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Updating the Brown-Bag Lunch

Updating the Brown-Bag Lunch

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The chef of New York City’s Chelsea's Table, David Seigal, shares healthy and delicious back-to-school recipes

Kids love couscous because it's delicious, and parents love it because it's easy; a win-win for both parties.

It’s Monday morning, and as the kids are getting ready for school, you’re wondering what to pack inside their brown-bag lunch. We’ve all had that problem, where lack of inspiration and healthy options leave us scrambling to put something together that not only tastes good but is nutritious as well. Thankfully, some of our country’s leading chefs prove to be a great source for new and exciting lunch recipes. Because they work with new ingredients and develop recipes regularly, chefs are a well of information for ways to make sure your kids’ lunchbox will be empty at the end of the day.

Click here to see the Updating Your Kids' Brown-Bag Lunch with Chef Recipes Slideshow

Chelsea’s Table, which made its debut in late April of this year in New York City, prides itself on healthy eating. Started by Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm Organics, Chelsea’s Table is a continuation of Stonyfield’s mission statement, and serves a seasonal menu that offers freshly baked goods and dishes that are created from organic and locally sourced ingredients. Behind the frontlines of it all is executive chef David Seigal, who takes pride in his work at Chelsea’s Table and honors their organic pledge through his carefully crafted menu of fresh and innovative American cuisine.

Chef Seigal’s brilliance with healthy-but-delicious food stretches far beyond his kitchen nestled in Chelsea Piers. As well as his success in serving wholesome dishes at the restaurant, he also has a knack for creating easy recipes that appeal to kids, making them the perfect brown-bag option for whenever you’re looking for something new. Whether crafting a mac and cheese that is actually good for your kids or finding a way to make vegetables appealing to them, chef Seigal’s recipes will satiate your kids’ lunchtime hunger, and you can be sure to find nothing but crumbs at the bottom of their brown bag when they’re done.

Click here to read about the new walk-up window at Chelsea's Table

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce

Brown Bag Lunch Ideas and Recipes

Ditch the boring lunch for ingredient-packed salads, fresh pastas and healthy sandwiches that won't get soggy.

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Caprese Di Farro

Combine nutty, earthy farro with Kalamata olives and the classic Italian combo of tomato, basil and mozzarella. Cook the farro al dente so it doesn't become mushy and it will keep nicely for the next day's lunch.

Mini Italian Club Sandwiches

Pack brunch for lunch with egg, turkey, provolone cheese and pesto sandwiches. Giada uses hearty foccacia bread, which is delicious and will stand up to a few hours in the fridge.

Roasted Beet Salad

Roasted beets are the "meat" of this meal, and they're complemented perfectly by goat cheese and pears. Think of this as the opposite of a sad desk salad.

North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich

After you make this slow-roasted, Carolina-style pulled pork for dinner, bring leftovers for lunch with your bun stowed separately so it doesn't get soggy while traveling.

Artichoke Pasta Salad

Don't think of pasta salad as just a side dish. Alton's version includes roasted chicken, tomatoes and artichokes to make a meal of it, and it's all flavored with a homemade, slightly spicy herb oil.

Fried Chicken

Cold fried chicken is a picnic staple, so why not bring it for lunch? If you have a toaster oven at work you can heat it up, but it's just as delicious — or arguably more so — after an overnight chill in the fridge.

Pasta Primavera

In less time than it takes to boil water, you can make a fresh tomato sauce that will last for lunches all week. With pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, it tastes almost like a tomato pesto.

Chicken Masala

The next time you reach for a delivery menu, stop yourself and make this easy homemade Chicken Masala instead.

Egg White, Caramelized Onion and Fig Jam Sandwich

Breakfast meets lunch in this sweet and savory stack of egg whites and caramelized onions between two slices of whole-grain bread. Pack your homemade fig jam separately and spread just before eating.

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and White Beans

Use whole-wheat penne in this light and simple pasta. The juices from the roasted tomatoes, fragrant garlic and sprinkling of Parmesan cheese add so much flavor that you don't even need sauce.

