Tag Archives: school lunches

The Ultimate Lunchbox Cheese, Veg & Bacon Muffin

As if what to cook for dinner isn’t stressful enough, preparing the kids school lunches is the ultimate headache, especially if their school lunches keep coming home untouched and the dog needs to go on a diet.
While there is much discussion about childhood obesity, my kids are lean and my daughter actually is on a weight-gain regime. This means our kids need the full fat, the cheese and can have a bit of bacon without concern. Our problem is that they don’t eat, NOT that they over-indulge.
The other thing I’m now appreciating about our kids is that they’re not simply fussy but discerning. They both have fairly refined palates and can comment about particular tastes and textures, which is pretty impressive for their age. That said, I’ve worked in market research and so they’ve never got away with “yuck” or “nice”. They’ve always had to explain or walk me through why they’ve liked or disliked my cooking.
Lately, we’ve also been watching Masterchef where we’ve all been watching the contestants prepare their meals and then heard the judges reviews. Back on the home front, I have been elevated to Masterchef (or cook) and Geoff and the kids have become the judges. Unfortunately for the dogs, they were cast as “home viewers”, hungrily watching the action and praying for a few crumbs. Sorry!
So after all this Mastercheffing of sorts at home, it is hardly surprising that the humble sandwich isn’t good enough. They want more.
I made these on the run before school this morning as we’d run out of bread, wraps and the kids lunches had started coming home again. Of course, there were no guarantees they were going to eat these but they do love cheese and bacon rolls and I thought they’d probably enjoy this “healthed-up” alternative.

My first observation was that these went quickly and my son, fussy eater numero uno, devoured two straight out of the oven before he went to school. This is a glowing endorsement, as he is even very particular about the chocolate he eats. He did comment about the “garlic flavour” which was the onions so take it easy with the grated onion. A little bit goes a long way.The cheese was still hot and gooey. I had mine a bit later and again noticed the onion flavour but also the beautiful bacon flavour. The top was also pleasantly crunchy.
Yes, we will definitely be making these again and wanted to share our efforts on the blog.
xx Rowena

A look inside our muffins.

A look inside our muffins.



Cheese Veg & Bacon Muffins

Makes 12

Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
2 cups self raising flour

3 cups vegetables We used: ½ cup grated carrot
½ cup corn kernels
½ cup grated zucchini
a tablespoon grated onion (go light on the grated onion!)
½ cup finely sliced baby spinach leaves

1 1/3 cups grated tasty cheese.
½ cup milk
3 eggs
60g butter, melted
bacon pieces, optional
12 cubes of tasty cheese
fresh thyme, optional
Directions
1. Preheat oven 180°C (160°C fan forced) and grease a 12-hole (1/3 cup) muffin pan with cooking spray. I lined mine with muffin cases.
2. Take eggs out of the fridge. They fluff up better when beaten at room temperature.
3. If you are adding bacon bits, slice bacon into squares and fry in a large frying pan until crunchy. Put aside and cool. I use bacon with a bit of fat so it crunches up.
4. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and create a well.
5. Grate carrot, zucchini,onion and add to flour.
6. Finely slice baby spinach leaves. Add to flour.
7. Add grated tasty cheese and fresh thyme to flour mix. Blend well.
8. Melt butter in the microwave on high in a mug for around a minute and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
9. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and eggs together and add cooled melted butter.
10. Pour wet ingredients into the veggie flour mix and stir gently with a large spoon until the ingredients are just incorporated. The flour should be mixed in and the mixture should resemble a batter. So, depending on the wetness of your veggie mix, you might need to add an extra splash of milk as I did.
11. Place a tablespoon of mixture in each muffin hole. Each muffin needs to be around the same size to make sure the muffins bake evenly.
12. Push a cube of tasty cheese into each muffin and spread mix back over the top so the cheese is “buried” inside the muffin. The cheese will melt during cooking and flow through the top, while leaving a scrumptious, cheese interior.
13. Sprinkle crunchy bacon bits over the top if desired. You can also stir some through the mix if desired.
14. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
15. Cool in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. That is, if someone doesn’t nab them while they’re hot. Mine vanished very quickly and this time it wasn’t the dog!

