Is your kid a gourmet?

Tips for amping up boring lunch box meals

September 01, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Joe Fleischman, executive chef and food production manager with Washington County Hospital, who's also a dad, recommends a DIY version of Lunchables, and created a meal of smoked turkey pinwheels with strawberry cream cheese, sweet corn, tomato and ditalini salad, Parmesan pita chips and fresh cherries.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

TIf you're tired of making the same old PB&J, guess what? Your kids are probably tired of eating it, too.

"It's easy to get in a rut, eating the same thing everyday for a month," said Joe Fleischman, a dad who's been on lunch-making duty for his children Lauren, 6, and Hadley, 4.

The lunch box sandwich swap stops here.

We asked Fleischman, executive chef and food production manager with Washington County Hospital, and another dad, John Walla, owner and chef at Black Eyed Susan near Williamsport, for tips on how to send your kids to school with gourmet foods in their lunch boxes.

We gave the chefs three basic criteria:

o The lunch would not need to be reheated or to be kept frozen.

o The lunch has to hold its shape in a kid's lunch box, brown bag or lunch pouch.

o It has to be unique enough to be considered kiddie gourmet - that means no crustless PB&Js or repurposed leftovers, but something a kid would eat.


The results? A recipe for turkey and smoked cheddar on ciabatta bread with homemade cranberry relish plus a serving of nectarine peach sauce and an appetizer of tropical fruit kebabs, courtesy of Walla, who's children are now 22 and 23.

"I tried to think of things kids would eat," Walla said.

Walla said he tried to come up with a meal that could be made the night before and quickly assembled in the morning, no fuss, no muss. The cranberry relish can be made up to four days ahead of time, he said. The smoked cheddar adds flavor and the ciabatta give more texture to the sandwich, which won't get soggy in a lunch box, Walla said.

Fleischman cooked up smoked-turkey pinwheel wraps - a good way to sneak in veggies - with a corn, tomato and pasta salad.

Fleischman recommended creating DIY versions of Lunchables. He suggested using different types of cheeses such as havarti, gouda and Swiss cut into triangles. He uses leftover breads to make mini toasts.

Fleischman said that he and his wife, Diane Fleischman, like to test out cheeses on their three kids.

"Our 2-year-old, he's a cheese freak," Fleischman said.

And it seems that kids' palates are broadening.

According to market research from NPD Group, kids consumed more yogurt in 2009 than they did in 2008. The firm studied the eating habits among kids ages 2 to 17 and found yogurt beat chips, fresh fruit and candy as the favored snack food at home and away from home. The market research firm released the results in May 11.

Kids tend to fall into two camps: "Either they'll eat anything or they're really picky," Fleischman said.

Get the picky ones involved in the food-making process.

"It's surprising what kids will eat, especially if they helped make it," said Fleischman.

Gourmet or not, all dishes will run their course after a while, if served the same way all the time.

How do you know if they don't like it?

"It's like the plague. They won't touch it," Fleischman said.

What to do with the leftover lunch? "If they don't like it," Fleischman said, "we'll pack it in our lunch."

Sweet corn, tomato and ditalini salad

8 ounces ditalini pasta (see cook's note)
1 ear sweet corn, cooked and removed from cob (see cook's note)
2 ounces shredded carrots
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions or until al dente.

In a large mixing bowl, add carrots, tomatoes and corn to pasta. Mix well.

In separate bowl add lemon juice and salt and pepper. Slowly add olive oil and whisk well to blend. Add dressing (see cook's note) to salad mixture and mix well. Refrigerate overnight, serve.

Cook's notes:

o Kids like crazy pasta shapes, so experiment until you find one the kids like.

o The vegetables are just a suggestion. Because kids like different things, use what's fresh and local until you discover what they like.

o If the mock vinaigrette is not a winner, try some store-bought dressings like raspberry or walnut vinaigrette or even ranch dressing.

- Recipe courtesy of Chef Joe Fleischman, executive chef and food production manager with Washington County Hospital

Tropical fruit kebabs with yogurt dipping sauce

1 mango
1 kiwi
1 pineapple
1 star fruit
1 clementine
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
2 strawberries
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cut fruit into bite-size pieces except the star fruit, which you will slice to form a star. Once cut, stick alternating colors of fruit onto a 6-inch skewer or toothpick, with the star fruit on last. Can be made the night before.

In a blender or food processor blend together the yogurt, strawberries and vanilla until well mixed. Drizzle over fruit at last minute. Can be made the night before.

- Courtesy of John Walla, chef and owner of Black Eyed Susan near Williamsport

Nectarine and peach sauce with dried honey

3 peeled nectarines
3 peeled peaches
1 peeled pear
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup dried honey powder, reserve a pinch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Rough chop fruit and place in pan with the juice, honey powder and cinnamon.

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