A new school year is getting started, and with it the daily ritual of preparing your children’s lunch to balance nutrition, flavor, fun, and love. Alas, many an afternoon you discover that a substantial portion of your carefully prepared feast has been neglected, or half eaten at best. The temptation to slide back to a daily dose of PB&J, or heaven forbid Lunchables, grows with each passing day.
Fortunately, a new book – Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love by Registered Dietitian and mom Katie Sullivan Morford – can save your sanity. The book is chock full of ideas and great recipes. The food photography is mouthwatering. Flipping through the recipes makes you wish you could go back to grade school. However, the ultimate test is whether your kids will eat the lunch or not, so here are two sample recipes for you to try.
Kiddie Cobb Salad (Makes 2 Salads)
THE COBB IS A PROTEIN-PACKED SALAD that will stick with your kids through the school day. This version relies on smoked turkey for the signature flavor that typically comes from bacon. Blue cheese is an optional add-in since its flavor is too strong for a lot of little ones. The assembly is more composed than chopped, which makes it as pretty as it is tasty.
2 cups chopped butter, red leaf, or romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped tomato or 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 large ripe avocado, cubed
2 or 3 slices smoked turkey, coarsely chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs (see page 138), peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Divide the lettuce between two large containers. In each container, arrange half the tomato, avocado, turkey, eggs, and blue cheese (if using) in rows on top of the lettuce.
2. To make the dressing, divide the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil between two small containers. Put on the lids and shake well.
MAKE-AHEAD NOTES: the salad and dressing can be made the night before and stored in the refrigerator, but wait until morning to cut and add the avocado. Be sure to give your child instructions for drizzling the dressing over the salad at lunchtime.
Sweetie Pie Quesadilla (2 servings)
I’VE BEEN MAKING CHILI with black beans and sweet potatoes for years. This takes those two winning flavors and pairs them with melted Monterey Jack cheese for a quesadilla that is far more satisfying than the norm. Cooking the quesadilla over medium instead of high heat allows the sweet potato to get tender by the time the outside is crispy and the cheese is melted. Leftover cooked vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, or peppers can be chopped up and substituted for the sweet potato.
3/4 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
Two 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortillas
1/2 cup grated peeled raw sweet potato
1/4 cup cooked black beans, drained 2 tablespoons mild green taco sauce 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over one tortilla. Scatter the sweet potato over the cheese, followed by the beans. Spoon the taco sauce over the beans and top with the remaining cheese and the remaining tortilla.
2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Put the quesadilla in the pan and cook until golden brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. With a spatula, flip the quesadilla and cook until the second side is golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes.
3. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.
4.Cut into quarters. Wrap or pack into two containers.
MAKE-AHEAD NOTES: can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. In the morning before school, reheat in a pan or pop into the toaster oven to restore crispiness, if you like.
Disclosures: Fooducate received a review copy of this book. Katie is an occasional guest blogger on Fooducate.