Kitchen Focus

When you send the kids back to school, do so in style with creative lunches. Better yet, make enough to give yourself an inspired lunch, too. Good bag lunches are all about being mobile without being boring. To that end, we offer a few recipes that think outside the box and give you something other than boring sandwiches to look forward to over the lunch hour. Enjoy!

Microwave Snack Mix

  • 2 (1-oz.) envelopes Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups crisp oatmeal cereal squares
  • 3 cups corn-and-rice cereal
  • 3 cups crisp wheat cereal squares
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces

Whisk together the Ranch dressing mix and 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large microwave-safe glass bowl (do not use plastic). Stir in the oatmeal cereal squares and the next three ingredients.

Microwave the mixture at HIGH for 2 minutes, and stir well. Microwave at HIGH for 2 more minutes, and stir well. Spread the mixture in a single layer on the wax paper, and let cool for 30 minutes. Add the cherries and candy pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

  • Yields: 13 cups
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Crunchy Asian Chicken Salad

For the Salad:
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced cooked chicken meat (6 ounces, about 1 1/2 breast halves)
  • 6 canned peeled water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1 small celery rib, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup diced apple, such as Gala or Golden Delicious (about 1/2 apple)
For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter or sesame tahini
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup roasted soy nuts or coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil (optional)

Combine the chicken, water chestnuts, carrot, celery and apple in a bowl and stir to mix.

Whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar and soy sauce until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise and chives, if using, spoon the dressing over the salad, and mix well. Sprinkle with soy nuts and sesame oil, if using, just before serving.

  • Yields: 3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Tuna Salad Rolls

  • 1 can (6 ounces) light tuna fish, preferably packed in water, drained and flaked
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Two 10-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 medium leaves Boston lettuce
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, peeled and coarsely shredded lengthwise (without seeds)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 of a ripe avocado: peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

Combine the tuna, 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise, and wasabi paste in a small bowl and mix until blended.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the mayonnaise on each tortilla and arrange the lettuce on top of both; arrange the cucumber, carrot, and avocado lengthwise in rows near one edge. Spoon the tuna in a line next to the vegetables (away from the edge). Roll each tortilla up snugly into a cylinder. Cut crosswise in half.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes