Family Foodies: top lunchbox ideas

Lunchbox Collage

If you ever feel stuck in a rut when it comes to preparing your children’s lunchboxes, you’re sure to find a few new ideas here. I know my children would be over the moon to discover any one of these tasty treats in their packed lunches, and I’m sure they would be the envy of the school dining hall.

So without further ado, I have great pleasure in bringing you this month’s Family Foodies lunchbox round-up. We’ve lots of tasty savoury bakes to get things started, including some clever ways to sneak a few veggies into  the kids.

savoury vegetable cake

Savoury Vegetable Cake from Allotment 2 Kitchen

These savoury cakes from Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen look just the ticket for satisfying growling tums and will ensure your little ones are well on their way to their five-a-day, with their filling of carrots, French beans and cauliflower florets.

Apple & Smoked Cheese Pasties from The Garden Deli

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who doesn’t like a homemade pasty, and children in particular seem rather partial to a stuffed pastry creation or two. Smoked cheese is popular in our house, which happens to be the filling of these wholesome pasties from Sarah at The Garden Deli, along with her homegrown apples and sage for a fantastic flavour combination.

mini pasties

Mini Lunchbox Pasties from Bangers & Mash

More pasties, this time from me. These mini pasties are filled with minced beef, carrot and hard-boiled egg and flavoured with a dash or Worcestershire sauce and a little black treacle. I’m rather addicted to using treacle with beef, since discovering it recently in a Higgidy Pie recipe for chilli beef.

Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins

Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins from Chocolate Log Blog

When I first read the name of these, I have to admit I assumed they were going to be sweet muffins but I was completely wrong. These inventive bakes from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog feature Cheddar cheese, manzano chilli, paprika, garlic, 100% dark chocolate (“for extra umami”) and sweetcorn for a gorgeously chewy texture. Intrigued? I certainly am.


Pumpkin, Walnut & Poppy Seed Muffins with Cheddar Cheese from Lavender & Lovage

More savoury muffins up next from Karen at Lavender & Lovage, and again featuring Cheddar cheese but this time with the seasonal addition of pumpkin with walnuts and poppy seeds. My girls would be thrilled to find these in their lunchboxes, although I can also see myself serving them up at home with a big bowl of hot soup.


Cheesy Pumpkin Scones from Eat Your Veg

Lou at Eat Your Veg uses more pumpkin in this next entry, and here she succeeds in sneaking it into these incredibly tempting cheese scones. I like the idea of scattering pumpkin seeds on top for a delightfully crunchy topping.

cheese and apple scones

Cheddar Cheese, Apple & Sage Scones from Bangers & Mash

Savoury scones are a regular lunchbox filler in our house, so here’s another scone idea from me. Like Sarah at The Garden Deli with her beautiful pasties, I’ve gone for a cheese, apple and sage combination. This recipe makes around 12 scones, which ought to see you through quite a few lunches, but in actual fact they were all eaten within the day here.

sausage plait

Honey Mustard Sausage Plaits from Mint Custard

I often have cravings for sausage rolls, and when I saw both these sausage plaits from Becky at Mint Custard (and the next entry) I couldn’t stop thinking about sausage rolls for ages. I’ve never thought to include sausage rolls in a lunchbox before, but what a sound idea, although I am thinking as much of my own lunchbox as my children’s.

sausage bacon apple rolls

 Gluten Free Sausage, Bacon and Apple Rolls from the Gluten Free Alchemist

Lunchboxes can be even more of a challenge when you have to stick to a gluten-free diet, so this recipe from Kate aka the Gluten Free Alchemist will be something of a Godsend for many. Made with homemade gluten-free shortcrust pastry (using potato and gram flour) and filled with bacon, apple (more apple – hurrah!) and gluten-free sausage meat, I am literally drooling as I include this entry…

mini tarts

Mini Tarts from Bangers & Mash

You might have gathered I’m rather fond of mini what-nots for lunchboxes. As well as mini pasties, these mini tarts always go down well with my children. They’re very versatile and you can fill them with just about anything you (or the children) fancy. Or whatever you happen to have lurking in the fridge.


