It’s back to school for us Aussie mums, and that means getting organised in the kitchen.
Yep, every day, munch break, morning tea and lunch needs to be packed up at breakfast time, ready to go for my little man.
As well as the fresh fruit, veg and sandwiches, etc I like to pack a treat in his lunchbox. But I don’t want him to have processed sugary stuff, so I have a little repertoire of go-to healthy lunchbox treats. He thinks he’s gotten lucky because there’s something sweet or chocolatey. I know he’s eating real food not full of E numbers, yucky oils and refined sugar. Win/win.
1. Healthy Chocolate Brownies
This is what we call Sophie Guidolin’s Gluten Free Brownies from her My Kids Eat book… this is such an easy recipe, made in minutes and the base of the brownies is… chickpeas!
My boy loves a little square of this in his lunch, and all his friends who’ve tried it on play dates at ours after school have given it the thumbs up too.
I actually only use half the sweetener these days and it’s still totally sweet enough in our opinion… so I use 1/3 cup of pure maple syrup or organic raw honey or even rice malt syrup, whatever I have to hand.
There’s heaps of easy recipes in this book, all easy enough for the kidlets to help you out in the kitchen.
1 1/2 cups chickpeas, rinsed
4 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.
Grease (with coconut oil) or line a small baking tray.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix well.
Pour into the baking tray.
Bake for 30-45 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean.
Cool in tray for a few minutes then on a wire rack before cutting into slices or squares.
I keep mine in the fridge, but you could double the batch and freeze them too.
2. Mini Mac Muffins
My friend Honae (from @minimacmeals) has a little boy who is seriously the healthiest kid on the planet. He eats such a huge variety of fresh healthy food, always home-cooked from scratch, always delicious.
When he started school last year, Honae set out to make him a lunch every day that was nutritious and delicious (check out her insta feed). No supermarket packets – just 100% home-made yumminess.
One item on high rotation was a little muffin for ‘dessert’ at lunctime. Honae makes batches of these and freezes them, popping one in his lunchbox straight from the freezer in the morning.
Here, she shares the recipe which can be easily adapted to suit what you have in your pantry, and personal tastes or dietary requirements. My personal fave way to make them is with banana and dark chocolate chips. Delicious.
2 CUPS FLOUR
I often use all oats (2.5 cups oats = 2 cups oat flour). You could try regular flour, spelt, nutmeals, coconut flour, GF flour, seeds. You might just have to adjust the liquid to get the consistency right.
2 CUPS FRUIT/ VEG.
Fruit – apples, banana, plums, pears, mango, berries, kiwi, dried fruit – whatever takes your fancy.
Veg – Carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potato, beetroot – no super intense flavours.
You can dice, grate, puree (good for the soft fruits like mangos, or steamed veg like pumpkin).
Remember dried fruits are super sugary so don’t be heavy handed. Today I’ve used 1 large apple, 1 large carrot and 1 handful of sultanas.
2 TBSP COCONUT OIL – MELTED
Or a neutral flavored oil. Could use butter too I guess.
1 CUP LIQUID
Now I use milk, coconut milk, milk kefir, yoghurt – or a combo of some these. I make them for school so can’t use nut milks but they would be great too.
1 EGG – BEATEN
1 TSP BAKING SODA (Bi-carb)
½ TSP SALT (optional)
I use cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in pretty much everything I bake. It’s the holy trinity. About ½ – 1 teaspoon of each.
A little desiccated coconut or flakes. Nice texture.
Heat oven to 180C/ 350F.
Blitz your oats if you want to make oat flour, and chop/ dice/ grate/ puree your fruit/ veg. Chuck it all in a bowl, mix it, add a little more liquid if you need to – you want it to be a regular cake batter kind of thickness.
I use mini silicon cases. I like that I don’t have to grease a tin or have the waste of using paper cupcake cases but that’s just me.
They’re a good size and it seems impossible to get these wrong when they’re small. I’ve not made bigger ones so if you’re going bigger – keep an eye on them – they will need to be cooked longer. If you’re using a muffin tin you probably need to grease them too – whatever you normally do with that tin.
Cook for 15 – 20 mins. They’ll bounce back when you touch them if they’re done.
Today I made 42 mini muffins. I’ve overfilled a few so I probably could have made 50 if I was a bit more considered with my filling.
