With the busy schedules of families today, quick nutritious meal ideas that kids actually enjoy can be at a premium. On weekends when you want to capitalize on family together-time, organizing the gang for outdoor winter fun can be top priority. But as the kids begin to tire, parental entertainment can quickly turn to anxiety when trying to think up a quick and nutritious lunch to satisfy hungry tummies.
In today’s post, we provide 3 quick and easy lunchtime favourites that kids will love and parents can feel great about. So go ahead and take your kids tobogganing, skating, dog sledding, snowman-building, or whatever you enjoy, without fear of lunchtime mayhem. Use the recipes below to help keep the good times rolling next weekend!
#1: Classic PB & J… the Homemade Way!
A classic peanut butter and jam sandwich is usually something all kids love and is quick to make. But many commercial peanut butters and jams can be packed with added sugars, oils, and preservatives, making them something you may want to find an alternative for. Luckily, both peanut butter (or other nut or seed butter) and jam can be made at home in advance with ingredients that can add extra nutrition to this timeless classic. All you have to do when home from activity is spread it on whole grain bread and lunch is served!
Peanuts provide healthy fats, fibre, protein, and vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. Chia seeds, used in our homemade jam recipe, are a very good source of dietary fibre (40% DV) per 30g or 2 tablespoon serving. Fibre helps to promote regularity, and may help lower high blood cholesterol levels and control blood glucose levels.1 Fibre may also help to maintain a healthy body weight and lower the risk of developing heart disease and colon cancer.1 Chia seeds also contain many naturally occurring antioxidants and contain omega 3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA),2 and are used in this recipe due to their thickening properties.
#2: Easy Cheesy Quesadilla
A warm and gooey quesadilla can be perfect after a cold morning expending energy. Beans provide protein in this meal to help young muscles repair and recover, and whole grain wheat or corn tortilla provides fibre and energy to replenish depleted stores. Choose your favourite chopped veggies and cheese for inside, and toppings like salsa, Greek yogurt (a substitute for sour cream), and guacamole (made fresh if you have the extra time or a store-bought variety will suffice!). The fibre from this meal will tide the kids over for at least a few hours. Yum!
#3: Soup e Grilled Cheese
We couldn’t resist using the Italian word for “and” to pair soup and grilled cheese into a lunch that sounds like “soupy grilled cheese”. Fear not, this recipe tastes far better than it sounds! Grilled cheese is a staple in the kid-friendly recipe batch. However, it isn’t quite balanced on its own. Adding a vegetable- and pulse-based soup to this meal will increase the vegetables, fibre, and protein of this lunch, so parents don’t feel guilt in giving in to a request for grilled cheese. The best part? This soup is ready in the time it takes to melt the cheese.
#1 PB & J
Homemade Peanut Butter
Makes approx. 1 ½ cups PB
Time: about 30 minutes
2 cups peanuts roasted or raw, shelled (or other nut or seed of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil (optional, for creamier peanut butter)
1-2 tablespoons honey or other sweetener (optional, for sweeter peanut butter)
Optional add-ins: 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or other spice, handful of chocolate chips, a few spoonful’s of Nutella
Roast the peanuts (optional): Heat the oven to 350°F and toast peanuts on a baking sheet until lightly golden and glossy with oil, about 10 minutes. You can skip this step if you prefer raw nut butter or if you're using pre-toasted nuts; roasting gives the peanut butter a deeper flavor and also helps make the oils looser and easier to blend into a smooth butter.
Pulse the peanuts until ground: Transfer the peanuts to a food processor or blender. If you toasted your nuts, do this while the nuts are still warm. Pulse a few times just until chopped. (For chunky peanut butter, remove 1/2 cup of chopped nuts and set aside)
Process for 1 minute: Run the food processor or blender continuously for 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. At this point, the peanut butter will look gritty and dry, almost like couscous.