Broiled Salmon with Herb Mustard Glaze

Red Pepper Soup with Toasted Cumin Seeds

Tri-Colore Orzo

Waldorf Salad

Low-Fat Creamy Mushroom Cavatappi

Caribbean Wrap

Tuna and Bean Salad

Zucchine Trifolati

Enhance your zucchini's flavor in the most simple way: with some olive oil, salt and pepper. This green squash dish is delicious on its own, or can be served with pasta, grains or a toasted baguette.

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Jerk Pork Wraps with Lime Mayo

Budget lunch price: $1.75 per serving

Before you tuck in for bed, pop a pork shoulder and some seasonings in your slow cooker. Come morning, you'll wake up to an intoxicating aroma and remarkably tender fajita filling that tastes like it came from a pricey build-your-own-burrito restaurant.

Tip: Pack the tortilla, mango salsa, veggies, and pork in individual containers, then reheat the pork and assemble your wrap when you're ready to dig in.

Brown Bag Lunch Recipes

One of the best parts of shopping for school supplies is picking out the lunch box that your child will love to tote to school every day. Once you have the equipment, you need to fill it! You’ve all heard the famous stories about lunchbox content trading.

To make sure that the lunches you pack are envied by other kids, but eaten by your child, include your child in the planning process. There’s no point in making turkey salad wraps for school lunch if little Jamie doesn’t like turkey or tortillas.

Here are some quick lunchbox tips:

Actual time for eating lunch at most schools only lasts for 15 to 20 minutes and is filled with distractions. Make sure the lunch foods you pack are easy to eat, packed in easily opened packages, and don’t require peeling or special tools.

Small children may not eat very much at one sitting. Think about packing appetizers instead of a large sandwich and whole banana. You can also include more choices if the quantity of each is smaller. Fill a mini muffin tin with small amounts of foods, wrap with foil, and pack into the lunch box.

Small foods are not only easier for children to handle, but they are more fun to eat. Cut sandwiches into smaller pieces, use tiny tortillas for wraps and small sandwich buns, serve baby carrots and peel and cut fruit into smaller pieces to interest your child in the foods you pack.

Think about different types of bread for sandwiches and dippers. Try crackers, mini waffles, rice cakes, mini croissants, pita bread, mini muffins, small bagels, tortillas, focaccia, raisin or cinnamon bread.

If your child wants the same thing day after day, go ahead and pack it, as long as the overall meal is nutritious and you are sure your child eats it. Kids don’t like a lot of change in what they eat. Did you know that it takes 10 to 12 introductions to a new food before a child is usually willing to even taste it?

Take some time to look at the prepackaged lunches in your grocer’s refrigerated section. These appeal to kids, but aren’t very nutritious. You can pack the same types of snack foods, but use healthier choices for more kid appeal.

Salsa, hummus, bean dips, or fruit dips with baked chips and veggies or fruit are good lunchbox choices, since these foods contain more vitamins and fiber.

Make sure to think about food safety. Freeze juice boxes or small gel packs and place in the bag. The juice will keep other foods cool and will thaw to just the right temperature and consistency by lunchtime.

Use an insulated thermos for hot foods like soups and stews, and cold salads too. For best results, rinse out a thermos with very hot water to heat it before adding hot soups. Rinse it out with ice water to chill the thermos before adding cold soups.

If you make your own snack mixes, you can include healthy additions like dried fruits, unsalted nuts, pretzels, and baked crackers. Kids love to munch on something crunchy and sweet or savory.

Instead of making sandwiches, consider packing individual sandwich ingredients to let your child make their own sandwich at lunch, or eat the ingredients separately. Many children don’t like to eat more than one food at a time, since their sense of taste is very intense.

Cereal bars can pack a lot of nutrition into a food kids love to eat. Include raisins, currants, or other dried fruits in the recipe for additional flavor, color and nutrition.

Make sure to include something fun – a sticker, cookies wrapped in plastic wrap with a ribbon tie, sandwiches cut into playful shapes, or meats and cheeses or fruits threaded on a caramel apple stick (which is safer than a traditional kabob stick.

These recipes can certainly be packed in brown bags, but there are such wonderful and high tech insulated lunch boxes and sacks on the market that have built in food safety features: thermoses, a space to slip a pre frozen gel pack, even pockets for wet wipes and utensils. Take some time to browse through the selection at your store or online and your child will be well equipped all year.

Portion size is critical when planning lunches and recipes for your children. Here’s a general guide for grade school lunch portion sizes:
Two to three ounces of meat or cheese
One or two slices of bread OR 1/2 cup grain or rice
At least two different fruits or vegetables
1 cup milk or 4 ounces dairy product

Tuna Sandwiches
These delicious sandwiches from my cookbook can be made ahead and frozen, then tucked into the lunch box it will thaw to perfection by lunch time.

Franks ‘n Bean Soup
Kids think it’s hard to beat this soup pack a small container full of cheese for your child to sprinkle on top of the soup before they eat.

Turkey Hummus Sandwiches
Prepared hummus is a great timesaver, but you can also make your own to use in these easy sandwiches.

Mini Hero Sandwiches
Remember that you can create sandwiches to your child’s tastes. If he or she doesn’t like mustard, leave it out!

Cannellini Bean Spread Wraps
This spread is milder than Hummus, and also freezes beautifully. Make a bunch and you’ll be able to slip one into the lunch box once a week.

Tomato Tortellini Soup
Kids love to be creative with their food package the cheese separately so they can sprinkle it on the soup themselves, or think about packing shredded veggies they could use in the same way.

Chilled Cucumber Soup
Hey, there have to be some children out there who would like this soup! Aren’t there? It’s smooth, suave, and cool, just like your teenager.

Sour Cream Pesto Dip
Place this easy and savory dip in the lunch box along with baby carrots and tiny celery sticks and your kid will have a party!

Salmon Cucumber Sandwiches
Again, if cucumbers aren’t a favorite at your house, leave them out and use chopped celery or shredded carrot.

Canned potato sticks are the ‘crisp’ in this easy salad. You could also use fried chow mein noodles, or peanuts.

Chicken Chowder
If your children like chicken, corn, and potatoes, they will like this soup!

Chicken Santa Fe Soup
You can also make this delicious soup ahead of time and freeze it, then reheat and pour into warmed thermoses for a cold day.

Creamy Fruit Pasta Salad
This three ingredient recipe is so quick and easy, and very delicious.

Waldorf Chicken Salad Sandwich
Pack the four ingredients for this sandwich separately and let your child assemble it himself.

Updated Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Carrots, sunflower seeds, and currants update regular peanut butter use one or all three!

Bologna Slaw Wrap Sandwiches
I love using flour tortillas for just about any sandwich filling it holds together so well and tastes wonderful.

Shrimp Salad Sandwiches
Boy, I would have gobbled these down if they had been in my lunch box! For kids, I’d leave out the cabbage and add a few more shrimp.

Chewy Picnic Bars
Boy, these are good bar cookies! If your child doesn’t like raisins, nuts, or coconut, leave them out and substitute chocolate chips.

Oatmeal Cookies
I love this recipe for oatmeal cookies it’s chewy, crunchy, and delicious.

Chewy Cereal Bars
There’s no candy bar in the world better than this bar cookie. And you can make it healthy (well, healthier) by adding wholesome ingredients like raisins.

Applesauce Granola Cookies
These cookies just say ‘fall’ to me. I love the combination of sweet applesauce and crunchy granola.

Crisp Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut butter cookies are made even better with crisp rice cereal and chocolate chips. Yum.

Peanut Blossoms
For a real treat, pack these classic and delicious peanut and chocolate cookies.

This classic cookie, rolled in sugar and cinnamon before baking, is a perfect lunchbox treat.

Apricot Banana Bars
Yes, a bar cookie can be healthy too! But don’t tell your kids!
When you are planning brown bag school lunches, one way to save time is to plan a whole week of lunches when you do your grocery shopping. Some fruits may need that extra time to ripen in a closed paper bag on the counter.

You can make sandwiches for school lunches in an assembly line ahead of time and freeze them, following the tips in Freezing Chart and Tips. In fact, freezing any type of bread before you start assembling sandwiches helps stop the bread from tearing when you spread it with butter or other spreads.

About Sandy Crump

I am married and have two grown step children and three cats. I grew up in the sixties in the midwest. I lived in San Diego, California for 30 years and now live in Alabama. I am a retired banker. My hobbies include writing, reading, watching old movies, making jewelry, crafting, making gift baskets, mystery shopping, scrapbooking, blogging, collecting antiques, barbie dolls and Marilyn Monroe items, reading, music, old movies, and the internet. I love spending time with my family and friends.

