All the sure signs are there — earlier sunsets, the first cheers from the football field and stores advertising back-to-school specials on books and backpacks. Lazy summer days with slack schedules filled with meals on the go will evolve into mealtimes and bedtimes in due course.
Gone are the days when a school lunch is a bologna sandwich and the broken remains of the family bag of potato chips hastily shoved into a crumpled grocery bag. With attention to health reaching a fever pitch and the topics of childhood obesity, adequate nutrition and availability of fresh foods leading the news, kids who choose either a cafeteria meal or “brown bagging” are enjoying a higher-quality lunch.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture made sweeping changes to the school lunch program last year. All changes are geared to improved food choices and lifelong health, but according to the Mayo Clinic and other news sources, the changes were met with some degree of rejection (usda.gov and mayoclinic.com.) Changes to the breakfast program will take effect this fall.
“The federal government sets guidelines for the National School Lunch Program to which all schools must comply,” said Eddie Cooley, elementary-school parent and board member of the Newport Special School District. “We have had extremely positive response to some aspects, like a Breakfast on the Go program and distributing any extra fresh fruit and vegetables as after-school snacks when available.”
The subject of children’s appetites is the stuff from which legends are made — cheese; bread, but no crusts; burgers, but no pickles or dressing. Children’s food demands have puzzled more than one parent with no solution in sight.
Packing a lunch has come a long way, too. Innovative companies make reusable containers with separate compartments and fashionable bags with ice packs and coolers, and, of course, lunchboxes adorned with favorite cartoon characters will always captivate children’s fascination.
Be prepared with nutritious, energy-packed meals that prepare children for the school day ahead. Mix in a little fun, and picky eaters may become scholarship diners!
TOAD IN THE HOLE
2 slices whole-wheat bread
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and pepper
Spread the top of each slice of bread with ¼ tablespoon each of the butter. Using a round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut a 2½- to 3-inch hole in the center of each slice of bread, reserving the cutout pieces.
Heat the remaining 1½ tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place the bread and the cutouts, buttered-side up, in the skillet. Crack 1 egg into each hole. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Cook until the underside of the bread is golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the egg to desired doneness, 1 to 2 minutes for a runny yolk.
ENGLISH MUFFIN EGG PIZZA
It only takes 5 minutes to make this breakfast if the eggs are prepared beforehand. Unpeeled hard-cooked eggs will last up to a week in the refrigerator.
2 English muffins
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small tomato, sliced
1 hard-cooked egg, sliced
½ cup grated mozzarella
Salt and pepper
Make hard-boiled eggs. Heat broiler.
Toast 4 English-muffin halves, and place on a cookie sheet.
Brush each with olive oil, then layer on tomato slices, hard-cooked egg slices (half an egg each), and a little grated mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper.
Broil 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Pita bread, split (two pockets)
Leftover cooked chicken chunks, ground beef, steak slices, etc
¼ - ½ tablespoon taco seasoning
Picante sauce, if desired
¼ cup black beans, drained
½ cup whole kernel corn, drained
Stir together black beans and corn, add picante sauce to taste. Set aside.
Toss meat with taco seasoning to taste. Stuff in pita pocket. Top with black beans and corn. Finish with tomato and shredded cheese. Wrap in plastic wrap for packing.
SANDWICH ON A STICK
Slices of your favorite lunchmeat (chicken, ham or turkey)
1-inch cubes of cheddar, colby or mozzarella cheese
Green or black olives
1-inch cubes of bread
Wooden skewers or pretzel sticks
Thread a bread cube onto a skewer, then weave a slice of lunch meat onto the skewer between cheese cubes and olives or tomatoes. End with another bread cube.