Hedgehog Rolls from Eat Your Veg

I often find that when kids have helped to cook something, they’re much more likely to eat it and I can’t imagine many children not enjoying making and eating these cute little hedgehog rolls from Lou at Eat Your Veg. And not just hedgehogs, but tortoises, flowers and snails too!


Luchito Honey Glazed Ham from Eat Your Veg

Lou also offers us this majestic glazed ham, which I am definitely bookmarking to make at Christmas. Her children enjoyed thick slices of this to fill hedgehog rolls in their packed lunches. What incredibly lucky children!

bento sushi rice

Bento Sushi Rice Shapes from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

Elizabeth offers us a whole array of lunchbox ideas in her entry, including ingenious ‘ants on a log’, but it is her sushi rice shapes that I can’t wait to try first. They’re so simple but so effective; my daughter’s response when I showed her the photo was “Wow! Can we have those?”

Sweet treats

And now it’s time for some sweet treats. I like to think when I include a little sweet homemade something in their lunchboxes, it’s as if I’m sending a hug to my children while they’re at school. A bit twee perhaps, but I can be like that sometimes.

bread pudding

Bread Pudding from The Crazy Kitchen

I’d never have thought of including bread pudding in a lunchbox but after seeing this post from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen it suddenly seems like a very good idea, and one that would keep the kids’ tummies full all afternoon. I’m not sure my bread pudding would end up looking quite this beautiful though…

choc orange cranberry cookies

Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry Cookies from Utterly Scrummy

Just looking at these cookies makes me feel all Christmassy – what a great idea of Michelle from Utterly Scrummy to use chocolate orange (from her husband’s not-so-secret stash I might add) along with cranberries for a fabulously festive flavour. Personally, I think these would be far too good for the children, and would probably end up hiding them away in my own secret stash…


Super-Fruity Banana Loaf Cake from Eat Your Veg

For someone who says she’s not a baker, I’m always so impressed by the cakes Louisa posts over at Eat Your Veg. Doesn’t this fruity loaf cake look delicious? Plus it’s pretty good for you too, featuring no less than three bananas, dried apricots, sultanas, wholemeal flour and she replaces the usual butter with coconut oil and yoghurt. A perfect sweet treat for the kids’ lunchboxes I reckon.


Spiced Muesli Cake from The Crazy Kitchen

More festive baking next, this time in the form of a spiced muesli cake – a second brilliant entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. It’s great cold in lunchboxes, but also makes for a comforting pud served warm from the oven with ice cream or custard. This cake really wouldn’t last very long in our house!


Soul-Cakes from Lavender & Lovage

These pretty Soul-Cakes from Karen at Lavender & Lovage are a cake-cum-biscuit, traditionally made on All Soul’s Day (just after Halloween) and were distributed by the rich to the poor of the parish. They are very easy-to-make and would be perfect with your afternoon cuppa, but do make sure you save a one or two for the children’s lunches.

lime cake

Easy Iced Lime Cake from Fab Food 4 All

My children’s school provides hot meals twice a week and when I ask them on those days what the best thing they ate was, it’s invariably an iced sponge cake of some description. So what a good idea to include it in their packed lunches too, and this iced lime cake from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All looks just the recipe to try.

spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes

Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins from Leeks & Limoni

These muffins look really rather decadent but according to Katharine at Leeks & Limoni they’re actually quite virtuous. They contain no butter at all and only a little sunflower oil, and of course there’s the pumpkin too. What’s more they’re incredibly easy to make. I’m sold!

fruit and nut balls

Dried Fruit & Nut Balls from Bangers & Mash

These fruit and nut balls sound so virtuous, you really wouldn’t expect them to taste good but trust me, they really do. Although a little part of me is wondering how they’d taste if they were dipped in some gorgeously dark chocolate… By the way, my girls’ school is OK with nuts (as ingredients in cakes and biscuits etc) in packed lunches, but do check your school lunch policy before sending these in.

