If they could, my children would have the very same thing for lunch every day. In fact, over the six weeks of summer school holidays, they had quesadillas. Seriously, every day the same thing. Two with black beans and one has it just plain cheese. Sides of tomato, capsicum and avocado (when we could get avocado for less that 11 dollars each fruit) would complete their plate. I tried to add a little excitement by getting the rye, sourdough and garlic wrap options instead of the standard wholewheat ones and you can imagine how that went over. To be fair, I can understand seeking comfort in familiar foods when your days are comprised of learning and new challenges. That said, I wanted to have a little variety in their lunch boxes this year and after a lunch planning coffee session with Gemma, I am putting together our kid-approved short list here.
Vegetarian Sausage Rolls from Veggie Mama
This recipe made me finally see the magic of cooking. There is some sort of sorcery in here because these taste like meat. I am not kidding. Meat loving Russian relatives and good old Aussie meat loving blokes were FOOLED. These are best served hot from the oven, but the kids love them as lunch box for the next day too. I will be making these for dinner and then saving a batch for the following day.
-Because my insides can’t take onion in large quantities, I reduced the required amount in this by 3/4 of what is listed. I also added finely diced carrots once and I am putting shredded zucchini in as well.
Vegemite and Cheese Scrolls from Kidspot
My kids swear up and down (and left and right too) that they do NOT like vegemite, so I call these “Salty, Cheesy Twisty Buns” and they are none the wiser that they actually DO like vegemite. I just like things that can be made in 15 minutes out of three ingredients.
-I add some parmesan cheese on the top because salty!
Cheese and Sun-Blush Tomato Muffins from Rose Elliot
This is my absolute favourite recipe from my absolute favourite vegetarian cookbook that my friend, Jessica gave me. I make these in little batches in a mini-cupcake maker without the paper liners. They end up being the perfect lunchbox size.
Our Own No-Nut Sandwich Spread from Sesame Ellis
When they just want a sandwich, this is what we put in their lunch box because they don’t like vegemite (wink, wink), we don’t eat ham and one of them is allergic to peanuts.
Kieran has decided he loves to eat dip and willingly shovels down raw veggies in the process of consuming dip, so dip it is for lunch this year. He especially loves hummus so he has learned to make it himself with low garlic content, but still a lot of taste. We are playing around with a SUPER EASY black bean dip recipe today and so far it goes something like this:
Into a food processor dump the following and secure the lid. Let child blend…saves you time and they think they are cooking.
1 can of black beans* (drained)
1 handful of fresh cilantro/coriander finely chopped
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 teaspoon of cumin
Garlic salt to taste.
If you are eating this at home, top with shredded cheese (tasty cheese is fine…this is for kids and Australia, so I doubt they will request queso fresco) and sour cream. Those dairy based ingredients might not keep well in a lunch box, but if you have a nice ice block to put in with it, they might. I think it is just fine without the cheese.
This goes wonderfully well with crisp strips of raw capsicum/red bell pepper, carrot sticks and cherry tomato. Of course it is FANTASTIC all melty and warm with tortilla chips, but I am trying to be healthy here.
We spent the second to last day of the school holidays at home, so I thought I would do a test run of their packed lunches while the twins played a video game and Gemma and I sorted all the school uniforms. The twins have brand new Yumbox lunch boxes from Finlee and Me** which are bento box style cases with a leakproof dip section built in. I am excited for them to have these this year because it means not only is there is less for Clover to lose, but their healthy lunch is all right in front of them. They can’t ignore the veggies by pretending not to notice that individual box at the bottom of their bag. At home they have a great divided snack tray at lunch time that puts all their food choices in front of them and this box is the portable version of that. While it says it is dishwasher safe, I find hand washing their lunch boxes extends the life of them and I want these to last! I have labeled the heck out of these lunch boxes as well because, well, Clover… And on that note, I make sure to label everything with our contact details (I use a dedicated family email address for all things school and kid related instead of a phone number – it also keeps my inbox organised) so that if things get lost, anyone who finds those things can return them to us. I found a backpack in the playground this past weekend and although the contents were labeled, they just had the child’s name so I could not contact anyone. Hopefully they came back to get it!
I still put the kids’ treats and snacks for school in reusable individual containers (nude food, y’all) and they always have loads of fresh fruit to choose from as well. It is just like how they eat at home during the day with a morning tea, lunch and access to fruit whenever they want it.
Not that I want them gone, but bring on Friday morning, I am ready for routine again!
*Canned black beans in Australia are still hard to find. When we first arrived here about eight years ago, they were only available in USA food specialty store for about $4 a can. Now they are easier to find and slightly less expensive in the regular grocery stores’ Mexican food section. Once a year, Aldi offers a Mexican food range and they have super cheap canned black beans in that range. You can also find dried black beans in asian food stores and make them yourself, but I find they don’t taste the same and certainly take longer than opening a can and I’m all about the “in and out” factor of kitchen time. That said, my Mr has sourced cans of black beans locally at Moorabbin Wholesale Market for less than a dollar each! If you are in Melbourne and craving black beans on a budget, off you go to Moorabbin.
**Disclosure: Finlee and Me sent us the two Yumboxes free of charge, but I was not required to mention them on the blog, nor was I paid for this post.