As the first day of term looms large and our thumbs are preparing to type the inevitable Google search: Lunchbox ideas for kids, Ali and I have created a day-by-day list of recipes and ideas we’ll be turning to in the first few weeks back.
Meat Free Monday
I would suggest making a batch of these and popping a few in the freezer for those days when you just need something quick and simple on hand.
What You Need
1 egg, 1 dsp cheese, 1 tbsp veg (we had broccoli and carrots left over and I threw in a few peas, any combo you have will work), splash of milk.
What To Do
I used a muffin case just to keep it tidy in the lunchbox and to give it a bit of a ‘treat’ factor, but you can easily just lightly grease a muffin tin and let the little guy roam free.
Pop it in the oven at 180C for 10-12 minutes – works best to keep an eye out for when it’s firm and golden.
Makes 1 mini frittata*
*Multiply the quantities to make a few, add a little salad on the side and you have the grown up lunchboxes sorted too!
A few other ideas for Meat Free Monday lunches:
Cream cheese & grated carrot
Roast veg and pesto
Rainbow vegetable wrap
Cheddar & pickled veg (see Ali’s super easy pickling recipe here)
Hummus with beetroot & grated carrot
Grilled halloumi & apple
Tofu with grated carrot & zucchini
Tuna mayo with fine cucumber slices
Sandwich free alternatives
Pastry pockets (shortcrust pastry triangles filled with cheese and cooked veg)
Rice paper rolls
Vegetarian pizza bites
Quesadilla triangles and dip
Rice/barley/couscous/pasta – with roast veg and feta/tofu
Fritters and dip – zucchini & sweetcorn/ cheese, corn & capsicum/ leftovers work well!
Chickpea pancakes with savoury dips – see recipe here
Roasted sweet potato wedges with yogurt dip
As my small human can’t tolerate gluten, pastry treats are a rarity in our house, so these cheesy bites, simple as they are, are actually met with squeals of excitement. When there’s time they’re a great one to do with the kids.
I’m still working on perfecting home made gluten free pastry, until then I’m using the store bought shortcrust variety…and frankly, as a treat and a timesaver I don’t feel bad about it either!
You will need:
1 packet of shortcrust pastry (also works well with puff pastry, for those who can!)
1 cup of cheese
1 egg (lightly mixed) to seal edges and to brush the top
Flour for surface/rolling pin dusting (I used quinoa flour as it’s gluten free and I had it on hand!)
What To Do:
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Roll out your pastry, dusting the surface as you go and cut an even number of the desired shape or shapes. I let the small human loose on these and it worked out ok!
*Just a note if you are using gluten free pastry…it turns to chewing gum pretty quickly, so you need to work fast, especially on a hot day – as I found yesterday!
Brush the edges of half of the shapes with the egg.
Place a serve of grated cheddar in the middle of the egg tipped shapes – mind you don’t overfill them or they’ll burst, a small pile will usually suffice.
Carefully seal edges by pressing together gently with a fork.
Brush with the remaining egg for a golden top.
Pop in the oven for 10-15 mins – or until golden brown. I had to leave the gluten free pastry in a little longer, so just keep an eye on them!
These little parcels can come in any shape you feel like…when I’m in a rush triangles work perfectly, otherwise I go for simple shaped cookie cutters.
Other tasty pastry pocket fillings:
Vegemite and cheddar
Stewed apple and cinnamon
Ham and swiss cheese
Jam and brie
Other sweet and savoury tasty treats could be:
Mini muffins – see recipe here
No-cook scrolls – see recipe here
Chickpea pancakes – see recipe here
Small pot of granola/dried fruits
Mini-frittata with fave fillings – see recipe here
Sausage roll bites
Brownie bite/banana bread bite
Mini pita pocket with fave sweet or savoury filling
Edamame – in their pods if they like to ‘pop’ them
Fruit skewers – though prob’s best to use a straw if you can!
Smoothie pot – smoothie bowls are EVERYWHERE right now! we’ll be posting some lunchbox friendly ideas soon!
Chocolate dipped fruit
Wrap It Up Wednesday
Parents and carers often tell me variety is the biggest challenge they face when doing school lunches. Wraps are an easy way to make a simple change.
This one was an easy one for me as we had burritos for dinner last night. I love having lunch done the night before – it’s like Yesterday Me giving Today Me a gift. Our Family’s version is at the end of this post. In the meantime, here are a few tips and ideas.
What do your kids love in a wrap? We’d love to know – let us know by tagging your pics with #twfwrapitupweds or in the comments below.
Here are our top tips when getting wrappy
• Keep it simple and don’t overfill – you don’t want it to fall apart, and if kids start pulling bits they don’t like out, then the whole structural integrity thing really matters.
• Wrap tightly by squeezing gently, and tucking under as you roll
• Baking paper ties – the most simple solution to keeping it rolled is to use a strip of baking paper, folded lengthways once (to strengthen it) then tied around the belly of the wrap.
• You need some glue: think mashed avo, dips like hummus or taramasalata, cream cheese, mayo, greek yoghurt etc
• Familiarity is the key for fussy eaters. Add a couple of things you know they are comfortable with and it won’t seem like such a leap of faith.
• Experiment with wrap types to see what works for you. We have found a balance with the Helga’s Wholegrain Wraps which are sturdy and large enough to work, have some wholegrains (mum is happy), but they also a whiff of processed food about them (so kids think its a treat!). But for burrito wraps we like a really soft floury one or a good corn tortilla as a gluten free option.
