What’s in your Lunchbox? Quick and Easy Lunches

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What's in Your Lunchbox? #backtoschool #lunchAs a teacher, I saw a LOT of lunchboxes through the years… and their contents, which occasionally amazed and astounded me. And not necessarily in a good way. To be perfectly frank and honest, the initial thought that popped into my head when observing my students’ lunchbox contents was often, “What were his/her parents thinking?!?!?!” Sometimes I came to the conclusion that they weren’t. Other students impressed me, though, with the contents of their lunchboxes, and those parents I mentally congratulated. I understand it’s difficult to provide a well-balanced, easily portable, easily eaten, well-liked, not-likely-to-be-traded lunch for a picky pupil every. single. weekday. Throw in that most parents barely have time to think about such a lunch, let alone actually create it, and one can easily understand how a child ended up with a lunchbox full of random odds and ends mostly full of sugar, bad fats, and far-from-complex carbs.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’ve already conquered the Lunchbox War, congratulations to you: Well Done! If you’ve been defeated though, or hardly begun to fight, I’ve come up with a few tips to save you Time, Effort, Money… and most importantly, your child’s HEALTH.

Today we’ll start with Time and Effort, probably the biggest obstacles in the fight for the healthy lunchbox. Most parents know what should ideally go in the lunchbox, but many are too discouraged by the amount of time and effort it would take to make it happen. Maybe these ideas will help you surmount those obstacles and lead you to a better lunchbox this school year.

Quick and Easy Lunches #backtoschool #lunchQuick & Easy Lunches

Create a flexible but reliable menu.

Develop a basic framework you can use every day that will save you from having to think too much. For example, plan on variations of the following in each lunch:

  • -Main Dish (sandwich, soup, leftovers, etc.)
  • -Drink (water’s always good!)
  • -Yogurt or Cheese
  • -2 Fruits or Veggies
  • -Small Dessert or Snack

This is a proven formula that will give them enough to eat every day, but is easily varied by including different main dishes, fruits, vegetables, and snacks.

Adapt this formula for your own child, one that is easy for you and enjoyed by him or her. It’s easy to change up, but the basic formula stays the same so you don’t have to think too much about what goes in the lunchbox.

Involve your child(ren).

This is easier and saves more time than you might think, especially if you have a formula like I described above. Even a kindergartener can help out with his/her lunch if they know what goes in it. In fact, I would say that from first grade up, if mom or dad takes care of the main meal (and kids can even help with this, depending on age and what it is), the child can take care of the rest. Post a checklist on the fridge, pictorial if necessary, that clearly shows what items should go in the lunchbox every day. Place those items at an accessible level, and make it your child’s responsibility to put all those items in their lunchbox every day. If you’re not comfortable leaving it entirely up to them, all you have to do is instruct them to leave it open until you check it for accuracy. Inspect each lunchbox quickly,  correct where necessary, zip it up and off they go!

Fill the lunchbox the night before.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Make lunch the night before, and then your morning routine will be slightly less hectic. Every  night after dinner, when we clean up the dining room and kitchen, we make lunches for the next day. The lunches go into the fridge with all the leftovers and are ready for to grab the next morning. If you don’t have enough room to store their actual lunch boxes in the fridge overnight, place a large plastic box of some kind on one of the shelves, and put all the lunch contents in it every night. In the morning, just grab the contents and transfer them to the individual lunch boxes. This will still save plenty of coveted morning prep time.

Corral lunchbox items in the fridge and pantry.

This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Collect all the yogurt cups, cheese sticks, and other refrigerated lunchbox items in one big plastic container on a shelf in the fridge, or designate one of the meat/produce drawers as “lunchbox drawer”. In the pantry, place all the shelf-stable items, such as snacks (healthy ones of course!), juice boxes, fruit cups and other lunch munchies in a designated, clearly labeled, easily accessible container.

Invest in some inexpensive, time-saving tools, like an apple slicer or an orange peeler.

Tupperware Citrus Fruit Veggie Peelers set of 2 SoldCalphalon Easy Grip Apple Slicer
The apple slicer is an incredible invention that will allow you to slice up an apple for your child(ren) in seconds and is a lot easier than pulling out a paring knife and cutting board. It will make the apple easier for your children to eat, especially if they are younger. Apples will brown when exposed to air, so you can either dowse them in a bit of lemon juice and water or just pack them in an airtight container to reduce the browning.

The orange peeler is especially useful for elementary-aged children as it can safely be packed with their lunch and allow them to peel their own oranges, clementines or tangerines by themselves at school. If you’re not comfortable with packing the peeler, simply use it to slice through the peel before putting the citrus in the lunchbox, so at least they have a starting point and they can peel easily from there.

Quick and Easy Lunches #backtoschool #lunchWhat about that main dish?

It’s easy enough to figure out the side items: yogurt cups, cheese sticks, fresh fruit or fruit cups, etc. But what about the main dish? This is usually the biggest quandary when it comes to lunch-packing time. A little forethought and preparation goes a long way to help.

If your child has access to a microwave, make use of it!

Of course, not every school or classroom has the capability of reheating a child’s lunch, which is a bummer. Also, many people prefer to avoid overuse of a microwave. If that’s the case, refer to the next tip:

Invest in a thermos or other insulated container.

Thermos Stainless King SK3000MB4 Food Jar, Midnight Blue
Even though both schools where I have worked had ready access to microwaves for all the student lunches, some parents still opted to use a Thermos or similar container instead. And it worked great! If the food goes in hot, it keeps its temperature long enough to be deliciously warm at lunch time. This opens up SO many time- and effort-saving options for filling up those lunchboxes. Read on to see how!

Cook a double batch for dinner and send the leftovers for lunch.

I do this all. the. time. In fact, we eat leftovers for lunch more often than anything else. Usually, the lunch version is simplified, in other words, doesn’t necessarily include all of the sides, sauces, etc. Also, for small children, the food needs to be easily eaten, which means some foods will have to be cut up for them in advance. Plan your dinners ahead of time, determine which ones will easily translate into lunch, and voila! Your lunch the next day is instantly ready at the same time as dinner!

Make big batches and freeze the extra.

Whenever you cook up basic staples like noodles and rice, cook extra and freeze the extra. You can even pour spaghetti sauce over them before freezing for an instant meal, in which case you should freeze them in individual containers. The noodles and rice can be used for dinners OR even for quick lunches when you don’t have leftovers or sandwich options available. Also, extra shredded chicken, beef and pork can be used as sandwich fillers or noodles/rice/potato toppers for delicious lunches.

Make use of the crock pot.

Cook Chicken Noodle Soup (this is where some pre-cooked noodles will come in handy!), Homemade Spaghetti-os (this only gives you 7 hrs max, so it’s perfect if you’re late to bed, early to rise), or Chili in the crock pot overnight and your main dish is ready  in the morning! This concept is limited only by your imagination and the contents of your fridge and pantry: cook just about anything (cooking times vary, so keep that in mind) overnight, place it in an insulated container (or re-heat at lunch) for a delicious, fresh, hot lunch!

Always keep sandwich items available.

This is an area where I frequently fail. The idea is to keep some kind of bread, as well as sandwich filler items (lunch meat, tuna, eggs for egg salad, etc.) available at all times, so that when lunchbox-filling-time comes and there are no leftovers or other hot food available, you still have easy options without resorting to cans or packages of processed food.

Currently, I pretty much exclusively make sourdough bread, but one thing that has really helped in the past to have fresh bread available almost all the time is the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method, and its companion, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a DayArtisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home BakingWith this method, you can keep bread dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or longer in the freezer. Pull it out and bake it whenever you need fresh bread. Loaf or sandwich bread requires a 60-90 minute resting time, but flat breads, like pita for example, require no little-to-no resting time and are baked up in half an hour or less. The only prep is mixing the ingredients and storing them in the fridge once every two weeks (depending on how often you bake up the dough). No kneading, punching down, or extra risings necessary.

I hope this gives you some great ideas for lunchboxes this school year! I’d love to hear any ideas you have or things you like to do when it comes to lunchbox time.

