August 22, 2013

Soup to Nuts: What's for lunch?

We asked some experts – who also happen to be moms and dads – what their kids would be packing when the school bell rings.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Anna Greene, 6, slips a container of fruit into a shopping cart at the Forest Avenue Hannaford in Portland, where she was shopping with her mom, Julie Greene.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Julie Greene, manager for healthy living at Hannaford, shops with her children, Ben, 10, and Anna, 6. “If you involve (your children) in the decisions about what they want to eat,” Greene said, “they’re much more likely to eat it.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


J.M. Hirsch, food editor for The Associated Press, is a firm believer that when it comes to making school lunches, recipes are not necessary. But he does believe in using leftovers. So all the recipes in his new book, "Beating the Lunch Box Blues," (Rachael Ray Books, $18), are dinner recipes that make enough for leftovers the next day that can be used for lunches.

This recipe will make one dinner and two different school lunches:

1. Make a barbecue chicken sandwich with the leftover barbecue chicken, thinly sliced red onion and a hefty smear of hummus. Add some veggie chips and a salad made with shredded carrots, raisins and slivered almonds tossed with a vinaigrette or a creamy dressing to turn it into a slaw.

2. Make barbecue chicken and rice using chopped leftover barbecue chicken, heat-and-eat brown rice, canned beans and (if it needs more moisture) some bottled barbecue sauce. Serve with fresh strawberries splashed with balsamic vinegar and garnished with mint. For a snack, add apple slices smeared with any nut butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to make it a dessert.


Start to finish: 20 minutes (plus optional marinating)

Servings: 4, plus leftovers

The simple barbecue sauce used in this recipe blends the flavors of peanut satay and traditional barbecue. Hirsch likes it on chicken thighs, but it's delicious on any cut.

Don't do peanuts? Any nut butter or alternative can be substituted, including soy nut butter or even tahini (made from sesame seeds).

Because the sauce packs tons of flavor and is low-acid, the chicken can be flavored with it immediately before cooking, or can marinate in it all day.

This recipe calls for broiling, but the chicken also can be grilled. Aim for 7 to 8 minutes per side over medium-high heat. And be sure to oil the grill grates especially well.

4-ounce jar (just shy of ½ cup) Thai red curry paste

Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup smooth peanut butter

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a large bowl, mix together the curry paste, lime juice, peanut butter, water, salt, and pepper. Mix until a smooth, thick paste forms.

Add the chicken thighs to the bowl, being sure to unfold them. Use your hands to rub the sauce onto the meat, covering it entirely.

The meat can be cooked immediately, or marinated for up to a day.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to broil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a wire rack over it. Coat the rack with cooking spray.

Arrange the chicken on the rack. Broil on the oven's middle rack for 6 minutes, then use tongs to flip the chicken. Broil for another 6 minutes.

FOLLOW J.M. HIRSCH'S school lunch blog, which is a simple record of what he makes for his son's lunch every day, at

• Chef Steve Corry's son Seamus found out some of his friends were buying lunch and wanted to try it too. But Corry and his wife Michelle didn't want him buying lunch every day because they'd have less control over what he was eating. So they let him choose one day a week when he can buy lunch, and they go over the menu with him to help him make his choices.

• Corry would rather buy his applesauce and yogurt in bulk and package his sons' servings himself in individual containers. But the kids turn their noses up at it; they prefer individual packs of apple sauce and those little squeeze tubes of yogurt. It's more expensive to buy it that way, but Corry knows they'll eat it.

"Those are, like, hot commodities that everybody's after," Corry said. "Even though it's the same product, it's the packaging. It's really interesting to see it have that strong an effect at that age. The fact that it has Batman on it makes its value skyrocket."

• Got leftover fish from last night's dinner? Corry mixes leftover cod, salmon, hake or halibut with a little mayonnaise, Greek yogurt or hummus to make an alternative to tuna salad.

• Corry's kids love cold pasta dishes, from homemade mac and cheese to angel hair pasta tossed with a little shrimp and garlic. They like just about any fruit, cheese, meat or grain. But vegetables? "Vegetables are still a no sale," Corry said. "It's so hard to sneak anything green by them."

But they will eat vegetables if they come with some kind of dip -- peanut butter, hummus etc. Why? Because kids love anything they can dip.

• To cut down on the sugar in juices, the Corrys dilute their sons' juice with water. (Unlike 99 percent of other American kids, Seamus and Finn don't like soda.)

• Corry isn't sure why, but his sons love anything that still has a bone in it -- a chicken leg, a duck leg brought home from the restaurant, a pork chop or lamb chop left over from dinner the night before. He's not sure why, but it works.

• Hirsch isn't sure why either, but he agrees that kids like "food on a stick," and the stick doesn't have to be a bone. He suggests buying a package of bamboo skewers and cutting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into little squares. Thread them onto the skewers, interweaving pieces of fruit with the sandwich bites. Don't forget to snip off the pointy tips with the kitchen shears "just so little Zorro doesn't stab his lunchmates."

• Don't start poring through tons of recipes and cooking them just for your child's lunch, Hirsch said. packing a good school lunch doesn't have to be that difficult, or that costly.

"The most important rule to remember about lunches: Nobody, I don't care who they are, nobody uses recipes to make lunch," Hirsch said. "I work from home, and I am a food editor. I am the one person probably in the world who could use recipes to make lunch, and I have never done that in my life. It's just not the way we operate in America."

Hirsch does have recipes in his book, but they are for dinner for the whole family. The idea is to use the leftovers for school lunch. If you're already boiling up some pasta or roasting a chicken dinner, for example, just throw in some extra pasta or roast a larger chicken so you'll have some for the next day. One of Hirsch's son's favorite school lunches is leftover cooked chicken, pulled apart and tossed with barbecue sauce, served on a bun.

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Additional Photos

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In “Beating the Lunch Box Blues” by J.M. Hirsch, the food editor for The Associated Press offers two ways to use leftover macaroni and cheese in packed lunches – as the “cheese” in a grilled cheese sandwich and as a topping for DIY nachos.

The Associated Press


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