Food + Wine

Thinking Inside the Box

My son starts preschool tomorrow.  I’m crying (again, for the 99th time) as I write this.  How is he possibly old enough for preschool?!  It’s insane.  AND he starts soccer practice on the same day.  He’s old enough for school and practice?!  What?  Plus, I’m turning 30 in a couple weeks and thinking of that just weirds me out all over again.  Where did all the time go?  I’m obviously happy and excited for him because he will have the best time.  And this is good for him.  Structure, and all that.  Blah, blah, blah.  But he’s my baby!

So now I’m entering into the world of school lunches.  His school doesn’t allow nut products of any kind so I can’t rely on my old pal PB&J to help me out on those mornings where I forgot to pack his lunch the night before.  No, I will have to be strategic and skillful.  Luckily I was born to do this.  So I’ve already got a list written out with different ideas to pull from when I’m doing his lunches.  The list is separated into several categories-The Main Event, The Fruit or Veggie, The Snacky Thing, The Sweet Thing, and The Drink.  (Obviously, he may not need something from all the categories every day)  I will rotate each item out so he doesn’t get the same thing over and over again and get bored.  It’s also a good idea to have your child pick out what he or she would like to have so they’re involved in the process.  Writing out this list will definitely help me later on because the thinking part has already been done.  All I will have to do is pick and choose my items and throw them in the lunchbox the night before.  Lately, there have been a lot of back-to-school themed sales going on at the grocery stores, so I was sure to stock up on things like juice boxes, individual snack bags of healthy chips and crackers, etc.  Here are a few of the things on my list:

Main Events-
Veggie Burgers
Hummus and Avocado Wraps
Pizza Pockets
Grilled Cheese with Apricot Preserves

Fruits/Veggies-
Whole Apple
Carrot Sticks
Box of Raisins
Applesauce
Grapes

Snacky Things-
Whole Grain Crackers
Baked Potato Chips
Pretzels
Popcorn

Sweet Things-
Hershey Kiss
Real Fruit Snacks
Graham Crackers
Animal Cookies

A good idea for packing your child’s lunchbox is freezing the drink the night before so it ends up keeping everything else in the box cold if you don’t have an insulated container with an ice pack.  If you are using an ice pack, be sure to place it in a sealed zip bag in case it gets punctured.

I’ve even gotten his school-day breakfasts made, which he helped me with yesterday morning.  I needed his breakfast to be fairly healthy, satisfying, and good on the go because he will most likely be eating it in the car.  We made a big batch of my Cereal Bars.  They’re super easy to make and kid-friendly because they contain marshmallows.  You can make them even healthier if you use my Agave Marshmallows instead of store-bought ones.  They also have a long shelf life if you store them in an airtight container.  And although they contain sugar by way of a marshmallow, they are far healthier than your run of the mill store-bought cereal or granola bar.  School mornings will be incredibly hectic, so having a breakfast like this already taken care of will be a tremendous help.

I also made one of the lunch list items today that I plan on freezing for later use.  I made him spinach, mushroom and broccoli pizza pockets which are perfect for a hand held, easy to eat meal at school.  You can use my Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe or buy your favorite brand at the store, and using frozen veggies and pre-shredded cheese for this makes your job a heck of a lot easier. It’s so easy to make your own pizza pockets, it’s takes about the same time to prepare them as it takes for you to cook the kind you buy at the store, and they’re so much healthier.  Don’t think you have to fill them with the usual pizza toppings either, use your imagination and fill them with whatever your child likes.  And like I always say, if you have your child help you make something, they will be more likely to eat it.  Here’s how you throw them together-

All you do is roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut it into squares about the size of your outstretched hand.

Take whatever filling you want and add a big spoonful to the lower half of the square (about 2 TB worth), add some of your favorite marinara sauce, then sprinkle it with cheese (don’t over-fill).

 

Fold it over and seal the edges with a fork.  Sprinkle the top with more cheese if you’d like.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven, then for another 5 minutes on the top rack, or until they’re golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack and refrigerate for a couple days in an airtight container or freeze in a freezer bag for a couple months.

However you plan on packing your child’s lunches, just keep in mind that it will really make a difference in their day if you pack something fun.  And fun doesn’t have to mean junk.  Take these pizza pockets for example-they’re fun and healthy.  You don’t need to buy all those pre-made lunch thingies at the store,  Yes, they’re easy but they’re full of preservatives, fat and salt.  If you just plan ahead and write out some ideas, pre-make some things on your day off, and keep your pantry and freezer stocked with good things to choose from, it will definitely pay off.  And by all means, pack it the night before!

Does anyone have a tissue?

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3 Comments

  • Reply Velva September 10, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Look at the pre-school linch! The mom's are going to be jealous (smile).

    It's a great time in your life, and your little one. Embrace it. It's going to be an awesome journey.

    Velva

  • Reply Everyday Champagne September 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks Velva! He loved his first day, which makes it a lot easier on me!

  • Reply Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen September 11, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Look what a good mommy you are. So healthy and delicious. Who needs PB&J after this??
    Sam

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