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Box lunch tips, & Sandwich Ideas

Lunch box meals by the millions go to school and work every day. They can be dull and unappetizing or attractive and fun! It’s up to you, the packer to give your loved ones not only nutritious meals but something they‘ll be proud to show their friends. Here are some points to check. A 4-star lunch is: *Nourishing. Remember it is a meal, not just a snack. Have a hot dish or main dish. *Appetizing. Not peanut butter sandwiches & pudding packs every day, when so much variety is available. *Tasty. Keep hot things hot, cold things cold; include utensils, napkins, seasonings such as salt & pepper. *Planned for Carrying. Guard against sandwiches that dry out or leak juices, against cut fruits that discolor, etc. A 4-star lunch box is: *Easy to Clean. Most plastic lunch boxes can be cleaned in the dishwasher or the soft sided bags can be washed in the washing machine. My husbands’ lunch box has a plastic insert on the bottom that serves as an ice chest. I wash the insert with soap and bleach water. I wash the bag in the washing machine. *Supplied Insulated dishes. To allow for a greater variety of nourishing hot or cold foods. *Attractive. So carrying it doesn’t seem a burden. *Durable. For long economical service. Packing the lunch…the lunch-box corner Keep one drawer or part of a cupboard for lunch-box supplies to make your job easier. Be sure you have these items on hand: 1. Plastic containers in a variety of sizes. Shot glass sized bowls with lids are handy for sauces. Wedge-pie shaped boxes are great for pies an pizza. Small jars with wide mouths and screw tops are handy for olives, pickles, and snacks that may leak if turned over. Heavy paper cups/bowls with lids are a handy alternative to the plastic variety and are recyclable. Insulated bowls and vacuum bottles are great for hot soups, hot spaghetti, baked beans, chili, stews, etc. (warm the container with warm water first), or cold drinks such as milk shakes, smoothies, juices, etc. (chill the bottle first). Divided plates with lids in both small and large sizes are handy for hot meals and give you more variety. 2. Small salt and pepper shakers of the “no spill” variety. In the camping section at most stores, you can find a plastic tube that has a shaker on both ends and is about the size of your thumb. Small and convenient. Save your condiment packets (ketchup, salt, pepper, mustard, mayo, sauces, etc.) and use these in your box lunches. 3. Plastic utensils, napkins, & handy wipes (moist toilettes). Keep on hand string, rubber bands, twist ties and tape. Rolls of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, sandwich bags in a variety of colors and designs are not only economical but fun! Use plastic and wax paper bags for sandwiches, potato chips, crackers, cookies, nuts, pickles, radishes, carrot sticks, celery. Save wrappings from bread loaves and other food wrappers that can be easily recycled into food containers. Foods that carry well Soup: Don’t just send them chicken noodle soup or soup from a can. Send them some love from home with your home made soup, stew, chili, etc. Have soup good and hot when it goes into the hot vacuum bottle. Be sure to pack some crackers. Saltines are always great but mix it up with whole wheat crackers, fruit crackers, veggie crackers, etc. Several varieties are available in your grocer’s cookie/cracker aisle. Sandwiches: Meat and cheese, cream cheese in nut bread, any variation of peanut butter. Omit lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, any type of condiment that will wilt or make the bread soggy. Put these in separate containers and keep in the cold part of your lunch box/bag. Keep containers of fillings on hand so the same sandwich doesn’t appear two days in a row. See below for additional sandwich and filler ideas. Salads: Pack in a container with a tight cover to prevent wilting in the case of a green salad and leakage in the case of potato salad, cottage cheese, macaroni salad, apple & celery, crab salad, pea & cheese, 3 bean, etc. See “soups and salads” blog for additional salad ideas. Hot Main Dishes: Spaghetti, macaroni, chili, and baked beans give heartiness to the lunch. Last night’s left over’s, casseroles, fajita burritos, tacos, etc. Variety is the key! Relishes: Pickles, sweet and sour, celery, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, peppers, pickled foods, radishes, olives, cheese cubes, meat