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Lunchbox Ideas

Try these ten great lunchbox ideas and send your child to school with a taste for the exotic

Posted: 10 April 2010

blanket Vitamin Volcano
This delicious smoothie is a mix of apple juice, red berries and squished bananas. For fun, mix two colours of juice to give the fiery effect of an erupting volcano. This will be less effective if the juice has too far to travel (pre-mixed works best if combined at the last minute). Use the thicker, banana-based smoothies for the best results – mango is good for colour – or whizz up your own wild combinations.

Take two types of fruit (or vegetable), washed or peeled, and a squirt of lemon or lime juice to help keep the colour bright. Whizz in a food processor or liquidiser.

Only add ice if serving immediately or the diluting effect, once melted, will make the juice rather thin.

blanket Mini Tuna Baguette
Small, soft, baguette-shaped rolls are less chewy and easier for children to eat. Fill with mixtures, such as cream cheese and marmite; egg; ham and cheese; salami and crisps (great texture, and the crisps shouldn’t go soggy with salami as a near neighbour); or this classic tuna mayo and cucumber.

Mash together some tinned tuna (in brine, and drain before using) and a decent spoonful of mayonnaise. Add some salt (check that the mayonnaise is not too salty first) and pepper and a small spoonful of horseradish sauce to give it a little extra dimension, without too much of a kick. Dollop the mixture into the halved roll. Slice a ridge cucumber (which has a sweeter flavour and crunchier texture than the usual, more watery cucumbers and will not wilt as quickly either) into little strips and dot them over the tuna mixture. They look a little like lots of legs peeping out of the roll – which may appeal to the imagination!.

blanket Miniature Chicken Wrap
Tortilla wraps are brilliant for carting fillings about, but children can get bored halfway through eating a whole one.

Use a biscuit cutter to make mini wraps from a big one – about 12cm diameter is a good size.

For the filling, use chicken, some strips of colourful vegetable (try cucumber; thin green beans; red, green or yellow pepper; tomato, plus a teaspoonful of hoisin or ketchup).

Spread the mixture over half the wrap, then roll up quite tightly. They should stay rolled if you put them open-edge firmly down on a surface and give them a press.

Vegetarian wraps can include all the veg you like and maybe a spreading of cream cheese, peanut butter or hoummous for protein.

And for teatime, try fresh fruits with a thin layer of fromage frais mixed with a spoonful of jam.

blanket Skinny Dippers in Miniature Red Peppers
These are a perfect snack – and will boost your child's five-a-day intake.

Fill miniature red, yellow or green peppers with houmous, taramasalata or a child friendly guacamole (mash avocado with some lemon or lime juice, a little salt and a spot of black pepper).

Stand a variety of par-boiled or raw vegetable sticks waist-high in the mixture to be pulled out and crunched with the dip to add extra flavour.

blanket Potato, Broad Bean and Bacon Salad
Beans are great for energy, so include this as an energy-boosting lunchtime side salad.

Boil some small, unpeeled new potatoes until soft.

Simmer a handful of broad beans from frozen and, if you can bear to pop them out of their grey skins, the vibrant green colour will make it worthwhile.

Grill some bacon lardons, or dice some tomatoes or red peppers for colour.

Mix everything together with a couple of teaspoons of white wine vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and black pepper, and a sprinkling of finely chopped chives or spring onions.

Serve in a small pot or bowl – then up the fun factor by eating with a toothpick!

blanket Vanilla-Coated Pumpkin Seeds
These seeds are delicious and healthy as an alternative to sweets. You can buy them in little bags with sunflower seeds, whole almonds and dried berries, but you can also very easily make them yourself and create your own mixtures.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F / 110 degrees C / Gas one 1/4. Mix one medium egg white with 15g of golden syrup and 1 tsp vanilla essence in a large bowl. Add 400g of pumpkin seeds and coat the mixture with glaze. Spread over a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for about an hour, turning and shuffling the seeds so that they all get the chance to dry. They will stick together and that’s fine – actually not just fine, it’s what you want so that you can eat them in crispy clusters. Remove from the oven when the majority seem dry. They may brown a little, but this isn’t always the case so don’t panic if they don’t. If you’d prefer them toasted, turn the oven up by a few degrees and leave them in for a further five to ten minutes, but watch them keenly because they can burn very easily. Leave the pumpkin seeds to cool on the baking tray – it’s hard to move them about when hot. When cold, gather the seeds and store them in an airtight bag or tin. Enjoy as a snack, but they are also excellent to eat sprinkled over puddings, muesli or ice cream.

blanket Egg Mayo on Wholemeal Bread
This is a special variation on an all-time classic.

Boil an egg for 10 minutes then plunge into cold water to make peeling easy.

Mash with a dessert spoon of Mayonnaise. If your worried about making your own mayonnaise using raw eggs, use a bought variety. Alternatively, mix the egg with a knob of butter as soon as it is cooked and shelled.

Add salt and pepper and pile the cold mixture into an egg cup or a crunchy, green lettuce leaf and pack some wholemeal bread soldiers or bread sticks for dipping.

blanket Chocolate, Raspberry and Rocket Open Sandwich
This can be a teatime treat or an energy-restoring elevenses snack.

Try to find a good quality chocolate spread – or make your own by melting some chocolate with butter and allowing it to cool in the fridge – and distribute generously over a slice of wholemeal bread or a malted grain roll.

Dot the raspberries about and add the rocket leaves.

The combination is surprisingly fresh and delicious.

blanket Fairy (Godmother) Cakes
These little fellows are small, unfruity versions of the blueberry muffin recipe in Food on the Move. Do add blueberries to the mixture if you prefer (150g fresh berries), but in such small-sized cakes the fruit can be intrusive. Decorate with any fancy odds and ends you choose – in fact, with a supply of hundreds and thousands or silver balls, leave the decoration for the children to choose and put on.

250g unsalted butter, soft enough to beat
200g caster sugar
4 eggs and an extra yolk, lightly mixed
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
a few drops of vanilla essence
For the topping:
75g plain flour
25g soft brown sugar
50g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/ Gas 5. Arrange 24 mini paper muffin cases on a baking tray. First make the topping by lightly blending the ingredients to create clusters of crumbly dough. To make the muffins, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well between additions. Sift the baking powder and flour together into the mixture. Mix in gently and then add the vanilla essence. Fill the paper cases twothirds full. Sprinkle some topping over each case. Bake for about 10–12 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown. Definitely best eaten fresh and slightly warm.

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The Mini Tuna Baguette and Fairy (Godmother) Cakes are the two things which my nephews and nieces would love and after going to and having them work on my research papers, I'll get to it.

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