You know you’re in trouble when your lunchbox board on Pinterest fails to spark any excitement.
All around us, a spring renewal of sorts is in progress. My Facebook friends are donating their entire closet of clothes in favour of something called a ‘capsule wardrobe’. My neighbour is filling half his driveway with junk every Wednesday for the garbage man to take. And in nature, florescent greens are overtaking the soft browns with each passing day.
One thing hasn’t changed: the doldrums of the bagged lunch. Danny and my boys take one every day, but the school year is long and we still have two months until summer vacation. Can we revive the lunchbox? I think so.
This has been my challenge to myself for the past month or so: fresh, interesting and healthy lunches. It takes a bit of planning, but is worth the extra effort. Today I’ll share some ideas for a lunchbox renewal, plus a vibrant, tangy citrus dressing I have been using to liven up all sorts of mid-day eats.
I recently made a batch of soft whole wheat hamburger buns for our first barbecue of the year. We devoured six, and I froze the rest. Since then I’ve been dipping into the freezer to steal the buns for lunches. The have a way of transforming a basic sandwich into something special and they hold up great.
These buns are in my cookbook, but you could start with either of the recipes below and either shape them into buns or leave them as loaves.
Build a Bowl
Health bowls are everywhere these days, from yogourt breakfast bowls to savoury steel-cut oats, smoothie bowls and sushi bowls. Nope, we’re not putting everything in mason jars anymore; it’s bowls now, in case you were wondering.
Personally, I’m a big fan of dishing up a basic chia seed pudding and piling it high with fruits, avocado, toasted coconut and chopped nuts. Danny also loves this superfood lunch, and packs the fruit and pudding separately. A little lime zest on top really makes the flavours pop.
You could also try:
Slurp a Smoothie
A generous smoothie, packed with just as many vegetables as fruits and thinned out with a nut milk makes a healthy and satisfying lunch. Avocado, pumpkin purée, grated fresh carrot, spinach, roasted sweet potato, grated fresh beet – these are all vegetables I regularly add to my smoothies. Try boosting yours with a grating of ginger or tumeric – and don’t forget to pack a straw.
I’ve always been a champion of flavour enhancers in cooking. Ingredients like fresh lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, anchovy paste and really fantastic black pepper can transform a dish from ho-hum into a palate-awakening experience. The same goes for bagged lunches.
Try adding a few of these to lunchbox revitalizers to your shopping list or make your own. Then incorporate them into your usual lunch in the most creative way possible and watch a renewal take place.
- Sprouts – great on sandwiches and in salads, or even as a crunchy topping to soup.
- Baby arugula – heap in on pizza, avocado toast or toss into any salad or pasta.
- Avocado – dice up for soups and salads, layer into a sandwich or highlight on toast.
- Pickles – pile them on virtually anything for extra crunch and welcome tang.
- Feta Cheese – delicious on salads, grain dishes, and pastas.
- Fresh herbs – use with abandon, tearing them and adding to the dish just before you eat.
- Citrus Boost Dressing (recipe to follow)
- Toasted nuts and seeds – toast in small batches and use up in a few days.
- Ferments – kimchi, sauerkraut or other ferments add an exciting element to lunches that quickly becomes crave-able once you start.
All-Purpose Citrus Boost Dressing
This vibrant condiment came to me by way of the very inspirational cookbook Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck. I’ve adapted it slightly, adding a little fresh jalepeno for a touch of heat, and am using it frequently throughout the week for both my home lunches and the bagged.
The Citrus Boost Dressing is designed to pair well with grains, and it does just that, but I’ve also served it up over roasted vegetables, cold sliced meats, and salad greens. It’s extremely versatile and brings a bright pop of flavour to every dish.
The dressing keeps for seven days in the refrigerator and the flavours stay nice and clean. It’s a great do-ahead recipe if you like to prep on Sunday for the week of bagged lunches ahead.
|All-Purpose Citrus Boost Dressing|| |
- 1/2 small lemon
- 1/2 small orange
- 1 small French shallot, peeled
- 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons liquid honey
- fresh jalepeno to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Cut the citrus into large chunks; remove and discard any seeds. Add citrus to a blender along with the shallot.
- Pour in vinegar and honey; add a slice or two of jalepeno and the salt. Blend until fairly smooth (it will still have a few tiny chunks and that's okay).
- With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Stop the blender and taste the dressing. Add a little more jalepeno or salt if desired.
- Pour into a clean glass jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days.
How is your bagged lunch game? Needing revitalizing?