Pre-prepared school lunches that are much better than basic PB&J

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By Casey Barber, CNN

By the time your kids enter middle and high school their tastes change, they feel very independent, and they have a parcel notice.

This will double for their taste at lunch.

Gone are the days of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on fluffy white bread and a bag of baby carrots (unless that’s what they fancy). Instead, variety is the name of the game, with mix-and-match options keeping things fresh on the lunch front.

If packing an insulated container isn’t a problem, dinner last night can still be lunch the next day. Pasta and casseroles in the oven, soups and stews, frittatas and more can be easily repackaged for those who love leftovers.

But if pre-made, no-bake, room-temperature foods are the kind of easy meals that appeal to you and your foodie kids, read on. The following recommendations for making school meals are all simple enough for your kids to cook on their own – and so good that you might want to steal some ideas from yourself.

The Advanced Edition: Provide the following options to your children and have them cook their own breakfasts.

Much more than a sandwich

Wraps and tortillas are just the start when it comes to sandwich options that aren’t regular bread. If the usual slices or grinders no longer cut it, replace them with a new flavor and texture.

Bagels (mini or large), pretzels, naans, English muffins, croissants and frozen waffles are some fun ways to change the way your kids make a sandwich.

Choose a garnish, such as turkey and cheese; sliced ​​hard-boiled eggs and green vegetables; leftover grilled chicken; or vegetable options like falafel, mashed avocado and feta, leftover eggplant parmesan or “chicken” salad made with chickpeas.

And don’t stick to regular mayonnaise – use spreads to bring more flavor to the party. To try:

  • Flavored cream cheese
  • Tahini, which is made from sesame seeds, not nuts
  • Tapenade or other salty and tangy vegetable spreads such as muffuletta relish or giardiniera
  • Pesto, whether based on basil or sundried tomatoes
  • Soft, spreadable cheese such as goat cheese or mascarpone
  • Creamy dressings and dips like jalapeño ranch Where blue cheese

What if your kids don’t want bread at all? Make sliced ​​cheese and cold cuts (or substitute for plant-based meats), or string cubes of cheese and vegetables on skewers. Add a container of dipping sauce like the suggestions above, or go for a proven ranch, hummus or mustard.

Take-out cereal and noodle bowls

Cereal Bowls aren’t just for adults looking for a quick, healthy lunchtime option. Their customizable format makes them ideal for any level of picky teenager.

Bases like brown rice, quinoa, couscous, farro or other ancient grains are all great at room temperature, as are whole grain noodle options like soba or ramen. As for toppings, there is a choice for every day of the week and more, such as:

  • Bowl of burrito with pinto beans or roast chicken, salsa, grated cheese, guacamole and whole wheat chips on the side
  • Vegetarian poke bowl with edamame, matchstick carrots, sliced ​​radish, avocado, sunflower sprouts and seeds – tofu optional
  • Greek salad bowl with roast chicken, feta, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Caprese bowl with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, sliced ​​peppers and arugula
  • Cobb salad bowl with romaine lettuce, sliced ​​turkey, blue cheese, hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and avocado
  • Bowl of cold ramen with mushrooms, corn, broccoli or cauliflower, snow peas and toasted sesame seeds or nori leaves

Just be aware of your school’s nut restrictions when preparing your bowls, in case nuts or sesame seeds are out of the question.

Sweet smoothie bowls

On the sweet side, if your kids are smoothie fans, it’s a quick transition from blender to bowl for a protein-rich, energy-rich breakfast that still tastes like a treat.

Make a smoothie bowl base using Greek yogurt or a banana for protein and fiber, then freeze in a container ready for lunch. In the morning, garnish the frozen smoothie bowl with frozen fruit or chopped fresh fruit. Store other toppings like grated coconut, seeds like chia or flax or granola in separate containers to keep them crunchy.

The base of the smoothie and additional frozen fruit will thaw at lunch and be ready to top with all the accessories.

Or just a snack for lunch

Maybe bringing a wooden cutting board to school and assembling a pasture dish for lunch is a bit too much. But the idea of ​​a snack or a ‘meze’ platter can always translate into a quick lunchtime situation when all the components are packed in a bento box holder.

Fill the box compartments with a selection of the following items or add your own favorite snack board items.

• Pre-packaged cheese: cheese on a string, cheese sticks or small cheese slices

• Home without cooking granola bars Where energy bites

• crackers, pretzels and vegetarian snacks

• Dried fruits like apricots and cherries, or fresh fruits like clementines, grapes or berries

• pretzels coated with yogurt or chocolate

• Crunchy chickpeas or other vegetarian snacks

With so many choices for school meals, the sad bagged lunch will be a thing of the past.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Casey Barber is a food writer, illustrator and photographer; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 House Versions of Your Favorite Branded Treats”; and editor of the site Good. Food. Stories.


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