How to fill a lunchbox

Chicken and cheese taco with cherry tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries,  Romesco  sauce, guacamole, and flax seed tortilla chips.

Chicken and cheese taco with cherry tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, Romesco sauce, guacamole, and flax seed tortilla chips.

I spend a lot of time thinking about, planning, and executing M's lunches. And there are days when he eats...none of it. But there are days when he eats tons and I feel utterly triumphant. I wanted to share my top lunchbox tips so that you, too, can declare victory when that lunchbox comes home nearly empty (and you haven't worked that hard to make it happen).

Sushi is always a favorite and can be filled with WHATEVER your kid likes. See my  Instagram post  for my simple sushi rice recipe.

Sushi is always a favorite and can be filled with WHATEVER your kid likes. See my Instagram post for my simple sushi rice recipe.

1) Repurpose leftovers: Obviously, you can plop a portion of last night's dinner into your kids' lunchbox. (See below for some favorite ways to do this.) But another tactic is to make extras of the proteins and veggies that were dinner's components. Those ingredients, plus a tortilla with some cheese (or vegan cheese) and avocado, become a taco, quesadilla, or roll-up. We're also big fans of the "open face" sandwich with cheese melted on top. Or, cube it all up and make a skewer. Or, if your kid is a pasta eater, add those proteins and veggies to noodles and some jarred sauce. Easy peasy.

Leftover fried rice plus smoked salmon, blueberries, cheese, hummus, and pretzels.

Leftover fried rice plus smoked salmon, blueberries, cheese, hummus, and pretzels.

2) Prep: Every weekend I do these 5 things:

  • Hard boil some eggs

  • Make a white, wheat, rice, or bean pasta

  • Bake mini muffins or doughnuts

  • Make no-bake energy balls or granola bars

  • Roast two veggies that I know M will eat

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3) Send breakfast for lunch: I often make double breakfast and add it to a lunchbox later in the week. For instance, these two-ingredient egg and banana pancakes are a big favorite. Use them as sandwich bread with nut or seed butter and chia jam or rolled them up like little cigars. Savory waffles like veggie or cheese can sub in for sandwich bread. Granola cups are also an easy batch bake that work for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

4) Take inspiration from their classroom learning: I like to theme M's lunches, but that's mostly because I need inspiration and not because I'm trying to win any mom awards. Dinosaurs, Butterflies, and The Ocean were particularly fertile ground. Even if "theme-ing" lunch just means cutting out a sandwich shape, it feels a little special.

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5) Deconstruct something they like: Add the fixings for tacos, nachos, sandwiches, pasta, etc and let them put it together themselves. Like a homemade lunchable.

6) Think about appetizers: Have you considered sending your kids to school with a cheese plate or chicken sausage pigs in a blanket? Half of M's lunch most days is a crudite plate.

See? Basically crudite.

See? Basically crudite.

Double Duty Dinner/Lunch Recipes 

Sweets with oomph

No bake add-ins

Happy lunching everyone!

Almond butter quinoa muffins

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What these muffins have: Good fats, protein, Omega-3s, deliciousness.

What these muffins don't have: Gluten, dairy, refined sugar, wheat, eggs, soy.

Bonus feature: The muffins only require one bowl!

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The new school year already started for lots of the country, but here in CT, M's preschool starts again on Monday. I've been thinking about quick ways to begin our day with protein that don't require cooking in the morning. These muffins are the answer!

Half of the flour is ground quinoa, which has lots of protein. The other half is oatmeal. I originally made these muffins with almond flour instead of oats for even more protein, but the almond flour was so dense that the muffins stuck to the roof of your mouth. You could just feed your kid a spoonful of almond butter and save yourself the trouble.

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With the oatmeal, the muffins are still substantial, but they're no longer dense. They're actually a smidge crumbly because I omitted eggs and any other binding agent. I wanted them to stay vegan and I don't always have the patience to make a flax egg. Letting them cool completely before eating them made them sturdier too. 

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For the first day of school, I thought it might be nice to add some blueberry chia jam and a quick icing to make the muffins more special. (I also called them breakfast cupcakes, which went over VERY WELL.) The jam is simple and free of any added sugar. I used cream cheese and maple syrup for my frosting, but you could also use coconut cream or a pre-made dairy-free topping.

You could also mix the chia jam with some yogurt for a delicious breakfast for the younger set (or the parental set, if I'm honest).

If you're avoiding nuts, substitute coconut or rice milk for the almond milk and use sunflower seed butter in place of the almond butter. Still delicious!

Important note: These muffins are best when fresh, so I recommend freezing 3/4 of the batch and then either defrosting a serving at night for breakfast the next morning, or toasting a frozen one right before eating it.

 

Almond butter quinoa muffins

2 large mashed banana
1 cup creamy natural almond butter, well mixed (or nut butter or seed butter of your choice)
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or rice, coconut, or other non-dairy milk of choice)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1 cup quick oats
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the almond butter, maple syrup, almond milk, and vanilla extract and mix well.

Add the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Mix well. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix again. Let the mixture sit while you prep the muffin tin and prepare the jam and icing (if using).

When ready, spoon the mixture into your muffin tin until each opening is half full.

Bake for 12-14 mins or until the tops turn golden brown and the muffins are firm to the touch.

Let cool completely in the muffin tin before serving.

Yield: 18 muffins

 

For the Blueberry chia jam:
1 pint blueberries
1 ½ Tbsp chia seeds

Put the blueberries into a small sauce pan and cook over a medium low flame until the berries have broken down and become syrupy, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes and add the chia seeds. Mix well.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes or until ready to use.

Yield: 1 Tbsp per muffin

 

For the frosting (optional):
2 ¼ cups whipped cream cheese
6 Tbsp maple syrup

Mix the cream cheese and maple syrup well with a spatula. The mixture will look curdled at first. Continue mixing until the two ingredients have come together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 2 Tbsp per muffin

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