So there you have it, our Family Foodies’ round-up of tasty recipes to help you put some pizzazz in your lunchboxes. But there can only be one winner.

And the winner is…

Our guest judge this month is Caroline Job, the mum of three behind the inspiring website that is Lunchbox World. You should pay the site a visit as it’s packed full of lovely recipes and helpful hints and tips, plus lots of cool lunchbox-related products. So Caroline knows a thing or two about what makes a good lunchbox filler.

This is what Caroline had to say:

“I was delighted to be asked to judge this month’s round-up.  Having set up the Lunchbox World business back in 2009, when my three kids started having packed lunches at school, lunch boxes are never far from my thoughts. Helping you put the fun back into packed lunches has always been my mantra!

“When I look out for new lunch box ideas, I am always thinking: they have to be fun, something the kids will eat, nutritious and above all, attractive and easy for them to eat. If they can be bite-size or in their very own portion, I feel it goes down into their tummies that much quicker! If we think it’s boring, the kids will too, so it is always worth the time and effort to make it FUN! I aim for the kids to bring home those lunch boxes empty (ie eaten), which then puts a smile on my face, as I then think “job well done”.

“There were so many fun, tasty, and nutritious entries, it was a tough decision. It would have been great to taste them all! But there were three that jumped out at me. The hedgehog rolls from Eat Your Veg are such fun and I am sure any kid finding them in their lunch box would gobble them up immediately! But I hesitated as the prep/cooking time was a long one. I was also drawn to the bite-size mini tarts by Bangers and Mash, but I was looking for something a bit more festive for this time of year.

Then bingo! I saw the delicious cranberry, orange and chocolate cookies made by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. These tick all the boxes for me and they’ve got the festive flavour too.


So because it’s Christmas, I have a fun prize for Michelle. Hopefully every time you use it you’ll think of Lunchbox World. A fun dotty lunch box with matching picnic mat, that folds up into approximately A4 size, so very portable. Don’t feel you have to wait until spring though, you can picnic indoors as well as outdoors!

Thanks again for inviting me to judge your competition. If you are looking for more lunch box ideas, tips, hints and recipe ideas, do have a look at the Lunchbox World blog, where there are posts on family fun too, and the main Lunchbox World website, which is all about the world of lunchboxes!”

Congratulations Michelle on your thoroughly deserved win. Drop me a line with your address and your prize will be winging its way to you very soon.

Thank you to all our bloggers for sharing their lunchbox recipes. December’s Family Foodies challenge is now open over at Eat Your Veg and the theme this month is, rather appropriately, Kids Christmas. Louisa and I look forward seeing your fun and festive family recipes!


Dried fruit and nut balls

dried fruit and nut balls

Admittedly, these might look like something you’d hang out for the birds in winter but trust me, these dried fruit and nut balls are delicious. Ask my children – they love them in their packed lunches or after school as a quick and healthy snack.

They’re very easy to make and the recipe is extremely versatile – play around with the recipe and add your own favourite nuts and dried fruits. I’ve used dried apple in this version as I’d dried some of our own apples as one way of storing them. If you’ve never tried drying your own apples, you really should. The apples develop such a gorgeously intense flavour and they have a wonderfully satisfying texture, rather like chewing on a soft toffee but with none of the sugar-guilt. My girls can’t get enough of them.

Dried Apple Collage

If you fancy having a go, here’s what you do.

Peel and core your apples and cut into rings. Sprinkle with cinnamon or leave plain if you prefer. Spread out on a baking tray and put in a very, very low oven for a few hours. If you have an Aga you could put them in the bottom oven or do what we did and tie with string and hang in bundles over the top. They’re ready when they’ve gone all wrinkly and have gained that lovely chewy consistency.

