It is difficult for many of us to keep the snacks and lunches we send off to school interesting. Whether or not you have food allergies in your family, more and more are dealing with allergy free classrooms and as in our family, celiac disease. Not only do we need to keep all these restrictions in mind but still need to keep the food tasty, easy, cost-effective and healthy. How do you keep it all organized so that you are not running to the store every night or panicking while filling in yet another form for an activity and realizing that you have to send in extra snack tomorrow?!
A friend shared a great idea with me, which I have attempted to implement. It puts the kids to work packing their own lunches and snacks. I have 5 shoe box sized storage bins I stock each weekend:
1. water bottles
2. juice boxes
3. snack bags, like popcorn, pretzels or veggie sticks
4. apple sauce pouches
5. yogurt pouches and cheese sticks in the refrigerator.
The kids know that they cannot take from these boxes for snacks at home, but know that they can take 1 or 2 items (depending on the size) plus a water bottle for snack. I’ve provided them with many healthy, allergy free options, Skinny Pop,
being their current favorite. The individual bags work great as a worry free snack to bring to school. I also like to make muffins on Friday afternoons or when we have time at some point over the weekend. I always make a double batch, so that we have plenty to use for a quick snack during the week, whether it goes to school with them or as an after school snack before we start homework.
As this is the beginning of fall, I had to try out a pumpkin muffin recipe. I used the basic muffin recipe from The New York Times Cookbook and adapted it to be gluten free. They were eaten so fast, I couldn’t even get a picture!
Pumpkin Muffins (adapted from the New York Times Cookbook, Craig Claiborne)
2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup or King Arthur’s multipurpose gf flour)
5 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of milk
1/4 pound of melted butter
3/4 cup of canned pumpkin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices.
Mix the eggs, vanilla, milk, butter and pumpkin.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix together completely.
Spoon into 12 well-greased muffin tins, or line with cupcake liners. Fill cups about 2/3 full.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
Lunch, I am still working on organizing, but the kids can add the snacks above to their main lunch easily. I have found that breaking lunch up into multiple pieces makes it less daunting. I created 2 lists: main lunch possibilities and snack possibilities. I mix up the main lunch options throughout the week, adding 1 to 3 of the snack options depending on how big the main lunch is.
There are so many possibilities, that if you are anything like me, you won’t be able to make a decision unless your lists are in front of you! Our rotation includes leftovers (anything from meatballs to quesadillas to grilled chicken), lunch meat roll ups, antipasto (cut up salami, cheese, olives and tomatoes) or hard boiled eggs. These are all items that are easily made or found allergen-free, taking the stress off of your planning whether or not you have a child with allergies.
You don’t have to have a fancy bento box or lunch container with many dividers. Use paper cupcake liners or reusable silicone ones (though my kids have thrown a couple of those out, so I refrain from using them) and a square Tupperware container and you are good to go! I like the Sistema snap lid containers in different sizes or the Rubbermaid Lunch Blocks. Although I usually send my kids with cold food, if your kids prefer hot, get a thermos and while you are getting ready in the morning, fill it with hot water. Pour the water out and add your heated leftovers and it will stay warm until lunch time.
These meatballs can be served warm or cold with lunch:
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
2 lbs cooked meatballs
1 cup of your favorite GF barbecue
1 cup of apricot jam
Place all ingredients in crockpot.
Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.
With a little organization it can be less stressful to have allergy-free, gluten-free good food for snacks and lunch. If you have something you would like to create or adapt to fit your gluten-free needs, let me know! I’m always up for a cooking challenge.