Spring is here!  I have a yummy recipe for a lunchbox friendly baked risotto. And Spring also that means  1) There really are only a few more weeks of school / day care / play date lunch box packing to go before Christmas!  2)  We can enjoy more family meals outdoors.  So, I am talking all about keeping our food safe when we pack a lunchbox .  YAWN!  Yes, I know it’s a dreadfully dry topic but it is important.  In my true style though, I’m going to make this fun!  Yes, my inner geek is giggling with joy at this challenge.

Here is your fun Food Safety Song (sing it out loud to the tune of jingle bells) – or listen to me sing it terribly here!:

Danger Zone, Danger Zone is ‘tween 5 and 60
Eat your food within 4 hours, or you’ll feel quiet queasy
Danger Zone, Danger Zone is ‘tween 5 and 60
Cook your food and want to store it? better do it safely!
Hold that Temp, Hold that Temp above 60 degrees!
Keep you food piping hot – and it will be yummy!
If it’s been in that danger zone for more than 4 hours –
bin that food, bin that food, bin that food quite promptly!
To store that food, store that food, now you listen carefully.
Drop that Temp,  below 5 degrees –
Make sure that it drops down low within 2 hours.
Once it’s cold, once it’s cold – you have 2 days
Otherwise it must go on it’s merry way – hey!
If it’s frozen, oh so frozen you’ve got a few more weeks.
Check your freezer for more info and put that date on neatly
To reheat, to reheat get that food to so hot
Over 60 the least that it needs to reach.


Here is a pictorial representation of the danger zones for us visual learners: (Image Source: NSW Food Authority)

Here is the same information and some additional tips for achieving food safety in your home by the Food Safety Information Council.

Now WHAT does this crazy lady do when it comes to lunchboxes?

Either I make sure that potentially hazardous food is piping hot as it is packed (knowing we have 4 hours to consume it once it gets into the danger zone).  Or I pack potentially hazardous foods chilled/frozen (knowing again that we have 4 hours to consume it once it gets into the danger zone).  For many lunchbox items ambient storage is fine – as they are not potentially hazardous.  What if lunch time is more than 4 hours after packing?  Well, the aim is to delay the temperature of the foods from entering into the danger too quickly – so this is where investing in good quality insulated lunch carriers and or freezer bricks is important.

However, if you are looking for a comprehensive guide to lunch boxes.  I couldn’t recommend Nikki’s Healthy Lunchbox Guide (from The Kids Menu) – It’s only a $9 investment and contains the essentials for parents wanting to know more about food safety, what to pack in a healthy lunchbox, how to shop a typical super market for these items,  some great recipes to include in the lunchboxes and (most importantly in my opinion) how to read a food packaging label.  As much as I loved studying my Masters in Food Studies – I feel a bit duped on my time and financial investment now, seeing how easily Nikki put lots of that information into a concise parent friendly book!  (Note: I bought the book myself and am just sharing with you my findings – this post is not sponsored).

I had a go at making some of the recipes from Nikki’s book and particularly enjoyed the ginger snap recipe.  I loved that there was no added refined sugar.  The dates make them so sweet and I am a total sucker for the fragrance of fresh ginger in my baking.  As Nikki says – these biscuits don’t even need to be baked you could use the recipe to make little bliss balls – just roll & go!   The pepita bars are a great nut-free muesli bar alternative – next time I will try them with maple syrup and some walnuts though!

Here are some pictures of my attempts at her recipes before they went into the oven for 15 mins:

Healthy Lunchbox Guide by The Kids Menu - Review by Play with Food

I rolled these ginger snaps in oats before baking them. Recipe Credit: The Kids Menu


Pepita Bars from The Healthy Lunchbox Guide by The Kids Menu - review by Play with Food

Pepita Bars that I made using the recipe by The Kids Menu

Also, whilst road testing some the information out of Nikki’s book, I was a bit more mindful of my own lunch box packing and thought I’d share an easy baked bacon and zucchini risotto. I whip this up as I make breakfasts.  This way it cooks whilst the girls and I get ready to go out for the day.  Getting the 3 of us dressed for the day seems to be a much bigger production than the result would often indicate – so I may as well use that time to multitask and bake risotto at the same time.   As I mentioned, I can bake this risotto in the morning, store it in an insulated container and it is still safe for us to eat at lunch if we are out and about.  We are particularly loving this at our frequent mini-picnics at the park.  This recipe was inspired by the One Handed Cook’s version of zucchini and pea baked risotto.


Baked Zucchini and Bacon Risotto
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 adults 2 kids
  • 1 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cups salt reduced chicken stock
  • 2 medium sized zucchinis, grated
  • 3 rashers of bacon, cooked and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  1. Into an oven proof casserole dish, smear all across the bottom the garlic infused olive oil (you can use normal olive oil and cook some crushed garlic with your bacon instead).
  2. Add 1 cup arborio rice, 2 cups salt reduced chicken stock, the zucchini and diced bacon. Mix and add the bay leaves. Add the lid to the caserole dish and place in the oven.
  3. Bake for 40 mins on 180oC.
  4. Stir through a big handful of cheese (I use Parmesan) after you get it out of the oven.
  5. Remove Bay leaves.

Baked Zucchini and Bacon Risotto by Play with Food

What non-sandwich items do you like to take on picnics?  Have you ever baked a risotto?  How do you feel about lunch boxes – love the challenge or loath the chore?

%d bloggers like this: