Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yes, it's back-to-school time. And that means a plethora of lunches to make and pack for the little ones - or for yourself. The editors of some of Canada's largest newspapers share their tips on how to make your kids' luches a little different and fun - and all the more likely to be eaten!

For variety, use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into different shapes. And remember: Tuna salad doesn't have to be on sliced white bread. Pack filling in a good-quality reusable plastic container and, in a separate container, send crackers. Or tortillas. Or pita.
-Susan Schwartz, Montreal Gazette

Forget sandwiches entirely some days. Instead, send leftover cold meat from last night's dinner. If it's chicken, cut it into strips and send shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa and chicken in separate containers - along with a couple of taco shells.
-Susan Schwartz, Montreal Gazette

Send fresh apple slices packed in a Thermos of lemonade. The lemonade will keep the apples from browning. Or chop up several kinds of fruit and send yogurt for dipping.
-Susan Schwartz, Montreal Gazette

For a remarkably nutritious and yummy lunch for one, wilt contents of a 10-ounce (284 g) bag of spinach, drain and saute briefly with a clove or two of chopped garlic. Remove from heat, mix with a beaten egg, shape into a thick patty and pan-fry quickly in a bit of olive oil, turning once. Slice patty into strips, then crosswise into cubes, and slip into a Thermos pre-heated with hot water.
-Susan Schwartz, Montreal Gazette

Save barbecued chicken and cut up the meat to pack in a sandwich bag; bread or a roll or bagel can be packed in the same bag. Baby-size carrots are usually popular; slip some small spears of red or green peppers or slices of celery with the carrots into a reclosable bag to encourage more vegetable eating. Cut food small. Even a small whole apple or pear tends to get thrown away, while that fruit, cut into segments and drizzled with lemon juice so it won't go brown, will be eaten. Include low-fat fruit-flavoured yogurt for dipping the fruit.
-Julian Armstrong, Montreal Gazette

After a week back at school, sandwiches are already beginning to get boring. So why not mix school lunches up a bit by reinventing your leftovers? Pasta left over from dinner can be delicious eaten cold. Cooked vegetables can be blended into a soup or added to some greens to make a salad. Your meat dish can be carved into cold cuts.
-Carolynne Burkholder, Nanaimo Daily News

Variety is key to make school lunches interesting. In winter, try sending the kids off to school with a wide-mouth Thermos bottle filled with chicken noodle soup, and maybe a little leftover chicken for extra substance. Pack it with some low-salt crackers. Use a croissant to make a sandwich. For young children, add visual interest to ordinary sandwiches made with one side white bread, the other side whole wheat, then cut out equal-size rings in the centre of each and switch the rounds. Be creative by tucking away "surprise" short jokes along with lunch.
-Ron Eade, Ottawa Citizen

Nutella banana rolls make a pleasant change from the old peanut butter sandwich. Spread a small tortilla with the tasty chocolate hazelnut spread called Nutella, wrap it around a banana, with its ends trimmed to fit. (Please note, Nutella does contain peanut oil, so it's not for allergic kids). This goes down well with celery and carrot sticks. To keep food cold, add a frozen juice box. It'll thaw by noon, and the sandwiches and carrot sticks will stay chilly.
-Judy Schultz, Edmonton Journal

If your kids are old enough, get them in on the lunch-making action. Create a "sandwich wheel" and stick it to the fridge so the main course is covered by someone new each day. Monday is cream cheese and jam, Tuesday is tuna, Wednesday is egg... you get the picture. My in-laws did this when their children were in school and I'm told it worked like a charm.
-Barbi Green,

A little prep work will go a long way when making school lunches. Cut up enough cheese and veggies to last the whole week, for example. Then you can quickly grab what you need each day. And order cold cuts for sandwiches by the slice, so you can easily calculate how much you'll need - avoiding excess or waste. And remember the importance of presentation. I use a zig-zag garnishing knife to cut carrot sticks, cucumbers and cheese. They're more fun to eat when they look pretty!
-Irene Seiberling, Regina Leader-Post

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© CanWest News Service 2007

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