Lunchtime can be a difficult meal to prepare, if only because it comes smack in the middle of the day. It seems breakfast has just been put away, and I’m feeling pretty good about knowing what’s for dinner, when I remember with a growl of my stomach: Lunch. Ugh.
One of my strategies, and one I employ most in the summer months when cooking is less appealing and we more often want to take our lunch out to picnic with friends, is to make a big batch of something on a Saturday or on a cool evening and freeze in lunch-sized portions. Then the night before or the morning of I can pull out lunch and that’s all there is to it.
Top Three Make-Ahead & Freeze Lunches:
- Pizza Rolls: Take a batch of your favorite sandwich bread dough, roll it out, cut it into serving-size squares, and place a cube of cheese and a cut pepperoni. This is a great job for kid-helpers! Sometimes I add half an olive or a bit of pepper, as well. Then roll up the dough with the pizza “toppings” in the middle, place on a greased cookie sheet, and bake as you would normal dinner rolls. A friend of mine does it by rolling out the dough, laying toppings on top, rolling it up and cutting it like a cinnamon roll, then baking pizza “twirls.” Even simpler!
- Pretzel bites: You can use any lean bread dough for pretzels, really. Authentic pretzels are boiled in baking soda water before baking, but that is too much effort for a quick kid lunch. Instead, I roll out the dough, brush or dip it with baking soda dissolved in water (1 cup water & 1 T. baking soda), then cut it into strips or small squares with my pastry scraper, moving them to a baking sheet as I go. They cook quickly when they are small, and for some reason I find the kids enjoy small bits of finger food more. These can also be dipped in homemade hummus or a blend of peanut butter and yogurt or mustard, honey, and mayonaisse for a fun lunch.
- PB&J. Yes, that’s right. Sometimes I bypass the clamor of choosing sandwich toppings and requests to make the sandwiches themselves (always a messy, sticky proposition) by making up and freezing a slug of pb&j. My very own “uncrustables” — though very much with crust.