A Bite Inspired by… School Lunch:
Are your kids feeling uninspired by their school lunches? Want to give them a hot, nutritious meal that will fuel them for the school day? This hot, melty Cheesy Vegan Cauliflower Lasagna is your solution! It’s delicious, full of healthy ingredients, and made in a thermos, so it stays warm all day! This post also includes variations on the recipe, so your kids will never get bored. It’s so good and easy to make, you’ll want it for your lunch too!
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Did you know that what your child eats for lunch at school can effect his or her learning? Numerous studies over the past 10 years, including this one discussed in U.S. News, have shown that the nutritional quality of school lunch affects the academic performance of students.
I’ve personally found that lunches for kids not only have to be nutritious, but fun and exciting. Kids will eat fruits, vegetables, and other “scary” foods, if they’re packaged in an inspiring way. When kids become uninspired by their lunches, they just aren’t as excited for the school day, which can translate into boredom in the classroom. Since the cornerstone of my blog is inspiring everyone, big or small, through food, I’ve dedicated this blog post to helping you solve food boredom for kids.
But, you don’t have any kids, Alyssa! How do you know all this? The answer is simple: I was a kid myself once too! I know what lunches motivated me to do well and which ones just made me shut down. Personally, when I was in elementary school, I became much more excited for the school day, when I had a hot, yummy lunch to look forward to rather than just another PB & J sandwich.
When I was in 5th grade, my mom started sending me to school with this cheesy lasagna made with tofu, vegan cheese, and cauliflower. She packed it in a thermos, so I would have a hot, comforting lunch. At first, I was sort of embarrassed. The other kids had snack cakes, Lunchables, and Oreos in their lunches. What would they think of my veggie filled lunch? It turned out, the second my friends saw my gooey, melty, steaming hot lasagna, they all wanted a bite. My friend, Elizabeth, actually offered to trade me 3 of her Little Debbie cakes for a few bites of my vegetables! Amazing, right?
I know school lunch can be tough. You work and take care of the kids all day, you cook dinner for your family, and the last thing you want to do is make a complicated lunch. I get it. That’s why this Cheesy Vegan Cauliflower Lasagna is no harder to make than a PB & J sandwich, while being much more exciting and nutritious. The only ingredients you need are pictured below!
Yes—this recipe is vegan, but don’t underestimate the power a cheesy, hot dish can have on kids. Most of them will enjoy things like tofu and cauliflower, if it’s in the guise of a delicious lasagna.
This Cheesy Vegan Cauliflower Lasagna is ooey, gooey deliciousness! It’s honestly so, so good! You’ll want it for your lunch too (go ahead– it’s not just for the kids!) You start with an insulated food thermos to keep the lasagna hot until lunchtime. Thermoses are honestly the best thing to ever happen to packed school lunches. Since kids don’t generally have access to a microwave at school, a thermos allows them to bring a hot lunch from home that will stay warm the whole day! I used the THERMOS FOOGO Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel 10-Ounce Food Jar. If you use a different-sized thermos, just adapt the ingredient amounts, as necessary.
The cauliflower gets mashed small, so it’s barely noticeable, but still provides a nice, noodle-like texture. The tofu is pulsed in the food processor with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, so that it mimics ricotta. The texture and taste between ricotta and the tofu is so similar that the kids won’t even be able to tell the difference (you probably won’t either!) This recipe is not only super healthy and vegan, it’s also gluten-free and nut-free too!
Next, there’s a generous sprinkling of vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya cheese) and then you top it all off with your favorite tomato sauce. Part of what makes this recipe so easy is that only the tomato sauce has to be hot (but it has to be REALLY hot!) All the other ingredients can go in cold because the hot tomato sauce and the insulation from the thermos will warm them up! The hot tomato sauce melts the cheese, so that the lasagna is gooey and still warm at lunch time. Mmmmm… Plus, the kids will have fun helping to assemble the lasagna and make it their own. You can also use real cheese (real mozzarella and ricotta) for this recipe, if you would like, but remember that it’s never too early to introduce your kids to new foods. You may find that tofu becomes a new favorite!
The best thing about this recipe? It’s not just one school lunch for your kids—it’s many school lunches! I promised you a solution to food boredom, so I’m not just going to leave you with one, measly recipe. You can make this recipe for your kids several times a week with different variations and they won’t even notice because the flavors are totally different. Feel free to come up with your own variations on the recipe based on your kids’ favorite flavors or use one of these:
- Pizza- add vegan (or real) pepperoni and olives
- Mexican-Style- replace the tofu with refried beans, the mozzarella with cheddar, and the tomato sauce with salsa
- Garden- add baby spinach (the spinach will wilt nicely by lunchtime)
- Meat Lovers- add leftover chicken or ground beef for an extra protein boost
- Asian-Style- replace tomato sauce with teriyaki sauce (but use half the amount), omit the cheese and add spinach, add sesame seeds to the tofu instead of Italian seasoning
- Broccoli Cheddar- replace cauliflower with broccoli, replace mozzarella with cheddar, replace tomato sauce with a cream-based sauce (use a cashew cream sauce for a vegan option)
The possibilities are endless. With my cauliflower lasagna recipe, your kids will always have an exciting, healthy school lunch to look forward to.
The takeaway? School lunch can make or break your child’s school day. Why not send them to school with an inspiring, healthy lunch that’s also easy for you to make? Your kids will have a great day, and so will you! Enjoy!
P.S. Looking for more lunch inspiration? Check out my healthy and flavorful Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Pasta inspired by Work Lunch!
- ½ cup steamed cauliflower florets
- ½ cup firm tofu, cubed
- ¼ cup of your favorite tomato sauce
- ¼ cup vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Daiya)
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 (10 ounce) insulated food thermos (see note)
- Add tofu, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Pulse until the tofu has the texture of ricotta cheese.
- Smash the cauliflower into small pieces with the back of a fork.
- Heat tomato sauce on the stove or in the microwave until piping hot. (see note)
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of cauliflower to the bottom of the thermos.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of the tofu on top of the cauliflower.
- Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of vegan mozzarella on top.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot tomato sauce.
- Repeat steps 4-7 until the thermos is filled.
- Add a little extra vegan mozzarella on the top of the last sauce layer. Sprinkle with a bit of Italian seasoning.
- Close thermos and seal tightly. By lunchtime, the hot sauce will make the cheese melty and gooey. Enjoy!
It’s SUPER important that the tomato sauce is extremely hot when you put it in the thermos. That’s what’s going to make the cheese melt and keep the lasagna gooey and warm until lunchtime.
To ensure that this lunch is nut-free, check the label on your vegan cheese to make sure it doesn't contain nuts.
See post for recipe variations!