Back to School Lunch Ideas

Thinking about what to pack in the school lunch bag? Yep, me too. So many lunches loom in our future and I want to get inspired this year. To help me out the chef-tacular team at put together some terrific ideas for the mid-day meal.

The site is written by Jackie Pham, who started the site as a way to interact with other foodies and serve creative healthy meals for her family. This week she’s sharing some of her kid-centric inspirations. We’re highlighting the Croque Madame Sandwich Recipe


Yields: 4
8 slices bread
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups whole milk, warm
2 teaspoons coarse-grain mustard
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used Emmental)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch white pepper, freshly ground
4 slices smoked turkey
8 slices Emmental cheese
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ketchup (optional)
8 flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)

For the bread: Slightly toast the bread for a few seconds without browning it at all. This will prevent the bread from getting soggy after you add the Mornay sauce. It will stay perfect all the way to lunch time if you prepare it in the morning.

For the Mornay sauce: In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour. Whisk for approximately 2 minutes. The flour should absorb the butter instantly and form a paste. Add the warm milk in 3 stages. Increase the heat while constantly stirring for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to low. Add mustard and nutmeg. Mix well, then add the shredded cheese and grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the sauce with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter to keep it from forming a skin. Let the sauce cool completely.

For the sunny side up egg: I use a mini fry pan to make the egg fit the sandwich’s measurements. Brush the pan with a little butter. For each egg, separate the yolk from the white. When the butter is hot and golden, add the egg white. Cook the egg white over high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the yolk in the center of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for about 2 more minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the egg to a plate. Repeat the same procedure with the remaining eggs.

Assembly time: Spread butter on one side of the bread and about a tablespoon (or less) of Mornay sauce on the other side. Place the slice of bread on your work surface; butter side down. Layer the sandwich with a slice of Emmental cheese, a slice of smoked turkey and another slice of cheese. Close the sandwich with a second piece of bread. Brush a hot griddle pan with a little butter. Place the sandwich onto the griddle. Cook until you get grill marks (about 2-3 minutes on each side) over medium heat. Transfer a fried egg to the top of the sandwich. Remove from the pan. Let the croque-madame cool a bit.

Shape the face of a clown. Garnish with ketchup for the mouth and parsley leaves for the eyes.


  • To make Mornay sauce, I always use all the ingredients at the same temperature, so make sure to heat the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds (or in a saucepan), so it’s warm. If you get lumpy pieces in the sauce, don’t hesitate to use a handheld blender.
  • If you have Mornay sauce left-over, don’t discard it. Just thin it with a little milk and use it as a sauce for your pasta.
  • I used smoked turkey, but any cold meat is fine.
  • You can use any kind of cheese that is stringy when melted, such as Gruyère, Comté or Beaufort.
  • My favorite tool for grating hard cheese is the Microplane fine grater.

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