Next Post: Saving Money

 This post was originally published in 2010. 

Copycat Panera Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

This post was originally published in June, 2009.  Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad I haven’t blogged in a few days because we went up to Lancaster, PA to visit with some family and have a short mini-vacation. Vacations are always fun, but, especially when it’s such a short vacation, it’s sometimes hard to get back home and go back to the daily grind. So I decided to bring some of my vacation home with me.

I decided to bring home with me some yummy food I ate while on vacation. Of course, I couldn’t actually bring back the food itself, since it would have gotten quite yucky waiting to be put in my fridge (ew!) so I just brought back the ideaof the food I enjoyed so I could recreate it at home.The first dish I enjoyed was the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera. What I like about their chicken salad is that the apples are dried, not fresh.  Not your leathery, smushy kind of dried, but more like an apple chip dried. The combination of the sweet crunchy apple blended so perfectly with the other flavors in the salad, that it was super delicious!Unfortunately, the only dried apples I had on hand at home were the leathery, smushy variety which simply would not do for my purposes. So I set out to make myself some apple chips.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

First, I cored an apple and sliced off the ends. I could have peeled it as well, but I opted to leave the peel on for color. Besides, the peel was left on in the Panera salad, and since I was attempting to recreate my vacation, I had to follow it as closely as possible.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad
Then I sliced the apple into thin, even slices (unfortunately, some of them I sliced a little TOO thin) and soaked them in lemon water for a few minutes, to limit browning. This step is not necessary unless you want them to be as white as possible.

drying apple chips in ovenThen I lined a baking sheet with wax paper, greased the wax paper and laid the apple slices out in a single layer, with plenty of room between slices. I put this in my oven, on the lowest setting possible (which happens to be 200 on my cheap-o apartment oven) for about 45 minutes. It would have been better to use a lower setting for a longer period of time, but alas and alack, that was not possible for me!

And here are the apple chips, ready to be put into my Apple Chicken Salad.

 Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

Sharing at Mommy MondayTry a New Recipe Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday 

Chicken Sandwich Spread {Dairy-Free!}

This post contains affiliate links because every little bit helps! Chicken Sandwich Spread Chicken salad – especially one with cranberries, apples, and walnuts in it – is one of my favorite uses for leftover chicken. Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to make it very often due to my Certain Little Someone’s dairy and egg allergies. I’ve tried making it with dairy-free products like coconut milk yogurt and the like, but it just doesn’t taste the same.

A while back, though, I hit upon a unique solution that offers up the chicken salad taste but doesn’t require any dairy whatsoever: instead of binding the salad together with a mayonnaise or yogurt based dressing, all you have to do is blend the chicken with a little bit of broth to create a consistency perfect for sandwiches or crackers! Whether or not you have a dairy allergy or sensitivity, you’ll love this delicious take on the traditional chicken salad. Chicken Sandwich Spread

While this particular recipe is more of a spread than a typical chunky salad,  you can control how smooth it is by how long you process or blend the ingredients together. Alternatively, you could divide the amount of chicken in half and stir in the second portion after the first has been processed.

I make mine in the Vitamix, but I would assume you can accomplish the same thing in a food processor. Chicken Salad Spread

This makes a great addition to your child’s lunchbox… or even your own lunchbox at work! For more great lunchbox ideas, read my recent post, “No More Boring Lunches!”

No More Boring Lunches!

This post here is just as much for me as it is for you. School for me and The Boys is about to start in another week, and that means lunchboxes for every member of the family every day of the week. (OK, every weekday, anyway.) That, in turn, means forethought and planning, things I’m not super good at. It also means I need some creative ideas at the ready because I hate – HATE – doing the same ol’ thing day in and day out. Hate it, I say.

So I’m doing a little browsing on Pinterest – where all good ideas roam – and am sharing my findings with you. (You can thank me later.)

Here’s to happy lunches! And a happy school year!

(Oh yeah – it doesn’t really matter if you pack the lunches or not. These ideas will still come in handy! Because, you know, no matter what – you still eat lunch.)

