Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back to school lunches.

The Savoury Lunchbox

Don't know about you, but I find making savouries for the lunchbox tiresome.
 Catering to the likes and dislikes of four kids over the years, has just about sworn me off cooking forever. In an endeavour to stretch our single income to the max, my job is to avoid pre-packaged expensive foods as much as possible and cook from scratch almost everything that goes into our school lunchboxes. I don't know for sure but I think salad/vege laden lunches are why my kids are rarely sick (that and good hand washing)
 Cooking sweet things is simple, because there are few cakes, slices, biscuits kids won't happily scoff down.
  We are very fortunate, that none of our kids have any food allergies or intollerances which makes options easy. But, I'm happy to have some control limiting the added flavour enhancers etc. in most of the prepackaged stuff and the fact I can use a wide variety of veges and they'll  (mostly) happily eat it.

 I do love the look of Bento style lunchboxes, but at 6 in the morning I can't be bothered cutting decorative carrot shapes and threading skewers esp. if I get to throw it in the scrap bucket in the afternoon. Curried quail eggs, grilled mushroom caps and cold broccoli just wouldn't cut it at our house. I've learnt - if it's simple and tomato/cheese flavoured, it gets eaten. I know lots of mum's love/have to, but I'm not a fan of packing sandwiches and such the night before.
Other than the usual meat and salad rolls, wraps, egg and lettuce sandwiches, tinned baked beans or spaghetti ( love those days), I like foods that I can make the day before or prep and freeze beforehand and cook and cool at 6am.
One child wouldn't eat sandwiches at all, so his sandwiches were cut in the usual four triangles and wrapped standing up and he hasn't refused them since. Just a small change in presentation.
Here's a few of the savoury bits that go in our lunchboxes.

Crust-less Quiche

This usually finds it's way into lunchboxes at least once a fortnight.
  • Small diced onion (or leek)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped ham/ bacon/ chicken
  • good chunk of red capsicum diced
  •  (I like to quickly fry in a small saucepan to soften but you don't really need to.)
  • couple of spinach/ silverbeet leaves chopped
  • 1/4 cup of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup Self Raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • paprika, ground black pepper, a bit mixed in and some sprinkled on top.
Mix eggs and milk together and add flour and cheese.
Add all other ingredients and pour into 20/22cm dish.
Bake mod to slow oven until just set in centre of quiche.

Puff Pastry
Some times I'll cook off puff pastry the night before and bag it, or just chop a few toppings and cook and cool that morning.
1 sheet of puff, cut into four, spread with sauce of choice, topped with veges and cheese and baked in a hot oven.
I don't serve puff pastry weekly, but I also don't worry about low-fat anything for my kids (or us).

1/2 puff pastry sheets spread with vegemite/promite and grated cheese, rolled up, sprinkled with more cheese and cracked pepper, cut in to four and baked.

Sheet of puff pastry cut in half,  centimetre and a half strips cut from each side and laid on outside edge. Spread valley with tinned flavoured or plain tuna (eg. tuna and seeded mustard) or tinned chicken and mayo, spinach, green/red capsicum, cherry tomato halves, mushrooms, cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Sheet of puff pastry cut into four squares, tucked into muffin tins. Filled with (microwaved) sweet potato chunks, sauteed leek and capsicum, sliced zucchini and crumbled feta cheese and seasoning.
Baked in mod to hot oven until cooked.

Easy Dough Recipe

Love this easy dough, to smother with any topping and bake until golden brown.  Use this for a homemade pizza on weekend lunches or snacks. Six individuals or 1 large size.
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • teaspoon of sugar
  • 7g packet of dried yeast
  • 3/4 cup of warm (not hot or you will kill your yeast) water
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
Sift flour into bowl, add sugar.
Make a bit of a well and add warm water and sprinkle over yeast.
Allow to dissolve for a minute and add oil.
Mix together with your hands and knead on the bench until relatively smooth.
Roll or push out to fit your tray.
Spread with sauce and toppings and bake in moderate oven until cooked.
I don't usually, but you could baste the dough with a bit of beaten egg or milk to make the rolls a bit more golden looking.

