Cook's Exchange: Healthy lunch ideas for kids

August 15, 2012 

Admit it, getting children to eat nutritious meals is a problem for many parents especially at lunch.

From reindeer peanut butter sandwiches to cheese and turkey cutouts, my friend, Donna Cuevas, and I tried everything we could think of to get our daughters to eat healthy lunches some 15 years ago. Danielle's and Elyssa's lunchboxes looked so cute and healthy, only to see most of the food end up in the garbage.

I am sure some of you parents and grandparents are still going through the same thing.

For a link to a website with some good, healthy lunch ideas, visit

For healthier fare for the whole family, Pat Kerstetter of Gautier, Miss., shares a Mexican black bean and citrus salad that would pack well for office lunches or as a cool meal after a busy day at work. I would serve warm whole wheat tortillas with this. Cooked chicken slices could be added if you just have to have meat with your meals.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced red bell pepper

2 teaspoons grated tangelo rind

1/4 cup fresh tangelo juice

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1- 1/2 cups tangelo sections (about 8 tangelos)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and diced bell pepper, and saute 5 minutes or until tender.

Combine rind and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Combine onion

mixture, tangelo sections, cilantro and beans in a bowl. Add juice mixture; toss gently. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Oranges or tangerines can be substituted for tangelos.

-- Submitted by Pat Kerstetter

Garlic cheese and yogurt

Carolyn Johnson asked for help finding garlic cheese rolls, and Judy Hierstein wanted some good yogurt recipes. A reader who asked to remain anonymous has answers for both women.

"I just wanted to send this in, but do not use my name," said a reader. "I have been meaning to send in my response to the garlic cheese since you requested it, and then when I saw this morning's request for yogurt, I had to write.

"First the garlic cheese, yes, Kraft has quit selling it, but there is another brand out there. A store on Courthouse Road (in Mississippi) sells it," the reader said. "They have tons around the holidays and usually have it in the cold case and also hanging in baskets by the cold case. I have bought several, and it does freeze well. Tell your readers there is an alternate brand.

"OK, now for the yogurt. I found a slow cooker recipe that is really good and very easy to use. I have been making this for months," she said. "Just a note, it is thin when first made, and I make mine Greek style. I like to add Smucker's cherry preserves in mine. For my granddaughter, I puree the cherry preserves then add to yogurt, she loves it." 


1 large slow cooker

1 gallon milk

2 cups plain yogurt with active cultures

Note: Add 1 cup powdered milk if using 2 percent or lower milk or ultra pasteurized milk.

Pour milk into slow cooker. Cover, turn on high, and let the milk heat until almost boiling, 180 degrees. This takes several hours.

When you get to 180 degrees, turn slow cooker off. Take the lid off and let cool back down to 115 degrees. Stir it around every once in awhile while cooling. When it reaches 115 degrees, stir in 1 cup powdered milk if using 2 percent or lower milk, and stir until mixed in. Add 2 cups of yogurt and mix with whisk.

Put the lid back on, and wrap entire slow cooker with a beach towel or large bath towel and let sit for 8-12 hours. I do mine during the day and let sit overnight.

After it sits for 8-12 hours, uncover and put in containers. To make the Greek version, I line a colander with cheesecloth and set the colander into a larger bowl and let the whey liquid drain off. You can use the whey liquid for baking or just throw away. I drain mine all day, so my yogurt is heaven, nice and thick. It is the best yogurt I have ever eaten. If you don't drain the liquid off, it will seem rather thin. It also can be frozen if you want to save for your next batch, but I eat mine too fast to save any for the next batch. It seems complicated, but really easy to make. This recipe can be halved too, but I figure if your going to make it, make a big batch.

-- Submitted by an

anonymous reader

Pound cake, anyone?

A reader wants a good old-fashioned pound cake recipe that she remembers having as a girl. She said this was a plain pound cake with no icing.

Readers, please send me your cake recipes.

Still looking

Don't forget to send more brown bag ideas, too.

Andrea Yeager, a freelance writer, can be reached at Send contributions or requests to Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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