1. Chicken Cream Cheese Taquitos

This one was pinned by my friend Christy, The Simple Homemaker. You can make this recipe as healthy as you want… or not. Generally speaking, the more ingredients that are made-from-scratch-at-home, the healthier it will be. (Homemade tortillas, shredded chicken from a crock pot chicken, homemade cream cheese, etc. etc.)

2. Nut-Buttery Fruit Dip

This delicious-sounding dip was pinned by Adrienne, from her site, Whole New Mom.  You can use any nut or seed butter that you want to comply with classroom rules and/or potential allergies. Kids love to dip their food, and this is a deliciously healthy way to encourage them to eat their fruits and veggies while they’re at it! (I really think celery sticks would be yummy with this.)

3. Breakfast for Lunch (Waffles, Anyone?)

Since we don’t get to eat a leisurely breakfast during the school year, why not fix it for lunch? Make a big batch on the weekend, and freeze the extras to pop into school lunches. You can also easily turn them into sandwiches by stuffing whatever normal sandwich filling you usually use in between two waffles. (I like almond or sunflower seed butter myself.) This particular waffle recipe is for Sourdough Pumpkin Waffles, pinned by Paula of Whole Intentions from her guest post at Intentional by Grace.

4. Bacon Guacamole Grilled Cheese

Take your grilled cheese sandwich up a notch (or two or three) by adding some bacon and guacamole to it. This was pinned by Diana of My Humble Kitchen from Closet Cooking.

5. Chili

If you have a Thermos, chili is a cinch to pack into a lunchbox! And so yummy, too. This version is pinned by Beth from her blog, Red and Honey.

6. Pizza Pizza!

Won’t the other kids be jealous of your kid’s lunchbox when he pulls a pizza out of it! Hilary from Accidentally Green posted this delicious version, made with BBQ chicken and bacon.

7. Individual 7-Layer Dip

My friend Jami of The Young Wife’s Guide pinned this gem from The Girl Who Ate Everything. Put these in a sealed container and you’re good to go!

8. Mini Lasagnas

Mini is just cuter. Every time. Crystal, The Money Saving Mom, pinned this idea from Catching Fireflies, and also blogged about it here.

Sadly, that’s all I have time to share for now, but you can check out my No More Boring Lunches Pinterest board for lots more ideas as we go through the school year.

5 Tips for a Perfect Picnic

We’ve been enjoying a lot of picnics as part of our day-at-a-time staycation, and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

Henceforth and therefore, without further ado, I share said tricks with you.

1. Bring along a basic first aid kit.

Eating outdoors just introduces a whole host of potential issues: bug bites, sunburns, scrapes, bruises, etc. Here’s what I always make sure to pack along with the food (Note to the FTC and whoever else cares – many of the links below are affiliate links.):

2. Pack a blanket or tarp.

If there’s a picnic table at your destination, this might not be necessary. Then again, it might be. You never know! We have a very basic picnic tarp-like blanket that is designed to be outdoors and has weights on the corners to keep it from blowing in the wind. You could also use an old sheet or blanket that you have lying around, of course.

3. Don’t forget the utensils!

I can’t tell you how many times I arrived at our picnic spot only to realize I forgot either the spoons, the forks, or a knife. So now it’s the first thing I think about! Even if you pack an entire spread of finger foods, just be on the safe side and pack a complete set (fork, spoon, knife) just in case.

4. No more boring picnic food!

Not being a huge fan of sandwiches, I’m always trying to think outside the box for creative picnic food ideas. I’ve compiled a list of picnic food options for you to consider, or you can check out the following articles:

5. Bring your picnic on wheels.

I probably wouldn’t even know such a thing as this existed – and I certainly wouldn’t put it on my top 5 picnic tips must-haves list! – if it weren’t for the fact that I picked one up at a yard sale for a ridiculously low price… and now find that I can’t live without our rolling cooler! This Rolling Cooler on Amazon is very much like the one we have, including the mesh pockets on the side that are perfect for the aforementioned first aid items. Ours also has a zippered pocket in front that’s perfect for paper plates, napkins, and utensils. There’s even enough space in the cooler to shove our picnic tarp, so our entire collection of picnic supplies fits into one convenient rolling case, which, incidentally, can even be pulled by our Certain Little Someone (who feels very proud of himself whenever he’s put in charge of it). I call that a total win-win!

