We may be more than halfway through winter, but the cold’s not done with us yet. Even those of you who live in eternally warm places (lucky ducks!) have been experiencing unseasonably chilly weather. No matter where you find yourself this winter, there’s nothing better on a cold day than a warm lunch. These three fabulously fortifying school lunch ideas are an easy way to pack your child’s thermos with warm eats in no time. Expect a little prep work, but nothing major. And by taking just a minute or two longer than it takes to throw together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she’ll get a cozy midday meal that’ll warm her chilly bones. –Stacie
Hot school lunch ideas: Burrito Bowl

It’s not easy to make a warm lunch from scratch without spending extra time, so leftovers are key. (Plan for extras while cooking dinner to make sure that you’ve got plenty for kiddo’s lunchbox the next day.) Burrito bowls are my favorite way to use leftover rice. Layer the grain with canned black beans that are warmed with salsa and whatever else you have on hand: avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, leftover chicken. This Black Bean Burrito Bowl (above) from from Cookie and Kate adds roasted red peppers, too. YUM!

Hot school lunch ideas: Buttered Pasta with Peas
Cooking a small portion of pasta only takes about 15 minutes. But, if you don’t have that to spare, set a small scoop aside the next time you make pasta for dinner. When it’s time to pack lunch, toss the pasta with melted butter and frozen peas like in this recipe for Macaroni with Buttered Peas from Stone Soup. The heat of the just-melted butter will partially cook the peas; they’ll thaw the rest of the way by lunchtime. Top with salt, pepper and grated Parmesan and, presto, lunch is done! 
Hot school lunch ideas: Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth
Frozen tortellini + chicken broth = a genius hot school lunch that doesn’t even require leftovers. Heat chicken broth in a pot and throw in the tortellini. (If using store-bought broth, especially a kind that’s not particularly low in sodium, take a taste and consider adding water.) Cook until the filled pasta is just warm all the way through and, if you like, add frozen peas or some washed spinach leaves. If you have extra time, you can quickly flavor the broth with garlic like in this easy recipe for Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth from Food and Wine. They say that you shouldn’t cook the tortellini in the broth and, well, technically, they’re right. But I say that it’s a very acceptable cheat for a quick and wholesome school lunch, don’t you think?

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