Kids might thinK reading, writing and ‘rithmetic are tough. But the three Rs are nothing compared with moms’ biggest back-to-school challenge: packing a noontime meal kids will actually eat. Make school lunch a snap with these nine simple, mom-approved ideas.
1. Color their world. Allow kids to pick a color and choose foods of the same hue, suggests Katie Workman, who blogs at themom100blog.com. A “green day” could be cucumber, grapes, kiwi, chicken on a spinach wrap and limeade; a “red day” may include watermelon, grape tomatoes, a Red Delicious apple, peanut but- ter and raspberry jam.
2. Go beyond the bread. Make the typical sandwich special by swapping a biscuit, English muffin, burger bun or sandwich thin for ho-hum bread. When ham and cheese are layered in a crescent roll, things get going.
1. Separate refrigerated crescent rolls into eight triangles.
2. Spread each with your kid’s condiment of choice (mayonnaise, Dijon mustard or pesto); top with slices of honey ham and cheddar cheese. Roll up. 3. Sprinkle with grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
4. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.
3. The cure for pick-y eaters. “Give a kid a toothpick and they’ll eat about anything,” says Amy Flanigan, a Sacramento, Calif., mom who blogs at veryculinary.com. Her daughter’s absolute favorite? Cubes of mozzarella cheese skewered with rolled salami and cherry tomatoes.
4. The ‘thrill of the hunt’ wrap. Another tip from Katie Workman: Turn lunch-pack- ing chores into a scavenger hunt. Give each child a tortilla or wrap, and let them scour the fridge and pantry to cre- ate their own wrap. This taps into their inner inventor, gets their buy-in, and likely results in some interesting combos.
5. C’mon, it’s just a snack. To some kids, snacks just sound more interesting than meals. Play along by packing little bits of this and that—a snack mix combo of nuts, raisins and crispy rice cereal; small containers of yogurt; cubes of turkey, ham and cheese; applesauce or a simple fruit salad; snack bags full of chips and crackers. Toss in one of these quick and easy oatmeal bars with cherries and pecans.
Pecan Cherry Cereal Bars
An easy oatmeal-based dough doubles as a crust and crumbly top, sandwiching a layer of tangy jam in this sweet treat.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup puffed rice cereal (preferably brown rice)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (10-ounce) jar cherry all-fruit spread
1. Preheat oven to 350f. Butter a 9-inch-square baking pan.
2. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy. mix in dry ingredients until moistened. reserve 1 1/2 cups of dough for topping; press the remainder evenly into bottom of pan.
4. Layer fruit spread evenly over dough in pan. Sprinkle reserved dough over top and gently press into fruit spread. Bake 30 minutes or until deep golden. Let cool 15 minutes. Slice into 12 (2 1/4 x 3-inch) bars. Makes 12 bars.
Nutritional facts per serving: 240 calories, 16g fat, 10mg cholesterol, 3g protein, 24g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 160mg sodium
—Recipe courtesy of the Georgia Pecan Commission, georgiapecansfit.org.
6. The puzzler. Catherine Newman, an Amherst, Mass., mom of two who blogs at benandbirdy.blogspot. com, cores and slices an apple with a steel apple slicer, puts it back together puzzle- style, and secures with a rubber band. This not only makes it more
fun to eat, but keeps the apple slices from browning. A little creative knife-work can also turn an otherwise ordinary sandwich into a puzzle for little fingers to pull apart.
7. If they build it … Take a cue from the folks who make Lunchables and pack items that kids can assemble, control and get creative with: Turkey, cheese and pita bread triangles or wraps for sandwiches; crackers, individual packets of peanut butter and celery sticks for snacks.
8. Love Letters. Surprise your little one with a love note, suggests blogger- mom Amy Flanigan. Keep them short and simple, and use them as an opportunity to incorporate sight words or words they may be learning. For older kids, clip and share a cute cartoon—while your kids may not show it, your little gesture will mean a lot to them.
9. The sneaky smoothie. Who says smoothies are just for breakfast? Whip up this yummy treat, sneakily stocked with tons of nutrition, and pour into a Thermos for a liquid lunch.
Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie
1 frozen banana
2 tablespoons chocolate- hazelnut spread (like Nutella or Hershey’s) or peanut butter
1 tablespoon malt powder
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
Hershey’s chocolate syrup
Combine all in a blender and process until smooth. 1 serving.