Here are four recipes from "Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We feed Our Children," by Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes (2006, Collins, $22.95). All are "lunchbox friendly," easy to pack for school. The authors use a small lunchbox symbol to denote such recipes in the book.
The oven-fried chicken and the tofu salad are favorites of many kids, Cooper said.
Authors' note: "A lot of people rely on processed power bars for healthy snacks, but you can easily make them at home using whole ingredients. This bar was developed by FullBloom Baking Co. for the Berkeley Unified School District. Whether your child plays sports or just needs a burst of energy to finish schoolwork, this bar is sure to please. Send one to school with a child who participates in after school sports activities and will need extra energy late in the day."
1/3 cup canola oil, plus additional for the pan
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups rolled oats
3 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups almond pieces
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch pan.
Combine the oil, honey and corn syrup and heat in microwave on medium power until warm, approximately 1 minute.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Toss together, and then pour the warm honey mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Press down lightly. Bake for 15 minutes.
Allow to cool completely in the pan. Remove from the pan before cutting into 24 (1 1/2-by-3-inch) bars. Store in airtight container.
. Makes 24 bars.
Nutritional information per bar: 159 calories, 61 calories (38 percent) from fat; 7 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 10 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 16 grams sugars, 3 grams protein.
Orange and Jicama Salad
Authors' note: "Citrus is synonymous with winter in California. Over the years Ann has come to love the plethora of citrus available in northern California, from Meyer lemons to heirloom limes and grapefruit - the flavors often astound. This recipe pairs the shining flavors of fresh citrus with the crunch and sweetness of jicama, and the bite of jalapeno and cilantro. It makes a lovely side dish for sandwiches and burritos, and satisfies the urge many of us have for something crunchy with a sandwich.
6 medium navel oranges
1 medium jicama
5 sprigs cilantro
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
Juice of 1 lime (1-2 tablespoons)
Peel the oranges, taking care to remove the pith, and jicama with a paring knife, and cut into small pieces.
Pick the leaves off the cilantro sprigs and discard the stems. Roughly chop the leaves.
Combine the oranges, jicama, jalapeno and cilantro in a medium bowl.
Add the lime juice and salt to taste, mix well, and let marinate for one hour before serving at room temperature.
. Makes 8 (3/4 cup) servings.
Nutritional information per serving: 84 calories, 2 calories (2 percent) from fat; 51 milligrams sodium, 21 grams total carbohydrates, 6 grams dietary fiber, 14 grams sugars, 2 grams protein.
Oven Fried Chicken
Authors' note: "Fried chicken is an American institution. It's everywhere, and let's face it, it's good. At the Ross School (in New York, where Cooper was executive chef), the chefs wanted to be able to serve fried chicken but needed to find a way to make a more healthful version. They did, and this is it, and it's better than some of the deep-friend versions. … Plan ahead: The chicken should be marinated overnight to allow the buttermilk enough time to tenderize the meat. Make it for dinner and send it to school cold the next day for lunch."
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
The night before: In a large bowl, mix the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Marinate chicken in buttermilk mixture overnight in refrigerator.
The next day: Combine the bread crumbs, flour, cornmeal, chili powder, paprika and remaining salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well.
Remove chicken from the marinade and roll in the bread-crumb mixture. If it's very wet, place it on a cooling rack and set over a cookie sheet and allow to dry in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours (see note).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken directly on the cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees (check a few pieces with an instant-read thermometer).
Note: If you allow the bread crumb coating to dry in the refrigerator, be careful that it doesn't get overly dry, as it many burn in the oven. If it does dry out, just spray with water before putting it in the oven.
. Makes 8 servings.
Nutritional information per serving: 382 calories, 57 calories (25 percent) from fat; 6 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 120 milligrams cholesterol, 1,340 milligrams sodium, 36 grams total carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram sugars, 42 grams protein.
Brown Rice and Tofu Salad
Authors' note: "this is a wonderful way to add a whole grain to your child's diet. The tofu adds protein, and the flavors complement each other beautifully. Serve it as a side dish in a boxed lunch or add grilled chicken or shrimp to make an entree."
6 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon rice syrup or honey
3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 pound firm tofu in one piece
4 cups water
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green onions) (2-3 stalks)
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, ginger, canola oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes, rice syrup and sesame oil to make the marinade.
Add the tofu, turn gently to coat, and marinate overnight.
The next day, place the tofu in a colander and set in a large bowl in the refrigerator. Press the tofu under about 1 pound of weight and drain for at least four hours. Reserve the marinade in the bowl.
While the tofu is draining, bring the water to a boil, add the rice and cook until al dente, about 45 minutes. Drain and spread it on a cookie sheet to cool.
Remove the tofu from the colander and cut into bite-sized pieces (1/2 inch cubes). Put back into the bowl with the marinade. Add the cooled rice and toss gently to combine.
Add the scallions and remaining 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes and mix gently. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
. Makes 8 (1/2-cup) servings.
Nutritional information per serving: 148 calories, 47 calories (32 percent) from fat; 5 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 671 milligrams sodium, 20 grams total carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 1 gram sugars, 5 grams protein.