A look at packing winter produce for school lunches, and a complete PlanetBox Rover system giveaway to make packing lunch in the new year a breeze.
I’m not going to lie, one of my favorite things about the winter break from school was not having to make four school lunches every day. Today I woke up and pulled all the containers from the cupboards and the lunch bags from the front closet, laying them across the kitchen counter as I had so many times before and thought about seasonal eating.
In September when my kids start school I’m excited to tackle packing lunches. The farmers market is bursting with fresh produce options – berries and apples and stone fruits, cucumbers and carrots and freshly picked tomatoes, making it more a job of narrowing down my options than dreaming them up. Even the sunrise is inspiring, casting warming glimmers of light through open windows.
Packing lunches in January shares very little with those start-of-the-school-year days. I begrudgingly pulled myself from the warmth of my covers this morning to be greeted in the cold dark by a small face telling me he was definitely not going back to school. I reached blindly for a large sweater to pull on, rubbing my eyes as they adjusted to the lack of light.
As I made my way to the kitchen, flicking the light on in the bathroom for the kids to see better as they came into the hall, my body shivered underneath the layers of clothes. The overhead light illuminated the cold kitchen counter as I started water for coffee, knowing that the frigid winter water in the pipes will take twice as long to boil this time of year. A glance at my phone let me know it’s -13ºF outside, air temperature, and -37ºF with the wind chill.
Then I stared into the abyss of root vegetables and citrus and tried to dream up a lunch worth packing and one my kids would be interested in eating.
Packing lunches in the middle of winter feels altogether different than it did four months ago, and while the cold air and grey skies add to the scene, it’s really the seeming lack of fresh food options and the repetition that I find harder to work around. As a result, I’m going to list some of the in-season produce that’s ready and waiting to make it into your school lunch snacks and meals. Perhaps it can serve to inspire us both as we head into 2015.
Winter Produce Options
Apples – raw, in baked goods (muffins, dumplings, etc.), in salads
Beets – roasted, in salads, in baked goods, for color
Belgian Endive – with hummus or other vegetable dips
Brussels Sprouts – Roasted or sautéed, shaved with dressing, mixed with a meat as an easy entrée
Carrots – raw, with hummus and vegetable dips, cooked, in soups
Celeriac – soups, salads, mashed
Clementines – raw, in salads
Dates – in cakes, alone as a sweet treat
Escarole – in salads to add variety, cooked into soups for a bit of green and crunch
Fennel – shaved and served with dressing (citrus-based salads), cooked into soups
Grapefruit – raw, as part of a salad, broiled with brown sugar
Kale – in salads, cooked into dishes, added to soups, baked into chips
Kiwifruit – raw, in salads
Leeks – in place of onions, in soups, along with roasts
Oranges and other Citrus (Blood, Mandarin, Satsumas) – raw, in salads, juiced, as a marinade
Passion Fruit – raw, in salads, in smoothies
Pears – raw, in baked goods, with yogurt
Persimmons – raw, baked, in baked goods
Pomegranate – raw arils, in salads, juiced
Potatoes – roasted
Pummelo – raw, juiced
Radicchio – in salads, sautéed
Sweet Potatoes – roasted, candied, in baked goods
Tangerines – raw, in salads
Turnips – roasted, purees
Winter Squash – roasted, soups, baked goods, sautéed
To make the deal even sweeter, I’ve partnered with PlanetBox to get you excited about packing healthier lunches this year. I’m giving away a PlanetBox Rover Complete system, one of my favorite ways to pack my kids’ lunches.
I’ve talked about PlanetBox before, and I’m happy to report that two years into using them, my opinion remains unchanged. I love the one-piece design, the stainless steel construction, and the ease of washing them. There are no nooks and crannies for things to get stuck in, and they continue to outlast their direct competitors. They are definitely worth the investment for a piece that your child can use from kindergarten through high school.
My kids love the design of the trays. They are easy to open and close with one simple latch, making it perfect for even the smallest fingers. The different compartments cause me to be contemplative about packing a variety of items for their lunches, often resulting in a more diverse offering.
See below and enter to win one for yourself.