Back to School

Back-to-school time may bring a sigh of relief from frazzled parents and a different kind of sigh altogether for youngsters, but it's always a time to think about how to properly fuel those growing, learning bodies. Whether it's a sack lunch at school or something yummy to munch on at home, it's important to consider foods that are nutritious, easy-to-make and easy to carry with busy hands. Here are some recipes to cover lunches and snacks. Of course, don't forget the most important meal of the day! Make sure everyone starts the day with a healthy breakfast and you'll already have tackled one of the biggest challenges.

For Lunches:

Mini Pizzas

Using a pita flat makes these pizzas extra-quick to put together. Get your kids involved by having them help top each pizza differently.
  • 4 T. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 pita flats
  • Toppings: grated cheese, pepperoni, sliced ham, olives, roasted peppers, etc.

Combine the tomato paste and seasoning in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Spread 2 tablespoons of the mixture on each of the pita flats. Top according to your child's tastes and toast in a toaster oven at a medium setting for 3-5 minutes or until the flat is crispy and the toppings are warm. Serve warm or cold.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Tuna Pockets

Have your kids help you with these portable sandwiches by having them spoon the filling into the pita pockets.
  • 5 oz. drained, flaked tuna
  • 3 T. mayo -- I like to use the sun-dried tomato variety
  • 1 T. finely diced celery
  • 1 T. finely diced dill pickle
  • 2 pocket pitas

Combine the tuna, mayo, celery and pickle in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine. Carefully spoon the mixture evenly into the pocket pitas. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill before eating.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 8 minutes

Smoked Turkey Grinders

For the more sophisticated palates out there, these sandwiches go beyond the routine PB&J. Enjoy them with your favorite chips.
  • 2 T. grainy mustard
  • 2 hard rolls
  • 1 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 6 oz. deli smoked turkey
  • 1 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 ripe tomato

Spread the mustard evenly on one half of the 2 hard rolls. Spread the goat cheese evenly on the other half of each hard roll. Arrange the turkey, spinach and tomato on each roll and press the rolls closed over the fillings. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and chill before eating.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 8 minutes

Ham It Up Pasta Salad

While you might think that a pasta salad is too much work for a lunch, you might reconsider when you realize that it's great for everyone's lunch and makes a great side for burgers too.
  • 12 oz. dried elbow macaroni -- or other pasta of similar size
  • 1 c. diced ham
  • 1 c. diced cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. diced red pepper
  • 1/2 c. diced red onion
  • 1/2 c. diced celery
  • 1/2 c. oil-based salad dressing -- choose your favorite variety or make your own
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Rinse and drain. Put into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to coat. Keep chilled until ready to eat.

  • Yields: 3-4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

For Snacks:

Fruit Kebobs

These simple "kebobs" are a great way to work more fruit into your children's diets. They make a great after-school snack.
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Assorted fruit: melon, strawberries, grapes, pineapple, etc.
  • Coarse sugar

Arrange the fruit on the skewers in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle lightly with coarse sugar before serving.

  • Yields: Depends on amounts chosen
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Trail Mix

When your kids are too busy to stop for a snack, pop some of this yummy mix into a resealable bag and send them on their way!
  • 1/2 c. lightly salted peanuts
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. yogurt-covered raisins
  • 1/2 c. mini pretzel nuggets

Combine all of the ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Mix and offer to little hands!

  • Yields: 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Spicy-Sweet Popcorn

Older kids will like the special sweet and spicy mix in this great recipe made for munching.
  • 1/4 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. toasted walnut halves or pieces, finely chopped
  • 1 pkg. unsalted microwave popcorn
  • salt
  • 2 c. sugar
  • kosher salt

Put the chipotle pepper and the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and chop fine. Set aside.

Pop the popcorn according to the package directions. Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and sprinkle with salt.

Heat a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat for 3 minutes. Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper, and set aside. Add the sugar to the heated saucepan and stir with a heatproof spatula or metal spoon until it melts and turns a golden caramel color. Add the ground walnuts with cayenne and stir once to combine. Working quickly but carefully, pull the pan off the heat and add the popcorn all at once. Stir to coat completely and evenly with the caramel, pulling popcorn and caramel up from the bottom of the pan. Try not to break up the popcorn.

Pour and scrape the coated popcorn onto the lined sheet pan.

When it's cool enough to handle, sprinkle with the kosher salt and break the popcorn into bite-sized clusters. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 days.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus cooling time

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