Goodbye, Peanut Butter
Making your child's lunch box exciting once again.
n Japan, mothers are known to spend several
hours preparing their children's lunches. It's a
matter of pride. The freshest sushi, rice cooked
to the perfect texture and an artistically sliced
collection of a myriad of vegetables are all components
of the typical Japanese child's lunch.
And in the United States, mothers sometimes spend
hours trying to come up with new and different ideas
for their children's lunches. (Peanut butter and jelly,
cheese with mustard and plain potato chips are compo-
nents of the typical American child's lunch — and are
about as exciting as the idea of another Jennifer Lopez-
Ben Affleck reunion.)
The average school lunch in the United States lasts a
whopping 21 minutes. Yet it is, overwhelmingly (com-
peting only with recess), children's favorite part of
school. It also is likely the only time parents have to
connect with their children during the school day,
which is why moms and dads are right to look beyond
peanut butter and jelly.
Here are some ideas:
• I'm So Blue: Do the unexpected and serve your
child blue pasta. Just add several drops of food coloring
to your favorite pasta while it's cooking. Then top with
grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese mixed with olive oil
Or, if your child is a fan of Dr. Seuss, try a green-
eggs-and-"ham" meal. Top fried eggs (while cooking)
with a bit of green food coloring, then place on a toast-
ed English muffin along with a slice of vegetarian
"ham" (a number of brands, many of which are kosher,
can be found at health-food stores).
• Soup's On: "In winter months, we are big on
homemade soups of all kinds," says Julie Sherizen of
Huntington Woods. "Usually, I made a big pot of
soup, and in the morning before school, I warm up the
soup and put it into a small thermos. (Tip: Fill the
thermos with hot water first, and let it sit so the ther-
mos heats up.)"
• Cut It Out!: Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out
of bread. Use slices from breads of different colors; you
can place a dark pumpernickel heart into a slice of
white bread for a very cool affect.
• Fruit For Thought: Jennie Fox of Orchard Lake
likes to give Morgan; 8, and Megan, 11, a yummy
lunch of waffle nutty sandwiches with mini fruit
kabobs. Toast and cut in half one whole-grain waffle.
Spread natural peanut butter over one half, top with
thinly sliced bananas (just to cover the peanut butter),
then place other half of the waffle on top. Wrap in
Prepare fruit kabobs by placing a pineapple chunk, a
grape and then another pineapple chunk on a plastic
toothpick. Pack in a small plastic container.
Fox finishes the lunch with Yoo-hoo chocolate drink,
and her children "tell me they like this, tell me they eat
everything, and their lunch boxes come back empty.
But does a mother ever really know?"
• What Did George Washington Eat?: Theme
lunches require some preparation, but children love
them. You can work the themed lunch around a holi-
day (such as Presidents Day) or just serve any time.
One idea: presidents' favorites. Visit your local library
where you will find a number of books featuring
recipes of White House chefs. Try preparing these for
your children (remember, you do not have to create
the exact recipe if it's elaborate; just follow the basic
Or try all red foods in a lunch. Another possibility:
Work up a riddle and challenge your child to figure it
out. For example, if your daughter's name is Britney,
put in some Barbecue chips, Raisins, Ice cream-flavored
candy, Trail mix, Nuts, Eggplant slices, Yoo-hoo
chocolate drink. Don't tell her in advance. See if she
can figure out why that unusual collection is there.
• Leave A Love Note: "My daughter Avery Carol
attends Adat Shalom Nursery School," says Jennifer
Ribiat of West Bloomfield. "This requires a dairy or
parve lunch, which cuts out a lot of options. Some of
her favorites are:
— cinnamon toast squares or triangles on whole-
— cream cheese toast squares or triangles on whole-
— mini bagels with cream cheese
— cereal with milk in a thermos (don't forget a
Ribiat makes her daughter's lunch especially memo-
rable by always drawing a picture and leaving a mes-
sage on her napkin. "My Mom used to do that for
me," she says.
• Take A Trip Abroad: Prepare an international
lunch. (Here's an especially nice aspect of this: children
are more likely to eat vegetables if they are part of
— Julie Sherizen, mom to Eli and Ilana, fixes her
children tacos ("They love this!" she says) using soft or
hard shells filled with refried beans, veggie ground
meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato. This "great source of
protein, as well as veggies and calcium," is especially
terrific when you make your own refried beans.
Sherizen places in a mini food processor a can of any
kind of Eden's organic beans, fried onions and a pinch
of salt. "Whip them and you're done."
— If you're in the mood for something with an
Argentinean flair, try topping a hamburger or veggie
burger with chimichurri sauce:
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
8 doves garlic, minced
1/2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 T. diced red onion
1 t. oregano
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
Pulse parsley in food processor. Add remaining ingre-
dients to mix. Separate sauce in half and use half for
basting and serve remainder with meal.
— Irish families love Colcannon. Here's one recipe:
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
3/4 cup milk
2 cups leeks or green onions, minced
2 lbs. kale or green cabbage
Cut potatoes in chunks and boil until tender.
Meanwhile, wash and trim kale, discarding tough
stems. Chop and steam kale for 10 minutes, until ten-
der. Cool and squeeze out water. Heat a small amount
of oil in a skillet and cook leeks until soft. Drain and
mash potatoes. Beat in milk. Add kale and leeks and
salt and pepper, to taste.
— And, while Japanese mothers do like working
from scratch, they will sometimes include in their
lunches every Japanese child's favorite junk treat: Pocky
Sticks. These are sesame sticks dipped in flavors like
chocolate or strawberry. You can make your own using
store-bought sesame sticks.
— Looking for Israeli fare beyond falafel? Try one of
the favorites among children there: cream cheese with
sliced green olives on bread.
— To make the international lunch especially fun,
top Irish lunch with a cutout four-leaf clover; or serve
Chinese foods with chopsticks or draw a map of
Mexico with Mexican lunch.
• No PB & J!: The Rosberg children, Emily and
Jacob, don't eat peanut butter and jelly! says mom Linda
Rosberg, of West Bloomfield. But they do like: "bread-
and-butter sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, pud-
ding cups, grapes, and vegetables, especially cucumbers
and tomatoes — but not all in one lunch!"
GOODBYE P,B&J on page 28