Need some lunch-box inspiration for the start of the school year? We turned to David Dopkin, managing member of Miss Shirley’s Café (who also works with sister operation Classic Catering) for some tips and tricks on making the middle meal of the day the talk of the cafeteria table.
“Dare to be different,” advises the father of two (Jordana, age 6, and Graham, age 4). “In our house, we have fun with Ants on a Log (raisins on cream cheese on celery sticks), which was my favorite from my mom when I was growing up. I also like decorating a paper plate to include in a lunch box for kids to eat on. Include a fun note on an index card with stickers to brighten their day.”
The best way to get your kids out of the peanut butter-and-jelly on white rut?
Dopkin advises having kids “take ownership of their lunch.” “Instead of dreading packing late at night, have your child pick the fruit, shred a carrot with supervision, and use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwich,” he says. “My kids thoroughly enjoy being little chefs standing on their stools with aprons and chef’s jackets and hats.”
Here are Dopkin’s other creative suggestions for making lunch your kids favorite subject.
Leftover naan bread pizza with pico de gallo and whatever protein is in the fridge: “Instead of doing a regular pizza, why not use naan?” says Dopkin. “Our family loves Indian food.”
Sunflower butter and jelly on a tortilla: “This is a new take on PBJ to mix things up,” he says.
Sliced fruit and grapes: “Use skewers or toothpicks and skewer blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple,” he says. “It’s a fun way to make sure your kids eat fruit.”
Mixed fruit parfait: “Use a small disposable clear cup and add layers of fruit and Greek yogurt,” he says. “It’s fun for the kids to see the different layers they helped create.”
Homemade granola with dried fruit: “It’s another way to introduce different grains. I did not grow up eating Wonder Bread.”
Hummus with pretzels to dip: Any types of dip work well for kids who don’t traditionally like fruits and vegetables. This is a lot healthier than French fries and ketchup and kids love to dip things."
Crepes: Crepes are easy to prepare at home. You can make them sweet or savory, and they can be eaten cold at lunch.
For more words of wisdom from David Dopkin and a peek inside his kitchen, look for our At Home With . . . feature in Baltimore's October issue.