To freeze I just leave them on the cooling rack and stick in the freezer for 30 mins then chuck them all in a zip lock bag. Because they’re nice and small they defrost between when I make lunch in the morning (about 7am) and morning tea time (about 11am). You could take them out the night before as well.
3. Gut Lovin’ Gummies
New discovery, new addiction.
These gummies are actually good for you because they’re made with gelatin which (if you’re using the right kind, like Sarah Wilson’s Gut Lovin’ Gelatin powder) is a good source of amino acids and protein.
I’ve made coconut and cream ones, mango ones, blueberry ones… so so good. I don’t actually use the sweetener but you might want to try it with first.
Here’s the recipe from the back of the Gut Lovin’ Gelatin packet – there are heaps more recipes and ideas in Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious cookbook (which is amazing, highly recommend it).
3 1/2 tablespoons gelatin powder
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen fruit
1/2 tablespoon rice malt syrup
Dissolve the gelatin in 1/3 cup cold water, stir and let it sit for a few minutes until it ‘blooms’ (goes gel-like).
Put the fruit and sweetener in a saucepan and heat until it’s soft then remove from the heat and puree it with a stick blender.
Break the gelatin up into smaller lumps and stir it into the fruit mixture until it has all dissolved,
Pour the mixture into a 10 x 15cm glass or plastic container (or carefully into silicone moulds), cool for a short while then put in the fridge to set for an hour or so. Then cut into squares and keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.
4. Oat and Seed Cookies
When Elise from @healthyfamily5 was asked for a cookie that kids would love that was nut-free, didn’t contain dates, banana or pumpkin but had oats and seeds, this delicious recipe is what she came up with.
Way to go for brilliantly fulfilling a seemingly impossible brief!
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or essence
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3/4 cup mixed seeds (pepita, sunflower, flax, sesame)
1 tablespoon milk of choice (eg coconut milk)
3 tablespoons Brown Rice Syrup
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
Put half the rolled oats in a blender or food processor with the coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, baking powder and coconut oil and blend until it comes together.
In a separate bowl, add the remaining oats, chia and mixed seeds with the milk and brown rice syrup. Add the blended oats mixture and combine all the ingredients.
Roll into around 10 balls and place on a lined baking tray, flattening them sightly.
Cook for about 20 minutes then cool on tray for a while before transferring to a wire rack.
You could drizzle with dark chocolate, but to make them melt-proof for school, you could throw in a handful of cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips.
5. Chewy Choc Slice
I was messing around in the kitchen trying to find a way to make a healthy version of a Chocolate Crackle.
Because Chocolate Crackles are the bomb.
Never quite got there but I did have some fun with chocolate popcorn! And hey, I see that The Merrymaker Sisters have a new recipe for healthy Chocolate Crackles so I’m going to give their recipe a go instead, they’ve saved me further experientation/disasters with cacao in the kitchen.
Where I did get to, and stop, was here. This recipe was based on Sarah Wilson’s Healthy LCM bars from her ‘I Quit Sugar For Life’ book.
These chewy chocolatey bars. Even though they weren’t quite what I had in mind (I was after crispy crunchy ones), the children loved them.
We thought about calling them chocolate maggot bars haha, you can see why. So here you go, not exactly haute cuisine, but the kids love them and that’s all that matters.
Store them in the fridge. A little bit out of sight otherwise you might just end up finishing them all before the school bell goes.
5 cups puffed brown rice
¾ cup of coconut butter (if you’re not taking these to school, I prefer to use a nut butter from a jar or homemade… you could also try tahini or sunflower butter as a nut-free alternative. To make the coconut butter, just keep blitzing a bag of shredded coconut in your food processor until it’s turned into a buttery consistency, it’ll probably take 10 minutes or so)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup sweetener of choice (I’m partial to maple syrup or raw organic honey but you could also use rice malt syrup if you’re after a low-fructose version)
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Good pinch of salt
In a bowl over a pan with a little simmering water, melt the coconut butter, coconut oil, rice malt syrup, cacao, vanilla and salt, stirring often.
Whilst it’s heating up, pour the puffed rice into a large bowl, then add the melted mixture and combine well.
Pour into a lined tin (about 20×20) and press down with a large metal spoon. Pop into the fridge to set and then cut into squares.
Good luck getting the kiddies back into the routine everyone, and enjoy that first moment’s silence after drop off. Actually, I kind of miss my little sidekick when he goes back to school. I’ll probably come home and eat half a slab of the brownies haha!
Do you have any fave healthy lunchbox treats we should know about? Let me know below… x