Putting ‘awesome’ into school lunch

Putting ‘awesome’ into school lunch

Lara McCormack

From Scratch

As a mother of 3, I must admit I love back to school time but not for reasons you assume. It takes me back to my childhood as it was my favourite time of year with new school supplies, new shoes, seeing my friends and getting into a new routine. I also loved school lunch because it was different from what I ate all summer. My mom made an effort to make sure we ate well and how she did it was by making my brother and I make our lunches in the morning. I now do the same with my family and have some time saving tricks to share!

• Invest in some great wares for lunch boxes like a thermos, bento box, jars with lids, and a good water bottle.

• Freeze sandwiches – a great one is a nut butter with jam; wrapped in saran wrap. Take it out in the morning and place it in the lunch box where it will be thawed out for lunch. Sounds crazy but it works!

• Wrap apple slices or any other fruit that browns in saran wrap to prevent it from browning. Sometimes elastic bands work too but can be a bit on the fussy side. I composted a lot of apples until I found this hack!

• Use fruit juice containers as ice packs. Pull it from the freezer in the morning and by lunch, it will be thawed for the kids to drink while food in the lunchbox was kept cool.

• Breakfast for lunch – always a hit! Hard boiled eggs, waffles smeared with maple syrup, toast with bacon and jam. Don’t forget a fruit salad.

• Make a dip tray by adding veggies galore with some crackers & cheese. Great alternative to a sandwich. Make your own herb dip, hummus, salsa or guacamole. The 7-layer dip is a hit in my household!

• One weekend make a few of your kids’ favourite dishes like chili, pasta with meat sauce, chicken curry. Freeze them in individual portions. Morning of, the kids can choose what they want for lunch, re-heat it and place in a thermos for a ‘hot lunch’.

• If your kids are not into sandwiches, make skewers with fruit, meat, cheese and vegetables. Cookie cutters are fun to use when you make these; little kids especially get a kick out of it!

• Don’t forget about soup – it’s nutritious, tasty & filling!

• Put a list up on the fridge where the kids can add what they like to eat. I title mine Grains and Meats / Fruit and Vegetables / Treats. It makes it easier when it comes to shopping time.

Below is a recipe we make and freeze in individual portions for lunch. It’s a great entertaining recipe too!

Cheesy Chicken Meatball Sliders




• ¼ cup olive oil

• 1 onion, chopped

• Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes

• 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

• 1 bay leaf

Meatballs and Assembly

• Vegetable oil spray

• 2 slices country bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces

• ½ cup milk

• 1 pound ground chicken

• 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan, plus more

• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 12 slider rolls, preferably potato


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onion is softened and translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and bay leaf and bring to a low simmer. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, partially covered, while you prepare meatballs.

Meatballs and Assembly

Preheat broiler. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray and set aside. Combine bread and milk in a small bowl and set aside, tossing occasionally, until milk is completely absorbed, 8–10 minutes. Combine chicken, 2 oz. Parmesan, parsley, garlic, eggs, salt, pepper, and soaked bread in a large bowl; gently mix with your hands until ingredients are fully incorporated. Dampen your hands, then form mixture into 12 balls; place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Broil, rotating pan once, until meatballs are browned, 8–10 minutes. Add meatballs and any juices to sauce and continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through, sauce is thick and chunky, and flavors have melded, 20–25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Top each split roll with a meatball, a dab of sauce, and more Parmesan. If sending for lunch, place the meatball in a thermos and the kids can assemble at lunchtime!

Recipe by Bon Appétit

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