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Friday Food: Lunchbox Recipes

The Momtrends hunt for a food writer begins. First up: Shannon Carino 
Three years ago, my oldest started kindergarten. We bought uniforms, picked up school supplies and chose a special backpack & lunchbox. Then it came time to fill that lunchbox. Her school didn't have a cafeteria, so lunches were left up to me. I got bento-box creative.

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Bento boxes appealed to me in several ways. Cute food presentation intrigued my daughter, meaning that she'd be quicker to sit down & eat. Small portions made it easy for her to finish her food in a timely manner and bite-sized pieces were less daunting than things like a whole sandwich. Homemade food seemed more nutritious as well. The green aspect of reusable containers also appealed to me As a former teacher, I've seen how much trash a lunchroom of students can generate. Since our original foray into the world of bento, we've added reusable stainless steel water bottles and Mommy-made cloth napkins, her lunches are getting close to 100% waste free.

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Over the years, we've tried many ideas for our bentos. One long time favorite is "Cheeseburger Muffins", a savory corn muffin stuffed with ground beef & shredded cheese. The base concept allows for many substitutions--taco muffins with seasoned beef & cheese, chicken or turkey and mixed vegetables, even corndog muffins with sausage or hotdogs sliced in. The compact size packs well in a lunch and as an added bonus, the muffins freeze well.

We typically pair it up with some extra protein such as cheese or a boiled egg, some fresh fruits and veggies, and a little treat like a cookie or mini-muffin.

Cheeseburger Muffins:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar

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~*~or, for a shortcut~*~

1 box corn muffin mix
1 egg
1 cup milk

~*~and~*~
3/4 lb of ground beef, cooked & drained
1-2 cups shredded cheese (use as much as you like)

Directions
1. Saute ground beef, drain, set aside.
2. Combine corn muffin mixture--dry, then wet ingredients, until batter is just moistened.
3. Add in ground beef & cheese. Mix gently.
4. Spoon mixture into muffin cups, about 3/4 full.
Any given scoop of batter should have lots of visible ground beef & cheese.
If there seems to be too much muffin mix per scoop, you may need more
meat & cheese.
5. Bake at 425 for approximately 20-25 minutes for homemade mixture or bake at
package directions for premade muffin mix.
Serve warm immediately or cool & freeze for later use.

Biography:
Shannon is a former middle school teacher and a mom to a 7.5 and 4.5 year old. She's interested in quick, easy & fun ways to help my kids eat healthy and blog about our food adventures at www.bentolunch.blogspot.com and our family at www.nouveausoccermom.blogspot.com.

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