Fall Harvest in Michigan Inspires an Abundance of Lunch Ideas
Crafting a perfect school lunch, week after week, is an art form. Fortunately in Michigan, the change of the seasons provide inspiration for healthy, fun lunches that kids will love!
There’s still a few more Saturdays to enjoy outdoor market season at South Lyon Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. – running through the end of October. It’s the season to buy local apples, carrots, celery, lettuces, squashes, herbs, pumpkins, pears, and more. Try these seasonal recipes for great nutritional school lunches!
Lunchbox Pasta Salad
Colorful and delicious, and you can change it with so many ingredients – adding bell peppers, cucumbers, chopped fresh broccoli or other veggies for variation! You can try different pastas and cheeses, too! This is a fresh tasting recipe that will last all weekend long in the fridge!
- 2 cups lentil pasta (high protein and colorful! Try the spiral pasta)
- 6 tbsp Michigan pesto (garlic, pine nuts or almonds, fresh basil leaves, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper), or store bought pesto). NOTE: You can skip the nuts altogether if your school has a nut-free policy)
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- ¾ lemon, juiced
- 5 cups mixed, lightly cooked veggies such as peas or green beans,
- ¾ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup cooked chicken or plant-based chicken, or ½ can drained, rinsed black bean or Northern beans
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- ¼ cup chopped celery
- ½ cup feta, optional
- ¼ cup black olives, optional
Cook pasta in boiling water with ⅛ tsp of salt, according to box directions. Drain and rinse so the pasta doesn’t overcook and so it doesn’t liquify the mayo or pesto. Stir in the pesto. Then, stir in mayo, yogurt, lemon juice and vegetables. Add beans if you are using them. Pack into lunch containers, adding the cooked chicken/plant-based chicken and feta on top. Chill until it’s time to take to school or eat at home school.
Sweet Potato Crisps
Your potato chip alternative, sweeter and healthier!
- ½ sweet potato, peeled
- ¾ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Optional: Sea salt (kids don’t really need it!)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the sweet potato in thin rounds (¼ inch thick or even less). Toss with the olive oil and salt if needed. Lay on a single layer on a roast pan or cookie sheet. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until crisp – you may want to flip them. Leave to cool. Enjoy!
Stripe Salad Jars
Super fun, and the presentation makes this a lunch your kids will want to show their friends. It’s another lunch you can get creative with! Add grains like quinoa or just vegetables. The options are never-ending. Here is a protein packed variation.
- ⅓ cup frozen peas
- 1 cup store bought hummus (leave aside 2 tablespoons for the dressing)
- 2 red or orange bell peppers
- ½ cup cucumbers
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 cup quarters cherry tomatoes
- 1 handful fresh basil
- Fresh Romaine or other lettuces
Handful of pumpkin seeds, pepitas, unsalted
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 3/4 tbsp agave or clear honey
- 2 tbsp hummus
You will need about 6 jam jars with lids or other jars smaller than mason.
Make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with 1 & ¼ tbsp water. Screw on the lid and shake. Leave aside.
Boil peas for one minute or until tender. Drain and quickly run under cold water until cool so peas stop cooking. Now the fun part:
Start layering! Divide remaining hummus between 6 jam or other jars. Layer peas, peppers, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, basil leaves, and pumpkin seeds, keep lettuce on top. Add lids and chill until needed up to 24 hrs. If making for the week, assemble the ingredients every other day.
When ready to serve/pack in lunch, add the dressing on top.
Vegan Pumpkin Muffins
This is one of those ‘hide the veggie’ treats that is so good, kids won’t realize it’s healthy. No sugar crashing here! Using flaxmeal instead of eggs is wonderful for omega-3 vitamins. Pumpkin is loaded with vitamins (like A and C) and fiber. This is an easy recipe!
- 2 tbsp flax meal (you can grind whole flax seeds in a food processor. This serves as a binder)
- 1/2 cup pure Michigan maple syrup and another 2.5 tbsp set aside
- ¼ cut melted coconut oil
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 & ¾ cup white whole wheat flour, and 2 tbsp set aside
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (you can find vegan in any market)
- ¼ cup pepitas, optional
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, stir the flaxseed meal with 5 tablespoons water. Set aside for 5 minutes to thicken (this is in place of eggs) Lightly coat 10 rounds of a standard muffin tin with nonstick spray.
In large bowl of a stand mixer, add maple syrup and coconut oil and blend well. Add the flax and until combined. On lowest speed, beat in the pumpkin, almond milk, and vanilla.
In a separate medium bowl, stir with a spoon the white whole wheat flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this combination to the wet ingredients – stir with a wooden spoon until the flour disappears. Don’t overstir. The batter will be thick like a proper muffin! Fold in the chocolate chips and pepitas..
Divide the batter in muffin cups, almost to the top. Bake about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Place pan on wire rack and let cool for 5-7minutes – not longer or they will stick AND get soggy! You can change these muffins by eliminating chocolate chips and just using pepitas or raisins – keep it interesting!
To store: in an airtight storage container or Ziplock with paper towels. Add muffins on top of paper towels. Add another paper towel layer on top. Cover/seal and store at room temperature (not refrigerator).
Have fun with these recipes and get creative with different Michigan seasonal veggies. These are lunches your kids won’t want to trade in the lunchroom – but their friends just may want them!