Hey KS Fans,
I met Esti W. a little over a year ago when I had seen her photography on facebook and asked her to do my food photography for my recipe column in Binah Magazine. Her work is really fantastic and if you have not done a family portrait in a while – I highly recommend you give her a ring!
This past year I noticed Esti posting her cell phone pics of the lunches she was making for her kids – and I became intrigued and sorta fascinated at all the creative and easy ways she was able to pack a home-lunch for them. Funny enough I started to make it part of my routine – to check up and see “What did Esti make her kids for Lunch today?”
You see -I remember those days of mystery meat and burnt fish sticks with some type of gross potato mash, quite well. And because my mother usually was out of the house before we left to school in the morning , I was left to making my own cream cheese and green olive sandwiches, that I think I took to school everyday for a year!
But not ESTI’s KIDS!! -Her ideas are just too good not to share with all of you KS fans – and so SHE WROTE THEM UP!!
Thank You ESTI! Your Lunches ROCK – Wish you were my lunch mom growing up! Sarah
MY LUNCH BOX DIARIES
By Esti Waldman
I choose to pack my kids’ lunch for school every day. Yes, that’s right. I choose to. Now some of you must be thinking that I have too much time on my hands, but I most definitely don’t. With two kids in elementary school, one in preschool and a four-month-old, I have my hands full. And in case you think that’s not enough to keep busy, I also run a full (and then some) time business as a photographer.
So, why do I choose to make my kids’ lunch every day? It’s simple. If I don’t, they don’t eat lunch. The school lunches were unappealing to them so they simply were not eating. And we all know that a child who does not eat well does not learn well. About halfway through the last school year, I made a decision to try and pack a healthy, well-balanced and, most importantly, appealing lunch for them to enjoy.
After looking around at various lunch making blogs (yes, there are loads of them out there), I decided to buy Ziploc semi-disposable divided containers. At less than $3 for two, it’s not a tragedy if one gets left at school from time to time. They are BPA-free and microwave and freezer safe. And a biggie – dishwasher safe. So simple – three containers and three lids in the dishwasher every evening.
Now, what do I put into these fabulous containers? Well, having three separate compartments forces you to think beyond the same-old same-old and pack some variety. If there’s an empty compartment staring you in the face, you won’t forget to pack a fruit or veggie in the lunchbox. A sandwich does fit in the largest section, but we don’t use sandwiches all that often.
Here are some examples of lunches I’ve packed:
French toast strips with syrup, apple slices, chocolate pudding with sprinkles
Israeli salad, smoked cheese sticks (with mints) and mini crackers
Tuna with pickles, flour tortilla, mango chunks and pretzels
Buttered onion roll (with a mint), hard-boiled egg and applesauce
Half a bagel with egg salad, Clementine, tomatoes and juice
Fishies with ketchup, crackers, pineapples and juice
Homemade pizza pocket, olives and apple slices
Vanilla yogurt, chocolate sprinkles for the yogurt, Berry Berry Kix, apple/pineapple salad
Pita, falafel balls, pickles and pineapples
Pancakes with syrup, yogurt with candy chocolate chips and oranges
Crackers, string cheese, hard-boiled egg, applesauce, cantaloupe and a cookie as a consolation prize for no snow day
And some options for meat days in school:
Chicken cutlets, crackers and pickles
Hard salami, pita chips, mango and blueberries
Mini hot dogs, crackers, pickles and grapes
The key to a good lunch week is organization. I like to plan the lunch menu for the week ahead of time to make sure we have everything we need in the house and also to take into account any meat days in the school lunch program. But you’d better believe that it doesn’t always work out that way. And that’s where the pantry comes into play. Always have a well-stocked pantry and some staples in your fridge and you won’t miss a beat.
Things I try to always have in my pantry:
Reduced fat crackers – several varieties
Canned baby corn
Rice cake thins
Things I always try to have in my fridge:
Smoked cheese sticks
Things I always try to have in my freezer:
Dr. Praeger’s Fishies
Things I like to make ahead:
Hard boiled eggs – they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week. Make a few on Sunday and you’re good to go till the weekend.
Pizza pockets – buy a pizza dough, Cut into 8 equal pieces, roll them out, spread pizza sauce and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Other containers that are good to have:
Half cup size from Gladware are the perfect size for some pudding. I like to make vanilla and chocolate layered cups.
One cup size from Rubbermaid holds a nice portion of fruit salad for snack. They also hold a whole small fruit like an apricot or peach to prevent it from getting smushed before snack time.
Disposable condiment cups with lids are good for ketchup, ranch dip, salad dressing, etc.
We also have the wide-mouth Funtainers from Thermos for hot lunches.
An example here is baked ziti served with a cup of fruit salad.
Other things I have put in those are strips of grilled cheese sandwiches or soup. Or some hot cocoa on a really cold day. If you feel like investing in two sets, you could do spaghetti and meatballs (does anyone else cheat and use smaller pasta so it’s less messy for the kids to eat?), split pea soup with meat or turkey in it or a chicken noodle soup with a matzah ball.
You can use all these ideas outside of school, too. I’ve packed lunch or supper for car trips in our Ziploc containers many times. They are a great size to sit on a kid’s lap without making a mess. I’ve even packed them up with a non-perishable lunch for a trip to an amusement park. No mushy peanut butter sandwiches for my kids!
Some general tips:
Tell your children to leave any leftovers in the containers. That way you know what and how much they’re eating and you can adjust accordingly.
If the school does serve lunch, try to match up your lunches on the days that they serve the “good stuff”. When I make baked ziti, I make an extra pan and then freeze individual portions. Then on baked ziti days at school, I pop a portion in the microwave and put it into a food Thermos. Voila! Better than school’s baked ziti, for sure!
Add a seasonal treat now and then. For Chanukah, throw in a few chocolate coins. Purim, a hamantash. Or just sneak in a little treat on a regular day. A few mini marshmallows, some chocolate chips, mini sandwich cookies. A little bit goes a long way.
A frozen juice box serves as an ice pack and is usually a good cold drink by lunchtime. A frozen applesauce cup works as well and can be eaten as a slushy sorbet-like kind of dessert.
The Ziploc containers generally do not leak, but if you’re going to put something very wet into it, you can slide the whole container into a storage size Ziploc bag to prevent a messy backpack.
If you’d like to put the containers in a lunchbox with an ice pack (I highly recommend that!), I’ve recently discovered that Lands’ End ClassMate SmallHaul Lunch Sack is the perfect fit. They’re also not terribly bulky so they should fit into your child’s backpack, too. There’s no way my 6th grader is walking around with a lunch box in his hands!
And I’ll just wrap up with a disclaimer. I snapped all these pictures right before sending my kids off, using my oh-so-fabulous cell phone camera. I never intended to share them with an audience, so please don’t judge my photography skills based on what you see here.
Stay tuned for more posts on kosherstreet of MY LUNCH BOX DIARIES by Esti – COMING SOON!
About the Author:
Esti Waldman is a mother to 4 fantastic kids ranging in ages 12-6 months old. Besides thinking up terrific lunches everyday, Esti is an acclaimed Children’s Portrait Photographer. Check out her phenomenal work at www.estiphotography.com. Esti Photography is located in Lakewood, NJ. she can be reached at 646.220.0533.
Esti’s food photograph has appeared in the Binah & AMI Magazine.