It’s easy to get in to a rut when packing lunches. After all, you’re barely awake, you are definitely not feeling creative, and each kid wants something different. So you pack the same thing over and over. Now granted there are certain kids who like knowing what to expect. They find comfort in eating the same foods over and over again. I’ve got a couple of those. But one thing about a packed lunch – it always has a captive audience. The child is hungry and what else is she going to eat? She might as well try it. This is your chance! That’s the way I like to look at it. The rest of this week I’ll be posting lots of ideas, but we’ll start with something nearly everyone packs most weeks – peanut butter and jelly.
We definitely use this one the most. The difference between my peanut butter and jelly and the school’s peanut butter and jelly is that mine’s healthy. It’s on homemade bread made from whole wheat and spelt flours with flax seed and molasses. Yum. If you’ve got a bread machine, try this recipe (it’s at the end). If can’t make your own, organic bread is something you might want to invest in. After all, your child’s lunch is built on this ingredient. Organic bread doesn’t cost that much more than regular bread and freezes just fine – so watch for sales.
Making your own peanut butter is not difficult, but it is not necessarily less expensive than buying organic peanut butter. There are many different brands available these days and the competition is pretty fierce, so the price is reasonable. If you remember trying natural peanut butter when you were young, you probably remember how the oil tends to separate and gather at the top. It is definitely separated when you first open a jar, but organic peanut butter should be kept in the refrigerator, so there’s any easy way to solve that problem. When you first open the jar, take a good strong mixing spoon or spatula and mix up the peanut butter thoroughly (this will take some time), then place it in the refrigerator. The peanut butter won’t separate again unless you heat it up.
There are some really yummy brands to choose from. I love Trader Joe’s brand organic Valencia peanut butter. The ingredients are peanuts and olive oil. The Valencia peanuts are naturally a little sweet, so the peanut butter is delicious. My kids also like the Maranatha brand. Try a few, you’ll find your favorite.
I do make my own peanut butter for myself. My kids turn their noses at the course texture, but they don’t know what they’re missing. I mix equal parts soy nuts and peanuts (about 1 ½ cups each) and add some honey (3 tablespoons) and olive oil (5-7 tablespoons), then process in the food processor for several minutes – delicious. You can also make it with other kinds of nuts. If you raise your children on this peanut butter before they get a slurp of processed smooth peanut butter – they’ll never know any different and probably won’t like processed peanut butter when they try it.
You’ll definitely save tons of money if you can make your own jelly, but that requires time and berries, so I’ll save instructions on that for summer. For now, opt for brands that have less sugar and few ingredients. Read the label and check around at local produce markets. Many times they have homemade canned jellies and jams to sell. These may be heavy in sugar but are probably much healthier than store bought jelly.
Whole Wheat Bread with Spelt flour, Flax seed, and Molasses
(bread machine recipe)
Place these ingredients in your machine in the following order:
1 ½ cup water
1 ½ Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons succanot (or 1 tablespoon cane sugar)
2 teaspoons celtic sea salt (or 1 ½ teaspoons regular salt)
1/3 cup ground flax seed
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoons yeast
Cook in bread maker on whole wheat setting.
Note: When packing bread machine bread sandwiches, I cut off at least two sides of crust so the sandwich isn’t so intimidating and so it will fit in the sandwich keeper. If you are trying to disguise the homemade bread, cut off all the crusts and your kids won’t know the difference.