Look, Ma, no sandwiches
(Apple-cup chicken salad, mini savoury muffin, tomato cheese sticks, strawberries and yogurt, cereal bracelet)
Cut an apple crosswise, about one-third of the way down. Scoop out the flesh with a melon baller. Using a lemon stripper, carve the child's initials into the flesh. Rub the cut areas with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning, then fill the cavity with chicken salad. Refrigerate in a plastic container.
Mini savoury muffins
Broccoli muffins with cheese and ham are perfect for a light lunch with salad or as an accompaniment to soups or stews. Eaten on their own, they make a pretty healthy snack that's easy to make. Make sure you don't overmix the batter. Muffins are lighter and fluffier if they are mixed just enough to blend the ingredients together.
Send a special message to your child by stringing Fruit Loops or Cheerios onto an elastic string, then tying to make a bracelet. Attach a note such as "Have a great day" to the bracelet, then pop the tasty jewellery into the lunch box.
(Sushi sandwich, pasta salad, crispy treat and kiwi hearts)
Place bread on a flat surface and use a rolling pin to flatten it slightly. Fill with your favourite toppings - cream cheese, ham, tuna salad, etc. Roll the bread up to enclose the filling and cut each sandwich into three rounds. Put into plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to pack into lunch boxes. (Don't forget to remove the plastic wrap if your kid goes to a garbage-free school.)
Okay, they're generally loaded with a whole lot of nothing good for you, but you can ratchet up the nutrient quotient by adding bran flakes, kashi, seeds or dried fruit. A few ideas: Use brown rice crisps over the traditional white ones. Almond butter adds protein. Raw honey is loaded with antioxidants. Top with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
(Pasta frittata, fresh fruit turnover, veggie caterpillar, ready-peeled orange)
Using dinner scraps in your bento lunches can minimize prep time, so just make extra. Place your leftover pasta dinner in a skillet and pour a couple of beaten eggs over it. Cook on the stove top for 10 minutes, top with grated cheese and transfer to the oven for 10 minutes more to set the top.
This crunchy creature is an ideal treat even for children with an aversion to greens. Slice a cucumber into discs about half an inch thick. String them, slightly apart, with other veggies, such as carrots or zucchini, on a flexible drinking straw. To complete, give your caterpillar a plump cherry tomato "head."
Oranges can be tough for little hands to peel. Help them out: Slice the tip off, then score the peel downward using a knife. Do this at four points around the circumference of the fruit. Then, gently peel back each "segment," leaving the skin attached at the bottom so it can be easily removed later.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Adele Hagan's website is www.foodstylist.ca
Props by IQ Living