This article originally ran in the St. Louis Jewish Light
Though each of my children has gone through brief phases of packing her own lunch or buying at school, I am, for the most part, our family’s lunch packer-in-chief.
I estimate that I have packed close to 4,000 so far. It is one of my most dreaded chores (laundry will always occupy the No. 1 spot, in case you were wondering). I must admit I sort of like the daily ritual of drinking coffee and packing lunches. I can check one thing off my list by 7 a.m., and I don’t want to brag, but my lunches are kind of famous.
This is due mostly to the fact during the last week of the school year, I plan an epic candy countdown to summer. I have tried-and-true tips that I use through the year to jazz up healthy, regular lunches as well, although the great majority of the time they are pretty standard.
During Passover, I really do try to make every lunch appealing and special to remind the children (and my husband) of all the fun, healthy things they get to have rather than what they are missing.
Below you will find my five favorite tips for packing an amazing Passover lunch that you can use year-round. Please note that in recent years, our family has begun the practice of eating kitniyot (so if you see my kids with peanut butter or hummus, mind your business).
For the purpose of this article, I will adhere to the most traditional rules. Always consult your rabbi and your own comfort level about what you feel best packing!
Here are my five tips to make Passover lunches feel special:
1. Contain yourself
A clever container can go a long way in making lunch seem special, and because many Jewish families switch out dishes for Passover, this way you can be assured that you are using a vessel that has never carried a sandwich or crackers. I particularly like these, which were my girls’ elementary school favorite as they allow you to make your own “lunchables.”
For a more streamlined bento box, after much experimentation, our family likes the 3-in-1 compartment Ozazuco Bento Box Japanese Lunch Box the best; the elastic strap is critical.
While I never advocate wasting plastic, inexpensive disposables also come in handy during the holiday and can easily be found at the dollar store. I particularly like plastic ramekins with lids.
2. Stick it
As Fancy Nancy devotees, our family knows everything is better on a fancy toothpick or cocktail pick or bamboo skewer. When my children were small, they did not need huge portions of any one fruit or vegetable, but I did want them to have a variety so that they could “eat the rainbow.”
By skewering our fruits, I am able to give them a good variety and make the food more attractive. It’s like a fancy party in your lunch box. On any given day you might find a fruit skewer with grapes and berries.
Some families observe the tradition of only eating peeled fruits during Passover. Use your discretion; the possibilities are endless. Dried fruit that has been marked for Passover is also excellent on a skewer like this.
While fruits and vegetables are wonderful as kabobs, so is meat. Imagine a sandwich on a stick with no bread at all.
I “pick” these up at stores like HomeGoods and Tuesday Morning when available, but I also like these from Amazon: Pukavt Cocktail Picks.
3. Waste not, want not
This one may seem obvious, but put those leftovers to good use. Roasted eggs from the Seder plate make perfect egg salad or deviled eggs, while charoset becomes perfectly portable when stuffed in celery. On that note …
4. Stuff it
Passover is a perfect time to take notes from the low-carb movement and stuff it. Chicken, tuna and egg salad fit perfectly in avocado, hollowed tomatoes and cucumbers with the seeds removed.
Whole leaves of Romaine or Boston lettuce and even entire bell peppers make excellent sandwich “buns” for cold cuts. These are great alongside composed salads and chips that have been marked for Passover. Our favorite are potato matchsticks.
5. Got milk?
Don’t forget that dairy meals are fantastic during Passover. A cheeseboard is always welcome at our house and in any lunch box we own. Simply substitute Tam Tams in place of crackers. I will be sending matzah crackers along with these beautiful smoked salmon “sushi” pinwheels from Skinnytaste.
You can make yogurt parfaits with Passover approved yogurt or cottage cheese, fresh fruit or jam, and Passover granola such as this one from Jamie Geller.
No matter what tips, tricks and recipes you use, in each lunch bag you will be packing love, and if all goes well, traditions they will remember for a lifetime.