11 Easy Chicken Brown Bag Lunch Ideas

11 Easy Chicken Brown Bag Lunch Ideas that will help save money during the holidays. Trim your budget and dine at your desk with these flavorful chicken recipes!

Lunch gets expensive when you eat out everyday, right? Especially during the holidays when your budget is squeezed quite tightly. Each day you are spending an average of $7 – $10 for a greasy meal. Instead, here are 11 very quick chicken recipes that you can take to work. Save those dollars daily and your piggy bank will thank you!

This is the least effort recipe that you can make and take to work. All you are doing is adding the ingredients to a slow cooker and letting it work its magic. When done, add it to tacos along with cilantro and tacos. Enjoy it for dinner with the family and take leftovers to work the next day.

There are so many fresh ingredients in this gyro that you hand picked. You can’t go wrong with this easy chicken gyro recipe by Peas And Crayons .

You get to eat a healthy lunch without making a mess at your desk. That is a win-win lunch made by Melanie Cooks

Forget greasy burgers that have been sitting under a hot lamp. You don’t know what they put in those patties. Instead, make your very own healthy chicken burger using Green Healthy Cooking ’s recipe. Take it to work and make your coworkers go green with envy.

Just like pizza, chicken tastes better the next day. Put your leftover chicken to good use by making this creative salad recipe by Meg Is Well

This coronation chicken salad is what the queen was served on the day of her coronation. You will feel like the queen of saving money when you take it to lunch

Ready made chicken added to these taquitos and then baked in the oven. That is so much better than a deep fried taquito. You won’t notice any difference in the taste.

Who doesn’t love samosas. Ruchi’s kitchen has simplified the process so you can make them at home using Phyllo dough and simple ingredients. Chicken in samosas is the perfect way to enjoy a good samosa

Talk about the ultimate brown bag lunch idea! What a perfect sandwich, am I right? People may think that you ran down to your favorite deli and bought this sandwich. Instead, you made it at home using the easiest recipe from The Purple Ladle

Here is an easy and delicious way for you to get your daily greens requirement. Tasting Page Blanches collard greens and turns them into wraps filled with chicken, olives, cucumber and guacamole. They are gluten free and so the right meal for a working lunch.

11) Bitesize Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Meatballs are so much better when eaten by themselves. Spaghetti not required! This chicken meatball recipe takes only 25 minutes to make and you can eat them with a toothpick. You won’t even need to wash your hands after eating.

Whether you've been bringing the same brown bag lunch to work for weeks straight of you've been working from home and have found yourself cooking the same hum-drum meals over and over again, there's a chance your lunch routine has gotten a little stale. It doesn't matter if you're grabbing last night's leftovers or tossing together a quick salad with whatever's left in the fridge, if you're like most people, you may have fallen into something of a lunch rut. Refresh your mid-day meals with these fast and delicious cold lunch ideas, like the Italian Hero Chopped Salad, pictured here&mdashyou won't even need to turn on the oven!

If you have pre-cooked chicken breasts on hand, turn them into a spectacular, flavorful chicken salad. The key to making a chicken salad that stands out from the rest is using fresh herbs, such as tarragon and basil, crunchy scallions and celery, and a touch of mayonnaise. You can serve it over crisp romaine or tuck it into a hot dog bun along with cherry tomatoes and bacon strips for a hand-held bite. Another cold lunch recipe that you can make in advance and enjoy throughout the week is our Creamy Ginger-Asparagus Soup, which happens to be vegan and gluten-free. It's the perfect way to make use of spring and summer produce. Plus, it will leave you feeling nourished and energized, so that you can avoid the dreaded afternoon slump.

For kids, take their favorite lunch sandwich&mdasha PB & J&mdashto the next level by using three slices of bread and two layers of filling for an epic triple-decker meal. Switch it up with different types of nut butter&mdashtry almond or cashew&mdashand homemade fresh jam made with beautiful summer berries. You'll look forward to the week ahead with these cold lunch ideas in your back pocket.

1. Best Tomato Sandwich

Your desk will look a lot less drab with this bright, colorful sandwich on it. The are the attention-hogging divas of this sandwich, so be sure to get good, fresh ones from the greenmarket.