What’s your perfect picnic tip?

5 Picnic Food Ideas

As part of our Day-at-a-Time-Staycation, we’ve had quite a few picnics this summer. My Certain Little Someone was trying to keep track of them at first, but he lost count somewhere around 4 or 5, and we’ve had quite a few since then!

Except for the minor issue of bugs (ahem), I love picnicking because:

  • it’s a fun way to experience the outdoors.
  • it’s a fun way to eat lunch.
  • it’s one way to enjoy local parks and historic areas.
  • IT SAVES MONEY! No need to eat out when you have a picnic in tow.

(In case you couldn’t tell, that last point was my favorite one, and in my opinion is reason enough for picnicking anytime.)

Picnicking all summer long is no fun if every picnic is the same, besides which I’m not a huge sandwich fan, so I’ve been getting creative with our picnic lunches. Here are a few of the things we’ve enjoyed on our outdoor luncheons:

1. Cold Plate

I actually posted about the idea of a Cold Plate lunch/dinner way back in 2009 (seems like ancient history now). The concept is this: just pack a variety of cold cuts and crudites that can be eaten with the fingers and with little fuss or mess.

Some ideas to include in your Cold Plate lunch:

  • Boiled Eggs
  • Cheese Cubes
  • Leftover Sliced Meat
  • Lunch Meat
  • Sliced Cheese
  • Various Vegetable Crudites: Celery Sticks, Carrot Sticks, Broccoli, Cucumbers, Peppers, etc.
  • Fruits: Grapes, Watermelon, Berries, Apple or Pear Slices, Clementines or Oranges
  • Dried Fruit

2. Meatballs & Dips

Another idea I posted way back when was a finger-food meal concept that included meatballs and sliced apples, both with dipping sauces. Meatballs can be made ahead, and can be made in pretty much any flavor profile desired, with an appropriate dip to match. Bring along some toothpicks and have a dippity-do-dah day!

Here are some meatball recipes I’ve enjoyed:

As a side dish, bring these super cute “Veggie Gardens”.

3. Bean Patties

Say wha?? Yep, bean patties. They’re healthy, sturdy, delicious, and super easy to make at home if you have some pre-cooked and/or canned beans. (I always keep a stash of cooked beans in my freezer ready to be used for occasions such as this.) Plus, like meatballs, you can make them pretty much any flavor you want!

I usually start with this black bean burger recipe, but the truth is that bean patties are really just a mixture of beans (pretty much any kind), shredded veggies (again, pretty much any kind), some sort of flour or starch (pretty much… yeah, you got it), and seasonings. Sometimes bread crumbs and/or eggs are added, and sometimes not. Whatever ingredients you use, just run them through your food processor until you have a consistency that’s able to be molded into patties. Fry your patties in a little bit of oil or bacon grease on medium-ish heat, and you’re done.

Falafels are a kind of bean patty (or meatless meatball, as they are sometimes formed in spheres rather than patties) made from chickpeas that are particularly delicious. Not a fan of beans? Try these Onion Quinoa Bites.

4. Boiled Eggs

My Certain Little Someone can’t have eggs, so I don’t do this one very often. However, at our last picnic, I made the aforementioned bean patties, which my DH cannot have, so I packed some boiled eggs for him instead. This is a super simple, portable dish that provides a great source of healthy protein and energy. Pair it with fresh fruits and veggies and you’ve got a winner meal right there.

5. Cheese & Crackers

Here’s another idea from the olden days of my blog: Pack some crackers and assorted toppings for your picnic lunch. Cheese is an obvious choice, but tuna salad, egg salad, or chicken salad are great options, too. Really, just about anything you’d put on a slice of bread can be paired up with crackers, too, and it makes a fun lunch for everyone. In fact, bring a variety of toppings and everybody’s happy!

Happy Picnicking!

