Back to school lunch bowls

Last week, I headed to a friend’s cottage for a couple days to catch up with some friends and their kids.  I was on lunch duty so I wanted to make something that everyone would be into, something healthy and something that could be made into a second meal or snack if there were leftovers.

The four of us met in the Faculty of Education, so I thought it was fitting to use this as an example of a easy back to school lunch. While the four of us are all using our education degrees in different capacities, we can all agree that a quick, healthy lunch works for everyone, no matter what they’re up to.

I decided on a “bowl bar” so that we could accommodate any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Each person can customize their own meal, which the occasionally still picky eater in me loves.

I’m sure you’ve heard different names for these bowls before today: Buddha bowl, Nourish bowl, Grain bowl. Any way you label it, it’s food in a bowl. I didn’t want to overdo it with the ingredients, but I wanted enough ingredients that people could pick and choose from.

Bowl basics

These are the main categories I used to set up my bowl bar. I went with 2-3 items per category. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Grains (Quinoa, brown rice, bulgur)
  • Greens (Kale, arugula, fresh herbs)
  • Crunchy veggies (carrots, tomatoes, snap peas, red cabbage, cucumber)
  • Soft/roasted veggies (cauliflower, sweet potato, red peppers, edamame, black beans, corn, olives)
  • Sauces (maple tahini, basil pesto, coconut peanut sauce, fresh lemons and limes) You can also just use any salad dressing you have on hand or one of these Five salad dressings you should make from scratch
  • Toppings (nuts/seeds, cheese, roasted chick peas, coconut chips)Salad bowl grain bowl Lunch bowls are a combination of greens, grains, soft veggies, crunchy veggies, dressing or sauce and a crunchy topping.

Okay, I may have overdone it a bit for this particular event, but I’ll also show you how to tone it down to meal prep your lunches for a whole week. The great part about this is that you can use ANYTHING you have in your pantry or fridge.

Bowls to try

Morrocan inspired: kale, quinoa, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrot, maple tahini sauce, roasted chick peas and pumpkin seeds.

Caprese: arugula, bulgur, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, bocconcini, pesto, fresh lemon.

Asian inspired: Brown rice, red cabbage, carrots, edamame,  peanut sauce, coconut chips, peanuts.

Bowls to take for lunch: A step-by-step guide

Taking this for lunch can be super simple and you can even have a different bowl each day.

Step one: Wash and dry greens of your choice and divide into 5 large containers.  I like to use kale because it will last the whole week without browning or getting soggy.

Shortcut: Use pre-washed greens. 

Step two: Cook your grains and let cool.  I like quinoa, because nobody else in my household does, so I take advantage and have it for lunch. You’re going to put your grains in a smaller container or jar.  You can add your sauces to the grains if you want to have that all prepped ahead of time, or you can just bring the sauce in your lunch bag and add it at lunch time.

Shortcut: Don’t bother cooking grains if you have them planned for dinner this week. Cook extra at dinner and portion them then.

Step three: Make fun sauces. Portion them in small 125 ml mason jars so you can just take one on the way out. You can decide in the morning which sauce you’re feeling that day.

Shortcut: Use sauces or salad dressings you already have in the fridge. Think Sriracha, lemon juice, lime juice, soy sauce.

Step four: Add your veggies.  This is where you can mix it up.  You can prep these all at once, or you can add to your green container on a daily basis if you want to use dinner leftovers.

Shortcut: Use pre-cut or ready to serve veggies such as shredded carrots or beets, cherry tomatoes or olives. 

Step five: When you get to work, mix it up and eat it. Done and done.

Sauces for your bowls

I made a few sauces for our lunch and this one was hands down everyone’s favorite.

Maple tahini sauce

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Shake all the ingredients together in a jar.  Store in the fridge.  Sauce will thicken in the fridge.  To loosen, leave out at room temperature or stir in a bit more olive oil before serving.

Well, this will have your lunches covered, at least for the first week back at school.  For more back to school posts, check out my teacher friend Lauren’s blog for her three part back to school series on her blog Everything in progress.

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