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!

Shrimp and black bean burgers

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Shrimp is one of the things that M will almost always eat. Almost. He likes them cooked any way and in any flavor combination. But you know what? I worry about shrimp. There's a lot of variety and choice at the supermarket and it's hard to know what's best. Fresh or frozen? Large or small? Shells or no shells? Pink, white, tiger, or rock? Wild or farmed? Do I really need to spend $40 a pound? See? It's crazy making. I did a little (very very little) bit of research and there are a few guides out there to help determine what's right for you.

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Once you figure it out (or not, sometimes you just have to choose your choice and be done with it), these shrimp and black bean burgers are tasty and easy and summery and healthy. They're gluten-free because corn flour or corn meal are your binder. And though there's a long list of spices in there, the end result is subtle and complex, considering. 

And the chives add a nice green note to the burgers, but if you don't have any or can't find any, scallions are a nice substitution.

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A note about your choice of corn meal vs corn flour: I've made these with the the finest corn flour and the coarsest corn meal and they're good either way, so use what you have on hand. Just know that the finer the corn flour or meal, the better the patties stick together. The coarse meal works well, but you may have a bit of breakage in the cooking process.

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Black bean and shrimp burgers

12 oz shrimp, uncooked
12 large or 20 small chives, torn or chopped into large pieces
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp Mexican oregano
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup corn flour or meal
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
lime wedges for serving

If using frozen shrimp, defrost in lukewarm water and squeeze lightly before measuring.

Add whole raw shrimp to a food processor with the chives and the spices and pulse about 10-12 times until the spices are distributed and the shrimp are chopped into medium pieces.

Turn the shrimp mixture out into a bowl and add the eggs, cornmeal, and black beans. Mix well, smashing some of the beans with your spoon or spatula.

Form into 12 balls or patties (about a heaping ¼ each) and chill for 20 minutes.

Heat a skillet with some oil over medium heat. When ready turn heat down to medium low and brown on one side for 3-5 minutes. Flip the patties and repeat on the other side. Cover the pan, turn heat down slightly, and cook for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. (I usually just split one open to test it.) 

Yield: 12 patties

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Burgers! Burgers! Burgers!

Buffalo chicken burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner or game day snacks. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #gamedaysnacks #buffalochickenburger

Buffalo chicken and cauliflower burgers and salmon and sweet potato burgers are on heavy rotation in our house, especially during Whole 30. Throw an egg on top and it's breakfast. Add some roasted veggies or a mashed sweet potato and it's lunch. Chop one up and throw it over a salad for some extra protein with more flavor than plain old chicken or salmon. See? Versatile. Also, both of these are M's favorites.

Salmon and sweet potato burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner and has a hint of sweetness for those sweet cravings that plague every Whole 30-er. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #salmon #salmonburger #sweetpotato

I especially like eating the buffalo chicken burgers on Sundays because they feel like a game day indulgence. If you're heading to a party, make these into sliders or meatballs and bring them with you. No one will know they're Whole 30 and you'll have something great to eat so you can fearlessly be social while also sticking with this re-set you've taken on.

The salmon and sweet potato burgers are clutch when I'm craving sushi. We're lucky that M loves salmon, so it's not hard to stack his diet with Omega-3s. But I hate the way the salmon smell lingers in our small apartment when we cook it on the stove, so this recipe utilizes canned wild salmon that, frankly, doesn't necessarily smell better, but definitely smells less.  

Buffalo chicken burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner or game day snacks. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #gamedaysnacks #buffalochickenburger

Did I mention that I FINALLY had success making my own pickles this weekend? I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe, but swapped out dill for a few cloves of smashed garlic because I hate dill.

Salmon and sweet potato burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner and has a hint of sweetness for those sweet cravings that plague every Whole 30-er. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #salmon #salmonburger #sweetpotato

On the side, we've been serving sweet potato, purple carrot, and delicata squash fries. To roast, heat the oven to 425, cover your pan with parchment paper, spray the paper with olive oil, toss your vegetables onto the trays, add a few glugs of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, and roast for 20-25 minutes, until you get the browning you want on the outside. I check them after about 10-15 minutes and give the tray a good shake to flip some pieces over. I've heard that one trick to getting crispier oven fries is to heat the pans ahead of time, but I never notice enough of a difference to warrant the extra step. But if you try this, let me know how it works!

Buffalo chicken burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner or game day snacks. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #gamedaysnacks #buffalochickenburger

Buffalo chicken burgers (Whole 30)

1 lb ground chicken
1 cup riced cauliflower
½ medium red onion
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup almond meal
1 egg
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp clarified butter
3 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce

Add chicken, cauliflower, onion, garlic, almond meal, and egg to a large bowl and combine using your hands or a spatula. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Add the hot sauce and stir to combine. Form into 6 equal patties using a 1/3 cup measure.

Coat your pan with 1 tsp clarified butter and heat over a medium low flame. When hot, add chicken patties and turn up the flame to medium. While the first side is browning, sprinkle some of the clarified butter/hot sauce mixture onto each patty. When the first side has a good sear, flip the burgers over and coat the other side with clarified butter/hot sauce. After 2-3 minutes, check the sear. If brown enough for you liking, turn the flame down to low, cover, and let cook for 8-10 more minutes. When meat thermometer has reached 165, your burgers are done. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the meat reabsorb some of the juices. 

Yield: 6 burgers

Buffalo chicken burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner or game day snacks. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #gamedaysnacks #buffalochickenburger
Salmon and sweet potato burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner and has a hint of sweetness for those sweet cravings that plague every Whole 30-er. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #salmon #salmonburger #sweetpotato

Salmon, sweet potato, and sage burgers

2 cans boneless, skinless wild caught salmon, 6 oz each
1 large sweet potato, roasted or microwaved (7-8 oz)
2/3 cup almond meal
1 tsp dried sage
2 eggs
2 Tbsp dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and smash with a fork. Mix very well. Heat a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Shape into 6 patties using a 1/3 cup to scoop out equal amounts for each patty and sear on one side. Let cook until there is a good browning on one side and then carefully flip. Cover the pan and turn the flame down. This will allow the burgers to steam a bit and cook through while also browning the outside.

Yield: 6 burgers

Salmon and sweet potato burger | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant burger is perfect for lunch or dinner and has a hint of sweetness for those sweet cravings that plague every Whole 30-er. Throw an egg on top and it could also be breakfast. #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #burgers #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #lunch #lunchrecipes #salmon #salmonburger #sweetpotato