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NORMAL CHEF: Back to school ideas for the lunchbox

Back to school is upon us once again, some parents dread it and some parents can not wait for it, some families are more busy in the summer and others when school starts. In my house it was always during school, between JROTC and wrestling it seemed like I never had a free minute and if I felt that way I could only imagine how my daughter felt as she was so busy with both. That is why a good school lunch is so important. Today a lot of school's offer free lunches to students but sometimes depending on the size of the student body or what is being served kids would rather bring their own lunch.
That's why if your child brings their own lunch it is important to get them involved in making it, so to ensure that they are getting a healthy meal, that they will actually eat. There are so many options out there, some good, some bad, and it's OK to have a pre-packaged item as long as not the whole lunch consists of that.
But what we really want to do is teach them while they are young to pick healthy items, to eat with a lot of color, and to learn their portion size (don't be afraid to check your labels and count the food out for them) this way they can see the portion that they should be eating.
Little kids especially love to take lunch boxes, the cooler the better, because as we all know they get judged by who has what. As they get older and more responsible that's when you invest in the really nice lunch boxes with the tupper ware containers to carry the lunches in, unless you have a child like mine was and constantly lost or left it at school, then you just put everything in a baggie in a paper bag.
My kids were as different as night and so we're their lunches, my daughter for years peanut and jelly, my son just food that's all he cared and as his school cafeteria had a microwave that students could use he went to school with a lot of food he could reheat, don't be afraid to check with your school and see if they have that available.
Bottom line make the lunch fun, one you know they will eat, healthy,and easy for them. For example if you serve them an orange either pre peel it or score it so they can get the peel off quickly. Send them with a sandwich or some kind of protein, a fruit and a vegetable choice and then a snack item, like cookies, cake, or chips. Below you will read a couple different ideas for lunches but don't forget to your own child involved in helping you, one it makes them want to eat it more and two its a great bonding moment. Then after its all packed you could slip in a note of encouragement or a paper with a silly joke on it, or just an "I love you."

Tuna fish:

  • 1 5oz can tuna. 1T parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c each chopped celery and onion
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise. 1/2 t lemon juice
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/8 t each salt and black pepper
  • Mix all together, and serve it as a sandwich or send it with crackers.

Hummus: yes you can buy pre-made but this is so good and easy and you can add different flavors to it yourself.

  • 1 19oz can garbanzo beans, drained and saving 1/2 the juice.
  • 4T lemon juice
  • 2T tahini
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1t salt
  • t.t. black pepper
  • 2T Olive oil

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend, using the reserved liquid to adjust your consistency. Make it as thick or thin as you like. If you want to add flavors, add carrots, or red peppers or zucchini that's the beauty of you making it yourself. When you pack it up serve it with fresh vegetables or crackers.

And for a totally different sandwich try peanut butter, chopped bacon, and honey. It tastes so much better than it sounds.

Natilie Cavnar is a cooking fanatic who loves to try new recipes, and create some of her own, ask her what you want at thenormalchef@gmail.com.

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