Let’s Do Lunch!

School is rapidly approaching, and with it comes the big question: What’s for lunch? Packing one has its issues: Young adults often shy away from taking lunch from home because it’s not “cool,” and for parents, it can be time-consuming and repetitious. Yet there are a variety of reasons in favor of doing so. Bringing lunch can be healthier, more economical, and it offers a bit of the homespun into a school day.

Of course, homemade lunches must meet strict criteria in order to be palatable at noon. It should not be too drippy, smelly, mushy, healthy or weird-looking. The use of plastic zippered bags or tight-fitting containers can open up the possibilities for many options beyond sandwiches. Stores also sell reusable ice-packs — some the size of an index card — that are perfect for slipping in a reusable lunch bag to keep food chilled and safe.

Here are some nutritious and easy to prepare recipes that will meet the “cool” lunch criteria.

And remember: There’s no reason why kids shouldn’t help in the process, from start to finish. Food always tastes better when you help make it yourself!

Tortellini Salad

1 bag (16 oz.) cheese tortellini (follow cooking directions on package, then let cool)
1 stalk of steamed broccoli (Wash stalk and wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 11/2 minutes. Use oven mitts to remove the broccoli from microwave. Run under cold water, wipe with a dry paper towel and cut into hunks.)
1 red pepper, washed, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
12 baby carrots, cut into circles
1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 bottle (8 oz.) Italian salad dressing, [use more if needed)

salt, pepper and oregano to taste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl, refrigerate and pack the desired amount in a small container for lunch.

Edamame-and-Carrot Salad

2 cups shelled edamame, cooked according to the package (these are fresh, frozen soybeans that can be purchased in the freezer section of the grocery store)
4 carrots, washed and grated
1/3 sliced green onions
2 Tbsps. washed, dried and chopped cilantro or parsley
2 Tbsps. rice vinegar
2 Tbsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl.

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, oil and garlic in a small bowl to blend. Add edamame mixture, toss and adjust seasonings.

Greek Turkey Sub

1 submarine roll
4 oz. kosher-turkey lunch meat
shredded lettuce, sliced cucumber tomato and onion
oregano, salt and pepper
Greek salad dressing (I prefer Gazebo Room, which is pareve)

Slice roll, and remove some of the soft bread interior; discard or use it for something else.

Sprinkle some dressing on the interior of the roll. Layer the turkey and vegetables, ending with the lettuce.

Sprinkle more Greek dressing on top, along with salt and pepper.

Place in a sandwich bag and refrigerate until ready to pack

Tuna With Olives

1 can (6 oz.) white-meat tuna, drained
2 Tbsps. light mayonnaise
2 Tbsps. coarsely chopped black or green olives
lemon-pepper seasoning to taste

Flake tuna in a small mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, adjusting the amount of mayonnaise to taste and texture.

Use as a filling for a sandwich or place alone in a container to eat with crackers or pita bread.

Candy-Bar S’mores

1 chocolate candy bar (you can use any favorite kind; I like a Snickers)
2 double-squared graham crackers
marshmallow fluff

Take the candy bar and slice off several pieces. Put one cracker on a microwaveable plate and cover with slices of candy bar. Place in microwave for 1 minute.

Spread a thin layer of marshmallow fluff on the other cracker. Remove the candy-bar-melted graham cracker from the microwave.

Sandwich the other cracker on top, fluff-side down.

Allow to cool. Pack in a plastic bag to include for lunch.

Lorna Rosenberg is a cooking teacher and home chef in Elkins Park.