cubes, are just a few “appetizing” ideas to send along Desserts: Dried fruits such as dates, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, etc. Fresh fruits such as kiwi, oranges, grapes, apples, mangos, pears, peaches, melons, cherries, etc. You can slice/prepare these ahead of time and put them in an air tight container. Wrap items that easily brown/bruise in a paper towel that has been soaked in lemon juice. Cupcakes, slices of pie, cookies, brownies, bars, puddings, custards, fruit gelatin, tapioca, rice puddings are just a few of the ‘sweet’ desserts you can send along. Cookies or Cake: Bake cupcakes in paper lined cups to keep moist longer. Place toothpick in top of icing to keep wax paper/lid/plastic wrap from sticking. Wrap cookies, bottoms together, two in a package for a good fit. Put graham crackers together with chocolate butter icing. Make shaped cookies as a special surprise. Beverages: Milk, buttermilk, hot chocolate, tomato juice, coffee, lemonade, tea, fruit juices, fruit flavored drinks, and drink mixes with water bottles, just to name a few. A Treat: Candy, nuts, stuffed dates, home made cheese crackers, cereal mixed with nuts and candy (chex, kix, etc.) popcorn ball, chocolates, or even homemade goodies (turtles, chocolate covered strawberries, truffles, etc.) are always a pleasant surprise. Sandwich Making: Bread: Use fresh or day-old bread. Leave crusts on (if you can), it prevents drying. Use slices next to each other in the loaf for a good fit. Try using different types of breads such as rye, sourdough, raisin, whole grain, potato, and Italian. Spread: Have butter or margarine soft. Cream cheese or peanut butters keeps filling from soaking in. Be sure to spread all the way to the edge on both slices. Fillings: Have filling well seasoned before spreading. Keep fillings fresh and moist in covered bowls or plastic containers in the fridge. Use several thin slices of meat rather than on thick slice. Alternate thin slices of cheese with the meat. Making the perfect sandwich: Line up matching slices-spread butter on all. Spoon on filling, then spread evenly to the edges. Keep veggies separate to prevent a soggy sandwich. Sliced tomatoes, onions, pickles, lettuce are great filler ideas. Wrap sandwiches individually in waxed paper. Packing: Single wrap, place sandwiches in center of an oblong piece of wax paper. Bring edges together, fold down several times, turn under corners, then ends. For packing a number of sandwiches, place a damp towel in a shallow pan, line with waxed paper. Make double fold of paper over sandwiches, then bring towel over top. To save yourself time, you can freeze a week’s supply of sandwiches can be made up at one time. Wrap in waxed paper as stated above, slipping the name of the sandwich under the top fold. Avoid sandwiches with mayonnaise or lettuce. Sandwiches will be thawed by lunch time if taken from the freezer at breakfast time. Sandwich filling suggestions Sandwich fillings are seldom made from written recipes but rather from ingenuity, imagination and whatever is on hand. Always season to taste, just a dash of pepper can live up most lunchmeats! Meat: (1) Leftover beef roast (ground), chopped pickle and celery, prepared mustard or horse-radish, mayonnaise. (2) Leftover baked ham (ground), chopped pickle, mustard, mayonnaise. Fish: 1. Flaked tuna or salmon, sweet pickle, celery, and mayonnaise. 2. Crabmeat, chopped celery, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Egg: (1) Chopped hard-cooked egg, pickle relish, pimiento, salad dressing. (2) Chopped hard-cooked egg, ripe olives, mayonnaise. (3) Chopped hard cooked egg, chopped ham, minced onion, and green pepper, salad dressing. 4. Fried or scrambled egg, on whole wheat bread with ketchup. Cheese: (1) Cream cheese, chopped stuffed olive and nuts. (2) Sliced American cheese, thinly sliced fried ham, prepared mustard. (3) Swiss cheese, ham and pickle. (4) Cream cheese, Roquefort cheese and chopped nuts. (5) Cream cheese, drained crushed pineapple, chopped pecans. (6) Swiss cheese and mustard on rye bread. (7) Cottage cheese, minced green pepper and onion on whole wheat bread. Unusual: (1) Bake bean, chili sauce, thinly sliced onion. (2) Sliced radishes on rye or whole wheat. 