YIKES, the new school year is here again.
Where did summer go? If your kids take lunch to school every day you're probably tearing your hair out trying to come up with ideas for interesting, nutritious items to fill those brown bags (the PB and J on white gets old pretty fast). The following are some suggestions:
Make it healthy (more whole foods, less processed junk food). Kids love to graze. Several small appetizer-type items are more appealing to young children than one whole sandwich.
Be creative. Get out of the two-slice sandwich rut and experiment with wraps, pitas, mini-bagels etc.
And don't forget about salads and soups.
Make it fun. Try packing small slices of meat and cheese that can be stacked; cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters; include something that can be dipped or dunked, like veggie sticks, pretzels or cut-up fruit with caramel dip.
Use interesting containers. Small divided plastic containers are perfect for dividing fruit and cheese or veggies and dip; and small jars (preferably plastic) with tight lids are great for toting along ketchup or barbecue sauce to add to sandwiches or wraps. Keep it cold.
When you pack up the lunch, include a small frozen bottle of water or juice box of 100 per cent fruit juice zipped into a recloseable plastic bag.
By lunchtime it will be a slushy drink and lunch will be nice and cold.
The following are some ideas to get you headed in the right direction. And they work just fine for adult lunches too.
Barbecue Chicken Wraps
Cut these into bite-sized pieces for the little ones or in half for older kids. Include a small container of barbecue sauce or ranch dressing in the lunch bag for dipping.
Cooked chicken, cut into small cubes or shredded (buy a rotisserie chicken to save time)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped seeded tomatoes
Spinach, cheese or plain flour tortillas, eight-10 inches in diameter
Spread the entire tortilla with a light coating of ranch dressing. In a small bowl toss the chicken with enough barbecue sauce to coat it generously. Spoon a wide line of coated chicken down the middle of the tortilla; top with tomatoes, lettuce and cheese; drizzle with a little more ranch dressing and roll up tightly. Cut into halves.
TUNA PASTA SALAD
2 cups elbow macaroni or other small pasta
1 cup halved grape tomatoes (or 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
½ cup quarter-inch cubes of cheddar cheese
1 can water-packed chunk tuna, drained
½ cup light mayonnaise ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt (preferably Greek style and not fat-free)
¼ cup ranch dressing
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, then rinse with cold water until pasta is cool; drain well and place in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl combine the tomatoes, celery, mayonnaise, yogurt and ranch dressing. Add salt and pepper if desired. Add dressing to the pasta, using as much as you think appropriate (remember that the pasta will absorb more dressing as it sits).
Gently stir in the cheese cubes and the tuna. Makes four servings.
Carrot Date Bars
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped pitted dates
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated carrots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder and soda and the cinnamon.
In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil; stir in carrots. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and stir just until evenly moistened. Spread in a greased eight-inch square metal baking pan; bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into bars. Makes 12.