So two nights ago I found myself staring into the fridge trying to figure out what to make them for lunch, wracking my brain trying to remember what they liked and what items continually ended up being returned in their lunchbox at the end of the day. I remember thinking it was hard creating healthful, appealing lunches for younger kids, but teens make the younger kids look easy. Creating lunches that meet my ideals of nutrition while also appealing to two teens) one who is quite picky), is quite challenging. My daughter is easier because she likes to eat salads, soups and healthier options. My son, however, has become a typical teen, preferring pizza, mac-n-cheese, burgers, etc. What to do? Finding one lunch that appeals to them both was almost impossible, until I discovered how to apply the one bowl meal to lunch. The awesomeness of this idea is that I can use many of the same ingredients for both of them while creating two seemingly different meals. It is also a great way to use up leftovers.
My daughter loves salads and right now you've probably noticed that mason jar salads are very popular. If like me you are worried about breakage, this plastic version by Aladdin (tinyurl.com/h64rjdt) is a great alternative to glass and it is BPA free and dishwasher safe (always a big plus!) While I personally love mason jar salads, my daughter prefers the convenience and shape of this Sistema To Go salad container (Sistema http://tinyurl.com/jbfrx38). It has a dressing jar and fork built right in along with compartments that allow you to separate ingredients that you want to keep from getting soggy. You can do very creative salads - add in a whole grain, a protein or two, and some fun toppings like fresh or dried fruit and nuts or seeds. To make a mason jar salad:
- Always start with dressing on the bottom to prevent everything from getting soggy
- Add a grain like brown rice, faro or quinoa (dinner leftovers work great)
- Add a protein (preferably something left over from dinner - cooked chicken, tofu, shrimp, etc.
- Next add smaller fixings such as raisins, nuts, cheese -- the ingredients you prefer to stay dry until you are ready to eat
- Leafy greens go in last at the top. This ensures they stay crisp until you shake the jar to mix the ingredients and distribute the dressing
Using many of those same ingredients (sans the greens), I can make my son a one bowl meal:
- Start with a sauce on the bottom (tomato, salsa, olive oil, pesto, mashed avocado, etc.
- Add in pasta or a grain such as brown rice, faro, quinoa etc.
- Add in protein and other chunky ingredients such as chicken, tofu, shrimp, etc.
- Add in smaller fixings such as nuts, cucumber, diced carrots, corn, edamame, beans, cheese, etc.
- Not a bad idea to throw in some greens on top because just maybe they'll actually eat them
We always prepare lunch the night before, either during dinner prep or right after so we avoid having to clean the kitchen twice. I often prefer to do it post dinner just to see what leftovers I might have remaining that can be used for lunch. Also, preparing lunch the night before makes mornings so much less hectic. With a tightly sealed lid many of these meals can last several days in the fridge, allowing you to make several ahead of time. They generally last from 2-5 days depending upon the ingredients. Be aware that more perishable ingredients such as avocado, hard boiled eggs and cooked chicken keep for a shorter period of time and therefore should be added the night before or in the morning. Your best time saving strategy is to set aside some time on Sunday to make some bowl meals ahead of time.
Do you have a favorite one bowl lunch meal or mason jar recipe to share?