Healthy School Lunch Ideas: Shish Kabobs (Part 2)
Yesterday, I posted the amazing lunch idea of shish kabobs. However, I was only able to get through the cold shish kabobs. Don’t let that fool you – grilled shish kabobs can be made hot for dinner one night and put in the fridge for a yummy lunch the next day. Trust me, they are delicious! Don’t have a grill? Place them on a tray on the top rack of your oven and turn on the grill/broiler setting (just keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn). Remember to thoroughly soak wooden skewers so they don’t burn. Here are some amazing and delicious grilled kabob ideas to help inspire your healthy kids!
Grilled kabobs can be served hot for dinner and then cold for lunch the next day, so this is a great opportunity to make two meals at one time. Grilling makes it possible to include a much wider variety of vegetables that are not so palatable raw. It also introduces a greater variety of vegan protein options. You can grill kabobs with a marinade or send grilled kabobs to school with a dipping sauce.
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs
Any vegetables and fruits that can go on the grill can go on a kabob. Zucchini and button or yellow summer squash are my go-to favorites, but cauliflower also ranks very high on my list of favorite slightly-blackened vegetables. (Just make sure to spear cauliflower and broccoli through the stalk of each floret so they don’t fall off when grilled.) Other good kabob vegetables are baby eggplant, button mushrooms, capsicum (bell pepper) – any color, banana peppers, red onion, thick asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. Alternate colors for a beautiful kabob that will be especially appealing to young children. Slice vegetables more thinly than you might normally to ensure they cook all the way through (if you hate biting into a kabob to discover your zucchini is still raw inside, then why would your kid like it?). Include a small amount of fruit, like pineapple, to give a different flavor. Marinades can run the gamut from Asian-inspired to garlic and herb. Alternatively, grill vegetables plain and provide a simple dipping sauce.
Grilled Cheese Kabobs
If your mouth is watering with visions of a grilled cheese sandwich, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Processed American cheese isn’t particularly healthy, but it also won’t do well on a kabob. It will just melt and fall off. However, there are some cheeses that can stand up to a flame. Paneer (an Indian cheese), halloumi, and feta are all cheeses that do well on a grill. You can of course pair them with any of the vegetable options listed above. With the paneer, marinade vegetables in a (mild) curry marinade before adding them, to give an Indian touch. Pair halloumi with flavors like basil, oregano, or thyme; vegetables such as red onion, cherry tomato, and zucchini; and fruit like lemon. Feta is amazing with olives, cubed whole grain bread, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced lemon. Grilling the cheese will give it a smoky flavor it will maintain even once cool and in the lunchbox.
Grilled Seitan Skewers
Gluten intolerants beware: Seitan is made from wheat gluten, which is awesome if you’re a vegetarian or vegan who thinks gluten is the protein of the gods, but not so good if you’re allergic. I find the texture of seitan closer to meat than other substitutes I have tried. It absorbs flavors wonderfully and is amazing on a gril and on a kabob. You can grill it on its own, as you see above, or you can combine it with vegetables. Be sure to marinade it. Try something with personality like a green goddess dressing and chimichurri sauce if you’re grilling it on its own. But you can also combine it with veggies. Pair it with some broccoli and brush with a tamarind glaze, or add some baby corn and snow peas and brush with teriyaki sauce. You won’t regret it, and your kids won’t even realize they’re not eating chicken.
Grilled Tempeh Kabobs
Unlike tofu, which is rather bland, tempeh has a more distinct flavor, which is pleasantly nutty. Add it to any of the grilled vegetable kabobs and brush them with any marinade you like. It pairs with just about anything and adds a great vegan source of protein. Alternatively, grill it plain and send kabobs to school with your kids with a satay sauce. No peanuts allowed in school? Sub in cashews instead. Kids go to a nut-free school? No problem! Use a butter made from sunflower seeds to make your satay sauce!
Grilled Tofu Kabobs
Tofu is more bland than tempeh, but absorbs flavors wonderfully, making it perfect for marinades. Marinate your tofu and vegetables together before grilling. Before marinating, ensure you are using extra-firm tofu, and squeeze the extra water out by pressing gently on the block with a tea towel. Personally, I prefer tofu in Asian-style sauces, but it is so versatile there is no reason to limit yourself. Want to marinate it in herbs and garlic? Go for it! You can also cut your tofu in long sticks rather than cubes, so your skewer contains only tofu. Consider coating your tofu in panko breadcrumbs or crushed wasabi peas after thoroughly marinating, for a crunchy outer coating.
Grilled Fruit Kabobs
Another dimension to dessert is actually grilling fruit. I don’t find many people cook fruit these days, aside from the very occasional stewed fruit or cold fruit soup. But trust me when I saw that grilled fruit is amazing. Peaches, apples, pineapple, and star fruit are my particular favorites. But step outside the box and try including fruits like bananas, watermelon, plums, apricots, strawberries, fresh coconut, and cantaloupe (rock melon). Fruit kabobs are grilled to perfection in just about 7 minutes, making them easy to throw on the grill for dessert after a meal – just make some extra and chill them to send to school for a fruit kabob with a different and distinctly smoky-sweet flavor.
Get Kids Involved
Getting kids involved is one of the best ways to inspire them to be healthy kids and make good food choices. They are also much more likely to eat foods they have helped make. Plus, they might be tempted to snack on the leftover fruits and vegetables. Putting together shish kabobs is also an entertaining activity for them, which saves you on finding something to entertain bored kids late on a Sunday afternoon, while also saving you time making their lunches! Just place some sticks on the counter with a wide variety of items they can skewer. Make sure you supervise them so they don’t hurt themselves (or each other) with the skewers. That way they can add exactly the things they like.
In general, kabobs are a fantastic lunch food. They are easily portable and they are lots of fun, especially if you send them with a dipping sauce. They can be hot or cold, sweet or savory. They can easily contain vegetables, fruits, protein, and grains all at once, so enough shish kabobs pretty much make up a complete meal. They are a perfect way to use up leftover largely chopped, sliced, or diced vegetables. I hope you enjoy these recipe ideas and please let me know how your kids enjoy them in their lunch boxes!!