Friday, September 14, 2012

Artists in the Cafeteria - With Recipes

I've recently become aware of a whole new art form.

It's called.... Lunch.

  As in, packing a school lunch.  

If anyone is still using brown paper bags and plastic baggies, they're sure not admitting it, let alone taking photos and putting them up on the web.

Seriously, some of these are works of art:

Image courtesy of The Little Henhouse

I'm sure the kids get a kick out of opening their lunch boxes and seeing cute little cookie cutter sandwiches, rice balls in the shape of Hello Kitty, and carrots carved into flowers, but really?  They're just going to get eaten.  Or traded for a Fruit Roll-Up, am I right?

I'm thinking this might just be another little scheme to make us moms compete with one another and feel like complete failures if we send our kid to school with a Wonder bread bologna and cheese sandwich in the shape of... a slice of bread.

But I digress.

Lily is not a big sandwich girl.  

And while I'm not spending my morning fashioning cucumbers into the shape of stars, I am a fan of bento-style lunch containers.

Plus, living in Austin where being environmentally friendly and "green" is almost a requirement, I'm pretty sure if Lily came to school with plastic baggies every day, we would be forced to move.

I use Easy Lunchboxes because I like the cooler bags that perfectly fit the containers.  They hold up great after many, many trips through the dishwasher.  Plus, it's all very affordable.

These containers lend themselves well to what we used to call a "funny plate lunch".   Way back when my big girls were small, their favorite thing to eat was a little buffet of all kinds of snacky-type foods that I would put in the cups of a muffin tin.  Thus, the "funny plate".

Things like grapes, goldfish, cheese cubes, lunch meat, pickles, berries, cheerios, boiled eggs, animal cookies.... you get the idea.  

It was also a hit because nothing touched, a very important aspect of a fine dining experience for my kids.

Most of Lily's lunches follow the same theme as those "funny plate lunches", just in an Easy Lunchbox instead of a muffin tin.  Ham cubes, rolled-up turkey slices, Ritz crackers, all kinds of fruit, boiled egg slices, noodles, raisins, and the like.

In Lily's lunch today, she has homemade pasta salad with rotisserie chicken pieces, thin red pepper slices,  watermelon chunks, and a homemade Hot Fudge Brownie Larabar. 

Now before you start thinking, "That Lana. She may not be creating a rainbow out of fruit for her kid's lunch but she's making all this homemade stuff.  Showoff."

Well, mostly that's because Lily can't have things like Lunchables, Oreos, pretzels, cheese... stuff like that.  She's on a pretty specialized diet.  So I have to be somewhat creative.

But like I said before, two or three days a week, she's just having that funny plate lunch.  Not much thought or creativity going into those, I promise.

And I'll also tell you that yesterday, I sent a delicious piece of quiche in her lunch.  Made just for her, to fit all the parameters of her diet.  She liked it when she sampled it the night before.  It came back home that afternoon, with not a bite of it eaten.

So just because I'm making some things doesn't always mean it's getting enthusiastically consumed.

I just keep offering healthy food choices.  The rest is up to her.

I thought I'd share a few of the recipes we've tried with you today.  Sound good?

Now, I'm not a big fan of Larabars myself.  I often find their texture kind of gummy, and not in a good way.  But these were yummy.  And they have no sugar, except for what's in the little bit of chocolate chips you might choose to add.  I used dark chocolate chips (about 2 tbsp) because Lily can only have small amounts of dark chocolate on occasion.

 Katie has all kinds of great recipes on her blog - most with little to no sugar and as you might have guessed from the title above, many with chocolate.  You should definitely spend some time browsing her website.

Next - the infamous quiche that Lily declared delicious one day and disgusting the next.  I thought it was good every time but you can be the judge. 

The recipe can be found at For the Love of Food

To fit Lily's diet, I used her special mozzarella "cheese" from Daiya, soy milk, and soy creamer.  I also used one of those premade refrigerated pie crusts that has no dairy in the ingredient list.   I used turkey bacon which I prepare by following these instructions.

Here's a good basic muffin mix from Undressed Skeleton that you can "fix up" to your liking.  I made the Banana Muffins, using all-purpose white flour, skipped the walnuts, and added a handful of dark chocolate chips instead.

 Last but not least, the homemade pasta salad I mentioned above?  It's just any pasta shape you choose, grated veggies of your choice (I used carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini squash), and a cut up rotisserie chicken breast.  Splash a little Italian salad dressing in and mix it all up good.  Easy.

While the Bird might not be opening her cooler bag to find a lunch fully themed around the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, at least she's finding some healthy foods that fill her tummy and taste good, too.

Have a fun weekend!  


  1. Lovely pictures! I so wish my kids would eat more than just their standard salami sandwich. Sigh.

  2. yes, those fabulous beneto lunches are too good to eat or won't be eaten anyway! My guy was always such a fussy eater and lunches are very lmited. No way would he eat that pasta salad, unfortunately! He has started to eat in the cafeteria in his new school though! Sausage and chips, but it's a start! I must check out that Quiche recipe as I'm trying to get him to eat quiches :-)

    xx Jazzy

  3. Our lunch consists of Dole peaches in the cup dumped into a Lightning McQueen thermos, Gogurt, and the crackers and cheese from a mini lunchable... I could try and make it all artsy but I think it would be much more fun if someone would make those awesome bunny and cow lunches for me!! I'll make you a deal - I'll come to Texas and make one for you if you'll come to California and make one for me? And that quiche looks delicious!! :)

  4. Wow! Those works of art can't possibly be done by a mom...can they? I mean there must be a chef involved? Who has that much time?

    Your lunches sound perfect! Your little girl is lucky!

  5. Thank you so much for posting these! My son is on the Ketogenic diet for epilepsy and all of his food as to be measured out down to the gram and I have been looking everywhere for lunchboxes like these to send to school and when we are out and about. And with some of the stuff he has to eat on this diet,the idea of some of the food touching is gross, more for me than him :)


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