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Appealing ideas for back-to-school lunches

Book offers creative school lunch ideas for kids

By Heidi Stevens,

Tribune Newspapers

August 7, 2013

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Here's what happens when I read books like the newly released "Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love" (Chronicle Books, $24.95), by Katie Sullivan Morford.

I page through recipes for Medjool date, cream cheese and spinach sandwiches on lavash, curried quinoa with tangerines and dried cranberries and kiddie cobb salad with crumbled blue cheese. I decide all of them sound fantastic. Simply fantastic.

For my lunch.

Then I hang my head in shame for raising children who wouldn't love those school lunches if their little lives depended on it. Where, I wonder, where do these children dwell who eat curried quinoa?

But I press on, undeterred by my kids' ceaseless requests for Pirate's Booty snacks and jelly sandwiches. I refuse to fall prey to Lunchables!

So I happily devour the advice, dreaming of a day my children will eat Parmesan kale chips, but living in a day when, actually, a new take on grilled cheese will do.

Four things I'll soon be packing in lunch boxes, thanks to "Best Lunch Box Ever."

Very berry skewers:
Thread 4 halved strawberries and 1/3 cup of blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries on four 6-inch wooden skewers. Wrap them gently in foil or pack two skewers each in two containers. Extra points if you can get your kids to help make these in the morning.

Waffle iron grilled cheese:
Skip the traditional grilled cheese method and toss your kids' favorite cheese (Morford suggests Gruyere) between two slices of whole wheat bread and press the sandwich into a waffle iron brushed with olive oil. Let it cool for 5 minutes before cutting in half and storing it in an air-tight container.

Sweetie pie quesadillas:
After sprinkling your kids' favorite grated cheese on a tortilla, layer grated raw sweet potatoes and cooked black beans on top. (Leftover broccoli or zucchini can be substituted for the sweet potato.) Fold the tortilla and cook the quesadilla in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium heat. The sweet potatoes soften as the quesadilla cooks. Cut into quarters and wrap in foil or parchment.

Guacamole and crunchy crudites:
Combine a medium ripe avocado, 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice, a pinch of salt and, unless your kids are as onion-phobic as mine, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onion. Keep the guac in a small bowl with plastic wrap directly pressed onto the surface to minimize browning. Pack sliced cucumbers, carrots or jicama for dipping.

hstevens@tribune.com