It's been about a month since the kids have gone back to school. Enough time for them to take a few tests, write a few papers, and perhaps get a bit bored with the inevitably predictable fare they've been finding in their lunchboxes.
I admit that I don't always make a big effort to mix it up when it comes to the lunches I send with my kids to school. With that in mind, I've begun trying to think of ways to pack more of a punch in their lunchboxes. It's really not hard to develop enough of a menu rotation to keep the kids eating their own lunches, rather than trying to swap their turkey on whole wheat for a classmate's PB & J on white.
Foods such as hummus and pita chips, or chicken, cheese and salsa on a tortilla are easy and always popular. Lately though, I've discovered another brown-bag option that seems to be a hit: pancake sandwiches. I know McDonald's has been slapping sausage and eggs between their McGriddles for a while, so the idea is nothing new. But it's easy to do at home and considerably healthier.
I've been experimenting with different kinds of pancakes and have found that the oatmeal buttermilk variety provides just enough structure to make a great base for a sandwich without being too heavy. They also freeze well, so I can make a big batch and pull them out of the freezer when I need them. I don't even have to defrost the pancakes. I just assemble the sandwiches with the frozen pancakes and, by the time my kids pull them out of their lunchboxes to eat, they're ready to go.
For fillings, I generally stick with peanut butter and bananas, or Nutella (the hazelnut-chocolate spread) and sliced strawberries, but a lightly sweetened cream cheese with blueberries or any fresh fruit works well, too. Savory fillings are a surprisingly good choice, as well. The saltiness of ham and cheese with a slathering of apple butter seems a perfect match to the slightly sweet pancakes.
Give yourself and the kids a break from the lunchtime doldrums and try something new. Your kids will appreciate it and, if their classmates are lucky enough to make a trade, they will, too.
Reach Meredith Deeds of Edina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.