It's back-to-school time and that means we need ideas for simple recipes to make-ahead and put in the lunch box...my kids love a change from boring sandwiches - here are some fun options using my Sneaky Chef Orange Puree (carrots and sweet potatoes) and other nutritious boosts:
LUNCH BOX MUFFINS – MAC ‘N CHEESE FLAVOR
These are a handy lunch box alternative to sandwiches and loaded with hidden veggies! The Sneaky Chef mac 'n cheese formula is tried and true, and this turns it into a hand-held meal that can be popped into the kids’ lunch boxes. No fork is needed as they are eaten just like a muffin. (For some reason, children prefer to give up flatware whenever they can and eat with their hands.) Kids don't mind them cold. Make ahead and freeze, take them out and put into the fridge the night before, and you are set to go.
Makes 8 muffins
4 large eggs
1 cup Orange Puree or baby food carrot puree
2 cups low-fat shredded cheese
2 cups cooked macaroni
Salt and pepper, to taste
Below are two ways to cook the muffins:
Oven baked method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners. Lightly spray liners with oil.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and Orange Puree. Mix in the macaroni and ¾ cup of the cheese. Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 muffin cups. Top each with about one tablespoon of cheese and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly on top. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Line 8 microwave safe ramekins or custard cups with paper muffin liners. Lightly spray liners with oil.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and Orange Puree. Mix in the macaroni and ¾ cup of the cheese. Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 lined ramekins. Top each with about one tablespoon of cheese and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
By now you know what a fan I am of taking time to make things ahead so they are ready to grab when we’re in a rush. “Sneak-wiches” are a good example of this method. Much like the packaged versions in the grocery store, this is a homemade, healthier version of the conveniently made-ahead sandwich that you keep in the freezer. The key is to remove the crusts of the bread and crimp together the edges to “seal” the sandwich together. I suggest making several sandwiches at a time, and freeze each individually in a plastic bag. There are several filling options below.
Makes 1 sandwich
2 slices sandwich bread, ideally whole grain
Choose fillings below
Filling options: mix puree with other ingredient, then spread on each side of bread
-one tablespoon each Orange Puree and Tomato Sauce plus 1-2 tablespoons cheese
-one tablespoon each Orange Puree (or White Bean Puree) and peanut butter, plus jam, if desired
-one tablespoon each Cherry or Strawberry Puree and light cream cheese
-one tablespoon each Orange Puree and shredded cheese plus 1-2 slices ham
-one tablespoon light cream cheese mixed with mashed sardines (and/or tuna fish)
-one tablespoon each Green Puree and mashed avocado, plus cucumber slices if desired
Trim crust off bread. Use a rolling pin to roll out each slice of bread on a cutting board until flattened (alternatively, use the palm of your hand to flatten the bread). In a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients. Spread about a tablespoon of the fillings on each flattened slice of bread, keeping about 1⁄4 inch away from the edges. Crimp the edges together with your fingers, then put sandwich in a plastic bag and freeze until ready to eat. Put in lunch box frozen and it will defrost by lunch time.
PORTABLE PIZZA MUFFINS
These are great for the lunch box, especially for kids who are tired and bored with sandwiches. They get three top-notch veggies, three whole grains, calcium, and protein all in a portable package of a muffin. Kids love anything called "pizza." They are also a great after school snack.
Makes 8 muffins
1 cup Flour Blend (equal parts whole grain flour, white flour and wheat germ)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon each salt and dried oregano and/or basil
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup tomato paste plus 3 tablespoons tomato paste (for the tops)
½ cup Orange Puree or baby food carrot puree
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Optional extra boost: 1 cup chopped mushrooms, onions, and/or olives
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 12-muffin pan or line with paper muffin cups.
In a large bowl, whisk together the Flour Blend, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and oregano (and/or basil). In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, canola or vegetable oil, ¼ cup of the tomato paste, Orange Puree, and grated Parmesan cheese until well combined. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until the flour is just moistened. Stir in optional extras, if using. Don’t over mix.
Divide the batter evenly among the 8 muffin cups. Top each muffin with a dollop (teaspoon) of tomato paste and about one tablespoon of grated mozzarella.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn the muffins out of the tins to cool or serve warm.
NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER BAR - GLUTEN FREE Because my kids are always asking for protein bars, I wanted to come up with a simpler, homemade, less processed version. I was so excited to come up with a delicious, easy-to-make, “mini-meal-replacement” bar. This one requires no baking, so it is a speedy staple for peanut-friendly houses or schools. These are great as an after-school or after-sports snack. My husband eats them frozen, but I prefer mine slightly thawed so I can gobble it up even quicker!
Makes about 12 bars
1 cup Orange Puree or baby food carrot puree
1⁄2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons all-fruit jam
3⁄4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup ground flaxseed
2 cups crispy rice cereal, ideally brown rice (gluten free)
1⁄4 cup sugar, ideally raw sugar
Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with foil, letting the foil extend over edges of pan. Spray with oil.
In a mixing bowl, combine puree and peanut butter, then stir in jam, milk powder, flax, and rice cereal. Pat into prepared pan, and sprinkle sugar evenly over the top. Freeze for at least one hour. Lift out foil and cut into approximately 12 rectangular bars, place in individual sealed plastic bags, or in a plastic container with wax paper between layers, and keep frozen for up to 3 months.
CLICK HERE TO SEE MY BEST-SELLING RECIPES & TIPS ON HOW TO GET YOUR FAMILY EATING BETTER!