Now that Nola is in school full-time (another blog post for another day), I pack her lunch Monday through Friday. The school we enrolled her in does offer catered lunches but, we're trying to save some money (educating these kids is not cheap man!) and I just like the idea of knowing exactly what is going inside of her belly. So far, I've enjoyed this process more than I thought I would.
My current routine is to throw her lunch together while she's contained in her high chair eating dinner or when Shep takes her away for bath time. I like to switch things up for her so that she doesn't get bored but, she's a toddler, so she's only into a few things--pasta, french fries, quesadillas, fruit and cheese. Obviously, I can't send her to school with only those things every day or I'd look like a shitty mom so, I sneak in veggies where I can.
Preparing things for Nola to eat five days a week could take up my whole life if I let it, and though in general I'm not a fan of batched meals (give me variety or give me death), in this case, it works really well. At some point in the week I like to cook two meals that I can batch and use for Nola's lunch/dinner. I freeze the leftovers in little silicone freezer trays for later use. This is so helpful to me, especially on those days where I either don't feel like cooking for anyone, including Nola, or when we're in a rush and I have to give her something to eat really quickly.
With the weather cooling down the tiniest of bits, I'm turning my attention to soups that I can freeze and put in Nola's thermos for lunch. I came up with this easy alphabet soup because I went to the grocery store searching for pre-made options for my kid and I couldn't find anything that wasn't Chef Boyardee and I refuse to buy that.
I decided to make my own and the results were so good that Shep tried to pack some up for his own lunch before I stopped him. For this recipe I used pasta shapes that I found in the store thanks to Annie's boxed macaroni. The boxes were on sale at Kroger so I snapped those up and put the powdered cheese to the side (hey I might use it in something else one day!) What I love about this recipe is how easy it is for us busy moms to throw together.
The most labor intensive part is making the meatballs. Everything else the recipe calls for is either frozen or canned. Speaking of meatballs, while I developed this recipe with ground turkey breast, you could easy substitute in ground chicken, a vegan meat substitute or forgo the meat all together. Oh, and you're welcome in advance for the meatballs that you will have leftover for use in literally anything else you can think of.
When I cooked this dish I had about 10 meatballs leftover and I labeled them and put them in the freezer. You could defrost them at a later date and cook them with some marinara sauce and noodles or even serve them simply with mashed potatoes and a side of veggies.
I love a meal that pulls double duty!
The cook time for this dish is about 30 minutes and it will yield you a lot of damn soup. Like enough for several lunches or dinners. I purchased my frozen vegetables at Kroger but I have found similar versions at Publix, Sprouts and Whole Foods. Feel free to mix up the vegetables according to your child's tastes but otherwise, I'd try to follow this recipe as closely as possible.
I hope you and your kiddo enjoy this meal as much as Nola and Shep did!