Aug 29, 2019

Lets’ Talk About Lunches

By MaryAnn Miano

It’s time to think outside the (lunch) box this year when sending your little ones back to school. Packing a superb lunch is not without its challenges — you’ve got to figure out how to prevent sandwiches from going mushy and fruit from bruising. You’ve also got to make sure you pack things your kids will love to eat, while at the same time, keeping the food high on the nutritional scale. If you prepare in advance with some brown bag basics, you can break out of the lunch box rut by offering foods beyond the standard sandwich.

Utilize leftovers, both from dinner and breakfast, to make things easy on you but tasty for your tots. Slice seasonal fruits and precut veggies into containers so kids will be more apt to eat them. Remember a thermos to keep certain foods hot and a lunch-box sized ice pack to keep their sandwiches and fruits cool. Don’t forget a drink and to also add a satisfying snack. Give them a hand sanitizer to use before they touch their food. And most importantly, tuck a note into their lunch box from Mom or Dad asking about their day. It will make them look forward to lunch in a more exciting way.

Here are some lunch box ideas you may want to explore to get the lunches going this September:

RICOTTA & JAM PANCAKE SANDWICH

3 tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese

4 pancakes, 2” in diameter (leftover from breakfast)

1 tablespoon jam (of child’s choice)

Spread the ricotta evenly onto two of the pancakes; top with the jam, then top with the remaining pancakes. Insert toothpick through pancake sandwich to hold together (optional) and tuck into plastic container.

PIZZA WRAP

Spread a flour tortilla with a thin layer of pizza sauce or tomato paste. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 400° F just long enough to melt the cheese. Add a few toppings, like salami, ham, mushrooms or black olives. Roll up the tortilla into a tight cylinder.

CLASSIC TURKEY CLUB

3 slices whole-grain bread

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 slices ripe avocado (optional)

3 slices roasted turkey breast

Salt and ground pepper

2 butter lettuce leaves

4 slices tomato

2 slices cooked bacon

Lightly toast the bread. Spread 2 of the slices with the mayonnaise, and smash the avocado, if using, on top of the third slice. Fold the turkey slices to fit on top of the avocado-spread slice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a slice on top of the turkey, mayonnaise side up. Pile on the lettuce leaves and tomato slices. Arrange the bacon slices on the tomatoes. Top with the remaining bread slice, mayonnaise side down. Press gently.

Insert 3 toothpicks deep into the layers, centering them on the sandwich in the shape of a triangle. Using a sharp knife, cut the sandwich around the toothpicks into 3 similar-sized pieces. Slip carefully into a sandwich bag or arrange in a container, and seal tightly. Refrigerate.

“BREAKFAST” COOKIES

1 large banana, mashed

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup old-fashioned oats

¼ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flaxseed

¼ cup powdered milk or vanilla protein powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup add-ins:  raisins, chocolate chips, and/or dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In the large mixing bowl, mix the banana, peanut butter, honey and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine the oats, flour, flax, powdered milk, cinnamon and baking soda. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until everything is combined evenly. Fold in the add-ins, up to ¾ cup.

Using a ¼ cup measuring cup or scoop, drop dough scoops 3 inches apart onto lined baking sheets.  Using your hands, flatten your dough scoops to about ½ inch tall. This will ensure even baking.

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an air-tight container or resealable plastic bag for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.