. While peanut butter and nuts are a no-go for many schools, this recipe allows you not to worry. Just substitute plain chocolate chips for the peanut butter chips, and omit the nuts.
The biggest issue you are sure to have is making sure there are enough cookies so that you at least get to eat some!
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter trips
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (cashews, peanuts, or almonds)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each until they are well mixed. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until mixed. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the butter mixture all at once, blending on low until just combined.
Add the peanut butter chips, raisins/cranberries, M&Ms, and chopped nuts to the batter. Stir in with a wooden spoon until they are well incorporated. Scoop out the dough in generous sized tablespoons and form into a balls. Set onto the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart and press down on them to flatten slightly.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden and set to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 2 minutes on the pan before moving them to a wire cooling rack. Store cookies in a sealed container for about 5 days or in the freezer for a few months.
Makes about 3 dozen
Adapted from Joy the Baker