School’s only just started, but if you find yourself already tearing your hair out over new ways to jazz up the brown-bag lunch, this book is for you.
“Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love” (Chronicle), of which I received a review copy, features 75 simple and sensible recipes that kids won’t be tempted to trade away for something else. The book is by Katie Sullivan Morford, a Bay Area food writer and registered dietician who also happens to be the sister of famed Chef Mark Sullivan of the Bacchus Management Group of restaurants that includes Spruce in San Francisco, Cafe des Amis in San Francisco, the Village Pub in Woodside, Mayfield Bakery and Cafe in Palo Alto, and the Pizza Antica locales. As the mother of three daughters, she knows all too well the challenges of getting kids to eat well.
The book is filled with tips for easy ways to make lunch even more nutritious and appealing. For instance, instead of packing a tub of strawberry yogurt with a granola bar, make a Greek yogurt parfait instead with sliced berries, honey and granola. The latter has more protein, less sugar and nothing artificial. Instead of a regular cheese quesadilla made with a flour tortilla, use a whole-wheat one instead and fill it with black beans and sweet potato for more fiber, protein and potassium, and far less saturated fat.
I may not have kids, but I found myself getting plenty hungry looking over her recipes, as many are so appealing, no matter what age you are.
Take “Chickpea Panini.” It’s a baguette filled with a creamy yet chunky mixture of mashed chickpeas, fresh goat cheese, grated carrot, cumin and lemon juice, then garnished with arugula leaves. I added slices of heirloom tomatoes because at this time of year it would be a crime not to.
This sandwich has got the satisfying flavors of the Mediterranean and is a far cry from the usual plain cheese or hummus sammy. It would even make a great nibble at a cocktail party, spread on toasted pita triangles or crostini.
Morford says it’s her daughter Rosie’s favorite sandwich.
All I can say is: Rosie, you have exceptional taste.
(Makes 3 sandwiches)
1 baguette (12 inches or longer), preferably whole-wheat
1 (7-ounce) can chickpeas (3/4 cup), drained and rinsed
1 medium carrot, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 dashes of ground cumin
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 small handful baby arugula
Cut baguette into three 4-inch segments, reserving nay remaining baguette for another use. Cut each segment in half horizontally. If the baguette is particularly thick, scoop a little bread out of the top half and discard.
In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently mash the chickpeas, just enough to break them up but not completely pulverize them. Add the carrot, lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin and mix well. Crumble the goat cheese over the chickpeas and mash it into the mixture until the sandwich filling is an even consistency.
Spread chickpea mixture evenly over the bottom halves of the three baguette segments, pressing down gently. Pile the arugula on top of the chickpeas. Top with the remaining baguette halves.
Wrap well or store in snug containers.
Make-Ahead Notes: The filling can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator; assemble the sandwich the morning before school.
From “Best Lunch Box Ever” by Katie Sullivan Morford
Another Sandwich to Try: Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini by Giada de Laurentiis