Friday Food: Simple Lunch Ideas for Back-to-School

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Back to school means new books, new clothes, new teachers, and, of course, another year of making school lunches. For moms who are tired of the same old sandwich/cookie/apple routine, bento lunches can provide a simple way to change the looks of lunchtime without compromising nutrition.

Sandwich cutters spruce up sandwiches and remove the dreaded crusts, leaving behind a cute design. This dinosaur (his other half stacked below him) is made of honeywheat bread with turkey and cheese, cut with a double dinosaur sandwich punch. His spots are a few circles of cheese and he has a candy eye for decoration. Sliced grapes complete the lunch.

Precooking, then freezing, entrees is a great time saver. Taco muffins (based on these savory muffins) are quick to make and can be frozen, then thawed for lunch. Here, it's topped with a cheese bunny, cut with a cookie cutter, and paired with banana bread bites and fresh melon. Mini-quiches, desserts such as fruit breads or muffins, and stuffed biscuits are all quick to make and freeze/thaw easily.

Think small! Mini pitas and other breads, bite-size veggies and diced fruits look and taste great, and are easier on little hands! This bento features mini pita breads stuffed with chicken salad, baby carrots, cucumbers, grapes, blueberries and bite-sized granola bar pieces. The cucumber face is just a carrot piece for ears and a bit of red lettuce for the features.

Most regular lunches are easily adapted for bento boxes and many cute tricks only take a couple of extra minutes to brighten up a lunch box in healthier way.

(Front page meal features a sandwich on round sandwich thins, with carrot eyes/nose and a strawberry smile and vanilla yogurt with blueberry eyes and strawberry smile. Strawberries, blackberries, and apple slices, plus carrots, celery and dip, complete the meal.)

Shannon is a mom to two children, ages 5 and almost 8 years old. She writes "What's for Lunch at Our House", her 3 year and counting bento blog, focusing on healthy, unique ways to feed children, with an emphasis on balance and presentation.

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