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10 Easy Lunches to Avoid the Summer Vacation Blahs

When I walked into my friend’s house the other day, she said, “I know what you should blog about! You should write a post about what to make for your kids for lunch in the summertime.”

After only a week into vacation, she was sick of asking the kids, “Peanut butter and jelly? or ham and cheese?”

Though most of the recipes in this list aren’t revolutionary (my kids aren’t into revolutionary), They’re easy, with simple, summery grocery store ingredients, and will help you climb out of the summer lunchtime rut.

1. Sloppy Joe’s and Coleslaw

Use your favorite sloppy joe and coleslaw recipes, or . . .

Saute a half an onion in a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until it begins to be tender. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning and a pinch of kosher salt. Add in a small bell pepper, finely chopped. Stir in 1 pound of ground beef. Brown. Add in 3 tablespoons of ketchup, and a small can of tomato sauce. Let simmer until meat is cooked through and the flavors come together, about 10 more minutes. Serve on bakery fresh rolls.

In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, a pinch of kosher salt, and 3 tablespoons of honey. Add a little water as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Pour over half a head of shredded cabbage and 1 shredded carrot. Toss together.

2. Loaded Quesadillas

(I can never say quesadillas now without thinking of Napoleon Dynamite’s aunt—”Make yourself a dang kaysadill-a!”)  But these are much more nutritious than a tortilla with a little cheese melted in the middle.  You can rest easy knowing you’re doing something a little better for your kids.   I tried them out on my kid’s friend today, and he actually liked them—with the beans and everything.

To make them . . .

Layer refried beans, salsa, and monterey jack cheese on a tortilla and fold in half. Place in a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook until the cheese melts, and cut in fourths. Serve with sour cream and avocado slices.

3. Egg Salad Wraps

I was surprised how good the avocado tastes along side the egg salad.

To make this, you can either use your own recipe of egg salad or . . .

In a large bowl, combine 7 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped, 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sweet relish, 3 tablespoons dijon mustard, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a generous pinch of kosher salt, and 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped. Serve on your favorite tortillas with lettuce and avocado slices.

4. Baguette Pizzas

Making these on baguettes instead of grocery store French bread results in a terrifically crunchy pizza.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a French baguette in half longways and spread on your favorite pizza sauce. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly, melted, and just beginning to brown.

5. Yogurt Parfaits

The best food is breakfast food, don’t you agree?  I love fruit and yogurt parfaits because they make me think I’m eating a sundae in the morning.  But these can be enjoyed any time of the day . . . particularly at lunch time.

Apparently, this was my daughter’s meal of choice at school lunch this year. Luckily, I know what’s going into it when I make it at home. My sad parfait in the picture there didn’t have the layers I was going for—the yogurt was too runny.  But you get the idea.

Mix 2 cups of plain yogurt with a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of honey. Layer in a glass with berries, cherries, grapes, and granola.

6.  Two Foot Long Hoagie

It was always a good Saturday when my mom made hoagies, or grinders, as my dad sometimes called them.  Many times, when she wanted quick work of making them, she would buy one of those big French (or Italian) loafs of bread that they sell near the checkout stand in the grocery store.  She would pile them up with all the ingredients and slice off a small section for each of us.

To make . . .

Slice a large loaf of bread in half longways.  Pull out some of the insides of the bread to make room for the cold cuts.  Drizzle bread with good olive oil.  Layer on Provolone cheese, salami, ham, turkey, etc.  Top with shredded lettuce, thinly sliced tomatoes, red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.

7. Pea Soup

Not every day in the summer is hot and sunny. Make this on a day when it rains.

Nigella Lawson made a soup like this for her kids on her show once, and called it green slime pea soup. This is a variation on what I remember from her recipe.

Bring 3 cups of good chicken broth to boil in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Pour in a 10 ounce package of frozen peas and drop in 1 green onion. Bring to boil, and cook until peas are bright green and tender. Pull out the green onion and discard. Add in a 1/2 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar, and a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Working in batches, whir in a blender until all the soup is pureed. Place one string cheese that has been cut into several pieces in the bottom of each bowl. Pour pea soup into each bowl to melt the cheese.

8. Ham and Cheese Panini

Panini are a terrific alternative to traditional grilled cheese. Not only do they cook faster (you can place up to 4 sandwiches on the grill at a time), but the kids tend to allow more liberty with adding new ingredients. My daughter, for example, would never eat a grilled cheese sandwich with a slice of ham on it, but with panini, it’s no problem. Go figure. Also, you can get away without using much butter or oil to grill it on, so it’s a bit healthier.

Layer bread with ham and cheese (and anything else the kids will let you get away with), brush the outsides of the sandwiches with olive oil, and press in a panini press (or on a cast iron pan with another pan pressed on top) set on high. Cook until cheese is melted.

9. Fruit Platter

This lunch makes me very popular at our house.

All you need to do is arrange washed seasonal fruits and berries on a platter with a couple different kinds of cheese (I used cheddar and cream cheese, though I wished I had Mascarpone). Serve with crackers and toasted baguette slices.

10. Mile High Nachos

Now, nachos can be pretty unhealthy if it is only tortilla chips covered in melted cheese. But you can get that meal to climb to more nutritious heights if you pile on black beans, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, and avocados.

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