Fall is here, and this season doesn’t have to be all about pumpkin spice everything. The warm days and crisp evenings of fall provide a perfect backdrop for all sorts of fun seasonal activities. From visiting apple orchards and pumpkin patches with family or friends on sunny days to cozying up with a bowl of soup on cool, rainy days, this time of year is wonderful for all sorts of things. Picnics in the woods or at the park are lots of fun, too!
No matter what you do this fall, you’ll need some food to fuel your adventures. And why stop for fast food or grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when you can prepare tasty fall lunches that are as fun as they are flavorful? Keep reading to discover some fun fall lunch ideas you’ll love. Many of these recipes are great to make and store in freezer storage containers until you can enjoy them.
1. Instant Pot Vegetable Chili
This time of year is about comfort food and your favorite hearty foods. That doesn’t mean you need to overindulge, though! This hearty vegetable chili comes together in minutes and is nearly as healthy as it is delicious.
- 1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- One medium onion, diced
- One medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- One medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- Two medium sweet or three small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- One teaspoon paprika
- 1.5 tablespoons chili powder
- Salt and pepper
- Two ⅔ cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup tomato sauce (canned is fine!)
- ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
- One 15-ounce can of low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- One 15-ounce can of low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
Prepare all ingredients and set your Instant Pot to “saute.” Once it is preheated, carefully remove the top and add the olive oil. Let heat for about 30 seconds with the lid off, and then add the onions and saute for three to four minutes or until soft and fragrant. Next, add the garlic, peppers, sweet potatoes, paprika, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly, then wait about three minutes to add the broth, tomato sauce, and quinoa. Stir again to make sure everything is well mixed.
Replace and seal the lid on the pot and press “cancel.” Ensure the steam release handle is in the “sealing” position before pressing the “pressure cook.” Check to ensure it’s set to “high pressure,” and set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, carefully switch the steam release handle to “venting.” Avoid putting your hand or any other body part over it to prevent steam burns. Turn the Instant Pot off once the float valve drops. Remove the top carefully, taking great care to avoid burning yourself.
Test the sweet potatoes to make sure they are fork-tender. If not, pressure cool for a few minutes longer. Once fully cooked, pour in the beans and stir to combine. Replace and seal the lid, then let sit (with the Instant Pot still turned off) for about 15 minutes to thicken the chili and warm up the beans. Once cool enough to heat, enjoy with your favorite toppings like sour cream, cheese, Greek yogurt, or freshly chopped cilantro. Refrigerate in airtight food storage containers for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.
This chili packs well, too. If you’d like to take some to work or pack it in your child’s lunch, fill an insulated thermos or tumbler with boiling water. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then pour the water and spoon the chili. Seal your insulated drinkware tightly, and you or your child will enjoy a warm, satisfying lunch.
2. Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
Source: Nazarenko LLC/Shutterstock.com
This salad is anything but basic. It’s packed with the colors and flavors of fall, and it’s super tasty without being overly indulgent. You can easily substitute different ingredients to create a flavorful salad that suits your taste.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- One small to medium-sized butternut squash, diced
- One large kale leaf with the stem removed
- ½ cup cranberries
- ¼ cup crumbled goat or vegan cheese
- ¼ cup walnuts
- Salt and pepper
Prepare your quinoa according to the package instructions, substituting the stock for water for extra flavor. Let cool completely. While the quinoa is cooking, drizzle olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Remove the cooked squash from the pan and set aside to cool. Add more olive oil and the kale leaf to the same pan. Wilt slightly. To keep the kale slightly crisp, don’t let it wilt for more than one to two minutes. Remove the kale from the pan, roughly chop, and set aside to cool.
Add walnuts to the same pan without any additional olive oil. Toast on low heat for a few minutes, taking care not to burn them. Remove from the pan and let cool completely. Once all the ingredients have cooled completely, combine them with the cranberries, goat, or cultured vegan cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Gently mix and enjoy!
3. Slow Cooker Tomato Soup
Who doesn’t love a hot bowl of soup on a rainy fall afternoon? With this quick and easy recipe, you can whip up a batch of creamy tomato soup you and your family will surely enjoy. Add a grilled cheese sandwich for dipping, and you’ll have the quintessential fall lunch.
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- One 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- One teaspoon basil
- One teaspoon oregano
- Two tablespoons butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, and oregano to your slow cooker and stir well. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four to six hours. Add the butter and cream and mix well. Blend well using an immersion blender. Alternatively, carefully strain the soup and puree the chunks in a blender before transferring it back into the slow cooker.
Don’t go with one of your old standbys the next time you’re hungry. Try one of the delicious fall recipes above instead!