by Deri Reed
"A sandwich? Again?" Who hasn’t heard those words coming from a bored grade-schooler who’s looking for a little excitement at lunchtime? Well, guess what—there are a lot of fun ways to spice up your little ones’ day with easy lunchbox recipes.
Sandwiches and Beyond
Sure, a regular sandwich is just fine, but it can get pretty boring day after day. When coming up with lunch ideas, think about going beyond regular sliced bread and build a sandwich from raisin bread, whole grain pita rounds, rice cakes, corn muffins, or bagels. Or take it a step further and deconstruct the typical lunchbox recipes by separating the protein from the bread or crackers—kids love putting together their own food anyway. It makes it more like a snack, and we all know how much kids love snacks. Try some of these combos for easy lunches:
Peanut butter or hummus with crackers
Tuna salad with pita bread triangles to use as scoops
Cheddar cheese and apple slices with crackers on the side
String cheese and ham bites with crackers on the side
Another favorite lunchbox recipe is ham roll-ups: Spread cream cheese on ham (or salami or baloney) and roll up (wrap in plastic to keep it together). And all kids adore the timeless favorite, "Ants on a Log." Just spread peanut butter on celery sticks, then dot with raisins.
(When making any of these perishable lunches, be sure to pack in an insulated box and include an ice pack—or even better, use a frozen juice box to keep the lunch chilled; the juice should thaw enough by lunchtime for sipping.)
OK, I’m not talking about a salad of baby greens dressed with Dijon vinaigrette—we all know that most kids aren’t going to go for that. But how about a healthy lunch pasta salad made with a favorite pasta shape along with cheese, bits of deli ham or turkey, carrot slivers and other tolerable vegetables. Or try a couscous or rice salad, studded with raisins, nuts and chunks of chicken. And I don’t know any kid who would turn down macaroni salad. Try this easy recipe:
Creamy Macaroni Salad
This has been a favorite in my family since my son was so young he ate it with his fingers. Make a dressing of equal parts reduced-fat sour cream and mayonnaise, then add pickle relish, a tiny bit of mustard, salt and enough milk to thin it out. Toss the dressing with cooled cooked macaroni, cubes of mozzarella cheese, diced ham, and tiny broccoli florets (or whatever cheese, cold cuts, and vegetables you have in your fridge).
Breakfast for Lunch
Who says you can only eat breakfast in the morning? Think about sending some traditional breakfast foods to school with your child. The simplest would be a bowl of granola with a container of milk and a banana, or even a bagel and cream cheese. Go a little bit fancier and pack thawed frozen waffles spread with peanut butter. For truly comforting lunch, pack hot oatmeal in a Thermos and include some maple syrup and fresh fruit for mixing in. You might also want to consider packing a container of yogurt with fruit and crackers, slices of leftover quiche or frittata, or a hard-boiled egg.
Some kids really enjoy hot food at lunch. My son, who passes by most vegetables, will happily slurp up most any kind of soup, even veggie-filled minestrone. So think about investing in a Thermos that you can fill with chicken noodle soup (or any other favorite), and add some bread and fruit. A wide-mouthed Thermos is also good for last night’s stew, fried rice and other rice dishes, and even leftover scoops of casserole or baked pasta!
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Spice up your child's school day with exciting new and easy lunchbox recipes from CookingVillage.
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