Brown bag lunches, and quick dinners

Back to school means back to more hectic routines for both students and parents. And that means not only packing nutritious school lunches that will actually be consumed, but to also preparing quick, delicious evening meals while trying to make it to all those after-school activities and organization meetings that seem to gain speed once fall arrives.

On this first day of September, with school already in session, I’ll ignore the calendar and say fall has arrived and that means picking up the pace for us all.

Let’s review suggestions for brown-bagging it back to school (and work?):

Let the kids help pick out what goes in their lunch by giving them healthy choices to pick from. For example, do you want an apple or an orange, turkey or ham, pretzels or popcorn? Get the idea? Sneaky, I know.

A “cool” and age appropriate lunchbox or bag makes lunch more fun. Clean them out every day.

Keep serving sizes age appropriate — small apple for small child and so it goes.

As kids mature, so will their tastebuds. Re-introduce some of their I-don’t-likes.

Lunchtime is short, so make things easy by cutting food in bite sizes. Peel the orange. Cut up vegetables. Cut a kiwi in half and tuck in a small spoon to scoop.

Add variety for sandwiches by using tortillas, bagels, English muffins and “slider” size buns. Be adventurous with the bread selection, such as raisin bread for peanut butter and jelly.

Supermarket delis carry lean and delicious meats, so get a couple slices of different kinds to add variety for those who get bored.

They want the same lunch every day? As long as it’s good for them, why not? They’ll get over it ... eventually.

Dinner leftovers are great.

Keep hot food hot and cold foods cold. If packing juice, freeze the box. Small ice packs also work great.

Kids are eating more salads and veggies on sandwiches. Keep lettuce, tomato slices, pickles, etc. in baggies to add to the sandwich or salad. This eliminates sogginess

Think out of the box. A peanut butter, jelly and pretzel sandwich. Cut sandwiches into sticks. String cheese and slice of ham rolled up in a flour tortilla strip.

Tuck in a note to say, “Hi, love you.”

A little treat is nice, too. Keep the emphasis on “little.”

Amanda’s Favorite Pizza for School Lunches

Boboli 8 inch Pizza Crusts — whole wheat

Pizza Sauce, white sauce, etc.

Sliced mushrooms

Sliced ripe olives

Vegetables of choice (roasted or grilled leftover veggies are delicious on these)

Canadian bacon, low-fat pepperoni

Shredded cheese

Bake in 400-degree oven for a few minutes until hot and bubbly.

Dixie note: We made variations of this idea and took them, chilled, for adults and kids to an outside concert; made some with hummus base instead of sauce. Everyone loved them – even my husband, Fred.

Amanda’s Favorite LunchBox Chicken Strips

Good for dinner, too.

Cut chicken breasts into thin strips about 1 1/2 inches wide and about 2–3 inches long or buy the ready to go strips if available.

Rinse chicken, pat excess water off, roll in seasoned bread crumbs, lightly spray breaded strips with a little Pam.

Bake in a 350-degree oven until done — just a few minutes. Note: Brush with a little oil and then roll in crumbs and bake.

Back To School Crock-Pot Pork

2–3 pounds boneless pork roast or 4–6 thick boneless chops

1 can Campbell’s one cream of chicken soup

1 can Campbell’s low-fat cream of celery soup

3/4 can water

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon soy sauce (for rich color and taste)

Mix water, soy sauce and soups. Pour over meat and vegetables in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8–9 hours; meat has the tender texture kids like.

Serve with a green salad and sweet corn or with rice, mashed potatoes or noodles.


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