The importance of a healthy meal for a growing child cannot be stressed enough. Fundamental to all aspects of development, both physical and cognitive, proper nutrition fuels the day and contributes greatly in helping your child become the person they will be. Enjoy these great nutritious and delicious school lunch ideas!
Broccoli Pesto Pasta!
Nutritious, delicious, simple and flexible – prepare this wonderful dish the night before as either your evening lunch prep or for dinner with the intent of lunchtime leftovers.
(Makes two full servings)
- 2 cups (10 ounces) of broccoli florets
- Salt & Pepper
- 6 ounces (half a box) of short-cut or decorative pasta (regular or gluten-free for allergies)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan (regular or diary-free for allergies)
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves (packed)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Finely chop your broccoli florets, and cook in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes (save the hot water). After cooking, place the broccoli in a large bowl of ice water for a minute, then drain and set aside. This blanching process helps the broccoli retain its color, nutrients, and crisp texture.
- Add your pasta to the same pot of boiling water used to cook the broccoli – this allows the pasta to absorb some of the broccoli flavor and nutrients left behind. Cook the pasta until only slightly firm, or “al dente.”
- Set aside a handful of whole broccoli florets and add the rest to a food processor combining your parmesan, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper, then process to a thick, silky sauce.
- Toss pasta with broccoli pesto, adding more olive oil as needed to evenly coat the pasta. Lightly chop reserved broccoli florets and add them to your broccoli pesto pasta. Season to taste with more salt & pepper if ncessary.
Cream Cheese Sandwiches!
As far as your culinary imagination can take it – the cream cheese sandwich offers innumerable simple and healthy lunch possibilities that kids (and adults) love. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Cream Cheese Salad Sandwich
- Bread (though standard white sandwich bread works fine, i like to choose a more firm bread like whole grain – it balances out the texture nicely, and is also a healthier option for your child (gluten-free bread for those with allergies))
- Cream Cheese (if you’re already a fan of these sandwiches or cream cheese in general – best to invest in a larger container (dairy-free for those with allergies))
- Lettuce (I prefer a crisp iceberg for this sandwich, but your favorite lettuce is perfectly fine)
- Bell Pepper (your choice of color)
- Basil (preferably fresh – finely chopped)
- Salt & Pepper
Balancing the amount of cream cheese vs. vegetable ingredients is based entirely on how much creamy texture vs. crunch you enjoy. Experiment and sample along the way until you find your perfect sandwich filling.
- Finely chop your cucumber, bell pepper and basil adding to your preferred amount of cream cheese.
- Add salt & pepper to taste.
- Spread the mixture onto both sides of your choice of sliced bread (roles work great as well).
- Add lettuce on top of the cream cheese mixture and sandwich both sides together.
Enjoy this nutritious instant favorite!
2. Fig Preserves and Cream Cheese Sandwich
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this sandwich – fig and cream cheese are a perfect marriage!
Ingredients & Directions:
So simple to make, which is great, because one can’t seem to get enough of them! Your choice of bread (again i prefer a more firm bread – a roll is also a great option). Cream cheese, and fig preserves. For your fig spread, you can choose a jelly, jam, or preserves – the difference being that each is thicker and more full of fruit pieces than the next (in that order). For this sandwich i prefer the preserves with the large pieces of fig fruit mixed in – for me it creates the perfect texture, but the choice is yours. Spread your cream cheese on one slice of bread and the fig preserve on the other. Bring them together and enjoy!
Peanut Butter and Jelly “Sushi” Rolls!
A fun new spin on a timeless classic – your child will love everything about this Japanese inspired sandwich!
- Peanut Butter & Jelly (let your child choose their favorite)
- Sandwich Bread of your choice (small tortilla wraps also work great)
This is not only fun to eat, it’s fun to make and can be a great kitchen bonding time for you and your child. If you’re using standard sandwich bread you must flatten the bread out. This can be done with either a rolling pin (ideally), or by placing the bread slices between two flat surfaces (like cutting boards) and continuously applying pressure (tortilla wraps can be used as-is directly from the package). Once you have your flattened bread you can either cut the bread into long strips before adding the PB&J or cut it after. If slicing the roll into sections after having made it, it cuts better when placed in the freezer for an hour first (though it is not necessary). Spread a row of peanut butter and jelly across the majority of the bread surface of each strip (or the entire slice of bread if keeping it whole) – leaving a small blank section across the top. Tightly roll the strips (or entire slice) from bottom to top. Cut into sections if you haven’t already and enjoy. Serve face-up (sushi style) with chopsticks for an extra fun eating experience!
This instant lunch favorite combines two classics kids love!
- 6 – 8 inch flour tortillas (or corn if gluten-free)
- Jar of ready-made pizza sauce (pasta sauce works fine as well)
- Shredded cheese (i prefer the “Mexican” or “Taco” blend – the choice is yours)
- Pizza toppings (optional) – add your child’s favorite pizza toppings, like pepperoni, peppers, or pineapple. Endless possibilities!
On a single tortilla add a few spoonfuls of sauce and spread. Place the tortilla into a heated non-stick skillet, greased with a little oil or a non-stick spray. While the tortilla lightly browns on the bottom (it doesn’t take long), add your choice of cheese and pizza toppings ontot the sauce, then another layer of cheese on top of that. Place a second tortilla on top of the entire “pizza”. Place a lid over the pan for a minute or two, this allows the cheese to stick to the top tortilla which makes it easier and neater to flip it over. Remove the lid and flip the tortilla, lightly browning the other side. Remove from the pan and allow to cool before slicing into pizza triangles. This recipe is also fun to make together with your child, and they will want it all the time!
Homemade LeftOver-Chicken Noodle Soup!
The perfect cold weather lunch!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic – minced
- 1 tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves
- 2 large carrots – chopped
- 2 stalks of celery – chopped
- 1 white Onion – chopped
- 2 large potatoes – cubed
- 32 ounces vegetable stock
- 2 cups leftover chicken – shredded
- Salt & Pepper
Left-over chicken noodle soup was a staple for us kids growing up; firstly because it was a great way of stretching-out your meals, second because it could be made in large batches and enjoyed for multiple meals, and third because it is one of the few things my mother knows how to cook.
In a large sauce pan or stock pot over medium heat add your olive oil, onions, carrots and potatoes. Stir consistently while the vegetables soften for 8 – 10 minutes. Next add your vegetable stock, garlic, thyme, celery, and chicken. If necessary, based on the ratio of soup stock to ingredients, you can add a cup or two of water to spread it out. Continue stirring occasionally, adding salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for at least 15 – 20 minutes before serving.
This dish is also fun to make with the kids, especially if you have a future chef in your house. Enjoy!