Sitting down with my boys recently, we had a heart to heart about the lunchbox blues — theirs and mine. I wanted to know which lunches got eaten, which ones got traded and which ones got tossed.
Be forewarned: If you ask, be prepared to handle the brutal honest truth as only a child can deliver it. Our talk went something like this:
“Anything but a turkey sandwich.”
“Yeah, I hate that turkey pesto panini.”
“Could we have more treats? BTW, mom, fruit is not a treat.”
“A thermos of cocoa would be nice”
“Pasta is always good, and meatballs.”
“But that risotto with the peas in it is gross.”
“Love those pot stickers. Can you make more of the homemade ones?”
“But not the stinky cheese.”
“And no more salad.”
“We don’t eat the salad.”
“I like a surprise.”
“And no more weird fruit please.”
Obviously, the kids don’t share my love for kumquats and gooseberries. And that turkey pesto panini should be retired.
Lunchbox Calzones, however, have been a big hit. With all my favorite pizza restaurants in town now selling their dough, it’s fast and easy to make homemade calzones. My top pick can be found in the take-out section of Bin22, where they sell the same dough that goes into Il Villaggio Osteria‘s pizza. One round is enough for one large or two small calzones. (Bonus: Bin22 is open for lunch, so if you don’t feel like brown bagging it yourself, grab a quick bite while you are there getting your dough.)
My best calzones are made with leftovers — a handful of kale, a scoop of ricotta and a few slices of bison sausage. If you have shredded cheese and jars of good tomato sauce — homemade or not — on hand, you are 15 minutes away from the best lunch a kid could want.
My kids may be opposed to salad, but they will eat a fruit salad of sorts, with Cara Cara oranges, salty pistachios, and honey-sweetened yogurt on the side. I could slip some fennel slices in there too, but those are likely to get tossed.
The treat? There’s nothing better for a kid, I have been told, than popping a mini-s’more into the microwave after lunch. Just place a sticky note on the s’more that clearly states 10 SECONDS ONLY, or you could get a call from school about a certain explosion of chocolate and marshmallows in the lunch room.
The Late afternoon snack? Pack a bag of cumin roasted chickpeas as a healthy, crunchy snack. Cooked (or canned) chickpeas are patted dry and tossed with cumin, salt and olive oil. (Leave out the cumin if your kids are spice averse.) Roasted in a 425 F oven for 30 minutes or until toasty brown, the chickpeas transform into a satisfying snack, which happens to be high in protein, folic acid and zinc. That should more than make up for sending your kid to school with a s’more.
Recipe: Lunchbox Calzones
- It’s best to preapprove any green or unusual fillings with your kids, or better yet, have them make their own calzone. Bake these in the morning, double wrap in foil, and they should stay warm until lunchtime. Makes two kid-sized calzones
- 1 round of Bin22 pizza dough
- 6 tablespoons marinara sauce
- 6 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
- Other fillings:
- Sliced sausage, pepperoni, salami or roast beef
- Handful of kale, arugula, or basil
- Spoonful of ricotta cheese
- Preheat oven to 500 F, and place a rack on the bottom of the oven.
- Line a baking sheet with foil, and brush with olive oil.
- Divide the dough into two pieces, and shape each one into 5-inch rounds. Hint: Use the tops of your knuckles to gently pull the dough to the right size, which will keep it from tearing.
- Divide fillings between the two rounds of dough, and fold over to form a semicircle.
- Crimp the edges to seal.
- Bake on the bottom rack of your oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.
- Using the foil from the baking pan, double-wrap each calzone.
- Pack along some extra sauce for dipping, if you like.
Recipe: Lunch Box S’mores
- Graham crackers
- Mini marshmallows
- For each s’more, smear 2 teaspoons of Nutella on one graham cracker square.
- Top with 5 mini marshmallows and another graham cracker square.
- Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap (remove before microwaving).
- Place on a paper towel, and microwave for 10 seconds.
Recipe: Cumin Roasted Chickpeas
- 1 can or 1 ¾ cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Rinse chickpeas and pat dry.
- Toss with olive oil, salt and cumin, and place on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 425 F for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, or until they are toasty and golden.