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10-Second Recipes: You Have School Lunches Covered - But What About You?

By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate

Both you and your kidlets are well into the school year. As the months fly by, many parents become scholars on the subject of lunch. That often means studying school lunch menus to make sure their kids are being served wholesome hot lunches.

What about you? Does your own busy schedule at home or work mean you think homemade hot lunches as part of your own day are out of the question? Television commercials for a recipe kit delivery service touted the addition of 5-minute lunches that are creations using some ingredients from dinner the night before.

More than just reheated leftovers, these can be fresh ideas with a lunch vibe. That philosophy inspired my imagination and my lunch breaks have been happy hours much more often since then. Following are some of my ideas. All ingredients are to taste.

Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for preparing homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!     

Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.

  • From a dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables, heat leftover cooked chicken and vegetables in store-bought low-sodium chicken broth, add canned enchilada sauce, diced green bell pepper and, when fully heated, top with shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chip strips. Stir well before serving.
  • From a dinner of macaroni and cheese, fold into leftover cooked macaroni and cheese diced cooked ham or shredded ham lunchmeat, chopped canned pineapple with some of its juices, cilantro and diced black pitted olives and heat in loosely covered microwave-safe dish until fully heated. Stir well before serving.
  • From a dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, on a half of an Italian or French baguette roll, spread a mixture of cooked leftover stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and lightly top with gravy, then turkey and the other half of the roll. Very lightly glaze top of roll with a mixture of cranberry sauce and orange marmalade or orange juice and heat sandwich until turkey and potato mixture are fully heated, making sure glazed top of sandwich does not burn, or topping with aluminum foil if necessary.
  • From a dinner of meatloaf, crumble leftover meatloaf into a saucepan, add canned baked beans, canned tomatoes with their juices, diced onions and a dash of red pepper flakes and, when fully heated, top with shredded Swiss cheese.

QUICK TIP: Maybe your savvy adult lunch could even get its kickstart at the breakfast table. That's just one of the innovative ideas of J.M. Hirsch, national food editor at Associated Press, in his Rachael Ray Books-published Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go. Hirsch advises not only gussying up dinner leftovers for lunch but stealing from the first meal of the day as well. Why not make an easy to warm up rolled-up "sandwich" starting with homemade pancakes from breakfasts? Fresh ideas like that have always made this one of my favorite quick lunch cookbooks. Hirsch gives ideas for both parents and kids, and with recipes like peanut butter-chocolate hazelnut pancakes, there is some tasty crossover as well.

Lisa Messinger
 at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on


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