Quick & Easy Fish Fingers

I don’t have a lot of fish recipes on this blog because, frankly, I didn’t really cook fish until about a year ago or so: Canned tuna and salmon were pretty much the extent of my fish-cooking repertoire. Also, since I didn’t really grow up eating a lot of fish, I hadn’t really developed a taste for it and honestly knew nothing about it. 

But for the past year or more, I’ve been slowly learning more and more about fish and how to prepare it, and I’ve realized it’s a busy mama’s secret weapon for quick and easy – but healthy – meals. Fish fillets cook up so quickly no matter which method you choose and offer a lot of great nutritional benefits to boot. Currently, we eat fish once a week, and I’ve enjoyed trying many different recipes and experimenting with different cooking methods.

Typically, I buy the individually quick frozen wild-caught fish fillets because they are the most reasonably priced. I can typically get them for around $4 a pound, and many types of fish are available in this manner (tilapia, cod, whiting and perch, to name a few).

This particular recipe is one of my early experiments, and one that turned out perfectly. It was so simple and so yummy; my kind of recipe! I recommend using stone-ground non-GMO cornmeal for optimum nutrition. 

How do you like to cook fish?

Toasty Salmon Melts

I’m always looking for great recipes that make use of canned salmon because it’s an inexpensive way to incorporate more of that healthy wild-caught fish into our diets. I don’t really love canned salmon, to be honest, but along the way I’ve discovered some great ways to cook it that are truly delicious. Our whole family enjoys eating fish, which I love!

I stumbled across this recipe for grilled salmon and cheese when searching for more canned salmon inspiration. I changed it up a little bit and turned it into these hot and toasty open-faced sandwiches that are great for lunch or dinner, served with a green salad and/or some fresh fruit. Easy, quick, and healthy. (There’s a reason my blog used to be called Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy!)

You could also eat this fresh and raw, without baking, but please don’t tell me if you do. Blech. 

What’s your favorite way to prepare canned salmon?


B2S: Fun Sandwich Ideas

Move over, PB&J! As much as we love you, we get, well, a little tired of your goodness. It’s time to spice things up with a little creativity! (Don’t worry; no bento required!)

Waffle Sandwiches - not just for breakfast!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Roll-Ups

Chicken Biscuit Spiral

Flexible Toasty Melts

Pizza Bites

Roast Beef Sliders

Pitch a Slider to Dad

But first: this is my 300th post, can you believe it?! Wow! I had no idea when I started this blog that I had that much to say.

Secondly: my 2 year blogiversary is coming up this weekend, so stay tuned for a couple of really cool giveaways!

And thirdly: wait. There is no third. On to the sliders then!

Father’s Day is, of course, coming up this weekend, and one way to show Dad he is special (in a good way) is to make him a special meal. Grilling always comes to mind because of the association of guys and grilling, but I am grill-less, so alas, I have no grill recipes for you. Steak is another thing that comes to mind, but we don’t eat that around here very much because it’s expensive. (At least the good steak is, and what’s the point of throwing away money on tough rubbery steak?)

Here, then, is a perfect Dad’s Day meal if you are grill-less and penniless like me: sliders. (Feel free to play up the cheesy baseball references. )

Cue the soundtrack:

Now we’re ready to start. This is not so much a recipe for the perfect slider filling (although I will tell you what I put in mine, and give you some more ideas), as much as it is a trick to make them as easily as possible.

In fact, I’ve started making these once every week or two , because I’ve discovered how quick and easy (and cheap and healthy, yada yada) these are. More reasons why I make them:

  • They freeze beautifully.
  • They are easier to keep than a loaf of bread. Nine times out of ten, I end up with a stale hunk of bread after we’ve had a meal or two with the rest of the loaf, but with sliders, I can easily take the portion I need and keep the rest frozen until I need it again.
  • They look cuter than regular sandwiches.
  • Instant portion control!
  • I think we end up using less bread dough in the end by making it into sliders, because I really think it goes farther.
  • Baking the dough in smaller portions takes less time, both in rising and in actual baking.

