Winning the battle of the school lunchboxes

by MICHELLE VOLLEMAERE
Below is a selection of schoolkids’ best ideas for their school lunches — here’s hoping some of them will work for you. (See also Michelle Vollemaere’s Around the Table article is Issue 434 of NZ Catholic.)
* Kids will eat anything on a little stick. Skewer their favourite selection of cheese, olives, gherkins cocktail onions, salami or ham slices, sausage, cherry tomatoes, cucumber chunks, etc, with a cube of dense bread like sourdough or bagel at each end. If you are worried about the damage your kids could do with a pointy stick, make the holes and then thread onto a drinking straw instead, or forgo the stick entirely and just put all the fixings into a container so they can pick and choose.
* Try the mini skewer option with orange or mandarin segments, grapes and a dried apricot or prune, but don’t use any fruit that will go brown or mushy.
* While sweetcorn is cheap and plentiful, cook some extra cobs the night before and chop into segments of about 4cm, roll in a little melted butter, and then toss with some grated parmesan and ground pepper.
* Swap bread for pikelets, corn fritters or zucchini fritters occasionally. They can be eaten plain or sandwiched with cream cheese, cheese and chutney or even tomato sauce.
* Use the fruit-going-mushy-by-lunchtime concept to your advantage and add sliced strawberries to a peanut butter sandwich. It tastes a bit like a peanut butter and jam combination but is so much healthier. Spread the peanut butter thinly on both pieces of bread to avoid sogginess and slice strawberries thinly. This works with any nut butters — cashew, almond or macadamia —­and with any soft fruit like peaches, apricots and nectarines.
* Try stripey sandwiches. This kid-friendly version of the club sandwich uses a combination of white bread and wholemeal bread with peanut butter and marmite or vegemite to give a brown-white-black striped effect when cut into triangles. Other options that make good stripes are vegemite and cheese, peanut butter and lettuce, or go green with pesto and cream cheese.
* Date and cream cheese spread is a useful alternative spread for sandwiches, pikelets or crackers. To a 250gm pot of cream cheese add ½-1 cup finely chopped dates (or cranberries or dried apricots or both), ½ tsp cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Mash together and store in the fridge.
* Dried fruits make a good sweet treat. Make a selection of raisins, cranberries, prunes, apricots, whatever they like . . . and add a few chocolate-coated raisins just to make it extra special.
* Pack a little bag of home-popped popcorn. It is a far cheaper and healthier version than chippies and kids still think of it as a treat.
* Make or buy pumpkin hummus and put it in a little container with carrot or celery sticks or little rice crackers to dip.
* Make a good old-fashioned batch of Anzac biscuits with super-healthy rolled oats and coconut — Edmonds Cookery Book has the best recipe — and serve them instead of pre-packaged muesli bars. A thin drizzle of chocolate icing on the top adds to the appeal.
* Always send a drink to school — water is the best choice.

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Michael Otto

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