Easy, kid-friendly lunch box ideas that won't break the bank | Sonoma Index-Tribune

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Easy, kid-friendly lunch box ideas that won't break the bank | Sonoma Index-Tribune

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Easy, kid-friendly lunch box ideas that won't break the bank | Sonoma Index-Tribune

(1 of ) Skip the everyday bagged lunch for a few deliciously unique ideas your kid will love. Click through this gallery to see more, and look below for the recipes. Then keep clicking to see photos from school days over the years.

(2 of ) Feed your child's snack tooth with a homemade peanut butter oat bar. See the recipe below.

(3 of ) Give your child something with Middle Eastern flair by making these delicious falafels. See the recipe below.

(4 of ) Muffins are a delicious way to give your kid fuel throughout the day. See one of our favorite recipes below.

(5 of ) Who doesn't love a smoothie? We found a recipe for a PB&J smoothie that your kid will love! See it below.

(6 of ) Storebought granola has all sorts of stuff you have no control over, especially sugar! Make your own with our recipe below. If you're limiting sugar, just use less in this recipe.

(7 of ) A pita can make an ordinary sandwich seem extraordinary! We especially love this recipe we found for apple and chicken filled pitas. See it below.

(8 of ) Mac & Cheese is awesome as it is. But those of us who love pesto especially love the recipe we found below. This is a perfect thermos lunch for when the weather starts to cool.


With school starting up, one of the biggest dilemmas for busy parents is what to pack in their child’s lunchbox. Over the years, we’ve published many recipes that tackle this very subject. Here are some of our favorite brown bag tips and recipes from past articles.

Peanut Butter Oat Bar
Makes 9 servings

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)


½ cup honey
1½ cups rolled oats
1 cup crisp cereal (such as Rice Krispies, Bran Flakes or Grape Nuts)
½ cup raisins, dried cranberries or chopped nuts

Line a 9-inch x 9-inch pan with foil. Spray lightly with non-stick spray.

Melt the peanut butter and honey together until smooth, either in the microwave or stove top. Combine that mixture with oats, cereal and dried fruit or nuts in the dish.

Using plastic or parchment paper, press down evenly into the prepared pan. Pre-cut mixture into squares. Place in the refrigerator until set. These bars can be wrapped individually and stored in the refrigerator.

From “Cooking on a budget,” originally published on June 8, 2015 at http://pd2go.net/jzwVJF

Falafel Sandwich
Makes 20 servings

2 cups dry garbanzo beans


1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch green onion
3 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
Pita bread, as needed

Soak chickpeas overnight in 8 cups of water. Drain.

Put all ingredients through a meat grinder, a meat grinder attachment for a stand mixer or a food processor.

Add salt to taste. Using an ice cream scoop, make 1-inch lightly packed balls. Deep fry balls for 3 minutes in 350 degree oil until golden brown, and drain on paper towels. Season again with salt to taste.

Wrap in pita bread and garnish with your favorite condiments: hot sauce, hummus, cucumber and tomato salad, tabouleh or babaganoush.

From “Make your own street food,” originally published on June 3, 2013 at http://pd2go.net/kKt5ls

Jammin’ Oat Muffins


Serves 12

Cooking spray


1⅓ cups unbleached flour
¾ cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¾ cup 1 percent low-fat milk
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup raspberry preserves or jam

Mix dry ingredients: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir to mix. Set aside.

Mix wet ingredients: Crack egg into a bowl and beat lightly with fork. Add milk, canola oil and maple syrup, and mix well.


Blend dry and wet ingredients: Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined. (Mixture should still be lumpy and very wet.)

Bake muffins: Spoon ⅓ cup batter into each muffin cup. Spoon 1 teaspoon preserves or jam into center of each cup of batter. Bake for about 16 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in centers. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Place muffins on a wire rack. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

From “Sonoma’s twin chefs on tasty breakfasts for mom,” originally posted May 5, 2015 at http://pd2go.net/uZ887v.

PB and J Smoothie


Makes 1 8-ounce serving

1/4 cup ice cold non-fat milk


1 cup frozen non-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
5 strawberries or 1 tablespoon strawberry jam (or both)

Blend until smooth, beginning at low speed and increasing speed a little at a time. Pour into a tall glass and serve.

For a special treat, add 1 cup of chocolate chips after this granola has baked and cooled.

Originally posted Sept. 7, 2005.

Groovin' Granola


Makes 7 cups

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats


1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt

For dried fruit, choice of:


1 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped apricots
1/3 cup chopped dates
1 cup cranberries

To bake the granola: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, grease a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, almonds, coconut and seeds.

In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup, brown sugar, oil, water and salt together until blended. Pour the syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until evenly browned, stirring every 10 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. After cooling, transfer the baked granola to a large bowl and stir in dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

Originally posted Sept. 7, 2005.

Greek Athlete Pita Pockets


Makes 1 serving

2-3 ounces of lean, sliced chicken or turkey


2 tablespoons low-fat herbed cream cheese
6 thin apple slices
2 tablespoons feta cheese
1 pita pocket

Slice the top of pita pocket off and carefully open up the pocket to make room for the filling.

Spread the flavored cream cheese on each side of the pita. You may substitute any low-fat cream cheese.

Lay sliced apples on top of cream cheese. Then gently stuff the chicken in the pita.

Originally posted Sept. 7, 2005.

Baked Pesto and Mac Pasta (good for Thermos lunches)


Makes 1 casserole

1 pound medium shell pasta


1 large garlic clove, skins on
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup store-bought pesto sauce
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 handfuls)
1/2 pound skim-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a dash of salt. Once boiling add pasta and cook for a minute or two less than the package directions. It will probably take about 9 minutes.

Preheat a large, non-stick skillet. Place garlic on a cutting board and then place the flat of your knife on top of the garlic clove. Carefully give the garlic a whack with the palm of your hand to separate the garlic from the skin. Throw out the skin and chop up the garlic.

To chop the onion, cut the ends off and cut the whole onion in half. Wrap half and save it for another use. Cut the other half into thin slices, then turn the slices a quarter turn and chop them again. Hold the tip of the knife on the cutting board and lift the back of the knife up and down over the onion to make the pieces really small.

Meanwhile, check your pasta. If it is done, drain it in a colander.

Pour olive oil (one swirl around) in the nonstick skillet and add the chopped onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the onions and stir. When the tomatoes come to a bubble, reduce the heat under the sauce to low. Season with a dash of salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler to high, and make sure rack in oven is in the center.

Put drained pasta shells on the casserole dish. Add pesto sauce, ricotta cheese and a handful of grated Parmesan. Stir carefully and coat the hot pasta with the pesto and the cheese. Pour the hot tomato sauce over the pasta.

Scatter the mozzarella cheese over the pasta. Add a final sprinkle of Parmesan as well. Place the casserole under the broiler in the middle of the oven, 10 inches from the heat. Let the cheese melt and bubble on top -- about 5


minutes.

Originally posted Sept. 7, 2005.

Tips for brown bag success:

- Remove any barriers to foods. That means using easy-to-open containers, peeling oranges, and adding lemon juice to keep cut-up apples from browning.

- Make extra food at dinner to incorporate leftovers at lunch, like cooking extra chicken or rice.

- Heat up black beans and place in a thermos, then sprinkle with cheese.

- To whatever you can in advance to ensure better lunches.

- Create a special treat together, like homemade granola or applesauce.

From “Secrets for best lunchbox ever,’ originally published on Sept. 13, 2013 at http://pd2go.net/VceEk2

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