In short, it’s a win-win all around. I think my DH secretly feels these are a little bit too girly for him, but when I feel them with something manly like beef, he doesn’t mind. In fact, he’ll polish off several in one sitting (so much for portion control. Oh well, it works for me and that’s the more important thing, since I’m the one who gains the weight in this household.).

I use my artisan bread dough to make my sliders, which should be no surprise to you if you’ve read my blog for any length of time at all. I cannot recommend this bread-making method highly enough for anyone who wants healthy fresh bread, but doesn’t want to invest a great deal of time into it. A few minutes to mix up the dough, then just let it sit on the counter for a few hours (or more – sometimes I let it sit overnight). Keep in the fridge, and for the next two weeks, you have bread dough at the ready for pizza crusts, rolls, flatbreads, and loaves of bread. A loaf of bread still requires quite a bit of resting and baking time, but rolls, pizza crusts, flatbreads  – and sliders! – take very little time to rise and bake (less than an hour all told). Find the instructions for artisan bread dough here.

The last batch of artisan dough I made, I was thrilled to be able to use a kitchen scale for the first time to measure out the ingredients. At the FitBloggin’ conference in May, I was given an EatSmart Kitchen Scale , something I have been wanting for a looooooong time! I was SO excited to pull it out for my artisan bread dough, and I was not disappointed with the results.

Well, to be honest, I was disappointed at first, because the dough was more liquidy than I had ever seen it and I was sure it wouldn’t work. Actually, these turned out to be the best tasting bread I’ve made with the artisan recipe yet, so something was working right!

I’m excited to try even more recipes with the scale (I’ve also had great success with gluten-free recipes!), and you’ll hopefully be seeing more metric measurements here in the future (don’t worry, I’ll still give you cups and TBSPs!).

Hopefully, once I’ve got more practice under my belt, I will be able to share with you what I’ve learned about how to use a scale and the metric system in your baking.

But back to the sliders. If you’re not convinced about the merits of artisan bread dough, don’t worry: pretty much any bread or roll recipe will work in the same way. The trick is more in how it’s baked than how it is mixed together and what the exact ingredients are.

Enough already, you say vehemently! OK then, so what is this trick to making sliders?!

Easy. A muffin tin! That’s it. All you have to do is portion out your dough into a muffin pan (fill each cup about halfway), let it rest for 15-20 minutes, then bake it for another 15-20 minutes at 450F.

And voila! Perfect little slider buns. (Awww, so cute!)

Once they’re cooled down a bit, you just remove them from the pan, slice them in half horizontally, and fill them with whatever you desire. Most recently I made roast beef sliders (sure to be a hit with Dad if he’s a beef-eater like my children’s father!), using up some leftover roast beef. I layered the following on the bottom piece of the roll:

  • thick slice of roast beef
  • 1 TBSP of homemade BBQ sauce (I will have to blog about that one soon!)
  • a dill pickle “hamburger slice”
  • half a piece of provolone (or whatever cheese I had at the time)
  • a piece of lettuce from my garden
  • a swirl of spicy brown mustard on the “lid”

Of course, you can put in your slider whatever your little heart (or Dad’s heart) desires. Pretty much anything that goes in a sandwich can go in a slider, just in smaller (and cuter) portions. Some suggestions:

  • pulled pork
  • shredded beef
  • chicken salad
  • tuna salad
  • lunchmeat and cheese
  • BLT
  • crab salad (especially good for a luncheon with guests)
  • etc.

So, to recap:

Sliders are QUICK because they take less time to rise and bake than traditional loaves of bread. They also defrost more quickly, and are quicker to utilize than bread. They’re great for weeknight meals, or lunchboxes.

Sliders are EASY-er to bake than loaves, at least in my opinion. Free-form artisan loaves can be tricky to shape and bake properly, but with the muffin tin, all you have to do is plop the dough into the tin. It does help, I think, to cut a small slit in the top of each slider before baking, otherwise you get a Hershey-kiss-like effect.

Homemade sliders are so CHEAP! Flour, water, yeast, and salt. Pretty basic!

If you use at least half whole grains, and appropriate fillings (veggies like lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, etc.), they can also be very HEALTHY.

Hearth and Soul Hop at the 21st Century Housewife