Nutritious, Delicious Lunchbox Recipes
By June Santini
Almost any food can be packed into a lunch. Just make sure you include an ice pack and pack it in an insulated lunch bag.
Teriyaki Chicken Lunch
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup Teriyaki sauce (recipe follows, or use bottled)
Place the chicken and sauce in a plastic bag. Let marinate four hours or overnight. Bake in a shallow pan, with the marinade, for 20 minutes until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees or they are cooked through. (Alternately, brown in a heated sauté pan, coated with 1 T oil
Homemade Teriyaki sauce
1 C brown sugar
1 C soy sauce
8 T lemon juice
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1 C leftover rice
1 T oil
½ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
Heat oil in pan. Add rice and stir until heated through. Push rice to sides of pan and pour egg into the center of pan. Stir egg until cooked through, then mix with rice. Season to taste.
Chicken Nuggets (Chicken nuggets that even I will approve, great hot or cold)
1 lb ground chicken
¼ C minced onion
2 T minced parsley
¼ C minced green or red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Panko bread crumbs
If you are using already-ground chicken, mix chicken and all other ingredients except panko in a bowl. Shape into nuggets. Dredge in panko, spray with non-stick cooking spray to lightly coat and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Or, sauté in vegetable oil 3 mins per side until cooked through. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken breast and toss it in the food processor. Adding boneless, skinless chicken thighs to the mixture will result in tastier, moister nuggets, but a little more fat. The convenient thing about this is that it is a little less expensive than buying ground chicken, and you can toss all the ingredients (except the panko) in the processor along with it to speed preparation. Proceed as above.
Serve with honey, barbeque sauce, honey mustard, ketchup, or sweet and sour sauce
1 C sweet cherry or grape tomatoes, halved ½ C fresh mozzarella, diced 3 T fresh basil, chiffonade 1 T olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar ½ tsp coarse kosher or sea salt and Pepper to taste
Mix this up right in the container you’re going to pack it in. Simple and delicious!
Green bean salad
½ Lb green beans ¼ c sweet Vidalia or red onion 2 T parsley, chopped 2 T balsamic vinegar 3 T olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Steam green beans until crisp-tender, about 4 mins. Immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop cooking. Toss with onion, parsley, vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pasta Salad (What kid doesn’t like pasta salad?)
1 C cooked pasta
½ c chopped veggies (tomatoes, red or green peppers, celery, carrots, pretty much whatever is hanging around in your vegetable bin)
¼ c cheese (shredded parmesan, fresh mozzarella, provolone, again, whatever happens to be in your cheese drawer)
2 T sliced pepperoni, salami, or ham
2 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
1 stalk of celery, minced
2 T golden raisins
½ tsp poppy seeds
2 T bottled cole slaw dressing (or make your own from equal parts mayo and sugar and a little vinegar)
Homemade Dill Ranch Dressing (mix together for a great veggie dip!)
2 T buttermilk
½ tsp dill
2 T mayo together
All of these can be made and packed the night before, just refrigerate until it's time to send them to school and pack an ice pack.
Give Your Plain Sandwiches & Lunching Fixings a Bento-Style Makeover That Kids Will Love
The following are a couple of examples of sandwiches I made for my kids recently.
This bento features the fried rice from the above recipe. I cut out some cute shapes to decorate the tops of the rice (but don't feel like you have to). The top has baby bel cheese (those are black sesame seeds for ninja eyes), salami, sugar snap peas, carrots, and apples. (To keep the apples from turning brown, dip them into a water with a little lemon juice added.) If you cook the rice the night before, this lunch takes no more time to assemble than a standard sandwich lunch.
On the left, an easy pasta salad, celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter and golden raisins, carrot sticks and sugar snap peas make up this simple 10-minute bento.
One of my kids' favorite lunches includes chicken salad sandwiches, sugar snap peas, oranges, tomatoes, pickles, and salami and cheese. I rounded them out with chips and a fruit snack treat.
Another lunch I like to make fits better in a more American-style container, specifically a Fit and Fresh container. It's a plain side with apple-celery salad and caprese salad on the side (recipes above) The fit and fresh containers work much better for this lunch, because kids hate it when one kind of saucy food touches another kind of saucy food. For that matter, so do I!
Mix everything together and pack!
These cute little containers from Fit and Fresh let you measure the amount of fruit and veggies your packing with easy markings on the side. (If you’re one of those moms who track the amount of fruit and veggies your kids eat. I’m not). In another lunch, I packed red bell pepper strips and carrot sticks with homemade dill ranch dressing (recipe above), kiwi and blood oranges, and celery stuffed with cream cheese and green olives.
My favorite website for buying bento boxes and accessories (yes, there are accessories, not necessary ones, but certainly fun ones) is FJP Store. They feature a variety of containers for every size appetit and age. You can buy cute ones, plain ones, fun ones, and everything in between. Ebay also has a lot of bento boxes for reasonable prices. If bento boxes don’t appeal to you, Fit and Fresh containers make nice repositories for either standard sandwich lunches or more creative, fun lunches. They are especially good if you are packing items that have a sauce or dressing that would make your kids say “Ew” if it happened to touch a different food packed next to it. I also really like them because they have reusable ice-packs that snap into the lids to keep the food fresh. Because what kid wants to eat food that has gone limp from being out of refrigeration? (Not to mention the problem of those pesky bacteria!) They come in a variety of colors and styles, including thermal containers that you can use to pack some soup or leftovers that you have heated up.
Now, go ahead and give it a try! Just think about it the night before, plan a little, and your kids will think you’re the greatest mom in the world!
© 2011, June Santini