The Best Back To School Lunch Box Lifesavers
The 2014-2015 school year is HERE! Where did summer go? Not that a working mom gets a real summer, but my full time and a half job kicks in This blog post is based on ALL my personal experience with packing CLEAN lunches for kids. I have about 9 years of hands-on trials and tribulations when it comes to getting nourishment into a box for my kids and lemme tell ya’, saving your sanity is what it’s all about.
You want to make it simple, safe and edible…because if it’s healthy and they don’t understand what they’re eating, they’re feeding garbage cans instead of themselves….and nothing upsets me more than knowing my time in the kitchen would go for naught.
I want to share some of my best ones with you, and also give you a few of my favorite new products, recipes and lots of fun pics (Courtesy of Derek Hernandez/Melissa’s Produce).
Hope you enjoy them, and please, leave a COMMENT!! I love to know who stops by. xxMareya
Top 4 Sanity Savers for Lunch Box Prep
– Stay stocked up. Know what you’re going to make and have everything you need the week before. I love using grocery delivery services like Amazon and direct produce delivery services like Melissa’s Organic Produce to get all of my fruit and veggies ahead of time. No need to go to the grocery store and lugging heavy bags! It’s always on my doorstep. Shelf stable items like nut butters, raisins, tortillas, bread, pasta, rice, etc. with tons of fresh produce are always on hand so it’s easy to mix and match.
– Plan ahead. Make yourself a menu of all the things you’ll pack for the week. Then, you can use Eat Cleaner Fruit & Vegetable Wash to wash everything, prep, cut up and store all your fruit and veggies in the fridge so you have it all week long. You can even use the eatFresh-FC anti-browning solution product fromeatcleaner.com to keep everything from turning brown all week! It’s totally organic and saves you a ton of time and money. We have a ton of great ideas at eatcleaner.com and on our Facebook (@eatcleaner), Twitter (@eatcleanerfood), Pinterest (@eatcleaner) and Instagram (@eatcleaner) pages.
– Get your kids into the kitchen. It’s so important that they’re part of the process. It lightens your work, gets them involved so they’re much more likely to eat what’s been prepared, and it instills a sense of pride that they’re making it. Even young children should be given tasks like: wash produce, spread peanut butter, peel veggies, etc. if they can’t handle knives or be around heat.
– Keep it safe. The last thing you want to have happen is your kids got sick from the lunch you packed! Packing up lunch to stay safe is essential. I use a refrigerated cooler bag with ice and pack everything in StayFit containers, Lunch Bots stainless steel sandwich containers, GoStak containers, Blender Bottles and other reusable, BPA-free containers that I can easily pack up, are easy to clean and have last a long time. Studies show that most lunch are not kept cold enough so keeping them insulated, with ice, is key. I also pack an Eat Cleaner Wipe with their lunch so they can clean their hands – without alcohol or toxic chemicals – before they eat. Most of the time, there’s NO time for them to wash their hands before eating. Our Wipes are organic and biodegradable!
Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie’s Veggie Mac n’ Cheese Cupcakes
Mac n’ Cheese cups you can eat with your hands, filled with spinach, cauliflower or butternut squash. YUMM!!
The perfect lunchbox entree you can eat with your hands, filled with veggies to boot! Make it dairy and gluten-free with our options in the recipe. Wash all produce with Eat Cleaner® Fruit & Vegetable Wash to keep it safer, cleaner and fresher, longer.
Makes: 8 servings
1 lb. bag whole grain or gluten-free pasta shells, fusilli or elbows (quinoa, brown rice or organic corn)
2 Tbsp. Olive oil or raw coconut oil
1 Cup cooked butternut squash, cauliflower or 2 Cups fresh spinach
1 container Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread or 6 oz. non-dairy cream cheese
1 Cup nonfat milk or unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 Cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese or dairy-free alternative
Muffin tin with cupcake liners
Nonstick cooking spray
1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners and mist the inside of each liner with nonstick cooking spray
2) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, not mushy. Drain and toss cooked pasta with a tsp of oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Set aside.
3) In a food processor, pulse your choice of cooked vegetables along with yogurt spread or non-dairy cream cheese and milk. Add black pepper and sea salt and give one last pulse. Mixture should be creamy smooth. Add a little water if needed to get the right consistency.
4) In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the squash sauce until thoroughly mixed. Season with additional spices to taste. Add the shredded mozzarella or dairy free shredded cheese and toss.
5) Fill each cupcake liner with pasta mixture and mist top of each with a little nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 12 minutes or until mixture holds together in liner.
Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie’s “Sandwich Sushi”
Sandwich sushi gives a cream cheese, avocado and cucumber filling a roll! Top with flax meal for a healthy crunch.
Plain old sandwiches are so passé! Just by rolling up your bread, you can create elegant sushi rolls that are nutritious and delish! Add cooked salmon or tuna if your child enjoys fish. You can also make this gluten and dairy-free with our tips in the recipe. Wash all produce with Eat Cleaner® Fruit & Vegetable Wash to keep it safer, cleaner and fresher, longer.
Makes: 4 servings
8 slices Sprouted Grain or Gluten-Free Bread
4 oz. Blue Isle French Onion Mediterranean Yogurt Spread or non-dairy cream cheese
1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced into 4” long strips, 16 pieces total
2 avocados, sliced, pitted and cut into 4 equal sized pieces per half, 16 pieces total
2 Tbsp. Linwood’s ground flax, sesame and pumpkin seed meal (use sesame seeds if flax unavailable)
Rolling pin or large flat wooden spoon
1) Slice off crusts from bread. Using a rolling pin or the handle of a wooden spoon, roll each piece of bread until flattened.
2) Spread each piece of bread with 1/2 oz. of Yogurt Spread or non-dairy cream cheese
3) Fill each piece of bread with two pieces of cucumber and avocado in the first third of the slice. Sprinkle with a little ground flax or sesame seeds.
4) Roll each piece of bread like sushi and cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle the top of each piece with a little more flax or sesame seeds.
Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie’s Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Pack a GoStak with all your snacks for portable ease.
This makes the perfect pudding cup or a fun fondue for dipping fresh fruit, filled with veggies, heart-healthy chocolate and just the right amount of sweetness, without the sugar. Wash all produce with Eat Cleaner® Fruit & Vegetable Wash to keep it safer, cleaner and fresher, longer.
Makes: 4 Servings
2/3 Cup 70% or higher dark chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons Unsweetened cocoa
1/2 Cup Unsweetened almond milk
1 Avocado, large, ripe
1 Tbsp Coconut oil, raw
2 teaspoons All Natural Sweetener (Organic Stevia, Monkfruit Extract or Erythritol)
1/2 tsp Pure vanilla extract
Topping: fresh berries, unsweetened shredded coconut, dark chocolate covered almonds or serve with fresh fruit veggie skewers to dip.
1) In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
2) Place a glass bowl on top and melt chocolate, taking care to stir so chocolate doesn’t seize. Remove bowl. You can also use a double boiler to melt chocolate.
3) Add cocoa, almond milk, coconut oil, sweetener and vanilla extract to melted chocolate and mix well
4) Scoop out avocado flesh and blend into chocolate mixture. You can use a hand or stick blender to achieve a smooth consistency.
5) Place in individual serving cups, Mason jars or GoStak containers for easy portability.