Here are some of my favourite ideas for a real, homemade back to school lunch. It’s time we took the next generation’s tastebuds into our own hands. You may scoff at the idea of giving a kid a cold soup of potatoes and leeks for lunch but is that any crazier than feeding them bologna and processed cheese?
I read an article in the New York Times recently where they talked about Lunchables and how that product came to be. The most shocking thing to read was what happened when it launched.
“The trays flew off the grocery-store shelves. Sales hit a phenomenal $218 million in the first 12 months, more than anyone was prepared for.“
Lunchables are all right, we sell them at Fiesta Farms, they’re one of many junk food products packaged as convenience that have found their way into packed school lunches. They aren’t any worse than Pizza Pockets or Gold Seal Tuna Snacks but they aren’t nearly as good for you as lunches that contain fresh ingredients.
How about this year we all try to limit our dependance on pre-made products when packing the lunch box?
1. Bento Box
Bento box school lunches are really big of course and there are so many to choose from its hard to know where to start. I say start with the origins and make an Asian style lunch with cold soba noodles and a sesame peanut sauce.
Sided with Asian pear and steamed spinach, it’s a hit – nutritious and appealing to the eye. Wendolonia has a great list of bento box lunch ideas that combine unusual combinations that are still attractive and enticing enough to get young kids to eat.
For sandwiches, it is all about longevity–you don’t want soggy sandwiches when the lunch bell rings. Some favourites that you might not have tried yet include this bagel and hummus sandwich that packs a punch with lots of veggies and doesn’t sog out because of the density of the bagel. Plus hummous is made of chickpeas, so you get the filling proteins offered by beans
Here’s another hummus sandwich from SometimesIVeg.com that offer two different types of hummus. The next time you make hummus, set aside half and mix in some new flavours like roasted peppers or basil pesto or a big handful of parsley and chopped tomato. I like to add kale chips to the centre of the bagel sandwich for a surprise crunch.
3. Jambon Beurre
Another great sandwich to pack is the classic Parisian jambon beurre. It literally translates to ham butter and that’s all it is, ham and butter on a French baguette.
Since it is unlikely that you’ll be whipping up fresh baguettes before school I’d suggest using a frozen par-baked baguette. They cook up fast and will have plenty of time to cool overnight.
In the morning just slice the baguette in half lengthwise, slather on some butter and layer in slices of ham. Portion into sandwiches, wrap and drop into lunchbags. This sandwich gets better the longer it sits.
4. Cold Soup
Cold soup sounds crazy to a kid but they are never too young to have odd sounding dishes like vichyssoise become part of their dining vernacular.
A thermos of leek and potato soup is simple to cook, blitz and chill the night before. Then you just pop the thermos into their backpacks on your way out the door.
5. Pain Bagnat
The French actually seem to have a lock on great ideas for school lunches, take the pan bagnat for instance. Essentially a crusty loaf stuffed with tuna, bell pepper, hard boiled eggs, anchovies and salt cured olives (anchovies might be a bit much for a school lunch so feel free to leave them out).
Layer all that between two slices of the crusty loaf, wrap tightly then set a weight on top and refrigerate overnight. Large canned tomatoes laid on their side on top of the pan bagnat work well.
One of the best things you can do is broaden a child’s palate early on. Bust out some salt cured olives, leeks and soba noodles with which to beat back the hordes of cold cuts that threaten to ruin the next generation’s tastebuds forever.