This recipe is loosely based on muffin recipes by Julie Goodwin and Curtis Stone infused with a bit of me. Next time, I’m going to try adding some olives and you could easily swap the thyme for fresh basil.

Recycling the School Jam Sandwich

Despite the stories of starving children in Africa and “waste not, want not”, our kids stubbornly refuse to eat their school lunches.After even more full lunchboxes arrived home, this time with sandwiches made using my own homemade strawberry jam which was just  oozing with lusciously plump delectable fruit, I became desperate. I could not… I would not… throw them out.

Somehow, they had to be eaten!

I'm getting sick of the sight of these full lunchboxes arriving home again completely untouched. What is it going to take to get my children to eat?

I’m getting sick of the sight of these full lunchboxes arriving home again completely untouched. What is it going to take to get my children to eat?

You see, I hate waste…particularly food waste.

For awhile there, I dutifully fed their sandwiches to the dog and I swear he could pick a lunchbox from space. Code-named “Garbage Guts”, he simply doesn’t stop eating.

Walking with the dog

Out trying to walk off more than a few kilos worth of school lunches. Bilbo alias Garbage Guts just can’t say “no”.

But there’s waste and then there’s waistline. Unfortunately for the dog, avoiding waste on my part meant he packed on the kilos. After getting slammed by the vet, there were no more sandwiches for the dog.

Yet, I still hated the thought of throwing out perfectly good sandwiches spread with lashings of my home-made strawberry jam so I decided to take up Bob the Builder’s environmental challenge to “reduce, reuse, recycle” and came up with this little invention:

Jam Sandwich Bread & Butter Pudding

Ingredients

6 eggs

4 tablespoons castor sugar

2 teas vanilla essence

1140 ml (2 pints) full cream milk

Cinnamon

125g or ½ cup blueberries or sultanas

4 jam sandwiches, crusts removed

Spreadable butter

Directions

  1. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl and heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using a medium-sized bowl, crack in the eggs. Add sugar and vanilla essence. Beat together lightly with a fork or hand-beaters.
  3. Add the egg mix to warmed milk gradually and stir to combine evenly.
  4. Pour into a shallow, ovenproof dish.
  5. Sprinkle blueberries or sultanas evenly over the surface.
  6. Turn oven onto 180° C and grease a shallow, ovenproof dish.
  7. Now to prepare the sandwiches. Using a bread knife, cut the crusts off the sandwiches. Pull the sandwiches apart. They need to have plenty of jam and I prefer my homemade version which contains large, juicy pieces of fruit so you might want to add some extra butter and jam.
  8. Crusts
    Crusts
  9. Arrange the pieces of bread over the top of the custard and they’ll float across the top like boats.
  10. Add a few bits of butter on top of the bread if desired.
  11. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  12. Carefully place the dish inside a baking tin with enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. This is called a water bath. See note below.
  13. Bake in a moderate oven at 180° C (160° C fan-forced) for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderately slow oven to around 160° C (140° C fan-forced) and bake for a further 20-30 minutes or until set. My oven timer broke sometime ago so cooking times are an approximate science for me.
  14. Serves 8.
The pudding baking in the oven.

The pudding baking in the oven.

Obviously, while this approach worked well with jam sandwiches and could be adapted to include the honey sandwich, obviously it really isn’t an option for your leftover Vegemite or peanut butter sandwiches. Yet, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It looks like I’ve just set myself my next food challenge.

Enjoy!

Xx Rowena

Note: Why do you bake custard in a water bath?

Baking your custard pudding in a water bath is your best insurance against curdled custard. You see, although you set the oven temperature to 180° C ,the egg proteins which thicken the custard, set below 212°F.This means that unless these egg proteins are protected from the high heat of the oven, they’ll overcook and tighten or shrink, causing your custard to crack or separate into curdled egg and liquid. A water bath insulates custards from the direct heat of the oven because the water can’t exceed 212°F, unlike the air in a 350°F oven. Without a water bath, the outside of your dessert would also overcook before the centre is done. Moreover, in a water bath, you have more time to bake your custard to the perfect degree of doneness.