Written By Michael Vyskocil, Photos by: Tara Hope Cofiell

Who among us can forget the time-tested peanut butter and jelly or tuna fish sandwiches? And then there were those lunch box “undesirables” that you may have attempted to trade: the egg salad sandwiches, the overripe bananas and the bean sprout wrap that never even made it out of its packing container.

And therein lies the conundrum that has befuddled moms and dads for decades: What are my kids really going to want to eat and what can I realistically prepare in a minimal amount of time?

With those thoughts in mind, here are several appealing and nutritious lunch specialties designed to please even the pickiest of school day diners:


Tortilla Rolled Sandwiches

1 cup cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
4 eight-inch flour tortillas
2 cups lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
? pound thinly sliced deli beef, turkey or ham
1 ripe yellow or red tomato, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
? cup mayonnaise

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and herbs. Stir cream cheese mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread each tortilla with about ? cup of the cream cheese mixture.
  2. Place ? cup of lettuce leaves, several slices of meat, 2-3 slices of tomato and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise in layers on top of the cream cheese mixture. Roll the tortillas into cylinders. Wrap each one in plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Tuna Cones

Forget soggy tuna salad sandwiches. Ice cream cones will not only absorb liquid, but they also make an excellent container for young fingers to grasp.

1 6.5-ounce can chunk light tuna,
drained of liquid
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 small dill pickle, chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 flat-bottom wafer ice cream cones
Sprigs of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise and chopped dill pickle. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Scoop tuna mixture into ice cream cones. Top with a parsley sprig and pack cones into lunch box. Makes 4 cones.

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Waffle Sandwiches

2 homemade or commercially prepared waffles, toasted
1 tablespoon chunky or smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon softened Neufch‰tel
(reduced-fat) cream cheese
2 medium strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey

  1. Place the waffles on a work surface. Spread the peanut butter on one waffle and the cream cheese on the second waffle.
  2. Arrange strawberry slices in an even layer on top of the peanut butter. Drizzle the maple syrup or honey over the strawberries and then place the remaining waffle with the cream cheese on top. Cut into halves or quarters. Makes 1 sandwich.

Chocolate Fruit Popsicles

These super-cool kabobs are a great way to encourage your kids to eat their fruit. You can even get them involved by helping you to thread the fruit onto the popsicle sticks.

2 cups cut fresh fruit, such as bananas, peaches, papaya, nectarines, melon and/or whole strawberries
6 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, chopped into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons multicolored sprinkles

  1. Line a baking sheet with a piece of waxed paper and set aside. Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Push 3 or 4 pieces of fruit alternately onto each of 6 to 7 wooden popsicle sticks.
  3. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl over saucepan of simmering water and reduce heat to low. Melt chocolate and shortening together, stirring constantly. Remove melted chocolate from the heat.
  4. Pour melted chocolate into a shallow baking dish. Roll the fruit in the melted chocolate, completely covering the fruit. If necessary, spoon the chocolate over the fruit to cover. Allow excess chocolate to drip off the fruit. Place the coated fruit on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle fruit with the colored sprinkles.
  5. Repeat with the remaining popsicle sticks and chocolate. If the chocolate mixture gets too thick during dipping, return chocolate to heatproof bowl and place over pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat when chocolate returns to pouring consistency.
  6. Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer. Chill the kabobs about 10 minutes or until the chocolate is set. Wrap the popsicle sticks individually in freezer wrap or place in freezer bags. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Before serving, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Makes 6 to 7 kabobs.

Trail Mix

? cup blanched, whole roasted almonds
? cup chopped walnuts
? cup raisins
? cup chopped dates
? cup chopped dried apples
? cup chopped dried apricots
? cup semisweet chocolate chips
? cup cereal, such as flavored rings, puffed corn, rice squares or crisp rice.

  1. Combine almonds, walnuts, raisins, dates, apples, apricots, chocolate chips and dry cereal in a large mixing bowl. Serve or store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks. Makes 4 cups.

Mango-Banana Smoothie

When lunchtime rolls around, this frozen smoothie will have thawed slightly, but it will still retain enough of its chill to quench your little one’s midday thirst.

2 cups cubed, chilled mango
2 medium bananas, sliced and chilled
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
? cup ice cubes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch ground cinnamon

  1. In a blender container, combine the mango cubes, bananas, orange juice, ice cubes, sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Cover and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour mixture into a freezer-safe Thermos container and transfer to the freezer for at least 1 hour or overnight. Makes about 3 ? cups.