My kids love granola and my big kid always orders granola parfaits when we are out. My little cannot eat dairy so she just eats it by the handful while standing in our pantry! Granola is so easy to make – I have posted the recipe I use here – and packed along with some greek yogurt and fruit makes for a terrific lunch. I have weaned my family off of sweetened yogurt (by not buying it – they adjusted) and started to buy plain greek yogurt to spoon into parfaits, to top apple crisps or to stir into spicy soups. When they want fruity yogurt, they just stir some fresh or even frozen fruit into the yogurt. It tastes so much better than the fruit flavoured stuff at the store and is better for them.
In this lunch, I packed my big kid a jar of mixed fruit, yogurt and a few teaspoons of honey. I packed the granola separately so that it stayed crispy and also packed a little cinnamon meringue that was a reject from a cake that I was baking, but that was definitely not rejected by my kids!! My little one had the same lunch, but I packed her a bottle of soy milk to pour over her granola which needless to say, she drank at recess and ate the granola plain just as she does at home!
These lunches in a jar are working well – the novelty of eating from a jar (even if she dumps it into her lunchbox to eat it) seems to inspire vegetable consumption so I am game. This jar is composed of soba topped with broccoli, carrots, corn and ginger and tamari marinated tofu. I buy the tofu pre-marinated in little cubes at the supermarket and keep a couple of packs on hand for school lunches and after school snacks. Packed some fruit and sheets of nori alongside. Quick, easy and tasty.
It has been grey and drizzly all day which left me with only one option – make soup! I made up a quick pot of red lentil and fire-roasted tomato soup (I buy the tomatoes in a can already roasted) and decided to pack it for the kids for lunch because the forecast doesn’t look promising. I added a lovely slice of roasted tomato focaccia, some colourful vegetables and fruit and 5 smarties that I brought back from the UK last spring.
This jar is composed of some salads we will have for dinner tonight: broccoli tabule, carrots w black chickpeas and mint, roasted cauliflower and pomegranate and some roasted corn. Packed some whole grain pita and a delicious roasted pepper and feta dip that my daughter spotted in her favourite kids’ cooking and fitness magazine Chop Chop. It was very straightforward and easy for her to make on her own – just a combination of roasted red pepper, lemon, feta, olive oil and a couple of her own additions: lemon thyme and smoked paprika. Very delicious and she did it on her own! Cooking and even better, cooking something delicious, gives kids such an amazing feeling of accomplishment. My daughter smiled and her chest swelled with pride when she tasted how great this dip was. A handful of fruit rounds out this delicious school lunch.
Salads in jars seem to be the key to my big kid eating lots of veggies so I whipped up another one for her but switched up the ingredients from the other day. Food in jars does look so pretty and is so trendy which is probably a big part of the appeal to my 10 year old! This jar is made up of the following layers: fregola (a round pasta) with some kale pesto, sprouts, chick peas, cherry tomatoes and tiny little balls of bocconcini. I packed her a couple of fennel scented crackers and a selection of seasonal fruit. This took all of 10 minutes to pull together and got me a two thumbs up when she left for school!
Last summer I had a salad in a jar – a peach and arugula caprese – from a vending machine in Chicago. It was so tasty and I loved the idea of getting healthy food on the go like that. There were vending machines like the one I visited all over the city and I cannot wait to see this trend spread all over the world. When my copy of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Super Food arrived last month there was a fantastic looking set of meals in jars reminiscent of the one I had in Chicago and my daughter tagged the page for a future lunch.
I whipped up the Moroccan Salad for her for tomorrow and for our dinner tonight, although not in jars 😁. It is composed of the following layers: whole wheat couscous, pomegranate airls, yogurt mixed w chopped preserved lemon, greens, chickpeas, carrots, mint and coriander and some feta. The original recipe calls for some nuts and sesame seeds but left them out to keep this suitable for school and nut free My other kid will eat the same thing but in her usual lunch box – she’ll skip the yogurt and cheese to keep this dairy free – and will deconstruct it because she prefers that her food not be all mixed up. Packed a wedge of olive bread and some fruit to round out lunch for the last day of the week!!
