By Lorie Lewis Ham
By the beginning of September, most students are back in school. While many schools now provide free lunches, some parents still prefer to decide what their kids will be eating. However, it can be a challenge to keep it interesting, healthy, and yet simple enough for their busy schedules.
If you Google school lunch ideas there are many out there. PureWow has an article entitled “70 Simple, Delicious School Lunch Ideas That Even the Pickiest Eaters Will Love” which includes ideas like BLT Pasta Salad, Lunch Kebabs, and a Peanut Butter and Banana Roll-up Snack Box.
The article also includes tips for packing those lunches such as starting with a fun but functional lunchbox, doing fun things with their lunches, and even getting your kids involved in the planning and making of them.
For some ideas you won’t find on Google, mystery author Kate Lansing who writes the Colorado Wine mysteries, has some great tips! “When I first started packing school lunches for my daughter, I was surprised by the prevalence of bento boxes. It makes sense, though, because in my experience kids aren’t so much picky eaters as they are particular. They like things the way they like them, namely, deconstructed. Kids like to know each component of what they’re putting into their mouths. Luckily, multi-compartment containers—easy enough for little hands to open—make packing lunch a piece of cake!”
Kate’s go-to lunches include pizza, what they like to call “salad”, and classic PB&J (note, you can substitute sunflower butter if your school is nut free!).
For pizza, put small slices of plain cheese pizza or even just crust with red sauce, in the largest container (leftovers are great for this!). Then add black olives, turkey pepperoni, slices of bell pepper, and diced pineapple in each of the smaller openings.
For “salad,” pita bread goes in the largest container, with hummus and whatever veggies you have on hand in the others—cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe even butternut squash, which pro tip: you can get peeled, diced, and frozen at the store!
And for the classic PB&J, put the sandwich in the main section, with baby carrots, grapes, and something fun like Goldfish, granola bites, or chips in the other containers.
For kids who may need to head out early and would like to include a little something for breakfast, mystery author Edith Maxwell has a delicious recipe for Cheesy Biscuits in her book Flipped for Murder from her Country Store Mystery series.
1 cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter cut in half-inch cubes
½ cup milk or buttermilk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the dry ingredients.
Cut butter into the flour mix until mostly pea-sized pieces.
Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and milk, mixing with a fork in the well.
Add the cheese and stir all with a fork until liquid and cheese are just blended with the flour. Do not over mix.
Sprinkle flour on a flat surface and on the dough. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the surface, rubbing flour around the inside of the bowl until clean.
Lightly knead the dough until it comes together.
Flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough to a half-inch thickness. Fold in thirds. Roll, fold, and repeat several times.
Cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass and position on a baking sheet. You don’t need more than half an inch in between.
Bake for about ten minutes or until risen and golden brown on top.
Serve warm with apple butter, honey, or gravy.
If you would like to include a sweet treat for dessert after a healthy lunch, mystery author Leslie Budewitz has a recipe for gingersnaps in her book Killing Thyme, the 3rd Spice Shop mystery.
The classic, with a bite of a little something extra. Call it Pepper’s personal touch.
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil, such as corn or canola
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 to ½ cup white sugar for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and salt. In a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, oil, molasses, and egg. Beat well. (No need to dirty your mixer and clean the beaters—the oil makes this dough easy to mix by hand.) Add flour mixture and stir until well mixed.
Shape the dough into one-inch balls. If you’d like to top the cookies with sugar, pour the white sugar into a small soup or pasta bowl or on a small plate. Roll cookie balls in the sugar. Place two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon sheet. Bake about 10 minutes, until bottoms have darkened slightly and tops begin to crack.
Makes about 4 dozen. These cookies will be soft at first, but crisp up nicely. They freeze well.
If you enjoy reading mystery novels you can find even more recipes in any of these authors’ books!
FamilyDoctor.org offers safety tips on packing your kid’s lunch, such as finding out if their school offers refrigeration. If it doesn’t, be sure to pack foods that don’t need to stay cold or include an ice pack. The same article has helpful information should you choose to have your children eat the lunches the school provides. To see the nutrition information for lunches offered by your child’s school you can check out United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
If you have tips or suggestions you have found helpful, we would love it if you would share on the Mennonite Insurance Services Facebook page!