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Just in time for back-to-school, Food and Wine's Mad Genius test kitchen pro Justin Chapple stopped by TODAY to share fun tips to make what's inside those lunchboxes more exciting for your little ones. His tips are so simple, you'll probably never make those school lunches the same and your kid will certainly be thanking you when they open up their lunchbox and see what's inside.
Tip 1: Shape up those sandwiches
You can transform ordinary sandwiches—think ham & cheese, almond butter & jelly, or simple cheese sammies—into fun shapes, like stars and hearts. You can even cut them into animal shapes! Just prepare the sandwiches as usual and then cut them into shapes using large cookie cutters.
Tip 2: Think outside the lunchbox! Use plastic jars to make fun foods
Just because it's being brought to school doesn't mean it has to be boring. Think outside the lunchbox and use lightweight plastic jars to serve fun new foods.
Yogurt parfaits, anyone? Spoon yogurt into small plastic jars and top with granola and blueberries, then freeze overnight. The yogurt will stay cold throughout the morning and thaw just in time for lunch. Don't forget to pack a spoon!
Sneak in those veggies!
For salads: Layer your child's favorite veggies along with lettuce in a plastic jar that has a built in dressing container. Fill the leak-proof dressing cup with their favorite salad dressing, that way they can drizzle it on top during lunch.
Make veggie dippers: Stuff a plastic jar with a built in dressing container with carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, cucumber spears and celery sticks. Fill the leak-proof dressing cup with ranch dressing, for dipping. It's interactive and fun, plus you can let them pick the vegetables!
Tip 3: Secret message in a... banana
Take those inspirational lunchtime notes to the next level! Use the tip of a push pin to score a message into a yellow banana. By lunchtime the carving will oxidize, revealing the secret message!
Tip 4: Keeping it cool! Make a DIY Ice Pack
Submerge a clean kitchen sponge in water and then transfer to a resealable sandwich bag. Press out the excess air and seal the bag, then freeze the sponge overnight. Pack the frozen sponge in the lunchbox on hot days to keep the temperature down.
Bonus Tip: Your child can use the sponge to wipe their hands, or any unintended messes on the table!