Tomato, capsicum, onion, spinach, ham, bacon, chicken etc. pineapple chunks, cheese.

Leftover chicken, corn and grated cheese on sweet mustard pickles rolled up in dough, sprinkled with red capsicum and chives. Brush with egg or milk if you like, bake in mod. oven.

For Mr CH
Cook 1/2 red onion, garlic, 1/2 cup currants, small splash of red wine vinegar, teaspoon brown sugar, pinch mixed spice or (whatever you fancy) in saucepan until liquid is absorbed and onion soft. Stir in leftover turkey roast meat, spread over dough, roll up and cut, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in mod. oven.

Vege fritters

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 large zucchini grated
1/2 large carrot grated
shallot sliced
grated cheese
oil for shallow frying

Whisk eggs and milk together.
Add flour and whisk until smooth.
Add other ingredients except the oil and mix to combine.
Heat oil in frypan and cook heaped tablespoons of mixture, turning once.
Rest on paper towels to absorb oil.
These taste better hot than cold, so try hard to leave some for the lunchboxes!
Other candidates for the savoury lunchbox at our house include, chicken wingettes, cold sausages (pack a little wipe towel eg. KFC), homemade mini sausage rolls (not very often), and of course leftovers. I always include an ice pack in the lunchboxes.
You know your onto a winner when other kids want to swap their packaged lunch bits and your kid says no, wonders will never cease.
 Also seems, some of no.2 son's class mates like to crack open a large tin of tuna and eat with a fork.

That said, on a "too tired to think" week, all they get are cold toasties and rice crackers!
So do you do the mini shepherd's pie/ mini meatball skewers etc. or the good old vegemite sanga?

Have a great weekend!


  1. Unfortunately our kids don't eat their sandwiches or like most veggies, they are very fussy. I showed Kade your lunch photos, all he said was eeeww. I am trying out the deconstructed sandwiches lately, ie. cold meat, vege sticks, cheese, crackers etc. they seem to eat those more. Carl and I would happily eat all your lovely food in our lunchboxes, thanks for the recipes, I will be sue to give them a go. Enjoy your weekend, Tam

  2. Awesome! Thank you for these. They will be great for my daughters lunches (especially coming into the cooler months), she loves savoury. Will be writing these down and trying them out toot sweet! xo

  3. Wow! I am super impressed!! It all looks so good. Particularly the crust less quiche. There are some great ideas there that I'll have to try. I have become so lazy of late not cooking many homemade treats. This may inspire me to get my act together again and use some new ideas. Thanks Simmone! x

  4. This is such a useful post to refer to, I think I'll add it to my favourites for reference. It makes such a difference to feed children 'real' food. They grow up so much healthier and have a robustness that junk food cannot impart. It all looks delicious too.

  5. I am incredibly impressed! The home-made pastry puffs with loaded goodies are such a good idea. To be honest by philosophy for the last half decade or so has been: "well they eat home-made and healthy for breakfast and dinner...but I just gotta skate on lunch". But with all the budget cuts in the schools this year the school lunches, a.k.a. government issued food, I know not exactly quality (thus my need for the philosophy above) has gotten even grosser. I am at that age-old dilemma: convenience and save money (they get their school lunches for a 25 cents because we are a one-income family, which in the states is the same as poverty...go USA) OR healthy and time, because the thought of making lunches at 6am makes me want to weep. And yet, this post is perfectly timed because just yesterday I was flipping through a cook book written especially for Moms trying to pack more healthy food into kid-friendly meals. I gotta get more veggies into my children. It relied a lot of freezing stuff ahead of time. So, do your puffy doughs freeze well, and what exactly is a fortnight?

  6. Thanks for these ideas, I'm definitely going to try out the fritters with my girls! x

  7. Wow! I am impressed. There are some fantastic lunch ideas here.
    I have found that getting our children involved in helping with the lunch making stops them from wasting food.


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