Add extra interest to school lunches this year

Spice up brown-bag meals with fresh ingredients, inspiration from packaged meals or unexpected items

 

School is about to begin, which should get parents thinking about nutritious lunches for their youngsters.

After all, brown-bag school lunches can be boring, leading children to swap foods or toss items in the garbage can.

Spice up the meal a little.

If you always pack a sandwich on white bread, try whole wheat.

Better yet, use crackers, mini-waffles, rice cakes, mini-croissants, pita bread, small bagels or tortillas.

Use a cookie cutter to create sandwiches in fun shapes.

Depending on the age of your student, pack the individual sandwich ingredients in separate containers and let your youngster assemble the sandwich or eat each item on its own.

You could even thread ingredients onto toothpicks, skewers or popsicle sticks, creating kabobs.

Use prepackaged lunches found in grocery stores as inspiration for your meal.

Pack the same type of snack foods, but use healthier options. Pack salsa, hummus, bean or fruit dips with baked chips, vegetables and fruits.

Keep cold foods cool with an ice pack, or you can include a frozen water bottle or juice box with the lunch to do double duty.

Make a snack mix with dried fruits, unsalted nuts, crackers and pretzels.

Add a cereal bar for a quick snack.

As the weather cools, pack a warm meal.

Place hot soup in a thermos and send along garnishes such as bacon bits, shredded cheese and crackers.

Or fill a thermos with boiling water and add a hot dog.

Place a bun in the lunchbox along with ketchup and mustard.

The hot dog will still be warm at lunch time.

Don’t forget to add a personal touch, such as a note or sticker, to the lunchbox.

Following are some lunch options from busycooks.about.com, ilunchbox.com, idea-queen.com and foodnetwork.com.

 

busycooks.about.com

Applesauce Granola Cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon molasses
1 egg
1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
2 cups flour
2 cups apple cinnamon granola
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Buttercream frosting, optional

    In large bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, vanilla, maple extract, molasses and egg. Mix until well blended. Add applesauce and blend well.
    Stir in flour, granola, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and mix well. Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets, placing dough  about 2 inches apart.
    Bake in 375-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies spring back when lightly touched in center. Cool 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheets.
    Frost with buttercream frosting, if desired.
    Makes 42 cookies.

 

Chicken Chowder

3 bacon slices
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup refrigerated hash brown potatoes
1 cup frozen corn
6 ounces white meat chicken

    Cook bacon in saucepan until browned and crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside.
    Add onion to drippings in pan and cook about 4 minutes, until tender, stirring frequently. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook 1 minute longer.
    Add milk, then cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Add potatoes and corn. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until potato is tender.
    Add chicken and heat thoroughly. Pour into thermos and seal.
    Sprinkle the crumbled bacon over each serving.
    Makes 4 servings.

 

 

Chicken Pesto Croissant Sandwich

6 croissants
2 cups sliced, cooked chicken
1/3 cup basil pesto
1/4 cup mayonnaise

    Split croissants in half lengthwise. Spread the bottoms with pesto and the tops with mayonnaise. Fill with the sliced chicken and put together.
    Makes 4 to 6 sandwiches.

 

 

Salmon Veggie Wrap Sandwiches

1 15-ounce can red salmon, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup green taco sauce
1 cup grape tomatoes
2 avocados, cubed
1 cup diced pepper jack cheese
8 whole wheat tortillas
2 cups butter lettuce

    In large bowl, combine salmon, beans, yogurt and taco sauce. Mix gently.
    Add tomatoes, avocados and cheese and mix well.
    Make wrap sandwiches with tortillas and lettuce. Slice in half crosswise and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for as long as 5 hours.

 

 

ilunchbox.com

Chicken Pockets With Raspberry-Peach Salsa

For dressing:
1/3 cup orange juice
1-1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 peaches, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons fresh, chopped mint
2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained
For filling:
2 cups boneless, skinless chicken, cooked and sliced, cubed or shredded
4 pita pockets
4 large leaves lettuce or 1 cup mixed baby greens
4 teaspoons mayo

    Whisk together orange juice and balsamic vinegar. Add peaches, mint and raspberries and mix carefully until combined.
    Spread 1 teaspoon of mayo into each of the pita pockets, then line one side with lettuce. Put about 1/2 cup of chicken in each pocket along with a 1/8 cup of the salsa. Do not overfill the pockets or they will split.
    Makes 4 servings.

 

 

idea-queen.com

Veggie Pizza

Refrigerated crescent roll dough
Cream cheese
Ranch dip mix
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Green onions
Carrots

    Spread crescent roll dough out on a greased cookie sheet, making a crust for the pizza. Bake as suggested. Let cool completely.
    In a bowl, mix cream cheese and ranch dip mix. Spread onto crust. Cut up vegetables and sprinkle on the pizza.
    Cut into individual serving slices and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

 

 

food network

Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad

8 ounces bow-tie pasta, preferably whole grain
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
1 cup shelled edamame, thawed if frozen
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt

    Cook the pasta as directed. Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking. Let cool.
    In a large bowl, toss cooled pasta with corn, edamame, bell pepper and carrots. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and toss to coat. Add the Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss again and season to taste.

 

Crunchy Turkey Salad Sandwiches

1-1/4 pounds smoked turkey breast, diced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup chopped scallions
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
8 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped, optional
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
Soft whole-grain sandwich bread, for serving

    Place the turkey in a medium mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining ingredients, except the bread,  and combine.
    Serve on sandwich bread.

 

Take-To-School Taco Bar

4 thin slices roast beef
4 6-inch soft flour tortillas
1/3 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup guacamole
1/4 cup salsa
2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt, optional
Mini bottle hot sauce

    Fold 1 slice roast beef inside each of 2 soft tortillas and sprinkle with cheese.
    Pack guacamole, salsa, sour cream and other favorite toppings in small bags or other containers. Seal.

 

 

Veggie-Stack Pita Pockets

1 15-ounce can chickpeas or white beans, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup grated manchego or pecorino Romano cheese
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced, or 1/2 bell pepper, seeded and sliced
10 to 12 whole-wheat pita minis, lightly toasted

    Combine chickpeas, water, cheese, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes in a food processor and puree until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. While the motor is running, pour in the olive oil and process until fully incorporated and velvety. Season with pepper, to taste.
    Spoon a scant tablespoon bean spread into toasted pitas. Add avocado and cucumber slices, or other vegetables of choice and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
    Wrap in parchment or butcher paper, and pack in a plastic container to keep from getting squished. Pack in a lunch box and send to school.
    Pack remaining bean spread in air-tight container and use as a dip for vegetables or pita chips.

 

 

Panko Chicken Nuggets

1 large egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt
Pepper
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
Ranch, honey mustard or barbecue sauce for dipping, optional
Carrot, cucumber and or celery sticks, optional

    Whisk egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Soak chicken pieces in egg mixture.
    In another shallow bowl, combine panko with paprika, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Lift chicken from buttermilk, letting excess liquid drain back into the bowl, then dip into panko and turn to coat on all sides.
    Carefully place chicken in oil and cook about 5 minutes, until pieces are golden, crispy and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to cool.
    Place in sealed container. Pack in a lunch box with vegetables and ranch, honey mustard or barbecue sauce for dipping.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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