Process for 1 minute: Run the food processor or blender continuously for another minute, then stop and scrape down the sides. At this point, the butter will start clumping together. It's not quite peanut butter, but it's getting there!
Process for 1 minute: Run the food processor or blender continuously for another minute, then stop and scrape down the sides. At this point, the butter will be glossy and soft, like very thick peanut butter.
Add the salt, oil, sweetener, and any other extras: Sprinkle the salt, oil, sweetener, and any other extras over the top of the peanut butter.
Process for 1 to 2 additional minutes: Continue processing the butter until it becomes completely smooth. Homemade peanut butter will still be a little grittier than Skippy peanut butter, but should be spreadable at this point. Taste and add more salt or other add-ins to suit your palette. If you reserved some nuts for chunky peanut butter add them now and pulse a few times to incorporate.
Transfer the peanut butter to storage container: Scrape the peanut butter into a storage container, cover, and refrigerate. The peanut butter can be used immediately and will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Time: about 20 minutes
Makes approx. ¾ cup fresh jam
2 cups fresh or frozen berries (try mixed berries and cherries)
½ cup water
2 tbsp (30g) chia seeds (can be ground or whole seed use more for thicker jam)
½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp sugar or equivalent sweetener, any type like honey or maple syrup (optional)
Place berries, water, and optional sweetener in pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in vanilla. Muddle berries if they are big to help break them down. Add chia and stir well to combine.
Simmer for 5-10 minutes and then remove from heat. Jam should look liquidy but be able to lightly coat the back of a spoon, but not jam-like at this point.
Pour into bowl and refrigerate overnight. Jam will thicken further as it cools.
Use jam within 2 weeks!
#2 Easy Cheesy Quesadillas
Makes 4 Quesadillas
Time: about 30 minutes, including chopping time – use a food processor to speed it up!
4 whole grain whole wheat or corn tortillas
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup brick cheese, grated
1 cup red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 handful spinach, chopped
3 tbsp pickled banana peppers, for spice (optional)
Salsa to dip
Greek yogurt to dip (replaces sour cream)
Guacamole to dip (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Spray baking sheet or use parchment paper to prevent sticking.
Arrange 2 tortillas per baking sheet. Add ¼ of all ingredients to half of a tortilla, spreading to edges and mixing ingredients around well. Fold tortillas in half, spray top half of tortilla with cooking spray, and bake in oven until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden, approx. 10 minutes.
Remove from oven, cut into 4 wedges, and serve with salsa, Greek yogurt, and anything else you enjoy!
#3 Soup e Grilled Cheese
Makes 4 servings
Time: about 30 minutes
Stove-top pan or griddle
8 slices whole grain bread
enough slices of cheddar or other cheese for 4 sandwiches
banana peppers (optional) for grilled cheese sandwiches
butter or other spread
1. Heat pan or griddle over medium heat.
2. Spread butter over 4 slices of bread, and lay these down, butter-side down, in pan.
3. Add cheese on top of each slice to cover bread.
4. Add optional banana peppers here for extra spice and flavour.
5. Spread butter over another 4 slices of bread and top sandwiches with these slices, butter side up.
6. Cook approx. 5 minutes per side, until both sides are golden.Remove to plates and cut in half!
2 tbsp butter, oil, or other fat of your preference
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp mild curry powder
pinch salt, pinch pepper
4 tbsp heavy cream
2 900mL containers of No Salt Added broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, or other) – use enough for desired soup consistency
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, chopped (broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, or other variety)
1 can beans or lentils (any type), rinsed and drained
½ cup whole wheat couscous, dried (optional)
Heat oil or butter in soup pot over medium-high heat.
Add frozen mixed vegetables and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.
Add basil, curry powder, and pinch of salt and pepper. Add beans or lentils and couscous, cover and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add broth, stir, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and let soup simmer for approx. 10 minutes, until grilled cheese is ready. Stir in cream 2 minutes before serving.