Although my children and I are at home for lunch most days, lunch preparation still needs to be quick and easy. We are so busy with schooling, my homeopathy practice, and homemaking that I like our lunches to be simple yet satisfying. While some of our favorite easy lunches do require a small amount of cooking, others would be easily packable for school or picnics as well.
Packable Easy Lunches
Liver Pate on Crackers or Toast This simple lunch is an easy way to incorporate the top superfood (liver) into our diets. Our local healthfood store carries two different types of liver pate, and they are fantastic. (Our favorite one is Duck Liver Mousse with Cognac.) My son and I, especially, enjoy eating pate regularly. I simply spread some pate over crackers or toasted, buttered sourdough bread. Bread and Butter Pickles make a great complement and round out this lunch.
Chopped Salad with Seasonal Veggies In the warm months, especially, I often rely on a quick salad for my lunch. One specific combination that I enjoy is Lemon Basil Chopped Summer Salad. I also enjoy combining any veggies I have on hand with chunks of fresh mozarella, such as bell peppers, pickled beets, tomatoes, grilled artichokes, and avocado. Topped with just a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt & pepper as a dressing, served with a few crackers on the side: this is one of my staple lunches for the warm months.
Apple, Nut Butter, Cheese, and Crackers A very simple lunch that my children both enjoy is sliced apple served with cheddar cheese, nut butter, and crackers. My daughter is still not tolerating gluten well, but she has been enjoying grain-free crackers lately. For nut butter, we use either homemade nut butter made from crispy nuts, or our favorite store-bought organic almond butter.
Lunchmeat Rolls Back in our grain-free diet days, we started eating turkey or ham rolls as an easy meal. These have remained on our easy lunch menu ever since. To make a roll, I lay out a slice of lunchmeat flat. Then I top the meat with a small slice of cheddar cheese, a slice of fermented dill pickle, a drizzle of homemade honey mustard (which is just a 50/50 mix of raw honey and Natural Value Dijon mustard), and a little lettuce. Then I just roll it all up. If we are taking these to-go, I may use toothpicks to keep the roll-ups from unrolling. We typically eat ham or turkey rolls with a side of our favorite chips.
Nut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were always my favorite lunch as a child, and I am glad that these days I am able to share that with my own children. To make these sandwiches even healthier, I spread softened nutrient-dense butter on the bread before adding the almond butter and all-fruit jam.
My daughter enjoys her NB&J on a toasted homemade gluten-free waffle (which I make in bulk once every 4-6 weeks and freeze in pairs for easy use). My son enjoys his NB&J on lightly toasted sourdough bread. (If I am going to be packing these sandwiches to-go, I toast the bread and waffle a bit extra so they won't get too mushy in the intervening hours before lunch.)
Ants on a Log Another simple lunch that my children both enjoy (and can make themselves) is Ants on a Log. This is made by smearing nut butter onto celery sticks (which become the “logs”), and then topping the nut butter with raisins (which are the “ants”). My daughter sometimes objects to the stringiness of celery, in which case I may make her ants on a log with carrots or grain-free crackers instead of celery.
Tuna Salad Sandwich Everyone in my family loves tuna salad sandwiches. I make a very simple tuna salad by combining the following:
2 small or 1 large chopped fermented dill pickle
1/4 tsp fine-ground celtic sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
Easy Lunches That Require a Little Cooking
Grilled Cheese Surprise Grilled cheese is another classic lunch that we enjoy. I make our grilled cheese sandwiches with crusty sourdough bread (or on a homemade gluten-free waffle for my daughter). I butter the outside of the bread so it will brown up nice and crispy when I cook it in a cast-iron skillet. (When using a waffle for a grilled cheese sandwich, it is essential to cook it longer over lower heat so the waffle does not burn.)
Our basic grilled cheese sandwich is made with just cheddar cheese. However, I also like to fancy it up sometimes by adding one or two of these surprise ingredients:
thinly sliced apple
a dab of cream cheese in the middle of the sandwich
a slice of turkey or ham lunch meat
Leftovers One of the easiest lunches is leftovers. Whenever possible, while making dinner I will make extra portions to freeze. I freeze the leftovers in 2-cup glass bowls that can be re-warmed in a toaster oven. My husband takes these frozen lunches to work every day, and since I freeze meals every week he always has at least a few different options to choose from. I also occasionally eat these frozen meals for lunch at home.
Salmon with Tartar Sauce My husband and daughter are not big fans of salmon, but my son and I both love it. Lunch is a great time for us to enjoy salmon, when I can easily make something else for my daughter. (Dinnertime is a no-substitution meal for us; everyone is expected to contentedly eat whatever I make for dinner so my best bet is to not make salmon for dinner.) Although there are many more complicated ways to make salmon, at lunch I like to make it very simply by pan-searing it in refined coconut oil in a skillet on the stovetop.
We live far away from the ocean, and the best wild-caught salmon we can obtain is frozen. I simply rinse the salmon to melt the ice that usually coats it, then pat it dry with a paper towel. I season the salmon with salt and then cook it for about 4-5 minutes per side over medium heat. I love the way the skin gets crispy with this cooking method.
While the salmon cooks, I make a simple tartar sauce as a condiment. My son and I will typically eat the salmon with a piece of buttered toast or salad as an easy side dish.
Egg, Toast, and Caramelized Veggies One of my favorite simple meals is fried eggs with toast and caramelized veggies. This is a great meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. To make caramelized veggies, I simply saute frozen veggies in plenty of butter on medium-high heat, stirring often so they won't burn. My method for perfect fried eggs is as follows:
I like to cook my eggs in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. The trick to preventing the eggs from sticking is to melt plenty of butter in the skillet, swirl it around well, and then add the eggs once the skillet is rather warm. Do NOT add eggs to a cool cast-iron skillet, else they will stick! I use about 2 tsp of butter per egg.
Fry the eggs over medium heat in the melted butter. To make sure the yolks won't break, I wait to flip the eggs until the whites are well set. I then give the skillet a gentle shake to loosen the eggs before flipping them.
I have one very small cast iron skillet that is perfectly sized to fry one or two eggs, and with a quick toss of the wrist I can flip the eggs without having to dirty a spatula. My kids love to watch me do this, and they call it my magic trick. If you're not feeling brave enough to flip eggs in that way, use a plastic spatula instead. (Flipping eggs is one of the rare uses for my nylon spatula; I prefer not to use plastic in any heated applications, but I find that my metal spatula breaks the egg yolks very frequently.)
As soon as I flip the egg(s), I turn off the heat and let the eggs cook for just a few seconds in the residual heat left in the skillet. Don't leave them too long, else the yolk will cook completely.
Sprinkle some celtic sea salt over each egg before serving.
What are your favorite easy lunches?
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