11-19-13-A JM Hirsch Resized
J.M. Hirsch

7 Ways a Dirty Skillet Can Make Lunch Packing Easier

On a busy morning, a dirty skillet tends to be nothing but yet another annoyance to deal with.

You fried an egg or made some bacon, now you need to clean up. You could pop the pan in the sink to let it soak all day… Because nothing is more welcoming after a long day of work than a sink full of dirty dishes, right?

Truth is, I can’t help you with cleanup. But I have learned that a dirty skillet can be my friend when it comes to packing my son’s lunch.

It works like this: If the skillet is already dirty – perhaps even still hot – I might as well plan lunch in a way that makes use of it. This way I dirty fewer dishes, save a little time, maybe even make use of leftovers. All win-win on a busy morning.

So here are my top seven ways to make use of a dirty skillet when packing lunch:

1. Grilled sandwiches: As soon as you’re done making breakfast, slap together whatever sort of sandwich you like and pop it in the pan. Just about any sandwich gets more delicious with grilling, from the traditional ham and cheese to the unexpected PB&J. Trust me on that last one. Toasting the bread also helps keep it from getting mushy.

2. Stir-fry: Pop whatever veggies and meat you’ve got (even better if they’re leftovers) into the skillet with a splash of oil. When they start to get hot, add some leftover rice (or a bag of heat-and-eat rice) and a dash of soy sauce. Done. Pack it in a thermos.

3. Hash: Start with a potato (sweet or regular, doesn’t matter). Dice it up (or use bagged diced or frozen shredded) and brown it in the pan with a bit of oil or cooking spray. Now add whatever leftover meat you’ve got – chopped steak, shredded chicken, hacked up roast, whatever. When everything is yummy looking, season with salt and pepper, then toss it in a thermos.

By J.M. Hirsch

By J.M. Hirsch

4. Grilled apples: Slice an apple in half and scoop out the core (a melon baller works great). Sprinkle the cut sides with cinnamon-sugar, then place them in the skillet over low heat. Now walk away and deal with your morning insanity. In about 5 to 10 minutes, you’ll have caramelized, warm deliciousness that can be packed hot or cold. Think: baked apple.

5. Fried bananas: Peel a couple bananas, then slice them in half lengthwise. Pop them in a skillet with a spritz of cooking spray. As they start to get soft, sprinkle in some cinnamon-sugar. You can pack them warm in a thermos or cool in a regular container. Use as a sweet dip for tortilla chips or pita bread, or let them cool and dump over yogurt.

6. Grilled cheese: Not the sandwich. Check the grocer’s cheese section for something called halloumi, or Greek grilling cheese. It looks like feta, but it doesn’t fall apart or melt when heated. Pop a slab in your skillet and brown it on both sides. Pack it in a thermos and accompany with sides of pita bread, hummus, and some veggies for a Mediterranean-style lunch.

7. Quesadillas: Slap whatever fillings you’ve got (leftover meat, deli meat, veggies, etc.) between two flour tortillas (add a bit of cheese on either side of the fillings), then heat it in the skillet over low until toasty and lightly browned. Cut into wedges and pack with guacamole or salsa on the side.

More amazing lunch box ideas:

- 8 Lunch Box Sliders Kids Will Love
- Healthy Foods to Beat the Holiday Sugar Blues
- 6 Tricks to Packing Cool Lunches Your Kids Will (Actually) Eat


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