2 slices dense wholegrain bread with lots of seeds

1 medium beefsteak tomato (New Jersey or otherwise), perfectly ripe

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Toast the bread to your liking. Let it cool for a bit while you core and cut the tomato into 1/8-inch slices. Slather one side of each piece of toast with about a teaspoon and a half of mayonnaise (more or less if you like) and layer as many of the tomato slices as you can on top of one one piece of toast. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Top with the other piece of toast, cut in half (vertically or diagonally – the choice is yours, so go wild). Eat immediately, with a side of napkins to catch the tomato/mayo juices that will undoubtedly dribble down your chin.

Brown-Bag Challenge: Lunchboxes

We’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you're eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

Healthy Eats, and the rest of the crew, challenge you to skip eating out and bring your lunch to work throughout September. Our brown-bag initiative saves money, calories and even allows you to be eco-friendly. Just because you pack food from home, however, doesn’t mean you can’t bring your lunch to the office in style. Below are our picks for the latest and greatest lunchboxes.

Chic lunch totes from the Container Store will brighten your mood and bring back some of that youthful excitement only a cool lunchbox can provide. Insulation keeps your food cool (or hot), while a hook and loop closure safeguards against leaks. Choose among pink, green or black ribbon handles.

Brown-Bag Lunch Etiquette

We’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you're eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

So, you decided to join our Healthy Eats initiative and brown-bag it for the entire month of September. What’s next? Avoid interoffice lunch drama by following our do and don’t etiquette tips:

DON’T wolf down your food: Food was meant to be consciously and meaningfully enjoyed, not shoved down your throat while you’re doing five other things. “Take a deep breath,” says Amy Ogden, publicist and business etiquette expert. “You brought your lunch, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat it while you pound out an Excel report.” Even if it’s just 10 minutes, take a second to reset and not stare at your computer screen while you eat. "Not to mention, people can tell when you have food in your mouth, so don’t conduct business with your piehole stuffed," Ogden adds.

DO give others space: If you see someone eating lunch don’t interrupt until they’re finished. “If you have an urgent question, respect the fact that they’re taking a moment to decompress,” Ogden says.

DO be aware and considerate: Not everyone loves the smell of your curry noodles from last night. If your lunch is a smelly one, eat in the office cafeteria or at a picnic table outside. And if you’ve got messy food? Forget it. “That telephone or desktop is not yours, it’s owned by the company,” says Lisa Richey, president and founder of The American Academy of Etiquette Inc. “If you’re eating a sloppy Rueben and there is thousand island dressing and melted cheese falling onto your keyboard that’s just not being respectful of the company’s equipment.”

DON’T forget last week’s lunch in the refrigerator: Often, that ham sandwich you brought on Monday gets left in the lurch for better lunch plans. Come Friday, you’ve completely forgotten you brought a sandwich to work in the first place. Most offices clear out the clutter once a week, but don’t make more work than necessary for the custodial staff.

DO eat together: “Invite your colleague to the picnic table, boardroom or cafeteria and have fun for an hour,” Richey says.

DON’T throw away food at your desk: Even just a few bites of a turkey sandwich can smell up your cube. Take a few seconds and throw away your garbage in the cafeteria or one of the large trash cans in your office kitchen. People in the surrounding cubes will thank you.

DO swap lunches: “Two co-workers who were good friends liked to bring their lunch and swap,” Ogden says. “They had a regular rotation of bringing last night’s dinner and trading so they didn’t have to eat it again.”

Ultimately, treat the office just as you would any other residence. “Let’s face it,” Ogden says. “We spend more waking hours in the office than we do in our homes. Treat the place with just as much respect.”

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Quick Salmon Burger

Now here's a healthy weekend lunch idea: salmon burgers. They are a deliciously healthy alternative to fast food hamburgers&mdashand just as juicy! A fish that&rsquos highly concentrated in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon tastes even better when accompanied by a squeeze of fresh lemon. Whole-grain bread and Dijon mustard, rather than an enriched white hamburger bun and creamy mayonnaise, help keep the calorie count in check.


1 store-bought salmon patty

2 tablespoons Djion mustard

Lettuce and tomato, sliced

Heat oil in a pan and cook salmon patty on both sides. Sprinkle lemon juice over the patty. Spread Dijon mustard on both sides of a whole-grain bun. Assemble salmon patty, lettuce and tomato slices in bun.

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