School Lunches, Take 2

by Emily

Now that I’ve found some proper containers, I’m ready for school lunch, take 2. Last week’s packed lunches went over fairly well even though I wasn’t that happy with them. My oldest ate all of his and said he liked it more than the school lunch (and that his pizza/wrap tasted good cold). My youngest ate everything except for the crackers but was irritable and hungry when I picked him up. What I sent him resembled more a compilation of snacks than an actual meal like he is used to at lunch. This week I am trying a different approach. After seeing what kids eat in Italy at lunch, I am convinced that kids don’t need “kid foods” to accept and enjoy their meal. Much as I would pack dinner leftovers for myself for the office when I worked at the University, I decided to pack my kids some leftovers that would be good served cold.

The containers we settled on are these tiered, tiffin style lunchboxes. I knew I wanted something stainless steel and originally I thought a bento box style would be the best. So we ordered these Lunchbots to check them out. They still seemed expensive (27 GBP each) and were smaller than I imagined. The tiffin boxes are also smaller than I thought they would be, maybe four or five inches in diameter, but I think this is a good thing since there are three layers. My four-year-old helped me decide which to keep. He was most excited about the tiffin style because he likes the hidden layers and enjoys practicing taking it apart and putting it back together. At 15 GBP each, these seem like the better option to me as well. And I like that I can use the top layer for a napkin, some small silverware, and even a love note on occasion, which I might be able to get away with before my kids grow up and become too cool for their mom.  For water we picked these simple, wide-mouth stainless bottles to update our old ones.

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Yesterday I spent an hour or two in and out of the kitchen, making enough food for a few breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I like to cook in waves like that – make a bunch of things in one swoop and then take a day or two off. Roasted vegetables are big in our house – red cabbage, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, kale, butternut squash, peppers, etc. All of these taste good cold, too. The nice thing is that once you get the oven going, you can keep throwing trays of things in to roast, depending on what you have and want to use up. Yesterday I roasted thinly sliced red cabbage, sweet potatoes, and parsnips that I used for dinner last night, put in the boys lunches for today, and will likely include as part of tonight’s dinner as well. While the oven was going, I also roasted a free range chicken, and on the stovetop, I cooked broccoli and kale.

While the oven was still hot, I used some of the broccoli and made a quick, baked vegetable frittata that I cubed for the boys’ lunches (and I ate today for breakfast).

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There is still enough left for breakfast tomorrow. I love this frittata because it is so flexible, incorporates vegetables, and is an easy, make-ahead way to serve the whole family eggs at once. Check out the recipe.

Here are the finished lunches.

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I also made the boys some of their favorite coconut cookies that don’t have added sugar, but then learned that coconut isn’t allowed at school either due to allergies. So instead I gave them dried, unsweetened mango for a treat. These espresso spoons fit in the boxes but our forks don’t, so I’m on the lookout for some smaller forks.

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Let’s see how it all goes over. I’m crossing my fingers that my youngest eats today. He has 4 canine teeth coming in and is a fussy, clingy mess. These days, sometimes he eats nothing and sometimes he can’t get enough. It can be frustrating to go through the effort to make him something that he usually likes only to have him refuse it, but that’s just how it goes with little ones and their moods and stages.

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