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From the food editor: Ideas for filling the back-to-school lunch box

Quiche with Red Peppers and Spinach.

MICHELLE STARK | Times

Quiche with Red Peppers and Spinach.

Most school-aged kids in the Tampa Bay area head back to the classroom today, and that means parents are thinking about how to feed the little ones throughout the day. Our cover story this week focuses on those who turn to packed lunches.

In this story, Grayson Kamm, communications director for the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, offers a look into the science behind why foods perish and what to do to prevent that from happening in your child's lunch box.

Here, we have some ideas for what to actually pack in that lunch. Some foods are naturally less inclined to spoil, so for optimal food safety consider leaning on items like fresh whole fruit and vegetables (instead of precut chunks), hard cheeses like cubes of cheddar, and whole wheat crackers or bread with peanut butter.

For the main meal, try one of these ideas, both perishable and not, that could appeal to elementary school students and adults alike:

Skewers: For easier eating and packing, utilize bamboo sticks. Use them to thread round vegetables like grape tomatoes and cubes of cheese for a kid-friendly caprese; or pieces of chicken, pineapple chunks and green peppers for a sandwich alternative. Always include a dipping sauce.

Cold salads: This is an easy way to create a hearty yet compact meal that can go into one container. Your base can be anything from regular spaghetti to couscous, quinoa or brown rice. Pump it up with diced vegetables, chopped nuts, crumbled cheese like feta or goat and plenty of seasoning.

Breakfast for lunch: Change things up by serving traditional breakfast fare for lunch. Sometimes school lunch times are earlier enough to qualify as a first meal anyway. For the eggs, serve them hard-boiled, and generously season with salt and pepper. Make sand dollar-sized pancakes the night before, then let them cool and pack with some peanut butter or jelly in separate containers. (Avoid maple syrup for the inevitable sticky fingers it will cause.) Serve with a simple yogurt parfait: vanilla yogurt plus grapes or blueberries.

Savory baked goods: For a different way to get at lunchtime basics, try making muffins or scones that are packed with ingredients that would go into a sandwich but are more fun to eat: pulled pork corn muffins, diced ham and cheddar cheese scones, zucchini muffins.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

From the food editor: Ideas for filling the back-to-school lunch box 08/08/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 12:13pm]
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