Tuesday, August 28, 2007

School Lunches

The newspapers are now loaded with articles about great things to pack for school lunches. The most recent one I saw just made me laugh. All of these articles are saying that school lunches are boring, and you can expect your child to eat healthy lunches more happily by making them more interesting. So, someone had gone to the trouble to create these cute little sandwiches on bagels which looked like some sort of puppy. Um....yeah. No kid over the age of 6 is gonna take that to school; he'll be worried about being beaten up.

Even though I homeschoo
l my youngest two, I often send them out to the backyard with their lunches for a while; they often hike to our tree house and eat there. I found these nifty lunch containers at Target, and these are my best lunch ideas:

1. Sandwiches on homemade bread. No brainer, of course. If your kid likes peanut butter, what's wrong with packing that?

2. Tortilla shells wrapped around ham or last night's leftover meat, with some cheese and shredded lettuce.

For the smaller sections in this cute lunch box:

3. Mini muffins. They can be made in 15 minutes the night before.

4. Grapes, or orange sections, or 1/2 banana

5. Hardboiled egg; cherry tomatoes or little carrots.

6. Animal crackers. Easy snacking at recess, not too sweet, no mess. Fine for dessert, too, if your child doesn't have too big a sweet tooth.

7. Sliced apple. To keep it from browning up, I dip it in lemon juice, then roll it in about a teaspoon of sugar mixed with a bit of cinnamon. Gives it added flavor, and adds almost nothing in caloric content.

You can get nice little freezer packs which can be put into the lunch box to keep everything cold. This prevents problems like food poisoning, which can really foul up your Monday.

In a wide mouth thermos:

4. Pasta. If it's slightly undercooked, it'll keep in the fridge for a couple of days (at least according to my Italian neighbor); nuke it for a minute, nuke some sauce for a minute, and it'll stay hot for a few hours.

5. Soup, in the same wide mouth thermos. This is my favorite lunch, whether at home or packed. You can make homemade soup in about 4 minutes with the microwave. Here's what you need:

Meat - a couple of tablespoons of leftovers, chopped small, can be frozen. I use chicken, turkey, or beef (steak or roast). Wrap individual portions and freeze. Should keep for a couple of months.

Onion - I chop really fine in the food processor, and always have a small glass bowl topped with 3 layers of plastic wrap and one of foil, so the smell doesn't invade the rest of the food, and keep it in the refrigerator. Makes life much easier when you don't have to dice onions for everything.

Starch - cooked rice, again, frozen in a couple of tablespoon increments, or tiny pasta (alphabets or stars) which cooks in about 2 minutes.

Veggies - shredded carrots, scallions, canned diced tomatoes (or fresh, if you have them) for beef soup

Bouillon cubes

In a 2 cup pyrex measuring pitcher, microwave one cup of water with one cube for one minute. Add the meat and starch, and veggies, and microwave for 2 minutes longer. Pour into the thermos, and head out with your homemade soup. Baking powder biscuits or a chunk of French or Italian bread make an excellent meal.

To keep milk or some other beverage in one of those new drink bottles, which come with an insulated jacket, put about 2 ounces in the bottle, freeze overnight, then fill the bottle with the same beverage. Takes about 3 hours to thaw, and will stay cold for 5 to 6 hours in reasonably warm weather. I have to say, I'd rather send my kids out with 12 ounces of milk than take my chances on what they'll decide to drink if allowed to select from whatever's offered. My older ones, in high school, are, of course, too "cool" to carry lunch boxes, but they take along yogurt, homemade muffins, rolls, biscuits, or whatever. When my older boys are home for the summer, and working construction, they specifically request that I make loaves of French bread, which they split and turn into grinders (sub sandwiches). They also grab whatever dessert may be left over from the night before and stuff it all into a cooler. But bagels dressed up to look like puppies? Riiight.....

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