Wednesday, August 18, 2010


   One thing about planning lunches and snacks for your child to take to school is that you need to make it nutritious, appealing, and yummy all at the same time.   Believe me, that’s really not that hard to do.  It’s all in your attitude.    When the children are little, (that’s between Kindergarten and Middle School), you can basically talk them into anything.    Now, it  gets a little harder when they move up to the High School years, and by then, they may very well be buying their lunches at school.   So, until then, here’s some tips and ideas.

      Nutritious----- This includes a well-balanced lunch with  all the major food groups   (protein, fruit, vegetable and grains).

            Here are some ideas for protein:  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,  crackers and peanut butter, crackers and cheese slices, snack packs of  creamy cheese with crackers and even a little spreader,  beef sticks,  and string cheese.
    The fruits:  apples, pears, bananas as well as grapes, sliced oranges and melons in sealable plastic bags,  boxed raisins,  and gelatins with fruit/or without.  Don’t forget the ‘chewy’ fruit snacks.  A lot of them are filled with sugar, but there are some that are 100% fruit.
    Vegetables: carrots, sliced cucumbers, sugar peas, sliced red and green peppers along with the little disposable dip containers.
    Potato chips, pretzels, cheese puffs, and so many other salty snacks are readily available to take in the lunch bag or box  too.
    There are varieties of sweet  nutritional snacks that can be purchased in take-along bags such as:  cookies, graham crackers, grain bars with fruit and granola bars.
    And the drinks seem to be limitless:  pouches, boxes and even the yogurt drinks come in a variety of flavors and sizes.
    Boy, my kids would have thought they died and went to heaven with these lunches.  Believe me, I had to use much more imagination back then since I was making up to five lunches a day.
    I hope this gives you a little insight into planning these special meals for your children.  They’re out of your sight for a good portion of the day, and you still want to be able to have some input into their eating habits.  (And yes, I do know about trading lunches… but you just have to trust that  you’ll make them so great that they won’t even want to trade).
    How about the meals that greet them after school?    Here are a few ideas with recipes that are good “meals to come home to.”


1 pound of your choice of pasta
1 pound ground beef
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion (chopped)
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Garlic salt
Black pepper
In a large pot, boil water to cook the pasta. When it is done, drain, rinse and set aside.
In a medium frying pan, brown the ground beef and chopped onions until lighty browned and drain the fat. Add enough water to cover the meat and let simmer for at least 20 minutes on low to tenderize.
Add the meat/onion mixture to the pasta along with the 2 cans of soup, 1 can of milk, 1 teaspoon garlic salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix carefully until blended. Pour into a greased rectangular baking dish. Cover with shredded cheese and a little parmesan cheese.
Bake in 350 degree oven uncovered for 15 minutes, then cover with foil tightly, turn down to 250 degrees and bake for an additional 25 minutes until bubbly. Turn off oven and keep warm until you serve.

3# Ground beef (preferably chuck)
1# pasta - your choice (spaghetti, rigatoni,  shells)
Large (29 oz.) can tomato puree
Large (29 oz.) can tomato sauce
12 oz. can tomato paste
2 T. garlic salt
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
Or a combination Italian seasoning may be used
8 oz. can parmesan cheese

Cook pasta during this process, drain  and set aside until needed. In a large (6 - 8 quart) stockpot, empty all tomato sauces and pastes. Rinse out the cans of puree and sauce with water (about half way)...with the tomato paste can...rinse out with 3 cans of water  getting all the paste still inside.  Mix all sauces until smooth.  Add 2 tablespoons garlic salt, the black pepper, and the oregano and basil. (When adding the oregano and basil, put into the palm of your hand and rub between palms This releases the flavors.) Also add about 1/2 of the parmesan cheese into the sauce and stir...Cook on medium heat about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. 
While the sauce is slightly bubbling and boiling, roll ground beef into meatballs (whatever size you like) and drop them  "RAW" into the sauce. DO NOT STIR AT ALL YET! This will cause the meatballs to crumble. Wait for at least 30 minutes and stir very, very carefully. Turn your heat to low and cover with lid and allow to simmer at least 2 more hours (stirring occasionally). Remove lid and cook 1 to 2 more hours and allow to thicken. (This will help you decide as you look at the sauce, if you want it thicker). At this point, you may want to taste the sauce to see if you want or need any more garlic salt or even more parmesan (this is one of the secrets of its unique flavor). 
Pour sauce over the already cooked and cooled  pasta and place the meatballs on top and lightly toss, mixing the sauce throughout. Keep this on warm on your stove top with lid on (or in warm oven)  and let sit at least another 30 minutes  because the sauce needs to soak into the pasta. Sprinkle  with parmesan cheese and serve with warm garlic, parmesan bread.

1 package English muffins (split to make 12) or however many you need.
Jar of  Italian sauce
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Split the English muffins and place inside up on a cookie sheet. Put into oven for 5 minutes. Remove and then spread sauce evenly on top and make them with whatever toppings you like. Cheeses first,  then toppings. Browning them a bit first before you top them helps them keep the sauce from soaking into the muffin.

Bake in oven for about 10 to 15 minutes until nicely browned and crunchy and cheese melted and bubbly.
For a switch, make mini pizzas out of pita bread. Much lower in carbohydrates and in fat and you have a nice mini pizza to enjoy.

Well, good luck and have fun and enjoy these years, believe me, they go by much faster than you could ever imagine.

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