3. Peanut butter and chopped crisp bacon. From things on hand: (1) Carrot/Peanut: Combine 1 ½ cups grated raw carrots, ½ cup finely chopped salted peanuts, ¼ cup pickle relish, 1/3 cup salad dressing. Makes 8 sandwiches (2) Raisin/peanut butter: Mix together ¾ cup crunchy peanut butter, 6 T chopped seedless raisins, 6 T orange juice. Makes 8 sandwiches. Cans on the shelf: (1) Corned beef and egg: Combine ¼ lb. corned beef (coarsely ground), 2 hard cooked eggs (chopped), 1 T sweet pickle relish, ¼ cup rich milk, 1 T lemon juice, ¼ t salt, pepper. Makes 8 sandwiches. (2) Salmon salad: Combine 1 cup flaked salmon, ¼ t salt, ½ cup finely chopped celery, ¼ cup finely chopped green pepper, 2 T mayonnaise and 2 T lemon juice. Makes 8 sandwiches. (3) Egg and deviled ham: Combine 1 hard cooked egg (chopped), ¼ cup deviled ham, 1 T Worcestershire sauce, 2 T chopped pickle. Makes 3 sandwiches. (4) Sardine and egg: Combine ¼ cup mashed sardines, 2 hard cooked eggs (chopped), 1 T pickle relish, 2 T sardine or olive oil, dash of salt, 1 T salad dressing. Makes 3 sandwiches. Cold Cut Variety: (1) Deviled Frankfurter: Mix together ½ lb frankfurters (coarsely ground), ½ t dry mustard, 3 T sweet pickle relish, 2 T rich milk, and 1/3 cup salad dressing. Makes 6 sandwiches. (2) Bologna-Cheese: Grind together ¼ lb bologna, ¼ lb American cheese. Add 1/3 cup rich milk, 2 T sweet pickle relish, ¼ t dry mustard, 1/8 t salt, dash of pepper. Makes 8 sandwiches. From the grill: (1) Cheese, meat and fish sandwiches and almost any leftover sandwiches may be grilled. Brush lightly with melted butter or spread with soft butte on both sides, and bake until golden brown on the grill, electric skillet or cast iron skillet. Hearty Sandwiches: (1) Ham filled rolls: ½ lb cheddar type cheese, ½ lb. minced ham, 2 sweet pickles, 1 t grated onion, 2 T mayonnaise/salad dressing, 8-10 buns (rolls), split and buttered. Heat oven to 350. Put cheese, ham and pickles through food chopper/processor. Add onion and mayonnaise. Spread between bun sections. Place on baking sheet; heat in oven 15 minutes. Makes 8-10 servings. (2) Toasted bacon-cheese sandwiches. 4 slices bread, 8 slices bacon, 1 egg slightly beaten, ¾ cup grated cheese, ¼ t paprika, ½ t Worcestershire sauce. Place bread and bacon on broiler rack. Toast bread on one side. Broil bacon until crisp. Combine remaining ingredients; spread over un-toasted side of bread. Broil until cheese melts Serve with 2 strips of bacon on each slice. Makes 4 servings. (3) Sure-fire special: Slices of cold roast beef, Bermuda onion, and 2 or 3 anchovy fillets between whole wheat or light rye bread slices. (4) Denver or western sandwich. For each sandwich: 1 egg, beaten; 1 T minced onion; 1 T minced green pepper; 2 T minced cooked ham; 2 T milk; salt and pepper. Combine ingredients; drop by spoonfuls into hot fat in large skillet or on greased griddle. Make shape of bread slice. Turn when set and golden brown on one side; cook second side. Serve between buttered slices of bread or toast. Fancy Sandwiches: (1) Cream cheese marmalade: Mix together thoroughly 3 oz pkg. of cream cheese, 1-2 T orange (or your favorite flavor) marmalade, for desired consistency, and grated rind of one orange. Spread on bread, toast rounds, or pastry rounds. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. (2) Bit of bacon: 3 oz pkg. cream cheese, 1 T milk, 2 T chopped green pepper, 3 slices crisp bacon, crumbled, 1 t finely chopped onion. Soften cheese with milk. Add remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Serve on melba toast, or crackers, rye or nut bread. (3) Cream cheese pineapple: Mix together thoroughly 3 pkg. cream cheese, 2 T drained crushed pineapple and 1 T minced chives or young onion tops. Spread on bread or toast rounds or pastry rounds. (4) Apricot-nut: 3 oz pkg. cream cheese, ¼ cup apricot puree (baby food works good), dash of salt, ¼ cup chopped pecans. Soften cheese; add remaining ingredients and blend. Serve on crackers, nut breads. (5) Chicken, crabmeat or tuna: 1 cup diced cooked chicken or 6 ½ oz can crabmeat or tuna, flaked; ½ cup finely chopped celery; 1 ½ t lemon juice; salt and pepper, to taste; 1-2 hard cooked eggs, chopped; ¼ cup mayonnaise. Combine all ingredients lightly. Spread on buttered bread or toast (cut in fancy shapes). Garnish with pimiento, or top with bread/toast for a double sandwich. (6) Avocado-bacon: 1 ripe avocado, 1 t finely minced onion, 1 T lemon juice, ½ t salt, dash cayenne pepper, 2 strips bacon fried crisp. Peel and mash avocado; blend in onion, lemon juice and seasonings. Spread on fancy shapes of bread or toast (no butter needed). Crumble bacon and sprinkle over top.

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