No matter how long it has been since you were a student, September brings with it the promise of a fresh start and a return to the workaday world. I love September…and not just because I was born in September. Here in Vancouver, we are often lucky enough to ease into fall with persistent sunshine and just a hint of crispness in the air as you start your day. Your pace quickens as you walk down the sidewalk and a few eager leaves crunch underfoot. Instead of lazy summer days and simple barbecues, thoughts turn to packing lunches, making tomato sauce with all those late summer gems and even turning on your oven every once in a while.
Packing lunches is not my favourite thing. While I love to cook (and to eat), it feels like a chore. However, I remain committed: packing your own lunch is the best way to save money and eat healthier. The way I get around it most often is via leftovers. I make big batches of food and create an assembly line that sees me packing lunches at the same time as I plate dinner.
Of course, leftovers aren’t everyone’s favourite idea for a noontime meal. At this time of year, creative lunch ideas abound but as a busy working mom, I often can’t help but think that those Babybel ladybugs are solely the domain of the mom with a bit more time and patience than I possess. I need something appealing, tasty and fast. So here are a few ideas that work in my home and hopefully they will please your taste buds too!
Greek Salad with Chickpeas and Feta
Greek salad is a staple in my house because you can literally make it in under 15 minutes. Since I am a vegetarian, no salad is complete without a bit of extra tummy-filling protein – here from crowd-pleasing chickpeas. To make this a bit more special at lunchtime, think about novel ways of presenting that don’t actually take a whole lot of time.
2 ripe field tomatoes (they taste best this time of year!), chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, diced
14 oz/398mL can of no salt added chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I like Eden Organic)
1 cup of light feta or goat feta
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt and pepper in a small bowl or shake in a jam jar. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately.
For a pretty lunchtime option, layer salad ingredients in mason jars (for small children, simply arrange salad in a break proof container). Carry dressing with you in a small container to preserve the crispness in the veggies.
Family Friendly Tip – In my family, we find that we never eat the raw onions in Greek salad so instead, we cook them. To try this, heat 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a medium frying pan. Add onions and slowly sauté them as you prepare the rest of the salad until they are lightly caramelized, soft and translucent.
My son loves sushi: I have seen him eat 3 rolls at one sitting! (He is two.) So this idea takes the shape of sushi to transform a fairly traditional lunch time staple – a PB & B. Hemp seeds add a boost of omega 3 in a kid-friendly package.
1 small banana
2 tbsp natural & unsweetened nut, seed or pea butter
1 tsp runny honey
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 8-inch sprouted grain or whole wheat wrap
If your wraps are too stiff to roll, give them a quick steam over some boiling water or in a hot moist towel.
Spread tortilla with nut butter, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with hemp seeds. Place banana along one edge of the tortilla and roll the tortilla up around the banana. Slice into 8 pieces and arrange in a lunch container. Serve with chopsticks for fun!
Allergy Friendly Tip: There are butters made from almost anything you can think of nowadays. For a totally nut free option, try Sunbutter (from sunflower seeds), pumpkin seed butter (a stronger flavour) or NoNuts (golden peas).