3 Kid-Approved Lunch Ideas - The Bend Magazine

Three Kid-Approved Lunch Recipes for the School Year

Three outside of the box, kid-approved back-to-school lunch box recipes as the kids go back to school this year

Photography by Rachel Benavides

School supplies? Check! Uniform? Check! Lunch packed? (*screeching tires*) Each new school year brings about a familiar conundrum: how to assemble nutritious, easy and kid-friendly lunches five days a week, 36 weeks per year. That’s 180 lunches, for anyone keeping track. 

While we love a lunch that’s easy to throw together at the last minute, we also want to empower our kiddos with satisfying nutrition. Research shows kids who pack a lunch often eat less fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein. Instead, they tend to eat more sugar and empty calories. Moreover, ready-to-eat kid lunch options are high in fat and refined carbs, offering little in the way of vitamins and minerals. 

As the school year begins, perhaps you’ll feel inspired to prepare a more “out of the lunch box” entrée for your scholars. We used the following criteria to create the recipes: 1) tasty at room temperature, 2) handheld, 3) packed with veggies and 4) kid-approved. The result: Egg rolls, samosas and quesadillas. 

We took a nod from some of our favorite street fare with potato and pea-packed samosas. Eliminating peppers from our recipe made these fried dumplings tamer on the kids’ palates. Roasting whole spices and grinding them adds intense, authentic flavor. We also used more common spices to make these samosas easier to prepare; no busy parent needs an extra late-night trip to the store.

Crispy egg rolls with sweet and sour are a great way to break up a week of PB&Js. This version is packed with cabbage, carrots, green onions and ground pork. Feel free to substitute in ground turkey, chicken or beef in a pinch. To cut down the prep time, use store-bought sweet and sour. 

The quesadillas are easily customized to reflect whatever’s in our pantry. While this recipe combines onion, bell pepper and mushroom, black beans, sweet potato, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant and tomatoes are all delicious when sandwiched between two cheesy tortillas.

From meeting the teacher and school orientation to final exams and graduation, parents have a lot to worry about when it comes to their children’s education. Make lunch one less thing on the list.  

 

Egg Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Makes 1 dozen

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Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 3 cups cabbage, shredded
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 16-oz package eggroll wrappers, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Place neutral and sesame seed oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add ground pork to skillet and season with salt, white pepper, sugar, garlic and ginger. Break pork apart with your spoon and continue to cook until thoroughly browned, with no pink remaining, about 6 minutes. Add cabbage, carrots, green onions and soy sauce and saute another 2-3 minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt. 

Fill a deep-sided pan with 3 inches of peanut or vegetable oil. Heat oil to 350°F over high heat. 

While oil heats, set up wrappers by covering them with a damp cloth on a clean workspace. Spoon 1/4 cup of filling into bottom 1/3 of wrapper and fold according to package directions. Brush the edge of the wrapper with egg to help seal each egg roll. Fry 3-5 egg rolls at a time for 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and serve with sweet and sour sauce.

For fresh, homemade sweet and sour sauce: Whisk 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1/2 cup honey, 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp soy sauce in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until bubbling and remove from heat. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Samosa

Makes 1 dozen

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Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Dough
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp roasted fennel seeds, ground
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup ghee, melted
Filling
  • 3 potatoes (about 1.5 lbs), washed 
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

Stir flour, fennel seeds and salt together in a large bowl. Add in remaining ingredients and mix with your hands until you form a tough dough. Roll into a ball and let rest while you prepare the filling. 

Boil potatoes in salted water for 10-15 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from water and let cool. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins (if desired) and coarsely chop. Set aside.

Toast seeds in a large skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until fragrant and brown. Transfer seeds to a mortar and crush with a pestle until finely ground. Return skillet to heat and add in ghee. Once ghee is melted and fragrant, add in garlic and onions. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add reserved potatoes, ground seeds and remaining ingredients to the skillet and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Fill a deep-sided pan with 3 inches of peanut or vegetable oil. Heat oil to 320°F over high heat. 

While oil heats, divide prepared dough into 6 segments of equal size. Form each into a disk and roll out into an oval shape, about 1/4” thick. Cut the oval into two equal halves horizontally, to make two half circular shapes. Using one half circle, join the ends of the flat side to form a cone shape and press firmly to seal. Fill cone with 1/4 cup filling and close open edge and seal with your fingers. Continue making samosas with remaining dough and filling. 

Fry samosas in batches (3 to 4 at a time) for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Turn halfway through cooking. Transfer cooked samosas to a wire rack to cool. Serve with Cilantro Mint Chutney.

For fresh, cilantro mint chutney: In a blender or food processor, blend 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch mint, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp chaat masala and 1 clove garlic until smooth. Serve with samosas.

Veggie Quesadilla

Makes 4

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Prep Time: 7 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups cheddar jack cheese, shredded

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add in onion and bell pepper. Cook and stir occasionally until onion begins to turn translucent, about 7 minutes. Add mushroom slices, season with salt and pepper, and cook an additional 3 minutes. Remove vegetables from heat and stir in spinach to wilt. 

Place a griddle over medium heat. Brush griddle with cooking oil. Place one tortilla on the preheated skillet and sprinkle 1/3 cup shredded cheese evenly across tortilla. Top cheese with 1/2 cup cooked vegetables and cover with a second tortilla. Cook for 1 minute, until bottom tortilla is golden and toasted. Carefully flip quesadilla with a large spatula. Cook another minute on the other side, until golden and toasted. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut each quesadilla into quarters and serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.