Monday, August 18, 2008

Fun, fast lunch you make the night before

School lunch prices are up -- which means more children will likely be taking lunch from home this year. Since I'm a huge believer in de-stressing the morning, part of that program involves making lunches for the boy and the girl the night before. Then, on the way out the door, all they have to do is grab their lunches from the 'fridge, and hit the stairs.

Easy ideas -- that kids will eat -- are always welcome.

“A lunchbox salad with crayon-size sticks of cheese and colorful raw veggies makes a delicious, nutritious, finger-food meal,” said dietitian Roberta Duyff, MS, RD.

The dietitian created Colorful Salad Sticks for the Irish Dairy Board using Kerrygold Dubliner, a kid-pleasing cheese, with the texture of Cheddar, the sweet, nutty flavor of Swiss and the tasty bite of Parmesan.

“Cheese is a protein-rich, calcium-rich ingredient for growing kids,” Duyff explained. All Kerrygold cheeses are made with milk from grass-fed cows free of growth hormones. The natural golden color of the cheeses comes from the beta-carotene in the richly green Irish grass.
To accompany the salad sticks, Duyff adds a super-easy dip using flavored yogurt and peanut butter, creating a tasty concoction similar to an Indonesian satay sauce.

Need more ideas? Here's two weeks' worth.

Colorful Salad Sticks

3 ounces Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese, cut into ½-inch sticks
2 cups (about 20) raw vegetable sticks such as red, green or yellow peppers, carrots, jicama, unpeeled cucumber or zucchini
Peanut Dip (recipe follows)

Divide the cheese and veggie sticks in half. Pack each half in a container, along with dip.
Makes 2 salads.

Peanut Dip: In bowl, combine ½ cup vanilla or banana yogurt, ¼ cup peanut butter, 1½ teaspoons soy sauce, and pinch cayenne pepper; blend well. Divide in two small containers.

Per serving, the recipe provides the equivalent of: 1 cup vegetables, 1 cup milk and 2 ounces meat alternate (from peanut butter)

Variations: For kids with nut allergies, make alternate dip by combining plain yogurt with a commercial salsa. Or offer bottled salad dressing; honey mustard dressing is a great option! Per serving, the recipe will lack the 2 ounces meat alternate, but still make a nutritious lunch.

And, for when your teen goes through her inevitable "vegetarian" phase...

“If you have a teen with vegetarian tastes, any sandwich with cheese is an easy way to fit protein in,” Duyff said. “Then be inspired by adding seasonal flavors such as pears, apples, cranberries and pecans.”

Duyff created delicious Nutty Pear-Cheese Pockets for the Irish Dairy Board using Kerrygold Cheddar, which is made with microbial rennet instead of animal rennet, making it suitable for vegetarians. Kerrygold only uses milk from grass-fed cows that are growth hormone-free. The cheese turns a natural gold from the beta-carotene in Ireland’s intensely green grass.

“Cheese is the perfect partner for the sweet taste of fruit, the crunch of celery and nuts, and the fun of a hand-held pocket,” said Duyff.

Nutty Pear-Cheese Pockets

1 cup chopped firm pears or tart apples
¾ cup (3 ounces) diced Kerrygold Aged Cheddar Cheese
½ cup diced celery
¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
¼ cup (1 ounce) chopped pecans or walnuts
¼ cup lemon yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or mayonnaise-type salad dressing
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 whole-wheat pita breads
1 cup baby spinach or leaf lettuce

In bowl, combine pears, cheese, celery, cranberries and pecans. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise and ginger. Add to pear mixture; blend gently. To assemble sandwich, halve each pita and gently pull apart to form pocket. Line each of four pockets with spinach and stuff with the pear mixture, dividing equally. Makes 4 pita pockets (2 pockets per serving).
Per serving, the recipe provides the equivalent of: ½ cup fruit, ½ cup vegetables, 2 ounces whole grains, 1 cup milk, and 1 ounce meat alternate (from nuts).

Variations: Substitute Cheddar with Dubliner, Blarney Castle, Kerrygold Swiss or Kerrygold Reduced-Fat Cheddar. For kids with nut allergies, eliminate nuts. Per serving, the recipe will lack the 1 ounce meat alternate, but will still make a nutritious lunch.