Some wrap ideas
• Burrito wraps – employ leftovers and a soft flour tortilla: Guacamole + tinned black beans, rice, cheese and baby spinach.
• Crunchy veg and dip wraps: Favourite dip + thinly sliced cucumber, carrot, capsicum etc
• Greek Salad wrap: greek yoghurt + wedges of tomato, thinly sliced cucumber, capsicum, fetta, baby spinach
• Deli Meat wrap: Mayo + favourite deli meat, iceberg lettuce, cheese and tomato
• Pizza wrap: Cream cheese mixed with tomato paste (or pizza sauce) + ham, cheese, pineapple
• Nacho wrap: cream cheese + chopped capsicum, corn, tomato, tinned white beans. Add a couple of crunched up unsalted corn chips for fun and crunch.
• Nori burritos – use nori sheets in place of a wrap, fill with fork-crushed edamame beans, grated carrot, tofu or use your kids favourite sushi fillings as a guide (tinned tuna + mayo mixture with cucumber or avocado / leftover schnitzel and carrot matchsticks / tinned salmon and teriyaki sauce). Use a little water to seal.
Our Burritos (for 10 burritos):
Poach 3 chicken breasts (try our recipe) and cook a cup of rice (we use a cup of rice and 3 chicken breasts.
While the rice and chicken are cooking, cut the kernels from 2 cobs of corn, and top and tail a large handful of green beans. Drain and rinse a tin of black beans. Mash 1 or 2 avocados.
Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and toss in the green beans and corn and put the lid on the pot to steam while you chop the chicken.
Lay out squares of foil just larger than the tortillas. Lay the tortillas on top of each. Spread a little sour cream and mashed avo onto each.
Remove the green beans from the top of the rice and add a few to each burrito.
Add the black beans to the rice and mix in, along with the corn. Add 2 spoons of this mixture to each burrito.
Top with chicken, cheese, baby spinach and roll up tightly and wrap tightly with foil. Place in the oven to warm through and eat… with or without plates.
To save burritos for lunch the next day, prepare as above but instead of putting in the oven, put in the fridge until the next morning.
We’ve written before on our love of the thermos. It is truly the sandwich-hater’s superhero. Head over to our post Sayonara Sandwiches to get some new ideas.
For today’s challenge, the inspiration came from my kids’ love of our local Sushi Train and my friend who admitted she keeps 2 minute noodles in the cupboard as a back up lunch option (so clever! and clearly a mother of 3 too).
So I came up with a very simple idea of miso ramen soup in the thermos. Very quick and easy to prepare and most of the ingredients are the sort of thing that could be on stand by in the cupboard or freezer. It has carbs for filling them up, protein, veg and a bit of fun factor too so it really ticks all the boxes.
The thermos could be prepared the night before, or in the morning as it is so quick. If you’ve prepared it the night before, simply add near boiling water before you pack the kids off to school.
I tested a few supermarket shelf stable noodle options to see how they stand up to 5 hours in the thermos. The best we found were the Obento ramen noodles – found in with the asian noodle section of the shelves (not the fridge). These guys can just wait patiently in your pantry til you need them, along with sachets of miso paste. We buy frozen shelled edamame beans from our grocer which the kids love, but you could just as easily use frozen peas or broadbeans.
Add noodles up to about half the thermos. On top of the noodles add some sliced baby corn, frozen edamame, chopped firm tofu and a serve of your favourite miso paste. Simply add near boiling water, pop on the lid and pack with chopsticks, spoon, fork or whatever implement you think your kid will find easiest.
I sometimes add half a ramen egg, if we have them on hand in the fridge.
Bread Free Friday
Now, by Friday my lunchbox game is thoroughly off, and after 4 days of sandwiches, leftovers are a surefire way to change things up at lunchtime.
Thursday night is ballet night, so dinner needs to be quick, easy and slide down the hatch pronto, with zero fuss. This pork recipe is ridiculously simple, so easy to mix and match with other delicious ingredients and also tastes great cold, so it’s perfect in the next day’s lunch. For the lunchbox it either goes in straight with a rice/quinoa mix and veggies or in a wrap.
You will need:
500g minced pork
1 zucchini sliced
1 tbsp kecap manis
Juice of half an orange
Put the pork mince and kecap manis in a bowl and gently break it up with a fork, covering in the sauce in as you go.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthways, then slice into 1cm pieces and add to pork mixture.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the pork and zucchini mixture, stirring frequently for approx 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
Pour over orange juice and stir gently.
Serve with steamed brown rice/quinoa and a selection of veg
Serves 4 (plus a lunchbox)
Other bread free lunchbox ideas:
Corn tortilla wrap – see Ali’s wrap it up Wednesday post here
Deconstructed sandwich – sliced meat, cheese, carrot and cucumber sticks, zucchini spirals, boiled egg etc.
Rice paper rolls
Potato wedges and veg sticks with dip
Sweetcorn and zucchini fritters
vermicelli noodle box with chopped meat/tofu and veg
Corn chips with meat or veg dip
mixed roast veg with couscous/rice/barley
We hope you found some useful ideas here to help kick start the new year. We’ll continue to share lunchbox ideas based on the themes above, so keep an eye out on our Instagram! We’d love to hear from you too, so please do share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments or via our Insta and Facebook pages!
Jem & Ali x