Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to school lunches

9/10/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Going back to school involves more than getting the kids dressed and out the door. It also means putting together the ubiquitous brown bag lunches. As a long-ago veteran of the school lunch box wars, I can sympathize with those of you who dread facing this chore.

Some kids could care less about what they eat as long as they eat. Others are downright picky about their lunch. One day they eat PB&J and the next day they won’t. Some days your lunches are a winner and some days — well — they’re not!

What’s a parent to do? Keep it simple and persevere.

Younger children seem to like repetition in their meals. They get in a rut and they only want to eat one thing. Why? Who knows? In fact — who cares? The object is to fuel their little bodies with wholesome food. If what they’re eating is good for them, don’t worry if they eat the same thing day after day. You may die of boredom but they won’t.

My grandson Matthew ate egg salad sandwiches almost everyday for two years in elementary school. His mom made up a batch at the beginning of the week and he ate his way through it along with a bag of chips, an apple and a cookie. He was happy. Mom was happy.

The trick with school lunches is first to know your kid and second to be organized. Some kids will buy school lunches; others won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. If your kid likes to take his or her lunch, it will save you money but cost you a little in time.

Make your own sandwich fillings. If your kid likes PB&J or baloney and cheese you’re getting off easy. If not, you’d better get organized now.

Now let’s get back to Matthew’s egg salad. Boiling eggs is basic, right? Everyone knows how to boil eggs. But just in case you’re just learning to cook, here’s the secret: Put the desired number of eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Put the lid on the pan, bring to a rolling boil and turn off the heat.

Leave the pan on the cool burner about 25 minutes. They’ll be cooked to perfection without broken shells. Immediately pour off the still warm water and place the pan under cold running water. At this point, the eggs are easiest to peel. So even if I’m going to prepare deviled eggs the next day, I peel and refrigerate them whole the day before. This saves me a step later during prep time.

One final word about school lunches. Remember to keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Back in the day when I was a kid we had thermos jugs to do the job and that was about it. Today there are small gel packs or juice boxes to freeze and keep those sandwiches fresh. Insulated lunch boxes also do a great job for hot or cold foods.

Following are some ideas to keep your little munchkins happy.

Lunch Box Fun
(Recipe from “Yum-O! The Family Cookbook” by Rachael Ray)

1/2 cup turkey breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup boiled ham, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup Cheddar, Provolone, American, or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into bite-size cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
2 celery ribs, cut into sticks
3 tablespoons jarred salsa
3 tablespoons ranch dressing
1 slice angel food cake, cut into bite-size pieces
1⁄2 pint strawberries, hulled


Pack all the different savory components in separate resealable plastic bags or containers. Mix the salsa and ranch dressing in a small plastic container for savory dipping.

Place the cake cubes in another plastic food-storage bag or container. Puree the strawberries with a splash of water or juice in a blender and pour into a small ¬plastic container for sweet dipping. Pack everything into a lunch box for a dip-licious lunch.

Basic Deviled Egg and Ham Sandwiches

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and grated
1 can deviled ham (I use Underwood)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (enough to moisten)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and spread on bread. Top with lettuce leaf and second slice of bread.

Basic Tuna Salad Sandwiches

 1 can albacore tuna (solid pack)
 2 stalks celery, diced
 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
 3 tablespoons sweet or dill relish
Dash dried dill weed

In a large mixing bowl, combine tuna and celery. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine mayo, relish, and dill; mix well. Pour mayonnaise mixture over tuna mixture and stir well to coat completely. Use as a sandwich filling on bread or scoop into small dinner rolls. Yum!

Peanut Butter, Cream Cheese and Jam Sandwiches

Peanut butter at room temperature
Cream cheese at room temperature
Favorite Jam or Jelly
Whole grain Bread

For each sandwich, spread one slice of bread with cream cheese and the other slice with peanut butter. Spread jam or jelly on the cream cheese, top with the peanut butter slice (facing down). Cut in half or quarter. Put in sandwich bag and refrigerate until packing the bag.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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