Shef's Kitchen

Food and Cooking Stories from an Indian-American girl nicknamed Shef

Lunchbox Blues, Part 2 October 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — shefskitchen @ 9:23 pm


This is the 2nd part in a series on lunchbox ideas and tips.  If anyone had challenges while trying any of the first post’s tips, please let readers know and we can all help each other out!  Also, look at one of my very first posts here, where sandwich idea number 1 was very popular with readers.

Here are my next 5 tips, again not in any order:

6)  Use the lunchbox as a way to introduce an ethnic food.  Put it in a smaller compartment of the lunchbox, as a side dish, an                 experiment.

  • Indian food (of course I would list this first!):  i.e. leftover chicken curry from a restaurant, washed if needed (yes, many of our parents would wash the cooked curries, so to decrease the heat intensity; some flavor would be retained because of the slow cooking process) OR paneer cubes from a paneer dish like this one OR bhengan bhartha, as a dip for veggies OR leftover idli with olive oil or ghee and sugar.
  • Mediterranean food:  i.e. side of hummus, OR, if you’ve already gone past that, how about a side of roasted bell peppers with an olive oil dipping sauce OR a few olives and cheese? A dip my kids love is just extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and Italian herbs. They use it for tomatoes or mozzarella chunks or just raw veggies.
  • Chinese:  i.e. hard to do this as a side dish perhaps, but just to introduce flavors, a few cubes of seasoned baked tofu (recipe from The Kitchn) would be a good entry for a child who’s suspect of soy.
  • Thai:  coconut rice. Need I say more?? Add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, whatever you feel like trying. Try this recipe from Herbivoracious.
  • Mexican:  already a well-loved children’s food, but try things like arepas (so far, I’ve only used the recipe on the back of the bag that sells this type of masa harina P.A.N., but now I’ll try Gluten Free Girl’s recipe!!) Easy easy breakfast or lunch fare, with cheese or meat or nutella, even better!
  • Persian/Iranian:  similar to some Indian foods because of the geography and history between the two, Persian rice dishes with aromatics and lentils make a good weeknight dinner, and might be worth trying as leftovers in the lunchbox.  I’ve been making Persian food for years, since a friend gave me a little cookbook of hers. Then I met Najmieh Batmanglij and bought her encyclopedic beautiful cookbook, and then discovered the blog My Persian Kitchen. I’m in Persian cuisine heaven.
Harira, a Moroccan-inspired lentil stew, and Mast-O-Khair, a Persian herbed yogurt
Photo courtesy of Victor Yiu (RockPark photography) 

7)  Snackify the lunchbox:

  • A hefty, hearty, healthy snack can be lunch. Remember Lunchables? Make your own Lunchables. The trick is to cut the deli meat and cheese into attractive shapes and compartmentalize them just like Lunchables do. I have an overabundance of cookie cutters of all sizes. I keep a few in my kids’ cups/cutlery drawer just to have them handy for snacks, and baking of course, and in this case, lunchboxes.
  • Another comparable idea that I do sometimes is to roll a piece of deli meat around string cheese. We called it the “turkey-cheese rollup”, with a side of whole-grain crackers. Speaking of crackers, I love Carr’s Whole Wheat crackers. They’re lightly sweetened, so I call them crookies. They’re similar to the “cookies” sold in Europe and India that are sold as cookies but are not as sweet as our U.S. brand cookies.
  • Trail mix. GORP. Sounds like something you think you can just take on a hike in your backpack? Why not put it in your kid’s school-day back pack? It would supply your child’s meal’s allowance of protein and fat (though not a complete protein), and then you supplement the lunch with a carb (easy peasy–bow tie pasta with olive oil or butter) and veggies (assuming you get some dried fruit like chopped dried apricots or dates or raisins into the GORP).
8) Pack a treat:
  • In the lunchboxes that we use in our family, there’s a little compartment for treats. I’m a huge fan of that little 1 inch by 1 inch spot. For one, I LOVE SWEETS. And two, it’s a little moment of edible pleasure for my kids after working so hard at trying new foods in their lunchbox. I might put in some of those Welch’s Fruit Snacks in there (they are candy after all folks, made out of 100% fruit juice). Or I might put in some real candy, like a gumdrop or a few M & M’s.
9)   Scribble a quick note:
  • Write something specific. I have found myself writing this lately, on more than one occasion: “Don’t eat your treat first! I love you, Mom.” The kids at J’s lunch table peal out laughter when she reads her note aloud…..and then she proceeds to eat her treat first. She tells me this later, grinning from ear to ear (I guess 1st graders are still honest with their parents).
10)  Provide condiments:
  • It’s hard for me to write about this one from experience, since I have one of those anti-condiment kids. The only dip I can see J enjoying are the ones concocted from butter or olive oil, like the dip mentioned in tip #6 above. My younger one, on the other hand, is my more adventurous eater.  I keep trying though, with both of them.  Curried ketchup, homemade honey mustard (sounds fancy but really, it’s just honey whisked into good mustard), aioli, pesto, etc…I might try my blog buddy’s Kale Pesto one day soon, found at Cooking on the Weekends.
Well, that’s it for this part of the series. Next time, I’ll have a list of some sensible combinations for lunchboxes as well as links to various other blog posts and websites for inspirational ideas as well. Please share your thoughts on the above tips and if there are any others useful to you and your family!

4 Responses to “Lunchbox Blues, Part 2”

  1. Valentina Says:

    i love the idea of introducing ethnic food in the lunch box! thanks, too, for the shout out! 🙂 xo

  2. i loved the thought of J and her friends bursting out in laughter. i can see it and hear it and it warms my heart when i hear her hearty laugh.

  3. staci Says:

    Thank You so much for introducing us to the awesome PlanetLunchBox. It comes home from school everyday completely empty. I think I have just as much fun assembling the lunches as my son does eating them! It has made eating healthy so easy and FUN! Please continue to post pics, I love all your creative lunch ideas! Thanks Shef!

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