Get ready to pack those lunches

Summer is still here, but soon it will seem to be over for all the children and college students returning to their studies for another year. My how school vacations seem to fly for them!

Providing a nutritious meal for midday is necessary for youngsters to keep alert all day and help them to remember all 50 state capitals.

If they carry their lunch from home, it is the job of a parent to buy, prepare, wrap and pack the food into a container that will keep the food fresh and appetizing.

The Ohio Farm Bureau reports that it is good to eat five different kinds of fruits and vegetables every day, so finger foods of veggies and sliced fruits will contribute to the count.

There should be protein, carbohydrates, dairy, veggies, fruits and a small snack snuggled within the container that is carried each day to school.

Lunch time should be plotted out like dinner, with fruits and veggies filling half of the plate; a smaller portion of grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat bread; another portion of the plate needs to be laden with protein; a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk or a cheese stick; and then there is the stuff eaten for a tasty treat.

Some suggestions from the Ohio Farm Bureau for healthy and tasty snacks for children are:

A peeled banana dipped in yogurt; rolled in crushed, crisp cereal; and frozen.

Spread celery sticks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Top with raisins. This is called “ants on a log.”

Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese, diced Granny Smith apple slices and a dash of cinnamon.

Mix together ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit and nuts in a sandwich bag.

Top low-fat vanilla yogurt with crunchy granola and sprinkle with blueberries. Layer the berries and yogurt in a small, plastic container and be sure to keep it cold with an ice pack.

Mix peanut butter and cornflakes in a bowl. Shape into balls and roll in crushed graham crackers.

Make sandwich cut-outs on whole grain bread with a favorite shape, using a big cookie cutter. Fill the bread cut-outs with chicken or even Starkist’s new packets of different flavored tuna salad, or even peanut butter.

Spread mustard on a slice of deli turkey. Wrap around a sesame breadstick or even a celery stick.

Make a mini-sandwich with tuna salad on a small dinner roll.

Make a snack kabob by putting cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on a slim pretzel stick.

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These sandwiches are cut into tiny triangles that make little girls feel dainty when eating them for their lunch. You might only cut the sandwiches in half for boys. Cut the grapes into slices so they don’t fall out when eating the sandwich. This is from the Disney Cookbook for Type I Diabetes.

Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

1 1/2 pounds raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 small onion, quartered

1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon

1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise

20 green grapes

Salt and pepper to taste

16 slices bread of choice

Cut chicken into 2-inch cubes and place in a saucepan. Add water to cover, mix in the onion and 1 teaspoon tarragon and cook over high heat. Once water boils, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Check the chicken for doneness. The center should be white with no pink remaining. Drain the water from the saucepan and transfer chicken to a cutting board. Remove the onion. Cut the chicken into even smaller pieces and place in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise and toss well. Slice the grapes and add to the bowl; stir in salt, pepper and additional tarragon to taste. Cover and refrigerate. To assemble, remove crust from two slices of bread and add some chicken salad filling. Cut the sandwich into squares or triangles. This is enough for eight full-size sandwiches, so mom can have some for her lunch, too.

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This is a granola bar made with rolled oats, dried fruits, nuts and peanut butter. It is from the Prize Alert Bulletin magazine. All kids seem to like some kind of granola bar. This might be the one that pleases them.

Granola Bars

2/3 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup whole wheat or white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 to 3 cups dried fruit and nuts

1/3 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease. Stir together all dry ingredients. Whisk everything else together. Toss wet with dry ingredients. Press firmly into pan in an even layer. Bake 30 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into bars.

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These kabobs can be made for dinner and the remainder put into lunch boxes, with an ice pack to keep it cool. It is from the Disney cookbook as well.

Moroccan Chicken Kabobs

Dry rub:

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons brown sugar


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 small red onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch wide sections

2 green bell peppers, cleaned and cut into 1-inch squares or 1 green and one orange

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

12 skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, 10-inch size

In a small bowl, combine dry rub ingredients and mix well. Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes and put in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag with the rub mix. Seal the bag and shake vigorously until chicken is coated. Place onions and peppers in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and add olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Seal the bag and shake vigorously to coat vegetables well.

Assemble kabobs by alternately skewering pieces of chicken, onion and peppers. Prepare a charcoal fire or set a gas grill to medium-high. Close the lid and heat until hot, about 10-15 minutes. Grill until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 8 to 10 minutes on a gas grill, turning occasionally.

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Children will eat pizza for any meal of the day so why not make a mini pizza with lots of cheese and veggie toppings for their lunchbox? It will combine many of the “fill the plate” requirements for the day. And when you make your own pizza, you can regulate the salt and fat content.

Mini Pizzas

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water, 120 to 130 degrees

2 tablespoons cooking oil or olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups flour, yeast and salt. Add warm water and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as possible. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes total. Divide dough and freeze one half for later use. Cover other half and let rest for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease four 7-inch pizza pans or two large baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. Divide dough into four portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a 6-inch circle. Transfer dough circles to prepared pans. If desired, build up edges slightly. Prick dough with a fork and bake immediately for 8 minutes or until light brown. Spread with pizza sauce and top with desired toppings, making cheese the first and last topping. Bake about 5 minutes more until bubbly.

There are healthy jarred pizza sauces on the market now and one of these can be used for the tomato sauce. Toppings can be browned, crumbled turkey sausage or browned lean ground meat, cooked ham, green onions, ripe olives, fresh mushrooms and or chopped green sweet peppers.

Mozzarella cheese makes the best pizza topping.

(McCoy can be contacted at