5 Fresh and Easy School Lunches

Mix up your school-lunch routine by taking inspiration from other cultures. (sponsor post)
By: From Our Sponsor
Woman preparing takeaway meal

Woman preparing takeaway meal

Woman preparing takeaway meal for her child

Sandwiches rule as the ultimate lunchtime staple, but they can get a little boring day after day. To mix up the family’s brown bag routine, take inspiration from other American families. Different cultures lunch in a variety of ways and some of their best-loved midday meals will please all palates.

Japanese lunchtime bento boxes often include rice balls, which are fun to make as a family and even more fun to eat in the cafeteria. All you have to do is press sushi rice into balls, triangles, or even squares the way you would shape clay. If you want, you can stuff the centers with pickled Japanese plum or cooked salmon. Stick a roasted seaweed strip (buy a whole pack for snacking!) around the outside and wrap the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap.

Another rice dish perfect for school is Indian biriyani. The variations are endless, but it’s essentially spiced basmati rice mixed with meat or vegetables or both. Packed with flavorful, warming spices, it still tastes great at room temperature. You can whip up a batch from scratch or make it using leftovers.

Leftovers can find a home in burritos too. This Mexican classic can be filled with just about anything. To give the filings a new twist, mix in salsa verde. Kids will love mild versions of the tangy green sauce. They’ll also enjoy wrapping their own burritos. To make them mess-free at the lunch table, start by folding in the short ends, then rolling up tightly. Place the burrito near the top of a piece of foil, leaving a 3-inch rim. Fold up the bottom of the foil, then roll as you did the burrito. Finally, fold down that top flap. When it’s time to eat, lift that flap and peel off the foil as you work your way down.

Going green at lunch is easy with Italian pesto pasta. To prevent splatters all over brand-new shirts, toss the pesto with short pasta, such as rotini or fusilli. Their twists capture all that yummy sauce. End-of-summer diced tomatoes make this fresh lunch idea taste even fresher. As it gets chillier, throw in cooked green beans instead.

For kids who crave variety, Middle Eastern meze is the way to go. Meze isn’t a food, but a way of serving it. It refers to a spread of appetizers that would work equally well in the compartments of plastic containers. Fill little boxes with store-bought or homemade hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, olives, and roasted peppers, then pack sliced peppers, cucumber slices, and pitas for dipping.

To get your kids excited about these new lunchtime tastes, start by reading about the dishes’ origins and cultures together. If you don’t have the ingredients on hand, you can shop as a team, exploring the aisles of the supermarket while picking up ingredients. Back home, pack the meals as a family. All the ideas above are quick and easy—and fun to make. The only thing that will make the experience even better is a suite of new kitchen appliances. You can enter to win a whole set of the GE Café Series through the GE Appliances Our American Kitchen Sweepstakes from now until October 13, 2015. There is no purchase necessary and the contest is open to legal residents 21 years and older of the 50 United States and Washington, D.C. To enter the sweepstakes and for complete details, click here.

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