By Katie Hurley
As the last school year was winding down, I felt a sense of relief, but not because the daily hustle of getting kids from school to music to sports, meeting homework deadlines and waking to early alarm clocks. It was relief that I was done packing school lunches for a few glorious weeks. I realized I needed to spend some of my summer figuring out how to change up the lunch selections I was offering my kids.
In our house, protein is always the hardest for my kids to choose. For a while, PB&J will do, but that gets boring pretty quickly. With good, quality deli meat as a starting point, I set about to find some interesting variations on the typical sack lunch. Boar’s Head Premium Delicatessen meats, offers a wide variety of deli meat to suit almost any taste. You can have the meat sliced to order at the deli counter – paper thin slices for a delicate sandwich or wrap, or thick slices to cut into chunks for a hearty salad.
For a twist on deli sandwiches, try changing up the bread. For sub sandwich fans, a hot dog bun makes an easy mini-sub. Toaster waffles or pancakes make a great base for PB&J, and are even better with some banana slices on there too. Waffles also make a great ham and cheese sandwich. Boar’s Head Honey Maple Ham and a slice of Swiss or cheddar cheese between waffles is great, hot or cold. Van’s gluten-free frozen waffles are a great option for those avoiding gluten.
One look at the lunch box aisle and you’ll probably notice the bento box trend. Bento boxes, modeled after traditional Japanese dishes with compartments for a variety of nibbles, are practical for kids’ lunches. They keep the flavors separate and can easily be washed and reused. For a lunchable-style meal, fill the compartments with crackers, slices of Boar’s Head salami or turkey cut in quarters, small slices of cheese and whatever fruits or veggies your child likes. Additional compartments can hold yogurt, dip such as ranch, ketchup or hummus or a sweet treat.
For protein-packed PB&J dip, mix berry-flavored Greek yogurt with peanut butter until blended, and serve with apple slices, berries or waffles cut into strips. To keep apple slices from turning brown, mix 1 T. lemon juice with ¼ c. cold water and dip the apple slices in the lemon water, place them in a plastic bag or container, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing. The lemon flavor is undetectable (my kids didn’t even know I did this until they had been eating them for years), and they will still look appetizing by lunchtime.
To keep food cold, keep yogurts in the freezer and toss one in an insulated lunchbox each morning. By lunchtime the frosty yogurt will be a soft, chilly treat and the rest of the lunch has been kept cool as well. This also works well with yogurt tubes, though they will defrost more quickly than tubs of yogurt.
If your kids like spaghetti, they might like a cold sesame noodle salad. This one-dish meal keeps well in a lunchbox, and one batch can fill more than a few lunchboxes. You can use whichever thin pasta noodles your kids like – rice pasta and whole wheat pasta work well. I use the Barilla Plus spaghetti, which has more protein and fiber than most pasta.
- 12 oz. thin pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, linguini or soba)
- 2 T. toasted sesame oil
- 3/4 c. creamy peanut butter (or sunflower butter)
- 2 T. sugar
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 t. grated ginger
- ¼ c. reduced-sodium soy sauce
- ½ c. hot water
- fresh ground pepper, to taste
- ½ lb. Boar’s Head roasted chicken or Ovengold turkey (ask for one thick slice, about ¾”)
- ½ c. thinly sliced scallions
- 1 c. grated carrots (optional)
- 1 c. snap peas, strings removed and cut in half (optional)
- 1 c. any color bell peppers, cut into thin strips (optional)
- 1 c. cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips (optional)
- 1 c. shelled, cooked edamame (optional)
Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place noodles in a large bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Cut the chicken or turkey into bite-size cubes and add to pasta. Add optional vegetables to the pasta.
Combine peanut butter, sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and soy sauce and mix thoroughly. Adjust the seasonings to suit your family’s taste. Add hot water, mix well and pour over the pasta. Toss well and serve. Refrigerate unused portion, covered tightly, for up to 3 days.
Swing by your local deli and give Boar’s Head Premium Delicatessen meats a shot at solving your lunchtime dilemmas.