I got my first set of homework from school this week. Backing books! Eurghhh! Not my favourite past-time I must admit! The other chore that I don’t relish as a mum, is making up packed lunches every night. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and just send the same old same old, day after day. So when Tesco asked if I would like to partake in their Local Lunchbox Challenge, I was keen to see if they had any new ideas. The sent me a hamper full of quality local ingredients, and some recipe ideas. Below you can find the recipes, what I thought, and my top tips!
Sweet potato and zucchini healthy strata bake
This healthy strata break has ditched the bread, replacing it with thinly sliced sweet potato and zucchini and as a bonus there is even corn and peas in there! If you’re looking for a way to increase the protein you’re giving the kids at lunchtime, this is the perfect way.
20 squares – Prep 15 mins, Cook 25 mins
- 500g sweet loose potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 loose courgette, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 8 medium Skea free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup Tesco NI cream
- 1 cup Dromona grated cheese
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
- Thinly slice the sweet potato. Steam, boil or even bake until just tender- you want it bendy- not smushy!
- In the base of a 20cm square cake tin, place a thin layer of the sweet potato followed by 1/4 cup frozen peas and 1/4 cup frozen corn.
- Top with a layer of zucchini.
- Repeat layering…..
- Mix the eggs with the cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese in a jug.
- Pour over the veggies in the cake tin.
- Top with 1/2 cup cheese and the thyme.
- Bake at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden and set. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- You can freeze in slices. And defrost overnight in the fridge before putting in the lunchbox.
This dish was quick and simple to prepare. Courgettes, (or zucchini) are becoming really popular. They are such a versatile vegetable, and can regularly be found in my fridge.
I found this recipe took a bit longer to cook than expected. However, you can easily check if it is ready by inserting a skewer, or knife, into the centre of the bake. If there are traces of raw egg on the utensil, it’s not ready yet. Truth be told, I’m not sure if the kids will be getting this in their lunch box, as I plan to put it in mine! It was really delicious!
Top Tip: For an healthier version, switch the single cream for semi-skimmed milk, and cut down on the cheese, adding some black pepper instead.
Cherry pie bars
These cherry pie bars combine buttery, zesty shortbread, with a sweet, yogurt-based, cherry-packed filling. Perfect as an afternoon snack or a treat in your lunchbox, these tasty bars are great for using up a glut of fruit.
For the shortbread
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 lemon, zested
- 300g (10oz) caster sugar
- 350g (12oz) Neill’s plain flour
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 340g (11 1/2oz) Golden Cow unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- 45g (1 3/4oz) White’s Speedicook rolled oats
For the filling
- 4 large Skea eggs
- 380g (12 1/2oz) caster sugar
- 240g (7 3/4oz) Clandeboye Greek yogurt
- 200g (7oz) Neill’s plain flour
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 350g (12oz) pitted fresh cherries, halved
Preheat oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan160°C. Grease a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking dish.
Put the zests, sugar, flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor, and blitz until it resembles sand. Place a third of the mixture in a separate bowl and combine with the oats.
Put the remaining mixture into the baking dish and flatten out, pressing firmly until you have an even, flat base. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes until golden and biscuity. Remove and leave to cool completely.
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, yogurt, flour and vanilla until fully combined. Stir in the pitted, halved cherries and the remaining third of the flour and oat mixture. Mix well until fully combined.
Once the base is cool, pour the mixture on top and level out with a spoon. Put the baking dish on a tray (to catch any excess liquid that bubbles out) and place in the oven for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown. If it browns too quickly cover with foil and leave to cook for the remaining time. Remove and leave to cool completely. Cut into squares. Can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
If your school allows an occasional sweet treat then there are few things that sound more mouth wateringly tantalising than these Cherry Pie Bars. However, you will have to make them first, and that proved too difficult a task for me! I couldn’t fit the ingredients in my food processor, I ended up with dough instead of sand, and then I ran out of ingredients for the filling. I persevered, and you can see the result above. I tried it, and flavours were lovely, but the consistency was just wrong. Even the kids wouldn’t eat it. To be fair, I was always more of a cook than a baker. I double checked with the person who sent me this, and she assured me it’s as it should be. So… can some-one that can bake, please make this and send me some. It just sounds devine. I was so disappointed in my effort!
Top Tip: This recipe makes a huge quantity, so I suggest halving it. I also suggest that if you are a novice baker you attempt a different recipe. How about some Super Oat Fruit Cookies instead? A less calorific and quicker option, I think I’ll be trying these next!
Ham ‘sushi’ recipe
Fussy eaters will love this fun twist on a sandwich and these ham ‘sushi’ make perfect lunchbox snacks. Instead of ham and cucumber, you could use cheese and celery instead.
Serves 1 – 10 mins to prepare
- 1 slice Irwin’s 7 Seeded Wholemeal bread, crusts removed
- 1 tbsp. soft cheese
- 2 slices Cookstown wafer thin ham
- 1 thin cucumber stick, trimmed to length of bread
- Flatten the bread slightly with a rolling pin.
- Spread one side with the soft cheese and top with the ham, keeping the slice as flat as possible.
- Put the cucumber stick at one end of the bread.
- Gently roll up the bread around the cucumber, securing it with a little extra soft cheese. (If making the night before, chill the roll until needed.)
- Cut the roll into four pieces to make ‘sushi’ rounds and pop in a lunchbox.
A really simple to make recipe that the kids will love to eat! In fact, this is one that kids should really be making themselves, with a bit of supervision.
Top Tip: I found adding a layer of soft cheese on top of the ham helped to hold it together better. I also tried this with the crust on, and it still worked just as well. Waste not want not! However, you can always freeze the crusts to use another time such as for breadcrumb stuffing. Which you could then put in your sushi rolls with cold meat and lettuce, for a sunday roast style sushi roll! Yum!
Local Lunchbox Challenge
I hope you have been inspired to try some new recipes. The principle behind Tesco’s Local Lunchbox Challenge, is that no matter what you are making, there is an abundance of quality, fresh local ingredients available. I am always happy to support local businesses and I think as a mum I should try harder to include a wider range of foods in the lunchboxes. In fact, I think we should try to use local produce in all our meals, and you can find loads more recipe ideas on the Tesco Taste NI website.
I’d love to hear any other lunchbox ideas you have?