When you feel like you are always packing the children’s lunch boxes with the same old boring foods, it is time to branch out with new ideas and ingredients.
I am sure that school lunches can be more creative and exciting than when my kids went to school. In those days, it was peanut butter and jelly day after day.
To make the job easier, plan ahead. Make sure the things you put in your children’s lunch boxes are the things they like to eat at home. Ask them what they would like to have — and then ask them to help prepare it.
If soup sounds good, fill a thermos with hot soup for cold days, and cold soup for hot days, along with lots of their favorite crackers. If there is leftover fried chicken, by all means wrap it up and box it.
But don’t be afraid to try something totally new, like Easy Roll-up Wraps. They are delicious when filled with chicken or turkey and veggies — just wrap with wax paper, and they fit easily into a lunch box. I always include a potato salad or coleslaw, too — a perfect pairing.
Prepare a fruit salad by cutting up your kids’ favorite fruits, mixing them in a bowl and sprinkling it all with orange juice. Use apples, oranges, bananas, plums, peaches, grapes and berries.
And to keep things healthy, don’t forget to pack sliced carrots, celery, sweet peas or cucumbers — and a dip of some kind.
Here is another valuable tip during the warm seasons: To keep cold foods cold, partially freeze juice and boxed drinks; the drinks will thaw by lunchtime, and the foods will remain chilled. Alternatively, use miniature “blue ice” cold packs
As for dessert, a classic that everyone in our family loves are my jam-filled Linzer Sandwich Cookies. Square, round or diamond-shaped, these rich, crumbly nutty cookies are a treat. Put a few extra in the lunch box so your child can share with friends.
EASY ROLL-UP WRAPS
1/4 cup mayonnaise
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
6 lettuce leaves
1 (8-ounce) package sliced deli-style chicken or turkey
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup minced tomato
Spread mayonnaise evenly over the tortillas; top with lettuce leaves. Arrange chicken slices in even layers on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the carrots and tomatoes over the chicken slices. Roll the tortillas into wraps. Cut the wraps diagonally into half portions. Secure with toothpicks.
Makes 12 roll-ups.
KIDS’ FAVORITE POTATO SALAD
I always prepare too much salad; cover with plastic wrap and serve it the next day.
4 medium new potatoes, boiled and peeled
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered and sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 green onions (scallions) finely sliced
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, celery, bell pepper and green onions. Add enough mayonnaise to moisten and toss gently. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper; toss gently again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pack in small plastic containers in your child’s lunch box.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
LINZER SANDWICH COOKIES
1/2 cup finely ground toasted almonds
1/4 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups jam
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a bowl, mix together almonds, hazelnuts, flours, salt and cinnamon.
In the bowl of a mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat margarine until creamy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until fluffy. Stir in flour mixture until evenly combined.
Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead to incorporate the ingredients. Shape the dough into a disc; divide in half. Roll each dough half between two pieces of parchment (baking) paper to 1/8-inch thickness. Place on baking sheet and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator one sheet a time to prevent dough from getting soft. Peel off top sheet of parchment paper and use it to line a cookie sheet. Cut the cookies into rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter; transfer them to the prepared cookie sheet, using a metal spatula. Using a round 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut a hole in the center of half of the cookies — these will be the tops of the sandwich cookies. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on the edges. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer tops to a wire rack. Turn bottoms over and spread each with 1 teaspoon of jam. Dust the tops with additional powdered sugar and gently sandwich with the bottoms. In an airtight container, layer cookies with parchment paper and store for up to 1 week.
Makes about 18 cookies.