When I was a kid, my packed lunch was often the same every day: a container of yogurt, frozen; a turkey sandwich on wheat bread (with lettuce and tomato in a separate baggie); raw, kid-sized veggies (baby carrots, celery sticks) and something sweet, maybe a mini candy bar if it was Halloween or Easter time.
But creativity in kids’ lunches doesn’t have to take a backseat when the school year (and track practice and band practice and school play rehearsals) resume in full force. Were betting even the adults in the family will enjoy these recipes.
Here are five great ideas for fun school lunches to kick- off 2012-13!
1. Got some leftover turkey? Try a cucumber ranch turkey wrap (inspired by Every Day with Rachel Ray) with cream cheese and fresh veggies. It’s quick and portable, and you can vary it a dozen ways using leftover ham or chicken, avocado, tomato, a mild blue cheese, grapes and/or fresh greens. If your kid is adventurous (or you want a more adult version), try adding sundried tomato pesto, marinated artichokes and roasted red peppers.
2. As summer comes to a close, make the most of all those beautiful tomatoes with a simple watermelon gazpacho (adapted from Food and Wine Magazine). Skip the salsa topping and it couldn’t be simpler — chop and blend together sweet seedless melon, fresh tomatoes (the more colorful the better!), cucumber, a touch of sherry vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. On the side, make your own “Lunchable”; pack it with salami, cheddar cheese and crackers for extra protein and carbs.
3. While we’re talking tomatoes, don’t miss the chance to make sweet roasted cherry tomato sauce for an easy lunchtime pasta that’s wonderful at room temperature. It’s like Kraft Mac and Cheese studied abroad in Italy. Check out recipes from Susie Middleton, author of The Fresh and Green Table and the blog Six Burner Sue, or adapt this one from Epicurious. Let your child choose a pasta shape, like cute ear-shaped orecchiette or twisty gemelli.
4. Chefs send their kids to school, too. At the Food Network, celebrity chef Tyler Florence makes a BLT with pesto and fresh mozzarella, stuffed into an old tennis ball tube with a popcorn ball and a bottle of water. In addition to tasting great, the baguette keeps its shape during morning classes. With a green salad or a cup of tomato soup, these sandwiches are great for a family dinner, too. Check out Florence’s recipe here.
5. Take a tip from your favorite Med cafe and make a lunch out of hummus, fresh bell peppers, a chickpea-cucumber salad and whole wheat pita pockets, cut into bunny shapes for fun. Make hummus yourself (recipe at Forkful of News) or find it pre-packed — many grocery delis make their own. Add mild sheep’s milk feta, like Hidden Springs, and a couple of kalamata olives for salty contrast.
For more ideas, browse this gallery at Real Simple, peruse grab-and-go breakfasts at Cooking Light and check out Real Food for Healthy Kids (Harper Collins, 2008) for 200 kid-friendly recipes.
P.S. Need a sweet new lunchbox for your half-pint? Check out this post on Mommyish or browse Pinterest for a variety of ideas.
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