Beyond the Sandwich: Lunches Your Kids Can Make Themselves

school-lunchThe kids are settling into the school year — while they now have somewhere to go every day while you’re at work, there’s still quite a bit of planning you have to do, lunch in particular. But that’s something you can recruit your kids to help out with. Here are a few ideas for lunches your kids can make themselves.

Wraps Even though wraps are, for all intents and purposes, sandwiches, there’s something about the packaging that makes them more fun and exotic to kids. They take very little effort to prepare, you just have to remember all of the elements to include: protein, fruit/vegetable, something to hold it all together, and a good tortilla. Spread a little peanut butter or soy nut butter on a tortilla, top it with sliced bananas and raisins, roll it up and it’s off to school. If your child wants meat, smear the tortilla with mustard, sprinkle it with lettuce and tomato and lay down a slice of cured ham. If your kids want to make it even more interesting, slice them into pinwheels to make it look like sushi. It’s not too tough for kids to wrap together, they just need direction.school-lunch

Pasta A big bowl of spaghetti for lunch isn’t very practical if your kids have no way to heat it up at lunch time. However, pasta doesn’t have to be hot to be delicious — and kids love noodles. Putting together a good pasta salad allows you to sneak in vegetables your kids might not eat on their own, mix it with meat and cheese to create a one-dish meal. If your kids are old enough, they can boil the water for the pasta, cut the vegetables and cheese and stir it all together with Italian salad dressing. It travels well and holds up until lunch time.

Snack Platter Sandwiches don’t always have to come assembled, in fact, your kids might like them better if they’re not assembled! Have them put together crackers, meat and cheese they like alongside fruit salad or veggies and dip. It’s a way to make lunch easy for kids to make and interesting to eat.

Leftover Bento If you plan it right, you can have your kids make bento boxes out of dinner leftover from the night before. Bento boxes are all about the presentation — eating lunch from little compartments makes the food somehow more delightful. You don’t have to have a real bento box to create your own — you just need regular plastic containers with ways to create compartments to keep the food separate. You can use smaller plastic containers that fit inside or use silicone cupcake linerschool-lunchs. It doesn’t change the food, but how it’s presented makes it more fun to eat.

Just remember that if you pack lunch meats, mayonnaise or dairy, lunch should be packed with an ice pack to prevent it from spoiling. You can make easy ice packs out of sponges at home. Just get them wet, stick them in a closable bag and freeze them overnight.

The Lakeside Collection can help you make every meal can be an exciting meal! Whether you’re planning Thanksgiving dinner or you’re planning a picnic, Lakeside has products and ideas to make it spectacular.

7 Tips on Planning a Holiday Meal

Plan-DinnerHoliday meals are absolutely amazing to enjoy, but they can be a nightmare to plan if you go about it in a disorganized manner. Armed with these 7 handy tips, you can make your holiday meal a total breeze. Here at Lakeside, we believe that meals should be about enjoyment, quality family time, and memories. They should most certainly serve as a relief from the stress of meal preparation. These quick shortcuts can show you how.

1. Segment your grocery list

One of the first mistakes that many people make is that they plan incredible recipes and just make an incredibly ill-fated trip to the grocery store. Why is this so terrible you say? Well, when everyone else has the same exact idea you are dealing with the equivalent of a grocery store meets Black Friday kind of thing.  So how do you segment your list? After you decide exactly which recipes you’ll be preparing, divide up the ingredients you need based on the specific department it is in. For instance, make a produce section, a spices section, etc. and fill them in!

2. Bring a helper, but let the kids play at home

If you need to get things done quickly, you’re better of dividing and conquering. However, bringing your kids can be counterproductive as you may have to keep tabs on them depending on how young they are. Make sure your helper is on the same page as you and you are looking for separate items in separate sections (see tip 1) of the list.

3. Concentrate your efforts

Instead of going all out on wonderful sides, you should focus on the main dish. This may seem pretty obvious, but you would be amazed how many people actually take more time to plan out their side dishes more than their main dishes! Remember, more people are interested in the centerpiece dish than filling up on stuffing.

4. Use a bit of familiarity

The holidays can be wonderful at inspiring innovation, but make sure to cook at least one dish that you are familiar with and love to make. This will minimize the amount of stress, and excess time used in cooking new creations and experimental dishes. It is great to have a fallback in case something doesn’t turn the way you were hoping it would

5. Consider special needs

If someone is a diabetic or has special needs think about these things ahead of time when you are planning. It can be an absolute nightmare to put together special needs dishes on the spot. If you are in a pinch, it can be easier to cater a portion of the meal.

6. Presentation counts

All the preparation in the world can fall flat if you don’t put some time and effort into the presentation portion. If you are out of ideas, you can always use trusty holiday décor themes!

7. Keep portions in mind

If you are inviting a lot of guests over, you may actually have to make that recipe that serves ten people. Otherwise, try to be realistic about how much food you make. If you are in the habit of making extra, be sure it’s something you enjoy just in case you have a lot of leftovers.

Image Credit: paulweberphotography.com

Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas

Quick-LunchWhether you’re packing a meal for the kids, brown-bagging it to the office or looking for something tasty to make at home, lunch doesn’t have to be a big production to be delicious. Too often, you might skip lunch to save time or money, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired by mid-afternoon. Your body needs fuel for the latter half of the day, and a wholesome lunch is essential. With some planning, you can enjoy varied, healthful and delicious lunches that won’t take a big bite out of your budget or your busy day.

If you think of the typical brown bag lunch as a soggy sandwich and a limp salad, think again. New ideas in portability and temperature control keep foods separate until you assemble your fresh sandwich or salad at your desk. Crisp lettuce, juicy tomato slices and crunchy bacon are perfect on a couple of thick-cut slices of bread, and with the Lunch Cube, you can enjoy a fresher BLT. Each cube has a larger compartment for bread and three smaller sections for toppings and sides. Store the container in the refrigerator or in an insulated tote until it’s time for lunch; then, relish a sandwich as fresh as one you’d make at home.

When making sandwiches, get creative with your fillings, spreads and breads to keep them from becoming ho-hum. Mustard and mayonnaise always work, but if you’re ready for a healthy change, try spreading your bread with hummus or Greek tzatziki. Sweet flavors go well with some sandwich fillings, too; a few slices of last night’s roast pork, for example, take on new depth with a thin layer of tangy mango chutney or cranberry relish. Pita bread, focaccia rounds or sandwich wraps also give your lunches more range without costing you extra effort.Sandwiches offer great convenience, but they aren’t the only option for lunch.

Salads are another delicious choice, and they can be as light or as hearty as you like. A fully loaded chef’s salad with eggs and sliced cold cuts is substantial; a green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing is refreshing. Keeping ingredients separate until just before eating is key to making a great lunch salad. Pack everything the night before and store it in the tote you’ll be taking to work or school for an easy, rush-free morning. An insulated lunch totewith divided compartments is a perfect travel companion.

The best salads have a range of textures and tastes, so think about how flavors will play off one another in the finished salad. If you use a creamy dressing, choose crunchy toppings that will stand up to it. A salad with salty cheese benefits from a few sweet bites such as slivers of pear or dried berries. Did you recently enjoy a taco night? Save some of the meat for a lunch salad the next day. These tortilla bowl bakers give it an authentic touch.Great lunches start with creativity. By using what you already have in your kitchen in novel ways and storing everything properly so that it remains fresh by noon, you can be the envy of your lunchroom.

Image Credit: homemadesimple.com