Lunch Time is Back!

Well that time of year has returned already. Each day passes throughout the summer months and we enjoy great weather, holidays, barbecues, swimming pools and so many other things that is it really a surprise when labour day comes upon us? Well not really, but each year the flyers in retail and grocery stores tell us it’s back to school time so we need to stock our cupboards and get some new clothes for our little ones and get ready to head back to routine! It is really about that isn’t it? Going back to routines of getting the household ready in the morning, packing lunches and heading off to school and work.
I decided to ask a couple other moms, who also happen to be local cookbook authors who are getting ready to send their kids back to school what might be in their kids’ lunches that could help us all out so that our routines may have some new twists and ideas for our favourite people!

Catherine Robertson, is a busy mother of two and author of The Cat Can Cook Book. Offering children some preference in their lunch is always a good start. You don’t have to go overboard, but letting them choose what they want to eat will really help them eat their lunch without too much destined for home or the garbage. Catherine has a blog where she talks about recipes she has made and includes details of what she liked and didn’t like and what worked and didn’t. It’s those life lessons that really drive home the experience with kids and what they want to eat. Again keeping things simple is a great start to keep things in line with a busy morning and then considering the time that kids have to eat their lunch, elaborate lunches don’t win too many contests at school.
Catherine offered up this easy recipe for Pizza Roll-Up Wraps that would make many children happy including her own.

Pizza Roll-Up Wraps

For older kids who have access to a microwave they can pop them in and warm them up before eating or enjoy them as is.

2 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
2 tbsp (25 mL) pasta or pizza sauce
½ cup (125 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup (125 mL) chopped ham, pepperoni or salami
½ cup (125 mL) thinly sliced green pepper

Lay tortillas on work surface and divide pasta sauce over each one. Spread out into a thin layer and top with cheese, meat and pepper. Roll up the tortillas, tucking in sides as you roll them up. Cut in half and wrap with plastic wrap or tuck into resealable containers, seam side down to help stay closed.

Makes 2 servings.

Topping Variations: Try digging into your kids deeper taste buds and see what other preferences they might enjoy like chopped sweet onion, chopped pineapple, crumbled bacon, sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes or leftover chicken, the options are endless.
Betty Bakopoulos, is a mother of 3 and co author of Three Sisters Around the Greek Table Cookbook. As a busy mom, Betty likes to make lunchtime fun and easy and she also likes to bring in her Greek heritage into lunches as well. Betty has some great tips for kids’ lunches that work for her and might just inspire your lunchtime packing as well. “Souvlaki skewers are a great way to add fruit, vegetables and cheese to their lunch” says Betty. The kids can help to choose what they want and also put them together.
Here are some of Betty’s suggestions:
Pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, apples and seedless grapes
Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, pickles and button mushrooms
Cheddar, havarti, mozzarella, halloumi and Monterey Jack

Worried about the skewer being pointy? No worries, simply remove the tip after it is filled with a snip of the scissors. No skewers, try toothpicks for smaller hands or making a variety of options in your kids’ lunches.
As I was thinking about these ideas, my mind started working overtime. You could also include chunks of chicken, ham or sausages on those skewers for an added protein bite which is a great way to use up leftovers. Or make mini meatballs for dinner with some extras in mind for those skewers for lunch the next day. For smaller kids you can pick up divided containers and do the same idea without skewers so that they can mix and match what they want to eat-variety truly is the spice of life!
Keeping things simple and healthy can be easy and sometimes just the littlest things really help your kids eat their lunch. Like keeping the peel on a banana but cutting it into smaller pieces and make a little slit in the side of the peel so they have little skin to peel and not be overwhelmed with one big banana in their lunch. You can divide one banana among 2 smaller children and not worry about leftovers!
“Other great lunch items in our household are pitas cut into wedges with dips on the side” says Bakopoulos. There are some great Greek dips in Betty’s book that would be wonderful tucked away in the fridge for the week like Tsatziki or Olive Tapenade. With a small container packed in kids’ lunch bags they can have a healthy morning or afternoon snack away from home.

My favourite part of lunch for me or my kids is a snack. I pack fruit and cheeses for snacks but sometimes a little sweet something really hits the spot. It doesn’t have to be overboard loaded with sugar but much like me and my afternoon coffee I do like a little nibble of sweet with it. I wake up each morning and pack my kids’ lunches and pretty much decide on the spot what I’m going to put into it. If there are leftovers from dinner the night before I try to incorporate them in a wrap or slice them up for little hands to pick up and enjoy with chunks of cheese or fruit. But for baked goods I do make them ahead of time to have ready for the week or at least a few days to cut up and pack up for the kids. Little slices of apple pie or scones are big hits as are mini muffins and small cookies. I have decided to share a recipe that I have made many times over and that many have enjoyed and is a good way to have some additional fruit in their lunches while enjoying a tasty snack.

Blueberry Bars

This is a spin off on the breakfast bars available on the market and very similar to a date square. These have added fibre and you can make them on the weekend and be ready for the week of snacks for lunches.

1 cup (250 mL) large flake oats
¾ cup (175 mL) whole-wheat flour
¾ cup (175 mL) natural wheat bran
1/3 cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar
¼ tsp (1 mL) baking soda
1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, cubed and softened
1 egg

Blueberry Filling:
2 ½ cups (625 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries
¼ cup (50 mL) water
2 tbsp (25 mL) packed brown sugar
½ tsp (2 mL) grated lemon rind
2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch

Blueberry Filling: In saucepan, bring blueberries, water, sugar, lemon rind and juice and cornstarch to boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Let cool.

In bowl, combine oats, flour, bran, sugar and baking soda. Using fingers mix in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and stir until moistened. Reserve 3/4 cup (175 mL) of the mixture for the top. With floured hands, press remaining mixture into the bottom of parchment paper lined 8-inch (1.5 L) square baking pan. Spread with blueberry filling. Sprinkle with reserved oat mixture.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 30 minutes or until golden and blueberry filling is set. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 12 large bars or 24 squares.

Storage: Place bars in airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.


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