We eat them as they are, chop them up and mix into plain yoghurt, or add them to homemade granola.


But back to those dried fruit and nut balls. It’s simply a case of whizzing up all the ingredient in a food processor and then using your hands to shape the resulting mixture into balls or, if you prefer, bars. It’s a fairly messy business, which is probably why children quite like getting involved.

Dried fruit and nut balls

100g blanched almonds
100g walnuts
100g dried apple
100g dried fig
100g dried apricot
100g sultanas
20g dessicated coconut
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple juice

Put the nuts and dried fruit into a food processor and process until it you end up with a mushy, sticky mixture.

Add the oil and apple juice and whiz again briefly to combine.

Mould the mixture in your hands into small balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge (for a couple of weeks) or the freezer (for a couple of months).

I wrap individual balls in foil, like sweetie wrappers, when I put them in the girls’ lunchboxes.

dried fruit and nut balls


Since my children enjoy them in their lunchboxes, I’m including both these fruit and nut balls and the dried apple in November’s Family Foodies challenge, which as you probably know has lunchbox ideas as its theme.


Mini lunchbox pasties and tarts

Mini CollageWhen my oldest daughter first started primary school, I rather enjoyed packing her lunch boxes each week, seeing what new and tasty things I could think up to put in there. And yes, you guessed it, the novelty wore off after about half a term.

But every now and again I do try to put in a little extra effort. Most of the time my daughters are grateful for that effort, although we do have the occasional disaster when I wish I hadn’t bothered and had simply given them a cheese roll instead. These mini pasties and tarts get the thumbs up from my two though. So if you do find you have a little extra time on your hands at the weekend and you’re in a baking mood, make up a big batch of these to see  you through the week. They also freeze well too.

mini pasties

Mini lunchbox pasties filled with beef, carrot and boiled egg

Makes around 20

For the pastry

250g plain flour
pinch of salt
65g butter, cubed
60g lard or hard vegetable fat, cubed
4 tbsp iced water

For the filling

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
250g minced beef
1 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 beaten egg, for brushing onto the pastry

For the pastry

Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter and lard/vegetable fat using your finger tips until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the cold water using a knife until it comes together to form a dough. Bring it all together with your hands into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

For the filling

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and carrot until soft and golden. Add the minced beef and fry until browned.

Next add the black treacle, Worcestershire sauce, dried oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a couple more minutes and then stir in the chopped egg. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Flour your work surface and roll out the pastry until about 2mm thick. Using a cup or small bowl about 9-10cm in diameter as a template, cut out circles of pastry. 

Into the middle of each pastry circle, spoon some of your beef filling. Fold the edges of the pastry up and pinch together to seal it into that classic pastry shape. Place each pasty onto a large baking sheet and when they’re all complete, brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.

Bake the pasties in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are a beautiful golden brown colour. Enjoy hot or cold.

mini pasties

Next come the mini tarts. They are very versatile and you can add your children’s favourite ingredients. As well as cherry tomatoes, used here, we also include ham, sweetcorn, peas, chopped sausage, spinach, courgette, peppers – the options are pretty much endless.

mini tart

Mini lunchbox tarts filled with cheese and cherry tomatoes

Makes 12

For the pastry

110g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, diced
cold water to mix

For the filling

2 large eggs, beaten
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

For the pastry

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter to form breadcrumbs. Combine with water to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Grease each of the cups of a 12-bun muffin tin with a little butter and dust with flour.

Flour the work surface and roll out the pastry to around 2mm thick. Cut out circles using a fluted pastry cutter, slightly larger than the diameter of the cups in the muffin tin. Press the pastry circles into the muffin tin.

Mix together the eggs and half the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pastry moulds. Pop two halves of cherry tomato into each tart and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.

Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is set. Enjoy hot or cold.

mini tart

These tarts and pasties are my entry into this month’s Family Foodies challenge, which I am co-hosting with Lou at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Lunchbox Ideas. We’ve already received some great entries – why not pop over and take a look? Or how about sharing your own favourite lunchbox filler?


November’s Family Foodies challenge: lunchbox ideas


Hot on the heels of The Spice Trail, today I bring you news of a second blog event I am hosting here on Bangers & Mash this month.

Family Foodies is the brain child of Lou at Eat Your Veg and I was thrilled when she invited me to co-host this recipe-sharing challenge with her. October was the inaugural month and the Weekend Slowies theme attracted a fantastic array of tempting recipes, providing lots of ideas for delicious family food to cook when you have a little more time to spend in the kitchen.

Now it’s my turn to host the challenge and for November the theme is Lunchbox Ideas.

Every parent and carer knows how easy it is to get stuck in a rut when it comes to thinking up tasty and appealing fillers for packed lunches. So come on fellow food bloggers – let’s get together and pool our ideas for easy, healthy ways to fill our children’s tummies, make sure they get their five-a-day, tickle and tantalize their taste buds, all while giving them a loving, foodie ‘hug from home’.

Whether it’s suggestions for nutritious sandwich fillings or different types of homemade bread or wraps, new takes on salads or dips, or inspiring twists on muffins, flapjacks or other home-baked goodies – we want to know what your children love to eat in their lunchboxes and how to give them them the energy boost and brain power they need for the afternoon ahead.

Oh, and there just might be a prize for the best lunchbox idea at the end of the month too!

Family Foodie Entry Guidelines:

  • You may submit any recipe on your blog that fits this month’s theme, new or from the archive, and feel free to enter as many times as you wish. You’re also welcome to submit the post to other challenges too. If the recipe is not your own, please give the appropriate credit.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Thursday 28 November 2013.
  • Display the Family Foodies badge (above) on your recipe post, with a link back to both Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, as well as details of this month’s challenge.
  • If you’re on Twitter, then please tweet your post to myself @BangerMashChat and Lou @Eat_Your_Veg and include the hashtag #FamilyFoodies. We’ll retweet all that we see.
  • You may enter from anywhere in the blogosphere, and we’ll happily post out any prizes.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. Winners will get to display a Family Foodie Winner annotated badge on their blog if they wish and their recipe will go through to the Family Foodies Hall of Fame on each of our sites.
  • All entries will be added to the Family Foodies Pinterest Group Board.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your entries!

November’s entries:

  1. Bread Pudding from The Crazy Kitchen
  2. Savoury Vegetable Cake from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  3. Apple & Smoked Cheese Pasties from The Garden Deli
  4. Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry Cookies from Utterly Scrummy
  5. Bento Sushi Rice Shapes from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary
  6. Super-Fruity Banana Loaf Cake from Eat Your Veg
  7. Spiced Muesli Cake from The Crazy Kitchen
  8. Soul-Cakes from Lavender & Lovage
  9. Honey Mustard Sausage Plaits from Mint Custard
  10. Gluten Free Sausage, Bacon and Apple Rolls from the Gluten Free Alchemist
  11. Cheesy Pumpkin Scones from Eat Your Veg
  12. Easy Iced Lime Cake from Fab Food 4 All
  13. Mini Lunchbox Pasties and Tarts from Bangers & Mash
  14. Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins from Leeks & Limoni
  15. Chilli Corn Chocolate Muffins from Chocolate Log Blog
  16. Luchito Honey Glazed Ham from Eat Your Veg
  17. Pumpkin, Walnut & Poppy Seed Muffins with Cheddar Cheese from Lavender & Lovage
  18. Cheddar Cheese, Apple & Sage Scones from Bangers & Mash
  19. Hedgehog Rolls from Eat Your Veg
  20. Dried Fruit & Nut Balls from Bangers & Mash