Here’s a piece from Jennifer Carden, a chef and author of The Toddler Café (Chronicle Books, 2008). Carden has worked with some of the culinary industry’s most renowned cookbook authors, including Jacques Pepin and Mollie Katzen.
Lunch Box Recipe: Banana Hot Dog
In a pinch, a plain old banana can become a hot dog! This is a funny and different way to serve this fruit. Put it in front of your child and watch their reaction. Let your kids help add the “mustard.” It may be messy, but it is sure to get them interested. And it’s a great way to use up your old hamburger or hot dog buns. Serve with banana chips for the ultimate tropical experience.
- 1 banana, peeled
- 1 whole-wheat hot dog bun
- Creamy peanut butter
Place the peeled banana in a bun. Fill 2 zip-top baggies, one with jelly and the other with peanut butter. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of each bag and squeeze out onto the banana as you would mustard and ketchup.
- Add crushed pistachios for a crunchy relish look-alike.
- Cereal and dried fruit make great additional toppings.
Recipe Note: If you are weary of peanut butter, try soy nut, almond or sunflower butter for a change.
Some thoughts from Jennifer:
I like to use the word “foodstorm.” It’s my own little way of saying “communicate with your kids.” The days of every kid having bologna sandwiches and an apple are over. Now it’s all about whose food is more blue or who has the funkiest drink. What it is really about is getting healthy food into your kids, while making them still feel like they have a “cool” lunch.
“Foodstorm” with your kids – brainstorm the foods they like. This is a simple way to get them interested in their school lunches. The more they know and the more they help, the more they will take ownership and eat the lunch.
Get them a neat lunchbox, or send a bag that has stickers or drawings on it. Use fun containers and keep waste to a minimum. There are all kinds of fun lunch boxes and reusable containers for sale.
Try wooden utensils, instead of plastic.
Make sure there is one food with protein that they like and are familiar with. Make sure you send a healthy drink, because sugary drinks will take away an appetite quickly.
Don’t give them new and different foods in their lunch without discussing it. They will be less likely to eat it if they are not familiar with it.
Add notes, or pictures for young children, and make lunch colorful
Cut veggies and bread into shapes.
Use up leftovers; lots of things can go between bread. Think outside the box and try pita bread filled with leftovers or cold noodles.
Black bean soup, whole wheat pasta or soba noodles can be sent in a thermos. It is comforting on a cold day.