Ah, lunches. Among all the meals I prepare, school lunches hold a special place in my heart. And I find them to be the most challenging meal to make.
First, I need it to be simple and quick because there’s never enough time in the morning; translate to I never wake up early enough in the morning. Second, I enjoy making and serving a wide variety of food, but Munchkin seems to want only pasta. Every time I pack her something else, I imagine her sadly watching other kids slurping noodles.
Despite the challenges, I wish when Munchkin opens her lunchbox, she feels the love and care. I’m pretty sure this is a normal part of growing up, but there are days when she struggles a bit, having a rough time getting along with her peers and teachers. It breaks my heart when it happens, and I feel like packing a nice lunch is one of the least things I can do. Overprotective? Maybe 😜
I’ve shared many lunches including these nine on my Instagram account. I compiled the ones I like the most for my blog readers and also for my future reference.
Starting from the top left corner…
1. Egg Sandwiches, yogurt pretzels, and orange
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 tbsp mayo
Trader Joe’s everything but bagel seasoning, to taste
👉🏻 Mash everything together with a fork
I’m starting with a not-so-creative ( I needed a catchy headline 😅) and not-so-successful lunchbox, but bear with me. Typically, when I introduce new food for lunch, I serve a bit for breakfast too so that Munchkin can get used to the idea at home. She ate the egg filling well for breakfast, and she’s good with fruits. But the yogurt pretzels! Yogurt pretzels caused some drama. I filled the gap of the bento box with yogurt pretzels, and her teacher took them out and asked her to finish the sandwiches first. I was told that Munchkin threw herself on the floor, even threw her shoes off to protest. I imagine her screaming in her mind, “My mama gave me those pretzels. That is mine!” Well… this combo will be reserved for our family outings from now on.
2. Beet hummus pasta, tangerine, and corn
Hummus pasta is my go-to lunch menu. Munchkin loves it (it’s pasta after all), it’s healthy, and it’s so easy to prepare. I make a double batch of hummus when I have time, and freeze them in single serving portions. In the morning, I just get the pasta cooking, defrost hummus from the freezer, mix it into hot pasta, and season with some parmesan. Here I used beet hummus, but also check out my red bell pepper & eggplant hummus too.
While you are making hummus, enjoy an avocado-hummus toast.
1/2 roasted beet
1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
👉🏻 I typically blend everything except olive oil first. Once the mixture is smooth, I add the olive oil and pulse to not over-process olive oil.
3. Cauliflower Falafels, tangerine, yogurt pretzel, and tzatziki.
These cauliflower falafels were so yummy that my initial plan to batch freeze them didn’t happen. We ate most of them on the first day. The recipe is from Emily over at Guest Chef. (Disclaimer- I messed up slightly and mixed the panko mixture into the rest, instead of coating. Well, I loved it that way and the texture was perfect. 😅)
4. Vegan pasta, kale chips, and blueberries
This is another very successful item since it has pasta and nutritional yeast in it. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of creamy vegan pasta made with nuts and nutritional yeast. It’s too nutty. But this lightly seasoned version is tasty and not overwhelming at all. Kale chips are from Rhythm Superfoods.
Pasta seasoning (for 2 adults and a toddler):
Olive oil to taste
1/4 C hemp hearts
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
(optional) sauteed chopped broccoli
👉🏻 Simply toss the above with cooked whole wheat pasta
5. Light pasta salad with snow peas, black beans, and corn + Raspberries
This is a cold pasta salad, very light and refreshing. Are you wondering if Munchkin ate the snow peas? No, she didn’t. It’s what I call an “exposure food.” Basically, I’m giving her a chance to eat it. She ate the pasta, raspberries and some beans so I’m ok with that.
(enough for 3 servings)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
black pepper to taste
👉🏻 place all ingredients in a container and shake vigorously to combine.
6. Heart-shaped pop tarts + Berries
This was a special lunchbox for Valentine’s day. I made homemade pop-tarts from scratch using a recipe by Camila over at Pies and Tacos. They are so flaky and delicious, and you can make ahead and freeze right before baking. I found Earth Balance butter to be a good substitute for real butter if you are dairy-intolerant like me.
7. Shakshuka, wholewheat bread, and berries
This was a weekend lunchbox, so I got to see Munchkin having fun dipping into the egg yolk and tomato-based sauce. Here’s a good Shakshuka recipe by NYT Cooking.
8. Chicken, cream cheese sandwich, avocado, blackberries, and carrots.
This was a super quick lunch that came back empty! We had take-out Korean fried chicken the night before and had some leftovers, which went into this bento box. All I did was make a quick cream cheese sandwich, and fill with raw ingredients. The tasty and nutritious meal came together in a flash.
9. Stuffed bell pepper, kale chips, and berries
Munchkin helped me prepare this (weekend) lunchbox. To be accurate, she was supposed to help stuff the peppers but instead ate the stuffing until she fell into a food coma. In the peppers: pancetta, chopped bell peppers, garlic, black beans, cooked farro, canned tomatoes, and cheese (for munchkin). I cooked the raw ingredients in a pan first (before going in the oven), so it was ok just to eat the stuffing before baking. To make the pepper fit nicely into the Omiebox, cut the pepper in half. Kale chips are from Rythm Superfood.
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