With the school year fast approaching, lunchboxes are going to be on every parent’s radar. Before anything, you’ll have to first buy the lunchbox. Bear in mind, the lunch box has to pass your child’s criteria whether it’s having at least four compartments or decorated with a particular cartoon.
Now the food within the lunchbox is a whole other ball game. It’s a whole art. Every night, parents have to come up with something other than the overdone cheese sandwich coupled with chopped carrots and cucumbers and maybe an apple. To get you out of that lunchbox rut, take a look at these unique lunchbox ideas with a Middle Eastern twist.
Thinking outside the box can merely mean using what you already have to make something different. One way to do so is with a handy little tool known as the waffle iron. Rather than taking the popular route of making conventional waffles and slathering them with Nutella or honey, there is a way to get creative. You can actually use a waffle iron to make:
You can prepare the batter the night before or you can buy it from several supermarkets or a specialized foul (refried beans) shop. The ingredients to make it can easily be found in your pantry and will include chickpeas, garlic, onion, cilantro, and cumin powder.
Creativity can also mean unexpected food combos. There are some dishes and drinks that have become synonymous with certain parts of the world. With the UAE, it’s Karak tea while for Oman, it’s the ever-loved Chips Oman. For more than 25 years, the residents of Oman have adored this simple crunchy chip to the extent that it has become a part of several Omani dishes, the most popular being:
Paratha Chips Oman
Paratha is a flaky Indian flatbread that can easily be made at home. You can then slather it with kraft cheese and top it with the infamous Chips Oman or any brand of chips you have on hand. A great recipe to check out is Lady Spatula.
Make sure that this special wrap is only made every now and then as it’s not the healthiest option on the list yet it will definitely make your kids’ day at school. To make it more balanced, you can couple it with some yogurt and whatever fruit is good in season.
Sometimes, there are certain foods consistently eaten the same way. Hummus is a prime example, usually served as an appetizer to be eaten with bread. Yet, no one said that is the only way you can have the famous chickpea spread:
Hummus 3 Ways
If your kid is a big hummus fan, they will love this lunchbox combination. It will include three versions of hummus, one as a sauce atop cooked sweet potatoes stuffed with chickpeas and tomatoes, one as a dressing atop butternut roasted chickpea wraps, and one as a dip accompanied by carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It will be a very rich and healthy meal, especially great during the cooler months of the year.
To keep it lighter, you can remove one of the three dishes and just add two instead or replace the third dish with a lighter alternative.
Keep It Balanced
A big priority for many parents is to make sure their child is getting all their needed nutrients through a balanced meal especially as it helps to avoid slow developmental growth and higher susceptibility to illnesses. So focus on making sure that the lunchbox has protein, fats, carbs and fruits or vegetables. You do not need to have all four, having at least two can be enough for a healthy lunchbox.
To dive in, you can go for a classic simple breakfast staple among Egyptians that can also work as a lunch option:
Beid Bel Basterma (Scrambled eggs With Cooked Pastrami Sandwiches)
It is delicious because of how the salty flavor of the pastrami blends well with the creaminess of the egg. It is also super easy to make. Just make sure to cook the pastrami in a pan with oil or butter until it turns greyish-red then add in the eggs and mix them together. It will take less than 10 minutes. With this sandwich, you’ll have an all-in-one combo of proteins, fats, and carbs. To make it balanced, just add in some chopped cucumbers and carrots or any fruit laying about and you’re all set.
Another route you can take is to go for the lighter, simpler, and more refreshing option of:
Lebanese Cucumber Labneh Sandwich
It cannot get easier when it comes to this sandwich. You’ll just need Lebanese bread known as shami bread, slather it with labneh and top it with a few slices of cucumbers and even some olives. Or change it up completely and instead, go for some zaatar, then roll it up into a sandwich. Kids love it and some even eat it as a snack after taking a dip in the pool during a hot summer day.
Now, as it includes labneh, bread and cucumbers, you’ll have the protein, carbs, fats and vegetables your child needs in their diet. Yet, the sandwich is pretty light and not very filling so you’ll probably need an added snack. A great option would be to add some hummus and extra pita bread to the lunchbox. It is very easy to make hummus at home using this recipe. You can even make it from the night before.
Another option if you have the time is to go for the more elaborate version of the cucumber labnah sandwich:
Arabic Club Sandwich
It’s the classic three slices of toast with the Middle Eastern twist of labnah, halloumi, Arabic white cheese, feta cheese, zataar, olives, cucumbers, tomato and mint. You can check out the original recipe made by lady spatula to see how it’s done.
Make Leftovers Your Best Friend
Leftovers are every household’s underrated lifesaver. If you somehow completely blacked out and forgot to think of a meal for your child’s school lunch, then head to your fridge and get creative. You can easily make use of the dinner you made the night before.
Some possible leftovers that can easily be worked into a school lunchbox include:
Egyptian Baked Pasta (Macarona Bechamel)
You cannot go wrong with the delicious layered combo of penne pasta, bechamel sauce and minced meat with that oozing layer of cheese to top it off. Make sure to reheat it in the microwave and pack it in a thermos so that the food remains hot or at least relatively warm.
Another great leftover option to use in your kids’ lunchbox is:
Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves (Warak Enab)
Many kids love this well-known dish and may be unable to stop adding more and more of it onto their plates. What is great about leftover warak enab is that they can be eaten cold so you do not have to worry about re-heating them or packing them in an insulated thermos. You can also add some yogurt to your kids’ lunchbox as it pairs really well with stuffed grape leaves.
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