TORONTO, August 16, 2022 – “Lunch packing is kind of a drag, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Aviva Wittenberg, a Toronto mom and self-taught foodie who has written her first cookbook called LUNCHBOX: 75+ Easy and Delicious Recipes for Lunch on the Go.
Wittenberg knows all about packing lunches. Seven years ago she started doing a daily post on Instagram to show what she packed for lunch.
“It started off with posting what I packed for my kids for lunch and developed from there as I posted what we all enjoyed for lunch each day. Then I was approached by Appetite by Penguin Random House to see if I had ever thought about writing a cookcook,” said Wittenberg.
Bagged lunches have certainly evolved since the time I was a kid and your go-to lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bologna sandwich. An egg salad sandwich was a real treat, but wrapped in waxed paper and packed in a paper bag, it often was so squished and gooey it ended up in the garbage. Soup or salad for lunch? Unheard of! Vegetables? Maybe the odd carrot stick.
“When I talk to people about the book they always share with me what they took to school for lunch as a kid,” laughs Wittenberg. “This book is not a kid’s lunch book—it’s really geared to adult lunches. There are however several recipes with happy face icons and a “Great for Kids” notation. And all of the recipes are nut-free. There are also vegan and vegetarian options, freezer-friendly ideas and recipes for hot and cold weather. My two daughters, age 17 and 14 were my food tasters and they like the recipes in the book.”
LUNCHBOX contains over 75 fail-safe recipes for delicious lunchboxes and bowls along with strategies and tips. Every recipe has a “Get Ahead Tip” to make meal prep a snap.
“I am too busy in the morning to cook, so this is really more about assembling and packaging the foods you have prepared ahead of time,” states Wittenberg. “Many of the recipes can be made a few days ahead and some can be put in the freezer and just defrosted as needed. The book also contains multi-week meal plans to help you plan and streamline meal preparation.”
You will discover chapters on Soups, Sandwiches, Warm Bowls, Cold Bowls, Handpies, Brunch for Lunch as well as some sweet treats to pack for an afternoon pick-me-up. Bacon & Egg Handpies is an intriguing recipe found in the Breakfast for Lunch chapter, as is the Sweet Potato and Onion Frittata which can be served cold or heated in a microwave. Pumpkin Spice Waffles sound divine (take a small container of maple syrup for a real treat). Heirloom Tomato, Corn & Pesto Flatbread is ideal when fresh tomatoes and corn are in season (or anytime of the year) while Farro Nicoise Salad is a hearty and good-looking lunch year round.
The chapter with Lunch Bowls may encourage you to step out of your lunch comfort zone and try something new like the recipe for Curried Sweet Potatoes, Chickpeas and Spinach Bowl, Moroccan Spice Stew, Dumpling Noodle Bowl, Chicken Pot Pie Stew and Mushroom Stroganoff.
It took Wittenberg 18 months to develop and test the recipes for the book. “My three favourite recipes are the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, because they are so good and simple to make and freeze well and you just pop them into the toaster oven as needed; the Curried Sweet Potato Soup, which is my version of a soup I had at a museum in London, England and I make it on a regular basis, and the Rice Pudding Muffins which is a tribute to my mom’s baked Scottish Rice Pudding so the muffin has all the flavours of rice pudding and a nice texture from the rice. The muffins served warm with peanut butter are out of this world!”
Wittenberg grew up in Toronto and learned to cook her mother’s side and honed her skills cooking for her own family. She is an advocate for food education, teaching children to grow and cook their own food and takes pleasure teaching her own children about the world and the diversity of food available.
“When I was a kid my mom went out of her way to pack a great lunch,” recalls Wittenberg. “She went all over the city, buying nice bread from the bakery when all I wanted was a peanut butter sandwich and a Joe Louis! Now, knowing how much love and care she put into making our lunches, I truly appreciate the effort.”
Flash forward and now Wittenberg prepares lunches for her family with the same care. “When the kids were younger I ran an edible garden grown in milk crates at their school so there was always fresh produce available. Often what kids eat for lunch is a reflection of their diverse cultures. We are so lucky to live in Toronto where just 10 minutes from my house there are the most amazing grocery stores and restaurants offering every kind of food imaginable. I love to eat and travel and to experiment with food. I am a self-taught foodie who has always cooked since the time I was a child.”
LUNCHBOX has “Packing Tips” on how to pack a balanced and beautiful lunchbox. “There are some fantastic lunch boxes and gear available–invest in some beautiful ceramic bowls to make lunch time feel special,” suggests Wittenberg. “The book is really about helping people get out of the lunch rut for good as they try new and interesting foods.”
Whether your children are headed back to school or you are back to the office several days a week, LUNCHBOX will surely inspire you to shake up your lunch routine for the better!
LUNCHBOX: 75+ Easy and Delicious Recipes for Lunches on the Go is published by Appetite by Random House ®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Copyright © 2022 Aviva Wittenberg, Photography by Aviva Wittenberg. Available at bookstores as of August 16, 2022.
recipes to follow…
by Laurie Wallace-Lynch