During winter, almost everyone craves hot and hearty comfort foods — including kids. To help keep your little ones warm during the frigid winter months, replace their sandwiches, cold pasta salads, and other cold lunches with hot midday meals such as Homemade Spaghetti-Os, Homemade Taquitos, and Veggie Mac and Cheese Soup. The best part? These five recipes are packed with nutritious ingredients and good-for-you foods, ensuring your kids have hot and healthy meals to enjoy for lunch. Grab a Thermos, some aluminum foil, and your children’s lunch boxes; it’s time to send them to school with hot meals they’ll look forward to eating all morning!
1. Veggie Mac and Cheese Soup
Your kids will love indulging in Veggie Mac and Cheese Soup for lunch. MOMables recipe via the Huffington Post is hearty, creamy, and filled with healthy, wholesome ingredients. Sending your kids to school with a nutritious lunch doesn’t get any easier than this: Make the soup ahead of time, reheat it in the morning, and store it in a Thermos.
- 1 (6-ounce) box natural or organic macaroni and cheese
- 1 (32-ounce) package reduced-sodium chicken broth/stock
- 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot blend
- ¼ cup whole milk or half-and-half
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions: Cook macaroni and cheese according to box directions. In a large saucepan, bring broth/stock to a boil over high heat. Add vegetables and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium heat. Add cooked macaroni and cheese to veggies and broth, add milk, and add cheese. Stir well to combine until cheese is melted, turn off heat and serve.
2. Homemade Taquitos
Filled with beans, veggies, and cheese, these crunchy, hot taquitos create a satisfying meal that will stick with your kids all afternoon. If you don’t want to make Babble’s Homemade Taquitos in the morning, prepare them ahead of time, freeze them, and warm a few up in the oven before school. Wrap the taquitos in aluminum foil before packing them in your little one’s lunch; it’ll keep them nice and warm!
- 1 (15-ounce) can refried beans or 1 (12.5-ounce) can of cooked chicken breast
- 1 small can of mild green chiles
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- Juice of ½ lime
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder or ½ finely diced onion
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt or 1 finely minced clove of garlic
- 1 package of small flour tortillas (warmed slightly in the microwave)
- Nonstick baking spray
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine refried beans, cheese, lime juice, cumin, onion powder, and garlic salt. Stir together until well combined. Spoon 2 to 4 tablespoons of mixture into the center of a tortilla. Wrap tortilla tightly around mixture, then set taquito in a cookie sheet or large baking dish which has been generously sprayed with cooking spray.
Continue wrapping remaining taquitos. Once finished, spray a fairly heavy layer of cooking spray over each tortilla, making sure to spray all areas of each tortilla. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges of the tortillas are crisp and browned. Serve with sour cream, tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and salsa.
3. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more comforting meal than Bon Appétit’s grilled cheese and creamy tomato soup. Make your soup ahead of time, reheat it the morning you plan to send it for lunch, and prepare the grilled cheese right before your kids leave for school. To ensure their lunches stay hot, put the soup in a Thermos and wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil.
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus ½ cup (1 stick) at room temperature, divided
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 16 slices Pullman loaf
- 16 ounces cheddar, grated
Directions: Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven or medium stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring to coat onion, until tomato paste is slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, thyme, bay leaf, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and cook until flavors are melded, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream.
Remove thyme stems and bay leaf and let cool slightly. Working in batches, purée in a blender until smooth. Heat a dry skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat. Dividing evenly, spread room-temperature butter over bread slices. Top unbuttered side of 8 slices with cheddar, dividing evenly. Top with remaining bread, buttered side up, and cook, turning once, until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes per side. Cut sandwiches in half or into sticks, and serve alongside hot soup for dipping.
4. Homemade Spaghetti-Os
By making your own Spaghetti-Os, you can send your kids to school with a lunch that isn’t filled with unhealthy, artificial ingredients. If you’d like to make Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe more fun, use different noodle shapes, such as cars or letters, in place of circular pasta. Yields 3 to 4 servings.
- 1 (15-ounce) no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons milk of choice
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¾ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 3 teaspoons butter-type spread
- 3 to 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Pinch pure Stevia or 2 tablespoons of sweetener of choice
- 1 cup uncooked tiny pasta of choice
Directions: In a small saucepan, stir together all ingredients except the pasta. Bring to a boil, then lower and cook on low until the butter spread melts completely. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, throw in the pasta and cook until desired texture is reached. Drain, then pat dry with a towel. Pour the pasta into the sauce, and stir to combine. Serve. Before reheating any leftovers, stir and add a little milk of choice if needed.
5. Lunch Box Taco Chicken Soup
Combine your children’s love for soup and tacos by sending them to school with Food.com’s Lunch Box Taco Chicken Soup. For an even tastier lunch, send along a small container of cheese and a few tortilla chips for your kids to sprinkle in their soup. To make this veggie-packed dish even healthier, replace the regular bacon with turkey bacon.
- 2 slices bacon, diced
- 1 cup mushroom, sliced
- ⅔ cup onion, diced
- ½ cup red pepper, diced
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
- 1 (12-ounce) can kernel corn
- 2 cups taco sauce or 2 cups salsa
- ½ to 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
Directions: Cook bacon, until crisp, in a large saucepan. Add vegetables and cook until onion is soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool completely and then freeze in single serve containers. Defrost overnight, then warm in microwave until heated through. Pour into Thermos and pack in lunch.