The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet

These recipes were featured on Problems & Solutions with Laura Fuentes, from her book The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet. www.MOMables.com

CHICKEN SALAD SLIDERS

You’d better watch out when you make these chicken salad sliders! If you leave them unattended while making lunch, you may come back and notice that you are missing one or two. Yes, they are that good!

YIELD: 6 servings

1 whole roasted chicken, meat removed
3 tablespoons (18 g) lemon juice
1/2 cup (115 g) mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup (60 g) finely chopped celery
12 Hawaiian sweet rolls

Put the cooked chicken in a food processor, and pulse a few times to roughly chop. Stir, then continue pulsing for another 15 to 30 seconds, until the chicken is finely chopped. (Note: If you turn on the food processor and let it go, your chicken will become a paste instead of finely chopped. So be sure to pulse the chicken for best results.)

In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and cumin, and blend until thoroughly combined. Add the chicken to the mayo mixture, and fold with a spatula. Next, fold in the celery.

Slice the rolls in half horizontally. Top each roll bottom half with a few tablespoons of the chicken salad. Close with the top of the roll.

SPAGHETTI CUPCAKES

There’s something magical about cupcakes—they make leftover spaghetti much more appealing.

YIELD: 4 servings

8 ounces (227 g) uncooked spaghetti, or 4 to 5 cups (560 to 700 g) cooked leftover spaghetti
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
11/2 cups (368 g) Veggie Tomato Sauce (below)
2 cups (230 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese + additional for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and grease a standard cupcake pan.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and pepper. Add tomato sauce, mozzarella, 1⁄2 cup (50 g) of the Parmesan, and spaghetti. Combine until everything is thoroughly coated.

Divide the spaghetti mixture evenly into cupcake pan wells. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

For a school lunch: Lightly warm spaghetti cupcakes in the morning. These are meant to be eaten at room temperature, but if your child prefers them hot, insert them in a thermos. (I can usually fit 2 or 3 cupcakes stacked inside our thermos.)

VEGGIE TOMATO SAUCE

This is my go-to recipe for all things tomato sauce. With extra veggies and the option to make it in the crockpot or on the stovetop, it’s perfect for pasta, pizzas, school lunches, and dipping!

YIELD: Approximately 5 cups (1.2 kg)

1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1 small onion, diced

STRAWBERRY FRUIT LEATHER

Who knew making fruit leather could be this simple? Feel free to experiment with your child’s favorite fruit.

YIELD: 12 to 14 strips

5 cups (850 g) strawberries, hulled and halved
2 tablespoons (42 g) honey

Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature setting, which will probably be somewhere in between 150°F and 200°F (65°C and 93°C).

In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook the strawberries until they are soft and the juices begin to release. Add the honey and stir until combined.

Pour into a food processor or blender and purée. If your kids don’t like the seeds, pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and pour the berry mixture onto the sheet. Bake for 4 to 6 hours, until the fruit leather peels away easily from the parchment. Once cooled, cut the fruit leather (with parchment) into strips.

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Kitchen Note
Don’t pour too thin of a layer, or you’ll have fruit crisps instead of fruit leather. If it’s too thick, it will take longer to dehydrate. An even consistent layer in both color and thickness works best.

All oven temperatures vary, so begin checking after 3• hours of baking, and remember: The center of the tray always takes longer than the edges.
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