A colourful lunch of bits and pieces (a favourite this year): crudités w a store bought vegan kale pesto and yogurt dip (pesto+yogurt+squeeze of lemon = dip), the dairyfree kid doesn’t like dips so her vegetables are packed as is, one hard boiled egg, some oatcakes (they are traditional Scottish crackers, not actually cakes) I made this afternoon – so easy and beat store bought any day, some fruit and a few dark chocolate chunks for a little treat. Besides baking crackers (which is truly an optional thing – I haven’t made oat cakes before, wanted a break from my desk, so went down to the kitchen to make them – there are perfectly good commercially available oat cakes) and boiling an egg, this was a simple assembled lunch that looks more impressive than it actually is.
This is a fall lunch box without a doubt: vegan butternut squash and apple soup, garnished w dried apple rings, sage and a sprinkle of sumac to liven it up, a couple #raw curry pumpkin nori crackers w a slice of chèvre, some forelle pear, a few energy balls that my daughter made yesterday to keep the kids bouncing off the walls and four gummies for a treat.
The energy balls are a snack staple around here and my 10 year old is able to make the mixture on her own in the food processor and both kids can roll them out. They are such a great alternative to store bought chewy granola bars: made of real food, sweetened with dates but with a handful of tiny chocolate chip and some cacao powder to give them the appearance of chocolately treats. Medjool dates are available in the produce section of the supermarket, at bulk stores and I have even spotted them at Costco. Hemp hearts provide a hit of protein and are available at health food stores, in the natural section of the supermarket and in giant (well priced) bags at Costco.
1 cup of rolled oats
7 medjool dates, pits removed. Give them a soak in warm water to soften up if necessary
¼ cup hemp hearts
1 Tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp water, approximately
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
- Pulse oats in a food processor, with the steel blade, until fine. Stop before the oats turn to a fine powder.
- Add the dates, hemp hearts, cacao powder, cinnamon and salt and pulse until the mixture is uniform in consistency and looks like little pebbles
- While pulsing, add water one tablespoon at a time until the mixture moistens and holds together in a ball
- Add the chocolate chips and pulse a couple of times until they are evenly mixed through
- Press into a pan and slice into bars or roll out into balls. Keep for a week or two in the fridge, longer in the freezer
These energy balls are really versatile – I add some dried banana in place of some of the dates once in a while and have also made them with dried apricots and vanilla (in place of the cacao). The objective is to get a mixture that can be easily rolled out and that tastes good.
We had a busy long weekend and lunch packing somehow escaped my mind until about 8pm on Monday night (when all the stores were closed!). I rely on my pantry – both the room temperature one and my freezer – in these situations. I usually have fruit and veg on hand from our Thursday CSA delivery and can come up with something (after a period of staring blankly into my pantry hoping for something to pop out at me) that will work for school. After spotting some frozen flatbread and falafel, I had a plan w a nod to the Middle East: baked falafel w flatbread, chopped salad w garden mint and tomatoes (picked in the pitch dark while holding my breath that I would not encounter a raccoon), ground cherries and apples and some lentil crisps and roasted chickpeas. Big lunch for a big day – my daughter has a daylong softball tournament and will need lots of healthy high energy food to keep her hitting home runs.
Making lunch is a bit of a balancing act between my two girls’ preferences. Yesterday’s dumplings were my little daughter’s favourite lunch (she doesn’t look at all like me, but our mutual love of dumplings reassures me that she is my child ;)) and the lunch packed here is definitely on my big daughter’s top ten list. My big daughter likes dumplings, but the little one LOVES dumplings. When she was in nursery school, I used to pick her up for lunch and if she didn’t want to come home for lunch (she really likes to be at home) she asked to go to our favourite dumpling place in Chinatown. By the age of 4, she could navigate the menu and famously took my mother there for lunch and took care of ordering. To this day, she will eat dumplings daily – given the opportunity – and when I do make dumplings for lunches, I always have to make extras for her to eat on the spot.
Back to today, I packed a container of soba w carrots, white turnip and baby beet greens. Will whip up some miso soup in the morning to accompany the noodles (but they have confessed to drinking the soup at their desks, pretending it is water. My children are such rebels) There are some edamame for protein, beautiful roasted baby beets, orange and pomegranate and a few organic candies for a treat. A lovely fall lunch box, packed w freshly harvest veg that just arrived on my doorstep.