This is the first installment in an occasional series showing different ways to pack lunch box staples in kids’ lunches.
Do your kids love ham? Mine do! I buy ham for their lunches two or three times a month and it shows up in their lunch boxes almost every week. It’s a tasty and versatile ingredient that can be presented in lots of different ways. In this post I’ve gathered a dozen different ways I’ve packed ham into my boys’ lunches over the years to give you a little inspiration for your own lunch packing. You can see all the ways ham has ever gone into their lunches by clicking the “ham” tag in the Bento Box Gallery.
Not a ham eater? Most of these techniques will work with turkey too!
Spirals are probably my all-time favorite way to prepare ham for a lunch box. To make them, I lay a slice of ham on a cutting board, then I cut the ham into four long strips. I roll each strip up jellyroll style and then stand it on end in the lunch box. Sometimes I’ll roll two strips together to make a big fat spiral and other times I’ll put a piece of cheese in the mix and roll it up for a contrast. Usually I just put the spirals in the box by themselves but sometimes I thread them onto decorative picks like the leaf picks you see in the photo up above. I love the way it looks and it’s easy for kids just pick them up and pop them in their mouths.
Put a Ring on It:
A variation on the spiral is to take whole pieces of ham, roll them up into long tubes and then slide them through the hole in a decorative ring. I’m using Star Wars rings here but we also have robots, superheroes, etc. You can find rings in almost any theme you can think of at cupcake supply stores, online bento shops and at Amazon.
Wrap It Around Something Else:
You can also wrap long strips of ham around other tasty morsels. In the lunch above I wrapped ham strips around big fat pretzel sticks. The kids pick up the whole pretzel stick and eat it along with the ham at lunchtime. If you wanted to get fancy you could spread cream cheese, honey mustard or Boursin cheese on the ham strips before you wrap them around the pretzels.
You can also do this with cheese.
Or you can go all retro and spread cream cheese on the ham strip before you wrap it around a pickle. It’s just like you’re at a party in the 70’s!
Let’s move away from deli ham for a minute and talk about ham steaks. My favorite way to send ham steaks — and my kids favorite way to eat them — is to cut a nice fat ham steak into cubes. The lunch above was packed when my son, Augie, was a toddler so the cubes are fairly small but you can make them larger for an older kid.
Sometimes we like to kick ham cubes up a notch and make what we like to call “ham-mers”. This is something my son Wyatt thought up a few years ago. All you do to make them is poke skinny pretzel sticks into large chunks of ham. They look kind of like hammers. Get it? Get it?
Let’s deviate a little bit from our wide strips of ham, by going crazy and cutting them into narrow strips. I usually cut my ham slices in half before I cut them into thin ribbons so they’re not too long to eat easily. This is a great preparation for smaller children though I’ve found my older kids like to eat them this way too as long as they have a fork.
Ah geez! I’m back to wide strips of ham again. But…but…they’re so versatile! For this one, I folded those strips of ham back and forth onto themselves accordian style, then slid them onto decorative picks. I think they look kind of like that old-timey ribbon candy — ham flavored ribbon candy!
Ham roses are another one I do a lot. Get your ham strips (yeah, yeah — I know), then layer them one by one around the edges of a silicone baking cup. Overlap the ends each time you add a piece of ham, working in from the outside to the inside. For the last piece, roll the ham up into a spiral, then let it unfurl a little when you place it in the middle of the cup.
One of the fancier bento tricks is to make fluffy ham flowers. I have to admit that I’m not super adept at this technique (and it’s not being shown off very well here) but with a little practice I’ve managed to get the hang of it. AnnaTheRed has an excellent step-by-step tutorial showing how to make these.
A Good Old Ham Sandwich:
I have a feeling this idea isn’t going to blow your mind or anything, but it’s worth noting that sometimes a good ol’ ham sandwich is the best lunch there is. Put it on white bread, add a thin layer of mayo, maybe a little cheese and you’ve got something most kids –even picky ones — are going to like.
A Fancy Ham Sandwich:
While we’re making sandwiches, consider making a jambon beurre sandwich. See how I used a French name there? It must be super fancy, right? Well, not really. A jambon beurre is just ham and butter on a baguette. So simple, but sooooo delicious. It’s extra tasty if you use higher fat European butter.
Prosciutto (aka: Fancy Ham):
For all of the rest of these ideas I’ve used regular American deli ham, but it’s worth thinking about changing that up and packing something a little more sophisticated like prosciutto or Spanish jamon Serrano. I was really surprised when my kids tried prosciutto and immediately expressed their love for it. They like it wrapped around sliced cantaloupe but they also enjoy it on crackers or sliced baguette. Worth a shot, right?
What do you like to do with ham?
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