lunch box love (part one)

What’s in Cornelius’s lunch box?

For many kids, the best time of the school day is opening their lunch boxes to see what delicious treats are inside.

Will they find their favorite PB&J, baked chicken drumsticks, or a special bento? I can remember having only one lunch box as a child — it was a red and black plaid tin, and I might have taken it to school fewer than six times. I was enamored with the prospect of soup in the thermos, a baloney sandwich, Fritos, and a Hostess cupcake. But after facing a smashed or soggy sandwich once or twice (my mom insisted on including an apple), I went back to cafeteria food.

These days, I’m envious of kids who take their lunches in insulated totes and bags, or whose food is lovingly packed in divided plastic containers (there’s a whole new world of lunch box fashion going on). Sandwiches remain a traditional favorite, but in this day and age of smoothies, wraps, and rice balls, all it takes is thinking outside the box just a little to make lunch more varied, interesting and fun.


For some great ideas, check out MY LUNCH BOX, a cool selection of 50 recipes created by Hilary Shevlin Karmilowicz. They’re packed in a spiffy recipe box illustrated by Rebecca Bradley, and feature Mains, Sides and Treats. Mix and match recipes from each category for a healthy, balanced mid-day meal, or pick any one of them to supplement things you usually pack.



If you want to stick with sandwiches, consider reinventing them — what about a Cheesy Pleasy Pocket, Chillin’ Chicken Caesar Wrap, or a Banutty (peanut butter between two slices of homemade banana bread)? Choose a quick quesadilla, make sure your dogs are dapper, fill up on frittata after hamming around. Not into sandwiches? Go for soup or salad: Chicken Noodle in a snap, Chow-Down Chicken Chili, Pizza Pasta Salad. My favorite? Alphabet Soup (Ms. Karmilowicz is a wise woman). And for those days when you’re short on time or energy, there are some no-recipe suggestions, which require only two or three ingredients and a few minutes to pull together.


What about the sides? Choose from veggie dips to muffins to pinwheels to more salads to eggs to fruity cheese kabobs. Then top everything off with a healthy treat: yogurt fondue, granola bars, smoothies, and carrot cupcakes, to name a few. As with the Mains, you’ll find no-recipe ideas for Treats and Sides.

Each cheerfully illustrated recipe card will inspire budding foodies to experiment in the kitchen (steps requiring adult supervision are clearly marked). Extra recipe cards, colorful stickers and tips for keeping foods hot or cold round out the collection. Great for encouraging parent-child participation, likely to make lunch the most anticipated meal of the day. There’s something to be said for appealing presentation, lots to be said for family bonding and the satisfaction of mastering new skills. Kids seem to especially love something they’ve made themselves — what better way to engage, excite and nourish!

MY LUNCH BOX: 50 Recipes for Kids to Take to School
by Hilary Shevlin Karmilowicz
illustrated by Rebecca Bradley
published by Chronicle Books, 2009
Recommended for ages 9-12, 146 pp.


Ham and Cheese again?

♥ In Lunch Box Love, Part Two, kids learn about where their food comes from. Tune in next Monday!

♥ Related post: My Darling, My Bento



Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “lunch box love (part one)

  1. It’s funny because just a couple of days ago I was talking about school lunches with Bob. I loved those soup thermoses but after getting teased (in 3rd grade) about it (WHY?), I never took a thermos again. What’s up with that? Also, I loved having omusubi (rice balls) for lunch, but again, I was teased, so didn’t take those anymore either. I do recall how my elementary school friends and I would set up our lunchboxes and lunches as a mini dollhouse. The sandwich would become a couch or a bed, the chips the dolls, the apple a table. LOL Well, now I’m hungry and it’s too early for lunch!


    1. What’s wrong with thermoses? Weird to get teased about that! But it’s SO cute that you used to make dollhouses with your lunchboxes! Wow, that sounds like such fun. I guess I don’t remember having that much time to play during lunch hour :).

      When we went on field trips, we were required to bring our own lunches — and I loved having homemade musubi or bento, ordered from our favorite delicatessen, Shigenoya. Such tender beef teriyaki!


  2. Looks great! I love the Banutty idea. I have been fixing lunches for my kids every day for the last five years or so. And I always am happy to hear new ideas!


  3. Perfect menus AND perfect timing, Jama! Sweetpea went off to school last week, and she brings her piggy lunchbox with her. I have plenty of ideas now, but this looks good for when I run out.


    1. OMG! Great article. Exactly how I feel — the “idea” of packing food in those wonderful little containers! The stainless steel set reminds me of an old metal camping set my brother and I used to play with. Parts of it all clamped together in a neat, compact way. Perfect for when you’re on army maneuvers or out on the range . . . 🙂


  4. Ah…I read about recipes (and neat novelty books, if that’s what you’d call it) like this with envy. The girls are SUCH picky eaters, I can’t even begin to describe it. I even saw your FB query about what kids pack in their lunches these days and figured my answer wouldn’t even “count.” They are STAGGERINGLY picky eaters.

    That said, neat lunch box recipe thingy.


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