Food blogger reinvents the classic brown paper bag lunch.
For school-age children, opening their lunch box to see the day’s goodies inside can be a wondrous rush of excitement. From unwrapping that classic brown paper bag or pulling out the cartoon lunch box to reaching inside wondering what snacks they’re about to pull out. They show their friends, and argue with their neighbor about whose lunch is better.
For many parents, thinking about school lunches often comes with a different reaction. The dread of preparation, knowing it is just another item on the to-do list; half-awake and not-yet-caffeinated, parents rush to open up a fresh brown bag, throwing in a half-made PB&J and a couple of snacks. For Twin Cities food blogger Lisa Arnason, relieving this stress is part of her mission through her blog, 2hungrydaughters.
“I want to help moms in the kitchen to reduce stress [and] to let them know that you can have kids eating good in their lunch, and make time for it,” Arnason says.
Working part time in neurology and as a mom of two elementary school-age girls, Arnason showcases how busy parents like her can spruce up their childrens’ lunch boxes without the added stress.
She shares healthy creations and recipes on 2hungrydaughters, which draws followers from all over the Twin Cities, Minnesota and beyond. Her passion for cooking grew during COVID-19 when she was home with her little ones, looking for activities to do as a family.
“I just want to share my passion with other moms and have those connections,” she says.
Arnason has grown to enjoy making quick and tasty lunches for her children. So much so, that she posts daily recipes on her social media and shares parenting tips on her blog. From pistachio muffins to her take on the classic PB&J sandwich, her content is full of creative innovations that the whole family can help craft.
Like many parents, Arnason has tried all the Google suggestions and parenting book tips to get her little ones to eat healthy foods. After years, she has cracked the code. Cutouts, colors and kebabs.
“It’s all about presentation, how it looks [and] what you’re doing with it,” she says. “We like to incorporate lots of colors, faces and all the silly things.”
For particularly picky eaters, she found putting fruits, like bananas, on kebabs is more exciting to her kids than just serving it in the peel. “Once I put it on a kebab with like other food, they demolish it,” she says.
Today, her kids regularly ask her to put strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and banana kebabs in their lunches.
Cutouts are her secret weapon for veggies, including cucumbers. Local home goods stores, such as Patina, stock durable stoneware containers that make lunch a little bit more fun.
“They’re really functional and are done in really pretty designs,” says Lindsey O’Halloran, senior buyer and product development manager.
Do you like to write lunch love notes to your kiddos? The store’s stationary section is a popular destination for families during the back-to-school season. “We have a very nice journal assortment,” O’Halloran says.
A Family Experience
For parents looking for advice on cooking quick dinner meals, Arnason says she likes to make cooking a family experience. “We try to incorporate [the kids] and make it fun. [In] a lot of my recipes you’ll see that they’re helping stir ingredients,” she says.
Keeping little ones entertained during meal prep can be a stressful experience. Like many parents, Arnason has about 20 minutes before the extra cooks in the kitchen are off practicing gymnastics in the living room. Her suggestion is to get creative and make cooking into an activity. “Put faces on everything,” she says. “A chocolate chip nose, a string for a mouth. It goes a long way in the lunch box, too.”
All of the recipes featured on 2hungrydaughters take 30 minutes or less, and are “healthy-ish,” Arnason says. “I promise it doesn’t take long at all,” she adds.
Her kid-favorite PB&J Tacos makes six servings and takes just five minutes. All that’s needed is a nut butter of preference, a bit of chopped fruit and bread. Another fan-favorite among the Arnason team is the Pizza Roll Ups that will quickly put the freezer section on the second string.
Recipes Courtesy of 2hungrydaughters
- choice of nut butter, such as peanut butter or Nutella
- choice of jelly
- ½ cup chopped fruit, for topping
- 6 slices bread
Place slices of bread on counter. Grab a round cookie cutter or ramekin dish and place on top of bread to make circle cut outs. Pop the nut butter on next, whatever type suits you. Garnish with chopped fruit. We love to use strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Place on a plate like tacos and enjoy! The fresh fruit gives the perfect crunch every time.
How to store: If you are placing these in your childs’ lunchbox, consider keeping the fruit separated from the tacos if it is watery. Otherwise, the bread might get quite soggy!
Pizza Roll Ups
- 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
- 4 mozzarella sticks, cut in half
- a handful of pepperoni
- marinara sauce, for dipping
- Italian seasoning, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove crescent rolls from package and unroll them on a cutting board or silicon mat. Separate into triangles. Place pepperonis on the wide end and add ½ of a mozzarella stick on top. Roll the rolls up and tuck the corners in, so the cheese doesn’t ooze out. Sprinkle on some Italian seasoning, if you want. Place in the oven for 10–15 minutes, or until golden. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping, and enjoy!
How to store: If you have leftovers, store in an airtight container. These make for a great lunch box meal as well.
Grab and Go
As many parents may know, food preparation can be time consuming. Kowalski’s Markets culinary and branding director Rachael Perron says prepared produce and other items (Think: prechopped melon or precubed cheese.) can save time and add variety to school lunches.
“Frankly, my kids used to like putting sushi in their lunches,” Perron says. “They would always ask that I bring them home sushi entrees, and they would put them in their lunches the next day.”
Quick grab-and-go options at Kowalski’s Markets include its hand-prepared sandwiches and wraps. “We have small sandwiches and pretzel rolls that are good for younger kids,” Perron says.
8505 Valley Creek Road; 651.578.8800
8320 City Center Drive; 651.578.2538