Those of us who live off campus or don’t have time to wait in line at a dining hall between classes know how much of a challenge lunch can be. For college students, this lunch is often monotonous, unhealthy, or overlooked altogether. Thankfully, Amanda Hesser, creator of the website Food52, is here to help.
Food52, a foodie heaven for reliable gourmet recipes, has several regular features, including one called “Amanda’s Kids’ Lunch,” in which Hesser posts photographs and descriptions of the lunches she packs for her twin six-year-olds. This lunch feature provides “a little brown bag inspiration” for busy students just as well as it does for harried moms. Although these lunches may appear a little too sophisticated for your average over-committed Northwestern student, in reality, many are actually quickly and easily prepared. Take a look below for some inspiration.
Cream Cheese & Jam Sandwiches
Hesser replaces the tried-and-true Lunchables and PB&J with decidedly more exciting options, ensuring that her twins are, as the Food52 staff says, “Brooklyn’s most well-fed first-graders.” The combination of cream cheese and jam makes for a creamy, fruity and tangy twist on a PB&J sandwich.
In a recent post Hesser sent her twins off with a portable antipasti platter, including Serrano ham, olives, beans, and Italian crackers. This lunch only requires about a minute to prepare, as it takes throwing a few ingredients into a small Tupperware container. A little chopped melon wrapped in prosciutto makes for another simple but elegant option. While it’s true that cured meats can get fairly pricey, Whole Foods offers several types of reasonably priced, pre-packaged prosciutto to give your lunch an Italian flair.
Hesser’s kids’ lunches also frequently feature easy, delicious salads that she fashions out of leftovers or whatever else she has sitting in her fridge. Her “refrigerator salad” consists of leftover chicken pulled into thin pieces, peas, radishes, other greens, with a homemade salad dressing mixed in to top it all off. In another post she uses tuna, rice, capers, olives, celery, kale and lemon juice to create another healthy refrigerator salad, with a citrus-y twist.
The best part about these salads is that they’re improvisations based on things you already have. As long as you have a base, which can consist of grains, rice, or greens, some sort of protein and any dressing of your choice (homemade or store-bought), you can make one of these fresh, delectable medleys in under five minutes. While Hesser tends to be a purist with her ingredients, you can cut corners with frozen veggies or pre-roasted chicken from the grocery store to make this salad even easier to prepare.
Ham and ‘Lettuce’ Sandwich
If you want to go with a more traditional lunchtime choice, Hesser teaches her readers how to transform classic sandwiches into gourmet experiences. For example, here, she creates a twist on your typical ham and lettuce sandwich by pairing smoked ham with sautéed greens. These ingredients both add a depth of flavor and texture that you won’t find in the original sandwich. If you find you normally have trouble eating your greens, sautéing them in a skillet with a small amount of oil is an excellent way to make healthy vegetables more palatable. Varying your veggies can also help prevent sandwich monotony, like above where Hesser used asparagus spears to capture a little bit of spring.
Cucumbers and radishes are also great for a crunch, and you can add interest to your sandwiches by varying spreads, like cream cheese, butter or homemade aioli. When it comes to sandwiches, defying lunch meat and lettuce conventions will ensure that you savor every bite.
Through her kids’ lunches, Hesser constantly reminds us that being pressed for time doesn’t mean we have give up on looking forward to lunchtime. With a little kitchen ingenuity and some help from Food52, we can eat healthy and gastronomically exciting meals, while still getting that extra sleep in the morning.